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“Human beings are born solitary, but everywhere they are in chains - daisy chains - of interactivity. Social actions are makeshift forms, often courageous, sometimes ridiculous, always strange. And in a way, every social action is a negotiation, a compromise between 'his,' 'her' or 'their' wish and yours.”
- Andy Warhol
Compromise isn’t weakness, or so you read in a book once. You’ve also read the opposite elsewhere, but those authors felt like the kind of people who had grossly imbalanced levels of tissue between their heads and their muscles, so you felt justified in disregarding their statements.
Despite your misgivings, you have to admit that it’ll likely be far easier in the long run if you just go along with Remilia tonight; satisfy her odd whimsy rather than face her full annoyance later. You’d like to think that you’re above being petty over backing down on a battle of wills like this, but you can’t deny a bit of frustration at the idea losing anything to that girl. Perhaps she’s rubbing off on you in all the wrong ways.
You are about to go back to reading your book when you remember that your familiar is still waiting for an answer from you. You had gotten distracted with your own decision and thoughts that you had forgotten to give her approval for the night off.
“I have no problem with you going.”
“Really? It’s totally okay?” she said excitedly. “Well, of course it’s okay, you just said it’s okay so why wouldn’t it be. I just didn’t expect you to say yes. Not that it’s a bad thing that you did. It just doesn’t feel like something you’d do because you don’t usually go to her parties, and we’re always so busy sorting the books, so I thought there was no way I’d ever have a chance to go.”
She pauses for a moment while she visibly pants lightly to catch her breath, while her thoughts seem to catch up with the mass of words she just put out, prompting her to launch into a second round of second-guessing words already spoken.
“But even if I never go I’d still be fine, if that’s what you wanted. Ah, but that doesn’t mean I’m not thankful for you letting me go this time either, I’m really happy about that, but I’d still be happy if you wanted me to stay in the library with you instead.”
Her face matches the hue of her hair when she finishes her outburst, and she sinks into her chair with a hand over her mouth. Perhaps she has a respiratory illness as well? If speaking loudly is enough to wind her and make her red faced, that’s entirely possible. You mentally file away the idea of a future investigation into the matter. For the time being, it’s probably best to approach it with...what was the word Remilia used, back before she gave up on trying to teach you etiquette? That’s right. Tact. The tactful thing to do when someone accidentally makes a big scene is to carry on as if it didn’t happen, according to Remilia. You suppose if you are going to make it through tonight, you might as well brush up on your tactfulness while you can.
“Actually, I will be attending as well.”
Your familiar responds by peeking through the cracks in the fingers covering her eyes at you. Then, remembering she needs to respond, recollects her composure, as best as she ever can and attempts small talk.
“You’re going too? That’s pretty rare for you, isn’t it Lady Patchouli? What’s the occasion? C-c-could it be a date?”
“No. I’ve no interest in anything like that. There are supposedly certain guests who would be of interest to me as a scholar. Additionally, Remilia was particularly insistent this time, so it felt prudent to agree to her invitation.”
“I see… it’s about books then after all.”
“Of course it’s books. I’m always looking to expand the contents of Voile, and if that requires a bit of talking and deal-making, it’s a small price to pay.”
As for your familiar’s unexpected desire to go, you are more than a little bit mystified. Of course, the same could be said of a lot of things regarding this girl. To the extent of your knowledge, she’s never left the library outside of the few errands through the mansion that you’ve sent her. Then again, she’s a quiet, unobtrusive girl, and you certainly don’t keep tabs on her. She could probably have a whole other life outside of the library without your knowing. That idea bothers you for reasons you can’t seem to put into words.
The conversation peters out and the two of you settle down into another of your common and much appreciated silent moments, each reading your book of choice. Looking over yours across the table, you see that she has her head stuck in one of those romance stories, a new one from the outside world. You resist the urge to comment on her poor taste in literature. It was many many years ago, and you’d never admit it to anyone now, but you once also read every sappy romance story you could get your hands on. Then you grew up, and realized what a fool you were being. For now though, you decide to let your familiar continue unabated.
Looking over the cover of the book, you see a terrible cliche, a princess in a flowy dress being rescued by a blond knight, and It occurs to you that your current outfit, while comfortable and perfectly utilitarian for reading, might not qualify as proper party attire. You’re not sure why not, those gaudy and tight clothes look ridiculous and feel even worse to wear. However as the saying goes, when in Gensokyo, abandon things like common sense. Of course, that was another of those “fight first and think later”-types who said that, so it’s probably not worth listening to.
“Could you prepare a fitting outfit for me?”
A familiar head, or rather the head of your familiar pops up from behind her book as you call her to attention, and she immediately launches into a flurry of speech.
“An outfit? Did you have anything in mind? I could pick something nice out for you. Not that anything that you pick out wouldn’t be good but I just thought that since you don’t usually bother with fancy clothes, I could try to help. I don’t mean that you wouldn’t be able to, you just don’t want to, or maybe you do?”
It occurs to you that maybe asking her, who was just reading a book like that, to pick out suitable clothes might not end well. However, you certainly aren’t going to do it yourself, even if you did know where to start. Besides, even if you do end up wearing something outlandish as a result, you can use it to irritate Remilia.
“I leave it entirely up to you.”
“I’m on it!”
Your familiar zips off towards your bedroom quarters in the library, leaving you to appreciate the fact that she seems to have at least some knowledge and zeal. If it will keep Remilia off your case, it may pay off yet. It’s not like you even know what most of the bins that Remilia has sent to you even contain. Presumably clothes, but you already have enough of your own that you don’t need or want more. You sit back down with your book again for a few moments before your familiar sends you a magical note telling you that she’s got some clothes ready. You open up a portal to your room, where you are greeted by your familiar holding enough cloth to put all the merchants in Venice to shame.
“Okay, I’ve got some options lined up!”
The first option that you are presented with is some kind of lacy black thing that’s purpose seems to be to expose as much of the upper body as possible. You’re looking to show up, not show off, and thus give it the veto.
“Oh well, it was worth a shot.”
The next option she presents you with is reminiscent of the arabian dancers you often saw in your youth, with a light and airy lavender cloth sash to be wrapped around the upper body, and a long flat skirt of a similar color. You’re not sure why Remilia even had this, but you certainly won’t be baring your midriff tonight, so it’s no good as well, despite it’s nostalgic qualities.
“Not gonna show any skin at all, Lady Patchouli? I suppose that’s fine too, how about this?”
The third option is a flowing dress the color of pale light, almost white in fact, lavender. With just a stretch of the imagination, it could almost look like a wedding gown. Despite your family background, you don’t know or care much at all about fancy clothes, but you can definitely tell that it is of a high quality, though not gaudy like something Remilia would choose. Something about it just looks right, although logically you see the foolishness of wanting to have nice clothes and look pretty. The more you look at it, though, the less you find yourself thinking that, and the more you come to the conclusion that this shall be what you wear tonight.
“Do you know how to fit a dress? I doubt this one will fit me well.”
“Does that mean you like it? Yay! I do too. Of course, anything you like has to be the right choice, Lady Patchouli!”
“Yes, I think that it will be perfect for tonight. You did a good job, picking this out for me.”
“Thank you so much, Lady Patchouli. It really means a lot to hear you say that.” She clasps her hands together and looks at you warmly as she says that, catching you off guard as you try to figure out how to react.
“Well, it’s only the truth as I see it. Anyway, about that fitting?”
“Ah, right right. I’ll get on that right away, Lady Patchouli!”
While she gets to work preparing your outfit, you ask her where she learned about clothes and dress design, as she displays an obvious level of proficiency with it.
“Oh, I’ve read a lot of books about it, but this is actually my first time working with actual fabric. I hope I don’t mess it up too bad.”
You start to comment on how you doubt that, but you can’t really see any reason why she would lie about it.
“These books you read, they were from Voile?”
“Yep! There was a whole bunch of them. I read a lot during my break and came across them by chance.”
“I see.” You notice that she seems a lot more at ease talking while she is focused on working with something. The two of you settle back into the usual calm silence, until your familiar pipes up again.
“You said these were Lady Remilia’s old clothes, right?”
“Yes, they’re hand-me-downs from her. I don’t know why she got rid of this dress though, it doesn’t look like it’s ever been worn.”
“If I could fancy a guess as to why, I’d say it’s because it doesn’t fit her at all. In fact, it looks like it was made to fit you, Lady Patchouli, all these clothes do.”
Hmm. The plot thickens. These couldn’t be a brand new gift from Remilia, she would be much more flamboyant in their delivery if that were the case. They were brought in years ago by Sakuya without explanation after Remilia had bugged you about a party, so you assumed they were from her to encourage you to attend, but now that you think back to that, you’re beginning to wonder if there was more to it than just that. However, only knowing what you currently do, you can’t really reach any other conclusions yet. You shelve that for the time being, until you can ask Remilia about it again later. You adjust your bonnet contemplatively.
“Um, you aren’t planning on wearing that with the dress, are you Lady Patchouli?”
“My bonnet? I wasn’t planning on not wearing it.”
“No good, it’s definitely no good.”
“I always wear this.”
“Wearing a hat to this kind of a party is a serious faux pas, probably. Consider it a chance to let your hair down.”
“I always wear my hair down though.”
“It’s a figure of speech Lady Patchouli, and you know it.”
“Fine, I suppose if I’m changing out of my usual, I might as well do it completely.”
“Good, and looking at those ribbons you keep on your bonnet and hair, I just had a great idea. Why don’t we tie more onto your dress? I think it’d look really cute.”
“Cute? I don’t really have any sense for that, but if you say it’ll look nice, then go ahead.”
She grabs spare ribbons and makes idle conversation with you as she ties them on.
“Say, Lady Patchouli? Why do you always wear these ribbons? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you without them on.”
“I usually just wear them to store enchantments that boost my ability to channel magic.”
“Well, you won’t need that tonight, unless you’re planning on getting into a fight. You aren’t, right?.”
“Well, I suppose that entirely depends on who the guests are and what kind of mood they put me in.”
“Just don’t damage your dress please.”
“Oh, it’ll only be damaged if I lose though.”
“Please don’t joke about that Lady Patchouli.” She pauses her handiwork to clap her hands together in a satisfied manner. “There we go, all done.”
“Alright, then I’ll be trying it on now.”
“Yep, go ahead.”
“....this is my room. I’ll be changing now.”
“Yep, go ahead. Wait, changing?”
The only thing faster than your familiars departure from the room is the excuses she makes.
“Ah, so sorry Lady Patchouli. I got caught up in the clothes and things and I wasn’t thinking. Sorry!”
It’s not actually that big of a deal, but like a lot of things, she tends to make a big scene out of an ultimately small matter.
Now that you are alone in your room, you begin to change into your dress. Taking off your robe casualwear, you stop to consider yourself in the mirror for the first time in decades. All this foolishness with the party and the clothes must be getting to you, you’re even acting like Remilia now. After this night is over, maybe you should find some new project to work on, something to keep you from losing your way, to reaffirm yourself as a scholar. You berate yourself for so easily falling into her pace, for a moment just now, you were looking forward to this evening. You thought you were better than that. You’ll show her yet, though. You’ll go to her party, but you won’t lose yourself and what you care about most, either.
Turning the mirror around so that it faces the wall, you put the dress on, resisting the urge to move the mirror back to take a look. That’s not the kind of person you want to be, you decided that a long time ago.
As you finish putting on the dress, you hear your familiar’s voice from the other side of the door.
“Hey, Lady Patchouli? I was thinking, while we were trying on clothes, we could go for a ‘cool’ look. How do you feel about a pinstripe suit and tie?”
You get the feeling like this is just another chance for her to play dress up.
“Why not? I wear a vest and tie all the time. It looks nice, and we could be a matching pair~”
“A matching pair, huh?Does that mean you won’t be changing for the party?”
“Oh, I, uh, don’t really have any clothes other than my work uniforms…”
You’re the same way, you just have a few pairs of the same types of robes. Apparently it’s different for her though. From her tone of voice, even you can tell that she’s down about it. You don’t understand the kids these days.
You suppose that at this time, the only tactful thing to do would be to let her sample from the pile of clothes as well, and you have just the idea of what she should wear. As to why this is in a box of clothes that supposedly never belonged to Remilia, you’re really not sure. You’re curious, but you’ll save that for the further investigation that you already had planned for this box and it’s contents.
Okay, so this is only a partial update. Once I finish the rest of the update (the first part of actually being at the party), then there will be more heavily-story relevant voting. Thanks for waiting warmly.
In the meantime, while I finish that, mini-vote on what Koakuma should wear
[ ] Well then, what do you say to borrowing some of these clothes here?
- [ ] A dress that looks very similar to Remilia’s, albeit a larger size.
- [ ] Write-in.
[ ] What you always wear looks fine to me.
Additionally, I have two more rules to add.
Addendum #1. Don’t listen to any time estimates I make.
Addendum #2. Don’t listen to any update length estimates I make.