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File 140547728689.jpg - (68.59KB, 614x750, image.jpg) [iqdb]
60695No. 60695
Thread One: >>54922
Thread Two: >>58538
__________

"Oh, for fuck's sake," you snap, your frayed temper breaking in twain.

Remilia doesn't falter so much as tilt her head a fraction of an inch. "I beg your pardon?"

"You want the truth? You want all of it? All right, fine, I'll tell you why I'm here." Your hand clamps around the spear's shaft in one blindingly fast motion, and Remilia nearly flinches. "But I've had my fill of people trying to kill me today, so get your goddamn spear away from my throat before I shove it down yours."

Remilia stares at you, just stares, for ten straight seconds before the tiniest of smiles crosses her face, and the spear disappears as fast as she had summoned it. "So you really are capable of getting angry."

You scowl deeply, which only seems to amuse her more. "Are you schizophrenic? Because you sure as hell act like it."

Remilia plunks herself down on the nearest free piece of rubble. "Oh, get on with it before I change my mind."

"User!" says the AI, its tone urgent. "You will be violating directives from Headquarters if you proceed with this course of action!"

"It's either this or we die," you say, more testily than you had perhaps intended, but damn it all if you're going to be second-guessed by your own armor.

Remilia clenches a fist one finger at a time, popping knuckles as she goes. "He's right, you know."

The AI falls silent, no doubt weighing the merits of living versus following orders. It takes roughly four seconds before the machine speaks again. "Termination at this juncture would be a waste of resources."

"Is that the go-ahead?" you ask.

"Affirmative."

You take a deep breath, willing your frustration and anger away. It takes you a short while, but when you speak again, your voice is steady and measured. "I did not come here solely to meet with you, Remilia. Primary objectives were to assess the numbers and capabilities of the mansion's inhabitants, as well as measure their potential worth as Coalition assets."

She makes an intrigued little noise. "So what you said when I had you first tied up, that this is what you were made for-"

"I'd normally slap this line of questioning down for being irrelevant to my goals, but it's not, as you'll see in a minute." You lean closer. "Cloning technology is one hell of a thing."

Remilia claps her hands together, smiling in vindication. "So that's how it is with you!"

You nod. "I won't get into details, but when you can make bodies on demand, people get squeamish about sending 'real' people to fight."

Remilia interlaces her fingers, studying you from behind them. "You don't mind that kind of life?"

You respond with a shrug. "I like my work. Besides, it's all I've ever known."

"That doesn't quite seem-"

"Ethical?" you interrupt, and she nods. "That's a good one coming from a vampire."

Remilia frowns. "I make very sure to drink lightly, thank you."

"I'll give you that. But, before we derail this into an ethics debate, let's move on." You straighten up. "My primary objectives met with success; I was able to engage all unique Mansion personnel in combat and gauge their strength accordingly. Threat levels fell on the high ends of the expected ranges, save Flandre, who didn't exceed the threat ceiling so much as break it into millions of little pieces and try to stab me with them."

"That is usually what happens with her, yes," Remilia says, the corner of her mouth twitching up just for a moment.

You sigh, readying yourself for an immediate resumption of hostilities. "On that particular note, we reach my secondary objective. The capture of Flandre Scarlet."

Remilia stops moving, stops breathing, lips parted ever so slightly in surprise, eyes focused unerringly on your own. She doesn't so much as twitch a single muscle, and the fact you're conversing with someone who is very much not human has never made itself so readily apparent. The seconds tick by, one by one, and you don't dare do anything else but breathe shallow breaths, any motion a potential trigger for her to murder you.

A whole minute has passed when she takes a deep, shuddering breath, closing her eyes and jerking her head away from you with visible effort. "Go on," she says, voice hoarse.

"I don't know the specifics behind the order," you say, speaking with great care. "But if I had to guess, I would say that Command wants to make use of her powers. Can you imagine it? If we had Flandre's genetic information, maybe even managed to work out her mental instabilities, we could have an army of women with horrific destructive potential. Slap some armor on them and we wouldn't even need to worry about sunlight."

"You're madmen," Remilia says, her voice quavering. "Utterly mad, every last one of you."

You pause. "I agree."

That gets her to look back at you, her expression one of surprise. "What?"

"There's too many unknowns with Flandre. Even if I managed to bring her with me of her own will, the possibilities for disaster like what happened in our attack on that base are too great, and that's not even mentioning the logistical nightmare of supplying troops that survive on blood."

"Is that all?" Remilia asks. "Is that really all there is to it?"

"Well, she'd also put me out of a job," you say, only half jokingly. "Taking that into consideration, as well as the mansion's aid in severely damaging a force hostile to my own, I'm going to do my best to get HQ to scrap any future plans for your sister."

Remilia stares at her feet as she mulls that over. "And if they don't?"

"Then one of us dies the next time we meet. Simple as that."

Remilia makes a noncommittal noise, but says nothing else for a few moments. "So, why change your mind about your orders? You hardly seem the type for such flagrant disobedience."

"I made the mistake of getting to know Flandre," you say. You look up at the ceiling, debating whether or not to say your next words, and decide to go for it. "Besides, I'd feel bad if I kidnapped her. She's pretty adorable whenever she isn't breaking my bones."

She looses a short bark of laughter at that one. "On that, we are agreed."

The two of you spend a handful of seconds in silence before you breach the topic looming overhead. "So," you say, pushing yourself to your feet. "You still want to kill me? Because right now is probably going to be the best chance you're ever going to get."

Remilia's expression is solemnly contemplative, the vampiress idly tapping a foot as she speaks. "Considering that if I end you, I would then have to scour Gensokyo for your allies and destroy them as well, not to mention any other potential intruders, I have to say letting you go back and smooth things over has a certain appeal to it." She allows herself a smile. "Plus, I'm curious to see where things might go between you and Meiling, no lie."

"Yes, because a relationship founded upon mutual punches to the face is bound to last."

"I don't see you denying it."

"Granted, granted." You gallantly offer her your good hand. "I think it's past time we see to Flandre, however."

Remilia daintily accepts your hand, and you pull her up with a grunt of effort. Her nose wrinkles as she first looks you over, then herself, her lips curling downward in distaste at her ruined dress. "God, we just look awful, don't we?"

A mental image occurs to you of Flandre going into a blood frenzy the moment she lays eyes on you and Remilia, and it isn't utterly terrifying only by virtue of you running out of fucks to give after the day you've had. "Maybe it would be a good idea to wash off all the blood first before we meet her, yeah?"

"I'm sure Sakuya has already handled Flandre's needs, so we should be safe as it is." She looks you over again with an appraising eye. "Although I suppose it wouldn't hurt to shove you into a tub and clean you off."

You mock gasp. "Lady Scarlet! But we've only met this morning!"

"Not like that, you moron," Remilia says without rancor. "Besides, I think Meiling would declare a blood vendetta if I moved in on you."

"You're threatening to kill me one moment, and now you're speculating on what would happen if you tried to seduce me," you say flatly.

"Oh, don't you know? Crippled men in mangled suits of armor are the subjects of my darkest fantasies." She delivers those outrageous words in an understated, dry manner, an arched eyebrow her only change in expression.

To be perfectly honest, you're not entirely sure she's joking.

She looks you over once again, and shakes her head disapprovingly. "We're not getting anywhere in a timely fashion with you like that." Her wings contort and lengthen, stretching out several feet behind her, and she grabs you by the arm. "Shall we?"

"Don't I get a say in this?" you ask, dread already mounting at the inevitable answer,

Remilia shakes her head, baring teeth in something not quite a smile. "After what you did to Patchy, consider this some well-deserved vengeance."

With that she kicks off the ground, gigantic wings beating the air with great leathery flaps, and flies. The two of you soar towards the main doors, you waving behind Remilia like cloth in the wind, and she smashes the doors aside without stopping, bowling the unfortunate Karin over with a shout of dismay. As the fairy hollers curses about your parentage after you, Remilia waves back, holding you by one hand without any noticable strain.

You don't scream as such, but you do emit a strangled noise of panic as Remilia bobs and weaves through the corridors so fast that the air whistles past your ears. The vampire, for her part, just looks to be enjoying herself way too much at your expense. The both of you continue hurtling through the mansion, scaring the daylights out of any fairies unfortunate enough to be in your path.

You continue on like this for only a short while before all the cries of surprise attract someone's attention. You're hurtling down an especially long hallway when it happens, one of the doors at the far end of the hallway opening up for a blonde head to stick out.

"Oi!" Marisa shouts, shaking a fist. "Get down here, you assclowns!"

Remilia decelerates with gusto, flinging you past her as she brakes on air. Once you're done being flailed about, she gently spins around and touches down, and you all but fall down as you pull free. Your world stops spinning after a handful of seconds, and a few firm shakes of your head dispels the rest of the dizziness. Once you're all right, you give Marisa your best glare.

It doesn't work, given how she's already staring at the two of you with eyes very, very wide and her mouth hanging open. Her expression is one of muted horror as her gaze alternates between you and Remilia. She's hatless, and her torso is bare save for a large number of bandages swathed over her chest, but at least she still has her skirt on so this isn't unbearably awkward.

"Savor the moment," Remilia says, looking unbearably smug. "She's never speechless."

Outrage briefly crosses Marisa's face, but it flees the moment she takes a closer look at you, to be replaced by dull horror. "Normally, I'd disagree, but ho-lee shit. What the hell did I miss?"

"You didn't hear the explosions and artillery and gunfire?" you ask, glaring skeptically at her.

She scowls. "Hey, getting shot takes a lot out of a girl, I'll have you know!"

"I was shot and electrocuted and crushed by a giant rock," Remilia says primly. "Piddly bullets are an invalid excuse, my dear."

Marisa wheels about, repeatedly jabbing her finger into the vampire's chest. "Well, not all of us have turbo vampire bullshit to keep us going, so shaddup."

You roll your eyes. "Look, we're busy, so if you would just-"

Your words remind Marisa of your existence, a fact she acknowledges by whirling on you and producing that strange octagonal focus from her skirt in a remarkably swift motion. "And you! I got shot 'cause of you busting in, jackass!"

"That was technically the Koakuma woman's fault, not mine," you say. "Remilia, come on, back me up here."

Remilia gives Marisa a contemplative look, then you, before she sidesteps out of the line of fire. "I'll just let you handle this, shall I?"

"You traitorous wench."

"Oi!" Marisa snaps her fingers. "I ain't finished with you, McHuge!"
__________

[X] "I apologize for any injuries you sustained during our previous encounter. It was entirely accidental on my assistant's part, and reparations will be made after all this has been dealt with."

[X] "I have had a long and trying day, there is a scared girl in the basement who thinks she's responsible for killing one of her family, and she is certainly guilty of killing a large number of men just recently. Shut up and go away."

[X] Punch her. Just... punch her.

[X] [WRITE-IN]
Expand all images
>>No. 60697
[X] "I apologize for any injuries you sustained during our previous encounter. It was entirely accidental on my assistant's part, and reparations will be made after all this has been dealt with."

I barely even remember that incident happening. How long ago was that?
>>No. 60698
[X] "I have had a long and trying day, there is a scared girl in the basement who thinks she's responsible for killing one of her family, and she is certainly guilty of killing a large number of men just recently. Shut up and go away."

It has been a long day, and Marisa cares about Flandre.
>>No. 60699
[X] "I have had a long and trying day, there is a scared girl in the basement who thinks she's responsible for killing one of her family, and she is certainly guilty of killing a large number of men just recently. Shut up and go away."
>>No. 60700
[X] "I have had a long and trying day, there is a scared girl in the basement who thinks she's responsible for killing one of her family, and she is certainly guilty of killing a large number of men just recently. Shut up and go away."

Eh, Marisa doesn't strike me as the type to care about professionalism.
>>No. 60701
[X]" You want reparations? Fine. Go to the front of the mansion and find the guy with the spider looking robot and ask him for the AE Special. He'll give you something worth your time." ( Enough seditives to keep me out for a day, which is more than enough to keep you out till I'm gone.)
>>No. 60708
[X] "I have had a long and trying day, there is a scared girl in the basement who thinks she's responsible for killing one of her family, and she is certainly guilty of killing a large number of men just recently. Shut up and go away."
- [X]" But if you want reparations? Fine. Go to the front of the mansion and find the guy with the spider looking robot and ask him for the AE Special. He'll give you something worth your time." ( Enough seditives to keep me out for a day, which is more than enough to keep you out till I'm gone.)

Combining these two votes into one.
>>No. 60731
[X] "I have had a long and trying day, there is a scared girl in the basement who thinks she's responsible for killing one of her family, and she is certainly guilty of killing a large number of men just recently. Shut up and go away."

If she's still raising a stink afterward then we can punch her.
>>No. 60751
[X] "I have had a long and trying day, there is a scared girl in the basement who thinks she's responsible for killing one of her family, and she is certainly guilty of killing a large number of men just recently. Shut up and go away."
[X]" But if you want reparations? Fine. Go to the front of the mansion and find the guy with the spider looking robot and ask him for the AE Special. He'll give you something worth your time." ( Enough seditives to keep me out for a day, which is more than enough to keep you out till I'm gone.)
>>No. 60772
[X]" You want reparations? Fine. Go to the front of the mansion and find the guy with the spider looking robot and ask him for the AE Special. He'll give you something worth your time." ( Enough seditives to keep me out for a day, which is more than enough to keep you out till I'm gone.)
>>No. 60816
File 140738021797.jpg - (236.92KB, 587x1000, image.jpg) [iqdb]
60816
"Marisa," you say. "Marisa. Listen to me very carefully. Shut up."

Marisa bristles. "Don't tell me what to-"

"Shh, shh, shut up," you say, making little stabbing motions with your good hand. "There is a terrified Flandre down in the basement who is responsible for all this blood on me."

Marisa's face goes blank. "What's this about Flandre, now?"

"Furthermore," you continue, shutting her out with sheer volume. "She was very, very recently filled with so many bullets she lost limbs, and then went into a blood frenzy and murdered all the men responsible. She followed it up by trying to kill me and, in the process, definitely killed Meiling."

Marisa jerks back, eyes stretched wide open. "I- China's what?!"

"We do not have time to waste bickering over you taking a few measly pistol rounds when Flandre is hurting far worse right below us," you say, glaring at her so hard she takes another little step back. "If you want reparations, there's a man toting a little crab robot around here somewhere. Go ask him for the AE special and leave us alone, because we've got someone who's actually important to take care of."

You turn to leave Marisa, her wooden focus dangling loosely at her side in a slack grip as she stares at you, her face near-bloodless.

"Wait," she says, uncharacteristically softly, and you pause half-turned, looking at her across your shoulder. "I- I didn't know, all right? About Flandre. Or Meiling. I'm... sorry."

"Good," you say. "Stay out of the way."

Her gaze hardens. "Screw that noise, I'm going with you."

The gall. "Why?" you ask, more levelly than you feel.

She scowls, folding her arms over her bandaged chest. "What, I need a reason to be concerned 'bout Flan?"

"Yes."

Now it's her turn to make jabby motions at you, although her jabs have more weight by virtue of how she could melt you with a doom-laser. "Why do you care, huh? You come in here fixing to kill Remilia-"

"That was actually a lie on his part," Remilia smoothly interjects. "He told me his actual reasons and, well, I prefer keeping them close to my chest."

Marisa's eyes narrow until only tiny slices of eye glare out at you. "So, you two are friends now or something?"

"Oh, don't get me wrong, we're merely allies of convenience at the moment," Remilia says, laying a grip on your arm that could deform battleship plating. "He does me wrong and I'll stab him in the neck."

You spread your lips open in a grim smile. "And if Remilia does me wrong, my people blast this place into rubble as vengeance. It's a lose-lose situation either way."

Marisa's expression brightens as she nods, far more accepting of this explanation. "Right, that kind of friendship, I gotcha. So, again, why do you care so much about Flan?"

You grimace. "I may have taken her along with me to help wreck the home base of those people who attacked the mansion, and she may have been horribly maimed as a result."

Marisa blinks.

Her hand flies up as if it was spring-loaded, her focus rapidly gathering energy as she trains it on your head.

"You son of a bitch," she says, teeth clenched hard enough you're surprised nothing chips off. "I should blast you right now, you miserable-"

"Ahem!" Remilia says, swiftly interposing herself between the two of you. "I would prefer him alive, thank you! He's why my entire fairy staff haven't been kidnapped and hauled away to who knows where."

"It's also thanks to me Meiling is alive in the first place," you add.

Marisa blinks, an insulted scowl coming to bear as she lowers the weapon. "But you said-"

"Flandre thinks she killed Meiling," you say. "I lied so you'd feel how she did. That's the important part."

The blonde's expression grows a shade less irritated. "That's clever, but disingenuous."

Remilia arches a brow. "You never struck me as the especially wordy type, Marisa."

Marisa growls. "I read plenty of books, you prissy little-"

"Books that you steal," Remilia interrupts.

"I'm sure the word you mean is borrow," Marisa says, her voice dangerously low.

"Steal," Remilia corrects, still in that gratingly polite fashion.

"Borrow," Marisa insists.

"Steal."

"Borrow."

"Steal."

"Christ alive, no one gives a damn!" you snap, cutting Marisa's reply off. "Do you people go off on these moronic tangents every times something serious is happening, or is it something you do just to screw with me?"

"You're one to talk with all of our earlier banter," Remilia casually points out, and though your teeth grind together, you're forced to acknowledge her point.

"Oh, I can tell sticking with you two is gonna be fun," Marisa grumbles. "All right, you dopes hold on a minute, I'm getting a shirt on and then we're visiting Flandre."

"Very well," Remilia says agreeably. "We'll be waiting right here."

Marisa's brows furrow as she looks between you two, but after a moment she huffs and returns to her room. The moment she shuts the door, you lean over to Remilia.

"We're leaving her behind, right?" you ask.

"Oh, totally," she says. The way the vampiress sweeps you off your feet leaves little time to protest. She bounds into the air and rockets down the hallway, dragging you with her and leaving you with an excellent view of the area behind her. Marisa pops back out of the doorway, only to see the two of you tearing away.

There's a very faint "Damn you!" from the witch before you're out of sight, which feels immensely good and makes this whole diversion worth it.

-----

You touch down in front of the basement entrance a scarce minute later. The simple steel door has been bound with great lengths of chain all around, a new addition since you first came from this way. Remilia lays her hand upon the centerpiece, a massive lock, and shuts her eyes. A soft grunt of effort is the only warning you get before the chains dissolve in one bright flash of golden light.

"Shall we?" she asks, moving aside as the doors swing open on their own.

Any reply is stolen from you as Sakuya is revealed by the opened doors, leaning against the wall at the top of the stairwell. Fresh blood is smeared across her haggard face and torn clothing. She's bearing a fresh number of gashes that were decidedly not inflicted by man or machine, most of them shallow save for the wound on the left side of her neck, the details obscured by the blood-soaked handkerchief Sakuya keeps pressed against it.

Remilia exhales sharply at the sight. "Sakuya, what the hell happened?"

"I made a mistake," Sakuya whispers, her voice shaking as she pushes herself away from the wall. She produces another handkerchief from a dress pocket and swaps it with her current one, briefly revealing blood flowing freely from a pair of deep, deep bite marks before she staunches the wound. Only then does she deem fit to continue. "I'm so sorry, Mistress, but I made a mistake."

"What happened?" Remilia reiterates, a hard edge to her voice.

"I- Flandre was just crying and crying and crying, and I was there for her like you wanted, and-" Sakuya cuts off abruptly, sagging down. "She just wanted a hug, she said. God, she got her arms so tight around me, I thought my spine was going to break."

You look her up and down. "And judging from all the blood you're leaking, that hug lead to her chewing your neck up," you say. "Do I got that right?"

She nods. "She- she stopped herself. Barely. It's the reason I still have a neck." She takes a deep, shuddering breath, and dabs at her eyes with her free hand, wiping away sweat and- By God, she's crying. Not big, melodramatic, blubbery tears, but a small, steady stream drip down her face. "She pushed me away and told me to run, and - I did. I'm sorry I made such a mess of things. I'm so sorry."

"Sakuya," Remilia says, her voice soft and commanding all at once. "You didn't do anything wrong. Now, he and I"-she nods toward you-"are going to see Flandre. You should go find Meiling and bring her here."

The order gives Sakuya something concrete to focus on, and the fright and pain on her features diminish. She walks through the doors with only a little wobble to her step. Your lips purse as you watch her improvised bandage steadily darken red. "You're not going to bleed out on us, are you?" you ask.

Sakuya shakes her head. "Well, I can't see my intestines, so it's not the worst I've ever had." She smiles just a little at her morbid criteria.

Remilia harrumphs in disapproval. "I won't have you dying on me over something stupid, Sakuya. Here, let me see what I can do."

Sakuya waves her off. "Save your energy for Flandre, milady. You'll need it, and I'll manage." She shifts her gaze from Remilia to you, and her eyes widen as she takes her first real look at you. "You, meanwhile, look like-"

"Ass? Shit? Hell? I've heard them all," you say. "But I'm not the one with a nasty neck wound. You're sure you're all right?"

She doesn't answer, instead staring over your shoulder with an expression of dismay. She quickly rubs at her eyes, trying to dry her tears with limited success.

"Yo!" shouts a familiar voice. "Don't think you're going down there without me!"

"Meiling," you say in greeting, somehow not surprised as you turn to face the woman still flanked by your entourage.

"Hi again!" Meiling says, making her way to you on her own power, if admittedly on unstable legs. "I see you lot had the same idea to go meet Flan, huh?"

Remilia nods. "Excellent timing, Meiling. I was just about to send for you. How did you get here so quickly?"

Meiling shrugs. "You two were talking long enough to gimme a headstart. I powered through the rest of the way thanks to grit and enough painkillers to make an oni find God."

"Her tolerance is frankly worrying," LG says.

Meiling plants her hands on her hips, turning her nose up at the trooper. "Dragon blood cares not for your puny drugs!"

Sakuya blinks, so taken aback that her earlier distress falls by the wayside. "Meiling, are you high?"

"Maybe! What about-" Meiling's carefree attitude falters the moment she gets a good look at the maid. "Oh, Sakuya, no."

Sakuya flinches. "It's not fatal."

Meiling shakes her head, her expression serious. "Why are you still here? Go get that fixed up!"

The medical drone, previously hiding behind LG's legs, skitters over to Sakuya. "Emotional distress detected. Physical damage detected. Treatment requested?"

Sakuya carefully steps back, not taking her eyes off the machine. Remilia halts any further retreat by laying a gentle grip on the crook of her arm, and merely shakes her head when Sakuya looks askance at her. "You could use it, Sakuya."

"I... suppose so," Sakuya says. Remilia releases her, and the maid takes a deep breath. She looks down at the little machine, her expression distant. "All right, I accept."

"Apply the heal juice!" HK commands, and the little mech dispenses a burst of misty medication.

Sakuya flinches again as the mist washes over her, and immediately stiffens when she actually inhales a portion of it. Her eyes slowly open a few moments after she does so, and the corners of her mouth lazily quirk up as the tension flows out of her body. Her visible cuts and bruises are already sealing up and fading, respectively, and the hand holding her makeshift bandage drifts down, baring her neck; the bites are near-mended, only little trickles of blood flowing from them now.

"My goodness," Sakuya says, every word coming out slow and heavy. "I see why you like it so much, Meiling."

"Sakuya, where is Flandre now?" Remilia asks pointedly, redirecting the maid's attention.

"I... Hold a moment, please." Sakuya blinks slowly, brows furrowed as she tries to remember. A second later, she raises a finger, "Flandre is... she is in room two-B." She smiles beatifically at Remilia, her expression dreamy. "Happy to help, Mistress."

"Thank you," Remilia says, donning a gentle smile. "Go take a break, Sakuya. We'll handle the rest."

Sakuya curtsies, the motion a fair deal jerkier than the immaculate grace she'd displayed in your earlier encounters. Her watch slips into her hand a moment later, and she shimmers away into nothingness.

HK looses a whistle. "All right, gotta admit it, that's a cool trick."

"Was it all that smart to sedate her?" Meiling asks, directing the question at no one in particular as she makes her way to Remilia.

Remilia huffs, folding her arms as Meiling stands at her side. "She could use the break after all this. Besides, I've been handling Flandre on my own longer than I've had anyone work for me. If I can't fix this by myself, I deserve whatever she'll do to me."

"About that!" LG says, shuffling aside so the drone can hide behind him again. "I take it we're all going down there?"

You shake your head. "No. Let me take the mech, and you two can just stay up here."

"What, you think we're scared?" HK asks.

"I sure as hell am," you say. It's the truth, too; you're not terrified, but you know full well that, with Flandre in her current state, there's a good chance you might not come out of that basement again. You'd be lying to yourself if you didn't feel this (absolutely justified) fear, but you're not going to let it control you, either. Your admission knocks 'em quiet: even Remilia and Meiling give you curious looks, presumably taken off guard from the man of steel admitting he gets scared.

HK takes a step back, eyes fixed on the doorway. "Yeah, if you're spooked, I ain't going down there. You can have it."

"Agreed," LG says, tapping away at the mech's controls before gesturing towards you. Orders received, the machine trundles over to you and nuzzles up against your leg. "Return him in one piece, all right?"

"No problem," you say. It's a bitch and a half to get the little thing hauled up and held underneath your good arm, but you manage it. The drone's cylinder of a body swivels about, its optics watching everything.

"Any orders, or do we just stand around here like a pair of jackasses?" HK asks.

"That sounds like an excellent idea, actually," you say. "Consider guarding this door your job until we get back. If you hear laughter or screaming coming up the steps instead, run."

"Or we die?" LG asks.

"Or you die," you agree. "Also, if you see a blonde in witchy clothing, let her through, or you'll get lasered."

"We always get the fun jobs, don't we?" HK says.

You shrug. "Hey, if you want to go down there instead, then by all means go ahead."

"Gentlemen!" Remilia says, a touch louder than necessary. "We're wasting time. Listen to your superior and let us get moving."

With that, she heads through the portal, swiftly followed by Meiling. Your men take positions on either end of the doorway, and it's only with a little trepidation that you follow the two women down. They slow to accommodate you, and soon enough you're only lagging slightly behind the silent women.

Once you reach the ground floor, as it were, the stairwell opens up into twisty passages, and Remilia immediately takes a right. You follow her, sticking close; the labyrinth is incomprehensible to you, but Remilia navigates it with ease.

"So, Flandre, huh?" Meiling says. "Do we have a plan for this one, or are we just going to go in and hope for the best?"

"The extent of my plan is hoping painkillers work on vampires," you say.

"Well, we're about to find out, aren't we?" Remilia says dryly.

The drone's legs kick in robotic excitement. "This unit has not medicated undead entities before! Calculating dosages..."

Your group advances at a steady rate, and soon enough Remilia leads you to a dead-end corridor. The walls here are sheer metal, with five sets of matching doors on each side of the hall and one at the far end of the corridor, reminding you more of a prison than anything else. Thick chains are fitted over each cell, although the set on the second door from the right are applied more sloppily than the rest, as if someone had hastily rigged them up.

"We're here," Remilia says, stopping in front of that particular door. Nothing can be heard from within, and that lack of noise causes her to frown. She leans in close, pressing an ear against the metal. "Well, at least she isn't screaming and smashing the walls. That's a good sign, I hope."

"You sure do have a lot of backup rooms, huh?" you say, gingerly setting the drone down.

"There are repair times involved whenever something like this happens, yes," Remilia admits, pulling back from the door. "Granted, we've never really needed more than three rooms in total, but it never hurts to prepare for the extreme worst cases."

"If we ever needed more than that, I think we'd be having bigger problems anyway," Meiling says. She interposes herself between Remilia and you, and shoots you a self-assured smile over her shoulder. "Now, you let us go in first and test the waters. Then, if we're not busy fighting for our lives, you come in and let that little thing work its magic, all right?"

Remilia gives Meiling a mildly irritated look. "I would thank you to let me make the plans in the future, Meiling. Still, it's sound enough." She turns to face the two of you, hands clasped together. "Everyone ready?"

"You know it!" Meiling says.

"Affirmative," you say.

"Ready to give medical aid!" chirps the drone.

"Very well!" Remilia says. She forces her expression to something carefully neutral as she turns back to the door and lays her hand on the chains, and a whispered word of power dispels them with a bright flash of light. The door swings open, revealing a room dimly lit by a single lantern affixed to the ceiling. You can't make anything else out from here.

Remilia steps through first. After a moment, Meiling follows.

Maybe ten seconds later, you enter.

It takes effort not to whistle at the carnage.

This is a smaller room than the one you initially tunneled into, the walls gunmetal grey and dented in nearly every conceivable spot. Wood splinters and pillow stuffing coat the floor, the remnants of an ill-fated bed and dresser, and every step crushes splinters beneath you.

At the center of it all sits Flandre, arms wrapped around drawn-up knees, her face buried in her skirt. She's still bloody, still ragged, but she only deigns to look up when your plodding footsteps catch her attention. Her cheeks are stained with tears, but her eyes, sclera and all, are that same deep, deadly crimson as before. Her gaze sweeps across your entire group, and settles on one in particular.

"Meiling?" she whispers, staring unerringly at the woman.

Meiling smiles, raising a hand. "Easy, Flan. Easy. I'm not, y'know, dead."

Flandre shakes her head. "You shouldn't be here." Every single word she says shifts in cadence and enunciation, like a foreign drunkard operating on a half-remembered translation booklet, although she maintains the same utterly flat tone the whole time. "I'm gonna hurt you. You shouldn't be here."

"You won't get rid of us so easily, Flan." Remilia speaks so softly, so gently, as she approaches Flandre, you feel out of place intruding on this moment.

Those words redirect Flandre's eyes towards her sister. She keeps staring, just staring, for at least half a minute, Remilia steadily matching her gaze, before she shudders and jerks her eyes away. "You can't help me, Remilia."

Remilia doesn't flinch, but hurt flashes across her face. "Flan, I-"

"You can't," Flandre says, her voice quavering. "Meiling tried. Sakuya, too. Even AE, and I- and I-" She starts tearing up, and quickly hides her face in her hands. "I'm so tired of hurting everyone."

"Flan," Meiling says, clearly desperate to head this off before it explodes into something much worse. "Look, I'm fine, all right? AE's fine. Sakuya too. None of us are angry with you, we're all fine. It's okay."

Flandre's up faster than Meiling can react, hovering in the air inches away from the gatekeeper's nose, her face twisted in terrified anguish. "It's not okay!" she shrieks, shaking Meiling about by the shoulders. "I nearly killed you! I would have killed you! I would have killed everyone, and you're trying to tell me it's fine?! Just because you're okay with it doesn't make it any better!"

"Flandre!" Remilia says, her voice lashing out with thunderous effect. "Unhand her!"

Flandre freezes, some part of her still responsive to Remilia's authority. Meiling is rigid, wide eyes locked on Flandre's own. You stay very still, unwilling to tempt Flandre's wrath and unsure of what you can do in the first place. Flandre and Meiling stay locked together, motionless, for the barest handful of seconds, before the blonde darts back as if Meiling's mere touch burned her.

"You all should go," she whispers, touching back down on the floor. "Leave me alone."

The moment that last word leaves her lips, all the fire goes out of her, and she falls to her knees, her legs splaying out to the sides. The tears still flow, and she doesn't bother trying to hide them.

"Flan," Remilia says softly, her expression lost and helpless.

"I don't want to be a monster," Flandre says, so quiet you have to strain to hear it. "I don't want everyone to be so scared of me. But you all have to go, or I think I'm going to kill you."

Well.

What can you really say to that?
_____

[X] You don't know Flandre well enough to help her with this, but there's still one thing you can do. Sedate her and let Remilia handle the rest; maybe she'll be in a better state when she wakes up.

[X] Would a monster feel like this about herself? She's already set herself up for it; this might be the best chance you've got to talk some sense into her.

[X] A hug might be dangerous and foolhardy, but - hell, she needs it, and damn the consequences.

[X] [WRITE-IN]
>>No. 60817
[c] A hug might be dangerous and foolhardy, but - hell, she needs it, and damn the consequences.

Very, very tempting. Let's do this.
>>No. 60818
[X] Would a monster feel like this about herself? She's already set herself up for it; this might be the best chance you've got to talk some sense into her.

>>60817 Seems overly risky. Flandre seems to be inches from of a complete meltdown emotionally, and as shown by Sakuya doesn't seem to be in full control of herself. If she accidentally hurts us, it'll probably send her right over the edge.
>>No. 60819
[X] Would a monster feel like this about herself? She's already set herself up for it; this might be the best chance you've got to talk some sense into her.
[X] A hug might be dangerous and foolhardy, but - hell, she needs it, and damn the consequences.

Why not both?
>>No. 60820
[X] Would a monster feel like this about herself? She's already set herself up for it; this might be the best chance you've got to talk some sense into her.
[X] A hug might be dangerous and foolhardy, but - hell, she needs it, and damn the consequences.

I have to go with what my heart tells me on this. Even though my mind is telling me it will destroy Flandre if she kills us.
>>No. 60821
[X] Would a monster feel like this about herself? She's already set herself up for it; this might be the best chance you've got to talk some sense into her.
[x] Offer drugs and medical treatment.
[x] IF Flandre calms down, THEN offer a hug.

Yeah, hugs are not the way to go just yet. First, we need to gently talk some sense into her. Once she's settled down a little bit, let's introduce the nice mister drug-bot, and offer some painkillers, and possibly pulling out any of the bullets that are still in her, and which set her off to begin with. Then we can think about hugs.
>>No. 60822
[X] Would a monster feel like this about herself? She's already set herself up for it; this might be the best chance you've got to talk some sense into her.
[x] Offer drugs and medical treatment.
[x] IF Flandre calms down, THEN offer a hug.

Drugs: the solution to most of lifes problems
>>No. 60823
[X] A hug might be dangerous and foolhardy, but - hell, she needs it, and damn the consequences.

Will she hurt us? Maybe. But she won't kill us, because that'd hurt her. We are not allowed to do that.
>>No. 60826
[X] Would a monster feel like this about herself? She's already set herself up for it; this might be the best chance you've got to talk some sense into her.
[x] Offer drugs and medical treatment.
[x] IF Flandre calms down, THEN offer a hug.
>>No. 60827
>>60823

We're not worried about Flandre killing us (much). The problem is her mental state. Flan's right on the edge of a complete breakdown, with her lack of control being one of the key issues in her mind. Hurting us would prove to _her_ that she's right about having no control, and potentially being a monster as well.
>>No. 60829
[X] Would a monster feel like this about herself? She's already set herself up for it; this might be the best chance you've got to talk some sense into her.
[x] Offer drugs and medical treatment.
[x] IF Flandre calms down, THEN offer a hug.
>>No. 60985
[X] Would a monster feel like this about herself? She's already set herself up for it; this might be the best chance you've got to talk some sense into her.
[x] Offer drugs and medical treatment.
[x] IF Flandre calms down, THEN offer a hug.
>>No. 60986
>>60985
I hate you
>>No. 61075
[X] Would a monster feel like this about herself? She's already set herself up for it; this might be the best chance you've got to talk some sense into her.
[X] A hug might be dangerous and foolhardy, but - hell, she needs it, and damn the consequences.
>>No. 61077
File 141165174499.jpg - (102.78KB, 800x798, image.jpg) [iqdb]
61077
>>61075

While I appreciate that you want more of the story, I still have to ask what makes you think it's a good idea to lob a vote at a thread that hasn't updated for the better part of two months. I mean, I've got an update ready to go barring a proofread, but still, come on. S'not cool, man.
>>No. 61080
File 141165648854.jpg - (1.23MB, 3508x2480, image.jpg) [iqdb]
61080
No matter how badly you feel for Flandre, the important thing to keep in mind is that she could easily slaughter everyone in this room with all the effort it takes you to breathe. One misstep in what you're about to do could be fatal.

Not that that's going to stop you from trying.

Sometimes you wish they'd spliced compassion out of your brain when you were born, because it's damned inconvenient.

You plunk towards Flandre one slow, dragging step after another, and only when you pass Meiling by does anyone remember you exist.

"What are you-" Meiling starts, only for you to hold your hand up in her face.

"You two back off," you say, all gravel and irritation. "Let me do this on my own."

"You'll not tell us how to handle my sister!" Remilia says, scowling heatedly at you.

"Oh, shut up," you say, and with them thrown for a loop at your rebuttal, you trudge towards Flandre, stopping just out of arm's reach. Remilia and Meiling make no moves to pull you back, evidently deciding that, comes down to it, they'd much prefer having that extra second or two to get away in case you screw it all up.

"I said go away," Flandre murmurs, her head bowed as though someone had attached a great weight around her neck.

"Flandre," you say, gently. "Look at me."

She swallows, and slowly, jerkily looks up at you. "Why don't you listen?"

"I'm not sure how much this is worth, coming from me," you say. "But what happened earlier wasn't your fault."

And then she, of all things, edges away from you. "How can you lie to me like that?" she whispers, those blood-red eyes fixated on your own.

You take another step, and she pushes herself further back. "Would a monster feel like this about itself?"

A bitter, strained little laugh leaves her. "You don't know what it's like," she says, her fists clenching tight enough to pop cartilage. "How much this hurts. How... how thirsty you get."

"...So do you get blasted apart often?" you ask. "Because if this is a common occurrence, then you might actually have a point."

"That's just it, isn't it? If- if I can't even control myself when it matters..." She hugs herself, shaking all the while. "I'd never have stopped. And it felt right. Everything felt so right."

You take another step, forcing Flandre to scoot back further. "So?"

"I... I want to do it again." She giggles, the noise horribly broken. "Just tear and rip and smash and kill and-" Her hands fly to cover her mouth, her eyes stretching wide as they possibly can, and a wretched little sob wracks her frame.

You grit your teeth, the sight before you firmly outclassing any platitudes you could come up with. Instead, you take another step towards her. She whimpers, skittering away from you fast as her feet can push her, hands still clamped firmly around her traitorous lips. She shakes her head as you approach, but you still follow her, step by painstaking step, until she backs up against a wall, shivering at your approach. Her hands slip. "Stop it, stop it, go away go away please don't come any closer I don't want to hurt anyone else I'm sorry please-"

What you're about to do next is incredibly stupid, even by your standards.

You drop to your knee, flinching as a jolt of numb fire surges up your mulched leg, and gently grab Flandre's wrist. She abruptly falls silent, her whole body motionless as you guide her limp fingers towards your neck.

She whispers, "Don't."

"I trust you"-a weary little smile is all you can offer her-"to do the right thing."

You let your hand fall, leaving hers around your throat.

Her fingers begin trembling first. The shakes work their way down the arm and through the rest of her body. "But- but I-"

Shaking your head seems an appropriate response, so you do. "If it's so easy for you to lose control, then I should already be dead."

A muted whimper slips through her lips. "Why? You're not family. You don't know me. Why do you care?"

You lay your hand on her shoulder. "Why shouldn't I?"

She doesn't say anything else, still shuddering, still staring at you through teary eyes.

"You said I couldn't help you. Let me prove you wrong." You squeeze her shoulder. "Please."

You can feel everyone else's eyes boring into you as they wait to see whether or not Flandre's about to use you to paint the walls. Even if she does, well, you can't say you regret trying.

She hiccups.

Her fingers slip from your neck, and she clenches them into a fist, bringing it to her mouth so she can bite down on her knuckles. "How?" she asks, her words muffled. "How can you help?"

The tell-tale pumping of pneumatic legs is the only warning you get before the little medical mech edges into view on your right, even that machine smart enough to understand that maintaining a healthy distance between itself and Flandre is a good idea.

"Hello!" it says, and you could almost swear you hear trepidation in its childish voice. "Ready to dispense medical aid!"

"Let this little guy do his job, Flandre, and you'll feel much better," you say. "That's a promise."

Flandre looks so very small. "Y'mean it?"

Memory of your first meeting with her strikes like lightning. "Cross my heart, hope to die, remember?"

And she smiles, just the tiniest bit. "Yeah." Her wavering hands reach up and pull yours off her shoulder, the better to tightly intertwine her fingers with your own. She swallows, then screws her eyes shut. "Do it."

"Dispensing product!" chirps the mech, ambling closer before it sprays a burst of mist over the two of you. Flandre tenses up, a shocked little gasp escaping her at the sensation of the mist flowing over her, before she abruptly sags against you, her head coming to rest against your chest.

"It doesn't... hurt?" she mumbles, her speech thick. "It doesn't... it doesn't hurt."

You throw your other arm, broken hand and all, around her back, and pull her close. Her voice comes out softer than velvet. "I'm sorry. I messed everything up for everyone. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

"Flandre," you whisper. "You're better than you think you are."

She doesn't respond, but her grip on your hand tightens to the point it's painful. Her erratic breathing grows slower, more stable, with every passing second, but her steely grip doesn't slacken in the least.

You don't care to jostle her, and are content to stay like this until Remilia approaches, her footfalls light enough you only notice her when she steps into view. She kneels next to you, her lips pursed as she looks Flandre over. Then she leans in, awkwardly reaching around you to hug her sister.

She doesn't say anything.

There's no need.

The last of the piano-wire tension in Flandre's body fades away, her painful hold on your hand fading with it, leaving her completely limp in your and Remilia's arms.

"Well," Remilia eventually says, her voice tinged with the kind of awe that only comes from observing something spectacular at an age where you think you've seen it all. "I think you've just saved us from an incredible mess." Her eyes flick mechward. "What is in that spray?"

"Classified!" says the mech.

Remilia rolls her eyes. "Of course it is."

"What isn't classified," you say, "is that, unless the dosage was horribly miscalculated, Flandre's not waking up any time soon. But you wanted to see to her injuries personally, right, Remilia?"

Remilia smiles, just at the corners of her mouth. "Oh, you know me too well. However, I think I'd rather operate in peace." She glances at Meiling, who'd sidled up during your conversation. "Would you mind escorting him outside?"

Meiling taps two fingers against her forehead. "Gotcha covered, boss."

You grunt. "Not sure if anyone's noticed, but I'd rather not just drop Flandre. Help?"

Remilia huffs in mild amusement. "I'll simply assume you forgot to say please."

You release Flandre, and in the brief moment before Remilia smoothly takes up your slack, you get a clear look at Flandre; tear streaks may stain sleeping face, but her expression is as peaceful as when you first saw her asleep. Remilia cradles the sleeping girl close to her chest, her expression unreadable as she threads fingers through her sister's hair.

"I think we should maybe get going?" Meiling cautiously suggests, her firm grip on your arm belying her words.

"Wait." Remilia's command stops you before you could even start. "Before you go, AE... Why?"

There's many, many ways you could reply to that question, but in the end, there's only one real answer. "I've been brought low in my life before," you say, softly. "Maybe... maybe I just didn't like seeing someone else in that state when I could do something about it. Is that so terrible?"

Remilia's expression is chilly. "Considering what you initially came here to do, I'd say it's at least extremely odd."

"I'll give you that one." You fix Remilia with a grim stare. "Take care of her."

She looks vaguely insulted. "That's what I intend to do. Now away with you, I've work to do."

Meiling nods before hauling you to your feet. She starts pulling you along as fast as one dares with a cripple. The medical bot trundles after you, and your little group makes it to the door in relatively good time, considering. Just after you step outside, Remilia raises her voice. "Ah, AE, one last thing."

You look over your shoulder. "Yes?"

Her answering little smile has just the barest trace of warmth to it. "It would be... regrettable, if I had to kill you after all this."

She breaks eye contact, and Meiling takes that as her cue to shut the door. The three of you, man, woman, and mech, stand in silence before Meiling elbows you in the side. "I think she likes you."

"It's a sight better than her trying to slay me," you say.

"Uh-huh." She folds her arms. "By the way, thanks for what you did for Flandre. Even if you were a big idiot with how you did it."

You squint at her. "Excuse me?"

Meiling starts waving a hand about for illustrative purposes, although what, exactly, she's trying to illustrate in the first place is beyond you. "What were you thinking, getting into maiming range like you did?"

"It worked!"

"And you're still an idiot!" Her condescending expression softens. "But, granted, you're a living one, so I'm willing to cut you a break."

All her waving brings to your attention a nasty, jagged red line across her arm where it was previously severed, and a spring-loaded question fires before you can stop it. "That does not look like it's holding steady."

She pats the point of severance. "Oh, this is just Remi's patch job. I'm gonna need a proper stitch-up from the folks at Eientei 'fore I trust myself to punch anything with it, or I think it might just fall off on me again."

"And this is the same woman we're letting operate on Flandre, because...?"

Meiling quirks an eyebrow. "Flan still has all her limbs intact, it's different. But, if you want to go in there and tell Remilia what she can and cannot do, be my guest."

You raise a hand, before pausing to really think hard on that, and then sheepishly lower said hand. "I see your point."

"That's cuz I'm smart, see?" She taps her forehead. "Not like the big meathead standing before me who came in punching people and blowing everything up."

"Madame, I have had enough of your insults," you drawl. "However, I've got one last job to handle and then I'm officially bugging out. You can make up for your rudeness by tagging along, if you like."

Meiling smiles, her playful condenscesion fading. "Then I would be glad to accompany you, sir."

"Everyone is happy again!" says the mech.

"NEIGHTOACHFOUR!" Marisa bellows, charging into the room with broom held high.

"Motherf-!" you say, lurching aside with a cripple's gusto, which is to say, not much. Even the mech scuttles away much faster than you, which is severely demoralizing.

Meiling springs forward, catching the witch by the throat and slamming her to the floor, sending the witch's broom flying against a wall. She swiftly follows it up by planting a foot on the blonde's chest.

"Marisa," Meiling says, looking coolly down on the witch. "You really have to stop barging in everywhere. It's really rude."

"Meiling," Marisa replies, surprisingly calm given her current predicament. "You look... not dead."

"Eh, I'm pretty tough." Meiling removes her mighty foot, allowing Marisa to sit up without fear of her sternum being crushed. "Anyway, you're officially too late to do whatever it is you came here for."

You nod. "While I'm going to assume the best-case scenario here and say your concern for Flandre is admirable, I'm certain Remilia would twist your head off your shoulders if you interrupted her right now."

The witch sags, slapping a hand against her face. "Aw, nuts, this is just not my day."

"I don't think it's anyone's day, honestly," you say, "although Flandre and I are certainly competing for the worst-off."

Not counting the dead, of course.

God, that's sobering.

"So... Neightoachfour?" you ask, desperately searching for a way to buoy your mood.

Marisa sheepishly rubs the back of her neck. "Hey, it has a bunch of syllables and everything, it's a good war cry."

"Presumably because it confuses your enemies long enough for you to beat them up?" you venture.

She shrugs, then hops back to her feet. "That too."

"Pfah!" Meiling thumps a fist against her chest. "You obviously haven't heard of ancient Chinese battle cries, Marisa! They could go on for days!"

Marisa's eyes narrow into little lines. "You bullshittin'."

Meiling holds her pose for a few seconds more, maintaining an admirable poker-face, before she starts sniggering. "You're damn right I am."

As Marisa begins bickering, very much one-sidedly, with Meiling, XJ's voice crackles over your comms. "Sir, we have confirmed contact with the target. Escorting her to the drop-site, over."

"Wilco," you say, immediately regretting it as Marisa hears you and decides to switch targets.

"So what was that all about?" she asks, giving you a hard eyeball that would impress the most grizzled of veterans. "What're you plotting now, eh? Eh?"

"It's a long and complicated story," you say, and carefully push her away to a distance where she isn't breathing up your nostrils. "Suffice to say I'm on a mission of peace, and let's leave it at that."

"I don't believe you," she immediately declares, still matching that maddening stare with your own; you refuse to blink, but your eyes are starting to water.

"How about instead of bothering me over things I'm not doing, you go help someone who actually needs it," you say, your patience thinning. "Go find Patchouli. She's got a broken wrist and also I electrocuted her."

Marisa slowly blinks. "Y'did what."

You sigh. "Just... just make yourself useful and go help her out, would you? I'm sure that'd get you some goodwill with her. I'll even tell you where I hid her body."

She rubs her chin as she considers this, then nods. "A'ight. Well, let's get movin', buddy, I don't got all day here."

"And I have a leg that could be spread over a sandwich, but you don't hear me telling everyone to slow down, do you?"

"Kids, please stop fighting," Meiling says, laying a hand on each of your shoulders and giving the two of you a good shake. "Don't make me give ya a whipping."

The little medical bot trundles past while you're all tangled up, and heads straight out the door.

"...Did my robot just give up on us?" you ask.

-----

The four of you, mech tucked underneath your arm after a short chase, emerge from the stairwell into the mansion proper, and find your men still in position.

"Sup, blondie?" HK says, straightening up from his slouch. "And also hello to you too sir," he adds hastily upon seeing your glare.

"Sir," LG says, standing at attention. "We moving?"

"You know it," you say, setting the mech down before you trudge onwards. "Fall in on me."

"They're very friendly sorts for a couple of faceless goons," Marisa idly notes as they get into position behind you.

"Hearts and minds, ma'am," LG says. "Hearts and minds."

"Hmph. Well, if sticking with you guys means I have to go at the speed of slow, I'm not buying it." She flips her broom up into the air and hops aboard it, which is an impressive feat considering it was hovering at eye level. "I gots me a witch to find. You lot do... whatever it is you do! I honestly don't care."

With that and a whoop of excitement, witch and broom rocket down the hallway, trailing stars as they go.

"Surprisingly chipper for all her earlier complaining," you muse. "Well, it doesn't matter. Let's get this over with."

-----

You leave the mansion through the same hole you entered, emerging into the welcoming summer heat. In the time you've been gone, the Valkyrie has acquired a cadre of curious fairies crawling all over it, eagerly inspecting the machine with all the glee that comes from something new and technological showing up unannounced, and the pilot is impotently shaking his fists at them from the safety of the cockpit.

More important are the two of your men milling around near the ship, accompanied by both Kyouko and Mystia. The latter has certainly seen better times, her dress now covered in dirt and twigs sticking in her hair, while the former is busy nervously shuffling back and forth. The moment she spots you coming, however, she brightens up enough to put gigawatt bulbs to shame.

Kyouko bounds over to you at the speed of holy shit she's fast. "You got it back!" she squeals, fists balled up and pressed against the bottom of her jaw even as she bounces on her feet; just the giddiest girl you ever did see. "Come on, come on, let's go!"

"Aren't you giddy," you say, lightly as can be managed.

She starts tugging on the mech, which has dug its feet into the dirt. "No talk, just move, c'mon!"

So focused on pulling the machine along come heaven or hell itself, Kyouko completely fails to notice Mystia stumbling along until she's standing right behind her.

"Kyouko, please stop bothering the huge man and his robot friend," Mystia says, causing her friend to nearly trip over herself as she turns around.

"Hey! Mysty! This is-"

"I know what it is." Mystia looks at you with dull eyes. "She hasn't stopped talking about your little wonder bot ever since she found me again."

"Well, it is really good stuff," Meiling says, nodding to express full confidence in your medical equipment.

Kyouko blinks, then smiles a big, toothy grin as she wheels on the redhead. "Ah! You're looking a lot better from before, miss!"

Meiling smiles, but otherwise remains silent. All the better, given how Mystia is now leveling a finger, chipped nail and all, at you.

"Hey," she says, squinting so deeply you're surprised she can see anything. "You... you got Kyouko out from that one place, huh? She told me all about it."

"Where else would I go to be grievously maimed?" you say. "I certainly didn't get it from this place."

She smiles, sickly but genuine. "Heh. You're all right." That smile capsizes quicker than a canoe with a you-sized hole in the bottom. "Now give me a dose of your techno-future magic drug bullshit or I will tear your face off."

"That's... certainly one way of asking," you say, leaning back in case she actually goes for it. Kyouko's mouth is hanging open as she stares at Mystia in genuine horror, and everyone else tenses up in case the birdie tries something. "But I completely understand where you're coming from." You pat the top of the mech. "Permission granted. Dispense at will."

"Hooray!" it says, and immediately sprays Mystia down.

The moment the mist wafts over her, Mystia's knees give out, the goofiest smile imaginable taking control of her face. "Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii~"

Everyone present is struck dumb by her reaction, which lasts until she topples onto her back, giggling like a moron.

"Um," Kyouko says, frowning worriedly as she holds her hands palms-out in an apologetic gesture. "Sorry she threatened to kill you?"

You wave her concerns off. "I don't mind. Anyway, it's been real, but I have to go."

She lowers her hands, looking like you just punted her in the kidney. "What, just like that? You're leaving?"

Even as she says that, the four of your men head for the Valkyrie's passenger compartment, LG carrying the mech along. As they get to work evicting the fairy stowaways, Meiling carefully steps around Mystia, the better to stand ahead of you.

"Well, for one, I desperately need proper medical treatment, instead of relying on first-aid spray," you say. "Unless you can offer me something better, I'm afraid I have to leave."

"But I-" Kyouko shuts up and breaks eye contact, finding the dirt at her feet a much better target to stare down.

"But you what?" you press, and she shrinks down on herself further.

She fidgets for a few seconds before she takes a deep breath, clenches her fists, and looks you eye-to-eye, her expression resolute. "Well, I... I wanted to spend a bit more time with you before you had to go. I don't know when you might come back around, you know?"

How can one girl be so cute. How.

"I gotta admit, that was a question I was going to ask," Meiling says, pausing to swat at a fly before she continue. "Not often we get people quite like yourself around here."

Mystia giggles. "The sky is so pretty..."

"Leaving aside your high-as-a-kite friend," you say, firmly redirecting Kyouko's attention to you, "I can't put an exact time-table on when I might be able to get out again." You gesture at yourself. "I mean, really, look at me. This doesn't fix itself, you know!"

Kyouko sighs, deflating before your eyes. "I get what you mean."

"Well, hey, cheer up," you say, laying your hand on her shoulder. "I'll be sure to visit you first thing."

Meiling clears her throat.

"Still first thing," you say, refusing to change your mind for the big reason of Meiling repeatedly punched you in the face.

While Meiling scowls, Kyouko's face scrunches up as she tries to suppress a laugh. "All right, I'm glad to hear it!"

"Sir?" LG calls, leaning out of the ship. "I appreciate that you want to talk, but we really should be going!"

"Well, that's my cue. Kyouko? Meiling?" you say, and both women perk up. "It's been horrible, with the exception of you two."

Meiling coughs meaningfully.

"And also Remilia and Flandre, I suppose," you say, shrugging. "Even with all the murder attempts."

The redhead gives you a thumbs-up.

"And now I'm afraid it's time to leave you all behind." You pat Kyouko on the shoulder. "Try not to get kidnapped again, would you? I don't want to get maimed further breaking you out."

She merely smiles. "I gotcha. Stay safe, you hear me?"

"I still have to beat you up in a fair fight!" Meiling says, working her knuckles over. "Don't go dying from medical complications or some other crap until I get that much from you, you got me?"

"I'll try to avoid the pitfalls of the dangerous warzone that is the medical ward," you reply, dry as sand. "Now, ladies, if you'll excuse me?"

They step aside, leaving you a clear path to the ship. Both stay quiet as you trudge past them and climb aboard, helped in by LG. You sit down in the spot closest to the door, buckle in, and look back outside. With Mystia zoning out and Meiling and Kyouko watching, you take off; Kyouko waves goodbye as you rise up, while Meiling merely folds her arms and nods when your eyes meet hers.

They stay like that until the ship door closes, leaving you and your men in the dim red lighting of this compartment. Finally, finally, you're able to relax. You sag back in your seat and release a breath you didn't realize you'd been holding.

The exhaustion follows in quick order, the knowledge of your safety at last tearing down the walls that adrenaline had erected. You allow your eyes to drift shut and take simple comfort in the motion of your flight.

Christ Almighty, it feels like you've been doing this for years.
__________

Fast forward!

[X] One hour: emergency treatment completed, leg amputated, suit footage reviewed, initial debriefing.

[X] One day: in-depth treatment completed, replacement limb attached, full debriefing.

Cannot fast-forward any further at this juncture.
>>No. 61081
[X] One day: in-depth treatment completed, replacement limb attached, full debriefing.

It updated! Goddamn being Flandre is suffering.
>>No. 61082
[X] One day: in-depth treatment completed, replacement limb attached, full debriefing.
>>No. 61083
[X] One day: in-depth treatment completed, replacement limb attached, full debriefing.

Man, poor Flandre. That girl needs all the hugs in the world.

Provided, y'know, she wouldn't explode the people hugging her.
>>No. 61084
[X] One day: in-depth treatment completed, replacement limb attached, full debriefing.

Glad to see ya updating again. Also, this vote cause this guy is pretty fucked up right now and he needs as much treatment as he can get.
>>No. 61085
[X] One day: in-depth treatment completed, replacement limb attached, full debriefing.

Glad to see you back. Also, ow poor Flandre.
>>No. 61086
[X] One day: in-depth treatment completed, replacement limb attached, full debriefing.

I didn't cry, I just had some shrapnel in my eye. Yeah.
>>No. 61088
[X] One day: in-depth treatment completed, replacement limb attached, full debriefing.
>>No. 61091
[X] One day: in-depth treatment completed, replacement limb attached, full debriefing.

It's back!
>>No. 61093
Well, that seems fairly conclusive! We're speeding towards the ending, folks, just a few updates more to go.

Also, sorry about the delay between updates! I wrote an entry for the writing contest, and that took quite a bit out of me.
>>No. 61095
>Christ Almighty, it feels like you've been doing this for years.
Eh, one year and sevenish months. Close enough.

Bloody good job, Clear Your Sights. Bloody good job.
>>No. 61100
File 141213895799.jpg - (22.14KB, 519x259, image.jpg) [iqdb]
61100
ONE DAY LATER

-----

You finish adjusting your dress uniform's collar, then give the man in the mirror an approving nod. You look charitably roguish at the best of times, but there's something about the uniform that takes a man that extra distance. Sadly, you had to shave off the spec-ops stubble you'd so lovingly cultivated, but better to look your best, especially when you might be getting your ass court-martialed to the moon for the orders you disobeyed.

You give yourself two thumbs up, both hands back in action thanks to the wonders of proper medical care. "Knock 'em down, chief, or you're proper fucked."

Sadly, your first step towards the door out of your quarters nearly spells disaster as you stumble over your new leg. A day spent in Medical does wonders for the body, and this prosthetic replacement leg is great and all, but you're still not quite used to it yet. Granted, this was also how you felt after the landmine incident, but you grew accustomed to the prosthetics after that easily enough. Still, it'll be a good day when you can get a flesh-and-blood-and-bone leg, that's for damn sure.

The walk through the grey corridors that make up your base of operations isn't tense, exactly, although the men you pass by are hardly talkative. Perhaps this pall of doom hanging over your head is visible? Or maybe it's the fact you're in dress uniform that tells everyone you're not to be bothered right now. Everyone else is in varying degrees of casual military wear, with the exception of the guards in full armor, which means you stick out like a man wearing snow camo in the desert.

You decide to swing by the repair bay first; you've got some time free before you need to meet the Commander.

Considering how you have to duck a thrown spanner the moment you enter the mechanic's shop, you realize this may not have been the best of ideas after yesterday.

(The crew chief's expression when you hobbled in with your suit wrecked was legendary. His face turned a horrifying shade of purple usually reserved for plums as you listed all the suit's issues, and his verbal reaction, which you will cherish always and forever, went like this: "YOUR SUIT HAS A FUCKING SMARTLINK. FOR SMARTGUNS. THAT SHOOT BULLETS. SMART BULLETS. AT RANGE. BECAUSE THAT IS THE SMART WAY TO FIGHT. YOU STUPID FUCKFACE. STOP PUNCHING ASSHOLES OR I'LL SHOVE THIS WRENCH UP YOURS.")

"So, does yesterday's threat still stand?" you ask, and immediately sidestep another flying wrench from the jumpsuited mechanic in charge, his face hidden by a welding helmet.

"You're a genuine dicksucker," he replies, his voice muffled.

"I'll take that as a yes, then." Despite your words, you amble genially towards him, hooking your thumbs into your pants pockets. "So, how's the damage?"

He gestures towards your suit hanging on the wall, its grey-black armor cracked and dented and busted up horrifically, despite his best efforts to rectify those issues. "How you manage this much damage every single goddamn time you sortie is beyond me, you stupid bastard."

You shrug. "If I didn't, it wouldn't be me."

The suit's helmet tilts towards you on its own. "Greetings, Operator."

The mechanic hefts a drill, looking the armor over with what you can only imagine is an evil gleam in his eye. "And the damn thing's been criticizing how I've been repairing it, too. It's like you infect everything you touch with your sarcastic bullshit."

It looks back at him. "When it concerns my body, I reserve the right to be critical."

"And when it comes to me," says the mechanic, "I'm going to work on you however I damn well please. Don't make me engrave a dick on your forehead, cuz I'll do it, swear to God I will."

"Isn't it boring in there?" you ask the AI.

Hoorah, now it's swiveled back to you. "Negative, Operator. Currently reviewing your previous mission logs. I am glad I was only installed here recently, because you are terrible."

The mechanic cackles. "Finally, some sense!"

You fold your arms and lean back, squinting at the machine. "I thought my name was User?"

It raises and lowers a shoulder. "Operator sounds more professional."

"Right. So," you say, redirecting your attentions to the mechanic before he gets any ideas about striking while you're distracted. "Did you know Command put that thing in there?"

"The way you shit yourself when you found out made all my effort installing it worthwhile, yes," he says, head bobbing as he looks the suit over.

"Huh." You have to think for a moment to find a proper insult. "You're a cockjuggling f-"

"AE-51262 to the Commander's office," blares this room's loudspeaker. "AE-51262 to the Commander's office."

"Ah, damn it, I gotta go," you say. "Don't screw things up too badly, will you?"

The mechanic freezes in place, then begins turning to face you so slowly you half expect his feet to leave deep scrape marks across the floor. "...The balls on you to say that to me could capsize battleships, AE."

You flee the room before he attempts to murder you.

-----

After a refreshing sprint for your life, you stop in front of the Commander's office, the metal door all that stands between you and your fate. You don't bother taking a deep breath; your nerves are steady already. After knocking, you step into the room with the man who will decide your immediate future. He is seated across a wooden table, dataslate in hand, but turns his full attentions towards you once you're inside.

The Commander, of course, looks immensely familiar, given he has your face, albeit with maybe three extra decades tacked onto it. Sharp features, piercing blue eyes, black hair flecked with grey, and immaculate in his uniform, he stares you down without a trace of pity. His name, ML, is stitched over his breast pocket, next to the dazzling array of medals pinned to his chest.

"AE." His voice is like your own, with a touch more gravel.

You nod. "Sir."

He sets the dataslate down, then folds his hand atop each other. "You have demonstrated questionable judgement during your latest operation. I've called you here to hear what you've got to say about it." He gestures to the chair opposite his. "Please, sit."

You do, finding the thing to be singularly uncomfortable. You interlace your fingers, hoping it makes you look appropriately solemn. "Where do we start?"

He taps a button on the slate and sets it flat on the table; a holographic screen emits from it, hovering like a pane of glass between the two of you as it displays your suit's footage. "I've already reviewed the initial operation log, of course. We'll only go over the parts I'm curious about."

He slides a finger across the slate, and the footage fast-forwards to your first meeting with Kyouko. He gestures towards the screen. "Kyouko Kasodani, low-level Myouren associate. What is your opinion of her?"

"Girl has a good heart and a voice that can shatter eardrums," you say. "Besides that, well, I wouldn't say no to working with her again."

He nods. "So you took her, a civilian, into a combat situation. What is your reasoning behind that?"

"Local support useful for distracting the enemy, as well as being a potential intelligence asset. In addition to seeing what she was capable of, of course."

"I see. However, this association led you to retrieving Mystia Lorelei, distracting from your main mission."

You nod. "That is correct."

"Just wanted to be sure we were clear on that point." He rewinds to your initial attack on the mansion. "Now, as for Hong Meiling."

"What about her?" you ask.

"You know damn well what," he says, and you blink at the sudden vehemence. "Your friendly relationship with a woman who was trying to break your neck baffles greater minds than mine, I'm sure."

"In all fairness," you say, "she only tried that twice. Also, she's a quality fighter. If anything, I recommend her for acquisition."

"She was never the objective."

"I stand by what I said, sir."

"Hmph. Well, it's not an important matter, anyway. I've a more pressing question." He skips the video to when you broke into Flandre's room. "Flandre Scarlet."

Of course.

"What about her?" you say.

He fast-forwards through every single meeting you had with Flandre, up to the point where your visor was shattered; video footage ends there since your camera was linked to it. "You passed up numerous chances to capture her. Why?"

Right. Time to make your case. "Sir, with all due respect, and considering you've seen her combat footage, are you mad?"

His brow wrinkles. "Excuse me?"

"You saw what she did to everything in her way," you say. "Especially what happened when she was mortally injured. It is my firm belief that any potential use we could get out of her is far outweighed by her instability."

"Regardless, you still refused to follow orders, even when her emotional distress gave you a prime opportunity to capture her."

"Sir, she is a child," you say, slowly so he can get every word into his evidently thick head.

He quirks a brow. "At five-hundred years old?"

"Physically, maybe," you admit, "but certainly not emotionally. This is not-"

"Ethical?"

Stole the words from your mouth. "Yes."

He shakes his head. "War rarely is."

"Have we really gotten to the point where we abduct little girls and force them to fight our battles for us?" you say, frowning at him.

He frowns right back, and does it better to boot. "That 'little girl' slaughtered her way through an entire garrison like they were armed with t-shirts and flashlights. You should know; you were there."

"She would also slaughter friendlies, sir, in case you hadn't noticed her attempts to murder me."

The Commander's hands clench, his knuckles popping. "I don't appreciate that tone, AE."

You press on, only mildly deterred. "That is an unfortunate downside of making my point, sir. What good is a soldier that kills everything around them when they're injured, friend and foe?"

"Useful as a tactical nuke, perhaps." He rubs his chin, brows furrowed in thought, and is silent for around five seconds before he looks you in the eye. "But I see your point. Her capture was an optional goal, as well, so I'm willing to cut you a break."

His expression hardens to stone.

"But then you try my patience with your flagrant disregard for direct orders when you returned to the mansion. You deliberately informed Remilia of your objectives. Why?"

"The spear she held at my throat had something to do with it," you say, mildly. "I meant to both ingratiate Coalition forces as a whole to her and prevent the loss of myself and my suit when I told her my goals."

His glare could curdle milk. "You mean to tell me you wanted to get us on her good side by telling her you planned to kidnap her sister? Now it's my turn to ask you: are you mad, AE?"

You lean back by inches, unwilling to chance his wrath. "The woman has a damn good head on her shoulders, and I'd rather have just gotten it out in the open then instead of risking her finding out later. Besides, it worked."

Yep, he's still glaring. "Provided we swear off any further actions against her, of course."

"Of course."

The Commander releases a hefty sigh, sagging back into his chair. At least he's stopped trying to manifest eye-beams to kill you. "I hope you realize this has compromised my plans."

"At the time, I was more preoccupied with surviving. Besides that, my actions have gained us a powerful regional ally-"

"Who happens to be an arrogant vampire," he points out, his tone cold. "There's already reports circling Gensokyo of what happened at the mansion, although they're generally inaccurate. You, and by extension the rest of us, feature prominently in all of them."

You shrug. "If my assault on the mansion didn't alert everyone to our presence, those pirates would have ensured our exposure, if only through Gensokyo's manic search for them. Better to be friends with one group than have them all assume we're hostile. Failing that, I was also responsible for discovering and crippling an enemy stronghold before they could do great harm to both us and Gensokyo's inhabitants. I would say that should help everyone's opinion of us, especially given the Mansion's and, perhaps more importantly, Myouren Temple's testimony for my actions."

The Commander's stare could chill Satan to the bone. Given this is Gensokyo, you're pretty sure you could arrange a meeting between them. "Do you think you can sway me with a few pretty words, soldier?"

You shrug again, spreading your hands apologetically. "If not, then I am in some serious trouble, sir."

He actually smiles at that, just the barest flash of teeth. "Of course. Putting that aside for the moment, let's turn our attentions to the pirate outpost itself. I have no issue with anything you did there save, perhaps, your unwillingness to attempt a capture of the vampire. However, you're unaware of what our salvage teams discovered, correct?"

You nod, so he continues. "When they breached, they met with little resistance. The remnants of the base were mostly unsalvageable, with the exception of a damaged titan found amidst dozens of wounded enemy personnel. Most of the captured mercenaries have been uncooperative, but one in particular has been especially forthcoming with information, since you saved his life from the vampire."

Ha ha, karma!

"Well, sir, what did he tell us?" you say, more calmly.

The Commander allows himself a small smile. "He had intel on where they deployed their Outside gate, and from what I've heard, our Outside forces are set to raid the place in short order."

"I... don't see how this is relevant to me, sir," you say.

"I'm weighing the upsides of your actions yesterday versus the downsides," he says, leaving the implied 'you idiot' unsaid.

"Ah." You lack any other response, so you straighten your posture and wait for him to continue.

He's quiet as his eyes bore into yours. A quick little gesture on his part shuts off the holo-screen.

"Is there anything else, sir?" you ask, matching him without blinking.

"I'm just thinking of what I'm going to do with you," he says. The man shuts his eyes and leans back in his chair, tucking folded hands beneath his chin. "On one hand, you failed in the majority of your objectives, intentionally sabotaging your primary goal in the process, and apparently went out of your way to befriend the people you were sent to fight.

"On the other hand, you successfully eradicated a potential future threat to our base, and have somehow managed to get us on friendly terms with a vampire who was set on killing you when you first met her, in addition to making us blitz onto the local political scene as big goddamn heroes, even if our reputation is tainted by our association with the Scarlets."

You blink slowly. "...Big goddamn heroes, sir?"

"It's a good phrase, AE." He opens his eyes again and straightens up, his expression one of utter calm. "I could have you shot for what you did, you know."

"Believe me, I'm well aware, sir," you say, grimly contemplating your odds of successfully escaping if he does give the order. They don't add up to much.

"So, with that in mind, let me ask you one last thing." He locks eyes with your own. "Why did you go out of your way to aid Flandre Scarlet?"

You're quiet for a few moments before you speak again. "...She's a little girl, sir. A monstrously powerful one, I'll give you that, but still a little girl. You can't honestly expect me to look an emotional wreck of a child in the eyes and blast her with a tazer, do you?"

"I can honestly expect you to follow orders," he retorts.

"But where does that get us if it's wrong?" you say, rising from your seat. "Who are we to force these people to fight for us? In the end, we're made for this. Not vampires or youkai or whatever else there is in Gensokyo, and sure as hell not Flandre." You plant your hands on the table and lean towards him until the two of you are inches apart; he doesn't so much as twitch. "This is not a child's job, sir. It's ours. Let's keep it that way."

The Commander scowls, leaning back into his chair. You sit back down a moment later.

"Well, taking your dramatic plea into account..." He pauses for effect, the bastard. "...I'm going to let you off the hook this one time."

"Ah, shi- what?" you say, the crushing gloom of an imminent court-martial lifting off your back. "Can you explain yourself? Sir?" you hastily add.

He interlaces his fingers again, using them to shield the lower half of his face. "The younger Scarlet is too volatile to prove a useful asset, and the elder is potentially more useful friendly to us than hostile. In light of your previous service, what your gathered intelligence revealed, and your actions taken in eliminating a hidden threat to our continued operations in Gensokyo, I find it unnecessary to subject you to disciplinary action." His eyes narrow. "But I will eat you alive if you disobey orders again, you understand?"

You're not sure he's exaggerating. "Understood. Thank you, sir."

He smiles, all teeth and no mirth from what you can see past his fingers. "Oh, and AE? I seem to recall you being armed with three of our Eviscerator bombs, yet the mission log only shows you using one. When you returned, you didn't have any."

"I-" you start, and immediately shut up.

Oh, shit, you forgot to get your bombs back from Remilia. Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.

Your face must tell him all he needs to know. "Well," he drawls, "let's just be glad you brought back the detonator. We'll send someone to get the bombs later. Now, go on, you're dismissed."

"...Really, sir?"

"Really." He pulls open a drawer and retrieves another dataslate. "Get out of my office. I've got to figure out what our next move is."

You're more than glad to awkwardly shuffle out of the room, leaving your CO to his work. Only once you've left the office out of sight do you relax.

Thank God that's over.

Now that that's not hanging over your head, you're going to take the natural course of action and get absolutely drunk off your ass.

-----

COMMENCING EPILOGUE

[X] Cheerful Echoes.

[X] Burning Dragon.
>>No. 61102
[X] Burning Dragon.

For me there is no other choice.
>>No. 61103
[X] Burning Dragon

WE MEILING NOW!
>>No. 61104
[X] Cheerful Echoes.
>>No. 61105
Quick note! This vote merely affects the order AE visits folks in during the epilogue. It's not a route-lock vote or anything.

PROBABLY SHOULD HAVE MENTIONED THIS BEFORE THE VOTE ITSELF, HUH. I AM SMART.
>>No. 61106
[X] Cheerful Echoes.
>>No. 61107
[X] Burning Dragon.

I have to know.
>>No. 61108
> This vote merely affects the order AE visits folks in during the epilogue.

oh thank god

[X] Cheerful Echoes.
>>No. 61110
[X] Cheerful Echoes.

As promised
>>No. 61111
[X] Cheerful Echoes.
>>No. 61112
[X] Burning Dragon
>>No. 61113
[x] Cheerful Echoes.
>>No. 61115
[X] Cheerful Echoes.

We did sort of promise to visit her first thing.
>>No. 61119
[X] Cheerful Echoes.

Well, we'll likely have bruises after visiting Meiling, so let's see Kyouko first.
>>No. 61120
File 141221276229.jpg - (49.65KB, 500x500, 4e81836f10552b50e424fcdc9420e413.jpg) [iqdb]
61120
>>61115
>>61119
On one hand, you both make decent points.

On the other hand, fuck that Meiling time.
>>No. 61123
[X] Burning Dragon.

Romance by fisticuffs is best romance.
>>No. 61124
[X] Burning Dragon

Remilia/AE lemons when CYS?
>>No. 61125
[X] Cheerful Echoes.
>>No. 61126
[x] Cheerful Echoes.

Promise first, punching later. I mean, what's Meiling going to do, punch us harder? Never mind.
>>No. 61128
[X] Cheerful Echoes.

A promise is a promise and it's not like it's a route-lock anyways.
>>No. 61129
[X] Cheerful Echoes.
>>No. 61130
[x] Cheerful Echoes.

Might as well do this before the Great Punchening occurs.
>>No. 61131
All right, I am calling the vote here, everyone! AE is off to Myouren Temple to catch up with everyone's favorite echodog, which makes me happy because I also want to write more Kyouko.

She is the best. The best.

Now, time for some shameless self-promotion! For those who haven't been checking /gensokyo/ at all, I'm free to say I wrote Entry Team for the vets section of the site's annual story contest. If you want some more TACTICOOL SDM ACTION to tide you over until I update again, give it a read, but let me warn you folks right now that there isn't any Meiling. This is my greatest regret in hindsight, right next to the bloated opening.

>>/shorts/1758 And have a link to the story while I'm at it! Please do not post anything in that thread itself, however, because that's just tacky.

>>61124

NEVER by which I mean maybe eventually

>>61130

Let me just save you and everyone else some heartache right now, buddy. Sage goes in the email field, not the subject. You can tell it worked if your name is black instead of blue when you've posted (assuming you're using the standard site theme, anyway.) Saging correctly will prevent people from lynching you for resurrecting threads that have been silent for a while when you're not the author! It's something that gets people riled up, and for good reason.
>>No. 61149
File 141254777636.jpg - (150.94KB, 995x1200, image.jpg) [iqdb]
61149
THREE WEEKS LATER

-----

Gensokyo is under the dreary thrall of grey skies and chill air, a far cry from the warm summer day when last you left base. It's unseasonal is what it is, and you're of the firm opinion that whoever decided the weather should be so dull on the first day you're allowed out of base can go choke on some sewage.

You plunk across the dirt path to the temple one relaxed step at a time, walking at a easy pace so as to not aggravate your new leg - after all the physical therapy you had to undergo to get it up to scratch, you'll be damned if you're going to screw it up by tripping over yourself like an idiot.

Before you get too close, you draw your cloak's hood closer around yourself, concealing your face; you want to keep the element of surprise as long as you can. The rest of your clothes are as painfully generic as you could muster, baggy local wear masking your appearance as best it's able. Granted, there's only so much you can do to blend in when you're permanently standing two heads over everyone else. Such is the curse of being huge.

The path stretches on and on, gently curving through the light forest that surrounds you. It's a peaceful walk, and even on such a dreary day it feels good to be outdoors. It's only a short time before you reach the end and the trees open up, and even though you're familiar with the place through pictures already, seeing even part temple ship in person still causes you to come up short.

Myouren Temple, home to youkai of all stripes ostensibly seeking enlightenment, even if they seem to be perfectly fine drinking and partying it up. You personally suspect it's for people just looking for a place to eat for free, but who are you to judge? Plus, there's the novelty factor of the temple being a huge boat, which you doubt many people here have seen before.

You can't see all of the temple from here, what with the walls surrounding the complex. Dirt gives way to a tile pathway leading to the temple itself, shoulder-high stone pillars with inactive lanterns strung up on them flanking the path at short intervals. The gates are open, but at the same time, with this area entirely deserted, you're unwilling to simply barge straight inside uninvited and be branded an intruder. You lean against one of the pillars, your back to the temple, shut your eyes, and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Maybe you should have brought a book to read? Hm. Damn hindsight, making you feel like an idiot.

Just as you're thinking that, sandals sound off on the tiles from the temple gate, gradually closing in on you. They stop maybe a dozen feet away.

"Hello, mister!" says an unmistakable Kyouko, and it's a pleasant thing to hear her again after these past few weeks, make no mistake. "Havin' a good old time loitering, ain'tcha?"

You smile, but don't respond, merely bowing your head.

"Are you waiting for someone to show you in?" she asks, more uncertainly. "I mean, I can do that, if you want."

You shake your head.

"Huh." She sounds puzzled, which means your ruse is working.

Her footsteps resume, and she veers wide around your position before stopping a short distance in front of you. Keeping your head down prevents her from identifying you, but you can still see enough of her to conclusively decide that the pink dress is a cute look on her, much nicer than that goth-rock outfit you met her in. The broom she holds makes for a good makeshift pole for her to lean on.

"So... are you just going to stand there, then?" she asks.

You nod.

"Why?"

You shrug.

"Well, I kinda have to sweep there. Please move?" You shake your head once again, and she huffs in irritation. "In that case, I'm gonna have to push you."

True to her word, she sets her broom against the pillar behind her, then gets on your left and starts pushing; even though you'd braced yourself beforehand, she very nearly dislodges you.

"I cannot be moved," you say, doing a passable imitation of a car with a busted muffler to mask your voice as she strains to prove you wrong. "I am too heavy."

"Gotta agree with you on that one, sir," she soon admits, stopping her attempt. "What's up with you? Are you trying to be annoying?"

"I am trying to surprise you, actually," you say, turning to face her before you throw back your hood.

Kyouko's look of complete, wide-eyed, open-mouthed shock is something you'll savor for some time to come.

"I think it was a success," you say with no small amount of satisfaction, reverting to your normal voice. Any smugness you may have been able to wring out of this is promptly crushed, along with your ribcage, when she pounces-

OH GOD, SHE'S GOT YOU IN A BEARHUG

A GIRL THIS PETITE SHOULD NOT BE SO STRONG, WHAT THE CHRIST


"You actually came!" she squeals, burying her head against your chest. "You did! You really did!"

"Oh my God, please help me," you wheeze. Kyouko's too busy going 'eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee' to notice.

This is your karma for messing with her, isn't it?

Eventually, she stops trying to make your ribs puncture your lungs, releasing her hug and stepping back to give you some space. The big doggy-dog grin spread across her face diminishes when you sag back against the pillar.

"Girl, you could squash watermelons doing that," you say weakly, and give your chest a few solid thumps to get the air flowing properly. She looks like she just accidentally kicked a puppy.

"Er, oh man, I'm sorry!" she says, burying her fists in her skirt and bowing until her eyes are firmly on the ground. "I just- you really surprised me, and everything, and I overreacted, and-"

"It's fine, Kyouko, it's fine," you reassure her, straightening up. "Just a bit more enthusiasm than I expected, is all."

She rises up as well, biting her lower lip. "You're sure you're okay?"

"I'm alive to talk to you, aren't I?" you say.

Her lips briefly twitch up before settling back down. "I'll give you that." Now that she isn't feeling guilty, that frees her up to look you over with a critical eye. "So, why the whole 'big and spooky' act? Why didn't you just tell me immediately?"

"I wanted to observe the yamabiko in her natural environment, what else?" You sigh, holding a hand against your ribs. "Truly, she is a terrifying beast."

Aha, you got her smiling properly. "And don't you forget it, or I'll clock you on the nose." And just like that, she shifts back to neutral. "So, you're looking pretty good after... everything."

"That little med-bot you saw was only the tip of things, kiddo," you say, then shrug. "But I didn't come here to talk about me. How have the past few weeks treated you?"

"Oh!" She rubs one sandaled foot against her opposite ankle as she thinks. "Well... After I got back here in the state I was in, everyone was really worried. You know, what with the blood on me, and my torn clothes, and the state Mystia was in and everything."

You fold your arms together and lean back against the pillar. "You brought the birdie with you?"

The look Kyouko gives you is flatter than a week-old can of soda. "As opposed to leaving her 'high-as-a-kite'"-she even does the finger-quotes thing-"at the mansion?"

You shrug. "All I'm saying is that it must have taken some effort to move her, but I see why you did it. So, what happened next?"

"We, uh, got lectured. A lot." Her eyes flick up in thought, resting there for a few seconds before they're back on you. "That only happened after everyone was sure we were all right, I mean. It would've been a jerk move for them to start yelling at us immediately. But then we got to the subject of you, and Byakuren got a weird look in her eye and stopped lecturing us and everything went much better after that."

A pervasive sense of dread seeps into your soul. "Dare I ask why?"

Before she can answer, an older woman's voice pierces the air. "Kyouko, dear, who is that?"

"Ah!" Kyouko waves at the source of the voice behind you. "Lady Hijiri! What are you doing out here?"

"You were exceedingly loud just a short while ago, remember?" 'Lady Hijiri' says, her implied chastisement gentle.

Kyouko smiles, albeit sheepishly, as she ruffles her hair. "Oh. Right. Sorry!"

You step away from your post and turn to face the newcomer, to see-

Gradient hair, purple at the roots and shifting to blonde at the ends.

How is that natural.

Once your initial disbelief is dealt with, the rest of Byakuren Hijiri is markedly less ridiculous. The black-and-white dress works well on her, although the cape is a bit over the top. She strides towards you with purpose, all smiles, and stops just out of arm's reach. "I don't believe we've met, mister...?"

"AE," you say, bowing your head in greeting. "A pleasure to meet you, Miss Hijiri."

Her hazel eyes widen, and the smile fired at you could power solar generators. "So you're the one!"

Oh God, here we go. "Excuse me?"

"Oh, Kyouko's told us so much about you!" Hijiri steps closer, all enthusiasm. "Please, come with me a moment! Kyouko, stay there, would you, dear?"

"Um, okay?" Kyouko says, sounding as helpless as you feel before the might of Byakuren's gigawatt smile.

"Don't I get a say in this?" you ask, even as the monk grabs you by the hand.

"No!" Byakuren says, before she drags you stumbling towards the temple. Once you're past and around the temple gates, Byakuren lays her other hand on your shoulder, holding you in place with a very, very tight grip. "I am aware and very grateful for what you did to help Kyouko before, sir."

"Um," you say, not liking where this is going. "Thank you?"

"But," she says, cheerfully ignoring you, "if you ever get her caught up in something dangerous again, and she gets hurt as a result, I will exact vengeance upon you that will make your ancestors weep in agony."

"One, I don't really think that's applicable, and two, if it weren't for me, you wouldn't have her here in the first place," you say, mildly fazed but determined not to show it. "Besides, I thought you were supposed to be a peaceful monk."

She shakes her head, her smile fading. "Alas, I am not a very good Buddhist. You may have heard about it from everyone else in Gensokyo: 'Ooh, that Hijiri is a hypocrite! She lets her disciples drink alcohol and eat meat! She's a witch! She keeps meddling in our fun!'"

"I admit I have heard all this and more," you deadpan.

Byakuren scoffs. "Well, just because they're right about everything past the first doesn't make it any less hurtful, you know. But that doesn't change anything. Kyouko gets hurt, I hurt you. Anyone else here gets hurt because of you, I hurt you. Are we clear?"

"Lady, you're not even half as scary as my CO." You raise a hand, palm out. "But worry not, I have only good intentions for her."

She somehow manages to beam even wider when she smiles again, releasing you and clapping her hands together. "Perfect! I'm glad we understand each other!"

"You can stop trying to spook him, Mom," Kyouko says, popping her head past the gates, her sardonic tone still carrying fondness for the older woman. At least, you think Byakuren's older. Gensokyo is tricky like that.

"I'm merely telling him to be on his best behavior, Kyouko," Byakuren replies.

"By threatening pain unending on the guy who's responsible for saving my life?" Kyouko sidles past the gate, broom in hand, and then manages to make leaning on it look casually stylish. "I'm offended on his behalf, I really am."

Byakuren deflates as surely as if Kyouko jabbed her with a pin. "Well, when you put it like that, I suppose I might be overreacting."

"Just a little," Kyouko agrees, demonstratively holding thumb and forefinger about an inch apart.

"Well, anyway, mister AE?" Byakuren says, turning back to you with that smile back in place. "Would you want to come inside?"

"Actually, I mainly came here to visit Kyouko," you say. "Promised her, sorry."

"Ah." Byakuren purses her lips as she appraises you. "Well, just so long as you don't try anything untoward, I suppose I'll allow it."

"...Untoward?" you say.

"Don't stick it in her," she says, matter-of-factly. "Although, far as men go, you seem as good as any."

Kyouko falls off her broom, flushing bright red. "What!?"

Byakuren waves Kyouko off. "Oh, hush, dear, I know you were thinking about it too."

"I was not!" Kyouko sputters, propping herself up on her elbows.

"My intentions are entirely pure!" you add, holding your hands palms-out in a desperate attempt to placate Byakuren.

"If they are, then you'd best be marrying her before you try anything," Byakuren says, managing to give you an impressive Evil Eye without actually changing expression. "If you don't, believe me, I'll know."

"Byakuren!" Kyouko whines, covering her face with both hands.

Byakuren just keeps smiling as you reel mentally in horror. "Kyouko, I'm officially giving you time off for today! Play nice with your friend, and stay out of trouble, won't you?"

Kyouko's reply is a drawn-out groan of despair. Byakuren, still beaming widely without any trace of malice, takes that as her cue to flee the scene, leaving you flustered and Kyouko ready to die from an overload of embarrassment.

You turn back towards Kyouko, hands still raised, and try to work through your thoughts. You give up in short order. "I- I don't know what to say, really."

"That woman is an evil genius," Kyouko moans, pushing herself back to her feet.

"Let's just... take her up on her offer and go," you say.

"Well, I know a place nearby that we could visit," Kyouko says, deliberately avoiding your face, even as hers makes strawberries seem dull in hue.

"Perfect!" you say, your cheer brittle. "Let's get out of here before she comes back, for the love of God."

-----

It's only a few minutes of trekking through the woods until you hit a clearing, a sizable fallen tree and its corresponding stump claming the center.

"This the place?" you ask, even as Kyouko takes a seat on the log.

"You know it!" she says, idly tracing circles across the grass with her foot. "It's usually pretty quiet, so I like coming here when I want to think."

"Good a place as any," you say, and seat yourself a comfortable distance away from Kyouko. A sudden, terrifying thought strikes you. "Byakuren doesn't know about this spot, does she?"

"Oh, no!" Kyouko says hurriedly. "At least, I don't think so."

"Good enough for me." You shake your head. "That woman is something else. Is she always like that?"

"Not really, no," Kyouko says, looking away from you. "That's the first time she's ever gotten so horribly embarrassing."

"But she cares, doesn't she?" you say.

"Of course she does!" Kyouko says, all outrage at Byakuren's values being questioned. The girl sinks down immediately afterwards, her expression frustrated. "She's just a bit... stifling, at times. You know how it is, right?"

"I'm military, so of course I do," you say.

She side-eyes you, bringing her fists up and resting her chin atop them. "This is a bit of an abrupt question, I know, but after everything that happened at the mansion, I was wondering something, and it's been nagging at me while you were gone." She takes a deep breath, then looks you right in the eye. "Did you really go there to kill Remilia?"

"No, actually," you say. "I lied about that. Sorry."

Kyouko smiles again, and swings one leg over the log so she's facing you as she straddles it. "No, no, I'm glad to hear it! That's certainly better than you getting caught up in more fights because everyone wants you dead."

You lean back in your seat, eyes on the sky, Kyouko in the corner of your vision. "Well, far as things go, I'd say I'm on decent terms with most of the people at the mansion."

Kyouko cocks her head sideways. "Most?"

You sigh, bowing your head. "I am not going to lie to you here, Patchouli has me fearing for my life on my planned return trip."

Kyouko scowls, scooting closer to you. "Well, she's just a big ol' jerk, so she can get stuffed."

You think it's time for a change of topic, before this gets derailed into a 'Patchouli is awful' rant. "So, how's Mystia?"

Kyouko's face breaks out in a big grin. "Better! We've decided that sticking with our music is the best way to change things around here, not breaking into places to express our displeasure with the bourgeois."

Hah, she actually said it right this time. "And Byakuren had absolutely nothing to do with this change of heart, I'm sure."

Kyouko nods, her expression growing sober. "Right, she certainly didn't tell me that I'd be cleaning the entire temple for months if I pulled something like that again." She shudders. "Toilets included."

"I can see why you'd change strategies, if that were the case," you say, dryly.

"As do I!" Kyouko says, swinging her leg back over the log to sit normally.

The two of you sink into silence, both watching the clouds shift through that endless gray expanse of a sky. It's nice to do something other than the whole SEE MAN PUNCH MAN routine every now and again, you gotta admit. Doing it with someone else does help.

Eventually, Kyouko speaks up again, much more quietly. "Hey, AE?"

You glance towards her. "Mm?"

"I know you probably have all sorts of things to handle in your job, and we don't actually know each other that well, but, um..." She slowly, hesitantly lays her hand flat near you. "Can... can we be friends?" she whispers.

Oh, man, she's thinking you might say no. That's just adorable.

You lay your hand atop her own, finding it to be warm and soft. "Thought you'd never ask."

When the two of you look at each other, her answering smile is small, but ever so genuine. "I... thank you. Really."

"Any time," you say. A thought occurs to you, and you almost squash it for being too personal before deciding that, honestly, there's nothing to lose. "...You know you're the first girl I've made friends with in a long time?"

She whistles. "Oh? Why's that?"

"You're the first one I've met in a long time," you say, sheepishly. "Without me immediately getting redeployed elsewhere, that is."

"Are you getting at something here?" she asks, brows raised.

"If you had waited a second, I'd have said I'm a happier man for having met you," you say, shaking your head and mock-scowling. "You ruined the whole moment, woman."

Her smile is all too knowing. "Well, if it helps, I think that's really sweet of you to say?"

"It really does," you say, dropping the grump act and smiling.

"Well, good!" She edges over until she's practically on you. "You don't have anywhere else to be any time soon, do you?"

"My schedule is free," you admit.

"Right!" Just like that, she's resting her head against your arm, looking back at the sky. "So... what do you want to talk about?"

All sorts of things, as it turns out.

And you enjoy every minute of it.

-----

KYOUKO FRIENDSHIP ROUTE COMPLETED

COMPANION AVAILABLE FOR BURNING DRAGON EPILOGUE


[X] A Clone And His Yamabiko

[X] AE Rides Alone
>>No. 61154
[X] A Clone And His Yamabiko

So I'm guessing we would have gotten Meiling as a companion for a Cheerful Echos epilogue then?
>>No. 61155
[X] AE Rides Alone

Yeah, lets totally bring another girl with us. There's absolutely no way that could possibly go wrong...
>>No. 61156
[X] A Clone And His Yamabiko
I want to see what happens
>>No. 61157
[X] A Clone And His Yamabiko

Byakuren please. Kyouko remains cutest.
>>No. 61158
[X] A Clone And His Yamabiko

Echodog is wonderful.
>>No. 61159
[X] AE Rides Alone
>>No. 61162
[X] AE Rides Alone
>>No. 61163
[X] A Clone And His Yamabiko
>>No. 61167
[X] A Clone And His Yamabiko
>>No. 61168
[X] AE Rides Alone
>>No. 61169
[X] AE Rides Alone
How much of a surprise will it be if a random man, together with a Yamabiko (yeah I wonder who that guy is...), in comparison to going there alone?
>>No. 61170
[x] A Clone And His Yamabiko

Never enough Echodog.
>>No. 61171
[X] AE Rides Alone
Sorry Kyouko but there's some thing's a man must do alone.
Some of those things are getting into fights with dragon waifus because we can and because said fight will be awesome.
Said fight will most likely also our echo-dog friend from the resulting property damage and have Byakuren on a murder-spree for our head.

These are all just excuses for me to vote for "Meiling time"
>>No. 61173
[X] AE Rides Alone

My god, it's really ending, isn't it?
>>No. 61176
[X] AE Rides Alone
it would be rude to make Kyouko feel uncomfortable as a third wheel.
>>No. 61177
[X] AE Rides Alone
>>No. 61178
Voting ends at 6PM CST, which is a little more than four hours from now. The votes currently add up 9 to 7 in favor of AE riding solo. To anyone who hasn't voted yet, you should! It's still close enough to be anyone's vote right now!

>>61154

Yep!

>>61173

Also yep! I'm gonna miss this when it's gone, but it's been a fun ride all the way through. Even if rereading the early parts make me feel physically ill at how bad my technical writing was.
>>No. 61179
That's normal. Start worrying if you ever stop being horrified at your old prose.
>>No. 61180
[X] A Clone And His Yamabiko

Hopefully I am in before the deadline for I cannot perform basic time zone calculations
>>No. 61181
>>61179

Better to have improved from when I started than to look back at the beginning and go "HMM YES THIS IS FINE I SEE NO PROBLEMS," after all.

>>61180

You actually came in about fifteen minutes after I announced the deadline, so you're in good shape.

That being said, I didn't account for certain variables with my previous deadline, so, to give all the stragglers a chance to vote, I'm extending the deadline by another three hours. Votes close at 9PM CST, or 02:00 in site time. Sorry for not thinking it through last time!
>>No. 61183
[X] A Clone And His Yamabiko
>>No. 61184
File 141264758263.jpg - (30.50KB, 451x237, image.jpg) [iqdb]
61184
Well, it seems that extension was entirely unnecessary. In any case, votes are tied! Pic related.

To settle this, we're going into Tiebreaker mode. First vote decides whether AE's trip to the SDM is a solo mission or if he requests backup.
>>No. 61185
[X] AE Rides Alone
>>No. 61186
>>61185

THERE ARE NO HEROES LEFT IN MAN

BUT CONSIDER IT CALLED ANYWAY
>>No. 61205
File 141281415237.jpg - (91.76KB, 548x800, image.jpg) [iqdb]
61205
ONE DAY LATER

-----

It's funny that you finally get your much-wanted sunshine when you go to visit a vampire, but you're not going to complain. While you had been sorely, sorely tempted to ask Kyouko to accompany you on this trip to the SDM, both to help get her on better terms with the Mansion's inhabitants and to serve as moral support, Byakuren's warning is still fresh in your mind. Best to play it safe and do this solo.

The mansion itself is looking much better than last time, although there's still the occasional scaffold and other remnants of construction work scattered about the most damaged zones. You stride towards the main gate, sleeping keeper and all, your every armored step sinking deep into the grass. The patrolling fairies above watch you nervously, in sharp contrast to your unnoticed approach the first time around, but they make no moves to assault you.

You come to a halt a safe dozen paces away, well out of immediate punching range. "Hong Meiling!" you shout in challenge. "I have arrived!"

Meiling lifts her cap up with one finger, and the corners of her mouth quirk up in a lazy smile once she spots you. "Finally decided to show up, huh?"

You saunter over to the side of the gate opposite hers and lean against it, folding your arms and relaxing as though you had every right to be there. "I figured it was about time, yes. How've my people been on their visits?"

She steps forward to get some space, then stretches her arms above her head, her whole body straining in an intensely fascinating manner in the process. "Polite enough, though a lot more stiff than you were."

"That's good to hear," you say, quietly grateful she cannot see through your visor. "How's everyone else holding up?"

She settles back against the wall, folding her arms behind her head to cushion it against the brickwork. "Remilia's doing well, Sakuya and the maids are in good order, and Patchouli hasn't stopped screaming ever since she saw what you did to her library, which is both really impressive and kind of terrifying!"

Oh dear. "That doesn't sound healthy."

Meiling's smile is a vague shade of worried. "Not going to lie to you here, I think she might actually kill herself through sheer, incandescent hatred of you."

"What a shame," you say, not really feeling it. "But leaving Patchouli aside, I think you missed someone earlier.

"No I didn't," Meiling replies, entirely too quickly.

Oh, enough stalling. "Just tell me how Flandre's doing already before I force my way in and find out the hard way."

Meiling's expression flattens, her lips drawing into thin lines. "...Okay."

"That's it?" You frown, pushing off the wall to face Meiling directly. "You're going to have to give me more than that after all I did for her."

"She's doing okay," Meiling says, matching you scowl for scowl. "That's the best that can be said for her. She's not leaving her room, but she's not wrecking everything either."

You tsk thoughtfully, looking past the gates. "Well, I'd still like to go visit her, if that's all right."

Meiling's mood undergoes such a drastic one-eighty you're surprised she doesn't get mental whiplash. "Ha, but to do that, you need to get past me!"

"Which, of course, means we need to fight," you say, already resigning yourself to a pummeling.

"Exactly!" Meiling holds up a finger to forestall you. "But first, hold on! Lemme get Remilia this time, okay?"

It's all you can do to simply blink. "All right?"

"Thanks you're a champ see you soon you can wait in the garden!" she says breathlessly, then bounds through the gates and into the mansion in quick order.

Huh.

Well, guess you'd better hurry up and wait, then.

You sidle through the gates and loiter near the center of the garden, taking time to admire the scenery. You were in a bit of a rush last time you were here, but now that you've got some time to actually appreciate the scenery you're more than happy to do so. A sizable circular stone fountain serves as the garden's centerpiece, white tiles snaking around it and leading both straight to the main doors and around the mansion's sides. Whatever ground isn't claimed by stonework is covered by flowers and the occasional strategically placed bush. What Meiling does with the place is really something else, so many different varieties of flowers spread around you're surprised none of the different breeds have overwhelmed each other and claimed ownership of all the realm.

That's how flowers work, right? You're not a horticulturist, you don't know for sure.

It's a few minutes before Meiling reappears, striding out the mansion's main doors. "Boss'll be right out!" she says, stopping within arm's reach.

As cued, the balcony doors above the mansion's main entrance open, and Remilia, flanked by Sakuya, strides out wielding a parasol to shield herself from the sun. The vampire leans over the railing, twirling her umbrella as she goes. Her bright smile when she sees you is sharply contrasted by Sakuya's utter lack of expression.

"Hello again, sir!" Remilia calls, giving you a mock-salute with her free hand. "I had been wondering when you planned to return!"

"I only got clearance a little while ago," you say, folding your arms as you look up at her. "Everything going well here?"

Before Remilia can reply, a blur of flailing purple bursts through the doors behind her, leaps over the balcony, lands in a flower patch, clambers up, and lurches towards you, all the while screeching "KILL MAIM BURN KILL BURN MAIM KILL BURN" at an astounding decibel level.

And then it bursts into flame.

Holy Jesus, Patchouli.

Meiling has already flung herself aside when the burning, screaming witch raises a flaming hand to, you don't know, launch a fireball at you or some shit. You're about to copy Meiling's idea when a figure in full armor charges through the same door Patchouli did, sprints past a reeling Remilia and Sakuya, executes a magnificent swan dive over the balcony, and lands atop Patchouli to slam her against the tiles.

"While I absolutely understand where you are coming from," Karin says, pinning the witch down without regard to the flames engulfing the both of them, "this is still no way to behave!"

"KIIIIIIIILL" Patchouli shrieks, trying to dislodge the fairy and failing miserably. The fires around her are, you note with some alarm, spreading to the outskirts of a flowerbed.

"If you're going to be so unreasonable, then fine!" Karin hooks an arm around Patchouli's neck and applies a textbook chokehold, strangling any further outbursts. The two roll around like that for a few seconds before Patchouli's struggles begin to slow, which the fairy takes as her cue to push off the witch. "Sakuya!"

The maid appears in a flash, then abducts Patchouli in another shimmery-shiny time-stop teleport. As Karin pats herself out, Meiling rushes past you, watering can in hand, and sets to extinguishing the flowers before the fires can spread.

"What the hell was that?" you ask, numbly.

The fairy pushes herself upright, then stands at attention, only slightly charred. "As it turns out, Milady Patchouli has been plotting vengeance against you for some time, sir. You were fortunate Mistress Remilia asked for me to arbitrate your fight with Meiling."

"Has Patchouli been practicing that... thing she just did?" you say.

Karin, this close up, looks indescribably weary, the bags underneath her bloodshot eyes a deep purple. "The self-immolation? Yes. The screaming? Yes also. And I'm stationed near her at all times." She rubs at her eyes. "I have not been able to sleep for a week now. It's awful and I hate you for making her so angry."

"I'm sorry?" you say.

Her glare is almost deadly enough to lay you flat out on a slab. "Shut the hell up."

You do so.

Sakuya appears back on the balcony, Patchouli soaking wet and firmly restrained with copious amounts of rope to a chair you were certain was not there before. The maid waves at you. "The problem's over, sir! You can get beaten up by Meiling without any further interruptions, if you wish!"

Patchouli is much less unhinged now, which only means she's straining against her ropes like a madwoman instead of trying to murder everything around her. "Break his bones, Meiling! Make him suffer! I want his tears to sweeten my tea!" The witch is silenced when Remilia bops her on the head, then leans in and begins heatedly, if quietly, chastising her.

"Life here never stops being exciting, does it?" you ask; Karin merely nods, massaging her forehead in disgusted acceptance of her role in life.

Meiling heaves a sigh of relief as she also heaves the watering can over the gate. Imminent threat to her flowers dealt with, she's markedly more relaxed as she turns to you. "Well, that's been handled. You still game for us to pummel each other?"

You reflexively clench and unclench your fists. "Thought you'd never ask. Anything goes?"

She nods, baring teeth in what could innocently be called a smile, provided you'd never seen a genuine one in all your life. "Anything goes."

"Milady!" Karin says, "they're ready to go!"

Remilia spins on a heel to face you, and she leans over the railing. "Right! Call it!"

"Combatants, ready yourselves!" Karin says, raising a hand overhead.

You steady your footing. Hunching down, fists held near your face, you're the image of a classic prizefighter. Meiling's stance is markedly more fluid, the woman bouncing from foot to foot as she waits for the match to start.

"Begin!" Karin bellows, slicing a hand through the air and immediately throwing herself back as Meiling lunges for you.

One jab, two, three, all from her right hand, come for your head in rapid succession, and all of them are nimbly avoided through casually effortless leaning on your part. A response jab of your own flies true, but her free hand bats it aside before it can land. You both hop back, the first probing encounter completed. You're not in the mood to drag this out, however; time for a repeat of your first meeting.

Boosters kick into overdrive as you launch yourself at her, arms cocked back, but this time Meiling's in top form, the slightest widening of narrow eyes the only sign of her alarm as she brings her arms up to shield herself. Your first strike lands hard enough to drive her back. The second is narrowly avoided by a sidestep, but the pace of your blows just keeps increasing as you hit her guard four, five, six, seven eight nine ten eleventwelvethirteenfourteenfifteensixteenseventeeneighteennineteenTWENTY TIMES

EAT A ROUNDHOUSE


She lowers her guard the moment you stop punching, which leaves her critically open for your roundhouse kick to nail her full across the head, sending her pirouetting head-over-feet-over-head-again through the air towards the mansion's walls. Of course, it could never be that easy; she rights herself in-transit, landing on the walls feet-first and kicking right back off, flying towards you at terminal velocity.

Hunkering down and disengaging boosters is what saves you from a fist to the nose, your suit automatically venting a cloud of steam as she flies just overhead. Meiling sails through the mist like it wasn't superheated death, landing in a crouch and springing into a front-flip, tumbling through the air until she lands facing you; an impressive display of acrobatics, you have to admit. Her skin is reddened from the steam, and she's clearly feeling it if that grimace is anything to go off of.

"Dirty trick," she growls out.

"Anything goes, right?" you say.

Her sudden, manic grin promises nothing healthy for you. "Right!"

You're already charging her when she claps her hands together, and she burns golden as chi explodes outwards from her body. Your desperate punch is easily batted aside by one hand, and then her other fist darts out, faster than lightning, to catch you full in the chest.

Holy God, that's a Magnum punch, aaaaaaaaaagh.

She doesn't slow, her lone fist striking at you so fast it's as if she just grew a dozen new arms, all made for the specific purpose of beating your shit in. Every hit that connects sends out a small diamond-shaped crystal for the briefest of moments, the projectiles exploding through your armor with tank-shell force. The last of her flurry has her spin around and ram her entire arm into your face, knocking you stumbling back. She follows it up by jumping high, her whole body twisting as she spins through the air, her leg aglow with rainbow-colored chi as it comes for your head -

And you catch her by the foot.

The explosion of chi rocks you down to your bones, working its way down your arms and spreading through your whole body in a split-second of magical might, but you hold your ground with grit teeth and a strangled growl, and with a great heave of effort throw her back.

Meiling lands with her feet on the rim of the fountain, which she uses as a launching point to fly at you (figuratively) and pound your face in (literally). Reeling from her first barrage, all you can do is watch in horror as she closes the distance, her fist snaking out towards your face.

She connects.

Everything goes white for a second.

...

Huh.

You're pretty sure you were standing upright before, not sprawled out on the ground with an excellent view of the sky.

It takes another second to brush away the mental cobwebs and hop upright, just in time to see Meiling grimace as she shakes her hand. At least she's not glowing any more.

"You'd think I'd learn, shiiiiiiiit," she hisses, flexing her fingers to work some of the sting out.

You lunge for her again before she can recover, bringing a hammer blow down on her head, only for her to catch your hand with one of her own. Repeating the attack with your free hand yields the same result, but you unclench your fingers and interlock them with hers, shifting your blocked punches into a grapple.

The two of you pour as much grit and strength against each other as can be mustered, sweat beading down her forehead as she pushes against you, your suit's boosters providing just enough of an edge to keep you holding steady with her.

"Hey," you grunt, straining what feels like every last muscle in your body to hold Meiling at bay.

"What?" she says through grit teeth.

-----

[X] "Turnabout is fair play, right?" (KISS THE DRAGON LADY)

[X] "Got your nose!" (HEADBUTT THE DRAGON LADY)
>>No. 61206
[X] "Got your nose!" (HEADBUTT THE DRAGON LADY)

When courting a hilariously violent dragon, it is important to remain similarly violent in order to gain her respect. When not courting a hilariously violent dragon, it is important to remain similarly violent in order to not get smote too one-sidedly.
>>No. 61207
[X] "Got your nose!" (HEADBUTT THE DRAGON LADY)

So, Patchouli seems upset.
>>No. 61208
[X] "Turnabout is fair play, right?" (KISS THE DRAGON LADY)

Odd. I only see this option.
>>No. 61209
[X] "Got your nose!" (HEADBUTT THE DRAGON LADY)

I like this Echodog more.
>>No. 61210
[X] "Turnabout is fair play, right?" (KISS THE DRAGON LADY)
>>No. 61211
[X] "Turnabout is fair play, right?" (KISS THE DRAGON LADY)
>>No. 61214
[X] "Got your nose!" (HEADBUTT THE DRAGON LADY)
>>No. 61215
[X] "Turnabout is fair play, right?" (KISS THE DRAGON LADY)

Indiscriminate grappling is the way forward.
>>No. 61218
[X] "Turnabout is fair play, right?" (KISS THE DRAGON LADY)
YES
>>No. 61220
[X] "Turnabout is fair play, right?" (KISS THE DRAGON LADY)

A MAN WHO FIGHTS FAIR HARDLY FIGHTS FAIR AT ALL. THE GENERAL WHO FIGHTS DIRTY GETS THE LATE CHEESE!

SUN TZU SAID THAT, AND MEILING KNOWS SUN TZU. WE FOLLOW SUN TZU, AND WE BEAT THE DRAGON LADY.
>>No. 61222
[X] "Got your nose!" (HEADBUTT THE DRAGON LADY)
>>No. 61223
>>61220

This man is wise

[x] KISS THE DRAGON LADY
>>No. 61224
[X] "Turnabout is fair play, right?" (KISS THE DRAGON LADY)
A true gentleman knows that it's natural that you pay back your earlier favours. That's why this is the least we could do, to show our perfect manners

>>61220
And what the hell? xD
>>No. 61225
[X] "Turnabout is fair play, right?" (KISS THE DRAGON LADY)
>>No. 61227
Yeah, this vote went about as I expected. Calling it here to kiss the dragon lady, folks!
>>No. 61228
>dat Byakuren
>dat Patchouli
>DAT PATCHOULI

God I'm gonna miss this.
>>No. 61230
File 141290792464.png - (71.58KB, 242x267, 1412199428413-0.png) [iqdb]
61230
>Before Remilia can reply, a blur of flailing purple bursts through the doors behind her, leaps over the balcony, lands in a flower patch, clambers up, and lurches towards you, all the while screeching "KILL MAIM BURN KILL BURN MAIM KILL BURN" at an astounding decibel level.
>And then it bursts into flame.
Oh wow.avi
>>No. 61232
I see Patchouli's been playing Dragon's Dogma.
>>No. 61233
[X] "Turnabout is fair play, right?" (KISS THE DRAGON LADY)

Anything to win!
>>No. 61250
File 141315988391.jpg - (188.49KB, 768x1024, image.jpg) [iqdb]
61250
You've been wanting to do this to Meiling for weeks.

"Turnabout is fair play, right?" you say, your visor retracting in a whirr of motion.

Her expression of intense concentration falters for the briefest of moments. "What's that supposed to-"

You close those extra few inches and kiss her full on the mouth. She falters, a shocked noise rumbling up her throat as you press up against her.

Hmm, yep, her lips are just as nice as you remembOH GOD TONGUE

SHE KEEPS ONE-UPPING YOU


Meiling breaks away from kiss and grapple both a few seconds later, leaving you reeling and hungry for air. She winks, smiling lopsidedly. "Don't think you can use my own tricks and get away with it, mister."

You're going to reply with a witticism or, failing that, a headbutt, when a tinny whistling noise splits the air, vaguely akin to a tea kettle boiling over. Looking up reveals-

Oh.

Patchouli's screaming again, eyes bulging out of their sockets as her enraged yelling goes ultrasonic. Remilia's hunched over and cowering, hands pressed against her ears, while Sakuya uses Remilia's umbrella to shield her from sunlight.

"Can you understand anything she's saying?" you whisper to Meiling, not taking your eyes off the witch.

"I think that's just generalized screeching," Meiling replies, her voice filled with quiet awe. "She must have been working out to be able to maintain it that well."

Sakuya, still covering Remilia, withdraws a handkerchief from her dress with her off hand, and leans awkwardly over to Patchouli, whereupon she stuffs the cloth firmly into the witch's mouth. Patchouli merely continues rocking her chair back and forth in apoplectic rage, her vocalizations muffled but no less violent.

Remilia slowly uncovers her ears, her face gaunt with shell-shock. "I... I think an eardrum ruptured," she says, her voice leaden. "Sakuya, please make sure I'm not bleeding?"

Sakuya leans around Remilia, inspecting both sides of her, before she gives her mistress a thumbs-up. "Shall we continue the show, milady?"

"I want to sit down," Remilia says, holding a shaking hand out. Sakuya passes off the umbrella to her, curtsies, and disappears. It's a few moments more before she returns with a chair, setting it behind Remilia just before the vamp's legs give out and she collapses onto it. Sakuya promptly retrieves the umbrella, once again shielding Remilia.

"Are we still good?" Meiling asks, holding a hand high to signal Remilia. The vampire limply flops an arm through the air.

"I guess that's our cue!" you say, visor whirring back into place, and sock Meiling right in the jaw. She staggers back, bringing her arms up in a defensive screen, which just means you lash out with a boot to her knee, dropping her to said knee with a grunt of pain. Your fist flies down on her skull, but she jerks her head aside to dodge by inches and sweeps her leg out, taking your feet out from under you.

You land hard on your back, and roll aside as Meiling brings her fist down where your head was with tile-cracking force. Kicking both legs out at her in rapid succession catches her in the side, sending her reeling away and buying enough time for you to hop upright. She recovers just in time to pull another spinning leg sweep, but you hop over it and send a boot towards her head.

She catches it in both hands.

It's a simple motion for her to toss you over her shoulder, sending you flipping through the air towards the mansion. You smack into the building, rebound, and land back on the tiles on your hands and knees, already rising back up before Meiling can jump you.

Instead, she jumps on you, driving both feet directly into your head.

Your face slams into the ground like someone dropped a nuke on your skull, everything flashing white as your mind tries to process all the pain generally associated with that. When you come out of the haze, you're upright once again, Meiling standing warily a short distance across from you. You shake your head to work out the last of the stars fuzzing up your vision, and briefly wonder how you got back up so quickly.

'I will not allow you to lose so easily," says the AI on your internal comms, swiftly answering that question.

"I was hoping that'd be a knockout," Meiling says, bouncing on her feet as she waits for your move. "No such luck, I suppose."

"After everything you saw me do, you think that would have been enough?" you say. "You're killing me here, figuratively speaking."

It's on that note you hurl yourself at Meiling, boosters kicking on, and she charges to meet you.

Fists smash against each other, and you both reel back a pace before surging onward once more. The two of you start swinging as fast as you can. Neither of you bother blocking, sheer momentum carrying you onward, her missile punches battering your chest with explosive impact as you pummel her ribs with cement-shattering blows.

When the both of you draw back after five seconds of sustained bludgeoning (you kept very close track), you cock an arm back and lunge. Meiling matches you, her teeth grit in a rictus as her punch sails for your head. Your fist brushes her arm on its course, and vice-versa, before it catches her full on the cheek, cracking her head sideways, bloody spittle flying from her mouth.

Her punch nails you full on the nose a millisecond later.

For the third time in a minute, your vision goes white, and the world is falling, falling, falling down.

Breathe.

Blink.

Focus.

Ow.

When you can see clearly again, you're staring at the sky. You prop yourself up on your elbows to see Meiling sprawled out in much the same way, her legs forming arches, chest heaving as she pants for air, sweat trickling down her forehead and blood dripping from the side of her mouth.

"I'm starting to think that getting into this fight without a set victory condition was too hasty," you say, heaving yourself into a sitting position, resting your arms on your upraised knees. You blink a few times, but your vision still isn't clearing up as fast as you'd like.

Meiling sits up, then wipes at her mouth with her fist. She's a disheveled mess, but that doesn't stop her from grinning at you. "Gotta agree."

"Call it a draw?" you venture hopefully.

"I think"-she spits some blood into the grass-"that's a good idea."

Oh thank God.

The tromping of heavy steps alerts you both to the armored fairy arriving on the scene. "Tie!" Karin calls, holding both arms high up.

"Where were you?" you ask. "You just up and disappeared after telling us to start."

"The fact that you need to ask tells me I did my job well," she says, smiling wearily. "Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get some sleep."

That said, her eyes roll up to the back of her head, and she topples onto her face.

You try to find something appropriate to say, but instead settle for a simple, "Huh."

Meiling whistles. "Oh, wow, Patchouli really did a number on her."

"Should we move her?" you say.

"I think she's comfortable enough where she is," says Meiling.

It takes more effort than you're honestly comfortable with to push yourself upright, Meiling quickly following your lead. You close the distance and extend an open hand, one she promptly grasps, and the two of you exchange a manly pumping of fists.

"Let's do that again sometime!" she says, smiling as though you hadn't just beat each other to the ground.

You'd really rather not, but telling her that is a terrible idea. "Right, yeah, that's... yeah. Sure. Looking forward to it."

Clapping echoes through the air, and the two of you break your handshake and turn to see Remilia upright once again. "Consider me impressed!" she says, her beaming smile ample proof of her recovery from Patchouli's ear-bleeding vocalizations. Speaking of, the witch is still screaming, and managed to tip her chair over while you were occupied with Meiling.

"Is she going to stop any time soon, or...?" you say.

Remilia turns on her guest. "Sakuya, put Patchy somewhere she can cool down, if you please?"

Sakuya nods. "Of course, milady." She passes the parasol off to Remilia once more, grabs Patchouli's chair, and maid and witch vanish once again, just like that.

Remilia hops over the balcony, her wings flapping gently as she flutters down and touches feet to tile near you. Once she's landed, the vampire dips down in a half curtsy, unable to make it a full one while still holding her parasol. "Well, now that Patchy's gone, I think you can come inside, sir!"

You dip down in a slight bow. "Thank you kindly, Lady Scarlet."

She lays a hand on her cheek, all faux-surprise. "Ah, goodness, he even remembered the title. We'll make a gentleman out of you yet, you barbarian."

"Right," you say, straightening up again, all business. "In any case, I came to see Flandre. I hear she's not doing so well."

Remilia sobers up at her sister's name. "I wouldn't allow anyone else in there, but maybe you'll have luck where I haven't. Walk with me."

With that, she spins on a heel and heads for the mansion's front door. You start after her, but pause to look back at Meiling.

"Oh, just get going!" she says, waving you on. "I've got a gate to watch anyway, we can talk later."
__________

COMPANION OPTIONS UNLOCKED

COMMENCING YOUNGEST SCARLET EPILOGUE

-----

WHO GOES IN TO VISIT FLANDRE?

[X] Not Man, Not Machine, Just Something In-Between [Solo]

[X] WE CAST FIST [AE, Meiling]

[X] Biggie and Smalls [AE, Remilia]

[X] Smash The State [UNAVAILABLE] [AE, Kyouko]
>>No. 61251
[X] WE CAST FIST [AE, Meiling]

Because Flandre seemed to be into an AE-Meiling romance as much, or even more than the two of them. If something goes wrong, bam makeout session.
>>No. 61252
[X] Biggie and Smalls [AE, Remilia]

Man, that was a damn good fight.
>>No. 61253
[X] Biggie and Smalls [AE, Remilia]

Tide, pissing, et cetera.
>>No. 61254
[X] Biggie and Smalls [AE, Remilia]

Let's get Remilia in here too, both because I like Remilia, and because if we're dealing with Flandre, it only feels right to have Remilia involved.
>>No. 61255
>>61250
[X] WE CAST FIST [AE, Meiling]
Seemed to work well enough last time!
>>No. 61256
[X] WE CAST FIST [AE, Meiling]

This world needs more gatekeeper
>>No. 61257
[X] WE CAST FIST [AE, Meiling]
>>No. 61258
[X] Biggie and Smalls [AE, Remilia]
>>No. 61259
[X] Biggie and Smalls [AE, Remilia]

I'd like to see more of this Remilia.
>>No. 61260
[X] Biggie and Smalls [AE, Remilia]

(USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST)
>>No. 61261
[X] Biggie and Smalls [AE, Remilia]
>>No. 61262
[X] WE CAST FIST [AE, Meiling]

Heh... Finding it hard to win this one with 3 in the lead to Remi but... Hail the fists!!!
>>No. 61263
>>61262
Wait... It's 2 in the lead now. Stupid me
>>No. 61265
[X] SMASHTHESTATE


Since we can't...

[X] Biggie and Smalls [AE, Remilia]
>>No. 61266
[X] WE CAST FIST [AE, Meiling]
>>No. 61268
[X] WE CAST FIST [AE, Meiling]

I refuse to give up.
>>No. 61269
[X] Biggie and Smalls [AE, Remilia]
>>No. 61270
[X] WE CAST FIST [AE, Meiling]
>>No. 61271
[X] Biggie and Smalls [AE, Remilia]
>>No. 61272
[X] WE CAST FIST [AE, Meiling]
Best girl and best imouto lets do this
>>No. 61273
[X] Biggie and Smalls [AE, Remilia]

(USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST)
>>No. 61274
[X] Biggie and Smalls [AE, Remilia]
>>No. 61281
While the FIST contingent put up a valiant effort, they were crushed under the combined weight of Biggie and Smalls. As such, I am calling it here for Ornstein and Smough AE and Remilia.
>>No. 61289
File 141333982869.jpg - (360.09KB, 620x877, sadchina.jpg) [iqdb]
61289
Monsters, how could you do this to Meiling?
>>No. 61293
>>61289
Mistaken belief her sister would be better and/or votespam
>>No. 61296
File 141350055111.jpg - (303.26KB, 1171x1371, image.jpg) [iqdb]
61296
>>61293

>or votespam

>implying implications

Just because your vote didn't win is no reason to sling around baseless accusations of votespam. Cut that shit out.
>>No. 61297
>>61293
This isn't Being Meiling, so her presence won't magically fix every situation. It would be better to have Remilia involved.
>>No. 61302
>>61296

>Just because your vote didn't win is no reason to sling around baseless accusations of votespam

Well, speaking as someone who voted for Remilia, I kinda agree with him. A lot of people turned up all of sudden when compared to the last few votes. You sure you don't want to ask for a votespam check?
>>No. 61303
>>61296
I apologize for the remarks, though it is a bit suspicious how the votes went, but not greviously so.
>>No. 61304
File 141355760211.jpg - (479.06KB, 714x1000, 1404325992089.jpg) [iqdb]
61304
>>61302

I'm just twitchy around votespam accusations because I still remember the incredible shitstorm that surrounded Pleasant Meadows' route lock vote, where more than double the usual amount of votes came in. Someone kept making intentionally inflammatory comments accusing votespam, but when a mod checked it out, everything was legit. These latest votes can easily be explained as people attracted to my recent, relatively speedy update schedule, and lurkers who figured this was a good time to jump in.

Still, it hurts no one to have a mod check this out. I don't think anything will be found, but if there is, we'll all be glad for knowing. I'll see who I can ring up later when I can.

>>61303

Nah, man, I shouldn't have reacted like that, and I'm sorry. I thought you were trying to provoke a shitstorm intentionally, but the fault lies on me for immediately assuming bad intent instead of honest concern.
>>No. 61308
File 14136029503.png - (371.57KB, 1019x1019, 9e5dde2317f4bcd30e39a54fa2541b0b.png) [iqdb]
61308
>>61260
>>61273
Don't vote through Tor, asshats.

Remi still wins, 10 to 9.
>>No. 61309
Huh. I honestly wasn't expecting anything to come up if a mod checked. Somewhat disappointed that Meiling still lost even without those votes, but I'll certainly live.
>>No. 61311
File 14136177642.jpg - (6.40KB, 112x109, 1412554060710-0.jpg) [iqdb]
61311
They voted using the TOR client? Really?

Was wrong with using a proxy, like normal people?
>>No. 61312
Well that was unexpected as hell.
>>No. 61321
File 141366516324.jpg - (67.98KB, 290x705, image.jpg) [iqdb]
61321
>oh hey my thread updated what happen-
>mfw

Well, guess I owe >>61293 another apology! You were right all along, and I'm sorry I doubted you.

I'm definitely glad Remi still won, though, because otherwise I'd have to rewrite pretty much the entire update! That would not be fun.
>>No. 61340
>>61309
She still won route wise though I think.
>>No. 61348
>>61340
I agree, but I'm always up for more Meiling.
>>No. 61349
File 141402866567.jpg - (298.40KB, 1200x950, image.jpg) [iqdb]
61349
"See you later, then," you say, giving Meiling a two-finger salute before you head for Remilia.

"I'll be waiting for you," Meiling calls after you, remarkably chipper after the beatings you gave each other. "Really, I ain't got anywhere else to go. You oughta be worried if I'm not here."

You spare a glance over your shoulder to see her returning to the front gate, and decide it's best to leave her to it. When you fall in step with Remilia, the two of you continue at a relaxed pace towards the mansion's entrance.

Curiosity gets the best of you along the way. "So, any highlights in that fight?"

Remilia looks up at you, her self-satisfied smirk the only part of her face you can see from this angle, the rest shielded by her parasol. "The part where Meiling chi-released and shoved your face in was a personal favorite, I have to admit."

You chuff. "I am offended by your lack of taste, lady."

She shakes her head, curls fluttering with every motion. "I'm just cheering for the home team, sirrah."

She quickens her pace, stepping through the front doors and into the building proper. You follow her lead and find yourself inside a large circular lobby, a pair of spiral staircases leading towards an upper balcony that heads further into the mansion. Remilia spins to face you, her footsteps echoing on the dark marble floor. She folds up her parasol and sets it on a handy rack near the door, then dips into a proper curtsey.

"Allow me to officially welcome you into the Scarlet Devil Mansion," she says, head bowed.

"Wasn't the first one enough?" you say.

"I had to do it properly once the chance presented itself," she says, flashing you a wry smile when she straights up. It's quickly replaced by a serious, businesslike expression. "So, you came to see Flandre, yes? Allow me to show you the way."

There's five separate hallways leading out of this room, each passage spaced an equal distance apart from the others; the spot a figurative sixth hallway would take is instead occupied by the doors you just walked through. Remilia sets off for the hallway directly across from the main doors, and you follow at an easy pace.

The two of you make your way further into the mansion in silence for a short time before the quiet begins to wear at you. "So, before we actually reach Flandre," you say, still walking, "I'd like a bit more detail on how she's doing. Meiling was tight-lipped about her."

Remilia's expression is contemplative for a few moments before she speaks. "Well, she's not leaving her room, of course, but she also isn't letting anyone in. Whenever I go to visit, we talk through the door."

"And she'd not going crazy with nothing to do?" you say. Remilia shoots a glare up at you, and you sheepishly raise your hands in surrender. "Bad choice of words, sorry."

She sighs, turning her attention to the ceiling. "After the first week, she started asking for art supplies, so I've had Sakuya leave some outside her door every now and again. She only unlocks the door when we're gone, so none of us have any idea what she's doing in there."

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" you ask.

She gives you a look of disapproval. "It's a simple enough request; I see no merit in denying it."

Another problem occurs to you. "If she isn't letting anyone in, then what about us?"

Remilia gives her head a perfunctory shake. "I've been respecting her wishes so far, but I do have all the keys."

Ah. That makes sense. You don't have any other questions, so you stuff it.

When you both round a bend in the hallway, Remilia pauses, her face lighting up in aristocratic amusement. "Oh, I believe you'll enjoy this," she says quietly.

You follow her gaze to where three fairy maids are scrubbing a section of tiled floor at an intense pace. The reason for their speed is the brown-skinned hobgoblin wielding a stick twice his size (he stands approximately at your knee, to be precise) marching up and down the line, thumping them whenever one slackens in her work.

"You iz muckin' about!" he says, delivering a sharp thwack to one guilty maid's shins; she yelps, but revisits her work with renewed vigor.

"What's that about?" you whisper, as the goblin continues ranting in his vaguely British accent.

Remilia gestures at the fairies. "You know those imbeciles responsible for the little bird's injuries when last you visited? I conducted a search. Considering that we were attacked by an entirely mechanized force, it wasn't hard to find the ones who had actual blood on them, as opposed to oil or scrap."

"Makes sense," you say. "They aren't very bright, are they?"

Remilia bobs her head from side to side in amusement. "And for once, I'm glad of it."

The fairies are so preoccupied with their stick-toting overlord that they completely fail to notice the two of you standing nearby. One of them is visibly grumbling beneath her breath when the hobgoblin isn't looking, but his sense of hearing is evidently sharp as he turns, stick raised to deliver righteous punishment. That's when he spots the two of you. A sharp-toothed grin spreads across his face as he nods in acknowledgement, then gently taps the offending fairy with his cudgel.

"You'z a pretty mouthy one, ain't ya?" says the goblin.

The maid in question spins on the goblin, murder in her eyes and sponge held ready to aid her attempt. "I'm going to strangle you, you stupid, inbred, overgrown"-she spots Remilia-"hello Mistress."

Her grin is plastic as she straightens up, but it does absolutely nothing to conceal the fear in her eyes. The other maids don't dare look up, content to clean while their compatriot faces doom.

"And a hello to you too, miss," says Remilia all too cheerfully, slowly pacing towards the maid. She stops a foot away, looming over the girl by a full head in height, and presses her lips together as she looks her up and down. "I do hope you weren't thinking of doing anything... regrettable, were you?"

"Of course not, Mistress," squeaks the maid, shrinking underneath Remilia's calm stare.

Vampire and fairy maintain eye contact for a solid twenty seconds, the maid trembling more and more with every passing moment, before Remilia nods and turns away. "Carry on, then. Keep it up just for another, oh, six days or so, and you'll get to go back on your normal schedule."

The maid all but throws herself back to work, scrubbing at the floor as though it had killed her parents. "Thank you, Mistress!"

"Job's a good'un, Boss," the hobgoblin says, tipping an invisible cap at his employer. "You wanting anything else, or are we good 'ere?"

"Just keep doing what you're doing," Remilia says, walking away as she talks. "I'm going to resume showing our guest around."

"Right!" He turns back on the fairies. "Oi, get back into it!"

You're quiet as you accompany Remilia onwards, mulling over that encounter and what seemed wrong with it. Finally, once you're out of their earshot, you figure it out.

"I have never been so utterly ignored in my life," you say, vaguely insulted. "It's not like I'm hard to miss, either."

"Such is the power of me being too scary for the fairies to handle," Remilia says, smiling up at you with malicious satisfaction.

"Is that why you're still employing those three?" you say, suddenly grateful to be on her good side.

Her expression softens. "They're... malicious, no doubt about it, but at the same time, they're really just a group of idiots. Some hard work and me looming overhead whenever they complain should be enough to rehabilitate them, I hope."

"Ah. Well, it's not like you can loom over any-"

"Finish the short joke and I will kick you directly in the balls," she trills, her threat delivered with melodic sweetness.

You briefly consider the effects of such an action, and reflexively cringe. "That, uh, was the farthest thing from my mind. Honest."

She smiles again, utterly free of any malice. "Of course."

-----

You reach the basement entrance after about fifteen minutes of sustained walking. The metal doors are bound with lock and chain, because of course they are, but you have Remilia to handle those. All it takes is a simple flick of the wrist, and all the bindings vanishing into the ether in a shower of sparks. She wrenches the doors open with ease, then stands aside.

"Well, here we are," she says, only the slightest touch of uncertainty in her voice. "You're sure you want to go down there?"

"I wouldn't be here if I wasn't," you say.

She nods, and offers you her hand. "Of course, of course. Well, shall we?"

You stare at it.

"It's a hand," she says, teasingly. "It's not going to kill you to take it."

You raise your pointer finger. "The last time I did that, you flew through the mansion at mach speed with me flailing in the air behind you."

"Well, that was then, and this is now." Her wings flare out, growing to three times their usual size; her wingspan is more than the stairwell can accommodate. "And as you can see, it's too cramped down there for me to fly around without smashing you into everything. You need not worry."

You roll your eyes, but take her hand in one of yours and descend. She keeps a firm grip on it as she leads you down, carefully making her way down one step at a time. It's not like they're precarious steps, either, but Remilia treads on them like they could crumble in a soft breeze.

You sigh. "I don't live forever, unlike you, Remilia. Can we hurry it up?"

She stops, brows furrowed and lips pursed. "Ah. Yes, of course."

"Is there a problem?"

"No!" She glares up at you for a few seconds, before her expression deflates to something morose. "...All right, yes. I suppose I'm worried, just a little."

"Flandre's been good for your previous visits," you point out. "I don't think she'll kill us this time, either."

Remilia irritably waves you off with her free hand. "It's just I've no idea what we'll see on there. And it's been a long time since Flandre's been this depressed. I'm... I'm not sure what I'll say to her."

You shrug. "Well, waffling about like this only delays the inevitable. Let's just get it done."

She gives your words due consideration for a few moments, then nods decisively, her eyes taking a hard edge. "I suppose you have a point. Come on, then!"

She starts going down at a rapid clip, much more your style. At this pace, you reach the bottom of the stairwell in quick order, before Remilia starts pulling you along dimly lit corridors, twists and turns aplenty complicating your path. You're glad to have a guide for this, make no mistake, because whoever designed this labyrinth deserves a punch to the junk.

-----

Your ultimate destination, it turns out, is a lonely steel door at the end of a long, straight corridor, wall-mounted lanterns casting a dull yellow tint across the white walls.

"Ominous," you say dryly, glancing about as you and Remilia walk onward. "Is there a reason for that room being all the way back there, or did your architect just decide to waste a bunch of good space for dramatic effect?"

"It means Flandre needs to cover more ground before reaching the mansion proper," Remilia says, very softly. "Gives everyone more time to prepare, in case of a breach."

"How would you even know she's broken out?" you ask.

"Patchouli devised some alarm wards." She leaves it at that, and you cover the rest of the way wordlessly.

Once you reach the door, you spy a small metal knocker attached to the center. Remilia releases her grip on your hand, then grabs the thing and raps it against the door several times. "Flandre?" she says, still in that same gentle tone. "Is it all right if I come in?"

The answering silence rings in your ears.

Remilia nods, already having made up her mind. "I will take that as a yes, then."

She raps her knuckles against the door in a short little tune, and it gleams brightly for a moment before the light dissipates. She reaches for the doorknob, but stops with her hand hovering inches away, and she takes a deep breath before she grabs it.

"Here we go," she says, and opens the door. The darkness within is driven back by sickly tendrils of lamplight. You both step into the blackness, and Remilia quietly claps her hands together.

The room's lamps burst to life.
>>No. 61350
File 14140288802.jpg - (281.34KB, 1500x1000, image.jpg) [iqdb]
61350
There are just so many colors that you and Remilia both double-take. The walls are coated with every spectrum of the rainbow, although there's more red than all the rest. All sorts of art supplies are scattered across the room, paint-rollers and brushes and buckets left about seemingly at random, an easel at the corner of the room with dozens upon dozens of used canvases stacked up next to it, and more miscellaneous items not worth mentioning.

For all the chaos on the walls, the rest of the room is nigh-spotless, including the four-poster bed at the center. There's a Flandre-shaped lump under the blanket, which you can tell is her because of the wings jutting upward, straining against the fabric. The bundle shifts and stirs, until one deeply tired crimson eye peeks out at you from underneath the blanket. Flandre looks between you and Remilia, not so much as blinking, for a handful of seconds before an arm dislodges the blanket atop her, revealing a head of messy hair and bare shoulders.

"You got him to come back, sis?" she says, her voice little more than a whisper.

"I'm doing this on my own time, actually," you say, folding your arms.

"Are you here to punch everyone again?" she says, giving you a tiny smile. "I don't know why you'd be wearing that suit if you weren't."

"Only Meiling, and even then only because she wanted me to," you say, trying to impart an air of casual carelessness to keep Flandre at ease. "It was great; we beat each other up, and there was magic involved, and also I got punched in the face. Good times!"

Flandre looses an exhausted giggle that fails utterly at expressing happiness. "Sounds fun. You're looking a lot better after-" She cuts herself off, her smile disappearing.

"I see you've been keeping busy, huh?" you say, looking around the room in a desperate attempt to change the topic. "Gotta say, I like your interior decorating. Pretty lively stuff. My place looks really dull in comparison."

That perks her up, both figuratively and literally as she jolts upright, throwing the blankets off her pajama-clad form. Any traces of weariness have fled her face, overcome by a wave of excitement. "You like it? Both of you?"

"Of course, Flandre," Remilia says, finally getting a word in between you and Flandre. "It's very... very colorful." She winces at her poor finish, but Flandre either doesn't notice or doesn't care.

Speaking of, Flandre holds a hand over her mouth as something occurs to her. "Do- do you want to look at some of the other things I've done?"

"Definitely!" Remilia says, giving her sister a winsome smile, "It would be lovely."

"Have to agree on that one," you say. "Hit us with your best."

Flandre flings her arms up, beaming widely. "Right! Just gimme a bit to get everything, and we can get started!"

She launches herself out of bed, hustling over to her easel and stacked paintings, and begins grabbing as many as she can carry.

You lean over to Remilia. "She seems to be doing well," you whisper.

"Surprisingly so," Remilia whispers back, although she still looks faintly uncertain. "I didn't expect her to be so enthusiastic, I'll say that much."

Flandre hurries back to you, all smiles as she shuffles through her paintings. "Right, you guys ready? Here, let's start with these!"

And then she begins showing them to you, and all your good feelings run screaming from your body. Every sheet she displays involves her inflicting some variety of deranged violence on a number of recurring characters: You, Meiling, and the enemy mercenaries feature most prominently among them, but there are also irregular appearances of Sakuya, Remilia, and, in one particularly disturbing example of disembowelment, Flandre herself.

"And then there's this, and this, and that, and this too!" she says, flipping through the pieces at an astounding rate. She looks up at you, pausing with her latest work held high in one hand, the other cradling the rest. "Do you like them? I've been working on each one so, so hard!"

"They're... great, Flandre," Remilia says, a dull horror hanging over her as she stares at a portrait of Flandre tearing her head off. "But, ah, why this particular content?"

Flandre grins, all manic, frail cheer that doesn't reach her eyes. "Oh, these? These are all the ways I could be awful! But if I paint it, that means it's done! I don't have to really do it, because I already put it on the canvas!"

"Flandre," you say, incredibly grateful she can't see your face at this moment, "I didn't think to ask before, but are you feeling well?"

Flandre winks at you, terribly cheerful. "I'm fine! I really am! I mean, sure, I murdered a bunch of guys in really scary and nasty ways, but that's in the past! See, as long as I'm painting here, no one gets hurt, and if no one gets hurt, that means I'm not a bad person."

Remilia looks like she intensely regrets this whole venture, but gamely presses on regardless. "Flan, dear, I think it might be time for you to come upstairs? I'm sure Meiling and everyone else would love to see you again."

Flandre emphatically shakes her head, setting her paintings down in one tidy stack on the floor before turning back to you. "Oh, no, sis! I'm just gonna stay riiiiiiiiiiight here, where it's nice and safe. I've got you coming around, and when you're not here, I've got me! I'm not lonely, see?"

A clone tears out of Flandre's chest, landing in a crouch at her feet, and she hauls it up and hugs it close. The copy is completely expressionless, and makes no move to reciprocate the gesture.

"You killed those people," it says, toneless as a deaf man. "It was all your fault."

"Shut up!" Flandre says, still clinging to that immensely brittle faux-happiness. "Just shut up and let me hold you, all right?"

It frowns. "I don't see why you deserve it."

Flandre goes very, very still for all of a heart-stopping second, her sickly smile frozen in place, before she twists the clone's neck all the way around in one swift motion, and the copy dissolves into nothing in an instant.

Flandre looks back at you, still holding that awful smile up. "You didn't see that. That didn't happen. I'm not a bad person. I'm not."

You raise your hands, palms out, in a hopefully placating gesture. "No one ever said you were, Flandre."

The smile finally drops off her face, leaving only utterly hopeless despair. "So why do I feel like one?"

You and Remilia both take a step forward, but Flandre edges away in response. "Look," you say, keeping your hands up. "You were out of control, yes, but that sort of thing happens when you lose half your body mass to being blasted apart. That doesn't reflect on you personally, Flandre."

Flandre keeps backing up, and wraps her arms around herself. "I shouldn't have shown you my paintings. I shouldn't have made them in the first place. Even- even in those, all I'm good at is hurting people."

Remilia is starting to tremble, clasping her hands tight enough that her knuckles begin popping. "That's- stop it with this nonsense, Flan, it's not true!"

Flandre sits down on her bed, her eyes kept on the floor. "I think you'd be better off without your horrible sister, wouldn't you, Remi?"

Remilia looks like the bottom just dropped out of her soul. Before Flandre can say or do anything else, Remilia's on her, hooking her arms around Flandre in a hug tight enough to make her gasp.

"Stop it, Flan," Remilia whispers tremulously. "Please, please, please stop doing this to yourself."

"Remi?" Flandre says, surprise having gotten the better of her to, however temporarily, keep the forces of depression at bay.

Remilia pulls back, the better to lay her hands on Flandre's shoulders. "You're the only family I have, so don't you dare think such terrible things about yourself, you silly, wonderful girl." She leans in again, hugging her sister once more. "I love you. Nothing you do could ever change that."

"But I- I killed people, Remi," Flandre says, confusion writ large across her face. "I killed people! I nearly killed Meiling!"

And she also beat the piss out of you, but you don't feel that's a good thing to say right now.

"Should that change how I feel about you?" Remilia asks. "Because I don't think it does." She kisses Flandre on the forehead, smiling gently at the blonde's shocked expression. "No, what you did wasn't right, or good, or anything like that. But if you think I would ever, ever stop caring about you, even after that, I'm more than happy to prove you wrong."

"...Really?" Flandre asks, looking like she thinks this is too good to be true. "You really mean that?"

"Of course!" Remilia's growing more excited with every passing moment. "Now, you and I are going to stay here, and we'll have tea, and you can paint something nice for everyone, and we can get rid of all those nasty old pictures you made, and we can talk about whatever you want. Doesn't that sound fun?"

"It... does," Flandre says, a touch of uncertainty still lingering in her voice. Her eyes drift over to you, and Remilia twists to follow her lead. "But what about him?"

You raise your hands in surrender. "There is a time and a place for a giant spook man to be lurking about, and it is not during family bonding time. It was nice seeing you again, Flandre, but I think I'll show myself out."

"Wait!" Flandre says, stopping you before you could start. "Before you go, you're- what happened to the rest of those people? The ones who I-" She clams up. Remilia shoots you a warning look.

"The survivors have been taken into custody," you say, "and they've been shipped out of Gensokyo for proper sentencing."

That seems to be the answer she wanted to hear, given her expression brightens considerably. "So they're alive, right? They're- they aren't hurting?"

"Of course," you say.

She nods decisively. "Right, that's good." Her expression grows bashful, and she looks away. "Um."

"Yes?" you ask.

"Are you gonna keep hitting on Meiling?"

"Oh, absolutely," you say, not missing a beat. "In fact, I'm going to go do that right now, so if you'll excuse me?"

Flandre smiles, just a little, when she looks back up. "It'll give you an excuse to stop by again, too."

"That too," you admit.

Remilia makes a shooing gesture at you. "Just let someone know I'm down here and Sakuya will take care of the rest."

You turn to leave, spreading your arms wide and flicking your wrists out in a careless fashion. "Here's hoping the dragon lady doesn't eat me, folks."

On that line, you step outside and set to closing the door; a little laugh from Flandre slips through before you shut it all the way.

That was a mixture of horrible and heartwarming, and you're happy to leave Remilia to it.
__________

You got one last thing to do here, regarding Meiling.

[X] You did ask her out to dinner a couple weeks back; things were busy, what with an army of robots shooting everyone, but you think now's a good time to collect.

[X] While it's been fun, you've no real idea of when, or indeed if, an order to redeploy might come from on high. Don't push your luck.
>>No. 61351
[X] You did ask her out to dinner a couple weeks back; things were busy, what with an army of robots shooting everyone, but you think now's a good time to collect.
>>No. 61352
[X] You did ask her out to dinner a couple weeks back; things were busy, what with an army of robots shooting everyone, but you think now's a good time to collect.

AIN'T NEVER SEEN A FAT NIGGA PASS UP FREE FOOD

AND AE IS THE FATTEST NIGGA
>>No. 61353
[X] You did ask her out to dinner a couple weeks back; things were busy, what with an army of robots shooting everyone, but you think now's a good time to collect.

Aw man. Flandre needs all of the hugs in the world.
>>No. 61354
>>61352
Hi Rabbit
>>No. 61355
[X] You did ask her out to dinner a couple weeks back; things were busy, what with an army of robots shooting everyone, but you think now's a good time to collect.
>>No. 61356
[X] You did ask her out to dinner a couple weeks back; things were busy, what with an army of robots shooting everyone, but you think now's a good time to collect.
>>No. 61357
[X] You did ask her out to dinner a couple weeks back; things were busy, what with an army of robots shooting everyone, but you think now's a good time to collect.

Ow my heart. Well done, Sights. You continue to wound me in ways that I can't help but appreciate.
>>No. 61358
[X] You did ask her out to dinner a couple weeks back; things were busy, what with an army of robots shooting everyone, but you think now's a good time to collect.

Ow, my heart. Clear Your Sights, please never use your power for evil.
>>No. 61359
[X] You did ask her out to dinner a couple weeks back; things were busy, what with an army of robots shooting everyone, but you think now's a good time to collect.

Daw~
At first, I was sad that Meiling wasn't going to join us in the cellar with Flandre, but honestly... Now I think going down there wis Remilia was really the right choice. Good job, heartbreaking sister love gets us all! <3
>>No. 61372
Sometimes I wonder why I even leave it up to a vote, given the answer to "More Meiling?" is always "YES"

Anyway, consider it called here.

>>61357
>>61358

You say that like I haven't already! While I haven't inflicted any so far, I find the occasional Bad End fun to write and store away. But don't worry, AE and company are in the clear for what's left of this story.

>>61359

Flandre means the world to Remilia, as has been seen, so it was a good call to make. Plus, they're great fun to write together!
>>No. 61394
File 141446567442.jpg - (352.46KB, 1500x1700, image.jpg) [iqdb]
61394
"So, we made some serious progress down there," you say, leaning against the wall by the gate, you and Meiling flanking the steel beast.

Meiling is perfectly content to match you, cap tugged down over her eyes. "That's good to hear. Mind telling me what happened, or is that something Remilia wants private?"

"I think you'll be happier just knowing we got through to her," you say. "Honestly, I was a third wheel there. Remilia's the one who did all the hard work."

Meiling raises a hand. "But you coming here was still the catalyst to get Remilia in there in the first place. I'm sure it would have happened eventually, but you gave her that extra push."

"Fair enough," you say. "Now, I seem to remember asking you out for lunch a couple weeks back, before we both got electrocuted by robots. Is now finally a good time?"

Meiling doesn't immediately reply, instead lifting her hat up so she can glance at you. "...Well, I have been stocking up on vacation time." Her eyes drift upward, expression shifting in thought. After a few seconds, she shrugs. "What the hell, let's do it."

"Any suggestions on where to go?" you say.

Her eyebrows twist in a way you didn't know was possible until just now. "You ask me out and don't even have a destination in mind?"

"I'm just a poor, sheltered boy in a strange, unfamiliar land," you say sardonically, spreading your hands in mock-helplessness. "I beg you, the wise and mighty Hong Meiling, to assist me."

She turns her nose up. "Only so long as you're paying for the meal."

"Gladly."

Meiling nods benevolently, folding her arms over her midsection as she deems you worthy of her sight. "Well, I know of this little lamprey place. You've met the owner already."

You briefly run through a mental catalogue of people that fit that criteria. "Mystia, correct? You sure she'll be happy to see you after what happened to her here?"

Meiling smiles. "Money heals all wounds. Besides, what happened isn't on me."

"Give you that much. You know where she's set up?"

Meiling scans the distance across the lake, squinting as though through a pair of binoculars. "The lady's pretty mobile, but she has a few friends I'm sure will help us out."

-----

It takes half an hour, a fairy abduction, and Meiling conducting the swiftest interrogation you've ever witnessed, but you and her find yourselves at the lakeside 'Lorelei Lamprey And Assorted Food' stand, the title written across a banner that hangs over the front desk. It gets the point across, you guess, but there are definitely snappier titles out there. It's a small place, its three wooden walls and counter just roomy enough to house a kitchen and assorted cookware. There's a set of five stools in front of the stand, and an awning extending several feet out over the seats to shield both owner and customer from obnoxious weather.

Of course, all that means nothing without a cook to operate it; fortunately, Mystia is looking much healthier than last you saw her, and the brown-robed woman is currently leaning against her inactive stove, idly leafing through a newspaper. The only other person there is a small girl with icy wings, short blue hair, and a matching dress, who is enthusiastically devouring a bowl of soup.

"Miss Lorelei?" you say, clasping your hands together behind your back.

While the fairy customer pays no attention, Mystia snaps the paper shut and sets it aside in one smooth motion, beaming up at you and Meiling. Her eyes widen just the tiniest bit when recognition hits, but she smiles even harder to compensate.

"Hello!" she says, and gestures at the stools. "Please, sit, sit!"

You give the nearest seat a closer look, decide it would only carry your weight by the grace of God, and raise your hands in apology. "You don't want me to do that if you like your seats intact."

The fairy deems it time to spin in her chair and look you over. She squints exaggeratedly at you, then nods as she comes to a conclusion.

"Betcha it's cause yer fat," she says.

Meiling, smiling, takes her own seat. "Yea, a great landwhale approacheth, and he shall crush all 'neath his path. So says the book of prophecy."

"I work hard to stay in shape!" you say, legitimately offended.

The fairy shakes her head. "Wow, yeah, I bet eating all those chicken legs is really hard." She smiles brightly at you. "Just like your arteries!"

You growl. "If you don't cut this out, I'll-"

"Eat me?" she asks, twirling chopsticks about deftly between her fingers.

"Y-no." You grimace at your slip-up.

Meiling slaps a hand against her cheek. "Way to walk into that one, man."

"Anyway," the fairy says, poking her chopsticks at you. "You are huge. That means you have a huge gut."

"You want to have a go, is that it?" you ask, rolling up imaginary sleeves for effect. "I'll smack you in the mouth, you little-"

She rolls her eyes. "Like you could even swing at me without having a heart attack."

"Cirno, please stop insulting my customer before I throw you out," Mystia says, her smile unwavering as she glares at the fairy.

"S'true," Cirno says, pouting defiantly, before she returns to eating.

Shaking your head, you pick a stool up and set it aside, fold your arms on the counter, and lean on that instead. The stand creaks, but holds. Cirno whispers something beneath her breath, no doubt insulting, and chuckles.

"So," Meiling says, glancing up at the menu hanging by a piece of string from the awning. "How's business?"

"Well enough," Mystia replies, glad for a distraction from the fairy irritant. "Can I take your orders, or do you want some time to decide?"

You look the menu over. "I've never had lamprey before. Get me a plate, please."

Cirno can't resist raising her voice. "Better bolt everything down, Mysty, or he'll suck up the rest of your food too."

"Is that really what you're going to do?" you ask, clenching your fists. "Just sit there and crack jokes?"

Cirno's smile is anything but innocent. "Yyyyyup."

Meiling chooses now to clear her throat, narrowly averting fairy homicide. "I'll also take some lamprey, please?"

Mystia nods decisively. "Right! If that's all, payment up front."

You fish out some coinage from a tactical pouch and hand it over; Mystia gratefully accepts, makes change for you, and hustles back into the kitchen to get your order going.

"So," Meiling says, quickly filling the quiet before Cirno can. "When you flew off last time, that friend of yours?"

"Kyouko," you supply. Mystia's feathery ears prick up, but she keeps working.

Meiling smacks a palm on the counter in pleased recognition. "Right! We had time to talk for a bit before she took off. She likes you."

"I figured as much when she asked if we could be friends," you say.

"Yes, but I mean she likes you." Meiling winks to cap it off.

Ah. Ah.

"The classic 'rescue crush,' eh?" you say. "Not the first time I've been responsible for one."

"I'm thinking literally, in this case," Cirno says. "How many of her bones did you break in the process?"

She immediately ducks as Mystia spins around, cudgel in hand, and swings, narrowly misses taking the fairy's head off.

"Quit it," Mystia haughtily declares, returning to work. Cirno merely snickers.

"Moving on!" Meiling says. "Just out of curiosity, how d'ya like your women? Muscly enough to bodyslam you, or slender enough they snap in half if you breathe on them?"

"Round would be my guess, Meiling," Cirno interjects.

You turn on her, ready to throttle the little twit. "Christ, girl, do you ever shut up?"

"Order up!" Mystia says, plunking a pair of lamprey-laden plates down in front of you and Meiling. She follows with the cutlery, metal knives and forks for each of you. Food takes precedent over smartass fairy, and you settle back onto the counter.

"To answer your question, Meiling," you say, your visor retracting as you grab your silverware. "Why can't I have both?"

Meiling snorts. "I like monogamy, thanks. Call it traditional Chinese values."

"That was exactly what I was implying, and damn you for crushing a man's hopes so thoroughly."

"Of course you'd want two big armfuls," Cirno says.

You grunt, firmly ignoring that damn tempting urge to pick up the entire stand and use it to bludgeon Cirno. "So what are you getting at with this, anyway?"

Meiling spears a forkful of lamprey and devours it before continuing. "Just trying to figure out where you stand with her. I can't deny you got my interest, big guy, but at the same time, she's a real cutie. I figure she deserves a fair shake."

"...Real cutie?" you say, divvying your meal up into little pieces. It's a fair assessment, but still bizarre to hear coming from Meiling. "Just how long did you talk with her to get that impression?"

"She had time to spare before she left, and we had common ground in you." She shrugs. "First impressions aren't always accurate, sure, but she's good people from what I saw."

"What did you talk about?" you ask, and swallow the first piece of your meal. It's... certainly something, you'll give it that.

Her smirk is the smuggest, most infuriating thing you've ever witnessed, which is really quite impressive. "Wouldn't you like to know?"

Women.

Meiling pushes her plate away, and twists to face you, resting one arm on the counter. "Anyway, moment of truth. If you really had to pick, who'd you go for? No hard feelings if it's not me."

"Way to spring a loaded question on me, woman," you say, and take another bite of lamprey to buy yourself time.
__________

This vote is exactly what you think it is. No takebacks.

[X] Meiling is an amazing fighter, blunt and beautiful and carved out of pure muscle to top it off. You'd rather have no one else at your side, even if she's pretty rough. Also, God Almighty, those legs.

[X] Kyouko was the first friendly face you saw, she's absolutely adorable, and you doubt anyone else you'd meet would be nearly as nice as her. You have no doubt she'd always have your back, and that counts for a whole lot.

[X] Actually, you're gay.
>>No. 61395
[X] Meiling is an amazing fighter, blunt and beautiful and carved out of pure muscle to top it off. You'd rather have no one else at your side, even if she's pretty rough. Also, God Almighty, those legs.
-[X]Dragon waifu
>>No. 61396
[X] Kyouko was the first friendly face you saw, she's absolutely adorable, and you doubt anyone else you'd meet would be nearly as nice as her. You have no doubt she'd always have your back, and that counts for a whole lot.
>>No. 61397
[c] Kyouko was the first friendly face you saw, she's absolutely adorable, and you doubt anyone else you'd meet would be nearly as nice as her. You have no doubt she'd always have your back, and that counts for a whole lot.

The votes are killing me. Damn.
>>No. 61398
[X] YOU'RE GAY

STRIKETHROUGH OPTION? VOTING FOR IT, THAT'S HOW WE GOT REVERSE TENTACLE FEMDOM
>>No. 61399
[23:20] <ClearSights> fug u rab
[23:20] <Rablet> Look nigga
[23:20] <ClearSights> don't make me write mansex
[23:20] <Rablet> Now you feel my pain
[23:20] <ClearSights> i'll do it too
[23:20] <ClearSights> I'll totally do it
[23:20] <Rablet> EVEN MORE ENCOURAGEMENT
>>No. 61400
[X] Kyouko was the first friendly face you saw, she's absolutely adorable, and you doubt anyone else you'd meet would be nearly as nice as her. You have no doubt she'd always have your back, and that counts for a whole lot.

She's cool and all but there's plenty of Meiling in other stories. Echodog is rare.
>>No. 61401
[X] Kyouko was the first friendly face you saw, she's absolutely adorable, and you doubt anyone else you'd meet would be nearly as nice as her. You have no doubt she'd always have your back, and that counts for a whole lot.

Meiling has an entire 120000 page story devoted to her. Kyouko does not.

If this wins it'll be the best upset ever.
>>No. 61402
[X] Meiling is an amazing fighter, blunt and beautiful and carved out of pure muscle to top it off. You'd rather have no one else at your side, even if she's pretty rough. Also, God Almighty, those legs.

Meiling end? Meiling end.
>>No. 61404
[X] Actually, you're gay.

Yeah I can't not pick this. I know it won't win, but fuck man the sheer potential is enough.
>>No. 61405
[X] Actually, you're gay.

If someone else is going to do it, then so will I.
>>No. 61406
[X] Kyouko was the first friendly face you saw, she's absolutely adorable, and you doubt anyone else you'd meet would be nearly as nice as her. You have no doubt she'd always have your back, and that counts for a whole lot.

>No Remilia option
>>No. 61407
[X] Actually, you're gay.

DO EET FAGET.
>>No. 61408
[X] Kyouko was the first friendly face you saw, she's absolutely adorable, and you doubt anyone else you'd meet would be nearly as nice as her. You have no doubt she'd always have your back, and that counts for a whole lot.
>>No. 61409
[X] Meiling is an amazing fighter, blunt and beautiful and carved out of pure muscle to top it off. You'd rather have no one else at your side, even if she's pretty rough. Also, God Almighty, those legs.

Welcome to /sdm/ where Meiling's always overlooked (Being Meiling doesn't count)
>>No. 61410
>>61401
this is /sdm/, not /shrine/ or /th/ and it doesn't count as it was railroaded yuri and she was the main character.
>>No. 61411
>>61409
Literally what?

> /sdm/ ignores Meiling except for the story starring her, and this story with her as the inevitable star love interest.

Sure thing.
>>No. 61412
>>61410
> It doesn't count because of my own arbitrary reasons.
>>No. 61413
>>61411
tell that to the Kyouko voters, they seem to have missed that memo.
>>No. 61414
The nice thing about voting in a story is being able to vote for what appeals to you. Despite this being set in the SDM, Kyouko interests me more than Meiling does in the end.
>>No. 61415
[X] Meiling is an amazing fighter, blunt and beautiful and carved out of pure muscle to top it off. You'd rather have no one else at your side, even if she's pretty rough. Also, God Almighty, those legs.
>>No. 61417
I apologize for my remarks as they were made made hastily. I've been reading stories here and let's just say Meiling doesn't really win most of them. And when I see her get blatantly overlooked, I'm reminded of all those times.

once again I'm sorry for my remarks.
>>No. 61418
>>61417
Well, if we're apologizing, then I'll go ahead and say that as the one greentexting you, we're chill.

Also looking back, my responses were pretty rude. It's your tastes and preferences in stories, not mine after all. Sorry.
>>No. 61419
[X] Kyouko was the first friendly face you saw, she's absolutely adorable, and you doubt anyone else you'd meet would be nearly as nice as her. You have no doubt she'd always have your back, and that counts for a whole lot.

So god damn tempted to vote gay.
>>No. 61420
[X] Kyouko was the first friendly face you saw, she's absolutely adorable, and you doubt anyone else you'd meet would be nearly as nice as her. You have no doubt she'd always have your back, and that counts for a whole lot.

I adore Meiling, but Echodog is calling out to me right now. Although we're going to have to earn the acceptance of Aunt Byakuren.
>>No. 61421
[X] Actually, you're gay.

I'm afraid of AE smothering either Kyouko or Meiling with his fat. No one should experience that kind of torture. This is the most humane option.
>>No. 61422
[X] Kyouko was the first friendly face you saw, she's absolutely adorable, and you doubt anyone else you'd meet would be nearly as nice as her. You have no doubt she'd always have your back, and that counts for a whole lot.

I love Meiling, but something about Kyouko in this story just grabs at me. Maybe it's the sweetness combined with the attitude. I just gotta go with her.

Also, her thing is echoes and vibrations. Just imagine oral from her.
>>No. 61423
[X] Meiling is an amazing fighter, blunt and beautiful and carved out of pure muscle to top it off. You'd rather have no one else at your side, even if she's pretty rough. Also, God Almighty, those legs.
>>No. 61424
[x] Dragon girl
>>No. 61426
[X] Kyouko was the first friendly face you saw, she's absolutely adorable, and you doubt anyone else you'd meet would be nearly as nice as her. You have no doubt she'd always have your back, and that counts for a whole lot.
>>No. 61427
[X] Kyouko was the first friendly face you saw, she's absolutely adorable, and you doubt anyone else you'd meet would be nearly as nice as her. You have no doubt she'd always have your back, and that counts for a whole lot.

Never not echodog
>>No. 61429
[X] Actually, you're gay.
>>No. 61430
[X] Kyouko was the first friendly face you saw, she's absolutely adorable, and you doubt anyone else you'd meet would be nearly as nice as her. You have no doubt she'd always have your back, and that counts for a whole lot.

Because best girl, that's why.
>>No. 61431
>[X] Meiling is an amazing fighter, blunt and beautiful and carved out of pure muscle to top it off. You'd rather have no one else at your side, even if she's pretty rough. Also, God Almighty, those legs.

As tempting as it is to vote for the manflesh and XCOM selfcest orgy, the dragon lady is just too good an option.
I also never really saw Kyouko as a romantic option, but I guess that was just me. Or maybe it's her appearance. I like women who are actually full-grown.
>>No. 61432
>>61419
THEN YOU SHOULD HAVE VOTED FOR IT, FAGGOT
>>No. 61433
[X] Meiling is an amazing fighter, blunt and beautiful and carved out of pure muscle to top it off. You'd rather have no one else at your side, even if she's pretty rough. Also, God Almighty, those legs.
>>No. 61434
[X] Meiling is an amazing fighter, blunt and beautiful and carved out of pure muscle to top it off. You'd rather have no one else at your side, even if she's pretty rough. Also, God Almighty, those legs.

Wonder if this post will even make that much of a difference= Taking all of those Kyouko votes into account. Ahh, god darn it
>>No. 61436
[X] Meiling is an amazing fighter, blunt and beautiful and carved out of pure muscle to top it off. You'd rather have no one else at your side, even if she's pretty rough. Also, God Almighty, those legs.

I feel like I want to post a whynotboth.gif, but decisions must be made, and decide I must, so Meiling is a go. also Meiling smut when
>>No. 61437
File 141453272771.jpg - (66.28KB, 625x565, image.jpg) [iqdb]
61437
ALL RIGHT YOU BUNCH OF JOKERS VOTING FOR A STRIKETHROUGH FAKE OPTION

I'M DAMN WELL GONNA OBLIGE YA

IN RETURN FOR THE SHORT I WILL WRITE, ALL I ASK IS THAT YOU ACTUALLY VOTE FOR A GIRL THIS TIME

LINK YOUR ORIGINAL VOTE FOR THE GAY WHEN YOU DO IT SO I KNOW IT'S LEGIT
>>No. 61438
[X] Kyouko was the first friendly face you saw, she's absolutely adorable, and you doubt anyone else you'd meet would be nearly as nice as her. You have no doubt she'd always have your back, and that counts for a whole lot.

I can still vote if I didn't go for gay, right?
>>No. 61440
>>61438

DEFINITELY

VOTES ARE STILL OPEN FOR EVERYONE, DON'T BE DISCOURAGED
>>No. 61441
>>61405
Final answer: Meiling.
>>No. 61442
>>61437
You are the best thing ever.

Still though, abstained for voting for a while but

[X] Kyouko was the first friendly face you saw, she's absolutely adorable, and you doubt anyone else you'd meet would be nearly as nice as her. You have no doubt she'd always have your back, and that counts for a whole lot.
>>No. 61443
[X] Meiling is an amazing fighter, blunt and beautiful and carved out of pure muscle to top it off. You'd rather have no one else at your side, even if she's pretty rough. Also, God Almighty, those legs.

Cirno going full Rabbit was amazing.
>>No. 61444
[X] Meiling is an amazing fighter, blunt and beautiful and carved out of pure muscle to top it off. You'd rather have no one else at your side, even if she's pretty rough. Also, God Almighty, those legs.

I'm always up for more Meiling
>>No. 61445
>>61437
FUCK YOU I AIN'T LINKING A POST

YOU KNOW WHO I IS

I'M GOING TO VOTE FOR MY DICK

THIS IS WHAT YOU GET FOR HAVING THE AUDACITY TO TELL ME TO VOTE

also I vote for Cirno
>>No. 61446
>>61445

20:51<LapRabbit>: though I suppose if I had to seriouspost
20:52<LapRabbit>: I'd probably vote for kyouko
20:52<LapRabbit>: but >seriousposting
20:52<Halaxis>: > <Alkarl> meiling is catching up
20:52<Halaxis>: Quick vote for dragon lady
20:52<Alkarl>: you fuck
20:53<ClearSights>: Well now that you said that rab
20:53<ClearSights>: I'll count cirnopost as kyoukovote
20:53<ClearSights>: THANKS FOR YOUR COOPERATION
20:53<LapRabbit>: YOU'RE WELCOME, FAGGOT

THANKS FOR ANOTHER KYOUKO VOTE MATE
>>No. 61447
>>61446
YOU'RE WELCOME

HEY MEILING VOTERS: UR WAIFU A SHIT

JUST LIKE YOUR TASTE
>>No. 61448
[X] Kyouko was the first friendly face you saw, she's absolutely adorable, and you doubt anyone else you'd meet would be nearly as nice as her. You have no doubt she'd always have your back, and that counts for a whole lot.

This story's Kyouko is goddamn adorable and deserves even more screen time.
>>No. 61450
absolutely adorable, and you doubt anyone else you'd meet would be nearly as nice as her. You have no doubt she'd always have your back, and that counts for a whole lot.

Heart > Legs
>>No. 61451
Previous voter here, I messed up on copy-pasting

[x] Kyouko
>>No. 61452
At least it's not Alice in an /eientei/ story
>>No. 61453
>>61421
[X] Kyouko was the first friendly face you saw, she's absolutely adorable, and you doubt anyone else you'd meet would be nearly as nice as her. You have no doubt she'd always have your back, and that counts for a whole lot.
>>No. 61454
[x] Meiling
>>No. 61455
[X] Kyouko was the first friendly face you saw, she's absolutely adorable, and you doubt anyone else you'd meet would be nearly as nice as her. You have no doubt she'd always have your back, and that counts for a whole lot.

I adore this echodog.
>>No. 61456
[X] Kyouko was the first friendly face you saw, she's absolutely adorable, and you doubt anyone else you'd meet would be nearly as nice as her. You have no doubt she'd always have your back, and that counts for a whole lot.

yamabiko or bust
>>No. 61459
File 141462429161.jpg - (248.89KB, 977x1067, image.jpg) [iqdb]
61459
NONE OF THIS IS CANON
__________

"Actually, I'm gay."

Three simple words, and everyone stops moving.

"...What?" Meiling asks, very quietly. "Then, all the flirting, and- and those kisses, and-"

"I am sorry to tell you this," you say, "but you got played, sister. I prefer dicks."

Meiling's mouth works open and shut in silence, eyes stretched fully open and staring blankly at you.

"So you're a knob-gobbler!" Cirno cheerfully says. "You really can't stop eating at all, can you, lardfat?"

Meiling, still stunned, slips out of her chair, landing in the dirt on her hands and knees. She smacks a fist into the ground. "Damn it." She punches the ground again and again as she speaks. "Damn it, damn it, damn it, you twatblocking asshole."

"It is the honest truth," you say solemnly. "And now I am off to inform Kyouko of this." Your boots flare to life as you jump, miniaturized jets in the soles propelling you up into the sky.

"Ground Control to Major Fat!" Cirno yells after you. "You're blocking out all the sunshine! Knock it off!"

You absent-mindedly pull the pin on a grenade and throw it at her. The entire stand bursts into flame, fairy and proprietor and gatekeeper included, and their screams follow you as you rocket off.

Aaaaah, that felt good.

-----

You touch down on Myouren grounds, directly in front of your next target.

Kyouko freezes up at your sudden entrance. "What the h-"

"Kyouko!" you say, voice booming grandly across the courtyard. "I've come to tell you two things! First, Meiling is not the one for me!"

She flushes bright red, hands clutched over her mouth in shock. "Are- does that mean-"

"Second! I am actually gay!"

She blinks, slowly lowering her hands, her expression utterly gobsmacked. When she speaks, it's a high-pitched, whining, "Whaaaaaaaaat?"

You shrug. "I just thought you should know that you will never, ever get the dick."

Kyouko's face twists up in outraged sadness, tears brimming in her eyes. "W-why do you have to be a jerk about it?"

Another woman's voice rings clear through the air, confident and commanding. "Hold, man!" The person in question, a blue-haired nun in matching robes, leaps down the temple steps, landing in a crouch and springboarding to her feet at Kyouko's side. She sweeps an arm around Kyouko's shoulders and hugs the smaller girl close to her chest. "You must be AE! What have you done that hurts Kyouko so?"

Kyouko points at you, the threat of tears giving way to a downpour. "He likes meeeeeeeeeen!" she wails, sobbing into Ichirin's robe.

Ichirin pats Kyouko reassuringly on the back, and nods wisely. "I see. Then I know what must be done! Unzan, it is time!"

She gently moves Kyouko aside, leaving the girl to weep uncontrollably into her hands, and brandishes a pair of golden rings. She smacks them together, and HOLY SHIT GIANT PINK CLOUD FACE.

"WHAT'RE YOU DOIN' HERE, WHITE BOY?" says the bearded giant floating overhead, with a voice like thunder and fists that could crush tanks.

Your visor whirrs back into place. "Oh, fuck me."

Pink teeth are bared at you. "POOOOOOOR CHOICE OF WORDS, PAL."

JESUS NO HE'S GOT THOSE TWO GIANT HANDS AROUND YOU.

"You wouldn't think a cloud man could have sexual preferences, but here we are!" Ichirin says, her eyes agleam with anticipation. "Oh, you two are going to have such a good time together!"

"YOU KNOW HOW HARD IT IS TO FIND A GAY MAN IN THIS MAGICAL REALM?" Unzan asks, shaking you around as he talks. "ABOUT AS HARD AS MY DICK. TRY NOT TO SCREAM, 'CAUSE I'M GOING IN DRY."

FFFFFFUCK. THERE'S A STORM BREWING, AND IT'S GONNA BE IN YOUR ASS IF YOU DON'T GET OUT OF HERE RIGHT QUICK.

There's a screeching staticky noise from your comms. "Not like this, Operator! Not like this!" says the AI, panic so real you almost forget it's a machine.

You cast about desperately for ideas; you can't punch him, your arms are pinned at your sides, you can't break out, shit, shit, shiiiiiii-

Wait.

Pinned at your side your arms may be, but that still means-

"I BRING YOU FIRE!" you bellow, roughly jerking the pins out of a pair of incendiaries.

Flames blaze upwards, battling cloud and engulfing you. Your captor recoils, releasing you to fall on your knees, and floats out of reach as he shakes his hands about. "FUCKIN' GOD DAMN, OW, WHY YOU GOTTA BE LIKE THAT, HOLY SHIT, YOU DICKHOLE."

You don't reply, boots flaring alive as you jump up and rocket towards the cloud's face, fist outstretched. A mighty uppercut rocks his head back, and then you jet back and stabilize your flight directly in front of him.

You bounce from foot to foot, fists at the ready. "Come and get me, Fluffy."

"YOU CAN'T LAST TWO MINUTES IN MY WORLD, BITCH," he rumbles, bringing his fists up.

"Beat the crap out of him, Unzan!" Ichirin yells, miming punches, while Kyouko watches the spectacle with an open jaw.

"EAGER T- MOTHERFUCKER!" Unzan roars as you punch him straight in the eyeball. "I'M GONNA EAT YOUR ASSHOLE ALIVE!"

His fists fly at you far faster than they have any right to, but you bob and weave and spin through the barrage of punches like a mosquito. Ten seconds you do this, darting up and down and all around, before Unzan abruptly stops, scowling fiercely down at you.

"OH, YOU THINK YOU'RE A REAL FUNNY GUY, HUH? LET'S SEE YOU LAUGHING AFTER THIS."

He hauls back with one giant fist, and it comes at you like a freight train with cut breaks; you stretch out your arms and catch the blow around his pinky and forefinger, the sheer kinetic force carrying you back through the air a dozen feet. You roll with the momentum and, after falling flat on your back, disengage flight.

Unzan's face is one of sheer alarm as the two of you plummet towards the ground, his head on a collision course for the hard tiles. There's an earthquake on impact, his cloudy face smashing into the ground hard enough that it loses all shape and drifts across the earth in a fine mist. You hit the ground moments later, armor insulating you from the worst of it, and jump upright.

A quick look about reveals Kyouko and Ichirin are flat on their asses, staring at you in wide-eyed awe, the former's despair utterly forgotten. Elsewhere, Unzan's head begins to reform, slowly but steadily. You stalk over to him, kneel, and lean in.

"I like your guts, big man," you whisper into the manly cloud's ear, a deep, burning desire filling your body. "Let's do it. Also I will keep my suit on."

Unzan's eyes flick towards you, and his eyebrows scrunch up in thought. "...OKAY, I GUESS. YA FUCKIN' ASS."

"I hate you, Operator," says your armor, as you reposition to make good on your offer.

Ichirin and Kyouko are holding hands, their faces filled with horrified, yet oddly eager, anticipation.

With no regard for your observers, for holy ground, or for basic decency, you fuck that cloud right in his fluffy ass.

Kyouko and Ichirin squeal like schoolgirls.

It is amazing.
__________

GOOD END
>>No. 61460
AND YES THE VOTES FOR THE ACTUAL UPDATE ARE STILL OPEN UNTIL TOMORROW

ANYONE WHO VOTED FOR THIS BONUS THING, GO DO A PROPER VOTE
>>No. 61461
>>61460
[x] That was True End


Y'ain't topping it, so embrace it as the truth. That's our true good end.
>>No. 61462
>>61460
NOT GAY ENOUGH

ALSO >CUT BREAKS

YOU FUCKIN' ILLITERATE
>>No. 61463
>"WHAT'RE YOU DOIN' HERE, WHITE BOY?"

I laughed.

Why is your Cirno such an asshole. anyway?
>>No. 61464
>>61461
ALSO I'M GONNA BANDWAGON ON WITH THIS GUY

[X] GAY END IS TRUE CANON END
>>No. 61465
>>61463

THE ANSWER IS WHY NOT

SHE'S A CHEEKY, CHEEKY GIRL WHO AIN'T GOT RESPECT FO' ANYONE. SHE PERFECT, YO
>>No. 61466
>>61459
You owe me new sides, you fucking fuck.
>>No. 61467
Youu're all fucking faggots

[X] Echodog
>>No. 61468
[X] Meiling is an amazing fighter, blunt and beautiful and carved out of pure muscle to top it off. You'd rather have no one else at your side, even if she's pretty rough. Also, God Almighty, those legs.
>>No. 61472
[X] Meiling is an amazing fighter, blunt and beautiful and carved out of pure muscle to top it off. You'd rather have no one else at your side, even if she's pretty rough. Also, God Almighty, those legs.

In other news, that was quite possibly the greatest joke update I've ever read.
>>No. 61473
[X] Meiling is an amazing fighter, blunt and beautiful and carved out of pure muscle to top it off. You'd rather have no one else at your side, even if she's pretty rough. Also, God Almighty, those legs.

I was >>61407 and I regret nothing.
Now we just have to have both of them tell us that they're actually lesbians.
>>No. 61476
[X] Kyouko was the first friendly face you saw, she's absolutely adorable, and you doubt anyone else you'd meet would be nearly as nice as her. You have no doubt she'd always have your back, and that counts for a whole lot.

The big guy and small girl dynamic appeals to me.
>>No. 61477
[X] Meiling is an amazing fighter, blunt and beautiful and carved out of pure muscle to top it off. You'd rather have no one else at your side, even if she's pretty rough. Also, God Almighty, those legs.
>>No. 61482
File 141471079014.jpg - (193.84KB, 782x1190, image.jpg) [iqdb]
61482
Well, folks, it's been a close, close vote. Kyouko took an early lead, but Meiling rallied halfway through, bringing the race to something very, very close. In the end, though, the votes come out to 21 for Kyouko (not counting that one GODDAMN RABBIT POST) and 18 for Meiling.[/B

In the end, I really liked Kyouko, but I always thought Meiling was going to win this. Never did I expect Kyouko to have such a fanbase. Thanks to everyone for voting!

Better luck with Meiling in the sequel!

[B]ROUTE LOCKED

>>No. 61483
>>61482

>those tag fails

SON OF A FUCK
>>No. 61484
>>61482
She may have lost the vote, but Meiling will always be the true winner in my heart.
>>No. 61485
>>61483
YOU SUCK AT THIS SO MUCH
>>No. 61487
>>61482
MAYBE IF YOUR FINGERS WEREN'T SO PUDGY YOU'D HIT THOSE KEYSTROKES CORRECTLY
>>No. 61488
>>61482
Please don't mock us, sequels are rare and the last time Meiling was a favorite for a sequel, Sakuya stole the story.

Well if not for that /at/ thing with Kyouko and being Meiling, Meiling would have likely won.
>>No. 61489
Voted for Meiling, but I'm perfectly happy with this outcome as well. Both girls proved themselves to be superb and had fun dynamics.

I wonder how things would have gone if there was a Remilia option as well...
>>No. 61490
>>61488

nigga what, that ain't mocking that i'm doing

i gots another /sdm/ story in mind after this, same universe and everything

you probably right about sakuya suddenly becoming best girl somehow, though
>>No. 61491
> that /at/ thing with Kyouko

What's this?
>>No. 61492
>>61491

Non-canon sex scene with Kyouko and AE
>>No. 61497
>>61459
You've gone and ruined my sides you fuck. Thanks a lot.

>Dragon lady loses
Can't even win on her home board? Damn.
>>No. 61506
>>61491
That would be the non-canon(?) spinoff at >>/at/35268.

Incidentally, scroll down a bit in that thread to get the chatlog that Cirno was probably based on.
>>No. 61508
>>61506

It's... semi-canon, if only because circumstances have changed in the story proper.

And yes, that chatlog is exactly why Cirno is such a dick.

NOW BRACE, BECAUSE AN UPDATE IS INCOMING.
>>No. 61509
File 141489194596.jpg - (138.48KB, 650x800, image.jpg) [iqdb]
61509
You'd been all ready to see where things went with Meiling, and then she shot herself in the foot by telling you about Kyouko.

The kid really thinks about you that way, huh?

You scowl, and mentally slap yourself; 'kid' is inaccurate and condescending. Kyouko's a fine young woman, and she deserves to be treated as such. She's sweet, good-hearted, attractive in a slender, cute kind of fashion, and doesn't punch you in the jaw on a regular basis (not that that's a strike against Meiling.)

For all of Meiling's upsides, her boisterous personality and steel body included, there's just the simple fact that Kyouko is nice. She's nice to you, the professional wrecking ball, of all people, and that goes a hell of a long way.

You swallow your food. "...You realize you've made a terrible mistake by telling me this, haven't you?" you say, very softly.

Meiling purses her lips and squints at you, affecting a face not unlike a disappointed lioness that just missed its prey. "So that's your answer, eh?"

You push your half-full plate aside and turn to face her, leaning sideways against the counter. "Afraid so."

She lightly thumps a fist on the desk, and raps her knuckles against the wood several times more before she speaks. "Well, damn. You're sure I can't change your mind?"

"Meiling, you've successfully escaped the blob," Cirno says, deadly serious as she clasps her hands together and casts pleading eyes up at the back of the woman's head. "Let his fat rolls envelop someone else instead, please, I beg you!"

Meiling twists around to glare at Cirno. "If I hear one more smartass comment, girl, I will beat you."

Cirno shrugs, relaxing back in her seat. "I've committed to it, sorry."

"And I'm going with Kyouko," you say, trying to steer this conversation back on track. "She's... she's been good to me. And I do like her."

Meiling sighs, turning back to you. "Double damn." Her sudden smile, bright and genuine, ambushes you. "Glad we got it out of the way, at least! Besides, this way we're avoiding any hurt feelings over her later."

"If it's any consolation," you say, "it's a damn hard choice for me too. You're a pretty spectacular person."

"Ah, you just say that 'cause I keep kicking your ass up and down town," she says, patting a mighty bicep.

"You mean 'rolled,' Meiling," Cirno says. "Not even you could launch the blob more than a few inches."

"Cirno," Meiling says, not bothering to turn around, her smile gone. "Run."

Cirno squeaks, shoves her now-empty bowl back across the counter, and runs as fast as her short legs can carry her. She disappears into the safety of the nearby tree line in quick order.

"Thank you," you say, immensely relieved. You return to your meal, devouring a few pieces before you speak again. "Anyway, like I was saying. I had to really think on it. I mean, you're really one of a kind."

"You should see the Oni women if you think that's the case," Meiling dryly replies. "But let me guess; short and cute won out over huge muscles, eh?"

"Something like that," you say.

"As a personal friend of hers," Mystia says, forcibly inserting herself into the conversation as she plants her hands on the counter and leans half over it, "I think you've made an excellent choice."

"Ah, she finally has the courage to speak!" you say, feigning shock. "Pray, tell me more about your sister in anarchy, miss Lorelei."

Mystia merely smiles enigmatically. "That's for you to find out personally, sir."

"So unfair, woman," you say, all in good cheer. You inhale the remnants of your meal, and then push away from the table to stand straight. "I guess I'll just have to find out the old-fashioned way, then."

"Is that your cue to leave?" Meiling asks, standing up as well.

"I'm afraid so," you say. You dip your head at Mystia. "Thank you for the meal. It was... an experience."

"Good or bad?" she asks, a long, delicate eyebrow raised.

"I'm not quite sure yet," you say. "But I'm glad for it all the same."

"Hey," Meiling says, while Mystia gives you a distinctly unimpressed look. "If you're leaving, there's one last thing I want before you go."

You turn to face her properly. "Well? What is i-"

She's on you before you can blink, her arms hooking around your neck as she forcibly pulls you in until your noses touch.

"One last hurrah," she whispers huskily, then kisses you full on the mouth. Almost without thinking, you wrap your arms around her back and hold her close, the two of you staying locked together like that for a time you don't bother tracking.

You only pull back when your lungs can't take it anymore, gulping down a great mouthful of glorious oxygen. Meiling's grin is infectious, and you find yourself matching her even as you release each other.

She claps you on the shoulders. "There, I'm done. Now make sure to be good to her, you hear me?"

"I plan on being the best," you say, not missing a beat.

She winks, releasing you and stepping back. "Of course you are." Her grin takes an impish edge. "Oh, and put that tongue to good use. She'll love it."

"The only thing his tongue loves is fried chicken!" Cirno yells, revealing herself hidden in the branches of a nearby tree. "Hey, fatcakes, gobble up Mystia instead! That'd be more your speed!"

The shopkeep vaults over the desk, landing between you and Meiling. "Excuse me," Mystia says, a rigid smile fixed on her face as she hefts her cudgel. "I'm going to go kill her."

She gives chase to the madly cackling fairy, leaving you alone with Meiling.

"Well," you say, dipping your head in a bow. "Hong Meiling, it's been a pleasure."

Meiling slaps you on the arm with enough force to knock you stumbling, but this time you're braced for it, and instead merely scoot across the grass by inches. "Oh, go tell her already, you silly bastard!"

"Eager to," you say, stepping back. "See you around."

"So long, and gods speed you on!" she says, shooting you a thumbs up as you head off.

She really is one hell of a woman, isn't she?
>>No. 61511
File 141489362688.jpg - (211.40KB, 850x1506, image.jpg) [iqdb]
61511
It's a long run back to Myouren Temple, but a pleasant one. Evening is falling by the time you actually reach the place. There's no sign of Kyouko on arrival, which isn't too much of a surprise considering she probably couldn't sweep all day every day without going absolutely insane. You'd investigate inside the temple, but as it so happens, the gates themselves are closed at the moment.

Even if you were of a mind to simply break in, there's the issue of the gatekeeper, a spear-wielding blonde in tiger-patterned dress with what appears, at first glance, to be a weed perched firmly atop her head. You know hats are the in thing in this burg, but that's just ridiculous.

"Hail, stranger!" she says, her words coming out in a smooth, confident contralto, that of a woman who holds no fear of any intruder, least of all you. "I hope you have not come to cause a disturbance, else I should be forced to impale you most grievously."

"Why do you have a weed on your head?" you ask, ever the image of decorum.

She blinks, her self-assured stature shaken by the sheer idiocy of your question. "...This is a lotus, sir," she says, in the slow tone used teaching toddlers the basics of speaking. "It is a common Asian flower, the likes of which can be found with ease at any waterway." She tilts her head slightly and squints at you. "You should consider perhaps opening a book. Or not being an imbecile."

"All right, I had that one coming," you say. "However, I thought you people were Buddhist. Doesn't stabbing travelers sort of go against that?"

"Most innocent travelers do not come here in full suits of armor," she says, her tone mild. "Generally, that sort of dress is impractical unless you intend to actually make use of it, such as in the fashion of, for example, a barbaric raider intent on pillaging a holy place of all its treasures."

"I'm unarmed?" you say, uncertainly raising your hands.

"Steel fists can kill sure as any weapon. Believe you me, I speak from experience." She leans back against the gate, her expression casual, yet her body tensed for action. "Though, to be honest, I much prefer tooth and claw. It feels more natural."

"Hence the spear," you say, delighting in her narrowing of eyes. You lower your arms again as exasperation starts to get the better of you. "Now, lady, I'm just here to visit someone. I'd rather not have to punch you out to do it, because that would hurt her feelings."

"Oh? And who could a brigand such as yourself wish to see here?" she says, her tone cold.

"Kyouko."

She blinks once, slowly. Then she does it again. And again. And a few more times, just because. "Oh," she says, very quietly, horrified realization playing across her face. "Then, that armor means- oh."

"Yo, Shou!" Kyouko shouts from somewhere inside temple grounds, her voice carrying so clearly it's almost as if she's right next to you. "I hear talking! What's going on over there?"

"I am a complete moron!" Shou calls back, her face flush with embarrassment.

"I am forced to agree!" you bellow, determined to make your voice heard.

There's a brief silence before Kyouko shouts again, a great deal more excited. "Hold on, hold on, hold on, I'm coming over!"

One moment it's just you and Shou, and the next Kyouko is pressed up against the gate like a dog trying to squeeze through the holes in his chain-link cage. "Hi, AE!" she says, waving at you with a sizable smile lighting her face up. "Was Shou bothering you?"

"I was, and for that I am sincerely sorry, sir," Shou says. She sets her spear aside, and bows until her face is parallel with the ground. "We've all heard so much about you that I should have been able to recognize you on sight. Please forgive my hostility, and know you have my deepest thanks for what you've done for Kyouko."

"Apology accepted," you say, happy to be moving on. "And don't be so hard on yourself, you were only doing your job."

"Incompetence deserves nothing but scorn," Shou says, her face set grim when she straightens up.

"You can stop being all worried about 'HONOR' any time now, missy," Kyouko says teasingly. She pushes the gate open and steps through, and gives Shou a companionable pat on the back. The tiger-lady sighs, but her dour expression lightens up.

"So, Kyouko, there's something I wanted to talk to you about," you say. "Privately, if possible."

"Is... something wrong?" Kyouko asks, her own good cheer suddenly on shaky ground.

"Nothing like that," you say quickly. "Do you mind coming with me?"

She's at your side in a handful of long strides, apparently deciding hesitation is for wusses. "Of course not! Let's go!"

"Stay safe!" Shou says, waving you off as Kyouko grabs you firmly by the hand and drags you with her. You play along with it, letting her lead you on into the forest until the two of you are clear of Shou's prying eyes, and then a bit further just to be safe.

"This should work," you say, pulling free from Kyouko's grip. She settles up against a tree, green eyes watching you with curiosity.

"So, this is awful soon for another visit," she says, her tone worried. "I'm not complaining, but you mind telling me what's going on? Is something dangerous happening?"

Her concern is so sudden that you can't help but feel like a heel for giving her the wrong idea. "Nothing so serious. I just visited the mansion earlier."

Her lips twitch downward. "Ahuh."

"And I talked with Meiling," you say, watching her close to gauge her reaction. "She told me about you."

Her eyes widen by fractions of an inch, and her mouth drops open by the same measure, before her expression falls to something profoundly glum. It's not a good look for her.

"...Oh." She slowly nods, eyes downcast. "It's okay. I know what she's got going for her."

"What's that supposed to mean?" you ask.

She clasps her hands together. "Well, y'know, she's all tall and strong and gorgeous, and I'm short and can maybe punch out a few fairies if it comes down to it, and also cute, cute is definitely a term thrown about a lot when I'm involved. We're kind of complete opposites like that, so..." She looks back up at you, smiling wanly. "I can see why you'd go for her."

Ow, your heart. "I came here for you."

"Yeah, I figured you wait what." Kyouko's jaw hangs open, her entire body frozen in place as she dares not even breathe, her eyes focused intently on your own. "You're not serious here, are you?" she whispers, her hands trembling so slightly you almost miss it.

"Why wouldn't I be?" you say, taking a cautious step forward, wary of spooking her off.

Of all the things you expected her to do, she laughs, something small and wavering and easily crushed. "I- I didn't push for anything yesterday because I thought you only wanted to be friends. But... you're really interested?"

"Would I be telling you this if I wasn't?" you say, spreading your hands in a hopefully friendly manner.

The rise and fall of her chest is growing steadily more erratic, and the shakes are proceeding up from her hands to the rest of her body. Just when you're about to take another step, she launches herself at you, hooking her arms between yours and around your back in a tight hug, burying her face against your chest.

Her voice cracks when she speaks. "This is real. It's really happening."

"Shh," you say, running metal fingers through her hair. "I'm here. I'm here."

She's content to simply rest against you in silence, the two of you held together by her iron grip. You didn't expect her to react like this, but... there's something intensely cute about it, all the same.

"Hey," she says, very quietly. "I'm sorry. I- I know I'm being stupid about this. It's just... if Meiling hadn't said anything, would you have gone for her instead?"

You suck in a breath, not looking forward to her reaction. "Yes."

Kyouko pulls back just enough to look up at you, the tears beading in the corners of her eyes contrasting sharply with her tiny, sincere smile. "That's how close I came to missing out on you, then, because I didn't ask when I had the chance." She sniffles. "I don't know whether to be mad at myself or happy it all worked out anyway."

And then she leans up, straining on her tip-toes, to lightly press soft lips to your own. It's a short, chaste little gesture, but you still sorely miss it when she breaks away.

"But," she says, brushing the tears out of her eyes, her smile widening. "I think I'll go with happy."

"...I can't promise this'll last," you say, reluctantly. "I could be redeployed elsewhere, and orders are orders. If that's a dealbreaker, then so be it." Seeing her frown ever so slightly, you hold up a finger. "But if you really want to stick by me, I promise that as long as I'm here, I'm damn well going to try to make this work."

"If that's how you want to play it, mister," she says, her smile back in play as she reaches up, wrapping her arms around the back of your neck. "I agree to your terms."

"Allow me to seal the deal," you say, and dart in those few inches to kiss her full on the mouth, pulling her close in your arms. Her eyelids drift shut, and she sinks into you without any resistance.

Even with this barrier of metal between the two of you, it feels good just holding her, and it's only with great reluctance that you eventually break it off for air. Kyouko's cheeks are rosy as she looks up at you, and she giggles breathlessly while she leans back in your arms, your sure grip the only thing holding her upright.

"Well, I think that's a good start to things, don't you?" she says, reaching down and gently prying your hands off her.

"I'm forced to agree," you say, letting her do as she will. She takes a few steps back once she's out of your grip, the better to get some room to smooth her dress off.

"You know what?" she asks once she finishes, a twinkle in her eyes as she sizes you up. Both her hands grasp one of your own. "I think it's time I introduced you to everyone."

She pulls you along, back to the temple, and it's with a glad heart that you follow her.
__________

ALL AVAILABLE EPILOGUES COMPLETED

KYOUKO ROMANCE COMPLETED

FINAL EPISODE UNLOCKED

__________

[X] The Man In The Iron Mask

THERE WERE NO FUCKUPS HERE. NONE.
>>No. 61512
THE SINCEREST MILE
>>No. 61513
[X] The Man In The Iron Mask

Even Kyouko underestimated how great she is.
>>No. 61514
>>61509
>>61511
Nice to see Kyouko get some love but, still, poor Meiling.

>>61512
Insincere miles are the worst.
>>No. 61515
File 141489696897.jpg - (129.75KB, 320x318, daaw ultimate.jpg) [iqdb]
61515
>THAT. ENTIRE. UPDATE.

nigga dat's fukkin kawaii
>>No. 61516
File 141490295326.png - (536.93KB, 500x750, d28b12539568704b5acf47f059d9505c.png) [iqdb]
61516
YES

VICTORY
>>No. 61517
Even after all this, I still wish we had kidnapped Flandre. I'm sure nothing but the best buddy cop-esque adventures would ensue.
>>No. 61523
>instead merely scoot across the grass by inches.

>by inches
>>No. 61534
File 141497757278.jpg - (252.27KB, 1600x900, image.jpg) [iqdb]
61534
ONE WEEK LATER

-----

The night sky is filled with a wide blanket of stars; Gensokyo being free of light pollution makes for some spectacular views, ones you don't usually see when being shipped through space. The full moon's icy-blue light spills down from on high, casting an ethereal blue tint over the world. You're looking at this from flat on your back, left arm folded behind your head to serve as a pillow on this grassy hillock.

"Hey," Kyouko says from next to you, her head nestled in the crook of your right arm. "I was wondering about something."

"Mm?" you say, content to merely watch the sky.

"So, you've told me about some of the things you've done up there," she says, and out of the corner of your eye you spy her looking at you. "But it's just been sort of a little background detail to the rest of your stories. What's it like in space?"

You hum in thought, and decide on an honest answer. "Cold and empty and deadly. You can get one hell of a view, though, so long as you don't mind throwing yourself out an airlock to do so."

"What, no windows in your ships?" she asks, sounding disappointed.

"Structural weaknesses," you say, looking over to give her an apologetic smile. "Nobody wants to get spaced if one is busted, after all."

"Huh. I always expected something more... romantic, I guess." Her hopeful enthusiasm makes a valiant return, determined to not be beaten by mere facts so easily. "I mean, you go flying through the stars! That should be really cool!"

"If you flew through stars, you would die," you say, mock-serious.

Kyouko giggles, and follows it up with an elbow to your side. "You know exactly what I mean, smartass."

"The sad truth of space travel is that it's really boring," you say, removing your free arm from behind your head, the better to gesture about vaguely with it. "At least, that's the case on military ships. You'd have a better time on a luxury vessel."

"Is that an invitation I hear?" she says, a teasing edge to her words. "Because going on a space trip sounds like fun."

You wince, thinking of the manifold difficulties of actually pulling that off. "Sorry, the sheer culture shock alone would probably kill you."

She props herself up on her elbows, pouting viciously at you. "Aww, I could deal with it! It can't be that hard, can it?"

"For someone who was born and raised in modern society, no, it isn't that hard," you say. "For a girl from a fantasy wonderland that's way, way behind in tech progression, on the other hand? One without any identification, no less? You'd be chained to me on a leash if you wanted to get anywhere or do anything."

Kyouko stares at you, her expression completely blank save the little smirk creeping onto her face. "...On a leash, you say."

Well, shit, you've just given her enough ammunition to last for weeks. "Bad choice of words."

"Oh, I dunno about that," she says, reaching over to trace a smooth, cool finger across your neck, causing your breath to catch for the barest fragment of a second. "Now that you've given me the idea, I can't say I'd mind having you on a leash."

"That'd be a sight to see," you say, mentally envisioning it and finding the result not entirely unpleasant. "You'd need something industrial-strength to keep me down, though."

When Kyouko speaks again, it's in an exaggeratedly haughty tone, her face set in disapproval. "Well, we hicks have our own little tricks, thank you very much."

"Remilia taught me that," you say. "Chafed like hell, though."

"Oh, really?" Her mischievous expression flatlines, her eyes widening, and she looks over her shoulder in a sudden motion, her face set in concern. "Hold that thought. I hear someone coming."

You sit up quickly, your left hand drifting down to your holstered pistol. At first, you don't hear or see anything, but within a minute the stomping of heavy, deliberate footsteps becomes audible. Whoever it is is making no effort to conceal themselves, so you stand up straight, Kyouko following your lead, and keep a firm grip on your weapon.

The source of the steps crests the top of the hillock, and halts a short distance away from you. The large, familiar shape stands still, black against the moonlight.

"Operator," it rumbles.

Agh, son of a bitch.

"No," you say, taking your hand off your gun, annoyance boiling over at your night getting interrupted. "Go away."

"But Operator-"

"No," you snap. "Now I know how the Tin Man ended up rusted stiff in that field. Someone got tired of his shit and left his ass there."

The suit simply stands there, doing some professional-grade looming and being irritatingly quiet.

"I don't get the reference," Kyouko eventually says, confused uncertainty clear in her voice.

"The answer to your question, miss, is The Wizard Of Oz," says the suit, remaining perfectly still.

"Oh," she says, off-balance from that unexpected answer. "Thanks?"

"You are welcome."

Well, if it's not going to leave, you might as well learn why it came here. "All right, what's going on that HQ decided to send you out after me? You could simply have called. I do keep a radio on me."

The suit gives you a restrained nod. "We are being temporarily transferred to serve in a major military action. I wished to inform you in person."

Well, shit.

"Oh, no," Kyouko breathes out, her confusion quickly blossoming to gut-wrenching worry. She looks up at you, her mouth agape. "You- no, you can't leave! Not already!"

"How long is this expected to last?" you desperately ask the suit, hoping the answer isn't something horrible like, say, several years.

"Baseline estimate is for a single month, Operator."

"Well, that's not too bad," you say, already relieved. Granted, it's only an estimate, but it's one you'll gladly work with.

"How is that not too bad?" Kyouko snaps, indignantly tugging on your arm. "You're- you can't just leave like this! I won't let you!"

You grab both her hands in one of yours, and lock eyes with her. She stops pulling on you, her lower lip trembling, and you sigh as you let her go. "I have to. Don't worry, all right? If everything goes well, I'll be back here before fall."

She growls wordlessly, frustration clear and present, and bangs a fist against your chest. "It's not fair!"

"I did warn you about this when we first started going out," you say, as gently as possible to take the sting out of those words. "This is just something I have to do."

Her face scrunches up in exasperation. "I know, but- but you're going off to get shot at! Doesn't that scare you?"

"I've been doing this for years now, and they haven't gotten me yet," you say, casual confidence overflowing in your voice. "Besides, if I do get blown up, they'll just staple new limbs on my stumps and drop me off here to recover. You can visit! It'll be great!"

"That's not funny!" she says, tears starting to form in the corners of her eyes. "Don't joke about it!"

Ah, damn, you went too far. "...You're right. I'm sorry."

"You'd better be," she says, only slightly satisfied. She hugs you close, laying her head against your chest, and you can feel her trembling through your shirt. "...Do you really have to go?" she asks, her voice little more than a whisper.

You place your hands on her shoulders, and give them a light squeeze. "It's my duty."

She doesn't answer at first, instead grabbing your wrists in a near bone-crunching grip. "Just... stay safe, all right?" she says, craning her head up so she can look you head-on, her eyes glittering in the moonlight. "Please?"

"I'm coming back," you say, brandishing an off-kilter smile. "Trust me on that."

She blinks a few times, ridding her eyes of tears, and pulls your hands up to her mouth, the better to plant a little kiss on the back of each one. Once that's done, she lets go of one hand, and intertwines her fingers with the other.

"I don't have to like it," she says, her face somber, "but I'm not just gonna let you walk off alone. Let's go. I can at least see you off."

You merely shake your head, chuckling. "Well, I won't stop you."

Her answering smile is a little one. "You couldn't even if you tried, mister."

You wouldn't want to in the first place.

The suit emits a low buzz. "Let us move, Operator."

And so, hand in hand with Kyouko, you follow the hulking armor in silence, man and woman and machine all together. As you walk, your irritation fades, replaced by a curious sense of anticipation. You don't like to leave Kyouko behind, but at the same time, you want to go; Gensokyo's left you complacent lately, and it's already been too long since you've delivered a truly righteous asskicking.

This has been a nice respite, but you've a job to do.

It's time you got back to work.
>>No. 61535
File 141497811666.jpg - (501.11KB, 2024x1065, image.jpg) [iqdb]
61535
And that is it, folks! It's been a long, fun ride, but Don't Lose Your Head is finished! I couldn't have done this without you guys, and I'm looking forward to writing again for you in the future!

In all honesty, this whole story has just been one huge, unplanned mess from start to finish, but it was a fun mess, and that's what really matters.

Questions are open, and I'll do my level best to answer them. Hit me with whatever you want to say!

And, as one last bonus, have a picture of AE and Roll The Dice's Clint drinking together, as done by RTD's author, the excellent Stove.
>>No. 61536
CONGRATULATIONS

YOU'RE STILL AN ILLITERATE AND A FAGGOT

GOOD TO SEE THAT KYOUKO WON AND I WAS THE BEST CHARACTER EVER IN YOUR STORY
>>No. 61537
Thanks for running this Clear Your Sights. This was something I really look forward to and while Meiling didn't win that ending was pretty comfy and Kyouko is certainly no average girl.

On a separate note whatever did happen to Big Red? I know Flandre was was using him as a giant teddy bear club and I can't imagine that being to healthy even for giant robots.
>>No. 61538
>>61537

The answer to Big Red's fate can be found in AE's meeting with the Commander back at base.

>"The remnants of the base were mostly unsalvageable, with the exception of a damaged titan found amidst dozens of wounded enemy personnel."

AE's Coalition buddies scavenged the titanic mech and hauled it back to base for memory-bank analysis, repair, and refitting, and they're now in possession of their very own reprogrammed Big Red.
>>No. 61540
So any hints as to what you have planned next?
>>No. 61542
>>61540

We're in autosage territory now, so sage isn't necessary any more, but I appreciate the thought!

Anyway, what I've got in mind next? First, there's a followup to Don't Lose Your Head, a slice-of-lifeish SDM story starring Karin, Patchouli's magically augmented freak of a fairy. Of all the ideas I've got, it's the one that appeals to me the most.

Second, I've been toying with the idea of writing a Disgaea crossover starring an OC and her crew of generics as they try to take over Gensokyo. It'd be a mostly comedic/action thing, but the scale of it is daunting.

Third, and my original intent when I started this story, is to reboot A Stalker Falls Into Gensokyo, my very first story on this site. I got sick of not being a good writer and having no idea where the story was going, so I started DLYH to improve myself, but this took on a life of its own and became what we see today. If I do go back to it, it'll be a complete restart, with actual plot straight from the beginning instead of a bunch of aimless wandering around Gensokyo.

Finally, if Team Fortress 2 is your kind of thing, I write CTF_Gensokyo over in /th/. I wanted a break from DLYH when I started it, and my intent is to keep it an upbeat and completely ridiculous thing.
>>No. 61543
>Karin

Yessssss do this one.
>>No. 61545
http://www.touhou-project.com/shorts/res/1295.html

so more knife youkai when

this post with 100% more functioning links
>>No. 61547
>>61543

Not gonna lie, she certainly has my main interest. However, I'm gonna give myself a week before I start up any new stories, just so I don't immediately leap into a whole new hot mess. Maybe I'll write out OPs for all those ideas and see which one really grabs me; I've already done one for Karin, after all, might as well do the rest.

>>61545

Well, that's canon for when I reboot STALKER, so maybe then! Or maybe I'll do a followup short starring Rada and Boryan just doing the STALKER thing, I haven't decided yet.

Also, WOW, my technical ability was awful back then! It hurts to look at!
>>No. 61548
>>61547

Oh man I loved your STALKER stuff. It'd be great to see it rebooted one of these days.

That said, I'm also A-OK with Karin shenanigans.
>>No. 61553
File 141511202529.jpg - (28.89KB, 347x440, image.jpg) [iqdb]
61553
Out of curiosity, I decided to tally up the wordcount for the entire story. Note that this includes all my little author's notes in the updates themselves, including available choices, so subtract a few thousand from the total. This also does not take into account the joke update.

Over the course of three threads, I wrote 107707 words, coming to a total of 612912 characters. Each thread accounts for roughly 35000 words, given some leeway here and there.

Of the top keywords, Flandre was mentioned the most of any character, at 515 uses of her name, while Meiling came second with 444. Remilia took third with 294 mentions, and Kyouko fourth with 245. Mystia and any other characters weren't used enough to make the top keyword list, so they don't count.

Finally, as a reward for sitting through stastistics talk, I was greeted with this art of the line >Kyouko is pressed up against the gate like a dog trying to squeeze through the holes in his chain-link cage.

It is adorable and I love it.
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