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File 15431683027.jpg - (154.17KB , 781x718 , waggy but not soggy.jpg ) [iqdb]
63969 No. 63969
Kagerou crouched near the mermaid, trying to look as non-threatening as possible. Not exactly an easy feat when your nails are as sharp as claws. She brushed away the hair from her face and kept at a quieter, flatter tone in order not to upset the mermaid any further. “There’s no reason we can’t be nice to each other, right?” she started clumsily, not quite getting my advice. I held my tongue, as it were, for a while longer.

“I am nice to everyone,” the blue-haired girl mumbled and avoided eye contact. A more courageous person might have expressed their offense more starkly or, at least, been able to meet Kagerou’s gaze. But she was intimidated and unsure of what to say or do. In other words, she was unlikely to talk much and definitely wouldn’t share her secret.

“Part of being nice is trusting that the other person will also be nice,” the werewolf said, not really making a very logical case. She lacked the charisma and magnetism to get away with improvisation. Still, the way she said it was a marked improvement from earlier. She actually sounded empathetic, if not actually respectful of the mermaid’s mental state. “I’m not really good at making friends,” she confessed, making a little joke at her own expense, “and I think you just saw why. That wasn’t very endearing, was it?”

“It was scary,” the mermaid blurted out. Having said the first thought that crossed her mind, she seemed to get embarrassed by the admission and covered her mouth with her hands. She mumbled a quick apology, “sorry, that was rude of me.”

“No, no, it’s fine,” Kagerou chuckled and was as unsubtle as could be, “honesty is also part of trust. And friendship.”

“Yes, we’re true friends because I freely tell you what I think all the time, wolfy” I said, because… well, I couldn’t really help myself. I knew she couldn’t say anything either or betray her emotions towards me—the mermaid would pick up on something that obvious. “Get to the point,” I told her, “you can keep lying about being an enlightened individual in front of the mirror later.”

I just didn’t want her to trip all over her own words. Without showing that she was serious, I didn’t think that the mermaid would listen to her.

It likely took her a lot of effort not to think something very rude at me. Kagerou continued to sell her pitch, “I’d like to be your friend and have something to give you as proof of that.”

“Really?” she asked, watching Kagerou’s hands carefully. Any skepticism she may have held dissipated as soon as she saw the glimmer of the dark metallic object. “Oh, what’s that?”

“It was something given to me as a sign of friendship,” Kagerou simplified, “and now I want to give it to you for the same reason.”

“I think Remilia would disagree that you’re her friend,” I said, once again being unable to help myself. Mistress and servant, sure. Badminton partners, also okay. Superior vampire and lowly, uncouth werewolf? Probably more along the lines of what she really thought. If Sakuya were around, I somehow doubted that she would tolerate someone like Kagerou so easily.

“It’s pretty cute,” the mermaid said, accepting the brooch without hesitation. She giggled, “look, it’s even got two really shiny red eyes. They’re little stones; I like the way they catch the light.”

“Yes, it is nice,” Kagerou nodded and smiled, “you can pin it to your clothes and wear it whenever you feel like it.”

“Thank you,” she said, looking more at ease. “But, um,” she quickly looked troubled again, “I don’t really have anything I can give you in return.”

“Oh, you don’t have to, it’s fine.”

Thankfully she didn’t lay it on too thick, saying something stupid like “that’s what friends are for”. That said, I felt like there was a good chance that the mermaid, with her puppy dog-like disposition, would have bit hook, line and sinker.

The mermaid reached around to a knocked over pile of flat stones. “Maybe you’d like one of these?” she asked expectently, holding out an otherwise unremarkable rock.

“It’s fine, really,” Kagerou rejected the offer diplomatically. “I’d just like to keep talking to my new friend, if that’s alright.”

“Oh, I’d be happy to,” the mermaid replied, playing with the curled ends of her hair.

Kagerou stood up, dusted off one end of the nearby bench and sat down. The mermaid wagged herself closer, only keeping the end of her tail partially submerged in water. “I’m working as the chief maid at the mansion,” Kagerou explained.

“That sounds like a lot of responsibility!” the mermaid interrupted with happy surprise, looking genuinely impressed. She supported her head on her hands and arms, having leaned forward on the rocky floor.

“It is a lot of work, yes,” the werewolf nodded, “and I have a lot of different duties.”

“So that’s why you’re wearing that cute uniform,” she said, “I almost didn’t recognize you!”

“It was dark last time as well,” Kagerou sighed, troubled by the memory, “and that reminds me—I didn’t really get your name after the… incident.”

“Wa~ka~sa~gi~hi~me” she enunciated every syllable with a lilt, not minding at all that they hadn’t introduced themselves yet.

“Ah, that’s right,” Kagerou frowned, “I’m sorry that I forgot it. You told me last time as well.”

“It’s fine!” Wakasagihime was quick to forgive, “I heard from the others that you felt really bad about everything. It’s normal to want to forgive a bad experience like that.”

“Others? Oh, yes,” the werewolf seemed to recall something, “I didn’t go to many meetings, but I did hear of a mermaid joining the group at some point.”

“I only went once myself,” the bubbly fish woman explained, “I don’t really like leaving the lake for too long. My skin gets all dry if I’m away from water.”

“Hm, I don’t like leaving my home much either,” Kagerou confessed, “though it’s for… other reasons. I’m Kagerou, by the way. Sorry for not introducing myself earlier.”

“I know your name, silly,” she shook her head happily from side to side, her fins wagging, “you told me last time as well.”

“I guess my memory isn’t very good, right?” Kagerou laughed at herself.

“It’s alright. I can do the remembering for the both of us, if you like. I don’t really talk to people that much so I try to remember as much about them as possible.”

“That’s fine with me,” Kagerou said, “but as I was saying… I’m working at the mansion. I just started, actually. And it’s part of my job to see that everything is normal. And, um, well, I was wondering what you were doing here.”

“Oh, you’re new?! That explains it!” Wakasagihime exclaimed like she had had a massive revelation. “Of course you’d be like that! You didn’t know I’d be here. I’m sorry for the misunderstanding.”

“No, I shouldn’t have grabbed you in the first place and-”

“No, no no,” the mermaid sat up and waved her hand, “I thought you were scary and mean… and possibly hungry... but you were just worried about doing your job right. I understand!”

By this point any and all tension that may have been haunting their interaction had been thoroughly exorcised. The mermaid, once shy and reticent, wore her happy heart on her sleeve with a bright smile that, I had to admit, felt infectuous. It was difficult not to look at her earnest gaze and easygoing demeanor and not feel like all was right with the world. I wouldn’t call Kagerou listless by any means but, compared to Wakasagihime, she seemed about as lively as one of the statues in the garden.

“Still-”

Kagerou couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Wakasagihime continued, unprompted, “the previous maid lady once found me by the edge of the lake. She said she was going to make me into a good meal for her mistress and had a cold look in her eyes. I was scared to death! Luckily, the owner of the mansion isn’t as bad. She came out, looking for the maid, and saw that she was bothering me. She told her ‘stop messing around, Sakuya, we need to get going’ and the maid put away her knives right away.

“I was so thankful, that I offered to sing a song to her. She apparently really liked the offer but didn’t have time that day,” she continued to breathlessly explain, “so she came back another night and looked for me at the lake shore. It was the maid that found me, but that’s not that important, anyhow I sang to her. Even though she has those wings and scary eyes, they’re kind of like yours actually, she was nice to me. Said that I had a lovely voice and all, I remember getting all red-cheeked and she laughed and called her scary maid again. Only she wasn’t so scary once you got to know her. Said that I should come back a week later at night.

“I came back the next week and there was this statue of a mermaid, just like me, outside. Remilia, who is actually kind of cute herself when you think about it, made it just for me! She said that it was a sign of good luck to have a mermaid around and that I should feel free to come around whenever. I don’t really think that it’s nice she’s, em, so exposed but Remilia said that was just how art was and that it was beautiful. Also, she said that I could stay in this cave whenever I wanted and she put in the bench you’re on right now so that she could sit and hear me sing more. Isn’t that really nice? I really like her. Oh, and, um, she also asked me to keep an eye out for anything weird that turned up in the lake and let her know. Because we’re friends, though, I don’t mind helping out.”

“I see,” Kagerou struggled to digest the story. It wasn’t easy to follow, give the mermaid’s propensity to digress and let her voice get squeaky as she got more excited. “I suppose it’s fine that you’re here, then,” she at least got that takeaway right.

“Yes! I’m happy to be here!” she wagged her tail, splashing herself lightly with water. Thinking about it, her clothes must have been special as they didn’t seem to absorb any water. The drops simply ran off the fabric. “Would you like me to sing you a song?”

“Some other time, maybe,” Kagerou declined, “I’m just glad that we’ve cleared things up.”

“Me too, friend!”

Light conversation followed for some time afterwards. It was all very normal. Not what I would have expected an exchange between a mermaid and a werewolf to be like. Then again, I didn’t really know what to expect from either given that most people thought that they weren’t real. Putting my own prejudices aside, they talked about the lake, Kagerou’s job and the usual pleasantries that people rely upon during conversation.

Kagerou struggled to keep up with the mermaid’s positive and gushing energy. When she had had enough, she told her that it was late and that she would be turning in soon. It wasn’t that late considering that she worked for a vampire, Wakasagihime agreed that it was time to part ways, “gosh, I didn’t realize how tired I am, too. I’ll see you some other time.”

Flopping herself into the water, the mermaid disappeared quickly. She obviously was faster and more agile in the water than on land.

“I thought you were going to bother me about it,” Kagerou said to me.

“You were thinking about it, I sensed. No need to bring it up,” I told her.

“Yeah, but you’re annoying, Al.”

“Maybe, but I’m not stupid. And I can read the mood,” I said, “if you had told her that you needed one of her scales for a charm, even someone as trusting as her might take it the wrong way.”

“At least now I know where to look,” she said, blowing out the last candle that hadn’t melted down entirely yet and taking her leave.

“Go rest up,” I suggested, explaining,”you’ll probably be busy all day tomorrow. Doesn’t seem like Remilia is going to call on you again tonight.”

She agreed and returned to the mansion, enjoying the last of the cool night air while walking through the garden. Once inside, she climbed up to her room, undressed and flopped into bed. It had been a long day and I understood her desire to go to sleep right away. She was soon fast asleep, occasionally rolling over in her sleep or snoring lightly.

I went off into my own little world for the rest of the night. It was only around mid morning that I cared to check in on her again. A look of peaceful contentment was on her face. It looked like she would be out for some time yet if left to her own devices.

[] Wake her up. Remilia would be disappointed if the fairies aren’t cooking already.
[] Let her sleep in. There are more important things in life than babysitting fairies.

Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/26(Mon)13:30

169 posts omitted. Last 50 shown. Expand all images
>> No. 64185
[x] Deescalate with a hug and apology for the extreme methods. Hopefully she better understands Kagerou’s caring feelings and sense of duty.

I think a simple show of affection would be better. Sure, she expects complete professionalism and elegance from her workers but that likely means that no one is able to give her any sort of comfort or care. This will catch her completely off guard.
>> No. 64187
[x] Deescalate with a hug and apology for the extreme methods. Hopefully she better understands Kagerou’s caring feelings and sense of duty.

Calm, cool, and collected is Sakuya's thing.
>> No. 64188
[X] Refrain from anything that her pride may interpret as patronizing. Show her the firmness and cool necessary that would see her whims executed faithfully.

Oh fuck
>> No. 64189
[X] Deescalate with a hug and apology for the extreme methods. Hopefully she better understands Kagerou’s caring feelings and sense of duty.

Wow, that was, uh, direct indeed. Well, since we did that...

Honestly torn about this one, but anons before me made good points about calm and professional being more Sakuya's thing than Kagerou's.
>> No. 64190
>>64187
>Calm, cool, and collected is Sakuya's thing.
Hmm, mmmrrmm

I think that's about true, sure enough. Fuck it, I'll go with the risk
>>64182 here, changing vote to
[x] Deescalate with a hug and apology for the extreme methods. Hopefully she better understands Kagerou’s caring feelings and sense of duty.
>> No. 64191
File 155744332626.png - (490.48KB , 750x650 , single fanged vampire.png ) [iqdb]
64191
Sorry, I've been dealing with a lot of unpleasantness the last couple of days. I'll try to have an update out for tomorrow.
>> No. 64192
File 155796082720.jpg - (1.76MB , 2880x4176 , melancholia on a stage.jpg ) [iqdb]
64192
The nature of my bond with Kagerou remained a mystery. We joked, sparred, and commiserated among other things regularly. I couldn’t begin to explain why we understood one another at certain times and at other times we were completely at odds. One thing was clear, however: no words were needed at the moment.

Uncertainty and reprehension transformed into something cautious, something optimistic and gentler. There was no time for debate or, really, for anything that approached rationality. The monstrous vampire was intimidating, certainly. Her eyes continued to bare down with unflinching intensity at us.

And yet.

There was also something else there; disguised by outrage and other explosive emotions. Remilia wasn’t so tough. She lashed out because she was uncertain, because she was in pain. It was a gut feeling. One that my fluffy companion and I shared. This belief was hope and a counterpoint to the feeling that our lives might come to a gruesome end that night.

So she moved, determined but gently, towards the vampire. It was a motion made so as to avoid provoking a skittish wild animal to bolt. By the time the distance between them had vanished, it was too late for Remilia to step back or to attack—she was firmly embraced by the werewolf.

“I’m sorry,” Kagerou said, her voice a barely audible whisper. She held the vampire tight, coupling the latter’s small frame close as if she were an upset child. Whatever differences in status between master and servant may have previously existed were entirely erased in the heartfelt moment.

“...guh!” Remilia made an unintelligible noise, muffled by the fact that her face was buried in Kagerou’s shoulder and chest. She didn’t struggle against the hug but still seemed surprised by the turn of events. Her own shoulders trembled for a moment and something warm could be felt staining the maid’s uniform.

“I didn’t mean to overstep my bounds...” Kagerou tried to explain before checking herself. She realized that it wasn’t really a moment for words as she continued to hold the deflated vampire close. After a few more wordless moments she let go and offered Remilia a smile, adding, “would you like me to prepare milady some tea to help her calm her nerves?”

Remilia looked back up at her, her face red and eyes moist. “I-I am calm!” she exclaimed pathetically, convincing no one. “I’m simply out of breath!” she said, wiping her eyes and adding with childish stubbornness, “yes, you must be mistaken. I’m as calm as a person can be.”

“I must be imagining things,” Kagerou agreed, sparing her the agony of putting her mistress on the spot some more. She tilted her face slightly to the side, a symbolic way of letting the emotional vampire regain her composure. “All the same, I think I’ll go make some tea for myself. I’ll bring it up and milady can decide if she’s thirsty when I do.”

“...” Remilia said nothing. There was a mutual shame that had been shared. But that wasn’t all bad, since there was a good chance that it was underscored by greater understanding by both of them.

As soon as Kagerou left the room, I let out a sigh. We had come close to dying, so it was only natural to take a moment to decompress. “We’re not dead,” I said idly, noting that my companion’s shoulders were impossibly stiff as she moved.

“We aren’t,” she said, not in the mood to talk. I could respect that. We both got why certain things were done and why other things were left unsaid. That we were on the same page was all that mattered.

The fairies sure could read the mood. They quieted down as soon as Kagerou came into the kitchen area, intimidated by the fey aura the werewolf projected. No one got in our way or even offered to help as she made the tea, apparently deciding that the risks of ticking Kagerou off outweighed any punishment stemming from dereliction of duty. I avoided any deeper reflection by wishing I had a means of startling them just for the fun of it. Telekinesis would have been the sure ticket.

Kagerou carried the tray back to Remilia quietly, lost in her own thoughts. When she arrived, she found that her mistress was slumped in one of the more comfortable chairs, staring out into space. She didn’t bother to turn to acknowledge our presence, looking almost doll-like in her pose. Kagerou poured out a cup of tea for herself and sat down nearby.

“I’ll have the tea,” Remilia broke the silence soon after Kagerou’s first sip. The maid got up and performed her duty, setting down the cup on a small table nearby. It was only after she had sat back down quietly that Remilia reached for it. She held it close to her face for a few moments, taking in the aroma of the brew before tasting it. “It’s a little bitter for my tastes,” she said.

“My apologies, the water must have been too hot.”

“It’s fine.”

“...”

“...”

Things didn’t feel tense as such. It was more akin to a pair of children being told to go stand in the naughty corner after a fight; afterwards they both felt stupid and mostly deflated. It was far more probable that neither Kagerou nor Remilia knew what to say next to break the awkward impasse. Somehow, it felt unlikely that someone would come in with ice cream and make them forget all about their troubles.

This continued for some time. Tea was drunk and cups silently refilled.

Remilia cracked first. “I’m a vampire!” she shouted all of a sudden before heaving and letting out a world-weary sigh. The reminder was mostly for herself, it felt like. Kagerou’s ear’s perked cautiously. “You’re my servant and have no right to know the troubles of either my mind or heart!” she exploded again. But unlike earlier, where she stared us down, she remained seated and her intended audience seemed to be herself again. “Things are complicated! The things that need to be said will be said… I suppose… when it’s time or when I feel like it. That said...”

“...”

“That said...” Remilia repeated, her voice quietening, “I suppose that my charisma inspires devotion. Yes, that’s certainly always been true. And I cannot fault well-intentioned caring. As annoying as it might be… at times.”

Remilia cleared her throat and paused. She was sounding more like her old self again.

Kagerou regained the confidence to say something, only adding after a gentle sigh of her own, “Remilia...”

“Werewolves are troublesome creatures!” Remilia exclaimed, making sure her face was completely turned away from the maid. She was fooling no one with what she was trying to hide with the bluster. “Yes, that hound-like desire to do your duty can be a blessing. So I’ll entrust you with one thing… on the off chance that… at any rate, pay a visit to the Hakurei shrine! Consider it a t-test, yes that’s what it’ll be! A trial to prove your sincerity.”

“What’s at the shrine?” Kagerou asked.

“The shrine maiden of course!”

“...and?”

“And do you want to prove yourself capable or have me micromanage every little thing that you do? Hell’s bells, woman!” the vampire protested a little too much.

Having regained belief in her own magnanimity, Remilia didn’t want to be called out on her behavior again.

“Of course...” Kagerou held back a sigh, “I’ll take care of it.”

“Good, good. You may have the rest of the evening off, I wish to spend some time alone,” the vampire waved a hand dismissively, trying to pretend that her pride hadn’t been wounded by the perforating emotional exposure.

“If you’ll excuse me then,” Kagerou left Remilia to her own thoughts. Just as she left, the vampire turned to look at her, watching her leave with the tea tray in tow. The moist eyes were gone, replaced with something like self-doubt. But it only lasted a moment and she quickly restored her guard.

“I guess that’s our trip then?” I said after Kagerou closed the door and began walking down the corridor.

“Seems so,” Kagerou said flatly, not sounding too enthused.

“Vampires, am I right? Weirdos the lot of them,” I tried to lighten the mood.

“They sure are.”

“Probably best to just relax for tonight. It’s been a long day,” I suggested.

“Definitely,” she said, lost in her own thoughts.

I didn’t want to push her any harder, it had been a long day. If she needed some time to herself, to collect her thoughts, then that was fine by me. I stayed quiet as she handed off the tray to a random fairy and then returned to her room. She took her sweet time in the bath, enjoying the hot soak while I thought about this and that. Afterwards, she went straight to bed and skipped reading any more of that dreadful book.

It was as good of a time as any to make a report. I’d cover the obvious, sure, but there was something like a nagging thought that I felt compelled to address. I knew that Sakuya would know what I was getting at. She would give me another piece to the puzzle.

[] The choice of books at the library, the topic of magic and Patchouli’s attitude wasn’t just a coincidence.
[] A normally cocksure vampire had to be troubled by much more than just a shrine maiden, right?

Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2019/05/17(Fri)13:10

>> No. 64193
[X] A normally cocksure vampire had to be troubled by much more than just a shrine maiden, right?
>> No. 64194
[X] A normally cocksure vampire had to be troubled by much more than just a shrine maiden, right?
>> No. 64195
[x] The choice of books at the library, the topic of magic and Patchouli’s attitude wasn’t just a coincidence.
Since we'll likely be going Reimu-ways regardless of the outcome of this vote, we might as well get some context spoon-fed to us.
>> No. 64196
What do you know, all that time reading Not!Twilight may have actually taught Kagerou how to deal with vampires.

[x] The choice of books at the library, the topic of magic and Patchouli’s attitude wasn’t just a coincidence.

I agree with >>64195
>> No. 64197
[X] A normally cocksure vampire had to be troubled by much more than just a shrine maiden, right?

Flan Flan Time~u?
>> No. 64198
[x] The choice of books at the library, the topic of magic and Patchouli’s attitude wasn’t just a coincidence.

How many clues do we need? Well, we're anon so... more than what we have
>> No. 64200
Coin flip: heads!
>> No. 64201
Unlike the last few times I spoke with her, I found Sakuya to be completely alone. I could feel the warmth of a fire nearby and the occasional cracking of logs of wood perforated the otherwise absolute background silence.

It was odd how I never really seemed to catch her off guard. As soon as I tried to make contact, she replied, almost as if she had been waiting for me. I reported the usual, providing ample details on how the household was fairing. Whether she really cared or not about the fairy’s performance was secondary—I felt compelled to be as thorough as possible.

“Is that all?” she asked, not out of impatience but to make sure. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking. Least of all what she made of how I presented myself. Did that even matter? I felt that it did. Somehow.

“I was curious about something. Maybe you’d be able to help,” I said, feeling awfully self-conscious.

“Oh?” I could feel an eyebrow arching inquisitively on her end. I couldn’t quite see it, but it felt as real as the fact that she was staring out a window at a snow-filled landscape. The moon was new in the sky and her gaze gravitated towards the sliver of light.

I described our encounter with Patchouli, “There was an obvious purpose to her choice of books. It wasn’t for Kagerou’s sake. It couldn’t have been for my sake either...”

“People misunderstand her often, can you imagine?” Sakuya approached the topic somewhat obliquely. “It’s easy to forget that people are complicated, especially those who don’t make a habit of saying everything that they feel. Like me… well, how I feel isn’t that important right now.”

“I think it might be important,” I interrupted. Sure, I didn’t know her that well. To me she was just a voice on the other side of a spotty telephone line. Yeah, I know she had braided hair, that she often smiled when talking to me and that… well, I guess I knew nothing. All supposition.

“Maybe if I had a drink, I might be more willing to talk about my innermost thoughts,” she laughed softly, sounding darkly angelic. The road to perdition began right there. “Let’s stick to the topic, alright? Patchouli is not a very subtle person. Sure, she might present things in a delicate way but her lessons are always blunt. Just ask Lady Remilia or that guard.”

“So, I am right in trying to overthink things?”

“If I said, ‘I love you’, would you overthink that?” she asking something daring.

“I’d like to know why, at the very least,” I countered.

Would you?” she asked, shaking her head. She swirled the end of one of her braids with her index finger, unbundling some of her hair. “It’s the kind of things that people just accept.”

“I don’t get it. So I should just accept that she’s interested in me?”

I’m interested in you,” Sakuya said.

“Why?”

“Because.”

“...”

“Is it professional? Is it something else? This isn’t really the time or the way to talk about it,” Sakuya said, offering a lazy shrug. I could just barely make out her expression… it was something… playful? Or was that just what I wanted to imagine. All I knew for certain was that her hand was awfully soft. And that I’d give just about anything to hold it again.

Wait, ‘[/i]again[/i]’?

“I don’t get it at all,” I said.

“If she shared books with you, there’s a purpose in that. If I tell you that I love you, you better believe there’s a purpose in that,” she ‘explained’.

“...I just think that I’m being made fun of. Both you and Patchy. Your way of torturing me.”

“Maybe,” she admitted, “but maybe that’s a form of justice?”

“Justice for what?” I asked, feeling that the point of the conversation was like water escaping between my closed fist.

“Life,” she answered helpfully, “light? Love? Crimes and punishment?”

“All I know is that I wish I could see you,” I said, “I think I’d understand better if I could see your face.”

“That makes two of us,” she said, slumping into her chair.

“When will you be back?” I asked all of a sudden. I knew that I wouldn’t get a clearer answer unless she had nowhere to run to. If she were just within arm’s reach, if only I could hold her hand and tell her..!

“Tell me what?” she read my thoughts. I must have said more than I thought I did.

“...I don't know,” I said, “something. Something important.”

“Sounds like you’re full of yourself,” she said.

“Yeah, I know.”

“Sleep well,” she said, sighing.

“I don’t sleep,” I replied.

“I know,” she said grimly, before cutting off our dialog. Though I felt I could reach out and talk to her if I really wanted to, I knew better than to force it. I hadn’t really learned anything. Well, not the obvious thing that I had asked about. I knew that I’d spend the next few hours trying to make heads or tails of what just happened.

The problem with being a know-it-all was that when you didn’t know-it-quite-all, you went around in circles, trying to convince yourself that you’re still atop of things. Yes, there were obvious answers. None of them meshed well with my conception of how things should be, though. I tried to not overthink things for the rest of the night, mostly unsuccessfully. All I could really determine for sure was that I’d be better off in a proper body.

Kagerou slept like a wolf untroubled by the realities of the world. When conciseness reared its inevitable head, she was slow to wake. She lied to herself and lay in bed for a half hour after her eyes first opened, fighting a battle with her pillow to see if she could sleep once again. I was quiet all the while, strangely contented to watch her twitch and spasm, cover her head and even grumble as she went through the motions. Once she let out an exaggerated yawn and sat up, the game was truly over.

“Looking forward to our trip?” I asked.

“I guess,” she caught her breath in her hand and gave it the sniff test. Not too fresh, judging by the scowl. She was in no rush to get ready. It was only after she took her sweet time freshening up and getting dressed that she showed some semblance of excitement. “Let’s get going,” she said mostly to herself in front of the mirror.

I sort of felt like talking about Sakuya with her, but I got the feeling that she wouldn’t quite understand. It was lonely being a disembodied hunk of rock, pretty colors notwithstanding. Talking about Remilia or Patchouli didn’t seem like good ideas either, so I was quiet for the most part.

The werewolf took a small bag with her, swinging by the kitchen to take foodstuffs for the trip. It was more than enough for a small picnic. I thought that the shrine was close by but clearly Kagerou thought that it might turn into something of an extended leave of absence. The fairies were nosy, asking her where she’d go. They all wanted sweets from the human village and barely covered up the fact with questions about her well-being. Kagerou remained professional, telling them to keep to their duties and that she would be back soon.

The gate guard was happy to see her and greeted her warmly. “Out on business, eh?” she asked, working off of Kagerou’s determined look.

“Yes, I’ll be back soon,” Kagerou replied absentmindedly, offering only a cursory smile.

“Have a good one!” the guard said, beaming brightly at the maid. She crossed her arms and nodded with satisfaction, looking on at the road ahead that Kagerou would have to cover. It was a bright and sunny day. A little warm but not too bad for an extended walk.

It was almost a shame to spend a day like that hard at work.

[] Find out if Kagerou has a plan. Not that we have any idea what we’re supposed to do.
[] Plans are for losers. Encourage her to make the most of her time away from the mansion.

Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2019/05/19(Sun)14:00

>> No. 64202
[x] Plans are for losers. Encourage her to make the most of her time away from the mansion.

You know what? It's time for some R&R. Based on everything we've been through, I think we've earned it. It doesn't mean we're not gonna take the job seriously, just... taking our time doing it.
>> No. 64203
[x] Find out if Kagerou has a plan. Not that we have any idea what we’re supposed to do.
I mean, we could also maybe possibly kinda try to be on the lookout for those other things Patchy wanted???
>> No. 64204
[X] Find out if Kagerou has a plan. Not that we have any idea what we’re supposed to do.

Step 1: Get Flandre to blow up the moon
Step 2: Raymoo comes over
Step 3: ?????
Step 4: Babysitting vampire grandkids.
>> No. 64205
[X] Find out if Kagerou has a plan. Not that we have any idea what we’re supposed to do.

Step one, go visit the shrine maiden.
Step two, ????.
Step three, PROFIT!
Just gotta get a few details right, that's all.
>> No. 64206
[x] Plans are for losers. Encourage her to make the most of her time away from the mansion.
>> No. 64207
[x] Plans are for losers. Encourage her to make the most of her time away from the mansion.
relax
>> No. 64209
Coin flip: tails!
>> No. 64210
File 155831141541.jpg - (580.52KB , 762x1255 , spring flows.jpg ) [iqdb]
64210
I wasn't able to write at all, mostly because I was sick but also other things. I'll try for sometime in the next 24 hours, no promises.
>> No. 64212
File 155890752681.png - (299.14KB , 450x600 , red riding a-who?.png ) [iqdb]
64212
I wasn’t quite sure where the shrine was supposed to be. There was something vague in the back of my mind, something about it being somewhat out of the way. As someone who was supposed to be relied upon to know about the Scarlet household, knowing about their dealings with outsiders also seemed like something I should know. I’d have asked Patchouli if I got the chance but then again, if I was honest, I’d probably find almost any excuse to have a chat with her.

“Following the road for now?” I asked the maid, passing off lingering feelings of inadequacy as idle chat. She certainly seemed to know where she was going.

“Sure, easier to walk down a path than through the brush,” she said. The werewolf was enjoying her time out in her own way. She devoted several glances and tilts of the head to patches of wildflowers that bloomed alongside the dirt road. The occasional warble of a bird in a nearby tree caused her ears to twitch and flop ever-so-slightly towards the source, a tiny smile invariably forming on her lips.

“Wouldn’t it be easier to fly?” I asked.

“Maybe? In a rush, Al?” she asked, throwing her arms over her heads in a stretching motion. The message was: I don’t feel like making more of an effort.

“You know me, physically hurts to be away from my beloved,” I joked, even though… no, that was too embarrassing to admit. “But I don’t meant to rush you,” I continued, “in fact, I was going to suggest the opposite.”

“’The opposite’?” Kagerou scratched herself lightly on the cheek with one of her long fingernails. The bag she had taken along had a single strap that had been slung on one shoulder and was crossed over her chest. It bobbed along with her pace and shook as she took a small playful leap over an uneven part of the road.

“We don’t really have any fairies along in tow this time around. It’s just the two of us,” I said, “and it’s not like we have a timetable. Plus it’s a nice day. Ample opportunity for fun.”

“Fun?!” she tried to act shocked but was a poor actress. Being tied to a single person had its advantages, as it were. I had plenty of time to observe her every move, her every mannerism. The rigid tips of her ears were betraying mischievous excitement, not concern. And, as if that weren’t enough to convince, she overextended herself and added, “We’re on an important mission. You of all people would be the first to say that usually.”

“Fun isn’t mutually exclusive with work,” I told her. “We can do both. Plus, I just mean you’re usually working with fairies—which let’s be honest aren’t the best and brightest of workers—or otherwise dealing with a pretty fussy employer.”

“Ooo, if only Remilia could hear you now,” she joked, “you’d be transformed into a fine powder.” She mimed the motion of a pestle grinding into an invisible bowl in her hand. Then, cocking up an eyebrow, she said with some inspiration, “Though I bet a special stone like yours would be a great magical ingredient. So maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if your one-sided crush then used you to a really good bunion balm.”

Though I had a pretty good rejoinder about a certain thing of hers making a good hemorrhoid cream, I let her have the win. “My point,” I continued, “is that you deserve to have some time to yourself. Raise morale and all of that. A happy worker is a productive worker.”

“I suppose I’m happier being outdoors,” she said, stopping to close her eyes and take in a lungful of fresh air. Kagerou smiled as she felt the sunlight on her face.

“Yeah, so think of it as stopping to smell the flowers. Though maybe it’s probably best if we don’t smell any poisonous ones if that makes sense?”

“We’re nowhere near the bells, don’t worry,” she said, looking off in a different direction. There was nothing there except countryside as far as the eye could see.

“Bells? No, never mind,” I avoided straying off-topic, “let’s get things done but enjoy ourselves, eh? If we have the chance to get any more of those ingredients, like, that’d be a good thing as well.”

“You’re so predictable,” Kagerou giggled, resuming our walk. “You should relax, you know, women don’t like men that are overeager.”

“I’m not a guy, though. Maybe.”

“And I’m not a werewolf,” she giggled again, “men are all the same.”

“I guess in your world a few sniffs, some piss on a tree and you’re all set to rut. I’ll thank you to keep your advice about love to yourself in the future,” I huffed.

“I see your point and I think you've convinced me. Just not sure what there is to do for fun on the way to the shrine.”

“We could stop by the village, have a drink, take in the atmosphere? With all the drinking Remilia’s made you do, I’ve wondered if there’s a drink of choice you’d rather be having,” I sort of just blurted out something that had been on my mind.

“I don’t really feel like it right now,” she said, “but you might be on to something.”

“I always am,” I boasted quite unnecessarily.

She stopped once again and opened up the bag. Reaching in she took out a thin grey cloak, something best suited for keeping dust off than keeping warm. She closed the bag up, slung it over her shoulder and placed it on the ground in order to cover herself.

“When did you grab that?” I asked as she made sure the cloak was securely fastened. I must have tuned out when when was dealing with food and fairies.

“Right at the beginning. Figured it might be handy to disguise myself a little,” she said.

“Embarrassed by the maid uniform, huh? Can’t say that I blame you. Even if it isn’t that sexy, you’re bound to get a few unwelcome stares from people,” I said, once again lacking a filter on my thoughts.

“That’s not it!” she snapped, picking up the bag again and carelessly slinging it cross-shoulder again. I think I hit a nerve? But I wasn’t sure which one it was or why. At any rate, she didn’t deign to explain. Kagerou moved on, “There are a few things we can pick up at the village that would make our lives easier. Let’s focus on that.”

“Got any money? They’re not just going to give you things because you’ve got such an adorable face, you know.”

“In the bag,” she said, “it’s stupid how they just keep the stuff lying around pretty much everywhere.”

“Vampires are weird,” I mumbled mostly to myself as the werewolf picked up the pace.

It didn’t take us long to get to the village. The roads were empty and Kagerou kept a brisk pace as she didn’t need to mind neither cart nor fairy this time around. Being a modest but still worldly person, I didn’t mind the village that much. It was a cozy place with enough people and businesses to add variety to what was otherwise a pretty dull rural life for the average villager. I still preferred the Scarlet estate despite all of its gaudy excesses because I was just better used to the western trappings. And well, there was also another good reason that was better left unsaid.

Kagerou made a beeline for the market. Specifically, the food stalls. Why someone with a pack full of food would do that, I could not rightly guess. And it wasn’t like there were many that were open yet, the lunchtime bustle still being a while away. Still, she picked up a small box of candy and a rice ball, putting away the former and chomping into the later. I didn’t say anything but it seemed that she read my mind, mumbling that “the food at the mansion is completely different.”

Fair enough. I let her enjoy her meal in peace.

Gorged and happy, she then turned to other pressing matters. A little window shopping came next. Without the burden of having to follow a list she let herself take her sweet time seeing what was on sale. It didn’t seem like she was used to navigating shops or what she could expect in each one. Her gaze was constantly caught by the sight of something new, something shiny or even the very mundane. She smiled at knickknacks and seemed especially pleased at anything vibrant and colorful. If that was fun for her, then who was I to get in the way?

Much to her credit, Kagerou was restrained when it actually came to spending. She probably had more money in that bag than most merchants would see during a few months’ worth of business. It would have been easy for her to take a tiny portion of that and splurge on personal effects. I sure wouldn’t have blamed her. Somehow I got the feeling that Remilia wouldn’t either, likely amused by the types of things that a werewolf would be drawn towards. Yeah, no way she would pass up to lord over her ill-defined superior taste and compare it to Kagerou’s invariably plebeian sensibilities.

There was one thing she bought with my blessing. A woman was sitting by the side of the street, wearing a hood and cloak and napping placidly with a small tray full of stones propped up in front of her. The display of color caught Kagerou’s eye as she passed. She mumbled a question asking if I could tell what kind they were. I replied that I was a genius but not a geologist. So she asked instead, rousing the sleeping vendor as politely as she could.

A half-asleep reply came from the woman, her head continuing to slump forward, “all sales are final.”

“I don’t think she’s too interested in explaining,” I stated the obvious. “Just pick something you like.”

“It’s for Flandre,” Kagerou said, deciding that the fast-asleep woman wasn’t going to wake up again without some more effort, “I think she might like something simple and shiny.”

“Canny,” I told her, “can’t hurt to be on her good side.”

“Something like that,” she said, picking up a white mineral-type-looking-or-whatever-thing. I was serious about not knowing about geology. Anyhow, though it felt smooth to her touch, it was slightly translucent and layers upon layers of white bands compacted together. There were a few hints of other colors deep within but the milky opaqueness made it difficult to make sure. Though she looked at the more vibrant blue and greens on display, she settled on her first choice.

The seller seemed to wake up again just long enough to cite a price. She hadn’t even bothered to look up, instead putting out one of her hands to receive payment. A strand of long blond hair peeked from under her hood, revealed by the motion. Kagerou shrugged and gave her a coin. “Is that enough?” she asked.

The response was a lethargic closing of hands and retraction. Apparently, it was.

A good chunk of the morning went by while Kagerou looked around and explored the village center. She seemed to sense that I was getting restless and towards midday and turned her attention to something more productive. “Is there anything here you think we could get?” she asked quietly, ducking into a narrow alley between shops and producing Patchouli’s list from a secret pocket in the front of her outfit. There always was more to a maid than met the eye.

“A straw doll sounds a little out of place for a list of magical items,” I mused, “think it’s to curse someone?”

“If it was, I’d say you’re the prime target,” Kagerou joked, “if you had a body, you’d be stalking her all day long.”

“You just don’t understand deep love,” I figuratively shrugged.

“These other things… root of something or the other. I just don’t know where to look for them.”

“There’s incense on there,” I pointed out, “can’t be too hard to find some of that. Let’s worry about the other things later.”

“She doesn’t strike me as the devout type,” the werewolf commented, “wonder why she’d need the stuff. Maybe she just likes the smell?”

“I’m sure she has a good and logical reason for wanting some,” I said, urging her to action, “we can ask her all about it once we’re back.”

With a most disinterested shrug, Kagerou acquiesced and set off to look around for some of the items on the list. She tried some of the nearby sellers first, asking about a few of the more unusual botanical items on the list. We got redirected to perfume sellers and herb specialists. With limited success. A kind old lady who ran a hole-in-the-wall type shop specializing in all things pickled and dry goods took the time to explain just what it was we were trying to buy. Kagerou fidgeted now and again, trying to make sure her cloak was properly fastened and hid her features. Ironically, it was her preoccupation with not being scrutinized that probably drew more attention to her than she would have otherwise gotten. A fleeting glance from the grandmotherly shopkeeper that I just happened to catch made me suspect that she knew she was dealing with a youkai alright.


We ended up getting one of the ingredients we needed from that shop: a root vegetable that had been milled into flour. It probably wasn’t Patchouli’s preferred form for a magical ingredient but it was better than nothing we supposed. More usefully, we had a better idea of what some of the other things looked and smelled like. There was a clear opening for a good series of jokes at Kagerou’s expense but I didn’t want to risk putting her on edge—she was having a hard enough time trying to look inconspicuous.

As it was getting close to the lunch hour, we started gravitating away from the market center and towards the smaller side streets. People were beginning to flood in from the rest of town and the surrounding countryside. Kagerou became ever more uneasy. She almost snarled at someone who brushed against her shoulder trying to pass her by. It was just thereafter that we stumbled into another item that was on our shopping list.

“Careful there,” I said, happy with the stroke of good luck, “you almost knocked over that pile of incense. Sandalwood judging by the smell.”

The cloaked maid apologized to the seller, a young girl who was clearly not human. Were those…? Ears, a long, thin tail… a couple of mice that were perched on her shoulders. Yeah, she was clearly some sort of rat queen. Or, probably more accurately put, a mousey merchant. She smiled and told Kagerou that it was no problem. “I expected this sort of thing to happen when I was told to help move our stock today.”

Kagerou took a look at what she had on offer: trinkets, mostly vaguely religious-looking stuff but there were also a few baubles and things with no particular theme to them, of course, the incense. The humans that passed by took no heed of the small youkai with gray hair. She tried to strike up a conversation with Kagerou, talking about a place where youkai and humans mingled all the time. The wolfy maid was too worked up about the constant hustle and bustle to care much about her pitch. Thus the encounter was strictly transactional. I told Kagerou to pick this and that type of incense and was quick to pay the mouse and leave.

I wondered if it would be wise to try to pry a little into her state of mind. I was curious as to why she was getting so flustered. But, then again, bringing it up in a very public space was probably a dumb idea. At best, she’d snap at me. I didn’t think that she would freakout and runaway or whatever else but, then again, she did have another side to her. As much as I made fun of her, comparing her to a dog or wolf, there was a kernel of truth to there being something not-quite-civilized deep within her.

Something else took precedence. A heart-to-heart would have to wait. Though I could tell that her thoughts were beginning to get messy, her eyes were sharp enough to spot another one of the things that we needed. She weaved through the crowd deftly and with singular purpose. She made it to the basket just outside another small store in record time. Just to witness another hand grabbing the very thing that we needed.

“Hey, how much for this doll?” the girl asked the shopkeeper, holding up a tiny straw doll in her hand. Hm, I felt like I had seen her somewhere before. She had short red hair and wore a high-collared outfit that matched it and almost covered up to her cheeks. Definitely weird to wear with a skirt. While racking my brain for more clues, a weird thought came to mind: the outfit was kind of cape-like and seemed like something a fashionable vampire might wear. Were day walkers a thing in Gensokyo?

Kagerou stared impatiently at the girl, unsure of what to say or do. A crease of irritation formed on her forehead and grew into a complex array of lines before too long. She listened to the shopkeeper answer something and the girl asnwer that she would take the doll. After waiting for her to leave, she asked if there were any more like them in the store. An apologetic gummy smile didn’t smooth things over; “Last one, I’m afraid.”

She dashed after the girl, fighting the natural flow of people down the street. It was an upstream struggle and I had half a mind to tell her to just forget it—we could always look for another doll elsewhere. Worst came to worst we could even make our own. Not too hard. But I got the feeling that she wouldn’t listen to me as all of her previous frustrations and apprehensions were being channeled into strenuous activity. She was serious about the chase and clutched her bag close, making sure it didn’t bump into people and slow her down.

The chase took us from the village center to the outlying areas and the crowds thinned out. Still, she couldn’t quite catch up with the girl and more than once it seemed that we had lost her. Whether through instinct or luck, however, she was able to pick up the trail quickly and managed to stick with her. We ended up at a spot where there were only a few modestly-sized houses about. They looked like they were made from simpler materials and used wood that was less polished and sturdy-looking than the bigger homes elsewhere in the village. The girl was opening the door one one of the doors when Kagerou finally intercepted her.

“Excuse me,” the wolf stopped her, “could I talk to you for a moment?”

The girl seemed surprised that there was someone there. She eyed the cloaked figure warily, putting a hand under her cape as if to reach for something hidden. “What do you want?” she asked curtly.

“It’s about that doll you just bought—“ Kagerou paused and showed that she hadn’t thought very far ahead.

“Offer to buy it from her,” I piped up.

“I’d like to buy it from you,” she continued with a nod.

“Huh? Why?” she girl blinked, looking even more suspicious of the cloaked stranger’s motivation.

“I wanted to give it to someone else,” Kagerou explained with a version of the truth, “there aren’t any more for sale so I figured I could buy yours from you.”

“It’s not for sale,” the girl said, “leave me alone.”

“Prickly, isn’t she?” I was trying to figure out why she was being so gruff. Maybe she was just the type of person that hated other people.

“I’ll give you more than what you paid for it,” Kagerou said, being insistent but remaining civilized for the time being. She tried to be conciliatory without giving away too much which was kind of impressive, actually. “Listen, I know it’s weird for me to come out of the blue and ask you this but it’d really help me out if you gave it to me. It has to be made from straw, you see, and I haven’t really seen others in the marketplace. So I’ll definitely make it worth your while.”

Ah, to be able to be generous with other people’s money was such a blessing.

“My answer is the same. It’s mine now. Save your coin,” the girl huffed, taking a step towards the door. “Leave and don’t come back.”

Kagerou’s lips pursed with displeasure . She scrambled to think of what to do next and I could feel a few rapid and strong thoughts and emotions surfacing. Something along the lines of frustration having been converted to purpose in order to keep herself from straying. It didn’t feel like she wanted to make this a bigger deal than it needed to be but after all that effort she probably wanted to save face. If only to make herself feel like her efforts didn’t just result in a damp squib.

The problem was the other girl whose suspicion grew by the moment. She seemed to want to go inside the house but didn’t want Kagerou to see her doing so for whatever reason. So it was a strange standoff in a quiet part of town, with an atmosphere that was difficult to read. Not that there were any overt signs of threats by either party or anything but we definitely hadn’t gotten off on the right foot. I didn’t think that inviting her out for a cup of tea would smooth things over.

Kagerou’s left hand was clenched under her cloak, a sign that she was making up her mind quickly.

[] Let her try her best to find a solution.
[] Dissuade her from wasting more time and head to the shrine.

Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2019/05/28(Tue)13:10

>> No. 64213
[x] Let her try her best to find a solution.

I guess Reimu can wait. We need to deal with the problem at hand first.
>> No. 64214
[x] Dissuade her from wasting more time and head to the shrine.
Meh, kinda burnt-out on 'banki at this point. If it's straw dolls, it's always possible Reimu never cleaned up after Alice's hijinx.

Also, give me more Naz, you tease.
>> No. 64215
>>64214

I too would like to avoid another Boring Banki scenario. However I really get the feeling she's doing something visibly and obviously illegal in her house, hence her reluctance to open the door. I think investigating this could prove fun in the long term.

[X] Let her try her best to find a solution.
>> No. 64216
[X] Let her try her best to find a solution.

Considering we picked...er, coinflipped the spend-time-wandering option, I don't see why not. It'd also be interesting to see what exactly Banki plans to do with that doll.
>> No. 64219
File 156392423099.gif - (2.99MB , 600x600 , vampiric cube.gif ) [iqdb]
64219
SOON
>> No. 64220
[x] Let her try her best to find a solution.

There's only one truth!
>> No. 64221
>>64219
Waiting warmly.
>> No. 64222
>>64219

>SOON
>a week ago

Guys...what did he mean by this?
>> No. 64223
>>64222
Time is convoluted, et cetera, et cetera.
>> No. 64224
The finer points of persuasion eluded Kagerou. Not that it was exactly her fault, poor girl. Faced with unreasonable creatures like vampires, mermaids and fairies, she had a decent track record. When she listened to me, the outcome tended to be even better. If she kept it up, she could one day be at least as half as good as I was. Watching her talk to the caped redhead, however, it was clear that she was making little headway.

There wasn’t even really time for me to interject or find a clever turn of phrase for her to make up the girl’s mind—the werewolf desperately ran the gamut between polite explanation to frenzied pleading in the space of a few minutes. Nothing seemed to stick and her target leered with increasing restlessness in her eyes. It didn’t take an expert on body language to see that she was agitated and felt cornered.

The overly earnest wolf picked up on that, thankfully. She backed off a little, appealing once again with a cooler head, “listen, I know I’m being annoying and I’m sorry. I’m sure we can reach a deal and, if we can’t, that’s fine too. But it’d be at least nice to know why you’re not open to it.”

“I don’t really have to tell you anything, it’s mine and that’s the way it’s going to remain” the girl replied, an eerie lilt creeping into her voice. Definitely not the voice of a normal, frustrated villager.

I felt like I should say something. But there was no need. It seemed that Kagerou picked up on the same cue as well. She was very conscious of the hairs on the back of her neck stiffening and that very direct sensation made me almost feel like I had a body again. That made a very simple thought stream into my mind and echo on to her, “she knows you’re a youkai.

“Don’t ask me how, she just does,” I added. Yes, it was true that Kagerou’s outfit was hardly a masterwork of disguise. A tail and ears were tricky to accommodate even if you had a lot of room within a hooded cloak. It shielded her from casual scrutiny, protected during extended interaction, but ultimately did nothing to hide the truth from someone intent on finding it. Perhaps the hint of a smirk behind the tall collared clasp of the girl’s cape was enough evidence.

“If it’s not money you want, maybe I can do something else for you?” Kagerou squared her shoulders, trying to pretend she wasn’t worried about being outed as a youkai.

“I’m not that kind of girl,” the redhead laughed darkly, her body posture becoming more direct and aggressive. She puffed up her chest and looked Kagerou in the eye. “Go away,” she insisted, pushing Kagerou’s shoulder with a sharp jab of her hand.”

“Is there really nothing…?” Kagerou sounded increasingly defeated and did not react to the push.

“I said no!” the girl shoved harder, this time forcing Kagerou to take a step back. “Now beat it before I get serious.”

“I-” Kagerou started but was unable to verbalize her thought to completion.

The redhead came at her with forceful intent, in an instant summoning up force into her upper body and arms. Another shove; one done with little restraint and even less concern for the target. The infinitesimally-longer buildup telegraphed her intention. Even in my wonderful real body, I doubt I would have been able to react in time. A werewolf, however, seemed to have quicker reflexes than average. Kagerou pivoted to her left, pulling one shoulder away to avoid the now two-handed assault and inadvertently striking at her assailant with the other pivoting shoulder. It was all one could be expected to do in close quarters and at that speed.

I doubted that Kagerou had meant to retaliate but the result of her dodge was that a lot of force from her shoulder was transferred perpendicularly to the girl. Naturally enough, the girl stumbled. With the force of the counter, she went farther and outright lost her balance. She twisted up her legs, and fell at an angle towards her home. An indecently loud thwack sounded from where flesh met wooden wall and was followed very shortly by a duller thump courtesy of the hard ground.

Kagerou froze in place and looked at the girl in disbelief. Her body lay splayed on the ground like a rag doll. More worryingly, the girl’s head was propped up at a gruesomely unnatural angle, neck likely twisted, with eyes open and blank. “Ah, so you’ve killed her,” I surprised myself by stating what we were both thinking as calmly as if I were talking about the weather.

I was used to feeling her irritation or frustration as I was often the cause or target of it. Hotheaded and unusual extremes as with Remilia also were familiar. The very complex burst of emotion and thought that was coming from her as my words sunk in, however, were something altogether new. These were intense to the point of exhaustion—it felt as if I were liable to be dragged down by the merciless current and drowned at any moment. Words failed me, as they did her. She trembled, stretched out an arm as if to reach out to the collapsed girl but quickly retracted it.

“Take a deep breath,” I commanded, my voice so firm that it sounded unrecognizable. My thoughts were a mess as well. I could debate later if it was providence or ironclad willpower that allowed me to hew clear intent from that chaotic whole. “Listen to me,” I kept on, “listen to me and take a deep breath.”

I knew that her first instinct was to ignore, let out a frustrated yelp at best. That’s why I was insisted and repeated my instructions clearly and sternly until she finally complied. A deep breath. Followed by another. An exhortation to keep it together was more effective if she started listening to me on the basics. I built up towards the rational, slowly reviving her from the terrified catatonia she experienced.

Eventually, I was able to get to the very real problem in front of us. “It’s not your fault,” I said, interjecting preemptively, “this is not the moment to argue about it.”

“I’ll...” Kagerou choked out the words, “be exterminated regardless.”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” I told her. I wasn’t sure I could save her at all but if there was any chance to avoid death then it was contingent on what happened next. That there were no witnesses was both a blessing and a curse, depending on how we played our cards.

“I-” she couldn’t bring herself to argue.

“Stay with me. Take another deep breath,” I told her, trying to keep her from curling up into a helpless ball of tears. “Trust me. I’m not just a person of sublime taste and peerless intellect right now,” I tried to crack a joke but my voice sounded too robotic for it to have any impact, “I’m also your best ally. Do as I say and it’ll be fine.”

I wasn’t sure just how far I’d be willing to go. I would cross those moral bridges if we came to them. For the moment, I started with something simpler, “make sure she’s really dead.”

“-?!” Kagerou wordlessly objected.

“If she’s just really hurt and not dead that changes things,” I condescended with a tone that made it clear that I wasn’t asking for feedback just obedience. “Get over yourself and do what needs to be done.”

Kagerou took a half step over the body and crouched down. “I can’t hear any breathing,” she reported.

“Check for a pulse.”

“Um-”

It dawned upon me that a werewolf might not have any basic medical knowledge. “Take two fingers and press them against the side of her neck. I’ll tell you if you’ve got the wrong spot. You’ll feel her heart beat if she’s still alive.”

The werewolf’s hand trembled as she drew it closer to the girl’s head. She brushed aside a crumpled bit of ribbon that had come loose during during the altercation breathlessly. She tried not to look at the blank stare on the face as ice filled her veins. A muffled whine came as a result of an even darker revelation. Under a different context, I may have compared her to a dog, but it was no laughing matter: the girl’s neck was at least partially detached from her body.

“Checking for a pulse is not necessary,” I said grimly.

Kagerou stood up and took a couple of steps back, looking ready to bolt. “Even if we hid the body-!” she gasped desperately.

“Keep it together!” I scolded. “Take another deep breath.”

She did as asked, her ears drooping entirely. We could talk about getting rid of evidence later. I just needed to think for a moment. Maybe it would be better to at least drag it into the house so as to not be standing around in the relative open around a dead body. Sure, this part of the village was quiet and deserted but banking on luck didn’t sit right with me.

We were of the same mind, it seemed. Her rational mind was just barely working, as she suggested, “let’s stop just standing around. My head feels like it’s going to explode. Someone might see this mess.”

“Mess?” I laughed. I was so caught up in the moment that I didn’t think of an improbable scenario. “No, this isn’t enough of a mess,” I told an incredibly-confused Kagerou. “You should kick the body.”

“Are you crazy? What for?” Kagerou’s eyes widened.

“Trust me. If I’m right, you’ll be fine. Give her a good hard kick. If she’s dead, she won’t feel it. If not...”

“Huh?”

“Just do it,” I commanded firmly, “you’ll see what I mean.”

I got away with persuading her to kick an apparent corpse because she still wasn’t thinking clearly enough to truly oppose me. With a lot of hesitation she did as I asked, delivering a sharp blow to the girl’s side. The body squirmed. Convulsed, more like.

“It’s over!” I declared triumphantly, “this crazy bitch had me going for a moment. Threaten to kick her again. Out loud!”

“Oh, whatever!” Kagerou huffed and exclaimed, “I’m going to keep kicking you!”

“Crap!” the dead girl exclaimed, “cut it out!”

Kagerou seemed shocked. To be fair, who wouldn’t be? It wasn’t every day that you met a being with a stupid ability like that. Even in a village full of humans there was bound to be one or two that tried to blend in.

“She’s a youkai,” I told Kagerou, “her head appears to be able to come off.”

“You’re kidding, right?” she said in disbelief to both me and the body as the latter moved to grab its unnaturally positioned head off from the ground. The former dead body came very much to life and the eyes on the head became animated once again.

“You couldn’t have just run off, could you?” the girl fumed, acting like she hadn’t just faked her own death. “I thought I could outsmart a dumb wolf easily.”

Kagerou bared her teeth, all the very complex emotions of panic and guilt morphing into righteous anger. “Easy there,” I told her, “we have the upper hand. She’ll give you the doll if you ask her now.”

“So I guess we’ll just have to fight now, huh.” the girl smiled, “spell cards and all that. Probably best we do it elsewhere, wouldn’t want to attract unwanted attention.”

“Tell her you won’t fight her,” I said, “tell her to hand over the doll. Offer her a couple of coins though. Trust me on this one.”

The masterstroke of figuring out that the girl was not really dead had Kagerou willing to believe just about anything I said. I’d be making full use of that awe for as long as possible. With perked up ears, she crossed her arms, stood definitely and echoed with confidence, “no, I don’t think we’re going to fight anymore.”

“I don’t think you get to decide that,” the girl replied haughtily, “this is definitely happening.”

I explained my cunning plan quickly to Kagerou. She smirked in response, doing me proud. “I can fight and probably beat you,” she told the redhead, “but I could also let your neighbors know that you’re one of us. With how evasive you’ve been all along, I take it you’re a very private person. The kind that doesn’t want people to know anything about them. Why is your business, of course, I just want to buy that doll from you at fair market value.”

That was a deep and surgical stab that the girl couldn’t recover from. She didn’t want to lose face but knew she was cornered. “Throw in an apology for being an ass and I’ll negotiate.”

“Don’t you think it’s a bit much for her to expect an apology from you?” I asked. “Double down, ask her to invite you in for tea while you negotiate.”

Kagerou laughed, enjoying being on the winning side. “We can talk about who is at fault over tea,” she said.

I thought that maybe the girl would balk at the brazen request. Instead she sighed, revealing just how weak her negotiating position really was. “Fine, better than making a scene out in the open,” she shrugged, trying to pretend we hadn’t gotten to her.

The girl entered her home and left the door ajar for us to follow. In that brief instant Kagerou couldn’t help but ask me something that was weighing on her mind. “How did you know?”

“Easy,” I replied, “no blood. Someone who really lost their head would make a grand old mess. You probably wouldn’t be able to ignore the smell of blood with that nose of yours.”

Kagerou offered a half-shrug, looking very pleased. Finding out you weren’t culpable of manslaughter would be a load off of anyone’s mind.

We stepped into the girl’s home triumphantly, finding that her host was busy minding a small fire in the corner of the small home. It was a small building, typical of the more modest villagers with a bigger main room and another smaller room that was likely dedicated mostly to storage. A faint smell of sour cabbage filled the air and the space itself was full of clutter that you’d find in the average home. Seemed that this youkai fancied herself something of a seamstress, having bolts of cloth and half-finished clothes draped on a small table at the center of the room.

“Sit. Or don’t. I don’t care,” the girl said as she watched the kettle boil.

Kagerou removed her hood and sat down. She looked impressively smug. A radical transformation from just a few minutes earlier. “So, what’s your name?” she asked, “feels strange to have tea with someone whose name I don’t know.”

“Does it matter?” the girl shrugged back.

“Somewhat,” Kagerou offered a shrug of her own, “I’m Kagerou, by the way.”

“I’ll make a note of that,” the girl said. Hard to say whether she was being sarcastic or would actually add it to something like an enemies list.

“So?”

“Yeah?”

“What’s your name?”

“...ugh. Sekibanki,” she at last replied. “And I warn you now—if you expose me I’ll make your life miserable.”

“My, how scary,” Kagerou laughed, long since inured to threats by a certain vampire.

Sekibanki remained quiet until the water was just right. She brought over the tea, haphazardly clearing a space at the table with a sweep of her hand. There was only a single cup. “Drink your tea, pay me for the doll and get the hell out of here.”

Woe to the vanquished. All that remained was claiming the spoils and enjoying them.

[] Ask about why she was willing to go through all that trouble just for a doll
[] Try to suss out why a youkai like her would be living among humans

--
>>64222
>>64223
You know, you can always just ask me what's up in these threads, on IRC or Discord. I don't mind people asking me about updates and writing in general. So long as you aren't asking every five minutes I'll give you an honest answer of what's going on. A saged post isn't that liable to catch my eye to be honest.
>> No. 64225
[x] Pat her grumpy head.
[x] Ask about why she was willing to go through all that trouble just for a doll.
What a grump.
>> No. 64226
[x] Ask about why she was willing to go through all that trouble just for a doll

Actually I'd choose to let Kagerou lead the conversation here, for good or bad, but if not then I'd like to at least steer her away from immediately prodding at a possibly sensitive subject. We're total strangers after all
>> No. 64227
[x] Ask about why she was willing to go through all that trouble just for a doll
>> No. 64229
File 156462858164.jpg - (164.80KB , 850x850 , almost forgot shes awarewolf.jpg ) [iqdb]
64229
>one cup

This chick needs some friends.

[X] Ask about why she was willing to go through all that trouble just for a doll

How the heck did she boil the water before Wolfy even sat down? I mean...she had to have left the pot over the fire before leaving the house. which means she was probably eager to end the conversation quick so her house didn't burn down, not because she was doing interesting stuff.

I wonder how far we can bully Hikikobanki with our newfound knowledge? Maybe we can pressure her into upgrading our maid outfit to it's level 2 form.
>> No. 64230
[x] Try to sniff suss out why a youkai like her would be living among humans

Smug wolf is best wolf.
>> No. 64231
[x] Ask about why she was willing to go through all that trouble just for a doll

Reading about an unconditional victory was refreshing. Also Smug = Good
>> No. 64232
[X] Ask about why she was willing to go through all that trouble just for a doll
>> No. 64233
File 156484327648.png - (637.39KB , 642x832 , vampiric hypnosis.png ) [iqdb]
64233
V. SOON
>> No. 64234
File 156518952228.jpg - (284.03KB , 707x1000 , the cross and the leggy.jpg ) [iqdb]
64234
Showing absolutely no hurry to claim her prize, Kagerou took her time to enjoy the tea. She waited for it to cool some, watching the steam wisps rise up and disappear into the aether. After a while, without saying anything, she held the cup, took the time to enjoy the warm feeling in her hand and took in the mellow fragrance of the admittedly-not-that-great tea. It was longer still before she took her first small sip, letting the liquid really take its time resting on her tongue before she swallowed.

“This is nice,” she concluded with an especially pompous smile. The techniques of the rich and self-important had rubbed off on her.

As anyone could imagine, all that mindfulness and deliberate ritual had driven Sekibanki up the wall. Though the girl said nothing, she watched the whole spectacle with a mix of anger and befuddlement, alternating between outright staring to pretending she had housework to do. A furtive and frustrated peek in our direction gave away just she wanted to appear busy.

“Won’t you join me?” Kagerou rubbed salt into the wound, though I didn’t think that was her intention. She understood just how awkward things were and was defaulting to a more conciliatory rhetoric.

“I’ll pass,” the girl huffed. She had taken off her cape, revealing that dark blouse also had a raised neckline. It looked like she was checking for any rips with an eye of darning any with nearby thread and needle.

“Maybe switch topics?” I suggested, “doesn’t seem like you’ll get much else from her otherwise.”

Kagerou took my advice after another luxuriously slow sip of tea. She put the cup down and then said, “I’ll give you twice what you paid for for the doll. Sounds fair?”

“Whatever,” came the contemptuously disinterested reply. As far as she likely saw it there was no fairness to any possible deal. The sooner her guest up and left, the better.

Kagerou’s left eyebrow arched, caught between a desire to continue gloating and a sense of actually reaching a proportionate settlement. If only to make sure her conscience was sated. Me? I would have just given her the price of the doll plus, say, a ten percent for her trouble and have long since walked away. Since I didn’t want my lovely companion to have any regrets later, I didn’t force my particular point of view upon her.

“Maybe if you tell me why you wanted the doll then I can offer you a better deal. I mean, it seemed important enough for you to go through all that trouble,” the maid shrugged, convinced that this was a matter of reason.

Sekibanki crossed her arms and rolled her eyes. Absolutely nothing unsubtle about that. “I wanted it and that’s all that matters. There is no better deal unless you leave my home without the doll and apologize.”

“You still won’t tell me why…?” Kagerou was confused as to why she’d keep offering such resistance.

The answer was forthcoming and delivered with derision, “Don’t you have any dignity? Pride?! No, I suppose not,” she eyed Kagerou sternly, not too pleased with what she saw, “dressed as you are, you seem more like a trained pet than a person. All that’s missing is the pretty little collar where they can attach the lead.”

“Do you always make so many assumptions about the people you meet?” Kagerou fired back, bothered but not defeated. I felt a strange sense of pride. The werewolf I first met not too long ago had thinner skin.

“Tell me I’m wrong then, that you’re not just caught up in someone else’s bullshit. Tell me,” the girl said with dramatic flair, “why do you want this doll?”

“She’s got you there!” I laughed.

To my surprise, Kagerou reacted well to the intended putdown. She laughed too. This placed Sekibanki on the back foot as she looked on with confusion. The werewolf explained without sounding too bothered, “I’m doing it as part of my job. It was asked of me. But know what? It’s not just that. I also wanted to get that doll. For a friend who has a crush on the girl who wants it.”

“Aw~!” there was no better reaction to her sweet words. I was absolutely chuffed.

“That sounds stupid,” Sekibanki muttered, caught off guard by the maid’s frankness. She had wanted to turn the tables around, make the smug wolf feel less than and unimportant. She proceed to harden her stare again but the earlier zealousness just wasn’t there.

“There’s nothing wrong with doing stupid things for stupid reasons,” Kagerou doubled down, “bet you couldn’t even guess why I agreed to take this job in the first place! It wasn’t about money or having fancy food to eat, though those are great too.”

Sekibanki sighed and said, “no, I guess not. I can’t understand idiots who get involved in other people’s business.”

As abruptly as the exchange had started it likewise died down. Kagerou finished her cup of tea calmly while the other girl stewed quietly. At times, it seemed that conversation would spark up again—both mimed soundless words at times that could have been the start of something. With quiet little sigh the werewolf fetched a few coins from her bag and placed them on the table. It was a more than generous amount, one that would probably get most merchants tripping over themselves to procure a simple straw doll.

The exchange proceeded in a similarly muted fashion. Sekibanki placed the doll on the table and didn’t bother to pick up the coins. Kagerou put it in her bag and got up. She adjusted her cloak, making sure her ears and much of her uniform were hidden away.

“Take care,” the werewolf said with a smile. “If you ever want to talk to someone about anything, I think you know where to find me. I can try to make you understand idiots like me if you’re open to it.”

That elicited a smirk from Sekibanki. “I’d have to be really bored. Perhaps drunk.”

“Even if you are, it might be nice. Who knows?”

“Yes, who knows?” the redhead paid lip service to the idea and ushered us to the door. She seemed relieved to have us out of her hair and no doubt looked forward to getting back to whatever it was she had planned. For her sake, I hoped that meant tidying up some.

“That went… okay?” I opined as soon as we were clear of the area.

“We got the doll, that’s the most important thing,” Kagerou replied.

“We should probably go to the shrine now.”

“Yeah,” she agreed but couldn’t help but add, “the sooner we get all the things your girlfriend needs, the better.” A series of mocking kissing noises followed.

Well played.

“You can’t really embarrass me, y’know,” I told her, “I’m open about my admiration for her.”

“Hmm, I wonder if you’d be so direct if you had to actually look her in the eyes?” she teased, picking a path between a row of homes that seemed to lead out of the village. “You seem all cool and confident now but I bet you’d be a stammering, sweaty and red mess.”

“Who knows? I don’t think I would because...” I thought back to the greenhouse. It seemed real enough. But there was no way of knowing for sure. Even if I really wanted it to be real.

“...see? You’re embarrassed already!” she laughed, mistaking my pensiveness for something else entirely.

“Ah, who cares!” I laughed it off. “More importantly, that was really sweet of you! I didn’t know you had it in you~!”

“Always have,” she nodded, still looking quite pleased with herself, “you just never notice because you’re thinking about magicians all the time!”

And so went the thrust of the conversation for a while. Before long the buildings became sparser before yielding entirely to countryside. We walked towards the shrine in no particular rush. It was still a perfectly lovely day and I had to admit that I was enjoying myself much more than I thought I would. Werewolves could be rather decent company.

Kagerou hummed a cheery little tune to herself. I thought it might be a good moment to bring a certain topic up. I wouldn’t have dared just a week or two earlier but I thought we were well on our way to better mutual understanding and true trust. I hesitated a little to risk the relaxed mood but knew that the potential for shared honesty was there. For whatever reason, those tended to be too rare in life and seldom could be forced.

[] In the end she hadn’t told Sekibanki why she took the job. I was curious, sure, but also could help her get what she wanted if she opened up.
[] Confide about the visions and how my strong feelings weren’t just about magicians. I possibly knew the inhabitants of the mansion before I was just a stone.

--
Fuck me if I can get the wording of the choices just right but I hope that the generally intimate intent is clear. Neither is meant to be "better" nor right or wrong.
>> No. 64235
*Sniff* They grow up so quickly.

[x] Confide about the visions and how my strong feelings weren’t just about magicians. I possibly knew the inhabitants of the mansion before I was just a stone.

I think it's about time he shared his visions with her. Maybe she can also help him discover who he really is.
>> No. 64236
>“Always have,” she nodded, still looking quite pleased with herself, “you just never notice because you’re thinking about magicians all the time!”

I'm in this story and I don't like it.

[X] Confide

It's not "Now or never" but I feel it is, at least, "Now or in 30 updates"
Gotta strike while the iron's hot and all that
>> No. 64237
[x] In the end she hadn’t told Sekibanki why she took the job. I was curious, sure, but also could help her get what she wanted if she opened up.

I'd rather know what Kagewoo's deal is, frankly.
>> No. 64238
[x] Confide about the visions and how my strong feelings weren’t just about magicians. I possibly knew the inhabitants of the mansion before I was just a stone.
>> No. 64239
[x] In the end she hadn’t told Sekibanki why she took the job. I was curious, sure, but also could help her get what she wanted if she opened up.

I don't care about some talking rock with a boner for sakuya, frankly. like, join the line, pal
tell me about the wolfy instead
>> No. 64240
[x] Confide about the visions and how my strong feelings weren’t just about magicians. I possibly knew the inhabitants of the mansion before I was just a stone.

I'd prefer Kagerou's motives be revealed in a way that meaningful to a specific scene or event.
>> No. 64241
File 15654502004.jpg - (324.68KB , 1000x705 , name of the rose.jpg ) [iqdb]
64241
EX. SOON
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