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“I guess we’re playing hide and seek,” I said softly as Kagerou looked around. It was a moderately large room with a finite amount of hiding space. If she looked carefully, it wouldn’t take Kagerou very long to find someone who might be hiding.
The werewolf muttered something under her breath, not too keen to debase herself by playing along. She approached a heap of assorted toys and dolls, finding that some of them had been broken or were otherwise missing features—a black button of an eye hanging from a thread here, a slightly ripped arm there. Some books were also strewn ingloriously among the mess, old weathered spines probably meaning that they were from the library’s collection. I half-expected a picture book to be somewhere there but it seemed they were mostly normal novels.
There was a promising lead at one point: a large stuffed panda bear seemed like it could hide someone. It looked large enough and, though it looked steady and sat placidly in a corner, it might have been hollowed out. There were a few dark rips the size of a coin here and there that could even be used as a peephole. The hope that the Flandre was in there was soon dashed; after poking the bear’s white and black gut, it lost all rigidness and crumbled forward, changing the bear’s neutral expression into a sort of melted grimace.
Kagerou turned her attention to the other things nearby. She poked another pile and brushed aside some of the larger stuffed animals in case someone was hiding behind them. “Nice ears,” the voice whispered, sounding so close that she may as well be standing behind the werewolf. Kagerou turned around and found that no one was there. “You look like some sort of dog,” the voice said, giggling, “maybe you should you sniff, sniff, sniff around and find me.”
“Oh, what a class act,” I preempted anything Kagerou might have said in anger with a snippy comment of my own. “Seems the sort that would make a fairy cry just for the fun of it, don’t you think?”
Kagerou smiled knowingly and said nothing. She knocked over one of the taller piles around more out of thoroughness than frustration and then went on to work on the other areas where someone could be hiding. Under the bed was also obvious, so she went there. Something red seemed to glimmer from a moment from the darkness but it was gone in an instant. “Nope, not yet!” the voice said, still having a good time with our search.
After patting down the sheets and moving away pillows and other things, Kagerou seemed satisfied that there was no one there either. The maid was careful to always keep one eye on her surroundings—any telltale signs like a rustle would not escape her notice.
“Maybe you should use your nose,” I suggested. It wasn’t the worst of ideas even if it might give the voice the satisfaction of seeing Kagerou follow instructions.
Tapping softly over her clothes, to where I hung, she sent me a quiet message. She then scratched the tip of her nose with one of her fingernails as if to tell me to pay attention carefully. I tried to concentrate on her senses. Ah, it was obvious when I stopped to smell the roses. Or not smell them as the case was. There was a prevailing scent in the air—between something floral and musky—that made it hard to smell much of anything else. No doubt Kagerou’s senses weren’t all there either yet.
“Well, I guess you could just kick everything around until you find her,” I said, “have the maids clean up after.”
I could feel that she was tempted by the nuclear option. But she wasn’t done yet. She examined the environment carefully one last time, looking for anything that might be out of place. I wasn’t sure what she was looking for but she seemed to have found it at the tea table. Sweeping away a few remaining crumbs, she sat down and crossed her arms.
It didn’t take long for the voice to say something, “giving up already?”
“No, I already found you,” Kagerou said quietly.
“Oh, where am I then?”
“It doesn’t really matter,” the werewolf added, sounding like she was bored of the conversation.
“Of course it does!” the voice replied, sounding more agitated. “You’re lying, you haven’t found me at all!”
“I found you three times already,” Kagerou said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Prove it then!” she yelled, her voice coming at once from both the right and the left.
“Only if you stop cheating.”
“I’m not cheating, you’re cheating! Find me!” went on the high-level discourse.
“You keep moving away,” Kagerou explained calmly, “I don’t know how you but you were behind me, under the bed and probably in a pile of clothes and toys somewhere over there. As soon as I look at you, you disappear. If that’s not cheating, I don’t know what is.”
“I’m not cheating,” the voice grumbled pathetically, straight out of a playground spat. “You just haven’t really found the real me. Those are just other mes. I haven’t moved, I swear.”
“Oh, then I definitely know where you are,” Kagerou said with a look of near-blinding smugness, “if you promise not to use any more of your tricks I’ll walk over to you now. More fair that way, yes?”
“Mmm….” she seemed to stop and think about it before relenting, “okay, but if you’re wrong then anything goes.”
“I’m not wrong,” Kagerou uncrossed her arms and got up. She took slow and deliberate steps, once again showing her flair for the theatrical. It was fun to watch as she seemed to be enjoying the moment. She made her way to one end of the room to something I had overlooked at first—a spare curtain for the bed that hung against the wall. No one could be standing behind it because it was short and didn’t reach down anywhere near the floor.
“Behind that, really?” I asked.
“Hello,” Kagerou said, pulling the curtain back.
“Hello,” the voice replied. It was a blonde young girl with a pleased smile that she had been found. She was sat cross-legged, floating casually in the air. “How did you know?”
I didn’t until just now,” Kagerou said, “I sat down to think about it and then I asked you something important. Then it made sense.”
The girl floated down gently to the floor, standing on her own two feet. She was small and thin, not unlike her sister. There was definitely some resemblance between them—the red eyes being one—but she carried herself different, more at ease and without projecting that almost-indescribable and often overwhelming aura Remilia liked to show off. Maybe it was my very human perspective but I suspected that, as she was also a vampire, she’d might also be as good as her sister when it came to being a huge pain in the ass.
She wasn’t quite properly dressed, looking like she had recently gotten out of bed and hurriedly dressed herself with whatever she found. A white blouse with red embellishments that would have looked sufficiently smart if tucked in and fastened with lace. Instead, it hung loose and droopily over her torso hiding a pair of dark shorts that looked ready to slide off at the slightest of jostling. The only buttons that were done up were the ones strictly necessary to give her closes a pretense of hanging on and, even then, there were a few that were inserted into the wrong buttonholes. A lot of her petite figure poked through the uneven gaps of cloth as a result. She’d need to undo everything to do a proper job of buttoning up the second time around.
Her golden hair was shoulder-length but also a mess, as if it hadn’t been brushed in a while. A ponytail had been clumsily tied with a red ribbon to one side of her head. As she grinned widely and relaxed her body, colorful crystal-like objects shook on the tips of very unusual-looking wings. The crystal themselves varied in color, some being variants of blues and others being pinkish or even orange. There was no obvious pattern to them. The bat-like wings of her sister were nowhere to be seen and hers were more akin to dark petrified wood or some sort of scorched metal. They seemed unnatural for sure but may or may not have been organic, it was hard to tell.
“Oh, so what did I do to give away?” the girl raised her left index finger to her chin and looked up into Kagerou’s eyes.
“You were trying to hard to make me think you were moving around,” Kagerou explained, “I was sure you were really there and you kept disappearing, so I thought maybe you needed to do that to keep an eye on me. In order to keep on teasing me.”
“Yeah, I couldn’t really see anything from behind the curtain, so I had to send other mes to hide in other places for me,” the girl stated matter-o’-factly. “You’re pretty clever!”
“I little bit lucky,” Kagerou shrugged. She crouched slightly, bringing herself to the girl’s eye level, “I’m the new maid that’s filling in for Sakuya while she’s gone. My name is Kagerou.”
“Ah, yep, I know,” she said, “me and other mes have been watching you for a while. It makes things less boring. Hmph, my elder sister didn’t really ask for my opinion before hiring you.”
“Oh, sorry, I didn’t know,” the maid said.
“No, but it’s fine. New faces are fine now and again,” she said, tapping her foot impatiently. “By the way, I’m Flandre. Remilia would want me to call me ‘mistress’ and stuff, but that kind of stuff is boring. Right? I mean you have to get titles for doing important things like going to the moon faster than you can count to ten.”
“The moon?” Kagerou frowned, not following.
“Or the lake. That’s fine, too,” Flandre said, mimicking like she was going to go out for a swim. “But I guess the lake isn’t that cool since if I wanted this room could also be a lake. Kind of.”
“Um… maybe I should bring you your food?” Kagerou asked, hopelessly lost.
“Fine, fine, I did say I’d eat if you found me,” Flandre nodded. She yawned suddenly, barely bothering to cover her mouth and marched on to the tea table.
“Weird girl,” I said as soon as Kagerou made it back to the hallway.
“Pretty different from Remilia, at the very least,” Kagerou said quietly.
“Everyone living here is a weirdo,” I said to myself, “except Patchouli. She’s just lovely. I wish we could spend some quality time together.”
My partner said nothing but the violent rolling of her eyes transmitted her opinion loud and clear. She didn’t dally and picked up the tray, wisely not giving me time to start enumerating all the things that I thought were great about that adorable witch. When she returned, she found Flandre drumming with her fingers on the table, creating noise more than anything.
“Here you are,” Kagerou said as she laid out the meal. It wasn’t the most comfortable of surfaces to sit at, the table being somewhat lower than a dining table, but it would do in a pinch. She lifted up the lid and unveiled some sort of thick soup with chunks of brown something or the other in it. Its oily surface glistened and it was still faintly hot.
“Mm...” Flandre picked up a spoon and sploshed the liquid around some.
“What’s the matter, not hungry?” Kagerou asked the obvious.
“I can eat,” she said, “I was just wondering if I could ask you something. But it’s the kind of thing that I think my elder sis might think is rude to ask, so I’m not sure if I should.”
Kagerou took the liberty of grabbing a nearby chair and joining her at the table. An attempt to engender trust, I supposed. “Just ask away, I’ll try to answer the best I can,” she said softly.
“Well, okay, I guess it’s fine,” Flandre said, taking a spoonful of soup into her mouth. She nodded in approval of the food, more as a gesture to herself, before continuing, “I heard you talking to yourself. I also talk to myself. Other mes, mostly. Do you hear yourself talking back?”
It was Kagerou’s turn to put a finger on her chin as she thought. “Clearly she wants to be reassured,” I said, once again feeling that I would have been better served by studying psychology in my previous life. But maybe she’d find the truth interesting, too.
 It’s common enough to have a dialog with yourself.
 Reveal that Kagerou isn’t just talking to herself.
Time remaining: ::
Timer ended at: 2019/02/20(Wed)13:30