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File 143977348978.jpg - (1.32MB , 1421x3137 , 575c53be11eab48d4aab6c7f1876d857.jpg ) [iqdb]
62174 No. 62174
Continuation of >>40222

-------

It's been a while since we left off with this story.

Honestly, I'm surprised you wanted to hear the conclusion after all this time. I apologize for not finishing it way back then. You probably don't remember most of the little details by now... but that's fine. I suppose it's best to just get it over with and close this little chapter.

Would you like anything before we begin? Tea, perhaps?
Then, please sit down and wait warmly, and I will return shortly.

...

Let's see... where was I? Ah, yes, of course...

-------

...Blood.

Soaked into the carpet beneath my boots, invisible in the scarlet hue of the mansion interior, yet unmistakable in scent. Indeed, the owner of said blood was also down by my feet, gradually become more and more pale in the candlelight as her life force escaped her body. And I, the triumphant killer, casting my shadow over her body, Alice by my side, us both surrounded by the mansion's maid brigade, suppressing their urge to avenge their fallen beloved leader.

I felt a crushing weight on my shoulders.

Not out of guilt, pity or remorse. No, my emotional conflict at the time had a completely different reason behind it.

I was going to just walk away and continue my quest. No one would have objected, and even if they had it wouldn't have been important to me. Alice and I had more important business to attend to - the mistress of the mansion herself, Remilia Scarlet, needed to die tonight. The maids would've let us leave, the head maid ordered them to stay their blades. Another obstacle down, simple stuff.

Instead, I found myself kneeling back down over my victim.

I placed my hand onto her neck.

My fingers sought out her carotid arteries.

Some maids took a step closer, clearly intending to stop whatever it was I was trying, but the head maid used the last of her strength to shoot them a halting gaze, freezing them in place.

My fingers compressed her arteries, cutting off blood flow to the brain, and within seconds those authoritative eyes slowly closed. My hand adjusted its position, cutting off her airway, and her breathing soon stopped.

The best I could do at giving someone a peaceful death. Probably better than bleeding out, at least.

Without a word, I stood back up, progressing to the double doors before us - now unguarded - and threw them open, moving forward at a rushed pace; I could hear Alice following me with unsure steps, and the maids rushing to take away the body of the head maid.

...

We walked through empty hallways for what felt like a small eternity, in mutual silence. Eventually, Alice couldn't hold herself back, and tapped my shoulder lightly with those delicate fingers of hers. I stopped, and turned to face her, eliciting a light gasp from the youkai magician as she saw my face.

Thinking back on it, it wasn't that my face was particularly scary in the traditional sense. I wasn't grimacing in anger or frustration, or in tears, or anything of that sort. No, what must've shocked her was the emptiness in my gaze after the awkward scene we had just gone through. She probably thought I felt guilty for killing another human, or that I had known the head maid from before I came here, something along those lines...

She couldn't be further from the truth.

Killing humans is easy. Easier than killing monsters, most of the time - humans have evolved to comprehend abstract thinking, the secrets of physics, philosophy, and other higher mental ventures, but we've sacrificed something for this. As we began using tools, our bodies didn't need natural weapons. As we began wearing clothes, our bodies didn't need protective hair growth. And so on, and so on.

To put it simply, humans are weak, fragile creatures - the only things we're still really good at are endurance and willpower. Humans make up for their physical shortcoming with technique, but technique only works if you don't get caught off-guard, or your technique countered. While a human can wear down a big, brutish, night-invincible monster lacking intelligence with the right weapons and technique, all it takes is one mistake, one crushing blow hitting them somewhere vital, and the human will die.

Of course, there's a second aspect to whether someone is easy or difficult to kill, and it is yet another human weakness granted to us as a tradeoff for higher brain functions. Equivalent exchange, you could say. Indeed, one of our worst weaknesses is morality. Sympathy, empathy, the idea that killing is wrong, that all life is sacred...

How convenient it must've been for the Church when they found out people like me exist. People who are good at exactly one thing - killing. Even if it isn't a monster, but a human conspirator aiding them, whether voluntarily or through some manner of geas, suggestion, or other form of mind control... people like me are damn good at killing things.

Because I have no empathy. No pity or remorse, no sense of guilt for taking a life.

Well, no, that last part is a lie. I do feel guilt, in a sense. Indeed, it's why that last encounter ended so awkwardly. But it's not for taking someone else's life, no... I feel guilty because I -don't- feel guilty. I know I should feel like a part of this bigger whole, the human race, but in truth I feel the same when I kill a monster as I do when I kill a human. I feel nothing, other than a mild sense of accomplishment a child would feel after squashing an ant. In essence, I don't have the one thing that makes humans human, the one thing that separates us from feral beasts. And this is why people like me make for perfect, expendable attack dogs for the Church.

I laughed to myself, softly; this sudden emotional whiplash moment startled Alice yet again, but I gently grabbed her hand to reassure her.
“Sorry, I was just in deep thought for a moment there.”

“...I see,” she responded with a gentle voice. It had been some time since we last exchanged actual words.
“Are you alright? This is the first time I've seen you acting this way after a fight, even though you won with ease...”

Ease. Yeah, they really are easy...

“Yeah, I'm fine. Don't worry about it.”
I tried to sound convincing, but my voice still carried hints of internal conflict, not even understanding myself why I'm so frustrated with everything all of a sudden. But it seemed to be good enough for now, since she nodded at me acceptingly.
“Anyway... we're almost done, you know.”

“Mhm... We're on the final approach.”
She glanced forward, into the darkness of the long hallway, seemingly without end. Even the mansion itself seemed to be trying to make it harder for us to reach its master.

“It won't be any easier than what we've faced so far, you know. You can still turn back, the path behind us should be mostly clear... You can leave the rest to me.”
Not even sure why, I tried to gently urge her to bail on me, to let me handle this alone from now on. Was I trying to fake human emotions to soothe my lingering guilt, trying to be selfless? No, that wasn't it... I was just used to fighting alone, that's all.

Part of me expected her to shake her head, golden locks flowing in the candlelight of the windowless mansion... However, she actually seemed to pause to think, turning her gaze from me, her pale-blue eyes staring into the carpet pensively. Indeed, Alice never did feel like that sort of person. While this was certainly a personal matter to her as much as it was a professional one to me, the most pragmatic option would've been the one that ensured her own survival. Following me into the den of the beast would've severely lowered those odds, as opposed to simply leaving through the path we'd cut through the mansion's defenses so far.

I simply continued down the hallway, not waiting for an answer. As I came to another set of double doors, I noticed Alice was still behind me, though looking somewhat more unsure in her steps than she had so far.

I must've made her think on something she had been pushing aside in her mind up until that point. True enough, we had already suffered one casualty in our expedition, losing old man Youki in the clock tower... It was honestly a miracle that neither Alice nor myself had suffered any grievous, if not fatal injuries up until that point. I threw open the doors.

-------

BGM: “Final Approach”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfDpvOC780M

-------

Speaking of risk of fatal injury, we were of course greeted by a veritable army of guardians beyond the doors. We came to what looked to be some manner of rooftop terrace, walkways leading to other rooftops in a vaguely symmetrical pattern, towers and archways parting them and making the rooftop resemble a city street, centered by a certain large, detached tower in the very back and middle of the whole thing. And perched upside-down on the railings, there were many, many utterly gigantic bats. All staring at us, of course, with those beady eyes glinting in the moonlight. I had heard bats have terrible eyesight, but I knew right away that all of these beasts were perfectly aware of our intrusion into their roost from the moment I had opened those doors.

And in the very back, defending the tall set of stairs leading into the central tower, stood two towering metal giants, wielding matching shields raised side-by-side like a huge set of double doors.

Well, no good beating around the bush. I calmly waltzed right on forward, making my way straight towards the giant knights, my coattails billowing loudly in the night wind. What felt like hundreds of bloodthirsty eyes stared right at me, only my sheer calm exterior deterring the oversized vampiric familiars from lunging right for me.

Alice, however, didn't quite carry the same aura as me. As she timidly followed me onto the rooftop, the two giant bats closest to the door suddenly burst into the air from their perches, screeching loudly, overjoyed at their next meal just walking into their territory so easily, and lunging down at the magician, fangs bared.

One immediately had its wings perforated by thin beams of raw magic, losing its ability to guide itself in the air and crashing hard into the wall behind Alice, but the other one deftly dodged her spells, swooping around to strike her from behind before she could react, with demonic agility... but it wasn't prepared for attacks from two sides, two silver-coated throwing knifes embedding themselves into its skull and side, its aerial maneuver interrupted as it soared over the railings down towards the ground, the blessed blades causing its wounds to combust as they destroyed it from within.

I relaxed my posture for merely a moment, lamenting my choice of wasting two more knives when I was already running low, when all of a sudden I had to clutch my ears - the entire colony of bats surrounding us let loose a blood-chilling screech, nearly loud enough to deafen us, and took off all at once, blocking out the moonlight as they painted the sky black with their wings.

No way around it, then. I pulled out the chain whip, performing a feint with it before hurling a throwing axe at a particularly dense cluster of bats directly overhead; the weighted, blessed blade cut through the mass of foul beasts like a hot knife through butter, spraying bits of severed wings and other body parts across the rooftop and letting some moonlight shine through once more; I glanced backwards, noticing Alice taking a more focused approach to matters, fighting defensively, lancing bats out of the sky with her laser-like spells one at a time the moment one chose to lunge towards her, using one of her dolls as a proxy to cast behind her if one tried to sneak up on her.

She'd be fine, I thought, striking forward with the whip to crush the bats' fragile skeletons mid-flight, swinging it in wild arcs to swipe them out of the air if they got too low. We were thinning them out quite efficiently for several minutes, but as the attacks kept coming, fatigue was beginning to set in, our skulls numb from the unending screeching, and our indiscriminate attacks eliminating most of the weaker bats, leaving the stronger or smarter ones to circle around us, studying our moves and learning to dodge our attacks.

Suddenly, they did something unexpected, something I didn't expect simple beasts to coordinate on the fly (heh) like this.
They all chose to lunge for Alice at the same time, ignoring me completely.

She was completely overwhelmed. Even though I managed to whip a couple out of the air, even though I sniped a couple more with my knives, even though Alice herself vaporized a few with her magic, one managed to tackle right into her, seemingly not even caring about its own body, the slam resonating with a bone-crunching intensity as they rolled a couple dozen feet backwards, stopping against the doors we came to the rooftops through originally.

I clicked the pocket watch, and everything stood still.

I had maybe five seconds or so.

I rushed over to the beast, which was pinning Alice down, its fangs already digging into her neck. Without a moment to spare, I whipped out the Kusanagi, sliced clean through the creature's neck, and wrenched its fangs out of Alice, casting its head into the night.

As time resumed, its body lifelessly fell to the side.

“Alice...” I wanted to call her an idiot for following me up here, but I was more concerned with analyzing her wound. Fortunately, it didn't seem to be as serious as it looked, the frantic beast having miraculously failed to damage any major arteries, leaving Alice with some fairly superficial puncture marks and some nasty bleeding, but also with her life.

“Ugh...” She didn't seem to be too thrilled, of course. The bat's saliva carried some manner of substance that would make the bleeding not stop for a while, and the force of the tackle as well as the bite had knocked the wind out of her, leaving her temporarily speechless.

Suddenly, a loud crash came from behind us, sending tremors across the rooftop, shaking the mansion at its foundation. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw that the two metal giants had not been content to merely observe our battle against the giant bats, but had chosen to approach and finish us off. Naturally, this would be a far easier task for them now that Alice was momentarily incapacitated.

And naturally, I would not allow them this opportunity.

I pushed Alice through the doors into the mansion, closing them behind her, leaving me alone on the rooftop with the two titans. The moonlight glinted off their armor strangely, somewhat reminiscent of Alice's Golem we had faced before... Indeed, the more I observed these two creatures, the more I understood. These weren't giants wearing armor, the armor was alive, itself. Alice's Golem had been a prototype, with these two being based off it, more humanoid and less gorilla-shaped, capable of wielding weapons, larger, probably stronger as well... Their armor was teeming with souls, my finely tuned senses able to pick up the spectral wailing resonating through the air where most mortals would hear nothing. They stood tall and oppressive, their helmets having nothing resembling eye slits as golems do not need eyes, their armor designed for intimidation value with jagged lines and decorative spikes, their weapons being massive jagged halberds and their colossal shields having ornate designs etched into their surface.

Well, if they truly were based on Alice's Golem, I wouldn't waste any time fighting them normally. I leaned down to nab Alice's grimoire, which she had dropped on the ground after being divebombed by the giant bat, and rushed the two great knights. It must've seemed like a truly suicidal action, as even the knights themselves seemed to pause before raising their massive weapons, aiming to crush me in a single blow.

But I was too fast. Two deafening clangs erupted into the night, one after the other, as the halberds slammed into the mansion roof, the remains of shattered tiles raining around me. I quickly made my way to one of the giants as it was recovering from its swing, climbing up its leg and its body, using the various spikes and other pointless decorations as handholds. The other giant gazed toward me, puzzled, its simple animated mind trying to figure out the best course of action to take. It must smash me, but it must not smash its ally. Or perhaps...? It raised its halberd slowly, but didn't swing just yet. Meanwhile, the other giant raised its arm up to its head, trying to swat me off, grab me, crush me, but I kept scampering away just in time.

I was pleased to see that I had been mistaken before. The giants -did- have “eye” slits in their helmets, they were simply very thin and mostly decorative. But not too thin for what I had in mind. I uncorked one of my holy water flasks and proceeded to pour it into the knight's helmet, resulting in an instant hissing and bubbling noise erupting from inside. Indeed, these too appeared to be crafted from the so-called soulsteel, a magically treated metal that is very well suited for binding the energy of souls. But of course, holy water is particularly effective against such materials, as we demonstrated when we defeated Alice's Golem before...

While I doubt the giant was literally blinded from such a thing, its movements still became erratic and uncontrollable, the souls powering its body going wild from the holy water flowing down into its core. It wasn't much, but I was working on a solution, clinging to its body as it flailed around, now with both arms...

...And just happened to nail the other giant with its halberd, right in the head, sending it off-balance. As it waved its arms around, its massive bulk desperately trying to right itself to not fall, I decided to help it along and jumped onto it from the blinded knight, kicking it hard as I came down.

That did it.

The metallic colossus slowly, gradually began to tilt downwards, towards the edge of the roof facing the mansion garden. At the same time, I had already mostly finished what I was sneakily working on while the other giant was busy flailing about - coating the tips of several of my knives with holy water. Not quite as efficient as the last time, but it should do the job regardless. Let's see now, how did that go again...? Gripping the knives in one hand, I opened up Alice's grimoire in the other, whistling idly while the knight I was standing on inched ever closer to toppling off the roof, the other one still flailing about, just about to recover from such a small, minor dose of holy water...

Ah, found it.

I chucked the handful of knives into the air over the other knight. On their own, the blades wouldn't be able to penetrate the inhumanly thick suit of armor, nor would the light coating of holy water on their tips be enough to punch through the soul-enchanted protection. But, add in a touch of magic, and...

“Hydro Storm.”

It was over in nearly an instant. Like a hailstorm, the knives came down upon the colossal knight, perforating its armor as if it weren't even there, riddling it with countless holes. Even before the storm finished, the knight's arm fell off, shattering into pieces. Then one leg collapsed, and the entire body came crashing down onto the rooftop, caving in on itself. As the souls once bound into its metal were freed, it seemed to almost dissolve before my very eyes, a perfect defeat. Satisfied, I kicked myself off the remaining knight, landing gracefully on the roof as it tipped over, disappearing from my view.

One last impossibly loud crash, and the night returned to silence.

I took one last peek over the edge to make sure it was over, and... yeah. Unless you're some kind of legendary magus, even magic cannot completely suppress fundamental laws of physics, merely play around them. There's a reason elephants don't jump, for example... Square-cube law. In other words, the fallen knight was completely crushed by its own weight, and was no longer a threat.

One last thing to do, then.

I made my way to the long, ominous staircase leading up to the main tower of the mansion. No more guards, no more traps... Past this point, the lady of the mansion offered an invisible welcoming hand, as if approving of me having passed her tests. The stairs seemed somehow menacing, a dark energy radiating from the tower they lead to. Ah, but there was one last thing after all, one last loose end to tie up... I glanced behind myself, and sure enough there she was, peeking at me from all the way back through the rooftop doors, clutching a hastily-fashioned bandage on her neck, looking unsure. Scared, even.

Alice.

-------

[] I motioned for her to leave.
[] I motioned for her to follow.
Expand all images
>> No. 62175
That is not dead which can eternal lie.

[x] I motioned for her to follow.
>> No. 62176
[] I motioned for her to follow.

Your back!
>> No. 62177
[] I motioned for her to follow.

Sending her off on her own, having her come with us. Both of them are dangerous in her condition. Better two together than one alone.
>> No. 62178
[X] I motioned for her to follow.

Better two than one and also we'll have her back
>> No. 62180
[X] I motioned for her to follow.
>> No. 62181
File 143986454773.jpg - (292.38KB , 872x1214 , 900568fbce338dcda8038004be18a702.jpg ) [iqdb]
62181
Indeed, Alice had been looking less and less sure of herself, the closer we got to the end. I couldn't blame her either - both of us had come close to death on more than one occasion tonight. On top of that, Remilia Scarlet had implied that this was all just a game or test in her eyes; this suggests she hasn't even gotten serious with us just yet. Alice already had her grimoire back, so she had no real reason to continue this quest out of something as petty as simple revenge. This was my fight, and I worked better alone anyway, but...

I beckoned her to follow me anyway.

I'm not entirely sure why. Neither am I sure why she, hesitantly at first, but with quickening steps, actually returned to the rooftop and made her way towards me, pausing momentarily when passing by the smoldering remains of the one golem knight that hadn't fallen off the roof during the fight. Regardless, she made her way over to me, the light tapping of her boots on the rooftop terrace tiles being the only sound echoing through the night aside from the wind.

She looked up at me - already standing partway up the stairs - her pale green eyes glinting lightly in the moonlight. We stared at each other for a good few minutes, my coattails and her capelet flowing in the wind.

I broke the silence first.
“Well, this is it.”
No question about it, even a non-hunter would be able to feel the menacing aura coming from the tower before us. Hell, a regular human would be left practically paralyzed simply from being this close to the tower, unable to ascend the foreboding staircase. Remilia Scarlet was in her home, feeling confident enough to have no need to suppress her presence, to hide herself. She was daring us to come up to her.

Alice nodded softly.
“Yes... I suppose there's no turning back now, hm?”

“You can still leave if you want. We're outside, it would be simple for you to just fly off and return home.”

She smirked at me, her eyes gaining a bit of warmth. For the first time tonight, it almost looked like her eyes changed their tone before my very eyes, becoming a deeper green.
Must've been my imagination...

“I want to. I really, really want to,” she responded honestly.
“I may talk big, but I'm honestly a bit of a coward, you see. Several times tonight, I had considered simply sneaking off, possibly even knocking you out if I had to. However...”

She didn't finish that thought, merely averting her gaze and staring at her boots.

“Then why did you come now, when I called you?”

She looked back up at me, expressionless.
“Because you called me.”

She didn't follow that up with any further reasoning.

Another few minutes passed, and I shrugged with a chuckle.
“Fair enough. It's getting cold out here, though. Shall we...?”

She nodded once again, the smile returning to her lips, and began to cautiously make her way up the stairs; the aura radiating from the tower seemed to be affecting even her, a youkai magician. As she reached me, I took her hand, and we continued walking together.

“My, you still seem to think of me as far more delicate than yourself,” she remarked with benign snark, though notably not letting go of my hand.

“How's your neck?” I responded, glancing at the bloodstained makeshift bandage, two dark red spots contrasting with the lightly colored fabric, gradually spreading the tinge of blood over time.

“It's fine.”
She idly touched her neck, wincing just a tiny bit.
“It hasn't stopped bleeding yet, but...”

“But youkai are hardy. Yeah, I know, I know...”

Without further words, we ascended the seemingly endless staircase. The wind howled at us, seemingly blowing at our faces from the direction of the tower itself, nonsensical as that might sound. This close to the master of the mansion, even the very elements seemed to heed her command. Or perhaps it was the work of that magician? I knew I should've finished her off...

Regardless of aggressive weather conditions, we eventually reached the top of the stairs, naturally terminating at yet another set of ornate double-doors. No lock or key involved this time, we simply pushed the doors open, entering the tower and finding ourselves... well, not in front of the vampire just yet. Another hallway, but a short one this time, ending at the most opulent doors we had seen so far. Fancier still than the door with the four-keyed lock, the door seemed almost fully mechanical, consisting of multiple layers of silvery metal and scarlet-painted wood interlocking in various complicated manners, forming the shape of a large bat with a wide-headed spear behind it.

“Uh, you think this is the final boss door?” I asked jokingly, slowly moving towards the fancy door, keeping an eye out for any last-minute traps or ambushes, but... nothing. Just stone walls and red carpeting, bathed in candlelight. Not counting the door, it felt deceptively simple, really. Or perhaps...

“Boss? What are y-... Hey, Shanghai?” The puppeteer was distracted by one of her dolls inspecting a certain stone block in the ceiling above the door where we entered from; despite the dolls not having minds of their own, it seemed Alice had a habit of projecting a certain level of autonomy onto them regardless. A lonely-sounding habit...
“There's... something in the ceiling. A trap, perhaps?”

We looked up, cautiously. The candlelight was too dark to really give us a good view, however. Meanwhile, Alice had her doll feel around the stone block, and, sure enough, it came loose when pulled from the edges, dropping onto the carpeted floor with a light thud. Moving away from the mechanical door, we went to inspect the hole in the ceiling. I gave Alice a boost, only mildly disappointed by the length of her dress as she took a look at the hole, and...

*click*

I nearly dropped her.

“What did you just do?” I exclaimed, hurriedly setting her down. It would be really, REALLY stupid to die to a simple trap here, after all we'd been through, but...

“Relax, just look,” she dismissed my panic, gesturing at the ceiling above the hallway itself. As if on cue, some of the stone blocks slid away to the sides, allowing a staircase to extend downwards, stopping a few feet from the floor and revealing a hidden room above us.
“Seems you were right to keep me around, eh hunter~?” Alice seemed awfully delighted for some reason, so I didn't bother responding past a grunt of mild approval. So, lady Scarlet was hiding something here... or perhaps she wanted us to find this?

“I'll go first,” I said, hopping onto the staircase and extending my senses. You can never be too sure with characters like Remilia Scarlet... this was just as likely to be a deathtrap as another one of her “boons”. Toying with us... I'd make her regret it in the end. For the time being, I felt satisfied with the stability of the surprisingly sturdy extending staircase, and I moved up into the hidden room.

...Huh.

As I came back down the stairs, Alice looked up at me quizzically.
“Well? What did you see up there?”

I simply knelt down and offered her my hand; hesitating for a moment, she accepted, and I pulled her up onto the stairs, which remained perfectly stable even when supporting the weight of two people. I then lead her up into the hidden room.

“It's an armory.”
Or, well, it could've been a trophy room. Amidst a surprising amount of weapons, there were also art pieces such as paintings and fine pottery scattered about, hidden in a little stone room in the ceiling. However, I was far more interested in said weapons than the artwork... Practically all of them were hunter gear. Trophies from fallen hunters? Or was the vampire trying to lull me into a false sense of security by “helping” me? In either case, I quickly found some equipment compatible with my fighting style, disregarding things like guns or hammers and whatnot... Meanwhile, Alice seemed to be inspecting anything more magical-looking.

Not sensing any curses or whatnot, I decided to restock to the best of my carrying capacity, and took a thorough look at my remaining inventory... and my current state of health.

-------

Me
Status: Good
HP (Health): ~75%
MP (Magic): ~50%

Alice
Status: Bleeding
HP: ~50%
MP: ~80%

-------

Inventory:
Me:

•Chain whip.
•Silver throwing knives. As many as I could comfortably carry.
•A handful of Rebound knives. Not many were found in this armory.
•Several Silver throwing axes.
•Kusanagi no Tsurugi, one of three Imperial Regalia. Seems to have wind-magic powers.
•A decent stock of Holy Water.
•A cross-boomerang.
•A time-stopping pocketwatch.
•One Rosary. Best saved as a last-ditch maneuver.
•A small box. Containing a piece of cranberry candy.
•A masterfully crafted longcoat with leather armor worn underneath. Mildly damaged, but none the worse for wear.
•A bit of Japanese money. While not useful in my adventures, I imagined I would need it to buy a place to live, assuming I survived.
•A Philosopher's Stone. Nearly depleted.
•A basic map of the mansion. Didn't turn out to be all that useful, as the mansion is a creature of chaos.

Alice:
•Alice's Grimoire.
•Dolls, capable of wielding weapons larger than themselves with ease, and filled with gunpowder. Very few remain.
•Heavy explosive doll. Just the one.
•Yata no Kagami, one of three Imperial Regalia. Power unknown so far.
•?????

-------

Alice seemed quite disappointed after our search.
“Everything here is blessed, I wouldn't be able to make any use of it,” she sighed, watching me gather knives like a kid in a candy store, examining their craftsmanship and testing their weight and balance. She made her way over to me, gently brushing against my shoulder and chuckling as I dropped a knife, unable to find anywhere else on my belts to hang it from.
“You seem to have struck the jackpot, though.”

“Heh, yeah, I should be careful not to weigh myself down too much...”
Testing the weight of my coat, I did a few quick exercises, leaps and stances; the knives stuck to my belts perfectly, barely even making any noise as I moved. It was almost as if all of this equipment had been custom-ordered to my designations. Hm.

“Well then,” I continued, “unless you intend to bring yourself home a nice painting or two...”

“No, we should go. And finish this.”

I nodded in agreement, and down the stairs we went. I offered to help Alice down off the staircase, but she merely rolled her violet eyes at me, simply hovering down to the ground via magic. Paying her no heed, I simply made my way for the grand doors, Alice staying close behind me.

I inhaled, deeply.

And I pushed open the - surprisingly light - doors, revealing a grand, opulent throne room.

Stained-glass windows, crimson curtains parted to let in the light of the moon, illuminating the large stone room beyond what dim candlelight could provide, casting dancing shadows along the finely decorated engravings on the walls, the statues lining the walls, and... the face of our lovely hostess, sitting in the back and center of the room on a magnificent chair; no, a throne. Her posture was less than elegant, more of a casual slouch, as if she'd gotten bored of waiting; however, once the doors came to a noisy stop, she raised her head, leaning forward on her throne and exposing herself in the light of the moon as she noticed us.

Just as I remembered her. Two large bat wings, easily wider than she was tall, spread to both sides of her body. Her light pink outfit was ornate and impossibly detailed, decorations decorating decorations, adding tones of black and red; an extravagant mix between a coat and a multi-layered dress, the level of craftsmanship bordering on mania. Her hair, short and purplish-blue, was topped by a poofy hat matching the rest of her outfit. And her skin was pale, so very pale in the moonlight that you'd think she were a corpse... and you wouldn't be far off from the truth, as her brightly glowing red eyes would suggest.

A wide, childlike grin spread across her face, and she stood up, grabbing a goblet of red wine(?) that had been standing on her throne's armrest, and taking a calm sip, eyes drilling into me.
Waiting.

-------

[] “Die monster. You don't belong in this world!”
[] “Remilia Scarlet. Die now and leave this world! You'll never belong here!”
[] (write-in)
[] Wait for her to speak first.
[] No words are needed. Attack.
>> No. 62182
[] “Remilia Scarlet. Die now and leave this world! You'll never belong here!”

I like the classics as much as anyone, but this one just sounds snazzy.
>> No. 62183
File 143987697196.png - (165.81KB , 300x385 , character_youmu.png ) [iqdb]
62183
[x] "It doesn't matter what you are, all it matters is if you can live without harming intelligent beings. You can't, so you're going down. My apologies if you thought you were above this rule. "

The monster commentary is a classic, but I just realized that it is harmful to Youkai as well. So I thought why can't Remilia exist alongside them, and the answer was obvious; so I made it into a vote.
>> No. 62184
>>62182
Reference to the PSP redub, I believe.
>> No. 62185
>>62183
I'll second this. Though I find it funny since the MC once had a hobby of killing humans.

[x] "It doesn't matter what you are, all it matters is if you can live without harming intelligent beings. You can't, so you're going down. My apologies if you thought you were above this rule. "
>> No. 62187
[X] "It doesn't matter what you are, all it matters is if you can live without harming intelligent beings. You can't, so you're going down. My apologies if you thought you were above this rule."
>> No. 62188
File 143994099298.jpg - (182.68KB , 600x848 , 664a682e7427feb9dd783bdf03b5b56b.jpg ) [iqdb]
62188
Oh boy, this was my favorite part.

Don't mess this up now, inhale, clear your mind of distractions...

Taking a dramatic step forward just as the doors behind me swung to a close again, I struck a dramatic pose, one foot forward, one back, gripping my whip in one hand while the other pointed directly at the vampire before me, my coattails billowing for just a moment from the motion and causing the surrounding candles to flicker just a bit, disturbing the previous still peace of the room. With a tilt of the head and a furrowed brow, I declared:

“Remilia Scarlet! Vampire or child, it matters not - if you can't live without harming intelligent beings then I don't care what you are, you're going down.”

I then adjusted my pose into one ready for battle and gave my prey a predatory smirk. This was what I was groomed for, my purpose... Even amidst the moral preaching about the sanctity of life, I could hardly wait.

“My apologies if you thought you were above this rule, my dear lady.”

The vampire's eyes widened in excitement; she set down her wineglass and gave me a light applause with her fingertips, laughing softly, her devilishly soft voice echoing through the room.
“Ahahaha, good, good, very good! Très bien!
She picked up her wineglass again, and sat back down on her throne, not the slightest bit intimidated by my taunt, putting one leg over the other in a graceful manner not revealing too much leg from under her dress.
“Even after that meat grinder I've put you through, you've still got all that spunk left in you? I like it, I like it! I was worried you would be all broken and defeated by the time you got up here, if you even made it in the first place, I really was! But, my dear hunter...”

Another sip of wine, before she turned her gaze onto me, this time with her eyes narrowed and that childish smirk wiped from her lips.

“Aren't you being just a little bit hypocritical there? Coexisting with mortals and youkai, living without killing? That sort of preaching, coming from one such as yourself? Perhaps you should reflect on the weight of your own soul, hunter... I can read you better than you might think.”

She was trying to get in my head. Wouldn't work, though. I simply grinned at her and shrugged my shoulders.
“You can read me better than I might think? Perhaps it's worse than you might think, yourself, otherwise you'd know your silly mind games won't work on me.”

“Oh? Interesting, very interesting... A cold heart to match your cold steel, how fitting for a truly efficient killer.” Remilia Scarlet lazily shifted her glance from me to Alice, who had been hanging back in silence up until this point; Alice involuntarily took a step back, clutching her still-bleeding neck, struggling to meet the vampire's gaze with those yellow eyes of hers. Lady Scarlet's face drooped in... disappointment?
“Oh, the dollmaker.”

“That's Alice Margatroid to you, you batty little-...” Alice's shaky-voiced outburst was promptly interrupted by the vampire raising her voice, continuing to speak as if no one had said anything at all.

“I am disappointed, hunter; I was hoping I could enjoy a private little dance of illusions with you. To truly measure your worth, to understand your powers... and to see the look on your face when I take your life, when you realize you're going to die here, alone and unwanted in the world. Ah, how pitiful...”

Suddenly, the childish smirk spread back onto her lips, one of her fangs peeking out in a manner that would almost be cute in any other context. And then, she suddenly shouted:

“Paaatchyyy~!”

Her voice echoed through the room, seemingly through the entire mansion. Alice and I froze in our boots - that silly nickname, it could only refer to-...

“What,” came a flat response moments later as a burst of magic appeared in the air to the side of Remilia Scarlet, revealing the witch of the spring haze herself, the one week wizard, the one enemy I had hoped to never see again in this adventure - Patchouli Knowledge, clad in what appeared to be a new lavender robe much like her previous one, thankfully missing her familiar.

The vampire seemed quite delighted to see the magician, standing up yet again to greet her hovering friend.
“Patchy, you came! Look, I told you the hunter would make it up here in the end!”

Miss Knowledge slowly turned her gaze upon Alice and me, those deep purple eyes of hers sending chills across my spine as she looked at-... no, as she scanned us.
“...I see. And? How does this concern me?”

“Wellll...” Remilia continued, “as you can see, the hunter brought along some company. It would only be fair to give them a fair fight, yes? Two against two, fighter and mage versus fighter and mage...” She turned her head to shoot us a devious grin, swirling her wine around in the glass idly.

An exasperated sigh is the first reply to come out of the magician's mouth. “Must I, really? You do know I do not enjoy wasting time and energy on these kinds of altercations, and you are more than capable of matching the two of them in both physical combat and magical power, are you not?” She honestly looked rather irritated, as if she wanted to just leave... To be honest, it made the entire scene a little bit more awkward than intimidating, although I could still feel my heart sinking as I realized we would be facing two foes at once. I looked to the side and saw Alice, looking pale, her hands trembling and her fingertips white as she gripped her grimoire tightly. The red stain on her neck had gotten larger...

“Come ooon, don't ruin my fun any more than the hunter already has! I was denied my one-on-one battle, and I intend to punish the fool thoroughly for this transgression!” As Patchouli Knowledge let out a sigh of submission, her philosopher's stones magically appearing in the air around her, the vampire swiftly turned to face us yet again, her face contorted into a bloodthirsty grimace, suddenly casting the wineglass into the air, the light of the candles in the room glinting off it beautifully and forebodingly. The start of the fight would be signified by the glass shattering.
“But enough talk, have at you!

-------

[] I'll take the vampire, Alice will take the magician.
[] I'll take the magician, Alice will take the vampire.
[] We'll both focus on one target to put them out of action quickly.
-[] Focus on Remilia.
-[] Focus on Patchouli.
[] (Optional - write-in combat strategy?)
>> No. 62189
[x] Hydro Storm! Hydro STORM!! HYDRO STORM!!

Serious vote:

[x] We'll both focus on one target to put them out of action quickly.
->[x] Focus on Patchouli
-->[x] Use the holy water and the rebound knives to keep Remilia at a distance.

Alice is in no shape for a fair 1v1, and this is generally the way to deal with dual bosses. Remilia is sure to catch on and attack, but smart use of the holy water and rebound knives could help create safe openings for both of you to attack Patchouli.
>> No. 62190
[x] We'll both focus on one target to put them out of action quickly.
->[x] Focus on Patchouli
-->[x] Use the holy water and the rebound knives to keep Remilia at a distance.

When in doubt, kill the mage first. Then again, Remilia is a magical powerhouse herself and killing Patchouli might just cause her to actually go a hundred and ten percent against us.
>> No. 62191
[x] We'll both focus on one target to put them out of action quickly.
->[x] Focus on Patchouli
-->[x] Use the holy water and the rebound knives to keep Remilia at a distance.

>>62190
It's Ornstein and Smough, but this time with prepubescent vampires and shut-ins
>> No. 62192
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62192
BGM: Dance of Sadness
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9whbve-nrc

-------

The wineglass reached its apex, all four of us poised to attack - well, Patchouli Knowledge was mostly just hovering in the air, looking more annoyed than anything else - our eyes locked on the crystalline thing as it began its descent. I had to admit, it was a good distraction, and it would be simple to catch us off-guard by simply attacking before it landed.

But not if I struck first.

Before Remilia Scarlet could even react, my chain whip lashed out, aimed not at her, but at the wineglass, just as it reached the height of her face; in that split second, while her view of me was obstructed ever-so-slightly, the spiked metal tip of the whip smashed right through the class, spraying red wine and shards of glass at her face; while this was incredibly unlikely to cause her any real damage, it was enough to blind her for just a moment.

“Gah!? Why you-... Do you have any idea how much this outfit cost!?” She immediately recoiled, tripping back onto her throne and clutching her face, trying to wipe the wine from her eyes. Not wasting any time, I gestured to Alice, then to the floating enemy wizard, putting aside the chain whip and dashing for Remilia's throne. I jumped onto one of the arm rests, kicking myself off into the air, flying straight for Patchouli, who had a rather baffled look on her face. All of this took place in a second or two at most, after all.

Still, the elemental tactician would not be caught flat-footed, and she swerved backwards through the air, putting up a hand and forming some manner of barrier... but would she anticipate this? The moment I saw her preparing to defend, I unsheathed the Kusanagi and delivered a swift, powerful slash, aided by my own momentum.

“Fool-... Ugh!” She didn't quite have the time to talk, as a destructive beam of magic came at her from the side, her other hand just barely managing to form a defensive barrier in that direction as well; Alice was already charging another spell in one hand, her grimoire held in the other, a determined look on her face, her eyes a deep, dark blue, and her body poised for combat, ready to charge in or evade at a moment's notice. As terrified as she had looked a moment ago, it seemed she had mustered up the strength to fight after all.

Miss Knowledge's grunt hadn't come from Alice's spell, however; as I landed, I noticed a mild stain of blood on the blade of the Kusanagi. I looked up to see the sorceress glaring at her hand, her brow furrowed and eyes narrow, her mouth contorting into an ugly grimace.

“I see. I had thought you foolish, coming at me with metal weapons yet again, however...” She glanced down at me, or more specifically at the sword in my hand.
“...You seem to have found a relic I cannot fully manipulate. Bravo.”
She then casually deflected yet another one of Alice's spells, rebounding the beam a mere couple of feet away from its point of origin, shards of stonework floor flying at Alice like shrapnel, momentarily disrupting her stance as she tried to protect herself.
“It will not save you, though.”

By that time, Remilia had regained her sight, the bloodthirsty scowl on her face even more savage than before as she hopped off her throne. Sensing movement from behind me, I twisted my body around, unfastening and hurling a vial of Holy Water in her direction. The vial shattered against the floor before her feet, dousing the area around the throne with flaming consecrated fluid.
“Gah, seriously!? You're not letting me have any fun here, hunter!” She launched a gust of wind at the fire with one of her massive wings, but this only served to fan the flames.

Meanwhile, Patchouli had hovered further into the air, away from convenient points from which I could vault to her, and was preparing a counterattack of her own.
“You wish to play with fire? So be it, then.” Despite the irritation plain on her face, the wizard's voice remained monotone and eerily calm. Even after taking a nasty wound to her palm, she remained perfectly focused and in control of the situation. The red philosopher's stone behind her blinked dimly, and a fiery sphere formed in her hands, her cold gaze fixated on me in stark contrast to the blazing heat she was about to unleash.

And then she blasted Alice instead.

“Wha-...” Alice didn't merely stand there in surprise, she darted to the side, evading the fiery blast, just barely yanking her remaining few dolls out of the way as well. Patchouli must've been hoping to set off the gunpowder in the dolls' cores. However, my companion didn't land on her feet - she took to the air as well, probably finding it a safer place to be in a battle between mages. Avoiding a second follow-up fireball, she flew high up, near the ceiling, and unleashed another destructive beam, this time aided by her dolls who fired lesser versions of the spell by her side.

Alice's high angle gave me the opportunity to go for a pincer attack; while Patchouli was focusing on avoiding or deflecting the incoming magic, I dashed underneath her, swapping the sword for the whip yet again and striking upwards, making use of the improved reach the chain would grant me.

As expected, she seemed more focused on defending herself from the barrage of lasers coming from above, so my chain whip-...

...was caught?

The sound of sizzling inhuman flesh filled the air, Patchouli Knowledge slowly turning her gaze downwards, shooting her piercing look through me, then at the chain burning away at her hand. She looked almost... bored?
“Hmm... Champion of the Church, servant of God, are you familiar with Job 1:21?”
Suddenly, I felt a strange sensation, as the whip turned back to its original leather form before my very eyes; I nearly let go out of shock, but instead I tried to yank it out of her hand. Despite being a frail magician, her grip was considerable.
“God giveth, and God taketh away...”
All of a sudden, she let go, knocking me flat on my ass, and a sinister smile spread across her lips - a truly eerie sight with those emotionless eyes of hers still drilling into me.

“Oh yeah? Then take THIS!” I pulled out a pair of rebound knives from my coat, flicking them into the ground, the blades bouncing upwards towards Patchouli. She simply swerved to the side, easily avoiding them.

“...Seriously? I mean, we have already established that metal is largely useless against me, as well as-...”

Tink tink went the knives, ricocheting elsewhere.

“Oh, be quiet already, will you? You talk too much.” Both Patchouli and I turned out eyes towards the soft, quiet voice coming from above, only to be near-blinded by a brilliant flash of light; the sorceress just barely managed to erect a defensive barrier, using both hands this time to avoid getting blasted by the gigantic laser crashing into her. As my eyes cleared, I saw Alice channeling a spell through a doll in front of her, as if using it as some manner of magical focusing lens, greatly amplifying the power of her destructive ray.

Of course, since Alice's magic didn't seem to correspond to any of the traditional elements, Patchouli wouldn't be able to simply shrug it off or absorb it. So instead, she accelerated backwards, breaking away from the laser and letting it blast through the floor next to me, forcing me to dive to the side to avoid being disintegrated.
“Hey, watch where you're aiming!”

tink tink

“Well, stop just staring with your mouth agape and back me up!” Alice gripped her neck while yelling at me, her hand stained red with blood by now, her breath getting ragged from exerting herself with that last spell in her current state of health; she hovered downwards, closer to me, as we tried to gather our surroundings and find where Patchouli had flown off to, the air dense with smoke from Alice's last attack.

“Remilia.” The wizard made herself visible yet again, emerging from the cloud of smoke before us, swiping her cloak through the air to clear the air around her.
“Need I remind you that you can fly? I would greatly appreciate it if you didn't merely spectate while I do all the work for you.” Closer to the cold tone of a stern mother than that of an underling or friend, Patchouli's voice was aimed at the still-flaming circle by the throne; the vampire had apparently resigned herself to sitting down and observing the battle, having poured herself another glass of wine. She took another sip, before setting the glass aside and pulling out a handkerchief from somewhere, delicately wiping her lips.

tink

“Well, if you insist...” Remilia got up again, flexing those large wings of hers, spreading them, though careful not to touch the holy flames surrounding her.
“And here I was beginning to enjoy the show. I'm sure you could've handled them yourself, Patchy.”

“This is your plot, not mine. Besides, I have been on the defensive the whole time. Could I just leave them to you and go back? I was in the middle of a very interesting book about-...”

“You stay right here. Now, here I come-...” Just as the vampire took to the air with a powerful flap of her wings, they were suddenly perforated by a silvery flash from above.

The rebound knives.

“Wha-... Gahhh!” Remilia promptly fell right into the holy flames, screaming as the righteous fire licked across her unholy flesh.

“Remilia!” A torrent of water instantly washed over the throne out of nowhere, and Patchouli turned her eyes back to me, furious.

I met her gaze with a grin.
“You're wondering if I planned this, aren't you?”

“You, hunter! Did you plan this?” Wow, she walked right into that one.

“Of course I did! I'm always two steps ahead of you two!” Getting caught up in the moment, I struck a dramatic pose, pointing at my two nemeses; even Alice, standing beside me, was dumbstruck by what had just happened. Of course, the convenient timing of the knives was pure dumb luck, but I will maintain that my aim was fully intentional. It just happened to line up so perfectly by random chance, I couldn't keep myself from gloating.

Growling. At first, the sound of an angry child, before crossing over into something more bestial; Remilia Scarlet leapt back up to her feet, howling at the moon casting its pale light onto us through the large windows spanning the walls of the throne room. Alice and I couldn't help but take a step back, the puppeteer involuntarily clinging to my side for safety. However, in just an instant, the vampire composed herself yet again, turning to stare at me with... annoyance? Not anger, not rage, not fury, but annoyance.
“You! You've ruined my outfit before I even got to join the battle! Look at me!” She spread her arms, her fingerless velvet gloves having holes burned into them, same for her stockings, her dress stained with both wine and soot, and her hat crumpled out of shape, somehow still on her head. What little wounds that tumble into the fire had caused were already slowly healing.
“Oh, I'll make you pay. I'll make you beg for your life like the dog that you are! Patchy!”

“Yeees?”, the wizard answered, tiredly. She certainly seemed to calm down after seeing Remilia was alright; she almost seemed disappointed, strangely.

“It's two on two now. Gungnir!” With that, Remilia raised one arm above her head, a deep red line of magical power forming in her grasp, almost like a red arrow of lightning... As it solidified, it eventually took the form of a bright spear formed of magic energy, with red outlines giving it its distinctive shape. Patchouli raised an eyebrow at the display, before sighing with resignation and thumbing her chin.

“Hmm, what day was it, today...? Ah, yes... Wednesday, I believe.” The blue stone hovering around her blinked once, before several globes of water formed around her, forming near-perfect spheres.
“Silence and purification.”

Water, huh... At first glance, one would think water to be one of the least dangerous elements in her repertoire, but that would be naive. Water is one of nature's strongest forces, it erodes, it floods, it consumes. And on a Wednesday, Patchouli Knowledge's ritualistic domain of magic would grant her exceptional control over the element of water. A warning of hers from earlier tonight came to my mind - flooding our lungs to kills us where we stand. And yet, she opted to go for the fairly mundane choice, watery projectiles... Even now, when we were threatening to slay her and her vampire friend for real, was she still holding back?

“[i]Allez hop![i]” Wasting no further time, Remilia lunged for me brandishing that energy spear of hers with intent to kill. I pushed Alice aside, drawing the Kusanagi into my left hand, parrying the murderous thrust to the side as it came in and lashing at her with the whip as she flew past me; her wing took most of the blow, the blessed whip carving a nasty gash through the membrane and making the devilish little girl wince, biting her lower lip as she skidded to a halt, turning to face me yet again. She was fast.

Meanwhile, Patchouli had apparently launched some of her water globes at me from behind - all of a sudden, I could feel Alice standing back-to-back with me, forming a barrier to deflect the projectiles, the globes smashing into the floor like cannonballs, carving deep grooves into the stonework.
“I do hope you do not mind me damaging your little loft, Remilia.”

Remilia didn't respond, instead opting to slash at me horizontally with the side of the spear; yet again I parried the attack, countering with a lash of the whip which she managed to sidestep this time.

The fight must've only lasted a few minutes, but it felt like hours. We were pinned between the two monsters, the vampire thrusting and slashing at me in a frenzy, the wizard mercilessly blasting Alice with an unending torrent of water and ice; occasionally, they would attempt to attack us together, Patchouli launching a giant slab of ice at us, Remilia smashing it with the haft of her energy spear, launching shards of ice back at us.

“Hey, I don't know how much longer I can keep defending us like this,” Alice shouted to me from behind, utilizing her dolls to assist her in deflecting a barrage of water globes.
“Do you have a plan? I should hope this isn't the first time you've actually made it into a vampire's lair...”
I swear, she actually chuckled softly as she said that. While we were under attack from both sides, and weakened by blood loss, she softly insulted me and chuckled.

“A plan? Well, if you can't keep defending... How about switching sides?”

“What do you-... Oh.”

I parried another blow of the spear, and counted down from three with fingers on my raised hand, holding it up where Alice could see it, and we spun around.

“You again?” the vampire blurted out, before being bombarded with a series of magical lasers, putting her on the defensive for a change as Alice unloaded on her. Similarly, I didn't give the sorceress any time to react, lashing forward with my whip as soon as I faced her, forcing her to guard herself with her arm as she was still focused on manipulating her globes; one whooshed past my face, an inch away from caving in my skull, as the leather whip sliced through the sleeve of her robe, drawing blood. I didn't let up, whipping her again and again, slowly stepping forward each time, not giving her space to retreat.

At the same time, Alice didn't let up on keeping Remilia busy dodging lasers. Every time the vampire tried to slink between a barrage, a doll would nail her with a surprise laser, stopping her in her tracks. She couldn't even get close enough to use her spear, as the distance between her and us was increasing.

“Aaand... now, together!” I shouted to Alice, who left her dolls to keep deterring Remilia and turned to face Patchouli, preparing another of her doll-amplified lasers, the doll in her hands looking rather worn and damaged after the first one, but still almost... eager? Despite not being alive...

But before the wizard could defend herself, I leapt straight for her, blocking her view of Alice and taking her by complete surprise; the globes of water quickly transformed into razor-sharp blades of ice, launching for me, but it was too late and they merely shredded my coattails.

Patchouli's violet eyes were right before mine. I was close enough to kiss her, if I wished to do so.

I promptly slugged her in the face with all of my strength.

As I landed, I dropped into a roll to get to safety, before the stunned sorceress was engulfed in a bright beam of light.

“Patchy!!!” Remilia screamed, rushing forward to strike Alice down, but I met her charge with the Kusanagi yet again, redirecting her attack downwards, the energy lance embedding itself into the floor with a loud crash, spreading smoldering cracks in all directions.

As the laser faded, the moon shone down onto the collapsed figure clad in what was once a lavender cloak through a brand new hole in the wall.

Remilia promptly dispelled her spear, knocking me aside and dashing to Patchouli's body and kneeling over her.
“Patchy! Are you alright? Speak to me!”

...

“Ugh...” No way.
“This is... the last time...” She survived?
“This is the last time I play along with one of your silly games, Remi.” The wizard slowly pulled herself into a sitting position, grabbing the mostly-incinerated cloak from her shoulders and casting it aside, remaining only in her striped robe. The cloak seemed to have taken the majority of the damage - it must've been enchanted for magical protection. She looked injured, but she was alive and conscious.

Truly a fearsome monster.

“Grr... You almost seriously hurt my Patchy, hunter! This isn't fun anymore, you know!” The vampire turned back to face us, her crimson eyes burning with an infernal fury. Slowly, she stood up, brushing some dust off her damaged dress, stretching her wings, now full of holes and torn in various places, though this didn't seem to be causing her significant pain.
“No, not the hunter... It was you, wasn't it? The interfering puppeteer.”
She helped Patchouli stand back up, and we were once again facing each other in a two-on-two standoff.
“Patchy. I've got one last favor to ask of you.”

An irritated sigh was her first response.
“What is it this time? I am growing tired of this nonsense, you know...”

Gae Bolg.

Patchouli stayed quiet for a moment, before nodding, and raising her arms; another ice spell of sorts? Alice and I braced ourselves as she began forming what looked like a long, thin pillar of ice. No... a spear, a long shaft tipped with a sharp blade. Unlike the quick, crude blades of ice she tried shooting at me before, this creation seemed somehow pristine, the ice clear and flawless, completely transparent and glinting beautifully under the moonlight. In any other context, I would've admired it as a work of art. However...

“Hunter, I should warn you,” Remilia spoke in a soft tone, grasping the icy lance out of the air once Patchouli finished. “Whatever choice you make next... it won't matter. You cannot cheat FATE.” She cackled to herself with satisfaction, as the spear began to glow, a familiar, evil red glow.
“Please observe!” Soon enough, the entire frozen lance was filled with her energy, a strange symbiosis between her Gungnir and Patchouli's magic.
“The lance will pierce your heart, and the icy thorns will spread through your body, without fail. A cold - and unavoidable - death.”

She prepared to hurl the deadly spear at us.

-------

[] I tried to evade it, hoping Alice would too.
[] I tried to defend Alice, even if it meant getting hit myself.
[] I tried to intercept the spear, to smash it in the air somehow.
[] I tried to charge forward, to interrupt Remilia before she threw that thing.
[] I... I tried...
>> No. 62193
[] I tried to charge forward, to interrupt Remilia before she threw that thing.

Gae Bolg's shenanigans mostly stem from it being unavoidable after being thrust/thrown. So if we can harass the hell out of her before she does so, fate's not fucking us with its long, spiny shaft today.

Also we should probably throw something at her too while we make the rush.
>> No. 62194
>I missed an italics tag
[screaming internally]

Also this is not a literal FSN reference (this time), just Remilia being dramatic. I've learned.
>> No. 62195
File 144004506280.jpg - (360.24KB , 1302x965 , 1275877093984.jpg ) [iqdb]
62195
[x] I... I tried...
-[x] To defy fate and dodge it, while taking alice out of harm's way.


You can't cheat fate? Fate is what brought him here and fate is what will take her down.
Simply because, fate is what we make of it.
>> No. 62196
[X] I tried to charge forward, to interrupt Remilia before she threw that thing.

Can we still use the watch?
>> No. 62197
[x] I tried to intercept the spear, to smash it in the air somehow.
>> No. 62202
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62202
I felt something in the back of my mind. A little scratching noise, a sensation that shouldn't have been there. Something wrong, ominous, terrifying. That spear, that icy lance filled with a dark power... I had to stop it. I had to keep her from throwing it. I had to make sure it didn't get thrown. I had to prevent the throw from happening. I just had to.

I felt a delicate hand on my shoulder.
“Hunter-...”

Ignoring Alice, I dashed towards Remilia with not a split second to spare. My limbs felt strangely sluggish, as if I were in a dream, even before my finger landed on the stopwatch button. Such a quick, simple motion, and yet it felt like it took an eternity too long to press it. My mental fatigue was piling up rapidly from using the stopwatch earlier, as well as casting that spell when fighting the twin golems, but I had no choice. My eyes stung for a moment as everything stopped into an unnatural stillness, and my body protested as I kept moving forward, the very air halted in place before me like a wall of quicksand. The distance felt much longer than it was when time flowed normally. Would I make it?

Nothing besides me could move, so I was stunned to see Remilia Scarlet making eye contact with me just as I got within striking range, a subtle hint of a smirk on her lips. Did she move? No, impossible... she couldn't have. Did she know I would try something like this and turn to face me in advance? Was this that fate manipulation thing, or just a lucky guess? These questions and more distracted me for just a moment too long; as time resumed, I felt something roar past me, missing my face by an inch and singing my hair on the side of my head. The sound of the spear being released was deafening as it soared past my ear; I dropped to my knee and felt something drip down my cheek. Blood, from a shallow cut.

“Sorry, hunter, but I did warn you. You can't avoid FATE.” The young noblewoman glared down at me, a kind of sarcastic pity plain on that grinning face of hers, the way you'd look down on a dog whining in pain after you just kicked it in the side. Snickering to herself softly, she glanced to the side, resting her now-empty hand on her hip, and spoke to Patchouli.
“Well, that takes care of the interfering factor... Maybe now I can have some fun, the way I planned it?”

I stood up, not even concerned with attacking the vampire for now, and looked behind myself, the high pitched ringing still in my ears, keeping me dazed and disoriented.

Further back, the icy lance had found its mark, nailing Alice to the floor right through the torso. Her pale grey eyes were wide from shock, a thin trickle of blood flowing down her chin from her lips. I stumbled closer, shaking off the stupor as my hearing returned to me, the trail of dark magic left behind by the spear still lingering in the air, a sickening aura which I forced myself to ignore. As I got closer to Alice, I saw her hands gripping her grimoire which the spear had gone through with little issue, punching a hole clean through the book. It had struck her at a seemingly impossible angle; Alice had clearly made an attempt to dodge the attack, but it's almost as if it had homed in on her, even curving downwards to embed itself in the stone floor of the throne room to immobilize its prey after penetration. The crimson flame within the spear had gone out, Alice's blood being the only thing still tinting the icy shaft red.

As she saw me approach, Alice coughed up a thick mouthful of blood, trying to speak, her fingers still clinging to her perforated book.
“C-Cold...” was all she could manage as I reached her and gently, carefully touched her arm, afraid to move her, kneeling beside her. I couldn't tell how bad it was, not in this situation, not through her clothes, but she was still conscious for now. She was still alive. And she was a youkai - more resilient than a human such as myself, hardier, tougher, supernaturally predisposed towards survival.

“It's just the ice making you feel cold, you'll be fine,” I told myself, not even sure if I believed it myself. “Just... don't move, don't speak, save your energy. I'll settle this quickly and cut you loose.”
She turned her head to look at me better, despite me literally just having told her not to move, and she chuckled softly, as if she were amused by something, reaching forward with her pale, slender hand to brush something from my cheek. Was there something on my face?
“Hey, I told you not to m-...”

Suddenly, she groaned in pain, grimacing and tensing up her body, the heels of her boots scraping the ground for support; from the corner of my eye, I noticed the ice spreading in sharp, thorny tendrils through the book it had punctured, and it was surely doing the same inside Alice's body. And that's when I felt something, a familiar sensation I knew very well.

The urge to murder something.

I twisted my body and bolted to my feet, my movements now more instinctual than conscious. I could feel my pupils dilating, taking in more light, my senses expanding, my nostrils flaring. At that moment, I could've spotted a fly in a corner on the other side of the room, or heard a pin drop. But I didn't need to, since the source of my murderous intent was in plain sight, Patchouli Knowledge wordlessly channeling some manner of magic through her hands, her fingertips glowing a pale blue as she wove magical patterns into a radial glyph of some sorts in front of her. Wordlessly, with a cold, calculating expression, not even paying me any heed, Remilia standing beside her with a sadistic grin on her face, red eyes focused on me and studying my every move. Like a kid in a zoo, tapping the glass to see what the beast would do.

As I began to march towards the sorceress, the vampire took a step closer, seeking to intercept me and prevent the spell from being interrupted. But I didn't have time for her.

With a click, time stopped once more, putting a great strain on my psyche, my magical reserves being near-depleted; I was no magician, so I barely had more to spare than a regular human, only being able to expand on efficiency through training. But I didn't need much for this. Not even slowing down the pace of my march, I reached within my coat with both hands, the ticking stopwatch dropping from my hand and dangling by its chain, mercilessly counting down the seconds I had left. I whipped my hands forward, one after the other, returning them to my coat each time and repeating. Each repetition launched a half-dozen knives towards Patchouli Knowledge, and another, and another, until she was surrounded by a dense cloud of lethal metal.

...Heh, metal. I yanked the stopwatch back into my hand; the moment time resumed, I simply clicked it again, a mere split second passing normally. A brutal spike of pain jammed itself into my skull, right above the eye, like a crippling migraine. I knew I was overdoing it, but it didn't matter at the time. Mortals were never meant to meddle with the flow of time, and I always knew I was only to use the power of the stopwatch sparingly. But it didn't matter. That one split second... it was enough for the wizard to realize something was wrong. I could see it in her eyes, those slightly widened eyelids differing from the usual indifferent half-closed eyes she would show as she regarded the world around herself with cold indifference. I could see it in her hands, the magical circle having faded, her fingertips having taken on a different tone, clearly preparing to intercept my knives, to block and deflect them, maybe absorb them into a counterattack of her own?

I reached the dense cloud of knives and swiped through them with my coattails, reaching for one last knife as I did so. Though I shredded my coat even further than it already had been, it had the desired effect, knocking several knives off their original course, putting some of them into a spin, angling some of them onto a different trajectory... I finished the setup by bouncing a rebound knife off the floor, the blade grinding to a halt on its way upwards in the field of time dilation projected around me by the magic of the stopwatch. Hm... good enough.

And thus, time resumed.

It was over in the blink of an eye. Patchouli did indeed cancel her previous spell, forming defensive fields that shielded her from the majority of the knives, deflecting or deforming them. But it wasn't enough, I had thrown off her split-second calculations with my little trick - several of the knives slipped between cracks in her defenses, hitting her at angles she wasn't expecting, impaling themselves in her flesh. Just a few, but just enough... in her legs, stomach, chest, here and there she was struck. Time still felt as if it had been slowed down as I watched my trap unfold, the wizard's eyes wide as saucers as she turned her head to glare at me in astonishment, as if to ask: “How?”

She never got the chance to vocalize her question, however, as the rebound knife made its way back down, having bounced off the ceiling, and struck her right in the forehead as she glanced upwards. With that final blow, her body turned limp and fell backwards, vanishing in a puff of magic before she hit the ground. Remilia looked absolutely stupefied by what had just happened - from her perspective, it must've happened in less than a second. Patchouli was gone. Alice was still impaled on the icy column, but I could hear her breathing. The spread of the icy thorns seemed to have stopped.

“It's just you and me now. Isn't that what you wanted?” I decided to break the silence. I could feel something on my upper lip, just a little bit ticklish... I was probably bleeding from the magical exertion, my reserves now more than just depleted. I felt like I cut into a bit of my lifespan with that last click of the button. But it didn't matter, I accomplished what I wanted, and the red haze slowly peeled back from my mind and my eyes, my bloodlust sated for now. What would happen next would be a calm and collected battle, a purely professional extermination.

...Heh, as if. I'd give that brat a proper spanking before I took her head, and I'd enjoy it.

“You...” Remilia hunched over, staring at the ground. She spread her wings slowly, the holes torn by my rebound knives still there, albeit smaller due to her regenerative powers. Suddenly, her body seemed to convulse violently, and... swell? I thought my eyes were deceiving me.
“...You'll pay for that. Play time's over, this ends NOOOWWW!!!” Remilia's voice corrupted into a bestial roar in the end, and I took a cautious step back, preparing my sword and whip as she leaned back, howling towards the moon, a dark energy beginning to swirl around her small body. In strange, unnatural pulses, her arms and legs became thicker, more muscular, discolored, ripping her outfit to shreds as it couldn't contain her frame anymore, her still-roaring mouth contorting into a monstrous maw, her fangs elongating until they could no longer fit her mouth. Her entire body was covered by a smooth coat of purplish blue fur, the hair on her head exploding into a ferocious mane, crowned by two curved horns giving her new form a truly demonic appearance. She kept growing and expanding to a ludicrous size - by the time she finished and hunched back over, glaring downwards at me, she was easily twenty feet tall at the shoulder, a giant hulking mass of muscle, her bulging muscular arms and legs tipped with razor-sharp foot-long claws, a thick leathery membrane stretching between her arms and her sides, and a tail swishing side to side behind her. She - it - snarled at me, the puny little human that she could probably swallow whole at her new size.
BEHOLD MY TRUE FORM AND DESPAIR.

Huh, I never knew she could do that.

-------

BGM: "Dance of Illusions"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NO9mFiUZPMo

-------

I felt fortunate that her new bulk came at the cost of some speed and agility - with a flap of her massive arm-wings, she leapt through the air towards me, crushing the stone floor tiles where she landed, and where I was not. I had swiftly hopped backwards, lashing out with the leather whip before she could recover from her landing, a thin gash of blood appearing across her rippling chest muscles. That kind of attack wouldn't be particularly effective unless I was hoping to slowly bleed her out, of course... I had to think of a way to take her down, on the spot. All vampires gain some talent for shapeshifting from their curse, but I rarely ever heard of any that could transform into a huge demon like this; most would change into bats or wolves, creatures of the night that exist in the mortal world, or into mist to move stealthily and bypass barriers.

Shrugging off the whip, the demonic vampire didn't let me get too comfortable with the idea of maintaining distance. She inhaled deeply, her nostrils flaring and emitting black smoke, before roaring in my direction, a blast of fire exiting her mouth and heading straight for me like a rocket. I rolled to the side, the fireball exploding against the ground where I was a moment ago, singing the ragged tips of my coattails, and I hurled an experimental knife at the demon as I recovered. It glanced off without causing much harm, shaving off some blue fur and bruising the skin. Curses. I would definitely need to get closer to punch through that hide.

The demon lunged for me, capitalizing on its mass for momentum as a bear would, granting her frightening speed as long as it kept going in one direction. One again I hopped to the side, delivering a lash of the whip as she passed me, giving her another thin bloody gash, this time along her side. I paid the price, however, as her deceptively long tail whipped me in my side in return. As the demon skidded to a halt, stone tiles being ploughed through by clawed feet, I soared a good dozen feet through the air, somehow managing to land without breaking anything and rolling to my feet. The crimson eyes of the demon were still fixated on me, and she began another charge, on four legs this time, head low as if to gore me with her horns.

Well, if she wanted a rodeo, I'd give her one. I braced myself, waiting for her to get close enough, before jumping, kicking off her head hard and landing on her back. The sheer impact still knocked the wind out of me, and I nearly tumbled right off again, gripping onto her mane to stay on; the kick had disoriented her slightly, causing her to bulldoze right through one of the decorative pillars in the throne room, breaking one of her horns and nearly crushing me between her back and the falling rocks. I pulled myself into a sitting position, gripping her mane like the reins of a horse, and kicked her in the sides with my heels, laughing to myself.
“Yee-haw!” Had I been a more crude individual, I would've made a bawdy joke about riding her.

She didn't seem to approve of me being on top of her (heh) like this, halting her charge and bucking like an enraged bull, trying to get me off of her. All she really achieved, however, was me ripping out a thick chunk of her mane as I clung to her, not letting myself get thrown off. Still, enough fun was had, and it was time to finish this fight. Gripping onto her with one hand as best I could, I fished out one of my remaining vials of holy water with my other hand, before unsteadily trying to stand up - not an easy task when perched on the back of a frenzied demonic vampire. The moment I managed to gain sufficient balance, I smashed the vial right onto her back, vaulting off and managing to drop into a roll as I landed on the floor. I promptly had to cover my ears, as the holy flames engulfing the demon's back provoked a skull-splitting howl of rage and pain.

Try as she might, she couldn't reach the flames on her back with her bulky arms and frame no matter what, so instead she fell onto her back, rolling around and trying to put out the flames with very little success. Just the opening I was looking for. With no time to waste, I sprinted towards the flailing creature, jumping onto her stomach and climbing up to her chest, drawing the Kusanagi from its sheath and reversing it in my hands. Despite the holy fire she had been trying to extinguish, the vampire noticed me, leaning her head forward and roaring at me with all the might of her lungs, the noise deafening, the slobber and stench disgusting, but I paid it no heed. Just before she could grasp me with those razor-sharp talons and rend me into pieces, I drove the Kusanagi into her chest, transforming her roar into a howl of anguish as the legendary blade cut through her hide like paper.

I didn't give her even a chance to recover. I pulled the blade out and stabbed again, and again and again and again, harder and deeper I thrust into her, wrenching the blade side to side inside her, digging myself a nice little cavity in her chest and dodging ineffectual claw swipes from the demon, now near-paralyzes from pain as the flames of the holy water were still consuming her back. To seal the deal, I pulled out another flask of holy water, shoving it into the hole in her chest I had dug with the sword, and smashing it with the hilt, unleashing blessed flames directly into her body. The spasm that went through the demon's body at that time was strong enough to literally send me flying off her, her back arching near the point of snapping in half as she found herself consumed by righteous fire on both sides, even from within.

I stood back up, calmly dusting myself off and catching my breath, even wiping the accumulated blood from my nose as I watched her burn, her movements becoming more sluggish and aimless by the moment as the flames mercilessly devoured her body. By the time the fire began to die out, not much of the demon was left besides charred flesh and exposed bone. I cautiously approached her; I had to make sure the job was finished, to verify with my own two eyes that she was slain for good. As I got close, I noticed the large, near-lifeless body of the demonic vampire begin to flake off into tiny pieces, faster and faster, disintegrating before my very eyes along with the last flames. A muffled explosion of ash blasted my face, eliciting a cough as I tried to get vampiric residue out of my nose and throat. Gross.

And there, on the floor, was the young noblewoman herself, Remilia Scarlet, nude and defeated, glaring at me with wide eyes brimming with tears, attempting to crawl away from me as I walked closer and closer, even now still trying to modestly cover her exposed body. I had no interest in her body, however, what I wanted was her head. With the Kusanagi in hand, I walked up to her and kicked her onto her side, the vampire girl letting loose a frightened yelp of pain as I loomed over her, staring at her. She hiccuped and sniffed, tears streaming freely as she looked up at her executioner.

“P-please”, she stammered, “show mercy! I'll do anything, I'll... I'll leave this place, you'll never hear of me again, I, I'll give you anything your heart can desire!”

I tilted my head. Really?

“I beg of you, please, find it in your heart to forgive me...” the naked little vampire girl prostrated herself before me, bowing her head against the ground at my feet.
“I... I was just sustaining myself, like any other creature... I got carried away, but please, just give me a chance...”

I planted my foot on her back, provoking another fearful yelp from the pathetic creature. This was getting boring.

-------


[] Off with her head, time to end this tale.
[] ...Mercy, huh?
[] (write-in)
>> No. 62203
[x] Mercy? How about we ask Alice, and see what she thinks?
-[x] Off with her head.

Damn it ;.. ;
>> No. 62204
[] Off with her head, time to end this tale.

It has to be this way.
>> No. 62205
[x] Mercy? How about we ask Alice, and see what she thinks?
-[x] Off with her head.
>> No. 62206
[x] Mercy? How about we ask Alice, and see what she thinks?
-[x] Off with her head.

Remember to double-tap, don't want any 'this is my truly-true-ultimate-almighty-final-form' bullshit.
>> No. 62208
>>62203
>>62205
>>62206
Do you want to go literally ask Alice? She's right there, after all.
>> No. 62209
[X] Mercy? How about we ask Alice, and see what she thinks?
[X] "Look on the bright side. At least you won't suffer any longer"
-[X] Off with her head.
--[X] Then a steak through the heart.
--[X] "Honestly, you were more of a challenge before you went all 'Big-Evil-Monster' mode."
---[X] Check up on Alice. We can at least pull the spear out of her corpse if it comes to that.
----[X] Remember the Gatekeeper
-----[X] Prepare for pissed off beyond all hell Gatekeeper incoming.
>> No. 62210
File 14402207999.jpg - (112.91KB , 700x460 , steak.jpg ) [iqdb]
62210
>>62209
>steak through the heart
Sounds difficult.
>> No. 62211
[x] Mercy? How about we ask Alice, and see what she thinks?
-[x] Off with her head.

>>62210
Get the fuck out Carlos
>> No. 62217
>>62208
It's a turn of phrase, we aren't gonna bother a dying person with stupid questions like 'should we avenge you'?
>> No. 62218
Update either later tonight or earlier tomorrow.
>> No. 62219
File 144027600689.jpg - (46.96KB , 425x308 , nevereveramcagain.jpg ) [iqdb]
62219
Isn't it sad, Remi?
>> No. 62221
>>62219
Well, she's the only non-monster opponent so far where people voted for the "kill" option when given a choice, no?
Rumia lived, Meiling wouldn't die even if you killed her, Patchouli surrendered in her first encounter and we accepted it, Koakuma was shown mercy right after bad-ending us...
>> No. 62222
>>62219
It's what happens when you build her up to be a complete monster and have her more or less spear the only ally.

>>62221
>Meiling wouldn't die even if you killed her

And the MC has more or less done that once or twice, only for her to shrug it off.
>> No. 62223
File 144035850092.jpg - (114.42KB , 522x555 , 42b41e3c555553d2a2514580672c4d99.jpg ) [iqdb]
62223
Sobbing, uncontrollable sobbing. The last shameful display of a pathetic creature at the end of the line. The fruitless whining of a prey animal between the jaws of a predator. Honestly, it was kind of annoying. The vampire's small white body seemed so frail and weak, curled up as if she were trying to disappear; even those massive wings of hers had seemingly shrunken down into useless little things dangling from her shoulder blades. She was covered in cuts and bruises, reflections of the damage she had taken in her previous form... By my guess, she was using what remained of her power just to reform into a shape that was easier to maintain.

Well, it would also prove to be easier to kill. Keeping my boot firmly planted on her back, I lifted her chin with the blade of the Kusanagi, forcing her to bend her neck awkwardly to look up at me.
“Rejoice, Remilia Scarlet! I will grant you the mercy you deserve.” Her eyes widened in disbelief, but she quickly understood the true meaning of my words as a sly grin found its way to my lips.
“A swift and efficient death, much unlike the one you intended to inflict upon my companion over there. Rest in peace, little girl.”

Before she even got the chance to mouth any further protests, I leaned down to violently grip her hair, slamming her face into the ground again as I raised the Kusanagi. Though she had been all humble and docile up to that point, she started to struggle - weakly - when she realized I wasn't going to let her live. I didn't care though. This was the entire reason I had come to Gensokyo in the first place, after all. There was no hesitation. With a metallic whistle through the air, the sword came down, slicing through the vampire's neck.

...Or slicing into it, at least. I frowned, staring down at the young vampire gargling in pain and coughing up thick mouthfuls of blood. Necks are tough things, you know. In an ideal situation, with proper leverage and a proper angle, I'm certain the legendary blade would've decapitated her in one smooth slash, but it got stuck in her spine; Remilia's scream was instantly muffled by her throat flooding with blood, at least. This was not a heavy executioner's axe after all, it was an elegant weapon for a more civilized purpose.

I twisted and pulled on the blade, wrenching it loose from the mass of sinew, muscle and bone, sawing apart spinal discs as I freed it from her neck, only to deliver a second, final blow, parting her head from her body enough to pull it apart with my hands, the final loose strands of skin and flesh snapping as I finished my grisly task. Her body convulsed a few final times, before dropping limp onto the floor, beginning to slowly wither before my eyes. Not as clean as I would've liked it, but what can you do?

Swiping the sword through the air to flick off most of the blood, I raised my trophy up to face-level by the hair, staring at the slack-jawed lifeless expression, her eyes having lost all focus and the blood remaining in her head draining out through her neck and mouth. I then gave her a little shake, just to make sure she was really dead. And then a tap on the forehead. Yep, dead as a doornail. Probably. But if it were that easy, hunters like myself would need a whole lot less training and education. No, the tale was almost over, but before I could consider it truly finished I would need to wait for sunrise.

Vampires are sticky creatures, hard to get rid of, befitting of their nature as parasites. You can use garlic and fish heads to inconvenience their inhumanly sharp sense of smell and repel them, you can stake their hearts to interrupt their unnatural blood flow and paralyze them, you can sometimes use religious imagery to induce a supernatural sense of guilt to distract and demoralize them, you can use blessed weapons to amplify the damage you deal to their corrupted flesh. Against blood-starved ones, fire is effective as their flesh dries out and becomes drastically more flammable, but this doesn't work well against ones that have recently fed.

But killing them is another story. It's very, very hard to kill a vampire for good, reliably, with no chance of regenerating. Cutting them apart, blowing them to pieces, burning them to a crisp, filling them full of lead with guns... These methods would incapacitate them, and they would even destroy weaker vampires, especially when using blessed weapons or “pure” materials like silver. However, childish as she might have been, the Church's profile on Remilia Scarlet suggested she was no minor bloodsucker.

No, even she would eventually recover from something as simple as losing her body below the neck. At this point, the simplest and most reliable method would be to expose her severed head to the morning sun; sunlight suppresses vampiric powers, particularly their regenerative properties, and causes their bodies to rapidly begin to decay, as if catching up to their “true” age. Weaker vampires would perish so rapidly they would appear to combust into flames and turn to ash in an instant, while the most powerful vampires have been known to be able to walk about during the day and present as normal humans, so long as they avoided extended exposure to direct sunlight.

But that wouldn't matter if she were unable to walk, no? All I had to do was to find a nice little spot without shade and stick her head on a pole, then sit back and watch her crumble as the purifying rays of the sun washed over her. Maybe she'd regain consciousness just in time to scream for mercy again... that'd be a pain, I'd have to remember to gag her mouth just in case.

Oh, but during all of my musing I nearly forgot about other priorities at hand. Alice was still there, alive by the weak, struggling sounds of her breathing, impaled by the icy spear which was taking an unnaturally long time to melt, Patchouli Knowledge's magic surely still lingering in it and preserving its form. As for the wizard herself, I was unable to verify her death, as she teleported elsewhere in the mansion just as the rebound knife struck her head... As I walked over to one of many blood spatters on the throne room floor (surprisingly few of which were my own), I noticed one of my rebound knives, the blade warped and flattened unnaturally. I definitely saw her get stabbed by throwing knives in several places, so was it possible she realized she couldn't afford to protect anything except her vitals?

There was also the matter of other enemies I had been unable to terminate for good, for one reason or another. The gatekeeper that would not stay dead despite me killing her, what... three times over the course of the night? However, when I last saw her, she was preoccupied with suppressing something in the mansion dungeon, keeping it from escaping. Ah well, I shrugged, none of my business; I came to slay a vampire, not go dungeon diving. There was also the wizard's familiar, the succubus, but I felt somehow confident that I wouldn't be seeing her again anytime soon. Lesser devils fear those with stronger willpower than their own, after all.

Well, Alice was easily number one on the priority list in any case, being that she was severely injured and in the same room with me. Other distractions could wait for now. Casually swinging the severed head of the vampire back and forth in my hand as I walked, I approached Alice, who had been staring at her perforated grimoire with glazed eyes until that point. As I approached, she looked up at me, the color of her eyes a muted grey, her body lightly shivering now and then, whether from the cold or the blood loss, I couldn't tell.

“Hey. How are you holding up?” I asked, trying to gauge the damages with my eyes, avoiding touching her directly. The icy lance was, at the very least, keeping her blood and internal organs on the inside, and I worried that removing it from her body might make things a lot worse, very quickly. We weren't exactly within walking distance from the nearest hospital, after all.

She coughed in my general direction in irritation as a response.
“Well, as you can plainly see, I'm the one being held up here, thank you very much for your ill-timed puns.” Turning her head to look back at her book, she frowned, as if the hole in her torso were the least of her worries.

“Not even remotely intentional,” I lied. “Uh, sorry about your book... was it important to you?”

She shot me a glare filled with tangible malice upon hearing my stupid question, and I could swear her eyes almost seemed to pulse orange for a moment.
“Need I remind you that recovering my grimoire was the reason I even agreed to accompany you in the first place!? Do you have any idea how irreplaceable, how priceless, how-...” She choked on something and swallowed, hard, before taking a nice, long breath and calming down, her body becoming less tense... well, as relaxed as you can be while there's a thick pillar of ice pinning you to the spot through your body. Honestly, I didn't expect her to sacrifice the book like that, but it seemed to have saved her from an instant death, somehow.
“...Well, whatever. Honestly, I feel like I could just die here right now, but that would be such a shameful fate...”

Alice sighed, throwing her head back and staring into the ceiling for a moment.

“...Ah well. I see you managed to win without my help, in the end?” As she shot an uncomfortable glance at the severed head dangling from my hand, Alice's words betrayed a certain emotion I couldn't quite put my finger on. Did she feel guilty for coming along and being a burden, or did she feel mad at me for inviting her along and putting her in this situation? Those gentle eyes of hers made it impossible to tell for certain.

“Hey, you were a big help, I couldn't have gotten through that fight without you, you know,” I tried to reassure her for reasons unknown. Truthfully, part of me was a little glad that it ended up this way... in my moment of weakness, I agreed to work together with another, despite my instincts and experience telling me not to. Remilia would likely not have summoned Patchouli if I had come alone, she was too prideful to gang up on me. Would I have won, had it been a one-on-one duel from the start? ...Probably. Remilia's bark turned out to be worse than her bite, and once we got past her silly gauntlet and fought her directly, she wasn't anywhere near as bad as some other creatures of the night I had faced in my career. It really did seem that the Church sent me after easy prey, just to get rid of me.

“Hmm, I wonder about that,” Alice whispered more to herself than to me.
“Oh well. So, hunter... it appears I am at your mercy once again. Will you free me, as you did at the start of this long and dreadful night?” Alice's eyes felt like they were piercing straight through me, as I pondered the situation. I couldn't afford to simply lift her off the spear, she was likely to just bleed out on the spot, and I didn't know any healing magic, nor did I generally bother carrying any first aid...

First aid was something I could've used at the time, honestly. Thinking on Alice's injury merely brought back suppressed memories of the night's experiences that my body had pushed to the side, fueled more by adrenaline than by blood by this point. I could feel my shoulders get a lot heavier, my feet become less stable, and dozens, maybe hundreds of sources of dull pain ache across my very being in a wave of agony. The human body can perform amazing feats of endurance under pressure, but it can only run on fumes of stubborn will for so long. Without really noticing it, I had probably long since passed the breaking point nature intended for the human body, and I was certain I would end up paying some kind of price for this...

But that was not my concern at the time. I examined the frozen lance from various angles, pondering how to solve our conundrum, to get Alice out of here and to someone who would be able to provide medical assistance to youkai. Perhaps if I smashed the parts that were sticking out...? No, smashing it would likely cause more internal damage to Alice's body, I'd have to take a more delicate approach. I had to set down Remilia's head for what I had planned, and I planted my boot on top of it, just in case it decided to come to life and skitter away or something. Reaching into my coat, I pulled out one of the few holy water vials I had left. I wouldn't need the whole thing for this, just a little bit.

Alice was watching my actions with a somewhat nervous expression.
“Hey, hunter... What exactly do you intend to do with that?”

“Sshhh, don't move or talk. And be ready.” I ripped off a piece of my tattered coattails and wrapped it around the icy lance, close to Alice's body, nice and tight, repeating the process on the other end. Alice's puzzlement was quickly dispelled as I uncorked the holy water vial, pouring the unstable fluid onto the rags which quickly absorbed it, combusting into flames. I put the cork back on the bottle and stashed it back in my coat, staying close to Alice and being ready to catch her. Well, it's not like she was suspended in the air or anything, but I had a feeling the spear was doing more to support her weak body right now than her legs were. She didn't seem to be particularly thrilled about being that close to the holy flames, but I grabbed her hand to reassure her.

The ice began to melt.

Soon enough, the portion of the spear that had been suspended in the air broke off, falling to the ground and shattering under its own weight; Alice gasped, probably more due to her ruined grimoire falling to the ground along with it than anything else. I tried not to look at the unnaturally clear ice in her body. I was sure I'd be able to see just how bad the damage inside her truly was. Soon enough, the other part of the spear had melted enough to break off as well, and Alice's body slumped, nearly falling to the ground before I caught her.

“Ugh-... I feel... sick...” Well, sick was better than dead. She coughed violently a few times, but all that came out was a few minor traces of blood, since she'd done most of her bleeding by that point already. She needed to get help, and soon.
“Hey...” I could feel her squeezing my hand, and I looked at her face, only to be met with a charming smile and a chuckle.
“I can still walk, you know. I'm not weak like you humans are,” she said with playful disrespect, her eyes feeling somehow warm despite the ice in her chest, which had missed her heart by a fraction of an inch somehow. I rolled my eyes at her and let go of her hand.

“Well, pardon me for trying to be helpful! I should've just left you waiting here for the ice to melt on its own, clearly.”

“Mhm, clearly... So what now, my hunter?” Alice went to pick up her belongings she had dropped - the ruined grimoire, still possessing sentimental value even if its pages were ruined; her dolls, limp and lifeless but still whole; and the Yata no Kagami, which hadn't proven to be useful as anything but a lucky charm, I guess. We still had to return it to its rightful owner, in any case.

I went and picked up my baggage as well, that being the severed head of the lord of this mansion.
“Now? Now we try to leave, hopefully without any serious obstacles. We've killed a pretty clear path through the mansion, so it shouldn't be too much trouble. We'll get you some help, and I'll finish the job I came here for.” I glanced at the large windows of the throne room, the moon still casting its chilling light upon us from above. This night felt like it lasted a whole damn week, somehow.

I heard a small thud; turning around, I noticed Alice, paler still than before, her eyes wide in shock and her lips trembling, struggling to form words. She had fallen to her knees, staring at the legendary mirror on the floor right between the two of us, her hand shaking as she pointed at it.

She looked as if she had seen a ghost.

-------

(write-in)
>> No. 62224
[x] Tell her to grab the grimoire and run

By her expression, it is dangerous. And neither of them can deal with that right now. At least, she should be able to run away and our MC might be able to fight without worries.
>> No. 62226
WE just killed the only being capable of keeping flandre under control.
We killed flandre's sister she sees us Kyu is our fate.
>> No. 62227
[x] Look into the mirror.
>> No. 62228
[x] Look into the mirror.

Time to be torn apart on the subatomic level
>> No. 62230
File 144045249593.jpg - (957.16KB , 905x1200 , 1d748ace676a0fe58cb3c9a3a2d5fc9b.jpg ) [iqdb]
62230
What the... What was she freaking out over? No, no, I had both enough experience as well as intuition to know that Alice wasn't just acting weird for no good reason; her no-nonsense attitude was one thing I always did like about her, after all. Something about that mirror spooked the living daylights out of her... or something she saw reflected in the mirror? Based on the angle of her eyes to the mirror, she would be seeing... hmm. No, I had to verify it with my own eyes. I refused to believe. There was no way. I had my suspicions, but... no.

Slowly, cautiously, I stepped closer to the mirror on the floor. The Yata no Kagami, one of three Imperial Regalia of Japan, a sacred bronze mirror that represented wisdom and honesty, and that reflected only the truth of things. I shot a glance around the throne room. Many of the candles had gone out, a chilling wind blowing through the room from a window that had been broken at some point or another during the battle. The pale light of the moon washed over everything, illuminating blood spatter, torn bits of cloth, bent and broken knives, burn marks, and the desiccated corpse of Remilia Scarlet in the middle of the room. This was the truth of things, the truth I beheld with my own two eyes.

But then, what did the mirror show that I didn't see?

Another step closer; Alice's gaze suddenly rose from the mirror to me instead, her wide eyes a pale yellow, and she stumbled over backwards, gesturing her free hand at me as her other one clung to her grimoire.
“Stop, don't come any closer!”

Huh.

What was that about, then?

Was she terrified of me?

I stopped, staring right back at her.
“...Alice. What's wrong?”

She merely gritted her teeth in response, shooting rapid glances back and forth between me and the mirror on the ground. No, not directly at me... at my...?
“Don't move, just look,” she barked at me, suddenly lunging forward and grabbing the mirror, lifting it up so I could see what she had seen.

...Ah. It took me a moment to notice it, but it was definitely there.

Squatting by my side, a shadowy little humanoid figure, faint yet distinct at the same time. I took a step to the side, and it skittered along with me, matching my pace perfectly. Well, of course, it had to do so.

After all, it was attached at the neck to Remilia's head in my hand.

I lifted my eyes from the mirror, making eye contact with Alice. She seemed a little less panicked now, but her breathing was heavy, and her body was still trembling, weak from the terrible wound she had suffered mere moments ago. I knew that another conflict of some manner was unavoidable now, but she would be no help. No, she had no business even being here in the first place - had I sent her away back on the rooftop, she could've avoided finding out what it feels like to be skewered alive. She was lucky to be alive, and I didn't particularly feel like being responsible for changing that fact.

“Hey, Alice,” I said quietly, glancing down at the lifeless head hanging by the hair in my hand.
“Get out of here. I'll be with you in just a moment.”

Alice just stared at me, dumbfounded, before swallowing audibly, slowly forcing herself to stand up.
“No, I'll help-...”

“Just go already, I can't focus if I have to make sure you don't drop dead.”
I probably sounded a bit more harsh there than I had intended. In any other situation, Alice would've probably gotten offended and argued with me, going on about how humans are fragile compared to youkai, how she's fine, and so on. This time, however, she merely offered a small nod of resignation, gritting her teeth through the pain as she ran towards the throne room door. Before exiting, she looked back over her shoulder just once.

“You better not have lied when you said you'd just be a moment.”
And with that, she was gone. Well, not far, she'd probably be waiting right outside the door. But I was alone now.

Alone with you-know-who, that is.

“Alright, no more games. Show yourself already.” As I said that, I chucked the vampire's head into the air, following up with a lash of the whip.
The head deftly dodged it.
Dodged it?

“Oi, oi, that's really quite rude of you, darling!”

A familiar voice I had hoped never to hear again. Like the tentacles of a squid, the severed arteries of her neck extended outwards, suspending the head in the air as the not-quite-dead Remilia Scarlet grinned fiendishly at me. A bizarre sight, one I had never seen before in my days as a hunter... Vampires could regenerate even after losing their body, sure, but this quickly? No, this wasn't regeneration, it was as if she didn't even need her body to function normally. There was no pain or weakness on her face, no trace of the pathetic little girl that had been begging for her life just a moment ago.

She tilted her head... or, well, you know what I mean.
“You were expecting someone else? My sister, perhaps?” The disembodied head laughed, a sincere, relaxed laugh, the way one would laugh when joking around among friends, not the theatric maniacal cackle I had come to associate her with.
“But it's me, Remilia~!”

As I took a cautious stance, no longer knowing what to expect from this creature, she idly observed the surroundings, the trails of carnage in the throne room. Damaged stone, stains of blood, torn curtains. Her body, now dried up into an ugly husk.
“I have to give you credit, hunter, you certainly don't like to hold back. Top marks, ten out of ten.” What was up with her voice, though? Just like that laugh, she sounded so... relaxed, casual. Had it truly all just been a game for her up until this point? I ground my teeth, irritated at having been played for a fool. But I couldn't afford to do anything besides listen. Remilia Scarlet had proven to be entirely unpredictable, and I wasn't the type to attack recklessly in a situation like this.

Like a sea urchin, she “walked” to her corpse on those tentacles coming out of her neck, looking down on herself with a smirk.
“I may have underestimated you just a tiny bit. You more than met my hopes and expectations, you exceeded them brilliantly.” The tentacles suddenly lashed towards the dried-up body, piercing into it and beginning to... pump? Rhythmic bulges flowed down from her head into her body, and it gradually bloated, turning redder and redder as if she were injecting it with an unfathomable amount of blood out of nowhere.

All of a sudden, the corpse exploded. I took an involuntary step back, shielding myself with my arm from the gore which never came. Instead, what I saw were countless crimson bats taking flight from where the dead body had just been, circling Remilia's head as she looked up and smiled. The bats then converged, forming a dense cloud of red wings around her, seemingly melting into one another to form a new body, complete with an outfit much like the one she was wearing when I first saw her. Perhaps a little bit less gaudy, a little bit more functional. She casually inspected her fingers, flexing and parting them, making sure her new body was in perfect condition even while her legs hadn't finished forming yet.

All I could do was stare in silence, the breath frozen in my throat, a cold sweat covering me from head to toe. Remilia was not an elder vampire, she was only roughly five centuries old. Such instant recovery after losing their entire body should only be possible for vampires that had spent millennia building up power. Had the Church made a mistake? No... had they intended for me to lose here? No, they couldn't have... A hunter-turned-vampire would be a threat they couldn't afford to allow exist, even if I were stuck here in Gensokyo. But then why? How? All of the fatigue and pain I had suppressed that night came crashing down on me at once. I felt crippled.

Seemingly satisfied with the reformation of her body and her clothing, Remilia cracked her neck back and forth, making sure everything slides back into place, as one last crimson bat landed right on the side of her head, transforming into a lovely little hair bow similar to what was attached to the hat she had been wearing before. She twisted her body around to face me once more, shooting me a disarmingly charming smile which only served to unnerve me even more. She could probably tell I was freaked out. I had completely misjudged her, after all. A potentially deadly mistake.

“You certainly did a number on me, darling. I even tried to look all weak and harmless in the end, to trick you into dropping your guard and letting me at those squishy innards of yours... But even when faced with a crying little girl, no mercy!” she exclaimed happily, mimicking slitting her throat with her thumb with a wide grin. “I like it, I like it!”
Lowering her hands onto her hips, she casually took a step towards me; I immediately tensed up in response, taking a defensive stance.
“Ah, you seem a little surprised. You don't give yourself enough credit, darling... Did you really expect the Church to send one as talented as yourself if it was going to be that easy?”

That laugh again. It was irritating, but for different reasons than before. It wasn't haughty or villainous or otherwise stereotypical, it was simple amusement without a hint of malice or superiority. The way she was... praising me like this, she, the evil creature I was supposed to exterminate, towards me, the hunter here to take her life. I would've preferred her mocking me, insulting me, cackling like a stuck-up noblewoman. I didn't know how to feel about this.

“Cut the crap! What are you playing at this time? I'll just keep killing you until you stay down, no matter what trickery you try.” I gestured towards her with the Kusanagi, holding the whip in my other hand, trying to calm myself down. She was just trying to get into my head. I let my guard down and let her get away with it. But it would be fine. All I had to do was calm down and kill her again.

“Yes, that is what you're here to do, after all,” she responded softly, taking another step - to the side this time. I took a step in the other direction, and we began slowly circling one another.
“I'll tell you, you're the first one to have made it this far. You saw my collection, no? There were many attempts before you.” With a strange gesture of her arms, she conjured floating images of various hunter weapons. Spears, whips, swords, transforming weapons that had belonged to founding heroes of the Church, told of only in stories.

“I might've pocketed a few items from your collection. I hope you don't mind,” I spat out in response, keeping my eyes focused on the vampire, unblinking. Not only did she sound different, she looked different. While she still had the body and face of a child, she looked slightly older - a petite 14-year-old's body, at most - and had a strangely inappropriate wisdom in her eyes. The eyes you would see on an old man that had survived many wars, with countless tales to tell. The eyes of countless lifetimes' worth of experience, even for an undying creature such as herself. Those eyes didn't fit her youthful face, somehow... An unnatural combination I had grown accustomed to seeing in mirrors in recent years.

“No, that's quite alright, they were doing me no good collecting dust in any case.” Such a sincere voice. Smooth as a melody. If I didn't know any better, I would think she was slowly trying to cast some manner of suggestion upon me, to seduce me, but hunters are resilient to such trickery of the mind. Then again, I couldn't be sure... she had deceived me by disguising her true power once already.
“And besides,” she continued, “it suits my purposes to have you well-armed. You're the first and only hunter to not have been a disappointment so far. Only one before you struck down my demonic form, but he was weak to seeing little girls cry.”

A soft chuckle, as if remembering a funny story.

“I proceeded to decorate the floor with his guts. Such a weak-willed man...” Remilia sighed, glancing up at the pale moon casting its light down upon her. The scar from having her head cut off healed up before my very eyes, leaving her pale, white skin perfect and without blemishes. She looked like a doll given life, except for those eyes of hers.
“Well, no matter. You're here now, after all.”

“I won't play any more of your games. I came here to kill you, nothing more, nothing less.”

“Oh, of course darling, of course,” she said, trying to sound... reassuring?
“I wouldn't have it any other way. If you weren't strong enough to destroy me, well... that just wouldn't be any good.” Those eyes met mine yet again, and I sensed a strange sadness hiding behind them. It wasn't fear of death - she had faked that rather convincingly before I took her head off the first time. This was something else, a mix of regret, and...

“Is that so?” I asked, slowing down the pace of my walking to match hers, our feet tapping against the stone floor in near-perfect synchronization, the echoes overlapping.
“So you're saying you -want- me to kill you? There's easier ways to commit suicide, you know.”

Remilia spread her massive wings out, collapsing them back onto her back again, as if stretching them.
“Oh, if only it were that simple. No, hunter, I'm afraid I still can't quite be honest with you, I can't afford to risk weakening your resolve by telling you the truth of why I wanted you here.”
She stopped walking, and shot me a warm smile, her arms held behind her back.
“Then again, you've got a cruel enough heart to behead a crying little girl. But that's the exact kind of person I need for this.”

“For... what, exactly?” I should've just charged her a long time ago, but I couldn't help but keep listening to her. This was so strange to me. I couldn't figure her out. She was speaking in circles, avoiding the main point, determined not to tell me what it was she was planning. And yet, she made me perfectly aware that everything had gone according to her plan.

So far, at least.

“Oh, don't worry about that. All I need from you is the will to do what you do best.”

“And if I refuse? If I just walk out of that door, right now, and leave?” I gestured towards the opulent doors of the throne room with my head.

Remilia frowned. Somehow, that expression was painful to look at this time. I wouldn't have given it any notice if she had still behaved like the cackling little brat she was just moments before.
“I would kill you from behind before you could set foot outside of that door, without hesitation. That would certainly be a disappointing way to end the night...” She glanced up at the moon again, hanging lower and lower in the sky. Though the night had felt endless up until now, it was obvious that it would be morning soon. A mild smirk spread across the vampire's lips, and she turned to face me again.
“But I doubt you would do something like that. There's easier ways to commit suicide, you know.”

A soft giggle.

She had a point there, I had to admit. I wasn't the type to leave a job unfinished.

“Ah, but before we conclude this little dance of ours, my darling... I've got a question for you, out of sheer curiosity, nothing more. I hope you don't mind.” She brought her fingers together in front of her chest, tilting her head at me.

“...Shoot,” I mumbled, my head still feeling dazed and confused, under the vampire's spell. There was no way she wasn't simply trying to manipulate me, messing with me, trying to provoke or discourage me. She was up to something, but I couldn't figure out what.

“After you finish your task here - after you kill me - what do you plan on doing next with your life? I know you can't return to the Church, you're stuck here in Gensokyo. What will you do?”

...I hadn't really thought on that, honestly.

-------

[] I'd look for a way out. There had to be one - if something can come in, it has to be able to get back out.
[] I'd settle down, I suppose. Retiring in a remote village in an eastern country didn't sound that bad.
[] I... don't know.
[] Who cares? I'm tired of your mind games. <attack>
>> No. 62231
[x] I'd settle down, I suppose. Retiring in a remote village in an eastern country didn't sound that bad.

Considering how much is astray with this Gensokyo, it might be a long time before he finds a way out.
>> No. 62232
[X] I'd settle down, I suppose. Retiring in a remote village in an eastern country didn't sound that bad.
He won't run out of jobs, at any rate.
>> No. 62234
[X] I'd settle down, I suppose. Retiring in a remote village in an eastern country didn't sound that bad.
>> No. 62235
[X] I'd look for a way out. There had to be one - if something can come in, it has to be able to get back out.

The Hunter doesn't feel like the type of person who could really relax for too long. Literal murder-urges are not something you find in people who are looking to retire and call it a life.
>> No. 62236
File 144054072472.png - (3.59MB , 1824x2889 , db79f0f71650f2bfe6596542d4ce1fac.png ) [iqdb]
62236
I don't know why, but her question actually made me think, despite how ridiculous it really was in the given context. Asking me what I'd do after I killed her? But I think that was exactly what threw me off my guard, the way she talked about the outcome of the fight that hadn't happened yet, as if it were a foregone conclusion, the way she seemed so calm and relaxed about the whole thing even though we would be fighting to the death in a matter of seconds.

“Hmm,” was all I could offer at first, as the question wasn't a particularly easy one. I thought back to other hunts I had been on. I'd always find my way back to the Church one way or another, sometimes voluntarily, sometimes less so. The very first job they sent me out on, I stuck around in the area, weeding out the vampire's ghouls and servants... maybe a few innocent people too. I told myself I just had to be sure, but both the Church and I knew that was just a convenient excuse. They weren't particularly happy about that. Neither were they happy when they sent a “cleaner” after me on my second job, and I ended up killing him with relative ease, before coming back on my own as if nothing had happened. I was still practically a child during those incidents.

But this time they truly must have felt like they'd be rid of me for good. I doubt I would've been welcomed back after this mission, even if I did manage to find my way back out of the Gensokyo barrier somehow. I was a stray dog they took in and couldn't train out of its feral habits, but I had been too useful for them to simply put down. So, a one-way ticket into a sealed-off pocket dimension must've been a handy solution for them - I kill the vampire and I'm also out of their hair, a win-win situation. I had to wonder how they got their hands on that weird little trinket... A “portable gap”, they called it. Would I be able to find another one like it?

Or... would I truly need to? I slowed my steps, finding myself sinking deeper into thought, the vampire matching my pace and peering at me curiously. Hunters typically end their careers in a rather bloody fashion, either going past their prime or making a fatal mistake at the worst of times. I was still young, and probably just entering the peak of my capabilities - did I really have to go down that ugly path? It's not that I feared death, rather... I didn't see much purpose in continuing like this. Maybe I should quit while I'm still in one piece? Maybe, with time, I would find something to distract me from thoughts of taking lives, maybe I would discover new talents I had never gotten the opportunity to explore?

Heh. Unlikely. Someone like me, settle down, maybe even find someone to start a family with? As if. But, maybe, just maybe...

“I'm thinking of retiring, actually,” I eventually replied, raising my eyes to meet her gaze. Remilia seemed... surprised. She stopped walking, as did I, the two of us standing on opposite ends of a circle of light cast down into the room by the moon overhead.

“Is that true? How surprising...” A dense cloud briefly passed over the moon, the throne room falling into darkness, the vampire's crimson eyes glowing as the only sources of light.
“You do not strike me as someone who could relax for long, darling. I can sense a bloody fate that has chased you from the day you were born... You can't just sit still, those skilled fingers of yours were created to handle blades.” She was trying to read me like a book.

“Then I'll become a fishmonger,” I joked, “or a blacksmith. I don't have to hunt vampires just to feel sharpened steel at my fingertips, now do I?”

“And the villagers? Could you live among them in peace, feel like one of them?” The cloud passed, but Remilia's face felt as if it were still shrouded in darkness, an unreadable expression.

“Who knows.” If any of them got on my nerves, I could just...

“Kill them?” The vampire chuckled softly.
“Don't look so surprised, I cannot read minds. I was merely guessing. You know...” All of a sudden, Remilia took a step closer. I tensed up, remembering the situation at hand - we were going to fight to the death. I wasn't here for pleasant conversation.
“...Had we met some years ago, I would've gladly taken you in myself. I could've made excellent use of you, and given you a place to call home.”

“Psh. As what, a mind-slave of a ghoul? Or your personal assassin?”

“Or a simple servant? Or maybe I'd let you share my bed at nights, when I yearn for companionship?” She was getting awfully close, and awfully friendly. No, that sweet smile of hers was like a carnivorous plant luring in a hapless insect, only to devour it without mercy. I had to remind myself that this pale young girl was a monster, albeit one with strange motivations. I still hadn't figured out what her ultimate goal was.
Another soft chuckle.
“Well, who knows... This is neither the time nor the place to discuss such matters. In another life, perhaps.”

And just before she got within striking range of my whip, she hopped backwards, landing gracefully on her toes - I noticed she didn't bother forming new shoes for herself when she regenerated. A light flap of her wings to maintain balance, and she took a stance I could understand immediately.

“So, darling... One last dance?” She opened and closed her fists, her fingernails somehow looking longer and sharper than before, her legs spread wide, ready to pounce or lunge in any direction she pleased. Her eyes, focused on me, seemed to be as narrow slits, and she couldn't help baring her fangs as she grinner at me expectantly.
“The real me, this time. No more tricks or illusions.”

“Who am I do deny a lady's last request?” I prepared myself as well, sword and whip in hand, driving my fatigue away to some corner in the back of my mind; I couldn't afford weaknesses of the human body to hold me back right now.
“No spear this time?”

She laughed.
“Magic, shapeshifting, summoning weapons for myself... I'll be honest, I was never particularly good at that sort of thing. I'm a more physical kind of girl, you see...” Indeed, I couldn't deny it, barefoot and bare-handed like that... it suited her, a beautiful contradiction of noble-blooded elegance and animalistic cunning, nothing like how she was before. Most aristocratic vampires tended to stem from magically talented bloodlines - this aided them in manipulating mortals and gaining minions, raising their status over the course of centuries. The more brutish parasites tended to stalk back alleys for vagabonds and prostitutes, getting killed off by beginner hunters before they could amass much power. I had to wonder if Remilia, too, came from such lowly beginnings, or if she was born into her nobility?

Well, it didn't matter anymore. Questions about our pasts, our futures... only the present was important now. And one of us wouldn't have a future anymore, after the night was over.

En garde,” she whispered, before vanishing in a blur.

-------

BGM: “The Young Descendant of Tepes/Septette for the Dead Princess
Choose your own favorite version; the one linked below is simply the author's recommendation.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48wZX5ZuhDQ

-------

She was fast.

And strong. I could barely brace myself before what felt like a speeding train crashed into me from the side, knocking the breath right out of my body even though I parried the main force of the attack with the Kusanagi.

She was serious now, I could feel it. My survival instincts kicked in, making it feel like time had slowed down, the urge to stay alive inherent to all living beings putting my senses into overdrive. Crimson streaks of light flashed through the air where the attack had come from, following Remilia's talons as she attempted to rend my flesh. That attack would've been an instant kill if I had been a split second too slow.

And there was more where that came from. Not letting up for even a moment, not giving me a chance to catch my breath or recover my balance, a flurry of claws tore through the air in my direction, as I frantically defended myself with the sword, sparks flying - bits of her claws chipping off and regenerating instantly, her natural weapons not losing any strength even when colliding with mythical steel. Her eyes, too, left streaks behind her as she pressed forward without mercy, burning intensely with murderous intent.

A state of mind I was quite familiar with.

Each blow I desperately deflected felt like it shaved a year off my lifespan, assuming I didn't die right there and then to begin with. Each parry an impossible feat of the human body, what little force I couldn't deflect to the side transferring into my arms, threatening to shatter my bones. But each time, I also received additional insight into her movements, her attack patterns. Her openings. I just had to endure it for a little bit longer, to hold my breath and not lose my focus, to push my fragile, weak human shell to its limits and well beyond.

It felt like I had diverted a hundred slashes before she vanished again. No, it's not like she literally disappeared... she was just faster than I could follow, a brief light-pink blur of her dress the only thing I could catch out of the corner of my eye before another onslaught came at me from behind, a sneak attack with absolutely no pointless aspects such as chivalry or honor holding it back.

She was truly beautiful like this, baring herself to me with sincere honesty, the clashing of claw and sword feeling like a conversation between long-time friends.

But now it was my turn to counterattack.

Deflecting another flurry of attacks, I weaved both my body and my sword between the nigh-unavoidable wall of death, a criss-crossing pattern of crimson lines paired in fours. There was a hole, and it was not a trap. It's only natural, there's no such thing as a perfect attack with no openings, no matter who you are. The enemy just has to learn what it is, and turn it against you.

As I heard the remains of my coattails being sliced into ribbons behind me, the Kusanagi drew blood.

Not allowing for a follow-up attack, the vampire quickly vanished yet again; I took a defensive stance, trying to get a read on where she'd be coming from, but to my surprise I found her high above, on the other side of the room, clinging to the wall, her talons digging into the very stone itself. One of her arms was bleeding. Not a serious wound, as far as a creature of her stature was concerned, but first blood had gone to the mortal this time.

“Mmm... You know, darling,” she spoke softly, her voice somehow being carried to my ears as if she were whispering right next to me, “I think I might truly be falling for you. You're just perfect.” She examined the cut on her arm, which was already rapidly knitting itself together again.
“Let's see if you can keep it up.”
She rocketed forward in an instant, homing in on me like a missile, a red aura surrounding her like the trail of a comet. I had to dodge this. I could sense the sheer destructive force contained within that charge - even if I attempted to block it, my body parts would be scattered to the four winds. Hell, she might reduce me to a fine mist if I took it directly without managing to defend myself.

But she was too fast. There was no way I'd be able to get out of the way anymore, not unless I had seen her coming before she launched herself. Remilia's speed wasn't just supernatural, it was unreal. And she packed more than enough punch to back up her speed. If my attacks were like a pistol, she was an artillery cannon.

I had to take a gamble. Deciding in that split second that I couldn't dodge her attack, I simply moved to meet her charge with my sword. In a best case scenario, it might result in a mutual kill, though considering her regenerative powers this was unlikely. What would you do, Remilia Scarlet? Would you risk the one-in-a-thousand chance that my sword would hit you where it counts?

She didn't need to. The red comet interrupted its trajectory, a powerful flap of massive wings instantly driving her upwards at a 90 degree angle, the gust of wind stunning me as it collided with my body; the next thing I felt was searing pain, like someone had poured molten metal onto my back. I dove to the ground, rolling away to get some distance. As I got back up on my feet, I saw Remilia crouching low on the ground, blood dripping from the claws on her right hand. My blood. The white-hot burning sensation in my back was unlike any torture I had felt before, to the point where it almost felt like it had overloaded my sense of pain, numbing me to it. It felt like someone else's pain.

Remilia didn't speak, she didn't even smirk - that brief pause in combat where we verified that she had taken a point form me lasted under a second. I met her eyes, her pale face without emotion, and she surged towards me again. I couldn't afford to let her stay on the offense, or she would wear me down in less than a minute, but her fighting style was so incredibly aggressive, a tranquil berserker state, lashing out at me with her claws like a frenzied animal while her face retained an eerie calm expression, the only hint at her mental state being those red eyes of hers, tense and unblinking.

I had to stop being on the defense.

Another opening in her chain of attacks. I seized it, delivering a deep cut along her side. However, instead of disengaging, she swooped over my body, raking her claws along my side in turn, trading blood with me. She could afford to, after all, since I was only human.

...No. Vampires don't normally fight like this. Vampire blood isn't a self-sustaining system like it is for us humans. As we eat, sleep and breathe, our blood replenishes itself, heals our wounds, fights off diseases, keeps our body running. But vampire blood is cursed. In exchange for their monstrous abilities, each individual blood cell is precious. They cannot reproduce fresh blood on their own, which is why they drain mortals to sustain themselves. This is why vampires tend to avoid direct confrontation, relying on minions and magic, fighting cautiously, keeping escape routes open so they can flee with what fresh blood remains in their bodies, to regenerate and begin anew even if they lose a fight.

But Remilia was focusing entirely on offense, with utter disregard for her body. While she wouldn't perform any obviously suicidal maneuvers, she weighed each exchange of blows in her head, and only aimed for one outcome. Winning this one fight, even if she doesn't survive in the end. She would gladly accept such a Pyrrhic victory. Against such an opponent, everything you've ever learned about combat goes out of the window.

Again and again I would try to turn the tables, to take on the role of attacker in this battle, but each time I would pay with a new wound, a new source of distracting pain. Those crimson claws of hers felt like they were rending my brain, not my body. Her light pink, nearly white dress, reproduced to such perfection in a pristine state, was stained with our mixed blood, turning scarlet.

At one point, I found myself thinking, becoming numb to my surroundings, even to the ferocious vampire crashing against my sword, sending bone-crunching ripples along my arm and into my body.

I might actually lose this fight.

I might actually die here.

I had to think of something, quickly. No matter how unsightly it might seem, I had to retreat, I had to get some space between us, I had to catch my breath and think. I felt a coppery taste mixing with my saliva as I clumsily blocked a powerful slash head-on, unable to deflect it to the side. Without mercy, Remilia vanished in a blur of speed again, obviously about to ambush me from a blind spot to capitalize on me being briefly stunned.

Fuck it, she wouldn't expect me to do something this reckless.

I kicked the ground, hard, launching myself into the air. A stupid, suicidal move against a winged opponent, to be sure. I actually had time to take a deep breath and brace myself, before Remilia realized what I had done - as if on demand, the red comet crashed into my body again, sending me flying as my bone structure weakly protested. I soared across the throne room, limp like a rag doll, glancing behind myself to see the vampire hot on my trail, flying after me at lightning speed.

However, her relative speed compared to me was far slower now, since I was flying too. Coughing to clear my throat of blood, I felt kind of clever for thinking of this. I reached into my coat, grabbing two fistfuls of knives, and hurled them toward the vampire, a dozen silvery streaks on a collision course with the scarlet streak.

Either because she couldn't or didn't want to, Remilia didn't avoid the blades. The knives lacerated her, tearing through her flesh and leaving ghastly wounds, several of them getting stuck in various parts of her body. The effect of the silver-coated knives was like a shotgun blast, knocking Remilia off-course, sending her crashing straight through one of the decorative stone pillars of the throne room and into the floor, shaking the mansion at its very foundation and leaving a massive crater.

I grinned to myself, just before hitting the wall.

To be more precise, I was lucky not to get blown out of a window, instead colliding with one of the parted curtains dangling from the ceiling, the red fabric cushioning my impact with the wall behind it just enough to keep my bones from being pulverized. I still felt the impact, of course, and nearly passed out right there, just barely managing to grab hold of the curtain and slide down to the floor relatively safely, being thankful that I had gloves on.

I touched down on the floor gracefully like a jellyfish, my legs refusing to carry my weight at first. Somehow, I summoned the strength to stand back up, finding myself panting hard enough to make my throat feel hoarse. My heart was beating so hard and fast, it felt like it was trying to escape my ribcage. Every nerve in my body was screaming at me to just stop. The numb pain from the wounds left by Remilia's claws was gradually burning away at my sanity. But I had to ignore all of that. Looking around the throne room, I had to slap myself upside the head to get my vision to stabilize. I saw the crater where Remilia had crashed into the floor, smoldering.

That couldn't have killed her, could it?

-------

[] I limped over to check, and if necessary, to finish her off. Cautiously, of course.
[] I stayed right where I was, trying to minimize my presence. Wait and see.
[] I had to get out of there. I'd die if I stayed, there was no way I could survive.
[] I tried calling out to Remilia.
-{} (optional write-in)
>> No. 62237
[X] I tried calling out to Remilia.
-[X] "You're not fooling anyone you know. The 'I'm Dead' card was already played."
>> No. 62238
[x] Are you seriously going to pretend to be dead? What about 'no tricks'?
-[x] Attack the crater from a distance, cautiously
>> No. 62239
[X] I tried calling out to Remilia.
-[X] "You're not fooling anyone you know. The 'I'm Dead' card was already played."
>> No. 62240
[X] I tried calling out to Remilia.
-[X] "You're not fooling anyone you know. The 'I'm Dead' card was already played."

Fool me once.
>> No. 62244
File 144061888554.jpg - (832.33KB , 964x904 , 164e0357598d89055eef89f3808ab03e.jpg ) [iqdb]
62244
Heh. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...

“You're not fooling anyone, you know,” I shouted in the general direction of the crater Remilia had left from across the room, trying to keep my voice from shaking as I struggled to ignore what felt like hundreds of individual sources of pain throughout my body.
“The “I'm dead” card was already played. Are you seriously going to feign death, even after you said no more tricks?”

A brief silence.

Come on now, this was just sad. Did she really expect me to fall for it again? Despite all her previous praise, her opinion of me must have been far lower than I thought after all.

Or, perhaps...? The silence was abruptly interrupted as something literally erupted from the hole in the floor, sending me flying onto my ass. Somehow, the falling stone and debris didn't crush me.

“Who was feigning? I truly thought I'd die from shock over the suicidal move you just pulled.” When the dust cleared, I saw Remilia standing in the throne room yet again. She turned to face me, revealing the effects of her brutal crash landing as she began to walk towards me. The skin on half of her face was missing. A broken bone was poking out of one of her forearms. One of her wings was bent at an unnatural angle, useless for flight. She was covered in various cuts and lacerations, one of which had the broken-off blade from one of my knives still embedded within. Other assorted injuries abound.

She didn't seem all that bothered by any of that, though.

Before I knew it, or before I could even get back up on my feet, Remilia was right next to me. She grabbed me with her unbroken arm, lifting me up... not quite into the air, as she was quite a bit shorter than me, but still I hung limply from her hand, balancing on the tips of my toes as she glared at me, narrowing the eyelids on the side of her face that still had skin.
“I had such high hopes for you, but then you go and do something like that, as if you don't care whether you live or die. Tch,” she spat, a broken fang landing onto the floor. Without even giving me a chance to respond, she threw me back to the ground, sending me rolling and tumbling several feet.

Struggling to breathe, to pull myself up, I looked up at her again. Her missing fang was already beginning to grow back, the exposed bone in her arm was unceremoniously ejected and vaporized into nothing as the wound began to seal itself. The skin on her face was rapidly growing back. Such an aggressive form of regeneration, where you simply grow new parts instead of healing existing, damaged ones... It was faster, but more wasteful of her energy.

“Did you come here to throw your life away, just like that?” Her voice was low and harsh, the first time I had heard genuine anger from her that night. She reached me again, and delivered a hard kick to my side, again sending me flying. I definitely felt a rib break from that, no question about it...
“Then you're useless to me. But come on, stand up, show me I'm mistaken. Show me you've got what it takes to end this mess.”

Stand up, she said, as I was completely breathless, my hazy mind trying to gauge just how bad the internal bleeding was. You'd think she'd go a little easier on me, if she truly expected me to both defeat her and live to tell the tale, no? But I didn't have anyone to complain to, so all I could do was... stand back up, slowly and weakly, leaning on my sword like a cane while I tried to recover my sense of balance.

Remilia was momentarily distracted by, ah, plucking out the eye on the damaged side of her face, frowning at the damaged thing that could no longer see and crushing it in her hand. It would be faster to simply grow a new eyeball, of course. As if to spare me from the somewhat gruesome sight, the skin on her face had mostly regenerated by then, allowing her to simply close her eyelids on that side. She turned back to me, grinning.

“So you can still fight. Good, good.” Her wing jerked awkwardly a few times, as if she were testing its range of movement, before she gripped the useless appendage, violently ripping it out of her back. She would be flightless for at least a minute or so until she could grow a new one.
“Then let us continue. I won't let you rest any longer.”

I didn't respond, or even nod in acknowledgement. Because I knew I had a certain advantage, now that her mobility was temporarily crippled and she wasn't in my face.

I had distance, and I had the opportunity to strike first.

While she was shedding her broken body parts like a snake sheds its skin, I had uncorked one of my remaining holy water vials, which I proceeded to chuck in her direction. As the bottle spun through the air, it sprayed the violently reactive fluid in all directions; Remilia moved to avoid the projectile, but my whip struck the vial first, passing through the fluid and shattering the glass. Not allowing herself to simply give me a cheap shot like that, Remilia used her remaining wing to launch a gust of wind at the shattered vial, blowing the shards and the combustive liquid away from her body.

But that wasn't my true goal. Handling the whip with speed and agility even she couldn't foresee, I lunged forward, delivering a series of lashes aimed directly at the vampire herself, my whip soaked with holy water and burning brilliantly, a deadly coil of flame striking her like a serpent. No - like a hydra. Moving to block one lash left her open against two more, and I soon found myself slowly walking forward as I rained attacks upon the petite vampire. Hiding behind her wing like a shield, she was able to at least keep me from striking her anywhere that could seriously cripple her, but the holy flames were gradually sticking to her body, eating away at her flesh.

There was an eerie calm in her gaze, however, which I noticed each time she peeked out from behind her massive wing with her single eye, to see where my attacks were aiming, to look for any openings in my offense. She was being pushed back towards a wall, but she didn't seem worried in the slightest, as if she were merely biding her time. I was careful to maintain my distance, to not make a fatal mistake and step into her reach, to not allow her to slip out of range of my whip and counterattack.

Her heel touched the throne room wall. Nowhere left to retreat. Victory was mine.



And then she opened her other eye, and I vomited into my mouth.

A split second. It was only a split second, but it was enough. I looked directly into her eye, taking her vampiric domination full-force. I had mentioned before that she wouldn't be able to actually control my mind, or put me to sleep, or any other mind tricks like that, but in the heat of the moment I forgot to brace my mind against her assault. Just a split second, it was as if she dipped the tip of her claw right into my brain, just the tip, and scooped out a nice, thick chunk. All it did was stun me for a split second, a minor interruption in my attack chain, but it was enough.

The clawed hand aimed at my throat was just barely stopped by the Kusanagi - the blade cut right between her middle finger and ring finger, slicing her hand in half, smashing through her wrist and going as far as parting her forearm into two, as if she were made of paper.

“...Heh,” was her response, before the two halves of her arm sprouted razor-sharp fangs out of nowhere, clamping against my neck.

Fuck.

I could feel the strength leaving my body as my heart, beating furiously in the heat of battle, kept pumping my blood through the wounds in my neck. Remilia was drinking it through her arm, like the maw of a crocodile. No... stunned as I was, I could do nothing but watch as her body contorted and transformed, her head breaking apart and her neck bending at a right angle, taking on the shape of a slender, pale arm of a young girl. And at my neck, the arm split in two began to melt back together, growing, expanding, sprouting hair, until I could feel her head at my neck, her fangs buried deep within my carotid artery, drinking deep.

Each time she sucked on my neck, I felt a tingle at my extremities, a ticklish, numbing sensation. It didn't even hurt, really. It was almost soothing, in a way. The burning wounds left by her claws, the countless bruises upon bruises I had collected over the night, the broken bones screaming for medical attention, none of that was there anymore. I felt like I was on some manner of exotic drug, a smile forcing itself onto my lips, my sense of my body's own temperature fluctuating wildly between hot and cold. The light of the moon felt somehow colorful, not a mere pale white anymore.

...

I had to get her off me.

I had to get her off me.

I had to get her off me.

...

But it was no use. She clung to me with both arms and legs, holding on like a vice. I could feel her skin against mine, feeling gradually warmer as mine became colder. She was mostly silent, aside from the soft slurping sounds her lips made against my neck, now and then, when her suction brought forth a thicker torrent of blood into her mouth. I dropped my weapons, gripping her small body and trying to wrench her off, but she wouldn't budge, merely letting out a small moan of pleasure as my movements made the blood flow more freely, feeding her. She pushed me down, my back flat against the ground, and kept sucking on me, straddling my body as she dominated me completely.

How much blood did I even have left, after all the injuries I had suffered over the course of the night? It had been mere seconds in real time, but it felt as if she had been drinking from me for hours. I could hear the soft gulping of her throat as she drank my blood, I could feel her hot breath against my skin. Her body pressed down on my own, it felt almost intimate in a way. No, this exchange of bodily fluids, how could it be anything but intimate? Even as I tried to rip her from my neck, to throw her off, to kick her aside, to escape, some strange part of my brain wanted to embrace her, hold her close, give myself to her. My hands touched her bare back, skin against skin. I could feel the contours of her body, her every curve. From a distance, it must have looked like a pair of lovers kissing.

After what felt like an eternity, she slowly withdrew her fangs, a flick of her soft tongue lapping stray blood from my neck, and sat up in my lap, breathing heavily and looking down at me without words. Her eyes were glazed over, her face was flushed, her lips glistening with fresh blood. The wasteful young girl had spilled a considerable amount of my precious life-force, staining her dress scarlet. As if to cool herself down, she pulled on the neckline of her dress with a slender finger. Her pale collarbone was stained with my essence, like red paint on white canvas. She swallowed what blood remained in her mouth, shuddering softly on top of my body, closing her eyes with a sigh.

...I didn't know whether it was residual effects from that mind trick she used earlier, but at that point in time I couldn't deny that she was beautiful.

-------

[] Weapon, weapon, where did I put my weapon...
[] Headbutt.

[] Let her have me.
>> No. 62245
[x] Weapon, weapon, where did I put my weapon...

Now's his best shot, while she's still busy getting off.
>> No. 62246
[] Headbutt
>> No. 62248
[X] Headbutt.

Use those desiccated muscles!
>> No. 62249
[X] Headbutt

In before our strength fails mid-headbutt and we end up mouth-to-mouth, and the rest of the story transforms into a generic harem comedy.
>> No. 62250
File 144069850869.jpg - (50.28KB , 500x500 , 125573180593.jpg ) [iqdb]
62250
>>62249
Oh wow.avi


Watch "The Scarlets" tonight, on BBC
>> No. 62251
File 144070208280.jpg - (229.34KB , 566x800 , 5cac7778aa2c76a8a45e03166ee3c757.jpg ) [iqdb]
62251
>>62249
>>62250
This was actually a Gensokyo High prequel all along.

(Update either later tonight or earlier tomorrow.)
>> No. 62252
[X] Headbutt
>> No. 62257
File 144080604596.jpg - (1.00MB , 1500x1052 , a236dee62d759a3814bbed457d4a4237.jpg ) [iqdb]
62257
Still in a daze, I weakly leaned forward, trying to sit up with little success. I had to settle for propping myself up on my elbows, struggling to catch my breath even after such a mild exertion. My body felt numb and warm, a strange tingly sensation spreading through my veins, relaxing me. I looked up at the young girl sitting on my lap, sensually licking her lips clean of a red liquid. Wine? No, that was my blood, of course.

Our eyes met.

I could feel her breathing softly, sitting on top of me.

Looking down at me.

I found myself reaching for her.

I gently placed my hands on the sides of her head, drawing her closer.

She gasped softly, still in a daze herself from the rush of the taste of my blood.

Her lips parted ever-so-slightly as I raised my head, reducing the distance between our faces.

...

And then I headbutted the bitch.

There was a subtle sound of bone breaking. Fortunately, not mine for a change.

“Argh, fff-...” clutching her nose, she fell over backwards from the impact, rolling off my body and allowing me to wearily stand back up. It's not that she was heavy or anything, it's just that my muscles refused to obey my commands before. The feeling of my skull colliding with her face, however, knocked some sense back into me, and I slapped myself across the face to shake off the vampire's beguiling influence.

I recovered my whip and sword, leaning on the latter for support while my body worked on regaining its sense of balance, and observed the little vampire cursing up a storm in French, trying to staunch the flow of blood from her shattered nose.
“Agh, ah... Youuu!”
She shot a glare at me, still covering her face with her hands, only her narrowed eyes visible. Strangely enough, the fury left her eyes rather quickly, and she stood back up, wrenching her nasal bones back into place with a rather audible snap and wiping most of the loose blood off her face with the back of her hand.

“...So you really don't give up, do you,” she said calmly. “But it's starting to look like you won't win, regardless. I commend your willpower, however.”

I couldn't really respond. My muscles, my brain, they still felt like jelly even now, and I felt like I'd black out if I lost my concentration on simply breathing, in and out, in and out... Remilia began to circle me, slowly. I felt like a wounded deer staring down a starving wolf. Hell, technically she already started eating me.

I felt almost feverish, her movements seeming blurred, unrealistically slow. My brain was having trouble processing what my eyes were perceiving. I had to shake this off, but I felt like my reserves were just about empty. A human body can't run on raw stubbornness forever, after all.

“I had half a mind to simply turn you into a ghoul there, you know,” Remilia continued, speaking softly and without malice or anger in her voice. She sounded almost compassionate, her eyes scanning my body and counting my injuries, despite several of them being caused by her in the first place.
“Or maybe even a full vampire, hmm... That would have been interesting. I've only ever tried that once before, you know.”

“And how'd that end up working out for you?” My voice sounded comically weak and shaky to my own ears, but she didn't seem to notice it much. Or, if she did, she didn't pay attention to it. I just had to keep her talking until the numbing effect of her bite wore off, until I could get some of my fighting spirit back, even just a little bit.

She smiled with sadness in her eyes, a strange sight when the entire lower half of her face was stained red from a mix of her blood and my own.
“I don't like to talk about that. Regardless, I have come to a conclusion.”
She stopped, turning her body to face me directly, and flexing her fingers, the fading moonlight glinting off her fingernails... no, claws.
“As much as I would love to keep you around, my love, it would be disrespectful towards you as a hunter. Therefore, I will give you the clean death you deserve.”

Ah, shit. Was I out of time after all?

“I can only hope your successor manages to see this to the end in your stead.”
And with that last line, she dashed for me, claws ready to end my life in a brutally merciful fashion.

But she was slower this time. Rather than vanishing from sight, she turned into a blur. But a blur is still visible. I could keep my eyes on a blur. React to it.

Letting myself fall forward, I brought my sword forward, deflecting her claws and sending her zooming past me. Normally, she would have corrected her course immediately, punishing me by raking her talons across my back or my side, but this time she just kept going, as if I caught her by surprise. Dropping into a roll, I lashed my whip at her back instead as I came to a stop on one knee, holding my breath and trying to remain conscious.

She gasped, more out of shock than pain, as the whip marred the pale skin of her back, leaving a nasty red gash behind.

Was she, too, getting worn out by this fight dragging on this long?

Even so, there's a massive difference between a tired human and a tired vampire. She became a blur once again, opting to tackle me directly this time. I managed to bring up my sword to defend myself, but I saw no attack coming that I could deflect, and I couldn't see myself dodging in time. I went for the same move I had pulled earlier, thrusting forward and hoping she'd move to avoid the blade.

She just took the attack, the sword stabbing through her shoulder as her body rammed into me, sending us both flying, then skidding and tumbling across the floor. I lost my grip on the sword, but I wasn't too worried about losing it, being stuck in my foe as it was. Honestly, at the time I was more concerned about Remilia's total lack of self-preservation. Damn bat stole my fighting style! Except, she had more durability to back it up than I did.

As we came to an abrupt halt, crashing into one of the remaining pillars in the throne room, Remilia ended up on top of me once again. She yanked the sword out of her shoulder and held the blade in her hands, glaring down at me coldly as she snapped the sword in half.

Or so she wanted to do, that is, as the sword flexed in her hands but didn't break, no matter how hard she tried.

“Huh,” an expression of surprise was all she could manage before I gripped the hilt of the sword, drawing it out of her hands, slashing open her palms. Remilia winced at this, which was a bit less of a reaction than I had been hoping for, then hopped off me and onto her feet. For a split second, I thought she was going to let me get up, or say something dramatic, or some other such nonsense, but instead she simply grabbed me by the leg and swung me around herself in circles, before slamming me into the pillar.

I couldn't help letting out a roar of pain that time. Something definitely broke, something I couldn't ignore like the countless other injuries my body had racked up over the course of the night. As I dropped to the ground and tried to pull myself back up, my skull pulsating as my brain struggled to process what had just happened, I noticed a problem. My right arm wasn't working anymore. In fact, I couldn't even feel it was there, and had to check with my own eyes to make sure it hadn't been torn off. Nope, still there, just... dangling uselessly. I had trained myself to be ambidextrous, but this did little to make the situation feel less hopeless. I could barely hold her off with both arms working, but now...

Maybe it would be faster to just take my own life at this point. Probably would be. But that would leave neither of us satisfied.

I managed to get up, somehow. I coughed up a nice mouthful of blood - I was surprised I had that much left to spare. I definitely had some serious internal injuries, but that was less pressing at the time than my arm. Well, no matter... I'd just have to go for one-handed fencing, although you'd normally hold your arm bent behind your back, or at your hip or something, not just have it flopping about. I pointed the Kusanagi at Remilia, doing my best to take some manner of guard stance, and to not look too pathetic while doing so.

She seemed to be momentarily stunned, staring at me in disbelief.
“That should have killed you,” she mouthed silently, slowly walking towards me. Honestly, I felt like it did. My heart probably stopped for a moment when my body hit that pillar, and only started pumping again because I willed it so. I felt like I had used up several lifetimes worth of death that night, but I couldn't just stay down. I could tell Remilia was getting weaker too, her attacks becoming more predictable, her movement visible to the human eye, but the killing intent in her eyes never fading regardless.

One last clash. I had one last clash within me. I might at least be able to give her a wound she can't heal overnight, something to remember me by. Vampires don't exactly scar easily, but if she's used up most of her reserved power in this reckless fight, just maybe...

Right before we got within each other's attack range, however, the throne room doors were pushed open. No, more like thrown open, nearly knocked off their hinges.

“Meiling!?” Both Remilia and I turned to face the intruder, the gatekeeper I had taken down several times over the course of the night already. I had last seen her near the mansion basement. Had she come to assist her master? Remilia seemed absolutely livid at the interruption, however.
“What is the meaning of this? I told you not to interrupt me tonight, under any circumstances!”

The vampire's rage was quickly abated, however, when Meiling stepped into the throne room proper.

To be more accurate, she limped into the room, barely able to stand on her feet. At first glance, she looked to be in even worse shape than I was, relatively speaking, her outfit torn, bloody and burnt, her body covered in various gruesome injuries ranging from deep cuts and lacerations to flesh burned jet black. She was clutching one of the gaping holes in her flesh with one hand, trying to stop the flow of blood, while her other arm was completely missing, only a stump remaining below the shoulder, seemingly having been torn off.

“Meiling? What happened to you?” Remilia seemed to have forgotten our battle completely, for the time being. I could've easily taken a step or two forward and attacked her, but I lacked the energy. It took all of my willpower to simply stay alive, so I honestly appreciated the brief pause in battle. I was actually a little curious what might have caused the gatekeeper such injuries - call it a bizarre form of jealousy if you must, but I had thought I was the only monster slayer in the mansion that night. Remilia quickly moved over to Meiling, who took a deep, ragged breath before answering her master.

“Milady, I must apologize... I've failed you.”
She coughed, finding it difficult to speak.
“Flandre, she's... gotten loose.”

Remilia suddenly looked as if she had been struck by lightning.
“What!?”

“The basement door, it's been destroyed... I tried my best to keep her from getting out, but she was too much for me to handle. We managed to drive her back eventually, but not before she took my arm. I left my assistant down below and came to notify you immediately, milady.”
Tired from speaking at length, Meiling couldn't help but sit down on the floor, apologizing quietly to her master for the disrespect and bowing her head.

“Meiling, you didn't have to... No, well done, well done,” Remilia muttered quietly, staring in no direction in particular, her face pensive as she began grinding her teeth loudly. A minute passed in relative silence, ruined only by the sounds of Meiling and I breathing heavily. The gatekeeper looked in my direction, eyeing me up and down, before forcing a grin onto her face. She seemed pleased to see me this beaten-up for a change.

“PATCHY!!!” Suddenly, Remilia shouted. A familiar call, but didn't I...?

“What is it this time?”

Sure enough, the purple wizard appeared out of thin air yet again - covered in various bandages, including on her forehead where I thought I had landed the killing strike with a throwing knife, but still imposing in presence and looking no less irritated than usual. I suddenly felt a lot less at ease, with three enemies in the room with me. In particular, I was unhappy to see Patchouli Knowledge again, as she had always felt like the most no-nonsense out of the foes I had faced that night. Indeed, despite largely ignoring Meiling, once she noticed Remilia her eyes went wide.

“Remi, you... You have been seriously wounded tonight.” She shot a glare my way, cold enough to almost literally freeze the blood in my veins, and continued speaking without breaking eye contact.
“Is it not time to call off this game? This one is proving to be more trouble than we can afford.”

“Patchy, we're past the point of games now, this is serious.” Remilia stepped between Patchouli and me, stealing her friend's gaze.
“Flandre got out.”

“Wha-... But... How...?”
Whoever this Flandre was, she was certainly giving everyone some bad vibes, to put it lightly.

“That doesn't matter right now. I need you to make sure she doesn't leave the mansion.”

Patchouli frowned softly, before nodding in silence, her fingertips beginning to glow as she moved her hands in a strange pattern, preparing to cast a spell.
“...Wednesday. A good day for water magic.”
As she proceeded with her sorcery, I could hear a dull rumbling outside. Within moments, dark clouds appeared in the sky, blocking the light of the moon and casting the three of us into shadow. Seconds later, a massive torrent of rain erupted from the sky, surrounding the mansion completely.
“It is done.”

“And, Patchy,” Remilia continued solemnly, “it's time for plan B.”

The wizard shuddered and paused for a moment, but complied without protest, her fingertips glowing a slightly different color as she began casting another spell. I couldn't do anything but watch, somehow fascinated and hoping I wouldn't die before I figured out what was going on.
“...Water nourishes wood. A compatible day.”
Having said this, she formed a shape between her hands, glowing and difficult to discern at first, until it eventually condensed into a distinct elongated, sharpened shape, made of wood. A wooden stake, to be exact.
“...White oak, as you have specified, Remi.”

Remilia nodded.
“Good. Ah, hunter...”
She turned to me once again. I had almost forgotten I was involved in this mess, somehow, getting lost in delirium as I felt my life bleeding away.
“...It seems as if I have need of your talents in a more immediate sense than I had anticipated. Our duel will have to end without a conclusion, for now.”

My talents? She couldn't be serious, I was a walking corpse. And yet, she walked up to me with no killing intent left in her eyes, merely looking up at me with a strange, sad expression on her face. It was a familiar expression I had seen on the faces of those about to die, often.

Regret.

“Patchy, the stake,” she commanded. Complying, the wizard levitated the stake to me, allowing me to easily grab it out of the air. Examining it more closely, I could tell it was fashioned from white oak, a wood particularly suited for the sort of business I dabbled in. For one reason or another, it was the best kind of wood for staking through a vampire's heart, paralyzing or even killing them outright.

And she simply gave it to me. Why?

“Hunter.”
Remilia suddenly seemed very, very tired. Her monstrous battle aura had dominated my senses before, but when I looked down at her that moment, she once again looked just like a child, a young girl that had gone through too many hardships. Her hair was a mess, her delicate pale skin had countless cuts and bruises that still had not regenerated, her outfit was in tatters and stained red with both her blood and my own. She looked like she just wanted to rest, to go to sleep and not wake up for a year, or even a decade.

“Hunter. I will admit, I had been deceiving you this entire night, testing your mettle, luring you up here for your final test. I did fully intend for you to kill me here, you know.”

“...Well, you certainly didn't make it easy for me.”

“Of course not, that would have been pointless,” she laughed without joy in her voice.
“I needed someone strong enough to defeat me, to put down a beast I was not strong enough to defeat... And, to put me down so I would not have to live with the guilt.”

Patchouli suddenly stirred, visibly agitated.
“Remi, what are you saying? You did not tell me-...”

“Quiet, Patchy,” Remilia interrupted her friend, before turning back to me.
“Hunter, I ask you now to go down into the depths of the mansion with me, and assist me in destroying this creature I've been keeping locked up all these years. Do this, and I will gladly forfeit my life to you.”

REMI!

It happened in an instant. Patchouli moved towards us, glaring at me with murder in her eyes, before Remilia intercepted her.
Do not disobey me, Patchouli!
In an instant, Patchouli froze in place, her eyes wide and glazed over as the domination geas took effect. Even Meiling, who had been quietly sitting to the side, was stunned by this turn of events. Having left her close friend incapacitated and harmless for now, Remilia turned back to me once again, sighing.

“...I apologize for the interruption. I have been a terrible host this night, haven't I...” Again she laughed, but it sounded forced.
“...So, hunter. Will you accept my offer? My life, in trade for your assistance, to be paid after the task is done. I will, of course, make sure you're healed and equipped before we go down into the dungeon.”

I felt dizzy. Moments ago, we had been fighting a life or death battle, and now she was offering to simply let me kill her in exchange for a favor. It was kind of funny, honestly.

“...And if I refuse?”

Remilia jumped at my words, clearly not having thought about that option. Minutes seemed to pass as we stood there, the vampire staring into the floor in thought; the wizard twitching as she was unable to speak or move, merely glaring at me as if trying to kill me with her gaze alone; and the gatekeeper remaining respectfully silent, but looking at me with eyes that seemed as if she were pleading with me.

“...Then I will simply offer you my life here,” was Remilia's eventual answer.
“I'm in no condition to take her down myself - you may take that as a compliment, you certainly gave me a worthy battle. But, if Flandre is loose, I have failed in my duties as an elder sister. Patchy,” she turned to her paralyzed friend, “if I die, the spell I put on you will be broken. I want you to let the hunter leave in peace, and collapse the mansion on top of the dungeon. If you betray me, I'll haunt you, okay?”

Even in a situation like this, she tried to make jokes. Heh.

“So, hunter... what will it be? Will you help me? Or will you end this tale here?” Remilia took my hand, pointing the sharpened tip of the stake at her heart, and pressing it to her chest lightly, looking me right in the eye. She had tears in her eyes.
“You have my word that you'll receive treatment and safe exit regardless of your choice. Both you... and that puppeteer over there, who simply cannot keep her nose out of my business,” she finished with a bitter smirk, glancing over her shoulder at the throne room doors. There, still wheezing and shivering from the unmelting chunk of ice in her chest, was Alice, down on one knee and looking in my direction.

...This was a little too much to take in. I was near-dead, the vampire I had been sent to kill was suddenly surrendering her life to me while asking me to help her go kill some creature in her basement as a trade for her surrender. She was so adamant about this that she was willing to use her vampiric domination on her own closest ally, to keep Patchouli from killing me to protect Remilia.

I felt like I was dreaming. My mind a haze, I took my eyes off Remilia, who was still waiting for my answer, and looked towards Alice. She was saying something... I couldn't hear her, of course, since she was so far away, so weak and quiet by now. But I could read the words off her lips as she spoke.

“Don't do it.”

“This isn't your fight.”

“Let's just go home.”

...

I...

-------

[] ...I staked Remilia through her heart, to end this horrible night and escape together with Alice.
[] ...I made a deal with the devil, unsure of whether I would regret it in the end.
>> No. 62258
[X] ...I staked Remilia through her heart, to end this horrible night and escape together with Alice.

>heart stops
>starts again with force of will
Are we some sort of revenant?
>> No. 62259
[X] ...I made a deal with the devil, unsure of whether I would regret it in the end.
Even if we killed Remi and patchy collapsed the house over the basement Flandre would escape.
>> No. 62260
[X] ...I made a deal with the devil, unsure of whether I would regret it in the end.

though I question how he's going to pull it off in the state he's in...
>> No. 62261
[x] ...I staked Remilia through her heart, to end this horrible night and escape together with Alice.
>>62258
Maybe the dramatic reveal is that we were a vampire all along and didn't know it.
>> No. 62262
[X] ...I made a deal with the devil, unsure of whether I would regret it in the end.
>> No. 62263
[X] ...I made a deal with the devil, unsure of whether I would regret it in the end.

Running away is very tempting but given the severity of what's going on... I think it'd be a problem that will come back at a bad time. Might as well take it on now.

>>62260
She did say she'd make sure the MC was healed before the task.
>> No. 62264
[x] We made a deal with the devil
-[x] Protecting people from vampires is my job, and one is on the loose. This is the last time Alice, the last stop before going out. You have my word.

There's a reason she has been keeping alive. If this is it or if it is another trap, let's find out out together, after he is healed (Patchouli won't do it if we kill Remi, of that I'm sure)
>> No. 62265
>>62264
By the way, I wanted him to lend her something as if to assure her that he'll be back but it sounded a bit cheesy.

Does anyone know what series or movie pulled that move? I can't remember where I took it from.
>> No. 62266
[X] ...I made a deal with the devil, unsure of whether I would regret it in the end.

We didn't come here to leave a powerful berkserk vampire alive.

>>62265
Stop trying to set death flags.
>> No. 62268
[X] ...I made a deal with the devil, unsure of whether I would regret it in the end.
>> No. 62271
File 144104712278.jpg - (970.04KB , 1080x1080 , 0b0a8a75e32d59dbab6cec59675031ed.jpg ) [iqdb]
62271
I could totally do it.

Just, lean forward. Even with my body weak as it was, all I had to do was lean forward with my weight, and the stake would have been forced into her body. It probably wouldn't kill a vampire of her level by itself, but there was something about white oak that was particularly suited for paralyzing them when their heart was impaled. Some pseudo-magical biochemistry stuff, I'm sure, you're better off asking an alchemist about that sort of stuff.

I could totally do it.

But then, I didn't do it. Why? Was it the earnest, pleading look in Remilia's tearful eyes? Or perhaps I was simply intimidated by Patchouli's face, contorting into a hateful grimace even when stunned by vampiric domination? Or did I just want to spite Alice for some selfish reason? Who can say. Maybe it was something as cliché as a sense of duty, an unwillingness to leave this mysterious Flandre creature alive as a risk to the people of Gensokyo even after taking down the mistress of the mansion. Dark forces have a habit of scattering when their focus point - usually a powerful creature such as a vampire - is defeated.

Whatever the reason might be, I chose to lower the stake, provoking an immediate reaction from everyone else in the room. Remilia's face immediately became brighter, that familiar grim finding its way back to her lips, whereas Patchouli seemed to relax a little, no longer struggling against her uncooperative body in an attempt to move. Meiling, who had been sitting off to the side quietly, exhaled audibly as if in relief; I suspected she might've had more knowledge of Remilia's true plan from the start, considering her lack of protest so far. Surprising, but Patchouli did seem to be the most emotional one regarding the matter. As for Alice... she merely shot a sad glance at me, shaking her head.

“So you'll help, then? You truly will?”
...Remilia was looking distressingly cute all of a sudden, despite her battle-worn and bloody appearance, like a child in a toy store, all excited and lightly flapping her wings up and down subconsciously. I had to gently push her away from myself, afraid she'd push my tired body over if she got too close with how bouncy she was suddenly being.

“...Yeah, sure, why not.”

Half-hearted as I sounded, it was good enough, and the giddy vampire lunged forward, squeezing me into a hug.

Even though she wasn't exerting a grip much stronger than that of a regular girl, I felt something pop, and a sharp pain fired up my spine in an instant, causing my consciousness to fade. The last thing I heard before my limp body slumped to the ground was Remilia's frantic screaming.

“Aaahhh! What did I dooo? Maids, where are my maids? Meiling, Patchy, help me out here!”

...

...

...

-------

BGM: “Prelude”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jE6BFlrPPC8

-------

...

...

...

I felt like I had drowned.

The very first sensation I felt as my consciousness returned was something trying to flow down my throat. A liquid of some sort. My senses were returning to me very slowly, and I could not make out whether it felt hot or cold, or what it tasted like. I coughed softly, clearing the feeling of discomfort from my throat and airways, only to feel a gentle caress of a small hand at my cheek, and hearing a quiet “Ssshhh...” from an unknown figure beside me. I could breathe, and the flow of the fluid was more easy to manage, lightly drizzling into my mouth to give me time to swallow.

I was beginning to feel warmer. The taste of the fluid was beginning to become clearer, too, but it was too mixed with the taste of my own blood in my mouth. Each time I swallowed, weakly and reluctantly, I felt a little bit of strength welling up in my body, or a numb source of pain gradually vanish. At times, I couldn't help but twitch, feeling something inside myself rearrange. My memory was starting to come back to me - I had been beaten within an inch of my life, and then some. What I was feeling were probably broken bones and other internal injuries correcting themselves as I drank this mysterious healing tonic.

It felt addictive. I began to swallow more eagerly, the nourishing fluid not coming fast enough for my sudden thirst for life. The gentle hand at my cheek moved to brush my hair from my brow, my mystery nurse touching my forehead with the back of her hand, as if checking for a fever. I tried to part my eyelids, only to be blinded by the light in the room. My body was slowly regaining more of its senses. Soft silk against my skin, a warm soft surface supporting my body from underneath. I was in a bed, presumably also undressed, my outfit having been ruined in my battles.

Oh yeah, that's right. I had been sent to exterminate a vampire. Unfortunately, it had turned out that I was given faulty information on just what level of vampire I was going to be dealing with, so I came ill-prepared. Even so, I had put up a decent enough fight, I felt. Even when she got serious, I managed to avoid getting blown away in one attack, going toe to toe with her long enough to tire her out and slow her down. I wasn't sure if I would've managed to achieve at least a mutual kill if my adrenaline had lasted me long enough, but our little duel ended up getting rudely interrupted, remaining inconclusive for the time being.

Argh, but this healing liquid... I needed more. My unknown nurse was being slow and careful, not giving me too much to avoid me choking on the fluid, but I needed more. I tried to lean forward, to reach out, my body feeling as if it were encased in molten gelatin; the hand on my forehead met my own, slender feminine fingers wrapping around mine, the sound of a soft giggle ruining the silence in the room. Again I tried opening my eyes, making out a blurry figure sitting beside me, but no other details. Something was held over my face, presumably the source of the healing nectar I had been drinking.

No, I needed more.

I forced myself to lean forward and grab at the source, bringing it to my mouth so I could suck out the fluids directly. My body obeyed me this time, and I seized my prize. The hand let go of me, and I heard the voice in the room gasp in shock. It felt strangely cool. The thing I was holding and suckling on like a baby, that is. Not cold, not like something refrigerated, but it felt cool to the touch compared to the life-giving warmth welling up inside me as it reached my stomach. I gave it a nice, deep suck. It tasted... coppery, almost. Like licking a coin.

“Y-you, what are you-... Hyau~”

I tried to open my eyes a third time, blinking them rapidly to help them adjust to seeing the world around me once again. It felt disorienting at first, blurry images splitting into two as my eyes had trouble coordinating together with one another, but eventually I could make out the true identity of my mysterious nurse.

“You're rather bold, aren't you?” Remilia Scarlet giggled softly to herself, blushing and looking down at me clinging to her arm and drinking the blood from a small cut on her wrist.

...Oh.

I recoiled, clutching my throat in a mild panic and considering inducing vomiting, but the vampire sitting on the side of my bed merely leaned over me and calmly adjusted my blanket, covering up my naked body once more.
“You know how vampirism works, right? Then you know I didn't drink anywhere near enough from you during our fight for this to turn you. I'm a light eater, you know.”
She was right, of course. Most of the blood she sucked from my neck ended up staining her dress. I wasn't in any real danger of being turned from something like this. That being said, it was a rather uncomfortable realization in any case; on top of that, drinking vampire blood had other side effects, such as...
“...Hmm, but you just miiight suffer from very minor, very temporary ghoulification... maybe.” Remilia smirked deviously, unsuccessfully trying to hide it.
“I wonder if I could command you to dance for me, or play tricks? Well, no, I need you to lie still and recover your strength, let your wounds heal for now.”

I felt my body become almost supernaturally heavy when she said the words “lie still”. Ugh. I tried mouthing a protest, or at least a strong expletive, but all I could manage was an annoyed groan.

“Do not tease the patient, Remilia,” I heard an tired, monotonous voice from the side. Slowly, I turned my head, scanning the room with my eyes. It appeared to be a shared bedroom of some sorts, seemingly fitted with four beds with their own nightstands, dressers and such, dimly lit with candlelight. There were also a few bookcases here and there. The furnishings were rather humble compared to the rest of the mansion, but the beds were still comfortable with high-quality silken sheets. Some distance away to the side, another figure was being treated in the next bed over. A blonde head of hair on the pillow, loomed over by Patchouli knowledge, seemingly healed up herself as most of the bandages on her body had been removed, save for the one on her forehead. Those emotionless eyes of hers were fixated on her patient, or rather, a chunk of clear ice embedded through her now-nude torso, right underneath her breasts. It truly was amazing that the fateful icy lance had somehow missed her vitals. Perhaps the magic of the grimoire threw it off course by an inch or so?

I turned my head back over, staring into the wall and pondering the situation. For whatever sentimental reason, I felt happy that they were treating Alice too, but I couldn't help but wonder about that magical ice, still not having melted after all this time... If they pulled that out, would she die? It would probably be extremely painful, but Alice was a big girl. As for me... I could feel the pain and fatigue slowly leaving my body, and even the sensation of hunger had left me. Vampire blood, as dangerous as it was, could certainly be used to do amazing things.

Surrendering myself to circumstances outside of my control - something I very rarely did in my life, if ever - I found myself drifting off to sleep again, having no choice but to trust the evil little bloodsucker by my side.

...

...

...

By the time I woke up again, the figure sitting by my side had changed. Taller, with blonde hair, and with a little bit less mischief in her eyes, Alice was sitting down in a chair rather than on my bed itself, looking down at a book in her hands, seemingly all healed up and wearing a lovely new dress, remarkably similar to the one she was wearing originally when I first rescued her from that prison cell right down to the capelet on her shoulders, save for the colors and an overall more ornate and frilly design. It fit her extremely well - had I not known better, I'd have thought she made it herself in the time I was unconscious.

She noticed I was awake, and snapped the book closed. I didn't manage to catch the title.

“Awake at last, I see. You've dragged me into yet another mess, haven't you?” Her face had a harsh expression on it as she gazed down at me with those golden eyes of hers, her voice carrying the familiar tone of a stern mother lecturing a child that had done something bad. She leaned back in her seat with a sigh.
“Honestly... What were you thinking? Making deals with that little devil... You DO remember how well that ended up for me, right?”

Oh yeah, the whole golem thing, right.

“...Yeah, I remember,” I answered, sitting up in the bed with surprising ease. Nearly all of the fatigue and pain in my body had left me, leaving only dull reminders of wounds I should not have survived. Inspecting my body, I could swear I had even lost an old scar or two from battles in my past, my skin looking almost unnaturally flawless. Alice politely averted her gaze from my nude form and gestured towards the nightstand by my bed, onto which a neatly-folded pile of clothing had been left along with a fancy folded-up card of some sorts, with a stylized symbol of sorts on it. A bat silhouette, crossed vertically by a spear with two snakes intertwined around it in a helical pattern. I picked it up and read it.

“Meet us at the basement entrance.

I trust you will not flee the premises.

-Remilia☆”


What an informal signature. In any case, I got up and examined the clothing left for me. Casting aside the maid uniform which I hoped was left as an ill-timed joke, I discovered something more my style underneath, a darkly-colored longcoat, a light suit of leather armor, trousers, leather gloves, boots... They all fit me as well as custom-tailored clothes would have. I twirled in place and struck a pose to Alice.

“So, what do you think?”

“I think you're an idiot for trusting vampires and doing their bidding just because they make cute puppydog eyes at you, but I guess it's out of my hands,” she responded dryly as she got up out of her chair. I noticed she had a couple more dolls with her than I remembered her having the last time I saw her fight, although the new ones were a little less detailed than the others, lacking separate fingers or finer facial contours, as well as using different fabric for their clothing. She must've kept herself busy while I was asleep.
“...Oh well. I'm at least glad to see you alive and well. I was worried I would have to witness your dead body being chucked out of a window or something, when I was waiting up on the rooftop...”

“You could've just fled and gone home, you know.”

“Yes, I know.” No further answer beyond that, as she turned her gaze back to me, looking me up and down.
“...It suits you quite well, I must say. Quite handsome.”
And then, right after blessing me with a compliment, a smile crept onto her lips, slowly and surely as she touched the tip of her index finger to her lower lip, an evil look visible in her eyes for a split second.
“Though, I wouldn't have minded seeing you in that maid uniform either.”

Where was my whip at a time like this?

Actually, that was a good question. I glanced around the room, spotting a fairly large chest at the foot of my bed. It was unlocked, and I opened it to find the rest of my gear. More than that, even - alongside the Kusanagi sword, there were many more knives than I had had left, already strapped into a convenient set of bandolier-like belts I proceeded to fit under my coat. My remaining rebound knives were there too, as were the holy water vials and throwing axes. Underneath it all was the whip. Metal chain, not leather, like it was before Patchouli Knowledge took back her little gift when I was fighting her and Remilia earlier. It was definitely the same whip, transformed as it was.

“So,” I turned to Alice after fully equipping myself, “what will you do next? I'm going to be heading down to the basement.”

“And I'll be joining you,” she answered without hesitation in her voice.
“After all, that was the condition for them healing me in the first place. I help you out and I'll be allowed to leave freely, no grudges born.” She said that last part with a bit of venom in her voice, but I paid it no heed.

“I could just convince them to let you go.”

“No need, I think it's about time I stopped being such a coward anyway. Besides, I wouldn't mind seeing you survive the night. And you're only human, after all.” With a soft smile, she walked up to my side, gesturing towards the door with her head while folding her arms behind her back.
“So... Shall we?”

And so we did. There were no guards outside the door, no one making sure we didn't just make a run for it. Lady Scarlet seemed to be putting quite a lot of trust in us, even if it was just her trying to manipulate us into trusting her in turn. But no matter. As long as I got to end the threat of monsters in the region, I'd go along with this final phase of her plan, deciding for myself what to do when the time called for it. With little issue, we found our way to the foyer with the long staircase heading down to the prison level, which we already knew connected to the basement via that one ornate door that got smashed in during one of our battles. As we descended the stairs, we were greeted by the residents of the mansion as promised. Remilia Scarlet, who had cleaned herself up and changed dresses, smiling and waving to me as if I were an old friend. Patchouli Knowledge, this time lacking the forehead bandage as well, looking rather tired from all the nonsense she had been put through that evening. Hong Meiling, already sporting a new arm, although it still looked weak, thin and rather pink. And...

“...Youki!?”

Alice and I both exclaimed the name in near-unison, spotting the man himself, standing closest to the smashed basement door and holding the longer of his two swords, resting it on his shoulder with the blunt edge. He was shirtless, the top half of his outfit having been ripped to shreds and dangling from his belt like a ragged waist-cape, his chest and arms had several minor wounds on them, but he was alive and well. As he noticed the two of us, he smirked beneath his beard and winked at me.

Completely ignoring the rest of the crew, I rushed over to the swordsman and glared up at him, tall as he was.
“I thought you were dead, you asshole. Where have you been?”

“That would be a long story,” he dismissed me immediately, blocking a half-hearted punch from me with his open palm.
“Suffice it to say, this little trinket...” He pointed at the Yasakani no Magatama necklace around his neck; several of the jewels had faded, becoming unnaturally dark compared to the sheen of the remaining ones. “...allowed me to survive the encounter in the clock tower. Furthermore, it has been most useful in keeping watch here, as I was kindly asked to do by the lovely red-haired maiden over there.” Meiling looked a little stupefied for a moment, gesturing at herself questioningly with her good arm, before blushing and looking aside with an awkward grin. I couldn't help but stare at what I had previously perceived as a respectable and imposing guardian warrior behaving like a schoolgirl after receiving the barest of compliments from a man.

As if he had never disappeared to begin with, Youki was irritating me with every breath he took. Just like good old times, I guessed. I would have to ask him more details on his survival and the power of the Magatama later.

“Aaanyway,” a voice that sounded about as annoyed as I felt called out, “we're all here now, it seems.” Remilia strolled over to Youki and me, Alice following close behind and offering Youki a nod and a smile, to which he responded in kind.
“Are we ready to head down, then? I'll leave the mansion in your hands for now, Patchy. And Meiling, you make sure nothing comes out of here until the four of us return.”

Wait. What?

“...The four of us, you said?” I hoped to gods I didn't even believe in that she was joking, or that I had misheard.

“What do you mean? Of course I'm coming with you!” The little vampire seemed quite offended all of a sudden, pouting at me and twitching her wings involuntarily.
“You three are quite good for making it this far, but what's down there is a whole other story! I can't afford to let you guys screw up, so I'm going to come along and help. And besides... we're joined by FATE now.”

“Remi, if I may,” Patchouli spoke up from behind, sounding a lot calmer than she was before.
“You are far from top form, after battling - and healing - the hunter. It would be best if you would feed before heading down there, if you truly must go...”

“There's no time, Patchy. Besides, I doubt our dear friend, the hunter, would approve of me going out to prowl for victims...” She snickered softly, glancing up at me. Well, she wasn't wrong.

Patchouli sighed.
“Very well then, I already know I cannot change your mind. In that case... Hunter, a moment if you please?”

Huh, how unusual.
“What do you need from me?” I stepped closer to Patchouli, only to take a step back in surprise as she summoned her philosopher's stones in the air between us. I noticed that the one corresponding to metal was missing.

“...Choose one. I shall grant you a second boost to that whip of yours. But do not mistake this as kindness, I merely wish you success for Remilia's sake.”

I took the metal chain whip from my belt, looking at it. It was originally just a leather whip with a holy blessing. Its current upgrade increased its striking power against most foes at a very minor cost to speed and handling. If I were to add another, it would be...

-------

[] Green Crystal - Wood
[] Red Crystal - Fire
[] Yellow Crystal - Earth
[] White Crystal - Metal
[] Blue Crystal - Water
[] None - I was worried about possible tradeoffs reducing the weapon's flexibility in use.
[] (write-in)

-------

System Message: Youki, the master swordsman has (re-)joined the party. The things that cannot be cut by his youkai-tempered blades are next to none. He is also incredibly acrobatic and athletic, his ability to overcome physical obstacles even greater than that of the hunter.
System Message: Remilia, the vampire lord has joined the party. Though she lacks magical talent compared to most vampires of her level, she makes up for it in raw power. She has various powers normal to vampires, such as shapeshifting and dominating the minds of lesser foes, and she has a mysterious power to manipulate fate.
>> No. 62272
File 144105058246.jpg - (382.75KB , 1024x830 , 11774935834_751806941e_b.jpg ) [iqdb]
62272
[X] Red Crystal - Fire

Usually not a fan of big, flashy pyrotechnics; but I like the idea of a molten-iron chain
>> No. 62273
[x]...wednesday. A good day for water magic.

Shit is getting real. Though my priority is on Alice s survival, I wouldn't mind a stunning victory.
>> No. 62274
>>62273
Uh, this is assuming it still is Wednesday. Otherwise, go wood.
>> No. 62275
>>62274
If it's Thursday then Fire would also work since "wood feeds fire" or at least that's what the touhou wiki says.
>> No. 62276
[x] Blue Crystal - Water
>> No. 62277
>>62275
Maybe, but we're aiming for top efficiency here.
>> No. 62278
File 144109077432.png - (22.56KB , 255x208 , whip5.png ) [iqdb]
62278
[x] Red Crystal - Fire

I wonder if voting for Sun or Moon would work.
>> No. 62279
I like how we're guessing about what'd be best when there's an expert on magic right there.

[x] What would work well with Metal that could...
-[x] Maximize power?
>> No. 62280
>>62279
Well...

A-We're not exactly on good terms to ask for advice.

B-She already enchanted the weapon with the metal element.
>> No. 62281
File 144114322673.jpg - (63.03KB , 600x200 , companions.jpg ) [iqdb]
62281
The "once every other day" schedule continues, so no update tonight. Vote's tied between fire and water, with one write-in for asking Patchouli's recommendation.
Have another status/inventory update in the meanwhile.

-------

STATUS SCREEN

The Hunter
Status: Good
HP (Health): ~110%
MP (Magic): ~110%
The residual effects of drinking vampiric blood fill you with a vigor beyond the limits of the human body. Minor side effects may occur.

Alice
Status: Good
HP (Health): ~90%
MP (Magic): ~100%
Though frail by youkai standards, magicians still have excellent regenerative powers. The wound left by the icy spear has mostly healed, and Alice has had a chance to rest and recover her magical energy while you slept.

Youki
Status: Good
HP (Health): ~80%
MP (Magic): ~60%
Though not severely wounded, Youki shows signs of having endured several battles since you last saw him. His impressive endurance seems to be tied to the Magatama necklace somehow, though you aren't sure how.

Remilia
Status: Charismatic
HP (Health): ~40%
MP (Magic): ~50%
Despite her outward appearance, Remilia has been beaten up pretty badly in a fight with a certain vampire hunter, using up much of her power. Even so, a vampire operating below peak efficiency is still a terrible force to be reckoned with.

-------

INVENTORY SCREEN

The Hunter
•Chain whip. Originally leather, but granted the strength of metal through alchemy. Effective against all foes.
•Silver throwing knives. As many as one can carry without overburdening oneself, which is a lot when you're trained for it.
•A handful of Rebound knives. Specialty tools for trick-angle shots.
•Several Silver throwing axes. Heavier than knives, but with more stopping power.
•Kusanagi no Tsurugi, one of three Imperial Regalia of Japan. Seems to have wind-magic powers, but has mainly been useful as a close-combat weapon after losing your daggers.
•A moderate stock of Holy Water vials. Very powerful when used creatively, but should be used sparingly as they're not easily restocked.
•A Silver cross-boomerang. A signature weapon of the Church that seems to defy conventional physics to return to its owner when thrown.
•A time-stopping pocketwatch. Very draining to use, but can give you the edge in a losing battle.
•One Rosary. Best saved as a last-ditch maneuver. Can wipe out a room of weak foes, or cripple a more powerful one. Likely ineffective against bosses.
•A small box. Contains a piece of cranberry candy. Not your favorite flavor.
•An exquisite longcoat with leather armor worn underneath. In pristine condition, though likely not for long.
•A bit of Japanese money. You're unlikely to spend this until your adventures are over.
•A Philosopher's Stone. Feels empty.
•A basic map of the mansion. The lines warp and undulate, as if unsure what lies in the basement below.
•White oak stake. The wood is particularly suitable for use against vampires, paralyzing even the strongest creatures of the night if impaled straight through the heart, and reducing weaker ones to ash in an instant.

Alice
•A ruined grimoire. Punctured by Remilia and Patchouli's Gae Bolg combination attack, it mostly serves as a good luck charm in its current state.
•A considerable quantity of dolls, several of which are a little hastily crafted compared to the original survivors. Filled with gunpowder, and able to handle tools and weapons, though their strength has its limits.
•High-explosive doll. Exactly one, wearing a red dress to stand out from her blue-clad sisters. Tends to stay out of fights, waiting for her chance to shine.
•Yata no Kagami, one of three Imperial Regalia of Japan. Seems to have the power to dispel illusions and reveal hidden foes or secrets; to show the truth to one who looks into the mirror.
•A fine, elegant dress similar to the one she was wearing when first encountered, with a capelet draped over her shoulders.
•?????

Youki
•Roukanken, a long-bladed katana. Of impractical length for human use, Youki wields it with ease. It is said the things it cannot cut are next to none, though this claim remains to be tested.
•Hakurouken, a shorted blade paired with the former one. Has a mysterious ability to banish ghosts, but the specifics of this are unknown to any besides Youki himself.
•A tattered outfit, the upper portion of which has been torn to uselessness, dangling from Youki's belt. A simple, nondescript garb a travelling monk would wear.
•Yasakani no Magatama, one of three Imperial Regalia of Japan. Its powers are still unknown, although they seem to be tied to Youki's miraculous survival in the clock tower, as well as enduring whatever he was keeping from escaping the basement.

Remilia
•A fabulous light-pink dress that splits in the middle like a coat, with multiple layers beneath. Even so, it manages to be a bit less fancy and more functional than her original outfit.
•Gungnir, a magical spear she can summon at will, although it is unclear whether this is an actual item or simply a raw manifestation of magic power. Most likely has nothing to do with the actual weapon in Norse mythology, or perhaps...?
•A large quantity of maids, both fairy and demon in nature. Left to tend to the mansion, as they would not be of help when facing the dangers that lurk below. The number of maids has been considerably thinned out by the events of the night.
•The Scarlet Devil Mansion. Though not an item per se, it is hers by right, and heeds her command to a degree as if it were a living being. That being said, even Remilia cannot predict what awaits in the basement.
•?????
>> No. 62282
[X] Red Crystal - Fire
I love the smell of napalm.
>> No. 62283
>Remilia has joined the party

What. Does that make her the Alucard? I was sure it would turn out to be Flandre.
>> No. 62284
>>62283
Well considering her actions were a plan to ultimately find someone to kill Flandre....
>> No. 62287
File 144124652976.jpg - (55.19KB , 602x375 , fire.jpg ) [iqdb]
62287
Elements, huh...

I felt torn. Fire sounded like a nice and reliable choice for putting more hurt on my enemies, especially flammable types like the undead, but water felt like an interesting choice as well. Would it make the whip flow like water, eroding enemy defenses? Or perhaps give it ice powers? But then, everything burns, so fire would likely be more effective in general... assuming we didn't dig down and find ourselves a fiery demon lurking in the depths of the mansion, that is. For a brief moment, I almost considered asking Patchouli to recommend an element to me, but I figured it would not be wise to try the wizard's patience. Eventually, I thought back to my battle against Remilia and the trick I had pulled with the holy water.

I struck forward with the whip, aiming for the red crystal - the one associated with fire. Just as before, the philosopher's stone shattered, the pieces hovering mid-air and melting into glowing spheres of light. The next moment, the spheres were drawn into the chain whip in my hand, being absorbed into the metal. I could feel the grip of the whip warm up, slowly and steadily, becoming nearly too hot to hold on to as the metal chain turned red-hot before my very eyes, the spiked tip glowing a bright white, near-molten. I swung the whip through the air a couple of times to get a feel for it, being careful not to hit myself or my companions, and it left brilliant streaks of flame behind. Satisfied, I coiled up the chain again, the heat leaving it in an instant as if I had flicked an off switch.

Patchouli nodded softly, unsummoning the remaining stones.
“As I expected.”
I couldn't tell if her voice was pleased, disappointed, or apathetic as usual. In any case, she continued, gesturing with her index finger in a meaningful manner.
“Fire is yang or masculine in character, its motion is upward and its energy is expansive. It is associated with the planet Mars, summer, south, daylight, heat and the color red. Red is associated with extreme luck,” she added after a brief pause.
“It is also believed to govern the heart, tongue, and pulse. Its negative emotion is hate, while its positive emotion is joy. The Primal Spirit of fire is represented by the Red Pheasant or Phoenix.”

“Well, thanks for that, I-...”

“In Chinese thought Fire is associated with the qualities of dynamism, strength and persistence; however, it is also connected to restlessness. The fire element provides warmth, enthusiasm and creativity, however an excess of it can bring aggression, impatience and impulsive behavior. In the same way, fire provides heat and warmth, however an excess can also burn. In the conquest cycle, fire overcomes metal, and in turn is overcome by water. In the birth and nurturing cycle, fire burns to earth, and is sparked by wood igniting.”

“Yes, yes, I get it already,” I tried to shut her up before she kept droning on forever. I wasn't really as into the whole oriental magic symbolism hoodoo as she was, after all. All I cared about was the whip hitting hard and true, destroying my foes.

“Hmph. Fine.” Patchouli scoffed at me, not appreciating my lack of enthusiasm for the Wu Xing. It's not that I was trying to be ungrateful, mind you, I simply didn't have time to have my horoscope read. Giving her one last respectful nod of thanks which she did not return, I turned back to my three companions, eager to set forth on what would hopefully be the last adventure of the night. However, what I saw was Youki leaning against a wall alone, looking off to the side in waiting, a faint smirk hiding under his mustache. Alice and Remilia were conspicuously missing, but the noise of something heavy being dropped from a side room clued me in on their location. I peeked in, the stink of gunpowder punching me in the face.

“Hey, watch it! If that goes off, my dolls might level half the mansion!” Alice was picking a heavy-looking bag of what was obviously gunpowder off the floor, glaring at Remilia's behind which was peeking out from among piles of weaponry in the opposite corner of the room. Filled with old-timey firearms galore ranging from matchlock to caplock, the room appeared to be yet another random armory scattered across the mansion. I couldn't help but wonder why the vampire needed all this stuff.

“More of your trophy collection?” I asked in the vampire's general direction, glancing through the room. I noticed Alice's dolls were arming themselves with what looked like flintlock pistols of some sort, proportioned like fat muskets for their small size. They didn't seem to have too much trouble hefting the things though, and one of them was lugging around a bag of what I assumed were bullets.

“Hmm? Oh, yes, I figured it might prove to be useful.” Remilia popped out from behind the mountain of guns and ammo, weighing two pistols in her hands, her index fingers resting on the outside edge of the trigger guards. Chuckling to herself, she immediately discarded them, skipping over to me while trying not to knock down any other volatile objects.
“Would you like one? Although I must say, your knives would probably have more effect on the creatures we'll be facing than a simple bullet would.”

“Well, put enough metal into anything and it'll at least stop moving for a while,” Alice muttered while practicing firing formations with her small army of dolls. The newer ones, lacking fingers, had some minor trouble holding the things.

“Yeah, true. I prefer my knives though, so no thank you.” Remilia shrugged in response to my rejection of her offer, leaving the room with Alice and I behind her.

“Very well then. Are we all ready to head down?”

I nodded, gripping my enchanted whip in one hand, the Kusanagi in the other.

Alice nodded, adjusting a fairly long musket which she had strapped onto her back; it looked like some variety of the Minié rifle at first glance.

Youki nodded, satisfied with just his swords and the clothes on his... well, his legs.

Remilia nodded to herself, as if to confirm the group as a whole was ready, hands on her hips and looking determined.

...And then she awkwardly turned to Youki, looking up at the tall older gentleman with a timid, polite smile.
“By the way I don't believe we've met. My name is Remilia Scarlet, I am the lord of this mansion. And you are...?”

“Youki. Konpaku Youki,” the swordsman responded with a chuckle, twirling the end of his beard between his fingers. After pushing himself upright off the wall, he dropped down into a polite, deep bow.
“It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I see the hunter over there did not manage to slay you tonight?”

“We didn't get that far, no.”
Remilia sighed deeply, glaring towards the remains of what was once an ornate door with a complex, mechanical lock.
“And I even had a lovely key designed for this door, hunter, for you to find after defeating me. Why does nothing ever go as planned?”

I didn't quite know how to respond to that.

“Oh well,” she resigned herself, shrugging and hopping over to the destroyed door. She peeked back at us over her shoulder - quickly moving her wing out of her way when she realized it was blocking her vision - and shooting the rest of us a fanged grin.
“Shall we be off?”

As the rest of us made our way through the broken door separating the basement from the rest of the mansion, Remilia turned to her gatekeeper one last time.
“Meiling. Don't let anyone or anything get through here. The moment you see ANYTHING approaching that isn't the hunter, the swordsman or the puppeteer, I want you to collapse this passage. Got it?”

Meiling looked a little confused, blinking a couple of times before nervously responding.
“Y-you forgot to include yourself there, milady...”

Remilia merely laughed softly, turning her back on Meiling and heading towards the depths at a relaxed walking pace, passing me and the rest of my companions.

Adieu, Meiling.”

...Well. Dispelling the awkward silence, I clicked my tongue to grab the attention of Alice and Youki, gesturing after Remilia with my head. We made haste after her, leaving Meiling standing there, stunned by the words of her mistress. As we delved into the first of many winding tunnels of the Scarlet Devil mansion basement, I could've sworn I heard a faint whisper in a bit of a clumsy accent trailing behind us.

Au revoir.

...

...

...

-------

BGM: “Underground Reservoir”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=povrBEvJ_1w

-------

“So,” I interrupted the sounds of our footsteps echoing down a narrow, winding staircase, “tell me about this thing we're meant to be hunting. This... “Flandre,” you said?”

“In due time, darling.” Remilia's voice echoed into my ears from a bit further below.
“Suffice it to say that our target will be more dangerous than anything you've faced in this mansion so far... or perhaps, ever. That goes for all of you,” she said to Alice and Youki as well.

“Um, excuse me, I'm not really the type to go monster-hunting in my free time to begin with, so please don't lump me in with these two crackpots.” Alice being as charming as always.

And there's that annoying chuckle that I had missed so much.
“Nonsense, I can sense you have great potential within you. Your magic is more than impressive, as is your control over that doll army of yours. I, for one, feel safer simply having you here with us,” Youki responded, piling on the flattery. I felt a strange urge to look behind myself to make sure Alice wasn't actually blushing after that.

“How foolish... I don't have a warrior spirit like you do, Youki.”

“Even a timid housecat can become a ferocious tiger when cornered,” came the cheesy-sounding quip of wisdom in reply. I let out an exaggerated, loud sigh, letting it echo up and down the staircase. We kept walking for what felt like forever, the surfaces around us ominously featureless, save for one thing. Along the staircase were traces of... meat. Pounds of flesh torn from the bones and left behind. Thinking back on the giant zombie-like creature that smashed the basement door, I shuddered lightly, remembering its ultimate fate.

Oh, speaking of ultimate fates.

“So, Youki,” I turned to the swordsman descending the stairs behind Alice and me, watching our rear - hopefully not literally, though I wouldn't put it past him.
“How exactly did you say you survived the clock tower, again?”

“Ah, yes. The Magatama necklace, it... seems to allow one to substitute oneself for a spiritual copy when facing death. A set of extra lives, you could say.”
Wait, seriously? The extra lives didn't go to the main character? I felt cheated. Should've let the swordsman have the sword after all.
“A simple, yet powerful enchantment, I must say, although I have used up many of the charges already...”

“What, did you cheat more than once while falling down the tower?”

“No, I managed to get away with using up just the one. In truth, I was never petrified by that serpentine monster of a woman - I had already fallen to a lower ledge after my spiritual echo swapped places with me. I then had no choice but to climb back down, since you started demolishing the machinery.”

“Er, well...” Gosh, when he put it like that it almost sounded like he was scolding me.

“As for the rest,” he continued, “I lost them while defending the basement door, keeping our target from escaping into the mansion proper.”

“What? You saw Flandre?” Remilia spoke up this time, stopping in my path and making me walk into her, nearly falling over and tumbling down the stairs in surprise. She glared upwards at Youki, her red eyes dimly glowing in the darkness, the torches on the walls placed sparsely as they were.

“Indeed. I would have died several times over if it weren't for this necklace, but I managed to keep her from getting past me.” Youki sounded more serious than usual. I wanted to ask who or what Flandre actually was, but Remilia didn't seem to be in the mood for me to try probing again. I wasn't happy about operating under a need-to-know basis with information, but I guess I was used to it after working for the Church.

“...I see. I must thank you for your efforts, then.” And with that, Remilia turned around, hurrying down the last stretch of the stairs, the rest of us following closely behind.

We came down into what looked like some manner of central room for the basement, stretching off into multiple directions via several tunnels. It was dark and dank, moisture dripping from the ceiling and echoing through the darkness. It looked like almost no one had been down here in ages, only a few torches remaining lit. Bones of all manner of creatures, including humans, were scattered across the ground, and faded footprints could be seen in the mossy filth coating the floor. I handed Remilia the castle map, which she held close to her face, tilting and turning it around with a frown.

“...No good, the mansion isn't heeding my call at this depth. I cannot manipulate it to take us anywhere specific. It's almost as if it's listening to someone else...”
I could tell from the sound of her voice that it was no mystery who the lord of the lowermost sections of the mansion was. Even so, she seemed frustrated to have been beaten this early, reduced to exploring like a common adventurer. The ink on the map in her hands was swirling and swimming about wildly, never forming clear straight lines, never staying in place. It was a bizarre sight to behold, as our surroundings seemed perfectly unchanging.
“Don't hurt your brain trying to think about it. The mansion cannot change form when directly observed, you see,” Remilia explained helpfully.
“Anything beyond the tunnels we see before us could be shifting countless times per second, of course.”

“Great, time to get lost I suppose,” Alice muttered quietly behind us, glancing around frantically and trying not to step in anything. She seemed thankful for the boots she was wearing, compared to Remilia's formerly-lovely shoes. A loud crack echoed through the basement all of a sudden, and we all turned to face Alice - she had stepped on a fragile old bone, snapping it clean in half, and she was staring right back at us looking as if her heart had stopped.
“...I am sorry,” she whispered.

...

A fifth voice, whispering something.

We hadn't noticed it before, but the more we focused our ears after the cracked bone shocked us into silence, the more it became apparent that we were being watched. Watched by someone rather talkative, even.

“...two boys, two girls. Two boys and two girls. Or is it three girls and one boy? I can't tell from here, I can't tell...”

Holding our breaths, the four of us looked around, trying to discern the source of the voice. It sounded feminine and childish as it became clearer, but its direction remained obscured, as if it were coming from all around us, echoing back and forth through the basement tunnels.

“...so slender, with smooth pale skin. But wearing trousers? I can't tell from here, I can't tell...”

The whispering was strange, incoherent and oddly paced, alternating between slowly mouthing one word at a time and spitting out words rapidly like a machine gun.

“...two and two would be good, yes, two boys two girls, could pair them off, yes, a nice set, a nice round number, four is divisible by two, four is two squared...”

Remilia in particular seemed tense. Aside from the whispering, the second most noticeable sound in the air was Remilia grinding her teeth. She wasn't breathing nor blinking, merely staring nowhere in particular, her glowing red eyes unfocused and trembling.

“...but no, we're in Japan, four is a bad number... Why? It sounds like the word for death, yes, how peculiar, how amusing, superstitions... But I like four, four is a good number to me...”

Alice and Youki were frozen in place as well, Youki's eyes slowly scanning our surroundings, his honed senses trying to pinpoint the location of our mystery stalker, Alice holding her hands in front of her nose and mouth to avoid causing any more noise. Her yellow eyes darted left and right in what could only be described as a mild panic, the fear of an unknown and unseen foe.

And yet, I felt restless. We had not even seen this enemy yet, and I did not know how to fear that which I could not see or touch. The Church had tried to put the fear of God in me, but with no success. No, I didn't believe in gods. Even if I met one in person, I wouldn't believe in them. Anything can be killed in this world, and anything that can be killed is no god. Neither was this Flandre creature, all we had to do was find her and destroy her.

“...Oh well, they're being boring now, might as well go for now, leave them someone to play with, maybe they'll feel more fun after that...”

All of a sudden, the bones scattered around us began to shake, move, rattle. The entire room became noise from this cacophony of bones shifting about, sliding to each other, clicking together. Bones that were meant to go together, bones that weren't, bones from completely different creatures altogether all together... Before we knew it, we were surrounded by a small army of skeletons.

...Wait, seriously?

“...Wait, seriously?” Remilia too seemed completely unimpressed by this turn of events.
“Skeletons? You're going to have to try harder, dear sis-... Ahem. Hunter?”

“Yes, o batty companion of mine?” I grabbed the whip from my belt, eyeing the bony assailants slowly closing in on us. Most had chosen vaguely humanoid forms, although a few had opted for more monstrous shapes, using sharpened ribs as claws, using animal jaws as hands, combining several bodies together into centaur-like abominations, having multiple arms...

“Please refrain from calling me that. I assume you and your partners are competent enough to handle a small group of minor undead, yes?” She stood behind me, back to back with me, a crimson glow forming in her claws.

I chuckled, almost feeling insulted.
“You went toe to toe with me, what do you think?”

Her wings flapped once, softly; I could feel her grin behind me.
“I think I can get more by myself than you three can get together.”

“Heh, you're on.”

“Oh please, would you two just get a room already!?” All of a sudden, a white beam crashed through the nearest half-dozen skeletons, blowing them to smithereens, outright vaporizing the brittle bones that had given them form. Remilia and I looked at each other, then at Alice, who was staring at us as if we were lunatics, clutching her shredded grimoire in one hand while charging another spell with the other.

“...She got a head start! Go on then!” All of a sudden, Remilia rocketed into the skeletons in front of her, bits and splinters of bone flying from the mass as she began to quite literally rip the undead to pieces. Not one to be outdone by a loudmouth vampire, I decided this would be the perfect time to give my newly upgraded whip a test drive.

With a satisfying crunch, the spiked ball at the tip of the chain pulverized the skull of an unfortunate skeleton near me, which promptly caught fire from the magical flames, consuming it completely. I wouldn't be satisfied with just the one, of course; a horizontal lash smashed through the spines of several additional skeletons, igniting them as well. Despite the dank, wet surroundings, the bones seemed to be almost unnaturally dry, burning to dust nearly in an instant.

While Remilia and I were ripping and tearing our way through the ranks of the undead, Youki and Alice weren't just standing by and watching either. Well, Youki might as well have been - rather than attack the skeletons head-on, he patiently waited for the clumsy creatures to come to him, keeping his katana sheathed until the moment before the enemy strike. A flash of metallic light, and the skeleton would fall apart, split into pieces in the blink of an eye as the samurai waited for its next victim to enter his attack radius. Alice was mostly trying to stay out of the action, looking for opportunities to blast multiple skeletons with one beam from afar, prioritizing safety and efficiency.

A mangled bony mass sailed over my head, nearly hitting me.
“Hey!”
I looked over my shoulder at an insincerely apologetic Remilia grinning at me, just before crushing the skulls of two skeletons into each other, then grabbing them by the spines and smashing their bodies into the ground.
“Tch! You keeping count or what?”

“Sixteen~” came the sing-song reply.

“Eighteen,” I yelled back to her after lashing the whip in a circle around myself again, aiming it low, destroying the legs from right underneath the skeletal abominations and igniting them as they fell, letting them burn into dust.

“Hey, you're either lying or cheating,” Remilia yelled back to me right before another loud crunch.

...

Moments later, we were surrounded by a pile of bone dust, shards and splinters, not a single piece moving anymore. None of us had even broken a sweat.

I totally won by kill count, by the way.

“Huh. If I had known it would be this easy, I could've cleared the basement by myself,” I muttered, slowly crushing a jawbone under the heel of my boot. The fires around us subsided the moment I curled up the chain whip, and I hooked it onto my belt where it belonged when not in use.

“Don't be foolish, darling, you know this was just bait to get you to lower your guard.” Well, I knew Remilia had a point there. This was TOO easy. And yet, I somehow didn't feel like such subterfuge was what our target was interested in. It was less like it was trying to lull us into a false sense of security, and more like she simply didn't care to put much effort into this encounter. As if we were beneath its notice the moment it had lost interest in spying on us.

“...Well, regardless, we've once again lost track of our mystery target,” Alice interjected as she approached us, keeping her eyes on the ground as she tried to avoid stepping in anything again. I was glad to see her unharmed, despite the relative lack of danger in the undead puppets we just fought.


“Hmm. Might I suggest an idea?” Youki too joined us, motioning for Remilia to bring the map closer so all four of us could look at it. Tall as he was, he leaned down over us and the map, pointing at the four tunnels heading out of the central room we were in.
“You mentioned the mansion cannot shift its shape while directly observed. What if we split up? We could corner her by approaching from multiple angles, keeping the mansion from warping to giving her a means of escape.”

“That assumes she'd flee from us in the first place,” Alice muttered, lacking enthusiasm for this plan.
“I think it would be best to stick together, to maximize our odds of survival.”

“No, I agree with our samurai friend...” Remilia seemed deep in thought, thumbing her chin while holding the map in one hand.
“It should work. As long as we head down all four paths, the layout of the basement should remain unchanged. I don't know what we'll find, but...” She raised her gaze, eyeing each one of us with a confident smirk, her fangs poking out and resting against her lower lip.
“...I'm sure each of us can handle themselves. We'll flush Flandre out and regroup to take her on.”

Alice still seemed unsure, but she merely sighed, trembling lightly - whether from fear or the dank cold air, I couldn't tell.

-------

[] Let's split up, gang!
-{} Be the Hunter. “I'm the protagonist, after all.”
-{} Be Alice. “Eh, what? I just want to go home.”
-{} Be Youki. “A worthy quest, how interesting.”
-{} Be Remilia. “Ooh, pick me, pick me!”
[] Stick together.
>> No. 62288
>>Be Remilia. “Ooh, pick me, pick me!”

Pfffffft
>> No. 62289
[X] Let's split up, gang!
-{X} Be Alice. “Eh, what? I just want to go home.”
I'm hungry
My chest hurts
This vampire is too loud
I wish I was at home making dolls
>> No. 62290
[] Let's split up, gang!
-{} Be Remilia. “Ooh, pick me, pick me!”
>> No. 62291
[X] Let's split up, gang!
-[X] But do not go alone that'd be dumb
--[X] Remilia is strong and Yuuki has multiple lives, so they can over for their poor health
--[X] Alice and the Hunter are more than fine, so they can cover for their poor healthpools (in comparison)
>> No. 62292
[x] Let's split up, gang!
-{x} Be Remilia. “Ooh, pick me, pick me!”
>> No. 62293
[X] Let's split up, gang!
-[X] But do not go alone that'd be dumb
--[X] Remilia is strong and Yuuki has multiple lives, so they can over for their poor health
--[X] Alice and the Hunter are more than fine, so they can cover for their poor healthpools (in comparison)

I like our current setup of Alice & Hunter and this seems to cover everyones bases.
>> No. 62294
[X] Let split up gang!
-[X] But not alone that dumb
--[X] Remilia strong and Yuuki a cat, so they can over for over over
--[X] Alice and Hunter are more, so can cover their poor healthpools
>> No. 62295
[X]split up
-{x}remilia
>> No. 62296
[x] Let's split up, gang!
-{x} Be Alice. “Eh, what? I just want to go home.”

Because otherwise I'd worry about her until we see her again.
>> No. 62297
[x] Let's split up, gang!
-{x} Be Youki. “A worthy quest, how interesting.”
>> No. 62298
File 144139043841.jpg - (856.24KB , 3888x2592 , pissing_against_the_tide.jpg ) [iqdb]
62298
>>62297
>> No. 62299
File 144141515779.jpg - (799.18KB , 1052x855 , a979aba957286638df096ed97f386e40.jpg ) [iqdb]
62299
“What if we... go in pairs?”

The puppeteer's suggestion came out quiet and timid, nearly unheard by her companions. Alice looked up at me, hopeful, and lightly tugged on the sleeve of my coat. Gosh, had she grown fond of me to the point of not wanting to leave my side? I nearly felt flattered, though I realized it was probably more because of me being the reckless close combat fighter to keep the baddies away from the squishy mage.

However, Remilia shook her head with authority, tapping the animated map in her hand.
“No, that would be useless. We should either stick together or split into four, there's no point in dividing our strength if we leave Flandre escape routes. We need to decisively corner her.” The vampire shot a sharp glance at Alice, who immediately let go of my sleeve as if Remilia had slapped her wrist. I could hear her softly sigh again as she resigned herself to her fate, listening to Remilia as she continued.
“I believe we should be fine if we split up here. Flandre will likely avoid a direct confrontation if she can help it... Meiling explained the situation to me before, and apparently Flandre has recently fed. This means she's likely at full strength, but...”

There was a pause, as even Remilia's confidence seemed shaken by the realization.

“...But that means she won't actively seek us out and attack. Probably.” She rolled up the map in her hands and handed it back to me with a determined nod.
“We have the initiative.”

“For now,” Youki said in response.
“Our target clearly has ways of observing us, even if we cannot sense her presence. Every moment we waste gives her time to prepare and learn. We should make haste,” he finished, drawing the longer of his two swords.

I pocketed the map and shrugged.
“I guess we're splitting up then, even if I don't like not knowing what it is I'm supposed to be hunting.” I had my hunches, but Remilia was rather insistent on not telling me more about this Flandre character than she felt I needed to know. Oh well, as long as it can bleed and die...
“How are we meant to meet up again, though?”

“Not to worry, I've got that taken care of,” Remilia responded with a bit more cheer in her voice, motioning for the rest of us to gather around her.
“Present your arms, if you please.”

I already knew this would end up being something strange and might potentially come back to bite me in the ass later, but I was deep enough in this hole Remilia had dug that the only real way to keep going was further down. I put forth my arm, Youki doing so as well by my side; I couldn't help but admire his muscles just a little bit, uncovered by clothing as they were. After a short delay, a pale and slender third arm joined ours, hesitantly. Satisfied, Remilia put her own arm forward as well with a smirk on her lips, and it looked as if we were going to stack hands and shout “Gooo team!” or something.

What happened instead was something else, of course.

Remilia slowly spread her fingers, red magic gathering around her hand in small balls of light, being drawn in the middle of our little group, forming a shape I couldn't quite make out, too bright to tell fine details... All of a sudden, the gathered magic surged towards all four of us, coiling itself around our wrists; Alice gasped in shock, trying to pull her hand away, but it was too late. For a moment, we had become linked together via a crossed set of chains formed out of what seemed to be pure magic, glowing bright red, nearly white, blinding...

...

...

...

And then, just as quickly, the chains vanished, releasing our arms again. I stretched my fingers, opening and closing my fist, the sensation of an ephemeral shackle around my wrist still lingering on my skin. My companions seemed mildly perturbed by the sight they had just witnessed, rubbing their wrists and waving their hands through the air where the chains had just been.

The hunter was the first to speak, staring at me with suspicion, that predatory look in those eyes that had sparked my attraction to this person in the first place.
“What did you just do, vampire?”

My, how rude. Had the hunter been a proper servant of mine, I would've never tolerated such a crude tongue.
“I merely linked our FATE, my dear hunter. No reason to worry,” I tried to reassure the pup, smirking at the distrust humans have for anything beyond their understanding. Well, to be fair, even I wasn't always one hundred percent sure how my special power worked all of the time. In this case, however, it was a simple suggestion of destiny, subliminal even, but it would be enough to make sure we wouldn't lose each other.

The hunter, in particular, was one I could not afford to lose. Not at this point, not anymore. I couldn't afford to keep waiting for a better murderer to show up and do my bidding for me. And besides, I had grown fond of this one. Perhaps in a different life, we could've... Ah, but where was my mind wandering off to?

“...Right. Well, if anyone gets jumped by this Flandre thing, scream or something,” the hunter muttered, still glaring at that slender wrist with suspicion. I couldn't help but admire the amount of punishment the hunter had managed to inflict upon me with that thin body...

The dollmaker let out what must've been the third or fourth sigh within the last five minutes or so.
“I'll try not to do so prematurely, then...” Poor girl, I thought to myself with a snicker. Roped into this mess because I ran out of boss battles... I had to admit though, her skills at producing automatons were extraordinary. Ah well, she had served her purpose, it didn't matter to me if she held any grudges for throwing her into the prison like that. It would be nice if she survived the night, I thought to myself as I thumbed my chin, but she was not a person born for combat. I briefly considered reading her fate to see if she would be the first to fall in the battle against Flandre, but I decided against it.

Skipping forward in a story merely spoils the experience.

We each picked a direction, mostly at random. The main central room had four tunnels spreading out in different directions, the staircase we descended terminating right in the middle - one of the tunnels was basically underneath the stairs themselves. Alice and the mysterious swordsman headed off on their own little adventures, but before the hunter could leave, I couldn't help but rush over and grab that hand just once, to feel that pulse, to reassure myself that the hunter would be fine and we'd all meet up later to take down Flandre together.

The hunter awkwardly jerked, and instinctively grabbed the hilt of that magical sword I had become well acquainted with during our battle. Still, realizing my lack of aggression, my would-be assassin sighed, not returning my smile. I realized we didn't have time for a real conversation, so I released the hunter's hand again, whispering as I skipped back towards my path:
“If you survive, I'll tell you about Flandre. Who she is, and why I lured you into this trap of mine in the first place... I'll tell you about my sin and why I want you to rid me of my guilt.”
I probably said too much, I was probably a little melodramatic. Without waiting for a reply or seeing the look on the hunter's face, I rushed down the tunnel, holding back the tears welling up in my eyes.

Oh well, enough of that, time to go on the hunt. My sister was somewhere down here, and I'd have to track her down. No use in dwelling on emotions that haven't even come into play yet, I'd endure that burden when I got to it. No, no, cheer up, Remilia, your dream is finally going to come true tonight... one way or the other. And, in truth, this was the most alive I had felt in years. Just thinking back on that battle up in the throne room put a grin back on my face, got my adrenaline pumping. Ah, so nostalgic~

I had to admit, I envied the hunter to a degree. I missed my own adventuring days, back when I was still a young fledgling vampire, back before I let myself be tied down by guilt. It felt good to cut loose like this and go dungeon diving; the mansion basement was as much of a mystery to me as it was to those three dear invaders of mine. I had stopped... visiting... decades ago. Cutting back on injuries, you see.

-------

BGM: “Dracula's Castle”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxVApwdikQ4

-------

It didn't take long for the tunnel to lead me to a brand new area, a wider corridor with doors along its walls leading into small rooms, what appeared to be a castle corridor of some sorts. It even had windows, something I forbade in most parts of the mansion for obvious reasons, although these windows seemed to serve no functional purpose with us being underground and all. It was surreal, almost as if the mansion seamlessly connected to an older ruin underneath it, but that seemed unlikely as the architecture didn't seem to be Japanese in origin.

Large portions of the floor had collapsed, revealing a yawning chasm stretching downwards into darkness even my vampiric vision could not pierce all the way through. This was a trifling matter, of course... I closed my eyes, visualizing myself turning smaller and stealthier, a form suitable for bypassing difficult terrain such as this. Taking on the form of a bat was elementary even for one such as me, a vampire with little magical talent to speak of.

Excited over the prospect of exploring this mysterious part of the mansion further, I nearly couldn't resist letting out animalistic squeaks of delight as I soared over the chasms in the floor, my leathery wings silently flapping through the air. My now-tiny form allowed me to slink in and out of the cracks or missing boards in the doors closing off the side rooms of the corridor, but they seemed to have little of note in them other than dried-up corpses of what looked like soldiers lying in beds, still in military uniform though I could not identify the country. Was I in some manner of barracks? No, it still wouldn't make sense for soldiers wearing those kinds of uniforms to be in such an antique castle...

Was Flandre's influence causing the mansion to arrange itself into such a chaotic and nonsensical form?

Indeed, even the holes in the floor looked less like natural traces of ruin, and more like... glitches. Like the mansion had forgotten to fill in certain parts. The deeper I got, the worse the chaos got, pieces of walls and the ceiling missing, exposing bare rough subterranean rock. It was beginning to look like a strange fusion of man-made architecture and natural cave formation, bleeding into one another seamlessly. How fascinating, I thought to myself, even noticing cave bats roosting upside down on a horizontal wooden support beam supporting nothing in particular. The creatures were rather interested in me, a strange and unfamiliar bat casually flying through their territory. I shot them my best menacing glare, and they darted off with panicked screeches.

This might have been a mistake, as I heard a sudden shuffling beginning within the rooms surrounding me. I was quite deep into this strange corridor now, neither my ultimate destination nor my point of entry visible in the darkness anymore - curious, considering my amplified darkvision. Well, surely whatever that is, it wouldn't pay any heed to just another bat fluttering around these caves, I figured.

I was proven wrong as the sound of gunfire echoed through the castle-cave, multiple shots whistling through the air, one of them catching me in the wing, tearing the membrane and sending me falling to the ground, fortunately not into one of the yawning chasms scattered along the floor.

“Ack!” The pain was only mild, but the surprise lead me to revert to my natural form, prone as I was on the ground. I rolled onto my back, sitting up to look around my surroundings. Several other bats had been shot down as well, though they had fared worse than I, getting shot through the body or head. The source of the gunfire quickly became apparent, the previously-dead soldiers beginning to limp out of the side rooms en masse, dried-up husks of what were once trained gunners. And yet, they still seemed to possess some instinctual ability to operate their firearms; it didn't even occur to me at the time to be surprised that the guns themselves were still functional, too.

I stood up, dusting off my dress and adjusting my hair, recovering my perfectly charismatic and ladylike appearance. The undead marksmen were taking formation, some of them kneeling behind doors that had fallen off their hinges and been propped up against the walls and rocks as makeshift cover, and the ones that weren't busy reloading their rifles were pointing them at me, a dim red glint in their eyes as they took aim.

Hmph, far from the first time I had stared down a firing squad.

I gestured towards the regiment of undead gunners with my hand, the other resting on my hip, and exclaimed, loudly, with authority in my voice as the lord of the mansion:
“Remilia Scarlet commands you! Lay down your arms, as I am your lord and master!”
Of course, I didn't leave it at just words - powers of vampiric domination projected forth from my eyes, washing over my would-be assailants. They seemed organized, and still held knowledge from when they were alive, such as how to operate firearms. Could they have some degree of sentience remaining, perhaps? Revenants? Then I could control them, and this would be a meaningless obstacle in my path.

I was promptly riddled with countless bullets. My wings, my arms and legs, my torso, my head, my entire body got a generous dose of lead, the stink of gunpowder thick in the air as the zombies vacantly stared forward to observe the aftermath of their salvo.

I was mostly fine, of course. Bullets are effective against regular mortals, where a single wound can spell the difference between life or death if it's deep enough, or if it punctures an important artery or organ. It's a little different with supernatural creatures such as myself, though. A bullet is small, and leaves a small wound, and a punctured organ or two won't really do much to stop a vampire. I couldn't help but grin, twisting further into a chuckle, and then a completely unreserved cackle as I stood there, bleeding all over myself as the zombies began to reload their rifles, plainly aware that they didn't quite get me.

“Ahahaha~ Oh, you've done it now, attacking your lord like that!”

I was laughing more at myself than the zombies, of course. Naturally, they turned out to be mindless after all. What a shame, and I was so hoping to look all cool and dominating there, but a literally brain-dead audience cannot appreciate such feats of nobility. No, not revenants then... Wights? Ghouls? Ah well, it didn't matter. While they were busy reloading, I gathered the bullets lodged within my body to eject them, shivering lightly as the metal slipped about beneath my skin, a bullet dislodging itself from my brain and plopping into my mouth. I spat it out. I promptly healed the wounds on my wings and wrapped myself within them, hardening the thin leathery membrane into a shell harder than steel, a defensive cocoon I could hide within while I thought how to deal with the situation and healed the rest of my wounds.

Another barrage of bullets hit me, this time ricocheting off my wings harmlessly. I had some time before they would be able to fire again, since those rifles could only load one shot at a time.

-------

[] Time to have some fun! Rip and tear, rip and tear~
[] Form of bat didn't work, let's try form of wolf.
[] I should conserve my body, battered as I am after my fight with the hunter. Destroy them all in a single burst of magic.
[] I could probably ignore them and escape to the next area. Speed is one thing I'm good at, and zombies are not.
>> No. 62301
[] I could probably ignore them and escape to the next area. Speed is one thing I'm good at, and zombies are not.
>> No. 62302
[X] Mist could pass.
>> No. 62303
File 14415057193.jpg - (971.92KB , 1920x1200 , remiliahijacklol.jpg ) [iqdb]
62303
[x] I should conserve my body, battered as I am after my fight with the hunter. Destroy them all in a single burst of magic.

GODDAMNIT REMI
>> No. 62307
[x] I should conserve my body, battered as I am after my fight with the hunter. Destroy them all in a single burst of magic.
>> No. 62311
File 144174367734.jpg - (761.10KB , 1200x1200 , 62a938ee47b603c39f45cc3e154f4901.jpg ) [iqdb]
62311
Ho hum, so many options... Mere zombies as they were, I didn't want to waste too much time and energy, however. The simplest method would have been to simply rip them apart until they became unable to act any further, but it would likely be difficult to defend myself from their bullets while attacking. As I said, an individual bullet isn't much to a vampire, but repeated salvos from multiple rifles, well... Fill anything with enough lead and you'll incapacitate it eventually.

Another shower of bullets plinked off my wings, sparks chipping off and illuminating the dark corridor where I stood, defending myself from that firing squad. I considered simply fleeing, but that would have hurt my pride as a vampire. Well, there was also the issue of being shot in the back, but it was mostly a pride thing. Remilia Scarlet does not run away from battles. Or, well, I might, if I were trying to deceive my foe, pragmatism is a virtue after all, but you're not going to trick something without a mind. Therefore, the logical solution was simply to destroy all of the zombies in one fell swoop. Not a literal swoop, since my wings were busy functioning as shields, but you get the idea.

I closed my eyes, and began to picture a castle, silhouetted by a red, nightless sky.

Power began to well up inside my small body. Magical finesse was something I lacked, but raw power? I had that in spades. It wasn't elegant, but I could be proud of it all the same. Indeed, one could say even pure, raw destructive power had a primal sort of elegance to it, no? Mm, yes... I felt a little disappointed that these zombies turned out to be brainless in the end, as I'm sure any sapient foes would have felt an overwhelming sense of dread radiating from within the shell-like wings surrounding me, a bright red glow escaping through the thin cracks between them. But these undead marksmen didn't care, they just fired another hail of useless bullets at me.

I began to wonder if they might just run out of ammunition if I sat and waited, but that would be dreadfully boring, and I didn't have that kind of time to waste. Yes, I felt I should probably rush myself instead of taking my time... The power gathering within me ramped up, my visualization of the castle becoming more vivid, the red sun hanging in the back of the horizon and staining the sky in the color of blood. As I built more and more power up in my body, I could feel a light shuffling; the zombies were being drawn closer to me, attracted by an invisible force, as if pulled by a strange wind. I smiled in delight, biting my lip in anticipation.

I unfolded my wings. No... I exploded out of them, the sheer force stunning the army of the dead around me as a gust of wind slammed into them. And before they could regain their balance, I released my power, a column of scarlet destruction erupting from me and engulfing the surrounding area, disintegrating all in its path. The undead soldiers, they didn't even have time to realize what happened with those decayed brains of theirs, merely flaking off into microscopic pieces in mere seconds, like an ashen tree after a forest fire when the wind picks up. The vortex of power surrounding me kept me suspended in the air, and I enjoyed the sheer rush of it all, spreading my arms out to the sides and closing my eyes, only mildly disappointed that my obliterated foes lacked the consciousness to truly appreciate my majestic display.

The crimson pillar slowly faded. With a light clap of my wings, I gracefully descended and landed on what ground there was left to stand on, glancing back at the damage left by my magic. A hole extending straight up and below, several meters in radius, it had eaten away at the nearby corridor walls to the sides as well, exposing the insides of the side rooms and vaporizing any ancient furniture within. Only molten rock remained on the edges of my attack, glowing a bright red much like the magical force that had blasted it so.

Well, that was a little bit taxing, but probably better than actually fighting the pathetic things normally. I might have gone a little overboard, considering they were mere zombies, but... there's no kill like overkill, you know. I chuckled to myself with satisfaction, transforming back into a bat and flying over the massive chasm I left behind, towards the end of this strange corridor.

...

As I flew, I couldn't help but notice, again... The architecture down below the mansion was bizarre. I had just come from what looked like a castle corridor below the ground, clearly not a part of my own mansion since it had windows. But then, it seemed like the part of the mansion below the prison wasn't “mine” to begin with, neither the creatures nor the architecture itself obeying my command anymore. Furthermore, the corridor seemed as if it had “naturally” fused with the surrounding caves, a bizarre mix of man-made stonework and rough, untouched rock. Perhaps the mansion was warping and twisting as it did up above, but couldn't quite materialize properly when existing geometry was in the way? No, that should not be the case, I could recall other instances of the mansion phasing into a location with other buildings, hills or other obstacles in the way, and it would simply... displace them. Devour them, if you will.

This was something else. I was beginning to suspect these caves weren't actually from around here at all, and were a part of the actual mansion itself. As if to congratulate me on my guess, a rocky hand emerged from the ceiling above, swiping at me with clear hostility. I managed to swerve to the side to avoid it, only for a half-dozen other hands to emerge from the walls and ceiling, one extending from the floor but not quite reaching my height. I swooped past three or four of the stone hands, but a fifth managed to smack me across my back, sending me flying - fortunately in the direction I needed to go, at least. The impact knocked me breathless and would have shattered my tiny bat skeleton, had I not sensed the blow coming and returned to my true form just before it hit me, bracing myself at least a little bit.

I hit the ground hard and fast, skidding along the rocky surface and rolling until I slammed into something. I had slowed down enough to not seriously damage the object, and as I regained my balance and senses I looked up, finding it to be a lamp post.

As in, for lighting up streets.

Huh.

I glanced behind myself in a mild daze, spotting the stone hands behind me. They didn't seem very intent on following me, receding partially back into the ground and patrolling the perimeter of the city street I had landed on like subterranean sharks. I stood up, double-checking to make sure I wouldn't be attacked, and then glanced around myself, taking in these new, even stranger surroundings. I hadn't hit my head after all, I was right, the cave continued seamlessly into a street, buildings and street lights and all.

Most peculiar, I thought to myself as I cleaned off my dress.

The street continued forth in a linear path, which I felt compelled to follow. It was fascinating in a way, to see the mansion warped to such a degree down below, outside of my influence. The street felt both natural and unnatural at the same time, lacking alleys or side paths, as if someone had literally squashed all the buildings together, wall-to-wall, leaving only a straight and narrow path to go along, at the same time looking perfectly realistically constructed. I knew I was being lured, of course - I'm no fool, I assure you. And yet, I had no choice but to walk right into this strange trap, since it was the only path towards settling this mess once and for all.

Furthermore, this architecture, it felt familiar somehow. Different enough to feel alien, but also familiar enough to feel unsettling in how bizarrely it had been warped. Had I been to a similar location at some point? Had the mansion pulled a part of one of my previous homes along with it? I tried knocking on a window, only for the light inside to go out without a sound. Had I wanted to, I'm sure I could've smashed the window in to get a look inside, but I was too distracted by the sheer dreamlike atmosphere of my surroundings. It felt ephemeral and... mocking, almost, as if someone were scooping memories out of my brain and perverting them before my eyes.

This place was...

...I didn't let it affect me and kept moving forward. 16th century French architecture, of course it was familiar to me, why wouldn't it be? A certain someone was trying to get under my skin, showing me things, making me think back on things I'd rather not think of. I couldn't help but smirk, chuckling lightly and shaking my head as I walked down the narrow paved walkway. I gazed up, past the street lights and into the night sky that wasn't there, a yawning black void gazing back at me and trying to destroy my sense of orientation. I knew I was underground, and that this was all just an elaborate constructed image.

It would take more than a few crude illusions to shake the confidence of Remilia Scarlet, I thought to myself with a smug smile on my lips, casually walking towards - as I expected - a flaming building in the distance.

Distorted images of humanoids were crowded around the spectacle, impossibly tall and thin and featureless, as if someone had stretched out a crude drawing of a humanoid figure. They merely stood there, staring at the fire, basking in the heat radiating from the mansion engulfed in flames. I joined them; one of the stick figures bent its body impossibly to look upon me at face-level, a visage lacking eyes or other features. An approximation of a person, as if within a dream. It reached out with one elongated hand, its narrow finger caressing the side of my face gently.

But I grew tired of this charade. I gripped the approximation by its head, crushing it between my talons like an over-ripe melon. Its freakishly long and dangly body collapsed, limp like a reed, and the other figures quickly fled in what I presumed must have been terror, stepping over the buildings with their long legs like a short fence.

“Tch,” I clicked my tongue, almost disappointed.
“Pathetic creatures! If you're going to try playing at mind games, you've got to be prepared to lose,” I shouted after them, cackling to myself in delight. These minions were truly a shameful display from whoever was manipulating this portion of the mansion. First some basic zombies, now these cowardly things? As I glanced behind myself to make sure they were gone, the dream shifted. The street blended together with a ruined version of itself, high-class buildings with boarded-up windows, dingy ruins with fancy decorative doors, it looked comical in a way. As reality warped around me, I felt a minor pain in my skull, like the dull aura of an oncoming migraine. Pinching myself, I reaffirmed that I was still awake, just in case. Not that mind tricks would work on a vampire of my stature, of course...

I turned back to the mansion, the fire having faded and revealed only smoldering remains. I could tell this dead end was still calling to me somehow, it wanted something of me before I could progress. Tsk, what a pain...

“Fine then, I'll play your game,” I scoffed out loud to whoever was responsible for this, a powerful clap of my wings clearing the smoke and lingering flames from my path as I stepped forward. Dust, rubble and ash was all that remained of the mansion's interior, charred humanoid figures concealed beneath the debris. A distinct pair of bodies in the middle of what was once a majestic foyer, separate from the rest of the carnage. I had a guess on what I was in for... Someone was trying to get under my skin. Nevertheless, I approached the bodies, covered by a fallen curtain that had managed to evade the fire somehow, the scarlet cloth contrasting the dull grey ash surroundings.

Sigh.

Bunching up my dress so as not to dirty it on the soot-covered floor, I crouched down and grabbed onto the curtain cloth, pulling it aside. And underneath... No, not corpses. A familiar red formation of raw magical power, focused into a shape fit for throwing or thrusting, resembling a spear or lance. Primed for launch. Somehow, I managed to lean back just in time to avoid this fake Gungnir, the crimson lance shooting skyward as I fell onto my rear, staining my dress and taking severe damage to my ego due to being tricked in such a simple manner. An extra hole was added to one of the remaining walls of the burnt-up mansion, and I could smell the scent of singed hair.

I punched the ground, grinding my teeth and seething with anger. That cheeky bait and switch at the end... I didn't take that sort of thing well, you see. Remilia Scarlet does not appreciate being made to look like a fool. The whole visions of a dramatic past setup was a red herring for a cheap trap? That is just sssssstupid! I did NOT have time for these shenanigans.

Ugh. Being done with my little tantrum, I stood back up, dusting my dress off as best as I could. I could've sworn I heard a soft chuckle from behind myself; looking back, no one was there. One thing was odd, though - the front doors of the mansion were closed. This was odd mainly because those doors were completely destroyed when I first walked inside. Then, behind those doors - I kicked them open, no longer having the patience for an elegant approach, the doors flying off their hinges and dropping onto the floor of what appeared to be a reading room, having replaced the mysterious street I had just entered from. The walls of the small room without windows were lined with half-empty bookcases, a space in between for a fireplace that seemed unused for a long time, and a creaky rocking chair with a scratched-up old table were situated in the middle of the room.

And sitting in that chair was a blonde little girl in a dress that was tattered yet still a vibrant red in color. My sister, Flandre, reading what appeared to be a collection of short stories by G.K. Chesterton. Noticing my entry, she lazily lifted her eyes from the book in her hand, using her thumb as a temporary bookmark as she looked straight at me, no visible emotion on her face.

“Oh. Hey there, sis.”

-------

[] “...Hello, Flan.” Smalltalk is key to survival here.
-{} (Optional write-in: Anything you want to say to Flandre, or ask from her?)
[] Attack first, catch her off-guard. Being alone, the element of surprise is the only hope.
[] Turn right around and attempt to flee this bizarre place.
>> No. 62312
[x] Hello, Flan
-[x] Reading anything interesting?
-[x] What was up back there with that cheap shot? If you create expectative fulfill it! Non sequiturs belong to comedy.

STALL, STALL AS FUCK. Er, with the elegance and grace that is expected from the head. Of the scarlet family.
>> No. 62313
[x] “...Hello, Flan.” Smalltalk is key to survival here.
>> No. 62314
[x] “...Hello, Flan.” Smalltalk is key to survival here

So, how's the subterranean weather?
>> No. 62315
[x] “...Hello, Flan.” Smalltalk is key to survival here
>> No. 62316
File 144192694189.jpg - (260.62KB , 1000x1000 , f729b1b3b8fc946ff59aff83787b7424.jpg ) [iqdb]
62316
BGM: “Abandoned Pit”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvH37BPPiHY

-------

“...Hello, Flan,” I said, picking my words with care.

I was walking on eggshells, careful not to provoke the girl before me. Even I, Remilia Scarlet, a powerful vampire in my own right, felt a menacing aura radiating from her, permeating the small room we were both inside of. Not a murderous intent, no, something far more passive than that... It was the kind of sense of danger an ant would feel as the shadow of a human foot blocks the sun overhead. It could be crushed at any point, running or hiding would be useless due to the sheer difference in size, so all it can do is wait and see if it gets stepped on or not. In any case, I had to appease Flandre and stall for time, think of a way out of this situation. I couldn't handle her by myself, especially not in my current state. Her eyes were still piercing through me, glowing red in the dim light of the reading room, unblinking.

I tilted my head, glancing at the book in her hand.

“Reading anything interesting?” At the very least, I was able to keep my voice from showing any signs of... dare I admit it... fear.

She turned her eyes down at the book, scowling lightly and discarding it on the table, as if my gaze or question had tainted it somehow. She didn't even bother bookmarking the part she was at.
“...Not really. Read all these enough to memorize them,” she gestured at the bookshelves with a limp wrist. There was an awkward, long pause, the only sound in the air being the subconscious grinding of my teeth. Then she looked up at me again, her eyes still strangely empty. At the very least, I wasn't sensing any direct hostility just yet.
“Should thank you for the books, I suppose.”

“Ah-... Yes, yes, you're most welcome.” A mind without distractions rots away, after all.

Flandre hopped off her chair, the colorful crystals dangling from those bony, sundered wings of hers jingling with a melody that would have sounded oddly beautiful in any other context. Several of them had become dull and cracked since I last... visited. It was at that point that I realized - if we don't finish this tonight, there may not be another chance. But I couldn't betray my thoughts to her, no, not even if she already knew what I had come down there to do. I needed to keep her calm and passive until I could find an excuse to leave, to find the hunter and the others.

“So, Flan, darling... I, ah, like what you've done with the place.”
I glanced back towards the reading room doors. At some point or another, they had closed behind me, locking me in the room with my sister. Great.
“Though I must say, that little trap back there... Most tasteless, truly!” I let out a light derisive laugh. “Setting up a stage like that, and ending the play with a petty non sequitur? I never thought you the type for comedy.”

I thought I saw her smirk just a tiny bit there. Just a small, very subtle, blink-and-you'll-miss-it curling of the edges of her lips, even though she wasn't even looking at me. She knew very well that her mind games had gotten under my skin, even if just by a little bit only. But that was enough for her, just knowing that she had made me drop my calm, cool and charismatic exterior for just a moment... That practically NEVER happens, I assure you. Nevertheless, clueing her in on the fact seemed to improve her mood just a little bit, which was worth the blow to my ego as long as it let me avoid a confrontation here.

“No idea what you're talking about,” she lied smoothly, twirling in place on one foot with her eyes closed. I glanced over my shoulder again, at those closed doors. Were they locked? Could I make an excuse and slink out, meet up with the others...?

I turned my head back towards Flandre, and she was directly in front of me, almost close enough for my eyes to become unable to focus on her. I held my breath, and could feel hers against my face. A thick, chemical scent invaded my nostrils, a familiar smell I had noticed when I first entered the room, but it was now strong enough to nearly make me gag.

My cold heart sank.

“Sisterrr,” she purred at me cutely, very slowly tilting her head and looking... through me, not at me.
“Think your friends are looking for you. My other selves are watching.”

...Ah.

“...Is this you, Flan? Or are you actually somewhere else?” If this was just a projection, and not her true body, then that meant one of the others was in mortal danger. I couldn't afford to keep being nice and cautious around her any longer; I took a step away to regain some personal space, and if need be, defend myself.

The girl merely shrugged in response, already looking like she's lost interest in me again.
“Who knows?” She then turned her back to me, hopping back towards the table with her book on one foot.

“Flandre Scarlet, you-...”

“But, sis,” she interrupted me, “that fake holy warrior you brought...” Flandre suddenly stopped in her tracks, raised one hand and stared into her open palm, very slowly closing it into a fist.
“...Hate people that aren't genuine, you know. Get rid of it,” she continued, turning around to face me again in a smooth, dance-like twirl, a strangely happy smile on her face all of a sudden. It felt out of place.

I didn't respond. I merely stood there, grinding my teeth with my back against the door. What was she saying?

“Please? Will be good, stay down here... Just get rid of the faker.”

Get rid of... She wanted me to kill the hunter.

But why?

“...Flan, I'm sorry, but-...”

The doors opened and I lost my balance, falling out of the room. The last I saw of Flandre was her just waving at me, that bored expression back on her face again.

“Later.”

I landed on my rear, an annoyingly recurring event by that point. Throwing away all reason, I hopped back on my feet and lunged for the doors, throwing them open to reveal... a dark forest.

Flandre was gone, along with the strange reading room.

“Shit,” I found myself swearing out loud, in French no less. I suddenly became very much aware of the cold sweat coating my body in a thin film. It had been a long, long time since I had been anywhere remotely close to my sister in terms of proximity - much less in terms of family relations. No, Remi, no, you have to keep cool and confident, for the sake of the plan, for the sake of everything you've been preparing for all this time.

For Flandre's sake.

I slapped my hands against the sides of my face to clear my head. Focus, focus, I just needed to meet up with the group again. If Flandre was projecting her self to multiple locations, however, it would mean she had outsmarted our plan to split up and flush her out. No... for all I knew, she could've killed off the others already while she was keeping me busy. I had to hurry up and get out of this warped hell. Getting down on all fours, I transformed my body into that of a wolf, dashing blindly into the strange forest that had appeared before me.

...

I don't know how long I ran. I do know, however, that I did not notice right away just how bizarre this forest was.

What had looked and felt like grass at first soon became hair. The trunks of trees around me were as crooked pillars of bone, their leaves like translucent nails. An alien landscape, something had clearly gone very wrong here. Though there was no sky to illuminate this bizarre forest, my vampiric vision still allowed me to spot the odd sign of “life” sneaking about the shadows, strange formless creatures made of what looked like solid rock.

I didn't have time to feel disgusted, so I merely accelerated my running, darting forward along a conspicuous path between the densely-packed “trees” and making sure to avoid getting too close to the local fauna. This forest was surely just another aberration caused by Flandre's dominion over the lower portions of the mansion.

Sure enough, the stone creatures didn't appreciate me just ignoring them like that, and several of them pounced onto the path in front of me, forming a living wall. They had no discernible features, just the faintest semblance of limbs to move and attack with, but you don't need much more than that for basic minions. Part of me had to give Flandre credit, she hadn't just been sitting and waiting for me to come after her one day, she had been preparing tricks of her own to annoy me with. I didn't have to feel ashamed of her in that regard.

“My my, I should've consulted with you when plotting my own little obstacle course, dear sister” I thought to myself. My heart felt heavy for a brief moment, realizing I was praising my mad sister.

Nevertheless, I couldn't stick around and play with her dolls, so I simply ran even faster, aiming right at the living formation of rock in my path. A red glow began to surround my canine body - magic similar to that of my Gungnir, but applied differently. I lowered my head, flattening my ears against my head, streamlining my profile, becoming like a living spear - and I punched right through the stone creatures without even so much as slowing down, shards of the beasts scattering everywhere as the survivors clumsily turned around to begin a futile chase. But it was far too late, I had already vanished from sight, the only sign of me remaining would have been a red trail of light following behind me and illuminating the pitch-dark underground forest.

...

I sprinted through the perverted forest in wolf form for what felt like hours, thinking back on what Flandre had said about the hunter. That she hated fakers, people who aren't genuine. What did she mean by that?

-------

[] ...Well, it didn't matter, I had no reason to betray the hunter in any case. I couldn't afford to risk ruining my plans, not when I was this close.
[] ...Fake, huh? Could this have been more of Flandre's mind games? Or did she know something I didn't? Perhaps I should be more cautious about that human...

-------

(This concludes the playable Remilia segment.)
>> No. 62317
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62317
[x] ...Well, it didn't matter, I had no reason to betray the hunter in any case. I couldn't afford to risk ruining my plans, not when I was this close.

It isn't a matter of trust, it's just that the race has already started and you literally can't change your bet. She said this is going to be the last chance she'll get. If she picked wrong, she's dead, one way or the other.
>> No. 62318
[x] ...Well, it didn't matter, I had no reason to betray the hunter in any case. I couldn't afford to risk ruining my plans, not when I was this close.

I don't think the hunter is putting on any acts by this point
>> No. 62319
[x] ...Well, it didn't matter, I had no reason to betray the hunter in any case. I couldn't afford to risk ruining my plans, not when I was this close.
>> No. 62323
>>62316
Well, just read all 5 threads - great stuff!
Anyways, if votes are still being taken...

[X] ...Well, it didn't matter, I had no reason to betray the hunter in any case. I couldn't afford to risk ruining my plans, not when I was this close.
>> No. 62324
Pardon the unexpected delay, stuff has been going on.

Update this Friday. Regular update pace resumes after the weekend.
>> No. 62325
>>62318
I believe what Flan was alluding to is how the Hunter is still a serial killer at heart and hasn't been acting true to their self.
I anticipate the Hunter will end up dropping any pretense about being a holy warrior and go full 'Jack the Ripper' at some point during the fight with Flan.
>> No. 62326
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62326
>>6232
Okay I lied, but Monday at the absolute latest or I'll eat my hat. Just hasn't been a productive week, but this story is getting finished one way or another.
Y'all are past the "true ending" unlock point (killing Remilia the first time, sparing her the second) so we don't have long to go. This will most likely be the last thread.
>> No. 62327
>>62325
I want to rip off her arms and use them as improvised weapons.
>> No. 62329
>>62326
> Monday at the absolute latest or I'll eat my hat

You have a few hours left as of this post.
>> No. 62330
>>62326
After the conclusion, will it be a second run or not? (sorry for my bad english)
>> No. 62331
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62331
Meanwhile, I was left at quite the cliffhanger.

-------

BGM: “Rotating Room/Clockwork Mansion”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlQeuBm2aIY

-------

And I mean that literally. Hanging from the edge of a wall, I found myself gazing down into a dark abyss, the bottom too far down for sight, much too far down for survival. Well, “down” was kind of subjective. I threw my upper body weight over the edge and hoisted myself up, trying to find my balance on the narrow stone walkway, bordered on both sides by yawning chasms.

At some point or another, the mansion's construction lost all semblance of logic, and I had wandered into a series of corridors that were oriented, well... sideways. Sideways doors that swung upward or downward, sideways torches on the walls... It was fine as long as the path remained horizontal. And then, of course, it stopped doing that, forcing me to get more creative with my mobility. Leaping across gaps that were once straight corridors, sliding down walls that were once floors or ceilings, and a couple of times I even managed to use my chain whip as a grappling hook by aiming at a torch fixture and swinging across.

I didn't see such a convenient option in my current situation, however. Glancing around myself, I quickly came to understand just how absurd the mansion basement truly was, disregarding the ninety degree tilt of either gravity or architecture. It was as if someone with no sense of design had crafted these parts of the mansion, just slapping long endless corridors everywhere, intersecting or going parallel to one another with no rhyme or reason. I wouldn't say it was a maze per se, since I only ever had one real viable direction to go in, but the sense of a wide open directionless network of paths surrounding me felt somewhat disorienting nevertheless. Plus, even if I was being railroaded by some unseen force, it still took my human brain a whole to figure out how to progress when everything was sideways.

Also, it's not like I was alone, either. On the “floors” to my side, strange vaguely humanoid creatures would be crawling about, on occasion looking “up” at me as they moved around on clawed hands and feet, sickly-thin bodies wrapped in bandages up to the face, a single exposed eyeball on one side glinting at me in the darkness. Honestly, the fact that they still clung to the “floor” was the strangest aspect about these things, and the more I thought about it, the more my head began to hurt. Still, they had chosen to refrain from attacking me up until that point... or perhaps they simply couldn't reach me due to how differently gravity seemed to affect us.

Hmm, but how could I possibly progress? The only path forward I could see was a door in the distance, but it was on the other side of a wide open hallway of sorts. Now, picture this tilted on its side, and you can understand how this translates into one very wide pit. At this point, I was standing on some manner of support column or pillar, but the next one was much too far to simply leap to. No fixtures to swing from, either. I paced back and forth/up and down the pillar, pondering my situation. Turning back wasn't much of a choice either, as I had just barely jumped the gap from the door leading into this massive hallway in the first place.

Clicking skittering noises from my right.

I got an idea. Slowly and carefully, whip in hand, I walked down the pillar towards the “floor” while keeping my eyes on the creatures. They responded in kind, staring at me without blinking. Silently. Motionlessly. Focused on my every movement. My brain was still hurting simply from looking at them, but I kept telling myself they were just like lizards clinging to walls. They seemed... tense, although it was hard to tell with their thin and wiry forms, concealed as they were underneath those bandages. Almost as if I looked as weird to them as they did to me. Well, naturally - technically I was the one walking on walls, not them.

The moment I got close enough to touch the “floor”, the blade-fingered creatures lunged at me.

My brain lurched as the bizarre gravity of the mansion basement became all too apparent to me yet again, shattering my self-imposed illusion of them clinging to the walls. No, they were very clearly attracted to their floor, which was my wall, as made evident by their trajectory through the air. Oh well, no use puzzling over that, I had places to go and things to do. I very gently tapped the stopwatch in my pocket for a split second of planning time, and then it was time for action.

First creeper. I jumped off the pillar separating me from a deadly fall into the unknown, landing with my foot right on its head. Well, less landing, more full-force kicking - the satisfying sound of crunching bone reached my ear, although I was unsure whether that was its face or neck. In any case, I propelled myself off the creature towards the next one, a bit higher “above” me, and lashed out with the whip. The chain coiled around the creature's body, binding its limbs, and burst into flames as I swung forward, resulting in the creeper's rapid incineration - their bodies seemed unnaturally dry underneath those filthy bandages.

Making use of my momentum, I ran across the floor - wall - surface to my right, narrowly dodging an clumsy attack by one of the creepers in the process. Aside from the bizarre gravity of the room, they did not appear to possess many other particularly dangerous combat capabilities. Those long sharp talons were scary and all, but at the end of the day they were basically just natural knives - and I knew my way around knives, both attacking and defending.

Even so, fighting without a floor below you is somewhat of a handicap. I managed to grapple onto another of the wall creepers, this time choosing not to ignite it as I swung in a circle, aiding my momentum by kicking off the wall and landing right on top of its body. The bizarre conflict of gravity seemed to surprise it more than me for the time being, but I quickly kicked off the creature towards the next one, using them as living platforms as I made my way towards the next door. How glad I was that there weren't any of those medusa heads from the clock tower in this area.

All of a sudden, one of the wall creepers actually started running away upon seeing me approach. Not as brainless as the other undead, eh? What's worse, it was fleeing downwards and I was currently airborne. Had my plan backfired already? Oh well, improvise and adapt. Hoping dearly that it would work, I unsheathed the Kusanagi and stabbed it into the wall; it gradually ground to a halt after carving a long, deep gash into the stone, but the legendary blade held firm. Dangling by one arm wasn't very comfortable, of course, so I flipped up and landed onto the horizontal flat of the blade with my feet, trying not to lose my balance.

So, from the creepers' perspective I'd be standing sideways on a sword stabbed into the ground. Must've looked weird. In any case, I took the moment to plot my next movement as the creatures closed in on me. The far wall seemed close enough to leap to, but the door was quite a ways up above... Well, no matter. Making use of the inherent flex in a sword, I bounced off the Kusanagi towards the wall ahead, grabbing onto a couple of loose gaps between stones and somehow managing to stay there, not falling to my death. Wasting no time, I began climbing up towards the door before the creepers could realize what just happened. Fortunately, they were a bit slow in the brain.

Unfortunately, they were actually fairly fast when they figured out what they wanted to do. As they scampered towards me, I couldn't help but chuckle at the realization that I was the one crawling on a wall from their perspective for a change. They bladed hands and feet caused loud echoing clicks to spread across the vast hallway as they drew ever closer, and I couldn't hope to match their speed on horizontal ground when climbing up a sheer vertical surface.

This is where the second part of my gambit came into play. Hanging off the wall with one hand and my feet, I leaned back and gestured my other hand towards the Kusanagi, still impaled where I had stabbed it, and beckoned to it - to the wind magic permeating the magical blade. Sure enough, my expectations were not betrayed, and the sword gradually wrenched itself free from the stone, winds guiding it back to me in a whirlwind of steel. Coincidentally, it just happened to whirl through the dense pack of creepers as well, tearing through them like a blender and scattering severed limbs about. Curiously, I noted that even dead creepers still stuck to the wall - their floor - so the strange magic affecting this part of the mansion wasn't inherent to the creatures themselves.

That little spectacle of blood and guts was just the diversion I needed. Catching the sword by the hilt as it returned to me, I quickly sheathed it and resumed climbing the wall, frantically searching for footholds before the surviving creepers could catch up to me. Just barely, I made it, pulling my body up and into the doorway and rolling onto the ground, ending up on my back and panting for breath. The creepers chose not to follow, scattering into the shadows of the hallway behind me. Good, that gave me some breathing room - literally.

After a brief break, I stood back up, dusting myself off and examining my body. Good, no damage to speak of, I still had all my fingers and other body parts. I had wasted a few throwing knives shortly after the initial party split, but I still had most of my gear with me, the creatures before the creeper room not putting up much of a challenge. Yet again I couldn't help but feel that the mansion's layout was beginning to feel more... rushed, inelegant, clumsy. Sure, sapient buildings like this could operate autonomously, but they still tend to follow the direction of their master. And this didn't feel like Remilia Scarlet's touch. Straight, linear paths, enemies that seem like they don't know why they're even there... This wasn't prepared in advance.

Ah well, none of that would matter after the night was over. After gazing once more back into the bizarre sideways hall I had just come from, I turned around and proceeded forward. To my relief, I found myself in new surroundings, exiting the stone interior surroundings into what resembled something more like a forest, illuminated by a strange underground moon. Well, that was the first impression, anyway; every step I took revealed more unsettling sights. Hair growing out of the ground like grass, trees with trunks of bone and leaves of what looked like... nails? Like, from a finger or toe. Bizarre. For fitting contrast, I saw strange animal-shaped creatures to the sides of the path I was walking down, but they seemed to be made of featureless stone rather than flesh. I stopped for a moment, drawing my sword and cutting along the ground experimentally. Sure enough, the earth beneath me began to bleed. It felt strange to walk upon, as if I were on the corpse of some ancient giant.

That being said, I did sense some normal life forms in this nightmarish area as well. Well, “normal” by certain standards, at least. Choosing not to tear my coat apart for a change, I pulled out of my pocket a fancy silken handkerchief, long enough to tie around my head to cover my eyes as a blindfold. Good, at least this way I could avoid certain death.

What I had heard was a distinctive growling hiss. Not like a spider or snake, but... well, imagine a throaty meow, almost, but more like an exhale. You'd recognize it immediately if you knew what it meant. A mix between reptile and bird, the area was infested with cockatrices. If you're thinking of something the size of a regular chicken, think bigger - these things are like dinosaurs, about as tall as me at the shoulder. How convenient for looking humans in the eye, petrifying them for an easy meal. Of course, sealing away my vision would be a risky course of action, as I now had no way of knowing which way I was going or what dangers lurked around me.

However, as a Hunter I had finely honed senses, and I could navigate and fight even without sight. I just had to focus. The sounds of the stone creatures clumsily walking about, the sounds of clawed scaly feet cautiously pacing around the strange forest in search of prey. The scent of rotten eggs that seemed to permeate the entire forest. And... spiritual residue left behind by living creatures such as myself.

-------

[] Follow the strongest spiritual trail.
[] Follow one of the weaker spiritual trails.
[] Clear out some of the cockatrices, just to be safe.
>> No. 62332
[x] Follow the strongest
*Fairy joke goes here*

Well that was... disorienting. Awesome, but disorienting.
>> No. 62333
[x] Follow the strongest
*Fairy joke goes here*

Well that was... disorienting. Awesome, but disorienting.
>> No. 62334
[x] Follow the strongest
*Fairy joke goes here*

Well that was... disorienting. Awesome, but disorienting.
>> No. 62335
>>62330
Unlikely.
If anyone is actually curious about possible scenes that never came to be, I might do a Q&A at the end about that sort of stuff.
>> No. 62338
[x] Follow the strongest spiritual trail.

It might reunite us with someone and get closer to the end.
>> No. 62342
>>62332
>>62333
>>62334

Looks like you triple posted, considering it's the exact same post under the exact same time stamp. Wait for the page to load next time.

As for my vote:

[X] Follow the strongest spiritual trail.
>> No. 62345
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62345
Update on Monday.
Have a nice blood moon, everyone.
>> No. 62346
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62346
Relax, breathe in, breathe out, establish a rhythm, let your life force ripple through your body. Sense the spiritual energy of the world around you. Paint a picture in your head. Every sound, every scent, every vibration, every pulse of a soul, my senses picked it up and added to my understanding of my surroundings. The area immediately around me lit up in my head at first. The strange “grass”, it was not alive, remaining as dark as your vision would normally be when your eyes are closed. The path, however... I could sense lingering spiritual trails behind me, my own footsteps, as well as very faint trails heading forward. Guiding me. As my level of focus improved, so did my range of acquisition; the cockatrices lit up, being living creatures with souls of their own, but the strange rock-like creatures remained dim, the only sensation of their existence and movement being sound and vibration. They almost felt like automatons, but even a golem would have spiritual residue left behind from magical animation... how bizarre.

I took a step forward, and nearly tripped. Sight beyond sight is fine and all, but that didn't mean I had put much training into walking about with my eyes closed, missing depth perception and all. The ground wasn't particularly even either, even on the path that seemed to snake its way through the alien landscape before me. I focused on stabilizing my breathing yet again, so as not to lose my senses; I clicked my tongue a few times to help get a better feel for the path. Kind of like a bat's echolocation, I thought to myself with an ironic smirk as a vampire hunter. In any case, I proceeded forward, deciding to pay no heed to the chicken-dinosaurs lurking by the roadsides. Time and again, they would make various noises to try and attract my attention, but I continued to disregard them. Cockatrices rarely ever fight unless cornered, preferring defenseless, petrified prey.

No, I wasn't interested in the lizards. Far out in the forest, I could sense other spiritual signatures, shining brighter than mere monsters; several of them, in fact. One of them, however, shone more intense than all the rest, nearly overwhelming my senses once I felt its presence. Naturally, I decided to head that way - it was possible that this was one of my companions, and meeting up would be a wise decision. Still, such a powerful aura... could it have been some manner of boss monster of sorts? Even so, defeating it wouldn't be such a bad idea, so all possibilities would warrant investigation.

It truly did feel unnatural, though. No life whatsoever, a dead forest created artificially through supernatural means, underground. I glanced upward with my blindfolded eyes, the artificial moon meeting my gaze. Literally meeting my gaze, as my senses perceived the moon as a giant eye, watching me, shining brightly as a spiritual beacon up above. How... unsettling, to say the least. That being said, I wasn't exactly surprised that I was being watched. Odds are that my observer was hastily constructing new obstacles as we continued our exploration of the mansion basement, hence the strangely “rushed” feeling of the area generation.

The aura became more and more overbearing the closer I got to it, making it increasingly difficult to maintain my breathing. Worse, it was drowning out the scant other life signs in the area such as those cockatrices. This aura... I didn't think any of my companions had quite such an imposing presence, did they? The vampire, perhaps, although I could've sworn I had kicked her ass rather thoroughly in that inconclusive battle of ours earlier; surely she hadn't recovered this much in such a short time, had she? Unless she found something to feed on down in the basement somewhere...

My path through the forest was largely uneventful, the odd stone creature jumping in my path to hinder me, only to be shattered by the chain whip. While the fiery enchantment wasn't really doing much, the metal essentially turned it into a wrecking ball against these unnatural rock monsters. The cockatrices seemed to be sufficiently intimidated by this display of violence and increased their distance, no longer interested in me as potential prey... or so I thought, at least, my senses almost overloaded by the aura I was following. At times the rock monsters came at me in groups, slowing me down a bit but ultimately remaining unable to land a blow on me, promptly earning a spiked metal ball to the face-... well, where a face would be for a normal creature. I didn't even ruin my breathing.

Past a certain point, my mind's eye saw nearly nothing but pure white. I had no choice but to loosen my concentration a bit, tone down my senses so as not to be blinded even with my eyes already blindfolded. The main downside of doing so was completely losing track of the stone creatures as long as they weren't moving; every now and then I'd pick up traces of one as it shifted from one spot to another, but as long as they held still they were undetectable to me. Or perhaps there simply weren't that many around, the closer I got to the oppressive spiritual aura. I could feel cold sweat forming on my body, the strength in my legs wavering... This wasn't fear, it was something external, a sheer difference in power of the soul between me and whatever was out there.

All of a sudden the aura seemed to... shrink, almost. Condense might be a better word. It still felt just as powerful, but more... compact, focused to one area. As my senses slowly adjusted to this, I began making out a general idea of the size and shape of the creature before me.

...Smaller than I expected. A lot smaller. Smaller than me, even. I focused my senses again, struggling to maintain my breathing rhythm, and tried to make out some details. Two legs, two arms. Two wings. So, humanoid but not quite human. Just standing there, presumably staring at me. Now, who did I know that had wings and short stature...?

“Remilia... Scarlet?”

I felt the response before I heard it; the aura pulsed violently, sending a wave of nausea through my body, and the figure slowly tilted its head.

“...Bye,” was the only word she uttered, more of a whisper than anything, only audible thanks to my senses being in overdrive. Good thing, too, because this allowed me to actually dodge the lunging attack that followed right after, the air whistling a deadly tune as she whirled past my body, missing me by mere inches.

If this truly was Remilia, she seemed... slower. Well, that would make sense in her injured state, but I couldn't exactly check with my eyes, us still being surrounded by cockatrices and all. The lizards had apparently decided to surround us in a circle, perhaps hoping to gang up on the winner while they're distracted and wounded... or simply to scavenge the corpse of the loser, which seemed more likely for the cowardly beasts. To their credit, keeping their distance was a wise choice if this was to turn out to be another battle between vampire and hunter.

In any case, fighting while blindfolded wasn't exactly an optimal scenario for me. Sure, I could manage it against foes up to a certain threat level. Vampires competent and powerful enough to elude extermination for five centuries? Probably not. At best I could evade - another reckless charge lacking all finesse coming at me, which I sidestepped - stall for time, and hope for backup to arrive, but how likely was that?

Perhaps more likely than I would've thought.

Something, or someone, was clearing out the cockatrices from one side. I hadn't noticed them approaching - it felt like two very faint traces of life, barely noticeable, as if they were mere fragments of a full soul each. I hadn't even noticed them approaching... no, much like how one can only notice a black hole by observing its effects on its surroundings, this destructive force was only brought to my attention once the life signs of the cockatrices infesting the forest began to disappear, one by one. Whether an ally or enemy, I couldn't tell yet, but getting rid of those pests could only work in my favor.

Another lunging attack from this impossibly powerful foe that I still couldn't even look at. It felt like trying to swat a fly, annoyed that it managed to dart out of the way, a significant difference in power only compensated via speed. No, this couldn't be Remilia Scarlet, could it...? For a brief moment, I pondered the possibility of the vampire simply deciding to betray me while I was handicapped by my lack of eyesight, but that didn't really make sense. She had nothing to gain from getting rid of me now, when we're teaming up to take down this Flandre character. Furthermore, these attacks were possible to react to, unlike Remilia's near-light-speed swooping and split-second direction changes. Even wounded as she was, I doubted she would've been slowed down this much; the foe in front of me now was even more focused on raw power than Remilia, losing out to her in terms of speed. And yet, I could tell she wasn't even trying yet; the results would differ immediately the moment she got serious..

I positioned myself towards the direction where the cockatrices were being cut down, and reached up to pull the blindfold off my eyes just a tiny bit...

“Hunter! Are you alright?”

Just before I could get a glimpse of my assailant, Youki's voice rang out across the alien forest; my foe, with an audible click of the tongue, fled immediately, disappearing into the dark without a trace. I could sense the cockatrices beginning to flee, so I figured I could afford to take the blindfold off for the time being. Sure enough, the swordsman made his way to me, his running pace not interfering with him sheathing his sword in a graceful motion, like a ritualized form of muscle memory.

“I see you've managed to avoid dying,” I greeted him rudely, eyeing the Magatama necklace around his neck. The number of glowing jewels had not changed.

“Hmph, it would dishonor me as a swordsman to fall prey to the same petrification gimmick a second time.” So he said, completely missing the fact that I was trying to insult him in the first place anyway. Glancing side to side with his beard swaying through the air, he verified that the creatures had fled for now, not wishing to be cut down like the others.
“And yourself? You seem unharmed, but...”

“Please don't sound -that- surprised,” I sighed tiredly, deciding I could stop focusing my senses this hard if I had the use of my eyes again, but...
“Oh?”

I looked over my shoulder, provoking Youki to ask what it was I had sensed, but I merely shushed him, holding him back with one hand as I peered into the dark woods.

A strangely-colored wolf slinked out of the darkness, peering at us with glowing crimson eyes. More specifically, it had its gaze focused on me, seeming cautious.

I sighed again.
“Remilia Scarlet, I take it? This would be the second time I catch you in one of your animal forms.”

On cue, the wolf seemed to almost... smirk? before literally exploding into a swarm of bats, then converging into a humanoid shape in a flash of crimson light; once the light faded, the young noblewoman of the mansion was standing before us once again, still eyeing me with what I could only sense to be some manner of unease. However, a moment later she seemed to resign herself with a sigh of her own, and she approached us with weightless footsteps.

“Hunter. Swordsman. I see the two of you have survived your respective ordeals. Also...” Those crimson eyes, still fixated on me.
“...Just Remilia will do fine. Though it has merely been a single night, it feels like we've been through much together already.” A soft giggle. “Sticking to full name basis would hardly feel appropriate by this point.”

“Well, whatever. But, you've only seen the two of us, then?”
Someone was missing.
“Have you not seen Alice?”

“I have not. But we cannot afford to wait here.”
Remilia turned her gaze in the direction the enemy with the oppressive aura had fled in. Her wings seemed to shudder just a little bit, a single hint of unease her body betrayed even as she tried to keep her cool outside demeanor.
“We've succeeded in cornering Flandre. I can feel it. And we can't let this opportunity go to waste.”

“But-...”

“And, hunter... I believe I owe you an explanation.” Remilia turned her head back to face me, sending a brief glance towards Youki, standing silently behind me; seemingly staying out of the conversation deliberately, his eyes closed as he leaned upon his sword.
“About Flandre, that is.” A moment of hesitation. Brief, but it was there, unable to be hidden. With a slightly shaky voice, Remilia continued.
“She... well, to put it simply, she's my sister.”

Ah. Well, I can't say that scenario wasn't one among several that I had considered likely. Probably not the most likely one out of them, however. Youki seemed unfazed, having apparently figured this out before.

“...You keep your sister locked up in your basement?”

“It's a long story.”

I crossed my arms, letting her know I insisted on hearing it regardless. Surely she knew she couldn't get off that lightly.

“Flandre is... mad. I cannot even bring myself to use more gentle wording than that, her mind is warped beyond hope.” Each word that came out of Remilia's mouth felt deliberately articulated, as if she were consciously forcing herself to mouth out each syllable independently. It didn't take a genius to realize this was a painful subject to talk about, for her. She wasn't keeping eye contact with me anymore, fixated more on her own toes.
“Furthermore, her powers are even greater than mine, and her affinity makes this even worse-... Ah.”

As if she had realized something she had forgotten to do, she blinked to herself, looking up at me again.

“Hunter, you are aware of everyone having an affinity of sorts, yes?”

“A special power or talent unique to them, sure. Go on.”

“Indeed. For example, my lovely Patchouli might be a western magician, but her affinity is tied to the traditional Chinese elements. This allows her to use various types of magic with tremendous efficiency, such as water magic, or even sun magic.”
As if beaming with pride over her dear friend, Remilia actually smiled for a moment, the tip of her fang peeking out from behind her lips.
“Or, Meiling, my capable gatekeeper... Her affinity lies with Qi. Among her natural abilities as a guardian lion that grant her near-immortality, this affinity allows her to channel the flow of energy, enhancing her martial arts. Hmm...”

Remilia seemed to ponder something for a moment, eyeing me up and down.

“...You probably would not have seen it. With you being human, she probably didn't feel the need to resort to her flashier attacks, but Meiling's Qi affinity presents itself through techniques with rainbow-like trails. Do you know how a rainbow is produced, hunter?”

“Light refracting through water droplets in the air, I believe.”

“Correct,” she praised me with a smirk.
“You might be noticing a pattern. I do, indeed, enjoy surrounding myself with companions that can utilize vampiric weaknesses.” She paused for a moment to gaze at the silver-tipped knives visible on my coat.
“Strange, isn't it?”

No, it wasn't strange at all. After all, she didn't seek out such talents because of herself, but...
“...To keep Flandre in check?”

“My, how well you connect the dots!” Remilia laughed softly, her voice echoing through the now-deserted forest clearing.
“Honestly, unlike the puppeteer's doll-handling skills, or our tall companion's swordsmanship skills, I would've definitely liked to take you in as another resident of the mansion, dear hunter. Your skills and weaponry... Ah well, it looks like we'll need to put them to practical use tonight in any case.”

There was a brief pause where she collected her thoughts, then continued.
“Flandre's affinity is... destruction, plain and simple. Combined with the phenomenal power levels of her corrupted blood, and the shattered state of her mind, all I could hope to do was to lock her up to keep her from escaping into the outside world.”

Another pause.

“...I am not proud, as a sister,” Remilia continued with a shaky voice again.
“I have failed in many ways. Failed as a loving elder sister by treating Flandre like some kind of monster. Failed as a - former - human by being unable to vanquish the monster and spare the world of her existence. Failed as her jailor by being unable to stop loving her. I tried, once, to put her out of her misery, long ago... but all I could do was sunder her wings beyond recovery.”
That smile of hers was starting to quiver. Her nails were digging into the palms of her hands
“Just a scar on her body to remind her of what a terrible sister she has, I'm sure. But, hunter...”

Suddenly, she looked up at me again, her eyes glistening wet but refusing to shed a single tear out of stubborn will.
“I have not given up hope. Do you know why, hunter? It's because of my own affinity, my own special... gift. The ability to manipulate fate, to seek out the one path that will end our tortured existence. And I need your help. You must be the executioner to put our souls to rest, so Flandre can be freed of her madness and I can be freed of the weight of my sins.”

I hadn't said anything in a while now; it simply didn't feel appropriate to interrupt her as she grieved for her still-living sister, as she lamented her sins and failures to me.

But the way she was looking up at me, bearing the face of a child instead of a devil, it felt as if I should say something.

------

[] Say something encouraging or reassuring.
-{} (optional: write-in)
[] Say something... else? (write-in only)
[] No more time to waste on dialogue. Let's go find Alice.
>> No. 62348
People must be thinking hard on it.
>> No. 62350
Of course. Dialogue seems goodgood, but what do we say? Do we fuel her hidden hopes while destroying her determination? Do we try to make her forget 5 lifetimes of pain with some half assed speech?
And what of Alice? Is she in danger? Is any word uttered a nail in her coffin? I don't know.
>> No. 62355
[x] Say something encouraging or reassuring.
-[x] "You may control fate to a degree, but the future is still in our hands. Don't falter now, we will find a way to relieve her burden, one way or the other."
>> No. 62357
>>62355
[x] Say something encouraging or reassuring.
-[x] "You may control fate to a degree, but the future is still in our hands. Don't falter now, we will find a way to relieve her burden, one way or the other."

Though I'd also like to add
[X] Say something... else? (write-in only)
-[X] Before we move on, we need to find Alice

It's our fault she's in this mess, so it's our job to get her out of it, right?
>> No. 62359
File 14437350486.png - (321.48KB , 540x602 , 11913882_10153474773059020_5527919604201051772_n.png ) [iqdb]
62359
>>62357
Yeah, she just wanted to get the fuck out of dodge for a long time now. And we even ruined the reason she's here in the first place.

Damn, I feel (even more) bad now.
>> No. 62360
[] Say something encouraging or reassuring.
>> No. 62363
[ ] Say something encouraging or reassuring.
-[ ] "You may control fate to a degree, but the future is still in our hands. Don't falter now, we will find a way to relieve her burden, one way or the other."
>> No. 62370
Stuff came up, gonna be today or tomorrow.
>> No. 62374
>>62370
OR YOU COULD BE A USELESS PIECE OF SHIT FOR OVER A WEEK
Ugh. Okay, going to give myself another generous estimate of "within the week" and try to get my shit together so we can resume on something vaguely resembling an actual schedule.
>> No. 62378
>>62374

Take your time, we'll be waiting for you.
>> No. 62386
>>62378
Thanks, I appreciate it.
On that note, I've been getting bombarded with work lately, hence the giant delays. On the upside, I have zero obligations for all of next week, so I'm going to devote the extra free time to catching up with updates.
>> No. 62387
File 144486344190.jpg - (84.60KB , 360x504 , hooray.jpg ) [iqdb]
62387
>>62386
>> No. 62408
File 144549085399.png - (642.66KB , 962x1080 , 51ad6befba3acfeb634d5ee5067ed5a9.png ) [iqdb]
62408
So there I was, gazing down on this little girl on the verge of tears, holding them back through determination alone, a drive to see this through to the end. And yet, she was also unquestionably a monster, the very same one I had been sent to destroy, one beyond pity or mercy. So, why did I feel a strange urge to say something encouraging? A part of me that felt alien, foreign, telling me that tears would not suit her face. That they'd blemish it, like spilling something filthy onto an antique painting. And this, coming from the subconscious of a so-called hunter that had only just recently dealt countless wounds to her with their own two hands...

“...Look,” I started, unsure why I was bothering in the first place, “fate manipulation is fine and all, but the future is still in our hands. We won't get anything done just by standing here, right? We'll figure out how to finish this when we get that far, no use fussing about it just yet.”

The way I said it, you'd almost think I wasn't planning on killing them both in the end. I knew that wasn't the case, Remilia knew that wasn't the case; and yet, she seemed ever so slightly relieved by hearing those words anyway, giving me a firm nod of affirmation. At the very least, raising her morale would make her more reliable for the time being - we still had an unknown length of unknown territory to fight through, after all.

“...Yes, you're right. There's no use dwelling on morbid subjects before the time is at hand.” She almost seemed to smile, though it was bittersweet at best.

“...Also, we seem to be missing a party member.”
The three of us glanced around ourselves, suddenly aware of the fact that our split paths seemed to have converged, yet the puppeteer remained absent. She couldn't have gone and gotten herself turned to stone by a cockatrice, could she? Or had she fallen prey to some monster before even reaching this strange forest? Well, I felt I still owed her for coming to my aid so many times, even when she had the chance to just run back home.
“We should probably go look for her before we move on, no?”

Remilia, now having regained her composure, shook her head; before I could say anything, she explained herself.
“Remember when I linked us earlier?” I gave her a hesitant nod.
“Trust me, I'd be the first to know if she died. Besides, not only is she alive, but-...”
The vampire turned aside, gesturing into the darkness ahead; I couldn't make anything out in the distance, but I could see another path headed that way.
“...she's ahead of us.”

A faint chuckle from my side reminded me of the swordsman's presence.
“Well then, there's no issue, is there? Looking for the puppeteer and progressing forward, both these goals lie in the same direction. Let us proceed.”
Not even waiting for us to respond, Youki began to head down the path, his hand resting on the hilt of his sword. Remilia and I exchanged a brief glance, before following him.

-------

“So... what is this place, anyway?” I scanned our surroundings as we walked, what little of it I could see in the darkness. Most of the indigenous monsters had fled or been killed, so it was almost... calm, in a way, once you got used to the bizarre "flora".
“And how did Alice get past us anyway?”

“No idea,” came the carefree response from in front of me.
“I might have said this before, but the mansion's basement is outside of my influence. Furthermore, it's outside the realm of rhyme or reason, beyond order...”
Remilia twirled in place, looking up at me as she continued walking backwards.
“There's no up or down or left or right here, technically. She just happens to have appeared closest to our goal, that's all.”

“Oh yeah? How do you know which way to go, anyway?”

She shot a fanged smirk at me, before twirling around again and showing me her back as we kept walking.
“I'm linked to Flandre as well, naturally.”

Ah. That did make sense, of course. Even in this chaotic plane of existence where gravity and the laws of physics seemed to bend and invert at the whim of an invisible master, Remilia's bond of fate with her sister would give her a constant awareness of her general location. Maybe. Probably. Honestly, who could say, given what we had seen so far. I had decided a while back to simply roll with it and see what happens.

My boots were getting hairy. The "grass" of this forest clung to them as if trying to stop us from making any progress. Even so, the surroundings remained the same in my eyes, shapeless black hills cloaked in darkness, silhouettes of twisted trees barely visible in what little light the false moon in the sky cast down.

That is, until something changed. We had been walking along that monotonous, unchanging path for an immeasurable amount of time, when all of a sudden out of nowhere, the scenery changed. Gone were the strange bone trees and fleshy soil, giving way to dull, lifeless rock - a more natural sight, to be sure, but gloomy in its own way, not a single sight of plant life or living creatures around us. It truly did feel like an underground cave. A light splash echoed through the cavern as my boot landed on the edge of a small puddle, droplets of water sprinkling into the air... not falling down, but accelerating straight up. Blinking vigorously in surprise, I glanced around myself, noticing other small sources of water dripping upwards, unfettered by gravity.

“Huh."

“Indeed," Youki responded, “the deeper we get, the stranger our surroundings."
Even the swordsman seemed somewhat shaken, an unusual emotion for him. It's not that water disobeying gravity was that scary or anything, no... Even I could feel something eerie in the very air around us. The way our footsteps made no echo through the air, the way our breath didn't create fog in the chilling air that was becoming increasingly unbearable. None of this felt natural in any way.

Not that I expected it to. If the mansion was a creature of chaos, then this was the belly of the beast. Compared to the relatively orderly above-ground form, I was sure what we'd find at the end of this path would be... well, I wasn't actually sure, to be honest. This was all a little out of my scope. Usually I'd just find the boss vampire on their throne or in their coffin, kill them and be off. Sure, some dungeon diving is often involved, but I felt like I was literally descending into hell that time. It wasn't fear, it was... uncertainty.

Why was I there?

Remilia could see me fidgeting with one of my knives, tense and agitated. Not that I was trying to hide it, but her keeping her gaze on me, the corner of a red eye glowing in the darkness... it kind of made me want to use that knife to get her to stop staring.

No, we were all on edge. The further we got - another path with no length that one could sense, seemingly infinite - the worse it got. The madness in the air was infections like a plague. The strangely behaving water, was it even real, or a hallucination? I reached out with my hand to catch a few drops of water headed for the cavern ceiling, and my hand most definitely got wet.

All of a sudden, we began to make out a shape in the darkness. Something akin to a large stalactite formation is what it looked like at first, its silhouette and basic size and shape revealed by the last vestiges of light passing through the caves reflecting off its surfaces. No, that size and shape... unnatural, not a natural rock formation. We were still too far away to get a good look, but an oppressive heat could be felt on our faces, and our eyes began to tingle as we drew closer.

Alice was there too, hiding behind some rocks overlooking a yawning chasm of a cliff, above which hung the strange formation. I waved at her, awkwardly, my motions feeling sluggish as if they were in slow motion, the knife still in my hand. A small hand grasped my wrist, wrenching the knife from my hand and snapping me out of it, bringing me back to my senses; Remilia was beside me, saying something. I couldn't hear her - my eyes were drawn towards that THING in the cavern ceiling, that THING bathing the surroundings in a dark scarlet light now that we were close enough, trapping Alice in the shade of the rock she was hiding behind, glaring at us and motioning for us to stay away with one hand, gripping her skull with the other.

It was another mansion. No, it was... definitely the same mansion we were inside just now, except different, yet the same. Hanging from the cavern ceiling. Warped, walls suddenly just ending, curving into themselves, angles that do no make sense if you follow them with your eyes, shapes you never knew existed-...
Remilia brought me to my senses a second time, slapping me nearly hard enough to dislodge a tooth. I just stared at her blankly as she yelled something else to me. Her voice sounded muffled, as if she were far away or underwater. Everything was becoming a blur - the last few hours of walking, what we were doing, why we were here. My brain felt like someone's finger had been stuck in there, probing, digging, burrowing, scooping out bits...

I could only focus on one thing at the time - Remilia gesturing towards the upside-down mansion, and then to Alice, desperate anxiety plain on her face as she realized the effect this alien mansion was having on our minds...

Focus, focus. My brain is my own. My mind is my own...

...I felt very nauseous.

-------

[] Have Remilia fetch Alice, sit down and try to regain your senses.
[] Go get Alice, have Remilia do something about the crazy-rays that thing is giving off.
>> No. 62409
[] Go get Alice, have Remilia do something about the crazy-rays that thing is giving off.
>> No. 62410
[x] Go get Alice, have Remilia stop crazy x rays

Remi fetching Alice is the right choice, considering she seems to be inmune to those rays and the fact that Alice being ahead speaks of a trap. And that's without mentioning that Margatroid herself signaled us to get away.

However, on her state, who's to say that she won't feel attacked when a vampire flies toward her? An infighting is just what we don't need right now. And the Hunter (without a Knife in her hand) is a friendlier
Sure, it will be a test of our Mc's mental fortitude... But she's still in her debt.
>> No. 62411
[x] Go get Alice, have Remilia stop crazy x rays
>> No. 62412
[~] Go get Alice, have Remilia do something about the crazy-rays that thing is giving off.
>> No. 62413
[x] Have Remilia fetch Alice, sit down and try to regain your senses.

The hunter shouldn't do jack shit until he has calmed down.
>> No. 62431
Update Thursday or Sunday, gonna possibly/probably be away from home in between those.
>> No. 62868
Yup.
>> No. 62869
I know right? I was really looking forward to becoming Remilia's dog.
>> No. 62900
File 145419316476.jpg - (27.53KB , 400x400 , 7.jpg ) [iqdb]
62900
Gensokyo High v2 everyone.
>> No. 63096
>>62900

v3, asshole. GET IN LINE
>> No. 63395
Earth calls Taisa, earth calls Taisa!
Are you ok? Is this gonna end anytime?
>> No. 63498
Remember when Taisa bought the lamp and literally nothing changed? I do.
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