, the joy of many libations.jpg
There was something to be said for the stoic and efficient maid, the one that catered to her master’s whims expertly. It was that type of servant that often became so essential to the daily routine that she could be thought of as an appendage, a simple extension of another person’s will. I didn’t think that Kagerou could become that—she was too independent to subsume herself entirely. At best, she could become a source of comfort owing to familiarity. I wasn’t sure if that was the best way to go but it did seem like it would be difficult to prevent it.
Whatever restraint she may have wanted to show had been quickly eroded by the show of goodwill and, more importantly, food. Kagerou set a place opposite Remilia, barely listening to my instructions on which fork went where. Like the vampire, she didn’t seem too enthused by the prospect of greens and passed completely on the remaining salad. Instead, she hastily attended to Remilia, serving her only the smallest of portions at her insistence, before pouring a generous helping of ham hocks and beans onto her own plate.
“I’m proud of my kitchen staff,” Remilia boasted, liberally drinking from her glass of wine, “there isn’t anyone else in Gensokyo as skilled with herbs and spices. Even the finest ingredients are handled with the care and respect they deserve.”
“Mm,” Kagerou barely responded to the conversation, letting the vampire blather on as she ate. Hungry like the wolf, indeed.
“Of course,” Remilia seemed unfazed by the lack of response, sparkling with pride and self-absorption, “it was a chore to train them at first. You wouldn’t believe how useless fairies are at learning! You tell them to mind one thing a thousand times and they’ll still make a mess of it if you’re not constantly supervising them. It was a struggle, I tell you, but in the end patience and my genius managed to conquer their natures.”
I could understand why Kagerou wasn’t paying much attention. She hadn’t eaten anything all day from what I could tell and the food was pretty good. The meat was wonderfully tender, basically falling off the bone, its flavor enhanced by a remarkably savory sauce that was boldly seasoned with a few unique herbs. I couldn’t tell what they were through her senses but I did know that they brought out a subtle sweetness to the meat that was delightful. Though not as hopeless as her mistress, Kagerou also now sported the signs of a hasty and messy eater and I had to insist that she use a napkin to wipe around her mouth every now and again.
“...and that’s another thing about those so-called oni,” Remilia was still animated well into another serving, punctuating her sentences with increasingly erratic hand gestures, “have you ever seen one in the same place as a tengu? No, of course you haven’t! They’re like cats and dogs. Can’t stand each other, I think. Funny how that works out, isn’t it?”
“Sure is,” Kagerou gave another one of her stock replies. It may have seemed rude but, to be entirely fair, it wasn’t like the vampire was actually asking her for her input. At one point Kagerou did try to drive a conversation but found herself quickly shut out as her mistress changed the subject once more. Maybe she wasn’t loosened up enough to just go for it. I wasn’t very sure, she was basically ignoring me all the while. I knew that some of that was to avoid looking like she was talking to herself but I think that she was simply too engrossed in the moment to care about anything else. She couldn’t blame it on alcohol either—she didn’t drink a single drop from Remilia’s bottle, leaving all the more for the vampire to enjoy.
“Really, the noble devil’s burden is more than most can bear but I see it as my duty to educate and civilize because-” Remilia flitted from topic to topic as she drank more. She had no shortage of commentary to offer on other youkai, on humans and how she saw herself in the grand scheme of things. The only thing she seemed to enjoy more than talking about her opinions was her wine.
And Remilia really seemed to enjoy the wine. So much so that she stopped expecting Kagerou to pour her another glass early on. In another breech of protocol she got up at a certain point and brought the bottle to the bottle, placing it right in front of her. Naturally, she didn’t bring the wine coaster and the table cloth was soon stained purple with the rogue drops that were carelessly allowed to dribble down the exterior. If either noticed, they didn’t seem to care.
“...really, it’s things like that that make me wonder if the other youkai are even trying,” Remilia concluded, closing her eyes, placing an arm on the table, raising her hand and turning it upward like she was offering a dish of essential truths.
“Would you like dessert?” Kagerou finally remembered that she was supposed to be a maid as well. Bones picked neatly clean and a nearly-empty food tray were the victims of her lapsed memory.
“Oh, I really shouldn’t,” Remilia waved the hand that was holding her wine glass recklessly, almost spilling the red liquid all over herself. “I think I’ve had enough to eat for now. Need to watch my figure and all,” she sighed, “let me tell you, the challenges us of the nobility have to face are simply too unfair. Everyone has these high expectations of you and maintaining a proper image can become so… yes, um, tiresome.”
“I’ll try a piece if you don’t mind,” Kagerou said, getting up.
“Ahh…..” Remilia shook her head, “alright, you convinced me, I’ll have a bit. But just a bit!”
Kagerou cleared out the dirty dishes and placed a pair of smaller dessert dishes at each place. She didn’t serve much to either herself or to Remilia, clearly aware that this was merely the decadent indulgence of desire.
“It’s pretty good,” Remilia smiled after trying a small scoop of pudding.
“It is,” Kagerou agreed, showing off a satisfied smile of her own. Turned out that the red color was caused by the use of strawberry. The texture was soft and the sweetness not too excessive. For all her bragging about this and that and how money and station made her superior, Remilia was at least right about her cooks. I could scarcely imagine an everyday meal like what they just had being as good anywhere else in Gensokyo.
Remilia drank the rest of her latest glass shortly afterward and sat back in her chair, a look of sublime contentment on her face. She crossed her arms and closed her eyes, stating, “I almost feel compelled to confess my sins. I haven’t felt like this in a long while… faith and desire… do you know what I mean?”
“I’m afraid I don’t,” Kagerou answered, “I know that a lot of youkai as of late have been turning to those weirdos in the mountain or at that temple but it hasn’t really appealed to me personally. Maybe it’s just not for me, I’m not sure. Salvation and bettering yourself is better if it’s more practical, I think. Like minding the problems youkai have every day...”
“Hm, that’s nice,” Remilia brushed off what she had to say, not so much because of contempt or disinterest but because she had clearly really wanted to share her next story. With a wistful look on her face she began, “I remember this priest I was once acquainted with. He was the third son of a much-esteemed family; tall, auburn hair, blue eyes, a soft yet masculine voice that made it seem like you were the only one in the world that mattered...and a great laugh and sense of humor… ah, they don’t make them like they used to.”
Remilia bit her bottom lip as she became lost in thought. A streak of red intensified in her cheeks and around her nose and I wasn't convinced that it was entirely due to the copious amounts of alcohol. Evidently, Kagerou didn’t seem to think so either and so she asked, “what happened to him?”
“The priest. The tall priest.”
“Oh,” Remilia grinned, fangs jutting out from her small mouth, “we had a habit of engaging in most vigorous discourse nearly every time we met. I learned a lot about the local church and theology from him and he… well...”
“...” Kagerou leaned in, hanging on the vampire’s every word.
“-let’s just say that he delighted in learning about the supernatural first-hand and I was often foolishly pleased to teach him,” the vampire giggled like a schoolgirl. So much for the dignity of a noble. “It was a sad day when we parted ways but it was for the best.” Remilia tapped the side of her glass, producing a series of quick and sharp notes, and quickly added, “fate had other plans for him. And I made sure...”
“...yes?” Kagerou asked after a while. Remilia had trailed off and closed her eyes, as if thinking carefully about what she would say next.
“...” There was no response from Remilia. Either she was lost deep in thought and reliving those pleasant memories or...
“I think she fell asleep,” I said, taking a guess. She was entirely relaxed in her seat, her shoulders slumped down, clothes pinched and loosened by the awkward position she was resting at.
“I think you’re right,” Kagerou frowned.
“I’m surprised she lasted this long,” I commented, noting the obvious, “she downed most of that bottle like it was nothing. If you also factor in that she was also drinking earlier… well anyone would be sleepy after all that.”
“I suppose so,” Kagerou sighed, “what should I do?”
“Clear the table. Take her to bed. Standard maid stuff that you should be doing instead of focusing on your appetite.”
“You don’t get to judge after disappearing on me earlier,” she grumbled, not amused.
“Be that as it may, get to it,” I once again wished I could shrug. There was no point in getting into it with her, we’d only end up wasting time.
Kagerou cleared the table. She put all the dirty dishes and scraps of food onto the tray before heading to the dumbwaiter. There was a button next to it, one that I told her to push. It probably sent a signal to down below. After a few moments, the tray began to descent and disappeared down the dark shaft. She closed up the door and returned to where Remilia had collapsed. The vampire hadn’t moved a muscle.
“What should I do?” Kagerou asked, snuffing out the candles on the table for good measure.
“Well… you’re a werewolf. Not just a normal girl,” I offered a hint.
“...what are you getting at, Al? I’m not in the mood for jokes.”
“No jokes. Just carry her,” I told her, “she’s small enough and you look strong enough. I’ll guide you to her bedroom.”
Kagerou groaned but quickly saw that there was no other alternative. It didn’t seem like Remilia would cooperate anytime soon by waking up. She opened the door first before returning to Remilia and swiftly scooping her up in her arms. Turned out that I was right about both of them. The vampire didn’t feel very heavy from what I could tell and Kagerou managed the weight just fine.
As she started down the corridor, mistress in her arms like an oversized winged baby, she sighed again. I told her the fastest way to get to the bedroom; unfortunately she would have to climb some stairs with her precious cargo in tow. Remilia barely stirred though, at one point, she opened her eyes wide and seemed to stare intently at Kagerou. “Cute doggy,” she laughed softly before closing her eyes again and falling into an even deeper sleep.
“I won’t say anything if you don’t say anything,” I said to Kagerou. She just nodded and carried on.
Remilia’s bedroom wasn’t nearly as garish as I expected to be. Other than a portrait that depicted a younger-looking version of herself in fine clothes and a golden circlet, little about the room was excessive. Sure, a four-poster bed wasn’t exactly that common nor was the mahogany coffin that sat atop it but it wasn’t trying to show off like much of the rest of the mansion’s furnishings. Kagerou laid down the sleeping vampire gently on the bed.
“You’re going to have to change her before putting her into that thing,” I told her.
“I don’t really want to,” she complained.
“You have to, she’s a vampire,” I said, finding it amusing that she had a coffin on a fancy bed.
“I meant changing her.”
“Trust me, she’ll thank you later,” I told her, “it won’t be so bad, just rummage through those drawers over there and I’m sure you’ll find pajamas or something.”
With no other alternative, she did just that. It wasn’t clear where in the armoire or in the various drawers her sleeping clothes would be so Kagerou just opened up compartments at random. A few of them were locked and most were filled with luxurious-feeling garments and unmentionables. A pair of short silken pajamas were tucked away in one of the drawers. Not wishing to waste any more time, Kagerou went with that and returned to the unconscious vampire.
“...you don’t really need me to tell you how to undress someone, do you?” I asked after she hovered over her sleeping mistress, hesitating.
“No, I’ve got this,” she sighed even louder.
She loosened every button and every string she could find with a light touch, almost as if thrusting her hand into a fire to retrieve a chestnut. The nobility sure enjoyed its frills and many layers of clothes and so it took the werewolf more than a minute to strip Remilia down to her basics. Surprisingly plain, I thought, given how fancy the other clothes she wore seemed. It was difficult to believe that something so small and helpless-looking could be a powerful vampire in command of a vast mansion and an army of fairies.
Kagerou slipped on the pajama bottoms first, more confident about the vampire’s pliability by that point. She yielded without a struggle, just occasionally twitching her eyelids whenever her limbs were forced into a new position to slide something on. Then came the top, leaving her dressed in a cream-colored and comfortable-looking set of pajamas. Satisfied with her work, Kagerou opened the lid of the coffin, which turned out to be remarkably light, before once again scooping up Remilia in her arms and then laying her down.
“…I think that’s fine,” I said, watching as Kagerou slipped on the cover of the coffin again.
“I hope so,” she said, gathering the vampire’s discarded clothes before heading out. She returned to the dinning room and collected the stained tablecloth as well. Good for her, being proactive in her duties. I guided her to the laundry room, where she dropped off the bundle to a sleepy-looking fairy that had been assigned the late shift. She barely acknowledged Kagerou and looked relieved when she left her alone again.
The werewolf yawned on her way back upstairs. The cumulative fatigue of the day had finally caught up to her. “You should rest up,” I told her, “there’s nothing else you need to do right now.”
“You’re right,” she nodded, though she chose to go one more place before retiring to her bedroom. She found the spot from which she had climbed up to the roof again, keen on reclaiming her headdress. It had vanished. She looked around the immediate area carefully but couldn’t find any trace of it. After another large yawn, she gave up and retired for the night.
She drew a bath before going to bed though I had to explain to her the basics of having spigots and mixing in hot water with the cold so she didn’t scald herself. While she relaxed in the water, I let my mind wander as well and shut out her senses for a while. It felt good to have some time to myself.
“There’s clothes in the footlocker by the bed,” I told her once I realized she had come out of the bath. I just knew that to be true and I didn’t quite know why. Though I was tempted to find out just how hairy she really was, I respected her privacy as best I could and limited my access to her senses.
Kagerou dressed herself in long, plain white cotton pajamas, folding her uniform neatly before diving into bed. There she laid splayed out, letting herself be overwhelmed by the desire to rest. I still hung around her neck and felt the warmth off her body directly. Soon enough, she fell asleep.
I wasn’t really capable of sleep. So I couldn’t join her. And, besides, there was still one more thing I had to do. I concentrated, reaching out into the distance. I followed the instructions that had been left for me and, though I didn’t know where I was going, I knew whom I was meant to talk to.
It was late but I was sure she would still be awake.
“Hello, I wish to report in,” I announced myself. I felt the warmth of a fire and heard wind howling off in the distance. It was cold beyond the immediate area and I found myself in a relatively comfortable location. Rather, she did.
“Has everything gone according to plan?” Sakuya asked, not losing a single moment to pleasantries.
“It’s been a busy first day but yes, I think so,” I replied.
“Good. And Lady Remilia?”
“She tried to make her life more difficult in the beginning but then she eased off.”
“I see,” she said without betraying what she was thinking. I could feel something really hot in her hands as well. The smell… if I concentrated… yes, she was having a cup of tea. And… she wasn’t in her uniform either. It felt like she was dressed more plainly, in something more bulky. “Do you foresee any problems?” Sakuya asked, breaking my concentration slightly.
“Not at the moment,” I said, “I’ll be making sure that she does everything she is supposed to.”
“Alright, I’ll be counting on you,” she said. I could almost feel like she was going to say something else entirely but instead, she followed up with a more generic query that hinted at impatience, “is there anything else I should know?”
 Remilia went a little overboard and lost her composure.
 Patchouli invited Marisa over at a late hour for unclear reasons.
 The fairies were behaving for the moment but it might be necessary to keep a close eye on them.
Time remaining: ::
Timer ended at: 2018/11/13(Tue)13:00