Remilia scratched her fang. An opportunity like this was begging to be taken advantage of, but she would have to be careful. Fate was monstrously unpredictable. She liked to give the impression that she could bend it to her will, but in actuality she was little more than a secretary, sending it the occasional note that it may or may not pay attention to. When it did, it was under no obligation to work in her benefit, and if there was anything that brought down fate's ire, it was someone trying to game the system to their advantage.
She could do something minor, though. Fate didn't seem to mind minor pokes and nudges, if they were spaced out appropriately.
"Sakuya, my fate-papers and fate-pen."
A hidden pouch in Sakuya's apron held the paper Remilia reserved for fate contracts. There was nothing exceptional about it, but it helped make the whole affair feel more special. Remilia took the papers and walked back towards Mystia.
"Food's up," Mystia chirped, and presented them with two bowls of grilled eels over rice, chopsticks sticking out of them. Remilia thanked her own brilliance that she spent so much time farting around in China and Japan, so she knew how to use these effectively. Sakuya was halfway to scooping up food with her hands when she saw Remilia pinch the chopsticks between her fingers and followed suit.
Remilia took a bite. It wasn't bad at all. There was certainly a unique terroir from the food around here.
"Mmm, this is quite nice. Mystia. You really do deserve more customers for this fine food. In fact, I may have a solution for you. My name is Remilia Scarlet. You could consider me a lucky charm of sorts."
She tapped the paper on the table. "You see, with these enchanted sheets, I can send a message to fate. If you don't mind, I'd like to ask it to give you more customers."
"A-Are you gonna tie a red string to my finger?" Mystia asked, her face suddenly red. Her ears lowered like a cat's.
"No need to fear, my dear--"
"Y-You seem nice, but I hardly know you!" Mystia covered her face with her hands.
"I'm afraid I don't--"
"I'm a working woman! I'm not ready to settle down and live the family life!" Her wings flapped inside the crowded kitchen.
Remilia cleared her throat loudly. "I'm afraid there's a miscommunication here. I can assure you, whatever you think I'm going to do, that's not what I'm doing."
"Oh! Okay." Mystia folded her wings back up and lowered her hands.
"What I would like is for you to sign this contract, just as soon as I'm finished." Remilia scribbled quickly, trying to finish the contract before this birdbrain could get any more wild ideas in her pretty little head.
"What's it say?"
Remilia knew she couldn't outright lie; that was another thing that fate hated. She chose her words carefully.
"More customers will come your way, but on one condition: If asked about your success, you must tell them it was thanks to the Scarlet Devil Mansion's blessings."
Mystia cocked her head. "What if I don't say that?"
"Then you lose fate's blessing."
"Oh, that's great. So it's no-risk?"
Remilia grunted. "I make no guarantees."
She passed her the paper, now completed, with a space at the bottom for Mystia's signature. Mystia reached for a pair of glasses hanging from a small hook on the kitchen wall. Remilia tensed. If she read all the fine print, she might ask more and more questions. Mystia picked up the paper and adjusted her glasses. She looked up and down over the paper, then nodded, smiling wide.
"I can't read this," she said.
Remilia realized she had been writing in French this whole time. Including the note she left in the village.
"It's just the same stuff I told you already. No need to worry."
"That sounds legitimate and trustworthy," Mystia said. She picked up the pen and wrote her name along the bottom in big, bubbly letters. At least, Remilia assumed they were big and bubbly. She could barely read Japanese to begin with.
"Then, it's settled. We are bound by fate, platonically," Remilia said.
"Huh. I don't feel any different." Mystia put a long fingernail to her chin.
"Just wait, my dear. It will come." Remilia took the contract, folded it up, and slid it under her collar.
Mystia shrugged, still evidently not understanding. She slid off her glasses, her smile coming off with them when she noted Remilia's half-full bowl. "You better eat your food, you know. It's getting cold."
"Ah, yes, right."
Remilia had hoped to make a dramatic exit, but a slow exit after grilled eel would have to do. She ate quickly, and as soon as her food was finished, she set her chopsticks across the bowl.
"Well then, I must be go--"
"Did you like it?" Mystia squeaked, beaming.
"Yes, it was nice. I'd love to stay, but duty calls at my mansion."
"Alright. Fly safely!"
"See you later, Mystia." Remilia grinned back, then stepped away from the stand. Sakuya scarfed down the last few bites of food, then stood up.
"Wait, you've still got rice on your cheek." Mystia leaned over with a napkin and wiped her cheek.
They had to leave quickly, Remilia thought. This girl could give Meiling a run for her money, and pleasant, well-meaning people made her uncomfortable.
The trip back to the mansion went without much to note. Remilia could see by the moonlight that the grape seeds planted just days ago were already hearty sprouts. For once, the night made her feel tired. She couldn't resist a yawn once she dismounted from Sakuya.
"Still adjusting to the new cycle," she mumbled to herself as Sakuya held open the door for her.
Progress had been made, but there were a few loose ends bothering her. She needed to check with Patchouli, and throw a rock at a faerie, and one or two other things. This was when she was normally at her most active, but right now she wanted a nice, long nap.
[ ] Give in and adjust to being active during the day, then do things tomorrow. [ ] Stay up, have some tea, and do things tonight.
[x] Stay up, have some tea, and do things tonight.
Remilia stretched her neck. It wasn't worth trying to unlearn centuries of nocturnal activity over something as small as dimension-shifting. Especially not when there were things still to be done.
"Sakuya, could you get me some tea? I'll be back in just a moment."
Remilia yanked open the door and slipped out for a second, just long enough to grab a small, smooth rock from the garden, then ducked back in and shut the door. Sakuya appeared with a fresh mug of black tea.
"Thank you. By the way, I need to talk with a faerie. Messy blue hair, taller than usual, kind of scrawny."
"That would be Omelette. The name was her choice. She should be restocking the fireplace in the lounge."
"I see. I'll be right back."
Remilia couldn't remember the last time she had used the fireplace, so 'restocking', like many other things, was mostly code for where they were goofing around. Remilia walked up the stairs and let herself into the lounge, where Omelette was balancing the fireplace poker on her nose.
"Hey, Omelette," Remilia said.
The faerie jerked her head and had the reflexes to catch the poker before it hit the ground. "Yes'm?"
"Reimu sends her regards."
"Gorf," Omelette said as the rock pelted her in the chest.
That's one thing off her list, Remilia thought. Next, the library. She hurried back to the first floor, where Sakuya was still waiting with the cup of tea. Remilia took a sip, then set it back down on the tray and went to the library. Inside, Patchouli was back to her normal state of reading and looking surly at the table in front of the bookshelves, her head peeking out from behind a fortress of books.
"Evening, Patchy. Burning the midnight oil?"
"As usual," Patchouli harrumphed.
"You were up to something interesting earlier, to be hustling around like that."
Remilia could only see the top half of Patchouli's face, but the wince she made was hard to miss. "Leftovers," Patchouli said.
Remilia walked over and sat on the edge of the table, looking down at Patchouli. "Leftovers of what?"
"Previous experiments. Ever find notebooks with half-finished equations, notes, diary entries? Imagine that but with living creatures made of magic."
"Oh. That sounds like something we should be worried about, Patchy."
Patchouli winced again. "Thankfully not. It seems for all my studies, my only audience is the dregs of the demon world."
"Hey!" Koakuma's voice shouted back from somewhere.
"The demonette in question is over in C6 if you really must see her. She's already devoured all the romance novels that made their way here, so she'll be sent home as soon as I finish the research." Patchouli flipped the page of her book.
"Is she the only one?"
Patchouli thought for a long moment, then shrugged. "Dunno."
Why not, Remilia thought. May as well check it out.
Small tables were set up throughout the library, nestled against half-moon shaped bookcases. When Remilia made her way to row C, aisle 6, she found someone who looked like a relative of Koakuma. Same build, same fiery red hair, but she was shorter and wearing a smart-looking black dress with a bowtie on the front. She was busy poking through the rows of books when Remilia cleared her throat.
Mini-Koa's face fell when she turned around. "Dang, I was hoping you'd be Patchouli."
"Are you the only demon here aside from Koakuma?"
"The only one walking around, so far as I know. That librarian's got enough demons stored in grimoires around here to level a country."
"Oh." Remilia bit her lip. Perhaps her habit of picking up any and every magical book she had found wasn't the best decision.
"Eh, they should stay stuck in there so long as she doesn't do anything ridiculous."
Remilia bit her lip harder. Mini-Koa smirked seeing Remilia squirm. "People here don't think things through a lot, do they?" she remarked.
"Shaddap and get back to your trashy novels," Remilia said.
"Fine." She took a random book from the shelf and sat down.
Remilia turned and walked away. Mini-Koa couldn't get to Remilia; she could regret bad decisions perfectly fine on her own. She walked back over to Patchouli.
"You have a habit of summoning assholes, Patchy."
"Koakuma's alright, isn't she?"
"True. Koakuma's nice enough." Remilia shrugged her shoulders. "So, going to be staying up late?"
"Time has little meaning in this place. Which is oddly fitting." Patchouli let out a snicker without smiling.
Ah, time. Fate's somewhat more reliable but equally annoying brother. Her taste of controlling them only reminded her of how both could flatten everything out in the end. She shook her head. Being around Patchouli made her too thoughtful for her own good.
That was it: Beer!
"Be back later, Patchy. I got me an idea," Remilia said.
"God save us all," Patchouli said.
After she left the library, Remilia snatched the teacup from Sakuya again and chugged the lukewarm tea as she passed. "Follow me."
They returned to the office Remilia had set up earlier, and Remilia snatched up the books on beer-brewing. She read through the basic process. Okay, she didn't have hops. She'd find a way to make beer without hops, then. A half-hour of flipping through books led her to some recipes for Gruit.
"Rosemary. We've got tons of that in the pantry. Juniper. We've got some tried juniper berries, don't we? It's so good with venison. Yarrow. Mugwort. I bet Meiling's got something close to that in her garden. Let's go ask her." Remilia tucked the book under her arm and went walking towards the door. Sakuya followed.
"If she has it I'm going to feel so smart. Even when I let people have nice things, I'm still benefitting from it."
She pushed the front door open and nearly bumped right into Meiling. "Oh!" Meiling giggled. "You startled me."
"Do you keep any yarrow root or mugwort?"
Meiling's face beamed so brightly Remilia nearly had to shield herself from it. "Those are essentials to Chinese medicine, so I always keep some handy. Did a faerie come down with Blood Heat?"
"No, actually, we're going to use it for beer," Remilia said.
"That's great," Meiling said.
"You don't think it's sacreligious or anything?"
"Of course not. Beer has a storied medicinal tradition!"
Remilia wasn't going to argue, especially if it meant Meiling would stay excited about things. The three of them set to work gathering ingredients, piling them together in the kitchen.
"Is there anywhere else we could do this? I'd rather not fill up the kitchen too much. But it'd need enough ventilation to not make the hole place smell like smoke."
"What about the furnace room?" Sakuya suggested.
"We have a furnace room?"
"Of course. It's always been there. It's by the servants' quarters."
Remilia couldn't remember ever hearing about a furnace room, but she would assume, for now, that it existed.
"Well, works for me. Let's get things set up. Then, if any faeries are still up and faffing around, we can set them to work on watching the mash as it boils."
Remilia thought back on the faeries she'd gotten to know better now that she actually paid attention to them. Were there any that might be especially good at it -- or at least, would fail in more hilarious ways than others?
[ ] 2-3 of the named faeries of the voter's choice. [ ] Let's learn some new names.
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[x] Let's learn some new names.
"First, let's get the barley malting while we set things up," Remilia said. "Meiling, take the barley to the kitchen and have the faeries put it in a clean pot full of water."
"Aye aye, ma'am." Meiling saluted and hefted the heavy bucket of barley, heading off towards the kitchen. Sakuya and Remilia took the satchels of herbs and roots, the brewery book tucked under Remilia's arm.
"I know we don't have the brewery equipment yet, but we can call this a practice run if it turns out bad. A small batch should be fine."
Remilia felt the words 'It can't be that hard, right?' form in the back of her mouth, then stopped herself. Fate loved its ironies and all that. She held her tongue as Sakuya led her to their destination.
"Well, I'll be damned. We really do have a furnace room," Remilia said as Sakuya pushed open the door.
Inside, a large rounded structure sat on the floor, like a massive hollow ball stuck halfway into the ground. A wide pipe came up from the top. Remilia had never remembered seeing a chimney at the top of her castle, but she had a sinking feeling that if she went to look now, it would be there.
She pushed away her existential confusion and directed her attention to the trio of faeries curled up by the fire, napping, one with a headband and two with mob caps. "Hey, wake up, you three," she said, nudging the closest one in the side with her foot.
"M'wake!" the headband faerie grunted. Her wings flapped to life, lifting her into the air as she righted herself. The other two stirred, blinking up at the sudden noise.
"Mistress, thank goodness you're here! A wizard came through with sleeping powder and--"
"Don't even try," Remilia said. "First of all, why the hell are you running the furnace in the summer?"
"Iunno," she mumbled. "It's a furnace room, right? That means you gotta furnace."
"Sakuya, who are these faeries? And... that's the faerie who keeps shouting all the time, isn't it?" Remilia pointed at the headband faerie with blonde hair so short and messy it didn't even touch her forehead.
"Yep!" She beamed, proud of her fame.
Sakuya consulted her notebook. "That one," she pointed to the brown-haired one with freckles and soot on her nose, "is Elodie."
"Isn't it a great name?" Elodie chirped.
Sakuya pointed to the one with black twintails. "That one is Alexandra."
Finally, Sakuya pointed at the shouting-fairy. "And her name is Jeanne."
"Yeah! Theme music!" Jeanne started humming loudly.
"Well, look alive, ladies. You three have a new job now. First, we're going to make this place clean enough to brew beer in. Then, you're going to brew beer."
In truth, the place was fairly clean to begin with. The faeries must've only used the furnace for naps. Still, every book she saw emphasized cleanliness as being very important.
"I'm going to go have lunch. I expect to at least see moderate progress by the time I return," Remilia said.
While there were occasional feasts, lunch at the Scarlet Devil Mansion was a mostly scattered affair, since food would have to be brought to the library for Patchouli and Flandre, and out in the garden for Meiling, and then something else laid out for the first wave of faeries, then the second.
In any case, Sakuya and her kitchen staff still worked on each meal dutifully, and today was no different. Remilia ate her way through apples and brie, herbed peas with almonds, and glazed duck breast in short order. Lunch was quick with nobody to talk to.
After that was finished, Sakuya sent the lunch faeries to get some sleep before dinner prep started; the faeries' sleep cycles were as strange as everyone else around here. She then came over to Remilia with the soaking pot, which now had had time enough to malt, she hoped. The two of them went back to the furnace room slash brewery. Those three faeries had actually done a good job so far and were drying up the floor when they returned. Remilia consulted her book.
"Alright, now get this to a boil and let it go for a couple hours," Remilia said as Sakuya set the pot in the room.
She watched as the faeries turned the large furnace into a makeshift brewing... thingie, and started a fire with only minor burn injuries inflicted on each other.
Remilia rubbed her hands together. "Well done. It's in your hands now, faeries."
"Hey! It was my fault the last ten times so that means I'm due for a success soon," Jeanne shot back.
Remilia slipped out before she heard any more worrying things. That took care of most of the things on her list. She still had a good amount of time before the village would wake back up and come to life again. She thought of the furniture that had started piling up as they had cleaned the rooms and changed them around. More guest rooms would probably be repurposed soon enough. Something needed to be done before the faeries had enough furniture to build a chair fort.
Never again, she thought to herself.
[ ] Pawn it all off to a middleman for a quick fix. [ ] Get some faeries to display it for sale in the village. [ ] Display it outside the mansion. Hopefully, more people will be coming by here.
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[x] Get some faeries to display it for sale in the village.
"Sakuya, what time is it?" Remilia asked.
Sakuya checked her watch. "A little after midnight."
"The perfect time for an aggressive advertising campaign. Sakuya, let's go get some more faeries."
Remilia and Sakuya went from room to room, gathering a collection of various faeries. Remilia suspected that the glasses faerie, Margeroux, had a decent business sense, and that the mob cap faerie, Charlotte, was one of the more charming and approachable of the faeries. After that, all she needed was some muscle, so she picked up some headband faeries whose names escaped her.
"What're we doing?" one of them grumbled, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. When Remilia woke her, she was actually in her bed for once like a normal person, but was wearing her maid uniform underneath. Whatever worked, Remilia supposed, as she led them to the storeroom with stacked furniture.
"I'll tell you what we're doing: We're opening a shop in the village. Why wait around trying to get everything ready? All the humans are asleep right now, and I can come out to the village to supervise. The next morning, all the tax collectors and administrators will wake up and see this fine, lightly-used foreign furniture on sale for them."
Remilia, Sakuya, and the faeries piled the furniture on anything they could find with wheels. Chairs were balanced on kitchen carts, and tables were balanced precariously on dollies. They dragged their loads to the front door, where Sakuya, torch in hand, opened the door and led them out like a general leading a nighttime march.
Meiling was sleeping in the small but neatly-kept shack by the gate. She had her own room in the mansion, but sometimes she preferred to sleep outside because she was apparently in love with dirt or something. Something to do with her river dragon heritage, Remilia guessed. Meiling opened a single eye as they passed, then quickly shut it and pretended to still be sleeping.
Remilia was filled with a strange excitement as she walked in front of Sakuya. Seeing at night was no problem for her. Every few minutes she would glance back and marvel at the trail of furniture following her, the squeak of wheels and rattle of carts. The moonlight dimmed as they made their way down the hill and into the forested area past the lake.
A faerie yelped loudly. Remilia turned her head and saw pairs of wicked red eyes watching from the forest.
Not this time, Remilia thought. One ass-kicking was enough for this week.
She clasped her hands together, then faced her palms towards the forest. A crack like cannon fire rang out, and a massive red ball of energy burst from her hands as big around as she was tall. It ripped through the forest, chewing up trees as the red eyes scattered.
"That was your warning shot," Remilia called to the forest, then turned to the faeries, put her hands on her hips, and grinned.
Half of the faeries swooned appreciatively, and the other half winced at the reminder of how strong she was. Both were good. Remilia heard a sniffle coming through the forest and turned back. A small woman was hunched over, trembling and clutching her red cape to her shoulders, the blue bow in her hair bouncing as she sniffled and shook.
"You s-scared me," she whimpered.
A collective "Aww" came from the faeries.
"Well, ahem," Remilia said, "that's a rather bad first impression, staring down our caravan from the forest like that."
She took a step closer to her, but the girl yelped and flew up into the air, cape fluttering behind her. Something small and round, like a melon, came falling from the sky as she fled. Remilia watched with curiosity until she realized the girl's head had fallen off, then she watched with horror as it hit the ground with a thud.
"Dammit, dammit, dammit!" the head said as its body flew back down, scooped it up, and flew back up without another word.
"Let's never speak of this again," Charlotte said.
"Yep," "Fine by me," and "I'm gonna hurl," came the responses from the faeries.
A little while further and the trees thinned out, the forest opening to a wide plain with little chance of anyone or anything lurking around. The village was still a dot in the distance. They passed by Mystia's stall, which had shut down for the moment. Mystia herself was sleeping on top of the stand, hunched down like a bird.
Past that, the farming cottages were all fast asleep, though dim orange lights came from the village further down the path. Two men, presumably night guards given the bows and arrows slung on their backs, watched as Remilia drew close to the village entrance. One of them stepped forward, meeting her halfway.
"...what," he said.
"Never seen a caravan before?" Remilia asked.
"In the middle of the night, staffed entirely by faeries and... whatever you two are? No, I can't say I have."
Remilia waved to indicate the furniture they'd brought. "Doesn't change the quality of our fine goods."
"What're you..." The guard took a deep breath and pinched his face while the other guard watched, holding back laughter and enjoying the show. "What're you going to do with all that furniture?"
"Sell it," Remilia said.
"During the nighttime?"
"And daytime. We have plenty of staff."
"Do you have a-- Have you talked to-- Did you..." The guard shook his head as words failed him completely. "I'll admit, this is a new one."
"If there are any issues about permits or licensing, I believe this should take care of it. Along with a little something for your troubles, of course." Remilia pulled a stack of bills from her pocket, enough to thumb through with a sense of satisfaction.
The other guard ran up to them. "You're splitting that with me, right?" he asked, wide eyes glued to the mass of bills.
"Then with that settled..." Remilia said.
"Er, yes, I'll talk to the administrator tomorrow morning," the first guard said without looking up from the money. The look in his eyes said that there probably wouldn't be much of it left after tonight.
Inside, there was a surprising amount of activity. All manner of outrageous humanoid creatures were gathered around in bars and dancing circles, a blur of tails, ears, wings, and a couple of scales. The bars were all staffed by bored-looking humans, as if years of serving youkai had dulled any sense of fear and anxiety they once posessed.
But, of course, the partying was kept away from the nicer part of town. Once they passed the initial partying -- and once Remilia dragged more than a few faeries back after they tried to join in the dancing -- it quickly became quiet again.
The luxury market area was large and spaceous, and it took only a little searching to find a nice corner to set up in, even in the dark. "Spread it out. You won't want to have to dig around to get at the bottom of a stack," Remilia said.
They managed not to make too much noise aside from grunts of effort as the solid wood tables were unloaded, and soon had the furniture laid out nicely. The only things left were a stack of money for making change, a notebook, a pair of blankets, and a sign that Remilia had made before heading out, making sure to remember to write it in Japanese: "Exotic Furniture from the Scarlet Estate".
"And, now, we wait. By which I mean you two wait here. We brought blankets so you can sleep if you want. I won't be returning for a while, so if you get in trouble or break anything, it'll be on you."
"You can trust us!" Charlotte pumped her fist.
"Excellent. Then, I leave this in your hopefully capable hands." Remilia clapped her hands on their shoulders, looking down at them with her best imitation of paternal affection.
"Gonna sell the hell out of this furniture," Margeroux said.
They made their way back out of the village, dragging stray faeries away from the revelry again. The guards from earlier both had a mug of strong-smelling alcohol in hand as they left.
"G'night, faeries!" one of them called after them as they left.
Charlotte and Margeroux watched as they left. Margeroux adjusted her glasses, mostly for show. "Do you think they'd respond more to the hard sell? Or will the furniture speak for itself? Maybe emphasize its foreign appeal? It's all one-of-a-kind in here."
"Hm? Sorry, I wasn't listening," Charlotte said, half-way under one of the blankets. She held it open. "Want to cuddle?"
"Charlotte, this is serious. We need a sales plan in mind. Then we can cuddle."
[ ] Rely on Charlotte's faerie charmingness. [ ] Rely on Margeroux's business sense.
Sorry for the slight delay! Can you believe it's the 25th already?
I'm grateful to have so many people reading and enjoying my story, and I will definitely be continuing Remilia's economic adventures after the end of the month. However, plot elements have kind of been piling up, which is part of why updates have been later and later into the night each time. I'll do my best to keep a regular update schedule after the 30th, but it most likely won't be daily updates. Thanks for reading!
I actually think this will work better. The Village knows fairies, and I'm fairly certain they don't have a high opinion of them. So I doubt any of them will take a business fairy seriously. One that wants to cuddle and sell you a nice chair so her boss is happy though? Much easier to understand.
Won't be the most profitable, at least initially, but it gets our foot in the door.
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[x] Rely on Charlotte's faerie charmingness.
Margeroux rubbed her chin. "You're kind of adorable. We could use that to our advantage tomorrow. How do you feel about humans?"
"Dunno the last time I've seen one. They're like bigger faeries but without wings, right?" Even when she was falling asleep, Charlotte's default expression seemed to be a big, beaming smile. Brainless but heartwarming, Margeroux thought.
"Close enough," Margeroux concluded. "We'll see how they respond to your affable nature tomorrow morning." Leaving it at that, she climbed under the blanket next to Charlotte and took on the role of the big spoon.
"Well, good," Charlotte said after a lot of thought.
"My arm's falling asleep already."
"Here." Charlotte shifted, moving Margeroux's arm.
"Yes. Good night."
The pair of them fell fast asleep. Faeries, even the Scarlet Devil Mansion ones, didn't especially need creature comforts. They liked soft clothes and warm beds as much as anyone else, but had no trouble sleeping outside with little more than a blanket.
What they couldn't sleep through was a finger jabbing them in the shoulder. Margeroux was startled awake and squinted as the morning sun hit her in the face. A young girl with a topknot was poking at her as an older woman in neatly-made but boring-looking clothes watched.
"Welcome to the exotic furniture thing," she mumbled, trying to play the saleswoman while she was still waking up. She shook Charlotte's shoulder and watched as she went through the same routine.
"Oh! It's morning," Charlotte said, wings buzzing.
"What're you two doing in the village like this?" the girl asked.
"Selling fine furniture," Margeroux said. She threw the blanket off of her and slid off of the table. "Sorry about that. As you can see, we have a collection of fine foreign furniture, sturdy and beautiful." She grabbed a nearby chair and gestured to it.
"You're faeries," the woman in boring clothes watching them said.
"Nothing wrong with a faerie participating in a free economy, is there?"
"I mean, kind of. This is the first time I've ever seen a fairy selling anything."
"The wares speak for themselves," Margeroux said, hoping Charlotte would join in soon instead of rubbing her eyes and yawning.
"I'll... be right back," the woman said. She put a hand on the kid's shoulder and led her away.
"Phooey. Couldn't reel in our first bite."
"Do they have tea or coffee here? I'm still kinda tired," Charlotte mumbled, sliding off of the table.
"Coffee is for closers. I ain't touching the money Remi left us until we get a sale. Now start lookin' cute."
"Okay!" Charlotte grinned and batted her eyelashes.
Margeroux looked at the streets. The village was still waking up, and most of the stores were still closed, but the few people who were awake and moving had their eyes locked on the Scarlet Exotic Furniture Stand. She resisted the urge to glare at them, and instead backed away and hoped Charlotte would lure someone in. After a minute of waiting, another young kid, a boy with a bald head, broke away from his mother and came close.
"Are you a fairy?" he asked, open-mouthed.
"Yeah!" Charlotte grabbed him in a big hug around his arms. His mother yelped and leaned forward, then froze, watching them closely.
"Do you like furniture?" Charlotte asked, breaking the hug.
"I mean, my dad's got a desk?" He scratched the back of his neck.
"Then he could use one of our fine chairs. Take a seat and see for yourself." Charlotte grabbed the kid again and lifted him into the chair. He swung his legs, shrinking back a little as everyone watched.
"It's... nice?" he said.
"Darn tootin' it's nice," Charlotte said.
The boring-looking woman and the girl with a topknot came running back, someone else following at their side. The new person was tall, dressed in absurdly long, flowing white robes that hid everything about his body, aside from a pale face and short, stiff black hair. He carried a strange staff in one pale hand and an assortment of sacks in the other. The boy slid out of the chair and ran back to his mother.
"Faeries in the village, hmm?"
"Just humble furniture sellers, sir." She was quickly getting tired of this reaction.
"I must ask to examine your wares. Your presence is rather unusual, you see."
"I gathered," Margeroux said, gesturing to the crowd. They were all this close to getting sassed.
"Ah, pardon me. I forgot to introduce myself. I am Hotaru, a shaman and oracle under the patronage of the Hieda household. My presense was requested to ensure that what you have here is not enchanted or cursed in any way. That is all, and then I shall depart."
He moved towards the furniture and was quickly cut off as Charlotte hopped up to eye-level with him. "Hi, Hotaru! I'm Charlotte. Nice to meet you!"
"Yes, it's nice to meet you as well. One moment." He put a hand on top of Charlotte's head and lowered her back to the ground, then leaned over and put his hands on the table.
The faeries watched and waited. Margeroux fidgeted. The idea of the Mistress having hexed furniture sitting around for giggles wasn't unlikely. Hotaru ran his hands over the surface of the table, then leaned over further, his face nearly pressed against it.
"This color and smell. I've never seen it before."
The crowd took a collective step away.
"Ooh, ooh, I know this one!" Charlotte hopped onto the table and laid down to look Hotaru in the face again. "It's red cedar! Remi-- I mean, Lady Remilia made a big deal about it 'cause apparently it's really good wood."
"Yes, I can see that," Hotaru said, pushing Charlotte across the table to get some room.
He reached into one of his pouches and sprinkled some sort of green powder over it, then waited. Nothing happened, so he swept it off, then repeated again with a drop of some black liquid.
"Hey, you stain it, you buy it," Margeroux said.
"Worry not, this is a simple testing fluid. If it stained, then it would mean a poison has seeped into the wood."
"Oh. Then you don't gotta buy it."
Hotaru wiped the fluid up and inspected it. No change in color. He leaned over again and sniffed at the wood, then stood back up, looking satisfied.
"There are no maladies to be found in this furniture," he said.
"Thank you." The woman from before sighed.
Hotaru shuffled away, but the crowd stayed still. After a moment, a man with a long moustache and weird hat stepped forward and was quickly grabbed by his wife, a slender woman in a blue kimono with a sunset design.
"Dear," she said. It was obviously not an affectionate term.
"What? I'm just going to give it a smell. Imagine having a scented desk at the merchant office. It'd be like an aromatherapy technique."
"Hotaru said it's fine, and I trust him."
The woman in the blue kimono grumbled and let go. The moustachioed man walked over and knelt by the table. Seeing that it was safe, more people started to come closer, and a few more got into low-key arguments with their partner.
"Young lady, or fairy, or whatever you prefer to be called. Do you know what wood this is?" a man with a boxy chin and black robes asked, gesturing to a small cabinet.
"That's, um, walnut. It doesn't smell as nice, but it's pretty sturdy. Watch this." Charlotte flew up above the cabinet, then threw herself down and stomped on top of the cabinet. It didn't even budge.
"I'm here to take orders," Margeroux took out her pen and paper. She wasn't sure how much money bought how much stuff around here, but looking at what counted as 'spare change,' she figured she could add three or four zeroes and not be too far off.
"Free hug with every purchase!" Charlotte added.
-------------Earlier that night----------------
The caravan of faeries -- the word 'faerivan' came to Remilia's mind, and she tried very hard to push it out -- made their way back home, travelling much faster with their heavy loads gone, though some of them were beginning to yawn and complain about how late it was.
"I'd be careful if I was you. Evil youkai are attracted by the sound of yawns," Remilia said.
"Really?" one of them squeaked.
It worked well to keep the faeries quiet as they came back to the forest. A few minutes after passing the gnarled patch of trees Remilia blew up earlier, she saw a dot of fire a few feet back. It looked like a fire.
"Sit tight for a moment," she said, and walked after it.
Sure enough, the red-haired girl with the loose head was there, casually toasting acorns over a campfire. She caught a moment's glimpse of someone else, but it became a blur of a white dress and a few kicked-up leaves as whoever it was ran deeper into the forest. There might have been a tail too. It was such a brief glimpse that Remilia couldn't have been sure of much.
"Sorry," the red-haired girl said. "She's awkward around other people, and I kinda told her about how you almost exploded me." The girl sounded bored, as if it was a normal, everyday mistake.
"Oh?" Remilia asked.
"I-I wasn't scared earlier. You just surprised me. I didn't see you at first, and I was going after the faeries." She bristled and tugged at her cape, hiding her black shirt. Her head wobbled slightly with her movements.
[ ] Apologize, even though you aren't especially sorry. [ ] Introduce yourself to a fellow creature of the night. [ ] Inform her that the forest will soon be under the authority of the Scarlet Devil Mansion.
[X] Introduce yourself to a fellow creature of the night.
"Think nothing of it. We got off to a poor start, that is all." Remilia stood up, fanning her wings out and casting an impressive shadow. "I am Remilia Scarlet, descendant of Vlad Tepes. Perhaps you saw my estate. It appeared on top of the hill a few days ago."
Remilia was hoping for a look of awe, or even mild surprise, but the girl just raised her eyebrows for a moment. "So, you must be this year's big incident," she said.
"I'm an incident big enough for millennia," Remilia said.
"No offense, but I've heard that one before. Something outrageous and world-threatening seems to happen once a year around here, sure as the seasons." She tipped the roasted acorns into a bowl. "I'm Sekibanki, by the way. The girl who went scooting is Kagerou."
"Don't tell them my name!" a voice shouted from within the forest.
Remilia turned to the direction of the voice. "No need to be scared. We're all creatures of the night here. Except for my army of faerie maids."
"I saw. So they obey you, huh?" Sekibanki popped a still-too-hot acorn into her mouth and tried to hide the pain on her face.
"Depends on your definition of 'obey'," Remilia sighed.
The leaves rustled. Remilia turned to see a woman with a white dress and chestnut hair peeking out between the trees. What she thought were massive cowlicks were actually a pair of furry brown ears, and a shaggy tail swished in curiosity behind her.
"You're the Kagerou she mentioned, I take it?"
"Yeah." She nodded.
"Dog!" shouted one fairy.
"Pup alert!" shouted another
"Vweep vweep! Dog spotted at 3 o'clock!" shouted a third.
"I am not a dog!" Kagerou shouted back.
"Get a load of those ears!"
Remilia recognized the last voice as Priscilla's. The faeries began to close in, and Kagerou started growling in response. She raised her hands to show wickedly long red fingernails. Remilia started to feel like her own long fingernails weren't so impressive anymore. Sekibanki reached into her bowl and started pelting the faeries with hot acorns. She beaned one of them between the eyes, then the faeries started squabbling over who got to eat them and whether the five-second rule applied here.
Remilia cleared her throat. "Dreadfully sorry about them. It seems that poor first impressions are a skill of mine."
"M'used to it," Kagerou grumbled. "No matter where they're from or who they are, every faerie likes to mess with people. And... I'm an easy target." She sat down and fiddled with her hair, eyes downcast.
Sekibanki looked at her friend, then rubbed her neck. She nearly knocked it off of her shoulders, but grabbed it and righted herself just in time. "So, are you an oni or something?" she asked.
"Me? I am a vampire, or vampiress, if you prefer. I have walked the earth for centuries and drank the blood of thousands." Remilia put her hands on her hips and puffed out her chest.
"I'm a rokurokubi. It's kind of like a dullahan," Sekibanki deadpanned.
"You can probably guess I'm a werewolf," Kagerou mumbled.
Remilia was filled with a strange pang of anger. She didn't know what a rokurokubi was, but she definitely knew that a dullahan was supposed to be a terrifying rider, a sign of death and decay, half-rotted, grinning wickedly, wielding a man's spine like a whip -- not some governor's-daughter-looking girl toasting acorns in the woods. And yet she could feel that Sekibanki wasn't lying.
Werewolves were whatever. It didn't surprise her that some milquetoast self-conscious teenager could become a werewolf. The dullahan thing, though. That put a fire under her bonnet. Gensokyo had always been described to her as a refuge for those too fearsome to be accepted among humans. Suddenly, she wondered if it wasn't more like some kind of retirement home.
"Is this a normal night for you? Just camping out in the forest and roasting acorns?"
Sekibanki poked at the fire listlessly. "Not always. When fall comes around we roast sweet potatoes."
"You're fearsome creatures of myth and legend! You, you're supposed to have two spines, and you don't even seem to have half of one." She pointed at Sekibanki.
The two of them were quiet for a long moment. Even the faeries were quiet, if only because they had eaten all the acorns that were thrown at them earlier.
"It's not worth it. You're from the Outside World, right? You said you came here just a couple days ago. Humans are different here." Sekibanki broke her stick into pieces, tossing each piece into the fire as she went on. "Sure, I wanted to go hog wild, give children nightmares and scare them 'til their hair turns white. Can't do that here. No matter who you are, there's hundreds of people -- whether they're ghosts, gods, humans, whatever -- who could shred you to pieces with a thought." Sekibanki leaned back and popped another acorn into her mouth. Kagerou looked away, hiding her face. She put her sleeve to her face and made a muffled sniffle.
Remilia straightened up. "Well, I happen to be one of those fearsome creatures, and I won't stand for this. Consider yourselves on my to-do list. It won't be tonight, and it won't be tomorrow. Someday, though, we're going to reclaim our rightful place back on top."
Sekibanki rolled her eyes. "Good luck. If you've got a mansion, then I'm sure you'll be able to afford a nice burial for yourself."
Remilia harrumphed and turned on her heels. "I'd love to listen to more of your pessimism, but I have a burgeoning empire to run. I'll be seeing you later. Servants, follow." She waved at the faerie maids, who followed after her as she walked back onto the dirt road.
The trip back was quiet. Remilia stewed in an anger that came off of her in waves, bullying the faeries into silence. She half-stomped, half-marched past the gates of the mansion and up to the front door. As soon as she yanked the door open, the faeries flew in and scattered, getting some safe distance between her and them.
She had made good use of the night, but those milksop creatures left a bad taste in her mouth. In times like this, she felt like getting involved in someone else's business. That would help cool her head before going to bed.
[ ] Go bother the faeries about the beer. Gruit. Whatever. [ ] Go bother Patchouli about the 'guest'. [ ] Go bother yourself with some books. [ ] Go try to have a moment of quiet and enjoy yourself.
[x] Go bother the faeries about the beer. Gruit. Whatever.
If worst comes to worst, you can drag a fairy to your quarters for some private "hugs, snuggles and venting of frustrations over tea and scones" torture to cool off! We ARE trying to build an empire here! If we make a decision while frustrated and impatient, it's less likely to be the right one.
"Sakuya, would you deliver dinner to the library? I'm going to go chat with Patchouli and see how the little demon is doing."
"Has Koakuma gotten into trouble?" Sakuya asked with the slightest tilt of her head. Anything concerning a fellow servant seemed to concern her, Remilia noted.
"Ah, no," Remilia said, waving dismissively. "There's another one of them in there, some leftover from something Patchouli tried. I'm not sure I want to ask too much about it."
"Are you not going to see Patchouli, then?"
"No, when I say 'not sure I want to ask,' I... nevermind. Please deliver dinner to the library once it's finished, along with a bottle of table wine."
"Yes, milady." Sakuya bowed, then headed for the kitchen.
Remilia let herself into the library. Patchouli was, of course, seated at her table surrounded by books. Koakuma was busy organizing the pile around Patchouli, and her scrawnier lookalike was perched atop one of the stacks, swinging her legs, smiling with the kind of happiness that only comes at someone else's expense.
"Good of you to come here, Lady Remilia," Koakuma said with a sigh of relief.
"What's the situ--"
"Shh." Patchouli held up a finger to silence Remilia. "I'm about to attempt something. You, hold still."
The magician got up from her seat, clutching her book tightly between her hands. It sizzled with bright light and yellow fire. She raised it above her head.
"Begone from this plane, hellspawn!" She brought the book down with all her strength. The glowing hot corner bashed the smaller Koakuma square on the forehead.
"Ow, ow ow ow!" She fell backwards off of the stack of books. The smell of burnt hair filled the stale air, and when she crawled back up there was a painful-looking bright red mark on the front of her head. "What the hell was that?"
"Another attempt to get you out of here," Patchouli said, lips curled in a scowl.
"Trying to force me back, hmm?" the little Koakuma asked, her spade-tipped tail flicking behind her like an irritated cat.
"That or kill you. I'd be fine either way, to be honest."
Koakuma -- the good one -- came over to Remilia's side. "Her name's Blümchen, apparently. Patchouli managed to get on the line with one of hell's Second Circle Missing Entities Division operators, but as soon as the operator heard who it was, he started laughing and hung up."
"Correction. He started laughing, paused to say 'Good luck, fucker,' then hung up," Patchouli said.
"Uh-oh! Sounds like you're stuck with me." Blümchen batted her eyelashes and smiled. "But, then, where else would I go? This place is perfect for me."
"If you think we'll show you any courtesy here, you're wrong. We'd sooner lock you up in a cage." Remilia crossed her arms. She was already done by the time she came in, and Blümchen was digging away at her empty reservoir of patience.
Blümchen's smile widened. The tips of two small fangs glinted from under her lips. "You already have. Or, at least, that's what you were doing. Your regrets have sustained me for this long, but now that I'm out in the open, I can feel them even harder. I'm absolutely tingling with--"
"Oh, come off it." Remilia's hand sliced through the air to cut her off. "So, Patchouli, what's the next plan?"
"Ahem, I was speaking," Blümchen harrumphed.
Remilia was no demonologist, but she knew that what every demon loved more than anything else was a silent audience that would listen to their absurd, over-the-top proclamations and backstories. She wouldn't give her the opportunity.
"Hah! You think my ego's fragile enough to fracture from a single interruption? Lady, do you have any idea how hard it is to annoy your way out of hell? Or have you lost your perspective from hanging around a brown-noseing lap dog?" She grinned in Koakuma's direction, then ducked to avoid some flying books.
Remilia made a 'don't respond' gesture, trying to be subtle about it. Any angry response would just feed the demon further. That was, if she really was some manifestation of regret like she said.
"I saw that little signal. I don't know what's sadder, her being such a failure of a demon or you trying to so hard to control everyone."
"Go ahead, talk more. Give us more details so that we can better find the hidey-hole you crawled out of," Remilia snapped. It was probably an angry response, but dammit, that smug face of hers just begged to be contradicted. It's always the small ones, she thought. Always the tiny ones with cute faces that could really get under your skin.
"You're definitely sadder. Trying to control fate and you can't even control a little shit like me." Blümchen giggled.
"This would be a simple affair if we were back in Belgium, but it's hard to find directions from this place," Patchouli groused.
"Ten million books in here and no map?" Blümchen snorted. "Come on, a few hours with me can't be worse than centuries of you two putting up with each other." She drew a line between Remilia and Patchouli with her finger. She pushed herself off of her seat and leaned over to Remilia.
"Do you really think she's half as bad as she pretends to be?" she whispered. Patchouli's eyes darted up from her book, and Koakuma half-leaned closer.
"You think I'm going to trust anything you say?" Remilia snapped quietly.
"Come on. A promising young magician, and centuries later she has nothing to show for it. So far as you can see, at least. After all, completing a contract is just one way to get out of it."
Remila ground her teeth together. The other way, obviously, was for someone involved to die. Or everyone. She felt a strange sinking in the pit of her stomach.
"You've always been a rusher, haven't you? You don't see results at first, so you tie another person to your string. And another. And another. And now, all of the sudden, the only people you can trust are the ones who'd have a lot to gain from you disappearing."
Blümchen leaned in close, until her lips were almost touching Remilia's ear. "And that's not even mentioning your sis--"
The whistling sound of thrown knives flew past Remilia, and a blur of silver passed her eye. Blümchen went silent. Slowly, they both craned their necks to the side and saw an outline of Remilia's head sticking out of the bookcase, drawn in knives.
"I'd prefer if you didn't spoil milady's appetite before dinner." Sakuya walked into the library, tray of dinner in one hand and a tray of wine glasses in the other. She made eye contact with the little demon for just a second, but it was one of the rare moments where she showed any kind of intensity. Blümchen seemed to appreciate the weight it carried. She bit her tongue, suddenly looking submissive, like the loser in a fight between two wild dogs.
Satisfied with her place at the head of the pack, Sakuya brought over a plate of quiche, decorated with slivers of strange, colorful vegetables that smelled of salt. "More of the pickled vegetables from the market, milady. I hope they go well with the food."
"Thank you, Sakuya." She plucked her wine glass by the stem and took a sip. With Blümchen quiet now, the table reached a painful and uneasy silence. She wondered if Patchouli had heard anything that Blümchen was whispering earlier.
Instead of disappearing as usual, Sakuya was lingering nearby with her arms folded. One hand rested close to one of the pockets on her skirt. Anyone who wasn't Remilia might not have noticed, but the faintest glint of silver showed from it. Her long, slender fingers were tracing over the edge of a hidden knife. Her grey eyes seemed cloudy, locked on Blümchen.
Remilia took a bite of her food, chewing it thoughtfully.
[ ] Blümchen's obviously just a little pissant who should be locked up. [ ] Blümchen talks a lot about regret, but you sure wouldn't regret blasting her out of existence. [ ] Blümchen knows a lot of things that she shouldn't. Maybe she's more right than you think. [ ] Blümchen isn't just a pissant -- she seems downright seditious. Is this part of something bigger?
Blümchen could be bullshitting, but what if she's planted doubts in Patchy's head too? What if she's helped Patchy realize that their fate deal was her getting played? She hasn't been particularly friendly towards Remi since the beginning of the story. Besides that, her new hellspawn seems to know a lot about the whole fate thing. That whole deal with somebody or everybody dying to get out of the contract doesn't sound good. I'm getting kinda noided, mane.
I dunno man, the situation with Flandre is apparently already reaching critical mass. I think we should play the hand that fate dealt us.
[x]Blumchen is obviously just a little pissant who deserves to be locked up -[x]in the basement, with Flan, as her new playmate. -[x]Explain the situation to Flandre. We want to reintegrate her into society, but she needs to learn to control her impulses. Blümchen is going to try her patience, but needs to remain unexploded.
If that was what fate truly desired, then petty details such as this vote wouldn't matter. The good thing about playing as Remilia is the knowledge that her power is kind of a big deal, and she can always beat the odds.
[x] Blümchen's obviously just a little pissant who should be locked up.
Remilia took another bite. The mixture of quiche and pickled vegetables was an... interesting texture. Not exactly bad, but not good either. It was unique, she could say that. Blümchen sulked at her side of the table, alternating between watching Sakuya and staring at the floor.
Nobody said a word as Remilia ate and Patchouli and Koakuma took sips of wine. Sakuya kept her eyes on Blümchen, fiddling with her knives again every few minutes. Remilia wondered if Sakuya even remembered anything about the business between the two of them, or if it was just some instinct that stayed after her memories left her.
She remembered Blümchen's comments about trust and clenched her fork in her fist. She wouldn't let some rabble-rouser waltz through her mansion and start raising trouble. Patchouli could surely continue her studies with her subject locked up in a guest room. Or perhaps kept in shackles in the corner.
Remilia wondered if the mansion had any shackles lying around. It felt like it should've. What good is a mansion without proper dungeon materials? Of course, the 'dungeon' had been repurposed for Flandre.
Remilia hummed in thought to herself. Having Blümchen dig her own grave with Flandre would be morbidly funny, but too big of a risk. Knowing her luck, and fate's proclivities, she'd talk Flandre into breaking out of the dun--
Into breaking out of her room. Remilia ground a spinach leaf to paste between her teeth. This girl couldn't be allowed to roam free. One of the guest rooms and a few heavy weights would have to do. She finished her last bite of food and chased it with the rest of her wine.
"Patchouli, might I have a word with you away from the table?" she asked.
"Tsk. So suspicious of your friend, Remilia?" Blümchen raised her head and smirked. "What happened to being thick as thieves?"
Patchouli grunted in annoyance and pushed herself up from her seat. Remilia followed her down one of the rows of bookcases until they were out of sight of the table.
"Jesus Christ on a unicycle, what an asshole she is," Patchouli said before Remilia could ask anything.
Remi paused, mouth half open, then laughed. "To think I was worried she might influence you."
"I've spent the last three hundred years ignoring everyone else. I'm not going to stop now."
"Ah, there's the Patchy I know and love." Remilia raised her arm to put it around Patchouli's shoulder.
"Don't touch me."
She put her arm back down. "So, are there still more options to try?"
"Plenty of them. I was hoping that a quick fix would work. There are options almost guaranteed to work, but they take a couple days to prepare."
"Should we just, you know, blow her up?"
Patchouli laughed darkly, then took in a deep breath. A fuzzy little ball of dirt fell from one of the shelves and went straight up her nose. Remilia waited while she hacked and coughed for a few minutes. Patchouli took another deep breath, covering her mouth, then spat on the ground.
"Okay, yes, all done," she wheezed. "I wish it were that simple. A flesh-and-blood demon is merely one manifestation of an actual demon. Think of it as like being posessed, but not by a single free-floating entity. More like one entity managing a variety of smaller entities."
"Good point," Remilia said. She had no idea if it was true or not, but it sounded good. "What's the plan from here, then?"
"The first plan is to shut her trap and keep her still. The little shit was cooperative enough for the first few tries -- mostly so she could mock me when I failed -- but I think her patience started to wear thin after the fifth time I gave her third-degree burns."
"Yeah. I was just thinking of locking her up somewhere, to be honest."
"It'd be best if she stayed here in the library. No more travel then necessary. Koakuma has a... chamber, I suppose you could call it? She rarely uses it, and I suppose we could lock her up in there."
"Would Koakuma mind?"
"I don't really care, honestly." Patchouli shrugged.
"Well, sounds like a plan."
They walked back to the table. When Blümchen saw them, her smirk widened. "I should've known you'd be locking me up. Just like you locked up everything else. All your regrets, all your -- hey!"
Remilia took a handkerchief out of her pocket, rolled it up and wrapped it around Blümchen's head. "Someone hold her down," she said with a glance at Koakuma and Sakuya.
Koakuma was eager to tackle her around the waist and knock her to the ground. Sakuya appeared by Remilia's side and put a hand on her shoulder. "Milady, please."
Remilia looked up at her. Did she remember some history between them? Had she pieced this together?
She pulled out one of her own handkerchiefs, stuffed into a ball. "You have to stuff their mouth first, otherwise they can move the gag off with their tongue."
"O-Oh. Thank you, Sakuya." Remilia took the ball and shoved it into Blümchen's mouth before she could say another word, then tied up a gag around her mouth.
"Much better," came Patchouli's voice.
Heavy chains hovered above her, glowing an electric purple color. Koakuma let go and moved away. Blümchen tried to get up and make a run for it, but the chains came down on her, then wrapped around her on their own, locking her up like a mummy.
Patchouli wiped her hands. "She'll be staying in your chambers, Koakuma. She can't do much more than grunt now, so she shouldn't be too much of a distraction. Feel free to kick her whenever you're upset."
Blümchen wiggled in her restraints. It seemed her snarky comments were her only form of defence.
Calling it a job well done, Remilia crossed her arms and turned to Patchouli. "Any supplies you'll need for the new incantations?"
"I think I have everything I need, but thanks anyway, Remi. Lia. Remilia," Patchouli corrected herself.
"Too late, you said it."
"It's not my fault. Anyone else would seem like a dear friend compared to what I've been putting up with all day." Patchouli turned and walked as she talked, her attention already going back to her studies as she disappeared into the library, leaving the captive to Koakuma.
Sakuya had already collected the empty plate and glasses back onto the tray, and following her made a convenient excuse for getting out of here. She walked in front of Sakuya as they both headed outside fo the library.
"Make sure the faeries have finished boiling the gruit and aren't cooking it into oblivion. I think that's the last thing for today. I'm heading for bed."
"Good night, Milady."
Remilia went to her bedroom, then sat on the edge of her bed for a minute, still dressed. She was tired and greatly looking forward to today's sleep, so she figured she might as well stay awake for whatever catastrophe was going to distract her before she could sleep. She filed her nails for a few minutes, then just as she was thinking she could safely go to bed, she heard an explosion outside.
The front door was wide open when she ran back to the great hall. Meiling was standing just outside the door, looking a little dirty and beat-up. Next to her was a short young woman with blonde hair, just a few inches taller than a large faerie. Her black dress and wide-brimmed black hat stretched out so far that she appeared almost like a square.
"Hey! Miss me?" she called with a grin that showed off her front teeth.
Remilia remembered her. She was with Reimu when she came in to 'solve' the whole red mist affair. She may have looked like some foolish provincial, but she was a savant with magic, and her name was worth remembering. "And what brings you back here, Marinara?"
"Name's Marisa," she said, still grinning.
"She flirted with me! Why does everyone keep flirting with me?" Meiling threw up her hands.
"Naw, I didn't. I'm just naturally friendly. Besides, I came here to flirt with the librarian." Marisa tucked her witch's broom under her arm.
"It's four in the morning," Remilia said.
"Early to bed, early to rise, right?" She shrugged.
"You have poor timing. We just finished chaining up our last intruder." Remilia crossed her arms. Blümchen wasn't technically an 'intruder', but that didn't matter right now.
"Aw, then she could use a little cheering-up. C'mon, let me in to see her, yeah?" Marisa shoved her way in past Sakuya and Remilia.
The idea of Patchouli being happy to see anyone made Remilia smirk.
[ ] If Reimu didn't have any trouble here, Marisa hopefully won't. [ ] Patchouli finding romance? Stranger things have happened. [ ] This is going to be like a bull in a china shop, isn't it?
[x] Patchouli finding romance? Stranger things have happened.
Remilia crossed her arms. Finally, some fun trouble, as opposed to the annoying kind. "Alright, then, I'll show you to the library. Let's see your moves."
"Hell yeah." Marisa grabbed the brim of her hat and followed after Remilia as she led her to the library.
Remilia pushed the door open and saw Koakuma with a flailing Blümchen over her shoulder, carrying her off into the distance. "Don't mind that," Remilia said.
"It'd be hypocritical of me to say anything. Aha! There's Patchouli." Marisa went running off towards her. Patchouli looked up from her book.
As soon as they made eye contact, Patchouli's face flushed. It turned a deep red, going right past the look of a blushing romantic and into the face of fury. "Haven't we had enough rats today already?" she snapped.
"Aw, is that any way to greet an old friend?"
Marisa spread her arms and came in for a hug. Patchouli chucked a paperweight at her. It fell short, landing at Marisa's feet.
"That is how I greet old friends."
"What the hell are you doing here, anyway?" Patchouli's voice started to sound strained.
"This is a library, right? I came here to check something out."
Patchouli's eyes narrowed. "Don't say it."
Marisa made finger-guns at Patchouli. "You."
Patchouli spluttered and moved her mouth, but couldn't get any words out. She flailed her arms at Marisa, who seemed to mistake her asthma attack for regular rage. Her grin started to waver when she saw Patchouli's flailing get weaker and weaker.
Remilia leaned towards her servant. "Sakuya, the tea," she whispered.
The tea in question was ma huang tea, one of the reasons Remilia let Meiling have her herb gardens -- one cup of the stuff could get Patchouli breathing after even the roughest attack. Sakuya flickered away, then returned back a moment later with a full steaming mug. She hurried over to Patchouli and held the cup to her lips.
Patchouli gulped at it, drinking as much as she could with her swollen throat. After a few sips, she started taking heavy breaths between drinks, then took the mug from Sakuya gulped down the rest of it.
"Thank you, Sakuya." Patchouli handed the mug back to her, then turned to Marisa. "You irresponsible little weasel! Barging in here and giving me an asthma attack like that with your terrible flirting!"
"Sorry. Didn't mean to... take your breath away." Marisa's grin grew back on her face.
"Graaargh!" Patchouli leapt up from her chair. Books went flying as she leaned over the table and grabbed for Marisa's neck.
Marisa yelped and leaned away, but Patchouli got a good handful of dress. A stumbling tug-of-war ensued, rattling the table and knocking even more books off as Marisa struggled to get Patchouli off of her. That was the funny thing about magicians. No matter how much they learned, their bodies were still weak and squishy. Not like Remilia, who had no trouble flicking Patchouli's hands off of Marisa.
"Alright, alright. You can choke her later, after we've had some time to talk. Sakuya, could you get a bottle of wine for our guest?"
"Sorry, don't drink," Marisa said. "At least, not for the next couple days."
"Oh? Did something happen?"
"A big part of my business is mushrooms, and I make it a priority not to drink for a week after eating any new concoction. You only gotta puke blood once to learn that lesson."
"That's... reasonable." Remilia could've done without that detail.
Waste of perfectly good blood, too.
"Are you some sort of potionmaker, then?"
"There's only one way to describe me, and that's Marisa Kirisame. I got my fingers in too many pies to boil it down to one or two titles, but 'magician' and 'thief' would both work if you insist on it."
"You're a pretty poor thief if you announce it out loud like that," Remilia said.
"That's the brilliant part, you see. The first thing I steal is my victim's heart."
"Do you, now?" Remilia smirked. She crossed her arms and waited.
Marisa said nothing.
"Well?" Remilia said.
"Aren't you going to try and seduce the head of the illustrious mansion?" Remilia growled.
Marisa slid her hand under her hat and scratched her head. "Oh, heh. Eh. Nah."
"No offense, Remilia, but you might draw more attention if you went a little easier on the blood. You put it in everything you drink and your face looks like a baby's," Patchouli said.
"Ahem, when was looking youthful ever a bad thing?" Remilia shot back.
"I gotta admit, it is kinda weird. I just wanna pinch your cheeks," Marisa said.
"Anyway, Patchouli had a point in asking what you're doing here." Remilia waved the old subject away and brought up a new one.
Marisa shrugged. "I heard Reimu came here earlier, so I thought I'd check it out too. Seemed like a good place to cas-- to check out."
"Hands off," Patchouli said, bopping Marisa's wrist when her hand scooted too close to one of the books.
"I hope you'll understand my hesitancy to give a self-admitted thief a tour of the mansion," Remilia said.
"That's fair, I was kind of expecting that. I can show myself out, but don't worry. I'll be back." Marisa winked to the two of them and walked out the door.
"I have a feeling every powerful person here is absolutely insane," Remilia said.
"Good to see some things stay the same," Patchouli responded.
Remilia followed after Marisa, making sure she left without any side-trips. Outside the front door, Meiling had already gone back to bed in her shack. Not surprising, considering it was the middle of the night. The distant sound of birds outside reminded Remilia how long she had been up.
"Right, Sakuya. I'm going to bed for real."
"Oh! That reminds me. The faeries look to have successfully made wort from the soaked grains. Shall I hold it slow for now, so that it doesn't spoil?"
"A good idea. You're full of useful information tonight, Sakuya."
Sakuya made a noncommital hum. "I'll see to it that your sleep is undisturbed."
"Thank you much. Hopefully it will require no action on your part." Remilia yawned and stretched.
Back in her bedroom, she was safely sealed from any noise outside. She slipped out of her dress and changed into her sleeping clothes, and had a nighttime chaser of straight blood, which had been laid out by Sakuya. It filled her with a rosy warmth, and she carried that feeling as she slid under the sheets and fell asleep.
------------------END ARC 0: THE GIRLS ARE BACK IN TOWN------------------
Thank you all so much for the support and praise you've given the story. It's been great seeing you discuss things, and I'll be continuing this story after the end of Quick Words, but for now I need a brief hiatus (no more than a week) to organize things and catch my breath. See you again soon!
Sakuya cradled her watch in her palm, her hand covering it as if someone might float by and try to snatch it at any time. A couple of faeries had tried it just to see what Sakuya's reaction would be. They never tried a second time.
Sunlight started to peek in through the crack in the front door. This was the uncomfortable time of day where everyone was either going to bed or waking up. Patchouli had already crash-landed into a deep sleep after being up for who knows how many hours, her face flattened against the table, unfazed by the bright lantern inches away from her face. That was her usual pattern: stay up for five days straight, then sleep like a brick until someone hit her hard enough to wake her up.
Despite her watch nagging at her constantly with its powers, Sakuya made herself do things normally to help the morning pass. She made the rounds around the mansion, checking for anything unusual, and broke up a pillow fight in the faeries' quarters before they ruined another perfectly good bed. The walking gave her time to ponder, and a plan for the day started to form in her head. She retreated to the office and spent a while flipping through the books on brewing, studying for what to do with the jug of wort frozen in time in the furnace room.
That should be enough time, Sakuya thought to herself after writing down a few notes. A glance at her watch told her it was early afternoon now, so she tidied up the office before heading out. Meiling was by the gate, attempting to play the role of a guard, but she kept glancing back at the gardens lining the estate, running back to prune a branch or fiddle with a patch of flowers. Being woken up several times over the night hadn't affected her energy at all.
"Good afternoon, Sakuya," Meiling said and waved at her like a friendly neighbor. Sakuya responded with a terse half-bow.
"That witch gave no further trouble on her way out last night, I assume?"
"Not enough worth doing anything over." Meiling put her hands on her hips and sighed. "That's the second time I've been beaten since coming here. So much for the fearsome guardian of the river."
"We are all readjusting." Sakuya had the vague feeling that it was true in more ways than she thought. Her hand cradled the watch in its secret pocket.
"Any big schemes planned for the daytime, or are we just going to wait for the mistress to wake up and fly by the seat of her pants again?" Meiling straightened her clothes. Dragons had never put a high priority on organization, so while she had adapted to many thing without a hitch, some basic concepts like folding her shirts before putting them away still eluded her.
"There are always things to attend to."
Sakuya felt something bump into the side of her hips. A fairy with yellow-orange hair and pointed ears was trying to force her way past her as she stood in the doorway.
"Hey, mornin', Meiling! How's the garden doing?" the faerie said, still wedged between Sakuya and the thick wooden door.
Meiling gave a proud grin. "There's going to be plenty to pick in a few weeks. I'm so glad it survived the move."
The faerie, who Sakuya recognized as Esmerelda, finally shoved her way past the door and ran towards Meiling. She hopped up into the air and sat down on Meiling's shoulder.
"Hah. It's good to see you again, but don't get in trouble for slacking off, alright?" Meiling tried to turn her arm up and give Esmerelda a friendly pat on the back but couldn't reach.
"I can help out here, right?" Esmerelda asked hopefully.
"Maybe just a little. Let's check on those grapes again, shall we?" Meiling settled for patting Esmerelda on the calf. Her smile faltered when she saw Sakuya's face. Sakuya didn't know why -- she didn't think she had done anything to change her expression.
"Yes, let's see if we can get any more growth there," Sakuya said.
Sakuya waited and watched as Meiling and Esmerelda did a quick pass around the soon-to-be vineyard, cleaning it up and plucking out some of the bigger weeds. After they'd made some progress, she took out her watch and looked back and forth between the watch face and the grapevines. They jerked forward, growing a few inches as if they were spring-loaded.
"What would happen if you did that while I was working on one of the plants?" Esmerelda asked.
"Let's never find out," Sakuya replied. "How is the soil?"
Meiling knelt down and patted the ground. "Still doing okay, but we should give it a little rest after this 'til the next rainfall."
"Very well. I'm going to be off for the village."
Esmerelda perked up. "Can you get me some walnuts?"
"We'll see." Sakuya checked the time on her watch, then stowed it away.
"See you later," Meiling said.
"Until then." Sakuya half-bowed again and left.
Past the gates and down the hill, the forest was much quieter than last night. The youkai around here must be nocturnal, same as Milady, she thought to herself as she passed by the small cluster of trees Remilia had turned into stumps. The path was already starting to feel natural to her, as if she was meant to walk it. Mystia's stand was gone for now, leaving a large square of matted grass on the flat earth with a trail of wheel tracks leading off into the distance.
The small clusters of farming shacks and summer cottages came into view not much further down. Their residents still threw furtive glances as Sakuya walked by, but there was some familiarity in their eyes. She was a rumor passed amongst neighbors now.
At the entrance to the village, the guards were already waiting. There were two new ones, along with the men from last night. The night shift was looking much worse for wear, one of them with a lump on his forehead and the other with a large welt on his cheek. They both had the dirty hair and sunken skin of a monstrous hangover.
Sakuya didn't pause, but she slowed her step for a brief second. The sorry state of the night shift said all that needed to be said. They didn't seem to recognize her. They probably didn't remember a single thing from last night. She passed them with a slight nod of her head.
Her purpose in visiting the village today was threefold: While there, she had to look for yeast cakes or dregs for brewing. Her reading from this morning told her that beer could not be openly fermented everywhere, and one could play it safe by using the dregs from a previous batch of beer. Also of importance was meeting with Mori to see about any news on the brewing equipment and mansion repairs. Before all of that, however, she would see how Charlotte and Margeroux were doing with their little business.
The village looked entirely different when it wasn't cloaked in the dark of night, and not just because there were more people outside. Lady Remilia had talked much about her trips to Japan -- she was a tad insufferable about it -- but Sakuya had never been. Or perhaps she had. She must have been at some point, she thought to herself, but didn't know why.
In any case, all the little differences of architecture, clothing, and language were enough to make her doubly out of place. As she weaved through the roads, she had the feeling the village was designed not to be as efficient as possible but to adapt to the land around it. Strips of houses formed curvy lines around the rise and fall of the uneven terrain. One house's ceiling formed a porch for the house on the small hill above it. One could call it either natural or lazy, and both would be right.
She found her way back to the faeries with only a little difficulty. The pile of furniture had shrunk considerably, so they had either done a very good job or a very, very bad job. Margeroux saw her approaching and waved at her, jumping up and down and grinning.
"Sakuya! Hey, Saku-- I mean, hey, chief!"
Sakuya hurried over. "Yes? Is it good news?"
"Hold out your hand," Margeroux said.
Sakuya reached a hand out.
"No, facing up."
Sakuya turned her hand up. Margeroux slapped a thick pile of bills into her palm.
"Doesn't that feel satisfying? I've been doing it all afternoon." Margeroux picked up the stack and slapped it down in Sakuya's hand again. "Thwap! Thwap! The sound of riches."
"The humans said the furniture is really good. We must've sold to half of the wealthy people in town," Charlotte said. "Also, ask a human first before you hug them. They're a little touchy."
"And tomorrow, of course, we will sell to the other half." Margeroux rubbed her hands together.
"Ahem. I'd rather you not advertise your unguarded riches." Sakuya stuffed the money into her apron. "However, you have done an impressive job." She pulled her hand back out, still holding some of the money, and dispensed a few bills to the both of them.
Charlotted marvelled at the cash in her hands. "My first paycheck! I can't wait to waste it all on alcohol and smokes."
"Hang on. Working-class vices can wait for a few minutes. What should we do about all this furniture in the meantime?" Margeroux asked.
[ ] A tarp or something over it should suffice. [ ] Invest in someone to keep watch until tomorrow. A justified expense for peace of mind. [ ] With the inventory much leaner, it can be packed up and taken home. [ ] How, pray tell, did you figure that you were leaving before everything's sold?
[x] Invest in someone to keep watch until tomorrow. A justified expense for peace of mind.
Sakuya looked over the remaining collection. It had shrunk by about a third, though a nice assortment still remained. "It would be worth keeping an eye on it. Hauling it home would be too much effort, perhaps."
"But I have woes to drink away," Charlotte whined.
"We could probably hire some little kid to keep an eye on it for a couple yen," Margeroux said.
"No, we can't hire some little kid. We need a big kid, like the local bully!" Charlotte threw her hands up to show the height she was looking for.
"Or perhaps we should spare the expense for an actual guard," Sakuya said.
Charlotte pouted. "There's no fun in that, though."
"It's just for the evening. You can camp out here again for tomorrow, can't you?" Sakuya said, her tone dropping to show that it wasn't a question.
"Yes, chief," the two faeries replied in unison.
Sakuya remembered that the precious metals dealer and currency exchanger kept his location around here. His name was Masuda, she remembered. Herding the faeries along with her, she pushed her way through the crowds and the people who stopped to stare. The faeries shot glares back, but Sakuya felt a little like this was a positive. Remilia was never one to differentiate between positive and negative attention, after all, so she would likely have enjoyed it if she were there.
She found her way to the sign and the surly guard signifying Masuda's store. The guard recognized her and his scowl loosened slightly. "More of the same?" he asked.
"A business question. A simple inquiry and nothing more."
"Faeries stay outside." The guard spread his arm at the two of them.
"Boo! Hiss!" Charlotte said.
"You two will stay outside," Sakuya said to the faeries. "I will be back in just a minute."
The guard opened the door for Sakuya and she went inside. Masuda was at his desk as if he hadn't moved an inch since she last saw him.
"I'm afraid I'm not in the market for more gold yet," Masuda said.
"That's fine. I actually had a question for you. A simple one, and it doesn't concern anything personal. Where do you hire your guards from?"
He let out a chuckle and stroked his chin. "Ahh, I see. Is this about the faeries' furniture stand, by any chance?"
"Yes." Sakuya nodded. She wasn't sure if the faeries had been doing their job and mentioning the origin of their wares, or if Masuda had simply pieced it together.
"Some of my friends took quite a liking to those cabinets you had for sale. But, to answer your question, I'm sorry to say that I can't direct you to any guard-for-hire services or anything like that. I might consider lending you one of my guards, perhaps..."
He leaned back in his stool, drawing a creak out of it. Sakuya nodded in understanding.
"That would be a wonderful kindness if you did. I could make sure the faeries gave you a discount if you have any interest in our furniture."
"That sounds very fair. Rokuro, follow this woman's instructions for the evening." Masuda waved at one of the guards, who had been half-listening while staring out the window. The guard stood up straight and bowed deeply to his boss.
"Yes sir," he said.
Sakuya led Rokuro out of the shop. He jerked his head up in surprise when he saw the faeries waiting outside, dressed in the same uniform as Sakuya.
"I'll lead you to our stand. The faeries will return here a little after nightfall, won't they?" Sakuya turned to them again with the same tone as before.
"Yes ma'am," Margeroux said.
"After the fun, yeah," Charlotte added.
"Then, these are..." Rokuro half-raised his arm in their direction, staring at Sakuya.
"Yes. Is there any issue?"
"No, that's, um... No issue at all."
"I see," Sakuya said, then turned and kept walking.
She led them back to the collection of furniture. It looked bizarre without anyone there watching it, as if some giant had plucked a house, turned it upside down and shook its contents out, then left it there on the side of a wide road. She left Rokuro there waiting, giving the collection a sense of purpose. She was about to leave when she turned back around, remembering something.
"Does your family brew beer, by any chance?"
"My neighbor does, once a month we all get together and enjoy his haul."
"Do you know where he gets his yeast?"
"He likes to trade his dregs with other brewers. You'd have to ask him for more details."
"Trading dregs, you say? Thank you, that will be all. Be seeing you later."
"Yeah. See you later." Rokuro bowed to her.
With that business taken care of, she turned to the two faeries. "I'll turn you two loose in just a minute. First, we have a few more errands."
Charlotte and Margeroux sighed, but followed without further complaint. The morning shopping was long finished, so the streets were busy but far from crowded. It took her a wrong turn or two to find her way back to Mori's commissions office, but the streets were starting to feel more familiar to her now.
The store was empty aside from Mori when Sakuya reached it. Even he, who had been so patronizing before, blinked in surprise when Sakuya came in trailed by faeries. He looked down at his papers, then back up. "Ah, you had the commission for brewing equipment and stones, yes?"
"Well, I have good news. I met with a few regulars today. I can get all of the brewing equipment ready in a matter of days. The stone will be more complicated. It's in short supply around here lately." Mori lifted a sheet of papers and straightened them against the countertop.
"You look like you could use a new desk. How about you swing by the Scarlet Exotic Furniturìa tomorrow?" Margeroux suggested.
"I very well may," Mori said.
"Incidentally," Sakuya spoke up, "I have one more question..."
Remilia woke up with evening light still tickling the corners of her heavy curtains. Damned summer. She threw on some clothes and went out walking through the mansion. Sakuya was still out somewhere. The mansion seemed different whenever she was out. She was like the drum keeping the rhythm of the mansion.
In her stead, it was up to Remilia to carry the tune.
[ ] Go check up on people here. [ ] Find some project to occupy yourself. [ ] Fly over to the village and see how things are going.
For a moment, Remilia was tempted to call out Sakuya's name like she was looking for a lost dog. She thought better of it, though -- what would the faeries think, seeing her wander around like that? Besides, if Sakuya wasn't around come sundown, then she wasn't in the mansion, period.
Still, she wondered what was taking so much time out in the village. Then again, there were several large orders yet to be filled and a... well, she couldn't really call it a 'shop', but she had an operation running there. The idea that she might be spreading too thin too fast gnawed at her, and then she remembered Blümchen's comments about getting tied down with too many people. Feeling distinctly irritated all of a sudden, she walked down the hall, throwing the door to one of the guest rooms open. Good, still furnished, she thought, and flipped the bed up off its legs.
The room was too short for the bed to complete a full rotation, so the end of it banged against the top of the ceiling. She caught it as it started falling back down, then set it gingerly back on the floor. It was no worse for wear, except for a few scratches on the footboard. She let out a satisfied 'hmph' and turned around to see a glasses faerie trembling behind her.
"Is this a bad time?" she stammered.
"Not if you've got good news," Remilia said, flashing her fangs at the faerie.
"N-Neutral news?" The faerie held out a note at cautious distance. She sounded genuinely concerned for her safety.
"That should be fine." Remilia took the note. It was Sakuya's penmanship, but written in Japanese. Quite nice lettering, Remilia thought; Sakuya had a habit of acquiring new skills out of nowhere.
Went for several errands in the village. Should be back early evening. Did some research and have plans for brewing. Might return with Charlotte and Margeroux, depending on how sales went.
Sincerely, Sakuya Izayoi
"Please don't flip me," the faerie mumbled.
"You're safe. For now." Remilia folded the note and tucked it away in her pocket. The faerie skittered away.
Remilia went to the lounge to check the grandfather clock kept by the minibar. The face read noon, but that couldn't be true. There was probably some change of time with flying into Gensokyo. Landing in the same millenium would have been lucky enough, to be honest. She wondered for a moment how Sakuya's watch was correct, then thought better of dwelling on mysteries that deep.
In any case, the morning and afternoon had passed without any obvious catastrophes,leaving the castle feeling devoid of activity. The clicking of Remilia's heels echoed loudly as she went to check on the beer, making the halls feel oddly cavernous. Upon noticing, she found herself hurrying along to the furnace room. That's where she found Elodie and Alexandria sitting on top of Jeanne.
"She kept trying to mess with the beer," Elodie explained.
"Did not!" Jeanne kicked her feet under their weight.
"I see. Good initiative, you two," Remilia said. A wave of relief washed over her finding some sign of life -- as much as faeries counted for 'life'.
The large tub of soon-to-be-beer had the distinct washed-out look of something being slowed from the world around it. Floating a few feet above it were globules of the liquid, falling back down as slowly as half-frozen syrup.
Remilia pointed at one of the bubbles. "Is that what she did?"
"Isn't it cool?" Jeanne gloated.
Remilia inspected the bubble. "Your grubby hands had better not have soured anything." She took one of the empty buckets sitting nearby and scooped up the globules. Her bucket could pass through the slowed area without trouble, but the liquid bubbles kept their shape inside the bucket, like a pile of large brown marbles.
"Carry on, you three," she said, setting the bucket aside, and left for elsewhere.
The library was her next stop, and it was similarly quiet. Patchouli was hunched over a book, with a desk-mark still indented on her face from falling asleep where she worked. Her eyes had the red, heavy look they took on whenever she was running on tea, wine, and nothing else.
"Good evening," Remilia said.
"Oh, is it evening already?" Patchouli didn't look up.
"It is indeed. You seem a little out of sorts."
"What makes you say that?"
"Your book is upside down."
Patchouli leaned back and squinted at her book, tilting it, then tilting her head. She set it right-side up, turned the page, and passed out. Remilia leaned away as Patchouli's head hit the desk, rustling the books around her. Remilia heard someone tsk nearby and saw Koakuma hurrying over, carrying an empty tray.
"At least she didn't break anything this time," Koakuma said as she picked the empty cups on the desk. "Hopefully, she stays asleep for more than a few hours this time."
"How's the interloper?"
"Sulking. I chained her to the wall. She spent some time trying to get on my nerves and succeeded, so I left her there and did some cleaning." Koakuma paused, then raised her head suddenly. The wings on her head twitched ever so slightly. "I feel like I've been tricked into doing my job."
"It seems to be the only thing that works." Remilia patted her on the shoulder. "Now, put those books away before they start a landslide."
"Yes, ma'am." Koakuma sighed.
"Another success. Carry on, you two." Remilia turned, mentally checking off another task in her head.
There was a rumbling in her stomach as she headed for the front hall. She was a tad hungry, but decided she'd wait for a bit to see if Sakuya would come back first. Sakuya could do eggs exactly how she liked them. She snagged the nearest faerie and put an umbrella in her hands.
"Here, I'm going outside. Keep the shade on me."
"Yes, ma'am!" The faerie opened up the umbrella and smacked herself in the face with the top of it as it spread out. "Ow."
"Just hold it above my head and don't make any sudden movements." Remilia tugged the door open. The sun had already started to cool, so any sunlight would be painful but not an immediate danger. She positioned herself under the umbrella and went over to Meiling, who was kneeling over a patch of citron flowers.
"Any updates?" Remilia asked.
Meiling straightened up and saluted. "Sakuya went out a few hours ago. Not sure when she'll be back, but it can't be much longer. No intruders, thankfully."
"Good, good. How're the grapes?"
"We squeezed about another week of growth out of them, but we'll have to wait for rain before we can do much more."
"Fair enough. I might have to bother Patchouli about that."
"Don't go meddling too much in nature, you know. I should know, I used to be a dragon."
Remilia held back a sigh. Here we go, she thought. Meiling put her hands on her hips and puffed herself up.
"Magic may be powerful, but nothing, and I mean nothing, will ever match the power of nature. It has its time and its seasons, its cycles and routines. You might get a short-term benefit if you try and twist it to your whims, but in the end, it will always remember what you did."
"Hey, Sakuya's coming," the faerie said.
"Careful, remember the umbrella." Remilia reached up to grab the spine of the umbrella, which was already halfway towards dropping.
They hurried over to the gate. Sakuya was coming up the hill, carrying Charlotte and Margeroux under her arms like bags of wheat. A couple of other people were following behind her, but Remilia couldn't quite see who they were. Sakuya raised her arm to wave at them, dropping Charlotte in the process.
She knelt down to pick her up, and Remilia could see that the people behind her included the dullahan and werewolf from before. Sekibanki and Kagerou, if her memory wasn't failing her. Kagerou was hauling a tall wheelbarrow, and water splashed over the edges as she moved. When she came to a stop, a blue-haired woman peeked her head up from inside, and a large fish tail rose up behind her, splashing some water on the werewolf.
"Is that a mermaid?" Remilia's umbrella-carrier gasped.
Remilia opened the gate and waited for them to finish their climb back. Charlotte, woken by her drop, moved her arms weakly as she saw Remilia.
"This's bull poop," she slurred. "Just when it--" She paused to let out a deep hiccup. "Just when we were startin' t'get our drink on, Mizz Buzzkill says we gotta go back."
"You two drank for an hour straight," Sakuya said coolly.
"An' I coulda gone for free hours more!"
"What's with the entourage?" Remilia asked.
"Ah, that's right." Sakuya gestured to Sekibanki and Kagerou. "I believe you have met them before, and promised them power and authority. They hailed me on my way back and asked to speak to you."
"I see. Come on in, you three." Remilia waved to the front door. "We can talk inside."
Sakuya went in before them to drop the faeries off in their quarters. When Sekibanki and her crew stepped inside, their eyes were all drawn upwards in wonder. Sekibanki's mouth hung open in awe at her glorious chandelier.
"This is swanky," the mermaid said in hushed appreciation.
"Welcome to the Scarlet Devil Mansion, you three." Remilia's umbrella fairy ducked to the side to avoid getting hit by her wings as she spread them wide with a leathery flap. "I can offer you many, many things, for an appropriate price. But, first, how about some tea--" she turned to the mermaid, "--and your name?"
"I'm Wakasagihime," the fish-woman spoke up. Remilia saw she had fins for ears, and they twitched as she talked, making an unsettling squish noise. "My home is in the lake, where I sing songs and collect shiny stuff." Her tail wiggled inside the cart, making more water drip over the sides.
Remilia scratched her neck. She supposed it made sense that a mermaid in a tiny lake wouldn't have much to do. Sakuya returned with a tray of fresh tea, and they made their way towards the sitting area.
"So, what business do you have with me?"
Sekibanki glanced away and tugged at her collar. "We want to form a gang. Strength in numbers, right?"
"I see. Do you want my blessings? Or perhaps you're suggesting I join your group?"
"I'm not entirely sure yet. All we have is a name."
"Youkai Grassroots Network," Kagerou said. "I think it's a good name."
It wasn't a terribly original or thoughtful idea, but it was an idea nonetheless. Remilia curled a lock of hair around her finger, trying not to show how unimpressed she was. "A name is a start. Now, I'd imagine you need a purpose."
She took a sip of tea from the cup that materialised in front of her. All three of the youkai's attention was fixed on her. Pity the lowly plebians for they can hardly think for themselves, she thought, suppressing a snicker. She supposed she could oblige them a suggestion. One that would help out everyone involved, of course.
[ ] How about a network to spy on the humans? [ ] How about a guerrilla group to establish the forest as your territory? [ ] How about a black market? [ ] How about you get out of my mansion until you have more than a name?
[x] How about a guerrilla group to establish the forest as your territory?
This seems like a good opportunity. If we work this right we can pretty much have some amount of control of the youkai activity in the surrounding area. This group could even grow over time and move into doing whatever legal or illegal things we need, while still not being officially tied to the mansion and instead just hiding behind the idea of youkai being youkai.
The black market idea also isn't bad, but I think it might be something to look into later once we're established and have things to hide our activities behind. I don't think they'd be that useful as spies either. The general population hasn't shown to be very hostile towards our activities or questions and I don't think these youkai be any better than us at getting information from less open people either.
[X] How about a guerrilla group to establish the forest as your territory?
A black market could easily be used as a means of income for something like this. They get money for illegal sales, you send money only when necessary, and get make yourself a powerful, forest-sized ally to boot.
Knowledge is power and this is a good start. The Canon grassroots youkai network is all about this so we know they'll do well. Gorilla warfare is a close second, but they should know which Youkai to avoid, which to bribe and which they can just subjugate before starting cracking heads
Sakuya was looking upwards, her head tilted back slightly in a gesture that would normally look pensive but, with her straight lips and blank expression, made her look as if she was waiting for someone to fall from the sky.
“Let’s see,” she murmured to herself, tapping a finger to her chin, “I made it to the commissions shop… He said the brewing supplies should be ready in a few days, and the stone could take a while. I came to make sure the faeries had actually done their job, so that just leaves…”
There was the loud sound of someone clearing their throat. Sakuya brought her head back down to see Rokuro, leaning on one of the unsold tables still sitting in the ‘furniture store’ wedged between two other buildings.
“Hello,” Sakuya said.
“Is… is everything alright, ma’am?” Rokuro said, shifting on his feet.
“Yes, thank you.”
“Er, what I mean is…” Rokuro gestured at nothing in particular, looking like he hadn’t expected to be the one explaining, “you just ran off earlier, then came back, looked up, and started talking to yourself.”
“Yes,” Sakuya said.
Rokuro looked at the table, then back up at Sakuya. “What am I doing, again? And for how long?”
Sakuya took a moment to think. “You are to watch over the furniture stand for the night, to make sure nothing is stolen. I will be returning tomorrow with Charlotte and Margeroux to—”
Sakuya trailed off as she realized she had lost sight of the faeries. She knelt down and looked under the table to see Charlotte quietly napping, tightly holding onto a scowling Margeroux like a pillow.
“Alright, you two,” Sakuya said to them, making Charlotte wake up and let go of her captured cuddle-partner. They both climbed out from underneath the table and straightened out their rumpled dresses.
“Actually, about that… you mentioned brewmaking earlier…” Rokuro fidgeted in place.
Rokuro was apparently a relative of Mr. Masuda, a local figure who ran a currency and goods exchange. The Masuda family seemed to be a known name in the village, though Rokuro had clearly not inherited any sense of importance as he wordlessly gestured at Sakuya, too nervous to speak up. Then again, she couldn’t remember if he had volunteered to work or had been forced into it. Sakuya was used to dealing with faeries, where the two were one and the same.
“You seem uncomfortable,” Sakuya said.
“Well…” Rokuro fidgeted again, showing an awkward, forced smile.
“U-um! You mentioned brewing and I was going to see a friend of mine tonight because we’ve got a little brewing club, and so I wondered if it’d be alright if we met here!” he babbled, seeming like a child despite his tall body and scruffy facial hair.
“Ahh, you have friends?” Sakuya asked.
Rokuro winced, looking for a moment like a kicked puppy, but forced himself to continue. “S-so, would it be alright if we met here, ma’am?”
“Yes, we shall wait for you here,” Sakuya said, taking a seat at the table as Rokuro hurried off.
"Aww, we have to stay here?” Charlotte pulled herself into one of the seats and rested her chin on the table.
“Hush, Charlotte. We’re networking,” Margeroux said, a few inches shorter than Charlotte, her head just barely clearing the table.
“Do you think the human guy is gonna bring beer with him when he comes back?” Charlotte asked.
Margeroux gasped. “Do you think we could steal-- I mean, he would share some with us?”
“I trust neither of you will embarrass yourselves in front of our guests,” Sakuya said, her eyebrows lowering in an expressionless glare.
“Yes, ma’am,” Charlotte harrumphed, while Margeroux cackled to herself.
Charlotte had almost fallen back asleep by the time Rokuro came back a few minutes later, carrying a rack of mugs. The friend he brought with him, carrying a small keg on his shoulder, looked as if he had never quite finished adjusting to his adolescent growth spurts, with broad, short legs and a head that looked as if someone had pulled his nose and eyes towards the center of his face. He wobbled slightly as he lifted the keg up and set it down on the table.
“This is Chiyota, the other folks from the beer club were busy today. Chiyota, this is the audience I mentioned,” Rokuro said.
“When you said you found a couple girls who were into brewing, this isn’t quite what I expected,” Chiyota said with a lopsided smile.
“Beer! Beer! Beer!” Charlotte said, springing to life and thumping her hands on the table.
“Hah, that’s what we’re here for. This here’s my latest experiment, kudzu beer. Back on my folks’ farm the stuff started growing like wild over the summer, and they brought me down to help weed it all out. Well, after the twentieth day of kudzu soup, I was starting to look for any other way to use the stuff, so I thought hey, why not try it in beer? So then…”
Chiyota kept talking as they set out the mugs and started pouring. It was clear by his loose grin and slow yet never-ending talking that he had taken a few samples of the brew already. Despite that, he filled each mug without spilling a drop, then pushed one towards each of the guests.
“Um…” Rokuro said as Margeroux greedily reached for her mug and snatched it up. He looked at Sakuya, who nodded.
“Alright then,” he said, taking another mug and passing it to Charlotte.
She gripped it in both her hands and immediately brought it to her lips for a swig, spilling some onto her apron. Margeroux leaned over her mug and slurped from it like a deer lapping at a stream as Chiyota passed the rest of them around.
“Right, a toast to women who like beer!” Chiyota said, smiling at Sakuya and clinking his mug to hers.
“To women who like beer,” Rokuro repeated with an embarrassed but happy smile as they tossed back their drinks.
Sakuya blinked as if taken by surprise, then picked up her mug for a delicate sip.
“S’good!” Rokuro said, taking a gasp after drinking half of his mug in one go.
“Mhm, the kudzu adds something nice to it,” Chiyota said.
Sakuya peered down at her glass after a sip, studying the bright amber color of her drink. “The initial taste is sweet, with a citrus-like acidity, but it leaves the tongue with a bittersweet, herbal flavor. I approve.”
Chiyota let out a laugh. “Hey, good taste! I never caught your name, by the way.”
Chiyota took a seat and edged closer to her. “Ah, that’s a nice name. And quite a getup you and your friends have there. Where are you from?”
“My apologies, but that is knowledge is forbidden by fate’s order.”
“Right, right, my mistake, that’s a little personal for just meeting you. Wherever you’re from, how’s the village been treating you?”
“Chiyota, she’s not from here,” Rokuro whispered, sitting down next to him. Chiyota looked back at him with bleary confusion.
“I’m not even sure if she’s human, man,” Rokuro clarified.
Chiyota looked at him, shrugged, and turned back to Sakuya. She looked at Chiyota’s grin, then closed her eyes, lifted up her beer, and took a deep drink.
When she opened her eyes, she felt as if someone had taken her head apart piece by piece and didn’t quite put everything back where it belonged. Her eyes wandered off in different directions before focusing in front of her and seeing Margeroux clumsily zig-zagging forward. She was sitting on the ground, the village walls were behind her, and Rokuro and Chiyota were nowhere to be seen. A weight on her back and a sudden burst of beer-breath told her that Charlotte was latched onto her back.
“Tha’m’s fun,” Margeroux said. Her wings flapped out of sync with each other, making her dip and swerve with every movement.
“Byeah,” Charlotte giggled.
“Right, we have had our fun. Now it is time for us to return to the mansion,” Sakuya said as she got to her feet. She walked forward, feeling as if she was re-learning how to use her legs.
They marched away from the lanterns lining the village walls and into the dark footpaths beyond it, with nothing to guide them but the moonlight. The sound of rustling leaves and distant birdsong made the hair on Sakuya’s neck stand out. She felt as if she was trapped in a tunnel as she followed the increasingly sparse footpath, surrounded by trees.
“Sagya… mr’you sure this’s th’way home?” Charlotte mumbled into Sakuya’s ear.
“No,” Sakuya said, still walking.
“Bwha?” Margeroux shouted. She flew out in front of Sakuya, bobbing up and down in the air as she tried to hold steady.
“I do not know if this is the way home,” Sakuya repeated.
“Alright then, I elect myself the new leader for the way home,” Margeroux announced.
“Ah, do you know the way back?” Sakuya said.
“No,” Margeroux said, charging forward and stumbling right into a shrub.
Sakuya sighed and hurried after her.
“Changed my mind, m’tired,” Margeroux said, climbing out of the shrub and flopping on the ground at Sakuya’s feet.
“Honestly,” Sakuya clucked her tongue and scooped Margeroux up in her arm.
She stood there for a moment, considering walking but not knowing if any direction would be better than the other. The sound of splashing caught her attention, giving her a new sense of purpose and direction. She followed after it and caught sight of a nearby campfire, illuminating the wide mouth of a lake. As she walked towards it, something splashing rushed towards the shore. It drew closer and closer, churning the water as Sakuya approached the edge of the lake.
The figure burst out of the water and flopped halfway up the shore, revealing itself as a rather pale girl with blue hair, wearing a short, soaked green dress. It only went down to her waist, revealing shimmering silver scales that glistened from the water and the light of the campfire. She leaned her head back and looked up at Sakuya while still lying on the ground. Her hair tumbled back, revealing a pair of fin-like ears that twitched slightly as she smiled. While the newcomer had the right appendages for a mermaid, she lacked the grace and ethereal beauty that came with the title as she flopped excitedly on the shore, her fish-tail kicking up water behind her.
“You’re the maid lady!” she said.
Sakuya nodded. The fish-woman turned around and started swimming towards another part of the shore.
“Kage! Kageeeee! She’s back!” she shouted through mouthfuls of water, turning around and swimming back as fast as she left.
Another figure emerged from the darkness: a second girl, her white and red dress marked with dirt and her long brown hair tangled. Sakuya had a dim memory of meeting her before: the wolf-girl with long red nails, a long, furry tail slowly swishing close to the ground, and pointed brown ears flattened against her head. The shawl around her neck was askew, as if she’d just woken up, making her red pendant go slightly lopsided. She let out a quiet bark when she saw Sakuya.
“Kage, it’s the maid lady you told me about earlier! The master faerie-hunter!” The probable mermaid switched between pointing at Sakuya and the wolf-girl.
Sakuya looked up at the wolf-girl, who looked away in response.
“Ah, I met you recently. You are Kagerou, yes?” she said.
“Look! Look! She’s got two trophies with her now!”
Sakuya glanced down to Margeroux, still dazed and very drunk, sleeping peacefully under her arm.
“What did you use? Magic? Traps? Fisticuffs?” The mermaid propped herself up on the floor, smiling up at Sakuya with heroic admiration.
“Hang on, that’s not what we said,” a new voice came from above.
Sakuya looked up. The treetops rustled and down swooped another girl. Her red hair and pale face seemed to shine around her black shirt and gray-blue capelet swirling behind her as she leapt from a tree branch and landed near Sakuya. The girl glanced down to her hands, saw she was still holding a whittling knife and half-finished wooden bunny, and quickly stowed them away in the small pack on her waist.
“We just said she was a maid with that vampress, and that she had a bunch of faerie maids too,” Sekibanki said to her presumed friend.
“Still! If she’s got faeries working for her they must be her prisoners of war or something! Faeries never help other people!” The fish-girl started slapping her fists against the surface of the water as her face screwed up in a scowl.
“And you are Sekibanki, if I remember correctly. Might I ask the name of your friend?” Sakuya said, tilting to one side as she drunkenly curtseyed.
“Wakasagihime… that imagination of yours…” Sekibanki grumbled.
Sakuya started slightly, lifting her head up. Wakasagihime — Princess Smelt. She hadn’t realized she was in the presence of royalty. She dropped the faeries to the floor and gave her a full, proper curtsey, somehow almost tripping over her own feet as she stood in place.
“A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Wakasagihime. I am Sakuya.”
The soft thump of the faeries being dropped onto the ground was enough to suddenly put all eyes on her. Wakasagihime furled her brow and balled her fists, drawing up her focus as she looked up to Sakuya again.
“The… your… the woman who gives orders — she said she’d help us, right?”
Kagerou and Sekibanki exchanged a silent, nervous look. Kagerou bit her lip, exposing her fangs. Sakuya thought for a moment, then nodded.
“Something to that effect was said, yes.”
“Well, we need help. Can we come home with you and talk to your milady?”
“Wakasagihime,” Sekibanki repeated, drawing the name out like a frustrated mother talking to her child.
“Princess…” Kagerou said, rubbing her long red nails together as her tail swished nervously.
She responded by crossing her arms and pouting, which was remarkably effective. Kagerou hung her head, and Sekibanki lasted only a few seconds longer before giving a defeated, lopsided smile.
“Okay. I’ll go get the bucket,” Kagerou said.
“Just you wait. She’s gonna help us a bunch and you’ll be glad I made us go.”
Kagerou scooted out of the campfire’s light. There was the sound of pouring water and creaking wood, and she returned seconds later pushing a large wheelbarrow filled almost to the brim with water. Wakasagihime grabbed the edge of it, hauled herself up, and flopped into it, splashing water onto Kagerou. The werewolf shook and twisted her head, sending water droplets flying and making her hair stand up.
Sakuya looked down to the two faerie maids still lying on the ground, both of them napping despite everything. “Do you have another wheelbarrow, by any chance?”
They did, fortunately, and Sakuya unceremoniously dumped the faeries into the wheelbarrow and led the way towards the mansion. The return trip now started to look like a small caravan as they wedged their way through the narrow paths of the forest. Wakasagihime leaned on the rim of her wheelbarrow, looking over at Sakuya and smiling as they walked.
“Are mermaids and land-maids related? Like two sides of the same family?”
Sakuya sincerely pondered over the question. “Perhaps.”
“Are you an old lady?”
“Wha— Princess, you can’t just ask a woman that,” Kagerou said with a harrumph.
“But she has white hair, like an old lady!”
“My true age is forbidden knowledge even to me, sealed away by fate’s edict,” Sakuya said, then hiccuped.
Kagerou and Sekibanki exchanged another nervous glance while Wakasagihime was undaunted.
“What do you make the faerie maids do? Do they obey your every command?”
“That will take some explaining,” Sakuya looked up the slope of the hill in front of them. “By the way… this is the way back to the mansion, correct?”
Well then! Thank you all for your support and patience through a number of false starts. I'll spare you any sob stories -- I'm back and posting, and that's the most important thing. Knowing that there are people on here who were sad to see the story disappear for so long helped me through the tough process of getting back into writing it. There's no option this time, this is a "meanwhile, back at the ranch" update to get everyone back up to speed on where the story is right now.
I've learned a thing or two about making promises, so I won't throw out an exact ETA for the next update, and instead I'll be back in a week to let you know how progress is going. Wish me luck, lend me your power, and it's good to be back.
Hello all! As promised, here's the Sunday progress report: the outline of the current update is complete, with the first draft on the way. More importantly, I have a plan for the current arc as a whole, which should hopefully prevent any crashing and burning after the next update. I'm still leaving plenty of room for your votes and involvement, of course.
My plan from now on is to post something every Sunday, whether it's an actual update, a character bio, or just news on the progress.
Midterms happened, so I was able to get some work done on the update this weekend, but not near enough to post. The good news is that I'm on Spring break now, and being a recluse, I expect to have the update finished by or before next Sunday.
I'm marking this post as an update because I have two important questions for my readers:
Do you want finished updates to be posted on Sundays, or as soon as they're finished?
[ ] I am a creature of habit. Post them on Sunday! [ ] I am impatient. Post them as soon as they're done!
Should future Sunday reports be saged, marked as updates, or just a normal post?
[x] I am impatient. Post them as soon as they're done! [x] Posted normally.
I'm actually not all that impatient. I just don't want this delayed for no other reason than MUH SUNDAY.
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/03/06 (Tue) 22:03No. 63518▼
Right, that's a pretty clear winner
[X] I am impatient. Post them as soon as they're done! [X] Posted normally.
Thanks for the feedback!
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/03/12 (Mon) 00:52No. 63519▼
The first draft is completed and being edited!
I like to make sure my updates have a good bit of polish, so the editing will take a bit, but the update is coming this week, and may Remi take my soul if I'm lying.
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/03/19 (Mon) 02:28No. 63520▼
File 152142649311.jpg - (130.34KB, 850x618, Humans are scary and so are vampires.jpg)
Despite having only had furniture shifted, and subtracted in some cases, Remilia felt that the former guest room served just fine as a place to settle accounts, though these weren’t tallies of figures that she was absorbed in. She sat scratching out notes in her journal, a fog of distraction and frustration making her push the nib deeper into the paper as she tried to recount everything from the past few days. It didn’t help that her sleep had been poor either. Adding onto that, her chief maid was still absent on errands, most of them related to her current projects: the tarped-over hole in the mansion and the experimental batch of pseudo-beer. And that wasn’t even beginning to account for aggravations like certain pissants named Blümchen, whose entire function was to give every unfortunate soul who encountered her an existential crisis.
A stabbing feeling resonated through Remilia’s head, and she rubbed her temples, setting her pen down to nurse a weak cup of now-lukewarm tea. Things were either happening too much or not enough. Whichever it was, her nerves were growing too frayed to continue. She squinted at one of the covered windows as if trying to spot Sakuya’s distant approach through them. They remained as opaque as ever, and suddenly she felt her ears ringing.
For a minute, she thought tinny jangling in her ears was just the beginnings of a stress headache, but the noise became louder. Then, just as it reached its peak volume, it stopped. There was a knock at the door.
“Mistress! I have news! May I come in?” a voice shouted, immediately followed by the door swinging open anyway.
A faerie with scruffy lilac hair and black, thick-rimmed glasses stood in the doorway saluting, revealing a red armband with a spread-winged bat, the markings of the faerie patrol. It was a fancy title, which the faeries liked, but it really just meant that they meandered atop the mansion and reported on anyone approaching, which tended to be irritating in practice. Living down to Remilia’s expectations, the patrol-fae was still ringing her bell in her non-saluting hand.
“Yes? Report,” Remilia snapped, glaring at the bell with an intense wish that it would just explode.
Noting her mistress’ intense stare, the patrol-fae held her bell hand still. “The chief maid’s almost back, ma’am! And she’s got a couple faeries with her and some… some other somethings! I dunno what they are.”
“Other somethings,” Remilia repeated.
“One of them is very furry, and another one’s wet and scaly. Oh, and there’s a red one, too.”
“Yes, thank you—” Remilia looked at her, trying to remember her name, then seeing she’d given herself a nametag. ‘Sigrid’ was written in loopy, colorful letters. “—Sigrid. Now, bring me Darcy, will you?”
“Roger!” Sigrid saluted with the other hand, smacking herself in the forehead with her bell, then scurried away.
Remilia stood up and stretched her back, working out the kinks in her shoulders as she waited for Darcy, the shrimpy little faerie who could be bullied by her own reflection; being the sort to disappear readily into the backdrop, she was the ideal parasol-carrier. She peeked through the wooden slats of her blinds and felt her eyes tingle, confirming that there was still some twilight sun. After taking a moment to blink away the lingering sting of weak sunlight, she straightened her dress and walked out into the hallway, where Darcy nearly crashed into her.
“Good evening, ma’am! Ready to be eager to serve at your leisure!” Darcy yelped, her glasses askew and her green hair tangling in front of her face, clutching the parasol she’d brought.
“Just the usual, thanks,” Remilia said, already walking towards the great hall.
Darcy scarcely had time to stutter a response before racing to fall behind Remilia, holding her lady’s parasol as gingerly as a relic. Two nearby faeries swooped in and grabbed the door handles as Darcy opened her parasol, floating above Remilia to shield her as the heavy doors swung open.
Remilia let out a long, loud, irritated sigh as she spotted Sakuya ambling through the courtyard. The chief maid’s main task was to fetch brewing supplies, and here she’d returned with three strays and what looked like a wheelbarrow of passed-out faeries. With a second look, Remilia faintly remembered two of the unwelcome guests with Sakuya, the wolf-girl and the sometimes headless redhead she had bumped into a day or two ago. The wolf-girl was pushing a wheelbarrow that the third tagalong sat in. A fish tail splashed up behind the blue-haired girl, kicking up water as she talked excitedly with Sakuya.
“--thirty-seven blue ones, fifteen red ones, and a couple of orange ones too! All just sitting on the bottom of the lake!”
“Fascinating,” Sakuya replied, then hiccuped.
The wolf-girl slowed down as she noticed Remilia glaring at them, then saw nobody else was matching her pace. Remilia looked over to see Sigrid already back at her post.
“Those’re the ones, Lady Remilia! The furry one and the—”
“Get me Toamnă,” Remilia hissed.
Sigrid gasped and reeled back. “Toamnă? But she’s weird and gross and—”
“Toamnă. Here. Now.”
“Yes’m!” Sigrid yelped and disappeared into the mansion.
The entire approaching group was now aware of Remilia glowering at them as they came to a stop in front of her. Although, the chief maid looked to be the least shaken by it.
“Oh, my. It looks like we’re here,” Sakuya said, drawing Remilia’s full-on glare, staring right back at her mistress. She blinked and stifled a belch. “I’m did a… return, Milady.”
“Right, everyone, we’re heading inside,” Remilia said after a pause, waving at everyone for them to follow her. She turned around and spotted Toamnă already standing in the great hall through the open doors.
Toamnă was tall for a faerie, with long, rusty auburn hair cut in short bangs in front of her face, and thick black-rimmed glasses. Her lips were pursed in her usual put-upon expression, as if she was always picking up someone else’s slack, which was often the case. Out of numerous fae, she was a rare specimen with a sense of obligation and fair play, believing that people should follow rules and perform their duties dependably. Such audacious deviations from faerie ‘normalcy’ earned her the title of outcast among the maids. By the same token, she was exactly who Remilia needed to fill in for her inebriated chief maid.
“I need to have a word with Sakuya, and then I’ll be having breakfast with the guests in the private dining room. Take our guests there, get them started, and I’ll be meeting back with them soon. Oh, and have the kitchen bring out some of the Bayonne, I need something good now,” Remilia said, dispensing with the normal formalities as her stomach and head complained in unison.
Toamnă bowed and nodded, then turned to the guests.
“Um, hello,” she said.
“Hi!” the mermaid chirped, waving at Toamnă. The other two shuffled awkwardly on their feet.
“So, erm, follow me.” From Toamnă’s lips, the request came out more like a question.
The group departed for the dining room, and Remilia turned to Darcy, who was looking more nervous than usual, still shielding Remilia even as the doors shut behind her.
“Y-Yes, ma’am. Thank you. You’re welcome! Don’t forget to write!” Darcy babbled, nodding like whatever kept her head in place had broken. She flew over to the umbrella stand and bowed to it before putting the parasol away and thanking it.
All others gone, Remilia now had the chance to give Sakuya another glare. “Follow me. We’re going to get those faeries dropped off, and then you’re going to tell me what the hell has happened.”
“Yes, Milady,” Sakuya said, lifting the faeries out of the wheelbarrow and hoisting them over her shoulder.
Remilia glanced around her, checking that they had some amount of privacy before she started talking.
“So, those people you brought home. Who are they? What do they want? And, most importantly, why in hell are you drunk?”
Sakuya thought for a moment before responding. “While I was taking care of the errands, I hired someone to watch the furniture stand for the evening, a relative of Mr. Masuda’s. Oh, you will be pleased to know that the stand was a success, and the faeries sold a—”
“Save it, Sakuya. I’m more interested in how you’ve gotten snookered right now,” Remilia cut in.
“As it happened, Rokuro — that was the name of the fellow I hired — was part of a local brewing club. He asked if they could meet at the furniture stand, and since milady wishes to obtain dregs for a beer starter, I agreed.”
“And did you actually get any beer starter?”
Sakuya drew to a stop. “Oh.”
“So you didn’t get any beer starter. Though you did, clearly, get drunk.”
“Yes,” Sakuya agreed, walking again.
“And how much did you have?”
There was another brief silence from Sakuya. Her eyes briefly seemed to cross before righting themselves. “There are some gaps in my memory.”
“Dracul,” Remilia muttered under her breath. “Moving along, how did you wind up meeting our guests?”
“Ah, yes. After the end of the brewing club’s meeting, the faeries and I became lost on our way home. The footpaths are hard to follow in the dark, and so—”
“Sakuya,” Remilia interrupted again.
“You can fly.”
“Oh. Yes, I will have to remember that next time,” Sakuya said, blinking. “In any case, I encountered our guests by the Misty Lake. They are the same ones we encountered a few days ago. Does Milady remember them? They were the ones toasting acorns in the forest.”
“Indeed. They got on my nerves that time, too. I’m assuming the mermaid is one of their friends? I had told them— Oh, merde.” The memory of just what Remilia had said felt like a jab to the ribs.
“You had told them someday you would help them to… reclaim their rightful place as creatures of the night, or words to that effect, Milady.”
“I didn’t mean it literally,” Remilia groaned, more to herself than to Sakuya. They reached the faeries’ quarters, and Sakuya tucked the faeries into bed as Remilia took a moment to lament and bemoan.
“Did I make a mistake, Milady?” Sakuya asked as soon as the two maids were tucked away safely.
Remilia took a long sigh. At least Sakuya hadn’t tried any of her time powers, she thought. The last time the chief maid stopped time after getting into the sauce, mysterious stains had appeared on the ceiling.
“Just… take the evening off, okay? Get some sleep, and don’t think of using your watch until you’re stone-cold sober. That’s an order.” Remilia waved her hand. “Dismissed.”
“Understood, milady. Thank you.” Sakuya bowed. Obediently following orders, she walked to an unoccupied bed, flopped down on top of it, and immediately began to snore.
Remilia saw herself out. She needed to deal with her guests, and more than that, she needed some damned food. And some more caffeine. She passed by the kitchen, down several halls, and to the entrance to the private dining room, forcing herself not to wonder how the kitchen was connected to two dining rooms on opposite ends of the mansion.
Inside, Remilia’s guests were already seated. Even the mermaid girl was somehow sitting on her fish-parts, her tail not entirely dry, letting droplets of water run onto the floor. Toamnă had started them off with some tea and breakfast rolls and was now standing off to the side, fidgeting and looking entirely lost as to what she should be doing next. At the table, Sekibanki was the only one eating with any sense of table manners, while Kagerou sank her teeth into her roll and took great big chomps, and the mermaid seemed more interested in amusing herself by squishing hers than eating it. Toamnă pulled Remilia’s chair out for her, bidding her to join them.
“Thank you, Toamnă. Is breakfast ready?”
“I hope so.” Toamnă wasted no time retreating into the kitchen as soon as Remilia was seated.
Remilia helped herself to some tea as she waited. Moments later, the kitchen doors burst open as faeries streamed out, each one carrying a tray and hurrying towards the dining table.
“Watch the elbows!”
The sound of shouting faeries mixed with the clatter of silverware, creating a focused chaos as the table filled with dishes. It was a normal breakfast for Remilia, but it seemed to terrify her guests. Kagerou’s wolf-ears went flat and submissive as her tail bristled and perked up. The fish-girl raised her arms, balling her fists as if getting ready to block a punch. Sekibanki shrank away to hide her face behind her cowl.
The cacophony ended as suddenly as it started, leaving the room silent except for the kitchen door swinging on its hinges. Toamnă blinked. Her hair had been tousled and her glasses knocked off-center from the ruckus, and she took a moment to smooth herself over as her wings buzzed nervously.
“Breakfast is, uh, served,” she said with a curtsy.
The fish-girl slowly lowered her defenses. Her mouth hung open as she took in the spread before her — jams, pastries, eggs, vegetables, meat, and sausages. Kagerou drooled as she spotted the plate stacked high with Bayonne ham. She picked up a thick slice with her bare hands and sank her teeth into it, showing her animal side as she ripped a chunk off of it and stuffed her mouth, chewing loudly. Only Sekibanki, the red-head, didn’t eat like an animal, helping herself to some jam and toast. Remilia took some for herself and took a minute to satisfy her hunger before speaking.
“Now then, you had some business here, correct?”
The redhead daubed her mouth with her napkin after a quick bite of sausage. “Oh, that’s right, sorry. I’m Sekibanki, and this is Kagerou. I wasn’t sure if you’d remembered us. The new girl here is Wakasagihime.”
“Hi, that’s me! I’m Wakasagihime!” said Wakasagihime, waving to Remilia.
Remilia smirked at the thought of the mermaid having a royal title; what nobility stooped over a plate, slurping down scrambled eggs covered in strawberry jam?
“Charmed.” Remilia turned back to Sekibanki. “But that doesn’t answer my question. Just what is it that brought you here today?”
“Oh, um, I’m not— I’m their friend, but I’m not ‘with them,’ they’ve got a…” Sekibanki tilted her head and showed an embarrassed smile.
“I don’t want them getting bullied,” Sekibanki said. Her face was steeled, but it was hard for her to sound dramatic as she spoke over her friends’ loud chomping and slurping noises.
“My dear, I can’t help you if I don’t know who’s in your way,” Remilia said, running out of diplomatic ways to ask her to get to the damned point already.
Sekibanki hung her head. “It’s… these three faeries,” she mumbled.
“Faeries,” Remilia repeated derisively.
“Faeries!” Wakasagihime cut in, thumping her fists on the table, suddenly forgetting her food.
Faeries, Remilia thought. All this buildup for a few whelps driven to desperation by some stray pranksters.
“They’re the nastiest, most wicked little beasties! They steal my clothes when I’m skinny-dipping and call me a beached tuna!”
“Princess,” Kagerou said softly, finally drawn out of her ham-induced stupor to look at Wakasagihime with concern.
“They shave Kagerou’s ears when she’s napping!”
“Oh, how tragic. How utterly terrible,” Remilia bemoaned, rolling her eyes.
“D-Don’t make fun of me!” Wakasagihime whimpered, her cheeks rounding out in a full-faced pout.
Remilia threw her napkin down next to her plate. “Do you have any idea what I am capable of? Even the faintest inkling?”
“You said you’d help us,” Sekibanki interjected, glaring at her.
“I weave the threads of fate around my fingers! Coming to me weeping about your little pest problem is like asking a queen to weed your garden.”
“You don’t gotta rub it in,” Wakasagihime mumbled, glancing away, looking suddenly exhausted with disappointment.
“Are you going back on your word, then?” Sakibanki snapped, staring harder at Remilia as she issued a challenge.
Remilia spluttered. “Pah! Between the three of you, I’d have expected enough of a brain to make your first plan something other than making weepy-eyes at the nearest vampress. What you have is a pest control problem. I had a lesser daemon stumble into my library yesterday. Frankly, I can’t spare any precious time for your every inconvenience.”
“They’re not just ‘an inconvenience’! They’re really mean, and they make all of us miserable, not just me!” Wakasagihime shouted, shaking her fists, tears forming in her eyes.
Remilia made another dismissive noise. “Go on, tell me more of these faeries’ horrible crimes against nature and decency. Name-calling? Rudeness? Littering?”
Wakasagihime’s face took on a look of determination, as if she was sure her next tale would make Remilia weep. “Just wait ‘til you hear! Just a couple of days ago, they took—”
“Princess, please,” Kagerou said, her cheeks still stuffed with ham as she frowned.
“—they took Banki’s head, and—”
“Wakasagihime, don’t,” Sekibanki squeezed her eyes shut and bit her lip.
“—and played monkey-in-the-middle with it!”
Sekibanki buried her face in her hands. Wakasagihime gave Remilia a pleading look. Remilia’s scowl turned upwards. She let out a confused, slightly stunned snicker, and then, as she imagined the act, the snickers became hoots of laughter. Wakasagihime slumped in her chair, defeated again, and started to cry. Remilia had only a few moments to enjoy her laughter before Sekibanki’s fists slammed against the table hard enough to knock a few spoons out of their bowls.
“You, out in the hall, now. We need to have a word,” she snarled at Remilia, her face as red as her hair.
Remilia stopped laughing as her expression whipped right back to indignant and patronized.
“As a matter of fact,” I think we do!” Remilia huffed as she stood up from her chair and shoved it aside. She noted Toamnă had made herself scarce and scowled harder to herself. Hopefully, not many faeries heard all those comments about their species being pests and weeds and ruffians.
Sekibanki shoved the door open and stomped into the hallway. Remilia followed after with a nasty curiosity about what this little nobody would dare try to do to her. As soon as the door closed behind them, leaving them alone in the hallways, Sekibanki raised her hand and jabbed a finger at her.
“You wanna know why we came to you first? I wish my friends didn’t have to come to see your high-and-mighty butt to beg for help. Right now, though? We don’t have anyone else. We’ve been stuck on the bottom, and you’re the first person in a long, long time to offer my friends any hope of some help. I knew we might have to walk away empty-handed, but there’s no way I’m walking out of here with my friends crying. You might be a million times stronger than me, but if you think that means you can just walk over me and my friends, I… I’ll fight you myself!” She pushed through her tears, shouting at Remilia until she had said her piece.
“Is that a threat, whelp?” Remilia countered.
Sekibanki drew her hand back and slapped Remilia across the cheek, with all the might her scrawny body could muster. The blow sent her reeling back, as if she had hit herself even harder. Remilia showed her fangs and raised her hand. As she felt a bright red spear begin to take shape in her hand, Sekibanki charged at her, thumping her fists against Remilia’s chest and shoulders to no effect.
As easy as turning the dullahan into a smear would have been, Remilia’s arm stayed still. She stood there for what could well have been several eternities, eyes narrowed at Sekibanki. At length, her grip on her weapon loosened.
“Oh, hell. What am I doing,” Remilia mumbled to herself, closing her eyes and letting the spear dissipate into the air. She felt something, not quite anger or disappointment or frustration, but a draining mix of all three.
Sekibanki pulled herself away from Remilia and crossed her arms, blinking away tears and trying not to show any fear for her life she had just felt.
“S-So, are you g-going to apologize and help us?” she sniffed.
Remilia sighed. Her sense of pride stung and ached, but it couldn’t bring her to even think of striking back at Sekibanki. She turned away from Sekibanki and stared at the wall.
Here she had gone and made bold promises to some down-on-their-luck strangers, and they had the gall to believe her. She couldn’t even wrap them around her finger like she had hoped before she went and threw a tantrum. Every foolish new promise she made only seemed to tangle and break right in front of her. Some ‘mistress of fate’ she turned out to be; if fate was such a trivial thing, her chief maid would never have returned wobbly-legged. She turned back around to face Sekibanki, who was still glaring at her, not willing to leave until she had an answer.
“Alright, you,” Remilia said with a sad smile.
[ ] “Noblesse oblige — a woman of my standing has an obligation to help the weak.” [ ] “Despite how it may seem, I’m… not unfamiliar with feeling weak and powerless.” [ ] “I can see a little of myself in you. I think that’s a compliment, though it might not seem it.”
[X] “Noblesse oblige — a woman of my standing has an obligation to help the weak.”
Well she's certainly got guts, that's for sure. A rather alarming lack of brains, though, particularly considering the number of heads she may or may not have on standby. Also, drunk Sakuya is hilarious, so good work there.
Also, Remi is really out of it today. She really had a shitty day, eh?
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/03/21 (Wed) 01:34No. 63533▼
Forgot to mention how long voting was open for. I'll be closing votes tomorrow night, around 21:00 EST. I'm going to leave the voting schedule open as I get back into the swing of things, hopefully after a few more updates I'll get a solid schedule down.
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/03/22 (Thu) 02:09No. 63534▼
[x] “Noblesse oblige — a woman of my standing has an obligation to help the weak.”
Like any good woman of rank, Remilia can spare a thought for the poor plebians.
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/03/26 (Mon) 00:55No. 63535▼
Sunday progress report
Soon, it will be storytime for Sekibanki. Remilia has a big, comfy reading room and everything!
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/04/09 (Mon) 02:09No. 63541▼
Storytimes are almost finished, which just leaves the lead-up before entering the second pass and final spit-shine phase. As you wait warmly, let's give a proper introduction to the new faces from the last update:
Apparel: Glasses Hair: Rusty auburn Eyes: Mauve Height: 127 cm Sign: Virgo Primary Job: Community Management Hobbies: Quiet time, making card towers Message: "Somebody has to do their job around here, and it might as well be me."
Apparel: Glasses Hair: Green Eyes: Green Height: 113 cm Sign: Sagittarius Primary Job: Umbrella-carrier Hobbies: Anxiety, checkers Message: “Thank you! You’re welcome! See you later! Um, don’t take any wooden nickels!”
Apparel: Headband Hair: Purple Eyes: Brown Height: 109 cm Sign: Leo Primary Job: Member of the Castle Patrol Hobbies: Bird watching, jogging, loud noises Message: “’The Castle Patrol: Eyes like a bat!’ That’s our motto, I came up with it!”
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/04/16 (Mon) 00:43No. 63544▼
Sunday Progress Report
Unfortunately, family and school obligations made this a pretty unproductive week for me. The first outline made something that was a bit overloaded, so I've been working to make something smoother and more tightly-paced, but that also involves a good bit of rewriting.
In other words, progress is not happening as fast as I had hoped, but it is still happening.
>>63544 Ditch college. That's what I did and my life is that of a winner.
I have to go, those toilets won't clean themselves.
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/04/23 (Mon) 01:57No. 63555▼
Apologies again -- it's the week before finals, and between projects to finish and exams to study for, I couldn't find much time to work on Remi. Rest assured that I do want to see the next update rolled out, and progress will be much faster after the next week is over. Thanks for your not having me tarred and feathered your patience.
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/05/07 (Mon) 00:01No. 63567▼
Sunday Progress Report
It's heavy into second-pass editing now, which means it shouldn't be too terribly much longer. Stay tuned!
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/05/14 (Mon) 01:53No. 63570▼
Sunday progress report
Second verse, same as the first. The update is turning out bigger than I had expected, and a family occurrence (nobody dead, thankfully) plus summer classes have also eaten up some time, but progress still goes!
Remilia looked at Sekibanki and saw a desperate, cornered young nobody, holding back tears as she stared down a mighty vampress, knowing that one wrong move could be her death. She heard a muffled flitting sound and glanced over to see a faerie hiding herself poorly around the corner.
“We should probably continue this discussion somewhere more private,” Remilia said.
Sekibanki’s stern glare broke as she looked longingly at the dining room door behind her. Remilia wondered if her invitation to discussion sounded more like an execution to her. She forced a smile.
“It would be terribly ill-mannered of me to harm a guest,” she said.
Sekibanki looked back at Remilia, then at the door again. She heaved out a sigh, her shoulders sinking.
“Okay. They’ll be fine in there,” she said.
“They will. Toamnă may be a faerie, but she’s surprisingly trustworthy.”
Remilia led her down the hall, through the maze of the mansion, to a luxurious lounge room. A half-circle of large, thickly-padded chairs sat towards a stone fireplace, unused for the summer season. On the other side of the room, silk-lined sofas faced each other as if prepared for a symposium, with a mahogany cabinet just behind them, its glass panels showing a well-stocked selection of liqueurs and wines. Remilia waved for Sekibanki to take a seat in one of the sofas as she perused her options in the cabinet.
“Would you like a drink, Sekibanki?”
“Um, no thank you,” she replied as she took a seat, bouncing slightly on the cushion.
Remilia poured herself a tall glass of white whine, then brought the rest of the bottle along with her, setting them both on the end table. She took a sofa of her own and reclined against the armrest, half seated and half lying.
“Let me tell you a story, Sekibanki.”
Remilia took a slow, pensive sip of wine as Sekibanki waited. Remilia had told this story quite a few times in her long life, but Sekibanki would be the first new person to hear it in decades. She took a slow, pensive sip of wine and let the details float back to her.
Remilia had lived all over Europe, from France to Belgium to Russia, and had travelled to India, China, and beyond, but as far as she was concerned, only one place was ‘home’ to her — a little place nestled in the northern Carpathians. She was born there, and for a while she had reigned there, but that was generations ago. It was pleasantly boring, just another collection of farms and shops, the sort of place she had never expected to hear mentioned in the busy metropolitan capital she had settled into a few years ago. And yet she heard whispers. Rumors that the forests there had grown thick with unholy creatures, and that a small crusading order, thought to have faded into obscurity, was plotting to return to prominence by purging that forest of evil.
The rumors were quite likely to be true. Remilia remembered that forest from her youth. It was an unsettling place, seeming to thrum with the arcane. Even humans relatively numb to the presence of magic could feel it in their bones when they drew too close. The locals said it was where the souls of the dead wandered if they became waylaid after death. It must have seemed quite the tempting target to a crusading order on the brink of going out of fashion.
Tempting, yes, but Remilia wouldn’t let it be easy. She had kept her vampirism a secret and ingratiated herself into the world of human life, but even though she had never lived among her fellow creatures, she still felt a great deal of commiseration with them. After all, she realized, that forest was so close to her home, the place where her late father had made the dynastic change from human to vampire. Any plans she had made would have to wait. She had only one plan now — return to her home and see if she could save a fellow vampire from the purge.
That night, she slipped away from the city and made her way back, leaving behind the world of courtiers and servants as she traveled alone. She walked at night and hitched rides along wagon trains during the day. She was out of the country in just four days, and traveled frantically for two weeks, relying on her vampiric nature to keep her going, needing hardly any sleep.
It was a bittersweet relief as she stood on the outskirts of her old home. A part of her wanted to walk down through the familiar streets, but she knew nobody would recognize her after so many generations. Besides, she had come here with a goal. She stayed outside the village’s walls as she walked around it, passing by the quiet fields of barley, trying not to think of her old life as a Countess.
The farms gave way to clearings, then to overgrowth as the forest came into view across the flat plain. Her nose twitched, as if she had suddenly breathed in cold air. Already her senses were reacting to the presence of otherworldly forces. She followed it as she entered the forest, going wherever made the thrum of magic grow stronger.
A distinctly worldly sensation caught her — the smell of burnt wood. She hurried after its origin and found the remnants of a battle. Trees were marked with scratches and crossbow bolts. A black patch of burned underbrush scarred the ground, littered with snapped branches. A severed arm lay near the patch, burnt on one end, with the remnants of a complex sigil tattooed on it. Remilia knelt down to pick it up.
Innate knowledge rose up from deep within her as she touched it. This was once part of a vampire’s thrall. She had a glimpse of his form before death: thin and emaciated, little more than a skeleton with skin. His front teeth had been forced to grow into long fangs, making his mouth misshapen and mangled. His nails had grown into claws that ripped the skin on his fingers.
Remilia shuddered and cast the arm aside. She’d heard that other vampires took thralls, but she never knew the process was so ghastly, or for that matter, the results. For the first time, she wondered how she would have been welcomed by the master of such a creature. There was no use in wondering that now, though. The crusaders had already been here, and what’s worse, they knew what they were doing. If the size of the black patch was any indication, they had burnt every bit of the vampire to ash, removing any chance of him coming back to unlife.
She shook her head. She may have been too late for this fellow, but the battle here was obviously recent. There might have been someone else yet to save.
The buzz in the air lingered as Remilia walked away. She went deeper into the forest. Instinct was her only guide as she wandered deeper through the forest. The sudden sound of rustling leaves caught her attention, and she stopped as she saw figures moving behind the trees. She stood up straight and glared at the figures, letting her presence exude and dominate the atmosphere. As the figures drew closer, she could see what they were: a gathering of brown bears.
They formed a circle around her, looking her down as they moved as one. The way they moved was too organized. They must have been working on the orders of some supernatural tamer — the sort of person worth knowing, and leading to safety. The bears slapped at the ground and growled at Remilia, but her stern glare left them too frightened to draw closer. They kept at it, shaking their stressed faces and cutting into the dirt with their paws.
Remilia saw something on top of the largest bear’s back. Purple streaks mixed in with the fur. She stepped closer. The bear seemed to panic, as if trying to go backwards and forwards at the same time. The purple streaks, she realized, were long strands of hair.
“Piotr, I said get her! Bite her! Kill her!”
A small figure rose up to her hands and knees on the bear’s back. It was a small girl with long purple hair, looking a little like a bear herself as she shoved at the shoulders of the bear — presumably named Piotr — in an attempt to get him to charge. The bear let out a whimper and shook his head. He knew he was outmatched, whether or not his tamer would accept it. Remilia stood her ground, hands on her hips, but as the girl thumped her fists against Piotr’s back, her scowl rose up into a smirk. She wondered how long the girl would coax her steed in a vain attempt to attack, or if she’d finally realise that Remilia meant her no harm.
The girl chose neither of those options, and instead rose to her shaky feet on top of the bear’s back. She drew a knife out from her pack. Remilia saw the girl’s wild, ragged, tear-stained eyes stare at her, her gaze unmoving as she held the knife high and leapt.
Remilia couldn’t resist sighing. “Oh, please.”
She reached out and caught the girl mid-leap, knocking the wind out of her. She set the girl down, and she immediately fell to her knees, still keeping a white-knuckled grip on her knife as she gasped for air. The girl scrambled back up to her feet, but this time she was met with the firm, even glare that Remilia had given to her bear companions. Remilia had not, of course, ever been taught the specifics of her powers, but she had learned on her own that her stare had a way of getting someone’s undivided attention.
“There we are. With that nonsense over with, I would like to let you know that you’re in grave danger and I am, in fact, here to help you.”
The girl looked at Remilia, then hung her head and shook it slowly.
“You can’t. You’re too late. Everything’s gone,” she mumbled, then fell to her knees and began to sniffle and take deep, heaving breaths.
The other bears ambled away, but Piotr tottered forward, bent his head down, and gave the girl an affectionate lick on the hand. Remilia pursed her lips.
“You’re still here, aren’t you? Are you just going to stay here?”
The girl took more heavy, shuddering breaths. “I can’t leave them behind, I have to…”
“Can’t leave whom behind?”
The girl let out one more sigh, then pulled herself up to her feet, suddenly stone-faced with purpose. She turned and ran away, immediately followed by her bear companion.
“There’s something I still need to do,” she said, more to herself than to Remilia.
“Wait! Didn’t you hear me?”
Remilia ran after her. She had come here hoping to be the heroine and now she’d been reduced to chasing after a child. She grunted and grumbled under her breath as she chased the girl through the thick forest, then stopped as she reached a clearing.
She looked out at what must have been the remnants of the girl’s village, confirming her fears. Embers still smouldered on the thatched roofs of mangled huts. Smashed barrels and carts left pieces of wood and metal strewn along the footpaths. Piled up behind one of the houses was a heap of dead bodies. The thick smell of blood filled Remilia’s nostrils, flaring up her hunger, but she resisted the notion. Not only would it be very poor timing, but besides, only scavengers feasted on the dead.
She found the girl standing by a large fire pit in the center of the village. A crusading banner sat in the pit, chopped up to be used as kindling. Her tears flowed anew as she arranged some things around the pit: a shallow copper bowl, a drum, and a staff with copper rings. She stopped as she saw Remilia approaching.
“I need to send them on. They’ll be stuck here if I… Um, in any case, I need to do it myself. I would prefer you didn’t watch.”
She forced out each word, struggling to keep composure. Remilia knew that anything she said to her would only be an interruption. She gave her some privacy, stepping away behind one of the half-demolished houses to find Piotr there, sitting on his haunches and grooming himself. She sat and waited, staying alert to any signs of the crusaders coming back to look for stragglers.
A soft sound like the echoes of ringing glass filled the air. Remilia looked up and saw thin wisps of white fog coalesce in the air, floating over the houses and towards the fire pit. So, she thought, there was some truth to the whispered stories of lost souls wandering in the forest. Piotr poked his head against Remilia’s shoulder and sniffed her, warming up to her presence. She watched as more of the small, hazy clouds floated down from the air until the flow was reduced to a trickle, then nothing.
“It’s done,” the girl said, emerging from behind the house.
“Excellent. And now you’ll get ready to follow me to safety away from here, yes?”
The girl turned around and took one last look at the remnants of the village, her gaze moving slowly from ruined house to ruined house, shuddering as she looked over the pile of bodies. Remilia recognized the sentiment on the girl’s face: the feeling of returning home only to find you don’t have a home anymore.
“I just need to grab a few things,” she said and rushed back towards the firepit.
“Just be quick about it, take what you can’t replace and I’ll provide the rest,” Remilia said, following her.
“And Piotr has to come along,” she said, stuffing things into her satchel.
“Consider it done.” Remilia waved her hand, flicking the problem away.
“He likes to eat hazelnuts.” The girl stopped for a moment and looked at Remilia, as if sizing up her response.
“Then hazelnuts he shall have. We can sort out the rest of the menu later, because, I must repeat, every minute we spend here is another minute in danger.”
Unable to argue with that, the girl packed away a few more trinkets and climbed onto Piotr’s back. She started to turn her head back, then resisted the thought and forced herself to look forward, away from the ruined village.
“I’m a fool to trust you,” she muttered as they walked away.
“Soon to be a safe and well-fed fool. Speaking of which. If you’re going to come with you, I should at least know your name. I am Remilia Scarlet. Perhaps you have picked up on my nature?”
The girl nodded. “I know a vampire when I see one. Hence, why I tried to kill you, and why I’m still not convinced you’re truly here to help me. In any case, my name is Patchouli. Patchouli Knowledge.”
The veil of reminiscing lifted, bringing Remilia back to the present moment, sunk into her chair, drunk on nostalgia and Riesling. With her vampiric metabolism, the drinks were thankfully starting to clear from her head already. She just wished she could say the same for Sakuya, sleeping off her beers.
“She’s still with me today, all these years later. She does research down in the library.”
Sekibanki fidgeted in her seat. “That’s nice and all, but I’m not really sure why you told me all that.”
Remilia drummed her fingers on the armrest, pondering how to respond to that. It was the first time she had told the story to someone who wasn’t a long-time resident of the mansion.
“Because, I mean… it kind of sounds like you messed up. And then let Patchouli take advantage of you,” Sekibanki said.
Remilia harrumphed. “Yes, that would be the uncharitable way to put it. Think of it this way, though. That young girl tried to kill me, and then made demands of me. And yet, I took her in regardless. There is a saying in the world I come from — ‘nobility obliges.’ With power and privilege comes a responsibility to act with charity and grace to the weak and downtrodden. Your courage from earlier reminded me of young Patchouli, and of my duty.”
Remilia stroked her chin and nodded to herself. Sekibanki blinked.
“But you had to brainwash her, right? And then made her work for you?”
“It’s not-- Oh, for the love of… I’m offering to help you!”
“Yes! As I said, with my power I have a responsibility to help the… ahem, well, no offense but your fish friend brought you here for a reason. And I didn’t brainwash Patchouli! I just calmed her down a little.”
Sekibanki sighed and bit her lip. Even with the cowl obscuring her mouth, Remilia recognized her face. It was the expression of someone who had tried so hard to refuse admitting weakness, and was nervously watching her options dwindle. She worked up another firm stare as she looked up to Remilia.
“Wait. What’s your idea of ‘helping’ here?” she asked.
Remilia rubbed her chin again. She wished Sekibanki hadn’t asked that. Remilia was never much for making detailed plans before jumping in, which in retrospect, explained a lot. Still, she could see the spark of hope in Sekibanki’s eyes, and wanted to keep it alight.
“I would like to accompany you and your friends back home after breakfast. I will stay with you a while, and…”
[ ] “…I shall train you, teach you to be strong enough to defend yourselves.” [ ] "…I will make it clear to those pests that you and I are allies.” [ ] "…I’ll show you when we get there.”
[X] “… I shall train you, teach you to be strong enough to defend yourselves.” [x] "… I’ll show you when we get there.”
Why do I get the feeling that these are somehow not necessarily mutually exclusive? We could bump into the evil fairies on the way there, spend a while studying their weaknesses, and then give the "know thy enemy" spiel when we get there.
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/05/31 (Thu) 01:01No. 63584▼
Votes will be closing tomorrow night, around 9 PM EST!
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/06/01 (Fri) 02:34No. 63585▼
[X] “… I shall train you, teach you to be strong enough to defend yourselves.”
So Patchy used to be a crusader, huh? I wonder what Order she belonged to. The Teutonic Knights, of Germanic fame? The Sword Brethren, from the city of Riga in Livonia, which would be eager to claim glory and finally attain recognition like that of better known orders? The Order of Dobrzyń from Poland or the Knights of the Cross with the Red Star from Bohemia, maybe? Perhaps the Order of the Dragon, from Hungary. Or maybe she's from a more distant Order like those of France, Spain, or England.
More importantly, where can I find a picture of Patchy in a mail hauberk and tabard holding aloft an arming sword and shouting DEUS VULT at the top of her straining, asthmatic lungs?
That's a fairly exhaustive list of orders -- but the one in question here is fictional. This won't be the last time we get a peek into Remilia's life history.
(and to clear up any confusion: Patchy's little Pagan village was attacked by crusaders, with her being the lone survivor.)
Anyway, that gives me an excuse to give a little peek behind the curtain! I put some thought into the rough location for the events: the Baltics were among the last parts of Europe to be Christianized (Lithuania wasn't until 1387!), providing the opportunity for some Pagan holdouts galavanting around in the forests. It's not too far from Hungary, home of vampires in popular imagination. Remilia likes to make jokes about how she's "got Magyar blood. Get it? Blood? Laugh, damn you." Some early migrants to the Carpathians brought Siberian bear-lovin' shamanism with them, hence Piotr.
Now then, onwards to training! Given the average youkai's sense of discipline and organisation, there's nowhere to go but up for them.
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/06/10 (Sun) 23:16No. 63598▼
Sunday Progress Report
I have a plan and a rough outline for the next update. Get ready everyone, Remilia's going native.
I'm always surprised how casual nudity isn't a thing in Gensokyo. Like...where do all the youkai and fairies get clothes n' stuff? They can't can't just drop by wal-mart after Reimu shoots their clothes off.
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/06/17 (Sun) 21:49No. 63601▼
Sunday Progress Report
As I make progress towards the next update, have a recap of some previous faeries we've met way back when. You never know when they might reappear!
Apparel: Glasses Hair: Black, straight and neat, neck-length Eyes: Chocolate brown Height: 95 cm and sensitive about it Sign: Sagittarius Primary Job: Formerly checked items off of the official faerie to-do list; now furniture saleswoman Hobbies: Correcting others, crossword puzzles Message: "Scamming other faeries is hard when none of us have any money."
Budding industrialist and would-be robber baron. Was tasked along with Charlotte to handle selling old furniture in the Human Village, and managed to do a decent job. Is currently turnt and safely tucked in bed back at the mansion.
Apparel: Mob cap Hair: Blonde, chest-length, permanent bed-head Eyes: Blue, sleepy Height: 118 cm Sign: Gemini Primary Job: Formerly bed-maker; now furniture booth babe Hobbies: Naps, cuddles Message: "Everything seems a little less urgent after a nice siesta. Sometimes someone else'll even take care of it while I'm sleeping."
The strength and ferocity of her naps are legend, and woe betide anyone close enough for her to grab and forcibly use as her pillow. When awake, Charlotte's sleepiness and lopsided smile can be charming and adorable to humans, so she was sent off along with Margeroux to be cute and lure in customers. Currently turnt alongside with Margeroux.
Apparel: Headband Hair: Strawberry blonde, bowl-cut Eyes: Red, but not in a cool way Height: 105 cm Sign: Leo Primary Job: Bag-lifter for various garden tasks Hobbies: Idolizing Meiling Message: "I got to arm-wrestle her yesterday! Not only that, but she helped patch up my hand after she accidentally broke three of my fingers! Totally worth it."
Looks up to Meiling to an uncomfortable degree, and not just because Meiling is taller than her. Her hero-worship has led her to hit the faerie-gym and get some biceps, so she can usually be tricked into doing grunt work under the guise of helping Meiling.
Apparel: Headband Hair: Red, scruffy, shoulder-length Eyes: Black Height: 103 cm Sign: Cancer Primary Job: Firewood-hauler and occasional middle-manager Hobbies: Horses, wrestling, establishing dominance Message: "Don't call me 'Prissy' for short!"
Ten gallons of enthusiasm in a five-gallon faerie, with a love of horses despite rarely being able to sit on top of one. Her propensity towards wrestling other faeries into submission makes her a decent middle-manager whenever Remilia needs someone to run stuff and Sakuya or Toamnă is unavailable.
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/06/25 (Mon) 01:56No. 63602▼
Meanwhile, back at the faeries' quarters
There was a very good reason that Remilia told Sakuya not to touch her watch until she had slept off her drinks. Her fiddling with space-time seemed effortless and pleasant, but everyone at the mansion had learned the hard way that it only seemed that way due to... whatever the hell Sakuya had on her side. Experience or luck or secret knowledge or just her innate Sakuya-ness. In any case, the fact that Sakuya continued to maintain basic structural integrity was something of a miracle, considering how often she bent the laws of physics over her knee.
When Sakuya's thinking was impaired, that basic structural integrity could be equally impaired. Years ago, when Sakuya had a few drinks at one of Remila's parties, Patchouli found her left foot walking down the library by itself. The time after that, the walls had started sneezing. Only then did Remilia realize the downsides of her contract with Sakuya -- not being able to know much of anything about Sakuya's origins, the only way she knew how to prevent such things was just to keep an eye on her.
Remilia couldn't always keep an eye on her, though, and was busy as Sakuya did a rough approximation of sleeping in the faeries' sleeping quarters. Margeroux watched her. She couldn't sleep, not because Charlotte already had her in her death-grip idea of a cuddle, but because of what she saw. At first, she thought Sakuya was just shifting and squirming in her sleep, but that wasn't quite right. She was vibrating. It seemed to come and go in waves, briefly being so strong it shook the bedposts, then suddenly stopping.
The nightstand on the other end of the room launched into the air, tumbling in a wide, heavy arc before landing in the bed next to hers with a soft thump.
"Saku-- er, chief maid?" Margeroux tried to whisper, but it came out as a yelp.
"±√∑∴∝≜," Sakuya mumbled back in her sleep.
"Are, um, are you okay?" Margeroux whisper-yelped again.
Sakuya fell through the floor, literally, passing through it like a ghost. Margeroux had hardly even processed what she just saw before Sakuya fell down through the ceiling, landing on a the bed next to Margeroux's with enough force that she bounced on top of it a few times. Margeroux held her breath, leaving the room in an unsettling quiet until Sakuya started snoring again.
Margeroux panicked as she saw Sakuya start to vibrate again. She needed to do something, and started to do the best idea she could come up with. She wriggled out from underneath Charlotte's firm grip, working herself down inch by inch until she broke free. She batted Charlotte's arms away as she reached out in her sleep. Calling on all the strength she could muster, she grabbed Charlotte around the waist, straightened herself up, and threw her towards Sakuya.
The only way to stop something moving, Margeroux had reasoned, was to hold it down. Charlotte flumped onto Sakuya's bed, and feeling Sakuya's vibrating leg, began to make her move. She slithered up and grabbed Sakuya around the waist, snuggling with all her might. Sakuya's vibration slowed down, then stopped.
Later, Sakuya blinked and came back to reality. Charlotte was still latched to her, and had left a patch of drool on her apron as she used her chest as a pillow.
"Good something, chief maid," she yawned, seeing Sakuya stir back to life.
Sakuya leaned her head up. One of the beds had been smashed, with a string of knives sticking out of the mattress. Another bed was on the ceiling.
"Oh, my. Seems I was a bit unstable."
She sat up. Charlotte, now sated after her nap, slid off of her like a heavy sack. Sakuya clucked her tongue.
"Where's Margeroux? Isn't she still here?"
"Eek!" came Margeroux's voice from somewhere.
Sakuya pulled herself off of the bed, then got down on all fours, finding Margeroux curled up underneath the bed.
"Goodness, what are you doing there?" Sakuya said.
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/07/09 (Mon) 00:30No. 63612▼
This next update is going to be something of a start to a new arc. Remi's started to find her footing, or at least, the mansion's stopped rattling after the landing. Now she's getting herself back into nobility-mode, and every good noblewoman needs some vassals. The fact that she doesn't technically own any land here, and doesn't exactly have anyone outside the mansion swearing fealty to her, are secondary concerns. She's functionally immortal, so she has plenty of time to throw everything at the wall, see what sticks, and have her faeries pick up the rest.
Gensokyo might not like an up-and-coming new arrival doing things her way, but she'll worry about that later. Right now, she's just working on her home turf. I mean, it's not like there are important people living by themselves in that creepy old forest by the lake, right? That'd just be ridiculous.
Holy hell, it lives. I I found this back in 2016 just before your hiatus, and absolutely loved it. I was really bummed when the updates stopped. Thank you so much for coming back to this after all this time.
Thank you! I'm honored that y'all have stuck with me for so long. That's part of why I started the Sunday Report, so that even if I'm taking entirely too long to finish an update (e.g. now), I don't want to let you guys linger in wondering whether or not I'm still here.
[X] “… I shall train you, teach you to be strong enough to defend yourselves.”
Right. After all that talk about noblesse oblige, Remilia had nearly lost track of herself. They needed help and she would provide it. The lingering question was how.
Her nails pattered on the leather armrest as she pondered, the faint wish for a snifter of something stronger than Riesling (maybe a port?) picking at her. It was while she swatted at those circling thought-harpies that she came to the unpleasant conclusion that her people skills might have grown rusty. How such a thing had happened, she couldn’t be sure. After all, what were negotiations beyond fine-ish dining, a comfy couch, and an engaging yarn? Certainly, she’d sweetened the deal to the best of her abilities by that standard. And yet, against all odds, Remilia would have to lay out specifics before Sekibanki would agree to anything.
Another moment’s consideration was enough for her to hit on something, drawing an inward smile from her, soon to become an outward one, to Sekibanki’s visible displeasure. She sprang up from her seat and plopped herself down next to Sekibanki, gripping her shoulder in a sororal squeeze. Sekibanki darted a glance toward the door. The wine was already losing its effect, but the surging thrill of possibility was twice as intoxicating for the vampress.
“Why Sekibanki, my dear, you look as if you’re expecting something awful! What’re you anticipating, me drinking your blood? Making you my thrall? Stealing your soul?” she exclaimed in the giddy tones of a scheming socialite.
The dullahan’s carmine eyes quivered, reminding Remilia of the first time she met her, after blowing a tree clean off its trunk. “Y-You wouldn’t…”
“Correct! The help I’m offering is far, far more mundane. Your faerie problem is, to my mind, one of territorial security. Well, in my high society affairs, I learned a thing or two about that.”
“Territorial… what?” Sekibanki shook her head and recovered from any thoughts of immediate mortal peril. “Like an army, or— Would we have to live here? Or learn how to command faeries? I don’t understand.”
“It’s simple,” Remilia said emphatically. She pointed with her wine glass out and up like a commander’s baton. “The problem is that getting things is easy, but keeping things is hard. You and your friends, if I may hazard a guess, just need a few lessons in how to keep things. Chances are, you won’t even have to fight anyone head-on. The faeries just need to see that harassing you isn’t worth the effort. Or the pain, if it comes to that.”
A long, meaningful moment passed in silence as Sekibanki stared at Remilia. Though her manner had betrayed only doubt and terror most of the time, something of a glimmer shone in the darkness of her eye.
Sekibanki pursed her lips and closed her eyes before giving a cautious nod at last. “Alright, you have my interest. But this isn’t just my call to make. I want to talk this over with my fr— those two before committing.”
Remilia felt assured she would get her way as she strode from the lounge and led the return to the dining room, confident that her rusty skills had still been enough to get her way, despite the dullahan's dull expression. They proceeded down corridors and stairs, passing by faeries at work, and more faeries who tried to look like they were working when they saw their mistress approach. Remilia turned to make some comment about the faerie work ethic, but saw that the only thing Sekibanki was focused on was her own feet. The girl was trailing by several strides, plodding along with the ashen look of one who had just come within a half-inch of a runaway boulder. The talk of stealing souls and making thralls had perhaps not been as playful as Remilia had intended.
The rest of stroll to the dining room was uneventful, though Remilia did pause to determine if said room had suddenly displaced itself. It was apt to do that, and usually at the oddest moments, especially when Sakuya was asleep. One of these days she really would have to get Sakuya and Patchouli to sit down for a long, long talk to clear all that up.
Finding the room stationary for the moment, Remilia drew a deep breath before opening the door. The moment of triumph was near at hand.
“Ladies, we have ret—”
The door swung open to a scene less than fitting for Remilia’s triumph. Stray bits of food had made their way all over the table and beyond, a smear of gooseberry preserves running along the walls and a bread roll somehow stuck on the ceiling. Mysterious greasy fluid pooled on the floor near the head of the table. Silverware lay about like it had been used once and dropped. And there, in the middle of all the carnage, were the pair: Kagerou, her ears twitching as she snored in her chair, and Wakasagihime, lying across her friend’s lap. Their feasting had given way to the blissful dozing that so often followed.
A quiet clearing of the throat drew Remilia’s attention to the wall. Like a dutiful maid still waiting at table, Toamnă had been standing by, trying not draw any notice to herself. She hurried to her mistress with a curtsy.
“Beg your pardon for the mess, milady. The mademoiselle with the wolf ears kept eating in her sleep, and I couldn’t be certain when it would be safe,” the bespectacled faerie confided in a low voice.
Remilia harrumphed, somewhat deflated after expecting a moment of wide-eyed admiration from the young youkai. Even the smaller parts of her plan weren't going quite how she had hoped.
Taking it in as much stride as possible for the moment, she cleared her throat. “Well, it seems you two have enjoyed yourselves.”
Kagerou’s ears gave a start and her tail bristled as she stirred awake at once, subsequently relaxing and giving a low whine once her eyes had focused. She nudged Wakasagihime. Her fish-friend muttered before rising from her lap, her fin-ears wiggling like Kagerou’s had. So very much alike, Remilia couldn’t help but note.
“Oh, right. You were going to talk about…” Kagerou mumbled before turning to her friend. “They were talking about something, weren’t they? Her and ‘banki.”
“That thing. The thing she’s gonna do.” Wakasagihime nodded sagely with a jam-smeared smile.
Remilia nearly began re-explaining the purpose of their visit, but turned instead to Sekibanki. “Would you like to tell them? They might like to hear it straight from you.”
Sekibanki nodded, looking to be back to her normal self, and huddled with the other two. She started recounting a jumbled version of what Remilia had told her, her audience drawn in for all its lack of pomp. Kagerou's tail even stood up at some of the more exciting details. Yes, Remilia thought, that was more like what she had expected. Humble as they were, they were easily impressed and would prove to be convinced that Remilia’s nobility would become their shield. They were right, but by accepting her protection, they would become like her vassals, accepting her guidance, wanting her to remain strong, spreading her influence. Helping others, Remilia had learned, truly could be its own reward. She bit her lip to hide the wicked cackle she felt coming on.
While she watched the mermaid and werewolf blanch at the word ‘organisation’, Remilia noticed Toamnă’s discreet attempt to catch her attention.
“Forgive my forwardness, milady, but…” Toamnă nodded toward the kitchen door. She was half-poised to walk away, but Remilia’s hand arrested her.
“Tut tut, think not of housework, dear Toamnă. Tonight, you’re blessed with the opportunity to adventure with us,” Remilia chided with a waggle of her finger. “Your fae expertise will be needed.”
Remilia knew that ‘adventure’ was the last thing Toamnă wanted, preferring the safety, stability, and solitude of housework. However, if anyone could be depended upon to help best a bunch of faeries, it was a much more intelligent faerie. Besides, she was big enough to serve as porter if need be.
There was the telltale winding down of conversation from the group. Remilia noticed that the quiet reverence on their faces was gone, replaced by something equally hopeful but more… decided. They had definitely made up their minds on something, whatever it was.
“I take it you agree, then?” Remilia inquired.
The three looked at each other, and then there was a nod from Kagerou and Wakasagihime. Sekibanki flashed an assenting thumbs-up. If there weren’t watchful eyes on her, Remilia’s wings would have fluttered from the rush of victory. Instead, she returned Sekibanki’s sign along with a muted quiver of her wings.
“Excellent! Then let’s strike out at once! But first, preparations.” She guided Toamnă forward, the faerie still looking despondent. “Toamnă here will show you the pantry. I grant her — and by extension, you — full access to my stores. Nothing off-limits. Take what you will and meet me in the great hall.”
Remilia turned around with a flourish of her dress, then heard the distinct lack of reaction and turned back around to face them. Sekibanki looked cautious of the offer; Wakasagihime was coming to terms with the thought of following a faerie; and Kagerou seemed stuck a few orders behind.
“Just follow Toamnă, yes? She knows what to do.” She flashed a polite smile and looked to the maid.
Toamnă stood at attention as if she’d only noticed everyone’s gaze on her, stifled the buzz of her wings, adjusted her glasses, and curtsied to her mistress. “By your leave, milady.”
Waving them on, Remilia watched the three misfits file in behind Toamnă, the mermaid helped back into her mobile tub by her lupine friend, rushing to join the others as they left the dining room. If she wasn’t imagining things, she could swear there was the notion of a smile on Toamnă’s lips. Even strangely human-like faeries could be motivated by the promise of sweets and fats, apparently.
Eager to do her part to hurry things along, Remilia glided off to one of the side wings, finding a door marked with a sign reading ‘Emergencies Only!’ She drew a key from her pocket and flung the door open, delighted to immediately lay eyes on her aim: the ‘expedition cart’. The sturdy vehicle was always at the ready, loaded with all the necessities for picking up, fleeing into the wilderness, and generally waiting out angry mobs. There had been little occasion to actually employ it, but Remilia was adamant about it being kept up just in case, and while she wasn’t currently facing any angry mobs, it would work just as well for a camping pack.
She marvelled at the brilliance of her Plan B and unbelted a chest, rummaging to produce the spare hat she kept. The article was a light pink colour, stuffed until it could only be described as ‘poofy’, a bit on the heavy side but excellent for blocking the odd ray of sunlight. Remilia centred it over her head and beamed, feeling the weight of greatness pressing on her cranium. This was a hat fit for a general; bother Patchouli’s remarks on it, the pyjama-wearing excuse for a fashion critic.
After a quick check for the emergency schnapps, and another quick check to make sure it had stayed drinkable — oh, yes, it certainly had — Remilia paused to puzzle the matter of how to move the cart. Appearances would dictate having horses. Unfortunately, horses meant dealing with Priscilla, who was… particular about the animals in spite of their not being her rightful property. She shook her head. No, this could be settled by vampiric strength alone, she decided.
It was only a matter of minutes before Remilia stood in the great hall with the cart, and a few minutes more before Toamnă and the rest returned. Having evidently taken the Scarlet Devil’s offer of free run of the stores to heart, they had become a drifting mountain of goods. She wondered whether or not that should have surprised her.
“Steady… steady!” piped Toamnă from somewhere in the mass. The four of them shifted to one side, keeping the pile upright.
Soon enough, they guided the provisions all the way to the cart, given hasty directions from Toamnă and Remilia, and a cascade of food and gods-only-knew what else poured into the back to test its structural integrity. Remilia peered over the side, noting mostly sweets, slabs of bacon, and packets of cocoa, though actual food did show among the rest. There were even a couple of bottles of wine, albeit nothing of particularly high quality. Remilia mused at how humble one would have to be to only grab the cheap wines in an open cellar. It was a good show of teamwork, at least.
Toamnă fetched a neatly-packed rucksack from the top of the mound and carefully slid down to her feet in front of Remilia, giving yet another curtsy. “Provisions are, erm, acquired, milady.”
“And this is all you’ll require?” Remilia asked, looking around at Sekibanki and her companions.
Sekibanki and Kagerou exchanged looks, shrugged, and looked at the mermaid. Wakasagihime pumped an enthusiastic fist in the air, slapping her tail rapidly.
“Let’s get those dang faeries!” she hollered. Her newfound élan would have been more inspiring if she hadn’t been floating in a tub full of jarred preserves and pickles. Toamnă coughed.
Unperturbed, Remilia put her hands on her hips and smiled a fang-baring smile, ready to take on the world and all its armies of faeries if need be. “Right, then. You two there, open the doors. Adventure waits!”
Two nearby faeries, who had been sparring with broomsticks, hurried to clear the way for their lady. Remilia led the way into the welcoming night air, pulling the cart herself and enjoying the chance to show that it was no trouble for her vampiric strength.
Being greeted by a smiling, dirt-faced Meiling was hardly a surprise, though the sight of a sound asleep Esmerelda clinging to the gatekeeper’s leg did give Remilia momentary pause. Meiling shrugged her shoulders and continued beaming.
Remilia waved an invisible sabre to urge her newfound troops forward while Meiling wrenched the gates open. “Onward!”
“Bye, have fun! Stay safe!” Meiling called after them, waving goodbye.
“Bye! Bye-bye!” Wakasagihime called back, waving with both hands and splashing about until Meiling disappeared from view. Then, she turned around, smiling, and curled her tail, letting her body sink lower in the tub.
“Who was that?”
“Hong Meiling, another faithful servant of mine,” Remilia said proudly. The strain of manual-labour had a strangely uplifting effect on her mood, raising it by yet another notch.
“Is she from the Outside World too?” Kagerou asked, her ears cocked as if trying to point back at Meiling.
“Indeed! She’s from China.”
“Wow, China…” Wakasagihime murmured with awe.
Remilia’s wings gave a happy tremble at the mermaid’s seeming recognition. “You know of it?”
Remilia blinked. Somehow, she felt, she should have expected that, and yet she was still taken off-guard. For someone who showed an intense dislike of most faeries, Wakasagihime certainly seemed to share their way of thinking. Letting the thought fall off, she fell silent for the first time in the past half-hour and focused on pulling the cart.
After they entered the cover of the trees, Sekibanki worked her way to the front of the line, taking the lead to guide them in the dim moonlight. Toamnă floated behind her, hoisting an oil lantern high to add a little more light.
“Are you from China too?” Wakasagihime asked after a few minutes of silence.
“She’s going to ask a lot of questions,” Kagerou whispered before Remilia could begin to answer.
“Never you mind. I have no problems talking about myself,” Remilia assured the werewolf before looking to the mermaid again. “To answer your question: Of course not. My homeland is Hungary, two continents over. Land of great mountains, fertile fields, and hot springs!”
“Ohhh.” Wakasagihime nodded with a vacant expression. Remilia braced for the follow-up. “What’s a continent?”
“It kind of sounds like Gensokyo. There’s Youkai Mountain past the lake, and there’s lots of hot springs around,” Sekibanki said, turning her head at an uncomfortable angle before adding, “and the fields near the village are pretty fertile. I guess.”
Remilia gave a self-possessed grin. “Well, if I can get a nice bowl of gulyás here, it’ll be just like home.”
“Is Hungary where you used to rule? You mentioned something about that,” Sekibanki pursued. Her head pivoted until it was turned completely backwards, drawing a muted squeak of horror from Toamnă.
“Ohoho-ho! Fellow royalty?” Wakasagihime cut in.
“Indeed, though I didn’t rule over the whole thing. Hungary’s quite large, you see. I was a mere countess, attached to a village around Balassagyarmat.”
Sekibanki looked at Remilia, trying to decide whether or not ‘Balassagyarmat’ was a made-up name.
“Countess? Well, I’m a princess, so I outrank you here! Ow.” Wakasagihime tried to put her hands on her hips, then hit her elbows on the rim of her tub.
“At least I got to bring my mansion with me. Who knows? If things have worked out differently, I might’ve been able to climb higher,” Remilia said with a tense laugh. Then, her voice dropped to a mutter. “If not for those gods-damned Habsburgs.”
Toamnă recovered from her dullahan-induced fright and drifted closer to the others, rushing to change the subject and recover the mood. “How about you three? What do you do to pass the time?”
Wakasagihime’s hand shot up and her fin-ears wiggled, making a squishing noise. She made a point of turning to address Remilia. “I swim. Oh, and lots of shiny rocks end up in the lake. I collect them. There was this really nice purple one I found before before we came over…”
“Erm, yes, very nice. How about you, Kagerou?” Remilia interrupted, feeling that the fish-princess might not stop when started.
Much like her friend’s hand, Kagerou’s ears jumped to attention. “I explore, forage for food, try to find stuff for the camp. All kinds of things fall on the ground.”
“And what sort of stuff, may I ask?”
“Cloth scraps, trinkets, tools… stuff like that, y’know? I have a knack for finding them.” The werewolf wore a self-satisfied look of her own, though it quickly turned into a defensive one when she saw Remilia and Toamnă looking at her. Her ears flattened. “I-I don’t go around attacking humans or eating livestock, though. I just pick up what humans lose or leave behind, you understand? Just minding my business like that. I don’t want to get hit with a rake again.”
“Oh, no, I wasn’t thinking that, my dear. I just thought you look like an excellent scavenger,” Remilia said in a placating tone.
“Oh.” Kagerou’s ears crept back upright. She fiddled with the brooch on her collar, her eyes tracing the ground. A faint blush was visible on her cheeks, even in the darkness. “I don’t think I’m that good, but if you say so.”
Her tail started gently wagging. No, Remilia thought, certainly not the type to attack humans. Even a bleating lamb would be enough to repel someone as prone to timidity as this woman. Of course, correcting that would be part of Remilia’s good deeds.
“Hey… Toamnă, was it? I’m gonna need more light. We’re getting close,” Sekibanki called back, a nervous look on her face. She was likely hoping the journey would end before her turn at speaking.
Reluctantly, Toamnă drew back towards Sekibanki to provide lantern-light. The conversation that Remilia and the rest had been carrying on suddenly tapered off in anticipation of reaching their destination. Bushes seemed to be clustered thicker on the ground now, and they were clearly deep into the woods. Kagerou weaved the princess-bucket between the trees with surprising skill, keeping up with everyone as Sekibanki led them down a slight slope to what had to be their home.
“Egad,” Remilia remarked under her breath.
There was a hut, its walls stitched together from scraps of cloth in all different colours, sizes, and fabrics, held up with stakes — Remilia gave an inward shudder — and poles. A ring of stones marked the campfire area, with bowls and spoons lying around it as if the ground was the only shelf they needed. The rest of their possessions were similarly strewn about, as if they dropped whatever they were using as soon as they were done with it. Looking over it felt like a pastiche of human life, pieced together from second-hand accounts.
Remilia shoved away the nagging voice that said she was one to talk about pieced-together life. It was fine, she thought. Very good, in fact. Her job was easier if she had to start from the very basics, like ‘Don’t leave doors open with faeries nearby.’ She dropped off the cart by their hut as Sekibanki put some branches together for a campfire and Toamnă produced cocoa and a kettle from her rucksack.
Remilia took out a small rug from the other side of the cart and unrolled it, taking her seat by the campfire as it lit up, appreciating the warmth in the cool night.
“Right. We’re well-fed, the night is just beginning, and we’ve got a few minutes while we wait for the cocoa. I do believe it’s time for lesson one.”
[ ] Lesson one: discipline. Get the place cleaned up. [ ] Lesson one: preparation. Gather information on those dastardly fae. [ ] Lesson one: reactions. Have Toamnă launch a surprise attack (after cocoa).
First of all, this is by far the best comment I have ever received on an update.
Secondly, voting shall stay open until tomorrow at around 8 PM EST. Go bug your friends if they haven't voted yet!
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/09/11 (Tue) 00:27No. 63645▼
[x] Lesson one: preparation. Gather information on those dastardly fae.
If you know yourself and know the enemy, something something, that's good and you'll definitely win.
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/09/16 (Sun) 22:43No. 63646▼
THE SCARLET NOTARY OF ERUBESCENT SECRETS
“Contained within this diary is the current plans which I, Remilia Scarlet, am most elegantly engaged in for the purposes of gold, glory, and/or lack of anything better to do. Typhon willing, it will also keep me from putting too much on my plate at one time.
Who am I kidding, I’ll do that anyway.
— There’s a big feckin’ hole on the second floor of the mansion. That should be dealt with post-haste. During Sakuya’s last visit to the Human Village, she put in an order for mortar, along with brewing supplies, so repairs can begin as soon as those arrive. Or as soon as we pick them up. Whatever.
— I’ve had a semi-proper introduction to some of the local bigwigs who stopped my little mist ploy, by which I mean a shrine maiden named Reimu came by and got off-her-rocker drunk and a witch named Marisa came by and flirted with Patchy so badly that she gave her an asthma attack. I was glad they didn’t seem to hold a grudge against me, but now that I see this written down, perhaps they do.
— The “furniture stall” set up in the Human Village market district, run by Margeroux and Charlotte and composed entirely of old furniture I don’t need anymore. It’s succeeding despite all odds, so I hope Sakuya remembers to send those two back to work this morning after the collective sleeping-off of hangovers.
— Started up a vineyard on some of the hilly areas just outside the mansion walls. Sakuya’s time-stop powers can’t fully replace the agricultural cycle, so some elbow grease courtesy of Meiling and some faeries is needed regularly.
— A time-stopped beer tub is awaiting some form of beer-starter that Sakuya was supposed to get. Hopefully the faeries looking after it haven’t taken to bathing in it or whatever other terrible ideas enter their heads.
— A lady named Yukari dropped by and warned me that Flandre might want to slip out of the basement. I played cards with her for a little bit so that should all be solved and fixed, right? Yeah, let’s go with that.
— A contract was signed with an adorably daft birdgirl named Mystia Lorelei who runs a seafood cart. I should probably check in at some point to see how that’s going and make sure it hasn’t accidentally resulted in anyone putting a bounty on my head or anything.
— A pissant little daemon named Blümchen has taken up residence in the library, and by ‘residence’ I mean ‘shackles.’ She’s so annoying that hell doesn’t want her back, so I need to find some way make other people find some way to smuggle her back down there and get her out of our collective hair.
(This'll be hitting autosage soon, so expect the next update in a new thread!)
Truth be told, poor Remi's options have been limited lately. Patchy's too grumpy, Meiling's too pure to catch on when she flirts, Sakuya's hiding a few extra dimensions under her skirt, and the faeries are, well, faeries. Still, dating a daemon who wants to make her life miserable might not be the best idea.
On the other hand, Wakasagi's curiously attractive for a fish-woman...
Will Toamnă's secret faerie knowledge save the day? Will the hot cocoa be delicious? Will there be a few more holes in the Scarlet Devil Manion by the time Remi returns? Find out in the next update, coming When It's Ready.
I can't help but notice that Flandre is missing from the list. Please keep in mind that, according to the ancient bylaws of this site, imouto route is always an option. But seriously, there are definitely some waifu tier fairies here. Remilia should learn to keep her options open.
How do you figure that? OP hasn't given any indication as to how everyone's three sizes stack up, and her canon tits ain't anything to write home about. Also, Remi wouldn't have a shot at getting her anyway. She probably has dudes tryna get up in that sweet, sweet fish booty on the daily, being a princess and all.
Damn son. I guess the Loli Vampire Bowl was over before it even begun. I for one am glad we've been blessed with this revelation prior to the scheduled story reveal.
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/10/22 (Mon) 00:29No. 63669▼
On the subject of DDCrew butts:
Wakasagihime's Fishbutt: scaly. It's a little... disconcerting at first, but once you're used to the texture she's got a sizable dorsal donk. Like the rest of her scale-parts, it's soft and pliant when at rest but can work up some surprising tension and firmness. A blubble-butt, if you will.
Kagerou's Wolfbutt: it might look to be on the soft side due to Kagerou's extra layers, but beneath the surface fat, her butt-muscles have been toned from years of scampering and running on all fours, like rocks wrapped in wool. She could probably crush a walnut between her cheeks if she tried hard enough.
Sekibanki's Sekibooty: Small but perky and shapely; unfortunately, any attempts at further investigation were promptly stopped by a swift football punt between the legs.
Whew, hopefully that'll distract the thread from my lack of progress this week.
Unfortunately, it wouldn't really be feasible for me to NaNo-ify Scarlet Tycoon. A story about juggling multiple things and completing long-term plans isn't the best fit for daily updates, and I wouldn't want to write myself into a corner or slip up and have to chuck things out. That doesn't mean I'm going to put Scarlet Tycoon in the fridge for a month, it just means I'm going to be trying something different for NaNoWriMo.
So! With that said, there are a couple different options, and I wanted to check in with you fine folks and see what you think.
One option is a sort of Tycoon Gaiden: a break from the current storyline (where Remi is busy in the forest) to have traipsing about with other shenanigans. Or it could be a broader look at the mansion, including interludes and episodes with Patchy, Meiling, and the other residents of the mansion, getting a look at their stories and what they get up to while Remi's off running from scheme to scheme. It'd mean more of the Remi hijinks you know and love, but I'll say in advance that I don't know how much if any of it would wind up being 'canon' once we return to Remi proper.
An alternative would be to do a separate story. In case you can't tell, I like writing the daily life aspects of fantasy settings, writing things about the faceless schlubs that make up most of Gensokyo. I was considering doing a NaNo story about a small-time human landowner, visiting various places in Gensokyo as he does his business, giving a peek into my headcanon of how the humans of Gensokyo earn their keep and dealing with riveting intrigue like "well my great-great-great-grandpappy said I own that field over there" and "the Human Village Council will be on my ass if I don't fix the roads but the peasants keep demanding to replace their labor obligations with cash payments."
What do you think? Any strong opinions one way or the other, things you'd like to suggest, or death threats feedback?
>>63674 I think there's enough Tycoon for one story. Not that it's not good, just there's no reason for there to be more, if that makes sense. Besides that, doing it twice over might turn it into a chore.
>>63677 Thirding this anon. You write the best fairies.
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/11/06 (Tue) 03:34No. 63766▼
Sunday Monday Report
Oh beans, I forgot to check in here yesterday. My NaNoWriMo story is up at >>/th/199414 , and that's been taking up the writing-juices, but it's also a reminder that writing can be a lot easier and a lot more fun than I make it sometimes, so I'm going to ganbaru to not let Remi languish while I work on it.
OH YE GODS PLEASE FORGIVE ME I THOUGHT I HAD POSTED A REPORT AND THEN JUST FORGOT ABOUT IT FOR THE REST OF THE WEEK
And then had two exams and PANICd my way through a few days. And I have an unfortunate habit of looking at NaNoWriMo contests and going "I should write a story that requires paying close attention to what has and hasn't happened already so that I need to make sure each update progresses the overall plot without going too fast and ending early."
I'm a little honored that so many of you are still checking an autosaged thread during Nano-Reimus so if it's any consolation, your fear and panic from being accidentally abandoned by me gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling. While the dream goal of continuing work in Remi during November hasn't really petered out, just imagining I'm beefing up my writing-muscles and stocking up on Remi energies to unleash as soon as the month of December hits.
I'm usually on the unofficially official unofficial THP Discord so feel free to hop in there and yell at me: https://discord.gg/UPHZMWy
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/11/26 (Mon) 06:16No. 63978▼
Last week of Nano-Reimus,which means soon Remi will have my undivided attention. It's been a good crop of stories this November, and you should definitely check them out if you haven't already. See you again soon!
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/12/10 (Mon) 00:06No. 64036▼
Back in the swing of things. Resuming a draft-in-progress after a pause is always an interesting process, and usually involves some cleanup work. I don't really have much else to say about it, but I'll hopefully have more next week!
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/12/17 (Mon) 01:56No. 64037▼
Things are going! Progress is being made! Words are being word-ed!
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/12/24 (Mon) 02:27No. 64041▼
Christmas happenings have gotten in the way, but progress is continuing. I'm finally starting to like the look of the update, and it's starting to feel 'right.' I can't promise a release date, much as I wish I could, so instead I'll wish you all a happy holidays.
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2018/12/31 (Mon) 01:34No. 64042▼
Nothing happened this week. There's not much of a reason, just some things that need working on. I'm planning out how to break out of the Holiday sloth and pull myself together within the week.
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2019/01/07 (Mon) 01:33No. 64043▼
After some responsible life choices, I'm back in the saddle. As proof, I'm holding myself to a self-inflicted challenge: if I'm not working on the second draft by the next report, I'm going to tell my friends and family members that I suck toes. See you next week.
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2019/01/14 (Mon) 01:35No. 64044▼
Responsible choices continue, the first draft is completed, and my hypothetical toe-sucking activity remains unknown. We'll see how things go in this next phase -- the hardest part so far was just wrangling the scenes and keeping them from spiraling off in different directions, so now that that's taken care of, I'm cautiously optimistic about next week!
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2019/01/21 (Mon) 00:31No. 64045▼
Second draft is coming. It's slow going, but I'm doing what I can.
Mask of gold!eDHSlGAoEo!!SzMwN3A2Zm2019/01/28 (Mon) 00:08No. 64055▼
Hello, everyone. I'm going to be putting Sunday Reports on hold for a while, just until I've got the next draft done and the update's in the neaten-and-polish phase. Don't worry, it's just a temporary thing. It's mostly just that there hasn't been much to say, and it'll go back to normal once Remi is back on track.