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File 130372426861.png - (529.17KB, 862x600, she_is.png) [iqdb]
6647 No. 6647
—We had strayed the caves for whole millennia.

No, to say that would be a bold overstatement.

One loses notion of time underground – seconds blend into minutes, minutes melt into hours, hours mingle into days. One could say time isn't much unlike a tankard of cheap ale in a wayside tavern – it is lost with neither heed nor notice, only apparent when you set your mind towards the past, to tally sceptically the gone-by numbers. Indeed; deep beneath the light-basked surface of the world, in the snaking bowels of Hell's foyer, time spilled between your fingers as drops of dilute golden brew.

Garion stopped, stooped against the cold, stone wall of the passage, then sighed – only to himself, of course.

He never would have directed such explosion of emotions at another.

He pricked up his ears and listened for the sounds of water seeping from the cracks in the uneven ceiling, measuring an interval at each loud tinkle when they crashed on the treacherous, crooked floor. His mind hovered just this side of restlessness, and the noise of falling droplets made a good substitute—however whole-clothed—for clocking how long he had been wandering the convoluted maze of sunless tunnels. His aching feet screamed Murder! but the screams went by largely ignored.

His feet's opinion had never been a point of much interest to Garion.

He ground his heel on an unoffending rock, then peered ahead, squinting warily.

He'd long drained his little oil-lamp of fuel, but even without its shine he hadn't shied from the dark. He'd stared it down. He'd glared stubbornly till the blackness thinned into grey, grey – into shades of blue, and those – into blurry shapes of sharp-edged stone. Soon enough, the darkness had held no more secrets for him. He'd found it a relief.

The darkness, needless to say, felt contrary. It's a timid thing; it much prefers its secrets uncovered.

That could be why it threw something else than itself at Garion.

An obstacle harder to scare off. A beast of a common kind.

A woman.

She came first a surprise and lasted one until the end. Her arrival stung Garion's ears with an out-of-place, mechanical screech of rusted wheels, then stabbed his eyes with a pale blue light of two incandescent spheres hanging loosely in the air over her shoulders.

Garion winced, shielding his eyes from the painful glow.

“Ah!” the woman made a gasp. So did Garion. He made it as small and quiet as he could, however.

He had seen magic before, obviously. He'd grown watching logic getting bent to ends of reason, bounced off of the borders of impossible, and tossed out the window of probability. He wasn't frightened by the fact that the woman seemed to hold floating orbs of light as pets on a leash. He was startled by how fiercely the orbs made violence on his dark-adjusted sight. He felt a pang of anger at the amount of effort they effectively robbed him of.

“Is little brother OK?” he heard the woman inquire amiably.
“Could little sister tell her orbs to settle down?” he snapped unwittingly. He immediately began cursing himself for it inside. The pang was gone now.
“Ah, yes,” the woman let out, “little brother will excuse little sister.” She gave a soft mutter and the light dimmed. “Now, is little brother all right?” she asked again.

Garion righted himself and turned to the woman with the conditioned blasé look that he always wore in face of others.

She wasn't a woman, he rectified. She was a girl, sixteen at most, small, although generously gifted. Her long, braided her was a riot of red, and it swayed playfully when she tilted her head, studying Garion's face also. Her habit was old-fashioned and green-coloured; a tight, low-cut bodice clung to her rich bosoms like an elastic mould, and she hid her legs behind the veil of a lavishly decorated dress. A pair of cute, tiny black booties peeked out from under plenteous frills like two curious rodents that have heard commotion outside their hideout.

She had fashioned the top of her hair to a cat-ear likeness and was pushing in front of her an old wheelbarrow.
Garion was baffled. He never would grasp the intricacies of underground clothing conventions.

“Can little brother understand little sister?” the woman—pardon, girl—pushed on. “Can little brother hear at all?”
“Little brother can,” Garion responded with a nod. “He can understand as well.”
“Ah, a smart one!” the girl cooed delightedly. “What is little brother doing down here? Little brother doesn't look like he belongs, little sister thinks.”
Garion took a slow breath. He would cut straight to the core of the matter. “I am looking for someone,” he said. “A woman.”
The girl cocked her head once more, then ran her hands along her bodice as though to check something. “Well, little brother found one,” she said then, smiling. “He must possess amazing luck, chancing on one so deep underground.”
He let that pass. “You're not the one,” he said flatly. “I am searching for a very particular woman, and you're not her.”
“A shame,” said the girl. “A real pity, if little sister may say. A woman underground, though? Sheer folly, if she can be blunt. Has little brother gotten lost, by chance? Did he get here by means of the bridge that connects to this place?”
“... Yes,” Garion admitted, “to both, actually. Do you live down here? Are you familiar with these caves?”
“Until now, little sister believed she was. It was her thought that wayward humans were an attribute of the above-world. Is little brother a human?” she asked then. “He smells mysterious, but unlike monsters or spirits—sadly, on that last count, too. And where was he going, all by himself? How did little brother wander into these parts, anyway?”
“... I was—”
“Ah, but little sister forgets her master's lessons!” The girl let go of her barrow, ran in front of it, and curtsied. “Her name is Rin,” she introduced herself, “Kaenbyou Rin, though little brother may call little sister what he wishes. What does little brother say his name is?”

[ ] “Teruo. Teruo Matsuyama,” he replied. He then asked for directions back to the bridge. He had noticed a house as he had crossed it.
[ ] “Spalding Gray,” he said his name was. He was weary from his travels; he sought food and shelter.
[ ] He made himself known as “Skellen, Stefan.” He had no great hopes in coming here. He was lured by a hunch.
Expand all images
>> No. 6648

[x] “Spalding Gray,” he said his name was. He was weary from his travels; he sought food and shelter.
>> No. 6649
[x] “Spalding Gray,” he said his name was. He was weary from his travels; he sought food and shelter.
>> No. 6651
[x] He made himself known as “Skellen, Stefan.” He had no great hopes in coming here. He was lured by a hunch.

Being looking forward to this
>> No. 6653
[x] “Teruo. Teruo Matsuyama,” he replied. He then asked for directions back to the bridge. He had noticed a house as he had crossed it.
>> No. 6654
[x] He made himself known as “Skellen, Stefan.” He had no great hopes in coming here. He was lured by a hunch.

Where is Tenshi? I need some Tenshi.

Yaf, you said there would be Tenshi.
>> No. 6655
>An obstacle harder to scare off. A beast of a common kind.
>A woman.
I lol'd.

[x] He made himself known as “Skellen, Stefan.” He had no great hopes in coming here. He was lured by a hunch.
S.S.? Well, I don't really like that, but the despairing vote works for me.
>> No. 6658
Little did they know that the real of title of the thread was "Tenshi is in this story, as an extra"
In hindsight, the fact that it said 'Thread un' instead of 'Thread uno' should've been a hint

>> No. 6659
File 130373851772.jpg - (930.28KB, 849x1201, Satori291.jpg) [iqdb]
It is a bit cruel to Tenshi fans, isn't it? (ARE there any Tenshi fans?)
>> No. 6660
File 130373852033.jpg - (8.17KB, 150x150, m_night_shyamalan-150x150.jpg) [iqdb]
[x] “Teruo. Teruo Matsuyama,” he replied. He then asked for directions back to the bridge. He had noticed a house as he had crossed it.

This is like 'Norseman in Gensokyo' meets 'Memoria in discord', written by U.N. Owen (Before -EDITED- ruined his prose) and directed by M Night Shyamalan
>> No. 6661
[x] “Teruo. Teruo Matsuyama,” he replied. He then asked for directions back to the bridge. He had noticed a house as he had crossed it.
>> No. 6665
[x] “Spalding Gray,” he said his name was. He was weary from his travels; he sought food and shelter.
>> No. 6666
File 130375230269.jpg - (280.57KB, 1280x960, Pizza eating surrending carpaccio.jpg) [iqdb]
>thread uno
Is YAF italian now?
>> No. 6686
[ ] He made himself known as “Skellen, Stefan.” He had no great hopes in coming here. He was lured by a hunch.
>> No. 6687
[x] “Teruo. Teruo Matsuyama,” he replied. He then asked for directions back to the bridge. He had noticed a house as he had crossed it.
>> No. 6693
[X] He made himself known as “Skellen, Stefan.” He had no great hopes in coming here. He was lured by a hunch.

We can't possibly go wrong with a guy whose initials spell S.S..
>> No. 6694
[X] He made himself known as “Skellen, Stefan.” He had no great hopes in coming here. He was lured by a hunch.

We can't possibly go wrong with a guy whose initials spell S.S..

Now if we could get a W in there as a nickname or something...
>> No. 6705
[X] He made himself known as “Skellen, Stefan.” He had no great hopes in coming here. He was lured by a hunch.
>> No. 6707
[X] “Spalding Gray,” he said his name was. He was weary from his travels; he sought food and shelter.

Let's be a story.
>> No. 6723
File 130412262415.jpg - (216.76KB, 800x1119, 2f2635913c8969d5c4f9bfe6f0bb3792.jpg) [iqdb]
[X] He made himself known as “Skellen, Stefan.” He had no great hopes in coming here. He was lured by a hunch.

Some might conceive an impression that something was amiss in the scene.

Garion, however, did not. He stored the name in a vacant nook of his memory and introduced himself also. “Skellen,” he said simply, “Stefan.”
He'd never had much flair for pleasantry.
“A foreign name.” The girl curled her lip in a mild grimace. “It was little sister's fear that he would try and make her knot her tongue.”
“I didn't choose it,” he told her truthfully. “And nobody considered vital to ask my sentiment.”
“Does little brother despise his name?”
“He got used to it after a time.”
“Would he then be vastly offended if little sister used the form of address she has up to this point?”
“If it humours you,” he said. “He probably wouldn't, no.”
The girl seemed happy at that. “Wonderful,” she made an almost purring sound. She perched on the edge of her tottering barrow and studied Garion with overt interest. She scanned him attentively from head to toe, pausing for a longer moment at the braces dangling laxly from from his rucksack. She then shook her head and returned her stare to Garion's face. “Did little brother hope,” she spoke anew, “to find the woman that he sought here in the under-world?”

Garion breathed in, picking his next words.“... A mere hunch led me here,” he answered honestly. “I had a few hopes of finding anything—much less anyone—this deep underground.”
He saw no profit in fabricating his reasons; he might as well see how far they took him.
“And yet,” said the girl, “he's found little sister.”
“A shock.”
“The conviction is mutual,” she replied graciously. “Old Hell had little sister thinking she would never make any more discoveries in its halls. And here is little brother.” She glanced briefly to the pendent straps, then jiggled her maroon locks again. “Anyway, he appears a whit alarmed,” she said. “Was there anything about little sister that caused him bother? He looks a shade bothered, if little sister may say.”

Garion made a mental note to look slightly less bothered in the future.

“No such thing,” he assured. “I merely wondered.”
“What about? Mayhap little sister might know.”
“Old Hell,” he repeated the ominous name. “Is that what they call this place?”
“A term from a time agone,” the girl explained. “Little sister's master read of it in a book once. It has changed since, lost most its charms... but little sister feels she should tell of it no further.”
“And why not?”
“It may be old and quenched, but it still flares when slighted. On many an occasion would little sister blunder an offending view only to hear cracking and grinding of stone below her feet. It realises its timeless beauty is gone, but it loathes being told.” She pondered the statement for a second. “A lot like a woman.” She grinned at Garion impishly. “Come to think of it, little brother may have come to the right place after all.”
“... He scarce appreciates being made fun of, little sister.”
“Then they have a lot in common. But that gives little sister an idea.” She rose. “Will little brother walk with her?”
“Where to?”
“Little brother said he had no destination, did he not? An exact goal should matter little to him, so little sister understands. There is a place that she thought might arouse his spirit,” she revealed. “He might also confide to her more about the woman that he so desires along the way, so that she might help him seek her out.”
“I did not ask for your aid.”
“And little sister did not need be asked,” she said pleasantly. “She is a cat, and cats are naturally inquisitive creatures.” She went to her barrow and began jostling it in the direction Garion had come from. “Her hunt was fruitless today. She is satisfied to have found another amusement.” She stopped and half-turned. “Will little brother follow?”

Garion considered the possibilities.

He could, on one hand, consent to what the strange girl had contrived for him and see to her selfish suggestion. He could, also, brave deeper into the caves from whence she turned up, unearth even greater dangers and revelations. An ordinary man may feel conflicted, but Garion's wit was brighter than flames and sharper than a sword. He'd sliced through countless dilemmas before, and he'd burned through more plights than he cared to count; he hardly required an intervention of powers that be to make this trivial decision in his stead. He'd already made it the moment it had presented itself.

He took off forward, into the darkness.

“Ah, why, little brother is so nice.”

That was a lie.

He joined at the girl's side and gave her a uniform look, indifferent to her jaunty air.

“... A chance is a chance,” he said.
“A chance of what?” she asked playfully.
“Human beings are attracted by noise,” he taught, “and you are, as I see it, adept at producing it in large quantities. If she who I seek has has by chance wandered down here also, it is more likely that I might find her in your company. Is that acceptable?”
“If it humours little brother,” she told him and started again.

Garion briskened.

The girl moved quickly, and she had a light skip in her step. She wasn't wary of the wails of her barrow, nor did she slow when it bounced on a bump or a hole. Although it seemed old and rickety, appearances mattered very little to its joyful owner. She strode heedlessly through the same corridor that Garion had stepped carefully through minutes earlier, and took a turn he had dismissed as he had thought it bore bad promise. He swallowed the mistake so smoothly his mind barely registered its existence. He was good at that.

“Well?” the girl spoke up “Will little brother tell little sister about his woman?”
“Ask, and I may tell.”
She made a tiny face. “Little brother isn't the most talkative human she has met.”
“Do you meet humans often?”
“No,” she said. “Little sister has grown to prefer the presence of spirits to that of humans.” She looked at him shortly. “A change of pace every now and again, however, does add spice to one's life – would little brother not say?”
“Who knows?”
“Let him answer, then. What is that woman he craves to find?”
“She is...” Garion made a pause. “... She is dear to me.”
“Is she his family?”
“Not at all.”
“A lover, in that case?”
“... I wouldn't go so far.”

They took another turn.

The girl pressed on. “Why is she dear to him, then?”
Garion allowed himself a minute smile. “She changed my life, is why.”

He rarely spoke words as kind as those.

“Ah, so he does love her?”
“So he hates her?”
“Does it have to be either the one or the other?”
“A woman might see it that way.”

And another turn.

Garion was startled to feel a touch of breeze on his face.

“I wasn't aware I'd strayed this close to the surface,” he commented out loud.
“Because little brother hadn't,” said the girl. “It is the warmth of Old Hell mingling with the cold of the tunnels. The difference makes a current between here and where little sister and little brother are going.”
“And where is that?”
“Little brother does his best to look steady,” she said impishly, “but he is strung quite high in truth, is he not?” She looked at him, but his expression was straight. “Ah,” she breathed out, “he is not fun all of a sudden. Little sister is struck with grief.”

Garion did not answer, and they walked in silence for a while. The breeze grew stronger as they went, and roared in Garion's ears as they reached an opening of an enormous cavern.

The girl ran ahead and stopped in the mid of the natural balcony that projected from its wall. “Here is that which little sister meant to show,” she announced. “Inspiring, no?”

Garion walked onto the balcony at a loss of words.

In all his readiness, he had never once thought he might one day behold such wonder as this cavern. It spanned to the sides as an endless field, its edges lost to pervasive darkness. Perhaps two dozen houses could fit within its vast height, and colossal pillars ran from ceiling to floor, coated in layers of rust-coloured tarnish and spotted with growths of glowing fungi. A dark mist stalked the bottom of the cavern, many, many a metres below.
Somewhere beyond that miraculous edifice, shrouded by the giant columns of stone, loomed a distant glow of orange.

It was that glow that was the source of the wind.

“Little brother may now begin looking,” the girl said then.
Garion tore his eyes from the wondrous sight. “... What did you say?”
“A woman may hide behind each of those,” she waved her hand at the pillars. “Little brother may wish to make haste, so that little sister might take him to her home before supper-time.”
He stared at her stolidly. “... I told you, I do not take kindly to—” He trailed off. Her face was intently serious, and her eyes shone with the glint of a duty well-done. Garion reeled back what he had intended to say and revised: “I don't recall that I agreed to go to your home.”
The girl wasn't daunted. “Ah, but little sister was of the thought that it would go without saying.”

As would any well-enough-mannered person.

“I am not a foundling or a stray animal for you to take home as you please,” Garion said bluntly. “I refuse to—” He fell quiet again. He grasped at last he had been attacking the least important aspect of the benevolent offer. “... And where is your home, little sister?” he asked.
The girl shot a finger in the direction of the faint glow. “There,” she said, “little sister lives with her master in the mansion over the lake.”
“A lake.”
“... And a house? Underground?”
“Is that so odd?”
“... I've seen odder,” Garion gave in.
“If little brother doesn't find the woman he seeks down below,” the girl continued, “little sister's master might know what he might do next. That was little sister's full thought. If little brother so wishes, she can watch over him from above as he flies to the bottom. Little sister wants to see the woman, too.”

[ ] Garion had had it. He demanded that the girl guided him at least back to where they had met.
[ ] “... And if I rather she looked with me, would she find that agreeable?” he asked. He wondered whether there was an alternative way down. He wasn't very comfortable with flight, and he trusted his legs still.
[ ] He chose to be direct. “I don't imagine that the woman could be down there,” he said. He also couldn't fly.
>> No. 6724
[X] "... And if I rather she looked with me, would she find that agreeable?" he asked. He wondered whether there was an alternative way down. He wasn't very comfortable with flight, and he trusted his legs still.

>>"She changed my life, is why."

That's so sweet. Are you actually writing a lighthearted story YAF? I almost can't believe it. Oh, and this Rin rocks.
>> No. 6725
File 130413023823.jpg - (350.70KB, 500x708, f86e18eb7131f353ea406d188bc9a379.jpg) [iqdb]
[x] He chose to be direct. “I don't imagine that the woman could be down there,” he said. He also couldn't fly.
Experimenting with genres and styles? I can dig this.
>> No. 6726
[x] “... And if I rather she looked with me, would she find that agreeable?” he asked. He wondered whether there was an alternative way down. He wasn't very comfortable with flight, and he trusted his legs still.
>> No. 6727
[X] "... And if I rather she looked with me, would she find that agreeable?" he asked. He wondered whether there was an alternative way down. He wasn't very comfortable with flight, and he trusted his legs still.
>> No. 6728
File 13041571304.jpg - (82.01KB, 657x600, 429ca96236d82c326b68df4d3625e084.jpg) [iqdb]
[x] “... And if I rather she looked with me, would she find that agreeable?” he asked. He wondered whether there was an alternative way down. He wasn't very comfortable with flight, and he trusted his legs still.
>> No. 6729
[x] He chose to be direct. “I don't imagine that the woman could be down there,” he said. He also couldn't fly.
>> No. 6730
>Tenshi is in this story
Dohoho! Oh you!
>> No. 6731
[x] “... And if I rather she looked with me, would she find that agreeable?” he asked. He wondered whether there was an alternative way down. He wasn't very comfortable with flight, and he trusted his legs still.

Good show.
>> No. 6732
[ ] He chose to be direct. “I don't imagine that the woman could be down there,” he said. He also couldn't fly.
>> No. 6734
File 130472186896.jpg - (501.99KB, 660x880, 86acbd5618b8f05ae95bb27527a86891.jpg) [iqdb]
[X] “... And if I rather she looked with me, would she find that agreeable?” he asked. He wondered whether there was an alternative way down. He wasn't very comfortable with flight, and he trusted his legs still.

By a quirk of mind, Garion did not repulse the meddlesome girl straightaway.

He always—habitually almost—turned down all that posited an intrusive hand in his affairs. An offer of magnanimous assistance made his stomach turn and his brows knit in distrust. He deemed himself above such mean passions as “charity” and “clemency,” and he expected of others the same pragmatic self-interest. He was, one should remark, as often wrong in that assumption as he was fixed in it. But that was his upbringing. And he was a very practically brought-up young man.

“... And if I rather she looked with me,” he asked, “would she find that agreeable?”

Quick, too.

The girl had revealed her cause as selfish, and that swayed him to assent, but he had caught wind of a great possibility, and he had set to seize it. One could argue, of course, that it was the breath of the caves that he had caught and no wind at all, but he never would have listen. Garion could be unfittingly stubborn at times. It was one of his few lapses.

And if one was to be fair, more than impair, it became him.

The girl flicked the cat-ears at him in a puzzled fashion. Garion dismissed it as bad lighting. “And why, if little sister may know?” she returned. “Little brother did not strike her as terribly gregarious. She had imagined he would appreciate a moment free of her, ah, noisiness?”
“Did I offend you, little sister?”
She smiled at him, a deriding little smile. “Little brother is cute in assuming little sister cares for his judgement so much she would nurture a grudge, but he would exhaust himself inventing insults and he would find her plans for him haven't changed drastically. She thinks it is his fault for piquing her curiosity.”
“Then you will take me to your master even if I object?”

“Should there be reason to still,” she said, “she will.”
Garion sensed his rebelliousness well up, and he bridled it before it overflowed. “I felt,” he said then, “that there wouldn't be much choice left for me once I took you up, little sister.” He was lying, but unbeknownst to him, the lie was not far from the truth. “Anyway,” he continued, “you have piqued my curiosity also.” That, too, was a lie truer than he would have cared to admit. “And my desire to hear more about this place,” he added. “So, I ask of you again: will you look with me so that we may talk?”

“Truly?” The girl eyed him apprehensively. Then she brightened. “Little sister will then gladly tell him all that she knows,” she said. “She prefers, though, that he shows his interest less tentatively in the future. He is humble with words and gestures, and that confuses little sister immensely. She believed for a moment that he scorned her.”
“No such thing,” he said. “I simply learned to conceal my emotions so I would not be led a chase as easily by any old scoundrel.” That, in turn, he fancied a truth. One could tell, however, quite instantly, that it was a lie. “But little sister is better than a mere scoundrel. She managed to convince me, and that is something to be take pride in.”
“Why,” she said and bobbed her heels together, “she thanks little brother for his overweening kindness. But they tarry.” She bounded off the rock floor and hovered with her barrow perhaps a metre above it, staring at Garion expectantly all the while. “Is little brother ready to descend? Little sister will light his way, if he so wishes.”

Garion made a pause. “That won't be necessary,” he said. “But if little sister would listen, I had another question.”
“And what would that be?”
He pondered affecting a dismayed face, but nimbly forgot the notion. “The place of humans is on the ground,” he said. “Is there an alternative path to the bottom? A grade passage, or a shaft that I could perhaps climb down? Anything would do, as long as ”
The girl tapped back down again beside him. “And why won't little brother just fly?”
“We are not accustomed to taking our feet off the ground for too long.”
“Most humans that little sister has met had no qualms with flying.”
“They must have been remarkable humans then,” he told her. “Most humans lack such a privilege.”
“And little brother?”
“He has said already what his preference is.”
She circled about him, visibly uncomfortable with the new idea. “Ah well,” she sighed, “it is little brother's loss. There is a passage thereabouts,” she pointed, “and it snakes down in a big spiral, so the slope is gentle. It is an easeful walk, but a long one. Is little brother certain that he wants to take it? The woman might run off in the meantime, little sister worries.”

She sounded, amusingly, rather genuinely concerned.

Garion nodded. “Yes. I trust my legs. We will make good time.”
“If that is the way little brother would have it.”

She set off back into the spider-web of caves they had just exited, and Garion was constrained once more to spur his strength to keep pace.

The girl took into an unfamiliar corridor and braved on forward, Garion trailing behind. The passage was narrow, so that a group of people would have to file in a line to get through. Here, too, the gust of the wind was clearly tangible.

The girl craned her neck and spoke. “Little brother has yet to tell little sister what his woman looks like,” she said.

She seemed oblivious of the dangers ahead, of overhanging edges, treacherous swerves and lurking chuck-holes, either so acquainted with the tunnels that she had no need of watching her course, or too absorbed in her prying enquiries that she cared not for pain nor injury. Garion did not ruminate on the matter. All he knew was that albeit he might recoil from the fact, they were moving swifter together than he would have on his own.

“So then?” the girl urged. “What is she like? Is little brother going to tell?”
Garion regarded her blandly. “And why would little sister suppose that necessary?” he asked.

She grinned at him as if he was the silliest thing in the world.

“Why,” she said, “it is so that if little sister finds a woman in the cavern, she knows that it is the one that little brother wants.”

Garion decided not to think about that.

“... I cannot tell,” he said.
“I was but a stripling when she last came to me,” he explained. “I have grown since then, changed. And she might have, too. Gotten older. Wrinkled. Grown forgetful. As have I. She might not be as graceful as I recall her. And even if she once was, she may not any more.”

Garion meant no insult, naturally.

And nevertheless, though one might feel warranted to take offence all the same, one had to remember Garion was also uncharacteristically candid when it bore no cost for him, and he foresaw no harm in sharing this part of his secret history with the mischievous barrow-lady. He could, undeniably, let her pester him on with ceaseless queryings, or he could indulge her girlish attentions – and of the two directions, he favoured to take the one from whence he could steer the conversation to his liking.

It was his choice excitement, though he had not many of those. He adored being in control. He had devised ways of twisting a discourse to his requirements that made one blanch at the sheer impertinence.

“But I will recognise her,” he went on, “when I hear her voice and see her face, I am sure. So, if little sister finds a woman, and the woman does not bolt, little sister should call for me so that I may ascertain whether it is her or not.”
“Ah,” the girl nodded, “that stands to reason, little sister agrees.”
“I am glad that you see it my way.”

※ ※ ※
>> No. 6735
I'm liking this character.
>> No. 6736
Tenshi graceful?
>> No. 6738
Very nice, please write more. This is an enjoyable read.

Words can barely express how hard I HHNNNGGGG'd.
>> No. 6740
File 130488998719.jpg - (145.11KB, 500x680, bloody_typos.jpg) [iqdb]
※ ※ ※

They emerged at the foot of the cavern some minutes of animated gait after.

Garion peered up the enormous trunks of the soaring pillars, their far-off peaks fading in the dark aloft, and quelled deftly the trite, mortal compulsion to hold his own size slighted by their towering forms. A thick film of haze swathed around him and he chilled shrilly, drawing his arms about him. Troughs and crevices marked the uneven floor, and water had gathered in them, having dripped from above and streamed down the fissured bodies of the stone columns.

Garion trod slowly, chary of the hazards. The girl overtook him, untroubled, her barrow bouncing up and down in great clatter. Garion stopped.

The girl halted also, though for motives of her own. She spun around and beamed. “And thus they are here,” she announced. “Little brother and little sister may now begin their search for the elusive woman.” She lifted a thumb to her lips in momentary contemplation. “And they should perhaps split sides so that they cover more ground,” she said next. “Little brother will take the left, little sister thinks, as she takes the right. They will then both search thoroughly whilst they proceed toward her master's home, there,” she gestured once more to the vague glow. “And should he and she get separated—which she hopes they do not—they should meet again at its doorstep. What does little brother say?” she asked, satisfied with her own cleverness. “Would he say little sister is of the right idea?”
“Yes,” Garion assented. His plan had been roughly the same as hers, save for some few insignificant details, and he saw little hurt in forfeiting those. “And remember,” he cautioned, “should little sister chance on a woman—any woman at all—she should call me at once.”
“She will.”

The girl smiled at him shortly, then skipped off ahead.

Garion made some pretence of looking for vagrant females crouching behind the stems of the pillars and under the chips of rock strewn about the cracked floor even as he listened to the red-haired girl making her own rounds. She would push her barrow a few yards at a time, disengage from it, loop around the pillars on her side a time or two, then come back again and begin the process anew. Her tiny booties echoed quite clearly in the cold, damp air, and Garion surmised—with unintended comfort—that while the girl was deeply absorbed in the mission of searching for his woman, nevertheless she would be easy enough to trail, should she wander off and forget Garion completely.

They searched for perhaps a quarter of an hour before Garion spoke again.

“... Little sister?” he called. There was no answer, though the the girl's steps rang loudly still. “... Rin?” he made another attempt. He flinched at the bitter taste of a never-before-used name in his mouth. Rin. He called again to rid of it. “Hello? Rin!”
The steps broke off, and an absent reply reached Garion's ears. “Little brother?”
“I wondered!” he shouted back before he realised he did not need to raise his voice. “A thought occurred to me,” he resumed normally, “that I never asked about little sister's master.”
“Ah.” Rin's reply was as understanding as it was attentive.
“Could you maybe tell me something about her?” he suggested. “A full story of her life is likely too prying, but a brief outline so that I may avoid upsetting her when we speak should be in order.”
“Ah yes,” the girl brought her wits to bear at last. “Yes, little brother speaks sense. What does he want to know, exactly?”
Garion feigned consideration. “For one,” he said, “why she lives underground, and what she is. From what little sister has told me so far, I assume her master is not human.”
“She is not.”
“And why underground?”
“A secret little brother will have to find out by himself, little sister is afraid,” she said. “She doesn't think her master would be pleased that she speaks of her and her past behind her back.”
“Such is little sister's master.” She giggled and restarted her scouring of the cavern. Garion drew closer, but not as close that she could tell he was merely pretending to inspect his surroundings for his illusive woman. “As it were,” she continued, “little sister can tell that her master lives here with her sister and her pets, and that she already has for some years. She generally skirts visitors, but she will make an exception for little brother, little sister promises.”
“And you are so sure, why?”
“Little brother had a purpose in coming here,” she explained. “Little sister's master abhors when people bother her without a cause that might concern her, but little brother has a perfect excuse for visiting.”
“... That you invited me?” he asked. He'd deliberately hedged against the phrase “dragged along.”
“And that he is looking for someone that might be here,” confirmed Rin, “and she is the proper person to ask for aid.”
Garion stifled an urge to remind her once again that he required no aid. “And what happens to those that come here without a good excuse?” he asked instead.
“Nothing,” she told him. “They leave, and she becomes irritated at them, but that is about all that she does.”
“And what of the sister?” Garion changed the topic. “Does she also favour solicitude?”
“The master's little sister? She bides her days in the above-world, so little sister understands, she rarely sees her at home. But little sister spends a lot of her time in the caves and Old Hell herself, so she may know no better. Again, this little brother will have to learn on his own, should he find himself unfulfilled with little sister's master alone.”

Garion ignored that. “Right. And the pets?”
“Ah,” the girl made a happy sound, “that would be little sister and her friends, little sister is proud to say.”
“I see,” said Garion. He could appreciate the merit of keeping one's kin as pets. He could be disgustingly scruple-less when the subject was the personal freedom of persons other than himself. “So, ought I perhaps prepare for meeting your master in any manner? Compose a pleading speech, or an apology for invading her realm?”
Rin chuckled. “Little brother frets too much,” she told him merrily.
“And what if she finds my purpose not sufficient to justify disturbing her peace? I had better consider such a turn of events beforehand if I am to make a benign impression.”
“Does little brother always prepare for dealings with others?”
“When it is with women, yes.”
“Ah, that is sound thinking,” she granted. “But little sister's master is no ordinary woman, little sister should mention. She does not roar, and she does not hurl heavy objects.”
“Surely she must at least read romantic poetry.”
“No,” she said, still tittering. “She believes it, ah, ‘ostentatious,’ that was the word that she used. A mystery. Little sister adores a good poem. The rhymes put her thoughts at ease and make her warm inside. A sweet way to fall asleep after a tiring evening. So, as little brother sees,” she went on, “little sister's master is a very unique woman. He would hunt and hunt, and he would not catch one such as her in the above-world.”
“No,” he said, “probably not.”

“Little sister may envy little brother just a bit,” she confessed then.
“Why is that?” he asked without much heed.
“It must be all new to him,” she said. “Little sister knows Old Hell—depths and outskirts alike—almost by her heart. It bores her, if she may be so bold to say. Others dwell around here, she is aware, and they are kind, and the spirits also, but little sister wishes sometimes that something would change. The above-world is not as stale, and little sister is allowed to go out to enjoy it, but she is afraid that she wounds her master by doing so.”

Rin's resounding steps came to a stop once more, and she stood some distance away from Garion, looking out toward the light. “... Perhaps little brother will find that out also,” she said, “if he cares for all women as he does for the one in his heart.” She turned and smiled at him. “And as little sister mentions that, shouldn't little brother be looking? He will miss the woman if he continues to stand around and let his mind cruise as his curiosity leads it.”

Garion stared at her impassively. “Perhaps,” he said. “Perhaps I will.”

※ ※ ※
>> No. 6742
File 130490122517.jpg - (228.94KB, 480x640, 29620d3776c6b8945a742c4edb1e33dcb.jpg) [iqdb]
※ ※ ※

As they went, the ancient stone trunks thinned and spread, and the air grew warmer, and soon, Garion beheld at last the source of the mystic glow.

An even greater chamber unfolded before him, miles in diameter, taller than the tremendous columns, and deeper than he had dared conceive. A stupendous drop marked its brim, and at the very end of it a sea of pure molten rock mingled and hissed, lighting the chamber almost as bright as day. A lone platform loomed not far from the edge, held up by a thick shaft of aged, crimson rock, and a bridge made of stonework connected the island to the cliff where Garion now stood, awed and—despite his dearest efforts—cowed by the sheer scale of the fantastic structure.

A house sat awkwardly upon the platform, as though it had long ago been swallowed by the earth and rested there since, but its walls showed no sign of disrepair. It was high and wide, and its front gaped with dozens of windows, out of which only one was lit.

“Welcome,” hailed Rin, “to the Palace of the Earth Spirits.”
Garion looked at her with his brows furrowed. “Your appearances mislead, little sister.”
“Ah, that they do, do they not?” She grinned. “And is little brother so amazed that he is ready to forgive her poor handling of the search? The woman must have slipped little sister's watch, and little sister is most ashamed.” She had not an ounce of ashamed air about her in the least. “In her defence, little brother occupied her with conversation, so her senses were dulled.”
Garion calmed himself. They had not found a soul, of course, but he had never expected that they would. “... Indeed,” he said then. “All my fault. Do not let it drive sleep from your eyes.”
She winked at him impishly. “Little sister would not do that anyway. Let little brother come,” she urged as she started across the bridge, “little sister will show him inside.”

Garion followed.

They crossed the bridge and slipped past the twisted, iron wicket in the fence that bordered the mansion's spacious garden. Stump trees and brush grew there, and vines coiled around their branches, and dark-red flowers spotted the neatly-maintained lawn. Garion forwent the study of the unnatural phenomenon and merely took the sight in as he would in the surface world. He disregarded it totally.

The girl let her barrow rest at the porch and went into the house, ushering Garion to come also.

“Little brother should wait here,” she told him as she took off her tiny shoes. “Little sister will inform her master of little brother's arrival.”

And then she dashed off down a hallway, leaving no room for protest.

Garion surveyed idly the commodious lobby.

The walls were lined with wood, and they were painted balmy colours that made one instantly feel at home. Carpets lay unfurled on the floors, and the carpets were fashioned in intricate designs, not abstract, but not quite regular, either. The lobby branched in two directions, one where Rin had gone, and one going opposite, its end lost on Garion's eyes. A set of doors marked both, though no noise was to be heard behind none of them, an eerie silence compared to the booming echoes of the caves.

Something touched Garion's leg, and he glanced down to find a litter of kittens swarming about his feet. They rubbed against his calves and purred up at him, demanding affection. Garion remained still. The kittens grew tired of his indifference before long and vanished in the darkened hall, their disappointed wails sounding time and time again until those dispersed as well.

Garion steeled himself when he heard voices engaged in a hasty exchange.

“He is waiting for master,” Rin said busily, “and he cannot wait any longer.”
Another voice responded in a hushed, slightly agitated manner. “Rin,” it said, “I don't know that it's necessary that I greet him in person.”
“On the contrary. He came to see master, and master will not shame Rin by turning him down.”
“I still don't think this is a good idea.”
“Master will see. He is just in the hallway here.”
“Rin, I'm not very keen on meeting him now. Could you—”
“No, master must see him immediately.”
They were close now.
“Rin, I'm not dressed—” the other girl struggled.
Rin, however, was relentless. “Master is as well dressed as she can be,” she said. “Master will see. He is right here.”

And then, they appeared.

The “master” stumbled out from around the corner, nudged from behind by her red-haired companion.

“Here he is,” said Rin, contented.

Her master straightened and locked eyes with Garion. She wiped the annoyance from her delicate, pale face and scanned him with phlegm and coldness that only he could match.

And match it he did. They looked coolly at each other, all trace of interest gone from their stares.

She was older than Rin, although not by much, and she carried herself with calculated dignity. She wore a faded blue smock that had a falling, white collar, and was trimmed with copious amounts of lace. The buttons had been crafted to resemble hearts, and she also wore a heart-shaped brooch in her oddly-coloured hair. A plain, pink dress hid her legs all the way to her bare feet.

She held in her hands a blood-red orb, and long, thin cables ran from her clothes to the orb, enclosing her frame in a peculiar net of wires. An eye glared from the orb at Garion, and its gaze spelled reserve and suspicion. The girl narrowed her violet eyes also, although her wan skin and pastel lips robbed her of any authority that she might have wished to cast on her guest.

She was, nevertheless, quite beautiful.

“Why, thank you.”

Unkempt, but beautiful.

She looked at Garion darkly and turned to Rin. “So?” she asked. “What is this about? I don't recall wanting a blond rug for the house.”
Rin laid her cat-ears, startled by that harsh reaction. Garion once again dismissed it as unimportant and light playing tricks. “But master,” she whined, “he is—”
“I've told you not to bring strays home, haven't I?”
“But he is not a stray!”
“No?” The master looked at Garion again. “Then what is he?”
“His name is—” Rin began.
“Let him do his own introductions, Rin. Tell me, little brother,” the ashen girl spoke to Garion. “What is your name? And what are you doing in the underworld? And please, don't be long; you interrupt my reading.”

Garion breathed in to introduce himself, as one always should when greeting a stranger.

She scowled at him crossly, but listened all the same.

[ ] “Auric Goldfinger,” he said. He had come here obliged by Rin's request.
[ ] “Sam Syko,” he told her. He did not want to come here. He wished merely to ask her a couple of questions and then he would carry on on his journey.
[ ] “Santuko Takumi.” He had heard that she was knowledgeable of the underworld and sought her counsel.
[ ] He would not be treated in so bad manner. He reprimanded the brusque young woman and left the house in haste.
>> No. 6743
[x] “Sam Syko,” he told her. He did not want to come here. He wished merely to ask her a couple of questions and then he would carry on on his journey.
>> No. 6744
[x] “Santuko Takumi.” He had heard that she was knowledgeable of the underworld and sought her counsel.
A half-lie, maybe, but he seems to be keen on these.
>> No. 6745
File 130494901792.jpg - (484.65KB, 800x1119, Satori202.jpg) [iqdb]
[x] “Santuko Takumi.” He had heard that she was knowledgeable of the underworld and sought her counsel.

Have a substitution image.
>> No. 6746
[x] “Santuko Takumi.” He had heard that she was knowledgeable of the underworld and sought her counsel.
>> No. 6749
[x] “Sam Syko,” he told her. He did not want to come here. He wished merely to ask her a couple of questions and then he would carry on on his journey.
>> No. 6760
[x] “Santuko Takumi.” He had heard that she was knowledgeable of the underworld and sought her counsel.
>> No. 6771
[x] “Santuko Takumi.” He had heard that she was knowledgeable of the underworld and sought her counsel.

These names are all different from the ones we chose from when meeting Rin. Is that significant, or is the action selected the only important part?
>> No. 6792
File 130539945931.jpg - (221.24KB, 1024x1024, 0fa3b519f225d75b07796a055585ceca.jpg) [iqdb]
[X] “Santuko Takumi.” He had heard that she was knowledgeable of the underworld and sought her counsel.

“Santuko,” Garion humoured her, “Santuko Takumi is what they call me.”
Rin's ears shot up, and she thrust herself past her master and at Garion, her hands nestled upon her heart that he had wronged by this latest revelation. “But little brother told me!” she yelped. “Little brother told me! He said they called him—!”
He silenced her with a gesture. “A precaution,” he said starkly. “A name is powerful knowledge, little sister. It is the door and the key to your inmost self. There is no saying what one might do should he or she learn of yours.”
One might feel compelled to agree.
“Ah.” The red-haired girl seemed to understand. She calmed and loosened her brittle arms. “That does sound sensible.”
“I rather thought it did.”
“And wise.” She gave him a light smile. “Little brother also misleads in his appearances, does he not?”
He nodded seriously. “I have grown to lay on a subtle subterfuge, yes. Once you have abode in the surface world for a time, you will have inevitably adjusted to do also.”

“All right.” The plain-dressed one disrupted their talk. “Enough of your sermonising. I don't appreciate being lied to, Garion.” She pushed Rin aside and bore down inimically at Garion, her crimson orb eyeing him all the while. She stood perhaps a pace from him and glowered as well. “Am I wrong?” she asked. “Isn't that your real name?”
“No.” He elected to tell the truth for a change. “It is not.”
She blenched at that, although only ever so slightly. “... Is that so?”
“So it is,” he said plainly. “Though you may address me that way if you so must.”
“Well.” She pulled back and returned his flat manner. “It hardly matters to me one way or the other. And pray tell, Santuko ‘Garion’ Takumi, why did you go to the effort of venturing here, into the underworld, so far from home?”
“I am looking for a woman,” he said.
“I'm not interested,” she replied instantly.
“You misconceived,” he explained. “You are not the one I want.”
“Ah, is that so?” She scowled. A tiny offended note rang in her voice. “... Is that so?” she said again, grimmer. “Are you absolutely sure of that?”
“No. Not quite. You did not recognise me. And I do not recognise you. But you appear to know my name—or one of them, at least.” He paused. “I wonder...”
“Never mind,” she told him sharply. “I'm not very keen on what your wondering may lead to. So? Why are you here? Other than searching for females, that is?”

Garion adopted a more official tone. “I have heard of you,” he said.
“Obviously. You wouldn't have known where to find me otherwise.”
He brushed the shrewish comment aside and continued. “I have heard also that you are knowledgeable of the underworld. I imagined your knowledge might aid my search, and so I sought your counsel.”
“And why should I indulge you?” she asked. “From my experience, messing with the affairs of you people only ends in trouble for me. I am down here for a very good reason, you do realise?”
“I surmised as much.”
“Of course you did. And still you believed that I would forget about it and help you all the same? Out of what? Compassion? Good heart?”

Rin moaned. “Master...”
“Quiet, Rin,” the woman snapped. “You brought him here, but he says he wants my help. That makes him my guest. And I will deal with my guests at my own discretion. Understood? Well, then?” she said to Garion. “What could I possibly gain by giving you a hand?”
“Nothing,” she repeated. “Very tempting.”
“But you also have nothing to lose,” he said. “We think alike. Philanthropy does not appear of great concern to you. I concur. It is a safe and healthy philosophy indeed. I respect that.”
“Flattery won't work.”
“Flattery?” He fabricated a brief grimace of surprise. “No such thing. Let me disclose this to you, miss hermit.” He leaned forward to level his gaze with hers, cool and composed. “I have no interest in you. Neither do I have in your pets or your reasons to be down here. You are of so much moment to me as a drop in a sea or a straw in a wheat field. I have not the smallest speck of interest in giving you trouble. What I want is to find that woman. I know not what kind of encounters you have had with other aboveworlders to warrant this undisguised hostility, but I assure you I am not as them. My cause is well-defined and harmless to you, and you may aid it greatly at no expense. All that I ask of you is that you tell me of a few things. Then I shall go on my own way and disturb you no more. Or you may decide not to. Either way, you lose nothing.”

She lowered at him still, but as moments passed, her expression became gradually less warlike, softer even, and a kind of decision seemed to slowly form behind her eyes. That change persisted until a decided look washed over her pale features, and she gave her consent.
“Not yet,” she said. “I haven't consented to anything yet.”
“I did not say anything,” said Garion.
“No,” she agreed. “As a matter of fact, you didn't. Fine. I'll consider your plea.”
“I thank you, then.”
“Don't be too soon,” she warned. “I said I'd consider, but my last word will depend a lot on the kind of your questions. And my mood.”

Garion stood upright again. She would leastwise hear him out now. It was progress, however laggard and wilful.

“So don't test it,” she added.
Garion did not reply.
“Since you don't care,” she went on, “I suppose I may as well tell you my name. It's San. San Mei.”
“... Very well.” He reached out an open hand. “Garion.”
She did not take it. “I lied,” she said instead. “It's not San Mei.”
“... I see.”
She studied him for a while more, and then, a resigned little sigh on her lips, shook his palm at last. “Satori,” she said. Her grip was delicate, though she spoke firmly, and her skin was cold to the touch. “Satori Komeiji. And I am cold because the library is, and you barged in on my reading time.”
“... Yes,” said Garion. It was about the smartest response he could concoct.
“Don't dwell too long on that,” Satori said. “You're road-worn, aren't you? You're drenched in sweat. I suppose it won't hurt me any if I let you take a bath before we discuss your request. And it will give me time to think. Besides, you smell.”

Rin stepped forth. “Ah,” she said excitedly, “then Rin will—!”
“No,” Satori told her. “He is my guest. I'll take him to the baths. You can go and see if Okuu's back yet. She should be told that I'm having a guest. I don't want any accidents. And look in on your sisters. They've been missing since morning.”
“Right,” Rin said. She then made a fleet semblance of a bow and took off headlong down a passage.

“Don't stare,” the plain-dressed girl then said. “She may strike you as human, but human she is not. So try not to let your... instincts... drive you on an inane course.”
“I have no interest in your pet,” said Garion. “I have told you that just then.”
Satori glanced at him shortly. “... Yes,” she admitted. “That you did. Never mind. Follow me, then. And take off your shoes.”

And then she started also, down a shady hall.

Garion removed his stained footwear and followed.

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>> No. 6793
File 130540705141.jpg - (550.67KB, 849x599, Satori355.jpg) [iqdb]
Free extra image
>> No. 6794
File 130541808656.jpg - (266.08KB, 700x1017, cf0a59910a483ac67a7ec32ee71c3c0f.jpg) [iqdb]
※ ※ ※

She led him to an ample bathroom where the walls were tiled with dark-green stone and the floor gleamed with clean, marble white.

A bathtub made of cast iron and smooth porcelain stood there, and a wardrobe lined with mirrors, and a sink also, and electric lamps lighted the room, which was warm and cosy, something Garion had not had the advantage to say of his places of stay in months now.

He shed his haversack, even as Satori moved toward the tub and asked: “Do you know how to use this?”
“No,” said Garion. The luxury of enjoying the eases of mod plumbery had never been given to him before.
“Is that so?” Satori said, more a statement than a question. She turned to the tub and began to teach. “The tap is built into the wall, so keep away from it. This spigot here,” she pointed, “is hot water, from the hot chambers below. It goes to a boil a number of times each day, so try not to burn yourself. The other one is cold water, from the underground river above. You'll find towels in that cupboard there. Use any that you like, but please, leave mine alone. Put them wherever after you have wiped yourself dry. And should you find the floor is a gigantic swamp once you finish, a rag or two ought to be in there, too. The soaps are in that cabinet above the tub. Did you get all that?”

“Yes,” Garion said.
Satori exhaled wearily and turned back to him, at which point she froze stock-still. “... What are you doing?” she asked.
“Stripping,” Garion said factly. That was not very accurate. He was naked already, and was now laying his clothes in a neat pile near his baggage. “Is it not how it is done?” he questioned. “Unless the custom here has become to bathe fully clothed.”
“Not that I know of.” Satori knit her brows. “Couldn't you wait until I left, though?”
He arose from his task and stood, unconcerned, in front of his pale hostess. “Why?”
She stared him in the eye for some seconds, then surrendered. “Never mind.” She looked him steadily up and down. “You really are like a blond rug, though.” Her eyes stalled at a certain part of his body, and then she averted them for a few beats, silent, before she returned them at last to Garion's sober face. She crossed her arms and pressed them harshly to her chest. “... Well?” she said.

“Well what?” Garion replied.

She maintained her piercing gaze and did not answer, as though awaiting an action, instead, on Garion's part.

[ ] Garion did not know what she meant.
[ ] He thanked her again, because that was, apparently, what she wished to hear.
[ ] Garion was growing impatient. He urged her to leave if his body bothered her that much.
[ ] He said nothing. If the girl kept wasting their time as inattentively, he would have to convince her to stop.
>> No. 6795
[x] Garion did not know what she meant.
>> No. 6796
[x] He said nothing. If the girl kept wasting their time as inattentively, he would have to convince her to stop.
>> No. 6797
[x] He thanked her again, because that was, apparently, what she wished to hear.
>> No. 6798
[X] He said nothing. If the girl kept wasting their time as inattentively, he would have to convince her to stop.
>> No. 6799
[x] Garion did not know what she meant.
>> No. 6800
[x] He thanked her again, because that was, apparently, what she wished to hear.
>> No. 6801
[x] Garion did not know what she meant

I'm really liking this.
>> No. 6803
[x] He thanked her again, because that was, apparently, what she wished to hear.
>> No. 6805
File 130551051821.jpg - (172.05KB, 800x575, Satori557.jpg) [iqdb]
Lady Komeiji is scary when she's angry.
>> No. 6806
[ ] He thanked her again, because that was, apparently, what she wished to hear.
>> No. 6807
[x] He thanked her again, because that was, apparently, what she wished to hear.
>> No. 6835
[x] Garion was growing impatient. He urged her to leave if his body bothered her that much.
>> No. 6849
File 130603078110.jpg - (72.70KB, 452x850, 441feb25a015ac3fac7f8874d330d2e6.jpg) [iqdb]
[X] He thanked her again, because that was, apparently, what she wished to hear.

Garion purposed to satisfy her anticipations. He apprehended, using his vast understanding of the inner works of psyche, that the woman, though bold in her invitation and open in flout, would not readily accommodate him after merely a single thanks. She might have shown contempt for his say, but she, too, it seemed, was prisoner to vanity and paltry female pride.

He would indulge that pride, even at the expense of his own, if need be. And need was.

He drew breath and bowed his head, also, shallowly, in a gesture of mild, but mannerly gratitude.

Satori, however, grimaced fiercely and spoke before Garion could deliver his words, “Ah, is that so?”
Garion turned his eyes upward under his sandy fringe. “Yes?” he said. “Is something the matter?”
She bored him still with her lavender stare and said: “No. Nothing is ‘the matter.’ Is that all you had on your mind? ‘The matter?’”
Garion straightened. “No,” he said. “I wished also to thank you again, madam, for your hospitality, and your—”
“Excuse me?”
“Miss. I'm not married. And not very keen on having that change any time soon, either.”
“... Right,” submitted Garion. “Miss Komeiji, then—”
“Satori,” corrected Satori. “Miss Satori is more than fine, though I can't for the life of me imagine why you would go out of your way to be so polite.” Garion did not answer. “And good riddance,” Satori commented. “It's painfully obvious that you don't really mean it. So don't go out of your way to impress me, ‘Garion,’ because I hate that in men – one of which you—rather blatantly—are, so you would do well to try and not get under my skin.”
“... I did not mean to affront you,” Garion assured.
Satori scoffed. “Of course. You never do.” She scrutinised him again, head to toe. “Vanity!” she grumbled. “Says a walking blond mat!”
“I did not say any such a thing,” Garion defended.

She stepped toward him, a fearless step, and she looked up at his face; intent, perhaps, on finding in it a sign of quip or mockery that could be made to further her mysterious resentments.

Garion let her do that undisturbed.

She was near, uncomfortably even, and he felt threatened by this unwanted proximity, but his wit had anything but left him; he would not imperil his search by angering the one whose instruction might set him on a promising trail. She might punch him, and knee him also, yet he would be stalwart, for the woman he sought was of greater importance than the well-being of him and his body.

Satori sneered. “Really?” she asked. “I discomfort you, and all you can think about is that... quest of yours?”
Garion cast off his obedient silence and nodded. “Indeed,” he said. “The woman is very important to me.”
“So much you ignore everything else?”

Satori shook her head and withdrew.

The nerve in her manner—whatever its cause—gradually tapered off, and she let her lips unbend, and her arms also, and they fell along her sides, to be covered by the long, loose sleeves of her too-large costume. A frown knitted her brows, and she pulled at the sleeves, glaring at Garion as though he wronged her in ways barbarous and inhuman.

She then pulled the frown from her features and donned a more sightly face. “Never mind,” she said, steadier. “We are both wasting our breaths here. Once you finish, find me in the library. That is through the passage which we came through, across the entry hall, and then straight ahead until you've hit a two-winged doors—you can't miss them—at the end of the corridor. Can you remember that?”
“Yes. And should I get lost...?”
“And should you get lost,” she answered stingily, “scream like your life is being torn from your chest, and I'm certain sooner or later someone will come and un-lose you.”
“Yes,” said Garion, “I shall do that. Thank you.”
An angry glower flashed in her eyes. She rid of it quickly and turned to leave. “I have all night ahead of me,” she said by way of goodbye, “so don't break your neck hurrying to speak with me. Unless, that is, you have a change of heart and decide you don't want to after all, in which case do as you pretty well please.”
“I shall take my time.”
“I was afraid you'd say that.” She exhaled and grunted. “Enjoy yourself.”

And then she flitted out of the bathroom and closed the door behind her.

Garion stood still, and breathed out himself, to calm his aroused choler. The woman had unsettled him. The contrary fashion she alternatively scorned and studied him with grated on his sense of logic. He had hazarded to take the advice of her cat-eared pet not to prepare in any manner for this encounter, and he was now paying the losses.

One would say he was not at fault. The one who had doomed their pleasant chatter to rapid decay was the sharp-spoken woman, for she had not acted as women were bound, as this Garion stood confounded against overwhelming odds. The advantage now, though, lay in his hands. Should she, in her momentary solitude, steel her heart against Garion and his request, he would have still a chance of converting her pet to his cause. And also, he would have already taken the bath at her cost.

And that, one had to say, was encouragement, however small.

Garion, though, did not smile, he did not whoop in gay celebration; he approached the tub gracefully—gracefully as he could in the nude—and turned the spigots that Satori had taught him about. Hot water gushed forward, and steam blew, and the room grew ever warmer still as the ample tub filled and filled.

Garion killed the stream before long, and he stepped in the water, and sank in it up to his nostrils.

He blew bubbles of air out through his mouth and eased himself.

He would succeed.

He swore he would find the woman, and find the woman he would, no matter what. He would search on till he hit the edge of the world, then he would turn right back and search again, in places he may have omitted and places where he had not dared search before. He would find where she hid, he vowed, even if it devoured the entire measly span of his human life. He would succeed.

And soon.

But for now, he bathed.

※ ※ ※
>> No. 6851
File 130605862173.jpg - (99.87KB, 440x465, 4c6e1b08d7502bf89749d4061f343f8a.jpg) [iqdb]
※ ※ ※

As he walked toward the library Satori had spoken of, Garion stopped in the lobby, where he had been obliged to wait for the undecided, pale hostess to greet him.

His boots, caked in gravel and dirt, remained as he had left them, and bore no evidence of having been tampered by the lot of playful felines that he had found infested the manor.

A clamour reached his ear then, and he spun to meet its source, which turned out the very same drove of noisy young cats that had lost to his indifference not long before, and they were dashing down a hall, yowling and yelping at each other in loud, malicious meows. They fluttered past Garion and his two muddy companions, giving neither even so much as a fleeting look, and made off and disappeared in the dark of a yet unexplored doorway.

As he stood guard, fearing that the cats might return and savage his precious footwear after all, Garion heard another sound – a sound of steps slow and dispirited – and those steps soon became Rin, who, her cat-ears laid down, wore an anxious face that Garion would never, up to this moment, have thought existed in the cheery girl's array of emotions.

She noticed Garion and rushed to join him, the fuzzy cat-ears raising ever-so-slightly at the chance meeting.

Garion squinted. The time spent in the caves had obviously damaged his sight. The poor light of the electric lamps was not helping.

The girl came to a reeling halt at his side, and, her little hands wrung, asked, hopefully: “Did little brother see them?!”
She was on the verge of tears. Garion tore his eyes from the furry antennae on her scalp, and asked in return: “Did I see who?”
“Sisters!” Rin nearly cried. “Sisters, sisters!”
“Little sister's sisters!” She rubbed at her cheeks with her tiny fists. “They are playing pranks, she thinks. But she cannot think why. Did little brother truly not see them around? Anywhere at all? The baths, maybe?”
“Sorry,” Garion said.
The short girl snuffled. She threw a frantic look around, but found nothing. “Has little sister made them mad somehow?” she wondered aloud. “Has she made them cross with her?”
She looked at Garion. “Does little brother have any ideas?”
“No,” he told her.
“No,” she replied, “he should not be, he was occupied, he could not have seen the sisters.” She whined quietly. “Stupid, stupid sisters...! And where was little brother going, anyway?” she asked Garion. “He smells just like Master Satori does after she comes out of the bath. Did he use her soaps, by chance?”
“Yes. She said it was OK.”
“Ah. And why was he waiting here?” she pressed on. A thought seemed to occur to her and she glanced once toward the exit. Her cat-ears fell down again and she asked: “He was not planning to leave yet, was he?”
“No,” Garion said, doing his best to ignore the mischievous ears. “Not yet.”
“Ah.” She brightened. “Then perhaps little sister will show him around later?” she proposed. “The mansion is big, and the corridors twist in all directions. She could even sketch a map for him, so he does not lose his way.”
“If madam Satori allows.”
The girl tilted her small, red-tressed head at that. “‘Madam?’”
Garion made a shrug. “A polite form of address.”
She made a thoughtful hum. “Master Satori would not like it, little sister thinks.”
“I know.”
“Ah. And was little brother going to see her now?”
Garion nodded. “You are shrewd for your size, little sister.”
The girl smiled, though weakly. “She has a good nose, that is all,” she said. “And does little brother know where to find Master Satori?”
“The library, if my memory serves.”

“Ah.” She turned toward one passage and pointed. “The library is across here,” she said. “At the very end of this hall there is a large door. The library is beyond that door. The way is straight, unlike many in the mansion.”
“Thank you, little sister.”
She looked at him expectantly. “Was little sister helpful?”
“Yes,” he said. “Very.”

The smile on her little cherry lips widened into a flowery grin. “Ah,” she said, pleased, “that makes little sister happy. But shouldn't little brother hurry along? Master Satori should not be kept waiting, little sister thinks.”
“I thought that myself.”
“And little sister has to find her missing siblings and tell them off for making her worry.”

“That she does,” agreed Garion. “Good luck, little sister.”
“Likewise,” she returned. “And good cheer, little brother.”

And then they went each their way.

※ ※ ※
>> No. 6852
You have the best images
>> No. 6853
Have you ever considered starting a porn thread for your tenshi images?
>> No. 6855
Waiting warmly
>> No. 6856
File 130607998425.png - (454.45KB, 480x640, 2960d3776c6b8945a742c4edb1e33dcb.png) [iqdb]
※ ※ ※

The library was shadowed and cool.

A row of book-shelves greeted Garion immediately, made of rare woods and carved exquisitely, and it stretched to one flank, and its twin occupied the opposite, and many, many more stood behind them, forming a peculiar alleyway that led deeper into the cavernous library, toward a lone light that shone distinctively in the mid of it, in the dark ahead.

Garion spurred himself and moved.

At a small, ornate reading table sat Satori, a lit candle flickered at her side. She held a huge, hard-back tome of writing, made seem even greater by the pale, delicate hands that grasped it by both covers. She did not greet him, nor did she raise her fair eyes from the text contained in the book.

“Sit,” she said simply.
Garion looked around. The air was stale, and the smell of hot wax hung in it like smoke. “There is no chair,” he observed.
“Look again,” said Satori. “And sit, please.”

He looked once more.

There was a chair now. Garion drew it and sat.

He scuffled close to the table and the candlelight, and faced his hostess, only to find that she had lowered the book and was now contemplating him studiously, as was her blood-red orb that now rested freely at her bosoms. The orb loured, and its sinister eyeball twitched all but maliciously.

Garion scowled.

“I apologise,” said Satori, “I didn't know you found my attention so undesirable.”
She lifted the book and again began to read.

Garion waited, but she said no more.

He elected to speak himself. “And what is this?” he asked, more to restore that wilfully removed attention than of any real interest. “The book you are reading, that is?”
“Du Vair,” she answered flatly. She licked a finger and turned a page without looking up.
“Poetry?” pursued Garion.
Satori muttered. “No,” she said. “Philosophy, if you absolutely must know.”
“And how is it?”
“Ghastly,” she said without an ounce of shame. “The man was a fool and a blind patriot. And his king adored him.”
“Which school was he of? Sentimentalism?”
“Stoicism, mostly. Although butchered to suit his personal views and his sick country.” She slammed the book shut with great exaltation and looked to Garion. “I don't imagine you were genuinely curious? Because this is total drivel. Were you?”
“Not at all.”
“Ah, is that so? Fine then.” She put the tome down and leaned back in her chair. Garion mimicked her and did the same. As they both reposed, he began to watch the climb in her light-blue blouse, as it rose and fell, and he counted in his thoughts, trying to match the rhythm. “Stop that,” Satori demanded. “This only works at the first or the second meeting of persons involved, and only before they have been acquainted. And not when one of them is being so patent about it.” She brushed her pastel fingers through her hair. “Although I will say,” she added, “this is the first time I have witnessed someone try it in practice. On me, no less. Aren't you knowledgeable, Garion?”
“No such thing,” said Garion, still staring. “It is basic. Fundamental.”
“Ah, is that so? Then what's this?” She motioned at his palm that rested on the tabletop with the index finger raised. “Are you going to tap every time I display a positive reaction?”
Garion did not retract his hand. “No such thing.”
“Ah, fine,” she said. “So maybe you will stop breaking eye contact every eight seconds? It's so regular even an ape could tell you are doing it on purpose.”
“No such thing,” Garion said flatly. He averted his eyes for an instance, then returned them shortly to Satori's.
Satori snorted. “I'm impressed,” she said sardonically. “Very, very impressed.”

Garion tapped.

“... This,” Satori stifled a groan, “is going to take a long time, I feel.” She reached under the table and produced a tall, dark-tinted bottle and a wide goblet made of gold-coloured metal. A seal had been stamped near the brim. The seal was two contorted letters “K” with their backs to each other, swathed both in thick ropes of vine, thorny and twisted. “Wine, perhaps?” Satori asked charitably. “It's likely to be good vintage, though I don't know the first thing about wine-making.”
Garion declined. “I don't drink.”
Satori smiled as she uncorked the bottle. “I lied,” she said nonchalantly. “It's chokeberry juice.” She poured until the chalice was half-full. Then she inquired Garion again. “Well then?”
“I am not thirsty.”
“I didn't think you were.” She set the bottle aside, reclined again, and played idly with the golden vessel. “All right,” she said. “Let us assume I have calmed since your... episode in the baths, and that my mood isn't as gloomy as my face may make it appear. You're in luck, Garion. I am having an excellent day, and I am hardly willing to let your unexpected... visit... diminish my enjoyment of it.”

Garion livened. “Then you will heed my questions? And answer them?”
“If I can,” Satori said, “but you will have to answer mine first. As you mentioned on several occasions, you are looking for that woman of yours, yes?”
Garion nodded. “Yes.”
“And she is a human, as you are?”
“No,” said Garion. “No, I don't know,” he rectified. “I was of insufficient age to distinguish the subtle difference between human and monster. Even now I lack in that regard.”
“A ‘monster’ is such a crude term.”
“It stems from tradition, not disdain,” Garion explained. “Monsters similar to humans that if you meant offence by calling one a ‘monster,’ you would mean insult to mankind also.”
“Naturally,” said Satori. “Then you're probably not aware that I am—as you wish to name it— a ‘monster?’”
“I am aware.”
“And what?”
Satori stared at him for a longer while. “... Never mind,” she said then. “So you know how that woman looks, don't you?”
“No. Not in detail.”
“Surely you must remember. Black hair? Raven wings? A glowing egg-like artefact in the chest?”
“... That is not her,” said Garion. “She was as any ordinary woman. No wings. No glowing parts. No strange animal-ears. No...”
He glanced briefly at Satori and her cables and her glaring orb.
Satori smiled sourly. “Insult duly noted.”
“I meant none.”
“Of course.” She sipped daintily from the goblet. “Anyway,” she then went on, “I asked because I feared Okuu might have sired a child without my knowing. A disaster would no doubt ensue if she had and the child had come to do vengeance upon his dull-witted mother for the ridicule of the rest of his human kin. But I see this isn't the case. And I'm glad it isn't. You're making me happier by the minute, Garion,” she joked. “Don't tap, please.”

Garion tapped.

“... Never mind. So,” Satori resumed, “how are you planning to recognise the woman once you find her?”
“I'll know.”
“I'll know.”
Satori regarded him carefully. “... You hope you do.”
“I'll know,” Garion insisted.
“Fine.” She gave up. “And my last question is: why do you want to find her? And don't lie, please. I want to hear the truth.”
“She is important to me,” Garion said.
“How so?”
“She changed my life.”
“And?” Satori pushed. “What of it? I've changed the lives of many men myself, and yet your point fails to strike me.”

Garion hesitated. “... I wish,” he began, “I wish to thank her.”
“Thank her?” Satori sounded surprised, but the rest of her posture contradicted her voice. “That's all?”

She paused and looked Garion in his serious, steel-grey eyes. “Just that? You are sure?”
A moment passed in silence, then Garion repeated: “Yes. I merely wish to thank her.”
“For changing your life?”
“For all that she did for me, yes.”
“Is that so...?” She thought about it for a few moments. “... An extra question, if you will.”
“... Go ahead.”

Satori set the chalice beside the book and the bottle, and leaned closer to Garion. “What business in all reality would that woman have here, in the underworld, of all places?”
“I don't know.”
“Then why are you looking for her here?”
“Here is as good as anywhere.”
“... Are you—?”
“No,” Garion cut her off. “I am not stupid. She may be here as well as anywhere else. I will scour this place, then move on to another should I not find her. That is why I sought you out... Satori.” He winced. “I need to learn of this place,” he continued all the same. “And not the poetic balderdash. I want dry facts. The geography, landmarks, trails and the like. Spots where she might hide.”
Satori reclined and caressed her orb. “Fine,” said Satori. “This house you are in is the Palace of the Earth Spirits. Beyond it lies the Hell of Blazing Fires.”
“The Old Hell.”
“Yes. And the caves where Rin found you—”
“Their name is no import. They go wide, and reach far, even to the surface, that I know. Anyone could find that if they spent enough time in them. And I did spend a lot of there.”
“How long?”
“A week, perhaps?” Garion guessed. “I do not know exactly.”
“All on your own?”

Satori thought about that. A long crease blemished her forehead. She looked considerate with it, scholarly even, but should she keep it, it would in time ruin her flawless complexion. Something no sensible woman her age would allow to pass.
“Do you have to do that?” she asked irascibly.
Garion stared. “Do what?”
“... Never mind. All right, Garion,” she resumed briskly. “Let me share with you a secret. This place, the Palace and so on, is the crossroads between the Old Hell, the caves and the rest of the underworld. A hub, if you will. All that wish to travel to the surface from Old Hell, and vice versa, go through here. And no woman that might have been who you are looking for has passed through in years. I'm sorry.”

Garion, however, was not disheartened. “She might still be here all the same. Perhaps you missed her. Or she might wander the caves still. Had it not been for your pet, I would never have found your Palace, either. The possibility remains.”
“Maybe you're right,” she admitted. “All right. Let us suppose, just hypothetically, that I am not absolutely repelled by the idea of... letting you use my house as a base of your search.”
“Excuse me?”
Satori took hold of the chalice and began to fiddle with it again. “... Like I said,” she resumed, “everyone who wishes to pass from one part of the underworld to another passes through here. This is the centre, Garion, the focal point of it all. The underworld pivots around this place.”
“A poetic way to put it.”
Satori halted. “... You seem to have a misconception that you enjoy nurturing,” she said. Garion did not reply. “Anyway, this is how I see it. If your woman changes places of stay, she will have to go through here, so you will know at once. And if she is, as you believe, in the caves, you'll have a point of start and return. You're a practical... person, so you should see the benefit of that.”
“I do,” said Garion, “but I do not appreciate the idea.”
“I know,” said Satori, “and neither do I, not too much. But it is better than the consciousness of having a human sneak around in my backyard. And Rin has taken to you, so it appears, whether you—or I—appreciate it or not. Ah,” she remembered, “but it won't be free of charge, I fear.”
“... I have no money.”
“I rather thought that might be the case. A skill that I could put to use around the house, then?”

Garion said nothing.

He possessed many a useful skill indeed, though he shied from bragging of his vast talents. Among these were excellent persuasion, advanced astronomy, astrology and travel, and trapping also, and hunting and forage, and while those were useful skills on the road, and they served him well, they were unlikely to be of use to the home-dwelling woman. One would be inclined to side with her in this opinion.

Garion could also, however, prepare all manner of food and drink, from local to oriental. And that was a skill most appropriate in a household.

Satori smiled. “Cooking, yes? That is good.”
“I did not say anything,” said Garion.
“No, as a matter of fact, you didn't.” She gave Garion a minute smirk, then continued: “So what will it be? I'll let you dwell here with me for a period of time, and should there be no... conflicts... between us, I'll extend that period as you convince me is needed. Will you accept?”

He would.

“Ah, is that so?” Satori stood and reached out a hand. “Then it is done.”

Garion stood also, but wavered.

He could not argue with the logic of her offer, though a stitch of disquiet impelled him from within to decline. And yet he realised that her home would make a safe springboard for his search. Should he desire, he could even divide the underground into sectors that he would then schedule for scouring on chosen days.

The prospect was tempting, and reasonable also, and yet he felt a pull of self-loathing wrench at his bowels when he took the pale, flimsy hand of his beautiful hostess.

The hostess smiled at that. “Come,” she ushered, “I'll show you the kitchen.”

She let go of him, blew the candle out, and went for the exit.

Garion followed, sullen and silent.

Satori locked the doors of the library with a large silver key, then, quietly also, started toward the main hall.

She stalled after a few steps and turned around. “What are you doing?” she said to Garion, who stood still by the door. “Have you got second thoughts after all?”

[ ] He did. And he expressed them. Explicitly.
[ ] “No,” he told her. He wondered, however. About Satori. She confused him.
[ ] “No such thing,” he said. He tapped on the door. Then he joined her.
[ ] He did not. He was annoyed, though, for Satori had no yet answered his questions about the underworld.
>> No. 6857
[x] “No,” he told her. He wondered, however. About Satori. She confused him.
>> No. 6858
File 130608485292.jpg - (220.34KB, 932x932, satori340.jpg) [iqdb]
[x] “No,” he told her. He wondered, however. About Satori. She confused him.

Hard vote. In one hand, I'm interested in the MC. On the other hand, there's Satori.
>> No. 6859
[x] “No,” he told her. He wondered, however. About Satori. She confused him.
Because if this is what we'll be thinking we know what we'll be thinking
>> No. 6860
[X] “No such thing,” he said. He tapped on the door. Then he joined her.
>> No. 6861
[x] “No,” he told her. He wondered, however. About Satori. She confused him.
>> No. 6862
[x] “No,” he told her. He wondered, however. About Satori. She confused him.
>> No. 6865
[x] He did. And he expressed them. Explicitly.
Delicious S.
>> No. 6866
[x] “No,” he told her. He wondered, however. About Satori. She confused him.
>> No. 6868
that choice basically has him changing his mind about working for her.
>> No. 6882
File 130626585348.jpg - (188.15KB, 553x800, f7cb890ad1b5938c1046f87ca7fc2e9e.jpg) [iqdb]
All right, I usually dislike replying in a thread when it isn't an update, but here goes.
I swear I have no indecent pictures of Tenshi. Honest. Especially not of her, uh, enjoying her thick, saucy sausage or anything. Really.
Thank you. I'll try to keep up the quality.
And a belated reply.
>Are you actually writing a lighthearted story YAF?
Me? A lighthearted story? Of fun character interaction? And casual relationships? Surely you can't be serious.
Do you think he really has a choice? Yes. Yes, he actually does. Never mind.
>> No. 6886
[X] He did. And he expressed them. Explicitly.
>> No. 6893
YAF, the day that I'm not serious about anything is the day that the world ends.

[X] “No,” he told her. He wondered, however. About Satori. She confused him.
>> No. 6902
File 130649967992.jpg - (97.18KB, 540x600, 13797334.jpg) [iqdb]
[X] “No,” he told her. He wondered, however. About Satori. She confused him.

“... No,” after a pause, he told her.

That was no falsity, and yet, it was not truth, either; for he had many thoughts, of which a myriad was second, some third, and a few fourth loomed there also, though not many. A recourse, however, of withdrawing from the bargain he had but only now entered and not yet brought to fruition had not attained such level of advancement.

A degree of doubt was there, beyond question, but he pushed it back, quelled it, lest it swell and overwhelm his resolve.

“Ah, is that so?” said Satori, the slenderest curve touching the corners of her thin, ashen lips. “Shall we go now, then?” she asked, smiling that slight, pale smile. “The day carries on, Garion, and I would like if I could put to use what there is yet left of it. Would you please?”
“... As,” the young man gave a long, strait-laced nod, “you wish... Satori.”
He deftly hid yet another qualmish cringe. The name bore an acid taste still.
Satori extended to him one slim hand, smiling still. “Come on, then, in that case.”

And Garion obeyed, though wordless, and met Satori where she stood in wait.

As he did, she inclined her tiny head lightly—as though pleased—and started once more along the hall. She let him keep a respectful pace from her as he walked by her side, staid and thoughtful.

She, too, tolerantly kept silent as he readied himself to speak.

“There is something,” he confessed finally. “Something that puzzles me.”
“Yes,” said Satori. “As a matter of fact, I can see there is.”
Garion stole a glance at her; short, so she would not notice.
The crimson orb had twisted in its spot at her chest, and now it bore Garion with its sick gaze, as a tick might bore one's skin to reach the precious life-blood beneath.
“Say on, Garion,” urged its owner and host. “I'm dying to hear what pressing problems bother my guest.”
“There is you,” he told her.
“I am your problem?”
“I did not mean to say that.”
“No,” said Garion. “I meant to say that I need to learn you.”
“Ah, is that so?” Satori said unemotionally. “That's a rather bold suggestion, wouldn't you say?”
Garion let her meaning lap his mind. “If we are to coexist,” he said, “then that necessitates my knowing your preferences, if only the basest.”
“Of course,” she replied, “I never would have thought you'd be interested for any other reason. Ask on, then. Ah, and right this way, please.”

They turned a corner and ventured farther into the mansion, and farther from the windows and the glow outside.

A chilly shade now closed about them, the antique electric lamps all without exception dead and dark as night. The small hostess moved along at equal speed, though, and so did Garion; for he felt at home in the shaded and narrow passage, and a new vigour stole over him, and a soothing sense of peace.

“Ask on, Garion,” enjoined Satori again. “And not about my favourite poetry, if you'd be so kind. I abhor poetry – any and all.”
Garion erased then the question he had initially prepared, and said in its place: “The foods. A cook should know the taste of his public. What is yours?”
“Anything,” said Satori. “I'm not very picky, though the eastern dishes have grown tired over the years; so if you feel like experiments with something from the west, by all means, go ahead.”
“Adequate,” decided Garion. “I shall then adhere to western recipes. Although...”
“Go on, Garion,” advocated the girl. “Don't stop in the middle like that. It's rather impolite to get someone's hopes up then leave them cold.”
“No such thing. I merely wanted to approve that you do not flinch from trying a new angle in cookery.”
“Do people do that, up there where you came from? The surface world, I was told, progresses faster than a tidal wave. Doesn't that include the ways they make their meats and crops and all?”
“The progress is there, indeed,” said Garion, “but not the change.”
“How so? Turn left here, please.”

They went left.

“The isolation,” Garion explained, “it brought people into a cultural stasis. Their environments change, but they invent methods to make them back as they once were. That is the goal of their progress, to retain the status quo that they cherish – not to adjust to the passing of ages. This includes food-making.”
Satori seemed to understand. “... I see. And you believe that's wrong.”
“No,” denied Garion, “I do not think it is anything in particular. The nature of man is not easily changed. And it is his choice whether to go to the effort of adapting or defy the flow of time. I should not be the one to judge whether it is right or wrong, or good or evil. That is the domain of the gods.”
“Did that woman of yours tell you this, too?”
“... Yes,” Garion admitted. “The fact is undeniable, however. The man has refused to bend to the whim of the world since times ancient. And he always will.”
“You speak like you've seen it all.”
“I matured quickly. Quicker than most.”
“Too quickly, perhaps,” Satori noted. There was an edge in her voice. “Weren't you supposed to be asking my tastes, Garion?”
“Yes,” he said, “but you wondered—”
“Never mind,” she interrupted. “I guess I did, but never mind. Anyway, I lean towards vegetable meals myself. The pets, however, prefer meats. I don't eat a lot, and neither do they, but they're simple creatures; their appetite grows more the more they eat. So keep it lean, Garion, and don't let your enthusiasm run away with you.”
“I shall try,” said Garion blandly.
Satori looked at him briefly. “... I don't believe that should prove a problem, though,” she remarked quietly. “Anyway, straight at this crossways. The kitchen is just ahead.”

They went straight.

Satori led him to an indistinct doorway, one of the many etched in the walls of this corridor, and stopped there.

She turned her violet eyes at him and inquired, almost hopefully: “Was that all you wanted to know?”
Garion thought about it. “For now,” he said then, “yes, it was.”
“Is that so?”

Garion did not reply, and sank into thought again.

There were other questions that plagued him, yet he shrank from giving them voice.

“Fine,” said Satori. “We'll talk about those later, after dinner. I'll want to have tea, and I expect you to join me, so we'll have each other all to ourselves. I'll answer those nagging questions then. And you, too, Garion, will answer some more of mine.”
“Why should I?”
“Because you've managed to intrigue me, Garion, and I wish to learn more about you.” Garion did not answer, merely stared. “All right,” said Satori, “I lied. I am not that intrigued.”
“So why?”
“Because this is my house, Garion. Should I go on?”
“... No,” he surrendered. “I understand.”
“Very good. Then I'll go and bathe before we eat. There'll be three of us, I believe, but prepare a fourth and fifth set, just in case.”
“Someone might come?”
“Perhaps. My sister or my other pet. Don't pry, Garion, just do as I tell you.”
“... As you wish,” he said, though his welling temper dictated otherwise. “I shall prepare five sets.”
Satori brushed her light fingers through her hair again, as she had in the library. “Good,” she said, contented. “I expect great things of you, Garion.”

Garion lifted his brow at her, puzzled.

“Say my name,” demanded Satori.

Garion bode tenaciously silent.

“Say my name, Garion.”
“... No,” he resisted.
“Say it. Get used to it; you'll have to, sooner or later.”

Garion curbed a grunt, closed his eyes. “... Satori,” he drawled. “Komeiji.” And then he added: “... Miss.”

He was not in the least disconcerted when, upon opening them, he discovered she was smiling.

The smile was warm, though self-satisfied.

Garion did not answer it.

Satori then bowed, the minutest bow. “Very well, then,” she said, “I'll be counting on you.”

And then she turned and left. She directed her slipper-clad feet toward the hallway they had arrived from, soon to veer a swerve and vanish from Garion's sight.

Garion observed her flimsy steps and movements watchfully till she did, and even after tarried, still as a statue of salt, reverie in his gaze, for a purpose he and only he could fathom.


Shortly he shook it off, sour with himself, and purposed instead to engage his dispensed chore afore his overweening hostess returns and spoils his nerve even more.

He took firm hold the bedecked door-handle, turned it, and entered.

※ ※ ※
>> No. 6904
Well, the style is unique and so are the characters. It's things like this story that keep this universe from stagnating. Looking forward to the next update.
Also, I'm seeing the first pic as I write this. Allow me to say something long suppressed: DAT ASS.
>> No. 6909
File 130660481922.jpg - (405.91KB, 962x962, bc22828a74457788668cc93f4f27690d.jpg) [iqdb]
※ ※ ※

The kitchen, however, was empty.

The shelves were bare and coated in grime; the brass chopping board embedded in the countertop of the buffet was dark and patinated, and the larder belched dust once opened, and was empty also, as were the stain-glass-windowed cupboards mounted above.

Garion knelt and inspected the old cookstove, but there was but soot and grit inside; the iron panes seemed as though they had not seen use in weeks, months even, and the pannier beside the stove held no firewood, merely meagre splinters and grains of ground black charcoal.

Garion screwed up his mouth, stood, and wiped his hands on his tweeds.

The blustery young landlady had failed to mention the kitchen lacked the key provisions for his appointed work. Garion could cook, yes, yet he was no sorcerer to weave meals of ancient dust and air.

He had, as a matter of course, with him supplies of his own, though he quailed from the notion of making use of them here now. The supplies were scarce and made for travel, and though they were fitting of the trail, where conditions be harsh, they would not flatter an elegant household such as this.

Set as he might be, and though time and time again he searched the baroque furnishings, however, never once did they reveal to him a thing beyond a pinch of dried-up bread-crumbs or a scoop of rock-hard rice-grains. There was nothing he could prepare into a dish that would sate a person, let alone a threesome.

At the end, among the forgotten accoutrements he discovered a derelict folding chair, and he took it and set it up, and fell jadedly upon it, solemn-faced and pensive. The circumstance tested his indignation, and should he stay idle as he was, he would not wind up the only one upset.

[ ] He would, it appeared, have to make do with what he had.
[ ] Satori had said that Rin would come to his aid should he shout loud enough. The time was nigh to put that claim to the test. The little sister might know where all the food was stored.
[ ] The oversight was grave; the hostess would hear of it. Garion knew where she had gone, and he set out there, bent on making an issue of this lapse.
>> No. 6910
[x] He would, it appeared, have to make do with what he had.
This seems the MC's style.
>> No. 6911
[x] Satori had said that Rin would come to his aid should he shout loud enough. The time was nigh to put that claim to the test. The little sister might know where all the food was stored.
>> No. 6912
[X] The oversight was grave; the hostess would hear of it. Garion knew where she had gone, and he set out there, bent on making an issue of this lapse.
>> No. 6914
File 130663096995.png - (1.43MB, 1000x816, Satori505.png) [iqdb]
Poor YAF. Burning with the desire to post and appreciate Satori, but he can't because he's sticking to his gag. Enough to make a man cry, that.
>> No. 6915
File 13066356599.jpg - (510.19KB, 1000x909, 383500e88699776beecd291811d4c5f4.jpg) [iqdb]
That's not true! I could post Satori any time I wanted!
>> No. 6916
[x] He would, it appeared, have to make do with what he had.
>> No. 6917
[x] Satori had said that Rin would come to his aid should he shout loud enough. The time was nigh to put that claim to the test. The little sister might know where all the food was stored.

More Orin~
>> No. 6918
[ ] Satori had said that Rin would come to his aid should he shout loud enough. The time was nigh to put that claim to the test. The little sister might know where all the food was stored.
>> No. 6920
[x] Satori had said that Rin would come to his aid should he shout loud enough. The time was nigh to put that claim to the test. The little sister might know where all the food was stored.
>> No. 6922
[X] The oversight was grave; the hostess would hear of it. Garion knew where she had gone, and he set out there, bent on making an issue of this lapse.
>> No. 6923
[x] He would, it appeared, have to make do with what he had.

Going to the person who gave Garion the job immediately after she asked for it seems wrong.

Either this or getting help from Rin, and Rin is busy still probably.
>> No. 6924
[x] Make do with what you have
A test?
>> No. 6943
[x] He would, it appeared, have to make do with what he had.
Tie breaker.
>> No. 6950
With a stupid choice? It's not like you could cook with nothing and trying to do so is just stupid.
>> No. 6951
[x] Satori had said that Rin would come to his aid should he shout loud enough. The time was nigh to put that claim to the test. The little sister might know where all the food was stored.

>> No. 6952
[x] Satori had said that Rin would come to his aid should he shout loud enough. The time was nigh to put that claim to the test. The little sister might know where all the food was stored.
>> No. 6953
[x] He would, it appeared, have to make do with what he had.
>> No. 6955
Why is it that people suddenly start crawling out of the woodwork when there's a tie? Someone needs to check these votes
>> No. 6958
File 130738918035.jpg - (226.06KB, 501x708, 32bc3cb79c87ccc63a263d1232f6e0f4.jpg) [iqdb]
I am, personally, fine with whichever result, but if you are not, I will try to coerce someone to run a spamcheck.
>> No. 6959
Look for Satori: 2 votes
Make do with what you have: 6 votes
Yell for Rin: 5 votes
>> No. 6961
>Yell for Rin: 5 votes
That's 6. Count again.
Unless you're the person spamchecking?
>> No. 6963
Nope. Looks like I did miscount, however. Which happens from time to time.

>Look for Satori: 2 votes
>Make do with what you have: 6 votes
>Yell for Rin: 6 votes
And, there. It's fixed.
188posts omitted. First 100 shown.
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