- (85.89KB, 725x1006, mkyuubooks.jpg)
The next morning saw a break in the streak of good weather. The day was damp and partially overcast; mist rolled in from the lake shore from time to time, ebbing and flowing much like the tide. By late morning, when Kagerou rolled out of bed, visibility was better and the soon was more confident about poking out through the clouds.
The maid was mostly in her element, having made a routine of inspections and chipping in to work wherever she was needed. Interactions with the fairies were blunter than normal, much to my delight. The staff, if given too much slack, was prone to inefficiency and outright shirking of work. A sullen fairy working was better than a carefree one breaking a vase. I couldn’t give myself too much credit, that said. Kagerou was simply in a crabbier mood than usual.
I held off from bringing the topic of Remilia up until early afternoon. For obvious reasons. Dogs were less fussy after a meal. That was just proven science. Acting on that empirical insight, I waited until Kagerou had finished her meal and was leaning back in her chair before engaging her. With peerless tact, I began, “Let’s do something a little different today.”
The tip of her ear twitched in a half-hearted way then flopped down in disinterest. I didn’t have to read her mind to know she could think of little but to laze around for a while. “Mrmm,” she groaned a belayed acknowledgement
“We’re often caught with our trousers down when it comes with these vampires, right?” my pitch continued.
“I’m wearing a skirt,” she interjected. It was difficult to tell whether that was meant to be a joke, a rejection of the premise or both. Maybe hostility tamped down by the weight of good food. That was likely the extent of her resistance in her current state.
“A cute one, sure,” I conceded, trying to keep on track, “point is, we’re at a disadvantage and they do whatever they want with us. Playing, lashing out, plying with drinks… doesn’t feel like we’re much in control, right?”
“Mrrrrrrmm,” that acknowledgement was more of a growl, her tongue rolling the ‘r’ sound hard.
“Yeah, I hear you. So I think you’d agree that we need to do something about it.”
“...” Kagerou folded her arms as if to say ‘you have my attention’.
My genius knew no bounds, I realized. “Knowing what you’re up against is the best way to end up victorious,” I thought back to maxims that were cliché but relevant. “Knowledge is power,” I said, “and we have a lot of it at our fingertips. Let’s take advantage of that.”
A wolf sedated by food still had sharp claws. “That sounds like it might work. But this better not be about your girlfriend,” she observed.
“It would be blissful if she were my lover,” I conceded. “But, no, that’s just a bonus. I really do think we’d do well to check out books.”
“If you say so,” she strained to raise an eyebrow, not too keen to fight about it. Then she confessed something that should have been more obvious to my enlightened mind, “I’m not too good at reading, though. Might take a while.”
A werewolf that lived by her lonesome outdoors probably hadn’t had the best access to education. There probably wasn’t anything beyond a simple school in Gensokyo and I doubted that most youkai bothered to learn to read and write. I’d keep that in mind when we encountered new people.
“Not a problem,” I said, “I’ll read for you. Open a book, flip pages every so often and I’ll take care of it. A little inefficient but it’ll work.
“If you say so,” she stifled a yawn, “might wash my face before going. Otherwise I’ll just fall asleep.”
She was slow get moving but I didn’t rush her. I didn’t want to jeopardize her mood or willingness to go along with my whim. We met a few fairies on our way to the library but Kagerou dismissed them with a quick glare, not wishing to get caught up with whatever petty thing they were worried about. Having arrived at the library, she made her way towards the center and the tables.
“If you see someone here, you should ask them for help,” I told her, knowing that the library’s catalog was too large for us to just be stumbling about. Even assuming a standard way of organizing most books, just getting our bearings around each section would eat up a silly amount of time.
“I’ll just find her and get this over with.”
“Going to sniff her out?” I couldn’t resist.
The reaction was thankfully muted, limited to a quick scowl. I didn’t plan on pushing my luck any farther so I just let her do whatever she wanted. Which, turned out, was pretty efficient. Call it a sixth sense or whatever but she was good at tracking people down. She found Patchouli near the center of the library, scanning a bookshelf with quick movements of her eyes.
“Did that book just say something?” Kagerou asked by way of greeting, meaning a dull brown tome that was in front of us that might have squeaked.
“It probably enjoys new faces,” Patchouli replied, unfazed. She continued to look at the bookshelf, only turning when she saw that what she was looking for wasn’t there. Without so much as giving a nod in our direction, she moved on to the adjacent series of books.
“Ask her for help,” I told Kagerou, “she probably doesn’t want to do small talk.”
“I was hoping you’d be kind enough to do me a favor,” Kagerou defaulted to formal politeness so mechanical it bordered on insincerity. “There is probably no one more knowledgeable about the library and its contents than you.”
“That seems likely,” Patchouli agreed.
“I’m looking for books about a specific subject.”
“Come to broaden your horizons? Commendable,” the magician said about as flatly as she normally spoke, making it debatable whether she was being sarcastic.
“Get to the point. Vampires.” I wanted to hurry things along in case the maid’s patience wore thin.
“So yes, I wish to learn more about the mistress and her sister. Her and her kind,” the last word rolled out slowly off of Kagerou’s mouth.
“I see,” Patchouli said, showing no signs that she cared why we wanted to read up on them.
“If I could just be shown a few books then...”
“She understands,” I said, “be patient.”
Kagerou shut up. It wasn’t too long before Patchouli found what she was looking for. The magician ran her index finger up a book’s spine almost whimsically before plucking it out from the bookshelf with a confident motion. From what I caught from the title it seemed to be something about astronomy. The moon or something. She started to walk away and Kagerou followed a few paces behind.
Patchouli placed the book down on a table and then gestured to a nearby trolley. The meaning was obvious and Kagerou began to push it after the magician once again started to take off. We navigated the aisles with purpose and went exactly to the right places right away. Patchouli would scarcely turn to face a shelf before plucking out a book or tome, handing it over to Kagerou who then put it on the trolley.
Even though we moved at a very relaxed pace, the magician’s knowledge of the library made short work of the task and gave us a large stack of books to read through.
“I think that’s enough,” I said, feeling that we’d be at it most of the rest of the day at this rate.
“I’ll read these ones first if you don’t mind,” Kagerou broke the silence.
“Enjoy,” Patchouli said and started to return to where she had left her own book.
We followed and Kagerou sat at a table and pulled a random book from the pile out. Patchouli sat nearby in a comfortable-looking armchair and opened her book, as if telling us that should we need help, she would be nearby.
“Do you want to try reading yourself?” I asked.
“I’ll read only if it seems interesting,” she whispered, “I’ll just turn the pages every once in a while unless you tell me to stop.”
“Alright, that works.”
The first text was a book of myths and legends. Kagerou wasn’t expecting me to be a fast reader and I had to tell her to pick up the pace when it came to turning the pages. Other than that, our arrangement went far smoother than I anticipated. Not having a body might have been an advantage as I felt… less restricted by not having eyes that needed to move around. I told her to skip a couple of chapters, only dwelling on a few illustrations that depicted the kind of folkloric creature that I was well acquainted with. Running water, garlic, sleeps in a coffin with the soil of their native land… all that stuff.
We went on to the next book soon enough. Esoteric lore. Vampires were only tangentially related. Most of the text regarded metaphysical concepts and its relevance seemed to be theories as to how something more than man, something preternatural, might with regard to their souls and place in the cosmos. I was intrigued by the implications. Kagerou, on the other hand, was incredibly bored by the text, flipping pages absentmindedly. Surely Patchouli must have expected something so dense and indirect to put her off?
I moved on after maybe a half hour, wishing I could read more but trying to keep my partner’s goodwill in place. We trudged on with this and that for some time more.
There was one book that caught Kagerou’s imagination. For all the wrong reasons. It was a love story featuring both vampires and werewolves and a love triangle with a human. The educational value was nil but my objections were drowned out by her insistence that she “just wanted to get to the end of the chapter.”
It took her too long to get away from the waste of time. She wasn’t lying about not being a strong reader either—she worked slowly down the page, stopping at unexpected characters to read then carefully, mouthing some of the more tricky words silently. She set aside the book even after all my nagging, intending to read it on her own time later. When she looked around again, Patchouli had been staring at her quietly with a slight smile on her lips. It wasn’t a look of happiness for showing something that they would enjoy. No, it was a mischievous apparition meant for someone else.
I coaxed the werewolf into reading one last thing before she called it quits. That was a stroke of good luck. While the book was clearly transcribed oral history, it featured a few “facts” that weren’t really common knowledge. It was told through a series of clearly autobigoraphical short stories. The very personal, often pornographic level of detail during these encounters convinced me that it was a book, in fact, written by a vampire. It wasn’t all just about blood lust. Seduction, manipulation and more seemed hardwired into their makeup. Getting others to fall for them was an orgasmic release. That would explain a lot about our employer. Though less about her sibling.
Kagerou wasn’t too amused, though the explicit descriptions of feelings when it came to feeding were titillating. If I had to extrapolate, I’d say that Remilia was bored. She lacked that feeling of satisfaction that came from conquest. Perhaps she had been spurned recently. Not by Kagerou, mind, but from someone she cared about.
The almost innocent cruelty described in once chapter reminded me of someone else. Fairies would be right to avoid all of that. Maybe it had been a mistake to reveal myself as I probably was a target of interest now. If only I had a body—it’d be easier to repel her. I was sure she’d come calling on Kagerou sometime soon. It was instinct.
Or maybe not. It was just one book. We hadn’t even made it halfway through the stack.
“Let’s take a break, Al,” Kagerou mumbled, tired of turning pages for me.
“Fine. We’ve learned enough for now.”
Patchouli had poured herself a cup of tea while we were reading. She savored her long sips, turning her attention to the book she was reading every now and again. I felt calm watching her, like just reading and sitting around was something that I loved to do in the past.
“Hey, wolfy,” I started, unable to help myself.
“Yes?” Kagerou frowned in a display of prescience.
“...ugh,” her displeasure wasn’t a ‘no’. I’d run with that.
 Have a discussion about the books read and how they tied in to events here.
 Try to get a more personalized opinion regarding these vampires from her.
Time remaining: ::
Timer ended at: 2019/04/25(Thu)12:00