“Lady Remilia has been waiting to see you,” the majordomo stated quietly, lighting the ornate lamps at either side of the doors. The sun had all but set, the last dying rays of light were barely visible through the giant windows. “I know you've been kept rather busy today, and I apologize again for the misunderstanding in the cellar,” she nodded solemnly, the act of contrition as polished as it had been the first time I saw it. “I was instructed to show you to the drawing room before supper, for a formal introduction.”
“That's quite alright,” I said, “I'm used to eventful days.” Suika usually made sure that moments of dullness were few and far in between. “I hope I'm presentable enough to meet the mistress of the manor. My clothes were scuffed even before all of that business with that young girl,' I said with my tongue fully in cheek.
“I'm not sure my opinion matters much,” she said with an elegant smile, “but I believe you would look quite dashing no matter the state of your vestments.”
“Thank you, Sakuya,” I said, glad I had such an agreeable liason for this job.
Turning her attention to the door, the slender girl knocked softly on the hard wood. Pausing for a moment first, she then opened the door, beckoning me in with a smooth motion of her open hand.
The room was dark. A lit fireplace in the corner was the sole source of illumination. The walls were of a dark wood, the same kind on the door and the side door further in, and had a strip of wallpaper in between a section of horizontal wall that ran all along the sides of the room. Decorations were sparse for the space. A single large painting of a pale, sickly-looking girl sat opposite the fire. She was dressed in dainty clothes and had a fur draped over her shoulders. The flicker of flames and moving shadows gave me the impression that she was someone with something that she wanted to hide. Beyond that there were a few large upholstered chairs with burgeoning and comfortable-looking cushions and arms. And a single chaise longue turned towards the fireplace. The profile of a reclining figure lay still on it.
I approached tepidly, feeling a little self-conscious. I just wasn't sure how to act with someone rich and powerful. The ostentous gardens outside were more than enough to intimidate me, let alone the vast hallways full of art and luxury.
“Milady,” Sakuya began as she shut the door behind her, “I've brought the coordinator as requested.” There was no reply. “Milady?” she asked inquisitively, approaching the figure slowly. “Is everything alright?” She then stopped in front of the seat, looking down at the figure. A heavy sigh escaped her lips. “Milady,” she gently shook the figure, “please wake up, we've got company.”
“Hell's bells Sakuya!” the figure bolted up, sounding irate. “What is it this time? I'm taking my afternoon rest and told you I was not to be disturbed.”
“My apologies,” Sakuya bowed, “it was my understanding that you were anxiously waiting to speak with the gentleman we contracted.”
“Yes, I bloody well am!” she screeched in a high pitch, ”well, what's happened to him? Didn't show? I tell you those villagers are about as dependable as a soaked crumpet.”
Sakuya cleared her throat. “The gentleman in question is standing behind you and has been exceedingly punctual.”
“Oh... oh!” the girl came to grips with the situation. “Why didn't you say anything?” she whispered a little too loudly. It sounded more like a hiss. She stood up quickly but then evidently thought better of it, sitting back down and reclining. “Do come around, if you would,” she presumably directed towards me.
I did as asked, trying to guage the situation from Sakuya's facial expression. Unfortunately the servant was too well-trained to let her thoughts show openly. I simply smiled politely, coming face to face for the first time with the mistress of the estate. I introduced myself like I had been practicing all week, pulling it off about as well as I could have hoped.
“A pleasure to make your acquaintance,” the young-looking girl replied. She was the same one from the portrait, I realized. “I am Remilia Scarlet, proprietor of all that you see here and head of this household.” She stretched her hand out towards me for some reason, letting it hand slightly limp in the air, looking like she was waiting for something to happen.
Sakuya cleared her throat again, interjecting, “Lady Remilia, I must remind you again that the peoples of these lands are not used to those types of customs.”
“You're such a spoilsport, Sakuya,” Remilia looked upset and withdrew her hand. What was that all about? Turning back to me, she said, “I do suppose that proper etiquette isn't taught to the masses and I cannot fault you for that. How go preparations for the fête?”
“The...?” it took me a moment to realize what she meant, “oh yes, of course, the party. Well, I've taken a look at the kitchen and dining hall and I think that we can accommodate a large number of people. The wines in the cellar are not enough for the scale I was told the event would be so I'll ask my Aunt to send us several crates from the store.”
“Admirable work,” she smiled slightly. It honestly looked like she was trying too hard to look enigmatic and refined. Which was impossible given the circumstances.
“Milady...” Sakuya leaned in and whispered to her, picking up on the same thing I had.
“What?!” Remilia's smile darkened and turned into a frown. She wiped her chin brusquely, completely contrary to any notions of composure she wished to project. Her eyes focused intensely on me, scrutinizing if I had noticed what she had done and why. I played dumb, pretending that I was looking over at the fire instead of watching her wipe drool off her face. She cleared her throat, either buying into my performance or trying desperately to, “you'll be joining us for supper, won't you?” she changed the subject, “Patchouli seems to hold you in some regard. She's mentioned your name over tea several times. I have been most curious to meet you.”
I chose to avert my gaze from the rather bad case of bed hair, or sofa hair as the case might be, that she had.
“I will, if that's alright with you,” I replied. “It's been a busy day and I haven't had a chance to eat yet.”
“That simply won't do,” the girl smiled, a fang appearing from a corner of her mouth, “you simply must keep up your strengths around here. It wouldn't do if you collapsed from exhaustion before the night of the event. And besides,” her eyes glowed with the same intensity as the eyes of the painting, “I haven't had the company of a gentlemen for quite some time. I am surrounded by servants and women, it will be refreshing to parlay with a man over dinner.”
“Milady,” the servant cut in with a polite cough, “would you like to freshen up before dinner is served?” While Sakuya asked with the same faultless manners I was having a hard time adjusting to, I couldn't help but think that her question was more of an order. Something about the timing.
“Oh yes, that would be a good idea,” Remilia acknowledged the request in good spirits. “I'll withdraw to my room while you escort our guest to a waiting area.”
“Very well,” Sakuya nodded, showing me out with a bow and extension of her arm. We left the room and I immediately felt relieved. We began to walk down the hallway towards the main entrance. “You carried yourself quite well in there,” she encouraged me quietly. “I apologize if my lady was less than charming, I assure you that she usually makes the utmost effort to make guests feel at home.”
“It's fine,” I told her. My thoughts weren't lingering on the head of the household. “Say, about dinner...”
“I do not know if Lady Patchouli will join us this evening.” On top of being the perfect servant, apparently Sakuya was eerily prescient. “If you wish, however,” a soft smile formed on her lips, “you may request her company yourself. It'll be at least another half hour before dinner is ready.”
“I'm not sure that would be appropriate...” We had last seen each other under strained circumstances. I wasn't sure how I was supposed to act around her.
“I'm certain she'll be overjoyed to see you,” Sakuya said. I couldn't tell if she was poking fun at me. “If you like I'll escort you to the library.”
“Maybe instead I should help out in the kitchen... in the village we're used to helping out even if we are guests. Besides, I'm sure you know that the time I spent with Alice taught me that I should learn everything about my surroundings before I can begin to understand what to do.”
“Mm, another young magician, eh?” Sakuya giggled. Girlishly and without restraint. It was the first time I saw her drop her guard completely. Was the image of me learning magic from Alice that implausible? “Don't be cross with me, I apologize,” she quickly regained her composure. “It's simply very unusual to see a normal villager concern himself with the affairs of youkai.”
I suppose it was unusual. Then again, I didn't feel like I was a normal villager. I had survived jealous oni, marauding magician spirits and even my own shyness.
“Well then, will you insist on accompanying me to the kitchen?” she asked, “ or shall I show you to the library?”
 It'll be nice to see Patchy again, after all.  I don't want to miss the chance to help Sakuya out.
-- For those who know how this works, strap in for a fun ride. For those of you who don't: I only require your attention and some form of comment along with your vote. It's because I want your input since it can affect the opinions of others and it can affect the results of the vote. I integrate comments made, when applicable, into the story too. This will be a shorter story with (hopefully) fast updates depending on voter turnout and life not being a bitch.
I like this Sakuya, ergo I vote to go see Patchy because I want to see what she's like. Logic.
I hope that this doesn't somehow, out of Satan' anus, backfire on us horribly. That would be most unfortunate, like if Lady Luck said "fuck you guys" and took a shit on us. But that's just my irrational paranoia talking. I hope. LOGIC.
I found myself thinking that the room may be larger than my house. It certainly seemed to have more doors than my house. Like the rest of the mansion the ceiling was high off in the distance and all the empty space could have easily fitted a mezzanine. Long benches and cupboards full of kitchen utensils and doodads of all sorts lined either side of the room save for a large area in the middle. A huge stove with many mouths and a large, central oven dominated the central space. It was around there that most of the kitchen staff were congregated. The number of people working in the kitchen was remarkable. At least a dozen girls in spotless uniform moved to and fro with half of them dedicated to preparing ingredients and busing them around and the other half tending the many fires at the stove.
The staff tensed up visibly when they noticed that Sakuya had come in. They minded their own business but I could see that every now and again they stole glances in our direction. Not that Sakuya seemed to mind. She calmly approached a stockier girl at one table and exchanged a few quiet words. Always with the air of professionalism. It made me feel a little anxious. And I realized the reason why almost immediately – I enjoyed seeing her giggle so carelessly earlier.
Sakuya came back to me and informed me about what was going to happen, “I don't cook most things myself, it's up to the staff. I supervise and make sure that things go smoothly. Lia over there,” she indicated with a subtle nod of the head the girl she was just talking to, “is going to put you into use if you don't mind. If you'll excuse me I need to check up on something in the larder,” she concluded with a polite little bow.
I wasn't about to lollygag. I wanted to be as useful as possible. “Excuse me,” I spoke to Lia, asking, “what can I do to help?”
“Grab an apron and 'elp me knead this dough 'ere,” she instructed with a thick accent. Lia pointed to a rack full of spare aprons and forgot all about me until I came back. “Get it nice 'n smooth now. Mind that it doesn't 'ave to be perfect. The girls can fix things when they're shaping the pastries.” I tried my best to knead the dough. “Not so 'ard now innit?” she laughed heartily, “not bad at all considering you must be one of the old lady's new toys.”
“Uh, what?” I had no idea what she was talking about.
“Oh, don't tell me that I've offended you,” she shook her head apologetically, “no shame in keeping someone else company. We all need someone to keep our beds warm at night. Even us fairies.”
“You're a fair...” That's when I noticed the almost transparent set of wings on her back. On everyone's backs. “Wait, that's not the important part. I think you're misunderstanding. I'm here to help set up the upcoming party.”
“He's a shy one, ain't he?” a passing scullery maid couldn't help but comment.
“Or maybe he's not here for the mistress at all but on retainer... under the supervision of a certain workaholic head maid...” another kitchen help piped in. It shouldn't have been a surprise that everyone had been listening in on our conversation. A remarkable feat considering that the kitchen was a pretty noisy environment.
“Now that's saucy!” yet another fairy exclaimed. “I wonder if they'll meet late at night in the garden for a secret rond-eyz-vooz.” Several of the girls started to blush.
“It's really not like that-” I started to explain again.
“Alright girls, back to work!” Lia shooed them away with a practiced wave of her hand. “No slacking or I'm putting you up for double shift.” With her hands never stopping their work, she look straight me. “I'm sorry luv, I know it's terribly rude of me to pry. A bit 'o curiosity made me wag me tongue when I should have shut up. I won't pry any more and none of my girls will pry either.”
“You should believe me when I say that nothing's going on and I'm just here for the party,” I insisted.
“What else would be going on?” Sakuya returned with uncanny timing.
“Oh, it's nothing,” I sighed, “just idle talk.”
“Well alright,” she nodded, “I appreciate that you're helping us out. It's very sweet for an outsider to do anything for us. In fact, it's quite charming.” At that last line a buzz of excitement went around the room. Poor Sakuya, she didn't know she was feeding the delusions of the other maids.
There was nothing I could say openly about it. I stuck around helping where I could, shifting from station to station. I wasn't completely useless at cooking but the maids I worked with were on an entirely different level than me. They chopped, minced, kneaded and sauteed things with peerless efficiency. We were nearly done before I knew it. Or at least the first course.
“Isn't it a little warm for soup?” I asked Sakuya as she was checking the flavor of the large pot of boiling soup.
“Milady insists that we eat at least a five course meal at dinnertime. Soup is rather easy to prepare so it's a popular choice for the kitchen staff.”
“Oh, I see,” I said, feeling a little out of place. I wasn't sure if I had ever eaten five different dishes for a single meal.
“You'll manage just fine,” Sakuya assured me with bemusement in her eyes, “the portions are smaller so that you may fully enjoy the taste of each part of dinner. Not to be rude but are you comfortable with using a fork and knife?”
“I think I can manage,” I told her. Spending those weeks with Alice had familiarized me with the basics of unusual cutlery.
“Good. Please remember that the silverware will be laid out in such a way that the outermost implement will correspond to the current dish.”
I wasn't offended by the almost patronizing explanation. In her place I would have said the same thing. Most people I had met would be at a complete loss to understand how the system worked.
“I'm amazed that you do this every day,” I confessed.
“It's not very difficult once you are used to the routine,” she said. Seeing as she was never idle, she had to excuse herself again. “I'll check in on Lady Remilia to see if she is ready for dinner. If you would like, please wait in the sitting room just down the corridor there on the second door to the left.”
“Just a moment. Is it just going to be the three of us at the table?”
“Well only Lady Remilia and yourself will be eating. I'll simply be standing by in case there's something you may need.”
“Hm, what about the other person I saw earlier in the cellar?”
“She normally takes her meals separately at a later time,” Sakuya said with a perfectly neutral mask.
“Is there a problem with everyone eating together?”
“No, it's not that...” her face made a difficult expression. But it was only momentary. “Milady simply likes adhering to routine. She isn't exactly unreasonable... but she doesn't deal well with many big changes.” Reading my mind once again, she said, “I think you're better off starting with just one thing.”
 In that case, I'll ask Remilia to let Sakuya join us for dinner.  Getting the blonde girl I met earlier to join us is a good way for us to clear up that misunderstanding.
Another chapter and this time in the SDM? Hell yes!
So far I liked that part with Remilia trying thinking she was all alone with Sakuya, being all aristocratic and looking down on others. She is kind of cute like that. But most important for me is a likeable Sakuya, not some kind of machine that does her work and no thoughts for herself, but someone with her own mind. Plus, that take on the fairy maids is interesting. So to say.
[x] In that case, I'll ask Remilia to let Sakuya join us for dinner.
I actually would like to see Sakuya take a break and just eat with the guests for once. Maybe get a talk going with her and see what is beside that perfect maid.
Remilia emerged from the room shortly after Sakuya went in to check on her. A short maid, carrying the dress she was wearing earlier, bowed politely and scurried off into the depths of the mansion. Given the time she had likely spent getting ready, her change in wardrobe was a little underwhelming. It was a simple long black strapless dress which celebrated her delicate shoulders, slender neck and decolletage. It matched her small and impractical-looking wings as well. There was an air of mystery to her, however. In part due to the ambiguous lighting from gas lamps that cast long shadows over people's figures.
“I do hope I haven't kept you waiting long,” Remilia said with some ill-hidden relish. “I wished to dress myself appropriately for my guest's sake.”
“I appreciate it,” I didn't mind humoring her a little, “the dress suits you rather well.”
“Thank you,” she smiled. I noticed then that she had gone through the trouble of putting on jewelry as well. Nothing too complex. Just a simple dangling earring and a small pale cross pendant on a smooth chain around her neck. She'd taken the time to fix her hair as well. While still somewhat wavy, her short locks now generally followed a single direction.
“If it isn't too much of a bother, I have a request,” I got in my request as soon as was politely possible, “I'd like Sakuya to join us for dinner.”
“Sure, whatever,” Remilia agreed with complete disinterest. Immediately she changed the subject again, “what do you say you walk me to the dinning hall. It's been a while since I've been escorted by a gentleman.”
“If milady doesn't mind then, I'll go ahead and set a place for myself,” Sakuya emerged from the shadows.
“Do what you must,” Remilia once again agreed easily. Sakuya vanished from sight quickly and effortlessly. Even if my eyes had been focused solely on her I doubted I would have been able to follow her movements. “Say, let's take the long way around.”
Remilia took her time as she leisurely guided me down the wide halls of the mansion. She stopped here and there, making a remark about whatever painting or sculpture happened to be there. It didn't seem like she was very interested in whatever I might have to say about it. The feeling was mutual. In our own different way, we each avoided having a conversation with substance. We both understood that the roundabout walk had another purpose.
I was impressed with the scale of things. I had seen the outside of the estate several times but had only ever been in the library before. Everything seemed to be even larger looking in from the inside. Even the small details were worth making a fuss about. In the rooms I had been in, fine boiserie adorned the walls. Outside in the halls there was less paneling but cornices abounded, fine painted plaster framing the walls with respect to the ceiling. I wasn't familiar enough with the visual style to pass judgment whether it was elegant or gaudy but I could still appreciate just how expensive it all must have been. Golden patterns delicately painted onto portions of the wall couldn't have come cheap.
There was a degree of uniformity to the decorations. The color palette was mostly limited to the darker colors. Plenty of rich burgundies and tyrians with pastels and creams only making an appearance in more utilitarian spaces like the kitchen. The artwork, for the most part, was limited in theme and style. Portraits of pale-looking people dressed with foreign clothes were the main variety. A few paintings featured landscapes and fancy-looking locations, like banquet halls and palaces, but they were few and far in between. Almost invariably the statues were busts and the few that weren't were sculptures of what I would have guessed were mythological beauties and creatures.
“Well then, here we are,” Remilia indicated towards a large set of wooden double doors. I guessed that she expected me to get the door for her. “Thank you,” she said quietly as she passed through the doors. I had guessed correctly. “Please take a seat, I trust the food will be here soon.”
Sakuya was already waiting for us. The table exactly as I had imagined it. A single long piece of polished wood that could easily accommodate at least a dozen people. An ornate chandelier above cast a subdued light over the fine china and silverware that had been set on one end. There was no tablecloth set, for what I guessed was to show off the quality of the wood, and instead individual place mats indicated the spots were we would sit. The maid pulled out the chair set at the end of the table for Remilia and waited for her to be seated. I was seated at Remilia's right and Sakuya was at her left, straight across from me.
“I apologize for not serving an aperitif but I forgot to ask for hors d'oeuvres to be made. I hope your palate won't be too disappointed.” Remilia apologized for something that I had no idea was a problem. “For our ball there will be, of course, both in ample supply.”
A pair of maids came in from another end of the room carrying a small collapsible table. They placed it at our side, left and then returned with our first course as well as a bottle of wine.
Remilia was all too happy to go on about the quality of her wine, how it was made locally under her direct supervision and how the tannins were at the right balance and whatever. I was more interested in watched Sakuya. Though quiet and composed, she was still doing her job of the head maid. She seemed to direct the other two maids, or at least scrutinized their movements, with her clear and focused eyes. Without words she seemed to tell them whom to serve first, when to pour the wine and warn them not to interrupt the conversation. I had never seen anything like it.
“Yes, I will admit that that was a bit of an amusing anecdote,” Remilia concluded with good humor. Evidently she mistook the smile that crept up on my face for interest in her. With a look of self-satisfaction she gently swirled around the contents of her wine glass, pausing to admire the color and bouquet before taking a sip. She stopped talking for a bit, instead eyeing me quietly as if expecting something.
I figured that she expected me to make conversation for a change. A personal story about spending time with Suika or someone else was probably going to be inappropriate.
 Inquire why she specifically asked for me to help her with her party  Trying to find out more about her as a person was more interesting.
Hahaha oh wow she is laying it on really thick. That look at all my stuff and be in awe is kind of funny if you consider how she behaved earlier. Knowing that I am feeling somehow mean, like wanting to tease her or make her pout, stuff like that. I wonder how easy that would be?
[x] Inquire why she specifically asked for me to help her with her party
I am tempted to find out more but I wish to see what happened before he arrived. And why he is here.
“Hm?” Remilia cocked her head to one side ever so slightly. She played with her wine glass some more, looking upwards as if lost in thought. I tried a bit of my soup, patiently waiting for her to decide what it was she wanted to say. It was an act that seemed to amuse Sakuya who cracked an almost imperceptible smile towards me and then followed my lead and had a spoonful of soup.
It was as delightful as I thought it would be. Though on closer inspection it may have qualified more as a broth than a proper soup. Not that it mattered.
“Perhaps milady would like to recount how we first heard of our esteemed guest?” Sakuya nudged her reticent mistress.
“Yes, that's a good idea,” Remilia agreed, easily manipulated. “I give my staff considerable latitude in their conduct so long as they do their duties competently. It so happens that my guard posted at the gate often speaks to solicitors, peddlers and the like. And since I imagine that's her only real respite during a shift she engages these people for as long as she can. And then through the chattering of servants, important information regarding the rest of the world gets filtered until it finally reaches me.”
In other words, she listens to the juiciest gossip.
“Well, with all the ruckus you caused a while back with the magicians, you've made a name for yourself in certain circles.” Remilia seemed pleased to tell me that. I began to suspect that I was hired because I was the man of the hour. “Then, of course, inquiring further with Patchouli - whom I'm sure you're very intimately acquainted with – I found out that you also happened to have a store in the village. I thought to myself that an interesting character like you who is the current hot topic in certain circles would be perfect to coordinate my next large affair.”
“I'm flattered that you think me interesting,” I told her, truthfully enough.
“Oh I'm sure you're very competent as well, don't get me wrong. Sakuya here has an eye for talent and after meeting you for the first time she said that you would do just fine.”
Remilia was referring to the visit the slender and tall girl made to the shop a week earlier. Auntie happened to be out at the time so it was just me holding the fort. She asked for an expensive and rare spirit and I told her that I would check the back to see if we had any. Turned out that we didn't but I offered her several alternatives and explained their history and flavor at length. She listened patiently and smiled and softly said she would take them all. And then paid in exact change. Like she knew beforehand what we had in stock and the price. The very next day she came back when Auntie was around and offered us the job; We were to provide all the alcohol for a grand party at the Scarlet Devil Mansion. The pay was generous and, in addition, I was to help coordinate some of the entertainment and on-site setup.
“I'm also curious to know about your relationship with the Hakurei shrine maiden,” Remilia said after having a single spoonful of soup. “I hope you don't find me too uncouth for asking but hearsay is often so very vague.”
“Oh, we've just spent some time together. I've helped Reimu out at the shrine a few times. Been to a few gatherings. Helped out with the spirits.” But she probably knew that already.
“I see,” she smirked. "That girl usually spends more time with our kind than with your kind. It's lovely to see her act like more of a normal girl.” I wasn't sure what she thought was going on. “So you're a would-be magician then as well. I very much enjoy the company of people with a flexible skill range.”
“I wouldn't say I'm a magician proper,” I explained, “there was an incident that happened when I was training and well... the conclusion left a few things up in the air.”
“You're way too modest. I'm told you could easily go head to head with our own resident witch.”
I laughed at that line. “I don't think I could... that was sort of a one-time thing due to aforementioned incident. In any case, I don't think I'd ever willingly fight another magician. I'd prefer it if we all just got along.”
“Strange to hear those words from a disciple of that recluse of a magician. I won't hold that against you by the way,” she laughed softly at her own words. I shrugged.
In the end she only had that one spoonful of soup before the maids came back in to take away the dishes. Our next course was a light noodle dish with fresh herbs.
I wondered if maybe she was eventually going to ask me to do magic. She kept bringing up the subject and I kept politely rebuffing it. The less she knew about the particulars, the better. For the sake of everyone involved. I wasn't sure about her, but I would start blushing a little if I talked candidly about it.
“So, in your opinion, will we be ready for tomorrow night?” Remilia asked.
“Definitely. I'll head back home and in the morning come with all the missing drink that we need.”
“Go home?” Remilia shook her head. “Not at this late hour. The roads are dangerous after dark, especially the ones that go through the forest. I couldn't risk anything happening to a guest of mine. You'll sleep here tonight.”
“I can manage by myself.” I declined the invitation, adding as a joke, “I'm a powerful magician, remember?”
“Be that as it may,” her voice softened, “you wouldn't want to be a cause for concern, now would you? We'll all sleep more easily tonight if you're under our roof.”
“I don't want to be a burden...” I tried to weasel my way out of any commitment.
“Nonsense!” Remilia exclaimed. “Sakuya, the guest room is fully prepared for our dear friend's stay, isn't it?”
“Yes, two of the rooms on the west wing are still undergoing maintenance but there's a suite on the third floor of the east wing that should be more than accommodating.”
“It's settled then. You'll be staying with us tonight.” I was cornered and had nowhere else to go that didn't risk upsetting her. She was being very generous with payment so for the sake of Auntie I couldn't risk jeopardizing our deal.
I had to admit that I was a little sullen by the time our third course arrived. I didn't mind staying over but I didn't appreciate being forced into it either. In an act of futile resentment I kept the conversation strictly professional, asking about the number of guests, the time and a whole slew of small details that were unimaginably boring. I needed to know them, certainly, but I could have just asked Sakuya later. I could tell that it frustrated her not to be the one holding all of the cards in the conversation.
By the time we got to dessert she was a lot quieter and more reluctant to play around with her wine glass. “There's a matter I must attend to right now, otherwise I'd join you for a post dinner drink and conversation,” she announced, breaking no one's heart. “I'll be free in a while, however, so we can continue where we left off.”
After the dishes were cleared I was left alone with Sakuya. She politely waited on me, asking me if there was something in particular that I might need. I could tell she had work to do and so I felt a little uncomfortable with taking up more of her time.
 Take a nighttime stroll in the gardens.  Finish inspecting the alcohol supply in the cellar. - Blame IRC for making this take longer than expected.
>In other words, she listens to the juiciest gossip. hahaha okay that one just made me laugh. >the conclusion left a few things up in the air. What a jab but I guess this Arc is one that finished the trials in /forest/. Plus, that sexy times with Marisa happened too. And probably Patchy. Now even more women have laid eyes on him.
[x] Take a nighttime stroll in the gardens.
Because it fits him better than checking on wine in the cellar.
Writing and updating soon because it's been a few hours and I can't sleep.
>>59923 >What story was this? Glass Half Empty >I feel like I'm missing something important. Yes and no. I've been doing a lot of exposition and covering of the key points in these updates thus far. You wouldn't need to read anything else to enjoy this story but there will definitely be more references and easter eggs for those who read the other stuff. So if you have time you can slog through the other stuff if you like.
I made my way down a winding staircase into the cellar. It was different from the access point I had used earlier. I was slowly beginning to map the layout of the mansion mentally but the sheer size of the place and the multiple entry points made getting a clear picture a slow process. I was relatively sure that I was pretty much on the opposite end of the cellar, away from the dumbwaiter and away from the wide steps that were used for easy access from the kitchen.
My excuse to come back down was that I still needed to finish doing inventory properly. Which was mostly true. Sakuya had given me a small lamp and left me at the entrance. I didn't really need the lamp, since in a pinch I could at least use enough basic magic to create a source of light. I was more disappointed by the fact that she didn't show any interest in coming with me. I was sure that if I had asked, she would have come along but I didn't want to impose on her either. Sure, I understood that she was likely busy all day seeing to the day-to-day business of the household, and that her work was never really done, but she was the closest thing to a familiar face I had in the mansion. First day jitters, I knew, but nothing so far had inspired any confidence in me either.
The vaulted room was replete with wooden barrels and stored materials. Shelves and racks held some of the smaller objects in storage. For the most part, most of the space was filled by countless wooden wine caskets. Those barrels held wine in different states of maturity and only a small number had wine that was fit for immediate consumption. I had checked out how the system was organized earlier but failed to log the complete number of barrels that we could use for the party. Mostly because I had been interrupted by an outside power.
It was definitely a naughty little girl who wanted to play a practical joke on Sakuya. The fact that she accidentally knocked loose a barrel from its fixed position and it rolled and split against a wall was unfortunate. It caused Sakuya to call in maids to mop up and made her insist on inspecting the surroundings. She was convinced that it was a rusty bolt or something that had given way spontaneously. I knew better because I saw the smiling girl putting a finger over her lips, telling me to say nothing about her. She must have wanted to knock loose something smaller but ended up doing something unintended.
After finishing with the barrels, I started taking inventory of other things that we would need. I worked through the crates of wine glasses and cutlery, tallying the totals in a little notebook I carried with me.
“Aha! So that's where you're hiding~” a meek little voice behind me somewhere cried out. “You can't escape me that easily.”
“I wasn't trying to,” I turned and smiled at her. “I'm here on a job and when my employer says move on, I have to move on.”
“But I'm your employer too,” she said, pouting, “Sis must have told you about little old Flandre, surely?” On her small frame, an expression like that made her look especially childish. By far the most spoiled look I'd seen all day. And after having met her sister, that was something of a remarkable accomplishment. “This is my home and so I get to decide stuff too.”
“What, the cellar?” I toyed with her a little.
“Nuh-uh, I have my own room upstairs. It even has a sign that says 'Flan's room'! I like to go around the house and pretend that I'm exploring another world and that everyone else is an alien. Well, except you, you can be another fellow explorer if you like.”
“I'm a little busy right now,” I told her, casually keeping the conversation going while I worked.
“But like I said, I'm your employer too. You got to do what I say too,” she whined.
“Ok, ok,” I humored her, “I get it. I'll do what you ask if it's within my power.” There was no sense in antagonizing the sister of my employer, after all.
“Good, good,” she said, looking a little smug for some reason, “then you'll listen to me from now on. I want you to spend some time with me. Right now,” she asked, her voice quivering a little. For all her bluster she wasn't really very confident when it came to orders.
“I'm in the middle of something important, Flandre,” I told her with a smile. “I have to do this now or we won't be ready for the party tomorrow.”
“Aw...” she went back to pouting. This time with sad little puppy dog eyes. “But I wanted to have fun with you. No one ever wants to play with me.”
Mm... Having spent so much time around Suika and withstanding her unbearable clingy phases, I was mostly immune to those sorts of attempts to make me feel guilty. Still, something about her made me genuinely believe that meeting me was the absolute highlight of her week. “If you like you can sit down and keep me company while I finish sorting all of this out. We can talk while I work. That's nice too, right?”
“I guess...” she said sullenly, still pouting as she took a seat nearby on top of a chest.
“So... do you guys have a lot of parties?” I tried starting up a conversation.
“Only sometimes. Sis likes to show off and have people like her. I usually don't get to go. Not that I would want to anyways. Standing around and eating cheese and making small talk is boring. I wouldn't want to go to the stupid thing in a million years.”
“Oh? So you're not showing up tomorrow? What a shame, I'll be there too, you know.”
“I stand by what I said!” she screeched. I snuck a look at her. She was staring right at me. It looked like she was regretting what she said.
“Well... I guess I'm going to miss you then...” I stated, trying my best to look indifferent. “Everyone is going to be there, you know.” And I was going to be busy. But it didn't seem appropriate to bring up. I was enjoying seeing her reactions. Made the work less tedious.
“Well... maybe I would consider making an exception if I was asked nicely to the party.”
“Yeah? Do you want me to ask your sister for you?”
“I don't need her permission!” she snapped in a huff. Her cheeks puffed up a little when she was angry. She looked like a cute and soft-looking squirrel. Or some other tiny little critter at any rate.
“Just offering to do what little I can,” I acted coy.
“I meant if I was asked by someone special. To keep him company.”
“Oh, you mean like your boyfriend,” I nodded, faking absentmindedness. “I'm a little disappointed to find out that you're already taken, but not surprised. Then again, it's the same with all cute girls these days...”
“I don't have a boyfriend!” she blurted out, perhaps a little too defensively. A complex feeling of joy swelled up in my chest. I knew that I shouldn't tease but it was hard to stop.
“Oh, then you're waiting for a prince to magically appear in to this cellar and ask you to the ball? Princes are rare these days. Common folk like me in the village spend their whole lives without seeing one, dontcha know? Usually you have to be a princess to get yourself a prince.”
“I'm kind of like a princess...” she said quietly. “You did say I was cute, so that has to count, right? And I live in a large house and have a lot of maids. Oh and there's really expensive stuff lying around everywhere.”
“I couldn't say. I'm just a commoner. We don't get to judge nobility.”
“Then I don't think I need a prince to ask me. Probably.”
“Oh?” I kept asking the obvious, having my fun. I was just about done with the last box of stuff. “So what kind of person would be good enough?” I asked.
“Eh... all of a sudden I'm finding it hard to talk for some reason. I don't know why but it's like the words are stuck in my throat,” she said quietly, fidgeting in her seat. I watched as she played with the hem of her skirt, looping the fabric around her finger on one side and then the other. Maybe she was being honest about not knowing how to express herself. “Well the kind that's right he-... and, um...” she wasn't being very direct about it.
 Pretend to be a prince if that's what gets her to be honest.  Stop kidding around. In all honesty she would find the sophisticated party boring.
[x] Pretend to be a prince if that's what gets her to be honest.
I cannot disappoint the little girl. All my being cries out against such injustice!
Sorry Remilia, but your younger sister is far too adorable to disappoint. That's not to say you aren't adorable too! But your trying-too-hard moe doesn't have as much an immediate reaction as Flan's can't-spit-it-out moe!
I hope this doesn't end up ruining the party for Remilia.
>I was more disappointed by the fact that she didn't show any interest in coming with me. Oh boy I like him but can you blame him? Sakuya is just too charming. For Arc to see as a squirrel is kind of amusing though.
I am all for teasing cute little 500 year old girls but yeah let's not be a dick. A party would be a fun thing for her and we can keep her company for a short time, so she can get over being a bit shy.
[x] Pretend to be a prince if that's what gets her to be honest.
Sorry but I was being busy and not writing but I'm done with all other distractions and so expect updates soon. Remember: faster votes = faster updates so get ready to f5. You people truly are the worst, indulging the fancy of a young girl like that.
And on another note, please include some form of comment or something in your vote otherwise I don't count them when I tally votes. The reason why is in the first post in this thread. It doesn't have to be analysis or anything pretentious like that. Every post in this thread that has had something other than a vote has been perfectly fine. Though you're welcome to pour your heart out as well.
“You're in luck, Flandre,” I finished dealing with the last box and scribbled down the corresponding figures down. “Though my features may not seem fair at first glance and my hair is always hopelessly disheveled, I have a secret. You see, I am not just a simple villager. I am the last male descendant of an ancient bloodline. We have been forced to go into exile as our rightful titles and fiefdoms were usurped and have lived in anonymity for several generations.”
“Does that mean...?” Her eyes widened as she realized what I was getting at. It was a look that was enough to melt ice in the middle of a blizzard.
“Indeed, my fair princess,” I hammed it up as best I could,”I am the proud scion of a great house.” With an attempt at a regal-level smile, I concluded, “I am a prince.”
“Oh! I knew that you had to be a prince!”
“Yes,” I approached her with even, measured steps. She looked up at me expectantly. I happily obliged them. In one smooth movement my hands swooped down and grabbed her by the back of the knees and back. I had to watch for the stiff wings on her but I was able to accommodate her nicely in my arms regardless. “Well then princess,” I looked down at her comically puzzled and embarrassed face, “would you do this prince the honor of accompanying him to the...” I racked my brain for something the other sister would say, “...fête tomorrow?”
“Would I ever!” she exclaimed happily, wrapping her arms tightly around my neck. It almost made me stumble but I remained steadfast. I was in no way capable of carrying anyone like that for a prolonged period of time but I'd be damned if I was going to break character. “I'm definitely going to have a lot to write in my diary tonight!” Realizing that she said something else that was mildly embarrassing, she looked up at me with puppy dog eyes again, “please forget I said anything Mr. Prince.”
“The name's Arc,” I finally introduced myself. A little overdue, I knew.
“'kay Arc!” she beamed happily. Her legs kicked up and down absentmindedly, adding to the mounting discomfort that I was feeling. “Let's go up to my room and play a little.”
“Are you sure it's appropriate for a princess to invite a prince up to her room after they've just met?” I asked with a laugh. She didn't even realize how awkward it would be to be seen carrying a girl bridal style off to her bedroom. At best it'd be more prime quality gossip for the servants. And at worst... well, I didn't want to think about what an angry youkai would to do me.
“It is a bit improper,” she agreed, nodding her head seriously. “One mustn't get overly familiar with those one has just met,” she let go of my neck and I took that as my cue to put her down. The change of tone would have been bizarre if I hadn't realized that it was just her attempt to act prim and proper. In other words, she was imitating her sister. “Let us meet on the morrow and partake of the tea and crumpets. I say, it shall be most vainglorious.”
I didn't attempt to correct her word usage. “So you want to meet up tomorrow at some point again?”
“Yes, I believe that would be most optimal,” she nodded her head gently trying to look... more lady-like if I had to guess. “I'm afraid we must part now. It is such sweet sorrow. But alas, I am famished and must seek out my hand maiden Sakuya so that I may procure sustenance.”
“Alright, I'll see you later then,” I tried not to laugh at her antics. She was genuinely trying her best and it'd only embarrass her if I told her that she wasn't really pulling it off.
“Wait!” she stopped herself from going right away. “What kind of fairy tale would this be if the princess didn't give her gallant prince a keepsake?” She reached into her pockets, rooting around with her tongue sticking out of the corner of her mouth. Apparently she had a lot of things crammed in there. Soon enough, however, she found what she was looking for.
“Oh, you didn't have to!” I took the little bluish marble she handed to me thankfully. “This prince is humbled at having won this fair maiden's favor. I shall guard this treasure as if it were more precious than my own life.”
Flandre giggled, evidently enjoying my award-winning performance. “There is one more thing,” she said excitedly, her face flush with color, “I would allow my stalwart champion to display his affection in turn.”
“What would you like me to do?” I asked.
“uh, you know... the thing that in storybooks they...” she quieted up again all of a sudden. Just when I thought I had gotten through her shell. Instead of saying anything more she simply turned her face towards me and closed her eyes. She was waiting for me to give her a kiss.
 A light peck never hurt anyone.  What the princess needs is to have her hair ruffled. - In the end I cut a lot of things from this scene.
[x] A light peck never hurt anyone. -[x] Only on the cheek though!
Do not want to disappoint little girl. Do not want to get murdered by overprotective older sister/maid. Wat do? Compromise.
Flandre believes the whole prince thing doesn't she? Damn, I knew I should have made a write-in to just straight out invite her to the party. Hope this doesn't bite us on the ass later, or worse, make Flan cry.
>>59940 >>59942 In general I don't accept write-ins unless I ask for them. Due to railroading their often conflicting nature. I prefer to take good ideas I see in the comments and work them in. The expectations of the readers are also worked in if appropriate. Which, again, is part of the reason why I ask for comments in the first place. So saying you want to do x with Flan or in y manner when going for one of the two options here would likely have a practical effect if enough people agree/it doesn't go against the general outcome I had planned. >>59942 has the right idea. It's manipulative in its own right too.
And if it makes you feel any better here's some actual spoilers for your consideration: a)Arc is not a creep b)I left it purposefully ambiguous so as to get reactions from both people who wanted something less innocent and from people who wanted something completely innocent and c)anyone who doesn't ruffle her hair has no heart
Ok the last one isn't really a spoiler. More like a universal truth.
[x] What the princess needs is to have her hair ruffled.
It's all fun and games until someone takes a joke too far. Not that I'm categorically against romancing touhous (and this Flandre is pretty sweet), but it feels like a wee bit too early, especially if she really does believe our prince joke. Wouldn't want to accidentally end up stealing a maiden's heart through a ruse, that's just evil. Besides, we should give her some time to get to know us beyond childish infatuation on first sight. Like, say, spending some quality time together at the ball thing.
Cool. So two hours and several votes later we nearly have enough to trigger another update (fyi 7 if it's not a particularly controversial vote and it's been less than 3-4 hours). So you have 20 or so minutes to vote and get a majorityor I'm fliping a coin. There are no brakes on the updates train.
“Eh, what are you doing?” Flandre inquired with those big ol' puppy dog eyes upturned towards me.
“I'm letting you know that you've been a good girl,” I said with a smile, “good girls get to have their hair ruffled by the people that like them.”
“Oh, is that so?” she smiled, “then please ruffle my hair lots!” She didn't need to ask. The soft golden strands flowed like water between my fingers as I essentially caressed her head. “Ehehe,” she giggled, “it sort of tickles when you do that. It feels nice. I'm glad that I'm a good girl that you like.”
“That's right princess, it'd be impossible not to like you.” It was also the more chaste thing to do, I wanted to say. But it was enough that she was enjoying herself. I didn't need half-baked excuses to keep from kissing her, even if it would have been just on the forehead.
“I haven't had this much fun in a while!” she hugged me as soon as I stopped mussing up her hair. “My fair prince, you smell a little like that girl who last played with me. I like it, it makes my chest feel all whoosh-whoosh. I kind of wish that we could stay like this forever but, yeah, princesses know when it's time to go.”
“Bye-bye Princess Flan,” I waved at her as she scurried up an alternative set of steps. She waved back, with a smile that glowed like a star.
My hand held lamp decided to quit on me at that moment. Not a problem. I simply used the most simple magic I knew and created an orb of pale light. I thought about all the training and mishaps I had gone through and laughed. I'd have to show Flandre a few petty tricks next time we met, she might be impressed. It'd be nice to impress a youkai, for once. Usually I was on the receiving end of displays of power and talent.
I returned to the main floor of the mansion. The halls were quiet save for the soft sound of music somewhere in the distance. Hauntingly slow notes drew my attention and guided my feet towards their origin. A large room towards the rear of the mansion proved to be the source of the magic. Dressed in pale colors, facing the nearly-full moon, she played the violin as if in a trance. I didn't dare to interrupt.
I watched, as if in a daze. I wasn't sure if it had just been moments or an hour when she stopped.
“It's a bit difficult to play when there's an audience,” Remilia spoke as she lifted her chin from the instrument and lowered the bow. “I hope that my playing was to your satisfaction.”
“I wasn't expecting to run into you in the middle of a performance.”
“Hardly a performance,” she said with some modesty, “it was just practice.”
“It wasn't too bad,” I told her. “If I asked you to play for me some more, would you mind?”
“Not at all,” she smiled a little, looking pleased with my request. Closing her eyes she got into the ready position. Another slow, almost mournful, melody came from the strokes of her bow and the movement of her fingers. I watched in silence, my eyes fixed on the movement of her hands. I didn't dare move, in case my movements could disturb her playing.
She sighed as she played the final note. Once again she opened her eyes and stared right at me. Or maybe right through me. I felt like I was naked and she could see every single wrinkle and feature on my body and soul without impunity.
“You must practice often,” I started to say with a knot forming in my stomach.
“Every now and then,” she replied noncommittally, putting down the violin and bow on a nearby table. She flicked a hand through her hair, letting it bounce back into place. “It helps to relax me when I have things on my mind.”
“You shouldn't be nervous about the party. I'll do my best to ensure it's a massive hit,” I assured her.
“Of that I'm certain,” she smirked, drawing closer to me with small steps. One of her hands brushed down along my cheek. There was very little in the way of body heat in them. “You won't disappoint me.”
Her eyes seemed to glow with an intense reddish light. “Are you alright,” I asked, feeling that she was even paler than usual.
“Oh, it's nothing,” she said, withdrawing her hand, placing it on my shoulder, and slinking around behind me, “I just haven't fed in a while and my body needs some real food.”
“We only ate an hour or two ago,” I remarked.
“That's just another type of pleasure,” she giggled, her long nails scratching along the back of my shoulders as she moved towards my other side. “Don't you know what my kind usually feasts upon?” She stopped moving, pausing just as she came on to my left flank. I felt her rest her head on the back of my shoulder. “Mm, that heartbeat of yours sounds ever so calm. It's nice to meet someone who isn't repulsed by my kind.”
“I'd have to be an amateur to feel uncomfortable around my employer,” I joked, surmising full well what she really meant.
“Indeed. Such professionalism is to be commended.” A finger of hers traced a pattern up my back, sending pin-like ripples straight to my head. “You know, I have to admit that I'm most fascinated in you for various reasons. But there's one that stands out in particular.”
“Oh? And what would that be?” I tried to figure out just what she was getting at.
“Well you're a magician. Of sorts, putting aside your humility. And you trained not only with Alice but dealt with my very own Patchouli and that Marisa girl.” She sighed, “you know, I once asked Patchouli what receiving magical power was like. Do you know what she said?”
“Knowing her...” I smiled, “I'd say that it was likely a very blunt statement.”
“Indeed,” she giggled, pressing her smaller body up close against mine. “She said it was like experiencing a wave of pure pleasure through your body. Every cell in your body shivers and it's as if you're having a million orgasms all at once. In other words, it's bliss.”
“I don't know if I would go that far...” I said, trying not to think about the close encounters I had had with the magician kind. “But it does make you feel like there's nothing that you can't do.”
“I've also heard that magical essence is transferred through bodily fluids. Your saliva... your blood... your manly [i[essence[/i] must be completely saturated with that very same magical power. I have to admit that I'm a bit jealous of that. As a youkai my powers are due to my nature so I don't get to feel that bliss when I'm close to another. But you... you are a veritable fountain of... and I'm so curious.”
Her voice trailed off.
“Are you alright?” I tried to turn around slowly. Remilia was slumping up against me, looking like most of the strength was gone from her legs.
“I'm just a little light-headed,” she smiled weakly. “I didn't expect that being close to you would make it flare up this bad. I-I'm sorry.”
“You haven't done anything wrong,” I said, reviving a part of my prince routine. I picked her up with my arms and carried her to one of the large leather seats nearby. I wondered why she always chose to wear those low cut dresses that showed off her upper torso. In all honesty, she didn't have much to show off. Her real assets were her delicate feet and shapely calves and she knew it. The matching pumps she wore did a great job of highlighting her strongest features. “Just rest up, I'm going to go look for Sakuya.”
She grabbed one of my sleeves, tugging at it softly. “Don't go, I don't want to be alone right now.”
“...will it hurt?” I asked.
“Will what hurt?” she asked dumbly, blinking her eyes as if it was hard to concentrate.
“If you drink my blood.” I told her. “That's what you need to feel better, right?”
She began to pant. “Don't joke around. If you tease a vampire you'll definitely go to hell!”
“I think I'm going to hell anyways. I've done a lot of wicked things as of late.” Like kissing Marisa that one time. And... I preferred not to conjure up any more memories. It wouldn't end well. “I'm not teasing you, “ I assured her, “I'm not stupid you know. You happen to be weak and you were wondering about my magical blood. The result of that equation is that you want to drink my blood. And I'm asking if it'll hurt.”
“N-no it shouldn't hurt much,” she said, her cheeks reddening up for some reason. “Us vampires have a sort of passive magical aura that distracts the victim from the pain. And I don't usually drink much anyhow. I get full easily. So you'll be alright probably.”
“Then, do you want to drink a bit of my blood?”
“Ah, I r-really, really do if I'm honest. I just want to put my fangs into your... big, thick, veiny... you know what. Ah, I can already imagine the bliss as your thick warm fluid gushes into my mouth and down my throat, my tongue completely slick and drenched with it...” She completely avoided looking into my face, reminding me a little of how her sister behaved earlier. She was also having a hard time finding words. Stuck in her throat, I'd say. “But... um... I don't want to force you to do anything you don't want to. You are my guest and, um, that counts for something as far as I'm concerned. And I'm a messy drinker and I always get everything dirty...”
“I think I've heard enough.”
 Let her drink a bit of my blood  Go get Sakuya after all
>good girls get to have their hair ruffled by the people that like them. Oh god my heart. Flandre is just too cute and sweet you could eat her right up. Or die.
So Remilia can actually show off that charisma and impress other people. Happens when she does not try to impress and just be herself. I kind of get the impression that both of the sisters are just similar.
[x] Let her drink a bit of my blood
She is a light drinker and he is a gentleman. Or it could go wrong and she can get addicted to his blood. Or I just want more of that sexual tension.
Remilia went into quite a bit of detail on what feeding feels like on the receiving end. I'm curious about the giving end. Plus there's probably practical benefits in making one's employer feel indebted to oneself...
Besides, I like this non-posturing Remilia in comparison to the earlier depiction. Getting a bit closer to her in various ways doesn't sound like a bad idea.
I knelt in front of her chair and leaned in closer. “Go ahead,” I told her, “you can try my blood.” I loosened up my top, letting the collar slack down to my shoulders. Remilia stared at me, her eyes a swirl of intense red color. It drew me in and I felt my muscles relax and my body begin to move by itself. I positioned my face right in front of hers, my eyes firmly locked onto hers. In her excitement, she still panted, her short shallow breaths began to tickle my nose.
“You're a nice person, I can see why the others all care about you,” she whispered bringing her lips close to mine. Just a few molecules of air stood in the way of them touching. I wanted to lean in further. I desired her. But my body was locked into place, my eyes fixed to hers. Her head tilted and she moved her mouth away from mine, instead placing the softest, most transient of kisses upon the tip of my nose. I was suddenly aware of a sweet fragrance, like that of a thousand fresh flowers, that completely overwhelmed my sense of reason. Remilia smiled, once again stroking the side of my face. “I want to dig in so much that it hurts,” she murmured with a cute little pout, “but I also want to savor the moment. Decisions, decisions,” she sighed.
She moved her hands down to my neck and then even further below. “You know,” she told me with a sly smile, “normally the victim of a vampire doesn't have any recollection of what happened. Then again, a lot of them end up dead. No, don't worry,” she giggled, “I most definitely won't let you die. My point is that you're lucky that you'll remember all of this. It's the magical power that you've cultivated – it provides a passive ward over some supernatural abilities.” Her hands stopped at my waist, “Very lucky.
“I wonder if I'm attractive to you?” she mused, regaining some of her color. “A gentleman should be guarded with his affection, lest he look like a fool and get spurned. Granted, you must be feeling a degree of attraction to me anyways. It's part of my charisma,” she giggled again; It was utterly subversive to my sense of reason. Between the ingratiatingly pleasant scent and her light touch, I was completely enthralled by her. “Perhaps it'd be more accurate to say that it's my innate power as a vampire. Though that's far less flattering to myself.
“Ah, screw it!” she blurted out in a most unladylike fashion. What came next was a surprise. Remilia forced herself on me, her lips firmly locking with mine. Her tongue swirled violently in my mouth, greedily seeking out every nook and cranny of the place. Still out of my control, my body reacted naturally to the event. My tongue gladly danced with hers, moving, twisting and breaking away as was appropriate. What's more, one of my hands moved for her shoulder and the other towards her chest. “Mm,” she broke away, panting harder than before, “your saliva is indeed that of a magician. The sensation of your juices mixing with mine was enough to make my mind blank for a moment.
“Waitaminute!” her voice broke into a higher pitch of panic, “you shouldn't be doing anything that I don't want you to do! Then w-why is your hand about to grope my breasts? Could it be...” she clearly didn't expect an answer from me, “that I want you to fondle me? B-but that's rather lewd! I'm not a lewd woman of loose morals, I'm the mistress of this place and a powerful vampire!” She shook her head furiously from side to side, the color of her face intensifying into a more crimson shade of red. “Or maybe it's just your magician's blood interfering with my ability! That's it! There's no way I'd want a relative stranger to touch my intimate parts...
“But then again...” her expression changed to one of confusion. Her nose twitched as she thought. “Maybe just a little wouldn't hurt.... no! What am I saying?! You're going to remember all of this too, crap!” She began to pant harder, clearly out of panic rather than excitement as before. “M-my reputation. Um... what to do... what to do...” I watched her panic without saying a word. She talked to herself plainly, forgetting that I could hear her just fine, “Oh and when I moved my hand to his abdomen I could tell he was really hard too... it's because he wants to do that. It's my fault so it would be my duty to calm him down, right? Ladies of high society take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. But then again...” she paused and sighed, “he is kind of big. It's been a while since I've seen a guy like that... maybe with my mouth? Oh but he'd be throbbing so bad that I might accidentally sink in my fangs and bleed him dry. My feet then? Seems a little undignified for a lady like me... but my hands are no better. I'd be like a common working girl.
“That's it!” she exclaimed, evidently finding a solution for her predicament. “I'll just bite him and get this over with. I can ask Patchy later how we can work on blanking his memory. She always has a solution to tough problems.”
Directing her words to me again, at last, she said, “don't get the wrong idea. I just panicked because your aura felt so delicious and did a stupid thing. So don't get too full of yourself and think that you're good enough for an aristocrat like me. You're just a peasant... a well-endowed peasant but a peasant nonetheless. You're 200 years too early to even think about pleasuring me!”
Hiding her tomato-colored face, she moved violently towards my neck. For a brief moment I felt her soft breath on my skin and then... nothing. Until an intense heat concentrated directly in my heart began to move. It moved towards my neck and then I could feel it leave my body and enter hers. I was in ecstasy. All I wanted to do was to continue to feel more of me go inside of her. I felt her every feature, her every curve and concluded that all of it was just one colossal erogenous zone. And I was sure that I was pleasuring her already. My essence tickled, teased and tantalized her every pore and every cell. I could feel her shiver and spasm, losing control of her body as well as her mind. My breathing quickened. I too was at my limit. I was ready to explode into a giant burst of nothingness.
Which is why I didn't start to question why my vision was beginning to blur. And when I dropped to the floor, it only seemed like a natural outcome. I stared vacantly at Remilia, her pretty dress all stained with a scarlet explosion of blood. What a shame, the maids would take forever to clean that.
“Hey!” I heard a panicked voice from somewhere far away, “get a hold of yourself!” Remilia was on top of me, shaking me with some intensity. I could no longer feel that much warmth leaving my body but it no longer felt quite as good. Instead I felt a few drops of warmth drop onto my face. That's funny, I was sure that it didn't come from me.
Oh... there was something that I wanted to do but hadn't been able to properly.
 Apologize to Patches for everything.  That's right, I wasn't sure if we'd have enough brandy. Remilia ought to know that just in case. - Unless there's a torrent of votes in the next hour and a half, this will likely be the last update for the night.
While we could just ignore her, I feel a sincere apology would be a good start to repairing what's broken, even if we have absolutely no idea on how she would react. Plus I want a resolution, but that's a little more selfish on my part.
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“I'm really sorry for not having the courage to come see you earlier,” I said. “I'm a coward, I know. But I was just afraid that things would be strange between us after everything that happened. You know, we got pretty close, maybe closer that we should have gotten. I'm sure that was unfair to you. The way I walked out and went back to Alice. But I think you understand. I mean, she was doing as she pleased. And we had to stop her. You didn't believe I could do it without preparation. And you were right in a way.”
“I see that you're awake,” Patchouli stated dryly. “How pleasant to know that the thoughts of a dying man are of me.”
I opened my eyes. It was dark all around me. I tried to move my arm but found that my whole body was weighed down.
“Don't try to move,” Patchouli said, “you'll only tire yourself out faster.”
I chuckled, “I take it that I almost died, again?” It was becoming a bad habit of mine.
“You're not that fortunate. There was a good chance of a fate worse than death being in store for you,” she said it with no trace of emotion in her voice. I felt a strange sense of relief that she was still the same old cool-headed magician. Not that I would have minded getting scolded either. I felt ready to apologize to her as many times as was necessary to mend things between us.
“I'm not a stranger to blackouts and magically-induced comas. You still remember the time I spent under your care, I trust?” I sighed, “I'm sorry for burdening you with nursing me back to health again.”
“I don't mind at all,” her voice softened momentarily. It was almost imperceptible. Only someone who had spent days on end alone with her would have been able to pick up on a subtlety like that. It made me want to smile but I wasn't sure that most of my facial muscles were working properly. “You acted impulsively yet again. It would do you well to think through the potential consequences of your actions.”
My face started burning up. “It was a little bit like what happened with you...”
“So I inferred. Though the reason why is wholly different. Creatures that drain the life force from others often suffer some sort of cascading effect that causes them to lose control. You are fortunate that your powers are no longer augmented as before. If they had been, there may have been a good chance that the both of you would have been banished to a different plane entirely.”
“Not good, I take it.”
“I would have missed a chance to talk to you again, to say the least,” she said, completely surprising me.
“I'm really sorry about things again,” I started but got interrupted.
“This isn't about that,” she said quietly, “my judgment was clouded too. I know that we enjoyed some of the more... carnal side effects plenty...” I found my body aching longingly at those words. I could still feel her soft skin and the erratic and crazed touching as if it had just happened. The magical energies at play had enhanced my settings and our mutual desire. The memory mutual teasing, rubbing, licking caused a surge of passion to swell up through my otherwise comatose body. “Arc,” she said softly, snapping me out of my daydream, “I've been interested in you as an individual regardless. Someone who is able to attract the interest of spiritual entities, magicians and youkai alike is someone worth watching closely. I-” she paused to cough, “like you regardless of all that transpired.”
“I'm happy to hear that,” I said earnestly. I thought that our relationship had no hope. However, I still wasn't quite sure what sort of relationship that was to begin with. I didn't think she did either. It was enough to make me chuckle again. “Hey Patchouli, do you remember when you asked me what you could do to make me accept my situation more easily?”
“Yes. You told me to behave more like a regular girl. Then you proceeded to hold my hand and then kissed me on the forehead. It was a very novel experience.” The fact that she stated it straight without skipping a beat was somehow very endearing. “After that...” her words trailed off.
“Yes, after that...” I found that my words trailed off too.
“We did many things and I used my feet to-”
“I remember, no need to remind me!” I laughed nervously. By then my eyes were beginning to adjust to the dim lighting. The world wasn't just pitch black. I could make out one side of what was probably a four poster bed as well as sheets and pillows within my peripheral vision. There was, as well, a familiar face staring intently at me. Oh, she was lying down right next to me. “You're in the bed with me, aren't you?”
“Of course,” she said. “How else am I to keep a close vigil? It's the most efficient way.”
“You're in your pajamas, aren't you?”
“Yes, one normally dresses in their sleeping gown to go to bed.”
“Is it that low cut one with the semi-transparent material?”
“The very same, why?”
“Oh, no reason,” I answered, feeling awfully pleased with myself. The memories of that wonderful piece were also engraved in my mind. I found that I was getting stronger slowly but surely. Or, at the very least, more in control of my body. I tilted my head towards Patchouli, for the first tiem feeling an intense wave of pain originating from my neck.
“You shouldn't move. It'll only hurt until the healing spell takes complete effect. You should be fine by midday,” Patchouli informed me.
“Just my luck,” I said absentmindedly, “I'm in bed with someone I like and I can't do anything.”
“It would seem that the vampiric suggestive effect is still in force. You have yet to properly filter out your thoughts when you speak,” she observed with clinical disinterest. And she was right. I hadn't really meant to say that. It was just a fleeting thought that had somehow been vocalized. “You shouldn't worry,” Patchouli added, ”this would not be the first time we've shared a bed.” I felt her lean in closer. A lock of her hair draped over my cheek. Without much in the way of ceremony, she planted a kiss on my forehead. “A little payback,” she said. Even with my limited visibility in the dark, I could tell that she was smiling.
“Thank you for looking out for me,” I told her as she lay back down beside me.
“I wouldn't be much of a witch if I didn't demand repayment,” she teased.
“What would like me to give you?”
“We can figure out the details later. You should rest up. Try to sleep some more. It'll be morning again before you know it.”
“One last thing before I fall asleep...”
 “I missed seeing you. Will you be at the party?”  “I was just wondering how Remilia was holding up.”  “You youkai will forever be a mystery to me.” - The mythical third option appears! This update brought to you by insomnia - all the cool kids are doing it!
>And on another note, please include some form of comment or something in your vote otherwise I don't count them when I tally votes. The reason why is in the first post in this thread. It doesn't have to be analysis or anything pretentious like that. Every post in this thread that has had something other than a vote has been perfectly fine. Though you're welcome to pour your heart out as well.
[x] “I missed seeing you. Will you be at the party?” No contest. If his 'dying words' where for her, it's obvious that he wants to be with patchouli at the party as well. Worrying about Remi is a decent option, but she's probably fine. The last one is incredibly rude, albeit tempting, and a bit standoffish. That said, at least it is there!
If he said it with a slight pause after "Youkai", and added a tiny, dramatic lilt~ to "forever" while looking directly into her eyes, it would seem pretty romantic. As opposed to the negative connotation both of you feel the sentence expresses.
Just like with artwork, sometimes a little ambiguity works to enhance a literature piece, instead of take away from it.
...And with the way the votes are goin, it seems the real meaning with be lost to the annuls of time.
I'm overcoming my laziness and am going to start writing nowish. Expect stuff soonish.
>>59985 >>59984 It's supposed to be ambiguous but more on the playful/charming side of things. At least I hoped that the rest of the context from the scene would give that impression. Then again, this is the sort of thing that can be fine tuned depending on what the people that vote for a choice are saying in their comments.
>>59973 I forgot to address you last time. There's no way in hell that a proper lady like Remilia would do something so barbaric with her feet. She's likelier to ask Sakuya to do it for her while she watches. Besides, there's plenty of naughty magician stuff, feet included, that already happened in previous stories.
I told her the truth, “I missed seeing you. Will you be at the party?”
“I didn't plan on it,” she confessed. “Seeing that I, too, felt a certain longing at your absence, I am currently reconsidering my options.”
“You could just say that you missed me too and you want to spend time with me at the party,” I chuckled, using my returning strength to roll over to my side to face her. Patchouli was staring right at me with those focused eyes of hers.
“Very well,” she relented, “I missed you and want to spend time with you at the party.”
“-and outside of the party too, if possible,” she added, to my surprise.
“That can be arranged,” I told her, feeling like I was on cloud nine. Forget the creeping nausea, general fatigue and soreness in my body. I really didn't have time for them. It wasn't every day that a magician just came out and stated what she wanted clearly. The tendency was to be manipulative, to mask desire behind well-chosen words, control of emotions and tradition. What a taciturn lot. On the other hand, it meant that seeing a magician give in to their passions was something of an unforgettable experience.
“Good night, Arc,” she whispered softly.
“I wish I knew a spell that granted me night vision so that I could see you plainly as you are now,” I blurted out. Damned vampire hoodoo tripped me up again.
“Instead of rebuking me, I saw a thin suggestive smile form on her lips. “I can teach you one some other time,” she said. “But I don't mind leaving on the lights either.”
And on that bombshell she let out a small yawn and closed her eyes. After a few minutes I couldn't tell if she was fast asleep or still awake and trying to see what I would do. Magicians were a terrible, cruel and mercurial lot despite what they claimed. But I wouldn't have them any other way, I told myself. It was hard to sleep while my imagination went wild but eventually, the fatigue got the better of me.
All's well that ends well. Unless things don't really end and you're back in the thick of it.
I woke up with a start. The bedroom doors crashed open as what seemed to be a pure force of nature exploded into my room. My heart was beating away like crazy, lodged in what seemed to be my throat. A high velocity impact hit me on my chest, knocking the wind out of me, as the bed creaked and groaned to what sounded like breaking point.
“Arc! Arc! My sweet prince!” An excited voice called out. “Good morning sleepyhead! It's time to get up and play with your princess!”
“Ugh, Flandre...” I voiced weakly, still trying to recover from having no breath.
“I was happy to hear that you stayed over last night. When I asked Sakuya about it she told me that you had a long night and needed to rest but I could tell that she was just trying to be polite and all,” she said in what seemed to me to have been a single breath. “So I came over running because I knew that you'd want to see me again so we could have our little tea party together. I've got a really silly hat that you can wear if you like.”
Like an overstimulated puppy, she thrashed around on top of me, giggling all the while. She wasn't particularly heavy or anything but my body still felt a little dull and unresponsive. As such, it was hard to brace myself and deal with her over the top display of affection.
“Princess Flan,” I tried to regain some of my composure and buy time, “would you sit on the bed instead of playing on top of me? Just until I can get up and get my bearings.”
“Aw... my prince isn't a morning person. Isn't that just adorable?” she crawled up the sheets and finally faced me directly. Her eyes had a spark of deep mischief and her crooked grin told me that there was no easy escape from her attention.
“Flandre...” Patchouli chimed in, “you shouldn't harass guests so early in the morning. Do you remember that story I told you about the patient little frog?”
“Oh! Patch-Patch!” Flandre perked up even more, turning her attention to the magician who was still lying next to me. “I didn't expect to find you here. Oh... you're in the same bed as my prince... you must have been together all night....”
A heavy, highly uncomfortable silence fell upon the room like a lead curtain. I was nervous. There was no telling how the earnest, extroverted but somewhat naïve girl was going to react to a revelation like that. I gulped down hard, fully aware that she was a vampire too.
“You must be really good friends!” she concluded with a spontaneous joyful laugh. “I'm kind of jealous that I wasn't invited to the sleepover but you told me Patch-Patch that I had to learn to share and I'd end up having more fun in the long run.”
“We've known each other for some time now...” Patchouli began to explain.
Flandre didn't really want to hear our boring history. Instead she interrupted, asking with a giggle, “isn't he just the most gallant prince you've ever met? Being near him makes my chest feel funny but in a really nice sort of way. It's also a bit weird but I'm feeling a bit hungry now. I guess I'll go ask Sakuya for a bit more food while you sleepyheads get dressed and ready to play. Patch-Patch can join us today too. It'll be really fun.” Flandre sprung up from the bed and landed with both feet on the floor. She twirled around as if showing off to a crowd and giggled a little quietly to herself.
“Arc and I both have work to do today,” Patchouli told her. “He has to help set up things for the party later. And I need to attend to a few personal errands later. I don't know if we'll have time to play.”
“Awww, don't be like that,” Flan put on her puppy dog eyes again, targeting the both of us in a display of nearly-sickening adorableness. She sighed, “I know, I know. Princesses are supposed to be understanding, so it's okay if you can't come play right away. But a promise is a promise! I'll wait for you to come along and see me later!”
Not waiting to see if we had anything else to say, she dashed right on out of the room. Clearly she was used to living life however she wanted.
I sighed. “Thanks for helping me out there,” I told Patchouli.
“She can be difficult to deal with at times. And not just because of her personality,” she warned, “Flandre can lose control of her powers relatively easily. In times of emotional distress or prolonged hardship they may begin to manifest themselves violently and without restraint. Do treat her with caution if she ever gets very upset around you. She cannot help herself.”
“Alright, I'll keep that in mind.” My jaw slackened a bit as I sat up. I was grinning from ear to ear all of a sudden. Naturally, I had to change the subject abruptly. “Oh Patch-Patch... it looks like Flandre ruined your favorite nightgown.” One of her shoulder straps had snapped, causing her entire left side to collapse and expose the rich bounty that lay underneath. As a warm-blooded male it was my divine duty to sear the image into my mind so that I could recall it with vivid detail even on my deathbed. In short, I was ogling her without apology.
She looked as tender and nubile as ever. There was no doubt that she filled out that nightgown with delectable fullness of figure. It was a shame that she normally wore those baggy and unflattering robes that some magicians seemed to prefer. It unfairly hid what was nature's bounty made flesh.
“I see...” she remarked quietly, showing no signs of emotional alteration. With her fingers she grabbed a hold of the hem of the broken part and pulled it up, covering herself with no particular rush. “I apologize if I have offended you,” she stated dryly.
“Nah, you haven't offended me,” I told her with a hearty laugh. “I'd have to be a corpse not to feel excited at seeing part of your beautiful body. Most girls would be blushing though and maybe screaming at me to look away.”
“Is that what you want me to do?” she tilted her head, apparently giving the idea some serious thought.
“Not especially. I'm just contrasting you with some of the other people I know. Even Alice would probably recoil after exposing herself.”
“Well...” she said softly, “I do not see the point in overreacting to what was just a casual exposure of flesh. I mean, after all, we have been in decidedly more intimate situations than this. With prolonged physical contact and the stimulation of primary sexual organs.”
“It never ceases to amaze me how you can say things like that without pause.”
“If you must know...” her voice became even quieter, “I do feel some effect from from all of this. My heartbeat has increased and I can feel a bit of increased warmth on my face.”
“Hm... I don't think anyone could tell just by looking at you,” I teased her a little.
“Then...” She turned her face away from me and clutched her gown firmly. “Perhaps you...” she paused. Nodding quietly to herself after a moment, it seemed like she had been looking for the right words. “Would you liked to listen to my heartbeat and confirm the fact for yourself?” the question escaped from her lips as only the most ephemeral of whispers, almost completely inaudible.
Patchouli turned her torso slightly towards me, as if to invite me to come closer. I couldn't tell if she was kidding or not. I edged in towards her, closing the gap that had been between us on the bed. She softened her hold on her gown, letting her arm drop a little and leaving a spot on her upper chest where I could place my head.
There was a knock on the door. “Excuse me, are you awake?” a voice called out. As the door had been left ajar when Flandre ran out there was no chance to lie back down and pretend that I had been asleep. A moment later Sakuya poked her head in. “Oh,” she said, immediately seeing how close Patchouli and I had been sitting, “so you are awake. Good.”
“Good morning, Sakuya,” Patchouli greeted her normally, as if nothing had been going on a few short moments earlier. “He remained stable throughout the night and it seems that the healing magics have done their part. The salve you provided also proved to be adequate. She stood up and walked towards a chair in the corner of the room. Patchouli picked up her clothes and held them against her chest, keeping her gown in place in the process. “I won't be having breakfast today,” she informed the maid as she left, “I'm going to go get changed and return to the library.”
“...alright,” Sakuya nodded quietly, either not caring or being tactful enough not to ask about what had been going on earlier. Turning to me, she spoke, “Milady apologizes profusely for the events last night and promises to offer you a bonus in order to make up for your trouble. The preparations for the event this evening are proceeding as normal and we currently are awaiting on receiving the shipment of spirits and wine from your shop.”
“Oh, I have to go pick those up,” I said. “I'll need help in order to manage the cart.
“I have my duties to attend around the mansion today but I can think of a person who can temporarily relieved of her duties to accompany you. If that is to your satisfaction I'll tell her to meet you outside after you get changed and have breakfast.”
“I think that I'll skip on breakfast,” I told her, “there's not enough time to waste on eating breakfast.”
“You should build up your strength,” Sakuya said politely, “I would prepare you your meal myself if it pleases you.”
It was a tempting offer but the combination of losing all the night and the ruckus in the morning made me prioritize other things instead. I got up and slowly got used to being able to walk again. I wasn't yet 100% but I was getting there fast enough.
 Go pick up the delivery with the mansion staff. It'll be faster that way.  Get Patchouli to come with me. It's a perfect opportunity to spend some more time together.
>Magicians were a terrible, cruel and mercurial lot despite what they claimed. But I wouldn't have them any other way He really knows whats up. And then he forgot that he is one too. Or maybe not? It is good to see that Patchy has not changed in any way since the last encounters, and the last months of absence, and I still recall the events with her silky smooth feet.
[x] Get Patchouli to come with me. It's a perfect opportunity to spend some more time together.
Sorry Sakuya or Flandre, Patchy time has priority right now. Others writers I would ask if they want a certain magician to win but Teruyo is not like that. inb4 Teruyo railroading Patchy route. Which I would not mind at the moment because she is just lovely and I already know her from the other stories.
Writing soonish. Hopefully we can do the whole fast updates thing so don't disappear on me again.
>>59998 >>59999 I thought every story was Alice route. And, at the very end it's revealed that they were dead all along and it's just a fantasy conjured up by an alien (read:Lunarian) machine. Effectively, it's a Kaguya route
I caught Patchouli near the room we had slept in. Fortunately she had gotten changed nearby instead of wandering all the way back to the library first. “Hold up!”
“What is it?” she eyed me carefully.
“Let's go to the village together.” With perhaps undue confidence I added with a wink, “it's an excuse to spend a little more time together like you wanted.”
“I'm afraid that I have much to do today,” she said, her eyes fixed on Sakuya. The head maid passed us carrying the sheets from the bed, nary stealing a single glance our way. “However,” she stated as Sakuya turned a corner, “it is nothing that cannot be put off until later.”
Smiling happily, I nodded. “I'll help you out later if you like. To just return the favor, of course.”
“Of course,” she agreed evasively. “Missing tomes can wait.”
“Missing tomes?” I asked starting to walk towards the nearest stairwell.
“Misplaced tomes, in all likelihood,” she said. “It's probable that some of the maids I draft to catalog and organize mistook arcane etchings for a pretty picture, used both neurons to admire the pretty art and then forgot from where she got it. It has happened before,” Patchouli shook her head disapprovingly.
I couldn't really comment on the competence of the staff. As we walked down I saw dozens of maids dusting, wiping and polishing furniture, floor, window and wall alike. The upkeep of the mansion would likely be impossible without a large dedicated workforce. From an outsider's perspective it looked like a well-trained group though did spot one or two groups of maids chatting away because they assumed that no one was watching them.
Well, it wasn't my problem. It was a nice enough day outside. The kind of spring day with plenty of sunshine and just the right amount of breeze to cool things down. The lush gardens leading from the main entrance were in bloom. Whole beds of flowers were alive with color. Out there, too, there were maids. They tended to the hedges and other plants, clipping and watering.
The guard at the gate seemed to be in as a good mood as she was the day before, smiling absentmindedly at nothing in particular.
“Let me get the door for you,” she offered politely, making small talk, “sure is nice out today, isn't it? It's the kind of weather that makes me want to go out on an adventure or maybe a quest. Oh, Ms. Patchouli, it's rare to see you leave during the day. “
“I'll only be gone for a brief while if someone inquires after me, Meiling,” Patchouli told her.
“Oh I doubt that Ms. Marisa will show up today. Maybe for the big shindig later. And besides,” Meiling said with a chuckle, “she seldom uses the front gate to get in anyhow. What a regular hoot, that girl.”
“See you later,” Patchouli said with a nod.
“Alright see ya'll later!” she waved happily after she closed the gate shut behind us. I waved back, not wanting her gesture to go unanswered.
The road to the village wasn't particularly long. It just cut through a bit of forest, which usually meant risking an encounter with a hungry youkai. To the undiscerning eye, a youkai could look like a normal cute little girl right up to the moment she took a bite out of your neck. It was safer to travel by day which is why most merchants and peddlers who traveled outside of town left early in the day and returned before sunset. Personally, I hadn't really been put on the spot with a feral youkai but in theory I could hold my own well enough so that I could get away more or less in one peace. But that was due to a combination of low-level magic and practice from playing hide and seek with Suika.
“How far have your abilities degraded?” Patchouli asked out of the blue after a few minutes of walking.
“I'll assume you mean magic. I'm sure that you can tell. What happened at the shrine really did a number on me. Well, it was mostly borrowed power to begin with.”
“I trust you're still sensitive, regardless?”
“Well, if I close my eyes and concentrate I can definitely feel your presence.”
“I could feel yours the moment you passed through the gates yesterday.”
“Chalk that one up to experience,” I grumbled.
“Are you calling me old?” Patchouli went somewhere no man ever wanted to find himself.
“That's not it at all! You're perfectly lovely! Even if you were a million years old you'd look just as good, maybe even better!”
“Though your abilities may have degraded your personality has remained much the same,” Patchouli concluded with a sly little smile. It seemed that magicians couldn't fish for compliments like normal people did either.
We got caught up as we walked. Weeks' worth of events shared and discussed. Life was lively in that big old mansion and they had regular visitors. Marisa showed up often enough, not really to my surprise. Alice did as well and the three of them sometimes had tea. Normally three magicians getting together would make me think a conspiracy was a afoot but I knew them well enough to suspect that it mostly consisted of joking around and recommendations for romance novels. Other than that a few names I didn't recognize made social calls to see Remilia and Reimu sometimes showed up too. Chances were that a lot of those people would show up for the party.
For her part, Patchouli didn't pry very much into my version of events. I told her all about the events at the shrine and the aftermath. Then, of course, the midwinter festival in which I made everyone involved a special batch of my homemade liquor. I'd sent her a bottle with Marisa. “It was agreeable but rather strong,” she confirmed having drunk it. And well, after that not much had happened. Just busy with the store and dealing with everyday life.
Once we were out of the forest it was just a short distance to the village. The fields were beginning to be worked by teams of men and pack animals. A few of the faster-growing crops would be planted right away while it'd still be a while before they planted the crops that would be harvested in fall. Patchouli seemed to be in good spirits as she looked silently at the scene.
“Heya Arc,” one of the men in the field noticed me. Ah, it was a classmate of mine. The one that had gotten married, already. But that was because the bride was already expecting. I never got invited to the wedding though. His lean looks were a deceptive first impression. Years of working part time in the fields had conditioned his muscles to intense manual labor. It was noticeable with his sleeves rolled up. He wasn't too tanned like the others, probably because he was set to inherit his father's store and therefore spent half of his time working the books there. It bothered me that he still called me by my childhood nickname, as if we always been close.
“Hello,” I replied, hoping Patchouli wouldn't mind the delay. “It's been a while. Congratulations on getting married.”
“Shucks, thanks,” he smiled widely. At least he didn't seem to mind being married so young. “Who's this fine young thing next to you?” he asked with expected indiscretion. “Is it your special lady friend? I thought that you had a thing for that weird shrine maiden up near the forest.”
“It's not like that, she's a friend that's come to help me get a few supplies for a job.”
“Business is good then if you've got friends like those,” he let out a dirty little laugh while wiping the sweat off his brow with a handkerchief. “I didn't even know there was someone like her in the village.”
“She lives somewhere else,” I said evasively.
“Could it be?” his face tensed up when he realized the obvious. “Don't tell me this girl here is a youkai?! Oh boy, folks round these parts don't take too kindly to our young men associating with youkai-types.”
“Oh shut up,” I told him, “try not to cause any trouble for me, would you? She's just a friend and we'll be gone soon enough.”
“I won't man!” he exclaimed. “I know you've gone all those crazy mental magic powers now after hanging out with that Kirisame girl and that creepy puppet girl. Aw heck,” he gulped, dropping his voice to a whisper, “don't tell me this one here is also one of them witches. Tell her I didn't mean no thing by what I said. I don't want to be turned into a worm or a lizard.”
“...you really put your foot in your mouth. I'm sure that she heard everything.”
“I'm sorry ma'am!” he bowed down reverently. “I need to learn to mind my tongue better. I didn't mean to offend you.”
“Right, right, it's fine. I promise you that no one is going to turn you into a newt if you don't make any more of a fuss,” I told him with a sigh. “We really need to go now, we're on a tight schedule.”
“Y-yeah, sure,” he said with a sigh of his own. “I need to get back to work anyhow.”
“See you then,” I waved him a goodbye before moving on. When we were out of his hearing range I burst out laughing. He had checked all the boxes for stupid in one solid go. Thankfully the village wasn't all full of people like him. There were plenty of people who were used to dealing with youkai, shopkeepers mostly. Money was money, after all.
“...” Patchouli seemed to be lost in thought.
“What's the matter?” I asked.
“...it's nothing,” she replied. Even she should have understood that saying that was basically a massive invitation for me to pry further.
“You can tell me about whatever is bothering you,” I made my sales pitch, “I'm a good listener, remember.”
“I am just wondering if we look like a pair of lovers to the outside world. And if me being a youkai is going to be troublesome to you and your business.”
“Don't worry about that, “ I comforted her, “I don't really care what other people think about me. I stopped caring ever since I met my first youkai. She taught me that being who you wanted to be was more important than appearances.”
“And that is why you've failed to become a proper magician,” she sighed. That was a rare thing for her.
“Isn't the end result more important?” I asked her. “I mean, after all here we are walking together under a clear sky.”
“Things can change in the blink of an eye,” she retorted ominously.
 Hold her hand the rest of the way. What others think never matters.  She needs her space if she's feeling awkward.
[x] Hold her hand the rest of the way. What others think never matters.
She worries about Arc getting problems but nothing can stop a man and holding hands with a Magician. Besides, that guy is a dick and does not realize how lovely Marisa and Alice are. He should get a fist in his face.
“Because...” I thought of something she would say, “it is agreeable.”
“And it wouldn't have to do with anything your fellow villager said?”
“Only indirectly,” I told her. “He thought you were attractive until he realized you were a youkai. In my book there's nothing wrong with being seen holding hands with a pretty girl.”
“You mean a pretty youkai,” she didn't even hesitate to reuse my adjective.
“From where I'm standing, there doesn't seem to be much of a difference. I enjoy spending time with you and therefore don't mind being seen with you,” I explained, “if it bothers a few narrow-minded villagers, all the better. I'm here for you as much as I hope you're here for me.”
Patchouli let out a soft, girlish giggle. “That level of corniness is seldom found even in my romance novels,” she said. “They'd never publish a speech like that.”
“So long as you enjoyed it I don't care what publishers think,” I winked at her before nodding at a couple of housewives tending to their laundry in their yards. I figured that if it was a slow day, and it usually was around these parts, gossip would spread like wild flames. By the end of the day people would be talking about how I came into town with a dozen youkai, all of them scantily clad and falling over themselves for a chance to service me.
“I have to admit that this is most agreeable,” she said with a shy little smile. “Even if your hands happen to be a little sweaty.”
We made it without further incident to the shop. I called with a warm 'hello!' since there was no one tending the counter. I didn't want to just take the shipment without telling anyone, after all. Out from the back there was a bit of commotion as the quick pitter-patter of hurried footsteps was interrupted by occasional crashing noises. I should have guessed immediately the cause of the ruckus.
“Heya~!” she sprang out from the storage area and behind the counter like a rocket. Her eyes lit up like pair of sparklers when she saw that it was me. “Arrrrrrccccc~!” she barreled from behind the counter and launched herself at me. I had barely time to brace before I found my butt flat against the ground. “I missed ya I missed ya ImissedyaImissdyamissda SOOOO MUCH!”
“Yeah, long time no see, Suika,” I managed to somehow say over all the happy purring she was doing. She hugged me tightly. If my body hadn't been conditioned by the many months we'd spent together to withstand the oni style of affection, I might have cracked a rib or two. “Come now, we don't have time for this,” I told her, patting her square between the horns, “we're here on business.”
“Awwww, alright,” she let go of me with a embellished little pout. That's when she noticed that Patchouli was standing next to me. “Someone from the mansion came with ya, huh? I could have helped you carry everything no sweat.”
“We're going to use the cart,” I told her, “there's no need for you to come. Besides, someone needs to mind the store. Auntie isn't around, I take it?”
“Nope!” Suika exclaimed. “Said she had to deal with the rest of the family regarding important business so she asked me to keep an eye on the place. I've been a good replacement. I sold three bottles of sake already.”
“Oh, well, then two bottles of sake sold today! Still nice, isn't it?” she laughed with a 'nyehehehe” that meant that she was proud of herself.
“Anyways, you can help me round up everything we need and then we'll be off on our way. We have a pretty tight schedule today.”
“Aww... it's been like a week since I last saw you, I wanted to spend some time drinking and playing games with you,” and again, Suika was pouting. I was used to her whimsical nature and wasn't intimidated by her outbursts any more.
I stayed the course, telling Patchouli to make herself at home while I got everything together. Luckily, at Aunties behest, we did a lot of inventory fairly frequently. That meant that it was easy to account for and locate most of our stock. We loaded up the pullable wagon we had for larger deliveries and were done in the space of a half hour.
“Hope that wasn't too boring for you, I'm sorry if we took too long,“ I apologized to Patchouli.
“It's quite alright, “ she said with uncharacteristic joviality. The reason for her good humor came immediately after. “I made myself at home as you commanded and found what must be your sleeping chamber. I feel that I understand you and your ways a lot better now.”
Goodness! A magician had been in my room. I felt so vulnerable and violated.
“I had no idea that they made specialty media featuring exclusively lady's socks and stockings,” Patchouli nodded with an evil smile, “I suppose it explains much now that I think about it. Perhaps I'll take to wearing long smooth silk stockings henceforth.”
Be still beating heart! I found myself once again at the mercy of a unscrupulous magician. Suika luckily didn't pick up on the nature of our conversation. Instead she acted like a little godsend, smacking me on the back and asking me if I had been kidding about having to leave right away after all.
“No! We really should leave!” I proclaimed loudly, “come on Patchouli, let's go!”
But, as luck would have it, when it rains it pours. I ran smack dab into another person who would tease me mercilessly at the drop of a hat.
“Oh, hi there!” I greeted Auntie. “We were just on our way back to the mansion with additional liquor. I've left a copy of the invoice on the counter for you to see.”
“So I see,” she smirked slightly, “I suppose this then is who our clients sent to help with the pickup. Rather cute for an errand girl.”
“I wasn't sent here,” Patchouli corrected her to my dismay, “Arc asked me to accompany him so that we might spend some additional time together.”
That was enough to send Auntie into a fit of hysterics. She grabbed me around the shoulder and roughly ruffled up hair. It was like we were kids again. “Congratulations you sly dog you,” she whispered to me, “I can't believe that a year ago I was worrying about your happiness and now you're seducing girls left and right!”
“I'm not seducing anyone!” I whispered back, covering my mouth with a hand just in case the others could read lips.
“Don't worry about it!” she beamed, “you're young! You're supposed to be trying out new and different things. This one looks like she fills out all the right spots with a generous natural bounty, doesn't she? I can tell that there's plenty of her to appreciate up front and back even with those loose robes of hers.”
“You don't understand... she's a magician and...”
“Oh, I see!” Auntie gasped as if she had just become party to a juicy secret. “You don't want Alice to find out about her. Wait, you were going out with Alice, weren't you? Or was it with that lovely Kirisame girl? You know, the blonde with the braid that sort of reminds me of myself.”
“Blech!” I tried to get the mental image of Auntie as a nearly 30 year old Marisa.
“Hey, I'm going to hit you hard if you think that I'm 30 again!” Auntie read my mind as always.
“I'm going to let that one go this time. I won't tell anyone about you and-” she stopped whispering to ask Patchouli a question, “what was your name hun?”
“It's Patchouli Knowledge.”
“-and Patchouli over there. Especially not poor Reimu. She came for a visit yesterday afternoon, you know. We had tea and I told her all about your little job. I asked her if I should be concerned and she said you could handle yourself. Why she thinks highly of you is beyond me since you seem to ignore her all the time as of late but...”
“Ok! Ok! Enough!” I broke free of Auntie's hold. She simply smiled, flicked a strand of her auburn hair and placed her arms akimbo. “We've really got to get going now,” I told her.
“Alright, I understand,” she said. “Try not to get into too much trouble tonight! These customers are paying quite a bit for our services so don't embarrass me!”
I got the hell out of there before the damage got any worse. The last I saw of Auntie was her blowing me a kiss as I hauled the cart away at full speed. Suika waved a vigorous goodbye, still in the shop's apron.
Patchouli said nothing but I could tell that she was highly amused by the whole exchange.
“What?!” I asked her, still flustered.
“Nothing,” she said quietly. A damnable smirk was on her face.
Regrettably I had address the issues head on if I wanted her to stop acting so smug. Magicians. Always a huge load of trouble.
 Tell her that Auntie approves of her. Joke about the life of the wife of a shopkeeper.  The more important thing is to find out just how much she knows about my 'research material'. And if she thinks less of me because of it.  Just keep my damned mouth shut. For the moment I just had to grin and bear it.
>people would be talking about how I came into town with a dozen youkai, all of them scantily clad and falling over themselves for a chance to service me. That is yet to come.
Damn I am starting to like Patchy more and more here. She is a fast learner and already has Arc's likes figured out already. We need to get back to that offer about the stockings later on. Yes for sure.
[x] Just keep my damned mouth shut. For the moment I just had to grin and bear it.
Her constant staring at me was annoying. Really annoying. I couldn't deal with it much longer.
“What did you think of Auntie?” I asked.
“She was as I imagined her. A little taller,” Patchouli replied.
“You had an image of what she looked like already?”
“You talk about her a lot. It's like reading a character description in a novel. After a while you can envision what the character looks like, “ she said. “Playful smile, lively eyes, medium-length hair with an occasional ponytail. Young, hardworking but fun. It goes on and on. You say more about her than anyone else you casually mention.”
“I suppose I do,” I knew I did. Still, that wasn't the point I was trying to make. “In any case, she told me that she liked you. You have her approval.”
“Is that so?” she asked with relative disinterest. I wasn't sure if it was because she knew it already or because she was confident enough that she was a good catch.
“With her blessing I could take over the shop, settle down and start a family,” I said, careful not to mention Patchouli explicitly. I wanted to see how she would react when the shoe was on the other foot. “It's not a very exciting life, I'll admit but it has its own perks. Like eating your meals together, enjoying the comfort of having a stable roof over your head and, if business goes well, you can always expand. In which case I could buy plenty of presents and nice things for my family.”
“And is that how you want to spend the rest of your life?” she asked.
“I don't know yet. Hypothetically speaking, I have to say that the image of having someone who will always love and adore me by my side is an excellent one. I somehow don't think that many people would agree with me. Especially not, say, youkai that are used to doing their own thing in their own private libraries.”
“I would not mind it,” Patchouli said with no hesitation. “There is little practical difference between sitting in a library reading all day and sitting in a shop reading all day. The short breaks taken to attend to customers are equivalent to the short distractions I endure from clumsy maids and overeager familiars. A family may be an interesting departure from routine. I would have to ponder more on the subject to reach a satisfying conclusion. Though perhaps the real diversion lies in the nightly process of making a family.” Once again having gotten the better of me, she smiled slightly, adding, “hypothetically speaking, of course.”
“Of course,” I sighed, seeing that I hadn't really succeeded in making her act any less superior. Perhaps it was better to avoid trying to match wits with a witch. Save maybe Marisa. She wasn't very good at wordplay and turning logic around on its head. In fact, she was relatively easy to tease too. Somehow that made me feel better about myself.
We passed by the fields where earlier we had run into my fellow villager. Everyone was on break or preparing to head on back to town for lunch. I made a few passing remarks about how wives would have meals cooked for their children and husbands but Patchouli didn't rise to the bait. She had scored her victory and was sticking by it. Noncommittal answers were all that she could muster. Much to my annoyance.
As we got to the stretch of the path that cut through the forest, we encountered something unusual. Off to the side of the path, in a shady patch of grass next to a large tree, there was a large blanket with something wiggling underneath. As we passed it by, a bit of red fabric and golden hair popped from the top edge. Then a pair of eyes. They blinked several times as if trying to obtain focus.
“Mister, oh mister,” a sweet child-like voice called from the sheet. “I'm tired and hungry and lost, and ever so far from home! Do you think you could find it in your big heart to help poor old me?”
“Best to leave her alone,” Patchouli remarked acerbically. Her eyes showed no compassion for the little girl.
“I'm so hungry,” the girl whimpered. She curled up into a ball, pulling up the sheet up over her head.
“Let's just move on.” Patchouli was merciless. And, before I could ask her about it, she pre-empted me and explained, “this youkai would think nothing of devouring you. In fact, I would say that this is likely a ploy to lure in hapless victims. A crude and transparent ploy.”
“Geez!” the girl complained loudly, “you're so mean!”
“This one here is not for your consumption,” Patchouli told her, “you should know better than to harass a magician.”
“He doesn't seem so tough to me!” the girl said defiantly, wiggling about under the sheet excitedly. “I bet that if I found him all alone in the darkness he'd quickly turn into a great meal.”
“Try this routine during the night, you may have more success that way,” Patchouli signaled began to walk away. I followed along. She knew how to deal with less civilized youkai better than I did.
“No human in his right mind would walk in the woods by himself after dark!” she yelled out after us indignantly. “I'd get identified as a youkai even quicker!” As she realized that we were walking away, her displeasure increased. “Idiots! I bet you're all fat and gristle anyhow!”
She continued to hurl a barrage of insults our way until we were completely out of sight. I had to admit I felt a little sorry for her. Even if she had been planning to eat me. It was a pathetic plan and she seemed to be legitimately hungry.
“Don't feel compassion for those who would do you harm,” Patchouli read my thoughts. I was beginning to suspect that perhaps I let my feelings show too readily on my face.
“Some would argue that by that logic I shouldn't associate myself with magicians,” I retorted. My life had gotten more interesting but I was definitely in harm's way more often than not.
It seemed like she didn't have a retort to that. Or she was simply tired of talking. I had noticed that since we left the village she had been breathing slightly harder. Every now and then she'd clear her throat or let out a dry cough. It couldn't have been easy for her to skip breakfast. I knew that I was feeling tired and hungry.
“Welcome back!” the gate guard said enthusiastically as she opened up for us. “Quite the haul you got there. Looks like tonight will be real blast.”
We parted ways at the steps before the main doors. A few maids had come out to help unload the cart.
“I need to tend to my affairs for a while now,” Patchouli said. “I'll be in the library if you need me.”
“Make sure to rest up as well,” I told her, “I get the feeling that it's going to be a very long night.” She stared at my face for a moment before the unexpected happened: she looked away as if embarrassed. “Uh,” I completely didn't mean any subtext in my statement. “I just meant at the party,” I laughed awkwardly. “Because you know, a lot of drinking and people and food...”
“Goodbye Arc,” she said quietly.
Once again I was left all alone, with a goofy smile on my lips. I had a natural talent.
“Are we all set then?” Sakuya asked. She materialized out of thin air. I could have sworn that there was no one standing next to me only an instant ago.
“We should have enough extra to drink even if an oni or two show up,” I joked.
“Then we should be able to satisfy everyone present,” she nodded. Apparently having an oni show up wasn't outside the realm of possibility. “Will you help oversee some of the arrangements? There's plenty of details to attend to and I am not confident enough in my judgment to prioritize what should be served first and when.”
“I don't host many parties, so I'm afraid that I don't really know myself,” I told her. “Usually that sort of thing is up to the hostess.”
“Perhaps, but you know the product better than any of the staff here. “Lady Remilia has a very hands off approach when it comes to organizing events. However, determining the seating arrangements, timing of the courses and drinks as well as some of the decoration is beyond my training.”
 Help Sakuya out. It's too much for a single person to do by herself.  She'll do a good job regardless. Flandre was probably still waiting. -- Unless there's a flurry of votes in the next hour and a half this will likely be the last update of the year.
I somehow feel bad for leaving the poor Hungry Youkai all alone but on the other hand we can make it up with playing with Flandre. Like promised. Is what I wanted to do but a job is a job and he has his ethics.
[x] Help Sakuya out. It's too much for a single person to do by herself.
Hopefully we can play with Flandre later maybe before or after that long night with Patchy.
>>60020 She'll do a good job regardless. Flandre was probably still waiting.
You DID make a promise and I don't know how much time between now and the party you have to fulfill it. On the other hand, a lot rides on this party being a success so voting the other way isn't exactly wrong. I prefer to keep promises however.
>>60029 I think this is me? Sorry, was out at couldn't type at a whole response in time.
Anyways, I rather be dedicated to our job, and make this party friggen great, cause that'll make things really magical for Flan when we dance with her at the party. COme on guys. We're a Disney prince to her. Gotta act like it.
Update 'soon'. Taking it easy to the max so writing very slowly. I suspect that most people are also taking it easy today. My apologies if you've been refreshing ceaselessly.
>>60032 Arc's story begins in a /shrine/ story called Distilled Encounters in Festive Times (DEFT) and carries on to its sequel ADEFT. Then, in what was originally supposed to be a side story of sorts, there's magical intrigue and a healthy dose of magicians in Glass Half Empty (GHE) which is in /forest/. In addition, there's a spinoff/alternate universe in a school setting called Theater of Youth (ToY) that features a few common elements (such as the protagonist also being nicknamed 'Arc') but is otherwise wholly disconnected from the continuity. ToY is still currently running in /others/ and is more of a lighthearted fun romp. You can find links for these in the story list.
Even though this story begins in medias res it aims to be self-contained enough so that you don't need to read the others to understand what's going on. I've summarized most of the important relationships (Suika, Reimu, Alice, etc) and mostly covered what happened between Patchy and Arc. Go ahead and read GHE in particular if you feel you're still missing something but don't feel you have to in order to get into this. I hope this explanation helps clarify things.
Also, on another note, Flanfags are the worst. Truly only eclipsed by Rumiafags.
“I see,” if Sakuya was disappointed with my decision, it didn't show in her face. The same polite veneer remained firmly stuck on. Her words may have been a little more damning. “I will attempt to do the best possible by myself. I suppose it is not part of our agreement that you should see to these details and so we mustn't pressure needlessly,” she said.
After a line like that I couldn't just up and ask her where Flandre's room was. I couldn't really assure her once again that she would be fine on her own. It would sound too forced.
I was left with a very obvious problem: how to track down Flandre. The average maid was no better than Sakuya. In some ways, they may have been worse; I could already imagine the sordid chatter regarding my expanding web of presumed amorous liaisons. Well, there was one trick I had learned a few weeks ago that could help me. But for that I had to find a quiet spot. In a house full of servants that was hard to accomplish.
A nearby cloakroom was less than ideal but would do the trick. I snuck in without anyone seeing me and sat down in between empty racks. The large storage space would likely serve as a depot for all of the guests' coats at night. The maids had already gone ahead and dusted the place and so I was guaranteed a few minutes of uninterrupted concentration.
I closed my eyes. Slowing my breathing down I tried to recall the last time I had done it. It hadn't been a big deal. Just had to focus a little energy, curl it up as if it was a little ball inside of me and then release it outside. I couldn't lose track of it either. I had to concentrate as it spread in every direction. But it knew where to go at the same time. It was just the way magic worked. Power was attracted to power.
I felt the library. I felt Patchouli. Clear, restrained and focused. She was a constant source of energy but I wasn't trained enough to be able to be aware of her consciously at all times. Up, on the third floor, there was somebody else. Anxious yet strangely collected. It wasn't raw magical energy I felt but it was something that was by its nature also attuned to it. It wasn't her if I had to guess. There were other, smaller, results. Dozens upon dozens of signatures of residual energy. The maids, most likely. Among them something more measured and hard to read. But I found who I wanted on the second floor. An explosive energy that barely held itself in check. It was like the other on the third floor but more vivid and less filtered.
I opened my eyes to find that sweat was dripping off my brow. That was the problem with learning magic rather than having been born with the talent. It took a lot of willpower and concentration to assimilate power. Not to mention time and practice. Things like that still caused me to exert myself. Skipping meals and having had my blood drained didn't make things any easier. In fact, as if responding to some unseen cue, my stomach rumbled violently and my neck began to itch. I suppressed the warning signs and forced myself to stand up.
I knocked gingerly on the door. It seemed like I had found the right place. A wooden plaque hung on the door with a crude etching that said “Flan-chan's room”. There was no response.
I knocked again.
I tried the handle and found that the door was unlocked.
“Flandre?” I called out, politely waiting for a reply before I opened the door any further. I waited a minute and then called out again. It was only then that I dared to open the door any more. It was completely dark in the room save for a single ray of light that shone through a crack in between curtains. I took a step inside the room and looked around. There were toys everywhere. Stuffed animals as far as the eye could see. A small tea table near the door and a large four-poster bed in a corner were the only furniture I could discern. I took another step further in, as quietly as I could, to see if Flandre was on the bed.
The door swung shut behind me. Must have been a breeze. I crept a little closer to the bed, careful not to trip over any of the toys. She was lying on the bed, after all. A lone figure was laid down on one end of the bed with a whole army of teddy bears surrounding her. Well, I decided, I wasn't going to disturb her nap. I turned around to leave the room.
“Where are you going all of a sudden?” Flandre asked.
“Oh, you're awake,” I said and looked back at the bed. She was gone.
“Princes are supposed to rescue princesses, didn't you know?” Flandre appeared right in front of the door, her eyes glowing dimly in the dark. Her words came out slowly and almost lazily, like she was completely tired. “What kind of prince finds a sleeping beauty and doesn't give her a kiss?” She walked on up closer to me until she was within arm's length.
“I'd rather the princess get her beauty nap,” I joked, feeling that something was very out of place.
“I was waiting for you so long that I forgot all about lunch,” she said. “I'm feeling all hungry now that I see you which isn't fair because I want to play with you.”
“Well, weren't we going to have tea and crumpets?” I asked her. “I skipped breakfast and haven't had lunch yet. But I'll happily eat a few crumpets instead.”
“No, that's no good,” she shook her head. Her quiet tone was off-putting. Her usual liveliness was more sincere and comfortable than... whatever she was doing. “I don't ever really feel satisfied with cookies and tea. That's why when I'm hungry I go to Sakuya. She makes me up some of her special food. It's always nice and fresh and a little sweet. But I have to eat it by myself because no one else likes it. I once gave a made some and she spat it right out. It was really rude of her so I did something naughty to her. Sakuya scolded me and told me to never do it again. I promised her that I wouldn't. But if I'm honest, it felt kind of nice.”
“Sakuya is busy right now. I think if you asked her though,” I said, “she'd make food for you. Then we could play.”
“I wonder why I feel so strange when I see you, my prince? My tummy feels like there's a birdie flying around in it and my head feels like it wants to fly off somewhere by itself.” With only the single beam of light to pierce the stilled darkness I couldn't see her expression too clearly. Only those large red eyes of hers were discernible with any clarity. “Maybe...” she hesitated, “just maybe you were meant to give me that kiss. Then maybe I'll return to normal.”
“I... don't think it's a good idea,” the hairs on the back of my neck and arms were standing on end. Alice's lessons for self defense were looping through my head. A magician was never to be left without a backup plan. There was always a trick he should have in store for use in a desperate situation.
“Why not?” she titled her head, sounding a little agitated. “The prince is supposed to help his princess however he can, isn't he? He'll fight monsters of all kinds, even dragons, to save her.”
I could see that she was getting wound up. I didn't feel that anything I could say would calm her down.
She bit her lower lip, “I'm ready for it, my dashing prince.”
“You're only supposed to kiss people you really like, princess.”
“I know,” she said, the volume of her voice increasing, “I really like you. I know what a grown up kiss is supposed to be like and it's okay. So long as it makes me return to normal I'm okay with it.” I felt that my options were becoming increasingly limited. She wasn't listening to me.
 Kiss Flandre. Hope it returns her to normal.  The situation doesn't feel right. The play date is suspended for now.
[x] The situation doesn't feel right. The play date is suspended for now
Haha oh wow. Thought something like this situation would happen. Have to wonder what would of happened if we didn't attend to it just now, and left it until later on. I'm not sure if suspending the play date would helps, though, it could very well set her off if when we announce it.
Flandre shook her head. “No, no, no no no no!” her voice cracked at the end. “You can't go! We're supposed to have tea and crumpets. A real prince would never disappoint his princess and a real prince would do everything in his power to help her out.” She blocked the way out by stretching out her arms as wide as she could. I didn't really want to ignore her and simply step around her, but she wasn't giving me much choice. Her eyes were wide, a mixture of agitation of disbelief, as she talked to me. “This... is supposed to be our time together.”
“I told you,” I spoke quietly, trying not to come off as hostile, “I think that you need to have a proper meal and calm down and then we can play.”
“It'll be alright if you just kiss me.” She gulped heavily, like a lump had been stuck in her throat. “I just know that that's what I need to feel better. Why else would my chest be all 'whoosh-whoosh'?” Flandre closed her eyes for a moment and a thin smile spread over her lips. In a corner of her mouth a fang poked out.
“The fair princess spent most of her days playing by herself in the big, lonely castle,” she began to narrate. “It was boring but not terrible. Until the day the big handsome prince appeared. He was the first prince to appear in a very long time and the first one not to then runaway into the lake. The princess was all happy to see him and even tried to behave like a proper princess to show off her charms. She tried real hard too! And so the two of them promised to play together the next day and stuff. But all along the princess knew that he was more than just an ordinary prince. He made parts of her go badump-badump real fast just by being close to her. That's why when she waited all day for him to come, she was very excited. And when she saw him again, she knew. To make the weird feelings go away and turn into something really good, he'd have to kiss her. And if he didn't kiss her then very bad things were going to happen. But nothing bad ever happens in these types of stories.”
“Look,” I told her more firmly, “I'm not comfortable with this. I think you might be confusing things here. You need to talk with your sister about what you're feeling because I think she'll be able to help.”
I tried to pat her on the head but she took a step back. Her eyes opened, the red glowing with some intensity. “No,” she said, “I think you're lying to me about being a prince after all. I feel sad and my eyes are all itchy. I don't think a prince would ever make his princess sad.”
“I'm sorry but you need to understand-”
“Shut up!” she snapped at me. “You, you liar!”
“I'm not lying,” I tried to talk some sense into her but she would have none of it. I could tell that I was in danger almost immediately. I tried to calm down, hoping that she wouldn't do anything stupid but mentally preparing myself for the worst. The trick to surviving as a magician was being able to size up the situation quickly and correctly. I could feel a lot of energy concentrating within her. It was erratic, aimless but powerful.
“I don't like liars!” she yelled out with tears in her eyes. Flandre lowered her arms. Her hand pointed at a stuffed toy at her feet. I thought she was going to pick it up and throw it at me. Instead, I watched with morbid fascination as it began to expand slowly. Its button eyes bulged and popped off and the seams tore and fluff spilled out. And then, in a flash, it contracted violently diminishing in size several times before finally just breaking. Pieces of cloth and filling spread everywhere, each piece utterly indistinguishable from the next.
As if that wasn't enough, it looked like the act itself confused her further. She looked around, agitated, with a look that just screamed 'look at what you made me do!' - it was a very unsettling sight. The obvious conclusion was that I shouldn't make myself a target if I could help it. The problem was that there was no way to divert attention from me.
Only a single long shot occurred to me. A cheap trick and a mad dash to the door. That was my only hope, I realized. If she gave chase... I hadn't thought that far ahead. There was no point in being overly pessimistic either.
I tensed up my body as I looked for an ideal moment to put the plan into effect.
The door rattled. Both Flandre and I looked at it. It flew open and daylight flooded in.
“Flan!” a most unladylike cry came from the doorway, “just what do you think you're doing?!”
“Ah. Ah!” Flandre's attention was completely drawn to the new arrival. “We were... I was just-”
“What have I told you a million times about guests?” Remilia stepped into the room, her arms crossed in a standoffish fashion.
“Don't bother them?” Flandre asked in a low, hushed voice. In an instant she had gone from unbalanced and out of control to meek and passive.
“And what do you think you're doing right now?”
“Just fooling around...”
“Really?” Remilia asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Well... maybe it was a little more than that,” Flandre said sheepishly.
“I think you need to take a time out,” Remilia said. “Go find Sakuya and tell her what you did. She'll take care of you for now. We'll talk more about this later.”
“'kay...” Flandre agreed, sounding completely deflated. She avoided making eye contact with both me and her sister, instead opting to leave the room with her head bowed down dejectedly.
Remilia watched her leave quietly. After a few moments of silence, she let out a rather large sigh. “I apologize for that,” she directed her words at me. She once again adopted her habitual way of speaking, “It was my failing not to inform you about my sister. She is not a bad person but is rather excitable. It's easy for her to get carried away with her games or with her imagination.”
“Thank you,” I said, likewise sighing. “I felt that that could have ended very poorly for me.”
“And everyone else in the mansion,” Remilia added. “You may have not noticed, but the building shook as if there had been an earthquake. I came as fast as I could, figuring it to be Flan.”
“Part of this may be my fault. I played along without really thinking about it.”
“It's understandable. She does behave like an adorable puppy at times,” Remilia smiled, enjoying the comparison, “it's difficult not to indulge her.”
I exited the room, trading the dimly lit space for the wide hallway. I leaned up against the wall between two windows and spoke to Remilia, “I'm not sure if she understands that she's a vampire.”
“Yes and no,” Remilia explained, “she understands she's special but I don't think she fully understands why. It's the same with her power.” Her face darkened a little. “But then again neither of us really understand that.”
“I don't know if she really likes me or just wanted to make a meal out of me,” I chuckled just a tiny bit sardonically. “I get the impression she didn't really know herself.”
“I-it could be both,” she stuttered a little as she spoke. Her cheeks reddened a little, something which I found a little odd for a vampire. “Anyways!” she cleared her throat loudly, like she was trying to tell herself to concentrate, “I must also offer you my most sincere and unqualified apologies for what transpired last night. Though you may not remember much because of my natural abilities...”
“Uh, I remember clearly what happened,” I told her.
“Eh?!” Remilia was shocked to hear the truth. “B-but I thought Patchouli was going to make you forge- I mean, the events themselves should have... oh dear...” She placed both hands on either cheek and seemed to be at a complete loss on what to say next.
 Remind her of all the naughty things she said. I could recall every last detail. With her feet? How scandalous!  Enough messing around with vampires for the moment. The near call was enough excitement for a while.
[x] re mind her of all the things She said. This might be more "high school arc" than "Gensokyo's Arc" but the opportunity so just too good to pass up. If pressed, he can always blame his stress though.
“You know,” I started, not being able to help myself. There was just something about those vampires that just made me want to tease them. Obviously not to my direct benefit, as evidenced by the earlier confrontation. But I was a warm-blooded male and after the whole deal with Alice and Mima I had become more confident in myself. So it was only natural that I should let myself be stupid every once in a while. “I remember how you couldn't control yourself. I couldn't say anything at the time but I sure was thinking a lot. Do you want to guess what I was thinking?”
“I-I wouldn't know,” she said, avoiding looking straight at my face. “That I was being a fool, letting myself get caught up in the heat of the moment.”
“Guess again,” I said. “I was wondering if you secretly wished that I could move around.”
“Why, I never! It was just a coincidence because of our different abilities... that's all!”
“I don't know. I was able to appreciate your titillation from up close,” I smirked, “and those things that you were saying! You thought about using your mouth, your hands... even your feet! That one in particular surprised me.”
“You knave!” she blurted out, forgetting her manners. “Just who do you think you are reminding a lady about those embarrassing things!? Even if I happened to suggest, for a brief moment, that I was contemplating servicing you like some kind of common trollop I assure you that my pedigree and natural superiority would keep me from ever acting on such base impulses!”
“Another thing,” I ventured, “why is it that every time that I see you, you're wearing something different? Actually, thinking about it, your outfits are becoming more daring and revealing as time goes on. Both your sleeves and skirt have been getting progressively shorter.” Her dress was basically a summer blouse and a skirt that was a ways above her knee. It was probably a coincidence since she came allegedly rushing to stop Flandre but it was still fun to point out.
“How dare you ogle me like I'm some sort of ill-bred harlot! I'm almost regretting having saved you from my sister's wrath, you blasted varlet!”
She was all fired up, a clash of embarrassment and anger dueling on her face. One moment she tired to look defiant and the next she seemed completely incapable of facing me. “I guess we'll never find the real truth out,” I said. I shifted the topic back to her lascivious acts, “for your information I don't appreciate being taken advantage of become of someone else's whims. Asking and getting consent is important, you know.”
“Oh don't you dare lecture me!” she blustered. “The nerve! If an amazingly special vampire, such as myself, takes interest in you that's cause enough to feel honored. You act as if I've treated you as regular cattle instead of a special guest. Otherwise I wouldn't have bothered luring you and then proceed to seduce you so thoroughly.”
“Wait, seducing me?!” It was my turn to get worked up. Remilia realized that she had said too much. She tried to disengage and walk away but I wouldn't let her. “Like I said,” I blocked her way, “I don't like it when people take advantage of me.”
“No one took advantage of anyone else!” she yelled, as if to convince herself. “You came to me because of my abilities and you listened because of my presence. But you still had a choice, though your judgment may have been clouded, and you clearly consented to give me some of your blood.”
“...somehow it shouldn't surprise me that a youkai used her ability to lure an unsuspecting human to his doom,” I sighed.
“You're still alive!” she protested.
“Doesn't change the fact that my employer abused me under false pretenses.”
“Gah!” she didn't have a reply to that. Instead she simply bargained with me, “I'll give you an even bonus now that the truth is out. Just don't leave before the party, I still need you.”
“Mm, I don't know...” I played hard to get. Business had been slow so I put on a show for Auntie's sake. We could be set for a long time if Remilia increased her payment.
“I-I'll double your payment!”
“Net. Including the previously promised bonus.”
“...fine,” she relented quite easily. I didn't know if it was actual guilt that got to her or I was actually that valuable to have around. Negotiation wasn't her strongest suit.
“Agreed.” Feeling elated, I felt confident enough to leave her with one final parting shot. “Oh, and Remi,” I was purposefully as informal as I could be, “for future reference: if you ever want me to fondle your breasts or to do all those other lewd things that you wanted to do with me, all you have to do is ask. Who knows what the answer might be? I won't bite you back in revenge either, unless you happen to want me to.”
That left the good Lady Remilia speechless. Once again placing a hand on either cheek she watched me walk away as if dazed and highly confused.
Life was all about the little victories. It was time to salvage the afternoon. I wandered into the kitchen and asked a maid for bread. She gave me a loaf with some homemade jam. Not an ideal lunch but it would tide me over until the evening. I wanted a little peace and quiet to eat. All the hubbub in preparation for the party was making it hard to think.
 Have a little picnic in the gardens  The peace and quiet of the library would ideal.
I shuffled along with my food past the maids. I kept my head low, not wanting to attract any more attention for the moment. I was confident that the library would shelter me from all of the noise and excitement for as long as I wanted to hide away. It meant crossing to the other side of the mansion. It felt like it took forever to walk down those large, spacious corridors by myself. In a pinch it'd take me several minutes to run from one end to the other.
Much like the rest of the mansion, the library was impressive to scale. Rows upon rows of large shelves, at least a whole storey tall, stretched from end to end of the massive space. Towards the middle there was a large open area where desks and more accessible reference material was kept. It was also where Patchouli spent most of her time, usually lost in some dusty tome. That wasn't all: there were occasional recesses and cavities along the outer walls that provided more intimate spots where one could sit down and read. These alcoves tended to follow some sort of theme, usually they were a concentrated focal point of a certain school of magic. That said, I had once found a cache of trashy romance novels when wandering about. I never did ask Patchouli about it but I got the impression that it would be better for everyone if I just ignored its existence.
The library wasn't just books, unfortunately. From time to time staff working on sorting out the vast collection would fly around above head level, placing and removing books as they saw fit. Books were perpetually being misplaced while others were loaned out. Well, more like taken away by a certain energetic magician with no respect for private property. It meant that the work was never over. That, in turn, meant that if I wanted to shut myself off from the world my best bet would be one of the alcoves.
I sat on a a desk in a semicircular spot tucked away from all of the other shelves. It seemed that I was on the section specializing on celestials. I picked a random book off one of the shelves and sat down to eat. It happened to be a non-magical book. That meant that I had to turn the pages manually. Though I probably wouldn't have thought so only a few short months ago, talking books were truly great. They seldom spoke in a language that could be understood save by the use of magic. It was really a great trick to attune oneself to a book and just have it speak directly into one's mind. I tried not to get any of the jam onto the book's pages while I read.
Apparently celestials were some of the most fortunate beings in existence. They got to live in what was basically a paradise and dedicate themselves to higher causes than those of mortal men. The book went on to describe the lavish feasts, eternally pleasureful leisure activities and generally fantastic living conditions of those immortals. The thing read a little like a propaganda book, encouraging the reader to abandon his short-sighted ways and strive for perfection. It went on extolling the virtues of becoming a hermit and promised that the true of heart would one day ascend to join this masterful race. In short, it was idealized rubbish. There was a short cautionary tale as well, speaking of a few rare cases where celestials that did not comport themselves in an adequate manner would find themselves cast back onto the moral plane.
I took out a second book. It was also an introductory-level book. It spoke of how exceptional humans were sometimes made celestials without first reaching enlightenment. But a lot of it dealt with dragons and gods. There was a statue in the village that everyone said was supposed to represent the Dragon God. He probably got to turn people into celestials on whim. I wasn't big on worshiping deities. My life made enough sense without involving powers greater than me. I donated at Reimu's shrine a few times but that was more for her sake than for the god of the shrine. Other than that I pretty much did what any other villager would do. Leave offerings during festivals and such. The book detailed how celestials weren't really above most gods but were similar in standing and power in a lot of practical senses. The bottom line is that it wasn't wise to mess with celestials.
It was pretty useless knowledge to have. I wasn't planning on trying to become a celestial any time soon.
I was completely stuffed. The tiny little pot of jam I was given lay empty, its deliciously sweet contents scraped intently with pieces of bread. I wondered if Patchouli was done looking for whatever it was that was missing.
 A little more quiet time would be nice. Read books on vampires and maybe thumb through one of those trashy romance novels as well.  Look for Patchouli. Offer to help her out if she isn't done yet. She must be tired of doing everything by herself.
I disagree, any knowledge beyond what is commonly known may be useful. After all that he's been through with the magicians, he hasn't become overly paranoid. I highly doubt that a simple book could do what four magicians could not.
>>60087 Remilia and Flandre are a special case and what applies to vampires in general may not apply to them. Who better to ask about these specific vampires than someone who's lived among them for so long?
Patchy would have more accurate information on them than any dusty centuries old tome would.
Like the happy wanderer that I was, I took my sweet time looking for Patchouli. She was likely in the central area of the library but I circled around, stopping to look at the different aisles and appreciating the catalog of the library. It really was a mixed bag. There was everything from “The 10 Best Ways of Making Smoked Cheese” to untitled tomes in bound age-worn leather whose very presence hinted at hidden arcane knowledge. I had some limited experience with the latter category and wasn't too keen on getting drawn in by them. Talking books were convenient but books with their own agenda? Potentially very dangerous.
Eventually though I had enough of an idea of what the general layout currently was.
I found Patchouli where I thought she would be. She was telling a fairy something or the other while scowling. Apparently things weren't going very well for her. I waited until she was done talking before actually walking up to her.
“Having a hard time finding those tomes?” I asked, eyeing the despondent maid that was flying away. She looked like she was on the verge of tears.
“They have proven to be elusive,” Patchouli said calmly, showing a neither positive nor negative reaction to my presence.
“Need any help? They're magical right? Maybe together we can feel them out,” I suggested.
“It's not a question of power,” she said. “And even if we were, for us to collaborate we would have to attune our magical energies. Again.”
“Oh, you mean...” I understood exactly what she meant. She might have said it with a straight face but I wasn't able to act so unaffected. I was sure that I was blushing at that moment.
“Yes...” Patchouli seemed to hesitate a little after seeing my reaction. I wondered if she was thinking what I was thinking. Somehow I expected that she would also be affected. But she remained in control. She simply moved on, “it feels as if there's some sort of power at play that's obfuscating their location. More disconcerting is the fact that a few artifacts are missing from our collection.”
“Artifacts?” I asked. It was news to me that there was anything but books on display at the library.
“We keep a few valuable items under lock in an annex,” Patchouli explained. “It's a compromise Remilia and I reached concerning some of the more magical items she's acquired over the years. I was about to inspect the room personally now if you wish to come with me.”
I nodded affirmatively. The mansion was just full of surprises. The room in question was somewhere in the back of the library and had a small connecting corridor that joined the main building of the mansion to it as well. It seemed a bit out of the way and I didn't expect that it was regularly visited by either Remilia or the maids.
“Shouldn't the door be locked if there's valuables?” I asked, observing that the door to the room had no keyhole.
“As you'll see, Patchouli explained, “the artifacts themselves are in display cases under lock and key. However, there also are magical wards that should go off if anything is disturbed unduly.”
The room itself was semi-circular. Large glass cases holding big objects, such as suits of armor, were lined up along the rear curving wall. Smaller display pieces were arrayed in several rows in the open space, all containing some sort of locking mechanism. The vaulted roof was reminiscent of the main hall but in much smaller scale. It was a surprisingly large space overall.
I took a quick look around. All sorts of things were on display. There was a fair share of jewelry – golden rings, silver necklaces with inlaid precious stones and the like – but they seemed to be mostly unremarkable from a magical sense. I couldn't feel any obvious power emanating from them. Some cases contained daggers and other small weapons. There was a small blade, easily hidden up a sleeve that had a particularly malicious aura to it. That piqued my interest enough for me to ask Patchouli about it.
“It's just a cursed blade that was discovered when we moved out here,” she explained with disinterest. She was busy analyzing an empty display case.
“What was supposed to be in there?” I asked. No doubt it was one of the missing artifacts.
“A scepter,” Patchouli stated. Then, placing a finger on the glass, she corrected herself, “rather, I suppose that it was a staff masquerading as a scepter.”
“What can it do?”
“I am not fully certain,” she said. “I don't concern myself with these artifacts unless they clearly pose a threat. A cursory analysis told me that it may have been used to control lesser familiars more easily.”
“What else is missing?”
“Just a small box,” she said, “it didn't appear to have much function other than ornamental. It had traces of magical power in it but I suspected that it was from having stored some other object.”
“If I had to guess, I'd say that whoever took these used a key,” I said, noting a complete lack of damage to the display cases themselves.
“That does seem like the likeliest explanation,” she agreed. “There are no traces of brute force nor magic being used. I would suggest that it was just Remilia herself that took these objects and then forgot about it. If it weren't for Sakuya she wouldn't even remember how to dress herself.”
That was a bit harsh.
“Is it important to get these items back?”
“Not particularly,” Patchouli said. “I'm sure there's some sort of monetary value to them but they do not seem particularly irreplaceable to me. I am only investigating because Sakuya is busy with preparations.”
“Then let's not worry,” I told her, “the party will begin soon enough and it'll be time to relax and enjoy ourselves. I'm sure you can sort all of this out some other day.”
“Indeed,” she nodded, showing a rare unguarded smile. “I've started to look forward to the evening.”
“Looking forward to the dancing, I take it?” I tried to get her off balance.
“A little,” she said, “I believe that I've read up enough so as to grasp the basics. Though I'm not sure I'll try it.”
“...theory and practice are different, you should know that.”
“I guess,” she admitted a bit reluctantly.
“We could practice a little if you like. Just the two of us.”
“It wouldn't be the same without the music,” Patchouli replied a little too evasively. Like she was glad for that excuse.
“It's a chance to spend some more time together. It'll be fun.”
“I think I'll be fine...” she said, flinching slightly when I placed my hand on her shoulder. “Why did you do that?”
“I just wanted to give you a preview of slow dancing. We have to be close for that,” I told her, smiling. “Usually the man puts his arm around the woman's waist, to hold her close.”
“Yes, of course he does,” she nodded, like it was common knowledge. The only reason I knew about the type of dancing that would go on later in the night was because I asked Sakuya about it when I first arrived. It was immediately obvious that I shouldn't expect the style of energetic dancing that was common at the village festivals. Remilia's passion for seeming refined confirmed that perception for me.
I felt just a little bit naughty. There was just something about the way she looked at me that made me want to tease her a little. I wanted to get her to practice with me but she continued to be evasive.
 Remi is sure to ask me to dance. I hope she doesn't mind watching us go at it. She'll probably want to hog me all night.  The other magicians are going to show up. It'd been a while since I'd seen Alice and Marisa. I hoped that I would be able to get away from them. It'd be a different story if I was dancing with her instead...
[x] The other magicians are going to show up. It'd been a while since I'd seen Alice and Marisa. I hoped that I would be able to get away from them. It'd be a different story if I was dancing with her instead...
A dance with Patchouli would be something new and not unwelcome.
 The other magicians are going to show up. It'd been a while since I'd seen Alice and Marisa. I hoped that I would be able to get away from them. It'd be a different story if I was dancing with her instead...
I'm not sure exactly what I'm voting for, but I like it.
Patchouli was a tough nut to crack. Like all magicians, she was hopelessly stubborn. Getting her to change her mind would take either meticulously formulated plans or just sheer willpower. In other words, I had to play up my own stubbornness. It was only right. I was kind of a magician as well. And I'd get what I wanted
“You seem to be enjoying yourself,” Patchouli remarked dryly. I was apparently smiling like a deranged maniac. Just as well.
“I was just thinking how I'd get away from all the attention I'll be getting,” I told her. “Alice and Marisa are likely to show up, you know. And I'm not sure about Alice but Marisa will probably be as chatty as ever. She'll talk and talk and talk, pull me aside and basically keep me to herself. Though perhaps Alice has also been reading up like you have. In which case I might end up dancing with her.”
“...I think you're attempting to instill feelings of jealousy in me,” she noted.
“Perhaps,” I said coyly, “I am also stating the truth and you know it. Because of our shared history I think I'm not going to be able to get away from people unless I'm already busy.”
“Which is to say, connecting the earlier statements to this scenario, dancing with me,” Patchouli arrived at the expected conclusion. I definitely couldn't win by outsmarting her.
I kept at it. “Didn't you want to spend more time together?” I asked her. “Well, unless you latch on to me and hold tight, I don't think we'll be able to enjoy any time together at the party.”
“I think I'll manage to assert myself if I were to happen to want to dance.”
“And cause a scene? You do know that Marisa would totally call you out on it. And Alice would simply say no and expect you to go away.”
“That's somewhat likely. But I think I would prevail, regardless.”
“There's the risk of causing a scene,” I told her, “I don't think Remilia would be too happy if her party suddenly became a magician free-for-all.”
“It won't,” she said. “Logic as well as diplomacy will overcome all obstacles.”
“Mm, you're far more confident than I am. I think you forget that they tend to do whatever they want whenever they want. Being strong-willed is a prerequisite for being a magician.”
“I'll happily engage in a duel of will,” Patchouli nodded, getting further away from the topic.
“Are you really going to make me waste my breath wearing you down?” I asked her. “I mean, I'm sure you know that I'm capable of doing it.”
“I will admit that you do not lack in willpower. Though you often are misguided in your methods and, occasionally, aims.” That was a pretty harsh assessment. But it wasn't completely unexpected. It didn't demoralize me in the least to hear her say that. Patchouli had made harsher comments about me in the past. Some of them entirely understandable given the crisis we had happening at the time. She wouldn't be a magician if she wasn't set in her ways so firmly that it often bordered on outright arrogance.
“What's the big deal?” I snapped at her a little, “I just want us to have a little fun together. This evening really will end up being about everyone else if you don't ease up a little. Let's just have a little fun. Right now if you want. It's not like anyone is going to see us here.”
'It's a matter of principle,” she said, looking up at me coolly. “I... am not as well-versed in these social scenarios as I perhaps should be. I need to prepare myself mentally before I can hope to engage in new activities. I fear that trying now before I have built up enough... mental fortitude will undermine the experience as a whole. If it means that I must risk forfeiting a chance to dance later with you, then it is regrettable. But I can't let myself be forlorn due to just a mere possibility.”
I couldn't control myself. Hearing her say all that, I just had to laugh. Sure, she was being stubborn. Annoyingly so. But Patchouli was also being a big coward in her own special way. She didn't want to mess up and ruin either of our expectations. It was her way of admitting that she was nervous about dancing and nervous about competing with the other girls. It was awfully endearing in a special, stupidly stubborn sort of way.
“What are you doing?” she seemed confused as I hugged her.
“I'm giving you a bit of reassurance,” I told her with a chuckle. “You shouldn't worry about how you'll do and whether or not it'll be perfect. I'm happy enough just getting a chance at all. It's not about what I do, and how well it goes, but whom I do it with.” My time with Alice was the best example of that. I may have failed to master a lot of the techniques she taught me but I ultimately enjoyed myself because I got to spend time with her. I took away from the experience something much more valuable than knowledge – satisfaction.
“This feels a little patronizing,” she complained.
“Now you know how I feel half of the time when I'm around you magicians,” I chucked yet again, hugging her a little harder before letting go. “Really now, you should forget all about the party. Forget that we'll be out there in public. Just answer this: would you like to dance with me? It doesn't matter if there's no music. I'm asking if you want to spend some time alone together.”
“I would...” she finally admitted, looking uncharacteristically submissive.
“Take my hand then,” I extended my arm. “We're both going to have to practice. I'm not really familiar with the type of music that's popular with Remilia.”
“Excuse me, I don't mean to interrupt...” A maid with impeccable timing appeared at the door. “We've found one of the missing tomes in the library, just thought you'd like to know.” She bowed politely, “sorry for interrupting.”
“Well,” Patchouli sighed, “I suppose I must inspect the tome now.” She sounded genuinely sorry about it, echoing my own feelings perfectly. “I hardly think we'll have the time to dance now.”
 She's not getting away that easily! Magical tomes can wait. Hold her close and dance.  Reluctantly go along with her. Work trumps play.
“I apologize in advance for this,” I said with a wink. Patchouli barely had time to react before I had my arms around her. She tensed, her body resisting me. More of that magician stubbornness I had come to expect. She stared up at me coolly, not bothering to ask the obvious. The saturnine look of disapproval in her eyes said more than enough.
My desire makes me immune to her poisonous glare. Though there is little room for us to move, I lead. She was defiant. Though her body moved along to the rhythm in my head easily enough, she never stopped reminding me that I am being foolish. It would discourage a lesser being. But the trick to learning magic is willpower. And I have more than enough of that to power through the experience. We moved as one, shifting back and forth to the notes of imaginary violins and pianos. I wore a smile and hoped to defuse the tension with good, albeit forced, humor.
Patchouli would have none of that. I knew that the moment I stopped moving she would simply just walk away. I would be lucky to get even the simplest of sass from her. But that, too, was part of her charm. She wouldn't allow anyone to know what she was thinking unless she wanted them to. Self control and harmony with the elements was a vital part of being a magician, after all.
“Let's combine the elements,” I said with a derisive chuckle aimed at myself. “A little water,” I nodded, meaning the back and forth movements we were already doing, “...with, a little fire!” I placed an army firmly around her back as I dipped her. “Makes for a little steam, don't you think?” I asked, not expecting an answer. Clearly I had lost my mind. It was the only way to compete with the single-minded focus of a magician. In my madness, I achieved a semblance of clarity. Obviously the only way to win was to double down. “You know, if we do this in public, we might become the juiciest bit of gossip in quite some time. A dashing pauper turned into prince and a stunning witch dominating the dance floor. The music will play and time will hold still for us. The evening will only end when we wish it to end.”
Her countenance mellowed slightly, as if betraying conflicting feelings that had been stirred up inside of her. Pulling close, skipping to the slow dance, Patchouli pressed herself against me. My madness had spread. Drowning the noise from the non-existent instruments, I could hear my heart echo in my ears. She stared, as she always did, her eyes hard and unreadable. How typically unreasonable of her. I found myself leaning up against a nearby table, letting her push me back gently but inexorably. The dancing stopped. Soft lips went for my own. Gently, firmly and cruelly she kissed me. It threw me completely off balance. There was a precision to her assault that hinted at her ulterior motive. She wasted no time, scattering my previous madness with another kiss to my cheek. And then back to my lips, as if to make sure I was down and out.
My willpower shattered. It was hard to argue with the pleasure of intimacy.
Her words came unexpectedly as she leaned close to my ear, “we already have an audience.” I craned my neck. Patchouli was right. The head maid stood silently at the door, polite reserve in her eyes. Only the merest trace of vulgar amusement was detectable in the corners of her mouth. In all other aspects, she was a perfectly trained servant. Patchouli pressed even harder against me, uncaring of what the situation looked like. I knew at once that it was her way of taking revenge. Not bad at all.
“Would you rather I came back after you've finished?” Sakuya asked in a perfectly deadpan manner. “Perhaps you would like me to fetch scented candles and lotion instead?” It was a sublimely subtle delivery which made her acidity all the more effective.
“Join us if you wish,” Patchouli said in a flat monotone, “I believe he was trying to teach me to dance.”
“Some other time perhaps,” the maid smirked. “I wouldn't want to cut in and ruin the moment.”
Patchouli moved away from me, speaking to Sakuya in a more serious manner, “I take it you need something from me?”
“Lady Remilia wishes to see you,” she said. “She is in the drawing room.”
“I see,” Patchouli said. “I'll be right up.”
“Be warned,”Sakuya added, “it seems that the mistress is in one of her moods. Highly agitated and excitable. I wouldn't recommend egging her on.”
“It's been a while since the last time,” Patchouli noted dryly. “Any idea what brought this on?”
“I wonder,” Sakuya stared right at me with a knowing smile. She definitely knew what was up. Or so I felt. “Well, I have a lot of work to see to,” she said, excusing herself, “I'll see you later.”
“Alright,” Patchouli nodded, letting Sakuya leave. She, too, started to walk away.
“Pa-” I started.
“I wouldn't recommend you accompany me. Youkai are unpredictable and sometimes whimsical creatures,” she interrupted, “not to mention oft dangerous.” She didn't bother to turn around but I imagined a devious little smile sprouting on her lips. “Be a good little boy and save yourself from getting eaten from the big bad youkai. Or have you forgotten already the lesson from this morning?”
 Go with Patchouli anyways. It's not likely a vampire and a witch will team up to will eat me up raw.  Enough of vampires and magicians. See if there's still any good will to be earned with Sakuya.
-- Cheese. Cheese is good. Of course, you already knew that. Otherwise you wouldn't have read this far.
>>60170 I think you expect too much, and try not to have tunnel vision. Sometimes thinking outside of the waifu box can pay off. Seriously spending some time with Sakuya won't horribly derail your waifu ambitions, but rather the good will down the line, will come in handy.
Hey guys, in the interest of transparency and full disclosure, I wanted to share a few thoughts regarding the story.
There was an unplanned hiatus which unfortunately lasted two weeks or so and was ended with the last update. Because of the length of the pause, I decided to leave the update up for a few days so that people might see that things have resumed. Three days have seen only as many votes. I highly doubt that there'll be a greater number any time soon. As such, I'll attempt to write and have an update ready in an hour or two from now. Failing that deadline, sometime in the mid morning site time.
Unfortunately it seems that I'm not meeting the goals I set out for this story. Which is namely to say to have a somewhat interesting story with fast updates. And I say this not only looking at the current vote, but the general pattern. Leaving votes open for longer as I purposefully did with previous updates doesn't really do anything for the story. But neither does updating as fast as I can (every couple of hours). Personal feelings of disappointment aside, I'm not sure that this story has much of a future in its current form. I don't know if there's any way to attract more people to actually read this nor can I force those who do to check more than intermittently. So, realistically speaking, I will probably put the story on an indefinite hiatus if things carry on like this. Maybe to be revisited in some later date in the form of a short non-interactive conclusion. I know that sucks to hear and I don't intend it to come off as a threat or anything like that. Just frankly stating what's likely to happen. So I'm sorry three or so voters but this story can't work with so few of you. It'd have to be another type of story altogether for that size of an audience.
Well, it'll still be an an update or two before I come to a decision. But it's only fair I give a clear heads up, I think.
>But neither does updating as fast as I can (every couple of hours).
I think this is actively detrimental. Any faster than daily and some people will miss votes and might get annoyed if they were important and didn't go their way. Keymaster probably has the ideal update pace: once per day and usually at roughly the same time.
I followed Patchouli around, keeping a few steps behind her. She wasn't in a talkative sort of mood. I could tell that I was annoying her slightly by following but she did a good job of hiding any outwards sign of irritation.
We went all the way up to the third floor, to a room I hadn't been to before. It was like the sitting room I had been to before, save more luminous. A large skylight allowed the afternoon light to shine in. It made for a large difference in the atmosphere. It wasn't as dark and stuffy as the other rooms in the house. A few tapestries adorned the walls and in the middle there were a few large chairs next to a loom and some baskets. It must have been a sewing room.
“Good of you to come so quickly,” Remilia greeted with a sloppy wave of her hand. She sat in one of the chairs and faced the center of the area. Her main preoccupation seemed to be with whatever was inside a little wooden box she held in her hands. It was balanced on the palm of her other hand and she tilted it back and forth, scrutinizing it as if she expected something dramatic to happen. “Did you figure out what was the matter downstairs? Probably one of the maids being clumsy as usual, right?”
“I was unable to form a solid hypothesis,” Patchouli replied quietly.
“Why not?” Remilia grabbed the box from either end and shook it strongly. Something rattled inside of it.
“Lack of efficiency from staff. As well as sustained distractions from outside actors.”
“...oh you mean our extra contracted agent,” Remilia said with a sigh, “I see that he's been giving you trouble as well. What a character, he's practically strutting around, cocksure, like he owns the place. Hell's bells! The least he could do is show more respect for his employer. Carries about with so much undue confidence that it's maddening.”
“I would currently assess him as more of a hound than a cock,” Patchouli noted dryly, “he seems prone to want to follow others around with very little dissuading him. Not to mention an almost incalculable single-mindedness when it comes to performing certain tasks. I hope it won't affect our conversation.”
Remilia continued to be fascinated by the box. She shook it up next to her ear, as if to make sure that there really was something in there. With an absentminded tone, she added, “no, he's a giant co-” and then she looked up and Patchouli's words were finally processed by her brain.
I waved with a polite little smile, having stood still at the door the entire time.
She made a face that was completely unbecoming of a supposedly well-mannered and convivial lady of the manor. The look she wore was something commonly seen in bars, however. The bellicose older patrons, drunk and desperate of married life often wore that mask as they tried to pick fights. It proved to be only a momentary lapse of decorum on her behalf.
“Yes, so good to see you... so soon after the incident this afternoon,” she tried to say with an even and neutral smile. Her tone more like a resentful grumble. “Please, help yourself to a seat. I see that you've been spending time with my good friend Patchouli. I hope you've been treating her well.”
“It could have been a better experience,” Patchouli stated coolly, taking a seat in a chair directly opposite Remilia. She did all the speaking for me, “though he seemed adamant about dancing with me, to the point of forcefulness, he wasn't very engaged when we kissed. There was very limited use of tongue this time around.”
“Yuu wot?!” Remilia exclaimed, dropping the box to the floor. The hard wood object bounced away violently.
“I kissed him,” Patchouli reaffirmed calmly. Like it was no big deal. Might as well have been talking about a novel she had read. “It was less passionate than our previous times. There wasn't an overt sexual element to it, for starters. There may have been more tension in the morning when we were in bed together.”
“Ah, I see, you kissed and before that spent the night together in the same bed. Makes sense,” Remilia nodded absentmindedly. Confusion was written on her face. “W-why-” she managed to stutter out weakly. Apparently that was intended as a question.
“Because it is pleasurable,” Patchouli stated. “And though he is not very well-developed as a magician, I imagine that you already know that there is a latent attraction present due to his abilities. I believe this is why you lost control and nearly killed him when you drank his blood..”
“That may be!” Remilia interjected, “but I didn't do it because I loved him! Or even had any sort of feelings. He's basically stranger, for Mammon's sake!”
“Love?” Patchouli seemed to be confused by the sudden introduction of the concept. Or, at least, acted like she was. “What does that have to do with anything?” It seemed like I wasn't the only one she was comfortable messing around with.
“Nothing, nothing at all!” she said with significant bluster on her behalf. “Anyways!” Remilia directed herself at me, “it's most inappropriate for you to come along when I just asked my good friend here for a private chat.”
“I thought I could help myself to a seat?” I tried to look as disarming as possible.
“That was before I remembered the subject matter I wished to discuss. Besides, you ought to take some time to reflect on your fiendish behavior.”
“And what behavior would that be?” I asked.
“The continuing campaign for the ruination of young maidens of outstanding moral character!” Remilia stated with a self-satisfied little 'hmpf!' at the end. “You act like a cur in heat, it is most repulsive.”
“Repulsive? Cur?” I frowned. “I was the victim of assault. You kissed me and had your way with me when I was incapacitated.”
“Lies!” Remilia blurted out, in a panic. Her eyes shifted nervously to Patchouli and then back to me. I assumed that she didn't want Patchouli to know any more details of the incident.
For her part, Patchouli sat still, looking as composed as ever. And yet, I was sure that she was having her fun. It may have been a form revenge on me for being so forceful or maybe it was payback for some slight she suffered with Remilia. Either way it felt like she was coming out on top.
 Get back at Remilia for the insult. Sweep Patchouli off her... seat and carry her out of the room. Let her mind go with thinking up implications.  Patchouli needs stop playing around. See how much she likes it if I kiss Remilia right here and now. - And done in time for mid-morning.
>>60181 I feel where you're coming from. However, I try to always give important votes more time. No one choice in the story is supposed to be too critical. Which is why, for example, there's been plenty of chances to go and deal with Sakuya or Patchy or whomever else despite some of the earlier choices. This story wouldn't do well with a single update every day at the same time. It's not meant to. The updates are supposed to be shortish (sub 2000/1500 words) and the reason I started this story was to breathe a little life into /sdm/ and the site as a whole. I mean this is a fun but not outstanding experience, something that you're supposed to have fun reading and voting in but not a timeless classic. I expected to write maybe twice a day on average for this story. I'm not going for quality of long and polished posts but neither am I trying to do 400 word updates every 50 minutes. You're supposed to F5 when you can and reasonably expect there to be updates mainly in the afternoons/evenings when people are done with their day. And for there to be an update left open overnight too so you can get a vote in the morning. So, dunno. If the story is becoming 'normal' (ie: no fast updates) then I'm not really writing the kind of story that I want to. Which is why I have to reassess its future. This really wouldn't work with long, slower updates full of details that were only posted once a day. The pacing would feel messed up not to mention that it would take forever to finish this. This is supposed to be done with in a matter of weeks, not months.
I'm not sure if I'm explaining myself clearly here. Really need sleep now. It'd be neat if you help me get more people to check and vote somehow though.
[x] Get back at Remilia for the insult. Sweep Patchouli off her... seat and carry her out of the room. Let her mind go with thinking up implications.
It would be a real shame to let this story die. Not saying this because I am all for teasing Remilia and spending time with magicians. No sir no. I enjoy the quality of the writing and the interaction with the various characters on various levels. And such.
“Well then,” I said with polite smile, “I'll excuse myself now. I can think of better uses of my time than to take unwarranted abuse from a self-proclaimed 'lady'.”
“Just what do you think you're doing?!” Remilia asked dumbly as I swooped down and grabbed Patchouli up from her seat. I ignored the question and instead calmly walked out towards the door.
For her part, Patchouli played along. She did not resist, instead looking at me with slight look of amusement. She draped her arms around my neck, taking some of the weight off my arms proper. I really didn't understand what her relationship with Remilia was and, I imagined, that they had something of a history together. It was strong enough for her to tease her sputtering vampire friend, that much I gathered. Though it wasn't obvious to a casual onlooker, at least from her peaceful neutral expression, I was virtually certain that she found the fact that Remilia was getting worked up hilarious.
“Hey, Remi,” I interrupted whatever long-winded oath she was in the middle off as I reached the door. “We've got more important business to take care of right now. The kind that doesn't need a third wheel. You understand, right? Catch you later.”
I didn't look back. I walked down down the hallway until the yelling subsided. That's when I knew it was safe to stop.
“What are you planning to do now?” Patchouli finally asked.
“Put you down if you don't mind. My arms are getting a bit tired,” I told her.
“It is customary to refrain from any and all remarks regarding a woman's weight, as oblique as they might be.”
“I like you the way you are,” I said, gently easing her down. “I wouldn't dream of making an insulting remark about your soft spots.”
“Perhaps you think yourself so clever, having been spared from any real adversity so far,” Patchouli lectured me, “I may be amused with how you have managed to drive a tightly-wound friend near to the brink of collapse but you are not acting in your best interests.”
“I wouldn't say that. I mean, Remilia must be going insane thinking that we've eloped. Or worse, are indulging in...” I searched for a term that Remilia might use, “carnal delight.”
“And so antagonizing a youkai serves your interests how?” she asked.
“Not being led around by the nose for once is reward enough,” I said.
“How are you not being led around? You've fallen prey to her machinations, giving your essence to her and you've not exacted any sort of retribution save for puerile innuendo.”
“I managed to get more money out of her,” I said with a shrug. “Besides, there's something oddly satisfying about teasing her. That's also a kind of reward.”
Patchouli would have none of it. She spoke a little more harshly, criticizing my behavior, “and so when you've become a meal for an irate youkai I imagine you'll be quite satisfied with the outcome. Avoid entanglements with creatures more powerful than yourself.”
“That would mean keeping away from you as well,” I said, “I'm willing to take the risk for now.”
“Is that some sort of romantic platitude?”
“Take it as you will,” I shrugged. “I don't think you understand what it's like to be a normal human surrounded by youkai. At any point in my life I could have taken a wrong turn and have gotten eaten by some sort of feral beast. I mean, nowadays that could happen too. The little magic I can do probably couldn't fight off something that seriously wanted to eat me. But still, it's because of the fact that I could die at any time that it's fun to push my limits. If I get a rise out of a bossy vampire or a pretty but cold magician, then so be it. That's happiness.”
“You're a fool,” Patchouli concluded. She kissed me tenderly on the cheek. The faint smile on her lips told me that she was being genuine in her affection.
“Oh for f-!” A thunderous shout flew down the hallway. Remilia yelled from the distance, “get a gods-blasted room already! Away from my mansion, you... you crazed sex maniacs!”
Patchouli and I burst out in laughter.
“...I seriously got her worked up, haven't I?” I whispered.
“Indeed,” Patchouli nodded with a smirk. Grabbing my hand, she added, “let's go.”
I didn't need to hear it twice. A barrage of expletives and colorful remarks came from behind us. But we ignored it. We turned at the first staircase and walked down back to the first floor. At one point, Sakuya rushed past us, seemingly in a real hurry. No doubt that she was being summoned by her out of control mistress. I felt a little bad for her.
“Well then, Ms. Witch,” I said facetiously, “what now?”
“I'm starting to suspect that you enjoy being led around by the nose,” she said with a cruel little smirk. Magicians. Always so lovely. “Normally in a romance novel, getting carried away by a gentleman means that the woman is then ravished in an intimate encounter in the bedroom. Or sometimes balcony. Or dining room table. Really, pretty much anywhere.”
“Do you feel like being ravished?” I joked.
“I should being to prepare myself for this evening,” she said. “A bath is in order, I think. I highly doubt that Remilia will call me back after that particular stunt.”
“The main bath is a large partitioned hall as is tradition in these parts,” she said.
“You mean it's like a hot spring?”
“Only when Remilia wishes it to be. It's rather expensive to keep such a large place warm and clean, you know. It's reserved for guests and groups.”
“I'll consider myself lucky then.”
“Coming with me, then?” Patchouli's eyes lit up momentarily. Pure magician malevolence flared up and then disappeared. I found it comforting and charming. Maybe I did like being led by the nose, after all.
The main bathroom was somewhere to the east of the main entry hall. We took a few side passages to avoid the hustle and bustle of busy maids and arrived at yet another lavishly decorated door. There was entry area with individual storage compartments for changes of clothes. Beyond that two different hallways spread out to either side before arrive at identical doors.
“I imagine that Remilia will have deposited your change of attire for the evening within one of these,” Patchouli stated while disrobing. She didn't hesitate at all, loosening the buttons on her clothes without pause. “I suppose that I'll simply go back to my chambers to get dressed. A towel will do to keep the cool air at bay.”
“Are we...?” I began to ask but then stopped. I already knew the answer. I was to do as I pleased. Patchouli wasn't about to let me know if she minded me bathing with her or not. She was above such petty things. Much to my luck.
 Take a bath by myself. It's a chance to recover some strength. Nothing could possibly go wrong with that plan.  Just go in with Patchouli. It doesn't have to be weird. Having someone to talk to is always nice.
A combination of feeling ill and a desire to watch and wait has kept me from updating. There'll be something, at the earliest, after I take a nap and take care of unfun life stuff. Still thinking about what to do about the story in general and I'm still not sure what the best way forward is. A decision can be postponed until the end of this thread instead of right now, I guess.
>>60218 Write away, Teruyo. Do not think about tomorrow or today and just let the words flow. Pump out those updates and we will be here reading. We ain't avid readers but damn we will be here. Give me that magician sexing, that remilia teasing and that Sakuya flirting. Fuck the rest and write for those 3 to 5 guys here.
Everything I write is wrong so let me be the wrongest. inb4 sample.
The bathroom was as majestic an area as I had imagined. A high domed roof with paintings of naked ladies frolicking with playful-looking half-beasts in meadows and springs loomed above. Statues of chubby little babies lined the walls, all winking or smiling with what I imagined was supposed to be child-like innocence. The color scheme was gold and white, very bright and very dazzling in a sense. It seemed to be consistent with the décor of the rest of the mansion.
The bath itself was a large semi-circle that was cut off in the middle by a waterfall and a bunch of rocks. Presumably the circle continued on the other side. It took up most of the walking space. A dozen people or more could probably sit and soak comfortably. It was fed by a few open-mouthed babies and a couple of strange fish-like heads. A set of simple showers were off to the side, each with its own simple chain to turn on the water.
“Rather impractical for daily use,” I commented, holding my towel firmly in place around my waist. The steam in the room had started making me feel hot almost immediately. Patchouli didn't bother to reply, instead tossing her towel aside onto a small bench and giving herself a quick shower before she got into the bath. “Guess there's no point in delaying,” I mumbled to myself. I quickly followed her example.
“...is there something on my face?” Patchouli asked, leaning her head back. She obviously knew what it was.
“I think this is the first time I've been in a bath with someone not related to me by blood,” I said. I sat across to her and a bit to the side, with the water up to my chest. With all the steam I didn't have a clear view of what was going on in the area below her collarbone. Getting closer would be a bit of an invasion of personal space, I felt. I then added after a pause, recalling a few very specific scenarios, “well, I guess a certain drunken oni took away that honor. So first time where everyone is sober.”
“How lively...” she said, closing her eyes. “Has your excitement subsided?”
“If I'm honest, not really,” I said with what was probably a very pathetic smile on my face. I was a normal and healthy male, after all. It would take me a bit of training not to be stimulated when in close proximity to a naked girl.
“Being a magician means being subject to a lot of self-control,” she chided softly. Like she didn't particularly care to lecture me at the moment.
“Look at it this way,” I said, “I'm happy to be near you.”
A faint smile formed on her face. Her eyes remained firmly shut. “Even in those romance novels a line like that would be too much to bear.”
“Sorry,” I said with a chuckle, “I'm not much of a writer. Or poet.”
“One doesn't have to be either to conquer the heart,” Patchouli said softly. “Every person has their own effective technique to get close to others. You are no exception. Or are you already forgetting the power your words and actions have had over certain characters?”
“Some of the magical energy in my body is responsible for most of that,” I countered, “as it was at the height of the last incident. The bonds magicians sought to create with me were fueled by that mischievous force.”
“Certainly that is not all that there was to it,” Patchouli laughed a little. Seemed like I continued to amuse her. “Otherwise I hardly suspect that I would have retained a certain fondness for you.”
“Are you saying that you like me?” I asked, stupidly.
“As surely as you like me. It's only natural, given our mutual actions.” She reminded me of the obvious, “we are, after all, sharing a bath. Would that be appropriate between two complete strangers?”
“And here I thought it was just part of your much vaunted self-control. I'm honored that I'm here because you like me,” I said. Truth be told I was over the moon. My heart was beating faster in response to the revelation.
“So do not sell short your own charms or capability for seduction,” Patchouli said, not once opening her eyes to look at me. “Realizing one's strengths is vital to prospering in life.”
“I don't think that I was made to conquer hearts...” I said, not convinced of what she was saying. That she liked me was more of a matter of circumstance and shared experience rather than any sort of charm and smoothness on my part. For crying out loud: a part of me still felt like blushing crimson because we were both naked in the same room.
“And if you were? How would you seduce me?” She leaned back, making small waves as her bosom broke the surface of the water. Was that a subtle form of encouragement? A sly little smile formed on her lips. It made her look like she was eagerly awaiting what I would do. I tried to convince myself that I all the poise of a veteran heartthrob.
 I'd get close to her and whisper sweet nothings into her ear until she could think of nothing else but me.  Offering a massage with soaps and scented oils was a surefire way to seduce her.
- >>60226 It's not about numbers. It's about having the right atmosphere for the story type. Fast updates don't work without people. And if I can't do fast updates, then the style of story needs to be re-evaluated. In this case it'd likely mean scrapping most things. See previous posts for more.
It's pretty much the end of the thread. And I'm afraid that it seems that it's also the end of the story. Doing a fast-paced story with fast updates is simply undoable under the current circumstances. The two votes over the course of a whole day is just the final nail in the coffin. Doesn't seem there's any chance of a turnaround either. It saddens me to leave things like this and I'll think if any additional conclusion would be doable. I don't think there's much to be gained from a short summary of the ending since this story was more about the characters and the moment instead of the final results. This really sucks for me but I'm sure it sucks for you too. Maybe this story would have been successful a few years ago but I think it's just another byproduct of our slowly-dying community. The real objective of this story was to infuse a little life into the site (and /sdm/ to a lesser extent) but for a combination of reasons I wasn't able to do that.
Sorry, again. I don't mean to sound ungrateful for the couple of people that were always there nor do I mean to whine about things that can't be helped. Read other stories if you can, even slower-paced stories need the attention these days.
I do as well. Unfortunately my schedule has a tendency of being the opposite of Teruyo's so I often miss votes in fast-paced stories like these. Combined with how my life is going at the moment I don't often have the chance to make well thought out votes. Not to mention that I'm usually fine with any of the choices winning so I usually leave the voting to people who prefer one over the other unless I feel strongly about a particular choice.
Do remember that you often have more readers than you do voters Teruyo, especially with your system of not counting votes unless thay have a comment. Don't give up so easy.
Besides, it doesn't matter if you don't have a lot of voters, you can at least make the ones who do read it happy. Isn't that good enough?
[x] Offering a massage with soaps and scented oils was a surefire way to seduce her.
Anyway, have a tie-breaker vote. As >>60240 said, Arc tends to do better with actions than words. I am in no way voting for this just because of how stressed I have been lately and how much I would love a massage!