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File 138431448294.jpg - (26.85KB, 650x400, imagine a century-old version of this.jpg) [iqdb]
1295No. 1295
No Touhous appear in this story!
_____

Man, being stuck in a dark box really just sucks.

Especially since, instead of being mindless, I'm sporting actual thought processes, which tends to make time drag on when there's nothing happening. Like right now, for example!

Well, I suppose I wasn't really mindless, as it were, but being an inanimate object doesn't really give one lots of room for philosophical thinking, since fitting an actual squishy brain in several inches of pointy steel is not a high priority for century-old knife-makers. Shocking, I know.

It's kinda funny; I remember a lot of things happening, but at the same time it's all pretty fuzzy, since I was missing critical brainpower at the time. I don't know how I've got it now, all of a sudden, but I'm not really complaining!

Oh, what's that, nonexistent person I'm talking to in order for time to pass by more quickly? You want to know where I've been? Well, seeing as all my sisters in this place are asleep, no matter how hard I yell at them to wake their lazy butts up, I don't think any of them would mind a story time.

Even if they did mind, I'd do it anyway, because they're all jerks.

Ahem. Let me commence with the story-telling!

If you want a date, the World War One trenches were a great place to be! It was all “Affix bayonets!” and “Charge!” and finally “OH GOD THE PAIN” for a lot of my wielders, because as I learned firsthand, machine gun beats knife when it comes to range. You ever spend a month sitting in a puddle of mud because your owner got shredded by a landmine? Be happy you haven't!

I ended up changing hands quite a bit, thanks to stuff like that. Heck, one tenacious Soldat used me to stab his way through a whole trench-line of the Brits before he got shot right in his stupid German face.

Heh. Russian-forged and used by a Kraut to cut up Tommies. I know there's a word for that; irony is the first thing that comes to mind, but I know that's not it, so... okay, can't find the right word, moving on! You might be asking how a Russian knife ended up on the Western Front, and, to be perfectly honest, I have no idea. If wartime action is simply fuzzy in my memories, the bits in-between the good parts were like full-blown static.

But I'm digressing.

I could go on for a while about Double Double-You One, but it mostly boils down to the aforementioned “Affix Bayonets!” “Charge!” and then bullets making everything terrible, so I suppose I'll skip ahead. I got back to the Motherland eventually, oh yes, thanks to one thoughtful Heer boy taking me along when he was transferred to the Eastern Front. At least, I think that's what happened, because all I remember is fighting Brits one day, and then my countrymen the next.

I kind of liked that Kraut, too, even if he used me to carve up more Russian troops than I'd have preferred; still, blood's blood, no matter whose it is. It's too bad how he died, though; freezing seemed like a nasty way to go out, moreso when an artillery shell had blown off his legs in the first place.

Huh. This is just getting depressing.

Everything lurches, and my (metaphorical) heart leaps into my (metaphorical) chest; someone picked the box up! Sorry, story time, you're over!

Come on, whoever you are, open up! Come on! The world shakes once again as the box gets dropped on something, and the lid opens to shine dim light upon me; the man who leans over the top looks like he's eaten an entire farm's output of lard.

“You sure you still want this old piece?” He says, fat fingers bringing me up into the light. “You'd be much better off with a modern model; they're cheaper, too.”

“I like the classics.” His customer says. He looks kinda shady, what with the black jacket and gas mask, but I'm not complaining.

“A thousand rubles, then.” Lardfat says, and if I could bristle, I would! I'm worth more than that! Except, wait, if I want any actual use- Hey! Hey, I'm free! Pick me up!

“Figured an antique like this would go for less.” The customer says, forking over the cash and grabbing me by the handle. He firmly slides me into the sheath at his belt, and while it's not a precise fit, it's genuine leather! This guy knows his stuff!

“Will that be all, Stalker?” Fatcakes asks, but Master grunts negative and presumably (I can't see outside the sheath, after all!) walks out.

I'm finally gonna get some use! Oh, this'll be great!

-----

A tin of food. Really, Master? Don't you have anything better for that? I'm no common can-opener!

Actually, no! I refuse to be used for this! When he brings me down on the can, I rebound.

“You shittin' me?” He asks, staring me down.

He stabs me down again and again, but each time I bounce off the metal.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Master asks, giving me a few shakes, as though that will get me to cooperate. “Can't even open a goddamn can of tuna, can you? I should just toss you into the bushes.”

Oh God, no. I'm sorry!

Wait, he's bringing me up again! I can redeem myself! I go clear through the lid next time he stabs me into it, and he laughs just a little.

“Guess I was just doing it wrong.” Master says, carving through the rest of the tin without meeting any resistance. He wipes me off on a rag when he's done, the feeling of soft cloth on my steel more than making up for the indignity of being a can-opener.

-----

Master is seated around a table, several other men with him, as he holds me above his splayed-out hand.

“I'm a champ at this, boys.” Master says, none-too-smugly, and brings me down fast.

It takes just a little bit of effort to steer myself away from Master's fingers with every stab, and he rockets through the whole sequence without taking so much as a scratch.

“Goddamn.” One of his friends says, covering his face.

-----

“Come on, you little shit, get closer.” Master whispers, me in hand, as we hide in a bush.

There's a weird... pig... thing, walking around out there. I say thing because its legs are like sharp, fleshy stilts, and it's all big and one-eyed and its face is squashed flat like someone hit it with a mallet. It's shuffling along, nosing the ground for any food, and Master takes this moment to creep towards it. Whatever senses the creature possesses aren't enough to hear him coming, but they are enough to turn his way once he whistles.

“Gotcha, bitch!” He snaps, lunging towards the animal and- Ooh, right in the forehead!

On a different note, being plunged into flesh in a killing strike feels right, completely unlike the bland taste of wood or tin; it's something I haven't felt since the Great War, at the very least. I could get used to this!

The mutant squeals as it topples over, and Master promptly gets to work on carving the big red eye out. It's easy work, and we get his prize free in short order. “You just paid for my food tonight, pal.” He whispers, stuffing the gory prize into one of his many pockets.

-----

After about a week of being in Master's care, I gotta say he's pretty good! There's a whole lot of downtime in between the fun parts of being with him, but I've had plenty of chances to stab things! I haven't gotten to poke holes in any actual humans, though, which kinda sucks, but this is still loads better than being locked in a box for years and years and years! I get fresh air, plenty of action, see interesting places, and-

A growl in the brush interrupts my thoughts, echoed by several more, which can only mean dogs.

“Piss off, you mutts!” Master says, and submachine gun fire resounds through the air; a pang of jealousy courses through me at the noise. Yeah, yeah, I know, range is good, but come on! Be manly! Use me! Get in close and stab 'em dead!

Teeth sink into flesh, and Master cries out in pain. I'm pulled free of my sheath a scant moment later.

“Get off!” Master snaps, right before he stabs me hilt-deep into the mutt's face; it feels downright fantastic.

“Fuck you! Fuck you!” Master shouts, fueled by panic as he keeps slicing away at the rest of the pack.

If I had fists, I'd totally be pumping them right now! Come on, Master! Keep it up! The blood of your enemies is delicious!

Right after I sink into a dog's forehead is when another lands a leaping bite on Master's arm, and I fall into the grass as he wrestles with it. The rest start biting at whatever they can get their mouths on, but my owner keeps punching away with gusto until he dislodges the dog on his main hand; thus freed, a wild grab closes around my handle, and he brings me around in a frenzied swing directly into a dog's belly. Not content to stop at just that, he wrenches me loose and buries me in another mutt's jaw. Every stab, every cut, fills me with a strange, itching sensation, like that rush of cutting flesh but... more powerful, I don't know.

With several down by me alone, the rest of the pack decide this really isn't worth it and break from the scene, leaving their dead and dying.

“Yeah, that's right.” Master says, spite coloring his tone as he crawls to his knees. He places me over his closest kill's tail and, with a little boost from me, slices it off in one cut. He's just finished putting the bit into a bag when another animal snorts.

Oho, ohohoho! Now it's one of those big mutant boars! Come on, Master, shank him, I believe in you!

“You're fuckin' with me.” Master says, reversing his grip on me as he stands up. “I am not in the mood for this, piggy.”

The boar paws the ground precisely once, and then charges; Master sidesteps, jams me into its eyeball, and I'm wrenched free.

“Gotcha, you smug fucker!” Master crows, and he lurches ; I slip from his fingers as he goes for bandages, but he either doesn't notice or doesn't care.

Which is fine, because the power that's flowing into me is-

I can feel.

I can feel EVERYTHING-


***

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Breathe.

I stare up at the overcast sky, shivering as cool wind carries the scent of blood through the air. A reassuring weight lies in my hand, and a glance aside reveals a knife in my pale fingers.

Everything I just did sinks in.

I sit up, touch my face, take a deep breath, look down-

I'm- I'm a real girl!

And also I have no clothes! That's less good! Not because of any trifling things like modesty, but more because it's autumn out here and it's chilly. Now that I can feel things, every little bit of wind is pretty much the worst! Okay, sitting next to some corpses and freezing won't get me anywhere, so I hop upright with the quickness. Next stop, find Master-

“The fuck did you come from?” Master says, having looked up from the process of bandaging himself and saving me all the trouble of searching for him. His gaze dips down just far enough to confirm my lack of dress before it ascends as if powered by the finest Soviet rocket-fuels. “Why are you naked?”

Of all the answers he expected, my tackling him was likely not one of them.

“You're awesome!” I say, burying my face against his jacket. He's got a bit more than a head of height on me, which only serves to provide me with more to hold onto. “Thank you, thank you, thank you so much!”

He doesn't try to pry me off him, which is nice. “...What did I do?”

I fix him with a toothy smile. “You just made me, silly!”

The only sound that comes from his lips is a strangled croak, so I loosen my hug just a tad.

“You know, all the slicing and dicing you just pulled?” I say, motioning towards the animal carcasses all around us. “It's great food for the soul!”

That seemed to have knocked him out of whatever shocked stupor he was in. “I stabbed those mutants so hard that my knife turned into a girl?”

“Well, I was always a girl, but other than that, pretty much!” I shiver as another gust of wind brushes by. “And, if I'm being completely honest, the whole lack of clothing thing is not working out right now."

“Huh.”

“...And since I'm your knife, that means you're responsible for me.” I say, after a few seconds pass without him getting it.

I get the feeling he's not very amused, given how he's staring at me. “Really.”

I nod. “Ahuh!”

“This ain't real.” He firmly says, looking away.. “I just ran into a big psi-field or something and I'm hallucinating, that's gotta be it.”

I smack him hard enough to rock his head back, and his hand darts to his cheek.

“That real enough for you?" I ask, frowning deeply.

“Damn, girl, you got a mean right slap.” He says, voice tinted with newfound respect. He glances down again, but I forcibly pull his chin up to look me in the eye. “Okay, uh, you honestly can't go around like that, unless you want to get irradiated or bitten or- or something else just as bad, which'll happen for sure if you're gonna spend any time here.”

“Then what are we waiting for?” I ask, releasing him. “Let's go, Master!”

“Please don't call me that.” He says, busying himself by working at his jacket and steadfastly avoiding the temptation to look down at all my lady bits.

“Then what should I call you, Master?” I ask, wrapping my arms around myself as I try to suppress the shivers.

“Just hold on, would you?” He says, liberating himself from the jacket and thrusting it to me, leaving him with little protection save a sweater and his mask. “I trust you can figure that out yourself?”

“Sure, as long as you hold this for a second.” I say, offering him my knife.

He hesitantly grabs it by the handle, and runs his thumb across the steel, ooh, that's nice. While he's occupied with that, I'm able to don the coat in short order; it doesn't quite reach down to my knees, which leaves it providing plenty of coverage while still making me want a lot more.

“If you're done fingering me, can I have that back?” I ask.

He freezes rock-solid, like an American spy caught by KGB operatives in the middle of mailing secret documents to his Capitalist homeland. “Wait, that's what I'm doing?”

I pluck the blade from petrified fingers and tuck it into the confines of my coat. “Some pants would be nice too, you know.”

“I'm not walking around the Zone in my underwear.” He says, having recovered a semblance of composure. “In any case, there's no way in hell I'm staying out here without any protection.”

“Fair enough, Master, fair enough.” I say, falling in step at his side as he turns to leave.

“The name is Boryan.” He says, glancing at me. “Most people just call me The Boar.”

“Wow, that's really fitting!” I say. “Since, y'know, boars and their association with goring things and all that.”

“How do you think I got it?” He wryly asks. “What about yourself, kid?”

I jam a thumb into my chest. “I am completely without a name! And, considering you're the closest thing I've got to a father, it's on you to give me one!”

He snorts. “Me, a father?”

“Yup!”

“If you say so, kid. How does Sasha sound?”

Protector of Mankind, huh?” I say, looking up at the cloudy sky. “Somehow, I get the feeling I'll be hurting other men more than I'll be protecting them.”

“Svetlana, then?”

“Svetla has a good ring to it, and Purity is nice, but, again, I'm a knife.”

“What about Arina?”

“Peace is not part of my job description.”

“I'm running out of names here.” He grumbles. “Rada?”

I clap my hands together as I grin. “Oh, I like that one! I'm certainly happy I'm not just a big piece of metal anymore, too, so it fits!”

He turns back to me and throws his hands up. “How the hell do you even know what all these names mean? I don't!”

My smile fades a little. “You learn some surprising things from soldiers when they're not busy killing each other.”

“Just how many hands have you gone through?”

“Do you have any idea how rude that question is?” I ask, my eyebrows hurtling up. “I will say you've been using me quite a lot compared to some of them, though!”

“Please don't say things like that.” He weakly says, resuming our trek onwards. “It really sends out the wrong message.”

“I'll only stop if you drop the question.” I say, following him once more.

He waves the back of a hand at me. “All right, all ri-”

Master stops dead in his tracks, quickly bringing his gun up. I can, very faintly, make out the sound of footsteps on leaves.

“...Do y'hear that?” I ask, squinting as I look around.

“Damn right I do.” He mutters, scanning the wilderness.

A roar from behind causes us both to spin around, and-

“Fuck!” Master shouts, shoving me aside and spraying fire at the charging man-thing with a tentacle-face, which does about as much as my spitting at it would have accomplished.

“Okay, Master!” I say, hanging back as the mutant starts trying to murder him. “Squid-guy's circling around, don't let him- and now he's got you in a chokehold, that's great.”

Well, seeing as squiddy's distracted trying to crack Master's head like an eggshell, this is the perfect shot for me! It doesn't pay any attention as I draw my knife and charge, and with one mighty thrust I sink the blade into the base of his neck, which should put him down for go-oh no it didn't work.

Cthulhu's Ukranian son briefly releases its hold on Master in order to spin around and swing at me, and only now do I see just how sharp its nails are; I get to feel their bite for myself a moment later, and yow, that's one heck of a sting! The force of the strike sends me stumbling back, and I trip back to hit the ground hard. My hands dart to the deep gashes on my chest, and I can't help but marvel at just how much red comes back.

Just before as the monster turns to finish its previous business, Master wrenches the blade from its neck and cold-cocks the mutant right in his stupid tentacle-mouth hard. The man charges again, his enemy meeting him with a wild swing, but he narrowly twists past the blow and jams the knife right into its throat, oh yes, that feels good.

“That's right, fucko.” Master snaps, pulling the blade free with a spurt of blood and leaving his enemy to crumple in a heap. “You just got gored by the Boar.”

I clap a few times, my smile buoyed by the rush from his kill. “Good show, Master! Work on your victory line, though, it's not very good!”

He looks over at me, and I can almost see the panic wash over him as he rushes to my side. “Rada!”

“That's me!” I say, trying my hardest to ignore how everything is getting uncomfortably cold. “So this is what it feels like to be on the receiving end, huh?”

“Oh, for fuck's sake.” Master's holding a hand to his head as he surveys the cuts. “That's- that is really deep, you know that?”

“Actually, it's not so bad.” I say, trying to sit up just a little before a sharp lance of pain rams into my chest, and I fall back with a barely-stifled gasp. “I stand corrected!

“Just hold still, I've got bandages, you hear me?” He says, reaching into one of his bags.

I get the feeling I should say something else, but everything's feeling pretty fuzzy. Blood-loss is getting to me, I guess. I manage a little nod and a smile, which seems to help Master's spirits as he pulls out a roll of medical tape. He wraps me up but good and, once he's finished, hauls me upright.

“Can you walk?” Master asks, holding me steady.

“This isn't the best I've ever felt.” I say, keeping a hand pressed to the wound even as I tightly wrap an arm around his waist. “But, heck, I'll manage!”

I end up needing to lean on him as a crutch, but together we limp on in silence, trudging across the countryside and leaving the body behind us. Everything's still pretty cold, and my head's feeling like it could just float up into the clouds, but at least it's not getting any worse. We have to detour around some weird pulsating holes in the air, lightning dancing across the ground, and acid bubbling near a wrecked car, among other things, but we still make decent time.

“That was pretty ballsy of you back there.” Master eventually says, shattering an oppressive silence. “With the stab, I mean.”

“What else was I gonna do, let that thing eat all your brains?” I ask, looking at him out of the corner of my eye. “You wound me, Master, you really do.”

“You can stop calling me that any time, you know.” He says, but I don't bother to answer, instead putting all my energy into climbing the upcoming hill. Once we crest it, Master breathes a sigh of relief. “That's the place.” He says, pointing out a large building a good several hundred meters off. It looks like a solid shelter from here, even if that does look like quite a walk.

“Cozy.” I say, already thinking about a nice, soft place to lay down.

“It'll get us through anything the Zone cares to throw at us, that's for sure.” He says. “Think you can make it?”

“Got this far, didn't I?”

Sirens sound off throughout the air, and only now do I realize just how dark the clouds look.

“Oh, it's time for one of those!” I say.

“Are you fucking kidding.” Master says, frustrated despair clear in his voice. “Okay, balls to walking, we've got to run.”

I'm about to ask how he expects me to manage that, specifically, when he swings me up into his arms and launches into a sprint.

“Wow, you got some muscle on you!” I say, as we pound along. He doesn't respond, which is probably for the best, since he'll need all that air to get us home in the first place! Still, that doesn't mean I can't keep talking. “So, we've been through a couple of these already, back when I was still small enough to fit in your pocket, but just what are we running from? I never learned its name, after all!”

“Blowout.” He says through grit teeth. “Please shut up.”

“Gladly!” I say, and obediently fall quiet.

We're only about halfway there before thunder resounds through skies that have turned deep-red, but the sight merely spurs Master to even greater speed. It doesn't last very long, considering that three-quarters of the way he slows to a gasping walk, and lightning is striking the earth in the distance.

“I can walk, you know.” I suggest. Master nearly throws me down on the spot, wraps an arm around my waist, and lurches ahead, dragging me along. I hobble with him best I'm able, which turns out to be almost at my normal walking speed with his support. “I've never gotten to see one of these outside the sheath.” I say, looking at the thundering storm above.

“We're not going to see this one either.” Master says, a grim determination evident in his tone.

He propels us onward, panting with every step, until we reach the rusted metal doors of his safehouse. Lightning strikes dangerously nearby as he wraps a hand around the handle and wrenches the door clear open, and the two of us stumble into a barroom full of masked figures, every last one frozen in place as they stare us down.

Master reaches back and shuts the door behind us before he seems to realize all the stares we're getting. “...What?”

“Stalker, who the hell is that?” One of the men closest to us slowly asks, in the tone of someone clearly hoping the answer he's about to hear isn't what he thinks it's going to be.

“She's my knife.” Master woodenly says.

The entire room is quiet.

“I'm his knife.” I add, giving everyone a weak little wave with my red-coated hand. “Most of this blood is mine!”

“...Fuck it, I've seen weirder.” A heavily-armored man in the back says, right before upending his bottle of vodka. The world outside is starting to shake heavily, as if Mother Nature wasn't content to express her displeasure with mere storms, but everyone present seems to be taking it remarkably well. Considering how often these things happen, I suppose it's routine.

“That is an awful lot of blood, young lady.” The first man asks, watching me with what I'm gonna guess is concern through that mask of his. “You're not dying on us, are you?”

I have to shake my head a bit to work past some of the fuzz clouding my mind. “Well, it's not like I'm bleeding any more, am I?”

“You're dripping.”

“Oh.” I look down and yep, blood's leaking through the bandages. “Oooh.

“Are you sure you're going to be fine?”

“Mostly. I think. Can you let go, please?” I ask, and Master carefully releases his hold, the better for me to take a step forward. The moment I'm bereft of his support is the moment I realize that, wow, my legs are like paper! Just as my knees buckle, Master quickly grabs me again and pulls me close; not that it's doing me much good, seeing as how everything is getting very, very dark.

I think it's time for a nap.

Yeah.

That sounds nice.

-----

I'm staring at a metal ceiling when I open my eyes; not the most exciting thing to wake up to, all told, but it's a far sight better that the blackness of the box. A quick look around reveals me to be in what appears to be a makeshift doctor's office, minus the actual doctor. I'm lying on a rough mattress with no blanket, but someone was generous enough to donate their spare clothes for me; I can feel tight, fresh bandages underneath my baggy shirt. Master is sitting on a rickety wooden chair across the room, having reclaimed his jacket but sans his mask, which is lying atop a bundle clothes in the seat next to him.

He's... not exactly young, I'd say, but he's no old geezer, either; somewhere in his thirties, but not much further than that. He really could use a shave, though.

“How're you feeling?” He asks, and I realize I'm staring.

“Okay, I guess?” I say, sitting up with only a little difficulty. “Did I miss the blowout?”

He checks his wristwatch. “Slept right through it. And for a good half a day afterward, at that.”

I slump back down. “I must've been hurt worse than I thought.”

“Doc was surprised you were still breathing.” He admits. “A lot of grown men have outright died from hits like that.”

“Ah, but I'm superior Russian-forged steel, don't you know?” I say, holding a fist against my chest in salute. “A single claw couldn't possibly be enough to break me.”

“Yes, you are.” He says, trailing off into thought. After a few moments, he shakes his head. “Anyway, what am I going to do with you? Seems like you're my responsibility.”

“And my father!” I cheerfully add. “Adoptive, considering my real papa's been dead for, oh, decades, at least.”

“If you want to call me that, I won't stop you.” He says, averting his gaze. “For the record, do you have any skills besides cutting things?”

I frown, folding my arms across my chest. “If you're about to say stabbing isn't a viable life skill, I will hit you.”

“Well, it is. Just not anywhere outside the Zone.”

“Bah.” I say, furrowing my brows as I try to think of something I could do besides follow Master everywhere.

Nope, not coming up with anything.

I swing my legs over the bedside, wince at a slight pang in my chest, and hop upright. Master watches in concern, but he doesn't make any moves to stop me as I stretch and work some kinks out.

“I've gotten more use in the past week here than I have for decades, I'll have you know.” I say, twisting in an attempt to work a bit of stiffness out of my back.

Master waves a hand around vaguely. “Your point being?”

I twist just a little more, and a few pops greet me in turn. “I'm sure as heck not leaving, and, since I don't know any of these other guys, I'm gonna follow you! Wherever you go, I go!”

“Is that so?” He thoughtfully says, laying a hand on the folded-up clothes at his side.

I stop my impromptu stretching session dead as the implication sinks in.

“Well, seeing as I had a bit of cash saved up, I decided to get these.” He slowly says, deliberately avoiding eye-contact. “It's not much, but if we're going to work together, it's better than nothing.”

Together, he said.

Together.

I take a deep breath, trying to keep down a gigantic smile from splitting my face open. “Are you saying what I think you're saying?”

He extends an open hand, the corner of his mouth quirking up just a little. “You're damn right I am. I can't say it's safe work, though; you up for it?”

Well, no use hiding the smile anymore! Beaming widely, I firmly grasp his hand in both of mine. “I wouldn't have it any other way, Master!”

He frowns. “For the last time, it's Boryan.

“Very well, Master Boryan!”

“Fffffff-”
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>>No. 1296
God I must say that I love this story and will pay handsomely to see more of it.
>>No. 1298
File 138431962392.jpg - (142.64KB, 472x472, 1382220602255.jpg) [iqdb]
1298
>“Gotcha, bitch!”

oh fuck I lol'd

this is the greatest thing
>>No. 1299
CYS, we require more knife girl shenanigans! This is the best thing.
>>No. 1300
We need more of this. Everyone does
>>No. 1301
File 138444918078.jpg - (117.01KB, 600x616, EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.jpg) [iqdb]
1301
>>1296
>>1298
>>1299
>>1300

eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Okay, now that I'm done being full of glee, I'd like to say something! While I do eventually want to write more of Rada and Boryan, I don't have any plans to continue this immediately. What I will say is that this short, and any subsequent stories I might write featuring these two, are canon for a full-length CYOA I've got planned after I finish Don't Lose Your Head.
>>No. 1302
File 138445157299.jpg - (456.68KB, 900x1767, 1349993226799.jpg) [iqdb]
1302
>>1301
I'll take your head off if don't follow up on this.

We kinda already had a stalker tohou cyoa but it dried up ;..;
>>No. 1303
>>1302
And this is the guy who wrote it
>>No. 1304
>>1303
Didn't mean to open old wounds, you see. I don't think any author takes pride in an unfinished story; as good as it may be in this case.
>>No. 1305
File 138446597291.jpg - (1.01MB, 1024x1024, BITCHES BE TRIPPIN.jpg) [iqdb]
1305
>>1303
>>1304

YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU

I was hoping to make my sudden return to that story a surprise, ya dope.

All right, all right, I'll admit it, I'm the guy who wrote S.T.A.L.K.E.R., and here's my old trip to prove it (provided I didn't botch the password just now.) All the more reason for me to finish DLYH, I guess!
>>No. 1327
>>1305
YES
>>No. 1328
>>1305
DLYH?
>>No. 1329
>>1328
Don't lose your head.
>>No. 1330
>>1328
>>1329

It's over in /sdm/, for the curious.

In other news, I've got another short (completely unrelated to Knife Girls And The Men Who Are Stuck With Them) pretty much finished that I'll post here as soon as I can pester Roll The Dice's Stove to get a picture done for it.

It involves a particularly ornery wizard you might be familiar with.
>>No. 1331
>>1330
Gandalf?
>>No. 1339
>>1330

A Wizard Is You is getting updated?
>>No. 1342
File 138491485290.png - (40.96KB, 620x400, ESSENTIALLY.png) [iqdb]
1342
It's no picture by Stove, but it'll have to do.

Full warning, this short will not make any sense whatsoever unless you've read both A Wizard Is You and Don't Lose Your head, so if you haven't read either of those, I'd recommend you skip this.

With that said, enjoy!

-----

YOUR ORDERS

Assess combat capabilities of the refugee hiding within Keine Kamishirasawa's residence, a human of extraplanar origin known locally as 'The Wizard.' He is identifiable by his attire of choice being a set of deep gray robes, a conical brimmed hat, and habit of referring to himself as ZUUL. His death is strictly prohibited at this juncture.

We have undercover elements ready to give support if the Wizard proves overly-problematic; do not hesitate to use them. There has also been a confirmed sighting of Kyouko Kasodani in the village today. Given your history circa the Mansion operation, she may prove useful.

MISSION START

Walking around the Human Village's streets in broad daylight is hardly inconspicuous, moreso when you're suited up and carrying enough explosives to qualify as a mobile bomb-site. It's for this exact reason that you're sprinting across the rooftops instead of taking the main roads, seeing as many people fail to look up. You waste no time in bee-lining for the schoolhouse where the teacher makes her residence; every second you spend up here is another second a woman with a nosy attitude and too much power might fly overhead and decide to ask you some uncomfortable questions.

The building itself is unoccupied when you reach its location, but your target is the bungalow that lies behind it. No one is visible through the windows, so you hop down to street-level and creep towards the house. Once you're at the doorstep, voices seep through the woodwork, dim and incomprehensible from here. You wait a few moments before rapping your knuckles on the door, your other hand gripped around the Arc Thrower at your waist.

“Coming!” A young voice answers, and you draw the stunner free. The door opens up to reveal-

Hm.

It's a fairy who stares up at you in shock, blue of hair and dress, with six wings of ice hovering behind her back.

“I am genuinely sorry about this,” You say, and without any further ado blast the girl with enough electricity to put down an angry rhino. As she twitches on the floorboards, you step over her and prime a flashbang in your off hand. The sound of footsteps pounding on wood confirms your suspicions, and the moment a certain schoolteacher rushes through the nearest doorway is the moment the flashbang nails her right in the face and detonates, sending her reeling and shouting incomprehensible curses.

Completely disoriented, it's an easy task to walk up to the woman and nail her with another burst of juice from the Arc Thrower; as she crumples, you pause to listen for any hint of the inevitable sneak-attack her houseguest must already be plotting.

For several seconds, there's nothing. And then, there's an intake of breath from close behind you.

“Zap, motherfu-ghk!” The air chokes, whatever it was about to say cut off as you spin around and wrap a metal fist around its neck.

“Come get me, wizard coward,” You hiss, and effortlessly toss your invisible attacker clear through a wall; the hole he leaves is distinctly Wizard-shaped, hat and all. Now that he's been temporarily dealt with, you sling the (still-twitching) Miss Kamishirasawa over your shoulder and run like hell. Judging by the enraged shouting coming from behind as you leap clear through the front door, your bait is working magnificently.

Now you just have to deal with a homicidal dragonslayer without either of you killing the other; the things you have to do here just keep getting weirder and weirder.

This is the point where a wooden chest with legs jumps out of an alleyway and tackles you with all the force of an angry- chest- thing- you don't have an appropriate metaphor it is literally a chest with legs. Keine slips from your grip as the wooden terror tries to pin you down, but a fierce shove knocks it onto its back, leaving you free to scramble upright. You're just about to haul the schoolteacher back up when a fireball bursts from thin air and slams into your chest hard enough to knock you reeling; the Wizard himself appears as if from nothing, his expression utterly furious.

"Surprise, tin man!" The Wizard bellows, filled with a manic glee at the prospect of fiery vengeance. Keine, much to your irritated discovery, is not quite as out of it as you had hoped, given how she's dragging herself towards the man. You're just about draw your pistol and kneecap the wand-waving maniac when the chest takes your legs out from under you, following it up by leaping on atop your chest and pounding away with its front legs.

“Ged dat mofugga,” Keine mumbles, still too heavily under the effects of the Arc Thrower to do much more than slur.

The Wizard steps in front of her to act as a shield. “Stay back, Keine! To come between the chest and its prey means death!

You intercept one of the chest's strikes and snap the limb clear off, causing the wretched thing to pitch over for good. “You talk too much!” You say, and pitch the stick at the Wizard's shins; it connects with a satisfying thwack.

“SONUVABITCH!” He cries, agonizingly clutching his sure-to-bruise wound while hopping on his good foot.

“That's not exactly applicable!” You say, hurtling upright as the man hops your way with malicious intent. Even as he raises his wand for another go, you haul up the chest that had so recently harassed you. “Think fast!”

He flings himself to the ground as you toss the weighty box his way, and the chest sails over him just as another fireball flies from his wand in turn, forcing you to dive into the dirt; the fireball washes over the building behind you, setting it alight. "I'm going to melt you down into limited edition commemorative coins!"

“Commemorating what?” You ask, climbing to your feet.

"That depends entirely on how much property damage we're about to cause!" He says, doing much the same.

The two of you stare at each other for an uneasy moment.

You blink first. “Is that really nece-”

"Gustaluffagus!" He roars, thrusting an ironclad fist at you.

An invisible wall of force sends you flying clear through the flaming building's outer wall, and you crash through a table in a shower of splinters. You crawl upright just in time for the Wizard to come leaping through the hole in the wall, and his fist smashes into your face hard enough to knock you reeling, cracks spiraling throughout your visor at the point of impact. Before you can get your bearings, he wraps an alarmingly strong fist around your neck.

"This 'wizard coward' just whooped you, son," He says, grinning madly.

This is the part where you pull the pins on a pair of incendiaries.

“FFFFFFFFFFFFFFUCK!” He yelps, flinging you through another wall even as the flames engulf you both. You soar through wood and air, coming to a halt only when you slam into the building across the street. As you slump down, head spinning and flames licking at your suit, you try to come up with a suitable excuse to Command as to why you just killed the Wizard after they expressly told you to avoid doing so.

You're saved from a set of complicated mental gymnastics when he simply hops out of the burning building, completely unscathed.

“And he's flameproof, of course,” You say, not even bothering to be surprised as he jauntily makes his way to you.

“Among other things, yes,” He says, bringing his wand up when he's roughly halfway across the street.

You very quickly revise your opinion of the Wizard from 'annoying' to 'God, I wish I could just kill him', and roll out of the way of the blazing fireball; it splashes against the building behind you, setting it alight.

"Damn it, man, watch out for the collateral damage!" You say, pitching a flashbang at him.

His reply is "SON OF A BASTARD BUGBEAR, MY EYES," due to the grenade exploding in his face. You allow yourself a short moment to smile as you jump up and charge the blinded man; the moment you reach him is the moment you haul back and deliver a truly jaw-shattering punch into thin air?!

"Hah, you thought that was the real me?" The mirage crows, even as it swirls away into nothing. The Wizard himself dives out of the burning building, a pair of wands held in outstretched hands, and fire and lightning both fly your way; even despite the fact that this is going to sting like a bitch, you still have to give him points for style. The magical assault combines into a fiery bolt that slams into your side hard enough to knock you sprawling, leaving your suit to blare alarms about integrity ratings, but you firmly ignore them as you clamber upright.

A glance back reveals the building the illusion fired on to actually be ablaze; so even spells fired from fakes still work?

“Hey, asshole, eyes up front.” The Wizard says, snapping his fingers.

“The name is AE, Wizard.” You say, more testily than you had intended.

He snorts. “Ooh, syllables. Those are intimidating.”

You quirk a brow. “Really, Zuul?

A crowd is starting to form at the scene, some of the more industrious sorts forming a bucket chain to try and extinguish the fires blazing around you. Out of the corner of your eye, you spot a very familiar mop of green hair, its owner hiding her face behind her hands.

“Fool!” The Wizard booms, voice boosted by some unknown power, “You dare mock the power of ZUUL?”

You stare at him for several moments. “...I get the feeling you're not taking me entirely seriously."

“I haven't seen anything worth being serious about.” He says, voice lowered to a normal volume, as he gives his hat a rakish tilt.

Your eyelid twitches. “Just for that, you should start running.”

“The only place my feet are going is straight up your ass.

All right, that's it. You smack a fist into your palm. “I'm going to cave your skull in, magic man.”

“You won't get close enough to try,” He says, raising his hands for another evocation.

I won't need to,” You say, and that's when your men take their cue.

Several previously unassuming members of the mob pull shotguns from their coats and open fire, beanbag shells striking the Wizard and sending him dancing and hollering. You charge as the rest of the crowd scatters, unwilling to be caught in whatever retribution is about to rain down.

“BADGER CUNT DICKS” The Wizard roars, waving his hands around in some mystical bullshit gesture; a squiggly rune appears in the air, and your men convulse as one, dropping their weapons as they fall in agony.

Aaaargh,” You hiss, grinding your teeth as hideous pains wrack your whole body and stagger your charge; you've been through worse, but not by much. The floating icon itself disappears, but the pains don't.

“Symbol of Pain, bitch,” The Wizard snaps, but his eyes widen as you take a deliberate step his way.

“You'll have to try harder than that!” You say, powering through the pain with sheer grit. He flings a hand outward, muttering something beneath his breath, and-

And then meteors fly out from his palm.

Meteors.


This is just- OW, DAMN IT

SHIT


Each meteorite strikes with all the force of a miffed Flandre, to use a metaphor from your Mansion op, driving you back with monster-truck force. Even dodging the later shots doesn't do you much good, as the ones that miss explode with enough force to send you hurtling through the air. When the barrage finally ceases, leaving you laid flat out, aching badly and flames rising from your suit, you can't help but frown deeply. It grows deeper still when the Wizard kneels down in front of you, looking markedly unimpressed.

“So, fucko, you done?” He asks, poking you on the visor with a wand. “Because I can keep kicking you and your goons around all day if you aren't.”

You're just about to ram a fist into his gut when a flash of green darts past the corner of your vision, so you reign yourself in. You mutter something beneath your breath, and the Wizard cocks his head sideways.

“Oh, I'm sorry, I couldn't hear that,” He says, pulling you up by the collar until you're inches away from his face. “By all means, say it again.”

You laugh; it's a harsh, jagged thing. “I hope you've got earplugs.”

Approximately half a second later is when a sonic boom of a scream slams into the both of you. As he recoils, losing his grip and letting your head thump against the ground, an utterly furious Kyouko barrels onto the scene and tackles the Wizard with all the rage of an irate St. Bernard.

“You owe me!” She snaps at you, right before driving a vicious knee into the man's undercarriage.

“HURF” is his only reply, eyes bulging hard enough you're surprised they don't pop out as Kyouko repeatedly demonstrates her masterful grasp of that astoundingly dirty trick. You clamber upright, drawing the Arc Thrower loose as you do so, and take aim at the robed man buckling underneath the assault of a girl half his size.

“Kyouko, move!” You order, and she obediently rolls off.

“Do it!” She says, scrambling back; just as you pull the trigger, the crafty wizard brings a hand up and catches it, electricity flowing through him and arcing out his other hand, straight into a (very briefly) astonished Kyouko. As she pitches over, convulsing from the electric shock, the Wizard fixes you with a vindictively shit-eating grin.

You, meanwhile, see only red.

“Hah, got yer- oh hell,” He says, the gravity of the situation dawning on him as you haul him upright.

You pull him close enough that his nose touches your faceplate. “I must now break you.”

“SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII-” He screams, as you bull-rush the son of a bitch straight through a diner's storefront.

And then through the tables.

And the counter.

And clear out the back wall.

You're just about to ram him through another building when he harshly utters something incomprehensible, and you find your charge halted by the fact that you're now free-falling at a rough five-hundred feet in the air.

It's with a detached sort of horror that you note half the village is now ablaze.

“Enjoy the ride down, asshole!” The Wizard cackles from above, having slipped out of your grasp during the teleport. He's shrinking rapidly, and your date with the earth is going to be boneshakingly painful, but that doesn't mean you're just going to take it. Working with practiced ease, you unsling your rifle, burn into reflexes, and peer down your sights; one pull of the trigger and he'd have a bullet right up his nostril, but you've a better spot in mind as you twist a little, go over the calculations in your head, adjust for momentum, and-

Fire.

The bellow of outraged pain as the bullet finds a home in his rear warms your heart.

And then you impact the earth at terminal velocity. Dirt flies, your entire body rattling from the impact, but your suit tones the landing down from 'fatal' to merely 'I want ten cc's of ketamine'.

The Wizard is falling your way too, you belatedly note. Maybe the sight of him flailing wildly and clutching at his ass would make you feel better if you hadn't just taken a fifty-story slam.

Ow.

Instead of him hitting the ground hard enough to pancake, one of his panicky gestures seems to take effect, slowing the man's fall into something much more survivable. He lands atop you with a thud, and wastes no time in wrapping his gauntlets around your throat.

“That was my ass,” He hisses, eyes bulging out in hate.

Then you do the one thing you've really wanted to do since he first lobbed a fireball at you.

You punch him right in his stupid wizard face, rocking his head back but doing precious little to dissuade his ironclad grip. In fact, it only serves to redouble his resolve to throttle you, given how much more tightly he's pressing down. Someone touches down just out of sight, but you're rather too focused on trying to pry the vise off your throat to pay much attention.

“What the fuck are you two doing?” The newcomer asks, causing you both to pause a moment in favor of looking at the source-

Brown hair, red-white dress, exposed armpits because reasons-

Oh.

It's the one and only Reimu Hakurei, and she looks positively livid.

This is awkward.

“He did it!” The Wizard says, freeing a hand to gesture wildly at you. “Whatever you're thinking of, it's this prick's fault!”

“I wasn't the one throwing fireballs in a village made of wood, you moron!” You snap, still trying to dislodge his other hand.

“I wouldn't have had to do that if you hadn't tried to kidnap my girlfriend!” He says, all wounded fury.

“Well, you didn't have to make such a big deal about it!”

Cracking knuckles interrupt your bickering. “I am going to kill both of you.” Reimu says, eyes blank with fury.

You and the Wizard share a look, your quarrel with each other paling in comparison to what is about to happen.

“Run?” You suggest.

He nods. “Run.”

He rolls off as you unclip a flashbang and dislodge the pin, and he poofs away with a quick whisper, leaving you alone with the harbinger of your certain doom. The grenade detonates in your hand, leaving the woman to scream bloody murder as you scramble upright and flee as if the fires of Hell were chasing you.

There's a quick detour to where Kyouko's lying, knocked stone-cold unconscious, and you haul her up over your shoulder.

Then you run and don't stop, leaving the village to burn behind you.

The funny thing is that, even considering the catastrophic property damage, your suit's hideously charred state, and all the other things that happened, this operation still went surprisingly well.

***

You recline in your private quarters, coffee mug in one hand and newspaper in the other. You skim the Bunbunmaru's headlines; naturally, your apocalyptic brawl with the Wizard is front and center, with several dynamic shots of you and him in action. You're just wondering how Shameimaru managed to get the pictures without taking a hit from that Symbol of Pain- Oh, wait, no, she says she really felt the after-effects of that one.

Apparently, using that little trick didn't endear the Wizard to some of the innocent villagers on-scene, if some witness testimonies are anything to go off of.

Well, no matter. You set the paper down on your desk and gently pick up a coin, smirking at the likenesses emblazoned within; turns out an enterprising individual did decide to commemorate the event. You're particularly fond of this one depicting you and the Wizard mutually punching each other: “Battle Of The Village-Destroying Assholes” is reportedly the colloquial name bestowed upon the series, which, in your opinion, fits it much better than the real version.

You bring the mug to your lips, but pause as the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Frowning slightly, you spin your chair around and glance around your quarters, but nothing immediately reveals itself as out of place.

And then the Wizard poofs into existence right in front of you.

“Yo,” He says, completely stone-faced as you damn near fall out of your chair.

“How the hell did-

He waggles his fingers theatrically. “Wizard tricks!”

“Go away?” You suggest, squashing the temptation to go for the pistol in your desk-drawer, because the last thing you want is for this jackass to vaporize, annihilate, or outright slay you.

“Nope,” He says, bringing a finger up. “You have five seconds to give me a good reason not to disintegrate you.”

Your mouth opens, clicks shut, and then you thrust your coffee mug at him. He pauses to sniff, and then a truly horrifying look crosses his face.

Coffee.” He says, staring so lustfully at the cup you feel violated.

“Yes,” You say, giving the cup a gentle shake. “That is exactly what this is.”

“How much more do you have?” He asks, a dangerously unhinged look in his eye.

“...Lots?”

Zuul will let you live today, puny mortal.” He says, snatching the mug from your hand and turning his nose up at you. “Supply him with more by tomorrow, or feel his wrath!”

Once more, he simply vanishes into thin air, leaving you utterly bewildered and not a little angry.

That was your favorite coffee mug, too.
>>No. 1343
>>1342

Holy shit, I haven't laughed that hard in a long time
>>No. 1344
I could read this stuff all day and never get tired.

Don't know how you do it, but it works
Fuckin' A, writefag.
>>No. 1355
>>1342

>“Battle Of The Village-Destroying Assholes” commemorative coins

Beautiful.
>>No. 1847
File 142921302355.png - (1.02MB, 1704x540, GET READY.png) [iqdb]
1847
Many, many thanks go out from me to the inestimable FelixOvum, who helped me edit this and make it as good as it could be! Now enjoy the show!
____________________

I've spent the last half hour climbing these stairs, and I can conclusively state that they could kill a lesser man. But then, considering I've just crested the final step, I suppose I'm worthy of whatever's up here, no?

There's a walled-off Japanese estate around a hundred feet ahead, a gigantic tree sprouting up from within, but to get there I have to travel this tiled path flanked by cherry blossoms. Alas, the gate ahead is barred by a girl in a green dress, a strange white blob just... floating around her. When I walk towards her, boots thumping across the tiles, she matches my every step until we meet halfway.

I pause ten paces out, and she does the same. Cold blue eyes stare at me, framed by white hair in a bobcut that flutters in the wind. She stands ready to draw, katana sheathed at her hip and shorter wakizashi peeking out from the small of her back. That wispy blob swirls around her at a sedate pace, but I shake my head and snap out of it before the thing hypnotizes me.

"What is your business, samurai?" Her words are clipped, efficient, and entirely too cold for a girl still in her teens.

"Call me Sam," I say, grinning. "What about yourself, eh?"

"Youmu," she says, not so much as blinking. "I'll ask one more time. What is your business?"

I fold an arm across my belly and rub my chin, my expression thoughtful as I look around. "Well, I saw these stairs that just kept going and going, so I thought, 'Sam, why don't you go see what's up there? It'll be an adventure!'" I spread my arms wide open. "And here I am!"

"I'm afraid we're closed to visitors," Youmu says, her pretty little lips turning down. "I'm going to have to ask you to leave, samurai."

I sigh, frowning as I turn to half face her, and gesture at the steps behind me. "That's a cruel thing to say to a man after he's gone up all those stairs. Even from a lady as fair as yourself."

Her katana is in her hands in a single flash of movement, and she holds the blade ahead of her with sure-footed certainty. "Even so, I cannot allow you passage."

I shift back to face her, steadying my footing, left hand falling to Murasama's sheath, and grin. "Is that a challenge?"

The corner of her mouth twitches upward. "It's a promise."

I casually take a step forward, my forefinger sliding past the sheaths' trigger guard. "Let's dance."

She moves so fast that, for the barest of moments, there's only an blur of green and white and shining steel.

I pull the trigger.

Murasama rockets out into my right hand's waiting grip, and I carry it upwards in a flowing diagonal slash, just as the lady's blade comes down on my head. The sheer force of my strike knocks her blade flying, and the shock is clear on her face as the sword flies back through the air.

"Too slow, little girl!" I say, following my strike with another slash, one that she barely avoids with a hasty backstep. She draws her backup blade in one hand and brings it up just as my third swing comes down at her head, the wakizashi catching Murasama, sparks flying as grey steel halts red. Youmu drops to one knee, teeth grit in effort as I push down on her, but she makes a quick gesture with her free hand and that blob sucker-punches me right on the nose, hitting like a brick and stinging like hell as I stumble back a step.

Free for a crucial moment, Youmu turns and runs, that wisp giving chase. I pull Murasama back to my side and launch after her, the blade's tip shrieking as it drags across the tiles. She glances back at the noise, and her eyes widen as she sees me close enough to touch her. She shifts her footing to the left, and kicks off the ground in a flip that leaves my sword to slice through the hem of her skirt instead of her legs.

She lands in a crouch, bringing her wakizashi up again as I swing down. More sparks arc through the air as my blade grinds against hers, but this time I smash a boot into her midsection, carrying her off with a cry of pain before she can command that blob of hers. She hits the ground and rolls to a stop on her front, and spares a glance at me, a mixture of fright and anger plain as day on her face.

I slowly circle around her, idly inspecting Murasama as I go, until I'm standing between her and her katana. She's on her feet again by the time I'm there, and I spare her a mocking smile. "Is that fear I see in your eyes?"

She growls wordlessly, my words striking a nerve, but she doesn't charge blindly in. Good girl. "Nothing so petty."

"Show me a good time, then!" I say, and charge. She holds her ground, her stance loose until I close in with a thrust -

Youmu jerks her head aside, Murasama slicing past her ear, and lashes out with her little sword, carving through an inch of my muscle-suit's stomach plating. She reverses her grip on her weapon and slashes again, all in about half a second. I'm already leaping back when her second blow carves out a thin line across my pectoral plating, but the moment before I touch down is the moment she's on me again, swinging at my neck. As I bend back, launching into a cartwheel, Youmu's blade sails past my eyes with less than a hair's breadth between us.

Hand touches ground, legs kick through air, and I land on my feet with sword held ready, Youmu standing before me with her face set in concentration, that blob circling around her. My chin feels oddly... bare, and my suspicions are confirmed when I rub it and find a patch of stubble missing. The discovery leaves me grinning.

"Yes!" I say, my voice ringing harshly through the air. "That's what I'm talking about!"

The blob morphs into a ghostly-white image of Youmu, this one wielding a katana of her own, and the two raise their blades in unison. They say nothing as they come at me, the double striking first with her superior reach; I parry it, knocking her blow aside, but the full-color swordswoman lunges in with her shorter blade, forcing me to deflect it instead of capitalizing on the ghost's vulnerability. They keep this pattern up, coming in fast and hard and forcing me to continue backpedaling unless I want them to both stick me at once. Strike after quicksilver-strike comes at me, and every one is swatted aside, but I'm left no room for offense like this, something that they capitalize on with perfect unity. Yet, as each blow comes in, a pattern comes to the fore.

And with it, a hole in her defenses.

I backstep one last time, sheathing Murasama in a single smooth motion, while the duo ready themselves for a thrust.

They come at me.

I pull the trigger.

The real Youmu dives past me as Murasama flies out once more, and I slice through the ghostly double in a single blow, stepping past her and spinning around. The clone slides in half, cut diagonally from the waist up, and dissolves into nothing, and the original is -

I fold my arms together and laugh, Youmu standing opposite me with katana held high above her head in her main hand, wakizashi in her off hand, angled defensively in front of her. It looks awkward, but at the same time I'm surprised she was able to get back up so quickly, and not a little impressed she drove me back far enough to be able to reach her katana in the first place.

"Two swords?" I ask, smiling at the stone-faced girl. "Impressive! But what's that stance? Too sloppy to be entirely trained, but not wholly self-taught, either? What happened to your master?"

"None of your concern!" she says, and sprints at me. I bring Murasama up in a guard that her katana clashes against, only for her to swing at my side with her off-blade. I'd expected as much, my left hand already dropping from Murasama's grip to intercept; I click my tongue as I bat the strike away and follow up with a punch, but she lurches aside into a roll, coming back up on her feet a moment later.

"Touchy subject?" I say, smirking as I circle around her.

"Shut up!" she hotly retorts, rushing me again. Both her swords come in high, but the sheer force behind them drives me across the ground by inches. She spins around, this time swinging at my left side, and once more I'm budged across the tiled pathway from the impossibly strong blows.

Her anger is lending such strength to her attacks that I can't risk taking a single one, but it also leaves her vulnerable.

When she spins around a third time, I cartwheel back and land with my blade drawn at my side.

"Wide open!" I snarl, Murasama screaming across the tiles as I rush her. I bring the blade up in a mighty slash, and -

She grins.

And she parries, effortlessly bringing her swords up just before I could connect with her neck; the flawless timing of her block forces my sword up, my guard utterly ruined, and a sharp stinging jolts across my hand as her wakizashi slices across it, launching Murasama from my grasp.

She baited me, and I actually fell for it. Clever, clever girl.

My blade flies back out of sight, but my retreat after it is arrested when Youmu points her wakizashi at my throat, katana drawn back for a swing at my gut.

"You're done, samurai!" she says, a victorious little smile on her face.

I merely solidify my footing, holding my hands loosely before me, and rush her with a shout of "Here is how it's done!"

She thrusts and swings at me simultaneously, almost too fast to see, but I'm just that little bit faster; my hands clamp around a blade apiece, and I hiss as they bite into my palms. Youmu looses a strangled cry of dismay when I wrench the swords from her hands and throw them back. While she's still off-balance, I launch her into the stratosphere with an uppercut directly below the jaw, my fist connecting with a satisfying crack.

While she's airborne, I spin around and sprint for Murasama, which ended up embedded in a tile a few feet past Youmu's swords. I snatch it out of the ground without stopping, my feet skidding across the ground as I spin again to find Youmu right behind me, having made a remarkable recovery, and she's already diving for her swords by the time I'm able to properly react. She hits the ground, rolls, snatches her swords, and comes up to Murasama held at her throat. The girl freezes, eyes focused unerringly on the crimson blade.

"I think that's that, don't you?" I say, rolling a shoulder in a shrug. "Unless you want to be breathing out your neck, I'd recommend you drop the swords."

Slowly, reluctantly, she loosens her grips on the weapons, and they clatter against the tiles. She brings her hands up, palms out, a tiny, wondering smile on her lips. "Oh, you're good at this."

"I am quite good," I agree, drawing back and resting Murasama atop my shoulder, and I give her a wide smile. "Well, that was exciting! You weren't half bad, and those swords of yours? Oh, absolutely beautiful pieces of work." My smile flips. "But the way you fought - you held yourself back, didn't you? I don't care for that, not one bit."

"But if she did go all out," says a woman from disturbingly close by, and I whip around, blade ready, to find a pink-haired woman in blue watching me expressionlessly from not five feet away, "then I'm afraid you'd be quite dead right now, sir."

"Oh, here we go," Youmu mutters.

I pause, lowering my sword, and raise a brow. "How did you do that?"

She doesn't even blink. "There's nothing quite like a swordfight underneath the cherry blossoms, is there? I can't blame you for goading my dear Youmu on, honestly. But I do mind you waving that sword in my face, so if you would please consider putting it away, I'd be grateful."

A tension's rising in me at the sight of her, one I can't fully explain, but all I know for sure is that making this woman angry seems to be an absolutely terrible idea. In light of that, sheathing Murasama is fine by me. The moment the sword is hidden away, the woman claps her hands together, and that inexplicable dread vanishes as she tilts her head and beams at me.

"I'm glad we understand each other!" Even her voice is bright and bubbly now. "You're quite good if you can put my Youmu through her paces in a swordfight, sir!"

"You're right, Lady Saigyouji," Youmu says grudgingly, and I sidestep and turn to keep both women in my sight. The girl so recently trying to kill me drags a fist across her sweat-dripping forehead. "I don't like it, but... he had me dead to rights there."

'Saigyouji' nods, her expression softening. "No shame in it, dear." She looks back at me, and the gigawatt smile returns as quickly as it left. "Do you know she's never been defeated in a real swordfight before? Even if she wasn't going all out, your victory is still quite the feat!"

"It's not as impressive as she makes it out to be," Youmu says to me softly, blushing as she retrieves and sheathes her swords. "I haven't had a chance to face a swordsman of your skill in... ever, quite honestly. We seemed to be lacking them around here until you showed up."

"A shame," I say, glancing between the two apprehensively. People don't get this friendly this quickly unless they want something of you.

"Oh, I've completely forgotten my manners!" Saigyouji says, holding frilly sleeves in front of her mouth in shock. "My name is Yuyuko Saigyouji, and this here is-"

"Youmu Konpaku, yes," Youmu says, bowing until her head's level with her shoulders.

"Samuel Rodrigues," I say, inclining my head by inches. "I hope you both know how strange it is for us to be doing this after she and I were trying to kill each other."

"Oh, that's all in the past!" Yuyuko says, waving my concerns off without a care. "In any case, I assume you wanted inside the estate grounds, else you wouldn't have had reason to fight in the first place."

"You'd be right," I say. "...If the lady wishes to allow me in, that is."

"Now you care?" Youmu asks, glaring at me in disbelief, before Yuyuko's giggle cuts through the air.

"Oh, he's polite, too!" she says, hiding her mouth behind a sleeve. "Please, won't you come in? I'd hate to imagine you went through all this effort to leave empty-handed."

"After a fight like that?" I say, tilting my head at Youmu. "You could throw me off the cliff and I'd still think I came out ahead." I shake my head, spreading my hands palms-up. "But I won't say no if you want to let me in anyway."

The two women share a glance, and when they look back at me, Yuyuko's eyes have narrowed fractionally. "Actually, Samuel, now that I think about it, we also have spare rooms for guests. Assuming, of course, that you'd care to stay a while?"

I fold my arms, looking between the two. "Don't say you'd host me out of a sense of charity, eh?"

"Naturally not," Yuyuko says, lowering her hands to her belly. "After all, you'd be eating our food! But there are uses for a man like yourself."

Youmu has a certain gleam in her eye that I'm not sure I like. "I suppose I could use, say, a sparring partner? One well versed in swordsmanship?"

"That sounds wonderful, Youmu," Yuyuko says, beaming like she didn't expect it in the slightest. "That would be your payment, Samuel. You spar with Youmu when she desires, and I'm allowed to watch whenever you do. Is that fair?"

Oh, they are tricky, these women. I like them already. Still, I make a show of rubbing my chin in thought, looking around the place. I have to admit it's beautiful, and spending time here getting my bearings would likely not be that bad.

"Well, if that's all I'd have to do," I say, nodding agreeably, "consider your offer... denied."

They both blink in surprise, Yuyuko's mouth turning down in a pout so viciously sad it should be illegal, and Youmu's hand drifting down to her sword.

"Ay, but the looks on your faces!" I say, grinning as they reel mentally. "All right, ladies, I'll do it."

"Excellent!" Yuyuko says, smiling brightly once more even as Youmu struggles to catch up. "But first, we simply must show you around! We'll get you set up and you can just spend this first day exploring the estate, all right? We can discuss your contract tomorrow."

"Contract?" I ask, but Yuyuko's already spinning around, robes fluttering, and she floats off the ground towards the estate. I spare a glance at Youmu; the girl meets my eye and tilts her her head.

"What?" she asks, blinking owlishly.

"Before we follow her," I say, "what was with that little double of yours?"

"That's my ghost half," she says matter-of-factly.

I rub my chin again as I mull that over. "Hmm, yes, that makes no sense."

Youmu merely smiles in enigmatic amusement before she walks after her lady. I shrug and follow suit, falling in step with that curious girl and her even stranger master.
__________

And that was how, stuck in a new land and lacking anywhere else to stay, I started working for a ghost princess and trained her gardener in the New Rodrigues Shadow School of swordsmanship. Life in the Netherworld was much more exciting than I anticipated, but Incidents tended to be that way, as I soon found out.

But what kind of Incident happened, I hear you ask?

Well. That's a tale for another time, no?
>>No. 1848
That was something else... I'm impressed. Samuel is an endearing character, yes, and so is Youmu... but your prose really made them shine. Consider this post a big thumbs up
>>No. 1849
I want this to be one of those shorts that turns into a long.

But not until after you finish Anchorage.
>>No. 1852
>>1847
This should go into one of the crossover sections or is that for more fuller things than _____ in Gensokyo.
>>No. 1853
>>1852

Anon, I'd honestly love to put this in the Vets thread, but since the rules force anonymity, I'd have to disqualify myself if I posted it, since it'd be massively obvious it was me.

Curse my not thinking of the contest until after I wrote this, eh? Maybe I'd have won with it, too!
>>No. 1854
>>1853
Yeah possibly, oh well. I'd try something but for all the ideas I have, I can't really do them justice.

But I'm with >>1849 in that this could make for a nice longer story.
>>No. 1914
File 145348932476.jpg - (133.95KB, 1000x781, wizardly ambrosia.jpg) [iqdb]
1914
>>1342

I was trawling through my story files when I saw I'd, quite some time ago, wrote most of a followup for this short, so hey, I finished it up and figured folks might want to see it.

Same warnings apply to this one as the last, namely that it won't make much sense if you haven't read both A Wizard Is You and Don't Lose Your Head. In any case, enjoy!
__________

Once again, you stalk through the village's streets in full armor.

Once again, you skulk up to Miss Kamishirasawa's residence.

Once again, you knock on the door.

Unlike before, you step well clear of the entryway as a small set of feet pitter-patter your way.

All is quiet.

The door explodes outwards as the little ice fairy comes charging through, yodeling a war-cry with a makeshift spear of a broom in hand. You slip past and lock the door behind you, leaving the girl to pound fruitlessly against it once she realizes she's been had.

“Good so fuhhhh-” you rasp, finding yourself pinned to the wall by a murderous schoolteacher's iron grip around your neck, her lovely countenance promising all sorts of unpleasantness in your near future.

“Give me a reason not to break your neck,” she says, tightening her grip.

“Because I'm here on a mission of peace!” you say, paying no heed to how the metal around your neck is bending underneath her monstrous grip. “Wizard, your coffee has arrived!”

Keine is thrown aside by a gust of wind, and the Wizard appears from thin air, a crazed look in his eye. In response, you hold up the paper bag clutched firmly in your off-hand.

It vanishes from your grasp in the span of a blink.

Yesssssssss,” he hisses, rubbing the package all over his face in a shamefully lustful display. You allow him a few moments to enjoy his prize before you clear your throat.

“By the way, this is for Meiling,” you say, and slam a fist straight into his smug face.
___

“'This is for Meiling', my ass,” the Wizard grumbles, holding a tissue around his bloodied nose. Not that you're much better off, since right after you hit him was when Keine headbutted you silly. Now the two of you are seated across from each other, the threat of more skull-crushing headbutts keeping the two of you in line as Keine tends to other business in the rest of the house. The distant thud of fists on wood in the background is a reminder of the fairy's continued attempts to regain entry, but no one has yet bothered to see to her.

“I'm just surprised she never came after you for attacking the mansion,” you say, leaning back in your chair. The Wizard, whether accidentally or by design, is holding the same mug he stole from you when he teleported into your base. You barely suppress a twitching eyebrow as he slowly, deliberately, brings it to his mouth and takes a long sip.

“You might be surprised, but I'm not,” he says, after he finishes molesting your mug with his foul lips. “Girl's too terrified of Remilia to ever set foot off mansion grounds on a personal revenge mission.”

“That doesn't sound like the Meiling or Remilia I know,” you say, frowning thoughtfully. “Besides, Remilia came off to me as a fairly decent person, vampirism considered. I can't see her threatening employees like that.”

Your coffee-mate cocks his head, staring at you as though there was a bomb on your forehead. “If by fairly decent you mean petulant, arrogant, petty, and evil, then we're agreed.”

“...I can't help but think we've met some different people,” you say, furrowing your brows. “Anyway, I heard you put the boot to Remilia, though she never gave me any of the specifics.”

“Heard the same 'bout you, tin man,” he says, squinting balefully your way. “How the hell did you get past all their magic time-stop super-speed bullshit?”

“Punching.”

His squint turns into a vicious glare. “Fuck no you didn't.”

You wave his denial off. “All right, so I may have had other weapons too. The point is, I managed to take Remilia's arm off before she and Meiling double-teamed me. What about you?”

“I turned into a sixty-ton magic-immune pyroclastic dragon, then swam through lava and body-slammed her at the speed of light.”

You give this boast its due consideration. “Bullshit.”

He leans back in his chair, teeth bared in the epitome of a smug prick grin. “Joke's on you, fucker, I totally did!”

“He totally did,” Keine says, popping her head into the room to give the Wizard his back-up.

Well son of a bitch, now all you did in your raid feels positively minuscule in comparison.

“In the end, though, we both failed to take her out,” you say, grasping for at least one thing to make you feel superior. “But at least I stayed to fight and get the shit kicked out of me. You ran away!”

His outraged glare is cause enough for you to lean back in apprehension. “What? No! I had her on the ropes, thank you very much!”

You just stare at him.

“That one's on me,” Keine sheepishly admits, once again making a brief cameo. “I kind of forced the issue and had him run.”

Damn it.

You're saved from ruminating too much on your failures, however, because you're seated in just such a way that lets you see out the kitchen's window, and-

You may have made the mistake of telling Meiling where you were going.

Her face is pressed up against the glass, eyes bulging, as she glares at the Wizard with enough hate you could almost swear she could push you back with will alone.

“What?” the Wizard asks, a brow raised as he turns around. Meiling ducks out of sight before he sees her, and he gives you a questioning look.

“Just... thought I saw something,” you say, after Meiling fails to bust inside screaming murder. “Don't worry about it.”

The scraggly man's glare could take your head off, were he of a mind to manifest optic lasers. You're pretty sure that's a thing he can do.

“Hey, I'm serious!” you protest, glowering back at him.

“Bullshit,” he says, and you get ready to duck in case he actually can shoot eye-beams. “You're trying to pull one over on me, aren't you?”

Keine returns with the coffee pot as you open your mouth, and you click it shut before anything incriminating spills out.

“I can get my own refills, you know,” you say, giving the schoolteacher a polite smile as she attends to the Wizard's mug.

“Ditto,” he says, although his own smile suggests he doesn't seem to really mind Keine's help.

“Well,” Keine says, moving to refill your own cup as well; you dutifully hold it up as she pours. “You are a guest, even despite the... awkward circumstances of our last encounter.”

“If it makes any difference, I'm not planning on tazing anybody this time.”

“You'd better not,” she says, fixing you with a dire look as she tops your cup off. “Now, if you'll-

The crashing of shattered glass and a roar of “HUTTAH, DRAGON KICK!” herald Meiling's arrival, and a rainbow-colored blur slamming into Keine's head and carrying her out the opposite wall announce her departure.

You stand, but the Wizard holds his hand up, his expression deadly serious. “Nah, bro, sit down.”

“But-”

Sit down.

You stare at him for a long, long moment, and then reseat yourself.

“...Shit, it's not like I'm getting paid to get stuck in,” you admit, leaning back in your seat and firmly ignoring the shouts and sounds of furniture breaking in the background.

The Wizard quirks a brow. “What, you a merc?”

You snort. “Nah, mercenary work ain't me. It's only organized military power that gets you a suit like mine, anyway.”

“Huh.” The glint in his eye as he leans forward, the way his lips quirk up, are both good signs you've got his interest. “Who do you work for, then?”

“I don't think that's relevant,” you say with a shrug.

His expression falls. “In other words, fuck off.”

You raise your cup in toast. “Exactly.”

He clinks his mug against yours. “If you're just gonna keep being a stonewalling asshole, lemme ask something else. Why do you go around beating the shit out of things?”

You shrug. “Because I like doing it? Plus, you know, it's my job.” You lean ahead, setting your cup aside, planting your elbows on the table, and resting your chin on clasped hands. “But what about you, Wizard? Why do you do what you do?”

His scowl deepens. “Because there's assholes who need their heads kicked in, and who else is going to do it if I don't?”

That gets a smile out of you. “Good a motivation as any.”

Meiling goes flying through the room, tumbling end over end, and goes clean through the wall next to the window. Keine comes hurtling through moments later, bloodied and clutching a sword firmly in hand, and dives out after Meiling.

“So, my girlfriend can beat up your girlfriend,” says the Wizard, unfazed by the chaos being wrought behind him.

“She's not my girlfriend, actually,” you say. “Might've been something, though, but in the end, I'm not sure a relationship founded on punching each other is one that could have held up.”

“Care to elaborate?”

“We beat the shit out of each other right until she kissed me, which may or have not been genuine, and then she started to choke the life out of me.”

He smirks. “Kinky.”

“Shut it. Anyway, nah, there was some interest there, but you remember Kyouko?”

“Who?” he asks, mystified.

“She who annihilated your junk the last time we fought,” you say, your own smirk widening at his pained grimace.

“Really? You went for that yappy little lady?”

“Not yappy-” You pause. “...Okay, yeah, I'll give you yappy. But in a good way!”

“I'll bet,” he says, waggling his eyebrows obscenely as he brings his mug to his lips. “Oh, I can hear her now, crying for help as she's buried underneath your flabby rolls. Such is the price of being a chubby chaser.”

“Why the fuck does everyone keep saying I'm fat,” you hiss, and God damn you if he isn't hiding the biggest of asshole grins behind his cup.

“You know,” he says, after taking a deep drag of his cocaine in a cup, “I thought Cirno was shitting me when she said those bothered you, but man, you really are sensitive, ain'tcha?”

MOTHERFUCKER IT WAS HER WHO GOT EVERYONE-

REMAIN CALM.

You take a breath through your nose, working your jaw as you imagine vengeance upon the fairy pipsqueak who turned you into the biggest fat joke Gensokyo has ever seen.

“Whatever,” you say, to distract yourself from the fantasies of fairy pummeling. “So, how's your sex life?”

Your hoped-for reaction fails to materialize, the Wizard's face consumed in caffeinated bliss, and you curse internally. “Keine's pretty great,” he responds, resuming his eyebrow-waggling with such gusto you're nearly knocked from your chair by the sheer, unadulterated lewd rolling off the man.

“I'm seriously confused by how you landed her,” you say.

“STOP STRUGGLING AND ACCEPT YOUR TEACHER-MANDATED CONCUSSION” Keine bellows as her fight with Meiling spills back into view outside, the two women rolling across the ground as they wrestle.

“...Okay, I see what you two have in common,” you grudgingly admit, even as the Wizard looks over his shoulder to watch. “Betcha Meiling can take this fight, though.”

He extends his free hand your way without looking back. “You're on.”

As the two of you shake on it, the fairy from before comes flying through the hole in the wall, and she points her spear-broom your way, trembling with righteous fury. “Evil jerkwad, you're why Meiling and Teacher are fighting! I'm gonna justicar your ass!”

The Wizard holds up his mug to ward off fae-induced . “Whoa, whoa, Cirno! I'm busy talking to him. Hold off on the stabbity, would you?”

Cirno looks faintly stricken. “But I- that- He's evil! And he totally zapped me!”

“I take offense to being called evil, and I did apologize for tazing you,” you say, forced calm radiating from your bright smile.

“Shaddup, lardfat, it still hurt!” she snaps, and then she jabs your cup clean out of your hands, where it shatters on the floor, spilling what remained of your coffee.

“Oi!” the Wizard says, outraged at this loss of caffeine.

“Oohhhh, you just went there,” you say, pushing your chair back as you stand up, glaring mightily at the glowering Cirno. “I dare you to try that again.”

Cirno responds by boffing you upside the head, but the blow is stymied when your visor whirrs into place. You let her keep hitting you, her fury growing more intense with every second, before you grab the spear-broom and wrench it from her hands.

“Hey!” she whines, snatching the end of the broom and trying to pry it from your iron grip with all her might. “Leggo of it, sausage fingers!”

You decide now is a perfectly fine time to grab her collar with your other hand, Cirno shrieking in sudden, entirely justifiable terror as you bring the flailing moron's face to your own, her nose bumping your visor as you glare her down.

“Cirno,” you slowly say, carefully enunciating each syllable. She stares at you, defiance wavering. “Do that again, and I will break you. Are we clear?”

The Wizard clears his throat, and you look aside directly into his wand. “Put the fairy down, asswipe,” he says, all playfulness gone.

“Huh,” you say, not willing to take a fireball on the chin after your last encounter.

So you throw Cirno at him.

As the Wizard goes stumbling back with a face full of fairy, you toss the broom aside, lunge forward, and snatch your prized coffee mug from the table. Objective claimed, you leap clear through the hole Meiling made in her dynamic entrance, leaving wizardly hollering in your wake, and discover Meiling with Keine in a headlock.

“My mighty thews have no match!” she declares, taking Keine headfirst to the ground with a thunderous impact.

“Nice!” you say, shooting her a thumbs up as you run by, spurred on by the threat of occult retribution.

“Ya damn right!” she calls after you.

Well, diplomatic relations may have broken down, but you got your coffee mug back. This was a win, no matter what anyone says.
>>No. 1915
Words alone can't express how happy I am to see this update, C.S.
>>No. 1916
I can't get enough of these crossovers. Good job, CYS.
>>No. 1917
File 145448767133.png - (1.05MB, 768x740, ant and whale and not-sakuya for scale.png) [iqdb]
1917
“Goddamn foreigners,” Marisa grumbled, warily watching her every step as she crept through the Scarlet Devil Mansion's library. The reason she wasn't flying was simple; anti-air guns had been installed on the bookshelves.

She'd learned that the hard way a few days back when she'd been shot down by a hideously painful amount of rubber bullets, and, as she plummeted, the huge guy manning the gun serenaded her fall with a hearty “YOU SUCK AT THIIIIIIIIIIS”

The skin under Marisa's eye twitched as she hopped over a cleverly placed wire, almost invisible on the floor; these Outsiders were crafty sonsabitches, she had to grudgingly admit. But oh, she learned quickly, because they'd never gotten her with the same method twice. Even so, that didn't mean the learning process wasn't humiliating. Her last few expeditions had been foiled, in order, via her getting punched out by another man hiding in a bookshelf, getting shot by a balloon-gun that rocketed her through the ceiling, and, just yesterday, opening a book that housed a landmine.

In this new and terrifying world of Outsider security, she'd decided something easier was in order, which was why she was going after the fiction section of Patchouli's library; the only reason she stocked anything there to begin with was thanks to Remilia's whining, which also meant Patchouli wasn't likely to devote anything more than token protection to them.

Sure enough, Marisa found herself at her target location without further incident. Even as she pried a book off the shelf, cautiously glancing about, the ominous feeling in her chest had refused to let up. Still, a faint smile crossed her lips as she flipped her prize open, and she murmured “At least this one isn't trapped.”

As if on cue, there was a whistling sound from above, a shadow enveloping her, and she looked up in sudden horror at that damned AA-gunner belly-flopping at her.

“I AM THE TRAP!” he bellowed, and then two-hundred and fifty pounds of screaming, armor-encased American slammed into Marisa's face.

-----

“So we caught this,” Whale said, depositing a concussed Marisa on Patchouli's desk, the huge masked man flanked by his also-masked compatriot Ant, who seemed tiny only by virtue of being next to Whale. In fairness, however, everyone looked tiny next to Whale.

“...Is there a reason you didn't just throw her out?” Patchouli asked, peering at her new desk ornament over the top of her book.

“Just wanted to show off, really,” Whale said with a shrug. “Seriously, she isn't nearly-”

Ant cut him off with a warning elbow to the ribs, and Whale shut his mouth as Patchouli's baleful glare sank in. He was spared being asked to finish that sentence by a trill of “I heard shoutiiiiing~” as Remilia glided in to see the results of her new employees' latest victory. Her grin only widened at the sight of the witch splayed out on the table, and she clapped her hands together in delight. “Lovely, lovely! Who do I owe the honors this time?”

“That'd be Whale, ma'am,” Ant said, patting the other man on the shoulder. “I spotted her sneaking in and followed her, and he handled the rest.”

“I figured that was what the screaming was about,” Patchouli muttered, returning her attention to her book.

“Well, excellent work, both of you!” Remilia gestured at Marisa, who was starting to stir. “Simply remove her from the premises and that'll be the end of your shift for today!”

“Letting us off early, huh?” Whale said. “Can't say I'm complaining!” He reached over, hoisted Marisa back onto his shoulder with a cheery “C'mon, witchcakes!” and marched out of the study, Ant trailing after him.

Remilia waved them out, then helped herself to a seat in front of Patchouli, who regarded her with a mild frown.

“Where do you find these people?” she asked, tilting her head the direction the two had left.

Remilia leaned back in her chair, sinking into the soft cushioning with a pleased sigh. “I sent Sakuya out for help.”

“And she came back with Outsider mercenaries.” Patchouli's flat tone carried no hint of suspicion, which Remilia found fairly impressive. “...This seems unlikely?”

“I wouldn't think too hard about it,” Remilia said, smiling brightly at the witch.

-----

Marisa woke up to Meiling's shadow on her face. “Yo.”

“Whuh?” Marisa managed, and then Meiling stuck a post-it on her forehead. “Oi! What's the idea?”

“There's the bill,” Meiling said with a shrug. Scowling, Marisa plucked the note off her face and squinted at the immaculate handwriting it contained.

You are being charged the following for expenditures incurred during your intrusion into the library. You are henceforth barred from further attempts until this debt is paid in full. Failure to comply will result in bill collectors being sent to your home.

Sincerely

-Ant


Below it, in large, blocky letters-

P.S. GET FUCKED

-WHALE


Following that was a number with an uncomfortable number of zeroes following it.

“...Son of a bitch,” Marisa whispered.
>>No. 1918
File 14544879514.jpg - (297.32KB, 600x600, sakuya's face when whale.jpg) [iqdb]
1918
The next day's shift had left Ant seated in one of the mansion's open towers for the past three hours, rifle scoped in as he scanned the treeline for intruders. Whale was sitting next to him on the tower's crenelation, munching idly on a croissant.

“You know what I hate about Gensokyo?” Whale said through a mouthful of pastry, and how he managed to stuff those things into his mouth through the helmet was something Ant had resigned himself to be eternally mystified by. “All the goddamn man-eating youkai.”

“That includes our client, Whale,” Ant said, taking a break from pressing his eye to the scope to shoot his comrade a warning look.

“Hey, two things!” Whale protested, finishing off the last of his food before he held up a pair of fingers. “One, Remilia said she doesn't do that anymore, so she's okay, and two, she's a vampire, not some weird Japanese monster girl. She wouldn't count in the first place.” He clapped his hands onto his knees, leaning dangerously far back over the edge. “Anyway, my point was I can't even take a stroll through the woods without some midget gnawing on my shoes. Shit's ridiculous.”

“Maybe you shouldn't be going off alone all the time, then,” Ant said, sighing at his (often exasperating) teammate. “Honestly, that last incident was a bit much even for you.”

“S'not my fault I got webbed to a tree,” Whale said, jabbing a finger at Ant. “Those spider kids were crafty little shits, I tell you. But anyway, even then, I had it under control!”

“They were about to rip your face off when I came in.”

“And I was about to cut myself loose and rip theirs off. Like I said, under control.” He reached over to the little silver bell Remilia had so graciously provided him and gave it a ring. Moments later, Sakuya appeared bearing a tray with more croissants, her smile betrayed by a twitching eyelid.

“This is the eighth time now, I think?” she said, passing the tray to Whale with an unkind edge to her voice. “Are you sure you're a man, and not just some garbage disposal disguised as one?”

Whale somehow managed to project a wounded glare through his mask. “Hey, guard duty's hard work!”

“All you've done is sit around and shovel food into your mouth,” Sakuya said.

“What did I just say?”

Sakuya gave Ant a despairing look. “I don't know how you manage to deal with him.”

Ant shrugged, turning his eye back to the treeline. “He always signs his paperwork, and I handle the rest. Simple, really.”

“And he gets me steak dinners just for helping lift the supply crates,” Whale said, proudly thumping a hand against his chest. He lowered his voice to a theatrical whisper. “Don't tell Ant, but I think he's getting gypped.”

“Of course,” Sakuya said, regarding Whale with barely-disguised contempt.

Ant was about to respond when a flash of blonde hair in the treetops, witchy hat atop it, drifted across his scope. The ensuing BANG caused Whale to jerk back in surprise, which was really quite unfortunate considering his already precarious position, and he plummeted off the tower with a yell of “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU-”

Ant and Sakuya both rushed to the side Whale had toppled off, peering at the mansion's roofing below. The limp form on the shingles was still, until it slowly raised a thumbs-up. “I'm okay! My spine broke my fall!”

“...Well,” Sakuya said, glancing aside at Ant. “He's certainly durable, isn't he?”

“He lifts,” Ant said, his exasperated tone tinged with relief as he slung his rifle over his shoulder. He then started climbing down to see to Whale, leaving an amused Sakuya to disappear and a tranquilized Marisa to take a long, long nap.

-----

After Whale'd been discharged from an impromptu medical exam with a clean bill of health, that left dinner right around the corner, something that he and Ant were always happy to attend. Their arrival was just in time, for the modestly-sized table had been set, Remilia was seated at the far end as befit her station, and Sakuya was pouring her a glass of wine.

“Hello!” Remilia called out, waving at her guests. “Terribly sorry, but it seems it's just us for this one!”

Ant, who had actually bothered to remove his mask, unlike Whale, regarded the spread of food with newfound suspicion as he seated himself, but Whale held no such compunctions as he took the spot opposite Ant, pulled over a plate of pasta, grabbed a fork, and then actually bothered to take a closer look at his meal.

The pasta looked good, and yet slightly – off. Same for the wine just nearby, possessed of a darker red than he thought healthy. And the steak, too, now that he thought about it. In fact, everything had an odd tinge to it that he was pretty sure wasn't supposed to be there.

He looked aside to see Remilia smiling innocently, then to the stony-faced Sakuya at her side, then finally ahead to Ant staring at him. An entire conversation passed between the two men with a series of pointed looks, head tilts, and wordless inhalations and exhalations. The fact that no one could actually see Whale's face only made this feat more impressive.

Whale, no.

But it looks so good!

Whale.

She's probably just playing a joke on us!

Whale.

Look, she's a vampire lady, I was kinda expecting this! I'm not missing out on a good meal just because-

WHALE.

Goddamn it, Ant, I'm hungry!


As their wordless conversation grew more and more heated, Remilia was visibly struggling to keep her smile from growing any larger than would be polite, until at last Whale shot straight up, bellowed a mighty “FUCK THIS”, flipped his chair, and fled the room.

Remilia blinked, slowly setting her wineglass down, and then, without warning, her smile split her face as she doubled over, her forehead thunking against the table, and she began giggling without any shame whatsoever. “Goodness,” she forced out, “I haven't ever gotten a reaction like that!

Ant's answering thin-lipped stare, when Remilia bothered to actually look up, only served to send her back down in a renewed fit. He stood, nodded at her, and walked out after Whale, waved out by the helpless lady of the mansion.

“Are you happy now, Sakuya?” Remilia managed, still shaking in mirth.

Sakuya cracked a smile of her own. “Immensely, milady.”
>>No. 1919
File 145448810938.jpg - (165.11KB, 400x400, remilia realizes she made a mistake.jpg) [iqdb]
1919
Remilia found the two men in the kitchen, Whale distracting fairy maids by letting them cling to his arms as he flexed, leaving them to dangle in the air while Ant was raiding the cupboards.

“Ahem!” Remilia said, only for Whale to point an accusatory finger at her, heedless of the small giggling girl hanging from his arm.

“Don't you be trying to take away my actual dinner, lady,” he said, his tone deathly serious. “You already cost me one!”

“That was just me having a little laugh, sir,” Remilia said, his glare washing off her without so much as slowing the vampiress down. “I have to amuse myself sometimes, don't I?”

“You don't get between a man and his food,” Whale said, folding his arms and trying to look intimidating, an effect that was ruined by the fairies still holding onto him. Another one hopped onto his back, looping her arms around his neck. “Now if you'll excuse me, I've got piggy-back rides to dole out until a proper meal's ready. Ant!”

“Yes, Whale- oh,” Ant said, finally noticing Remilia as Whale marched out, clad in fairy-mail and determined to live up to the expectations of his hangers-on. “Is there a problem?”

“Oh, no, no,” Remilia said, watching Whale go with an unbidden smile on her face. “I actually came her to apologize.”

“Really.” Ant's stare was polite, yet completely unwelcoming.

“Really! Considering your success in safeguarding the mansion thus far, I'm hereby allowing you free reign to set traps wheresoever you please.” She coughed meaningfully into her hand. “That being said, do be sure to notify me of just where you're operating?”

Ant was silent, pursing his lips, brows furrowing, as his eyes drifted upward. He remained in thought for a few moments longer before he spoke. “I'm going to need a few days, free clearance to borrow books from the library, seeds, and a decent budget.”

Remilia blinked at his request, considered the potentially terrible implications, and then nodded. “Dare I ask what for?”

“Improved security measures,” Ant said, pulling out a pen and notepad from one of his pockets, his attention only vaguely on Remilia as he started scribbling.

“...Anything more specific?” Remilia asked, a deep worry settling in her gut.

“I'm not sure you want to know,” Ant said.

-----

The week had passed without Marisa finding success in her repeated intrusions, which left Remilia with sufficiently high regard for her latest employees that, when Ant had escorted her to see the results of his labors, she hadn't immediately demanded the destruction of the thorny, weeping willow-esque tree taking up space in the back garden. The blackened, sickly thing stood around ten feet, with a gaping hole in its trunk, and bore both round, orange fruit and, more importantly, thick tendrils that snaked across the ground and twitched.

“That is an ugly little thing, isn't it?” Remilia said, but if the displeasure in her voice bothered Ant any, he didn't show it.

“It may not be bred for beauty, but I'd say it more than makes up for it in results,” Ant said, satisfaction creeping into his tone. His head snapped to a fairy maid strolling onto the scene, the girl pausing when she saw the tree. “And now we have a test subject!”

“Excuse me?” Remilia said, and then one of the fruit fell from the tree and hit the ground with a hearty thud. The fairy peered at it suspiciously, which proved to be well-founded when the fruit started rolling her way at a rapid clip; she'd already taken flight in alarm when the fruit launched itself through the air, colliding with her chest and exploding in a shower of sticky, transparent goop.

“Shouldn't we help her?” Remilia asked, watching in faint horror as the fairy maid hit the paved pathway, swearing underneath her breath as she tried and failed to wipe the goop off, so caught up in her mess that she didn't notice the nearest tendrils snaking towards her.

Ant laid a hand on Remilia's shoulder. “Shhhhh. It's a demonstration.

Remilia started to wonder who was the more insane of the two men she'd hired.

“Now, you've already seen the exploding fruit in action,” Ant said, a definite tinge of pride in his voice as an alarmed shriek tore through the air, the tendril catching hold of the unfortunate fairy's leg. “Here comes the part where the man-eater catches the intruder, devours them – non-lethally, mind – and holds them in custody until someone does their scheduled check-up.”

The tree slowly pulled the shrieking fairy into the air, bringing her towards its trunk despite the girl's manic flailing.

“...How is this non-lethal, again?” Remilia asked, worry intensifying.

“Because it takes weeks for it to actually start digesting you,” Ant said as the tree-monster deposited the fairy inside itself. Her faint screaming abruptly cut off.

“This feels uncomfortably like a hentai doujin...” Remilia said, rubbing her chin. “Well, I could always send it to the gap hag, at that.”

“That's harsh, Remilia,” Ant said, cracking his knuckles. “Anyway, I've got to pull out our volunteer. Excuse me?”

He marched to the tree, swatted away a tentacle, and began speaking to it in low, clipped tones. After a few seconds of lecturing, the plant-monster reluctantly reached back in, pulled the trembling, goo-coated maid out, and set her back on the ground.

“Huh,” Remilia said, as Ant helped the girl to her feet, wiped his hands clean, then returned to his client. “I still don't see how this is useful for the library?”

“Well, I'm working on getting it ambulatory,” Ant said.

“Oh.” Remilia considered this. “Maybe don't?”

Ant brought his hands up, palms out in a placating fashion. “Relax, relax. With a bit of training, it'll-”

Their attention was jerked back to the tree by a scream, and they both looked back just in time to see it pulling the fairy back into its trunk.

“...Maybe it needs a bit of practice before it stops eating the help,” Ant admitted. “I'll work on that part first.”

“You do that!” Remilia said, giving him a strained smile right up until he turned to deal with the tree again, at which point she beat an orderly retreat.

What madness had she brought upon herself?
>>No. 1920
File 145448822174.png - (553.75KB, 750x750, remi what the hell did you do.png) [iqdb]
1920
“Soooo, Patchy,” Remilia said, looking immensely shifty as she sidled up to the seated witch, who looked up from the book spread open on her desk with exasperation. “We may have a problem.”

Patchouli sighed, bowing her head and holding a hand over her eyes. “What is it this time?”

Remilia glanced around warily, then leaned across the table until she was near Patchouli's ear. “The mercenary's gone insane,” she confided. “...The small one,” she clarified, after a moment's thought. “He's made some horrible tree-monster and is keeping it in the garden as a security measure.”

“This affects me how?” Patchouli asked, resisting the urge to simply throw her book at Remilia.

Remilia winced, for this was the part that was going to get Patchouli angry at her. “I may have given him free reign of the library when he asked me for research materials.”

Patchouli's hand slid down her face and hit the desk with a solid thump, and Remilia was fixed with a flat glare. “You did what.”

“So now,” Remilia said, trying to hurry past that point before Patchouli could explode at her, “he's trying to make it walk, the better to put it in the library.”

Patchouli opened her mouth, paused, and thought on this for a moment. “...Would this work on Marisa?” she asked, a speculative twinkle in her eyes.

“Maybe?” Remilia said, and then cursed internally as Patchouli cracked a faint smile.

“Then I don't see the problem,” said the witch, turning her attention back to her book.

“Not even him reading your books?” Remilia said.

“Half of them aren't meant for a human's eyes anyway,” Patchouli said, Remilia's concerns crashing against her wall of indifference. “If he damages his own mind trying to read them, it's not my problem.”

“But what if he read something important that you haven't gotten around to reading yet?”

“Eh,” Patchouli grunted.

Desperate, Remilia tried “Don't you at least want to see the tree?”

Patchouli packed all her disinterest into a single drawling “Eeeeeeeeh.”

“You're going to see the damn tree, Patchy,” Remilia declared, her patience broken.

The witch clapped her book shut with a sigh, and fixed Remilia with a half-lidded stare. “I'm not walking.”

-----

“Is this it?” Patchouli asked, shamelessly piggy-backing on Remilia as the vampiress touched down in the garden, where Ant was lobbing bits of meat into its trunk. He turned at Patchouli's voice, and if he was surprised by her choice of transit, it didn't show on his face.

“Ah, hello!” he said, kicking away a greedy tendril that had started encircling his boot. “I take it this is about my project?”

“Indeed,” Patchouli said, peering at the tree-monster. She slid off Remilia's back, for which the mansion's lady was quite grateful, and floated over to Ant's side in order to get a better look. “This was all your work, was it?”

“It took a bit of doing, but yes.” Ant had turned back to the tree by this point, the better to fob off any potential ambushes. “Also, I wouldn't recommend going past me; any further and you'll activate the fruit.”

Patchouli deigned not to ask further about that, instead shutting her eyes, reaching out with a hand, and feeling for anything wrong with the plant-thing. After a few moments of this, she opened her eyes again, a slight frown on her lips. “This is a textbook example of magical botany, which would be all well and good, if you had an ounce of magical power in your body.” She side-eyed Ant through narrow slits. “But you don't.

“I made do.” Ant shrugged. “All told, Werner's Carnivores was very helpful!”

“Oh, him?” Patchouli said, lips curling downward in distaste. “I don't know how you managed to get that prick to co-operate with you; the last time I opened that book he tried to eat my face.”

“No, no, I knew kids like him in the service. You just need to take a firm hand with them and make sure they know who's boss.” He met Patchouli's disbelieving stare with one of his own. “It's simple stuff, really.”

Patchouli's mouth hung open as she tilted her head and squinted at Ant, exasperation rapidly mounting in the face of his unflappability. “I- you- oh, whatever,” she huffed, folding her arms and glowering at the tree. “...That's still a decent piece of work, I suppose. I'll give you a B minus.”

“I'll work harder on it next time,” Ant said.

“There isn't going to be a next time until I figure out how you somehow managed to create a magical carnivore tree through making do,” Patchouli said, her tone hard as iron. “You're coming back to the library, sir.”

“But-”

“That's an order,” said Remilia as she casually insinuated herself between the two. “I'll find someone to take care of your... thing here.”

Whale chose this moment to wander onto the scene with a cheerful announcement of “Yo, Ant, how's your murder-tree doing?”

“And there we go!” Remilia said, clapping her hands together in thanks to fate pulling through for her. “Whale! We're commandeering your friend for a while!”

“This is something that's happening,” Ant said, nodding agreeably. “You mind feeding it while I'm out, Whale?”

“Just toss a steak into its mouth every so often, got it,” Whale said, skipping around a tendril as he made his way to the others. “How long'll you be gone?”

“As long as he's needed,” Patchouli said, her severe gaze backed up by Remilia's all too pleasant smile.

“Can I come visit?” Whale asked.

“This is going to be a long and involved assignment,” Patchouli said. “So no.”

Whale stared at them, then at the tree, then back to them. “...What do I do without him, then?”

Remilia considered what Whale might get up to, bereft of Ant to hold him in check. “You're on leave,” she decided,.

Whale was about to protest when he spied Ant discretely offering him a thumbs up, and shrugged. “...Hell, I'll take it.”
>>No. 1923
File 14545127786.jpg - (452.86KB, 1024x734, whale no stop what are you doing.jpg) [iqdb]
1923
After a few hours had passed with Ant locked away in the library, night had fallen, and with it Whale's resistance to boredom. This was a grim and terrible thing, for when Whale became bored, things would inevitably go horribly, horribly, horribly, horribly, horribly wrong.

Such as him exploring the basement, for example!

The dimly-lit corridors, lanterns providing small pools of sickly yellow light, were giving him flashbacks to that time in Costa Rica, and he squared his jaw with heroic resolve; if there were ghosts down here too, then clearly he was the only man who could deal with them.

With bullets.

Or maybe explosives, considering ghosts tended to be intangible. At least that way he could bring the building down on them.

“Yeah, C4 would probably work better,” Whale mused aloud, gently prying a door open, peering inside into pitch-blackness, and immediately being greeted by glowing red eyes.

“Heeeeey~” said their owner.

Whale considered his options, as one does when greeted with a tilde, and settled on a polite “Hello.”

The eyes blinked, for usually when someone saw them in the blackness, that someone ran away screaming. “How's life?” they eventually asked.

“Oh, pretty good, pretty good,” Whale said. “You a ghost?”

“Nope.”

“Zombie?”

“Nuh-uh.”

“Zombie ghost?”

“Really?” said the eyes, exasperated.

“Ghost zombie!”

The eyes narrowed. “Do you have any other ideas?”

“What about a ghoul, then?” Whale said, getting somewhat desperate.

“Isn't that a subset of zombie?”

“Shit, you're right.” Whale folded an arm across his stomach, his other hand covering his mouth. After a few seconds, he snapped his fingers. “Oculothorax!”

“Huh?”

“It's a floating eyeball monster, hence oculo and thorax.

“Oh.” The eyes blinked. “That's pretty on the nose, don't you think?”

“Hey, I don't name 'em, I just shoot 'em.”

“Are you gonna shoot me, then?”

Whale considered the fact that he had no gun, and also that the eyes had been growing steadily closer throughout their conversation.

“Nnnnnnnno?” he hazarded.

That was all the warning he got before the owner of those eyes lunged out, tackled him to the floor, and revealed themselves to be a blonde in a little red dress with Christmas-light wings sprouting from her back.

“Good answer!” she said, before sinking her teeth into his neck. She blinked, pulled out, and worked her jaw, for she had managed only a slight puncture in his neckguard's plating. “Huh. That usually works.”

“Yes, but I lift,” said Whale, and to demonstrate he grabbed her sides, lifted her straight up, then rose to his feet carrying one very confused vampire over his head. “Also you must be Flandre?”

What,” Flandre said, not sure whether to attack or scream.

“Yeah, see, Remilia was very particular about how I shouldn't go down here, but I figured it couldn't be that bad. And now I've met you, so clearly there was nothing to worry about!” Whale began deftly twirling Flandre around and around, and the girl found herself absolutely mystified and yet having a bizarre amount of fun. As such, she was both bemused and mildly disappointed when he set her down, brushed off her dress, and patted her on the head.

“Uh,” she said, staring up at the huge man ruffling her hair. “What was that about?”

“Well, the fairies love it when I do that,” he said, pulling his hand free to absentmindedly scratch the back of his helmet. “I figured you would too!”

“Is that why you came down here?”

Whale exaggeratedly looked both ways, then over his shoulder, before he cupped a hand around the side of his mouth, leaned in close, and stage-whispered “Nah, I was actually on a ghost adventure.” Or, as Ant would put it, a 'God damn it why do we always end up dealing with the spooky bullshit' adventure.

“Oh.” Flandre cocked her head, looking up in thought. “I don't think there are any down here?”

“How can you be sure?” Whale intoned ominously.

“Because I've been down here for like five hundred years.” She shrugged. “Can confirm, no ghosts.”

“Oh,” Whale said, sagging down in dejection. “Damn.”

“Yeaaaah.” Flandre looked equally disappointed for a moment before she perked right back up. “So, what's this about lifting, anyway?”

That bolstered Whale's spirits immensely. “Well, for one, it turns you into an unstoppable juggernaut of badass destruction.” He thumped a fist against his chest. “Like me!”

“But I'm already an unstoppable juggernaut of badass destruction,” Flandre pointed out.

“And I believe you one-hundred percent!” Whale sincerely declared. “But two, when you lift, you're showing whatever it is that's being lifted that you're the boss!”

“Is that why you lifted me?” Flandre asked, viewing the man with sudden suspicion; if he was trying to say he was better than her...

“Nah, I just needed to get up and figured I'd give you a ride along the way. Which segues into point number three, which is everyone loves being lifted.

“Huh.” Flandre considered this for a moment, then picked Whale up and hoisted him overhead. “Then this is a thing you like?”

“Yes!” Whale said, stunned, astonished, and gleeful in equal measure. “My God, this has never happened to me before!”

“And this?” Flandre asked, twirling him around and around with as much ease as she would a teddy bear.

“Amazing!” Whale spread his arms and legs straight out and cackled in boyish glee, which was entirely at odds with what Flandre had expected.

She paused mid-spin, viewing her passenger with a sort of amused confusion. “...You're a weirdo.

“I have been told this many times,” Whale admitted, still holding his limbs rigid. “Can we get back to the thing now?”

To his immense displeasure, Flandre instead set him back on his feet, and his resulting sulk was too much for her to bear with a straight face. “You never got to play keepsie upsies as a kid, didja?” she said, hiding her smile behind the back of a hand.

“Alas, I was always huge, even then,” Whale said, drifting back to unfortunate childhood memories, and then jerking himself free before he got caught up in them. “But enough about that! I came down here because I was bored, and now I am not. I'd like to remain not bored, so I want to know if you have any ideas?”

“Well,” Flandre said, thinking back on his previous words. “...You said lifting something showed that you were the boss of it, right?”

“Yes!” Whale said, unaware of how badly this was going to end.

Flandre's smile, previously so innocent, morphed into something that decidedly wasn't. “I always did want to prove I was the boss of this place. Hold that thought!”

Without warning, three other Flandres leapt from her chest with a bright flash of light, and Whale had only a moment to be boggled at this before they all sped off in different directions.

“Huh,” he said, rubbing his chin as he thought of what terrible things might happen. “...I think we may be in some trouble here.”

-----

Ant's interrogations had been conducted in Patchouli's study, which was the same as usual save for how Ant had carted a sofa there for him to lay on, citing profound psychological benefits when the witch demanded answers.

Speaking of demands, a scowling Patchouli was waving around a book with a screaming face etched onto its cover. “How did you even read this thing? It literally sucks the knowledge out of your mind!”

“I squinted,” Ant said, reclining on the sofa with his hands on his stomach, unconcerned by the witch looming over him.

Patchouli froze. “What.”

“I squinted.” He shrugged. “It was a bit hard at first but I got through eventually.”

What,” Remilia concurred, observing from a chair in a corner because she was bored.

“Well, you've heard how knowledge expands your mind, right?” Ant said, demonstratively holding his hands around an invisible ball and gradually widening his grip. “It turns out that's literal, as in, knowledge expands when it enters your brain. So, when this book tries suck the knowledge out of my head, I just squint, and that's enough to stop the drain because I'm not giving it enough of a hole to pull the information through.”

“...It doesn't work like that,” Patchouli said, getting legitimately upset. “It doesn't work like that!”

“Clearly it does, or otherwise I wouldn't be talking to you about it,” Ant said, his tone infuriatingly polite.

Fuming, Patchouli tossed the book aside and snatched up a different one. “And this?”

“Oh, Werner? I was wondering when we'd get to him.” Ant took the offered book, cracked it open, and then punched the pages.

ourgahhblurf,” said the book.

“Remember what I said about my time in the service?” Ant said, holding it up to a gaping Patchouli. “Folks like him are simple, really.”

Patchouli silently took the book back, her eyes bulging out as she tried to find the words to express her opinion of this outrageous bullshit.

“Now do you believe me when I say he's insane?” Remilia asked, viewing the situation with an amused little grin.

“I'm not insane!” Ant said defensively. “I've just had my mind opened up to-”

“He's insane,” Patchouli agreed, turning to Remilia. “So, what do we do with him?”

“Is it permanent?” Remilia asked.

“I should hope so,” Ant said. “It's a lot easier to read through these things now that the whispers translate for me!”

“And what were you planning on next, hm?” Patchouli said.

“Well, after I got the tree walking, I had this great idea for animating the bookshelves.”

Patchouli's face twisted up in a pained grimace. “No.

“I'm sure you'd like it!” Ant insisted, as Patchouli took Remilia by the shoulder and stepped away to confer with her privately.

“Look, Remi,” Patchouli whispered. “I think maybe we should just leave him be and... not let him read any more books? I don't know. Maybe time will help him deal with this?”

Remilia squinted at her, but Patchouli refused to fidget underneath that disapproving stare. “Really. That's the best you can come up with.”

“Yes,” Patchouli said, and then added a “Probably.”

“Probably?” Remilia asked.

Patchouli nodded. “Probably.”

“So you're saying you might be able to fix this.”

Patchouli opened her mouth to deny these spurious allegations, mainly to avoid having to work, when the mansion rumbled. The silence that followed was poignant as everyone present considered the implications of this, until Ant asked “Has anyone seen Whale lately?”

Both women slowly turned to face him. “...We haven't really checked up on him since we gave him time off?” Remilia said, suddenly regretting this decision.

A distinct feeling of weightlessness settled in everyone's stomachs as the building was lifted free of its foundation.

“That's probably why this is happening,” Ant said, nodding sagely.

Before they could ask for details, Whale burst into the study, panting for breath. “Guys! You will not believe what's going on down there!”

“What- did you go into the basement?!” Remilia thundered, leaping from her chair to get in his face.

“Yes!” Whale said without shame or remorse. “I met Flandre and she said she always wanted to prove she was the boss of this house, and that's why she's lifting the whole building.”

“Motherffffff-” Remilia rocketed out of the study, and Whale smoothly transitioned into taking her seat.

Patchouli viewed Whale with undisguised irritation as she took her own seat. “You're an imbecile.”

“Would an imbecile get bitten by a vampire and not die?” Whale said, leaning back in his chair until it was resting at a forty-five degree angle, and then crossed his legs, heedless of how precarious his position was.

“Wait, what happened?” Ant asked, sitting up straight.

Whale spread his hands. “She tried to bite me, but it was all cool.”

“Oh.” Ant laid back down and idly contemplated how to murder a vampire, and decided that it didn't actually count as murder if the target was an abomination to man and god alike.

-----

Once Remilia had managed to get Flandre to put everything back down, she'd come back to shout at Whale. After lots of yelling about not going into the basement and being responsible and not giving Flandre ideas for mischief, Whale had replied that if she didn't want people going down there so badly then maybe she shouldn't leave the door unlocked. It was at that point Remilia told him to shut up, put him on book retrieval duty, and ejected him from the library.

Ant, meanwhile, had slipped out of the library during all the yelling, and watched Whale's excited stride down the mansion halls from around a corner.

“Ha ha!” Whale said, voice echoing throughout the corridor. “I get to punch a witch!”

Ant wouldn't say he was... worried, exactly, because Whale could handle himself, but instead concerned, because his every takedown of Marisa so far had been working in concert with Ant. As such, he shadowed his partner through the mansion, right up until Sakuya suddenly blinked into existence in front of him, silhouetted by the moonlight streaming through a stained glass window.

“He's meant to do this alone, you know,” she said, arms folded across her chest as she frowned at him. “As in, without you? I thought Milady was very clear on that part, or at least very loud about it.”

Ant considered this. “Yeah, no.” His attempt to get past Sakuya was stymied when she simply sidestepped to block him, then again when he tried to go the other way. “Move?”

“I'm afraid that isn't possible.” Her hand drifted to her thigh-holster, idly tracing a finger across the knife's handle. “And, just so you know, something might happen to you if you interfere with his job.”

Ant just stared at her, hand falling to his knife's sheath. “Are you really doing this?”

“And after I went through all the trouble of finding you in the first place,” she sighed, pulling her blade free with a twirl to glint in the moonlight.

Ant produced his own, holding it in a reverse grip as he shifted his footing. “Let me rephrase; are we really doing this?”

“I did warn you,” Sakuya said, brows lifted in mild reproach. “Now are you actually going to use that thing, or do I have to do all the work?”

She really needed to work on her phrasing, Ant thought, because that just sounded unfortunate.

“On second thought, Sakuya,” Remilia said, dropping between the two. “I've changed my mind. Let him go.”

“Mistress?!” Sakuya said, reeling back and hastily putting her knife away. “What in the world are you doing?”

“I could ask the same of you!” Remilia retorted, frowning at her chief maid.

Ant blinked at Remilia's sudden appearance, but slowly re-sheathed his knife. He nodded at his client before moving around her and heading after Whale, much to Sakuya's bogglement. The moment he was gone, Remilia floated up to stare Sakuya in the eye, and then bopped her on the head.

“Ow!” said the maid, clutching her skull. “Milady, why-”

Remilia bopped her again. “Stop threatening the help, Sakuya. Anyway, I decided I want to see what happens with those two out there, so that's why I let him leave.” Left unsaid was her worry that if something happened to Whale, Ant might do terrible, awful things to everyone else before he was inevitably brought down, and even the 'inevitably' part was in question.

“...Very well, Mistress,” Sakuya said, but she was still grumpy even after she'd regained her composure; Remilia had never hit her before!
>>No. 1924
File 145451279367.jpg - (475.51KB, 922x995, gonna beat those fuckboys up yessiree.jpg) [iqdb]
1924
Marisa was having a bad time as she pored over maps of the mansion, her hands sweaty and twitching as she tried to plot out a route that didn't leave her to be humiliated by those two Outsider assholes. She'd swept her kitchen table clean to provide space for all her documents, which only made the rest of her house an even bigger mess, considering the lower floor was all one big room, kitchen and living area and all.

“Can't sleep, dudes will shoot me, can't sleep, dudes will WHO'S THERE?!” she shrieked, whipping around and lobbing a potion-grenade through the window where someone had been spying on her. It went through with a crash of glass and, a second later, an explosion. When nothing else happened, Marisa crept up to the window, peered out, and saw absolutely nothing except for a scorch mark in the grass.

“Ffffffff-” she rasped, the broken window souring her already dire mood, and turned back to her work to try and distract herself from self-inflicted property damage.

Below the windowsill, Ant and Whale didn't dare release sighs of relief, but they did exchange a look. Ant gestured towards the front door around the window's corner, and Whale nodded. He waited as Ant quietly moved into position, then, after precisely fifteen seconds had passed, he leaped through the window with a roar of “DEFEND YOURSELF, BOOKSTEALER!”

Marisa was already whirling on him, howling “I KNEW IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT” as she brought her hakkero up, when Ant kicked the door open, pistol raised, and unloaded a trio of tranq darts into her back. They connected, sinking through her blouse into her skin, and she staggered just as Whale came in for a haymaker to knock her flat.

But her head snapped up, an unhealthy gleam in her eye as she ducked Whale's blow, dove past him, and came up from her combat roll, teeth bared and hakkero raised. “I am high on so many shrooms I can see your skeletons! I'MMA FUCK YOU UP!”

“Aw shiiiiiiiiiiit!” Whale yelled, throwing himself out of the way of the huge beam of rainbow doom that was a Master Spark; the only thing that saved him was how close he was to Marisa, which got him just out of the firing arc that swept through the rest of the room, even as Ant unloaded more tranq darts into the witch that managed to do absolutely nothing.

When the Spark died down, the house's contents were thrown about everywhere, tables and chairs and books and all, but otherwise undamaged. Whale was already picking himself off the kitchen floor when Marisa spun on him, charging up another ruinous Spark, right up to the point Ant punched her in the back of the head.

Marisa tumbled forward into another roll, came up with a frying pan in one hand and hakkero in the other, and jumped as Whale charged her, cast-iron pan lashing out and smacking him upside the helmet.

“SONUVABITCH” he roared, stumbling back as Ant brought his gun up; Marisa quickly interposed the pan between him and her face as he fired, his darts bouncing off to no effect, before she flung it at her attacker, forcing him to duck or be concussed. That split second was enough time for her to bring her hakkero to bear, energy swirling about in the miniaturized reactor.

“EAT SHIT!” she screeched, unleashing the full might of another Master Spark at the two men who had tormented her for so long. Whale recovered just as she fired, and he bodily shoved Ant out of the way right before the beam enveloped him.

“AAAAAAAAAAAARGH” he yelled in extreme discomfort, before he was drowned out by the blast.

“Whale!” Ant said from the floor, watching his teammate's annihilation with something approaching rage. His emotions proved unfounded, however, when the blast cleared and Whale still stood, smoke rising from his whole body.

Marisa stared at him, mouth agape. “How the shit did you-”

“I'M AN AMERICAN!” Whale snapped, unsteadily lurching towards her. “I'M THE BIGGEST THING HERE!”

Instead of saying anything, Marisa merely poured more power into yet another Spark, only for Ant, still on the floor, to take aim and fire; the dart sank into her neck, plunging its payload deep into her system.

“Freaking-!” Marisa choked out, jerking back and clamping a hand around the dart, hakkero-bearing arm falling limp against her side. Her eyes, already twitchy, had gained a distinctly unfocused quality, as she sagged back against her stove. “You- you sons'a'bitches,” she slurred, all the tranquilizers she'd taken starting to hit her like one of Whale's belly-flops.

Whale paused in front of her, fist raised, as Ant pushed himself up to a crouch. “You done? Because if you aren't, I'm totally gonna-”

Marisa lunged forward, slamming her hakkero into Whale's stomach. “IT WAS A RUSE, COCKSUCKER!” she roared, her yell heralding a burst of magical energy that sent Whale flying across the room. “YOUR TRANQUILIZERS DO NOTHING TO M-ARGHABLURR”

Ant's sprinting right cross to her face sent her spinning across the kitchen, hat sent soaring away, until she hit a cupboard, hakkero flying from her grip and sliding into a corner. She sidestepped another of Ant's punches while reaching up, and wrenched the cupboard's door open, before ducking out of the way as dozens of cans of disorganized food tumbled out onto the mercenary.

“This is disgraceful!” Ant said, shocked and appalled at Marisa's terrible organizational skills, before she fished out a flask from her blouse and threw it at him.

“Get out of my house!” she shrieked back, taking vicious satisfaction in how Ant took the bomb straight to the dome and got floored.

“DO YOU REMEMBER ME?” Whale shouted, charging her like a man who hadn't just taken multiple explosions to the face, and a quick spin was all that saved her from a punch that went clean through the wooden wall. “THIS AIN'T OVER 'TIL YER DEAD, PUNK!”

“Killing people is against the spellcard rules, you fuck!” Marisa howled, scrambling away from Whale as he pried his fist loose and came after her.

“DO I SEE ANY SPELLCARDS?” Whale replied, stalking towards her with all the menace six and a half feet of muscle could provide.

Her answering holler of “You can't do this!” did nothing to dissuade Whale as she retreated to the far end of the living room, hopping over toppled chairs and a table and other sundry scattered debris.

“I'M ALREADY A DEMON,” Whale said, picking up the aforementioned table, hoisting it over his head, and throwing it at her. She avoided it by the barest of margins, diving beneath it and wincing as it shattered to pieces against the wall behind her, but, on a brighter note, her rapid descent had left her in front of a discarded broom.

She snatched it up as she rose, Whale upon her the moment she was on her feet, and a backstep avoided the first hammer blow that would've smashed her straight through the floor. Her enemy pausing in his assault, she took a moment to readjust her trembling grip on the broom, her eyelids fluttering rapidly and every breath coming in quick and shallow. “I'm not- not gonna lose to you sorry pieces of soulless... degenerate... garbage!

Marisa flung herself at him, broom flying at his head in a mighty swing, and came up short as it shattered against his head. He answered by lunging forward, arm flung out, and his clothesline caught Marisa on the chin, flipping her upside-down to crash into the floor.

“Ha haaaa!” Whale cackled as he spun around, only for Marisa to roll over, explosive flask in hand and murder in mind, and throw it straight into his face; the resulting explosion knocked him ass-over-teakettle, and he landed on his face with a pained, drawn-out “GAWD DAYUMIT”

Just as Marisa thought she had the upper hand, however, Ant had apparently recovered enough to interfere, as his boot racing towards her head showed. Another roll carried her out of the way of the stomp, and her hand closed around a discarded book that she slammed into his shin.

“Son of a-!” Ant snarled, hopping back on his good foot as Marisa pushed herself to her feet.

Her head hurt; in fact, her everything hurt, and her vision was swimming, but the gods would have to take her themselves before she was going to give up this fight. She thrust a palm out at Ant, willing all her hate and power into it, and a pair of golden stars burst out and soared into his chest. The resulting blast sent him flying into a wall, but he still had the presence of mind to land on his feet when he bounced off, even if he was going to feel that tomorrow.

Marisa sagged; after all the punishment she'd taken over the course of this brawl, even that relatively middling burst of magic had taken its toll on her. “Why won't you sorry bastards stay down?” she groaned, laying a hand on a knee as her blasting arm dangled limp. “Don't you have anything else to do?”

“Why don't you?” Ant said, his breathing pained and irregular. “Let's see how durable you are once I'm done wringing your neck.”

“Ant,” Whale wheezed from the floor, picking himself up. “Ant, please calm down. I'm supposed to be the one who does stupid things.” The large man steadied himself against the wall for a moment before he pushed off it, standing on his own two feet. “Let's just put her down and be done with it.”

“Sounds good, Whale,” Ant said, nodding, as he made his way to Whale's side. “This has dragged out too long, anyway.”

Marisa brought her arm back up, trying to force out one last shot. She managed a star the size of her pinky, and that fizzled out after about a foot of travel.

The two mercenaries exchanged glances, and then they charged her as one.

Marisa viewed their approach with the disinterest of one already doomed as she reached into her blouse one last time, producing a flask in each hand. “Fuck both of you,” she said, very calmly, as the men skidded to a halt, and then she smashed the two flasks together.

-----

When the smoke cleared, Whale made a noise like a malfunctioning garbage disposal as he pushed himself to his knees.

“Ffffffuck,” he groaned, looking around. Ant was laid out face-down next to him, and Marisa was – he whistled – on the opposite end of the building, slumped against a scorched wall. Her dress was in tatters, which he supposed was only natural when someone blew themselves up, but even from here he could see the faint rise and fall of her chest, which was good, because having to explain to Remilia how a well-known witch had ended up dead on a book-retrieval mission would have been really awkward and also possibly fatal.

“Ant, buddy,” he said, patting the downed mercenary on the back. “Wake up.”

“Guh,” Ant managed, shaking off bits of debris as he looked up. “Did we win?”

“I think?” Whale said, slowly hauling himself to his feet. Even his endurance had limits, and this fight had pushed him to them. Still, he had enough strength to pick his way through the wreckage to Marisa, haul the (thoroughly unconscious) girl up over his shoulder, and then make his way towards the stairs up. He gave Ant, now sitting, a nod, then wearily stomped up the stairs, shouldered through the door at the top, and limped into her room.

He was very careful to step around all her stuff as he made his way to her bed, pulled the blanket back, and dropped her on it. After adjusting her pillow so she was dead-center on it, he pulled the blanket up to her neck and viewed his work with tired satisfaction. The fight was over, after all; no sense in being bad sports about everything.

When he came back downstairs, Ant had recovered enough to be moving through the wreckage, both pen and list in hand as he went through the mess that was the entire floor.

“Aww, God,” Whale sighed. “This is gonna take a while, isn't it?”

“Yep,” Ant replied, all business. “Now let's see...”

-----

“Whuh?” Marisa said, blearily blinking through the haze that was her vision. Sunlight streamed through the window, uncomfortably bright in the wake of her mushroom-induced hangover, in addition to all the throbbing pains and dull aches she'd acquired, but she heaved herself out of bed, looked herself over, and frowned as last night started coming back to her.

It was with dread that she limped downstairs, braced for her house to be in a state of overwhelming scene of chaos that would take legendary effort to return to the more manageable state of mild chaos it usually resided in.

Instead, and it took her a few blinks for this to register, the ground floor was immaculately clean. All the furniture was in place, the table was taped over where it had broken, the bookshelves were stocked (if with much smaller numbers of books than she had before), and the cupboards and drawers all had little yellow post-it notes stuck to them.

This sight washed over her uncomprehending mind for several seconds before it finally clicked. “Aww, god damn it,” she said, flopping into a recliner. “It's gonna take me forever to find anything now.”

There was a crinkling of paper underneath her, and curiosity overtook the girl as she rolled sideways, reached down, and plucked a note from the seat. She brought it up into the light and squinted.

After taking inventory of your house, we have discovered no less than one-hundred and twenty (120) books stolen from the library of the Scarlet Devil Mansion. As such, we have taken the liberty of repossessing these books and returning them to their rightful home. If you wish to lodge a complaint, simply visit and lodge a request for an audience with Lady Scarlet.

Sincerely

-Ant

P.S. YOU REALLY DO SUCK AT THIS

-WHALE


Marisa stared at it.

“Son of a bitch!

-----

After a good week had passed for Marisa to recuperate, she had one plan of attack as she marched out of the Forest of Magic and into broad daylight, carrying her broom above her head, a white undershirt waving in the air atop it. While she failed to be shot on her approach to the gate, the glint of a scope from one of the mansion's windows was all the warning she needed on what would happen if she misbehaved.

Even so, she was mighty tempted to just hit the gate with a Master Spark when she saw Whale repeatedly lifting Meiling up and down, the latter lying flat on her back, cap tugged over her eyes as she took a siesta and Whale got his workout in.

“What up?” Whale called out to her, and Marisa stopped a safe distance away, suppressing the urge to blast him as payback.

“Whale,” Marisa said, lowering her flag. Her words came out stiff and stilted. “I am here. To visit. The library.”

“That all?” He switched to lifting Meiling with one hand, then pushed the gate open with the other. “Go ahead!”

Marisa stared at him, a number of unkind words bubbling in her throat, but she forced them down in the name of diplomacy, nodded, and stepped through the gate, eyes firmly on the rifle poking out of that window.

Just a second to bring her hakkero up, that'd be all she'd need-

A firm shake of her head dispelled those thoughts, and she forced a deep, calming breath into her lungs.

-----

“What do you want?” Patchouli said, refusing to rise from her comfy chair as she glowered at the intruding Marisa over her book.

Marisa stood as if carved from granite as she spoke through grit teeth. “I'm here to ask you, Patchouli Knowledge, the owner of the library, if I, Marisa Kirisame, can enter this library for the sole purpose of reading the books therein, without removing them from the premises.”

Patchouli stared at Marisa until the latter began to fidget, at which point she shut her book, tucked it under an arm, and stood up.

“...I've finally won,” she breathed out, a smile finding itself a stranger in the strange land that was her face. “Aha. Ahaha. Hooo.”

“You didn't win!” Marisa hissed, composure cracking. “You had someone else win for you!”

There was the distant sound of a rifle's bolt being worked.

Marisa twitched. “...Is what a sore loser would say, which I most certainly am not.”

Patchouli's disconcerting laughter subsided, at which point she regarded Marisa with half-lidded eyes full of amusement. “Oh, of course, of course. I'm glad to hear it. Now, I think... yes, I think I'll personally escort you to whatever books you want to read. We wouldn't want anything unfortunate to happen, after all, with how much our security's improved.”

The only thing that kept Marisa in check was the threat of immediate and terrible retribution, so instead she settled for a fuming “Mrgghhhrgh,” as she stalked after Patchouli.

Out of sight, Ant lowered his rifle and pumped his fist.

Mission accomplished-

“WHY DO YOU HAVE A MURDER-TREE IN HERE” Marisa screamed, only to be answered by a wheezing cackle from Patchouli.

And Ant just smiled.
>>No. 1925
That was great.
>>No. 1926
I didn't laugh that hard in a long time.
>>No. 1927
Absolutely amazing.
I demand more.
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