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File 13894175517.jpg - (289.58KB, 1000x670, A Wayside Shrine.jpg) [iqdb]
60113 No. 60113
Life on the road is harsh. I’m good at a number of things, sure, but improving my stamina was never a real priority, so I tire easily. The fights I’ve been in never lasted long enough to need it. Cooking and finding shelter were never things I even had the chance to learn. Hunting is yet another thing I neglected to take up.

To be honest, being bad at things reminds me of… never mind. I was miserable then, too.

I’ve been travelling for three weeks, now. Beyond the fact that I’ve been headed east, I don’t even know what kingdom I’m in at this point. I hope father is taking my disappearance alright. When I left, things were… complicated.

A sudden downpour of rain interrupts my thoughts. The weather has been like this for a few days, all hot and humid and rainy. I can’t help but shiver as the rain soaks into my clothes. Temperatures stopped bothering me a while ago, but I can still catch something from staying drenched for a while. I need to find some shelter very soon.

Seeing as I’m already pretty far from civilization, heading deeper into the forest couldn’t hurt. The shade of the leafy canopy helps a little, but it isn’t going to keep me anywhere near dry. The forest is quiet as I trudge onward.

A ways off the beaten path, I find an old building of cracked stone, overgrown with vines and trees. I’d guess it’s a shrine of some sort. I have no idea to who or what, but it’s a shelter, at least.

The inside is dark, but I can see clear as daylight. There are traces of magic here, the cracked and broken wards having long ago run out of power. After making sure they aren’t dangerous to me, I renew them with a bit of my own inner light. This way, I don’t have to worry about wolves or anything happening upon me.

The rain continues uninterrupted for a few hours. I remember how, when I was very young, I was afraid of thunder. Mother would hold me and tell me that everything would be fine. Things were simpler back then. I’m sorry, mother. I must be such a disappointment to you.

When I awaken, it isn’t where I went to sleep. I’m on the shore of an ice covered lake. Judging by the falling snow, it now seems to be winter. I feel cold for the first time in months. Cold and weak. I can barely even call upon my light. The air is filled with a magic far different than any I’ve encountered before.

Once again, I have to find shelter. Hypothermia is hardly something I’m looking forward to experiencing. I’m not dressed very warmly, having grown reliant on my light to keep me comfortable. On top of that, the sun is setting, meaning it’s about to get a lot colder.

There looks to be a massive, walled off mansion almost on the lakefront. I don’t see any other options, so I have to go with that. It will take me a while to get there, so I should get walking.

I may have underestimated the size of the mansion. It seems to grow and shift as I get closer. The outer walls, dyed red by the setting sun, would be fit for a castle. The mansion itself, from what I can see of it, could also potentially be a castle. There’s something odd about it, though. It looks like a castle one moment and a mansion the next. There must be some very strange magic at work.

Once I get closer, I notice and am noticed by a woman who I presume to be the gatekeeper. She’s a tall, fiery-haired woman in something akin to a green tabard and white pants. While she seems comfortable in this weather, she’s less warmly dressed that I am. Her cool-blue eyes and relaxed posture make her seem non-threatening. Despite that, I’m sure she’s more dangerous than she looks. Guards are rarely for show and the fact that there’s only one means she must be formidable, indeed. She doesn’t have any visible weapons, but some could easily be concealed.

As I approach, she addresses me in a language I don’t understand. It’s like nothing I’ve ever heard before. Seeing my confusion, she switches to another, different language. At least, I think it’s a different language. There are some similarities. Naturally, it doesn’t help in the slightest. She sighs heavily, shaking her head to indicate that she only speaks those two languages.

I think I can try to do something about this. My instructor went over a magical workaround for just this situation, if only in passing. It was a way to understand intent and meaning without actually breaking the language barrier. Even if it doesn’t actually translate things, it’s better than nothing.

When I try to draw from my inner light, I get almost nothing. Even forcing it as much as I can, I only get a small trickle of energy. It’s like trying to lift a mountain. Apart from the tearing feeling in my side, I can barely tell that I’m managing anything. This tiny amount will have to do.

The enchantment brings some warmth back into my freezing ears. It’s a weird prickly-fuzzy feeling, but anything is fine if it takes my mind off the pain. I just wish I had some sort of incantation to go through, if only silently. My instructor laughed at me when I first started making up words to go with my spells. Sure, it’s childish and unnecessary, but she didn’t need to mock me about it.

In any case, I get it to work. The gatekeeper woman waits for me to speak. She seems to have picked up on what sort of enchantment I’ve just put upon myself. Well, sort of. I can’t speak in a way she’ll understand without either casting the enchantment on her or using another enchantment that I never actually learned. Of course, even then, I’d rather not try talking. I haven’t been able to speak for several weeks.

I gesture to her to speak.

“Are you lost?”

I can tell it’s a question from her tone, but not much else. I think she’s asking if I know where I am. I shake my head, honestly having no idea.

“You can understand me now, right?”

Do I… oh, understand! Yes. Sort of. Not really.

The woman sighs. “Close enough. Seeing as you don’t understand a word of Japanese, you must be an outsider.”

I didn’t understand a word of that.

“In any case, I can’t just leave you out in the cold. Come and follow me! My gatehouse is nice and warm.” The woman beckons me forward.

She’s going to let me come in, then. I’m half-tempted not to follow her. If there’s one thing I’m exceedingly bad at, it’s making a good first impression. When it comes to dealing with nobles, that problem gets multiplied by about ten times. The lord of this manor will likely want me gone within minutes of our meeting.

Alternately, I can freeze to death. That seems much more certain. Following it is.

Crossing the threshold gives me a hollow feeling on the inside. It’s that weird sort of vertigo where things are alright but you’re still afraid of what’s to come. It’s possible that it’s an omen that I’m going to meet my doom here or something. Or it might not be. I don’t actually know anything about divining and I’m too cold to care either way.

The gatekeeper is housed in a small building built partway into the wall, just inside of the gate. If I had to pick one word to describe her residence, it would be… well, warm, obviously. The heat comes from a few metallic box things with weird black tails that go into the walls. I don’t know why the fireboxes would need tails, but maybe they work like chimneys.

Once I have my gloves and boots off, to better warm my extremities, I take a proper look around the room. An entire wall is covered in all manner of weapons, most of which look well used. Most of the room is fairly messy, with a few books and assorted cutlery scattered about. There’s a fireplace tucked into a corner, making the fireboxes seem excessive. For someone who can stand out in the cold and be unaffected, the gatekeeper certainly likes to keep her home hot. I wonder why.

While I wait for the feeling to return to my hands and feet, the gatekeeper checks a pot that’s hanging over the fireplace. The smell of cooking meat is positively mouthwatering. I’m suddenly reminded that I last ate at midday, yesterday.

“Here, this should kick the cold out of your bones. It’s a great help on days like this.” She offers me a bowl of some sort of stew.

The fact that the stew has an even higher concentration of magic than my surroundings gives me pause, but hunger wins out. Despite the fact that my own traumatizing attempts at cooking with magic are stuck fresh in my mind, the stew is wonderful. And spicy. Brutally, painfully spicy. It heats my body like liquid fire. I kind of want more.

“Still hungry? The stew isn’t half as filling as you’d think. Kind of a problem, seeing as eating too much of it will cook you alive. I don’t really have anything else on hand at the moment, seeing as I wasn’t expecting a guest. I guess that, if her workload isn’t too high at the moment, Sakuya should be willing to whip something up.”

All I caught of that was that eating more would be a bad idea. The why wasn’t clear, but I figure that there’s something poisonous in the stew that is helpful in small doses.

“Once you’re properly warmed up, the mistress will want to see you. It’s just after nightfall, so she should be in a welcoming enough mood.”

Now I’m to go and meet her lord, then? I’m really not looking forward to this. Still, I don’t have a choice if I want to continue not freezing to death.

The area contained within the outer walls is much larger than the outside would suggest. I find myself looking around at the buildings built into the walls and at the towers spaced evenly throughout the wall. Anything but the looming mansion I’m walking toward.

“Don’t worry. Everything will be fine.” The gatekeeper gives me a reassuring pat on the head.

As I work on calming my nerves, the gatekeeper has me wait outside while she goes in. Fortunately, that stew I had earlier makes the cold feel more like a breeze.

The gatekeeper reappears a minute later with another woman. The woman is tall, though less so than the gatekeeper, and has dark blue eyes and braided silver hair. Her clothes identify her as a maid, no doubt one of many who work here. If I had to guess, I’d say that she’s around four years my senior.

The maid’s gaze is slightly unsettling. Her smile doesn’t quite seem genuine. Then again, it isn’t particularly false, either. I can’t read her at all.

“Seeing as you don’t understand a word of Japanese, how about English?”

I didn’t really understand that, either, but I recognize the language, at least. The invaders spoke this language, so I can’t say I like hearing it. Even so, it’s better than nothing.

You recognize English, but don’t speak it? Do you, perhaps, speak French?”

I do! Well, at the moment, I can’t really speak at all, but I will be able to when I’m feeling better. It’s a relief to know that at least one person speaks the same language I do. It would get very frustrating if no one did.

“Very interesting. I take it you haven’t spoken for a reason.”

I make a point of massaging my throat. It still hurts, of course.

“I see. We don’t often get travelers around here, but the mistress enjoys getting to entertain guests. There’s just one thing before I bring you to her. That sword. I feel it unwise to let you go before milady armed, even if she herself doesn’t care. I ask that you surrender it, fr now.”

Normally, I’d be happy to comply, if only as a gesture of goodwill. The sword itself is unremarkable and doesn’t hold any particular sentimental value. Right now, the problem is that I can’t access my magic, meaning the sword is my only defense. The fact that my hostess is apparently unconcerned about security breaches must mean she believes she has some way of killing me before I can draw my sword. I very much doubt that, myself.

Maybe I’m being paranoid, but I’ve stared death in the face dozens of times in the last year. Every time, I had something I could do to hold it off, if only just.

[] – Surrender the sword.
[] – I think I’ll keep it.

***
Something familiar, yet different. Hopefully, this will be interesting.
186posts omitted. Last 50 shown. Expand all images
>> No. 61601
[X] – Explore the mansion some. I still only know where like five rooms are.
>> No. 61602
[x] – Explore the mansion some. I still only know where like five rooms are.
>> No. 61607
[X] – Look for Remilia. I’ve talked to her at breakfast, but I don’t feel as if I know her in the slightest.

Don't want to run into the other one just yet...
>> No. 61613
File 141540407538.jpg - (118.30KB, 1000x669, All the world`s a stage.jpg) [iqdb]
61613
Bidding Sakuya and Meiling farewell, I head back inside. Meiling gazes at me with something approaching pride, but stays silent. Not that she could really communicate anything to me on her own.

Dropping my boots by the door, I set off deeper into the mansion. So far, I’ve been mostly just stumbling my way between what few rooms I recognize, so some exploring is in order. It’s not very polite to just go barging into rooms unannounced, but no one has exactly given me the tour. Not that it would necessarily help me keep my bearings when the halls are so wonky. Well, I guess it’s fine if I just knock before entering, right?

The halls seem to stretch out endlessly before me as I wander about trying doors. Guestroom, guestroom, storeroom, wall, linen closet, pitfall… Wait, pitfall? One near miss later, I decide to just try the doors that look a bit different from the others. That narrows things down immensely.

Eventually, I come upon a grand set of double doors not much smaller than the ones out front. This particular hallway is largely devoid of other doors on this side for a ways, so I doubt this is Remilia’s room or anything. Still, it can’t hurt to knock. When there’s no answer, I pull it open.

The room beyond is only marginally smaller than the dining hall. Perhaps a dozen rows of seats curve around this side, descending out of view from the hall’s lights. Stepping in, a cool blue light pervades the room, not really coming from anywhere. Above and behind me hangs a balcony, while going from the middle to the far end is a raised wooden stage. A theatre?

The floorboards faintly protest as I descend toward the stage. Paying them no heed, I ascend the steps and gaze out at my audience of none.

This sure takes me back. When I was young, I recall learning a great deal about music. I’d like to think I was a pretty good singer and musician, sometimes even at the same time. I could usually even hit those difficult high notes. Unfortunately, I was a very timid child. I couldn’t perform in front of an audience, just my parents and teacher. It hurt to disappoint mother, to not be able to be strong like she was. I think that’s why I stopped.

I’m not the child I once was. I’ve grown and matured some. Somewhere along the way, I managed to lock my fear away. It’s not truly gone, but that doesn’t matter if I can keep it from affecting things. That’s what growing up is, right? Finding your voice? I’d say I have. Well, in a sense. Maybe I should ask someone where the mansion keeps its instruments.

I’m not sure how long I stay there, but when I leave, I’m feeling lighter than I have in a while.

***
Day 7: Sorry about the lack of choice point on this one. Today has been oh so tiring.
>> No. 61618
File 141550357768.jpg - (123.92KB, 566x800, surprise surprise.jpg) [iqdb]
61618
“Instruments?” Remilia’s face lights up. “You’ve an interest in the arts, then. I would be happy to show you to the music room.”

Now that dinner’s over, I’m being led by Remilia to the music room. Well, dinner for me. I guess it was breakfast to Remilia. The day seems like it’s dragged on and been too short at the same time.

I only half listen to Remilia’s animated talking as I follow her. I think the lack of sleep is wearing on my focus. I think this is the first time Remilia has shown much enthusiasm for anything since I got here. She’s been all carefully measured smiles around me and I can’t figure out why. Strange how politeness and social grace can build up a wall around someone. Sakuya is that way too, but at least she can’t seem to keep it up quite as perfectly.

Lost in thought as I am, I nearly collide with Remilia. Oh, she’s stopped. I guess we’re here, then. Not really paying attention to our close call, Remilia opens the door with a flourish.

The room is a respectable size, certainly larger than my bedroom. Instrument cases of various shapes lean against the walls, the more flat ones carefully stacked together. A grand piano rests in the corner, beside it a long shelf that looks to be full of sheet music.

“You’re welcome to come here anytime you want.” Remilia says.

(Thank you for your generosity.)

“I’m one of the few people who use this room, so all the better not to have it go to waste.” She pauses, as if unsure about saying anything more. Only after she notices I’m waiting on her to continue does she do so. “If it’s not any trouble, might I listen to you play?”

(That could be alright sometime. Tonight, I just wanted to know where the room was while I was thinking about it. I need to get to sleep soon.)

“Oh.” She looks a bit disheartened. “Can you find your way back to your room from here?”

Assuring her I can find my way both there and back here, I part company with Remilia. I’m most of the way back to my room before I remember that I have a demon to meet with tonight. I won’t risk showing her up if there’s a chance of her coming up to my room to fetch me.

It probably isn’t half as late as it feels, but the library is silent. It’s more of a sleepy silence than the heavy kind that hangs over it during the day. With the shelves still not rearranged back to what passes for normal, it’s easy to spot the demon. She’s awkwardly draped over two shelves, barely paying any attention to her book.

She doesn’t look up from it before speaking. “I’m surprised you wound up coming. You didn’t fully commit.”

I just shrug, feeling too tired to give her much more of a reaction. She closes her book and hops down to almost eye level.

She idly taps her chin with her tail. “Hmm, here’s no good. Let’s go for a walk, Ellie.”

She beckons me to follow her out the door and into the darker depths of the basement. With a trio of snaps, three fires hang in the air over her head, illuminating the way. She turns back when she notices I’m not following.

“Scared? Maybe you should be, but I can at least make sure to catch you if you fall.” I can’t tell if her smile is genuine.

[] – Leap of faith.
[] – Don’t push your luck.
Swlrg lqlura.

***
Day 8: Still today in my timezone. Or yesterday. You know what I mean
>> No. 61619
Cipher changed. I can't figure it out any more. Not ROT, not a keyboard shift.
>> No. 61622
Between having to pixel edit my duplicate image and the bout of site lag, I guess I forgot to put my name back on the fourth time I tried posting.
>>61619
It hasn't changed, the cipher just hasn't needed a left end letter before.
>> No. 61624
[x] – Leap of faith.

Death awaits, eh? Considering the fact that Koa's a demon, I'm pretty sure that'd be the least of our worries if she were really out to get us.
>> No. 61628
[x] – Leap of faith.

I don't even care if she's just luring us away to kill us horribly any more. At least we'll have actually learned something.
>> No. 61641
File 141558624521.jpg - (136.28KB, 1024x717, beneath.jpg) [iqdb]
61641
There’s a moment where I honestly consider turning back, but it passes as quickly as it came. The demon really would have done something by now if she meant me harm. I feel as if I can trust her on this or at least trust her motives.

I take a step forward, shortening the distance between us. She opens her mouth as if to say something, but only lets out a breath. Then she turns away and we descend into the dark.

Pretty soon, I can see my breath hang in the air. At several points, the demon makes to step on specific stones or ducks an eye-level tripwire. I ever so carefully follow suit. There are a great deal of traps down here.

The demon abruptly turns and leads me into is an old wine cellar, thick with cobwebs and dust. There doesn’t seem to be anything special about this room, but a number of candles are placed haphazardly about. Rather, it’s as if she decided this room was as good as any.

“So then, what caused you to back out of Patchouli’s offer at the last minute?”

[] – Tell her everything that happened.
[] – Just the essentials. She doesn’t need to know it was her in the dream.

***
Day 9: Real sleepy, but I don't feel too bad.
>> No. 61642
[x] – Tell her everything that happened.

Well we came this far.
>> No. 61643
[x] – Tell her everything that happened.

When we get to the part where she stabs us, make sure to note that we never really believed that would actually happen; it's just unimaginative.
>> No. 61645
File 141563771957.png - (0.97MB, 700x990, Chess with Death.png) [iqdb]
61645
Writing everything out feels impossible, but eventually I manage. The details haven’t faded in my mind any, still pressed like a sharp edge against my thoughts. I hate this. It’s like I’m uncomfortable even being in the same room as her despite knowing she hasn’t wronged me.

For her part, the demon keeps her distance and I’m grateful for the space. She reads what I wrote from more than an arm’s reach away, just shaking her head when I offer it to her. Her lack of a reaction as she reads is strange. She doesn’t look surprised or bothered or say anything reassuring. Finally, she looks up at me.

“I’m sure you gathered that this isn’t normal.”

(What’s causing it?)

She’s silent for a moment. “Do you like chess, Ellie?”

I can almost feel my brain grinding to a halt at her inane question. What the heck does that have to do with anything?

She shrugs. “Personally, I don’t care for it. The better you and your opponent get, the more predictable it becomes. A game is only enjoyable if the outcome comes down to something besides processing power.”

(I don’t follow.)

“There’s this game I really like. I call it the red game. I’m always playing it, as is my opponent.”

I don’t think I like where this is going…

“It’s a very long game. Still the same one, even. We’re both terribly keen on winning, because we can only play it once.”

(Who is your opponent?)

The demon smiles. “I can’t tell you that. That’s against the rules~. I’m not supposed to ever bring it up, but you’re a loophole. Outsiders can’t know and residents can’t know, but you’re somewhere in between. You’re not exactly a player or a piece, either.”

Now we come to what I’m here for. (Did your opponent cause that nightmare?)

“Yes. My opponent wants you gone, but can’t move overtly. We don’t move the pieces, but we try to influence where they move themselves.”

(Why target me?) The knowledge that someone’s out to get me feels remarkably mundane, somehow.

“Because I’m losing.” She says it as if she were talking about the weather. Just a statement to fill space.

(And I can change that somehow?)

The demon looks right through me, as if her eyes could bore a hole in the wall. “Nothing ever changes here. Not beyond the surface. You can force things to move some just by being, by interacting with others. Maybe a little, maybe a lot, but it’s a chance.”

So I have an enemy who wants me dead or gone just for existing. My best chance is to simply run and never look back. I’ve been trying to do that a lot lately. I think I’m getting better at it.

And yet, this time I can do something. Maybe this isn’t something I can solve with light and steel, but I can act all the same. At long last, I have a chance to act against a hidden opponent.

The demon shrugs again. “Maybe I shouldn’t really ask if you’ll stand with me. Enemy of my enemy doesn’t work if you still hate my guts. You don’t really look at me like I’m a person, but it’s not necessarily wrong. Still, I’m pretty screwed on my own.

If there’s something you want to ask, here’s your chance. I’ll tell you if I can.”

I’m not entirely sure what to make of all this.

[] – There’s something I need to know… (write-in)
[] – Strange bedfellows.
[] – The only winning move is not to play.

***
Day 10: Sort of reluctant to post this this early after the last update, but I'm not really holding my breath for any more/different votes. I'm not really sure I like how this has turned out, but I can't honestly say I hate it.
>> No. 61646
[x] – There’s something I need to know…
- [x] - No matter what else happens, can you at least promise that my soul will remain, well, mine?

Hmm. Probable opponents: Yuuka, Shinki, Sariel.
Doubt Yukari would bother with something so hands-off and would be quite disappointed if she were involved, but the possibility’s there.
Violence fits Flandre but dreams, not so much.
Anyone else?
>> No. 61649
[x] – Strange bedfellows.

I was thinking Remilia was the obvious guess. Since, you know, red game.
>> No. 61655
[] – Strange bedfellows.
>> No. 61657
>>61649
Eeeeh. Maybe? Not many useful-slash-entertaining 'pieces' in the SDM, though it would explain Sakuya's tiredness.
>> No. 61660
File 141576379880.png - (474.05KB, 1000x1000, You made the right choice.png) [iqdb]
61660
A month ago, if someone asked me what could cause me to make a pact with a demon, I would have called them an idiot for suggesting it. And yet here I am, doing just that.

I nod to the demon and offer her my hand. She blinks several times, like she wasn’t expecting me to cooperate.

“No need to shake on it or mix blood or whatever else you do where you come from. Formal contracts aren’t my style.”

(So you’ll watch my back if I watch yours?)

She grins. “Naturally. It’s hardly my back that needs watching, though. I’m not in too much danger unless I lose.”

(What is it you need me to do?) Okay, don’t think of it as taking orders.

“I can’t move freely and I can’t keep tabs on everyone.”

(So you want me to spy on the other residents?)

The demon shrugs. “Not necessarily. See, we all have our secrets. There are things you only tell people you really trust. And if there’s one thing we’re short on these days, it’s trust.”

So she’s basically telling me to just befriend people and find out their secrets. (Who can I trust?)

“Your judgment.” She laughs as if she’s just said something terribly clever.

(Is that all?)

“Don’t worry, Ellie. I’m sure you can figure things out without me leading you by the hand. There’s no huge rush and bonds aren’t built in a day.

Just be sure not to tell anyone what about all this. All hell would break loose.”

That’s something I can understand.

For once, I don’t have any particularly bad feelings about this. We’re not what I would call friends, but it feels as if the demon and I can be pretty open with each other.

Koa. Her name is Koa.

***
Day 11: So ends the first part of the story. I guess now is as good a time as any to ask what I seem to be doing right and what I'm doing wrong.
>> No. 61662
>>61660
> I guess now is as good a time as any to ask what I seem to be doing right and what I'm doing wrong.
Daily updates are not good for voter turnout.
I'm glad that my faith in Koa was justified. You write her well.
Please don't let the plot get too crazy or dark. I hate it when that happens.
>> No. 61673
Four days have come and gone since I agreed to ally myself with Koa. My sleep hasn’t been the best in that time. The nightmares make it hard to get any rest. At least these ones are mostly from my own head. They aren’t night terrors like the one that night was.

Koa, for her part, has been especially aloof. I suppose she has her role to play. Acting as if nothing is wrong keeps suspicion off of her and she seems to have had plenty time to practice that. Still, it leaves me a bit lost on what to do.

Entering the dining hall wakes me up in short order. Even just opening the door hits me with a wave of sound, the incoherent din of some dozens of conversations. The hall is all but packed with very loud, short people with wings. Judging from their most common garb, I assume these are the servants. Whatever it is they are.

A good number point me out to their fellows as I cross the room. I can’t make out individual comments from all the noise. When Remilia flags me over, the attention only intensifies.

Remilia stands up to address the masses. She clears her throat and the noise dies down. “As you have all so clearly noted, we have a guest. This is Raphaëlle, a traveler from a far away land. Due to various circumstances, she is currently unable to speak. I trust that you will treat her with kindness and respect.”

I feel like there’s an unsaid “or else” there, but no one comments on it. Instead, I’m met with a great deal of applause. I’m not really sure if I’m expected to do anything in response, so I just take my seat. It’s honestly rather embarrassing.

Over breakfast, I pay more attention to the servants than my food. Maybe half are garbed in similar uniforms to Sakuya or a male equivalent. The remainder are dressed in a wide assortment of often mismatched clothes.

They have a good variety to their physical appearances as well. I’d guess the height range to go from a head shorter than Remilia to the tallest being about even with me. Dragonfly and silvery transparent butterfly wings seem to dominate, but there are some with colored wings or planty growths. The majority of hair colors are blue-green or darker sorts of brown. Skin tones run the spectrum, but are at least mostly skin-colored.

“You look like this is your first time seeing a fairy,” Remilia says. She taps her chin. “Well, I suppose it might well be.”

(Fairies? That’s what they’re called?)

“They’re a type of minor nature spirit. I could have one assigned to guide and assist you if you like. They’re certainly pleasant enough to have around.”

That might be nice. As is, I’m spending a great deal of time wandering through the halls all but blind. Some friendly company would help with my mostly solitary hours if the fairy isn’t too uptight about stations.

On the other hand, I’m not really sure how much I can manage to help Koa if I have someone whose job is to always stick around me.

[] – Accept Remilia’s offer.
[] – Decline.

***
Day 12: I'll probably post/update something else tomorrow and alternate. Less often than every other day or so and I'll start to lose a lot of my momentum.
>> No. 61675
[X] Decline.

Fairies are cute and all, but I'm pretty sure that having one following us around would just get in our way.
>> No. 61676
[X] Perhaps some sort of magical doodad could be used to summon whichever one is nearest when help is needed?

Because seriously not being able to summon your servants whenever you want is bullshit.
>> No. 61677
[x] – Accept Remilia’s offer.

Yay a friend.
>> No. 61681
[X] Decline

Fairies may be cute, but they can be annoying.
>> No. 61682
[x] – Accept Remilia’s offer.
[X] Perhaps some sort of magical doodad could be used to summon when help is needed?
>> No. 61684
Day 13: Today's post is something over in /eientei/.

Hopefully I can manage alternating days so that more people have the opportunity to vote. In the meantime, keep voting.
>> No. 61685
[x] – Accept Remilia’s offer.
>> No. 61695
File 14160284289.png - (1.40MB, 916x1400, fairies are great.png) [iqdb]
61695
(That sounds like it would be nice. Thank you.)

“Very good. Sakuya, would you come here a moment?”

There’s a sharp hissing noise and then Sakuya speaks up. “Yes, mistress?”

What is it with people always appearing behind me? I’m almost getting used to it by now.

“Raphaëlle is in need of a fairy to assist her, Sakuya. Might you fetch one suitable as a guide or translator?”

“Certainly, mistress.” Sakuya looks out over the room, obviously deep in thought. She heads off to fetch her choice after maybe a minute. She returns a few minutes later, flanked by a very different looking pair of girls.

The first is one of the taller ones. She has a long mess of blonde hair and sleepy grey eyes. From that and the fact that she’s still in her bedclothes, I can easily infer she isn’t a morning person. Her nice figure is accented with a calm, slightly mischievous smile. I can’t help but marvel at her enormous wings, a bright orange and black butterfly sort.

“Calla Mayblossom… at your service.” The girl says the last part almost as an afterthought.

“Ah, one of the girls who do such wonderful work in the garden. Being that it is winter, you should be free, yes?” Remilia smiles at the fairy.

“If milady requires it.” Calla gives me a curious glance.

The other fairy is much shorter and slighter. Fuzzy, cotton-like wings provide an interesting contrast with her dark skin. The girl’s black hair is cut short and her gold eyes dart around restlessly, taking in every detail. She looks a little nervous, though it’s obvious she’s doing her best to hide it.

“And you? If I recall, you are fairly new.” Remilia looks the girl over, probably trying to puzzle out her name.

“I’m new, yes. My name is Haru, mistress.”

“From what I understand, she took to understanding French remarkably quickly,” Sakuya adds.

The girl nods, looking a bit proud of herself.

“Do either of these girls seem suitable to you, Raphaëlle?” Remilia asks.

[] – Calla
[] – Haru
[] – Maybe someone different? (Custom fairy option)

***
Day 14: Sort of feel like I should give the option of creating a fairy if it might be a persistent helper. I guess I'm like ten minutes late today, but whatever. Picking images is hard.
>> No. 61696
[X] – Calla

Also
>Fuzzy, cotton-like wings
>dark skin
das raciss
>> No. 61697
[x] – Calla

She seems pretty chill.
>> No. 61700
[X] Calla

Sleepy fairy? Yes please.
>> No. 61701
[X] – Haru
>> No. 61728
(Calla sounds like the more familiar guide.) That, and she seems like she’s pretty laid back and will be easy to get along with.

“A sensible enough choice. Haru, you can go ahead back to your friends now.” Remilia stares at the smaller fairy, no doubt trying to tie together her face and name for the future.

Haru bows and then nods to Calla before she goes. She doesn’t seem terribly surprised to be passed over for this, but nor does she seem relieved.

“Do be on your best behavior,” Sakuya tells Calla. Then she departs to do whatever it is Sakuyas do. Maid stuff. If I could talk, I’d be resisting the urge to tell her to follow her own advice.

“Well, I should be getting some rest,” Remilia says, excusing herself.

Wow, they all just left at once, leaving me alone with the fairy girl that’s supposed to be my helper. I have to assume Remilia and Sakuya coordinated their departures like that. I can’t shake the thought that they did it to watch me squirm. Not that I can really fault them for it or anything. You have to make your own fun sometimes.

Calla’s wings flutter as she stifles a yawn. She looks at me expectantly. I guess she’s waiting for me to ask her about something.

“Do you need anything, Miss Rala-um… Refe-” She frowns as she fails to get my name right.

(Just Ellie is fine. No miss.)

“It’s a pretty name either way. Is it foreign?”

(I guess. Sakuya gave me the nickname, but Remilia picked my new name when I came here.)

“That makes sense. I heard the mistress does that with the… interesting people she collects.”

(You mean like Sakuya?)

“Both the head maid and Meiling. Maybe others?” She looks up and presses a finger to her chin, as if she could find the answer on the ceiling.

I didn’t know Sakuya was head maid. I suppose it makes sense. Leadership is stressful, so maybe that’s why she’s all silver haired. I guess it could be natural or dyed, too.

“Was there anything you wanted to know? I’m probably supposed to ask that, right?”

I can tell she’s probably trying her best to be energetic. Really she just looks tired.

[] – Ask her about fairies.
[] – Ask about her specifically.
[] – Can you lead me somewhere? (Where?)
[] – Something else.

***
Day 16: Not terribly satisfied with this one, but I've just been having an off day in general.
>> No. 61729
[x] – Ask her about fairies.
Possibly while being led somewhere but I don't have any particular destination in mind.
>> No. 61730
[x] – Ask her about fairies.
[x] – Ask about her specifically.

We will know everything.
>> No. 61731
[] – Ask her about fairies.
[] – Ask about her specifically.
>> No. 61749
File 141637115088.jpg - (386.66KB, 850x1133, fluffy hair is best hair.jpg) [iqdb]
61749
(Well, I don’t know much about you. Or fairies in general, really.)

“Eh? Do you not… have fairies where you come from?”

(No.)

Calla physically reels back from the somehow shocking revelation. It takes maybe half a minute for her to compose herself back to smiling. “We’re nature’s children. I think I heard it’s only people who believe in us can see and interact with us.”

(But what does that mean?) “Nature’s children” is such an esoteric answer.

“It’s like…” Calla rubs her brow as she tries to come up with an explanation. “I’m a flower fairy. If I get poofed by something, I come back in the nearest bunch of flowers. I’m naturally good at taking care of things that have flowers and I’m a lot like one. People usually like me and I smell nice, that kind of thing.”

(Poofed?) I mostly get what she means. She’s very soft looking and smells of lavender.

“When something hurts us really bad, our bodies poof and eventually come back healed. I usually stay out of the way, so it doesn’t happen to me much. It’s really confusing. I always have to ask someone what month it is afterward.”

Fairies don’t die, then? Or if they do, it doesn’t stick.

Calla yawns again and this time I find myself yawning as well. She fixes me with a half-lidded stare. “I think you asked something else, but I can’t remember.”

(I wanted to get to know you as an individual.)

“Oh, right. I’m not exciting or anything. In the warmer seasons, I help Miss Meiling in the garden… along with a group of others. With the greenhouses being plenty staffed and me being… not so good at most other chores, I don’t often do much after late autumn comes around. I don’t mind the break, but some of the others get a little jealous.

I think I worked here before a good part of the others did. I don’t remember how long that is, but probably a while. Lots of fairies look up to me like a big sister, maybe because I’m taller. I like when people pet my hair… if they ask first. Oh, and I think coffee smells really nice, but it tastes gross.” She makes a face to emphasize that last point.

That might just be more than what I know about everyone else here combined. That’s rather depressing to consider, so I won’t. I feel like I have a fairly good idea of who Calla is now.

Looking around at the now somewhat quieter dining hall, Calla says, “I think breakfast is just about over. The cleanup people will get mad if we’re in the way.”

Ah, we should go somewhere else, then.

[] – Calla is pretty well acquainted with Meiling. Why not see her?
[] – Slightly unfriendly Patchouli aside, the library is probably where I’m most at home here.
[] – See if Calla knows any good places to relax.

***
Day 18
>> No. 61751
[x] – Calla is pretty well acquainted with Meiling. Why not see her?
>> No. 61753
[x] – Slightly unfriendly Patchouli aside, the library is probably where I’m most at home here.
We should probably apologise for wasting her time.
>> No. 61754
[x] – Calla is pretty well acquainted with Meiling. Why not see her?
>> No. 61755
[x] – Slightly unfriendly Patchouli aside, the library is probably where I’m most at home here.
>> No. 61758
[x] – See if Calla knows any good places to relax.

She told us about herself, but we haven't told her much. Let's find a quiet place to talk.
>> No. 61762
[x] – See if Calla knows any good places to relax.
>> No. 61766
Eh, why not.

[x] See if Calla knows any good places to relax.
- [x] Inquire after her tired state. Does she keep a nocturnal schedule, like her mistress?
>> No. 61767
Day 20: Instead of a daily update, I wound up posting a short. Or rather, half of a short that has two distinct halves. I'll probably have the latter half up before the month is up.

Normal updates will, of course, come tomorrow and (presumably) for the remainder of the month.
>> No. 61776
(Do you know of anywhere good to relax?)

"You probably want somewhere quiet, right?"

Well if it was loud it wouldn't be very relaxing. So yes.

Once more, Calla seems to search for an answer on the ceiling. I look up too, this time, but there's nothing up there. "That means the common rooms are no good. It's too cold and snowy to really go out, but that still leaves a few spots. Come on, I'll show you!"

Calla takes hold of my sleeve and takes flight. Or at least she tries to. The actual outcome is her almost overbalancing me before crashing to the ground. A few of the remaining fairies try to mask their giggling.

"Ow..." Calla rubs her face as I help her to her feet.

(Are you alright?)

She blushes a bit. "Sorry, I keep forgetting that not everyone can fly."

(No one where I come from can fly. Is that normal here?)

"Eh, not really. We fairies can, but other than that it's mostly just magicians and youkai with wings. I guess you're probably just a human. It's sometimes hard to tell."

I'm a little offended at being called "just" a human, but I don't let it show.

"Right, let's go before I mess up anything else."

I follow Calla up four floors and a wide spiral staircase. On the way, she pauses a handful of times and twice we have to double back some. Calla seems to be more comfortable flying than walking, something shared by a good portion of the fairies we pass. It would be nice to have that option when faced with all the stairs.

Finally, we reach our apparent destination. It seems like we're at the top of an odd tower. Calla crosses the dark to a table and lights the lamp, shedding some light. The room is a dome maybe twice as wide as it is tall. The floor is a soft red carpet and the dome itself is almost pitch black. The entire room is pretty cold, but scattered about are comfy looking couches and chairs with blankets draped over them.

Calla pulls one of those fireboxes out from under a chair and starts unwinding the tail toward the wall. "At this time of year and with the snow, hardly anyone comes up to the observatory. It doesn't get much use outside of early spring and late autumn, when it's only too cold to be outside."

(A lot of this mansion seems to go empty and unused.)

"It never felt like that to me. You can usually find someone in most places that aren't sort of off limits. We usually travel in groups, anyway."

Was it just the timing of my arrival, then? I can't fully believe that.

Calla finishes her setup and slowly warming air starts to flow from the firebox. Her wings disappear as she grabs a few blankets. Seemingly satisfied with her haul, she takes a seat right beside me and wraps us both in one blanket.

Eh? This is not something I'm used to. Only mother and occasionally father ever shared any measure of closeness with me. For anyone else, it's always seemed impossible.

Calla certainly doesn't share in my awkwardness. She doesn't even notice it, simply leaning her head on my shoulder and sighing contentedly. I can't help but admire such a straightforward, unguarded person.

[] - Open up a bit to Calla. I owe her that much.
[] - Just enjoy the moment. No need to taint it with my past.

***
Day 21: So my computer seems like it may have died for good today. I probably shouldn't be surprised, all things considered. Ah well, I have a terrible, but somewhat functional backup computer.

Sleepy fairy is easy to write.
>> No. 61777
[x] - Just enjoy the moment. No need to taint it with my past.

RIP your computer. Did you salvage the hard drive?
>> No. 61778
[x] - Open up a bit to Calla. I owe her that much.
[x] - Ask if you can pet her hair.

She said you gotta ask first.
>> No. 61781
[x] - Open up a bit to Calla. I owe her that much.
[x] - Ask if you can pet her hair.
>> No. 61785
(I feel like I should tell you about myself.)

"I bet your life is pretty exciting. A boring person would hardly travel all the way here."

Exciting isn't the word I would use, but my life could never really be called boring. (I come from a country called Elath, once a part of a great empire. Several months ago, our neighbor to the north was set on reforming that empire and invaded us. We won in the end and were rebuilding when I left.)

Calla turns to look me in the eye. "That must have been scary. I don't like fighting."

(It wasn't the worst thing that I went through. My mother died at the beginning of the year.)

"How horrble!" Calla gives me a soft hug.

(She was a strong, loving person and I miss her. I found out the hard way just how much she had sheltered me. The other nobles all knew how weak I was by comparison. Most of them saw me as a pawn or an obstacle.)

"Is that why you left? Because they banished you?"

I can't tell her that part yet. (It's complicated. A lot of things happened that I regret.)

"Oh..." She pauses to decide how to continue, but thankfully doesn't pursue it. "If it means anything, I think you seem like a strong, trustworthy person."

I'm really not, but I don't want her to think less of me. (Do you mind if I pet your hair?)

"Oh my, how forward~. Most people have known me for a long time before they ask that."

What a strange reaction. (You said you liked it.)

Calla giggles. "I do! So sure, you can."

She rests her head in my lap and I start to run my hand through her messy locks. It's really soothing for me to do this. This is nice. Evidently, Calla thinks so too, sighing and almost purring before finally falling asleep. My arm starts to get tired after a while, but I don't want to move or anything. Better to just enjoy this while it lasts...

***
Day 23: Fairies make for good de-stressers. For me as well.

>>61777
Haven't had the chance yet, but I absolutely will.
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