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[x] Split up:
-[x] Cirno, Dai, Lily and Juniper in one group, you with Sunny, Luna, and Star.
“Your suggestion seems like it’s the most likely to keep things together, Luna,” you admit. A couple other ideas did occur to you briefly, such as effectively forcing everyone to get over their differences, helping them through conflicts yourself. You’re not sure how capable you’d be of solving things that way, though, you have only just met everyone recently. For now, it’s probably best to just try and keep your friends with their own and avoid the fighting as much as possible.
Prevention is better than a cure, after all, and keeping oneself away from unwanted people is a tried-and-true method to that end.
Hmph. Well, I can’t say this has my full support, but very well. If you must cede to this Luna child’s idea, however, can’t you do something to make it more our- your own? Taking charge and such.
Well, there are the actual logistics of her plan to think through… You notice that Luna’s looking at you expectantly, and realize that your mouth is still hanging half-open from your previous statement. Hurriedly, you continue speaking. “So, working from that. Lily and Sunny are pretty obvious choices to separate from each other…” You trail off as Lily’s muted voice makes its way through more clearly to your ears.
“…please, Sunny, I’m not trying to make excuses for what happened, but surely you’ve been through worse from others without holding grudges this major-”
“Feh. There might’ve been some of Reimu or Marisa’s beatings that rivaled yours in pure pain, but neither of them made it seem as personal as you did, what with the tying me to a tree and igniting enough sake to make an oni hurl-”
“Igniting enough– wait, really?” Lily’s quieted voice takes on a particularly shocked timbre. “That’s a bit more…gratuitous than I, er, remember.” You can’t see Lily’s face from the way you’re facing, but her tone gives you the distinct impression that she’s frowning.
You shake your head with a grimace, and the pair’s voices quiet back down to near-nothing with a gesture from Luna. “Separate them as quickly as possible, at that. Star and Juniper are another pair to keep apart, although probably not quite as urgently.
“I told you already, stop tugging at me like that! Can’t you go back to annoying Lily instead, brat?” you hear Star’s exasperated voice cutting through the ambient sounds, before reverting to a more mild, normal tone. “Er, no offense, Lily, it just seems like you get along better with her…”
“Uh, Luna, you don’t actually need to bring the voices of anyone I mention into focus. I can tell that they’re arguing just from the background noise.” you point out.
“Eheh, sorry.” Star’s voice fades back into a soft chatter, along with the start of Juniper’s retort, and Luna smirks at you. “I’ve just been feeling tempted to experiment with my power since a little bit ago, feels like my control’s gotten a bit better or something.” Luna shrugs, mouth curving up into a small, prideful smile.
You feel an odd mix of satisfaction and discomfort at those words, though you’re not sure why. Shrugging off the inexplicable emotions, you continue to speak. “Anyway, Cirno and Dai we can probably treat as more or less inseparable-” Or really should for our own safety, you add mentally. Good, you're learning not to trust so blindly in others. “And Lily’s already friends with them, so having those three in a search party would seem pretty ideal.”
“Uh-huh, I picked that up from how Cirno was defending her. Kinda weird, I’d expect those two to fight over their- um, philosophical differences, but I guess not.” Luna frowns. “And, you do know that those three are probably the only ones who’ll know their way around this place, right? Putting them together will handicap any other groups.”
“Um.” Your brow creases- no, that hadn’t occurred to you. “Haven’t you been here before with Sunny and Star? It seemed like you could navigate around the ground floor without any difficulties.”
“We’ve been here briefly before, yes. There was a day during the rainy season- uh, a few years back- when we were looking for a holiday house, but we got thrown out when Sakuya noticed that we were working even less than the other maids. And another time when we raided some books from the library, and got a look around there. But aside from that, we’re as blind in here as you, we kept getting lost downstairs.” Luna admits sheepishly.
"...Okay, that might make things difficult, then, if we don't have another navigator. If you know the library better, though, how about that as a place for us to start searching?"
"The library'll be difficult enough on its own by virtue of practically being its own separate building, but we would still probably have an easier job there than anywhere else. Er..." Luna tilts her head a fraction, studying your expression. "I can't help but notice that you said 'us' there, as opposed to 'you'.
"I was thinking that I might tag along with you three for this next bit of searching." Luna fidgets slightly at your words. "Why, is that a problem?"
"Uh, not as such, no..." Luna looks away. "Well, it shouldn't be for you, anyway. Might be some trouble for the rest of us, though, me and Star in particular.
"If you don't want me to come with you..." you start, but Luna shakes her head to stop you.
"I didn't say that. Some kinds of trouble are worth getting into, after all." Luna flashes you a brief smile, then takes your arm, spinning you around to face the trailing members of your party. "This next bit is all yours, though. Have fun with that."
Surveying the arguing girls following you and Luna, you gulp, and take a deep breath. “So, guys?” you attempt, with little effect on the squabbling masses arranged before you. Frowning, you clap your hands loudly together, diverting their attention for a brief moment, and use that as your opening. “Hey, everyone! Listen up!” Good. Make them heed your words.
There’s a chorus of varyingly-annoyed “What?”s from your assembled group, and you take a step backwards, but continue quickly. "So, it's pretty obvious that the current arrangement of things isn't exactly ideal for many of us."
"Starting out with a huge understatement, I see." Luna mutters from behind you, and you make an annoyed shooing gesture with one hand before continuing.
"As such, Luna and I were thinking that it'd be a good idea to...regroup, for a little while at least, and split up into smaller search parties, each comprised of those of us that are already friends. So, the Three Fairies of Light would stay together, but Juniper might want to separate from them. Lily, the two of you seem to have hit it off, right?"
"We were having a little chat about the various aesthetic appeals of springtime, and that was going just fine before the interruptions, so yes." Lily dips her head with a smile. "I'd be fine with watching over Juniper, we can get to know each other better." Lily casts a brief glance towards Dai and Cirno, and a hint of disappointment flickers over her face, likely not intended for you to catch.
You notice it anyway, though. "And I know you're friends with Dai and Cirno too, so all of you can go together." Lily's expression brightens, and her wings flutter happily.
"Fine with me, I wanted to catch up more with Lily anyway," Cirno says agreeably, before frowning. "But I'm doing this because I think it's a good idea, just so ya know, not because you're telling me to."
"Of course," you say with a small smirk.
"I'm fine with that as well," Dai adds, contemplative eyes flickering over Cirno, Lily, Juniper, and yourself. "I suppose we'll go to investigate the records room that Lily mentioned, read over the- actually, can you read, Juniper?"
“Nnno, Juniper can’t.” The fourth member of your complementary group bites her lip. “But if there’s maps or something in there, Juniper can help with those, remembering them especially.”
"That’ll be fine, Juniper. So, I suppose that you'll be going with Sunny and company, Hebe?" Dai asks. "Where will you be heading?"
"The four of us will be searching the library to start with," Luna cuts in. "The three of us have looked through it before, raiding for some special books we’d heard of. Not that they were quite as special as we’d hoped, but…actually, never mind that, it was pretty stupid.”
"Um…all right, then. Hopefully you’ll be able to unearth something useful in there." Dai replies, before dropping her voice to a barely-audible mutter, which doesn't seem to be addressed to you at all. "Not like there's any job downstairs which we've already been assigned by Sakuya or anything, is there...Eh?" Dai says, blinking as a heavily pouting Juniper pushes her way past.
“Wait, we’re splitting up again? Aww, but Juniper didn’t even get to talk with her friend yet, and describe all the things she’d seen in the vampire’s mansion. There’s lots and lots of cool paintings on the walls from the Outside, not to mention all the sculptures that caught Juniper’s eye…”
“Um…look, Juniper, it’s not like I want to leave again, it’s just that-” You flounder for an excuse and come up short- dealing with a disappointed Juniper yourself had been a secondary priority to getting her away from Star. It's still a shame, though.
“She’ll probably need some incentive to go along with this,” you notice Dai muttering into Lily’s ear, a few feet away. "Any suggestions?"
"Well, they wouldn't need to be separated for too long..." Lily whispers back, unconcerned. "In fact- say, Hebe. Did you catch what time it was on your way in? There’s plenty of clocks in the entrance hall, not to mention all the regular hallways.”
You recall seeing several tall structures which you passed by, ticking things of brown, black, and white, but you didn’t think anything special of them at the time. “Well, I think I saw the clocks, but I don’t actually know-” You halt, a neural spark flashing between your eyes, and the memories of those clocks abruptly have new meaning. “…Never mind. It was four o’clock when we came in.”
Could you have given her that knowledge? I doubt it.
I’m not that out of touch with…bah, never mind.
“Is dinner still at six-thirty here, Lily?” Cirno asks.
“It is, yes- I was going to bring that up myself, actually. The vampire’s day-to-day interests may wax and wane with the full moon, but I suppose you just grow into certain habits after five hundred years, and meals would qualify.”
“Why does any of this matter, though? Juniper doesn’t see how- how the amount of time before sundown or whatever affects her not being able to see her friend so soon. Again.”
You catch a wink from Lily out of the corner of your eye, but it’s an unnecessary gesture considering you’ve already caught on to her point. “It’s relevant because I’ll be seeing you again in just a couple hours, once we all reconvene at dinner. We’ll be able to talk then, I promise.”
“Oh.” Juniper’s tirade of righteous anger more like self-righteous annoyance seems to drain right out of her. “…Well, fine, but Juniper’s friend better make sure to eat dinner with her to make up for this, okay? Don’t forget about Juniper, you’ll regret it if you do.”
“I won’t, and that should be fine.” You pause, uncertain whether the next point is really necessary, but go ahead with it regardless. “…Also, I do have a name now, Juniper, so you can call me something more than just your friend. It’s Hebe.”
“Hebe? Hebe. Heee-beeeee…” Juniper says, rolling the word around in her mouth as if tasting it. Nodding, she flashes you a smile. “Juniper likes it. It’s a pretty name. Pretty like you.”
“Sooo, I think it’s about time we were off. Wouldn’t want to keep, er, those books and records waiting, right?” Lily says loudly, quite fixatedly not looking at the expressions of Star and Luna.
“I’ll second that.” Dai says, tugging on Cirno’s arm and pulling her past you down the corridor. “Good luck with your own search.”
“See you guys at dinner,” Cirno calls back to you.
Juniper refrains from a verbal goodbye, instead deigning to give you a quick hug before flying off after the others, giving you a little wave over one shoulder.
“How do you put up with her, anyway?” Sunny asks you in an undertone, looking dispassionately on Juniper’s receding back as you fly back to the staircase.
You shrug helplessly, unsure of what to say to that. “I…don’t know? She doesn’t bother me.”
“Yeah, I’ll bet she doesn’t.” Star mutters.
“...By which I mean she seems to intentionally- to some extent, at least- act differently than she does around you all. Less immature- well, no, not really, but a bit more considerate, I guess. I’m not entirely sure why.”
Star sighs. “Yes, Hebe, thank you for further confirming my point. But regardless of that...” She sighs again, but the sound is a much more relaxed one this time, and a matching smile forms on her face. “We don’t need to think about her for the time being. I’d rather focus on how nice it is to have you back with the three of us.”
“Is it? Well, that’s good, I was worried that things might be awkward after how that conversation of ours ended.” you respond, blinking as Star’s smile seems to freeze up. Luna groans softly, pressing a hand to her forehead.
“W-well, I suppose I can see why you’d think that.” Star says after a pause, turning away from Sunny’s questioning look. “But I had a chance to think things over, and I’ve decided that it’ll be better for both of us if I try taking things slower, easier, for a little while. Focus on being better friends for now, and gradually…see what you’re comfortable with.” She blushes slightly.
On your other side, a small smile flickers on Luna’s face, but it doesn’t quite reach her eyes. “How did your time with Cirno and Dai compare to our company, Hebe?”
“Um, it was fine; I’ve enjoyed both your company and theirs so far. There was a little complication where Cirno seemed to think I was threatening her being in charge of things, but I don’t think that’ll be too big of a problem.” You’ve decided that keeping your promise to Dai should include keeping a lid on all of her suspicious activity, so you leave things at that.
“Yeah, she was acting like that with me too, ticked me off a bit.” Sunny replies. “I mean, it’s obvious that I’m better qualified to be in charge than her- I’ve managed a whole war before, and the most she’s done is lead a few dozen fairies to help out Letty one time. But she still didn’t believe that I’d be a better leader, even with that and plenty of other reasons.”
“Can’t imagine why, I’m sure.” Star murmurs to you, winking.
“So, did Cirno give you any trouble?” Sunny continues.
“Nothing worse than a few heated words,” you assure her. “The only actual trouble I had was unrelated to her, when I unexpectedly found myself with Yuuka and–what?” You glance among your three companions, who have stopped as one in midair and are now staring at you in horror.
“Y-you ran into Yuuka Kazami? And you survived?” Sunny quavers.
“No, there’s no way she did, after meeting with that monster.” Star dismisses quickly. “Still, I’m glad you could even escape, even if it almost certainly wasn’t unscathed- I guess she didn’t notice you as anything worth more than a swatting.”
“Well…actually she said that she’d been searching for me,” you admit, a bead of sweat forming on your forehead.
“…did…she?” Star’s expression doesn’t change, but her face, naturally pale to begin with, blanches half a dozen shades whiter. Sunny and Luna suddenly seem about half a panicked step farther away from you.
A few words of Yuuka’s come to your mind. “You see, prior to yourself, I’ve only met four fairies who I viewed worthy of my attention.” Judging by your friends’ reaction, you think you might be getting an idea of how she treats, or at least appears towards, those whom she deigns not “worthy”.
And that throws another complicating variable into your judgment of Dai’s behavior towards Yuuka, dropping you squarely in the territory of No Idea Whatsoever.
But that’s something to think about later. For now, focusing on calming down your friends from the perceived threat of this youkai-boogeywoman is a higher priority. With a sigh, you make an effort to speak calmly and reassuringly. “Look, I’m sure you’ve heard some bad things about her-” Luna lets out a choked-sounding laugh at this, but you press on- “but she was just trying to figure out who had been making the plants and flowers grow where we were. Once she established that it was me, she let me go.”
“Oookay, I’ll humor you for a minute. What did she do to you that was ‘actual trouble’, then?” Luna asks skeptically.
“Well, she ki-” don’t say that really, don’t say that I know there’s the whole distrust issue now, but voicing that’s a really bad idea “…kicked at me a bit, and batted at me with her parasol too, but didn’t actually make contact or hurt me. Um…yeah.” you finish a bit lamely.
“…That doesn’t sound very troublesome. Or remotely likely, for that matter. Were you going to say something else, there?” Star asks, eyes narrowing slightly.
“No.” you blurt out, perhaps a bit too quickly. Noticing your face heating up, you cover it up with more rapid speech.
“Look, everyone, I appreciate the concern, but Yuuka really didn’t actually harm me, seriously threaten to harm me, or imply that she’d try and hurt, say, you because of me. Forget what I said, it wasn’t anything worth worrying about. I don’t care how unlikely that sounds, it’s the truth.” you assert. “And I’m regretting that I brought up this subject at all, now, so can we just drop it? Please?”
There’s a tense moment as the trio mulls over your words, but it breaks when they sigh and nod in acceptance.
“…Fine. Guess I’ll count my blessings that we don’t actually have Yuuka Kazami after us.” Sunny says with a shudder.
“Whatever, if by some miracle she likes you that actually might stop us from getting hurt if we cross her path.” Luna says.
“…If you’re sure about all that.” Star says simply, eyes still focused on your reddened cheeks.
“Right. So, anyway, that reminded me…Sunny, what happened between you and Lily, exactly? You got interrupted when I asked earlier.” you say, peering at the ginger flying once again beside you.
“I did? Oh yeah, that’s right, I did.” Sunny says, harrumphing noisily before stealing a glance at Luna. “Can we keep the disbelieving comments from the chestnut gallery to a minimum, please?”
"Well..." Luna draws out the word, smirking. Star rolls her eyes, delivering a poke and a stern look to the curly-haired fairy, who acquiesces with a snicker. "Fine, fine, I’ll keep the skepticism to myself until you’re done at least.”
"All right, so this is how things went down. A few years back, in early spring, I was flying through the Forest of Magic one night. Just keeping to myself, y'know, and keeping myself hidden so any nearby youkai wouldn't get ideas.
Now, this was before I'd hooked up with Star or Luna-" the latter muffles a combination laugh/cough at this, and Star's mouth twitches. "-and so I didn't have our old home to bed down in for the night. It was taking me a while to find a good place to spend the night , and so I was getting kinda annoyed- I don't much like when it's night out, even apart from the other things that come out then."
"So, this is still about the time that you got attacked by Lily, right?" you ask, attempting to nudge Sunny back on track.
"I'm getting to it, I'm getting to it...good stories take time to tell, Hebe." Sunny says, waving a hand airily. You're getting the impression that this girl would judge anything she had to say as a good story. "Now, where was I..."
"Night, lost, homeless, irritated." Star supplies.
"Right, thanks Star. So, that had been going on for a bit, and I suddenly heard this girl– well, it was sort of like she was singing, but it had this more scream-y or wail-y sound– and suddenly I couldn't see anything. But it only lasted a second before I heard this flapping noise dashing right by me, then a squawk, and the girl's voice stopped so I could see again to notice her plummeting to the ground. Obviously, as I had already deduced myself, it was Mystia the night sparrow." Sunny grins at you, smile sagging somewhat as she registers your look of confusion. "We've really gotta introduce you to more people, Hebe."
"Mystia's a friend of Cirno's, and an acquaintance of ours." Star explains. "She runs a food cart where she sells grilled lamprey, and occasionally this really great sake. I could show it to you sometime, if you want~" She bats her eyelashes at you.
”Sure, I wouldn’t mind the four of us taking a trip to the eel stand.” Luna chimes in, diverting your gaze.
“…That’s not exactly what I meant, Luna.” Star says, a bit more calmly than seems natural or genuine.
“I know what you meant.” Luna says bluntly, locking glaring eyes with Star, who jerks backwards as if slapped, betrayal in her eyes. Luna, for her part, shakes her head before turning quickly back to Sunny. “So, what happened after you saw Mystia fall?”
Sunny blinks a few times in confusion before light dawns. “After- oh, right.” The redhead squares her shoulders, eyes recapturing the faraway look as she immerses herself back in the memory.
“All right, so I’d just seen Mystia get shot down- yeah, it was shot, I didn’t mention it before but I’d been hearing danmaku fire, and lots of it, just before she fell. I turned around to see who’d been shooting, and Lily slammed right into me at top speed, knocked me down into the trunk of a really hard tree.
“Now, I already wasn’t in a great mood, but getting run down like that was the last straw, so I popped up again and started yelling at her, telling her to watch where she was going, throwing a bunch of insults at her, I don’t remember the specifics. She’d been heading away from me, but when I started that she turned around and came right back towards me, shouting even louder and with way worse words to boot, and spraying bullets everywhere.
“So, that knocked me down and battered me up pretty bad, and I thought that would be the end of it. But apparently I’d really touched a nerve or something with Lily, because she came down to me, cackling like crazy, and she had some tools with her. Those were a few ropes which she tied me up with, a gourd of sake that she poured over me, and a lighter which she used to set everything aflame. And not Spell Card-legal flames- real, horribly painful fire, and she just left me to burn up in it.
And…that’s it.” Sunny finishes underwhelmingly.
“You’re finally done?” Luna asks. “Good, so now I can say that this still sounds less likely than that fabrication Cirno told us about singlehandedly taking down Marisa.”
”Ugh…” Sunny glares at her blonde counterpart. "Darn it, Luna, why d'you have to doubt me so much about this?"
"I don't know, Sunny, it just really doesn't seem like the kind of thing that she'd do to anyone. I admit I only talked to her for a minute, but you can get the vibe really quickly that she's not that kind of person." Luna says.
"But she admitted to it! Even if it was a my word versus hers kind of thing, I'd think that I would be more believable, but both of us know she did it, so what's the problem?"
"She does have a point, Luna." you say with a shrug.
“Hmm...” You turn to the humming Star, finding the brunette tapping her chin with a finger. “I’m convinced that Sunny’s not making up the actual assault, but...are we sure that the culprit was really Lily?”
“Well, it was either Lily or someone that looked exactly like her, down to the embroidered pointy hat and dress-” Sunny trails off. “...Actually, come to think of it, I’m not sure about the color of her dress. This was at night, y’know, so I couldn’t make out shades that well, but she pretty much always wears pure white and her outfit this time seemed darker.”
“So…right, that might be an indication that it was someone else who attacked you.” you say, musing. “But even if another party had disguised themselves as Lily or similar, that still doesn’t necessarily explain how Lily would know about the event herself…or why she’d claim to be the one responsible.”
“Right, that’s a good point. I definitely wouldn’t do that.” Star says matter-of-factly.
“…No? You wouldn’t be willing to take blame onto yourself for a friend, even if it would help them out a lot?” you ask. “Because assuming this whole alternate attacker theory, that would seem like the most likely explanation.”
“Well, it would depend on the person and situation. But…no, generally not. Taking care of oneself should be a higher priority, in my opinion.” Star states.
…You can’t help but think that Luna’s mention of Star’s “escapes” from their pranks is taking on a rather disappointing meaning, now.
“Anyway, we’re here.” Luna says, drawing your attention to a pair of heavy-looking yew doors before you, each scribed with a dizzying number of strange symbols, each with its own unique shape and color. A small placard to the right of the doors reads VOILE LIBRARY.
“…Wait, I thought I was the one leading the way here.” you point out, slightly affronted.
“I know you thought that.” Luna smirks, sidestepping and allowing you access to the library’s entrance. “You can lead the way inside, how about tha-”
Before you can do so, however, the heavy doors slam out towards the two of you. A quick jump backwards prevents an unwanted blow to yourself, but Luna isn’t so lucky, the wooden edge clipping her mid-word and knocking her backwards onto her wings.
A short, redheaded- and really redheaded, tone closer to Meiling’s than Sunny’s- fairy maid lowers her leg from what appears to be a kicking position and emerges, muttering to herself. “Dangit, I know I saw her somewhere around here earlier…where did you go, Juniper?”
You blink, brain still processing the new arrival’s words, and greet her reflexively. “Um, hi there.” She knows Juniper?
“Yeah, hey, whatever.” The girl pushes past you unconcernedly, before halting and spinning back. “Say, I don’t suppose you’ve seen a particular maid anywhere around? Wavy dark hair, a tiny bit shorter than me? Talks like she’s the narrator of a movie about herself?”
“Um. Might have.” you say cautiously, sparing a glance towards the three behind you. Luna has picked herself up and is whispering with Sunny and Star, clearly having picked up the meaning behind this maid’s words. “What name would she be called by?”
“She’s Fennel, I’m Juniper.” the redhead responds glibly.
“…But you just were wondering aloud about where ‘Juniper’ went.” you argue, frowning.
“Huh? Oh, you heard that…I mean, no I didn’t. But, er, you’re right anyway, that was a slip of the tongue. I’m Fennel, she’s Juniper. Again, seen her anywhere?” ‘Fennel’ revises quickly.
“Uh, Hebe? Can you come here for a second?” Sunny calls, beckoning you back among them. Complying, you hear the familiar unnatural quiet associated with Luna’s use of her power.
“I say we get rid of her. One Juniper involved with us is already more than enough.” Sunny says immediately. “We’ll just tell her that we don’t have any idea who she’s talking about, and point her in the opposite direction.”
“Not that I don’t agree with the latter point, but let’s not be hasty here…” Star counters. “If we lead this Fennel girl to Juniper, we might be able to let her lead Juniper away from us too.”
“Uh…regardless of what we decide, you guys know that going silent and suddenly holding a private conversation, right after she asks about this, is bound to make us look pretty suspicious, right?” Luna points out.
“Apparently not.” you mutter, jabbing a finger in Fennel’s direction. The crimson-haired fairy is leaning idly against the wall, looking supremely unconcerned with your behavior.
You still should deal with her before you head into the library, though.
[ ] Convince Sunny that you should let Fennel tag along with you to meet Juniper.
-[ ] Because it might keep Juniper out of your hair.
-[ ] Because you could use a navigator once you leave the library.
-[ ] Because it’s the right thing to do.
[ ] Don’t mention your connection to Juniper, but let Fennel know that you saw her on the second floor.
[ ] Feign ignorance of both Juniper’s whereabouts and the girl in general, tell Fennel that you don’t have any idea what she’s talking about.
[ ] (Write-in.)