Might as well start with the first one to catch you eye. You pick up the book with the title To Play with Human Shapes , and begin reading.
To play with dolls in human shapes is the closest I've ever come to others. There were, of course, my mother and the people who served her, those are people who are dear to me, but there was no one I could call a friend. Now, what I search for most is a person with who I can have the kind of closeness that I have thus far only read about.
You certainly hope that there is more to the story than this, as you have no interest in reading about someone complaining. However, as you continue, another set of text appears between the lines that you have already read.
To read stories is the closest I've come to living among others. There are, of course, those who live around me, but there is a gap between us that I long ago gave up trying to cross. Now, what I search for most is a satisfying life alone.
“And? Are you satisfied?”
You whirl around. It was the Yama who spoke to you.
“How did you......”
“As the judge of the dead, I hold the Cleansed Crystal Mirror, allowing me to divine the truth of the past. I've also enlisted the help of an old acquaintance from Hell to read the hearts of those around you, which you are now reading an excerpt from.”
“Awfully invasive, isn't it?”
“A standard lecture would be ignored, so I had to get a bit creative. As for my acquaintance, she can't control her power, but I'm using this as an example for her that it can be used to accomplish good deeds.”
“Unfortunately, you won't be accomplishing anything today. As I already said, I am fine being as I am now. The fault lies with those who can't understand or respect that I have my own way of living happily, one different from theirs.”
“I would not deny anyone their own path, so long as it led them to heaven. I merely asked you, are you satisfied with the way you've been living?”
Of course you are. “I am. The only things that I need to be happy are my books and my research.”
“It is a clever lie that you've convinced yourself of, but it is my job to see the truth beyond it.”
“It is no lie. As I said, you have no respect for my way of life.”
“It is you who are not respecting yourself. You feel that you must be satisfied with that, because that is all you allow yourself. To find justification for a life that you are not satisfied with, you feel you must drive yourself into an obsession with your research. To placate any desire to experience the world, you try to live vicariously through your books instead. To keep others away, you have allowed paranoia to be your shield against the world. You are, in truth, no more satisfied than a lonely girl is by playing with dolls. Such are the crimes you have committed upon yourself, but today I offer you a pardon, should you choose to accept it.”
How dare she. You feel a red rush of anger, and- It takes all your logical capacities, coupled with the fact that you don't actually know what you would say, but you manage to not explode at her. Instead, you simply turn away and look down.
Shiki, in your silence, speaks up. “My apologies, perhaps I said too much too soon. I will take my leave for a while. At your convenience, I would suggest that you finish what you were reading.”
You don't watch her leave, but you know she's gone. A part of you wants to spite her by not reading it, but you know that it would be simply childish. Besides, in the absence of something to read, thinking about what she said frustrates you to no end. Taking a deep breath, you push the previous events to the back of your mind. Thinking logically, if this is truly taken from the heart of someone you know, then it could house some very useful information. Going by the title, this is likely from Alice. You remember your interaction with her from the previous night and scowl. First then, and now again with Shiki, you need to stop losing your calm like that. You need to stay this way so that people will leave you alone again. You open the book and begin reading again.
Although I don't have any friends right now, I know that if I go out and try to meet new people, I'll find someone who I fit well with; a person just for me. At least, that's the theory, but in practice, I'm not so sure. Everyone here in Gensokyo is so nice and friendly, but I'm not sure if any of them are someone who I can really be a close friend with. The problem is probably with me, since I can't match them in being social. When I try to talk with people, I just want to run away and hide. I wonder sometimes, what is wrong with me?
If this is to be believed, then it appears that you saw a glimpse of the real Alice at Remilia’s party. You certainly did get the feeling that she wasn’t comfortable at the party. Considering that, you feel a strange sense of companionship with her, although you know that you ought to consider her your rival. Damn this imprisonment, you don’t want this; you don’t want to know about anyone else. Your life is so much simpler, so much easier, when you can just ignore and avoid everyone else.
Again, another section of text has appeared in the white space. These secondary thoughts are vastly different from the original, so they are likely from another person, and you have a sneaking suspicion that these are in fact your own thoughts. It is certainly an odd feeling to be reading them yourself.
Although I live alone, I know that it's okay. I'll find my own way, a lifestyle that fits me. Ideally. I could live on my own, peaceful and uninterrupted; I would be happy that way, I think, but in practice my wish to be left alone is not respected. I chose solitude because dealing with people is difficult and unimportant. Being alone is easier, but everyone around me seems determined to not allow me my solitude. They don't understand that I'm not like them, and that I don't want to live like they do. The fault lies with them, I’m not the one who is wrong here.
Reading your own creed in words is a very bizarre experience. Although you agree with it and know it to be the only path that is good for you, you can’t help but feel dissatisfied when you read it. This is your chosen way, so why does it no longer feel right? You know only that you must continue to read, perhaps further in this text you will find the closure that you now seek.
I hope good things come from meeting new people. Recently, I’ve been somewhat stuck in my doll research, and I think it would be really nice if I could meet some fellow magicians. Maybe they would have some useful advice. Although, that might be a little bit selfish, but it’s not like I want to make friends so I could use them. Maybe I could help them too! But since I’m such a clutz I’d probably just get in their way. It’s not like I’m very good at magic, whenever I’m too weak, I have to rely on the grimoire I got from Mom. I live on my own now, so I feel like I have to move past that. In a sense, I suppose that’s why I care so much about my dolls. Since I’m a creation of Mom, a product of her magic, I’m not wholly unlike a doll myself, so I thought that if I were to learn more about dolls, I’d be able to understand more about myself as well. Maybe I’m mixing my work and philosophy too much here, and maybe in the end I’m just a stupid kid trying to follow in their parent’s footsteps, but I feel like I need to have some sort of goal to work towards.
You let a short calm breath. You want to believe this, that her motives are clear and pure. If it were true, it would make things so much simpler for you. You could just see to it that what she wants is taken care of, and then you could send her on her way and never have to deal with her again. Which would be good. It would let you return to your solitude, which what you want most. That phrase no longer sounds right like it used to in your head, no matter how many times you repeat it.
You distract yourself with the more pressing issue of whether or not the things you now experience can be believed. You have no reason to trust that any of this is true, but you also can’t think of any motive for the Yama to deceive you either. If she truly had good intent towards you, she would not have bothered you like this. Yet, she claims to have your interests in mind while acting against your will. Even assuming that was somehow the case, no one could genuinely care this much about the actions of another, and yet here she is. It is all a very irritatingly confounding issue to try to understand others, and you have found it is far simpler to not try.
Unfortunately, you have been stipped of that option, and to your own displeasure, it seems you have learned a bit more about Alice. This quest she has set out for herself with her dolls does make sense. The desire to understand oneself is a key part of being human, it seems, and you know from your research on human and youkai psychology that it is not uncommon for creatures with distinctly limited lifespans to, upon being freed of mortal constraints, experience a feeling of aimlessness and accompanying anxiety. Perhaps her interest in researching dolls is in reaction to those feelings?
Nothing good can come from outsiders. Recently, I have had quite a few intruders come and interrupt my work, and it has been quite disruptive in particular to my research on the philosopher’s stone, which requires a great deal of both time and secrecy. My familiar is the only one who I will permit to see my work and assist me; the many years together and the contract that binds us is insurance enough. This project has become my everything, my last word to say that there is at least one magician who has not given up the old arts. Without it I am nothing, so I must protect it with everything I can. I can’t afford to think about the costs to myself that may result, for this shall be my magnum opus, my life’s greatest work. The study of magic will not perish from the world silently. Such are my convictions to continue my work, to any end it may lead.
You turn the page to the next set of Alice’s thoughts. The only way you’ll be able to make progress in figuring out your situation is by going forward. If you completely reject everything she has you read, you’ll never be let out of here. The irony of that almost makes you chuckle. You’re locked in a place you’d prefer to never leave. Of course, your usual activities aren’t available to you at the moment, otherwise you’d be perfectly fine with staying in this “prison” forever. To get back to your research, you’ll need to convince the yama that you’ve repented, somehow.
There are two people, though, that I think I might be able to become good friends with. There's Marisa, who I first met around the time I became a youkai. She's a bright and cheerful person, and though she can be a bit abrasive at first, I know she's a good person at heart. Like others, she's a bit hard to be around at first, but I think that if I were to become closer to her, then I could become a bit more sociable too.
Why is it considered a good quality to be like Marisa? You’ve never understood that. Why is there this focus on a person’s social habits? The rest of the world holds you to her standard, but you’re fine not fitting that mold. She’s too immature to be using magic, and far too much so for you to stand being around her. The formal study of magic requires dedication to acquire Knowledge, yet she just steals whatever techniques she likes and seems to put no effort into anything. She’d get close to anyone if it makes it easier to commit theft.
There are two people, though, who seem particularly intent on removing me from the paradise I have made for myself in my library. The first is Remilia, who I met over a century ago and have had far too many dealings with for my liking. She was a lover once, at a time when I foolishly tried to be someone who I am not, but nowadays I am simply a tenant in her home. She claims that we are friends, but I know that she only calls someone friend when she needs something from them.
It’s odd, you realize, that you’ve lived with Remilia for so long and yet have so little to say about her. Perhaps it is because always hides herself behind a cloak of lies and deception. You thought that you knew the true Remilia during your time as lovers, but that too was merely yet another lie to her. Thinking back to that time is irritating, so you continue on to the next section of Alice’s thoughts.
The second person is Patchouli Knowledge. She's hard to interact with, and I can't understand what she's thinking most of the time. Remilia Scarlet was helping me to try to befriend her, but I'm not so sure if she has her best interests in mind. I sought out Patchouli because I heard she was like me, and that seems to be the case. Once I realized that, I decided that I would do my best to help her get through it, and maybe in the process I can change too. When I made that clear to her, though, it occurred to me that perhaps I'm being really selfish, dragging Patchouli into my business like this. She never asked for help, I just assumed.... I hope I didn’t mess things up with her. I do get the feeling that we could have been friends. Maybe we still can be; all I can do now is hope.
Friendship? In the end, she’s truly just looking for a companion? What a fool, she’s just like you were, centuries ago. A goodly honest fool, thinking that happiness is something you can find with other people. If a friend is what she wants, though, then why does she have her sights set on you? You’re not a friendly person, surely she would have more luck attempting to woo someone else. Or she could just do as you have and embrace the solitude.
You shake off your distraction. You’re reading this for closure about your solitude, not to be tempted by foolish ideas. You will not be someone’s fool again.
The second person is Alice Margatroid. She has alternated between many titles in my mind, a threat first to my person, then to my research, and most recently it seems she has settled on targeting my sanity. I don't know how to deal with her, and I only just determined her true goal, which in of itself is far too puzzling to do much with currently. It seems that like, Remilia, she has decided that she is my friend, only she also has decided that she needs to win it rather than taking it for granted as Remilia does. Her desire to befriend me makes her dangerous, for she threatens the peaceful and singular existence I have created for myself. The offer sounds appealing at first, and there is a part of me that wants it to be true, but rationally it’s a risk I just can’t justify. There is no point in trying again, the result will be the same. I ought to save myself the heartache and never let this start. Even this intrusion into my world of one will not cause me to back down from my principles.
[ ] Oh brave new world, that has such people in it. [ ] Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink. [ ] Time is the longest distance between two places. [ ] The moment you back down is the moment you lose. [ ] Take a break from reading. Debate with the yama why it is better for you to be a shut-in.
-------------------------------------------- A whole new thread, full of opportunity. Feels like I’m really moving up in the world or something. Goodbye, 60556, we had good times together.
I designed the choices this time around to be a bit more complex. Anon doesn’t always like puzzles, and some of these do require a bit of background knowledge, especially the first one, so if you guys all complain then that ‘s a sign I made it needlessly complex, and I’ll try to remedy that with hints in that scenario.
[X] Oh brave new world, that has such people in it.
Third sounds like Sakuya, fourth like Marisa. I don't want to read about either of them, so I'll pick the other one that already has a vote.
I wish we just had names, though. Or the obvious choices from the first vote. I don't feel like not knowing what we're voting for adds anything to this. I want to vote for Remilia since of the characters we've actually interacted with so far she's the hardest to read.
Before the whole mansion moved to Gensokyo, I almost never left the library. Truthfully, I still don’t, but I think that I might want to. It’s a brave new world, but unlike the one outside the barrier, it might also be a good one. What’s lacking is my own bravery. I’m curious, but in the end it’s not easy for me to go out on my own. The world outside the library is scary and full of things I don’t know, so I’d rather stay inside with Lady Patchouli.
These must be the thoughts of your familiar. You don’t really feel the need to keep tabs on her, so long as she is available when you need her. Any rebellious tendencies would have already surfaced in the last century and a half that she was contracted to you.
I’m so grateful to her, this library has become something like a special haven for me. I always try my best to be of use to her when she asks, but sometimes it feels like I’m just getting in her way. She’s doing work that she really cares about, and although I don’t know all the details beyond what I help her with, I really respect her dedication. In contrast, I’m just a coward who stays in the library because it’s convenient. It’s not that I don’t like reading, I love it, but I don’t have that same kind of strong conviction as her. If it were just me here in the library, then I’d feel like I was just running away and using the library as an easy place to hide. I guess I still am, but as long as I can support Lady Patchouli and her convictions, then I feel like it’s okay to be like I am.
The next chance you get, you should have a talk with your familiar. You prefer to not get involved in business outside of your own, but she is your familiar, so you have an obligation to look after her mental health. Such a bother, but you wouldn’t want to live alone and not have her as a servant. Your health can deteriorate unexpectedly, and at such times, you need her to take care of you.
She’s obviously distraught, but you really don’t know what you would say to her. She’s interested in the world outside the library, and you aren’t the kind of cruel iron handed master that would stop her from pursuing her interests, but nonetheless the idea of her leaving is...bothersome. Should you try to convince her that her path is with you and this library? Is it? The desire to see the world, the desire for others company, it’s all an illusion. Should you let your familiar make the same mistake you did? Perhaps the only way to make her see that she is not the one at fault here, it’s the rest of the world that is to blame for not accepting you. You don’t need to leave the library to be happy, and neither does she, but how should you convince her of that?
This is a tough problem. Dealing with people is difficult, and outside your range of speciality. As you pondered, a figure of ill portent appeared with an unbearable smug expression on her face. What ill fortune could make even the yama smile?
“You there, wipe that grin off your face or I’ll do it for you.”
“There’s no need to be hostile, Miss Patchouli. I was merely on break from work, and took the time to look at the past between you and the girl you’re reading about. I must say, it was quite cute. Looking at you now, it’s hard to imagine that you’re the same person that I saw in my mirror. However it proves my point that you are a good, if mislead, person.”
“My past is not an open gallery. You had no right to observe that!”
“I see everyone’s past eventually. The only difference is that you have a chance to change your future. Most do not.”
“I have no intention of changing. My current life suits me just fine.”
“Were you not happy then? When you first summoned your familiar, took care of her, raised her, taught her to read? The only thing stopping you now is yourself.”
“I was foolish in a lot of ways back then, but now I’ve learned that my true happiness is found only in solitude. I will not compromise that.”
“Gensokyo is not the dangerous world that you once lived in.”
“Begone. Those who do not respect my privacy will have no words from me.”
“As you wish, but please do give consideration to my words.”
She disappears, seeming to simply fade into the air. Her words are as annoying as ever, but you attempt to brush off your emotions and return to the task at hand. Perhaps further reading will illuminate what you should do with your familiar’s interests.
I know it’s selfish of me to use her to make myself feel better. In truth, I’ve got a lot of selfish wishes. Stupid little things that I know are wrong and too much to ask for and would only be for my own benefit. Sometimes, I wish that we could return to how we used to be when I was young. Lady Patchouli used to smile a lot more, and I remember seeing bright shine in her eyes when she was working on something she really cared about. Nowadays, although she’s always working, I don’t see that anymore. The only times she gets worked up about anything now is when she’s angry at someone. Although I know it’s wrong and selfish, sometimes I wish that she is how she used to be. I suppose, the stupidest little wish of all of mine is, I wish she would call me by the name she gave me again.
Her thoughts are like a dagger to your chest, but this is the price that you were willing to pay. You can’t let yourself be close to anyone. What you did was necessary. And yet, tears are starting to well on the corners of your eyes regardless of your will. Is this really what your familiar- what Koakuma thinks? You thought it would be better to start acting impersonal towards her, to treat her the same as everyone else who tried to get close to you. Was...was that wrong? Was it wrong to keep her distant like you have? You’re a fool, a colossal fool. Koakuma is already someone important to you, why did you treat her like that?
Again, the yama silently strolls up behind you. Your mind still a whirlwind of emotions, you turn on her.
“What do you want now? Want to give me another lecture, tell me how horrible I’ve been to her?” The words leave a bitter aftertaste in your mouth, and you immediately regret letting your feelings get the better of you.
“I merely wanted to offer a bit of conversation. Perhaps if you wanted to talk about your past….” she trails off. “Alternatively, there is another here who has some words for you about your future.”
[ ] Talk about the past. [ ] Talk about the future. [ ] Actually, I’d prefer to keep company with another story while I think some things over. - [ ] Dreams of Bright, Unreachable Stars. . - [ ] A Scarlet Stained Nightmare. - [ ] The Locked Girl of the Library.
-------------------------------------------------- Fun fact, when I was planning this story, I was torn between making Patchouli and Koakuma the main characters. Koakuma would have been more difficult for you guys, since she’s bound to Patchouli, and, as already seen, Patchouli is the great unmoving library when it comes to changing. I was also worried that I wouldn’t be able to portray Patchouli’s personality the way I wanted if I didn’t have her be the playable character, so to speak. Also, I just really like Patchouli.
But someone else should do a story with Koakuma as the protagonist, I think anywhere on the Koakuma personality spectrum would be a fun read. Maybe that’s just me, though.
The puzzle behind this choice was pretty obscure, sorry. I figured the others, while also more difficult than before, would allow for process of elimination and all. It’s a quote from Miranda, the daughter of a magician in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, in response to meeting people who have come to the island that she has lived her whole life on. There’s also that cool sci-fi book that uses the quote too. Anyway, it’s a quote that really expresses the feeling of wonder at seeing glimpses of a world outside one’s own, with just a hint of loli. I was originally planning on having Marisa’s choice be called “The little witch that could.” I’ve been having quite a lot of fun coming up with these.
You take a moment to think about your response. You’re normally not a very social person, and when you’ve got something on your mind, then even more so. For now, it would probably be better to calm down and spend some time alone, than to force yourself to meet whatever oracle the yama has in mind.
“Actually, I’d like to keep reading these books while I think some things out for myself.”
“As you wish.” As she turns to leave, you think you can almost see the traces of a smile on her face.
You pick up a book that catches your eye, Dreams of Bright, Unreachable Stars . Marisa is always saying stuff about stars, among other things, when she comes in to try to rob you, but you never listen to her. You’re not sure who these thoughts could belong to, but you doubt it’s her, despite the reference to the stars. The tone of the title is too thoughtful, and the subject matter isn’t theft; but then who could it be?
Near my house in the Forest of Magic, there’s a clearing where I always go to practice my magic. I used to do it indoors, because I didn’t want anyone to see me mess up, but after my magic sort of exploded a bunch of times, I found my current place instead. It’s a nice place, so it kinda bothers me that no else comes and appreciates it, but on the other hand, that’s what makes it a place all my own. Sometimes, at night after I’ve been practicing too much and my body doesn’t want to move any more, I just flop down in the meadow and rest a bit. Looking up, the trees on the edge of the clearing look like they’re all reaching up towards the stars. No matter how much they grow though, they’ll never reach what they’re growing towards. I suppose that if they kept trying, kept growing, kept stretching themselves, eventually they’d become the biggest tree in the whole world, but it’d still just be a tree. Sometimes, I do what the trees do too. I lay on my back and stretch my arm out towards the night sky and imagine that if I just close my hand, I’ll be able to grab stardust. Then I laugh at myself for being silly, but it always gives me some more energy to keep practicing my magic. Even though I may just be a human, at the very least, I want to be a human that reaches for the stars.
So these are Marisa’s thoughts after all? You didn’t think that she was capable of thoughts deeper than her next robbery scheme, but it’ll take more than a few insightful words to sway your opinion of her. What does interest you, however, is that she does seem to genuinely care about learning and improving her magic, although her methods are still not anything you could call scholarly. What doesn’t make sense though is, why hide it? You continue to read, looking for an answer.
I think that if anyone ever saw that I had to practice so much to learn magic, they’d laugh at me, and I’d totally die of embarrassment. I’m trying to be the cool but ordinary magician of love, but there’s nothing cool about trying hard. It’s lame, and way too ordinary, even for an ordinary magician such as myself. But I gotta keep trying hard if I want to catch up with Reimu someday. I’m still not sure if it’s even possible, but that’s why I’ve got to keep trying as hard as I can.
What is this nonsense? She’s always goofing off, and only puts in effort secretly because she’s worried about what other’s think? A magician should take pride in her hard work, not hide it like it’s some kind of crime. It’s unfortunate that you have to be secretive about your own work, but considering the power of the stone, others would covet and attempt to misuse it. You can’t stand to imagine anyone, even Marisa, thinking that there is anything wrong with caring strongly about and working hard at learning magic. If even a single other magician in the outside world had cared even half as strongly as you about magic, then maybe…..well there’s no sense thinking about the past anymore. What matters is that Marisa has the completely wrong mindset here. Magic isn’t about having talents or power, it’s about the personal drive for discovery. Once you leave here, you feel you need to set her on the right path. If you could do that, and get rid of her thieving tendencies, and get her to talk less and use an inside voice, then perhaps you could even get along with her. Maybe. For now, all you can do is read on.
Reimu is just like the stars in the sky to me. We’re friends, but whenever I try to be at her side, I always end up on my back, looking up at her. As her sworn rival, and as her friend, I have an obligation to catch up to her, so that she won’t have to solve every incident alone. Because she’s so powerful, it’s like she exists in a world all to her own. When she first beat me, I got so mad, so jealous. I thought to myself, no one should have her power, it’s simply not fair. So I did the only thing I can do, I trained and trained, and in the end I still lost again and again, but after a while, I realized that the price of her power was that no one could be close to her. She was too far above everyone. So I swore to myself that I had to be the one who could rise to her level, and from there I’ve done the only thing I can do, train and train some more.
You’ve got no taste for the heroics that she seems to love being center stage of. Any person who spouts this nonsense obviously has something wrong with them. However, as a fellow magi, you suppose that everyone has their own motives, however bizarre, for practicing and improving their magic, and you ought to respect them, even Marisa. From there, her thoughts never stray far from Reimu, although the text continues for a great many pages, which you skim through, as you have no intention of reading all, or even any of it. You chuckle, thinking about how similar it is to lovesickness. Rather, could that actually be the case? The evidence in front of you certainly seems to suggest so. First Remilia, now Marisa too is pining after Reimu? You don’t really see the appeal, but the shrine maiden is at the very least generally polite and well mannered, which is more than can be said about the former two.
You’ve gotten used to the Yama appearing unexpectedly, and this time it comes as no surprise when she comes strolling over to you.
“Yes?” You reply to her entrance, still in a good mood from laughing at Marisa’s attempts at heroics, and at her silly infatuation with Reimu.
“It’s time for you to wake up now. I hope this experience has helped you change yourself for the better.”
This comes as a shock to you for some reason. It’s over? You weren’t fond of this imprisonment, but this was still a good chance to learn some useful things. Maybe you ought to find a way to convince her to let you stay so that you can finish reading. On the other hand, you have a lot of business to care of now, perhaps you ought to simply let this end so you can continue that.
[ ] I’m not done reading! [ ] I’ve got things I need to do.
“It’s over? But wait, I’m done! I still wanted to read more.”
“That’s good. Never forget that desire to learn more about others. You can’t stay in this world forever. Once you wake up, you’ll have to accomplish it by talking to them. All it takes is a little courage and a little trust. Good luck.”
That’s not right. You don’t care about anyone other than yourself, right? This is just so you can have a strategic advantage, it’s not like you really wanted to know anyway. Right? You’re not so sure anymore.
A darkness starts to spread from the sides of your vision, and you feel yourself drifting out of consciousness. As your vision leaves you, you hear a voice, different from the Yama’s.
“If you really want to see the others that much, then I’ll put them in that secret room where you’ve put your precious stone. If you choose to read them, then you’ll owe me a favor, though.”
“Yukari, is that really okay?” The Yama responds again.
And then darkness, followed by light and a good deal more noise than you’re used to waking up too.
You open your eyes to see that you’re in your bed. Sitting on a chair by your side is...Koakuma. When she sees that you’re awake she springs up and just about tackles you with a hug, saying “Lady Patchouli, you’re alive!” You recoil slightly at the unexpected physical contact, but then relax into it. If it’s her, it’s okay.
Was that a dream? It felt very real. Regardless, you know what you have to do now. You extend your arms, which you notice are lightly bandaged around her and return the embrace. “I’m fine, Koakuma.”
She responds by hugging you even tighter.
A voice you know all too well wafts over to the two of you. “Hey now, get a room if you want to go any further.” Koakuma reacts by pulling away, her face about as red as her hair, and then swiftly leaving the room.
That voice belonged to Remilia. She’s sitting at a table she’s set up in the far side of the room, drinking tea while her maid stands silently attendant to her.
“This is, in fact, my room Remilia, although I don’t see why you feel the need to read so deeply into a hug.”
“I’m just looking out for the love life of my dearest friend.”
Love? That’s not really the word you would use to describe the relationship between you and your familiar. You’re closer than a master and her servant, but the idea of love...no. That’s not it. You’ve had more than your fill of love for a lifetime. It’s time to set Remilia straight, the question is only how you should go about doing it.
[ ] Didn’t you know, witches have orgies with demons every night (lie) [ ] We’re close, but I don’t see us as being like that. [ ] Listen, Remilia. I’m not interested in love, and you can thank a certain someone for that. [ ] Rather than the type of love you’re referring to, I consider Koakuma to be like a daughter to me. ------------------------------------- Tiny update, and the next one will be too most likely. At least they come out quicker this way?
“I don’t understand your fixation on romantic love, Remilia. It’s honestly a bit childish. To me, Koakuma is something like family. I see her as a daughter, or perhaps a little sister.”
Remilia stays uncharacteristically quiet. That’s odd, and it makes you a little uneasy. Remilia always has a comeback, although sometimes they’re not very good, or just blatantly changing the subject to suit her purposes. This silence feels wrong, and you can see that Sakuya has also noticed that something is amiss with her master. Finally, she gives you a faint, unconvincing half-smile, and says “You’re right Patchy, I don’t really know the first thing about family or anything.”
You feel terrible as you realize the possible implications of what you said. Remilia might be annoying at times, and you may argue a lot, but it wasn’t your intention to go for a low blow there. Flandre is a sore spot for her, and you know nothing about the rest of their family other than their absence. What you should do is put aside your pride and apologize. It won’t take your words back, but it’s the only thing you can do.
“Remilia, I’m sorry” She starts to get up. “I didn’t mean....”
Before you can finish your apology, she’s already left the room. Remilia has always been able to laugh off anything, and over the years, the two of you, equally thick-skinned, developed a certain rapport, with the implicit truth that nothing said was truly ill-intentioned, and nothing said would be taken seriously. In a certain sense, it might look like arguing, but there was also a certain strange form of trust between the two of you, that no matter what, that aspect of your odd friendship would never change, a permanently nebulous relationship where we would never be able to drift apart, but also never get too close to each other. It suited the two of you perfectly, and the thought of losing that scares you more than you’d like to admit.
Although, after over a century of living together, it feels like you know each other as well as you know yourselves, it’s also true that you have shared next to nothing about yourselves with each other. When you were invited to come live in the mansion, the House of Scarlet already consisted of only Remilia and Flandre, and you never heard anything about their past. Maybe you should go and ask Remila? Alternatively, you apparently have the book of her thoughts available to you, maybe you should read that first? It might be a breach of her privacy, but if it’s for her own good…
On the other hand, it might not be such a good idea to talk to Remilia right now. Maybe you should give her a little time to calm down and compose herself. You do have a lot of other business to take care of.
[ ] Talk to Remilia. [ ] Read Remilia’s story. [ ] Find Sakuya, maybe she’s good person to talk to about Remilia. [ ] Talk with Koakuma in the library. [ ] Go on an expedition to the Forest of Magic. You’ve got to set Marisa straight on what being a magician is.
[x] Find Sakuya, maybe she’s good person to talk to about Remilia. We lack the manners to deal with a touchy subject correctly-even if she didn't need to cool off for a bit. Reading the book is the easy way out and implies a favor to Yukari. In the last story we did that, it ended up being bad news.
Therefore, I conclude that speaking to someone with a great amount of patience, knowledge of the subject and NOT direct involvement is the right choice.
She will probably not have all the answers though.
[x] Find Sakuya, maybe she’s good person to talk to about Remilia.
I'd really like to try talking to Alice about it, but it seems a bit out of character for Patchy to actively seek her out. Hopefully Patchy would be willing to at least give her a chance if she does show up, though, after having read those books.
You’d rather not go forward without a bit more information, and with that in mind, you seek out Sakuya. She was in the room here with you and Remilia, but she disappeared around the time that Remilia left. With her power, it can be quite a pain to track her down. In this case, however, you’ve got a pretty solid idea of where she probably is. Knowing the way she dotes on Remilia, she’s probably standing outside of Remilia’s room like a lost puppy, agonizing about what to say to her. It’s a bit pathetic, really, to be so bound to another like she is.
Before exiting the library, you take a moment to assess your surroundings. You noticed earlier that there were bandages on your arms and around your head, but further investigation finds that they were entirely cosmetic, as you seem to be unharmed. Odd. You remove them and proceed to stop in to check on the Philosopher’s Stone. The gap youkai mentioned it, although how she learned of it’s whereabouts is a worrying mystery to you. The stone seems to have not been touched, but sure enough, there is the stack of books that Yukari promised you next to it. You are curious, very curious, but if you were to open up those book again of your own free will, it would be no different from the invasions of privacy you have to deal with on the daily. Additionally, the idea of owing Yukari a favor is not a pleasant one.
You decide to do a few quick tests to make completely sure that the stone was not tampered with in any way. You’re feeling a bit weak after the exertion of last night, and normally that would mean you would limit direct exposure to the stone. Even a magic user can only be around so much magic before it starts to adversely affect one’s health, and for someone of weak constitution such as yourself, that effect is only increased. However, it’s a price you’re willing to pay today. If something did happen to the stone, it’d be better to know earlier rather than later. Activating the stone for just a moment, you can feel the power flow through you, along with the accompanying waves of nausea and pain. However, thankfully it seems to be working just fine.
Upon exiting the library and realizing it’s the first time that you’ve left since your imprisonment, you can’t help but appreciate the feeling of freedom, although you know you should be content with just your library. Continuing on through the mansion, there are multiple times that you are forced to pause due to shortness of breath. The effect from the stone shouldn’t be this bad, but perhaps this is a sign that it is indeed causing your condition to worsen. If you can perfect the stone, then you should be able to control and neutralize it’s damaging side effects, but for the time being, you made the choice to sacrifice your health for your research if need be.Still, you thought you would have more time… You’ve tried to avoid thinking about this possibility, worrying is an unnecessary distraction, and it might cause you to turn from your chosen path. If you were to stop now...you can’t. Your convictions can’t allow you too. If you gave up now, you’d be no different from those you condemn. You will see this through, to whatever end will come.
With regards to ends, despite the delays, you’ve arrived at your destination, and as expected, Sakuya is pacing back and forth in front of the door to Remilia’s room, phasing around as her seldom seen nervous habit of repeatedly stopping and resuming time gets the better of her. It would likely not be wise to approach her unexpectedly when she’s like this, you’ve seen how quick she is to go for her knives when she’s surprised. Instead, you call out to her,
“Sakuya, can you come with me to one of the lounges? There’s some things I’d like to discuss with you about Remilia.”
She seems hesitant, but ultimately follows you. Once you’re in the lounge, before you even have a chance to speak, Sakuya takes the initiative. “Lady Patchouli, if I may be so rude as to ask, what is Lady Remilia to you?”
That’s not an easy question to answer. If Remilia were here, she’d laugh if off with a grin full of ill portent, saying “Of course, we’re two friends tied together by the black thread of fate, doomed to be stuck together for all eternity.”
Is that really friendship? You do feel an odd, entirely unwarranted, and without a doubt totally undeserved closeness to Remilia at times from the usual banter and arguments about nothing important that you are so prone to having. But can that be called friendship? You’d rather it not be, for friendship would bring you only ruination. Thus your situation with Remilia is ideal. Although you would be very happy to be completely rid of any desire for social contact, the unfortunate truth is that you have not achieved that. For now, sating those desires with the faux friendship that Remilia offers is the next best option.
There is, however, no easy way to describe this situation that you find yourself in to an outsider. So you settle with the noncommittal and also all too true “I’m not entirely sure myself.”
Sakuya looks disappointed. “Well, I hope you find your answer sooner rather than later, Lady Patchouli. Perhaps as her maid, it is presumptuous for me to say this, but Lady Remilia seems to be very worried about you as of late.”
“Remilia only cares about herself.” That’s the way it’s always been and the way it always will be. If she were to start acting differently, it would go completely against the established order that the two of you maintain.
“If you choose to believe that, then so it shall be Lady Patchouli.”
That response bothers you. Who is she to act like she knows all about you and your circumstances. “Maids should quietly mind their own business.”
“And so I shall, but it is not by choice. I merely know that there is nothing that I personally can do for milady, except have faith that you and she will find your own answers. I suppose, in a sense, I’m jealous of you for that.” She looks away and trails off somberly.
It seems you’ve managed to step on yet another personal landmine, but that’s really none of your concern. It is a bit disheartening to see someone so foolishly entangled in love.
“I really don’t understand what you see in her, Sakuya.”
“Milady gave my life purpose. She is my everything.”
You’re actually kind of impressed that she can say those kinds of lines with a straight face. It would, of course, be better for her if she were not afflicted with lovesickness in the first place, but at least she seems to be pretty mature and accepting about it. You know you really shouldn’t care to stick your nose in the business of others, but you also would find it very annoying for things to continue along their current path with you forced to observe.
“I don’t understand why you feel the need to mix up gratitude with love, Sakuya. Remilia will only hurt you, you know.”
“L-l-love? Who said anything about love….. I don’t see her as anything other than my master.” She looks away red-faced, as if to punctuate how obviously false her statement was. So perhaps you were a bit off in your previous thoughts. Rather than being mature about it, she seems to merely be very good at deceiving herself about her feelings.
At that moment, Remilia strolls in with a face full of ill portent and an expression as if nothing was out of the ordinary. “What’s this? A maid and a scholar in a secret discussion of love? I won’t tolerate any such illicit relationships in my mansion.” Or so she says with a wide and devilish grin. She seems to have rebounded quite quickly from the state she was in earlier.
You know from years of experience that the best response is no response at all. Sakuya, on the other hand, seems to have decided that the best response is to stop time and then flee the room, as evidenced by her disappearance aside from a distinct residue of her time magic.
“Aw, she ran away. Patchy, you were teasing her too much.”
“No matter how you look at it, you’re the bully here.”
“What a mean spirited thing to say. It’s merely how I show my deep and unbounded love.”
It seems that it is back to business as usual between the two of you. You feel a strange sense of comfort, knowing that no matter what, it will always be like this between the two of you, but something also feels wrong about this. Do you dare to break the status quo again, and if so, how should you go about it?
[ ] The way things are now is how they should be. Humor her with a bit of verbal jousting as per your usual, but don't pursue a specific agenda with the conversation.
[ ] Play along, but try to steer the conversation towards - [ ] Flandre. Remilia is probably still thinking about what happened before. - [ ] Past events between the two of you. You're hesitant, but maybe it’s time to address this. - [ ] Sakuya. It’s not really your business, but it would be better to resolve this before the drama inevitably sets in.
[ ] Now is the time to be direct. Cut out the word games and riddles. Talk about: - [ ] Flandre. Remilia is probably still thinking about what happened before. - [ ] Past events between the two of you. You're hesitant, but maybe it’s time to address this. - [ ] Sakuya. It’s not really your business, but it would be better to resolve this before the drama inevitably sets in. ------------------------ I am arrive again. I’m feeling pretty iffy about this update, but it’s been sitting on my hard drive for about 3 days now, so I figured I should just throw it to the winds and see what happens.
In other news, Patchy Quest is alive again. That was the first story I read on this site, so it has a lot of significance to me. No plans to include Yukkuris in this story yet.
[ ] Now is the time to be direct. Cut out the word games and riddles. Talk about: - [X] Past events between the two of you. You're hesitant, but maybe it’s time to address this. Obviously the most important option.
“Love, you say. A fine thing, for a vampire to talk about….”
“Just so we’re clear Patchy, even if you tell me you love me now, you know I can’t return your feelings.”
“Well, vampires have their pride, so I’ll do at least so much as to not say what I truly think.”
“Then I shall only have your implications to go on, and from there I have only one option, to bemoan my own popularity. Would that I could only return the affections of every girl who chases me.”
The biting irony of that line is almost laughable. The only girl who sees anything desirable in her seems be Sakuya, and yet Remilia goes out of her way on every occasion to ignore that.
“Get over yourself.”
“Oh, but I can’t. You said it yourself, vampires have their pride.”
She seems to be really enjoying this. It certainly is a caliber of conversation normally reserved for stories, but for that reason would it not simply be easier to read a book rather than reenact the same grandiose lines? For her, it seems at times to be what she lives for, but you’ve long ago given up on trying to understand Remilia. Still, you see an opening, so you might as well test the waters.
“I’m all too familiar with your pride. Is it still keeping you from admitting fault for what you did?”
She recoils slightly, then after a silent moment, responds by avoiding the question altogether. “Say, want to come back to my room? There are certain things that shouldn’t be discussed in an open place like this lounge.”
Her room…..You haven’t entered there since the night that you ended things with Remilia.
Remilia seems to notice your hesitation. “I won’t do anything to you, I promise.”
A promise from a vampire is not worth much…..but you want to believe it. Leaving the lounge, you follow Remilia to her room. Once inside, she invites you to join her on the bed. You’d rather not remember what transpired here, and yet the memories resurface unbidden.
-------------------------------------- You were laying with your back on the bed and Remila on top of you. It began innocently enough, as it was your habit at that time to spend the evening reading in Remilia’s room. However, it seemed that she had other intentions on that particular night, and so you found yourself more than slightly beyond what you were comfortable with.
“Please, Patchy? I really want it. It'll only hurt at first.” Remilia asked you with eyes that shone with a vivid red despite, or perhaps because of, the darkness of the room.
“I don’t think I’m ready, and my health might….” Your protestations were ignored, and your arms were pinned to the bed. Remilia leaned in close to you, and you felt her fangs scraping against your neck. As you felt her about to set them into you, you yelled out. “Remi, stop!” and then closed your eyes, preparing a spell to try to stop her yourself. You felt the teeth glide away from your neck and your arms were released. Opening your eyes, you saw that the fierce redness had drained from Remilia’s eyes, replaced by tears, the only time you’d ever seen any hint of genuine sadness from her.
She got off from on top of you, and laid next to you on the bed for a moment with an arm covering her eyes, before saying, quietly at first and then with increasing volume. “Leave. Leave. Leave now!”
After leaving that night, you never once returned to this room. -------------------------------------- Until now, that is. You know that you shouldn’t hold her vampiric instincts and nature against her, and yet never once did she apologize or try to make amends either. After that, the two of you simply went your separate ways while still living under the same roof, since it’s not like you had anywhere else to go; first avoiding each other completely, then after a while settling into the current state of affairs. Truthfully, it feels far more natural now, since you both know what the other is really like, to see each other as odd friends than as something more. The time you spent together feels more like some far away dream than reality at this point. Still, the lack of resolution to it has always bothered you. It’s helped to shape you into who you are today, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to have a conversation about it, and yet it has never once come up.
An uncharacteristic silence hangs over the two of you, until Remilia breaks it with an uncharacteristic tone, like she’s struggling to get the words out. “A Scarlet does not apologize for anything. That’s what I’ve always thought. But twice now I’ve accidentally hurt my friend. First, back then in this room, and again recently, back when you cast that silence spell, I...I might have overreacted a bit….” She trails off, and the awkward silence resumes. To see the usual charismatic Remilia like this strange to the point of being unnerving. Could this…..be her way of trying to apologize? But that doesn’t match the Remilia you know at all. Maybe she has a fever? But a vampire probably can’t get sick…..It seems she’s seriously trying to make amends, but that’s a risky move. You appreciate the sentiment, but the way things are now is comfortable and stable, so why compromise it with change? It would be better to keep things as they are now.
Regardless, it seems that she won’t be saying anything else. Perhaps she’s waiting on some kind of response from you? You’re not really sure how to respond though, this being so far out of your normal range of interactions with Remilia.
[ ] Maybe you can lighten the mood with a joke. Teasing her a little may help return to a sense of normalcy, too. That is, after all, business as usual between the two of you. [ ] If she wants a serious conversation, then respond seriously. Accept her apology, but explain that you’re most comfortable with things the way they currently are. [ ] Perhaps you should give her a moment to collect her thoughts. Stay silent, maybe she’ll say something else. ------------------- This...This wasn't an easy update to write, content wise. All things considered though, I think it turned out the way I wanted it to.
[X] Serious talk. Accept Apology, and explain that you’re comfortable with things the way they are now.
Your first order of business should be to make sure this doesn’t go farther than you’re comfortable with. If she wants to make peace with you, then that’s great, one less thing to worry about. However, it’d honestly be a bother to try to go back to how things were before. For better or worse, over the years that you’ve known each other, the two of you have both seen the best and worst of each other. Thus, it feels far more comfortable to let things stay the way they are than to try to force things back into the way they used to be when you first met. It simultaneously does and doesn’t feel like a friendship, and that’s what works for you.
The difficult part will be putting these thoughts into words. You suspect that Remilia has similar thoughts, so she’ll probably understand. But first, you should respond to her apology. It felt good to hear it. You’re not the type of person who gets off on making people apologize, but it does give a sense of closure to be able to talk about it. Besides, a remorseful Remilia isn’t something you see every day, so it’s in your best interests to encourage and cultivate it instead of her usual willful wrongdoings.
Then, how should you go about doing this? This isn’t something you have much experience with. As you stall out your thoughts trying to figure out how to say what you want, the silence in the room seems to grow more oppressive, and you find yourself becoming less composed in your thoughts. Finally, realizing that you have to say something sooner or later, you blurt out the first words that come to mind. “I-it’s fine. I-if you’re going to go that far, then I’ll f-forgive you.”
Well, that was a bit weak, but it got your point across at least. Now for phase two, a graceful repositioning of the conversation from the overly personal topic of the past to the usual state of affairs, the comfort of undeniably meaningless banter.
“D-don’t take this the wrong way and start acting all friendly with me though!.”
Damn. If the first part was weak, which it was, then the second was far weaker. Not only that, it was like you were issuing a challenge to her, which will no doubt arouse her predatory instincts. Sure enough, she’s not even trying to hide her grin, although you’re having a lot of trouble maintaining any level of eye contact considering what you just said.
“Have no fear, Patchy. I wouldn’t give up teasing you for the whole world.” ‘
You let out a sigh that you didn’t realize you were holding in. That’s a relief. Everything is at is should be. Once again, you’re on stable ground. The words leave your mouth almost by instinct.
“What a poor hobby you have. Perhaps you should get out more Remi.”
“I don’t want to hear that from the queen of being indoors. Besides, I get a free pass to be inside for most of every day.”
“Unlike you, I have very valid hobbies.”
“You’re well past being a hobbyist, even being a heavy user is leagues below you.”
“I’m more than a little proud to agree with you.”
“Most normal people wouldn’t be proud of something like that.”
“Then it’s a good thing we’re not normal then.”
In a certain sense, Remilia can be relied upon to act in a certain way, She can always steer the conversation in whatever way she wants, which is more than you can say for yourself, so when the two of you want to have a conversation of no consequence, as most conversations are, then she’ll reliably be the one to take the lead.
You borrow a short little fiction novel from Remilia’s bookcase, and read it while the two of you idly chat. Back when you first getting to know Remilia, it surprised you when you found out that she didn’t care if you read while talking to her, but you suspect that she prefers it just because you talk less while reading, giving her the chance to talk more. As for yourself, if you’re doing light fiction reading you don’t mind, and in some ways having a second conversation going on keeps you on your feet, so you get more out of a book sometimes.
You spend the rest of the day reading and chatting with Remilia. It occurs to you that it’s been a very long time since you’ve read any fiction, since you haven’t wanted to waste time that could be spent on research. However, every once in a while, a good novel really can be relaxing and enjoyable, and you find it preferable to spend some time outside your library considering your recent imprisonment. Of course, that won’t be stopping you from reclaiming your sanctuary, but a little time away hasn’t been terrible.
It’s getting late, but before you can leave, Remilia starts up another conversation.
“You know, I just read a book recently, and it was really irritating, so much so that I totally lost my motivation to continue the scheme I’ve been working on, the one where I needed you and Alice to get together.”
What? You don’t know what that plan of hers entailed, but how could it be related to something she read? You’re used to Remilia not bothering to make a lot of sense, and so hold your silence as she continues.
“So that’s done with, but without a nice scheme, I’m definitely going to get bored. And I still think the two of you would be cute together, not to mention the potential to tease you about it, so don’t think you’ve escaped just yet. Anyway, to show your thanks, you should lend me a good book next time you come by, something to cleanse my palette.”
You’ve long gotten used to Remilia’s outlandish and outrageous requests, but if it’s a book recommendation, you can at least do that much. Or rather, you might be able to use this as a chance for a light hearted prank against her. You consider what kinds of books would best get a rise out of Remilia on your back to the library.
As you sit at your bedroom desk absentmindedly sewing as you often do before going to bed, you consider what you should do tomorrow, when there comes a rattling at your window. You look over to see what appears to be a bat tapping its hands on the glass, and there appears to be a note clutched in it’s claw. That’d be from Remilia then. You open the window and have the note thrust out to you. Reading it, you hear that Patchouli is doing fine, and Remilia urges you to come by the mansion tomorrow. Additionally, she congratulates you on clearly stating your intentions to befriend Patchouli.
You sigh. You were clear, but since it was you, just clarity wasn’t enough. You feel bad for Marisa and Remilia. They convinced you to say all that, but you still messed it up. Maybe their idea failed because you’re heart wasn’t really in it when you told her to that you’d become friends with her no matter what. You do want to get to know her better, but those were the other two’s words in your mouth, not your own. If she doesn’t want to be your friend, then you aren’t going to try to force her, that’d be ridiculous. But you foolishly got carried away and said all that, and now you’re even blaming the people who tried to help you.
As to whether or not you should go to the mansion tomorrow, you’re really not sure. You want to trust Remilia, but even if you go you’ll probably just mess things up more. Maybe you should give Patchouli some space? You did think about going into the village before. It’s a bit scary though. But that’s why you have to make yourself go. Better that than spending another day listlessly in the house, at least. Maybe.
[ ] Village. [ ] Patchouli. [ ] Invite Patchouli to the Village.
Alice isn’t a physical threat to you or your research. You’ve ascertained that much beyond any real doubt. As for whether she’s a threat to your mood and continued mental health, you’re still unsure. Regardless, she’s put you in an inconvenient situation.
Well, you’re willing to forgive her that. It was a long time ago, but you were like her once. At the very least, now you can still understand where she’s coming from.
“You wish for me to accompany you into the village, is that it?”
“Um, that’s right…”
“I refuse. I do not like being around many people, and it seems it’s going to get quite hot today. It’s a good day to be indoors.”
You’re not sure if this is another inane plan to get you to leave the library, or another inane plane to try to befriend you. You’re also not sure which would be worse. Either way, it’s best to cut if off early. If she wanted to spend some time in the library, you wouldn’t begrudge her that, but leaving is another things altogether.
“Since we both don’t like crowds, I was, um, thinking that maybe we could go to a bookstore instead…”
“I highly doubt that it’s selection can compare to this library.”
“Y-you never know. Bookstores can have some real hidden gems in them sometimes. I’ve heard a rumor that the one in the village carries demon books.”
Well that does change things. Even if it’s just an excuse, it’s an intriguing offer. If it’s just this much, then it should be fine. You want to make up for your earlier foolish misassessment of her, but you can’t be the friend she wants. It would be better that she stop trying to force that idea upon you. Rather than a friend, you wouldn’t mind having a fellow magician to talk to discuss magic and your research with. Having a comrade like that would be far more valuable than any friend.
“I see. So this is a scholarly expedition.”
“Well, I suppose that’s one way to put it.”
“Then, I don’t mind joining you for it. Just don’t think that this means anything more.”
“Thanks! I mean, um, glad to have you.” The wide smile she wears tells you that she was far more focused on the first thing you said then the rest. “Let’s get going before it gets really hot.”
You lead her outside the SDM, thankfully evading any encounters with Remilia. Knowing her. she wouldn’t have been able to resist making some comment about it being a date, and that’s the last direction that you want the conversation to go in. As soon as you step outside, you regret this venture. Has the sun always been this hot and bright?
“It’s no good Alice. I’ve been around Remilia too long, I’ll turn to ash out here.”
Unexpectedly, she starts laughing. “So even you can make jokes, Patchouli? That’s reassuring in a way.”
Hmm...You suppose that was a joke, wasn’t it? It just sort of came off your tongue without much thought. It’s not like you are prohibitive of jokes, they just serve no purpose. Odd.
In your silence Alice continues, “Although I don’t much fancy blood, my skin doesn’t much fancy the sun, so I’ve made preparations for us. They should still be with the gate guard.”
You make your way through the grounds and reach the front gate. The gate guard is thumbing through what you recognize as the last in the series of detective novels that she borrowed from the library some time ago. If you remember correctly, the twist of that one was that the young mistress was actually innocent, and the real killer was the maid. Of course, you saw it coming, the maid is always the killer.
“Ms. Meiling.” You get her attention.
“Lady Patchouli! Is everything alright?”
“Are you, perhaps, mocking me Ms. Gate Guard?”
“Oh, no. Sorry. It was just surprising to see you going out. I think it’s a good thing though.”
You’re eager to change the topic. You hear enough about this from everyone else already.
“By the way, that herbal tea you recommended has been quite effective.”
“Really? Glad to be of help then. How’s your supply of it faring? The spring harvest was rich.”
“That’s good to hear, I’ve almost run out. When you drop off the next batch, feel free to ask Koakuma for more book recommendations, I’m sure she’d love to help you with that.”
“Alrighty, I’ll do that. I’m pretty close to figuring out who the real killer is. Personally, I still think it’s the maid, but don’t tell Sakuya that I said that. Anyway, if you’re heading out, I assume you’ll be wanting your parasols back, Ms. Margatroid?”
“Oh, um, yes please.”
Meiling walks over to the little guard house and retrieves two colorful parasols, which despite each containing no less than seven different colors of fabric woven in a spiral image, manage to not look in the least bit gaudy, and you can immediately tell that there was a great deal of skill involved in their creation.
Alice hands one to each of the two dolls who were floating a few paces behind her. One stays to cover her with its umbrella, and the other does the same for you.
“That one is Hourai, and mine is Shanghai.”
“I see.” So these are the two dolls that are closest to the autonomous doll that Alice is working towards. Interesting. It’s a bit odd to so casually have them out and about like this, but you suppose that being this trusting is just part of who she is.
“Well then, shall we be off?”
“Lead the way.”
And so the two of you set off in the direction of the human village. The two of you don’t make much small talk, which is fine by you, since it’s generally a waste of time anyway. You do regret not bringing a book to read as you walk however.
In one of your short conversations, you ask her about the wicker basket she’s been carrying, and find out that she bought the makings of picnic with her, since, as she put it, it might be nicer to eat lunch outside of the village. Makes sense, it’d be bothersome to have a meal ruined by noisy and nosey humans. The two of you decide on a hill overlooking the village. You don’t have much of an interest in scenery, but the view seems suitably picturesque.
While food, like sleep, is no longer something you absolutely need to sustain yourself, you can still process it and get energy that way rather than relying all the time on your mana stream to keep yourself moving. Usually you just can’t be bothered to interrupt your work by trying to adhere to standard schedules of eating and sleeping, but if she’s offering, there’s no reason to refuse.
You sit down as Alice begins to unpack the picnic basket. Inside is a good assortment of various sandwiches, and though it’s a plain concept, the food is undeniably delicious. The two of you sit in a comfortable silence as you eat. From her fidgeting, it seems that Alice has something she wants to say though.
“Is there something wrong, Alice?”
“Oh, no. It’s nothing.” Then after a pause, she continues, “Um, about what we talked about during the moon incident...I’m sorry, I got caught up in the moment and said too much.”
Hmm. This kind of conversation is as difficult as always. “It’s okay. I think I’ve come to understand where you were coming from, although I still disagree with you on most parts. The library is where I belong.” This next part is going to be even harder, but you feel you have to say it. “I, well...I also had my own share of misunderstandings about you, sorry. But now that we both understand each other, I think that, as Magicians, we should be able to get along and work together now.”
...Why did you feel compelled to say all that?
Perhaps you were just resigned to the fact that you would be haunted no matter what. Perhaps it was the only route you could see to gaining her help for your research. Perhaps it was pity for the shards of your past self that you see in her. Perhaps, if it were on your own terms, having someone else around from time to time wouldn’t be so bad. Perhaps.
She stays silent. You suppose that’s not exactly an easy thing to respond to. Well, you’ve got an idea of something else to say to make it simpler. Normally you dislike physical contact, but you can bear with it for a moment. With that in mind, you extend a hand towards her, saying “I’m looking forward to working with you.”
She takes your hand, and you both wince a bit at the contact, but it’s easier than words. “Yeah….um, likewise.”
You stay like that for a moment, not really sure what to do next, but not wanting to release her hand too soon. That would be rude, after all.
After some short amount of time, the two of you break contact, and the two of you sit in silence again, each a bit red-faced from the embarassment of the situation. You’d like to imagine that you are above getting flustered by such things, but even you have limits, and this is certainly outside of your comfort zone.
This would be a good time for small-talk, but you’ve never been very good at that. Or more accurately, you’re woefully bad at carrying a conversation. Normally, Remilia takes all of that burden, but it seems that in this case it has fallen onto you.
[ ] It sure is unseasonably warm and sunny...It is Autumn right now, isn’t it? [ ] These sandwiches are delicious - [ ] When you come to the library to do research, can you bring more? - [ ] Koakuma has an interest in cooking, but Sakuya is too busy to teach her…. [ ] So, what kind of books do you like to read? [ ] Have you made any progress on your research recently?
There is something about this food that is undeniably delicious. You are no glutton nor a connoisseur of fine dining, but you can definitely notice the quality here. Sakuya’s cooking is quite good, albeit a little too french, but somehow, this tastes quite different. The food has a fresh and crisp feeling to it that lends itself well to bringing out the flavors of the ingredients. It’s not at all like the dense and over seasoned food at the mansion, and in a lot of ways it reminds you of home….Perhaps this is what is called “the taste of food cooked with love?” You hope not. That would truly complicate things far too much.
Regardless, you should be sure to pass your compliments on to Alice. Besides, giving her a bit of self-confidence would make interacting with her less of a minefield.
“These sandwiches are delicious!” You exclaim, and immediately curse yourself for speaking so flippantly. Who are you, Marisa? Moving to regain your footing, you continue “That is to say, I appreciate the way you’ve prepared this food, it’s a nice break from the usual fare at the mansion. Perhaps I could persuade you to bring some more the next time that you come by the library to do research.”
“Oh, um, thanks...but...Really? I can come again?”
“Is it really that hard to believe that I’m willing to open up my library to those who I see as responsible enough to use it well?”
“Oh, no, I didn’t mean it like that...Sorry.”
“Stop apologizing. It’s annoying to hear. I’ll only recognize fellow magicians if they aren’t afraid to recognize themselves.”
“Sor- I mean all right….Thanks Patchouli.”
“Well, if you want to show your thanks, my assistant, Koakuma, mentioned that she was interested in learning how to cook, but Sakuya is too busy to teach….”
“I’d love to!”
“Alright, I’d appreciate that. I’d do it myself, but I’m not afraid to admit to gaps in my wealth of knowledge when they exist.”
“Well, if you’d like, I could teach you too…”
“Similarly, I feel it is best for one to acknowledge and not go against one’s strengths and weaknesses.”
“That’s a shame.”
You don’t have a particular response to that, but you don’t feel like you have to respond either. Silence is another way of having conversation, but it seems to not be one that Alice is particularly comfortable with yet. That will come in time, hopefully. Until then, you can at least do this much. “So, Alice. Have you read any good books recently?”
“I haven’t read much fiction recently. When I was young I used to really like stories about heroes who saved people, but nowadays I just haven’t been able to get interested in them.”
“Realizing the foolishness of self-righteous heroics is a good thing. Perhaps I could trouble you to pass that knowledge pn to a certain other magician. ”
“I think that self-righteous heroism is part of the definition of Marisa. I’m not sure anyone could take that away from her.”
“She’d be much more agreeable if she were to change.”
“That’s hard to deny, but I like...I mean I think she’s fine the way she is now. Anyway, what about you Patchouli? I’m guessing that you do a lot of reading?”
Previously in your life, that would be a massive understatement, but you’ve been busy with your research, perhaps too busy, and how many years have you been working on it now? The past feels like it has blended together, and in much the same way, while you still remember every book you’ve read, you can’t remember which was most recent, or any relative times for when you’ve read the books that you have. You never really cared to keep track of the days, the months, the year. The only time that ever mattered was your own, after all.
Remembering that you need to actually respond to her, you bring yourself back out from your memories. “I pride myself on an over growing depth and breadth of knowledge. Therefore I have read many things, and will read many more things in the future. Recently I have been busy, but once I finish my current project…” Is what you say, but what will you really do afterwards? You’ve decided to devote your whole life to this project, so thinking about what might come afterwards is....
Alice is looking at you inquisitively, and you realize that you trailed off in the middle of a sentence there. “Anyway, I’ve been busy, so I haven’t had a chance to read for pleasure recently.” It still feels a bit awkward, and the two of you have finished eating, so you suggest that you continue onwards. Alice agrees, and so the two of you pack up the picnic supplies and continue on your way to the village.
It really is oddly warm today, you would expect this season to be colder, and with more inclement weather. The sky above you is as clear and bright as in summer, however on the horizon you think you can make out storm clouds.
The village is close by, so it’s not much of a walk at all. You enter the village oddly without trouble. You expected to have to blast away at least one malcontent ignorant human. Perhaps this place is more tolerant than you had previously thought.
The day is still quite young. You’ve got plenty of time, perhaps it would be worth your while to make the acquaintance of the local authorities. You encountered some kind of village guardian during the moon incident, maybe you should seek her out to make it clear that you come in peace. Alternatively, you could have Alice show you around the village, or you could proceed directly to your objective first and save other plans for later in the day.
[ ] Ask Alice to give a tour of the village. [ ] Seek out the village guardian. [ ] Go directly to the bookstore.
Also, if you want to make any further small talk about a specific subject, feel free to do write-ins at any point during this outing. I’ll do any such write in that is suggested by an anon and backed by at least one other, unless there is strong disagreement to it from others.
[x] Ask Alice to give a tour of the village. -[x] Inquiry about the villagers' feelings towards Alice unhuman nature and how it changed (or how it didn't) with time. -[x] Compare her reception with the ones given to other unhuman creatures currently residing in the village
[X] Ask Alice to show you around. [X] Discuss the delicate issue of race.
“Alice, you seem well acquainted with the village. Perhaps you could show me around?”
“I’ve only been here a few times but...I’ll do my best!”
Alice leads you through the town, pointing out the various businesses and places of interest. Most of it isn’t relevant to you, but it does help you get your bearings of the place and feel a bit more at ease. She does, however, mention one place that sparks your interest, a store outside the village called Kourindou. Apparently it specializes in antiques, mystical items, and junk from the outside world. Gensokyou can do without the influences of the outside world coming in, but that store still might have some items that are worth looking at.
Another place that Alice warns you about is the Kirisame second hand shop, run by Marisa’s father. Apparently he some kind of falling out with Marisa, and ever since he’s held a grudge against magic-users, youkai, and generally anyone not human, but Alice doesn’t know all the details of that, as it didn’t feel right to pry into Marisa’s private life. An odd reservation to have, considering how shamelessly Marisa inserts herself into the lives and private business of others.
In this discussion you see a chance to ask about something you’ve been curious about since entering the village. It’s probably best to stay as neutral in tone as possible for now, especially since you are in what could become enemy territory. “In your experience, how does the village feel about...outsiders?”
“Outsiders...you mean people like Marisa who live outside the village?”
“I mean non-humans.”
“Oh, I see.” She looks pensive, and slightly sad for a moment, before responding, “I don’t know most of the villagers personally, but from what I’ve heard, some of the older people in the village have a deep distrust of youkai.” Of course. They’re humans, they ought to be wary of non-humans. Even this place is no different in that respect. While you think this, Alice continues. “Since I’m new here, it doesn’t feel that way, but Gensokyou seems to be a changing place right now. Apparently there used to be a lot of violence between youkai and humans, but the younger generations on both sides are working together to put the past behind them.”
A fine thought. A peaceful world is desirable, but to think that it’s always possible is being far too idealistic. There will always be opposing viewpoints, and to think that complete reconciliation between ideologies is possible is to be truly naive. Humans have been killing each other over ideas since they were capable of creating ideas, and yet they seem so incapable of realizing the futility of it all. You’ve studied history extensively, and you know that promises exist to be broken, and any peace is just armistice for a few years, a generation at best.
You are interrupted from further thoughts by a voice that you don’t recognize from behind the two of you. “And what if the past doesn’t like being put away?”
You turn to see who is speaking, but are temporarily blinded by the brightness of the sun, until the speaker shifts her pink parasol to block out the sun from your view, giving you your first good look at her short green hair, red and white striped sun dress, and most notable of all, red eyes that shine with a tint of orange that reminds you of fiery destruction.
At your side, Alice noticeably begins to tense up, although if it’s with anger or fear you can’t tell. The stranger turns to speak to her with a faint and eerie grin “I was just taking care of some flowers in the village center. Fancy meeting you here, little Alice. It’s been a while, hasn’t it.”
Alice doesn’t respond, and instead shifts herself into what you recognize as an attack position with one hand tightly grasping her Grimoire, and the other controlling the dolls and moving them into a position to strike. After taking her stance, however, she pauses, presumably waiting to gauge her opponents reaction. The stranger, on the other hand, doesn’t seem phased at all. Is she so confident in her ability? You’ve got to do something...
[ ] Convince Alice to back down this time. If you leave now, maybe the stranger will leave you alone. [ ] Silently hold your ground. It’s best not to get involved, but you’ll assist Alice as a fellow magician if it comes to that. [ ] Pre-emptive strike before she has her guard up, then run away with Alice.
[x] Silently hold your ground. It’s best not to get involved, but you’ll assist Alice as a fellow magician if it comes to that.
You don’t want to make any hasty decisions. Better to let this play out as it will for now and focus on being ready to react for whatever happens, making no secret of the fact that you are prepared to strike if provoked. Your health shouldn’t be an issue today, but you do lack the philosopher’s stone currently.
The two of them stay locked in position, staring at each other for another moment, before the stranger speaks up again.
“Little Alice, a youkai that is all too human, how truly pitiful you are. Desperately clinging on to what remains of your humanity, letting it hold you back. She lets out a short, eerie chuckle. “How should I go about forcing out your youkai instincts, I wonder?” She glances over at you. “Perhaps all you need is a little incentive.”
At that moment, you find the parasol leveled towards you, and react accordingly. Dodging isn’t your forte, and at this range it would be impossible regardless, so you focus all your energy on creating a magical barrier, while simultaneously gliding backwards, since a bit of distance will give you just a bit more time to react, and more importantly, reduce the chance of a wholly undesirable melee situation.
Noticing the pattern of the magic forming in the parasol, a fearful tightness grips your chest. However, the only thing you can do is put everything you’ve got into this barrier.
It was an attack too brutish to be called a spell; too unrefined, too reckless, and too rough. It was more like slinging a huge mass of pure magic at your opponent. You thought there was only person who would ever think to use an attack like that, and yet here you are, about to be bested by it yet again. Time seems to slow down slightly, as you notice the small intricacies in the flow of the mana as it spirals around the circumference of the parasol before pooling in the center.
However, moments before the attack is released, the parasol is jerked to the side, and the torrent of magic flies very closely past you, tearing through your sleeve and burning the skin of your arm. Moving through the pain, you immediately dodge in the other direction to minimize damage, and at the time you notice the thin wispy outlines of the magical wires Alice uses on her dolls, wrapped around the shaft of the parasol. So she was your savior.
Having missed it’s mark, the beam peters out, but before the wires can be released from the parasol, the stranger grabs them and cruelly pulls the taught cables with such force that Alice is forced to fall down onto her knees, and before she can get back up, the stranger is already upon her with uncanny speed, and forces her whole body down to the ground by her neck.
You rush to help her, but before you can launch any spells, your foe picks Alice up by her neck and holds her out in front of herself, as if using her as a shield. She holds her there for a moment, before quietly saying something to her out of earshot, and then throwing her to the ground roughly.
With Alice no longer in harms way, you let loose your Royal Flare, only to have it completely blocked and negated by that parasol of hers. You prepare your defenses for a counter attack, but none comes, and instead your foe simply walks away.
Is it over? Have you been so thoroughly bested, is this the difference in your power so great, for her to have no reservations about turning her back to you? More importantly, is Alice alright? As you turn to fly to her, you are relieved to see her sit up. Anyone who can do that, rather than lie on the ground like a corpse, can’t be too seriously hurt. As you approach, she turns to you with a small smile “I’m glad you’re safe.”
“I’m fine, but you don’t look so. Don’t move too much.”
“I’m alright, just winded and scuffed up a bit.” Or so she says, but she’s unsteady as she tries to get up, and you rush to give her a hand.
That brutal form of fighting took the two of you by surprise this time, but it used to be the norm amongst youkai, so it’s not surprising that even Magician youkai are resilient enough to endure it to some extent. Already you can feel the damage to your arm being reversed. from what you’ve read about youkai physiology, it seems that Alice’s wounds will also mend on their own, within a day to a week depending on severity, but you know better than to not get a second opinion on this.
Additionally, there’s already a crowd forming, and there are better places to recover after a battle than the middle of a village road.
“Alice, we should report this incident to someone in charge of the village”
Ideally, you could just leave that job to some villager, but humans can’t be trusted to accurately convey the intricacies of conflicts between youkai, and the incident could be mistaken as proof that youkai are too dangerous to allow in the village. Cooperation and coexistence may be a futile idea, but you don’t want to be the one that killed it in infancy.
“Keine Kamishirasawa is the village guardian. I showed you where the school was, she should be there.”
She starts to walk in that direction, but you stop her with a hand on her shoulder. “There’s no way that you’re in any condition to be walking around yet. Don’t push yourself, I’ll carry you.”
“C-carry me? You can’t, I mean I’m sure I’m way too heavy, a-and…”
“Well, a levitation spell will be doing all the lifting. I’ll just be making sure you stay steady.”
“Still, it’s too embarrassing. I refuse.”
Well, you’ve already cast the spell, and as Alice floats up, still protesting, you scoop her up in your arms and take to the skies.
“H-hey, watch where you’re holding me.”
As you fly, you try to process what just happened, and it occurs to you that Alice is pretty resilient, to be so quick to bounce back into her usual form after a situation like that. Still it seems that some malevolent person or force has it’s sights set on Alice, and to make things worse, they’re choosing to fight outside of the protection of spellcard rules. It’s tantamount to declaring war on gensokyou itself, and you’ll have to make sure that Reimu knows about this. Spell cards exist to protect both those who would be affected by incidents, and those who cause them as well, and from what you’ve seen of Reimu in action, that protection is very necessary. The idea that anyone would feel the need to operate outside the spell card jurisdiction, is, very plainly, frightening.
In the meantime, it would be a good idea to think about Alice’s safety, and perhaps make a recommendation that she not live alone for the time being.
[ ] Apparently it’s common practice for many youkai to free load at Reimu’s shrine. [ ] Marisa lives near her, maybe something could be worked out with her. [ ] There is a guest room at the mansion, but that might invite trouble for both you and Remilia. [ ] The least you can do is help her put up a barrier around her house. ----------------------------------------------- I’m not too confident in my fight scenes, how did this one turn out? Opinions welcome.
To clarify, yes, Patchy is princess-carrying Alice. And yes, that is basically just fanservice, but it’s a juxtaposition to the flashback of Remilia carrying Patchy and...yeah it’s basically just fanservice.
[x] There is a guest room at the mansion, but that might invite trouble for both you and Remilia.
You want to make sure she hears you the first time you say this, since repeating it would be troublesome.
She turns to face you, and she suddenly seems uncomfortably close. You turn so that you’re not looking directly at her, and lower your arms a bit to increase the distance.
You chose this way of carrying her because it was the most stable, and from your experiences with Remilia, this was the proper way to carry someone. When this kind of thing happens in a book, it’s usually simply brushed over, but in practice it’s not such a simple thing as to be mentioned and done with in passing.
To put it plainly, simply, and without reservation, you’re feeling like you may have accidentally gone far too much out of your comfort. Yet again you feel the irritation that comes whenever your reading experiences haven’t adequately prepared you for a situation.
You’d like for this tortuous experience, these dreaded feelings of being far out of one’s depth, to be over as possible as quickly as possible, this might be your best chance to say this. Once you get to the schoolhouse, there will be others around, making this more difficult to say.
“Alice. There are some things we need to talk about.” This time, you know better than to look at her. Besides, looking ahead will make your flying a bit smoother. Probably.
“W-what? You’re being so serious Patchouli.”
“How can you not be serious at a time like this? We were just attacked by someone with apparent intent to kill, and we seem to have only survived on a whim of hers.”
Without warning, you are embraced in a tight hug, and in your surprise you lose control of your flight for a moment, before regaining it a few tense moments later.
You have no idea how to respond to this. You’re really not comfortable with this level of physical contact with anyone, but in a situation like this, you can’t just ask her to stop. What’s more, you notice that her body is shaking lightly. It seems she was really holding back. You feel a deep shame for being so thoughtless of her. Until she’s ready to say something herself you’ll just have to wait.
After about a half minute of holding onto you tightly with her face buried in your chest, Alice lifts her head and speaks. “I was really scared you know, but if I let Yuuka see that fear, it’d just provoke her more. Also, well, I didn’t want to look uncool, but I guess its too late for that.”
Uncool? Really? “Leave acting cool to idiots like Marisa. Answer me honestly now. Are you okay?”
She pauses to let out a long breath. “Yeah, I’m fine. Sorry for hugging you out of the blue like that.”
You're not going to say that it’s fine, as in most circumstance it’s not, but...“I’ll overlook it just this once.”
You see your destination, but you haven’t said what you originally intended to yet. It seems you’ll have to put it off for just a moment.
You make your descent, and once the two of you are on the ground, Alice insists on walking by herself. Well, as long as she can manage it herself, that’s just as well as far as you’re concerned, so you don’t argue.
Entering the school building, you see that the school children are currently at play in the grounds. Good, it seems you won’t be intruding. You see a silver haired person, who you faintly recognize from the night of the moon incident. She is sitting on the porch of the school, watching over the children, but when you approach her, she turns to you and her eye’s widen as she sees the tears on your clothes. “What happened to the two of you?”
It’s nice to see that she’s more concerned about your injuries than the presence of youkai at the school. “We ran into a dangerous youkai in the village. She fought with us outside the spellcard rules.”
“There were no other casualties as far I know. We got lucky.”
“Thank goodness. Something like that could undo all the work we’ve done to work towards coexistence.”
“From what she said, that may very well be her intention, but then why would she attack us instead of the villagers?”
Alice speaks up. “I have fought her once before. Her name is Yuuka Kazami, and she believes that youkai should act purely on their instincts. She was involved when I became a youkai, and so I believe she targeted me because I don’t want to give up my humanity.”
An insightful remark. You had similar thoughts, but lacked the background knowledge to put it together like that.
You fill her in on the other details of the event.
“I know it wasn’t your fault, but having fighting in the streets is just going to fuel anti-youkai sentiments. Since you informed me of your side of the story though, I should be able to do some damage control.”
Just then, you heard a number of loud voices moving towards the schoolhouse. Among them you hear a yell of “Some youkai were fighting in the south part of town, and they blew away a bunch of houses.”
At that, Keine gives a sad glance to the two of you. “I’m sorry, but you’d better go for now. I’ll try to clear your name.”
Alice turns to you. “Let’s fly until we get outside the village, and then walk from there.”
You start to prepare the levitation spell again, but are stopped by Alice. “I’ve recovered enough to fly now.”
The flight out of the village is uneventful, and once you are on the ground again, you decide to broach the subject that you didn’t get to earlier, all the more relevant since Alice confirmed that Yuuka was targeting her specifically.
“Alice, I’ve been thinking. If Yuuka is targeting you, then it might be wise for you to stay with someone for a while, for your own security. I’m sure Remilia would allow you to use one of the guest rooms at the mansion.”
“B-but then I’d be putting everyone in the mansion in danger, there’s no way I could impose on you like that.”
“There’s safety in numbers Alice, and there’s no way of telling if she might set her eyes on the people you know in order to get at you.”
“T-that’s a pretty scary thought.”
Is it? It seems like a natural thing to expect when dealing with a foe like this. She’s not bound by rules, morals, or common sense, so there’s nothing that she won’t do to achieve what she wants.
“It’d be better to be prepared for that possibility than to let it catch us by surprise.”
“That’s hard to argue against, but you’ve already been hurt once because of me already. I can’t stand the thought of that happening again. Actually, doesn’t this mean that Marisa is in danger too?”
Oh no. You can see where this is heading and you don’t much care for it, but it seems that the brat needs to be looked after as well. It might be too much to ask for, but you really hope that you don’t regret this as much as you expect to.
“How about this then. I’ll talk to Remilia and get rooms for both you and Marisa.”
“You would do that much for us? I’m still a little hesitant, but I suppose I’ll accept your kindness.”
“I’m not doing it out of goodwill. You’ll be paying rent by working double time as both a research assistant and a black-white mouse hunter for me, and I’m sure Remilia will have her own set of tasks that she’ll force on you as well.”
“I’ll look forward to it.” She flashes you a big thumbs-up
What a strange girl.
Your return to the mansion is also thankfully without incident. You and Alice are both pretty exhausted from the events of the day, but Reimu needs to be informed as well.
Your solution to this problem is to first fill Remilia in on what happened, and then buy the favor of letting Alice and Marisa stay over in return for an excuse to go to the shrine and inform Reimu. A win-win situation that you’re a bit proud of yourself.
While she’s away, you consider showing Alice to her room, and then leaving her be so that you can both get some much needed rest. Alternatively, it might be better to keep her company for a little while longer.
You're tired, but if you’re going to play host, you might as well do it right. You stifle a yawn and invite Alice to the library. “If you want to come to the library for a bit, I don’t mind.”
The two of you enter the great library, and you make your way to the great couch of the great library, picking up a heist-mystery novel on the way, another by the author that Meiling liked. Should be good for some light reading.
As you lay down and start to read, you see Alice in your peripherals, idly walking around the library and looking a bit lost as to what to do.
“Go ahead and find a book that interests you. The library is open to you, just don’t get lost.”
“Okay, I’ll be right back.” She leaves to walk down among the stacks.
You weren’t joking about the possibility of getting lost, but she should be able to take care of herself. For a few minutes you immerse yourself in the book, determining that the jewel thief is probably the maid, before Alice comes back, walking with her nose in a romance novel. Seeing her return, you let out a breath that you didn’t realize you were holding in. Reading like that is just asking to get lost though, and if you weren’t equally guilty of that habit, you’d definitely not spare her any criticism.
You haven’t read the book that Alice picked out, and honestly you’re not entirely sure why it’s in your library, but you’ve seen Koakuma reading it in the past. Judging a book by it’s cover or it’s genre isn’t something you can condone, but you’re also readily willing to admit a certain bias against the garbage that is the standard romance novel fare. It’s either unrealistically romanticized, or uncomfortably sensualized to the point of wanting to wash one’s hands after putting it down. To each their own.
She seems unsure as to where she should sit. “You can bring a chair over if you want.” The couch could technically accommodate two, but you're tired and don’t want to move from your position lying on the couch with the book levitating in front of you, so the couch is instead accommodating just one for the time being.
Alice has her dolls bring a nearby chair over, and you levitate the spare pillow from the couch over to her. “O-oh. Thanks.”.
It’s a bit interesting that she still holds her books instead of using magic. Perhaps she’s more worn out than she’s letting on, or perhaps it’s just another human habit that she hasn’t kicked yet. Well, you can also see the appeal of holding the book in one’s own hands, the feel of the paper as you turn the pages and such things, but practically it’s a lot more comfortable to use magic for extended reading sessions.
The two of you silently sit together for a while. Exactly how long, you don’t really know, or particularly care. Your already loose sense of time wasn’t something you missed much when you lost it after becoming a full youkai.
You’re about halfway through the book; the detectives family troubles, neglected with his obsession over the case, are a surprisingly compelling part of the plot.
That does remind, where is Koakuma? You haven’t seen her around at all since you returned. You send out the magical signal that means you are looking for her, and within a minute she comes out from among the shelves. As is to be expected of your familiar.
When she sees you, her eyes widen with concern. You realize that you are still wearing your damaged clothes. “I’m fine, don’t worry Koakuma.”
“I-if you want, I think I could try to fix your clothes for you, Lady Patchouli.”
“I would appreciate it. Could you go fetch me my spare robes?”
As she flies off towards your room, you get up begin to take off your torn clothes, before you are stopped by the sound of Alice’s voice. “P-patchouli, what’re you doing?”
Right. You’re going to need to get used to having people other than Koakuma in the library. You return your half removed clothes to their original positions. Responding to that will be a bit tricky, since it’s not like you can just say “You were being quiet so I forgot you were here.”
This is a chance to rely on the wealth of knowledge that you’ve inherited from your accumulated years of reading. When natural conversational ability fails you, you can always just borrow phrases from books. In a situation like this...yes, you’ve got it.
“It’s fine since we’re both girls, right?” Well, calling yourselves girls isn’t quite accurate age wise, but that’s good enough.
“Oh, um, right. C-carry on then.” Or so she says, but she’s pretty clearly hiding her face behind her book.
There’s also the matter that, while you believe that the body is merely a vessel for the mind, and therefore is nothing to be embarrassed about, getting dressed in front of another person isn’t a particularly appealing idea. Of course, since Koakuma is like family to you, that doesn’t apply to her.
However, having just said what you did, it’s not like you can just backtrack and leave. Perhaps you could find an excuse to go to your room and change. Yes, that’ll work. “That’s right, I need to go and change the magical foci in the new robes cloth.” It’s a blatant lie, since all your robes already have the foci sewn onto them, but it’ll work as an excuse.
You don’t hear anything from Alice, but you’re going to assume that she heard you. Regardless you take the opportunity to retreat to your room.
En route, you run into Koakuma who has brought out your spare robes. You take them from her and return to the privacy of your room to change, no doubt confusing her greatly, but some things are simply beyond explaining.
After finishing changing, you leave your room to see Koakuma is standing by the door, presumably waiting to say something to you. “Yes?”
“Lady Patchouli, I was just wondering if you wanted me to continue to make myself scarce for the rest of Miss Alice’s visit.”
“Continue? When did I tell- ask that of you?”
“Lady Remilia told me that you would prefer it if I didn’t bother you and Alice after your date. She said something about certain adult matters that would need to be attended to.”
You let out a long sigh. That Remilia is teaching Koakuma strange and unnecessary things again. One might think that by now you would come to expect this kind of thing as the norm from her. Perhaps you have just accepted it, and thus your only response is a sigh and acceptance.
“Ignore Remilia.” You blandly say. “It was not a date, nor do you need to leave us alone.”
“Understood Lady Patchouli.”
“Ah, one more thing, Koakuma. I asked- I mean Alice offered to teach you how to cook. She’ll be staying in the mansion for a while, so you should take this opportunity to take her up on it.”
“Understood. Thank you, Lady Patchouli.”
Koakuma takes your damaged robes to one of the work tables that you have spread throughout the library, and sets to mending.
Upon returning to the couch, it occurs to you that Alice is still wearing her damaged clothes. “My room is over there. You can change into one of my spare robes, if you’d like. My familiar will mend your old ones for you.” “If it’s alright with you, may I join her for that? Not that I don’t trust her, I just like sewing myself, so…”
“Suit yourself.” Koakuma should enjoy the company, and maybe she’ll learn a few things. Alice really is a skilled homemaker, now that you think of it. Of course, you’ve never given much thought to the value of such things yourself, since you can rely on Koakuma and Sakuya.”
You settle back into your book, but are interrupted by a cough that wracks it’s way through your body. Just this much shouldn’t exert your body enough to worsen your health, but it would be better to head off the possibility of a sick day early.
On the other hand, Remilia will definitely bother you if you go to sleep while guests are around unintended, but what do you care.
You are a bit curious, though, about how things are going between those two. Hopefully Koakuma isn’t having a hard time interacting with her alone… It’s not that you’re worried, you’re just a bit curious, that’s all.
You try to get back into the book, but it’s no good. Your mind keeps wandering. Maybe a bit of variety could spice things up. If both Alice and Koakuma liked that book, then perhaps despite it’s genre it is somehow redeeming.
[ ] A few hours sleep might be a good idea. [ ] Go see how Alice and Koa are faring with the clothes. [ ] Take a look at the book Alice was reading.
You should get some sleep, but first, just to sate your curiosity, you get up and walk so that you can get a clear view of the table that Koakuma and Alice are working at. It’s out of earshot, but they seem to be getting along. Good.
There is a part of you that wants to join them, to make sure Koakuma is doing alright. But you know that’s just an overreaction to your previous mistake. You should let her be, it might be good her for to meet new people on her own.
Returning to the couch, you flop down it, and turning to the side see Alice’s book, “Amongst the Sea of Stars” on the couch side table. Now’s not the time for reading, but you make a note of looking into it later. It seems to be some sort of science fiction as well as a romance, but that doesn’t mean it still probably won’t be bad.
Sleep sounds like a good plan. Even just the thought causes all the strength to go out of your limbs, and even though you know you should go back to your bed, your body is no longer to your commands. You really were exhausted. Darkness covers your sight, and you drift out of consciousness.
You feel a very foggy sense of self, and your thoughts are hazy and inconsistent. Getting up, you look around for others, but find none, no matter how hard you search amongst the books and shelves. Giving up, you leave the library, but right outside the door is nothing. Nothing at all, just a grey nothingness that extends forever. Gazing out into it, you feel a great fear welling up inside yourself, and flee back into the library, slamming the door behind you.
With the slamming of the door, you wake up with a start.
Just a dream. You pause to slow down your breath and beating heart.
How long were you asleep? You’re not feeling tired any more, so it must have been enough. As you shift up to regain your bearings and wipe the last of the sleep from yourself, a blanket falls off you. It’s not that surprising, Koakuma often puts one over you when you fall asleep places other than your bed. She’s a good girl, but it’s also a reminder that you don’t deserve her kindness.
It doesn’t seem that anyone else is around at the moment. Could it be, something happened while you were asleep? No, you’re probably just being paranoid.
Or so you think until you hear a single small explosion in the far corner of the library. The wall in that corner is the outer wall of the mansion. Could the mansion under attack?
[ ] Investigate. If anyone else is already there, they’ll need help! [ ] Retreat and try to find the others. You shouldn’t enter into a situation alone.
------------------------------- Small update, sorry. But as a compromise it came out quick.
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No ones causes an explosion in your library and gets away with it. You're out for blood. Flying towards the source of the sound you can see in the distance a toppled bookshelf.
Flying closer, you can make out the figures of Alice and...is that Marisa? She must have arrived while you were asleep, but you don't like her being in your library. You pick up speed, and are almost breathless by the time you arrive. It's a bit reckless, but you can't stand the idea of being just a few seconds too late.
“Where's the enemy?” You ask as soon as you touch down next to Alice.
“The one that caused the explosion that knocked over that bookshelf.”
“Oh, that was, um, us. Sorry.”
Marisa joins in. “It wasn't Alice's fault. It was me. She was lecturing me about how I need to focus my magic better, so I thought I'd show her that I could if I wanted, but then my magic accidentally, well, exploded. Sorry.”
Does she think just apologizing will make up for it? Fortunately this time, your books weren't damaged, and it looks like neither of them are injured, but that doesn't excuse her foolishness. “This is exactly why I say that children shouldn't be playing around with magic!”
“I'm not a child!”
“Says the one who just exploded because she couldn't control her magic.”
Alice cuts in, a rare thing to see from her. “Please forgive her, Patchouli. She messed up, but no one got hurt, and she apologized. Let's not fight please.”
There is a part of you that just wants to permanently banish Marisa from the library and be done with it, but you get the feeling that she'd come anyway. But you also know that if you just forgive this now, the same kind of thing will happen again soon enough. Humans are, after all exceptionally bad at learning from their mistakes.
The question now is, how should you go about dealing with Marisa? It would be nice to find something to keep her busy for a while, and thus out of your hair. In the interest of keeping your library explosion free in the future, you ought to make her practice on control, not just power, and temporarily ban her from the library as an incentive.
Remilia was also talking about hiring some other workers for the mansion, so the least you can do as a friend is pass along a prospective employee. That is to say, you can make Marisa work as a maid. A bit of hard work builds character, or so you've read, although you have no intention of confirming that for yourself.
Either of those options could work, or you could just do both. Marisa might not like that, but she's the one at fault here, so what does that matter.
[ ] If you want to make up for it, we've probably got a maid uniform in your size, Marisa. [ ] If you're serious, then seriously work to improve yourself. Outside. [ ] Why not both?
Also, since it's a small update, we're doubling up on our choices.
The explosion incident has been resolved, and you're awake and feeling refreshed. It's around 10 PM and you're ready to start a new day, or rather a new night. [ ] Spend some time with Koakuma, you're curious about how things went with Alice and her. [ ] Visit Remilia. You need to talk to her about the Yuuka problem. [ ] If the fighting does come to you, then you need to be prepared. It's time to start working on the Philosopher's Stone again.
[x] If you're serious, then seriously work to improve yourself. Outside. [x] If the fighting does come to you, then you need to be prepared. It's time to start working on the Philosopher's Stone again.
[X] If you're serious, then seriously work to improve yourself. Outside. [X] If the fighting does come to you, then you need to be prepared. It's time to start working on the Philosopher's Stone again.
“If you want to make up for it, then I'm sure Sakuya has a spare maid uniform.”
“If you want me to clean this up, then no problem, but I don't need no dang maid uniform to do it.”
“I was thinking about a bit more long term employment.”
“Just what're you trying to make your guest do?”
“I'm saving myself the headache of having to deal with you restlessly pacing a trench into the carpet. That is to say, I'm giving you an opportunity to do some work and keep busy.”
“You're giving me busy work.”
“That's not true. Consider it as a lift you'll be taking off Sakuya's shoulders. It's a good deed, and if you sweet talk Remi a bit, she'll probably even pay you for it.”
“How much money?”
“Almost enough to satisfy a greedy human.”
“Well, then maybe I'm interested after all.”
Success. Remilia should be fine with it, since she quite enjoys this kind of situation. You're not really sure why she needs money, but you don't really care either.
Alice interjects with a question. “By the way, Patchouli. I've been curious, where does the mansion get it's income?”
“We've got a large grounds and a large staff of nature spirits, so it seemed natural to use the plantation model. Mostly we sell tea, wine, and the other exotic foods that Remi has the gatekeeper grow to suit her ever-wavering palette. I also assisted in the construction of a structure I read about that allows unseasonable crops to grow, a so called greenhouse.”
“Oh, so even Patchy leaves the library sometimes.” Marisa, of course, has to make a comment.
“Yes, while I would like nothing more to read books all day, and you would like nothing more than to bother me the whole time, we both do have other responsibilities we must take care of. It's really unfortunate.”
“As cold as usual, huh Patchy? I'll be honest, I was kinda worried that you might have a fever when Remilia came to the shrine and said I was being invited to stay over. Good to know that your the same as ever. Anyway, it's getting late, so after I clean up here, I'll be hitting the sack.”
“I've got better things to do than watch you clean. Try not to blow anything else up in the meantime.”
Before you can leave, Alice speaks up. “If you're looking for maids, I'll do it too. I wouldn't feel right without housework to do, so...” A busy body, huh?
“Do what you want. Just don't forget that you're also my research assistant when I need you.”
Even though the mansion has its two new guests, it's more important to make sure that you never make the mistake of neglecting Koakuma again. You've been purposely avoiding continuing your research for the same reason.
You're not the type to make a big scene of such things, but the more you've processed it, the more you're bothered by how easily you let your research take over your life. By letting it become your sole reason for being, you lost touch with everything else. What disturbs you the most is how, in hindsight, it does make undeniable sense that you went down that path. The logic is clear. Your work gave you purpose. All beings need some purpose, some reason for existing. A youkai without such, being a creature of fantasy, will eventually simply fade out of existence. Such is the accepted renewing cycle of death and rebirth for ageless beings, and yet you fight the obsolescence of magic and of yourself with all your strength rather than going softly into that goodly oblivion of night.
That is true for all of the residents of Gensokyo. There are those who can find satisfaction and purpose in playing around all day. Others cause incidents and mischief. There are still others who only desire a party with good company and strong drink You are not any of those types. Can you find a reason for being other than your research?
Such are the thoughts that linger in your mind. However, there is no real rush. Not in this land of eternity, Gensokyo. You were just thinking in the long term. For the time being you should just do what you can, and what you can do now is spend a bit of quality time with Koa. If she's anything like you, then she can't be entirely unshaken by the intrusion of others into the library. Of course, since she's the selfless type, she wouldn't say anything even if she was, so it's best to be proactive with her.
Since you're not researching anything, there isn't a lot of work to be done in the library. Therefore when you find Koa, it's not surprising to see that she's on break at the moment.
She's sitting in the chair by your couch, the same one that Alice was in before, and is reading another book in the same “Amongst a Sea of Stars” series. The coincidence is almost eerie, but in Koa's case, that has always been the chair she sits in, although it usually isn't by your couch, so seeing her there also feels like a very natural thing.
When she notices you, she moves to put the book away and get up, but you wave your hand. “It's fine, it's fine. I was just curious on how thing went with you and Alice. She seems to be quite skilled at cloth work.”
“Yes, she was quite skilled. I made a lot of mistakes, but she helped me fix what I messed up, and taught me how to do it better. W-will Ms. Alice be staying with us for a long time?”
“Well, long is just a relative term. She won't be here permanently, but I don't know how long it will take for this incident to be resolved. Just cause Alice and Marisa are staying in the mansion doesn't mean that anything is going to change with how the library operates. If Alice needs a book, then help her find it. If, or rather when, Marisa tries to steal something, tell me.”
“Business as usual then?”
“Business as usual.”
“Can I confess something selfish, Lady Patchouli.”
“If you need to say something, I'll listen, but only if you stop calling me Lady.”
“But that would be improper...”
“You try to emulate Sakuya too much. Being called Lady makes me feel like Remilia, so let's stop it.”
“As you wish, La- Patchouli. To be honest, when I heard that Alice and Marisa were moving in, I started thinking that maybe things were going to start changing from how they always are, and I started selfishly thinking that the library should stay the way it is forever.
[ ] It's okay to be a little selfish. I don't want anything to change either. [ ] Change is the way of the world, but no matter what, this will still be our library and our home.
Koa time will continue for a bit longer, but in the interest of avoiding tiny updates, we're going to be doubling up on choices again. This won't be too common of a thing. There wasn't any complaints last time with doing this, but reader feedback will be taken into consideration.
What should you do next? [ ] Read “Amongst a Sea of Stars.” Book 1 [ ] Talk with Remilia, Re: Yuuka and Maids. [ ] This time, your research exists to protect others, not as an excuse to cut yourself off from them.
[X] Change is the way of the world, but no matter what, this will still be our library and our home. [X] This time, your research exists to protect others, not as an excuse to cut yourself off from them.
[X] Change is the way of the world, but no matter what, this will still be our library and our home. [X] This time, your research exists to protect others, not as an excuse to cut yourself off from them.
Right, gonna call the voting now. Expect an update in a few hours, hopefully.
To clarify for future reference, when I'm doubling up on options, I'm counting votes for each set of options separately, and you don't have to vote for both sets of choices, since I realize that some sets of choices simply don't matter to some people.
Of course I try my best to make choices that are interesting and feel worth voting for, but I'd be a fool if I thought I could please everybody all the time.
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[X] Change is the way of the world. [X] Research.
“Change is the way of the world, but no matter what, this will still be our library and our home.”
“If you say that everything will work out, then I'll trust you, Patchouli.”
It would, perhaps, be better, if she were to trust in herself instead, but you can't deny that having someone relying on you isn't so bad either.
Perhaps if she were to no longer need you for everything, then she would change too? Maybe she will someday find people and things to love outside the library. That should be a happy idea, you know, but then where would that leave you?
“...Never mind, It's nothing.”
There's no value in worrying about the future if it makes the present distasteful. For now, until she's ready to pursue a life of her own choosing, the only thing you can do is help her believe in herself.
“I'm going to be doing some research, but I don't think I'll need your help with it directly. Instead, I have another important job for you to do.”
“Anything you ask, I will do to the best of my ability.”
“Good. Now, what I want you to do is come and interrupt me if I start to push myself when you feel I should take a break.”
She seems hesitant, but is unwilling to voice her unease, so you reinforce that you meant what you said.
“I'm serious. You said you would do whatever you could, so what I want you to do is take care of me in that way.”
Her chest swells with purpose and new understanding of her mission. “Understood, I'll make sure to do exactly that, Patchouli.”
Now then, it's research time. Marisa should be asleep now, and Alice seems to have no intentions towards it, so there should be no harm in getting out the philosopher's stone. If you only work with the stone directly for a limited time, and spend the rest on theoretical work, you should be able to minimize the damaging effects of being close to the stone. Of course, if you could perfect it, then you could potentially remove it altogether. In the meantime, you'll just have to accept the small loss in time efficiency.
Since time might not be on your side, you decide to delay attempting to perfect the stone itself, and instead focus on other methods that will allow you to unleash more of it's power sooner. In the long term, these workaround methods would very likely be made obsolete by a perfected stone, but you'd prefer to have it in it's most usable state now, and you can perfect it later.
The basic principle is that the way you currently use it routes the power directly through yourself in an unrefined form, which imposes a limit of both usage time and quantity, based on how much your body can safely conduct.
Attaching the stone to a magical staff can reduce the damaging effect, but that in turn dampens the power enough to make it less than ideal.
“If it's a bad time, I can come back later...”
Someone seems to be calling your name. Normally you'd just ignore them, but you're feeling somewhat stuck in your research currently. There just doesn't seem to be any way to bypass the limit of your body when using the stone. It's frustrating, but neither venting nor acknowledging it will achieve anything anyway.
So, who is it that's calling for you? You look up from your book, to see Alice nearby, looking at you. “Sorry to interrupt your work, I just wanted to say that if you needed anything, I'm free to work as your assistant, if you want.”
“Is that all you wanted to say? I'm just doing some research, I'll send for you when I need help with an experiment.”
“There was one more thing, but if you're busy I won't bother you right now.”
“Just spit it out.”
“Oh, um, okay. While I was wandering around the library, I saw this giant doll, or maybe it would be better to call it a golem. Anyway, I was just kind of curious about it, so...”
Ah. The Elemental Goliath Doll (name subject to change). Since it was a useless creation, you had completely forgotten about it.
“It's just something I made on a whim a while back. I don't really care about it, so if you want to...”
You stop in mid-sentence as a sudden burst of inspiration hits you. That's it! Maybe. It's worth a shot. If your body can't handle the philosopher's stone, then maybe an artificial body can!
“Change of plans Alice. It's basically a doll, but right now it can only move when directly controlled, and even then it's slow and clumsy. Can you make it move on it's own like your dolls? Can you improve my design somehow?”
“Maybe? I don't really know, I haven't looked at it that closely or anything yet, so...”
“No maybes. I've seen your work with dolls, I know you can make it happen. If you have any questions, come ask me. I'll be designing a new heart for it, so prepare it's brain keeping in mind that it's current core is temporary. .”
“I-I'll get started right away.”
“Good, keep up that enthusiasm.”
Your hands are shaking and your heart is racing. It's been too long since your research has been this exhilarating, and you haven't even technically started it yet.
You get to work figuring out how to repurpose the stone as an energy core. It's not exactly the intended purpose, but this should be doable. It might be difficult to maintain a stable current when dealing with this much power, but perhaps if you were to lean on the design for the electric resistor, the same concept could be applied here. It bothers you to use a human design when working with magic, but it would be foolish to ignore it's practicality for personal reasons.
You've got a basic framework for the crystalline structure that you'll be using as your mana resistor completed. It's a bit larger than you'd like, but you can always just increase the size of the doll.
At that time, Koakuma comes up to you, with a cup of tea.
“Your right, Koakuma. Now is a good time to take a break, isn't it?”
How long were you working for? It seems to be daytime again, which means that Remilia is probably asleep or heading there soon. She does stay up later into the day at times, but that's mostly for special events and shrine visits.
Walking over to the doll, it looks like a lot of work was done on it, but you don't see Alice anywhere. Well, her business is her own.
Now then, how should you spend your break time [ ] If it's daytime, then Marisa should be Maidrisa. This should be good for a laugh. [ ] Nothing says break-time quite like curling up on a couch with a good book, and you've got just the one in mind. [ ] More Koa time. [ ] A walk amongst the grounds could be a nice change of pace. [ ] Write-in
There's no better way to spend a break than with Koakuma. She's already here, so it's just a matter of inviting her.
“If you don't mind, I'd like to spend my break with you. Is that all right?”
“Of course, whatever you desire is fine, Lady Patchouli.”
That kind of answer bothers you, like she's only agreeing as a servant agrees to her master's wishes. It wasn't a command, and you
“I told you to stop with this 'Lady' business.”
“My apologies, Patchouli.”
In the past, when she was younger, she was still shy, but was outgoing enough around people she trusted, like yourself. She used to come up to you and excitedly tell you all about whatever book she was reading, or to show off some new magic spell she'd learned. It was a little awkward for you, but looking back, you really miss those days.
That Sakuya, though, is always hiding behind the professional attitude required by her job, and Koakuma was all too quick to pick up that unfortunate habit. She's always had a knack for and a predisposition towards mimicry, as you first noticed by how quickly she took to magic and reading when you started to teach her, but in this case it's had an inconvenient turn.
Perhaps you're also to blame though. Is her new attitude a method of protecting herself from your previous neglect? You'd prefer to think not, but you're not so foolish as to delude yourself in order to ignore unfortunate realities and personal blame.
Looking at it that way, it's entirely possible that she has grown resentful of you. It would be understandable, and by that logic, she only accommodates you now out of a servant's feelings of obligation. It's just speculation, but you can't get the possibility out of your head. n
Regardless, you've been put into a bothersome predicament where you seem to have lost touch with Koakuma, and as such are currently sitting in silence on the couch, trying to figure out what to talk about, as she quietly reads her book in the nearby chair.
Normally, a comfortable silence would be the ideal way to spend time with someone, but the silence being not of your own choosing makes the situation far from comfortable.
Well, it's not much, but you do have an idea of how to break this silence. It was something you wanted to say before, but it was a bit embarrassing and definitely the kind of excessive speech that doesn't suit you at all, and so you kept your peace. In the meantime, though, you've been thinking that perhaps it would be better to say it after all. Yes, you should, ere goes.
“I've decided to add an additional clause to the task I gave you before. Anytime you're feeling lonely, or want me to spend time with you, I want you to make it known to me. You come before my research.”
Koakuma remains silent for a moment. This is not the response you were expecting. However, you've said what you wanted to say, now you just need to wait for a response.
“You know I appreciate you spending time with me, I really do. But as a servant, it would be wrong of me to make you feel the need to force yourself to do this. I'll be fine on my own, really.”
So that's it, then? You were afraid so, and were mentally preparing yourself for the possibility, but now that it's come to pass, you still can't help but feel shaken by it.
“I see. Then, I'll be resting in my room.”
You don't look back until you close and lock the door behind you. Laying down on your bed, your head is filled with thoughts you'd rather not have, and try as you may, you can't ignore them or distract yourself. After some time, you don't know how long, the sweet release of sleep overtakes and frees you.
Don't leave me too, Koa.
You wake up to a knock on your door. As you recollect the events that happened before you slept, you lose all motivation to get out of bed, much less deal with a visitor.
The knocking comes again, followed by a voice. “Patchy, can I come in for a bit?” Remilia? Why is she here?
“When Sakuya woke me up to tell me that Koa was bawling her eyes out, I figured it would be something like this. There's nothing I can do to help if you don't talk to me though.”
Koa was crying? You feel a tightness in your chest. It seems that once again you've hurt her. You really don't deserve her. The only thing you know for certain is that you don't want to hurt her anymore. You sit upright on the bed, and with a wave of your hand, the door unlocks with a click.
Remilia enters. “Sakuya is with Koakuma. Of course, since her people skills are a bit so-so, I also have the gatekeeper coming, since she gets along well with Koa.”
Does she? You didn't know. Of course you don't know, you don't know anything about Koakuma anymore.
In your silence, Remilia takes a seat next to you and continues speaking. “So, I have a general understanding, but can you fill me in on the details?”
“Koakuma doesn't need me anymore, and that's for the best. I've been terrible to her, after all.”
Remilia just stares at you, and then bursts into laughter. What? How can she be laughing now?
“That's a good joke, Patchy. You and her are as codependent as they come. Now, tell me, preferably verbatim, what happened between you and her. I get the feeling that you've made a big misunderstanding here. “
You relate your previous conversation to Remilia, who, after a moments deliberation, frowns at you. “You know, if you magician types weren't so dang fragile, I'd totally punch you.”
“I read in a book that it's something that one does to a friend to bring them to their senses when they're being foolish.”
“What kind of insane book did you read that in?”
“I got it from your library. Anyway, you're an idiot.”
“Would you mind perhaps explaining your reasoning?” You're getting a bit annoyed now.
“You know as well I do that Koa doesn't have much confidence, but she really believes in and trusts you. So for you to be spending a bunch of time with her, by her logic, isn't due to her own value, but instead a kindness from you that she feels is wasted on herself. Basically, she feels unworthy.”
“Yes, she doesn't believe in herself much, but that doesn't change the fact that she surely hates me by now. How could she not, after all I've put her through?”
Remilia sighs. “It's easier to run away and think of the whole world as an enemy, isn't it? A very long time ago, I wasn't so different in that respect. But this time, I'm not going to let you do that to yourself, not with her. Trust isn't something easily earned, but I think she at least deserves for you to trust that she still cares about you as much as you care about her. I talked to her a bit before coming here, and you know what she said? 'I shouldn't have said that. I'm sure Patchouli hates me now.' So, are you going to let her continue to believe that?”
You need to make this right, but you can't help but have doubts “I want to fix things with her, but what if I hurt her again?”
“There are ups and downs in all kinds of relationships, but I'm sure the two of you will do just fine. Of course, since I'm a good friend of yours, I'll help you when I can. I am, after all, an expert in master/servant relations. Before we go sort things out with her, however, I think you should sort out your own thoughts.”
“What do you want your relationship with Koakuma to be.”
“I told you before, I think of her like family.”
“Yes, but you were also quite convinced that she hated you a moment ago. I just don't want you to continue to lie to yourself and end up making a decision you'll regret later. Say that she's just like family again, and I'll believe you and drop the subject, just think it over first, and make sure that's what you really want.”
[ ] Koa is my precious family. [ ] Koa is important to me, and I want to be something more than just family to her.
----------------------------- Yes, this is a route-lock choice.
You get up, and move towards the door. As you exit the room, you turn back to Remilia for a moment. “Koa is my precious family.” It's the truth.
“So, you've found your answer? Fantastic. It seems I don't need to worry about that getting in the way of you and Alice after all. Just because I won't be pushing the two of you together anymore doesn't mean that I'm above a few nudges.” She lets out a smirk and follows you on your way out of the library, and moving to the front to guide you to the lounge that she left Koakuma in. Maybe someday Remilia will be able to say that she was just worried without trying to pass it off as one of her schemes, but it's fine this way too.
Of course, only a poor friend wouldn't play along, and a bit of playful banter will help to calm your nerves en route “Still on about that? I don't suppose I'll ever get to hear what it is that you were trying to accomplish by playing cupid, right? Surely the great Remilia had some higher agenda than simple matchmaking.”
She gives you a look that might be genuine surprise. “My, you didn't realize it yet? I thought for sure you had, in light of your recent actions.”
“My recent actions?”
“Well, in the end it's such a small affair that I'm sure you'd want to give me a punch if I told you.”
“Talking about that thing from the book again?”
She chuckles. “It is a little strange for me to have read a book that you haven't, isn't it?”
“It's been a while since I had time to read much fiction.” Too long perhaps.
“If you're interested, the name had something to do with seas and stars, but I wasn't terribly interested in that part of it. Nevertheless, I would highly recommend it.”
“I'll consider it.” More importantly than any of that, however, is clearing things up with Koakuma. While you were talking, you arrived at your destination.
“I take it you're ready?”
“Of course.” You already had your mind set on a course of action before you left the library.
“Then I'll give the two of you some privacy.” Remilia knocks once on the door, and a moment later, Sakuya and Meiling open the door and leave the room, joining Remilia in departure. It's good that they seem to have enough sense to respect that this will be a personal conversation, and interlopers are not welcome.
Taking a deep breath, you enter the room and see Koakuma sitting on one of the couches. Upon noticing your entrance, she starts to cover her tear-red eyes. Seeing her like this is painful, but more than anything now, it strengthens your resolve. You know what you have to do.
“Koakuma, I need to apologize to you.”
She starts to protest. “No, I should be the one to apologize!”
You hold up an open hand to interject. “I'll listen to any apologies you still feel the need to give, but first, may I just say a few things?”
“Oh, of course, Patchouli. I'm sorry for interrupting you.”
She apologized again, but you aren't going to call it out, since you have something more important to say. First you sit next to her and say a little incantation, one that she was probably too young to remember the last time she heard it on the day that you contracted with her. She's grown a lot since then, so it's only fitting that she would outgrow that old contract as well.
“Alright, it's done. You're free”
“W-what?” She is understandably startled, but once you explain, you're sure she'll understand.
“I released you from your contract, I’m no longer your master-”
“You're getting rid of me? But I don't want to leave! I love this library, more than anything.”
It’s an understandable mistake for her to make. Perhaps if you had more of a way with words, you could have headed that off preemptively, but if you explain your intentions clearly, it should still work out.
“I'm not getting rid of you. If you want to stay, then stay. What I mean, is this is still your home. No matter what, you'll always be welcome here.”
“So, you don't hate me?”
Actions speak louder than words, apparently, so you extend your arms to give her a hug, and after a moments hesitation, she practically jumps into them. For the sake of clarity though, it'd probably be best to speak your thoughts as well. “I'm sorry for worrying you and making you cry. You're my precious family, I could never hate you, and because we're family, I want us to be equals, not master and servant. Okay?”
With her head practically buried in your chest, it's a bit difficult to hear her response, but you make out what sounds like an affirmative response, and coupled with some vigorous nodding on her part, you get the picture.
It's a bit embarrassing to admit this, but it doesn't feel right to hold it back either. “One more thing, Koakuma. Even though you're free now, I'm glad to hear that you want to stay here. I don't want to bind you to this place, but it's also true that the library wouldn't be as warm a place if you weren't here.”
She doesn't respond but instead just tightens the hug slightly in affirmation.
The two of you stay like that for a moment in silence, neither willing to break away. Normally you wouldn't like this kind of physical contact, but if it's Koa, then it's fine.
It's been a few minutes now. Perhaps you should say something to break the silence. You're not really sure what to say, but you suppose that anything will do. “I've just started on a new research project, but I'm not really sure what to name it, maybe you could help me come up with some ideas?”
There's no response, and you realize that she has fallen asleep on you. Well, anyone would be exhausted by all this drama, and she's already the type to work herself to exhaustion normally. As for yourself, you just woke up, but it seems you weren't asleep for long, and it wasn't exactly restful either, so following suit might just be a good idea. It's not like you could leave her while she was asleep after saying all that, or rather, you couldn't allow yourself to leave her.
You shift Koakuma gently so that you can both be more comfortable, making sure she doesn't wake up in the process. You consider disentangling yourself from her a bit more, but this way is more like how she used to be, so maybe, just for now, it's okay to stay like this.
Waking up, you feel a little bit stiff, and start to get up with a start when you feel the warmth of another person next to you, but upon recalling prior events and remembering that it's just Koa, you ease back down.
You probably foolishly woke her up doing that. This kind of closeness is still going to take a bit of getting used to.
Those fears, however, were unfounded, as it seems Koa was already awake. “Good morning, Patchouli” She greets you with a smile. “Shall I prepare your morning tea?”
She starts to get up, but you pull her back. “It can wait a bit.” It's not something you'd ever admit it to anyone, but the idea of losing Koakuma scares you. Right now you're just being a bit overly possessive, but if it lets Koa know how important she is to you, then that's fine.
“...okay.” She returns the embrace.
At this time, you realize that there is another presence in the lounge. Sitting up and looking around, you see that Alice is here, in full maid regalia, dusting the shelves. When she sees you, she bows and apologizes, “Sorry to disturb you, I hope I'm not intruding on anything. Remilia told me that this room had to be cleaned right away.”
Remilia doesn't waste any time, it seems. “I don't really mind, but you can make up for the interruption by getting us both some tea. Use the blend from the library storeroom, and bring my medicine from there too.” You do kind of mind, but it's more Remilia's fault than hers. Besides, you've learned that Alice, like Koakuma, is the sort that doesn't seem to respond well to negativity.
She's about to leave, but you catch her attention. “Actually, make that three cups of tea.”
“Myself, Koakuma, and yourself. I'd like to talk some more about our research.”
“Is that alright? I mean, I am on the job right now, and the two of you are, well...”
“Well, Koakuma, do you mind?”
“It's fine by me. I also want to continue to assist your work in any way I can.” It's possible that she just said that to please you, but you want to believe in her to speak her mind.
“There you have it.
“Then, right away. Also, it might be out of place for me to say this, but I support the two of you. I mean, I also...well, never mind.” As she says that, she does a nervous quick walk out of the door.
And so the interloper leaves with a statement you don't quite understand. “You'll support the two of us?” You repeat it and look at Koakuma. “Do you have any idea what she meant by that?”
From her expression it seems that she's just as confused as you are. “No idea. Alice is kind of weird like that, but I think she's also a good person, so she was probably just trying to be nice, maybe?”
“I guess.” Now, where have you heard that phrase before? The context was....romance of some sort? But why would....oh, right. The hugging and sleeping on a couch together. Why does everyone automatically assume that, when it's far more logical to just see that she and I are just close family.
It seems that you'll need to correct the mistaken assumption of hers. Alternatively, a devious thought crosses your mind. If you let the mistake persist, it will throw an amusing wrench into Remilia's matchmaking. Perhaps you've been living with Remilia for too long, for it seems that you've grown a liking for her forms of amusement, or perhaps instead you are finally accustomed enough to counter her. The thought does bring a small smile to your face.
“Um, Patchouli, you said that you wanted us to be equals, so...can I say something?” It seems that Koakuma has something else on her mind.
“Go ahead, and you don’t need to ask permission anymore.”
“Right. Well, the thing is, I don't dislike it, but it feels a little odd to be getting hugged so much at my age...”
Hmm. Perhaps it was a bit too much, but going with the flow, it felt like the right thing to do at the time, and it certainly matched the familial affection that you've experienced through books. Looking back, however, you have to admit the poor logic of literary mimicry, as exaggeration is a staple in fiction. It's not like Liu Bei actually cried that much; going so far as to hug her might have been too much. Perhaps you were forcing yourself because you weren’t sure how else to express yourself. It’s true that it was out of your nature, but it’s also true that you wanted some way to show her that you cared. Interpersonal relationships really are tough.
Another thought crosses your mind. Even though you said yourself that you wanted to be equals, you're still treating her like a child. It seems you still have a ways to go yourself.
“Right, I forget sometimes that you're no longer the little devil I found lurking amongst the shelves.”
“Even though I've been here for so long, I still don't feel mature like you or Lady Remilia.
Remilia being mature? That's a good joke. “If you're taking Remilia as an example, then you should know that she just acts that way. You could too, with a little practice, but I think you're fine the way you are now.”
“Maybe so. Lady Remilia said something similar during the party last year.”
“The party?” It's early Autumn now, and that was mid Winter, so it really has been almost a year now. Of course, you spent all of that time in this library doing research, so it's not like you had any need to mark the passing of days.
“Yeah, as soon as we arrived, Sakuya and Lady Remilia took me with them and accompanied me the whole night. I got to meet a lot of new people, which was a bit, well, scary, but it was also interesting. Gensokyo really is an amazing place, to have so many different youkai and humans in it.” She pauses a bit and gets a bit red faced. “Sorry, I'm talking too much about boring things aren't I?”
“Not at all, I'm interested in what you're interested in, I want to know more about you.” It's also interesting to put the pieces back together in hindsight. That was the night that you met Alice, so presumably Remilia wanted Koakuma to not get in the way. You'd be annoyed, but it seems like it was a good experience for Koa too, so it's probably fine. It seems there are some things that you can't do for Koa by yourself.
“I also wanted to spend the evening with you, Patchouli, but Lady Remilia said I should give you some space for the evening...”
Come to think of it, it doesn't seem that Koa knows about Remilia's matchmaking plan. It's not like you've been keeping it a secret from her, it just never came up. There's no reason why you shouldn't be able to tell her now, but there's also no reason to do so. It's not like anything is actually going to happen between Alice and you.
“I wouldn't have minded...
[ ] ...Remilia only said that because she's trying to start some kind of romance between Alice and myself. Pretty silly, right?” [ ] ...We're family after all.”
Since this is a coming back from hiatus update, and because it's right around finals, I'm going to be leaving this vote open for longer than usual. Voting is not closed until I post and say it's closed.
It's good that she wants to beat Remi in her own game, but she shouldn't imitate the thing she hates about her the most (she was a victim of that habit of her -playing with people's feelings - too, no?)
“We’re family after all, it’s okay to have a little self confidence. As it so happened however, I got to meet an interesting person out of it.” Which in turn led you through quite a lot of trouble, but you don’t need to mention that, it’s not like it was her fault anyway. Regardless, in the end, it seems to have worked out. If she proves to be a useful research partner, then your troubles will have still been worth it.
“Correct. She has quite the aptitude for magic, so I think the opportunity to work with her will be fulfilling.”
At that point, a small knock comes from the door to announce an entrant, which you look up to see is Alice carrying in a tray of three cups of tea. She also seems to be somewhat red faced. It’s not really any of your business, but youkai can still get sick, and it’d be problematic if she were to overwork herself and cause a delay on your project. Therefore, as she puts tea on the table and sits down you decide to inquire. “Your face looks a bit flushed, are you feeling all right Alice?”
“Err, no, I’m fine, it’s nothing...I wasn’t listening or anything, I just kind of accidentally heard you talking as I was about to come in.” The implications of her possibly eavesdropping on you would be worrying, perhaps, if you were still unsure of her intentions, but from what you know of her, it either truly was an accident, or she was, in her usual awkward way, attempting to head off one misstep, in this case walking in at an inopportune time, only to step firmly into another.
“I take it then, that you now understand that you were mistaken about the nature of the relationship between Koakuma and myself?”
She lowers her head a bit further and gets a bit more red faced. It would be understandable for the cause to be embarrassment due to realizing her mistake.
“Yes, sorry for the mistake.”
“Well,I can see how you came to that conclusion, so it's fine. More importantly, however, is a bit of talk about the future of our joint research project.”
As the conversation returns to familiar territory for both of you, she becomes visibly more comfortable and relaxed, and the embarrassed blush on her face is replaced by an expression of sharp concentration. It’s a small but distinct show of determination that, as a fellow researcher, you’re glad to see.
She starts the discussion, “I have to admit, the scope of this project is larger than I’m used too, but I’m confident I can meet your expectations of me!” So she’s not only proactive, but confident too when it comes to working with doll magic. That, combined with the aptitude you’ve already noted from her, is very promising, and the magician you see in front of you now is almost a world apart from the stuttering nervous girl you’ve previously seen her as.
“I chose to work with you because I believe that you are capable and trustworthy. I look forward to accomplishing great things together.”
Perhaps it’s time to reciprocate that show of dedication. If you’re going to trust her enough to work with her, then you might as well go all the way. Keeping secrets would only hinder the project. “As I previously told you, I am working on the core of the doll, but I didn’t specify exactly what that core was. I’ve already put a great deal of work into creating a philosopher’s stone, albeit a currently incomplete one, and I believe that even in it’s current form it should work well as a power source and core for the doll.”
“I thought the philosopher’s stone was just a myth, but to think that one might be used in a doll I work on…” She’s obviously amazed, any proper magician would be. There’s no value in pride and hubris, but you can’t help but feel a satisfied smile coming over your face as your work is appreciated. “Is there some reason then why you want to use a doll instead of harnessing its power directly?”
“You are correct in that line of thought. The limitations of my body prevent me from safely harnessing it’s true potential, so I propose that a doll worked on by you would be a suitable vessel instead. My request of you is this: Make whatever changes are necessary to the existing shell, and prepare it to function in battle. This will be our trump card.”
She is understandably taken aback somewhat by that declaration, but recovers and reaffirms, “I’ll do my best!”
“If there’s anything I can do to help, just say the word.” Koakuma had been silent, as she usually is when company is around, until that moment.
“I would appreciate it if you were to assist Alice and myself by compiling and organizing our notes and assisting us in other capacities as necessary. Collaborative work is not something either of us are used to, and if this is to work out, the details of our individual efforts will need to be properly recorded, organized, and shared with the other. That is where you come in Koakuma. I look forward to your help.”
She gives a small salute. “I’ll do my best too!” Then, realizing what she did, embarrassedly lowers her hand and looks down. “Sorry, I kind of accidentally...it’s from a book.”
“It’s fine, don’t worry about it.” You were young once too, mimicking sayings that you read in books.
A knock comes from the door, followed by the appearance of the gate guard. What is she doing here?
“Lady Patchouli, there’s a letter for you that was delivered to the gate.”
“A letter? From who?”
“I don’t know. I say delivered, but it’s more like it fell from the sky and landed on my head, so I don’t know who it’s from. It has your name on it though.”
Suspicious. Very suspicious. You can’t sense any kind of magical enchantment on the letter, but there is a distinct unknown power lingering on it. It’s doesn’t seem dangerous intrinsically, but one should always be wary when facing the unknown.
Forming a protective magical barrier over your fingertips, you take it gingerly from her, break the wax seal, and scan over the contents. The author is simply stated as “A fellow lover of books.”, and the gist of it’s contents is an invitation to begin a correspondence via letters.
Basically, a pen pal then? You don’t have any practical experience with these kind of arrangements, but you have encountered them in stories. A way to correspond with another regularly without having to meet them; you can certainly see the value there. On the other hand, the fact that they wish to stay anonymous doesn’t do much to promote trust in them. There’s no return address, just a note that any reply should simply be written on the opposite side of the page. A decision on whether to respond can be put off for the moment, since you have more pressing affairs in the form of your project.
Meiling looks at Alice, “Aren’t you on the clock right now? It’s not really any concern of mine, but the head maid will be mad if she sees you like this.”
You were the one who said that it was fine, so you should reiterate that. Besides, Sakuya no doubt is aware of Remilia’s support of you and Alice, and wouldn’t give you trouble. “It’s fine. I appreciate you delivering this letter to me, but I doubt the head maid would, so I’ll repeat your warning back to you, Ms. Gate Guard.”
“Good thinking Lady Patchouli. I’ll be off then.”
Alice looks a bit uncomfortable. “I should probably be working as well, it doesn’t feel right for me to skip out on work like this.”
Well, she is a duty-minded person, perhaps you should humor her, as long as she gets the work done that you need from her. On the other hand, she is definitely the kind who would overwork herself to complete everything that was asked of her. What an inconveniently good natured person.
[ ] You need Alice full time, menial labor should be left to fairies and Marisa. [ ] As long as the work you need from her gets done, she can do as she wishes on her off time.
Also, vote on a name for the doll if you want. [ ] Write-ins only. I might come to regret this, but anything is valid.
The name doesn’t necessarily have to be something that Patchouli would come up with, I’ve got a few options I can use for it to be suggested from various other sources later, as elaborated on in the spoiler below, that does indeed contain minor spoilers for the next update. Marisa will be returning with Nitori in tow in the next update, so between those two, Alice, Koa, Patchy and Remilia, we should have enough options for the source of whatever name is decided upon.
I'm not going to make a blog post about it, but I have a lot of things going on in my life right now. I would like to find time for this story again, but realistically my update schedule will be somewhere between highly sporadic and non-existant until the end of the school term at least.
I don't want to officially announce a hiatus, because I might find the time some weekend to throw an update or two in, but functionally that's the way it's going to be.