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It’s feckin’ fairies. You’re no pussy.
You [X]blitz right in, firing lasers and overcharged Danmaku. Don’t let them react, let the vastness of the room and the emptiness of the halls keep you undetected to everyone else. You’ve got something you need to do, after all.
The fairies, the first two, anyway, don’t put up much of the fight. They go down to your initial laser volley, leaving three more to deal with.
“Eeep!” they exclaim as a wave of basic danmaku forces you to weave around it.
The other two fairies fall to overcharged bullets straight to their heads, but the third one’s either smarter than her comrades, or much more cowardly. She dashes down the halls and out of your range before you can shoot her down.
“Damn it!” you hiss as you give chase.
The fairy makes it as far as throwing the doors on the other side of the room open, but this confines her in a long, straight hall.
All it takes is one well-aimed laser, and—
Lots of scorch marks on the walls, but those aren’t your own. They’ll have that cleaned in no time.
Back to your search.
...Interior marshmallow pit on steroids.
“Who’s been firing Danmaku?! Sakuya’s going to— Dammit! Not again!” somebody shouts in the distance.
They’re coming for the burning room, you realize, and you’re long past the empty room. Everything else is closed and locked. Luckily, there’s a convenient open window that you float out of—
“How many times do I have to say this?! No marshmallow fires inside the—”
Ah. The Gatekeeper’s using it to climb in.
This is gonna h—
The package in your hand is a small one. Small in a sense that it only takes up the one arm that you tuck it under as opposed to the usual haul which necessitates a cart to be tied to a horse. This one’s different, though. It’s valuable, but not as much as an item to sell than something you’d rather keep.
It’s this and a salvaged lantern in your hand that leaves you more tired than you ought to be, but that’s nothing compared to the frustration and promise of suffering reserved for the dead man back at the town when you return.
“No older than six, he said. Can run from here to Boston, no problem he said. Fucking asshole!”
Your scratches look more like scrapes of a quill that ran it’s ink in the dim light of your lantern, and the trees along the path like an old oil painting than being in front of you. Firelight does that, you suppose. Warps what you see and stokes the flames of your paranoia.
It is worsened by the fact that you are alone. The horse is dead, broken from when you were, and still are, racing against your pocketwatch. The air is heavy, but the flame makes it humid because the heat and moisture are a punch than the slap of dry heat.
Worse still is that you’re a long way from the village and with no change of clothes. Your coat’s already been ruined by the fall, and all you’ve left is a shirt. You’re missing a boot.
“Fucking—Argh!” you hiss as a pebble embed itself into your bare sole. Not deep enough to cut, but the small fragment of rock is there, stuck in the dent it formed on you.
What you wouldn’t give for more calluses there. You lose boots often, you find.
A quick sigh is all you can afford as you toss the pebble away and continue your journey. Father gets quite cross when things don’t go his way.
And as everyone knows, when he’s cross, he’s quite the douche.
The night isn’t kind, however. Between the exhaustion from the horse and the heat from the lantern, your mind is playing tricks, you think. Shapes dart out the corner of your vision and whispers come from the leaves. All things considered, the former is more likely to be real.
It’s not so much a question of should you help or not than the shreds of decency in you urging you to investigate. You’ve always been too invested in helping people out. It’s not something you’re always fond of doing.
That hesitation disappears, however, when you see two young girls about to be set upon by a man with a stake. One of them is face-down with a small puddle forming near her head and the other trembles violently. All thoughts of your task discarded, the box is dropped and the man is tackled before he can bring the stake down.
He scrambles away before you can do anything else, escaping you with a backhand to your face as he scrambles for the dropped stake.
You lunge after him, thinking he’s going for the girls again, but instead gasp as something *sharp* stabs at you. You dodge only a scratch along your collar, but the motion throws you off balance and you’re pinned before you know it.
“You…” the man growls. “You’d throw your lot in with them?!”
He’s… enraged. At the young girls. It’s clouding his judgement, you think as he slams the stake towards your heart. You catch his wrist, pushing with all your desperation because tonight is NOT a night you’d like to get impaled on!
You’re tired, though. So very tired, and it’s only the conscious girl’s desperate cries of “w-we didn’t do it!” and her calling out for her “sis” that keeps you resisting.
“Notourfaultnotmenothernotsis!” the girl cries before looking up to you with tear-stained eyes, then to your attacker.
“Leave… us… ALONE!”
You don’t know or care what exactly happened, but you do know the pressure on the stake is gone and you push it away and deliver a swift punch to the man’s side. He’s winded, but standing still. No longer looking at you, but at the girl, who is now a quivering mess.
The package has fallen open.
The man lunges, stake raised.
The girl cries.
Her sister twitches.
Your hand trembles and you thank God your uncle was the paranoid sort who always kept his pistols loaded.
Shaking now, you push yourself up only for your legs to give out when you see that you’ve shot the attacker in the head It’s not pretty, and your hastily-eaten dinner nearly forces it’s way out of you, if not for the gut-wrenching feeling that forces you to swallow at the sight of the girl, wide-eyed and staring. Just, staring.
“O-Oh,” you manage. “Oh God.”
The drizzle begins as you drop the pistol and cautiously approach the girl.
The rain picks up.
The sister twitches.
You meet the young one’s horrified gaze
Blood-red eyes stare up at y
You awake with a throbbing sensation in your head, unable to remember what happened after that. You stand up and dust yourself off—
“So that’s what happened.”
You startle at the childlike voice coming from beside you, causing you to stumble until, in your blind flailing, you catch yourself on what feels like a wooden dresser.
“Where am I?”
“...So you’re awake.”
“Awake?” you say, “ Awake. Why would I not be awake?”
You hear the rustle of fabric, followed by light footsteps.
“Viewing memories as always been a problematic art,” a tired-sounding voice explains. “More so when several mental blocks must be bypassed. More often than not, the result is either further mental trauma or loss of sanity.”
You’re disarmed and disoriented still, it’s all you can do to pin down any scathing remarks or further accusations building up in the back of your throat. Not liking where this is going, you force yourself to swallow the words and let her continue.
“—only the satori can see these mental blocks, but even then they must coax it out of the person, as they can not interfere directly with the mind. I suppose that’s why you’ve not any of the usual side-effects. You’re rather lucky.”
Finally, the footsteps cease right in front of you.
“Forgive me for my intrusion,” she says. “My name is Patchouli Knowledge, and you have something of great interest to a good friend of mine.”
The room is dusty, you notice. It irritates your skin and makes you wheeze, but it’s not so bad that you can’t breathe at all.
The room is also quiet, save for the the quiet sniffles of the little girl inside.
How you got inside is something you feel you’ll find out later.
Of course, given your past experiences, you’re wary to approach the girl.
“Remi thinks I’m gonna break you.”
Clearly, your paranoia is well-founded.
“Break me,” you say.
“Pi-chun~ like everyone else.” She pauses as more sniffles escape her. “S’really messy.”
“Then why didn’t you?” you carefully ask. “Break me, I mean?”
“BECAUSE I DON’T WANNA!”
The sheer intensity of the voice forces you back and rings in your ears.
“You… You don’t remember, do you?”
“That Night. That night.”
“I was so scared…”
Scared of what?! That man? You?!
“Remi couldn’t help me!”
She was knocked-out, wasn’t she?
“...and I thought you wouldn’t too.”
A flood of memories flashes through you, most prominently the night in the woods. Dark. Hot. Humid. The clink of chains and the odor of rusted meat hooks.
No, no, there were no meat hooks. There was only the girl and her sister. Those two, and a corpse.
Your eyes itch as you look upon her in the dull brown dress and discarded boot.
The clinking continues as she turns to face you, eyes wide and fearful.
“I thought you’d kill her.”
Was it you, then, Little one? Were you the one responsible for the rush of black that night?
“But I know better now.”
Can you fill the void, please? What happened after the gunshot?
“But I know better now.”
The calm-yet-melancholy tone does not match her fearful eyes at all. The clinking gets closer and closer as the little girl approaches you, as though bound with loose chains.
“What do you know?” You whisper to yourself.
“I know that bad things happen, things that even Remi can’t change.”
She stops in front of you, but she stares at you with renewed horror, sounding so perfectly content that it doesn’t make any goddamn sense.
Did you do this? Was she afraid of you, who had splattered another man’s brain that not stains her dress?
“I know that we don’t always know what really happened, and we do stupid things because we don’t know any better.
Stupid things… is that what you’ve been doing while blindly stumbling for the contents of your head?
Things you don’t know… how long has it been? How long has this girl been living with uncertainty? How long did she believe that everyone was out to get her because you didn’t say anything? Didn’t offer reassurance?
“I couldn’t do anything then like I can now. So many good things happened because we made it this far.”
Patchouli comes to mind, her words before taking you to the room. You’d asked her what it is she saw. “Not the same as you,” she’d said.
No, your actions were clear that night you saw. If you had wanted them dead you would’ve done nothing. Why then?
Why do you still feel so damn guilty!?
“What do you know,” you say, louder this time.
“...I know I owe you a lot. I know what you think you want to know, but it’s already there, isn’t it?”
“I… Patchy said I can’t tell you. I can’t show you. You’ll be like I was. Alone. It wasn’t fun.”
You… are getting tired of all the cryptic bullshit.
“But!” she exclaims as the clinking suddenly renews itself with s vigor, and a light weight crashes against you. Small arms wrap themselves around you. “I can still thank you.”
You… feel warm. It’s slow, but you feel light. Lighter, at least, and the ache in your eyes trickles into nothingness. Unconsciously, your hand lowers itself onto her head of messy hair, but you don’t feel the hair. The cloth. A mob cap.
Your other hand, reciprocating the hug, brushes against something. Stiff, protruding from a hole in her red shirt. A crystal, bright like the others hanging beside it, glints in the candlelight. For the fleetest of moments, you see her. Blonde hair in a side ponytail, red shirt and skirt, the black growths with the crystals (wings, you realize), and her teary-eyed smile, fangs poking out.
“And… we’re sorry about your friend. We were too late to stop him.”
Just before your vision fades, you see him. Devoid of glasses and roughed up, standing at the gallows. That’s all you see before he flashes the biggest smile as the first shot of the night rings out.
What do you wake up to? (Write-In whatever you guys feel would be interesting. Merry Christmas!)