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File 132971784933.jpg - (75.05KB, 534x401, cave-11-facade.jpg) [iqdb]
8620No. 8620
I ran. It was all I knew at that moment; the feeling of lead feet and heavy breathing, the pain and terror wracking my body as I moved. One foot after the other, I ran as fast as I could.

The tears were flowing down my cheeks, pressuring me to close my eyes or wipe them away but I couldn’t. Stopping was impossible when I had to keep moving. Tiny scratches littered my arms as I swung them from side to side, smacking aside branches and other foliage as I barged my way through the forest. My eyes flickered side to side, watching for towering tree trunks even through my tear fogged vision.

I tripped and stumbled plenty of times, my clunky boots catching on all sorts of bushes and roots in the darkness of the night. I had landed on my face countless times, dirt filling my mouth and forcing fresh tears to fall. I sobbed and whimpered but didn’t cry or scream my frustrations even as I pushed my bleeding arms underneath myself. I simply got up and kept running.

My mind raced as quickly as my legs did. Why is this happening? Why me? What happened to momma? Why are they doing this? Why? Where are they now? They’re coming, they’re coming! Why? WHY? THEY’RE COMING!

The branches above me shook so I screamed in absolute panic and pumped my legs harder. The branches above continued to shake. I felt them above me, flying or hopping or something right above me and ready to pounce and dive and swoop on me just like they did to daddy, cackling with glee as they ripped and tore at the screaming pile of flesh. I would have been gone forever so I ran faster and faster!

A sudden grip on my leg startled me, tripping me and sending me to the forest floor once more. I sobbed as fresh pain shot through my limb, a claw having ripped away at my exposed calf. I flipped onto my back and stared up at the creature in horror.

Its eyes were a sickly red – demonic and hungry. Its dark form was large and hunched, clawed hands and crooked legs unnoticed because of those eyes, those eyes! Wide, pointed teeth gleamed in the moonlight that managed reached through the trees as it spoke.

“Ahaha, don’t worry little girl. I’ll take real good care of you.”

I watched the monster draw closer, clawed hands raised and ready to cut me up, rending me limb from limb and dicing me like- NO!

Lashing out with all my might in blind terror, my foot connected with the monster’s ankle. Hisses and curses filled the air. “Why you little bitch, I was gonna be ni-,” it threatened as I threw a rock at its head. I heard a quiet crunch and an annoyed grunt and saw the monster cup its face for a moment.

By the time it looked at me again I was gone, running once more. It was trailing right behind me, following me, tracking me, stalking me, so I had to run and run and try to get away before it got me!

I couldn’t tell how long it had been, how long since papa was torn apart like an old doll or since mama screamed at me to run and run but I couldn’t run much more. The monster was loud, unlike me, as it crashed through the trees. I had to get away before the monster-

I nearly fell again but managed to keep my feet, the sudden lack of trees and obstructions throwing my footing off. I whipped my head around and looked, but there were no trees. No more forest and no more cover or anything, just rock and mountain and nowhere to run!

The maniacal laughter behind me spurred me on, running again even with nowhere to go. I headed towards the rocky mountainside in a desperate ploy to get away. As I approached I noticed a cave entrance huddled away in the side of the mountain. A quick glance behind me showed-

“GOTCHA!” The monster lunging at me! I dove for the hole in the ground, screaming and bawling as I could feel the monster’s claws digging into my legs once more. I screamed and kicked and bashed at it with my fists, clawing at dirt and raging with all my heart but the monster wouldn’t let go! It won’t let go won’t let go let go LET GO!

I squeezed my eyes shut as a bright light blinded me. It became unbearably hot for a moment as something like a miniature sun illuminated the cave. It ended in a swift instant. The monster wasn’t clawing at my legs anymore so I tried to stand but my legs had suffered enough. I collapsed to the ground, legs protesting, tears flowing down my cheek and pathetic sobs beating from my chest.

I panicked and started flailing my limbs once more when the monster grabbed me again, a strong grip squeezing my shoulders! I tried to get away but I was so tired and hurt and…

“It’s okay, you’re safe now.” I heard a voice. I kept struggling but the voice was consistent, low and calm. It repeated itself quietly, barely audible underneath my wails.

The grip shifted, pulling me upwards. A thin arm looped around my back and another arm held me underneath my knees. I stopped kicking and screaming, leaving the sobbing and crying behind as my body finally gave up.

All the while that calm voice was talking to me, reassuring me, and comforting me. The words meant nothing to me, but the tone was unmistakable. I didn’t need to listen to understand. I ended up nodding in agreement after a while, throwing my tear stained face into the chest of my savior.

I lay in that person’s arms as they started moving. The monster was gone. I was safe. It would be okay. I was safe.

The tears stop falling and the sobs become easier to control, my lungs exhausted but returning to normalcy. As soon as I could, I rubbed my tear-covered face against that person’s warm shirt and looked up.

I saw…

[ ] A grinning blaze
[ ] A smiling gate
[ ] A curious breeze
[ ] A stoic frost

---

Well, here we go. I guarantee nothing. Let’s see if we can’t get a couple of votes in this poor, malnourished section.
Expand all images
>>No. 8621
[x] A stoic frost.
>>No. 8622
[x] A grinning blaze
>>No. 8623
[x] A grinning blaze.
>>No. 8624
>little girl
(´・ω・)...Oh my..


This doesn't really feel like a character choice, but I can't think of anything else it could be, so it's either this or a blind vote:
Grinning blaze is either Utsuho or Rin.
Smiling gate... Yuugi? I have no idea.
Curious breeze makes me think of Fantastic Wind Hole, so it might be Yamame.
Stoic frost stands the highest chance of being Satori, so let's go with that.

[x] A stoic frost
>>No. 8625
>>8624
Just like he said.
[x] A stoic frost
>>No. 8627
[x] A smiling gate
>>No. 8628
"Have you seen a little girl? Short, black hair. Seven years old."

[x] A grinning blaze.
>>No. 8629
[x] A grinning blaze

Okuu~
>>No. 8630
[X] A grinning blaze

Nuclear stupid bird is a go.
>>No. 8631
>>8624
Hmm, cryptic votes too cryptic? Maybe, or perhaps you all are a bit too young for this choice? Or it's possible I'm just a terrible write-fag, hahaha!
>>No. 8632
[x] A grinning blaze

Making trouble for Satori's pets.
>>No. 8635
[ ] A grinning blaze.
>>No. 8637
[x] A grinning blaze.
>>No. 8641
File 132977922182.jpg - (357.89KB, 1199x542, isn't-it-sad-okuu.jpg) [iqdb]
8641
…I saw beautiful blonde locks, far prettier than my own mud-smeared hair. The golden tresses complimented the bright amber eyes staring back at me. There was emotion behind those eyes, bright feelings dancing just underneath the surface. The cave was barely lit but the barest hints of moonlight managed to highlight the beauty of the girl above me, my savior.

My gaze flickered across the rest of the girl, taking in the black and white blouse she wore. The black sunhat atop her head was almost invisible against the ceiling of the cave. I craned my head sideways to see the long black dress accented with frills that finished her outfit.

“Wah!” My right hand shot out, grasping for a hold as I felt the world turn upside down. I was dipped slightly, my savior’s arm moving to support my neck as she grabbed a hold of my injured leg. My left hand went to my long blue skirt which had started to fall.

A sudden light brightened the cave, a flickering flame suddenly floating next to the other girl’s head. “Oh geez, this is a nasty looking thing, isn’t it?” She wrenched my leg left and right as she examined the wound, bringing back spikes of pain.

She must have heard my whimpers as she dropped my leg and looked back down at me. Her eyes widened as she re-adjusted her hold, a sheepish grin plastered across her face. “Ah, that must have hurt~! Sorry, sorry! We better get this fixed right away, yeah?” My savior spoke fast and furiously, the words rattled off in a rapid procession. “Off we go!”

I barely had time to register the other girl’s words before I was pressed snugly against her chest by the wind. I clutched her blouse tighter in fear, the sudden movement far too reminiscent of my previous terror.

“Not used to flying, eh?” The witch-like girl asked with a grin. I peeked up at her out of the corner of one eye, shaking my head as much as I could. “Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll get used to it soon enough!” I felt like screaming as the crazy speedster somehow rocketed forward even faster.

The trip through the cave passed in a blur of motion. I had only the vaguest sense of moving deeper and further down into the earth. I might have enjoyed the crazy flight if the circumstances were a tad different!

Our motion suddenly transformed into a steep drop and I finally did scream, wrapping my arms around my savior’s chest as I wailed. Beyond the whooshing of the air, I could hear the deranged girl laughing hysterically.

I thanked the Dragon as we slowed to a halt, the queasy feelings in my stomach slowly dissipating. I recovered enough to realize that the girl was shaking me slightly. “Hey, you’re a human right? You would really want to see this then!”

My eyes unclenched and my body unwound itself from the terrified ball it had formed, settling comfortably back into the bridal style hold my savior favored. The girl was still smiling, pointing with her head. My neck swiveled to look forward and saw the impossible.

I couldn’t comprehend the sight before my eyes. It was astounding, magnificent to behold. A plain of bright red crystals and dirt stretched far into the distance before fading into darkness, the rocks walls of the cave only visible immediately behind us and above. Rolling hills were somehow awash with light, stunning crystals shards jutting upwards from the ground in shining clusters. A shimmer of crystals coated some patches of ground, reminiscent of icy lakes during the tranquil winter. My gaze swept over all of this deep scarlet terrain, taking in every nuance of a world unknown to humans.

“Pretty cool, ain’t it? Loads different from those strange things outside, yeah?” I nodded absent-mindedly before honing in on my savior’s words.

“W-what strange…things?” It was difficult finding my voice. I knew only guttural noises for so long; it was a challenge trying to find actual language.

“Huh? Those big tall things, you know? The ones right aside the cave?”

“…trees?”

“Yeah! Those things! They’re all over your world right?”

“…yes?”

“Haha, that’s what I thought! Sort of. Mai tried to explain them to me but I didn’t really pay attention. It was too confusing.”

“…what?”

“Hm? Mai’s explanations are always boring. For someone who talks so little, she likes to dive into the boring stuff like it’s the end of the world or something. Hah!”

“…but she…explain trees? I don’t even-” My mind stumbled around, trying to keep track of what the hyper girl was saying. I couldn’t even finish thinking before we shot off again, zipping towards what looked like a large crystal forest.

“Sorry! I just remembered we really need to go! Who knows how much time you have left? Mai does! Hahaha, get it?” The girl rushed onward, her thoughts whizzing by as fast as we were. She spoke of poisonous gas, dense magic concentration, and a variety of other things as we swerved around in the air. “A human like you probably wouldn’t survive down here without me, hah!”

I settled for curling back up and holding on to my savior’s chest even as she continued to ramble and laugh at her own non sequiturs. It was nice. The gut-wrenching sensation was problematic, but actually flying? It was incredible! Being held tightly by the girl who didn’t seem much older than me was comforting. I felt safe and secure, despite the crazy speed and jittering motion. I had a feeling this girl could and would protect me from everybody if she had to.

We skimmed the top of the crystalline forest, quickly darting between the massive pillars of crystal, larger than ten of any of the adults back in the village. There was a curving path carved through the crystal, but traveling through it was “waaay to slow!”

A city quickly rose into view. Stone buildings were layered upon each other and nestled together, stacking to form artificial hills. Roadways wound around the buildings between each level, forming its own confusing mess of rising roads and falling houses. It was nothing like the village back home where there was one road and every house was built level with the others. I could see countless lights within the city, crystal shards jutting from the ground alongside other lights in the windows of the buildings. The place was almost as bright as the sun.

My savior didn’t slow at all as we sped across the roofs of the city. “Mai lives on the edge of town; she’ll know how to help you out for sure- oh, and welcome to Makai!”

---

“Ow!” I cried, trying to jerk my leg away from the sting. The blue-haired angel before me kept an inhumanely strong grip though and held my wound in place, carefully wiping it clean with a strange mixture and cloth.

“Hold still.” She commanded quietly.

“But it huuurts!”

“Tsk.” My wails were not enough to escape from the clutches of the fallen angel. She ruthlessly scrubbed at the gash in the back of my leg before finally wrapping it firmly with a bandage. She released my leg and took the wash basin filled with bloody rags away. “Don’t walk around.”

I pouted on the bed before collapsing backwards, rolling around a bit amongst the fluffy pillows and soft blankets. My eyes flickered a bit, the exhaustion of the day slowly catching up to me. A sigh accompanied by a bounce of the bed indicated a girl had fallen next to me. The black-white blonde looked at me out of one eye, the rest of her face burrowed into the soft sheets.

“Mai’s bed is so soft.” She sighed, rolling over to wrap her arms around me. I squeaked, blood rushing into my face, but the other girl took no notice. She simply grabbed a hold of me like some stuffed animal, shifting around to find the ultimate napping spot.

The winged girl, Mai, returned with a bowl of rice in her hands. My stomach growled in hunger and anticipation. I disentangled myself and quickly grabbed the bowl alongside the offered chopsticks, nearly digging in before remembering.

“Thank you, Mai! Itadakimasu!” Formalities observed, I attacked the rice with voracity. The white rice was simple but delicious. It tasted like heaven to a hungry soul. The blue-haired girl was draped in all white, quiet but very helpful. After barging into her home, she had taken one look at me before rushing me over to her bed and fixing my injuries.

“You’re welcome.” Mai’s face scrunched a bit as she glanced over to my savior.

“Woh, thank you too, wuhmm,” I started, but immediately realized I never bothered to ask the other blonder her name, and I was talking with my mouth full. How rude! I could feel the blush creeping across my stuffed cheeks.

“Yuki?” The blue haired angel asked, understanding my problem.

I nodded and cleared my mouth before trying again. I properly exchanged greetings and names, exactly how momma always told me, and thanked Yuki for helping me.

A muffled grunt answered me, probably a reflexive from hearing her name more than anything. Mai shook her head and stepped over to the bed, lightly tapping her friend on the shoulder.

A slight groan accompanied motion as Yuki flipped herself over and onto her back. “What now Mai? I’m tired!”

The angel simply swatted the girl on the head before taking my empty bowl and storing it back from whence it came.

Yuki took off her hat and rubbed her head, complaining. “Ow. Geez, why is she so violent? Still, I guess she’s right. So kid, I’m sure you’ve got a lot of questions, and the brilliant witch Yuki is here to help. Ask away!”

I stammered a bit, “Well, uhm, you see…”

[ ] “What’s two plus two?”
[ ] “What do you mean, kid? You’re just as young as me!”
[ ] “Can I get a hat?”
[ ] “A witch? So do you, like, curse people?”
[ ] “Do you have any cheese?”
[ ] “What’s Makai like?”
[ ] “Give me your money.”
[ ] “Am I dead?”

[ ] Write-in (Greatly encouraged)

---

Nope, sorry folks, there’s only room for one lovey-dovey with Satori and her pets story (even if it rarely updates…) I guess, theoretically, we’ll eventually get to Okuu.

I wonder how much interest this will lose without ⑥.
>>No. 8642
[x] “Can I get a hat?”

Another story about Mai and harmless idiots? Waht a twist, Mr Shimalayan would be proud! And here is my obligatory hat vote. Hats are cool. You need one.

However, try to avoid japanese words like 'itadakimasu'. You're writing for a western audience, use english words, okay?
>>No. 8643
[x] “What do you mean, kid? You’re just as young as me!”
[x] “A witch? So do you, like, curse people?”
[x] “What’s Makai like?”

Haven't read a Makai story before. Maybe I'm just not looking through the archives hard enough.
>>No. 8645
>I wonder how much interest this will lose without ⑥.

Mine for one, unless it gets real interesting.
>>No. 8646
>I wonder how much interest this will lose without ⑥.

Not mine, that's for sure.

[x] “What do you mean, kid? You’re just as young as me!”
[x] “A witch? So do you, like, curse people?”
[x] “What’s Makai like?”
>>No. 8647
[x] “What’s Makai like?”
>>No. 8649
[x] “What’s Makai like?”
[x] “Can I get a hat?”

>Suddenly, Makai story.
I fuckin squeed.
>>No. 8650
[x] “What’s Makai like?”
[x] “Can I get a hat?”

I'm hoping this story turns out to be remotely notable as /underground/ needs a good story, seeing how Glasnost and Patchwork are MIA.
>>No. 8651
File 13298898169.jpg - (257.89KB, 720x960, question-answer-time.jpg) [iqdb]
8651
I shook my head, ragged hair swinging back and forth, casting out the shyness. Daddy’s girl was brave and courageous like him! Righteous fury inflamed my spirit as I cried out, “Who are you calling a kid?”

Yuki stared at me with her standard grin, face unchanging. My arms were splayed out from my sides to invoke the kind of intimidation even the village guards quavered at! Surely, the other girl was masking her terror.

“You’re so cute!” I evaded to the side but it wasn’t enough, the monster’s lunge grabbing me and pulling me down to the bed.

“H-hey! Quit it!” I struggled in vain, arms locked to my sides.

The witch held the advantage in strength, further messing my hair up, uncaring of the mud that flaked onto her hands. “How can I? Look at you! You’re so adorable!”

We tousled for several more minutes before I gave in, the rejuvenated energy from Mai’s food wasted away. I ended up clutched to the slightly taller girl’s chest like a rag doll, glad that there were no mirrors in the room so I couldn’t see how stupid I looked.

“Ah, so pretty, just like my own child-sized doll.” Yuki hummed as she threaded her hands through my hair, fixing it back to a somewhat manageable state. “Hmm, but you really are a kid, right? Mai said humans age quickly, so you can’t be more than eight years old, yeah? I’m definitely waaay older than you then.”

“But you look just as young as me…” I wrapped my head around the idea. Obviously, my savior wasn’t human – she may not have had the bright red eyes and wicked claws of those demons, but normal humans didn’t fly around and create floating fires.

“Yeah well, it’s easier being this way you know? Smaller, faster, need less food? It’s so useful being small like you! I wouldn’t even try to get a different body.”

My brow furrowed in slight confusion as I felt like I was missing something important, but decided to simply accept the girl’s response, strange that it was. I changed topics back to something she herself had mentioned. “You don’t look like a witch.”

The girl released me like as if I was suddenly on fire, a horror-struck look etched in her face. “B-b-but…I do magic, a lot better than Mai too! I am a witch, really!”

The panic that enveloped Yuki’s demeanor surprised me, making me try and explain myself for no apparent reason. “I mean, momma told me all sorts of stories about witches; they were mean old ladies that cursed other people for calling them names and stuff!”

The self-proclaimed witch wiped her forehead in relief. “Oh, human fairy tales. Right, we aren’t like that – although I could curse people if I wanted to. I was worried you were already…” The words slowly became quieter until Yuki was mumbling under her breath.

“Excuse me?”

“Well, it’s just a lot of people around her don’t give me the kind of respect I deserve!” I smiled as the expressive girl tore into her problems with barely any prompting. She was loud and noisy, but very honest. “They see Mai all nice and proper, spouting all those facts about everything and think she’s the better magician, but my magic is ten times better! I can do flashy stuff waaaay better, but even the subtle things too.”

“I believe you.”

“Mai is only good for keeping food cold! Honestly, just because I tend to fly into things doesn’t make Mai better in everyth- whah?” Yuki stopped mid-rant, finally processing outside information.

I just smiled as the blonde witch stuttered and blushed, the slight trust I gave enough to defeat her boisterous personality. It wasn’t like I was lying either – whatever spell Yuki had cast had saved my life and kept all the monsters away too.

My eyes wandered around the room as Yuki recovered in silence. Mai’s house was small but cozy, her bedroom connected to a washroom and the kitchen, which led into a sitting room and the exit. Besides the fluffy bed, Mai had an assortment of dressers and cabinets to store things, a number of girly frills noticeable. I thought the doily adorning her night stand was particularly pretty, the kind I had strived to make when momma started to teach me how to sew.

I thought resting would be the number one priority for me but I wasn’t very tired for some reason. The strange new place I was in was too exciting to let me sleep.

“Hey Yuki, what’s Makai like?”

“Huh?” The blonde witch looked over, confused.

I twiddled my thumbs as I spoke. “Uhm, you said this place is Makai, right? Aren’t you all, like, demons? What is it like living here? Is it nice?”

No response greeted my question so I glanced over at the witch. Yuki’s eyes were looking up at the ceiling as she presumably thought of an answer.

“Well, it’s like living.” Her profound statement came after a minute of thought.

I sighed. It was wrong to expect a more comprehensive answer. Even Yuki recognized her response’s lack of substance. “Yeah, I know that wasn’t a very good answer either. I don’t really know much about stuff other than what I know, so you should really ask Mai- wait! Duh, why don’t I just show you? Come on!”

The black-white terror grabbed my arm and hauled me off the bed, picking me up like a doll once more and rushing to exit the house.

“Wait!” I cried out. “I can’t go out like this.” Momma would never let me head out looking like such a mess. Torn clothes and mud everywhere was hardly a presentable image for others to see; a lady had to look proper.

What followed was a whirl of activity as the blonde addressed my concerns. She set me down in the washroom, virtually tearing off my clothes and waving her fingers through the air. Globes of rippling water suddenly popped into existence and were roughly thrown at my hair and against my skin. I screamed indignantly at the coarse treatment (even though the water was warm), protesting as loudly as I could. The witch simply laughed and handed me a towel and brush. Grumbling, I combed my hair and worked out the knots, glad that Yuki was at least thorough in blasting away the dirt and grime.

I watched from my seat as the blonde rifled through Mai’s things, wantonly throwing clothes into the air before settling on the smallest pink blouse and skirt she could find. I didn’t even try to resist as the witch dressed me; it was so embarrassing, it had been years since someone else had helped me with my clothes.

Nodding at her work, Yuki began to drag me outside once more before I again stopped her. “Won’t Mai be angry you made such a mess?”

“Nah,” the witch cheekily replied, “I do this all the time, I’m sure Mai is used to it.”

I frowned and was about to tell her about trying being polite but decided against it, recognizing the futile gesture for what it was. “What about a hat?”

“What now?”

“A hat! I need a hat, like you. My hair is still all wet and a mess.”

“Hmm…can’t do anything about that. This is my only hat,” she replied, tipping the sun hat at a rakish angle. She spun about, before reaching out and shoving something into my hands.

It was a cerulean blue ribbon, one that was sitting atop Mai’s dresser. “Tie your hair up with that so we can go already!”

We blasted out of the door at a break-neck pace, soaring into the air before dropping back down in a steep dive. My crash course experience in Yuki’s flying was paying off as my screams weren’t nearly as high as the first time.

The energetic witch managed to slow herself as we drew close to the different parts of the city she wanted to show off. We flew around all sorts of stone buildings, from tailors to blacksmiths and from taverns to libraries. Sometimes we stopped as Yuki chatted with the people around.

People meaning demons, of course. It was strange, as I had expected the infamous demons of Makai to look scary and intimidating. Many of the demons were rather human-like in appearance, some looking like children such as Yuki while others resembled the adults of the village. A few subtleties signaled their inhumanity, like the wings, tails, and horns some of them displayed. Their clothes took on a variety of styles too, from village conservative to outright provocative.

Large, small, tiny, and huge, I saw some sort of giant blob monster as well as fairy-like demons on the streets of Makai, a virtual kaleidoscope of forms and colors.

“Oh, don’t mind Argosax, he’s a good guy – kind of weird, but nice. He’s easy to recognize, at least. They dug him his own home that he can slide into.”

“Ah, there’s the school! They don’t really use the second-story, so I conduct some experiments up there sometimes.”

“Oh, Morgana sells the best cakes around, they’re absolutely delicious.”

“Ugh, avoid Matou’s shop if you can, he’s a fake of wizard that sells all sorts of bogus things to the less talented demons.”

My tour of the only city in Makai was very streamlined, Yuki always having an opinion or something to say about any number of landmarks and people. We flew for an hour or two and managed to see most of the buildings within the city.

Yuki dropped down onto a convenient bench on one of the raised hills for a break. She chatted randomly about how Higgenson just broke up with Delilah or how Yuuno just invented a new barrier spell. Useless things, but the kind of events which told a person exactly what kind of place Makai really was – a peaceful realm of happy denizens.

“See that?” Yuki asked, pointing off into the distance. Past the lake of crystal on the edge of the city, there was a shimmering form contrasting the darkness. From so far away, it looked like a giant crystal spire. “That’s Pandemonium. It’s a big castle where Shinki lives.”

“Shinki?” It was a name I hadn’t heard before amongst Yuki’s rambling.

“Yeah, she’s super cool, if a bit old. I could never beat her in a duel in a thousand years!” The witch childishly threw her arms in the air, squeaking as her left hand was grabbed.

“Yuki, show respect to our goddess.” Mai floated behind the bench, staring down at the two of us impassively. “Shinki is the benevolent creator of Makai, who lets us all live here with her in peace.”

The blonde witch smacked Mai’s hand away. “Geez, you always sound so serious. You know the old lady hates it when we act all sycophantic.”

The blue haired witch ignored her friend, turning to me instead. “I informed Shinki of your arrival in Makai. She would like to speak with you after you rest.” I nodded, more of reflex than anything else. Meeting a goddess sounded undeniable.

“Don’t scare the girl now,” Yuki admonished her counterpart before addressing me, “it isn’t so serious. I’m sure Shinki just wants to make you’re a-okay.”

Mai drifted onto the bench to sit with us. The three of us rested there in silence, staring at the glittering crystal sheen just beyond the city.

“Did you wanna do anything else, or are you ready for some sleep now?” Yuki piped up.

I…

[ ] Needed some rest after everything
[ ] Write-in

---

Fulfill your burning desires now, or we move on with the plot!

>>8650
Me too, but I’m a bit biased.

>>8642
My new-fag is showing, but I don’t recall many Makai stories; care to point them out as I trawl through the archives? I already have things planned out, but it’s nice to see how other people interpret things.
>>No. 8653
[x] Needed some rest after everything

There was that story about a self-insert in Makai or something like that, but it disappeared from the archive for some reason.
>>No. 8654
[X] Wanted to know more about Shinki and her castle.
[X] Needed some rest after everything
>>No. 8655
Good post.
But flesh tone panties = nsfw.
>>No. 8656
[x] Needed some rest after everything
[x] Ask about Shinki in the morning.
>>No. 8660
[X] Wanted to know more about Shinki and her castle.
[X] Needed some rest after everything

8 years old? Continue...
>>No. 8661
[X] Wanted to know more about Shinki and her castle.
[X] Needed some rest after everything

inb4 we're Alice
>>No. 8662
File 133006053392.jpg - (38.12KB, 600x864, is-death-the-end.jpg) [iqdb]
8662
I was curious after the little hints the two girls left me with. What was a goddess like? I asked and the two girls answered.

“Shinki? Well, she’s really nice; super helpful too. If we ever have any problems we just go ask her and poof, all fixed! She’s klutzy though, so- ow! Why do you always hit me Mai?”

“Your descriptions are too rough. Our goddess certainly has…occasional difficulties, but she is far more competent than the rest of us.”

“Occasional difficulties, what an understatement! Creating giant, carnivorous pudding spirits just because you wanted a bit of desert is pretty normal for Shinki.”

“Tsk, that was one time Yuki-”

“Oh, then how about when Shinki transformed us all into cats because she wanted everyone to enjoy owning a pet?”

“It was a thoughtful-”

“Or the time she tried redecorating her castle by blowing it up with paint spreading magic?”

“She-”

“Once, Shinki created a magic box which spawned toys – those toys became intelligent and banded together to conquer half the town!”

“Well-“

“Not to mention when you asked Shinki to help you with your-”

I leaned away as Mai leapt from her seat. The blue-haired angel knocked the blonde witch off the bench and practically strangled the other girl, both of them rolling around in the dirt. I raised my feet out of the way of the struggle, noticing for the first time that I had lost my boots. My toes wriggled in front of my vision. I had flown around my entire time in Makai, so it made sense that I hadn’t noticed.

Between my feet I saw the two demons stop struggling, both lying flat on the ground. Chunks of ice lay shattered on the ground, small scorch marks in the dirt also visible. I nudged the two with my toes. “I can’t see it well from here, but is that really a castle Shinki lives in?” Momma used to tell me stories about knights and castles – they sounded so impressive!

Yuki was the first to answer me, face looking less flustered than her counterpart. “Yeah, I’m sure you’ll be surprised when you get to see it up close. It’s huge! There’s a lot of windy passages and really tall towers and stuff; plenty of room to fly around and throw magic at each other.”

I looked at Mai who simply nodded. I may have only known her for a few hours, but I could tell the embarrassed pout she was sporting was a rare sight to see.

A sudden yawn overtook me, the exhaustion from the day finally catching up. Yuki stood up and stretched, plopping her sun hat back on and ruffling my hair. “Guess you’re tired, eh? Come on, you can sleep in my bed!”

Just before the witch dragged me into a high velocity flight, Mai interceded. A flurry of icicles dislodged Yuki’s hold on me, sending her tumbling away. The angel-like witch carefully picked me up and floated away towards her own house. Shouts of retribution faded into the distance.

“Yuki’s house might swallow you whole.”

With those ominous words echoing in my mind we arrived at Mai’s place. I quickly settled into her comfy bed. The demon waved a hand, the ambient light suddenly disappearing as darkness engulfed the room; magic was ridiculous.

My eyes closed involuntarily, my mind losing focus as sleep finally managed to assert its dominance.

---

Feet hammered against the ground, a steady beat pounding its way through the forest. The three humans ran as fast as they dared to, the large man easily smashing aside stray branches and bushes for the two that followed. The sky above was bright orange, the blaze behind the humans polluting the natural view. The sun was barely visible as it gave up on the bloody day.

Trees gave way to a small clearing, bringing the group to a halt. The three rested, the smallest of them landing on her rump with back resting against a tree. The older woman too sat down to rest, sitting daintily next to the youngest, a picture of proper decorum despite the situation. The male stood, carefully leaning against a tree, eyes and ears peeled wide open.

“Lorina, we can’t stay here for long, those demons will-”

“Shh, dear, we need to rest. We were hardly made for all this running.”

“What? You can’t be serious! Those things were right behind us, if we don’t start moving-”

“Dear, it’s impossible. Just look at poor Alice, she’s all tuckered out.”

“I’ll carry the girl, dammit, can we just-”

“Henry! Haven’t we discussed the use of expletives in front of our daughter?”

“Our village was just slaughtered and you’re worried about that? What is wrong with you?”

“We cannot compromise our morals, no matter the situation.”

“I can’t believe this!”

“…daddy?”

“Geh, I’m sorry Lorina. I’m sure you understand I’m felling a bit panicked at the moment. Sorry to you too sweetie, I didn’t mean to interrupt your rest.” The man left his sentinel’s post, kneeling down to scoop up the little girl in a tight, shaky embrace.

The three sat on the ground for a while longer, recuperating their energy and strength. Despite the initial breakdown, their collective spirit rallied behind the strong woman who dominated the clearing.

She sat in the manner of their adopted land, legs bent underneath her and back straight, head held high even with eyes closed in rest. In her lap she cradled a perfectly spherical gem, a transparent orb with a rolling cloud of thunder held within. The other two had nothing more than the clothes on their own backs.

The youngest was confused, unsure of what was happening, simply absorbing the calm statures of the adults like a sponge. The man and woman remained quiet, seemingly coming to a decision without words or gestures. A quick glance, a wry glint in the eyes, was enough for the lovers to communicate the world.

They stood together, pulling the little girl up with them. The pair embraced and shared a chaste kiss filled with finality. It lasted but a fleeting moment, a lifetime of experience in one singular instance. Pulling apart, the man stood by the edge of the clearing in the direction of their burning home. The woman knelt in front of the girl and stared her in the eyes.

“Alice, can you do something for me?”

“W-what momma?”

“I need you to run, like we just were. You need to run as fast and as far as you can. Will you do it for me?”

“Ah, of course, let’s go.”

“Mmm, not me Alice, just you.”

“What? We have to go now momma, or else the monsters…”

“You are a big girl, are you not Alice? Your father has shown you how to get around in the forest alone, correct?”

“Uhm, yeah, but-”

“So go, alright? I have to stay here with your father. You need to run.”

The crashing of branches and hollers of pursuit reached the three’s ears.

“It’s here!”

“We’ve found it!”

“Hurry up you oafs, no survivors!”

The woman smiled ruefully, setting one hand on the girl’s shoulder and kissing her lightly on the forehead. A small shove caused the little girl to stumble backwards, staring wide-eyed up at the woman. “Stay strong Alice. Run, now.”

Final words spoken, the woman stood gracefully and turned around, watching through the darkness to glimpse the gleaming fangs and blood red eyes.

The little girl nearly called out to the others, but found her voice to be missing. She pawed at her throat, unsure of what exactly was happening. But a child’s trust is strong, so the girl whirled about and took off into the darkness, alone.

The screams started and the girl made a mistake. She stopped to turn around, to see what was happening.

Blood was scattered through the air, jets of crimson red spurting out of the beheaded body. The man’s neck had been craved asunder, but not before the demons had torn into his limbs, biting off flesh and tearing apart joints. A mere human was helpless, the best attempts to ward off the monsters met with mocking jeers.

The woman was, for the moment, in better condition. Cuts and gashes covered her body, clothes being ripped to shreds as demons swung with clawed hands and retreated. In her hands the transparent orb cackled, blue energy streaking from the surface to lash out at the monsters.

The girl mutely screamed in horror, before turning from the scene and obeying the task entrusted to her. She ran.

Dimly, in the furthest reaches of memory, the girl could recall a voice; haunting in sound, ghastly compared to the rough baritone of the other monsters.

“Impressive, for a normal human.” The echo of a soul being torn from the body was unmistakable.


---

I woke blearily, unsure of how long I had been sleeping. The constant light of Makai, without a sun, made the place feel timeless. Stumbling out of bed, I groped my way through the darkness and managed to find the doorway to the kitchen, running into a dresser only once.

Waiting for me was Yuki, the witch standing at the counter sipping a cup of tea. The girl brightened immediately when she saw me and walked over. I took the drink she offered and finished the cup, politely thanking her.

“So sleepyhead, welcome back! Are you ready to go see my impressive display of magic? I’ve got a whole demonstration group waiting just for you.”

That sounded…

[ ] Great; magic was incredible!
[ ] Dangerous; I’d prefer not to get blown up.
[ ] Wrong; wasn’t I supposed to meet with Shinki?
[ ] Write-in.

---

>>8655
Thanks, the internet has left me pretty jaded so I forget stuff like this – I’ll keep it in mind for the future.
>>No. 8663
[x] Wrong; wasn’t I supposed to meet with Shinki?
>>No. 8664
[X] Wrong; wasn’t I supposed to meet with Shinki?
-[X] Maybe Yuki can show me some of her magic on the way to Shinki's castle.
>>No. 8665
[X] Wrong; wasn’t I supposed to meet with Shinki?
-[X] Maybe Yuki can show me some of her magic on the way to Shinki's castle.

Let's compromise. Also, I hope you're not taking inspiration from Fuantei.
>>No. 8669
[x] Wrong; wasn’t I supposed to meet with Shinki?
-[X] Maybe Yuki can show me some of her magic on the way to Shinki's castle.
>>No. 8670
[X] Wrong; wasn’t I supposed to meet with Shinki?
-[X] Maybe Yuki can show me some of her magic on the way to Shinki's castle.
>>No. 8673
[X] Wrong; wasn’t I supposed to meet with Shinki?
-[X] Maybe Yuki can show me some of her magic on the way to Shinki's castle.

So we're Alice significantly pre-Mystic Square, and among other things, Yuuno Scrya is puttering around, possibly getting ready to make a name for himself as an archaeologist/librarian.
>>No. 8676
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That sounded suspicious. I peered at the witch, sizing up her wide grin and gleeful eyes. My mind’s gears slowly turned, working through what had happened before going to sleep. The trip to Makai’s entrance, seeing the landscape, learning about the town…

“So that’s a yes? Alright, let’s go!” My drowsy mind was jolted awake when the witch grabbed my arm and pulled me out the door. I barely had time to set my teacup down before being hauled around like a doll, again.

The adrenaline rush was enough to jog my memories. “Wait Yuki, stop!” The other blonde failed to take heed of my cry so I started to squirm, trying to the girl’s attention.

A lurching sensation in my gut told me it probably wasn’t the best idea to become harder to carry while flying high over the roofs of a city. Luckily the witch was slightly aware, lowering us both to the ground before she lost her grip on me.

I took a deep breath once my feet touched a patch of dirt just beyond the outskirts of the city. Calming my nerves, I planted my hands on my hips and whirled around to confront the demon. My indignation was overflowing, a suffering dog ready to snap at the cat which tormented it. “Yuki,” I cried, “that wasn’t very nice!”

It was annoying. My greatest weapons were shrugged off by the callous witch like I had tried nothing at all. Finding myself in an uncomfortable embrace, practically suffocating inside her goodwill gesture was distressing to say the least. Still, the moment passed after a small amount of screaming and waving of arms.

“Sorry, you’re so irresistible. Ready to go?” The demonic grip reached out for me again. I jumped backwards and swatted the hand away, loudly refusing.

“Yuki, I’m supposed to meet Shinki. I can’t fly off to wherever you want to go.” I explained the situation as clearly and bluntly as I could, making sure the witch would not mistake my meaning.

The other girl looked crestfallen, kicking at the dirt idly. “Why? I’m sure the old lady is willing to wait – besides, she might not even be ready to meetcha right now!”

I shook my head as I responded, “She wants to meet me. I can’t just say no. It would be rude!” Momma talked with everybody who came to see her, even if they were really angry. If they had taken the time, she could too – that’s how daddy explained it to me.

“Hmph, fine.” Yuki reached out and I took her hands. We lifted off back into the direction we came from, towards the glistening crystal lake. “Hiei might be a bit angry at me for ditching him like this though.”

Then maybe you shouldn’t have made plans without asking me first, I thought, but my curiosity was piqued. What did Yuki plan while I was asleep anyway?

The witch answered my question as easily and as carefree as she did anything else. “Oh? I asked a couple of guys to help me display their talents to a newcomer.”

Cradled in Yuki’s arms, I couldn’t turn to see the witch’s face. My eyes still narrowed in suspicion, even with no target to glare at. “Is that all?” I asked.

“Yup!” Her reply was short and sweet.

“How does getting others to show off their talents show me your magic?”

“Huh? Oh, once we showed up I was just going to blast ‘em or something. Once they fought back I would show you some great spells I have!”

“That doesn’t sound like what they would expect when they agreed to help.”

“Of course not silly! Like they would agree to meet me if they knew I was just planning on shooting them. Haha, you humans sure have some weird thoughts.”

The urge to slap my forehead was strong but I ignored the feeling, taking in the view as we flew past the city and over the lake. ‘Lake’ might have been the incorrect term, but I had no idea what else to call it. The ground was light blue and translucent, perfectly smooth with slight mounds. Larger chunks of crystal stuck out of the ground, as if small waves of water had frozen. The fake lake stretched out seemingly forever, disappearing into the darkness, beyond what I could see. It was far larger than the Misty Lake, or even the ones daddy told me about. Maybe it was like that ocean where daddy used to live!

As we glided towards Pandemonium in the distance, I noticed what was wrong with the trip. Out in the middle of the lake there was only silence, along with the gentle flutter of my hair.

I wondered, “Are you mad at me Yuki?”

“What? Why did you ask me that?” The honest confusion in her voice was charming in its own way, if not frustrating.

“Well,” I reasoned out loud, “you tried to show me something cool but I just ignored it.”

Yuki’s cheerful laugh was a great relief. “No, why would I be angry about that? Plan didn’t work out, that’s all; more my fault than yours!”

“Oh, alright.” The witch’s flippant remarks made me feel better, but I wondered if she really felt that way. Her silence and slow movement told me more about her mood than anything. She seemed so excited before, I thought I might be able to make it up to her. “Hey Yuki, could you show me some of your magic now?”

“What, you mean you want me to cast potentially fatal spells while carrying you through the air above diamond tough crystal?”

“Well, when you put it like that-”

“No problem!” I shouldn’t have expected anything less. My mind barely had time to quiver in fear before the spectacle began.

Words filled the former silence. At least, I assumed they were words. Speaking in a harsh, guttural language I had never heard before, Yuki’s high girlish voice was eerie. She spoke quickly and furiously, a single long stream of syllables pouring out.

In front of our slow flight, fire danced. Wisps of flame spontaneously appeared, strands like hair floating freely several metres ahead of us. The strings of fire swirled in the air, curving and bending around each other even as more appeared. The mass of dancing flames grew larger and larger, from a cloud the size of my head to one as large as a house. The heat grew greater and greater, from the warmth of a fireplace to the blaze of a kitchen. Yuki’s words droned onwards, spoken more rapidly with each passing second. The magic fire leaped at her commands, swaying from side to side and backing away from the two of us.

The witch’s spell continued uninterrupted. I hadn’t even heard her take a breath before she started to shout. The noise was strange – the witch was yelling from right behind my ears, yet the demonic words sounded as if they were uttered from all around us. Her voice filled the wide empty air above the lake, resonating even in the void of space. It chilled my skin, goose bumps appearing all along my arms and legs, the heat of the miniature sun in front of us a non-factor compared to the voice. I could feel the words resounding in my chest and bones, affecting my very soul.

That said nothing of what the spell was meant to do. My eyes were focused on the blaze even as my body felt the chill of the demonic magic. The ball of fire jerked in all directions, the outermost layer writhing in a disgusting way, like the flames were a mass of worms. They jumped and sank with the flow of demonic words, responding to every syllable.

Yuki’s spell transformed itself into a deep baritone, the words in the air quickly losing their girlish pitch. This sudden switch in tone signaled the ball of flame launching straight into the air, as fast as the fireworks daddy loved. The sphere looked like it moved too quickly for itself, stretching out and elongating as it traveled higher into the air.

The line of fire looped around in the air, spiraling around itself before diving back downwards. A dragon roared; gouts of fire spit from its mouth. It was incredible. The flames mimicked every rough line and scale, eyes, snout, ears, and everything else of the ancient beast. It was a veritable god given form, the dreams and nightmares of every person come to life in a stunning conflagration. The beast-like fire roared as it swung about, speeding past us and around in graceful loops.

The demon witch’s spell was majestic and terrifying. I couldn’t think between the soul-clutching words and the imposing dragon facsimile. Never in my life had such a god-like presence taken hold over me. The terror of being near death or the joy of quiet living could not hold a candle to the awesome power the spell held. It was a defining moment; no magic would ever compare to this, no matter what effects might be wrought. The awe inspired in me was life lasting.

As quickly as it had sped up, the spell lasting no longer than a few minutes, it was abruptly shattered. The great flaming dragon roared a dying breath, the flames it was made of breaking apart and disappearing as countless swords shot through its form. The gleaming blades pierced straight through the flames and hurtled downwards, embedding themselves within the crystal below. Other silver swords were flying through the air, each seeming to have purpose yet hitting nothing I could see.

Yuki quivered in the air, slowing to a halt in both speech and movement. I blinked, clearing my eyes of the afterimage the demonic fire had burned into my eyes. Looking around, things seemed to have returned to normal. All was quiet, everything but the gleaming crystal swathed in darkness once more.

Everything was the same, except for the woman flying towards us. A blonde haired beauty, her locks far longer than my and Yuki’s hair combined. She wore what could only be described as a maid uniform, a beautiful scarlet dress fluttering behind her, white frills and apron also dangling freely. In her hands were the same silver swords from before, easily half as tall as I was.

“What do you think you’re doing?” The maid spoke as soon as we were within distance, her tone harsh and accusatory.

“Eh? What do you mean Yumeko? Shinki scheduled the meeting, you should know about it!” Yuki’s girlish and slightly raspy voice responded.

The maid drew even closer, glaring at the person holding me. “You know exactly what I mean witch. We’ve already talked about your wanton spell casting, but this is on an entirely new level.”

“I don’t see any problems with what I do.” Yuki asserted herself boldly.

“Invoking ancient magic beyond your time is foolish and irresponsible. I don’t even know where you acquired such spells. What if you had lost control? You could have harmed countless others, destroyed everything around. What were you thinking?”

“Don’t lecture me; I knew what I was doing! You’re making a big deal out of nothing!”

The maid, Yumeko, ignored me completely as she laid into the witch with sharp words. The fiery demon responded in kind, her voice back to normal as she began to shout her responses.

I wasn’t sure what was happening, but I knew …

[ ] That was so cool! I wanted to know how Yuki did that.
[ ] Nothing bad happened. Why were they fighting?
[ ] They should hurry up and introduce me! It was rude to talk without introductions.
[ ] Yuki just did something stupider than normal. She called the spell fatal!
[ ] I had a meeting to get to. It would be nice if they could argue while they flew.

---

>>8665
You mean psycho killer Alice? I actually hadn’t read his works before, but now that you’ve pointed it out…

>>8673
If I need to name a character, I generally steal it from somewhere else. Name all the references and win a prize! Or not, you know – I don’t exactly have much to give.

Also, fifth story post means tripcode! Not that big for anybody but me I suppose.
>>No. 8677
[x] I had a meeting to get to. It would be nice if they could argue while they flew.
>>No. 8678
[ ] That was so cool! I wanted to know how Yuki did that.
>>No. 8679
[x] That was so cool! I wanted to know how Yuki did that.
>>No. 8680
[x] Nothing bad happened. Why were they fighting?

>You mean psycho killer Alice?
I believe he meant Fuantei's rather pathetic version of Shinki.
>>No. 8681
[X] That was so cool! I wanted to know how Yuki did that.
>>No. 8682
[x] Nothing bad happened. Why were they fighting?
>>No. 8683
[x] That was so cool! I wanted to know how Yuki did that.

Good kid, be amazed.
>>No. 8685
>>8680
and incidentally enough incredibly spiteful renditions of Yumeko and Alice.
>>No. 8686
[x] That was so cool! I wanted to know how Yuki did that.
>>No. 8706
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8706
I knew that was one of the most amazing things I had ever seen! Whatever Yuki did was incredible. It might have been a tad bit scary, but I was sure the witch never planned on harming me or herself either.

“Woah! Yuki that was sooo cool! What was that? How’d you do it? Can you teach me too?” I bombarded the girl behind me with questions, my outburst loud and excited.

“Oh? Curious aren’t you? Hahah, I would be too if I just saw a dragon, right?” The witch rotated into my view as she carefully grabbed me by my sides and held me up.

I realized after the fact that my body was being used to block a laser-guided glare, but at that time, all I was focusing on were Yuki’s words. “Alright, so what you just saw was a pretty complex spell, more of a ritual really. The creation of the fire was simple enough; it was your standard magical-”

“Ahem.” Yuki’s explanation was cut-off as the maid floated to over our side. The witch brought me closer again as she turned to face the blonde woman.

“Listen Yumeko, if you still-”

“No, I will discuss your spell casting and magical sources later. For now, we should head into the castle. It should be more comfortable for the both of you. I do not believe the goddess is ready for a meeting at the moment, but she will be shortly. Light refreshments will, of course, be available.” The maid bowed mid air, before gesturing towards Pandemonium.

“Oh, well that’s nice. Thanks Yumeko, let’s go!” Surprisingly, Yuki flew off at a reasonable speed. She was on her best behavior around others, it seemed.

The maid pulled up alongside us and looked at me straight in the eyes. She smiled politely and inclined her head. “Forgive me for the first impressions. I am Yumeko, caretaker of Pandemonium and the goddess’ personal maid.”

I blinked, confused by the inviting speech of the woman who had just been throwing around swords and lectures angrily. Where were those swords anyway? I wondered, not seeing the weapons or a place to put them on the maid’s person. “Nice to meet you Yumeko, my name is Alice Margatroid. Thank you for your hospitality.” I tried to curtsey but found it rather difficult while dangling in mid air. The manners momma taught me were meant for other humans and not flying demons, but it still seemed right to try and follow them anyway.

We finished the flight to Pandemonium silently, taking only a few minutes without any distractions. The castle was massive, easily larger than any building I had ever seen. Large pillars rose from the lake below, crystal carved with intricate designs. Four massive spires formed the corners of the castle, each spire terminating in an elegant, pointed roof. Shimmering arches spanned the distance between the towers, acting as support for the rest of the castle suspended high above the lake. Winding corridors could be seen through the translucent walls that made up the rectangular castle exterior. Each wall had numerous carvings and decorations to them, gargoyles and murals a natural extension of the crystal, as if the material had simply grown into form. Half-circle platforms stuck out along parts of the wall, the largest of which we landed on.

The platform was as beautifully crafted as the rest of the structure. More than the blue crystals of the lake, a variety of colored crystals were included in its construction. Red and green tiles formed intricate circular patterns while the platform’s delicate railing was studded with purple gems.

We walked into Pandemonium, Yuki tugging on my hand as we followed Yumeko. The interior walls were not transparent or reflective, but still managed to glitter like diamond. I looked all around, at the extremely high ceilings and equally dominating walls. The corridor could easily fit ten people walking astride each other, while the number of doorways and rooms would be more than enough to house all of the humans in Gensokyo. Daddy always said castles weren’t nice or cozy, but this one was just like those in momma’s fairy tales.

Yumeko eventually led us into a sitting room, complete with non-crystal furniture. Three large, comfy looking arm chairs were settled around a neat hard wood table and a modest fireplace. The crystal floor was covered with a rug and the walls couldn’t be seen behind the floor to ceiling book cases.

“Would the guests prefer any refreshments? Some tea and cookies? Or perhaps something more substantial?” Yuki and I plopped down onto the chair immediately while Yumeko paused at the doorway.

The fire witch’s eyes were closed as she slumped down into her seat. She waved a lazy hand through the air. “Hey, you still have those funky bread things from last time, right?”

“The donuts? Yes, and for you milady?”

“Do you have any scones?” The request was out of my mouth in an instant and was met with an affirmative nod. The maid bowed again before turning on a heel and leaving us.

I relaxed for a moment, enjoying the rest; being carried around in the air was hardly comfortable. Still, traveling with the witch did seem to have its perks. I nudged Yuki’s leg with my own toes, trying to get the girl’s attention.

The demon groaned before pulling herself up into a proper sitting position. She only needed to take one look at me before brightening up and remembering.

“Right, magic! So where was I? Right, fire spell. Standard stuff, no big deal. Manipulate the ambient energy latent in the underground for easier combustion of particles and the creation of magical fire; beginner stuff right there. The fancy bit comes from the formation of the dragon revenant. I figured out that some of the rock spirits within Makai predate the old lady’s take-over of the area. Those spirits still hold on to the imagery of the dragons back when they roamed freely through the land, so I all I needed to do was to bind those spirits into a lattice ritual and use their latent memories as a structural prototype for the creation of a dragon facsimile. What’s really awesome about the ritual is that if I had the time to properly invoke every aspect of the spirit’s remembrance, I would have a near perfect copy of a dragon under my control! It isn’t like those half-assed summoning spells where the magician strains their own minds in order to hold the vivid imagery and meticulous detail needed for the constant imposition of an artificial entity on the world; as long as I keep the spirits pacified I can multitask into other areas. So how did I construct the ritual? Its base is a simple hexagonal…”

Asking about the spell was probably a terrible mistake. Yuki started up and never stopped, the words pouring out in an unstoppable flood. She was definitely older and smarter than me; I couldn’t understand anything she said. The technical descriptions were filled with unintelligible jargon. I slumped in my own chair, resting my head on the armrest as I watched Yuki talk. If nothing else the witch seemed happy, blathering on with the largest grin I had see on her yet.

At some point in the explanation Yumeko returned, setting down a tray filled with treats and tea. I grabbed my own little plate and teacup, munching on scones and sipping warm green tea. The maid sat down on the third chair and did likewise. Yuki didn’t seem to notice anything had changed as she continued on with her one-sided discussion. I thought about interrupting the girl but Yumeko seemed to sense my intentions and held a finger to her lips. The blonde woman smiled and sipped her tea. I sort of understood her intentions, sitting back into my own chair to enjoy my snack.

“…so if you look at it like this, the efficiency gained from double-layering of the protective wards is- oh hey, food’s here.” I was biting into my second scone by the time Yuki noticed the new addition to the room.

“Was your chat pleasant Yuki?” The maid asked politely, taking a refined sip of tea.

The witch nodded her head before turning to look at me. She stared for a moment before breaking out into laughter. “Hah, I just realized you didn’t understand any of that at all, huh?” I gave her a look. I think everybody knows that look, the kind that even a little baby can give people. It was the ‘I am smiling to be polite but I don’t understand how you couldn’t have known that,’ look.

“I believe it takes a special kind of person to follow what you say.” Yumeko’s comment was stated plainly, a counterpart to the loud and emotional voice of my savior.

“Hey, thanks Yumeko!”

“You’re welcome, I suppose. Somehow, I doubt Miss Margatroid has the knowledge and…unique mindset required to understand your explanation.”

“I guess. You need to hurry up and learn Alice!”

“Huh?” I blinked, a scone half-eaten scone floating inches away.

“Humans are supposed to pick stuff up really quickly since you don’t live very long, right? So you need to hurry up and learn about magic so I can explain this properly!”

“Okay Yuki.” I answered quickly, rapidly consuming the delectable treat. The scones weren’t the best I ever had, but they were still delicious. There was an assortment, scones filled with different types of fruity bits. They weren’t any fruit I was familiar with from back in the village, but they were still sweet. The tea was nice too; better than the scalding hot tea daddy liked to drink.

We sat in the room, sipping tea and eating baked treats quietly. Yuki and Yumeko spoke a few times, sometimes asking for my opinion on some matter or another, but it was all idle chit chat. Underneath the maid’s tranquil demeanor and Yuki’s happy-go-lucky vibe, I thought the two were simply bidding their time. It was a weird sensation, but that was what my gut told me.

“So what’s taking the old lady so long, maid girl?” Yuki’s cheeky grin was met with a subtle frown and closed eyes.

“I am afraid the goddess was unavailable when I had last checked. Perhaps now she is ready for a meeting.”

Well in that case…

[ ] Let’s all go talk with the goddess!
[ ] Yumeko should go check again.
[ ] I could go find the goddess for our meeting.
[ ] Write-in

---

>>8680
Poor, abused momma-Shinki just wants her family to love her. I could feel my emotions resonating with Funatei’s deep and dramatic portrayal of familial love at its strongest. Ahem.

Also, as general note, do not fear in making stupid/funny decisions in the future. Any route locks should be rather obvious, and I write to have fun. The worst that can happen is a (possibly informative) bad end and re-voting.
>>No. 8707
[x] I could go find the goddess for our meeting.
>>No. 8709
[x] Yumeko should go check again.
>>No. 8710
[x] I could go find the goddess for our meeting.

A little girl on her own way to meet the goddess of a Demon World? What can possibly go wrong?
Okay, Shinki may go "LITTLE GIRL" and raises both her arms in a ridiculous and uncharismatic way, but it'll be funny anyway, so I'm voting for that.
>>No. 8711
>>8710
You convinced me.

[x] I could go find the goddess for our meeting.
>>No. 8712
[X] I could go find the goddess for our meeting.
>>No. 8716
[x] I could go find the goddess for our meeting.

Sounds fine to me~
>>No. 8717
[X] I could go find the goddess for our meeting.
>>No. 8744
File 133087544838.jpg - (478.02KB, 765x841, shinki-nope-chuck-testa.jpg) [iqdb]
8744
“Can you tell me where the goddess is Yumeko?” I put down my teacup and plate, quickly swallowing my third scone and wiping the crumbs away.

“Yes, she must certainly be ready by now. Follow me Miss Margatroid.” The maid elegantly rose and I hopped off my chair, the fuzzy rug tickling my toes.

We were just passing through the open doorway when Yumeko ground to a halt. “Bye you two, enjoy talking with the old lady!” A childish voice had stopped her in her tracks.

The maid turned around, glancing down at me before flicking her gaze back into the room. Small creases formed in her brows, red lips pursing in distaste. One of her hands disappeared into the folds of her uniform for a second, re-emerging with a small paper pad and a stylus. The maid quickly scribbled something and tore the top sheet of paper off, handing it to me. It was a map, as clear as day. Solid, straight lines laid out the floor plan of the castle, walls and doorways marked out. A large ‘X’ was placed over one of the rooms while a set of parallel lines was circled.

Another sheet was handed to me, and another, each small piece of paper numbered in the corner. Each was a map, with an ‘X’ and something circled somewhere on the sheet.

“Pandemonium is large, but the goddess’ room is relatively nearby here. I’ve marked your current location, as well as where you need to go. Do you think you could follow these maps?” The maid asked.

I scrutinized the sheets before answering, “Yes, I can do it. Thank you very much!” Yumeko smiled and rubbed the top of my head before sending me off.

As I left the sitting room behind, a conversation started. I couldn’t hear what was being said, but felt that the tone was not very calm. I turned another corner just as the floor shook a bit. I thought adults could solve problems without explosions so I kept walking.

The first floor was easy enough to navigate. Four turns found me at a large curving stairwell, the steps just as wide as the corridors. It was directly in the center of an open room, the banisters gleaming in the crystal-light.

I slowly made my way down the hallways, head snapping up and down from the maps to the walls to make sure I was going in the right direction. I found the second set of stairs easily enough, hurrying up the steps to third floor.

It was difficult to keep track of things. Although the map was as clear as possible, the interior of the castle looked the same everywhere I looked. Gleaming blue walls and doors, floors and ceilings were completely alien to me. Not a single green leaf, pile of brown dirt, or stack of grey rocks could be found. Unlike the sitting room Yumeko had shown me the countless rooms behind the featureless doors were barren and empty. Without a map I would be lost amid indistinguishable rooms.

Of course, even with a map I could get lost. A moment of distraction, looking at my surroundings instead of where I was on the paper, would be enough.

Everything looked exactly the same, and there wasn’t a goddess where I thought one would be.

I fumbled with the papers in my hands, furtively looking around at the crystal for something to lead me on the right track. “Wah, I couldn’t have gone too far off…” I mumbled to myself, walking in the direction I thought my destination laid.

That is to say, I picked a random corridor and hoped for the best.

Luck was not on my side.

I wandered the hallways, opening doors and peeking into rooms. My methodical search slowly lost steam, transforming into a dispirited and half-hearted attempt. Minutes faded into hours and I remained lost. The castle was large enough that I could probably spend days checking out every single room. It seemed like the kind of situation where a child should break down and cry. It was possible I could never find or be found by anyone, wasting away in the crystal labyrinth without food or water. Yet, the emotion of fear was nowhere in sight. Closing my eyes and twirling in the middle of the wide hall felt peaceful and safe. It was the same sense of protection that had pervaded my senses ever since I arrived in Makai. The feeling could block out anything and everything that might worry me, if I let it.

“My, what do we have here?” I jumped, the sudden voice surprising me. My spinning caught up with me, pulling my sense of balance down to the ground. I flailed my arms in a futile gesture to stay upright but gravity would have no arguments.

“What? Oh dear,” I groaned after my face collided with the floor, slender hands helping me back up to my feet.

“Thank you…” I looked up at the one who startled me. The blonde demons in Makai kept getting curvier and older with each one I met! The lady wore a long pink and purple dress, little red ribbons adorning the fabric. Her golden hair was tucked neatly underneath a pink cap.

Her gaze washed over me, a subtle and creepy tingle working its way up and down my limbs. I couldn’t name what I felt or how the woman looked at me, but it ended as soon as she smiled. It was a subdued grin, not as large as Yuki’s but more expressive than Yumeko’s.

“It wasn’t a problem at all. Now, you must be Alice, yes?”

I stuttered, “A-ah, you uhm, know me miss?”

“Know you? Not as such, but I do know about you. Does that not amount to the same thing?” She answered my question, her voice mature and aristocratic but not snide. She gave me the impression of someone who was supremely cultured, with years to learn how to control their tone and emphasis. “Tell me child, what are you doing here?”

“I have a meeting with the goddess,” I proclaimed, not quite admitting the truth of the situation.

“I suppose you do, although that was not the gist of my question. Mmm, I suppose my inquiry was rather pointless as I already know, but that was a most interesting response.”

I fought the urge to scratch my head. What is she talking about? I questioned myself, unsure of what the strange lady wanted. She seemed to be talking at me, as opposed to with me.

“Yes, you are quite resilient, are you not? Margatroid…yes, she was certainly a strong-willed human – I can see that in you quite clearly. You would need to take care, however. Even the strongest dams will burst under pressure and without relief.” The blonde woman held her lip thoughtfully as she spoke.

“Excuse me, miss?” I need to say something, anything. Standing as the purple lady talked was awkward. A miserable feeling started to roll around in my gut. What was the problem? The increasing sense of unease growing inside of me; what was it?

“Oh? My apologies, I must not be making much sense to you. Yes, there is little I can do for you or you me, unfortunately; too young, too innocent, and too wise. I need to be going as well. This visit has been informative but time consuming – my delectable red velvet cake should be almost ready!” She clapped her hands together and made a noise approximate to a refined squeal.

“Before I go I can help you with your current predicament child. Here,” the blonde woman reached out with a hand, tapping my forehead once. An icy chill filled my brain for an instant and then disappeared. “Stay safe Alice, a human like you needs to take care.” Cryptic wishes and advice given, the lady reached into thin air and ripped something. A dancing vision, specters and eyes of a world unseen, rippling waves of nothing and everything- she disappeared, the boundary dissipating with her.

Settling myself, I realized I wasn’t lost any longer. Pandemonium’s layout was as clear as day to me. My cheeks flushed in embarrassment even with no one around. How had I managed to miss the goddess’ room? It was the one right next to where I thought it should be before I started to wander!

Scanning my memories, I found a number of interesting things. Many of Pandemonium’s rooms were indeed for show, empty and hallow serving no purpose whatsoever, but many more held function. A number of different sitting rooms and bedrooms were interspersed throughout the castle, with just as many washrooms. Libraries, kitchens, stables, schoolrooms, pseudo-farms, shrines, armories, music halls, and many other places could be found within the goddess’ home. Randomly littered throughout the premises, I imagined a goddess creating new additions whenever the urge struck her.

With all of this in mind, I…

[ ] Checked on Yuki and Yumeko. I hoped they hadn’t killed each other.
[ ] Wandered some more. I finally knew where all the interesting places were.
[ ] Stopped delaying the meeting. I had a goddess to find already!
[ ] Write-in.

---
>>No. 8747
[x] Stopped delaying the meeting. I had a goddess to find already!


>purple lady
So we're already meeting the Queen in Purple, hu?
>too young, too innocent
Okay, now that's just creepy. STRANGER DANGER!
>>No. 8755
[x] Stopped delaying the meeting. I had a goddess to find already!
>>No. 8756
[x] Stopped delaying the meeting. I had a goddess to find already!

We are already a few hours late.
>>No. 8817
File 133136373954.jpg - (495.06KB, 700x973, suddenly-activity-in-underground.jpg) [iqdb]
8817
I slapped myself. How stupid could I be? Even without the sun or a clock to tell time, I knew it had been at least two hours since Yumeko had trusted me to find the goddess on my own.

“I’m late, I’m late, I’m late,” I rushed through the halls, but did not quite run. Being late to a meeting was the height of impropriety. I didn’t want to worsen things by running around in someone else’s home – even if the home happened to be a massive castle.

The route back to the goddess’ room was short, my mental map of Pandemonium showing me shortcuts through the winding hallways. I stopped to catch my breadth just around the corner from the room, fixing my hair and clothes to look somewhat presentable.

I stiffened when I heard a voice. Against better judgment I quietly shuffled to the edge of the corner and listened. Despite the utter lack of noise in the castle I could still barely hear the people talking.

“…not check for hours? You read the note, did you not?” That was Yumeko’s voice, austere with a hint of anger.

“Eh? Of course I did, you put it on my forehead!” The second speaker was unknown to me. Her voice was deep enough to be a mature woman’s, but there was a childish tint to the tone that confused me.

“Why would you leave a young girl to wander then? Image what could happen to her when she’s alone.”

“You worry too much Yumeko; it’s not like I keep rabid pets. Besides, I was still a bit tired, so I figured another few minutes wouldn’t hurt. Then Yakumo showed up so I couldn’t exactly go looking. If she had been waiting an hour for me to wake up, what was another two?”

“I cannot believe this – it is beyond irresponsible, even for you. Despite being the center of your power, countless accidents could still befall a normal human here. What if she happens across any number of the exploding, soul-stealing, or flesh-binding artifacts you keep? What if she has run into one of the creations you have stowed away? What if she just falls down the stairs? They’re large steps!” The lecturing tone I had come to know Yumeko by raked at whoever the maid was talking with.

“Really Yumeko, how much of that is likely to happen? I sealed and warded all those dangerous things into the basement. A normal human wouldn’t be able to get through.”

“Oh, you sealed them you say? Then what is this?”

“Huh? Oh hey, it’s my transmutation stone! I was looking for that. I need it for- hey, give it here Yumeko.”

“I think not. Do you know where I found this? Right in the middle of the hallway. You understand what would happen if an unknowing soul touched one of your creation gems.”

“That would be…bad, but it worked out all right. You found it before anyone else did so there’s no problem.”

“Then what would this be, oh powerful goddess?”

“My wand of thermogenesis. I, uh, might have lost that too.”

“You don’t say. So, these would be the powerful artifacts that have been sealed away and rendered untouchable?”

The conversation stopped, a pregnant paused hanging in the air.

“Maybe.”

“Maybe indeed. I’m going to go fetch the young witch. I should be able to catch up with her in time. No doubt she has some sort of tracking spell for this situation.”

“Great idea Yumeko! I’ll head down to the vaults and find something that can help. I think I still have that blood-scent golem lying around.”

“Or…”

“Or? Why are you glaring at- right. I’ll go look for our little visitor myself.”

The clacking of footsteps pushed me away from the corner. I hurriedly recomposed myself by taking a deep breath, before making myself look natural. That was the most important part. As long as you looked like you had just stumbled by, the grown-ups would never yell at you for eavesdropping.

A white-haired woman rounded the corner, her red dress bobbing behind her as she walked briskly forward. Her eyes were a light blue, as pale as the crystal around us. She stopped when she saw me, looking downwards with a tilt of her head. It was strange, staring up at the woman. I logically knew that she was Shinki, the goddess of Makai that Yumeko served and Mai revered. She was supposedly a klutz but all powerful, capable of constructing a castle and keeping magical artifacts of immeasurable power. Yet the presence I felt was minimal. There was more magic radiating from Yuki and more killer instinct from Yumeko than anything I felt from the goddess. She had no aura to her at all; a village of humans would have been more likely to notice a crazy cat lady than the goddess of demons. It was strange.

The unexpected goddess smiled widely, an easy grin adorning her features. She bent over at the waist, her face almost level with mine, a finger poked out at my nose. She spoke cheerfully, “Well hello there, you must be Alice. I’m Shinki. It’s nice to meet you.” She reached over and clutched my hands with her own, shaking them up and down.

“Ah, hello Shinki. I’m sorry I’m late for our meeting.”

“No, it’s alright. If anything I should be sorry; I wasn’t exactly ready to greet you anyway. The important thing is you showed up, right?”

“Better late than never Alice, even if the other party is unappreciative.”

The goddess stood up straight and carefully held onto one my hands. She smiled and asked, “Let’s go to my room, okay? It’s a bit more comfortable than this hallway.”

Shinki led me around the corner and into her room. Not even a hint of crystal could be seen. The walls were covered with red drapes and a light blue carpet covered the floor. A huge bed sat in the center, large enough for even five adults to lie down comfortably. The rest of the room held all the expected things such as dressers, drawers, night stands, mirrors and book shelves.

“So Alice, how do you like Makai so far?” The goddess asked me as we sat on the ridiculously extravagant bed.

I thought for a moment before answering. “It’s really pretty, and everybody is nice here too.”

“Is that what you think? I’m glad then. I was worried my children wouldn’t be on their best behavior around our special visitor.”

“Children?” I hadn’t seen any white-haired demons before.

“That’s right. I believe you’ve spent time with Yuki and Mai the most, right? They’re a sweet pair.”

“You’re Yuki’s mother?” I squinted my eyes, not seeing the resemblance. Every single facial feature between the two was different as far as I could tell.

“Of course, everybody in Makai is my child. It might be a bit forceful to call them my children, but I did create them; a little selfish whim once in a while doesn’t hurt, does it?”

According to everybody else, ‘once in a while’ is a bit off. I kept my thoughts to myself, instead answering the goddess with a non-committal, “Hm.”

The goddess giggled and continued talking with me. She asked me what my time in Makai was like so far, so I told her. We just chatted. I told her my opinions on the city and all the crystals, about the witches and the maid. I tried to remain polite and reserved just like momma taught me, but I quickly found that my guard had disappeared completely.

“Wah, but do you really need all of this space?” I had sprawled out onto the bed several minutes into our chat, Shinki leaning back as well.

“You mean my castle? Nope! But, there was a lot of space to fill, so I filled it. If I didn’t use everything available then it would be a waste.”

"Don’t save all the fabric Alice. Not using it at all is more of a waste than using it poorly.”

“You can just create things like magic? Poof and it’s done?”

“Dear no, I wish it was that simple! Creating things is rather complicated. I usually just change things around. Let’s see, how might you understand? It’s like sewing. I just take fabric and put it together instead creating the thread from scratch. I mean, I could do that, but it’s pretty boring.”

“I get it! It’s like a bunch of dolls; you change all the pretty dresses but not the bodies.”

“That’s a good analogy Alice. You’re rather smart, aren’t you?”

“The highest grade in your class is most impressive, Alice.”

I felt a bit of blush at the praise. “I-I guess, thank you. If you can change everything, then you could change the demons too?”

“My children? If they wished it, I have that power.”

“I sort of thought that. Yuki looks a lot like me, but Mai has wings and some of the others I saw…the tentacle blob was kind of icky. I don’t get how someone could live like that.”

“Well, I try to accommodate my children with whatever they want. It gets a bit strange sometimes, but things are more fun that way. I don’t mind changing their appearances a bit; it can be funny when things turn out strangely!”

“So what if they don’t want to take a bath or clean up? Do you do it for them too?”

“Cleaning up after them and doing their chores sounds like a lot of work, so no. After all, I’m their mother – I might coddle them, but in the end I have to let them grow on their own.”

“I have to help you develop Alice, that’s what mothers do.”

“That might not be the best parenting, but it’s what I- dear, what’s wrong?” Shinki scooted over, her warm arms enveloping me. The feeling of safety was stronger than ever, more than when Yuki had picked me off of the cave floor and more than when daddy chased off bullies, but it still hurt. It hurt so much. The dull ache in my chest had exploded in a blaze of emotions. My body quivered as tears rolled down my cheeks, loud sobs wracking my body.

Why? What had that happened? Where are they? Sleeping forever, dead and gone but why?

I had curled up on the bed unconsciously and latched on to the warm body near me by accident as well. It was instinctive; to wrap my arms around a torso and bury my tear covered face into an inviting chest.

I didn’t deserve it. They didn’t deserve it. They were the nicest people in the whole world. Why? Why did it happen?

I cried, bawled, wailed, and shrieked. They were more than terror-spawned responses. A tidal wave of emotions had been dammed off to focus on survival. Repressed but not dissipated, I rode adrenaline and curiosity as far as they could take me. My fortitude broke in the presence of that woman. I yelled out questions and raged at the injustice of fate. The loss of everything one hold’s dear in life is beyond painful.

How could it have happened? Why couldn’t I do anything? Where were our protectors? What happened? Why?

Robes were drenched in tears, but the goddess didn’t care. I felt her calming, motherly aura as she stroked my back silently. After all, it was what caused my break down in the first place. There were massive differences between momma and Shinki. My momma was strict and proper. She would never have acted like the flighty goddess for any reason whatsoever. Yet, the similarities were enough. Mothers everywhere were easily recognizable. Spending time with one made it impossible to forget another.

I wasn’t sure how long I cried, but my emotions were spent sometime later. It was exhausting, but full of relief. Freeing emotions that had been bottled up was cathartic. I rested comfortably on Shinki’s shoulder, playing absent-mindedly with the goddess’ long ponytail.

“Alice…” Shinki murmured.

“I’m okay. I’m sorry I did that.”

“No, don’t be. You struggled through a lot already; crying is the least that is owed to you. Don’t be afraid to feel your emotions, okay? Humans have such short lives. You have to make the most of yours.”

I couldn’t say much. “Thanks,” I didn’t have much more to say.

“Alice, if you don’t mind, may I ask what you plan on for the future?”

“I haven’t…” I had not thought of much beyond what was right in front of me. I barely had any time to reflect and predict until that moment in time.

“Well then, perhaps you could stay here with me? If you wanted, of course, then Makai is always willing to accept a new resident.”

How could I have said no? Any human relations I had in Gensokyo had been decimated by the monsters. It wasn’t like I could, or would want to go and find long lost relatives in the outside world either. There were people deep underground that cared for me and were ready to help me live a happy life. Nobody could reject such an offer.

“That’s great Alice. I would love to take care of a sweet little girl like you.” The goddess pinched my cheek and I giggled. Her happiness was effusive.

“So where would you want to live? I am a goddess after all; wherever you want I can make it nice, just for you.”

Living arrangements? The question was so sudden and random, but a fair first question. One could hardly settle in without a home. I wanted to live…

[ ] At Mai’s house. It was clean and comfortable.
[ ] With Yuki. Staying close to the witch sounded like the best plan.
[ ] In Pandemonium. The castle was so neat, and there was plenty of space.
[ ] On my own…
-[ ] In town. Being at the center of everything would help a ton.
-[ ] On the outskirts of town. There were plenty of empty hills ripe for the picking.
-[ ] In the crystal forest. Something about the place seemed intriguing.
[ ] Write-in

---

I don’t know how some stories sustained everyday updates of 1,500 words or more. Insanity, I say.
>>No. 8818
[x] In Pandemonium. The castle was so neat, and there was plenty of space.

Because mummy Shinki
>>No. 8819
[x] In Pandemonium. The castle was so neat, and there was plenty of space.


>I don’t know how some stories sustained everyday updates of 1,500 words or more.
ALL WORK AND NO GAME
ALL WORK AND NO GAME
ALL WORK AND NO GAME
ALL WORK AND NO GAME
ALL WORK AND NO GAME
>>No. 8820
[x] In Pandemonium. The castle was so neat, and there was plenty of space.
>>No. 8822
[x] In Pandemonium. The castle was so neat, and there was plenty of space.
>>No. 8871
When are you going to update?
>>No. 8873
>>8871

I think it's raining inside...
Hah, but it will be in the next few days. I have a bi-daily schedule in mind, but life interferes more than I'd like.
>>No. 8887
File 133196481432.jpg - (322.09KB, 800x600, what-is-the-vote-even-about.jpg) [iqdb]
8887
I wanted to live in Pandemonium – there was no question in my mind. Who would pass up the chance to live in a real castle? I knew there was more than enough space in there for me too.

“It would be easy enough to create an addition to Mai’s house, or even put up an entirely new house. I think that would suit you; I can make anything I put my mind to, after all!” The goddess swept her hands outwards, a vibrant picture shimmering into existence between them. I saw a hill, the dark red dirt of Makai shoved aside as granite walls rose from the ground, capping at a dome. The scene shifted, a different hill swept away by a sudden influx of crystal. Designs and possibilities flashed before my eyes.

“How about this one Alice? I rather like the height. Doesn’t it make it seem majestic? Maybe something a bit simpler would suit you more. I think this might be just right.”

“Uhm,” I started, “actually…”

“Have you seen one you liked Alice? Whatever you choose would be a cinch to create.” Shinki looked down at me, a giddy delight tinting her eyes.

“Can I live with you?” I didn’t look at the goddess, instead choosing to fiddle with the hem of my skirt. It was silly, to be embarrassed over something so simple, but it still felt strange. Thinking about the real reason I wanted to stay in Pandemonium was awkward. Was it right or wrong? I didn’t know if it was possible to replace something that had been beyond precious, but I didn’t want to let go of the feeling of love again.

“What?”

My head was still tilted away from the goddess, but my voice grew more confident. “May I live in this castle with you?”

“Live here? Pandemonium?”

I nodded, mustering the courage to look at the creator of Makai.

She looked broken.

It was as if her face had frozen in time, eyes slightly widened and mouth agape. A single finger was extended, pointing backwards at her chest. “With me?” she squeaked.

“Please?” I asked.

Shinki managed to close her mouth, before slapping her cheeks lightly and shaking her head. She murmured a reply. “Why here? It can’t be very exciting here. There’s no reason to stick around. It’s so far away from every one, so large and uninviting. It’s definitely not the kind of place you would want to live.”

Disappointment flared in my gut as I anticipated her answer. The sadness must have showed on my face as Shinki reacted immediately, waving her hands in front of her and stringing together a litany of apologies. “I didn’t mean that you weren’t wanted Alice! I would love to have you living here, but I don’t think Pandemonium is the best place to live for a girl like you.”

The indirect rejection stung, the desperate hope edging its way into my voice. “I liked it here with you. It wouldn’t be terrible; I could help out with the chores and things too. Please, I can do the dishes and sew a bit and-” Warm arms wrapped around me.

“I’m sorry dear; I didn’t mean it like that. Of course you can stay with me. I appreciate the thought you’ve put into this decision.” We hugged for a number of heartbeats as I relaxed in the goddess’ arms. “I just want the best for the newest addition to our family.”

Once I broke the embrace Shinki smiled brightly at me before lifting me up and placing me on my feet. She held onto one hand and led me into the corridors of Pandemonium. “Alright then Alice, if you’re going to stay with me you would need a room, wouldn’t you? I think I have the perfect one in mind.”

A few seemingly random turns later found us outside of a non-descript room of the castle. Yet, consulting the mental map given to me, I could tell why Shinki wanted me to have that particular room. It was roughly in the center of everything important; from the bathrooms to the kitchens and dining hall, from some sort of armory and a wide open courtyard.

The room itself was rather modest, a bit larger than my old room if one took out all the furniture and decorations.

“Okay! Now we get to the fun part Alice,” Shinki exclaimed as she pulled out a glittering jewel from a pocket of her dress. “Did you have any particular design in mind?”

I thought about what my ideal room was, but ended up drawing a blank. My old room was rather generic itself, with just a bed and dresser, which was the same every other villager had. The extravagant designs that the goddess enjoyed were incomprehensible to my imagination.

My response didn’t affect the goddess in the least. Shinki simply laughed and pulled me close with one arm, holding the gem out in the other. A force flowed over me, a tangible haze pulsing out from the gem. It was unlike any feeling I had felt before; another strange and mysterious effect of magic.

The results were instantaneous. The room transformed in the blink of an eye, the crystal walls covered with a garish yellow paper, the floor and furniture equally clashing and rather repulsive.

“I guess you don’t approve of this one? That’s alright!” Again and again the room changed, the design completely altering itself with each magical pulse. The theme of each room was different from the previous one, a wide range of styles laid out before my eyes. Shinki giggled and commented, pointing out various objects and intricacies of the rooms to me before shifting to the next.

I stopped the transformations when it suddenly felt right. “Oh, this is rather interesting,” Shinki noted. “This is something I haven’t seen much of.”

Overall, the room was rather plain. White walls and wooden floors formed the basics, hand woven quilts and rugs were draped across the walls and laid along the floor. Striped patterns and basic geometric figures were everywhere. Even the bed was a simple wooden frame with a soft mattress, the colorful patterns repeated in the blankets. A basic dresser and armoire were placed along the walls, the rest of the space empty save for a small circular table and two chairs.

“I think this is a great choice Alice.” Shinki patted me on the head, pocketing her magic jewel.

“Really? I’m not sure why I chose it.”

“Maybe you just knew it was right? I think this design was patterned after the outside world, from some small area in the countryside. I’m not quite sure where though.”

Shinki gave me time to check over my room, letting me familiarize myself with where I would be sleeping. She leaned in the doorway for a few minutes and watched me before wandering off with a reassurance that she would be right back. I discovered that material things were included with the furniture as well. The dresser and armoire were full of clothes, mostly an assortment of simple but colorful garments a young girl might wear. Underneath the bed was a trunk full of outsider toys.

“Enjoying yourself?” the goddess inquired when she came back into my room. She caught me just as I was opening up the wooden, egg-like doll for the fourth time.

I smiled sheepishly as I placed the contraption back into the trunk. “Where’d you go?” I wondered.

The goddess nodded before explaining, “Well, living here in Pandemonium is a bit of a problem. After all, we’re in the middle of nowhere! If you wanted to go somewhere, it would be a tad difficult to walk around like you’re used to, right?” Being in the center of a large crystal lake and several stories in the air would make leaving the castle a challenge.

“So,” the goddess continued, “I thought I would give you a little present; something to help you get around a bit. I hope you like it Alice.”

A wave of the arm brought Shinki’s present floating out from behind her back. It was…

[ ] A green-clad ranger
[ ] A red-clad dancer
[ ] A silver-clad engineer
[ ] A blue-clad sailor
[ ] A brown-clad sculptor

---

I should (hopefully) be cranking out the updates a bit quicker than this past week.
>>No. 8892
[x] A brown-clad sculptor

Are they suppose to be representing something? Because I have no idea.
>>No. 8893
[x] Blue clad sailor
>>No. 8894
[x] A silver-clad engineer

Erectin' a landscape.
>>No. 8897
>>8892
Aspects of picture related
>>No. 8898
>green
Wood or Earth.
>red
Fire.
>silver
Metal.
>blue
Water.
>brown
Earth or wood. Depends.
>>No. 8899
[x] A silver-clad engineer
>>No. 8917
[x] A silver-clad engineer
>>No. 8931
File 133237121763.png - (54.30KB, 256x256, Buildin'.png) [iqdb]
8931
[x] A silver-clad engineer.

Pic related?
>>No. 8932
File 133237436866.png - (325.82KB, 800x1170, 23819473.png) [iqdb]
8932
And when are you going to update? Are you following a schedule, or are you waiting for us to ask?
>>No. 8940
>>8932
Never fear, an update is not here! Yet, it is in the works. At minimum I will put out an update per week. If I manage the time I'd like to write more.
>>No. 8950
File 133260579074.jpg - (113.56KB, 509x700, picture-not-a-doll-unfortunately.jpg) [iqdb]
8950
It was a doll. A graceful flourish from Shinki sent the figure drifting into my open hands. I grasped the toy around its sides and examined it.

‘Toy’ was an incorrect description. I was able to feel the magic lying dormant inside the doll. The same power that permeated the air in Makai and caused shivers down my spine was held in my hands, concentrated and waiting. A mere toy would never contain the power that the magical artifact held. The doll itself was made of a strange material, smooth to the touch like porcelain but tough like iron. I instinctively knew that throwing the doll from the highest tip of the castle would not cause damage to the pristine body. Silver was the doll’s color, as everything from its clothes to its hair was tinted with it. Belts and buttons adorned the doll’s clothing, the skirt and quirky jacket something the human villagers would never wear. I couldn’t tell what the cloth was meant to be; it was more complicated than simple wool or flax. Far stranger than the cloth was the metal attached to the doll; leather bags and satchels were filled with what I assumed were tools of some sort. I knew what the hammer was, but the rest of the accessories were a mystery to me.

The doll was large, almost the size of my chest. I assumed it was made for adults, since it was only around half the length of Shinki’s arms, comparable to the overall size of a baby. I fiddled around with positioning before figuring out that clutching the doll to my stomach with both arms wrapped around it was the most comfortable way to carry it.

“Uwah, uhm…” I stammered, knowing how much the doll could have sold for amongst humans for its extravagant materials alone, “is this really for me?”

Shinki smiled and patted my head. “Of course it is. I went down and found it just for you.”

“T-thank you.”

“You’re welcome, but do you know what this doll is Alice?” Shinki asked.

I re-examined the doll, hefting it into the air before holding it tight once more. I had almost no idea. “It’s magic.”

“Hah, I suppose it is; you’re right!” The goddess celebrated goofily, pulling me into a little dance. She easily lifted me into the air and spun me around before setting me down on her shoulder. Prickles of magic tickled my back, holding me securely on top Shinki’s shoulder.

“I’m glad you could recognize that Alice. It will be extremely helpful if you can naturally use magic.”

“Really!?”

“Ow. Alice, please don’t kick your legs so hard.”

“Wah, sorry, but can I?”

“Can you what, use magic? Well dear, we’d have to try to find out, but being able to notice magic in the first place is a good sign.”

“Are we gonna go do that now? Hah, I could just go wham and then boom and pow and then a giant fire dragon would go roooar~!”

“My, you must be a talented little witch to pull all that off with just this little finger.”

“Heeeey, let go!”

“What’s wrong? The great young magician can’t fight off the wicked demon?”

“Hyaa-waaah!” I started my jumping leap attack but realized too late that, no; there wasn’t any solid ground for me to land on.

The goddess reached out and pulled me back to the landing platform jutting out of Pandemonium. “Got you.” I scooted away from the edge once my feet touch solid crystal, mentally slapping myself for becoming so distracted. Shinki had used a side passageway to reach the outside of the castle far more quickly than I had expected.

“Are we going somewhere?” I asked the goddess.

“I thought it would be best if we worked out all your transportation problems right away.”

I carefully thought back to what the goddess had already said. “Magic…Makai…flying? I’m going to learn how to fly?”

Shinki smiled and gracefully lifted off the ground, reaching out with a hand. I grinned, moved my doll so I could hold it with one arm and then reached out for the goddess. We lifted gently into the air, snail-like in speed. Learning how to fly, how to use magic – so cool!

“Listen carefully Alice,” the goddess began, “the doll you’re holding is a magical focus. Humans tell stories about witches and their wands or wizards and their staffs, right? That doll is just like a wand. It helps you use magic.”

The teal-eyed doll smiled at me when I looked down at it, the grin permanently built into the not-ceramic face.

“Yumeko told me that Yuki already showed off her magic. You should know that a lot of what Yuki does is very advanced – more complex than anything you might need. Most useful kinds of magic do not need long chants or wacky ingredients. All you need is a bit of aptitude and the desire.”

The goddess’ teachings were snatched from the air as I listened intensively, mulling over her words. “The desire to cast magic?”

“Yes! You must truly want it, believe that you can cast magic and know that what you want to happen will happen. You noticed how we just started flying? I want to fly and for you to come with me, so it happened. I’m confident in my flight and the ability to carry you; that’s all the magic needs to start working.”

“So when Yuki shoots off faster than fireworks she doesn’t try work any harder than you?”

“Ah, I’m afraid she’s just rather impatient and a tad excitable, but it’s the same concept. Yuki doesn’t need a fancy ritual for basic flight and neither do you.”

“If I want to fly…I just fly?” The idea was alien. Regular humans couldn’t fly. Everything that went up had to come back down. “What if I can’t?”

“It’s those kinds of thoughts that stop you from flying in the first place. Even if you had no talents in mage craft, that doll you’re carrying is an amplifier. It can read the intent of its wielder and act upon it. Someone with zero magical ability could fly with that in their hands if they had the right mindset.”

“Oh,” I wondered how much I could trust the goddess. Is magic supposed to be that simple? What if it only works like that for demons? My logical mind refused to accept the idea, even though my heart felt comfortable listening to Shinki.

“Don’t look so troubled dear, it’s isn’t going to be that bad. Here, we can start with a few exercises to get you ready.” The goddess fluttered around and put her hands on my shoulders, disappearing behind my back.

I instinctively started to kick and wriggle, uncomfortable with the wide open air now all around me. “Calm down Alice, I won’t drop you. Breathe a bit, in and out. Try not to look down either if you can help it. Whoops, shouldn’t have said that last bit.” The goddess worked me down from my panicked frenzy after I glanced at the gaping void below me.

“Okay, everything nice and settled then Alice?” I nodded, clutching the silver doll a bit tighter. My heart was still aflutter but not beating as loudly as a gong.

“Good! Now you need to focus. Imagine flying through the air, nice and slowly just like we are. Close your eyes if it helps you to envision it. You aren’t worrying about falling because you’re flying. You can fly, nice and steady. I’m right here to catch you. Nothing bad will happen.” I listened to the goddess. In my minds eye I imagined myself floating through the air, something that was not impossible. It’s easy, as simple as breathing. I told myself this over and over. Normal humans never thought they could fly, but I had seen it myself. Yuki, Mai, Yumeko, and Shinki all flew without a care. It’s not any harder for me. Belief was the key. Gensokyo was a land of fantasy; momma and daddy could never quite believe it, but I had grown up with fairies and youkai. Compared to moving trees and talking rocks, tiny fairies and fire-breathing dogs, flying was a mundane affair. I can do it.

“First time flying, huh?”

“Uhm, not exactly.”

“Never would have guessed that, seeing as you have your eyes squeezed shut there.”

“Well that’s- wait,” I opened my eyes, curious as to who I was talking with. The voice was deeper and less sophisticated than Shinki’s. Why does Makai have so many pretty blondes? The woman I was talking with was lying down in the air, casually floating in front of me. Her pink and white dress draped across her body, outlining all the womanly curves she had that I didn’t. Her sunhat was tipped at an angle, reminding me of a farmer looking for a nap in the sun. She was looking at me with one half-lidded golden eye, the other closed.

“Um, hello?”

“Hey there.”

I blinked.

“My name is Alice Margatroid. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Luize. Nice meeting you too Alice. You from Gensokyo or outside?”

“Uh, I was born in Gensokyo, but my parents came from the outside.”

“Well dang, I was hoping to meet a real outsider for once and hear about the outside from their own view. Reading books and talking with scholars gets pretty boring.

“I’m sorry.” Despite the abrupt conversation, it wasn’t too awkward. “My parents told me stories about their home, would that help?”

“Second-hand account, huh? I guess that’d be better than nothing. How’s about you come find me in town once you’re all finished up here? Maybe we could swap a few stories. I could show you around Makai a bit.”

“Well that’s…”

“Don’t worry about it so much kid; I’m sure you’ve got a lot to do. Probably be better if you didn’t associate with a vagabond like me, huh?”

“I-I didn’t mean that!”

“Hahaha, I know you didn’t, but it’s the truth. The uptight maid girl would agree with me, I’m sure. Still, it’s not like I’ve got much better to do just wandering around everywhere. If you ever want to talk come find me.”

“Okay, and I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you.”

“Water under the bridge kid; can’t worry so much about what others think or you’ll go crazy. Enjoy your flight.”

“I will. Thank you!” The random demon, Luize, flew off towards the city. If I was going to be living in Makai, that made her a neighbor. Or a countrywoman. A fellow? Whatever it was, she was no longer a stranger. I’ll probably get to know all the people in the city too.

I had plenty of time to do everything I needed. There was no need to rush around like Yuki, trying to talk with everybody or anything like that.

“How many demons live in Makai, Shinki?” I asked, worrying about how many names I might need to remember. I couldn’t even remember the hundred or so humans living the village.

No answer greeted me. My mouth opened to ask again when a cold thought lodged itself into my brain. I closed my eyes again and took a deep breathe.

I took another breathe.

I spun around.

I opened my eyes.

Pandemonium didn’t fill my vision completely as the castle was some distance away. A single red figure was waving to me, features indistinguishable except for the bright colored dress contrasted by the crystal blue background.

I sighed. Adults everywhere were the same.

“Just like riding a horse…” I muttered. The annoyance with standard grown-up tricks seeped away as realization set in. “I’m flying…”

“I’m flying!” Excitement flared, my brain processing the situation. I accidentally shot upwards before managing to loop around, spiraling back down and flipping about. “Wah!” The world spun around before I managed to control my perceptions and stop spinning. I raised my arms out to my sides for balance, a natural reaction that managed to stabilize my flight. The silver doll floated alongside me, mimicking my pose. I laughed, reaching over to hold both hands of my flying partner. Bodies lying parallel to the ground, we fell. I put a light spin into our descent, grinning as my partner looked on happily. “Hyah!” I physically kicked, the magic launching us back up through the air. Faster and faster, my short hair began to flap and wave as we sped upwards. A wide and lazy loop set us back on track, quickly returning to Shinki’s side.

“Woah there Alice.” I barely heard the goddess as I barreled past her. The crystal castle menacingly grew larger, provoking me into digging my heels into imaginary ground and finally tumbling to a stop.

The hem of the goddess’ dress entered my vision, before being replaced by Shinki’s smiling face. “That was a very good first flight Alice, you’re a natural!” She praised me, taking a hold of my shoulders and turning me right side up. I could feel the heat enter my face as the goddess giggled. “You might be a bit too enthusiastic though. Try and work on stopping.”

Shinki rubbed my head and I ended up laughing with her. “This so neat! I never thought I could fly. What else can I do Shinki? Can I throw fire around too? Turn people into cats? Build a reeeeeally huge castle?”

“Hah, you’re ambitious aren’t you? I’m sure you could do it too, Alice, but all of those things take time to learn.”

“A-alright…”

“Don’t look so glum, I’m sure you’ll have plenty of teachers that want such a cute apprentice like you!”

“Hehehe~”

“So Alice,” Shinki started, “what do you feel like doing now? We’re finished with everything I planned on. You’re now flying-approved. You can go wherever you want!”

I wanted to…

[ ] Wander the city! There must be plenty of new people to meet and places to see.
[ ]
---

Well here it is. If there was someone you wanted to spend time with or something you wanted to do, write in! All votes will be taken into account (I usually do this anyway), with priority given to the majority if time becomes an issue.
>>No. 8954
[x] Wander the city! There must be plenty of new people to meet and places to see.

It's time to touch the sky! Pet the horizon! Graze the sun! And all those things you do when you can fly.
>>No. 8962
[x] Grab something to help me with magic. Foci, huh? Maybe a diary and some pens would be good.

Alice seems like the tool-user kind of magician. Time to go find an empty book to fill up with stuff (and so our doll can do something besides just hang out around us, gotta have someone carry that after all).
>>No. 8963
[x] Wander the city! There must be plenty of new people to meet and places to see.
>>No. 8987
[x] Wander the city! There must be plenty of new people to meet and places to see.

It's time to touch the sky! Pet the horizon! Graze the sun! And all those things you do when you can fly.
>>No. 8994
File 133317198435.jpg - (120.16KB, 320x480, alice-and-headband-forever.jpg) [iqdb]
8994
I wanted to know more about Makai. It would be silly to accept the goddess’ offer and not find out more about my new home. Yuki had barely shown me the surface of the city’s character. What was a city filled with demons like? Would it feel like home? I had no idea whether or not the few demons I knew were the exception or the norm.

“Can I go see the city? I haven’t seen much of it.”

“Haha, you don’t need to ask for permission Alice; of course you can. I’m sure a well-mannered young lady like you will get along fabulously with all my children.” I smiled at her praise but was surprised by the goddess’ sudden hug. She had dropped downwards in an instant to envelop me in a warm embrace. “Remember to ask for help if you have any problems and try not to wander outside of the city alone.”

“Yes Shinki!”

“Don’t push yourself too hard to try and learn all about Makai in one go. Feel free to come back here and rest at any time.”

“Alright Shinki.”

“Be careful with your flying as well. You shouldn’t have any problems as long as you don’t rush into flashy stuff too quickly.”

“Okay.”

“Remember to watch out where you’re going too. You’ll have to look up and down for others now that you can fly, not just-”

I pulled out of the goddess’ concerned arms and floated away, slowly inching backwards. Shinki looked surprised, her lips split slightly in confusion. I giggled and waved my arm, the silver doll in my other hand mimicking the gesture. “I’ll be fine! Bye Shinki, and thank you!”

With a quick nod to my cheerful partner I rolled in the air and shot off, soaring through the sky once more. A low moan of disappointment sounded behind me but I ignored it; adults could be so childish sometimes.

The city of demons approached quickly, my speed not nearly as haphazard as Yuki’s but much faster than the slow drift I had started out learning with. It was my second time seeing the city from a distance, but I was still amazed and confounded by its design. Towering stone houses and squatted ones mixed on various hills, some roads gradually flowing down a slope while other times the edge dropped away in a sheer fall. I supposed that if everybody could fly it didn’t matter how things were arranged.

I descended into the circular plaza that was near the center of the city. Much like before, demons of all shapes and sizes were roaming about on business and pleasure. Lizards and fiery beasts mixed with moving rocks and human-like appearances. A few of them made note of me but then turned away, uninterested in the little girl that was gaping at them. I blinked as a hand lightly tapped me on the cheek. The silver-haired doll had floated upwards, still in hand, to break me out of my daze. Wah, how careless; it’s so rude to stare!

“Thank you…uhm…Luminita? Can I call you that?” I asked the doll. Silver hair bobbed as the doll did its best to curtsey while I still held one of its hands.

“Hehehe~ Okay then, let’s go Luminita!” I pulled her against my chest once more before walking off. There were a number of stalls set up around the plaza, just like the ones that the villagers put up on market days. My cheeks swelled up in annoyance as I approached one of the stalls. The wooden frames were exactly like the ones the villagers used; just tall enough that I couldn’t see what was for sale.

Oh, just junk food. Some sort of slightly fried pastry was being made by the plain looking human male behind the stall. How ordinary.

“Excuse me girl,” a spider-man spoke as he pushed me to the side.

Whoops. “Ah, sorry.” I quickly fell back to the ground after realizing that I had floated upwards to get a better look. Scratching the back of my head, I marveled at how natural it felt to simply lift off the ground, something I used to think was impossible.

Most of the stalls were also food joints. Old-fashioned village staples as well as strange demonic treats were on sale. Small stands and large ones attracted a variety of customers. A particularly large stall which could seat a dozen humanoid demons had an octopus-like demon cooking what smelt like pig fat. Yuck.

I continued onwards, sometimes floating and sometimes walking down the streets of the city. A few of the demons waved at me with whatever appendage they could, some bowing a greeting while others gave a quick nod. I did my best to return their greetings politely before gazing back at the various buildings.

Shops and stores were interspersed with houses. I could have found a shop for anything; sword shops, shoe stores, hat sellers and pet stores along with everything else. Fancy crystal and glass windows held displays of goods, or pictured signs hung in doorways to advertise. There was writing on signs and walls as well, but the characters were all wrong from what momma had taught me. I entered a few of the more interesting stores. Sometimes a little bell would chime as I pushed open a door or a hearty “Welcome!” would ring out.

Everybody was so nice. That was the constant fact I had discovered. The muscled pig demon that watched over his lamp store I had entered looked frightening but was actually kind and well-spoken. “Hello little lady, see a piece you like? I think this one here matches your style.”

“Ah, sorry, I wanted to see what other kinds of things you had. I can’t actually buy any.” An angel lamp was what had drawn my attention. The meticulously sculpted image of a fallen angel, its hands reaching toward heaven was far beyond the craftsmanship of villagers.

“Can’t buy- oh, I see. Come over here miss, I think this one suits you.”

“But I don’t- ooooh, that’s pretty!” The bluish shopkeeper had waddled to the far wall of his store, pulling a particular work off the racks that lined the walls. It was a rigid yellow piece that was shaped like a bowl, a glowing rainbow crystal stuck right in the center.

“There you go.” The demon snorted as he plopped the piece right on top of my head.

“It’s a hat?” I wondered, adjusting the piece around. It was rather comfortable to wear because of the soft cloth that lined the interior.

“Yes m’am. An interesting little thing I traded for awhile ago.”

“It’s very nice,” I took the hat off, holding it out to the storekeeper, “but I can’t buy anything.”

The pig demon snorted again before pushing the hat back towards me. “You’re the little one that the witch was carrying around before, right?” I nodded. “Then I suppose nobody told you how things work down here.”

I frowned and started to disagree but realized he was right. I had learned how to fly and a bunch of useless facts I had pretty much already forgotten, nothing more.

“We don’t have any kind of money like you are used to. Everybody just trades favors or barters items. You can think of this piece here as a welcoming present.”

With the customs of Makai unknown to me, I could only agree with the shopkeeper’s advice and graciously accept his gift. I took note of Gannon’s shop in the back of my mind before plopping the hat on my head and wandering off.

The process of randomly poking into stores netted me a number of little trinkets and baubles. It seemed that most of the demons knew that I was an outsider who was settling down in Makai thanks to the goddess and a certain rambunctious witch. Good hosts loaded me down with enough gifts that I struggled to carry them – before a bag maker had presented me with a plain but strong shoulder bag.

“Whew, this is tough,” I complained to Luminita as I fell onto a bench. My doll compatriot settled next to me and glanced upwards, giving me a reassuring smile.

I rummaged through my bag of goodies while I rested. “Socks, earrings, bottles, cups, picture frames…” The random assortment of things would probably end up stashed in my room, just like what I used to do with all the shiny bits the villagers would gift me.

“Oh, here it is.” I found the fabric and sewing kit that a human-ish demon with long ears, Serawi, had given me. The gift from the clothier was probably the one that would see the most use; it was one of the few practical gifts I had received.

Stashing all the useless gifts back into the bottom of the bag, I settled on the next stop I would make. Tossing aside random wandering, I hunted down a bookstore. Unlike everybody else I had met, the chimp-like demon loathed to part with his merchandise for free, despite his warm wishes.

“How about these apples? They’re fresh and crisp; definitely worth a few pens! No? Pleeeease mister~?”

A few perfectly equivalent trades later found me walking out of the shop with a blank note book and writing utensils in hand. The pens fit easily enough into my bag, but the book was too large. My free shoulder bag was stuffed with enough things that the book would have to lie flat on top of the opening and probably fall out if I wasn’t paying attention.

I rested my hand on my hip as I tried to figure out where my future diary would go. I didn’t want to carry it in hand; walking around without a free hand seemed like a disaster in waiting. I tapped the book against my chest as I thought.

“Oh!” Inspiration struck. “Luminita, can you hold this for me please?” I was delighted when the doll managed to grip the book with its free arm.

I yawned. It had been four, maybe five hours of simple wandering as I visited store after store and met many different demons. Still, the streets were just as busy as when I began.

“Got it!”

A blur ran past me, laughs and shouts trailing away. I felt lighter, standing there in the middle of the street.

Luminita still floated next to me, holding my off hand.

My funny hat was still on my head.

My bag…

My head whipped around, just catching sight of three demons around my height turning a corner. I saw my plain beige bag being dragged along by the red haired demon. “Wait!” I cried out.

How insufferable! I had to…

[ ] Chase the miscreants down; stealing is wrong!
---[ ] Full powered flight! I had seen the best in action!
---[ ] Cautious advance; following them through the maze-like city took patience.
---[ ] Get creative. Magic was the power of belief after all.
[ ] Go find help.
---[ ] Ask
[ ] Ignore them and find something else to do. There wasn’t anything that important in there anyway.
[ ]

---

I mean it this time when I say I will be getting update out faster, since I have the week off and all. I’ll probably wait around for a majority in votes (probably three for one option, considering the amount of traffic) before writing, unless it takes too long and I feel like continuing. In that case, I will write and no one can stop me!
>>No. 8996
[x] Ignore them and find something else to do. There wasn’t anything that important in there anyway.

Let them brand her as "not powerful". They'll drop their guard.
>>No. 8997
[x] Chase the miscreants down; stealing is wrong!
---[x] Get creative. Magic was the power of belief after all.

I'm interested in what she can do.
>>No. 9000
[x] Chase the miscreants down; stealing is wrong!
---[x] Get creative. Magic was the power of belief after all.
Can't go wrong with some magic practice.
>>No. 9011
[x] Chase the miscreants down; stealing is wrong!
---[x] Get creative. Magic was the power of belief after all.

They messed with the wrong girl.
>>No. 9017
[x] Chase the miscreants down; stealing is wrong!
---[x] Get creative. Magic was the power of belief after all.

I'm a believer~

This should be fun.
>>No. 9019
File 13332883349.jpg - (32.88KB, 600x360, I-wonder-what-day-it-is.jpg) [iqdb]
9019
I had to catch the thieves! How dare they steal from me?

“Stop you naives!” I shouted, kicking off the ground and speeding after the group. I followed the delinquents as they laughed and giggled, barely gaining any ground in the process. Every time they dropped down a sudden incline or slipped into an alleyway I lost time and energy attempting to follow them.

After they gave me the temporary slip for the umpteenth time I stopped and stamped my foot on the ground. “This is so frustrating! I’ve had enough of this!” I grasped Luminita in my hands and held her out in front of me, in the direction of the thieves. Magical energy whipped around me, wild strings growing more dense and visible as I concentrated. As the energy reached the tipping point I unleashed it, crying out. “HADOKEN!”

My supercharged spell blasted outwards, the beam of blue light annihilating buildings and roadways alike. The hilly and maze like city was blown away by the heat of my passion, leaving only a dazed band of thieves lying crumpled in the middle of the trench.

“Stop right there criminal scum, your stolen goods are now forfeit,” I haughtily informed them, the demons in no position to argue.

I waved Luminita through the air, magical energies distorting once more and shooting off to gather in a large mass in front of the thieves. “Now pay for your crime!” I paused before continuing, the slow words of my aria filling the stunned silence.

“I am the soul of my spatula. Sugar is my body and batter is my blood. I have created over a thousand cakes. Unknown to burning, nor known to hate. Have withstood the heat to create many goods. Yet, those hands will never fail. So as I pray, unlimited cupcake works!”

The magic coalesced and exploded, lighter brighter than the crystals’ flashing. As it receded, my greatest creation was hopping in place. Beautiful pink butter cream icing formed its curly locks, the decadent velvet cake body immune to paltry mortal grievances. Its titanium flex holder gave my masterpiece sturdiness like no other.

“Now, Interplanetarypinkysmooth Cupcake Automaton of Ultimately Promised Victory, bake ‘em!” I laughed as the demons’ screams of terror intertwined with my creations battle-roar. Criminals had to be punished.

---

“And that’s how I retrieved my stolen things.” I say as I close my storybook. “Now children, I believe it’s time for a break.”

[ ] What? That ending sucked!
[X] Objection! That was a blatant fabrication.
[ ] Ok.

“What? You don’t believe me? How can you not?”

[ ] Who makes cupcake holders out of titanium? That broke our suspension of disbelief!
[ ] There were other demons around too, but you didn’t mention them at all.
[X] The story you just told was unrealistic; everything I know is a lie!

“This wasn’t realistic enough? Oh children, I’m sorry you’re too young to understand the intricacies involved in storytelling…”

[X] WHAT THE F-
[ ] You’re right, how could we ever disagree with you Alice?
[ ] We’re not young, we’re big children now.

“…please, watch your tone young man. But if you all insist, I suppose I can revise the events. So where was I? Ah yes…”
>>No. 9020
>>9019
April Fools?

>“Stop you naives!
I assume you meant knaves.

Still amusing though.
>>No. 9021
>>9019
I must demand that you finish this. It's quite the interesting story.
>>No. 9028
File 133340681370.jpg - (140.06KB, 650x886, gotta-catch-em-all-or-not.jpg) [iqdb]
9028
I had to get my things back; everybody had been so thoughtful when they gave me those gifts. Besides, stealing was a crime!

“Wait, come back!” I shouted as I ran after them. Momma and daddy never believed in the ‘ideal woman’ that many of the villagers held. Back in their outside home, everybody worked. They carried the idea with them into Gensokyo, despite the villagers set customs. Momma could throw down with the best of the men and daddy cooked some delicious dishes. Even when I was the littlest person around, I was still able to help daddy carry split logs and run errands for momma. Sprinting after the thieves was tiring but easy compared to the chores and terrors I had faced before.

The band of demons knew their way around the city, abruptly turning down alleyways, jumping down inclines and hurdling low walls. Once they saw me seriously pursuing them they high-tailed it straight up the side of a building, somehow finding handholds to climb with. After I stopped at foot of the building I smacked myself. Climbing was never my strong point, but I had a way around it. Lifting off the ground, I continued my pursuit through the air.

It was more difficult to keep track of the demons from above because overhangs and other obstructions would block my view once they had dropped back down into the alleyways. Weaving between buildings would have let me keep a closer eye on the thieves, but I wasn’t confident enough in my flight to avoid smashing into solid stone. So I followed from above the rooftops, keeping my eyes trained on their forms.

“Stop! Give my stuff back!” My cries went unanswered by the scurrying villains. All three of them were humanoid-type demons. The girl carrying my bag was around my height with red hair, a black dress flowing behind her as she ran. One of the males, taller than me by what looked like a head, resembled what momma had described as a lesser werewolf. The boy had spiky black hair which covered his head, hands, and feet. He loped around on all fours, occasionally glancing upwards at me. The other male of the group seemed very short, the pale horn protruding from his head and his tan skin the only noticeable difference from a regular human.

I followed them for a few minutes before my voice grew tired from shouting, the thieves never slowing down. The inclination to slam my hat to the ground in frustration was mounting, annoyance and anger overriding my other emotions.

“Argh, you dummies!” I screamed at the thieves. The horned demon had the audacity to stick his tongue out at me. I’ll show you! Ideas and thoughts whirled around in my head. One stood out to me and I grabbed it, forming a plan of action and executing it.

The memory of oppressive heat was vivid in my memory. The wisps of dancing life, sparks and flickers cast off and away; the magical fire Yuki showed me was held in front of my mind’s eye. This should be easy. If the story was any good, young magicians always learned to shoot fireballs as one of their first spells. Yuki had no trouble with fire either. If fantasy and reality agreed, then there would be no problems!

“Hyaah!” My intent focused on one goal. I could feel the magic in the air responding, flooding into Luminita and flowing even into my own body. My silver doll was thrust in front of me, little hands ready to unleash fiery devastation. The magic gathered for a moment before it was released, the energy converted into awesome magical fire that scorched my enemies.

At least, that was what I envisioned happening. What? I stared in mute disbelief. I didn’t expect to launch anything rivaling Yuki’s magic; a dragon was impossible for me and an orb the size of the sun was impractical. Yet, I was expecting something mildly impressive. Or effective. Or even marginally successful. I expected a bolt of fire raining down from the sky or an orb of flame homing in on the thieves. I would have been satisfied with little embers peppering them like harmless rain.

Instead, I watched the puff of fire dissipate in front of me in an instant. A blaze that was milder than a low-burning fireplace flickered out of existence. Luminita channeled my emotions, staring down at her little doll hands in confusion.

The thieves and I had stopped moving to watch my failure. “Nyahahaha!” Forgetting my failed attempt at magic, the laughs of the thieves drew my attention. Rage and embarrassment renewed their rampage through my body like an angry mother bear.

I fought the sniffles, clenching my eyes shut. Nononono, I refuse! Those meanies, I won’t let them get away with this. If I fall I have to get right back up; never take disrespect from anybody. With the teachings of my parents echoing in my brain, I managed to psyche myself up, fighting off the encroaching tears with righteous fury and indignation.

In the time I had taken to recompose myself the thieves had split up, the three of them going their separate ways. They had dismissed me as a threat after my flop, smugly satisfied with their efforts. How dare they ignore me!

Luminita moved, pulling my hand with her as she floated above my head, hands raised high. The air around me hummed once more but I barely noticed it. My tunnel vision was focused on my stolen things and the girl holding them. The other two demons had jumped off to somewhere else, but the girl was blithely walking straight down the alley they stopped in. She had completely forgotten about me.

Unlike before, I barely gave the spell a thought. The barest hints of fire and stopping the demon were embedded in my thoughts. Emotion and action drove me forward. Luminita and I dive-bombed straight for the winged demon. I held onto my hat and thrust the silver doll in front of me, screaming in anger. The girl turned to look at me just as Luminita drew her hands apart and shoved them forward.

Silvery liquid cascaded, a torrent rushing to the ground like a waterfall. The girl yelped before tossing my bag to the side and leaping away. The glimmering liquid crashed into the soft dirt and continued to move, filling the alleyway like a tidal wave. I leveled off my speed and glided right above the ground, intercepting my bag minus a few knick knacks which had fallen into the liquid mid-flight. Gifts safely secured, I watched the girl. She had rolled to her feet after her leap and attempted to run once more. She managed one step and then another before tripping, her feet caught in the silvery substance. The blast of conjured liquid had lasted for only six seconds, but there was still enough of the substance to coat the dirt of the alley like a carpet.

“Yuck, what the crap is this stuff?” The girl complained, standing up after having fallen face first into the liquid. Most of the substance fell right off of her, sliding back to the ground. After taking a minute to clean off her clothes she tried to fix her short red hair. “Yeouch! What the-?” She tugged on her hair but found only pain from the solid silvery blocks cemented in her locks.

“Uhm, it’s stuck there.” I commented. The shiny blocks had formed mostly at the base of her hair, a quasi-circlet of silver ringing her head.

“Well geez, like I couldn’t tell already?” Even saying that she still gave the occasional tug at the foreign inclusion to her hairdo.

I couldn’t help but snicker. Justice was served, and it tasted sweet.

The girl irately looked at me and growled. “You think this is funny? I ought to pummel you for this. What is this crud that you threw at me anyway? How do I get it out of my hair?”

“Well,” I started, tilting my head in thought, “I don’t really know.”

“What do you mean you ‘don’t really know’? You threw this shit at me, didn’t you?” The demon stomped her foot in anger, only to lose her balance as the silvery floor splintered underneath her aggressive action.

Curiously, I poked the ground. What had been a liquid was now a solid. It was hard and smooth, a sheet of metal covering the ground like an extravagant roadway. I closed my eyes as I tried to figure out what it was I created. The anger, hatred, rage and annoyance I felt were a hindrance; I ignored them. They had helped me cast the magic but did little more. I searched deeper, trying to remember every single element of the spell I had envisioned. How the energy felt flowing from my finger tips to Luminita. How my skin tingled from the failure of my previous miscast. How I wanted fire, but would settle for anything to stop the thieves. How-

“Here,” I spoke, floating over to the demon girl.

“What do you think you’re doing?” She parked her hands on her waist, glaring at me, but I ignored her. I grasped the solid metal in her hair and held firm. I waited until the tingle of sensation tickled my palm.

I cheered, “Success!” Releasing the girl’s hair, liquid metal flowed and plopped to the ground before re-solidifying.

“What are you crying about, Happy? All you did was hold the stuff!”

“But it worked, didn’t it? I think the metal melts with a bit of heat, like the kind from your body.”

“You think? What kind of half-wit magician are you?”

“Hey, why are you being so mean? I helped you out, didn’t I?”

“Is that what you say? It’s ‘cause of you I’m covered in this gunk in the first place!”

“Well if you didn’t try to steal my presents I wouldn’t have had to!”

Our eyes clashed. The contest lasted a minute, before the demon scoffed and gave up, returning her attention to cleaning her hair and clothes of the metal. I win.

I took the chance to examine the girl in close detail. She was almost exactly my height, with red hair and red eyes. There were tiny black wings sticking out of the top of her head, moving and filled with life but for no purpose I could figure out. She wore a plain black dress over a white blouse and had on similarly common shoes.

Seeing the shoes reminded me of how bare my feet still were. Huh, it’s really not a problem if I can fly, I thought. The dirt in Makai was absurdly soft anyway, easy to walk on with the soles of my feet.

“Well, this downright sucked.” The demon spoke, presumably having removed the last of the metal from her person.

“Then maybe you should respect other people’s property then. Why’d you try to steal my things anyway?” The situation defused itself as both of our emotions settled down.

“You were new and looked like an easy target. I figured I could make a clean getaway for once.” The demon discussed her criminal activities with a shrug and a flip of the hair.

“Despicable.” That was the single description I could give her actions. My declaration was spoken with absolute conviction, the weight of my beliefs empowering it.

The demon girl flinched at my word. “Well geez, you don’t have to be such a hardass about it.”

I glared at the demon for a number of reasons: theft and crude language but two of them. She shrunk and withered under my stare before giving in to my unspoken demand.

“I’m sorry, okay? I shouldn’t have tried to steal your stuff.”

“Apology accepted.” My head had cooled significantly from the time of the original theft, enough to graciously remember my manners. “So what’s your name? I’m Alice; it’s nice to meet you.”

The demon girl looked at me funnily, one arm crossed over her chest and the other held against her cheek. “Are you serious?”

“What?”

“I steal your stuff and you’re glad to meet me?”

“Why not? You apologized, and I didn’t lose anything really important.”

“I…that’s…” The demon stuttered before covering her face with her palms in utter bewilderment. The idea didn’t seem so strange to me. No harm, no foul; besides, I had to try my best to get along with my new neighbors. Politeness even in the face of adversity was a powerful tactic. It worked for my parents when they had first arrived in a village of strangers.

“…You’re a strange girl. My name’s Ko.”

My eyebrows tightened in wonderment. “Really?”

“Got a problem with my name, girl?” Ko glared at me once more, head wings flapping in agitation.

“Ah, no, I’m sorry. I don’t mind.” The name was a little strange, but I wasn’t one to complain. Most of the villagers had been of the same race, Japanese, unlike me and my family. I had learned a bit of their language despite the facilitated communication of Gensokyo; I knew Ko’s name was irregular but it didn’t matter much to me. Compared to a name like Classyalabolas, a disjointed Japanese name was nice.

My face must not have agreed with my words, or perhaps the demon girl was hyper sensitive about the issue. “Geez lay off, it’s not like I chose the name. I mean, what the crap is a name like Ko anyway?” The demon swiped her hands through the air like a pair of swords as she talked, accenting every other word. “Honestly it’s not much of a surprise though. Why did the goddess let my stupid parents choose their own names but not let me mine? They’re so dumb. Otto? Tsuma? I swear they’re some of the most uncreative demons in Makai!” Probably just oversensitive, I concluded

The girl simmered quietly for a few seconds longer before she had calmed down again. “So you’re a human?” She addressed me, reverting back to the apathetic tone she had used earlier.

“Yes. The goddess is letting me stay in Makai.”

“It’s not like she would say no. The greatest Hakurei hunter could ask for a place to crash and the goddess wouldn’t deny them. Still, that’s great – I’m not the youngest anymore so I suppose I’m happy you’re living here now.”

“You’re the youngest demon in Makai?” Ko’s claim interested me. Demons were still alien to me. They could look like whatever they chose if the goddess helped them, even if they were thousands of years old. Were any of them close to my age?

“Yeah and it’s a real pain. That’s the first thing all the others think when they see me. It doesn’t matter what I do. In their eyes, all they see is a little baby that isn’t even a hundred years old. Sheesh, those old coots are annoying.”

“Not even one hundred? Exactly how old is that?”

“I’m almost one-hundred! Next year I’ll hit three digits, and then maybe they’ll all stop treating me like a useless kid.” Ninety-nine years old, that’s how old the girl in front of me was; someone who looked exactly like me, instead of a wrinkly old person with grey hair and sagging skin. How did the demons even measure time around here? There was no sun in the cave, no day or night.

Lost in my thoughts, I didn’t notice Ko start walking down the alleyway until she called my name. “Yo Alice, hurry up!” She had stopped just after the point where the silver metal ended at the lip of the alley.

“Excuse me?”

“I’m hungry,” she called out me, “so let’s get something to eat! All this running worked up an appetite!”

She was inviting me to eat with her? I quickly floated over to the girl and landed, wondering what was going.

“Why do you want to eat with me?” I asked her.

She gave me an incredulous look before answering, “I just told you, I’m hungry. You’re probably hungry too.”

Ko was right; even with Luminita letting me fly and enhancing my magical talent, it was still a tiring chase. The twinge of hunger began to gnaw at my stomach. “And you want to eat with me, even after I threw that metal at you?”

She scoffed before turning around starting to walk again. “You said it yourself. Nothing major happened so there’s no reason to hold a grudge. Besides, I enjoyed myself. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a good chase like that.”

Well when she put it that way, I decided to…

[ ] Follow her.
---[ ] We talked about
[ ] Decline the invitation.
---[ ] I had else to go see
---[ ] I wanted to do else
[ ]

---

I suppose it’s fair to mention that other then taking in all the votes, I also look at whatever else you might post, so if you want to direct emotions and thoughts a little, give a line of explanation or two for your choices. Or not. I work with whatever I can get.

Oh, and I’ve decided to go with arrow brackets to indicate choices that should be filled in with reader input.

>>9020
Bwaragahahrah – such a terrible mistake, right at the top, that I didn’t fix. Oh, the shame…
>>No. 9029
[x]Make out
[x] Follow her
-[x] We talked about demons lifespan.

I'm curious on your interpretation more then anything, really.
>>No. 9030
[x] Follow her.
---[x] We talked about Makai

Koakuma?
>>No. 9043
I like your take on Koakuma so far.
Minor critique: Your narrative style is well-fitting for an intelligent child, but the contrast between adult and childlike thought processes can be a bit extreme / jarring. This could easily be intentional, but that's the way it comes across to me.

Now, onto my votes...

[ ] Follow her.
---[ ] We talked about
------[ ] Her and her friends. Are they close to her age? Can't any of them fly?
------[ ] Demons' age. Why is it such an issue, can't she just make herself look older?
------[ ] "Hakurei hunter"? Who is that, what do they hunt? (Disregard if Alice would know this)

As for directing emotions / thoughts, I suggest that you just go with what you feel would fit the characters. A common problem with write-ins is them being OOC.
>>No. 9058
[x] Follow her.
-[x] We talked about
--[x] Her and her friends. Are they close to her age? Can't any of them fly?
--[x] "Hakurei hunter"? Who is that, what do they hunt? (Disregard if Alice would know this)
>>No. 9059
[x] Follow her.
-[x] We talked about
--[x] Her and her friends. Are they close to her age? Can't any of them fly?
--[x] "Hakurei hunter"? Who is that, what do they hunt? (Disregard if Alice would know this)
>>No. 9062
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I decided to accept Ko’s offer. There wasn’t any harm in it and my rumbling stomach couldn’t be denied.

The demon girl’s walking pace was relaxed and easy as she strolled out of the alley and into the city’s streets. I floated behind her for a bit, quietly following the redhead.

The demon sighed before she raised a hand over her head lazily and waved it. “Stop trailing me like a rain cloud and walk beside me; do you know how awkward this is?”

Chastised, I dropped down and matched Ko’s stride. I stumbled a bit as I landed, the weight of the gift bag throwing off my balance. “Wah,” my fumbling was interrupted as the offending bag was taken out of my hands.

“Don’t look at me like that,” Ko responded to my glare with one of her own. “You look like a lame puppy, limping around with this bag on your arm. Worry about holding on to your dolly; I’ll carry the bag.”

My arms snaked around Luminita to carry her comfortably against my chest once more. I watched Ko who watched me watch her. “What?” She asked bemusedly, lightly swinging my gift bag with one hand. “Relax girl, I’m not gonna run off with your stuff again. Last thing I need is another bath in that crud. Besides, I’ve had enough running for a day.”

Suspicion faded away as I took Ko at her word. We made our way through the winding streets, passing a number of demons and stores without stopping. Despite the activity surrounding us, everything felt too silent as we walked next to each other. Left to my own thoughts, curiosity emerged from the murky depth of my mind.

“Can you not fly?” Although Yuki and the others found flying a trivial affair, I wasn’t sure if the same held true for every demon in Makai.

Of course, what I thought was a sensible question apparently made me look like the dumbest rock underground, if Ko’s incredulous stare was anything to go by. Rather then verbally answering me the girl simply lifted off the ground for a moment.

“Then why didn’t you just fly away when you stole my stuff?” My next question was tinged with embarrassed anger that only grew worse when Ko answered.

“Uh-huh, so after I take your things I should head up into the most visible place in Makai where you can follow me no matter what I try? Try again Alice.”

The girl’s reasoning was sound but I refused to give up. “Then why not fly along the ground and go faster than you can run?”

Ko flicked my forehead with an annoyed look on her face. “Then why didn’t you try that? I’m sure you already thought of a reason. Give it up kid, you’re a hundred years too early to pick apart my decisions.”

I rubbed my forehead a bit and pouted, unable to shake the rationale of the thief. Instead, I switched topics. “So what about your friends?”

“I swear, if you’re asking me if they can fly too-”

“No, no, no,” I cut her off, not wanting to be made fun of again. “I wanted to know how old they were! If you’re the youngest, what does that make them?”

“Eh, I’m not really sure. Let me think,” she said as she grabbed her forehead and closed her eyes. “I think Iriel just had his three-hundred and fifty-second birthday. Kiba is, uh, somewhere around five-hundred I think, maybe older.”

“Is…that a lot?” I had no idea what a two-hundred or four-hundred year age difference meant to demons. Remembering that the girl in front of me was almost one-hundred years old was difficult enough.

“Well yeah,” Ko began, “it’s enough for those badgers to preach to me all the time about the ‘old days’. They can’t get enough of that! Seriously, try and talk to them about anything and they’ll always end up at ‘You’re too young to know this, but back when I was your age.’ It gets irritating as soon as they start the damn sentence! Then they go on and on about how they didn’t have easy magic and had to wade through pools of acid or contend with roving gangs of angels or how the sun would cause sunburns! The old days were so terrible, you would think that nobody had any arms so they had to use their feet as hands and roll around on their heads to move! I don’t know what it’s like to try and migrate through the desert while surviving off of flat bread, or to try and cross the sea by clinging to the underside of floating hulks. Oh, obviously since I wasn’t around to tempt some humans into burning each other alive I missed out on so much fun, old activities. Listen to this one…”

Everybody had a button that you should never press; apparently Ko had quite a few. I wondered what other topics might set the girl off. She ranted for several minutes about all the stories the older demons had fed her over the years. Somehow, between all the stories, I managed to figure out that the closest aged demon to Ko was around five years older but still belittled her as much as everybody else.

“… because I wasn’t around and kicking when everybody was boiling the soles of their shoes and cutting off their own tails to eat, I’m far too much of a ‘child’ to ever understand the subtle intricacies that it takes to be considered mature. Humph!” Ko finished her rant with a bang. She slowly began to calm down, rifling through my gifts as a busy activity.

I would’ve asked a few more things about demons and age but thought better of it. I didn’t want to ruin the girl’s efforts at recovering from her explosion.

Treading back to what I thought was neutral territory, I asked a different question. “So what’s a Hakurei hunter?”

“You don’t know about them either? What do humans even learn about?”

“Hey, I’ve learned a lot of things from momma and daddy!”

“Yet they never told you about the Hakurei? Don’t you see the hunters flying around throwing orbs at people?”

“The only Hakurei I know is the Hakurei shrine maiden. Uh, I think her name is Reibu or something.” My village had never relied on the Hakurei shrine and its holy people. All the adults worked together to make the village safe, putting up a wall and practicing fighting. In most cases, their preparation and the special gifts from the Dragon were enough to protect us from roving bands of youkai.

“Huh, so there’s only one left? Never knew about that. I guess that’s why they don’t come down here anymore.” The girl shrugged with indifference. I prodded her to finish the explanation, which she did with reluctance. “You call ‘em shrine maidens, we call them hunters. No real difference I guess; the Hakurei go around exterminating monsters, and we demons are just another group on the list.”

“That’s terrible…” From what I had seen, none of Shinki’s children deserved to be hunted down. They were all exceedingly nice; even the thieves had a good side to them.

“It’s no big deal. Besides, none of us ever died while I’ve been around. It’s more like the Hakurei would come down and beat some of us up and show their kids how to do it; pretty harmless stuff. They haven’t showed in a while though.” Ko kicked a rock as we continued downhill. “I’d hate to be that shrine maiden left all alone.”

I couldn’t imagine the poor girl living completely alone either, especially if the shrine maiden was as young as some of the villagers said she was.

“So how have you handled Makai so far, Alice?” It was Ko’s turn to ask a question. “Is this land of demons too dangerous for a mere mortal to handle?” She laughed menacingly.

I responded by poking her in the side. The gravelly laugh transformed into a high-pitched never-ending squeal as I continued my assault on her sides. The demon retaliated by pulling my hat over my eyes and going for my armpits, another weak point in tickle fights.

We scuffled for a bit longer before I couldn’t stand the laughing and broke it off. We took a moment to recover, crouching on the ground as the laughs subsided. “Seriously though, what do you think Alice? Like the place so far?”

“I like what I’ve seen, but I’ve only looked at some of Pandemonium and the city.”

“So you haven’t gone exploring yet, huh? Maybe I’ll show you around sometime. There are plenty of places down here that you have to see. I was born here and I’m still amazed at some of the stuff I find.” Having a guide wasn’t a bad idea; it was fine to wander aimlessly when everything was still new, but finding anything specific would take concentrated effort if I was on my own. I had a feeling Ko wouldn’t take me on a manic high speed flyby either.

“Hey old man, get me two bowls of that good stuff!” I flinched when Ko suddenly yelled, slamming her way through the wooden door to one of the many stores that littered the city. The front was rather featureless, except for the single wooden sign that depicted the outline a rather curvy woman lying on her side. Where are we? Expecting the worst, I followed the demon girl.

The interior was a bar; a vague description, but more than accurate enough for anybody to imagine. It was the seediest type of den one might find. The bars on the edges of my village were kid friendly compared to the place Ko had led me. Heavy smoked filled the air, hiding all sorts of activities that took place in the dark gloom of the room. The only lights inside were a few crystals directly behind the bar at the entrance, illuminating the drinks and the stools at the counter. Moans, cries, and plenty of other suspicious sounds and dealings were going on, hidden from sigh because of my poor night vision.

“W-w-wait Ko!” I hurried after the demon girl, reaching out to hold onto her free hand.

“Hey! What’re you think you’re doing now?” The redhead turned on me and shook her hand in all directions to try and dislodge my iron grip. “Why are you so clingy?”

“W-what kind of in-indecent place did you bring me to?”

“Indecent? Kid, what’s so indecent about a bit of smoke and darkness?”

“B-but with what’s h-happening over there…”

“And what’s happening over there Alice? I can’t actually see, and I don’t think you can either. Maybe the only indecent thing around here is your mind.” The demon leered at me, her eyes full of amusement. There wasn’t a tomato in the whole world that was brighter than my face.

The demon’s wicked laugh mixed with all the other sounds. I tried my best to calm down and clear my head, but it was impossible with all the distractions in the room. Ko took a seat right in front of the bartender and I slipped in next to her, placing Luminita on the counter and slumping down to hide my face.

“So demanding, child. What if I were busy with other customers?” The bartender’s voice sounded fancy and posh, like how the annoying nobles in the stories always talked.

“Don’t give me that shit old man; you’re standing there polishing a glass. I can see you. Besides, nobody else is sitting here.”

“It appears so. I’ll be back momentarily.”

I was trying to tune out the noises when a thump on the counter prompted me to move my head a bit. Peeking from behind Luminita with one eye, I saw a large silver bowl with an equally large spoon had been placed in front of me. Peering inside, some kind of brown soup was waiting patiently. I stirred it around, watching anonymous vegetables and lumps of meat circle about. Beside me, Ko had already begun to attack the dish, shoveling the food into her mouth at a rapid pace.

“It’s not poisoned child. That would be entirely unbefitting of a legitimate business; unless I were in the business of concocting poison, but I’m not.” The bartender spoke to me. He looked like an old human. He wore a smart white shirt with a black vest, a little red bow tie finishing the ensemble. His short white hair and beard were what I expected to find on the fancy grandparents back in the village.

“O-okay…” I tentatively agreed, sitting up properly to give the meal justice. The spoon scooped up some of the broth and meat, slowly rising to my lips.

“Hurry up!” My gag reflex acted up, choking on the broth as the spoon was roughly shoved into my mouth. “It’s only good when it’s hot, so you have to eat it fast!” By the time I recovered, the little devil had already gone back to finishing her own meal, my chastisements lost to her ears. Sighing, I threw hesitation out the window and laid into my soup.

“It’s good!” I quickly complimented the smiling bartender before rushing to finish the soup. Ko belched as she finished hers and watched me with a proud look on her face.

“Good cooking Sebastian, great stuff every time.”

“You flatter me, child. I simply seek to provide adequate service.”

“Yeah, yeah, you old geezer. Hear anything interesting lately?”

“Perhaps the most interesting news would be the most recent addition to our goddesses’ family, but I believe you already know about that.” The demon bartender was constantly smiling, even as he quickly glanced over me.

I swallowed the last of my soup and bowed my head. “Thank you for the meal. I don’t know what I can do to repay you-”

“It’s fine child. I usually accept any interesting news for payment, but it is understandable if you have nothing yet. I’m willing to help any friend of this little one here.” The old looking demon took my empty dish and stowed it underneath the counter.

“Got anything else for me Sebastian? Or are you all dried up already?”

“Such an impertinent child; I still have many more secrets, but what to reveal?”

The two of them bantered back and forth, joking and teasing each other while exchanging little tidbits of information. I didn’t bother to remember most of the gossip since it involved people I hadn’t met. A few names I did recognize, which led me to realize that Ko was selling the information about who had given me what as a gift.

A little beeping noise interrupted the demons’ talk. Ko reached into a pocket in her dress and pulled out a circular gem the size of her thumb. The beeping ceased once Ko tapped the jewel on the table and stuck it back into her pocket.

“Thanks for the info Sebastian. I’ll catch you later.” Ko waved goodbye to the bartender as she swiveled off her stool, pulling me along with her. I gave the bartender a quick farewell before being pulled through the door. A particularly loud cry echoed out just as we were leaving. Calling the experience at the bar scarring was a bit of an exaggeration, but it was awful close.

“I’m surprised; this has been pretty fun Alice.” Ko told me as we stopped in the middle of the street. “I wouldn’t mind hanging out again sometime.”

“Where are you going now?” I asked the girl, curious about what the little gem had told her.

She stuck her tongue out and made a funny face as she spat out the word, “School.”

“You have to go to school too?” Momma and few of the other mothers in the village shared the duty of teaching all the kids. Lessons weren’t something I looked forward to; having a bunch of kids of all ages sitting in one place at one time was an accident waiting to happen.

“Yeah, goddess’ orders. It’s so annoying, cramps up my schedule. Let’s hang out again some other time okay? See you later!” I stiffened when Ko pulled me into a quick hug, surprised at the girl’s display of affection. She winked at me as she pushed the bag of gifts into my hand and took off, head wings flapping as she zipped away.

That left me to…

[ ] Go back to Pandemonium. I had been out for hours wandering around and chasing Ko; it was time to head home and rest.
[ ] Follow that demon. School back home was boring, but what would a hundred-year old demon be learning?
[ ] Wander a bit longer. I had covered most of what could be considered the major streets, but the perimeter of the city was still a mystery.
[ ] Go find
[ ]

---

>>9043
Thanks for the feedback! Yeah, I’ve never worked with this exact style of narrative before (adult narrating their child years) so it’s a work in progress. Also, I’m not exactly a little girl, so there’s some disconnect in the writing that I try to iron out.

As far as OOC-ness goes, any small variance can easily become IC; I won’t destroy the characterization I have in mind if it doesn’t fit, but there’s plenty of room for change. The really out-there votes will be ignored/spawn amusing drabbles for me to write, so they aren’t unappreciated either.
>>No. 9063
[x] Go back to Pandemonium. I had been out for hours wandering around and chasing Ko; it was time to head home and rest.
[x] Ask Shinki about school
>>No. 9064
[x] Go back to Pandemonium. I had been out for hours wandering around and chasing Ko; it was time to head home and rest.
>>No. 9066
[x] Go back to Pandemonium. I had been out for hours wandering around and chasing Ko; it was time to head home and rest.
>>No. 9067
[x] Go back to Pandemonium. I had been out for hours wandering around and chasing Ko; it was time to head home and rest.
[x] Ask Shinki about school
>>No. 9070
File 133377061423.jpg - (240.33KB, 662x800, pardon-the-interruption.jpg) [iqdb]
9070
Let’s see, what’s going on here? Oh, this looks fun.

I decided that the cute girl was irresistible. I was shocked that after the kind demon offered, there was only one thing I could imagine eating. I followed her, stuck in a daze, my feet walking on their own. Images flashed through my head in rapid succession, my fantasies coming to life in my mind. I felt the heat form in my cheeks and rush down my body, filling my entire person. At the same time it pushed upwards, filling my brain with passion. It was dizzying, but oh so exciting.

I dropped the bag, my fingers twitching for action. It was impossible to contain myself – the winged demon’s swagger was alluring, a magnificent siren’s call to behold. She spoke, but I ignored what she said. Instead, my control finally gave out and my body moved.

“What?” The object of my desire barely had time to speak before I had grabbed her. The demon put up no resistance as I spun and dragged her into a side alley, slamming the other girl’s back into the wall. Magic was coursing through my arms; my silver dolly was providing me with the strength to do whatever I pleased.

“I swear I’m gonna knock you-” The beautiful devil had no time to finish her threat as I mashed my lips into hers. It was so sweet, the taste of the devil’s lips and tongue filling my senses. Her skin was so luscious and soft, my hand ran over the smooth curves of her face and sides. I couldn’t help myself, and neither could she. Her attempts to curse me out ended quickly as her resistance crumbled and she gave in to the pleasure.

The lust was so intoxicating, I was losing it all. Having my way with the cute and brilliant devil was such an amazing turn on, my hand slipping down to grab her-

“What in the goddesses’ name are you telling them Ko?”

“O-oh, Alice, I didn’t hear you come- I mean return so fast, er, soon.”

“I step out for two minutes to talk with Keine and what happens?”

“Hahaha, relax Alice, nothing happened here. No need to get so worked up. I was just seeing what you had been telling the kiddies.”

“I hope you realize, Ko, that I had finished telling them about our first meeting already. And that I’ve worked voice recording into my Orleans doll sitting right next to you.”

“H-have you now? Well, I guess I should let you get back to your story then Alice. I’ll just leave your book right here and head on back to the mansion. Wait, no need to listen to that doll or anything-”

“Ko!”

“Hey! Lay off it you crazy bitch, no need to- Yeouch! What the hell, call your damn dolls off!”

“Stop filling the children’s minds with indecency! No perverted ideas! No foul language!”

“Geez, and showing extreme brutality is – Ow! Okay? Argh, get off, get off! You little witch, I’ll tell them about when you pe- Gaaaah! I’ll be back Alice, just you wait!”

“Hah, that demon…I’m sorry about the minor argument, children. Give me a minute to compose myself and I’ll continue where I left off.”
>>No. 9072
That has to be continued one day.
>>No. 9086
If this is how you're going to respond to joke votes like [x]Make out, I think I might actually start making them. Nicely done.
>>No. 9091
File 133454627717.jpg - (91.80KB, 488x600, got-em-only-a-few-left.jpg) [iqdb]
9091
That left me to head back to the castle. The effort of flight was barely noticeable but I had ended up walking for most of the time I was out. It was a sound idea to make the flight back to Pandemonium before I fell asleep standing.

With all my things in hand I took off towards Pandemonium. The air was as uncluttered as ever, with only a few other people gliding around me. The lack of crowds suited me fine. I twirled around, playing around in the sky with Luminita, unworried about running into an accident.

The flight back to the shining crystal castle passed in a blur, the various gifts in my bag rattling after I landed. “I hope I chose the right one, Luminita.” I spoke to my companion, slightly fearful as I made my way into the castle. Working off of my memory, I tried to use the same path that Shinki had in order to get back to my room; the mental floor plan the strange blonde demon had given me was nice, but wouldn’t help at all if I chose the wrong landing platform to start off with.

Luckily, I had managed to pick out the one correct entrance out of hundreds and made it to my room without getting lost for hours on end. I spent a few minutes carefully going through the gifts, storing them in their proper places. I didn’t see how any of the knick-knacks might be useful, but I kept them on top of my dresser anyway. They made the room feel more like my own.

“Wheew, that was tough. The village is tiny compared to this place. Oh, but I guess you’ve never been there, huh?” I had fallen backwards onto my bed, legs dangling off the side, holding Luminita above me. I felt the little doll’s eyes glinting with curiosity.

“It’s an actual village, with only a few dozen houses. Then there was the shrine, the few bars, a couple of stores, and the plaza with the well. Everybody ended up knowing each other and especially momma, ‘cause everybody wanted advice from the shrine keeper. Mr. Williams always dropped by with his daughter in the morning, and Mrs. Alicia would offer some b-bread. A-and Mr. Kojin loved to t-talk about the gods, and- a-and the Tanaka twins w-would, sniff, w-would a- alw- waah…”

I had fond memories of my home village; beautiful, happy memories from throughout my young life. Nothing would take those feelings from me, the remembrances of a close-knit community that worked hard to provide for themselves. It was like any small village which had little interaction with others, but to me it was a precious place.

It took awhile to recompose myself. The scars from my experiences would stay with me forever, and the short time I had spent in Makai and with the caring demons was not enough to wipe away those worries. After laying out the bed covers so they could dry quickly I headed over to a washroom and in order to wipe my face.

The magical facilities in Makai were much nicer than having to pull water out of a well. The bathroom was simple, having only a porcelain sink, toilet, and bathtub. They looked like modern appliances that parts of the main Human Village used, but instead of mechanical levers there were magical runes. I could feel the slight pulse of magic humming from the bluish magical circles. A sweep of my hand over the ones placed on the sink caused water to rush out of the faucet. Using the convenient towel hanging on the back of the door I dried off my face and headed back into the crystal hallways.

“What now Luminita?” I asked the doll, the cheer in my voice returning. “I’m still a bit tired, but I don’t feel very sleepy.” Bluish eyes stared at me, asking me what I wanted to do. “Geez, you’re a big help. Whatever, let’s go find Shinki.”

Despite my decision, I wasn’t quite sure where the goddess might have been. In my mind, I knew any number of places someone might spend their free time in Pandemonium. Ignoring the possibilities, I decided to check Shinki’s room first. If she was sleeping, it would be silly to wander Pandemonium trying to find her.

I slowed down once I neared the room, a sense of déjà vu washing over me. I could hear someone talking, their voice full of worry.

“…her until the Rolling Hills before coming back to report. At the rate she was walking, she would enter lower Makai in less than an hour.”

“And she was alone?” That was the goddess’ voice but it sounded off. It was flatter than usual, the childish lilt gone. In spite of my expectations the goddess sounded serious.

“Yes.”

“I see.”

There was a long pause. The air around me felt heavy, even if I didn’t know why.

The goddess’ cold tone broke the silence. “I’ve sent Shinku to follow her. Thank you for your report Sara.”

“You sent Shinku? I mean, that’s a good choice and all but isn’t that dangerous?”

“It’s for the best. I’d like to say that none of my demons are ignorant enough to even try to harm the Hakurei, but it still might happen. Shinku has the power to extract the girl immediately if necessary.”

“I guess that girl is rather unobtrusive.”

”Exactly.” I heard a loud clap of the hands after Shinki spoke. Her voice was suddenly filled with childish glee and tones once more. “So Sara, let’s go have some snacks. I’ll get Yumeko to make them right away!”

“W-wait, I really shouldn’t. I have to head back immed-”

“No, you always do this to me Sara, it’s so unfair. Your partners can handle watching the entranceways just fine. This time, you aren’t getting away with that excuse.”

“But mother, my job-”

“Sara, if I didn’t know better, I would think you hated me…”

“What? No! How could I hate my own mother?”

“Excellent! Let’s go then, the cookies are already baking.” The thumping of shoes shocked me into action, prodding my feet to move. I had it timed perfectly. The instant the visitor left Shinki’s room, I collided right into her.

“Whoa there!” The visitor’s hands reached out and grabbed me to hold me upright. “You okay? I’m sorry I didn’t see you there.”

“It was my mistake, I’m sorry Miss.” The visitor was another female, a pink-haired girl that looked like she was on the cusp of adulthood. She wasn’t as tall as Shinki, or as well-endowed, but was beautiful in her own way. Her red dress was as plain in design as a villager’s. I was surprised to find pink eyes carefully looking over me but since I had already seen far stranger forms, I should have been.

“Oh Alice, this is Sara, one of Makai’s gatekeepers. Along with the others who hate to see me, she watches over the different entrances to Makai.”

“Mother, I don’t-” the goddess laughed off the pink-hair’s protests.

“She’s terribly fun to tease, Alice. Sara is such a cute girl, so upright and dutiful. It depresses me that none of the gatekeepers visit very often.” Even if Shinki spoke in a faux-sad, teasing fashion I still felt bad for Sara. The other demon looked like a kicked puppy the way she was frowning.

“It’s nice to meet you Miss Sara.” I backed up and curtsied in a polite fashion as usual.

My greeting knocked the girl out of her depressed stupor as she smiled and answered, “Oh no sis, you don’t need to call me ‘Miss’. I heard from some guys as I was flying in that you’ve decided to stay with mother right? Sisters don’t need such formal ways of addressing each other!”

“Ah, a-alright,” I stammered out. The aura of goodwill radiating from my newly minted sister was a palpable force. The raw emotions the girl could bring to bear were frightening; I hadn’t known her for two minutes and I was positive about it.

The goddess laughed in the background, pulling both of us into a quick hug before leading us down the halls of Pandemonium.

“So Alice, did you enjoy yourself out in the city?” Shinki asked me over her shoulder.

“Yeah, I met a bunch of people! Everybody was really nice, even if I thought some of them looked a bit funny. A lot of them gave me presents!”

“Oh my, presents? I didn’t expect my children to be so thoughtful. It’s been a long while since they’ve had to greet a completely new person. I’m glad they remember their manners.”

“I don’t think they could forget mother. You remind them every time you see them.”

“Do I really? They must find it rather annoying then.”

“No more than everything else you do mother.”

Shinki look horrified at the sharp words. “Sara? How could you?”

The gatekeeper tried her best to hold a straight face, but I could tell she was more often the teased than the teaser. Her mask cracked in a few quick seconds in the face of the utter shock plastered across Shinki’s visage. “S-sorry mother. That was uncalled for.”

The goddess laughed it off as usual. “You’re so adorable Sara! Please don’t change. Precious few of my children still act like you do.”

We talked about small things as we walked down the corridor. Sara informed us about events at the gates to Makai and I spoke a bit about how my visit to the city went. We stopped in a huge room full of greenery. Trees and grass covered the area, except for the circular clearing right in the center of the room. It almost felt like a hidden away grove in the middle of the forest.

Yumeko was already laying out a checkered blanket on the grass and setting down a large plate stacked high with cookies alongside a silver teapot.

“Thank you Yumeko. Your service is as infalliable as ever.” Shinki told the maid as she fell onto her back, sprawling across the grass and blanket.

“I live to serve my goddess.” I followed the goddess’ lead and laid on the ground, finding warm comfort when Shinki rolled over and cuddled me.

The maid had already turned to leave but was stopped by the goddess’ voice. “Wouldn’t you like to stay and chat with us?” Yumeko promptly spun on a heel and took a seat next to Sara, the maid sitting formally on her legs and the gatekeeper crossing hers.

Despite invitation to talk, nobody said anything at first. Everybody had settled for munching on the chocolate chip cookies provided along with taking sips of tea. I noticed how Yumeko had brought four tea cups instead of only three; the maid could probably predict all of Shinki’s actions after living with her for what I assumed had been hundreds of years.

I was the first one to break the silence. I sat up so I could properly ask, “Shinki, what’s school like here?”

“Hm? Where did you hear about that Alice?”

“One of my…friends said she had to go.”

“School is school. Did you not have to go to school before, dear?”

“Well, we had lessons, but all of us were kids. What do hundred-year olds have to learn?” All three of the demons laughed at my question. I felt like pouting but decided it wasn’t worth it. If I pouted every time the demons found me funny, I predicted I would never stop.

It was Yumeko who answered me first. “Life is about learning milady. Once you stop learning, you aren’t living.”

Shinki continued to laugh as she took in my confused face. “Think about it this way sweetie. You learned to read and write, but also other things like history and math right? That’s what happens at school here in Makai too.”

“But it can’t take that long to learn that stuff. If I had a hundred years I could learn everything!”

“My Yumeko, we have the brightest genius of all the outside with us now!”

“Indeed my goddess, we are rather fortunate.”

“Hmph,” I scooted away from the goddess in annoyance and leaned back on Sara. The pink-haired demon took it in stride and began to affectionately stroke my head.

“Don’t worry about them sis. Anyway, actually answering your question, just because we’ve lived a long time doesn’t mean we remember everything. Since a lot of the things we learn aren’t used in our daily lives, most of the family forgets. So we continue to go to school to refresh our memory.”

“If everybody forgets than who’s the teacher?”

“Only most of us forget, sis. There are a few people who really like things like history or science so they remember it all and teach the rest of us.”

“Yup, that’s basically how it works Alice. Sara probably knows best out of us all; she doesn’t remember a thing!”

“Mother!” It made sense, even if I couldn’t understand it. It was tough enough to remember what had happened a year ago, let alone five or six hundred years.

“Alice,” Shinki tossed me something as she addressed me. It was a little circular gem, a blue version of the thing I had seen Ko with. “Now that you’re staying here, you’ll have to go to school too.”

I glowered slightly but was expecting as much. Looking at the gem, it was basically the size and width of a small coin. I rubbed the face of the jewel, feeling the smooth texture. When I pulled my thumb away, two black lines had magically appeared along with a little black circle right in the center.

“That’s basically a clock, Alice. Have you used one before?” I nodded. The village usually worked according to the sun, but there were a few clocks around the shrine and bars. Momma and daddy insisted that I learn to read a clock, so I knew what the minute and hour hands were for. The circle in the center was more mysterious, but I assumed it was meant to indicate before and after noon or something.

“Good, that’ll make this easier to explain. There’s one lesson per hour, so all of my Makai is separated into twenty-four groups. That little gem will beep five minutes before your lesson; you can turn it off by tapping it. Everybody in the class meets up at the school and then the teachers will split you up from there. I think your class time is in twenty hours or so dear. Make sure you’ve gotten plenty of sleep before then!” The explanation seemed simple enough. An hour of school a day was reasonable.

Sara leaned over and whispered into my ear, “If you’re not awake it’s okay, sis. People skip school all the time.”

Shinki leveled a finger at the gatekeeper, her unnatural hearing foolproof. “Don’t listen to her, Alice! School is mandatory for everybody, no exceptions. I wouldn’t want my cute little daughter to become a delinquent in the first few days.”

The jokes and banter started up again as Shinki finished the serious business she had. I was starting to feel a bit sleepy, but not enough to actually go to bed. Once there was lull in the conversation I…

[ ] Asked about
[ ] Wanted to explore Pandemonium a bit…
-[ ] after taking suggestions of rooms to visit
-[ ] by wandering around; it had worked well enough so far
-[ ] specifically
[ ] Tried to go to bed anyway
[ ]

---

Sorry for the wait; whenever you get off from a vacation, there’s always a disproportionate amount of work awaiting you. I can feel the blandness seeping into this update too. Sorry about that.

As always, vote for whatever and I'll mix and match depending on what's possible and what wins. Since I probably won’t update until next weekend anyway, ask for an info dump or nothing at all; whatever you want I’ll (probably) try to provide. As far as rooms go, assume Pandemonium has facilities for everything you might imagine until told otherwise.
>>No. 9092
[x] Tried to go to bed anyway

I would like to ask about Reimu but I suspect that we weren't meant to hear that conversation.
>>No. 9093
[x] Asked about the Hakurei. And "Shinku".

Screw it, if Raymoo's already here then I want to know why. And I can't think of who Shinku would be besides a somewhat appropriate Rozen Maiden reference.
>>No. 9094
[x] Wanted to explore Pandemonium a bit…
-[x] by wandering around; it had worked well enough so far

>Shinku
>a doll
Oh ho ho.
>>No. 9095
File 133459329843.jpg - (70.27KB, 512x320, Th01titlescreen.jpg) [iqdb]
9095
>>9093
Pic related. Makai didn't debut in Mystic Square, after all.
I wonder if we'll be seeing the Ruins of Vina, or Sariel's cross-filled place...

[X] Asked about the Hakurei, and Shinku.
>>No. 9098
[X] Asked about the Hakurei, and Shinku.

It was expected this would be the HRtP "makai" arc, Alice is nowhere near her boss status of MS, and doesn't have her grimoire yet.
>>No. 9107
>>9095
Ah, right, I haven't played HRtP so I forgot it was in Makai.

I guess Shinku = Shingyoku, then. Makes sense.
>>No. 9145
File 133515483232.jpg - (103.19KB, 616x569, wait-a-few-more-years-kids.jpg) [iqdb]
9145
I wondered about the conversation I had overheard. It worried me more than it should have. Is something bad happening? Is someone gonna get hurt? The unwanted concerns afflicted my mind, the apprehension and curiosity overriding my sense of propriety.

“You okay sis?” I craned my neck to look up at Sara’s inquisitive eyes. “You feel a bit uneasy.”

“Really?”

“Yup! You started to wring your heads and shift around a lot. It’s pretty noticeable when you start rubbing your head into my chest, you know?” I promptly removed myself from the gatekeeper, shaking the blush out of my face and taking a proper seating position. “So what’s bothering you?”

With such a prime opportunity to ask I couldn’t help myself. “Is everybody going to be okay?”

The three demons stared at me funnily. Compared to their latest argument about the taste of pancakes versus waffles, my question was certainly a non-sequitur.

“Who’s ‘everybody’ dear, and why wouldn’t they be?” Shinki wondered.

My childish logic used the question to rally, doing its best to dissuade me from asking any more alarming questions; letting the adults know you were eavesdropping was the number one no-no! Only the stupid kids got caught, and Alice wasn’t stupid, it said.

Still, I managed to preserve and maintain my resolve to figure out what was happening. I took a second to sort my thoughts and removed the hesitation from my voice. “I mean the other demons. Aren’t the Hakurei reeeeeaaaally dangerous? It’s not nice to go around beating people up or k-killing them!”

I managed to keep my eyes on the demons’ faces to see their reactions. Sara looked like a spider had just dropped onto her head and Yumeko looked vaguely curious. The goddess frowned slightly but did little else; no explosion, no mild annoyance, and no happy laugh. “That isn’t a problem Alice. The Hakurei haven’t harmed us in a long while.”

“But what if they’re really excited ‘cause they haven’t been to Makai in awhile?” I thought about what I had said and quickly amended my question. “And if it’s just Rei- Rei…uh, that one girl, won’t a lot of people end up getting hurt?” Even if the village hadn’t needed the Hakurei’s help, I had traveled with momma to the Hakurei Shrine a few times. It was on one of those trips that a certain memory had lodged itself into my mind.

“Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, Lady Margatroid. Your insights into the nature of the Dragon’s gifts have been most enlightening.”

“It was my pleasure to give you whatever aid I could. Let us go Alice…Alice? What are you staring at Alice?”

“Momma, look at her.”

“Alice, it’s rude to poi- oh my. May I ask if that is regular?”

“Unfortunately it is. That girl she’s…something of a prodigy, you could say. She holds amazing talent and power as a shining example of the Hakurei’s future. It’s just that she…well…”

“Where are you going? I thought you were helping me practice with the orbs! Hey! WHERE ARE YOU GOING? COME BACK HERE!”


It was disgusting to think about. The image of an uncouth little girl wantonly waving her wooden wand through the air, pelting her fellow monks with a Yin-Yang orb was something I would not forget. The girl’s name wasn’t so important compared to the danger she represented. How could one not worry if a little terror such as that were to be wandering around in one’s home?

“You’re so silly Alice, everything will be fine. There’s nothing to worry about. No one can seriously harm my demons here in Makai, even young Reimu.” Shinki attempted to reassure me.

“Okay…but what about her? Is Reimu going to be alright? “

“Yes dear, the Hakurei girl will be just fine too.”

“Who’s Shinku? How can she help, ah, ‘extract’ Reimu?” I pressed onwards, attempting to understand every aspect of the conversation I had heard.

“Alice, I don’t think these are the right questions…” The goddess tried to redirect me, her expression slowly morphing from subtle unhappiness to downright panic. Shinki began to fidget and shift, her eyes flicking from side to side.

“Shinku is another demon. She has reasonable competence in all areas, but specifically has an advanced understanding of a specific branch of time dilation magic. She’s one of our specialists.” I was surprised that Yumeko was the one to answer my questions. The maid was practically glaring at the goddess as she continued. “I have to wonder why we would need to worry about these topics at all.”

Even Luminita could read the tension in the air as she used her little doll hands to hide herself from the ensuing fight. My curiosity petered out in the face of true adversity.

“Hey you two, do you really have to-”

“Quiet!” Sara drew backwards as if Yumeko had struck her. The sole attempt at cutting the tension was defeated.

“Now Yumeko, I think you are getting a tad worked up.”

“Worked up? Oh no, how could I possibly care about the last Hakurei alive wandering around where she can get herself potentially killed?”

“That’s why I sent Shinku.”

“Of course, excuse me my goddess, what a terrible oversight on my part. Surely, giving the all-powerful Hakurei an hour head start on enemies that could fly, teleport, remove the distance between them, and any manner of ridiculous other powers will definitely be enough to keep her safe.”

“Well…”

“Was it impossible to do the sensible thing and, I don’t know, tell me about this? Argh, what am I even doing sitting here. I must be off at once. Pardon me, goddess.” I supposed it was against the maid’s principle to yell at her employer and creator.

Shinki buried her face in her hands as the maid stormed off, a sword already materializing in her grip.

Sara and I shared an uncomfortable gaze, unsure on how to proceed. The goddess stood and said, “I’m sorry Alice, Sara. I...don’t think this is as large of a problem as Yumeko does. Please, don’t worry about it. Everything will be fine in a few hours.” With those words the goddess departed, leaving with a sickly smile plastered across her face.

That left Sara and me lamely sitting on the ground. “What now?”

The gatekeeper scratched the back of her head. “Uhm, I was planning on asking Yumeko to spar with me a bit but, well, I don’t really know anymore sis. Did you have anything in mind?”

I shook my head, suggesting the first thing I thought of. “I kinda wanted to look around a bit before going to bed.” With so many things inside of Pandemonium I had not yet seen, exploring was always an interesting option. It was a toss up between going to bed immediately and peeking around, but I felt like I still had enough energy to take a quick look.

“Exploring Pandemonium huh? Sure sis, sounds fun! I don’t have much time to mess around here anyway, so I’m as clueless as you are.”

Plan of action decided upon, we walked off. Shinki’s construction was definitely haphazard but also stunning in its magnitude. Pandemonium’s library was massive, one giant room supported by large pillars. It stretched up several floors, with hundreds of bookcases lining the walls. The center was left completely open except for the few wooden tables placed on the ground floor. I didn’t see any stairs that connected one floor to another, but flying made the matter trivial.

Flying around, I saw far too many books to read in a lifetime. There were mundane textbooks on math and science, biographies and recordings of Earth’s history, sections on crafts like sewing and cooking as well as rows of novels and gaudy magazines. Beyond those there were plenty of esoteric tomes on various magical topics, from the creation of golems to the combustion of water. I thought the section on diabolic summoning was rather out of place, but maybe Shinki found it amusing. I was sure I could find a book on almost any topic I might imagine in the place.

“Geez, why would anybody sit around reading all day? That’s hardly any fun.” I couldn’t agree with Sara personally, but understood her sentiments. We left the library and went off to check out other places.

An armory caught Sara’s attention right away. Racks of weapons from various times were stored in that room. There were ancient looking swords and medieval lances, Japanese katanas and farmers’ scythes. There were even rifles like the one daddy kept at home.

“This is so cool! I wonder how you even use this thing.” Sara wondered aloud as she picked up what looked like a giant bladed pinwheel. I ducked as she swung the device around, menacing whooshes assailing my ears as the blades passed overhead.

“Sara, be careful, that’s dangerous!”

“Eh? Relax sis, I won’t hit you,” the pink-haired demon’s lackadaisical reply didn’t make me feel any more confident in her abilities. “Here, you try!”

I squealed and jumped out of the way of the spinning hand-ax that the gatekeeper had tossed at me. She looked stupefied, “What’d you do that for sis? Here let me show you.”

“No, no, no!”

“Come on sis don’t be like that. Stop jumping around; I’m not even throwing anything! Fine, fine, we’re going. Stop swinging- ow, stop- I said- ow! Sis! Stop hitting me with your doll! We’re leaving!”

Next we checked out a room that consisted of a large flat patch of dirt. Sara was telling me something about how there were training automatons and the like that could be used in the room but I barely heard her, my eyes drooping closed every few seconds.

Before I knew it I was back in my room. “Is this it Alice?” Sara asked me, opening the door and placing me down on the bed.

“Wah? Why’re we back ‘ere?”

“Don’t be silly sis, you asked to come back. You’re a bit too tired to be wandering around; make sure you catch some z’s alright?”

“Mmm, t’anks Sara.”

“Catch you later sis. You should come visit me sometime. Sleep tight!” As soon as the door closed the ambient light from the crystals in the hall were shut out, and I fell asleep soon after that.

---

It was an idyllic scene at the riverside. Dozens of villagers were loudly going about their business, washing clothes and playing in the river. Mothers and fathers labored as their children splashed each other with water. The blonde haired villagers stood out from the dark-haired ones, European features obviously distinct from Asiatic ones.

“Alice, don’t you wish to go play with the other children?”

“Uhm, no? I’d get all wet mommy!”

“I see. I don’t fault you, but socializing is-” High pitched screams interrupted the blondes’ conversation. All work halted as the villagers looked about, the adults surprised as their children ran back to them.

The older blonde immediately stood and strode over to the other villagers, the younger blonde quickly stumbling after her. Parents tried to calm down their little ones who were screaming incoherently, bits of useful information interspaced with the wailing.

Even in the second it took to pass by a crying child, the older blond had managed to put together what had happened. Her face was stony as she approached a section of the river where two distraught adults were huddled in the water.

“Alice, don’t look.” The blonde woman told her young follower before stepping into the water and kneeling next to the crying villagers. The young blonde, ever curious, did not heed her mother’s advice and looked.

A dead child, cuddled in the arms of his parents.

There was no stench from the recently deceased, but it was obvious all the same. A lifeless body did not have the same spark as the living did; the differences between an unconscious human and a dead one were obvious.

The dead boy’s chest did not rise and fall, nor did his limbs respond as the parents shook him. His skin slowly lost its healthy color, his body seizing in the throes of rigor mortis. Against the pleas of the parents, the boy would not rise and laugh again.

The girl watched the scene without passion, a sense of emptiness pervading her senses. It was as if a gloomy fog had settled over her thoughts and feelings. She did not know what to think or how to react to what she saw, so she did not. She stood silently on the shore of the river, and watched.

The girl watched the peace and discord of death intertwine.

All around her, the girl listlessly observed the scenes of death. The young boy collapsed in the river was but the first case, as more and more villagers fell silently to the ground.

The blonde woman’s stoic mask cracked; the surprise and horror at the events overwhelming her defenses. The woman ran back and forth, dashing between the fallen to aid them the best she could. She concentrated on the sphere that was suddenly in her hands, employing every blessing the Dragon had bestowed upon its shrine keeper. Light shone brightly, enveloping the fallen with blessed energy, yet the dead laid still and the dying lost their fight for survival.

The girl saw this all and could do nothing. What was happening? Why were her friends and acquaintances dying? One in every three of the villagers had already collapsed to the ground, with half of the remaining ones struggling to stay standing.

The girl watched, even as she herself fell to one knee. Somewhere inside of her, she was sure she should be screaming. She should be bawling, crying, vomiting; reacting to the situation. Yet she did not. Her heart grew heavy, her limbs numb. Even if she wanted to try and save these people she knew, she no longer had the physical capability to do so. With her vision darkening and her strength giving out, the girl was glad to see her mother rushing over.

“Alice, look at me. Alice? Alice! Please stay awake, for mommy…”

The girl would be okay, she could feel it. Just as she felt the oppressive, nonexistent fog that had settled over the group, she knew she would survive the encounter. She didn’t know why, but the foreign taint that maligned her heart had become as noticeable to her as the sun in the sky. It was toxic, working strenuously to kill her just as it had to so many others. The glowing light filling her could not stop it, but the poison would fail on its own. In the moment on the border of life and death, and only that moment, she became intimately aware of the curse afflicting her soul.

Then the girl fainted.


---

I stumbled out of bed, fumbling around the room until I managed to obtain an entire set of clothes. My feet dragged themselves next door to the washroom where I almost fell headfirst into the tub. Dirty clothes were flung away as I scrubbed myself clean, finding a brush and shampoo to clean my hair. I flopped out of the tub and dried myself, managing to put on the randomly selected outfit and pull myself up to the mirror.

“Great!” I smiled, happy with my looks. The sleep had been washed away from my eyes and my hair looked clean and vibrant. I thought the cute blue dress and white shirt looked enchanting on me.

Heading back into my room, I picked Luminita up from where she was sitting on the end of my bed and started to head out the door. I quickly stopped and backed up in order to contemplate an important decision that would affect my entire day.

A cute blue ribbon was sitting next to the clunky yellow hat I had worn yesterday. Naturally, I put on…

[ ] The blue ribbon
[ ] The yellow hardhat
[ ] Neither

…and headed out the door. I pulled out the little gem-clock from one of Luminita’s pockets and checked the time. I had slept for a good ten hours. If Shinki’s estimate held true, I still had several hours before I was supposed to head to school; it was pretty annoying that the clock didn’t explicitly say when.

With the time in mind, I decided to…

*Choose Three (3) Choices*
[ ] Try and find out what had happened with the whole Hakurei incident
[ ] Find out if anything interesting was happening in the city
[ ] Get some breakfast ! It was the most important meal of the day after all
[ ] Wander around Pandemonium some more; I barely saw any of the more interesting rooms yesterday
[ ] Explore the areas outside of the city; there had to be interesting things in the ‘wilderness’
[ ] Read in the library
[ ] Mess around with in the armory
[ ] Practice in the training room
[ ] Go and find to spend time with
[ ]

---

I thought three choices would be enough to fill the day with a variety of interesting things. Whether or not all three things will happen is unknown, of course, but it’s always good to plan out what you want to happen.

And as much as I would love to attract more readers by baiting them in with popular Touhou’s - that’s rather impossible. Although, there are some that could manage to show up in this segment of the story…
>>No. 9146
[x] The blue ribbon
[x] Try and find out what had happened with the whole Hakurei incident
[x] Find out if anything interesting was happening in the city
[x] Explore the areas outside of the city; there had to be interesting things in the ‘wilderness’
>>No. 9154
>>9150
Ideally yeah; I've been trying out the idea of having the <> indicate "more information" (I see how successful that is). For example, what kinds of books should she look for? Any specific branches of magic or other activities? Is she cooking breakfast herself, getting a maid to do it, eating out? etc. etc.

Of course, if voters don't fill them out and I can't figure out the gist of their intentions from whatever else they decide to write, I get to play with the Dice Gods and exercise my own creativity. Fun times all around; I'll work with whatever I get.
>>No. 9155
[x] The yellow hardhat

MORE HATS FOR THE HAT GOD, AND MORE CAPS LOCK FOR HOLMES!

[x] Try and find out what had happened with the whole Hakurei incident
[x] Get some breakfast by using the olde magicka called "puppy eyes" on Yumeko! It was the most important meal of the day after all
[x] Read a book about wizards, cheese, and DEATH in the library

I wanted Alice to play around in the wilderness, but it's better to know some magic before, just in case something go wrong. For example, if she fell and can't get up, and can't buy a Nitaugmentation® to get back to her feet.
Also, yeah, I'm referring to Magicka, because Discworld is too mainstream.
>>No. 9156
[x] The blue ribbon

*Choose Three (3) Choices*
[x] Try and find out what had happened with the whole Hakurei incident
[x] Get some breakfast by checking the dining/kitchen area! It was the most important meal of the day after all
[x] Wander around Pandemonium some more; I barely saw any of the more interesting rooms yesterday
>>No. 9157
[x] The blue ribbon
[x] Try and find out what had happened with the whole Hakurei incident
[x] Get some breakfast by using the olde magicka called "puppy eyes" on Yumeko! It was the most important meal of the day after all
[x] Go and find Shinki to spend time with

I demand Alice and Shinki family bonding.
>>No. 9163
[x] The blue ribbon


[x] Get some breakfast by finding Yumeko! It was the most important meal of the day after all
[x] Read guides to magic in the library
[x] Practice fireball in the training room

Training montage go!
>>No. 9219
File 133635895796.jpg - (119.82KB, 850x637, not-enough-alternate-yumeko-art.jpg) [iqdb]
9219
I decided to take care of the most crucial aspect of the day, breakfast. The rumbling of my stomach right after waking up could not be ignored. Momma and daddy, the entire village really, always paused for breakfast first thing in the morning; trying to till the fields or gather herbal plants on an empty stomach was a foolish endeavor.

The problem was figuring out where breakfast was. I knew that there was probably food in the kitchen, but raw ingredients did not equate to a meal. Being unable to cook myself a proper breakfast was annoying. I knew how to create simple things but momma and daddy had forbidden me from using the stove. Just because I had been eye-level with the fire didn’t make it dangerous to cook!

Strolling down the hall, I decided to tackle the conundrum in the best way I knew how. Taking a sharp turn around a corner, I sped up into a slow jog as I navigated through the crystal hallways. The featureless brown door I stopped at was unadorned but marked in my head as ‘The Maid’s Room’. I knocked on the door politely, waiting for Yumeko to answer. With no response after three sets of knocks I tried the handle, finding it to be unlocked. Hunger motivated me to open the door despite the impropriety of barging into someone’s private room.

“You first Luminita,” I said as I shoved my doll through the doorway. With nobody shouting at the sudden intrusion I tentatively stepped through myself, opening the door enough to allow the light from the hallway into the room.

The decorations were simple enough. In fact, there was little discernable difference from the countless other cookie cutter rooms throughout Pandemonium. A wooden bed with a lumpy looking mattress, a single half-height dresser and a few weapon stands were the only fixtures in the place.

“Ow!” I dropped Luminita to the ground before I grabbed my foot, hopping up and down to try and rub out the sudden pain. Grimacing as I settled my injured foot back on the ground, I stooped over to grab Luminita as well as examine what I stubbed my toes against.

It was a suit of armor. “So pretty…” Plate armor, the kind a knight-in-shining-armor from one of momma’s fairy tales might wear, lay haphazardly on the floor. That description was almost perfect, except for the fact that the armor was midnight black and far more intimidating. Menacing spikes filled the space where there should have been smooth curves. The dark metal managed to gleam, reflecting the light from the hallway brilliantly. However, a few areas of the armor looked grimy, some substance covering the shimmering metal and dirtying its appearance.

The armor was scattered in its respective pieces all along the floor of the room. Gauntlets, pauldrons, boots, and other parts looked like they had been unhooked and left to fall where they would as the owner marched through the room. The armor trail led towards another door as well as a toweled, dripping wet maid.

The white towel Yumeko had wrapped around her body barely hid anything! The maid’s curves were blatantly visible as they stretched against the white fabric; water droplets streaked down her toned legs and arms as if their sole purpose was to enhance the maid’s appearance. Even when wet and ragged, Yumeko’s blonde hair still managed to look magnificent.

“What are you doing in here Alice? Get out!” The maid snapped at me. My reflexes responded as I jumped out of the room, survival instincts causing me to flee as fast as I could. I slammed the door shut on the way out and bounded down the hall for several paces before stopping and leaning into the crystal wall. I think I had managed to let out a strangled apology before running.

I asked my silver-haired companion, “Did you know she was in the bath? Why didn’t you tell me?” The doll gave me a lame look, as if it was wondering what exactly I had expected her to do. I groaned, worried that the maid would hate me forever. Worse, she might not cook me breakfast!

Luckily my fears proved to be unfounded. After a minute of heavy clanking and hurried motions from within the room Yumeko, dressed in her red maid regalia I was used to seeing, emerged and walked right over to me. She bowed before me and spoke. “Apologies, milady. I was surprised to see you and didn’t think before snapping. My yelling was unwarranted.” The maid seemed calm enough. Her sudden outburst wasn’t exactly uncharacteristic from what I had seen, but was still surprising considering how subdued she usually acted.

“Uh, it’s my fault Yumeko,” I told the maid. “I shouldn’t have entered your room without permission. I’m sorry.” The two of us simply stood there in the hall, bent over like a pair of idiots. The maid smiled in amusement and I giggled, the mood between us substantially improved.

“Well then it seems everything is settled. What did you require of me?”

Preparing myself, I looked at the maid. Years of experience culminated in the one statement I made, “Uwah, I’m hungry…”

The maid watched me silently during my display. Then, she laughed. The nerve of her!/[i] My mind fumed. [i]Why do the demons always react like that? It was distressing; while in Makai, almost none of my time-honed techniques had worked like I expected.

Yumeko waved the amusement away with a hand. “Very well then, let’s remedy that situation. Come along. What would you like to eat?”

“Cozonac!” I answered immediately, taste buds enamored with anything sweet and delicious.

“Hm? What was that?”

“Oh, uh, sweet bread?”

“Sweets for breakfast? Why, that kind of meal is the bane of women the world over. Perhaps the young lady does not mind gaining a bit of weight?”

“What? No! That’s terrible! Never! It won’t happen at all!”

Despite her joking, Yumeko went right to work baking. The nearest kitchen looked rather traditional with a multitude of drawers, cabinets, and shelves holding a plethora of ingredients. The stove, oven, sink, and other machines were all of the pseudo-modern type like the facilities in the bathrooms.

The maid put me to work once she realized I was standing there watching her create tasty treats and salivating. She showed me how to mix the flour with milk and other ingredients, how to roll and cut up pastry bread, and how to use the magical oven.

“And now we wait for ten minutes.” With goodies baking, Yumeko pulled two chairs over from somewhere so we took a seat. The maid sat with her eyes closed as usual, looking calm and serene.

I figured it was a decent time to bother her with questions. “Hey Yumeko?”

“Yes? What is it?”

“Did everything with Reimu work out okay?” It was the wrong topic to ask about. Considering what had happened when Yumeko first learned about the Hakurei wandering about Makai, I should have realized it was dangerous territory to speak about.

As soon as the question left my lips Yumeko’s eyes snapped open. A heat as fiery as the blazing dragon Yuki had summoned reflected in her eyes. She wasn’t even looking at me; her gaze was unfocused, as if all her attention was spent inwards. When the gleaming swords started to spontaneously materialize in her hands I scooted my chair away. When the cooking utensils and silverware hung up on the wall began to shake I panicked, hunkering down as much as I could and hid behind my silver-haired protector.

I was surprised that the maid didn’t explode. Readjusting myself back into a proper sitting position I watched the symptoms of restrained anger slowly faded away. In the end, Yumeko somehow managed to regain her calm expression before answering me, “Yes.”

What a disappointment. Is that it? I wondered. I wasn’t planning on digging any further lest I cause the volcano to erupt, but I would have liked a bit more information. Disappointed, I kicked my feet and wasted time as my inappropriate breakfast food baked.

At some hidden alarm Yumeko swiftly rose from her chair. She removed the assorted sugared pastries from the oven quickly, setting them on a kitchen counter. Then she picked up the chair I was sitting in and moved it over. “Woah! Wow, you’re strong Yumeko.”

The maid smirked, replying “Or perhaps you’re too skinny? Maybe a future breakfast such as this is not out of the question.” I celebrated at the words before digging into the baked goods, offering a piece to Yumeko.

The maid took accepted the food with grace. After she finished it, she spoke. “We encountered a few…expected difficulties but dealt with them quickly enough. The young shrine maiden safely left Makai about an hour ago.” She leaked mildly useful information but nothing else. I doubted she would be willing to tell me anything more. “Again, I apologize for my unseemly displays. I’m tired and need to rest,” she told me before bidding me a good meal and leaving.

“Good night Yumeko, and thank you for breakfast!” I called out as the maid left. Once she disappeared I refocused on the plate in front of me and devoured the majority of the sweats in short order. I was ready for the rest of my day!

With several hours left to kill I pondered my options. It seemed like the only major I decision had made in Makai was to wander around. I shrugged; it was good an option as any.

When I consulted my mental map to figure out where I should start my exploring I discovered that there were plenty of gaps in my knowledge. Specifically, I couldn’t imagine a floor plan for Pandemonium’s lower levels. Anomaly identified, I set out to rectify the problem. Thanks to the power of flight traveling downwards was a matter of carefully falling down stairwells.

To my dismay much of the uncharted territory happened to be absolutely uninteresting. If anything the lower levels were filled with even more generic rooms with nothing in them than the floors above. The number of bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens, sitting rooms, and anything else slowly dwindled to nothing. Eventually, even the featureless empty rooms started to disappear leaving only winding crystal hallways. It made sense to think that the lower levels were left unmapped because there was nothing down there. My memory was stretched to the limit trying to remember the turns I took in the lower hallways. I was all set to turn around and head back upstairs while I could before an oddity distracted me. Amidst the endless hallways there was a room filled with objects.

Walking up to the room which was positioned at the end of one hall I noticed the massive metal door that was sitting open on its hinges. ‘Door’ was an inappropriate term. ‘Hatch’ would closer describe the giant sheet of metal. If closed, it would literally fill the hallway from floor to ceiling, sealing off the room beyond.

The room beyond the hatch was stuffed to the brim with items. Immediately around me I saw stacks of books, cases filled with staves and other weapons, and tables cluttered with a variety of trinkets and doodads. All these objects were positioned around the room with rope barriers put up to create clear walkways around the items. Otherwise there didn’t seem to be any order to them. The path through the room was wound and curved around the randomly placed objects.

The treasure room itself wasn’t very spacious; perhaps the size of any large bedroom. However it was also connected to other rooms. Normal doors led away from the metal hatch and opened up to rooms filled with even more items.

I looked at a few of the things I passed by, picking up odds and ends as they looked interesting. One scepter was plated in gold and carved so the head looked like some deformed cat. A ragged and old book contained yellowing pages but red ink still as clear as day, the strange characters drawn out on the pages in no language I understood. There was a stack of golden plates sitting innocently next to a human skull missing its jaw. I couldn’t figure out any sort of organizational pattern or theme to the items. Some looked like they belonged in the Japanese Stone Age while others were sparkling new and could fit right in modern Romania.

The singular trend that became apparent to me was how the items were increasingly magical in nature the more doors I walked through. It was unnoticeable at first but the concentration of magical energy became thick enough to struggle through around ten rooms directly away from the metal hatch. In such high concentrations of energy, every one of the five senses felt repulsed. There was a pungent odor, the air tasted like manure, there was a high-pitched whine, everything looked hazy, and something made all the skin on my body crawl. That type of environment should have been enough to deter any sane person but I kept trudging forward.

It was inexplicable. My biological functions were rebelling as nausea and dizziness afflicted me but my mind still forced one foot in front of the other. Deeper and deeper into the vault I traveled, observing every single magical artifact I passed. Behind the ear-splitting whine I could hear a siren’s song, the allure of untouched knowledge beckoning the curious towards it. All around me were items screaming for help, lonely tools forgotten by the world and searching for a purpose. They could recognize me as much I could them; they felt the subtle movements of one with potential so they clamored for attention. Every urge I felt to reach towards a certain eyeballed sword was offset by a pull in the opposite direction from an opaque mirror.

So I kept moving forward. There was one force that compelled me to move forward. One force beckoning stronger than all the others, and it lay deeper in the labyrinth of rooms.

If I could make it through just a few more rooms I knew I would find it, the thing that attracted me beyond everything else. Just a couple of doorways and-

“Alice! Oh no, not good at all. Let’s go dear, quickly!” Arms grabbed me, wrapping around my entire body and sweeping me off my feet. I started to struggle fruitlessly, limbs flailing in an instinctive attempt to escape. Something quickly bound my limbs to my body, preventing me from injuring myself or whoever was carrying me. Still, I wildly thrashed as best as I could. I had been so close, so tantalizing close. Even another minute of wading through the magical energy would have been enough to reach whatever it was calling me.

A loud crank shook me out of my trance. I was sitting on the floor in the crystal hallways once more, the large metal hatch swung close. The giant wheel and other levers on the outside of the hatch were being spun, flicked, and turned in what I assumed was a locking sequence. Satisfied with whatever she had just done, Shinki sighed and turned to smother me.

“Oh Alice, are you all right dear? Here look at me, are you okay? Look at what you did to yourself! Your hair is a mess and so are your clothes. Hold still, let me scan you,” the goddess fussed over me, picking at my face, my hair, and my clothes with worried hands.

“H-hey, Shinki I’m fine. I feel fine, you don’t need to fuss!” I tried to bat away her hands but she was insistent.

“We can’t be sure of that dear. That much exposure to pure magic is beyond what humans- oh, this says you’re fine.” The goddess frowned and shook the snake-like wand that was held in her hand before putting it away.

“See? I’m okay so you don’t need to-“

“We still can’t be sure! This artifact is rather old; the enchantment might have failed. Can you breathe all right? Move all ten of your fingers for me please. Wiggle your toes next. Wait, why aren’t you wearing shoes Alice? You could hurt yourself on some sharp rocks or something!”

“Its fine, I lost my boots awhile ago. Hey, stop touching my toes, that- hahaa- tickles! Stop it! Just because I said toes doesn’t mean you need to look at my ears. Geez nothing is wrong wib ma- dop wulling on ma- ow, cheeks! Stop it! You can’t just- stop! Leave me alone! Who do you think you are, my mom?”

Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. That described my words, my thinking, and me. It was an emotional outburst of a child, a spoiled rotten kid that couldn’t deal with past injustices no matter how pleasant her life had become.

If nothing else, the goddess stopped immediately. She helped me to my feet, lightly took hold of my free hand, and began the journey back upstairs. The silence between us was awkward and unpleasant but I could only blame myself for it.

We were back in familiar territory by the time I had fully thought through my careless words. “Shinki,” I began, “I’m so sorry.” It seemed like my voice barely reached the goddess, unsure and far too weak to vocalize any adequate apology. Yet I carried on, intent on setting things as right as I could make them. “I didn’t mean to be angry. You were just making sure I was safe and sound; I was being dumb…”

Shink stopped and knelt down in the middle of the hallway, making eye contact with me. She lightly brushed her hand against my forehead, relocating a few errant strands of hair. It was impossibly unfair. Every motion she took was loaded with care, stuffed to the brim with love, and spewed out kindness. Whether she was simply grasping your hand or fulfilling your heart’s desire she acted with the utmost benevolence. Any friend would be cushioned by good-will and any enemy would be crushed under the weight of guilt by simply standing in the presence of the woman, the demon, the goddess. I wondered if it was possible for a human to ever reach the capacity of emotion that Shinki had. The patience and goodness she exuded could not be adequately described with words.

“It’s alright Alice, this was my fault. I’m too eager, too excitable. I don’t even think about what others feel sometimes. You’re a strong girl that can act her best no matter the situation. It’s my fault for not giving you space,” she told me with her melancholy yet understanding tone.

I wanted to protest and put all the blame on myself. She should not have felt bad for trying to accommodate me in a strange place. I liked to think the hug I dragged her into was telling enough.

“You know dear, that was a dangerous situation; I’m surprised you’re okay.” Shinki quietly informed me after we broke the embrace. “Just like anything else, too much magic at once can be harmful, fatally so. That’s another reason I gave you that doll. To be honest, that doll isn’t so much of a magic focus as it is a magic limiter.”

“Luminita stops me from doing magic?”

“No, not in general. Your doll, ah, ‘Luminita’ does help you focus ambient magical energies as well as your own to cast spells, but she’ll also cut you off if you try too much. Anything you might want to do with that much magic wouldn’t be safe, you see?”

I contemplated the goddess’ words. After my experiences with overwhelming amounts magic, I was glad I wouldn’t cause such an incident to occur again by accident.

“Thank you Shinki. Uhm, maybe we can-” The goddess silenced me with a finger to my lips.

“Perhaps later Alice? I would love nothing more than to play with such a cutie like you, but I’m actually rather tired. I was just putting away a few things before heading to bed.”

I nodded in understanding and waved farewell to the goddess.
>>No. 9220
Left to my own devices, I had no clue what to do. Wandering around in Pandemonium seemed to have reached its limits unless I wanted to figure out what a ‘diapering’ room was. Shrugging my shoulders I headed off towards the library. Despite the potentially fatal position I had found myself in, the magical artifacts were awfully interesting. Reading about such things would have to be a safer substitute than experiencing them firsthand.

Entering the pillar of bookcases, I floated upwards towards the books on magic. Now, what to read? I questioned myself. Maybe something on general magic? Or artifacts or- fire! Latching onto my previous failure I rushed through the books, grabbing ones that seemed like novices’ guides on playing with fire.

With as many books as I could carry held in one hand, I floated back to the tables in the center of the library and settled down. Skimming through half the books I realized that despite their decorative and attractive covers they were written in strange foreign scripts I couldn’t read. Learning two different languages wasn’t enough to read the hundreds of different writing systems contained within that library.

Still, even half of the meager selection I had was far too much information to read; three primers with three different styles of magic held within was information overload. I tried my best to comprehend the lessons inside, but each book had its own difficulty. One of the tomes, written in the Latin letters I had been forced to learn, was nothing more than a mess of notes by some aspiring magician. Having worked as an assistant to a stage magician throughout his youth, the author discovered real magic completely by chance and under his own power. He had burned down a few of his homes, both in towns and in the forest, figuring out how to use his powers. His experiences were actually rather helpful; he was thorough in dictating every miscast, every feeling, and every thought that he had while working out his gift. It was an interesting read but I had a sinking feeling in my stomach by the end of the account. Over half of the entries in the journal detailed the experience of varying burns and unfortunate events surrounding fire. The man had tried bigger and grander displays of fire magic before the entries in the journal abruptly ended on the eve of a great experiment.

The next book was more like a research paper, an analysis of the five Chinese elements are their effects on Eastern spell casting practices. The author was intelligent, impressively so. Whoever this ‘PK’ was wrote on a level far beyond my own understanding. In fact, every idea after ‘each element was different’ was so filled with technical jargon that I had no hopes of deciphering what was meant. If I had taken years to study magic theory I may have had a strong basis to begin figuring out what the author intended.

The final selection I had available was…different. It started out sensible enough, with the anonymous author mentioning a magic system based around eight primary elements. From there the text fell apart. The explanations for the system of spell casting amounted to ‘gather some elements’ and then ‘throw them together’. It made no sense whatsoever! How was one supposed to obtain those elements? Where did they come from? Why would smashing those supposedly physical manifestations of elemental forces cause a myriad of pre-determined effects? Even if my understanding of magic at the time was of novice-level that did not excuse such a poor account by the author for what seemed to be an incredibly potent style of magic.

The last text’s accounts of feats that could be achieved sounded impressive enough for me to attempt what the writer barely explained. I had tried every little mental trick I could think of to cause the spontaneous creation of glowing elemental orbs. Yet try as I might, I simply couldn’t envision how the magic spell were meant to work. What was ‘Life’ or ‘Arcane’ anyway? How did lightning look inside a magic orb? Sighing, I tried to spawn each ‘element’ either way. It didn’t work out. Imagining fire left me with disappearing wisps of flame and water simply evaporated into nothing. Even if they had stuck around, I doubted open flames and the like were what the author used to launch laser beams.

Surprisingly, the ‘Shield’ and ‘Earth’ elements yielded somewhat useful results. When I tried to create the ‘Shield’ element the anonymous author had described, a real shield had dropped onto the table. After my screams of surprise had subsided, I inspected the object. Some excitement built within me but my mind simply wouldn’t accept what I had done as a success. The shield, which was actually just a thin sheet of metal that looked like a hefty shield, was an unintended product. Still, I amused myself by creating a slew of shields. I found it easy to form different styles of pseudo-shields. With the pictures from fairy tales as my guide heroic kite shields and dashing bucklers were quickly strewn across the table, lying haphazardly across the tops of books.

The other effect came from imagining the ‘Earth’ element. Lumps of jagged rock fell down around me, only unique because of their permanence. Like the shields and unlike the water, they did not instantly disappear.

I sighed before picking up the fire magician’s journal. Since the other two avenues of magic were useless to me, I settled for the hard way of doing things. Since the journal recorded the magician’s successes and failure, I had to be careful with what information I used. Self-immolation had been very common in the man’s trials. With the ominous ending of the journal in mind I began to read and practice.

Breathing and remaining calm were the most important aspects of dealing with fire. Blazes could spark out of control in a moment of panic, engulfing the unwary spell caster. Manipulating magical fire did not equate with fire resistance. It took control to bend the fire away from oneself to avoid burns. It was a matter of feeling the drift of the fire and using magical energy to nudge it in the right direction.

Creating fire was easier and yet more difficult than controlling fire. Thinking ‘fire’ and pouring magic in like I had may have worked if I had more of affinity for that type of spell. Otherwise, according to the anonymous magician, it took the correct mental schema to achieve success. A solid mental image of the fire you wanted was required –how it flickered, how bright it was, the colors held within, the waves of heat rolling off – one had to form the magic with these in mind. Casting fire spells was a matter of transforming amorphous magical energy into a real-life, sustainable effect. A focused idea was the least one could hold on to in order to ease the process.

I read through the magicians words once and then again. Confident in what I had learned, I started small. Taking a deep breath I held out a fist and flicked my thumb up.

A centimeter above my thumb a tiny candlelight edged into existence.

“Luminita, look,” I said with awe as I lifted my silver haired companion. Elation ran through my body. It was a simple feat, on a magnitude much less than the fireball I had attempted or the wave of metal I had created, but it was controlled. Much like flight, the little candlelight was not some random explosion of emotion but an effect I had wanted to form.

Unfortunately for me, I had not figured out how to separate my emotions and the flow of magic. As calm fascination turned into giddy excitement the little thumb fire messily exploded into a roaring blaze. I screamed, legs kicking out and sending my chair toppling backwards, the magical fires disappearing with my concentration.

Nothing broke or lit afire so I jumped right back up, intent on working out some sort of effective magic from the tomes I had read. I went through the motions several more times as I flicked the small candlelight on and off. Once I had grown comfortable with the small amount of magic I slowly tried to increase the magnitude. The little wick of a fire steadily grew larger and floated further away from me. As the candlelight transformed into torchlight I opened my hand as if holding the flames. From there it was a matter of relaxing both my arms and gripping Luminita to my chest as usual while maintaining my concentration.

I stared at the floating fire a moment before quickly turning around and sitting back into my chair. I reopened the fire magician’s journal and began to read it once more. In the back of my mind I still felt the pull of energy flowing from me to the fire. I could still feel the comfortable heat a meter away. Maintaining the spell at the edges of my consciousness I shifted my concentration back to reading, occasionally glancing over my shoulder to check that the magical fire was still burning. Being able to produce effects without seeing them was the next advancement the magician had made.

‘Fireballs’ as the popular depiction went weren’t as simple as throwing fire around. The magic had to be condensed and shaped around a concentrated sphere, something that had a weight behind it. It was vastly more complicated than simulating a torch or a fireplace. One fact I had managed to glean from ‘PK’ was how some magicians classified the strength of spells. Every layer of independent function in a spell showed the control of the magician. A basic fireball could be accomplished with two separate layers, the formation of a center mass and the magical fire around it. More advanced fireballs might explode on impact, spreading smaller fireballs that then formed together into a ritual circle in order to summon the image of a flame spirit. The magician believed that the possibilities with magic were infinite.

Setting the books down, I slumped into my chair. I had been reading for hours with nothing more than the occasional stretch. It was mostly carefully poring over the details of the magician’s journal, but occasionally I had tried to cross-reference information from the other two sources. After having found success at maintaining four separate floating fires at once I was tempted to try my hand at launching fireballs once more but I restrained myself. If my attempts exploded I preferred not burning down a library in the process. Satisfied with my learning for the time I picked up the three unreadable books and placed them back onto the shelves.

“So Luminita,” I began conversationally, “what do we do with all these?” I swept my free arm out, indicating the myriad of colorful metal shields and rocks. “I can’t just leave them here…” My companion glanced at the pile before shrugging. “Thanks for the help.”

Since it seemed like they wouldn’t be disappearing anytime soon I stacked the sheets of metal up, placed the rocks on top, and headed back to my room. I screamed and nearly toppled over when an annoying beeping blared in the quiet hallway. My feet left the ground as I flew the rest of the way to my room. Dumping the books and fake shields on my bed, I fished the little clock out of Luminita’s pocket. The green gem was clearly the source of the racket. Tapping it against the corner of my bed, calculations raced through my head. Five minutes was hardly a fair amount of warning time!

I decided to…

[ ] Head to school…
-[ ] At full power! Being late should be punishable by death!
-[ ] Relaxed. I doubted I could make it to the city on time anyway.
[ ] Not go to school…
-[ ] And do else
[ ]

---

The oppressive forces of exams allied themselves with the sinister insurgents of sickness to delay this update as long as possible. As such, things are a bit disjointed in the update. Hopefully it’s not too low quality.

As always I try to use all the votes for inspiration, following the vote more strictly (if applicable) as it increases in popularity (or something like that – I write what I write).
>>No. 9221
[X] Head to school…
-[X] At full power! Being late should be punishable by death!

Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!
>>No. 9222
[x] Head to school…
-[x] At full power! Being late should be punishable by death!

Alice is a good girl
>>No. 9223
[X] Head to school…
-[X] At full power! Being late should be punishable by death!
>>No. 9233
[X] Head to school…
-[X] At full power! Being late should be punishable by death!

Cue the white hare with a pocketwatch.
>>No. 9234
[X] Head to school…
-[X] At full power! Being late should be punishable by death!
>>No. 9280
File 133697018045.jpg - (169.11KB, 850x521, pick-your-reference.jpg) [iqdb]
9280
I decided to head to school at full power! What kind of person would be late on their first day of school? That was hardly proper behavior.

Crashing through the doorway, I held Luminita in one hand and the gem-clock in the other. I rushed through the hallways and settled for launching myself out of a window, a landing platform several meters too far away.

“Gotta go fast!” The magic words naturally resounded from within me. My mind focused itself wholly upon the concept, throwing out any errant worries or concern. Only crazy speed, on the level Makai’s fiery witch, would be enough to reach the schoolhouse in time. The mental image of the grinning blonde spurred me onward.

I discovered that flying at ridiculously fast speeds was one of the stupidest things I could do. It was impossible for me to look ahead without using a hand to block the wind from cutting into my eyes, and effectively maneuvering was a chore since the slightest adjustments could send me careening off my intended flight path.

The outlaying buildings of the city passed by in a blur, the low laying section on the crystal lake gone in the blink of an eye. The slope of the buildings quickly rose higher and higher into the air, to the point where the roofs began to reach above me. Things became decidedly dangerous as I approached the schoolhouse and was barely managing to weave around the tops of the buildings.

With the long two-story building in sight I tried to put on the brakes gently. It didn’t work very well. My subdued attempts at slowing down had no effect at all. I panicked as I imagined the real possibility of crashing right into the building. Desperate, careless thoughts entered my mind. Everything should just stop!

“Hey! Watch where you’re going!”

“Ow, who was-”

“Kyaaaah~!”

“Excuuuuuuuse meeeeee!” I screamed at the top of my lungs as I tumbled past throngs of demons that were leisurely approaching the schoolhouse. I nearly vomited once I managed to stop my magical flight; it was as if I had crashed into a wall in midair, the sudden pressure against my body unbearably painful. The nausea only intensified once I begin to spin butt over head, the physical momentum of my flight not completely arrested. Having put a lid on the entire concept of ‘flight’ I also lost the magical lift keeping me afloat, gravity suddenly becoming a major force once more.

With any semblance of control out the window I hoped for the best, trying to avoid splattering against the dirt in a beautiful mess. As I fell from the sky in an ungraceful heap I thought I heard less annoyed utterances and more terrified screams – it might have just been me.

“What the fu-”

I landed surprisingly softly. It took a moment for me to realize that I was safely grounded; the world still spun around me. Closing my eyes to ignore the dizziness, I assessed my condition. Other than the soreness from landing on my rump I felt fine. It was strange. I assumed once I smacked into the ground I would have tumbled along the dirt, broke any number of bones and suffered from innumerable minor injuries.

Sighing, I leaned backwards and stretched, extremely happy with the course of events. Glancing at the clock I realized that I had actually managed to arrive with a minute to go, none worse for wear. Adjusting myself to get ready to stand, I noticed something was off. I wasn’t sitting on the red dirt of Makai like I expected. Something softer was cushioning my rear. Reaching downwards I felt around with my hand, squeezing what felt like a cotton dress covering something squishy. With a sinking feeling in my gut I opened my eyes, ignored the after-effects of dizziness, and looked down.

Red eyes framed by red hair stared up at me, tiny head wings inert with shock.

I watched the eyes blink once and then twice before slowly morphing. What had been traces of surprise faded away, replaced by the heat of annoyance. The girl’s glare tried its best to murder me on the spot. A hand clamped around my wrist after I began to nervously shift in place. I winced at the force of the grip and reflexively tried to clench my hand.

“GET THE FUCK OFF OF ME!” The roar of the little devil was filled with indignant fury. I squealed as I started to stand only to find myself thrown roughly to the side. Standing as quickly as I could I wiped the dirt off my dress, readjusted my hair ribbon, and turned to face rage incarnate.

Her nose touched mine. I could feel her breath tickling my lips as well as the heat of her voice against my neck. “What kind of shit was that?”

Even as uncomfortably close as Ko was, I wouldn’t back away. “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry? Do you realize what just happened?”

“Yes, and it was a complete acci-”

“I was just walking here, when out of the darkne-”

“It was my fault and I-”

“-ewest friend decides to lovingly CRASH INTO MY FACE!”

I gave up on trying to apologize to or appease the demon. It was my unquestionable fault, after all. The most I could do was awkwardly stand there and accept my guilt.

“But then this cute and quirky human decided that a happy hello wasn’t enough. So she tries to crush every bone in my body, rubs her ass against my s-stomach, and then g-grabs me!” How embarrassing. I felt like crawling into a corner and hiding for a good thirty years.

“What kind of crap is this? Do you enjoy torturing me?” Ko asked in her incredulous voice. I had no good answer other than more murmured apologies.

“Geez,” the devil grumbled, slapping her forehead. She backed up a step and took a deep breath. “I guess it’s alright. It makes me feel like the bad girl when you have such a miserable face. Cheer up, you hear?”

Despite her words I couldn’t just go and forget about what I had done. Dozens of demons were still staring at us, making off-hand comments to their peers as they passed by. Flecks of dirt coated our clothes and my own personal lack of control nagged at me.

Ko glared at me when she saw my unchanging, downcast face. “I said cheer up!” She grabbed me by the shoulders and spun me around, digging her fingers into my sides from behind. I couldn’t help but cry out with laughter. I squirmed out of the girl’s hold and recomposed myself, smiling once more. Ko grinned alongside me as she patted me on the back, “You’re such a hypocrite, you know? You apologized and everyone’s okay – follow your own beliefs.”

“Are you really fine? Didn’t it hurt?” I was still curious, even if my worries had been assuaged.

“Of course. It takes more than a stick of a girl to hurt me, even if she’s pretending to be a cannon ball.” Ko chuckled at my expense. “I think you need to train more, Alice.”

I bobbed my head in acceptance, “I’ve only had a few years of practice, compared to an old lady like you.”

“Impudent kid; don’t get so confident.” Ko grabbed my cheeks and I did my best to retaliate by sending a light kick at her shins.

“So you’re here school for then,” the little devil observed once we had separated. Ko began walking into the two-story schoolhouse and I followed her, the two of us some of the last ones entering. I estimated that about a hundred demons had passed by us in the air an on foot after my crash landing.

“Yes. I’m surprised to meet you here though.”

“What, are you insinuating something kid?”

“Uh, you didn’t seem to like school very much,” I pointed out carefully.

Ko shrugged before answering me. “I don’t like the timing. You have to plan things out carefully or limit what you’re gonna do if you decide on attending school. It’s not the learning that bothers me.”

“I see. I didn’t think the time would work out this way either.”

“Oh? I guess so. Luck of the draw and all that. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if that tricky goddess set it up like this. You have to be careful around her – she’s a real happy-go-lucky klutz but she has her sneaky moments too.” Ko assessed the goddess’ personality and dispensed advice with the wag of a finger.

It was tough imagining Shinki making a calculated move such as that. I hadn’t even mentioned Ko’s name to the goddess – she would’ve had to guess the time, spied on me, or participated in some other secretive action to pair my school time with Ko’s. A happy coincidence was far more likely an explanation.

The double doors of the front entrance were made of glass and opened up into the main hallway. The building’s design seemed rather simple. The one long hallway made up the front portion of school, and classrooms took up the space heading backwards. I could see stairs at the very ends of the hall, leading up to what I assumed where the unused rooms that Yuki mentioned on the second floor.

There was a bulletin board hanging directly opposite the entrance, taking up a large chuck of wall space between the first two classrooms.

“Alright, let’s see here. What’s going on today?” Ko walked up and traced her finger along the list hanging on the board. The list was only the size of standard letter paper – the rest of the board had numerous other advertisements and images posted to it.

Looking at the list myself, I was glad to see characters I could read.

There were only five rooms on either side of the hallway. Each room number was paired with a name and a subject. I recognized two of the names on the list, both Yuki and Mai going over Magic Theory and History respectively. Other names I didn’t recognize but assumed they were at least adequately knowledgeable about their intended subjects.

“So Alice,” Ko began, “which class did you want to go to?”

I frowned, unsure and indecisive. There was a teacher for every room, but some subjects seemed more interesting than others. Looking for input I asked Ko, “What would you like to see?”

The devil hummed before giving me a lackadaisical response. “Whatever. In theory you would hit up a different subject each time to broaden your knowledge, but I know plenty of people that only ever go to one subject or see one teacher – if they come to school at all.” Ko ran a hand through her hair before continuing, “To answer your question, I prefer history myself.”

Looking at the clock it was time for classes to start. The last of the demons other than Ko were already entering their chosen classrooms. Skimming the list one last time I decided to go to…

[ ] Room 1, with Holo teaching Agriculture
[ ] Room 2, with Diana teaching Divination
[ ] Room 3, with Sanya teaching Advanced Communications
[ ] Room 4, with Minamoto teaching Math
[ ] Room 5, with Mai teaching History
[ ] Room 6, with Wilfred teaching Alchemy
[ ] Room 7, with Xing teaching Electromagnetism
[ ] Room 8, with Florina teaching Animal Care
[ ] Room 9, with Yuki teaching Magical Theory
[ ] Room 10, with Shikinami teaching Metaphysical Biology

---

Theoretically, every single topic could be useful. Some would be immediately helpful, while others might take certain situations or special insight to become important One day, oh forgotten goddesses, you will be important to a story.

>>9233
I’d like to think there would be a story that has an ‘Alice’ without any explicit Wonderland references. This one won’t be it.
>>No. 9282
[x] Room 5, with Mai teaching History
>>No. 9283
[x] Room 10, with Shikinami teaching Metaphysical Biology

This sounds interesting.
>>No. 9296
[x] Room 9, with Yuki teaching Magical Theory

It's been a while since we've seen Yuki.
>>No. 9304
[x] Room 5, with Mai teaching History

Because Mai's awesome and Koakumas awesome.
>>No. 9305
[X] Room 4, with Minamoto teaching Math

Because everything ends up needing at least a working knowledge of mathematics.
>>No. 9310
[x] Room 5, with Mai teaching History

Because it makes Koa happy
>>No. 9317
>>9305
FFFFFFFFF- I didn't type two letters of the teacher's name. That sucks. It's also mostly irrelevant, but I figure I might as well point it out if it influences a vote any. I'm such a yoctogram.

In other news, welcome mysterious 6th voter, please enjoy your stay.
>>No. 9321
[x] Room 9, with Yuki teaching Magical Theory

Vile sorcery. But fun.
>>No. 9322
[x] Room 5, with Mai teaching History
>>No. 9324
[ ] Room 9, with Yuki teaching Magical Theory

MAAAAGIC!
>>No. 9342
By the way, writefag, does this story have a name yet?

If not, I suggest either something alluding to Mystic Square or Alice in Wonderland. Makai Soliloquy or some shit.
>>No. 9392
File 133756182356.jpg - (179.51KB, 600x450, look-at-all-the-votes.jpg) [iqdb]
9392
I decided to go to room five. A few of the other subjects caught my interest but I didn’t know the teachers at all. It was tough to choose between the two demons on the list that I knew, but I figured Ko would follow along to whatever I chose considering she was still waiting around for me. Also, as much as I wanted to talk with Yuki again, class probably wasn’t the best place for a reunion.

“You don’t seem like the history-type of person Ko,” I commented as we walked towards the classroom.

“Are you making fun of me kid?”

“N-no! It’s just, well, you’re um…”

“Hahaha, I get what you’re saying. Don’t sweat it. I guess all you’ve seen is a petty, foul mouthed thief.” Ko swatted me on the back as she laughed. “Hundreds of years of learning wouldn’t be enough to memorize everything the world has to offer, you know? It’s a massive place. I haven’t even explored all of Makai, let alone the rest of Gensokyo or the outside world.”

It made sense in a way. My mind had labeled Ko as a delinquent but that was just one facet of the demon’s personality. She traded information and news while thriving off of new thrills. She really is a kid. I made the connection easily. Even at ninety-nine years old, Ko held the childish awe for new experiences; exactly how I felt whenever I wandered through Makai.

“What are you giggling for? It isn’t anything nice and proper is it?”

“Ko, you’ll mess up my hair!”

“Then maybe you should tell me what kind of mischievous thoughts you’re thinking of when you make that face.”

I entered the classroom readjusting my ribbon after Ko had so rudely ruffled my hair. The demon entered behind and shoved the sliding door shut. The crack of wood meeting wood drew the eyes of every other demon in the room.

The classroom was rather plain. Individual tables and chairs were spread out uniformly across the room. Dozens of demons were waiting but there were still plenty of empty seats. All of the desks were facing toward the back of the room, away from the door, where the blue witch stood in front of a large chalk board.

“Surprise, surprise, the front row is empty. Let’s go Alice.” Ko sauntered up to the chalk board, loudly taking a seat directly in front of Mai. I slid into the empty seat next to the redhead, wary of the lifeless stare aimed at Ko.

Shaking her head, Mai turned around and walked over to the cabinet placed in the corner of the room. She pulled out a large map and spread it across the chalkboard, freezing the corners in place. Turning back around, she surveyed the class, making eye contact with me a bit longer than others.

“Thank you all for attending. Today’s lesson will be covering the creation of Makai.” There was a collective groan from behind me after Mai’s declaration.

“Feeling a bit generous Mai? How thoughtful and loving you are, to take into account the needs of your students. Maybe you hold a special soft spot for someone in this room, hm?” Ko chuckled beside me.

Narrowing her eyes slightly Mai answered Ko in her nonchalant tone. “I do not know what you speak of, child.” The ice witch’s emphasis on the last word brought a snarl out of Ko. “Remembering how and why our home was formed is a critical piece of knowledge.”

“Of course, teacher. I understand your flawless reasoning, but I fear that others might think that in your old age you may have forgotten that you gave this lecture last session.”

“Now who’s the thoughtful one? I never believed that you would care so deeply for the views of the others. It’s a shock. Perhaps I should inform the goddess of your new beliefs? Truly, our benevolent creator would be absolutely delighted to help you make personal amends with every single demon in the city.”

“Tsk, you win this round. Start your lesson already.” The two glared at each other for another second before turning their heads away at the same time. Ko relaxed in her seat, dismissing the conversation with a flip of her hair.

A pointer of ice materialized itself in Mai’s hands as she adopted what I could only call the ‘Teacher stance.’ She swatted the ice stick against the board and began, “Makai is the domain of our goddess Shinki, who created this hell as a refugee for us, her creations. It is common knowledge that we are in what is now referred to as Gensokyo, but it is important to remember that Makai predates the Great Border’s creation. As such, Shinki originally placed Makai in a rather unspectacular region of the island known as Japan.”

Mai took a few minutes talking about the general geography of the Earth, things that the residents of Gensokyo hardly cared about and rarely knew. With my parents being from the outside originally, they made sure I knew the basics of the ‘real world’ rendering Mai’s explanations unnecessary for me.

"With these geographical facts in mind, it should be easy to understand how Makai is hardly the only hell in existence; the population of demons and other supernatural entities would not be able to cohabitate a single hell. Even here in Gensokyo there are three areas that can be considered a hell.”

“Why do you have to go and call them ‘hells’? You’re always so depressing; can’t you just say underground cavern or something less bleak?” Ko interrupted the lecture with complaints and insults.

“It’s the agreed upon technical term for areas that are meant to house certain spirits of the deceased and other demonic entities such as us. I find it sweet that you’re young enough to find the term upsetting.” Mai’s lines were delivered with cold steel in them. With Ko bristling after every exchange I wondered why the redhead continued to poke away at the witch.

“Now where was I? Ah yes, Makai’s founding.” Mai twirled the ice pointer between her fingers as she tilted her head, circles of ice forming around portions of the map. “To understand why our goddess created Makai, it is necessary to know of the turmoil around the time of her departure.”

“The societies of humans have always been volatile, influenced by any number of environmental and social factors. It is also important to note that due to their short lifespan in comparison to other beings, humans place a far greater emphasis on the present time and often fail to take into account a longer view of history.” The girl-like demon looked at me as she spoke, her eyes visibly softening. I was able to read her apologetic intent easily enough.

“Being unhindered by such trivialities, we demons have the capability to see far reaching patterns and plan accordingly. The emergence and growing power of certain religions empowered the humans, giving them the strength to invade and destroy minor, complacent hells. As such, our goddess began to roam the Earth some twelve-hundred years ago. At the time she was no more than an average in strength but unlike others she acted once she felt the tide shifting against the dominance of demons over humans. She searched for anything that would allow her to survive the aproaching crisis. Abilities and artifacts she found, along with mindsets and locations. As this is not a biographical lesson on our goddess I will skip over the majority of her exploits.”

“Isn’t this supposed to be about the founding of Makai? I expected a much more comprehensive lesson from such an intelligent peer. Maybe the more pertinent details elude you?”

“During her travels, our goddess traveled from the mainland to Japan. It was a time when religion and culture was peaking for the Japanese. Our goddess, to put it succinctly, became enamored with the exotic and breathtaking style of the era. It was in this land of enlightened people that our goddess’ path began to substantially diverge from the demons in her homeland. Shinki’s core values became influenced.”

“I was completely ignored? How humiliating…”

“By this time the goddess was already substantially more powerful than many of her former peers, her strength rivaling that of the minor lords in the old hells of Europe. It was a pittance for her to carve out a minor hell which would act as her safe haven if the worst came to pass.”

“Shinki eventually returned to her home hell and resided there for many years, using the power she acquired from her travels to gain even more. The future she foresaw hundreds of years prior finally came to pass when a religious war between two sects of humans broke out. These two groups were ridiculously powerful for regular humans, armored by their faith and strength of will. As they fought each other they also methodically crushed the hells in the lands between them. Even the greatest of the old lords were caught unprepared, having spent the years jockeying for power amongst each other, believing the humans to be a non-factor. It was only a handful of demons that were ready to escape or fight with our goddess among them.”

“Any organized attempts at resistance amongst the demons were futile. For years as the wars raged demons fought tooth and claw, but ultimately failed. The smart ones began to run and hide, creating new bases of power to rebuild their societies. Remembering the land she fell in love with and realizing that her homeland was uninhabitable for her kind, the goddess returned to Japan and resettled the hell she had created. Using the power she had formed, Shinki fell into the role by which we know her today. Expanding Makai’s boundaries to ridiculous dimensions, forming the landscapes and city, and creating each and every one of us were but a few of the deed accomplished by the goddess. We have all lived here ever since, through peace and strife, under the benevolent teachings of the goddess. Her perspective of love and generosity, of common decency, has continued to be the creed we live and prosper by.”

Despite the cries of dismay earlier, each demon behind me was sitting up attentively and listening to Mai’s speech. It was shocking, seeing how clear and determined they looked. Sara’s explanation of Makai’s school was fitting and yet horribly lacking.

“It appears to be a bit early, but I have nothing more planned for today’s lesson. Feel free to leave or stay as you wish,” Mai dismissed the class. A mass exodus began as chairs were scooted around and demons left quickly but orderly.

“Alice, if I may speak with you for a moment?” Mai asked me just as I stood up.

“Of course.” I waited patiently as Mai rolled up her map of the Earth and stowed it away, the ice disappearing with the wave of a hand.

Ko stood up as well, stretching as loudly and as rudely as possible. “So teach, is it even worth it to come to these sessions anymore? I mean, if you’re just going to get stuck on repeat I’m not sure if you would help me any more than an old text book.”

“Alice, you have had a focused education so far, correct? From what I have observed you appear to know far more than I might expect from a human of your age.”

I rubbed my check with a finger as I thought. “I guess I learned more than my neighbors, but my parents always said what they taught me was what they had learned when they were kids.”

“Ignored again? How cruel…” I worried slightly about Ko once she slumped back into a seat but gave her little more attention. It was tough to empathize with the aggressor.

“Interesting. Could you highlight for me what you have learned in mathematics, science, and language?”

I started to answer but stopped when Mai pulled a pad of paper and a pencil out of her supply closet. She waved me to continue as she wrote something down. “Well, in math daddy had given me a, um, multiplication table to memorize. Science? I guess that means elements? It was really scary when momma pulled out the really huge table but she said I only needed to learn about a few. I’m not sure what you mean by language. There were a whole bunch of Kanji daddy insisted I learn, and momma was giving me some of her books to read too.”

“Truly?” Mai glanced at me before scribbling more onto her paper and continuing with her questions. “Were your parents born in Gensokyo?”

I hugged Luminita tightly to my chest as I answered. “No, they both came from Romania. I was born in Gensokyo though, so I only know about their home from stories and pictures.”

“I see. Your education is far and above what I would expect from the majority of Gensokyo’s residents and is, from what I understand, still advanced even for the outside world’s standards. You certainly are an intelligent child.” I blushed as Mai praised me. She never stopped writing but her words were at thought out as always. “I assume you were also learning trade skills that would benefit your village life?”

“You mean like sewing and farming?”

The witch nodded and said nothing else as she wrote away, tearing multiple sheets off of the pad. I fiddled with Luminita’s clothes as I waited and watched Ko as she sprawled over the desk in front of her, lazing about.

A few minutes later Mai finished and stowed away her supplies but kept hold of a number of sheets of paper. She also whacked Ko on the head as she walked by. The redhead demon jumped out of her seat and yelled profanities at her blue-haired adversary but went ignored once more.

“Alice, the goddess and I both feel that we in Makai are obliged to provide you with an education on par if not greater than what you had before. The schooling we provide is centered on mature,” Mai paused as she glanced at Ko, “mostly mature demons that already have an adequate knowledge basis.”

“Hey! Listen you insulting bitc-”

“As such, I will be discussing the formation of a proper curriculum for a human of your age with other teachers. We have enough information of the outside to form a roughly comparable schedule that your parents would be proud of. Is this okay with you?” Mai had a strange way of emphasizing her words without changing her voice at all. Even if the tone and inflection were the same as always, her last question was softer and kinder than the rest of her business-like sentences.

What could I do? With the way she had phrased her proposition, there was no way I would say no.

“Excellent. It will take some time for me to meet with everybody I have in mind, but we will try to keep these private lessons as unobtrusive to your life as possible. I believe having your tutors meet you when you wake up and before you sleep to be the best option, but we will see how things can be arranged.”

“Great we’re done here then. Let’s go, Alice!” There were no objections from Mai as Ko grabbed me by the arm and dragged me out of the room so I called out my thanks to the blue-haired witch and went with the young demon.

My talk with Mai had kept up right up until the next class hour. The last remnants from my class time were exiting as a new wave of demons was entering the school building. Ko ended up shoving her way through the crowd, much to the annoyance of the new set of students.

“Freedom!” Ko cried out as we stepped outside the school building. “I never thought she was going to let you go kid.”

“Mai was worried about me so I didn’t really mind talking with her a bit more.”

“I guess for you yeah, but it was torture for me. I swear, every other second she was glaring at me from the sides of her eyes.”

“Maybe if you didn’t interrupt her classes so often she would treat you more kindly.”

“Hah, that’s crazy talk Alice. She was the one to start it anyway. First day I show up to one of her classes and bam, she insulted me right off the bat; like I would let her get away with that kind of attack.” Despite the girl’s claims I imagined that the youngest demon in Makai simply took offensive at one of Mai’s casual observations.

Shaking my head, I changed the topic. “You look like the lesson almost killed you, even though you said you liked learning.”

“Well, yeah. Mai just used this lecture the other day – she probably has something else planned but saw you and changed her lesson on the spot, back to the basics. It’s pretty boring to hear the same lecture twice in a row.”

“I’m sorry.” It was ironic. I checked out the history lecture because the subject interested Ko, but became the deciding factor in making the topic uninteresting.

“What? Don’t you apologize Alice, it’s hardly your fault. No big deal anyway, not like wasting an hour is going to kill me. Let’s go do something more interesting now!” The demon pumped her fist in the air, building up excitement.

Just before I answered the demon, a voice interrupted me. “Hey Alice! Long time no see.” A pair of arms hugged me from behind, a mess of blonde hair suddenly appearing next to my cheek.

“Nice to see you too Yuki, but it’s only been a day.”

The fiery witch let go of me and grinned. “A day’s a long time kid – give a competent magician that kind of time and you might be in for a world of hurt. Anyway how have you been?” The witch sucked me into a conversation, talking about my previous day’s experience. Yuki questioned and commented on everything, eventually dragging Ko into the conversation as well.

“This little thief gets a real thrill from abuse Alice, remember that, okay?” The black-clad witch laughed as Ko blushed red and shouted protests. “Why I remember when she first tried to steal from me. She was such an amateur back then, it was so simple to burn off all her- gah!”

“Don’t go spreading that miserable little tale you half-assed witch!” Ko struggled to keep a hand clamed around Yuki’s mouth even as the witch squirmed to try and tell me the anecdote.

We talked and laughed outside of the school building until all the stories had been told and everyone had calmed down.

“So what’re you planning on doing now, Alice?” Yuki asked me.

“Before you interrupted us,” Ko interjected, “I was going to offer to show Alice the area right outside of town.”

“Eh? That’s it? How lame – the crystal forest is the only interesting thing nearby and it isn’t that special. How about we go and shoot some stuff, Alice? I never did get to show you the demonstration I had set up!”

“Do you actually want to watch the bully blast her friends with magic Alice? She just wants to showoff and make you think she’s more than a hyperactive monkey.”

“I can feed you Alice! We have a nice lunch ready and waiting for you.”

“What? Don’t try such underhanded persuasive techniques – I can get you food too, kid!”

The deals and counter-offers continued to spew forth from the two of them. It felt like they had turned the whole ordeal into a competition with me as the prize as opposed to helping choose an activity for the day. Luminita crossed her arms, sharing my distaste for the situation. With the two suggestions in mind, I decided to…

[ ] Head out with Ko into the crystal forest
[ ] Follow Yuki to her ‘demonstration’
[ ] Ignore them both and…
-[ ] Head back to Pandemonium for lunch
-[ ] Find a place to eat in the city
[ ] Spend some time with instead
[ ]

---

>>9342
Oh, I have a name in mind. It’s rather blatant (and I’m terrible with names), but it was what caused the plot bunnies to start running. Ideally, I’ll put it up at the end of this thread or the start of thread two.

[Insert (probably empty) promise of sooner updates here]. Of course, it seems like I can’t rely on counting five votes and assuming that will be all of them anymore.
>>No. 9400
[x] Follow Yuki to her ‘demonstration’
-[x] But tell Ko you'd be happy to see the forest with her afterwards.

Eh, this probably won't actually work out to well. Might as well try anyway.
>>No. 9401
[x] Head out with Ko into the crystal forest

If I have to choose then Koa wins
>>No. 9402
[x] Follow Yuki to her ‘demonstration’
-[x] But tell Ko you'd be happy to see the forest with her afterwards if possible.
>>No. 9405
[X] Follow Yuki to her ‘demonstration’
-[X] But only if Ko can eat lunch with us.

Satisfy Yuki's desire to show off and get our new friend a free lunch, dang we're smart.
>>No. 9423
[x] Set Ko's lunch on fire and take Yuki to the forest.

How dare they make Alice choose. But this way, everyone can be miserable!
>>No. 9439
File 133809927081.jpg - (51.69KB, 398x600, creating-characters-too-difficult.jpg) [iqdb]
9439
I decided to follow Yuki to her demonstration. After watching her display with the fire dragon I was curious as to what she had originally wanted to show me the other day.

“That sounds great Yuki! What kind of demonstration have you planned? You never did tell me before.”

The witch grinned even more once I asked my question, bounding over and pulling me into a one-armed hug. “It’ll be great Alice, don’t you worry! I’ll show you the powers of Makai in one flashy battle!”

Even as Yuki laughed and jerked me around, I couldn’t help but worry about Ko. I watched as the surprise flashed across her face after I accepted the witch’s plan. That surprise was burned away by red fury; Ko closed her eyes and stamped her foot. She tried to calm herself down, taking deep breaths, but her head wings never stopped their furious flapping.

“Ko! I would love to go out of town with you afterwards if you like,” I hurriedly bargained. I hated to see the hurt expression the demon was failing to hide.

“Want me to play second fiddle, huh?” Ko muttered as she kicked the ground, sending a clump of red dirt flying high into the air. She turned with her kick and began to stomp away.

“W-wait Ko! I just wanted…” I tried to speak but my words fled with the demon. In the face of such a strong reaction I was left speechless. I pulled Luminita under my chin, hugging the doll closely.

I felt Yuki’s arm leave my shoulders and saw her wink at me. Raising a hand, the witch began a chant. "You who would break your bonds to fly free across the heavens, stretch your false pinions and learn the blessings of the earth!” A subtle glow emanated from the witch while further away a circle of light shimmered into existence underneath the redheaded demon.

Ko looked down and shouted an expletive as she rolled to the side, but it did not save her. Beside me Yuki shouted, “Gotcha! Tractor Beam!” The witch’s spell activated with the last syllable, the magic circle glowing brighter. I watched as Ko stopped mid-roll and was lifted into the air, limbs trying but failing to move.

Yuki calmly floated upwards and grabbed a hold of the youngest demon in Makai as the spell dissipated. Holding tightly onto her wrists, the witch brought the child back down to the earth in front of me.

“You slut, let me go!”

“Geez, it’s because of stunts like this that everybody still calls you a baby.”

“Hey bitch, how about you piss off with your shitty magic and go shove it down your beloved-” Yuki shook her head and muttered something, a translucent yellow muzzle appearing over Ko’s mouth.

“Cool off, okay? You shouldn’t taint poor little Alice’s ears with your profanity either.” I watched as Ko unsuccessfully tried to kick the witch behind her, earning more yellow restraints around her arms and legs.

Tied up and unable to move, the redhead was unceremoniously dumped to the ground. Yuki dusted her hands off before addressing me. “Wait here for a bit Alice; I have to go round everybody up again. I’ll be back in a flash, don’t worry!”

The blonde witch took off as the speed of light, disappearing over the roofs of the city buildings in an instant. That left me standing with a squirming demon at my feet.

I knelt down and looked Ko in the eyes. She promptly closed them and turned her head away. Frowning, I tried my best to re-open communication. “Ko, I’m sorry. I didn’t think what I chose would make you so upset.”

The demon’s squirming intensified as I realized my mistake. “I mean, I really would like to go with you, but Yuki has been really excited about this – it would be very rude of me to keep ignoring her invitation. You’re really smart so I think whatever you want to show me would be fun too.”

Downcast red eyes met mine. Ko’s thrashing, which had ceased while I talked, started again after the demon tried and failed to speak.

“Ah, uhm, do you know how I can get this off?” I received a glare for my stupid question. Poking at the strange yellow muzzle, I had no idea how to remove it. It appeared to be some substance similar to plastic but was held in place by magic. “Maybe I can blast it off with a fireball?”

Muffled screams answered me.

“No? What if I cover it in metal?”

Ko’s legs swung into my shins.

“Ow! Alright, I guess I could try pulling it off.” Grasping at the yellow muzzle, I was surprised when the material simply faded away underneath my fingertips.

Free from the gag, Ko took a deep breath. I expected an angry tirade to begin any moment but the complaints and profanity never began.

“You’re too nice.” Her statement was spoken without hate or annoyance, in a calm and slightly dejected tone.

“What?”

“You’re so…nice. It’s just like with the goddess – I feel like shit whenever I’m around you.”

“I’m sorr-”

“No! Don’t apologize. Just don’t. It isn’t your fault. It hasn’t been your fault and I doubt it ever will be. You’re a nice kid. Honestly, I don’t even know what I’m thinking when I spend time with you. It’s frustrating. I’ve been exploring and fighting on my own all my life, but then you come along and I feel like shit. A petty little thing like getting brushed off has never hurt so much before.”

“Ko…”

“I’ve barely known you for a day and now it sounds like I’m blaming you for blowing the world up or something. Damn it, what am I even saying?” The demon sighed, shook her head, and then rolled around on the ground to try and find a comfortable position. “I guess you don’t know this but when I walk around town, every other demon is saying how sweet you are or how thoughtful you are. In the same sentence they turn around and wonder how I’ve turned out so terribly after a hundred years. Standing around you, I understand what they’re saying. You’re genuinely nice and courteous, not like some of us who give it a half-hearted attempt for the goddess or don’t even try. Being around you makes me realize how stupid I am.”

“No!” I shouted, “Don’t say that!” It was miserable, listening to Ko ramble on in a depressed tone. In the little time I had known her, Ko’s personality cemented itself in my mind. Seeing the demon act pitiful was jarring. “Please, don’t say things like you’re the worst person to ever live. It’s not right – you’re nice too. You’ve showed me around and helped me out. I saw the demons that smiled and waved to you in town as well. You’re fast and witty and listen and remember and know a lot! So…so don’t say things like that…please…”

“H-hey, you’re not seriously crying, are you? Fuck.” My light sniffles were interrupted by a weight on my lap. Rubbing my eyes, I saw Ko awkwardly laying across me, having inched her way over while bound hand and feet.

I had no idea what to say. The demon did not yell or scream. She had spoken calmly even as she cursed. Emotions had overtaken me so the redhead did her best to try and comfort me. I couldn’t say anything at all, so I laughed.

I laughed away all the raw emotions of the moment, the tears receding as my mood improved considerably. Across my lap, Ko made an irritated noise before starting to chuckle as well. “You’re too empathetic kid,” she remarked after rolling off.

“So,” I began, having calmed down considerably, “maybe I can get the cuffs?”

“That’d be great,” I heard Ko say as she rolled over. Fiddling with the strange yellow restraints I found that they came off just as easily as the muzzle, dissipating into the air as I touched them.

“Thanks.” Ko quietly sat up, rubbing her wrists and ankles. She glanced at me from the lids of her eyes, a bit of color entering her cheeks. “About all that, uh…”

“Would you like to have lunch with us, Ko?” I interrupted the demon. Heading straight back into that explosive topic didn’t seem like a bright idea.

“Eh? Why would you want to do that?”

“I think it’d be nice to eat together…unless you don’t want to.”

“Wait just a minute Alice, I didn’t mean it like that. Having lunch with you sounds great!” Ko waved her hands in front of her in a panic, shooing away my worries.

“I’m so glad-”

“Awesome, let’s go!” My reply was cut off when I was unceremoniously yanked into the air. I was dragged several meters before being let go. Beside me Ko was suffering the same treatment, the both of us screaming at the sudden activity. We managed to start flying on our own before we fell too far.

“You daft bitch, what the fuck are you doing?” I couldn’t help but laugh when the little devil acted like her usual self. Momma would probably never approve of such a scurrilous person but I found myself enjoying Ko’s frank nature.

The blonde hair witch that had grabbed us looped around and slowed down, matching our pace in the air. “I was coming back to get Alice after I rounded up the others and heard you wanted to come too. The more the merrier, you know? Follow me!”

Ko sighed before speeding up to stay on Yuki’s tail. I followed the two of them away from the schoolhouse, out towards the hills surrounding the city. Flying alongside Ko, the two of us chatted about inconsequential things while Yuki sped ahead. The flight passed by quickly with Yuki touching down on an unexceptional hill, far enough away from the city that the outer buildings looked only a meter tall.

“Well, what a magnificent demonstration you have lined up. I find the ordinary rocks and common dirt to be rather mesmerizing,” Ko piped up as we glanced around the area.

“It is, isn’t it? This is probably the largest dip in the hills around, a natural crater. It’s the perfect place to go all-out!” The witch’s excitement was unaffected by Ko’s remarks. Yuki was right at least; around us, the hills formed a wide wall several meters tall.

“What’s going to happen here?” I wondered out loud.

Ko replied as she collapsed to the ground and sprawled out, relaxing. “I told you, she’s just going to blow all her friends up or something.”

Looking at Yuki, the witch only grinned and laughed. “Don’t worry Alice; it’ll be real impressive, I promise! Just give the others a few minutes to get here and we’ll be set.”

Sitting down onto the ground next to Ko’s prone figure I did my best to wait. Poking the demon’s exposed sides yielded a few amusing distractions as she twisted and snarled.

Just as the witch predicted, it only took five minutes for the first strangers to cross the crest of the surrounding hills. There were two demons that flew in, a boy and a girl. The boy was wearing a bright red cloak and a blue tunic, his wavy purple hair slightly fluttering as he landed. The girl had long pink hair put up into two ponytails, her white dress and purple scarf perfectly matching with the rest of her look. In her hands she carried a silver rod topped with a blue gem and a simple wicker basket.

“Hey you two! That was pretty quick – I expected you to take longer.” Yuki greeted the two demons boisterously, laughing, shaking hands, and slapping backs.

The pink haired girl took it in stride, hugging and giggling alongside the witch. “Of course, and I would have but you know how Erk is such a grump. Why, I barely had time to put the food together, let alone accessorize properly!”

The boy mage, Erk, scoffed. “If I had left you alone Serra, these girls would have starved to death before you arrived.” Nodding to me, the bookish looking boy walked over and knelt down, stopping rather closely to me. “A pleasure to meet you miss, my name is Erk. If any of the deviants here cause you trouble I would be more than willing to aid you,” he addressed me in a whisper.

Unfortunately for him, everybody other than me had heard him as well.

“Hey!”

“Erk you meanie-face!”

“Damn it you barely know me!”

The boy closed his eyes and stood silently as the barrage of female protests assailed him. Thinking about what I knew of the other three women in the area, I pitied Erk.

“Has the battle commenced without us?” The arrival of two other demons interrupted the outraged screaming. What looked like another boy and a man descended from the sky. The boy seemed incredibly ominous as his black hair, black robe, and black sword sheathe accentuated his irritated glare. The man was gorgeous. He had long orange hair, feminine in length but somehow creating a gallant appearance. He was outfitted in polished leather armor and had a stunning verdant cloak wrapped around his body. On his back was a bow and quiver as tall as he was.

As usual, Yuki was the first to greet the pair. “Nah Leraie, how could we start without you? Great to see you too Hiei! I wasn’t sure if you would come or not.”

The black-clad swordsman shook his head as he responded. “If I didn’t come you wouldn’t stop pestering me, would you?”

“Of course!”

The demons insulted each other and joked for a few minutes, managing to drag me and Ko into the conversation as well. After a polite word from Erk, Yuki remembered to introduce me to the others. The other demons were all polite and warm – exactly what I expected from Makai’s residents. Serra was loud but inviting, Leraie very old-fashioned in his courtesy, and even Hiei’s stoicism was tinted with subtle kindness.

The group had sat down to eat soon after the pleasantries finished. Serra brought with her a basket filled with picnic styled food. Sandwiches were accompanied by fruits and vegetables, some of the food similar to the standard village fare I knew.

“Little devil, what feats have you achieved recently?” The archer Leraie asked with a slice of pie held in one hand.

Ko threw and apple core over her shoulder. “Feh, nothing worth talking about.”

“No way! You’re always so active Ko, ruining all the beautiful dresses I pick out for you – you have to be doing something when you destroy all of my hard work.” Serra complained in an incredulous voice.

“I don’t hurt myself in any of this, just your fashion sense.”

“How rude! Erk, don’t let her talk to me like that!”

The purple haired mage shrugged and took a bite out of his sandwich. “I applaud you Ko.”

“Erk!”

“Hey Alice, I hear you did something pretty cool the other day – the owners of a couple of buildings were pretty upset that their alley was ruined.” Yuki talked as her hands moved about animatedly.

“Oh, uh, oops? I didn’t mean to cause trouble for anybody.”

“Nonsense dear girl, this is something to be proud of! Revel in your victory over my little friend here.”

“Shit, where did you hear about that Leraie? Alice and I were the only ones there!”

“So it is true then? Alas, your petty thievery is brave but foolhardy. Come little devil, show me your prowess in the only area that matters!

“What, you want me to fight you? No chance of that archer-boy, I don’t want to be a pincushion today. Take your challenge somewhere else.” Ko staunchly refused to fight, instead taking out her aggression on another sandwich.

“Come then mages of majesty and swordsman of strength; let us test out wills against each other!” Leraie stood up and made his declaration with bravado, stringing his bow in a dramatic and hammy fashion.
>>No. 9441
Yuki wiped the crumbs off of her hands and stood up, stretching her arms above her head. “Glad to see you excited! It is what I called you here for, after all.” The witch shot into the air and levitated many meters above our heads. “Ready Alice? Get prepared to be blown away!”

I watched as Hiei threw his black robe aside revealing, surprisingly, a black undershirt and black pants. He said nothing as he walked to a corner of the hollow but was smirking all the same.

Erk rolled his shoulders as he walked away, turning back to the three of us still sitting for a moment. “Serra, you will keep them safe?”

The pink haired demon puffed her cheeks out in annoyance. “Of course Mr. Frumpy Face, who do you think I am? Your little fireworks won’t be enough to harm us! Now go on and show these posers what real magic is like! Go, go, Erk!”

Shaking his head, the purple headed demon walked off, pulling out a red tome from somewhere within his cloak.

“Alice, you should watch closely okay?” Serra spoke to me in a saccharine voice. “I doubt any human has seen these kinds of show-offs before.”

“And when she says show-offs,” Ko interrupted, “she means doofuses that are trying to impress the others by making larger explosions.”

“Hush you!”

“Don’t try and hush me!”

Ignoring the two demons beside me I watched the unfolding action with curiosity. The four demons formed a pyramid, with Yuki floating above and the other three evenly spaced below. The atmosphere was tense as each combatant quickly glanced between their opponents. The three grounded demons were all the cautious type, despite their personalities, refusing to make the first move.

The flying witch was not. The currents of magic in the air were rudely disrupted as the witch pulled everything toward herself. A mass of energy was soon swirling around the witch as she laughed, the chaotic mess raging like a dysfunctional hurricane. Yuki started moving, circling slowly as she waved her arms about. After a few seconds she cried out, “Meteor Shower!”

Instantly the energy coalesced, the strands of magic tightening into spheres. The orbs of magic alit with fire and were cast forth, storming down into the basin. Hundreds of miniature fireballs were indiscriminately launched at everybody nearby. I could only grasp the barest hints of Yuki’s form behind the brightness of the fires. It was a sustained barrage as Yuki drew more and more magic into the spell, lobbing a continuous stream of projectiles at her opponents and creating a spherical wall of fire between her and the ground.

The archer Leraie and the swordsman Hiei moved as soon as the storm of fire began. Incredibly, they dodged the fireballs. Even though each projectile was the size of a human head the two figures twisted and danced in between the orbs of magic. I couldn’t even imagine trying to find space inside the magical barrage, but the two demons did so easily. They even stepped around the temporary blazes on the dirt where the fireballs landed. While the two fighters dance, the fourth demon simply weathered the storm. Erk had brought forth a blazing shield, a triangular plane that absorbed the bolts of fire raining from the sky.

Blinking, I realized that I was not on fire either. Getting caught up in the excitement, I forgot that Yuki’s untargeted spell should have been scorching me as well. Looking to my sides I found Ko lounging and Serra calmly holding her scepter across her lap. The circular blue gem on top of the silver scepter was glowing slightly, radiating a powerful magical aura. It was easy enough to trace the magical connection between the scepter and the light blue barrier that was stretched circularly above us. It was angled in Yuki’s direction, every errant fireball impacting and exploding on the surface of the shield. “Amazing,” I idly spoke, commenting on the displays of skill and magic before me.

“Aw, that’s sweet, thanks for appreciating me!” Serra giggled next to me. “But, this is nothing. Those four have barely even started, so I’m going to have to work much harder than this simple barrier. Fear not, cute little Alice, for I will protect you with poise and grace!”

“Oh can it, will you? Your obnoxiously loud voice in ruining the show.”

“Hmph, what a rude girl. Maybe I should make my shield a bit smaller, hm?”

I was learning to tune-out Ko’s bickering by now, considering how she seemed to incite pithy conflict with whoever she spoke with. Refocusing on the fight, I watched as the equilibrium was broken.

All three demons on the ground made a move at the same time. Leraie somehow managed to draw his bow and notch an arrow even as he danced between the flames. The massive brown bow was unaffected by the fireballs that hit it, looking as polished and new as ever. Quickly assuming a stance the archer fired, the ordinary looking arrow soaring into the sky and arcing towards Yuki. Just like the bow it shrugged off the effects of the magical flames, remaining fixed on its path.

As the archer fired, the swordsman also drew his blade. Hiei unsheathed his sword and swung it in one move, the western looking blade carving a path through the magical fire. Where the sword had been, only empty air remained, the fireballs scattered and destroyed. The black haired boy took a few more swipes to clear the space in front of him before launching upwards towards Yuki with his blade held deftly before him.

On the third side, Erk also began his counterattack. I felt the sudden burst of magical energy and somehow knew that every fireball the mage’s shield had stopped had been converted back into raw energy. With the excess energy he had built up Erk caused his flaming shield to explode, shards of wicked ice spewed forth from the smoke and into the air.

Once Yuki noticed the simultaneous attacks inbound she stopped her ‘Meter Shower.’ Instead, she threw out an arm in the direction of the incoming swordsman, black serpents twisting around her arm and launching themselves at the foe. I heard the swordsman scoff as he saw the attack, yelling out “Do you really think this can stop me, of all people?” The black serpents swung around and bit the swordsman and latched onto his skin but he paid no notice, his eyes focused solely on the flying witch.

Yuki smiled and flashed a V-sign at the swordsman before turning away. “Don’t ignore me- what?” Hiei suddenly plummeted towards the ground, the dozen magical black serpents that had latched onto him somehow transformed into chains and anchors – literal, heavy metal anchors.

With one threat neutralized Yuki had turned to focus on the storm of ice flying up at her. Erk’s counter-spell was a wall of jagged ice shards, a shrapnel cloud with no chance for evasion. Yuki snapped her fingers and caused a gust of flames to overtake the ice. When the blue projectiles emerged unscathed Yuki twirled around and slammed a hand downwards. Multiple purple spheres appeared just in front of the icy shrapnel and slowly fell towards the ground, the projectiles pulled tightly and stuck against the sides of the plummeting spheres.

Whirling around to face the last incoming attack, a single arrow, I watched Yuki’s face flicker with worry. Then, unexpectedly, she turned around and shot off towards the ground. Behind her she left a flurry of spells, from floating rock walls to clouds of cackling electricity. The single arrow shot through everything, punching through all the magical effects without slowing. It fell and fell into it neared impact with the ground, where it then turned sideways and followed after Yuki as she skimmed along the ground. Lightning bolt, fire bolt, light ray, acid cloud – the witch launched all sorts of spells at the arrow to no effect.

Yuki suddenly stopped mid-flight and turned to face the arrow, smiling and clapping her hands together. I expected some sort of massive explosion considering Yuki’s style, but nothing flashy occurred. Instead, the witch simply disappeared from sight. Although I couldn’t see her, I could still feel the energy Yuki had built up surrounding her form. I wasn’t sure what she did, but I knew she was standing there just as well as the arrow did.

The arrow’s unerring flight continued on, straight into Yuki’s invisible figure. The arrow stopped dead center where I imagined Yuki’s heart must be before it fell to the dirt. The witch rematerialized and stomped on the arrow, the wooden shaft snapping in two. Yuki looked over at me and waved before shooting off back into the fray.

“Erk, watch where you throw those spells!” The pink haired demon next to me complained. “What an ungrateful lout. I’m sure he’s casting towards us on purpose.”

As I was watching Yuki escape, the other three demons were far from idle. They had quickly turned on each other, arrows, fireballs, and sword strikes mixing into a cacophony of noise. Hiei moved in to cut apart Leraie, only for the wily archer to throw up a smoke screen and escape, lightning falling onto the two of them from above. Erk would duck under a sword strike and fall into the earth before reappearing on the far side of the basin and throwing wind blades around. Once Yuki rejoined the fight things only became more hectic. The witch had seven blades of light swinging around her, matching Hiei stroke for stroke. Erk would conjure pillars of flame from the ground and suddenly come under attack from the other three, or Leraie would somehow shoot a hundred arrows at once that would twist and spin around each other like fireflies as they flew after a target. Tides of water and mounds of earth rolled around and tried to drown everybody in the area.

The underappreciated Serra dealt with all of this madness and Ko’s barbed banter all at the same time. Of all the demons displaying their skill, Serra’s was no less impressive than the others. Blue barriers attempted to stop everything from miniature tornados to explosive arrows. Serra wasn’t able to stop everything, such as Hiei’s strikes, and in those cases she simply evaded – instead of dirt we sat on a constantly moving blue barrier. Nobody was sitting down any longer. Serra stood carefully, her arms in constant motion as she worked to rearrange her barriers. Even Ko was standing attentively, gazing at the fighting with curious eyes.

“You lose Hiei, give it up!” Yuki’s shout drew my attention to her and the swordsman. The short, black haired demon was lying on his back, his sword stuck in the dirt a meter away. A spear of pure fire was held to his throat, with other flaming orbs floating around the pair.

“Tsk. I yield. It seems I haven’t trained with the sword enough.” The swordsman took the witch’s hand and got up, sheathing his blade before flying over and taking a seat behind Serra’s barriers. The pink hair girl nodded to Hiei in greeting before expanding the size of her protective shields.

“Beaten by the flying wonder again, huh? What’s that make it now, a five-hundred something match deficit?” Ko asked.

“You haven’t even watched one of our bouts before, child.”

“What can I say? Your defeats are pretty well-known, I guess.” The glint in Ko’s mischievous eyes was undeterred. Somehow, the girl seemed to have become more level-headed in a matter of hours, shrugging off the slight jabs that would have enraged her before. Still, Hiei was too composed for her mild insults to affect him either.

The three combatants left did not slow in the slightest. The spell and arrow duel continued even as Yuki jumped back into the fray. Arrows were fired five at a time as lightning and ice were thrown back and forth. There wasn’t a moment when the fighters stopped moving.

The battle raged on. Yuki’s rate of casting never slowed as she unleashed all sorts of spells. Leraie also seemed just as fresh as at the start of the fight, the archer nimbly dodging and retaliating easily.

Unlike the other two, Erk seemed weaker. He had been exclusively launching elemental magical attacks the entire battle, overall putting out more shots than even Yuki. As such, it was easy to notice when the mage slowed, the number of projectiles fired lessening and his movements slowing. Everybody seemed to pick up on his weakness. More and more attacks were thrown in his direction, causing the mage to falter even more.

Seeming to realize his desperate situation, Erk stopped firing any sort of projectile, instead weaving and dodging as he incanted a different spell. A circle of light appeared at the feet of the dancing mage, his entire body glowing softly. Dark orbs slowly grew in size around the mage and circled his body. At first there were six rippling orbs, as dark as a heavy shadow, but the numbers quickly swelled into an uncountable range. It seemed the battle had come full circle as Erk threw both his arms forward, unleashing the orbs of pulsating darkness in an angry swarm that scattered throughout the basin.

“Erk…you dummy!” Serra screamed at the top of her lungs, far louder than any of her comments before. Her voice cut through the fighting, drawing the attention of the combatants.

“What’s going on?” Ko asked, as if she was reading my mind. The unleashed orbs were flying outwards, quickly closing the distance between us and them.

“Move!” Serra shouted at us before returning her attention to the oncoming swarm of projectiles. I watched as not one or two, but seven layers of blue barriers flared into life in front of us. The pink haired demon threw herself to the ground as the black magic flew straight through the shields, shattering the protective spells without any issues whatsoever.

With the breaking of the barriers, the three of us were left completely exposed. I stared as the swirling orbs of darkness closed in on us. It was impossible to count how many were in the air – visually, it looked like one giant wall of darkness approaching us. Suppressing any panic, I pulled Luminita close to my body and concentrated, feeling out how much space was in between each magical orb.

With only a second to decide, I…

[ ] Dived for the ground. The spell could easily pass overhead.
[ ] Grazed through the spell. There was more space now than during Yuki’s Meteor Shower.
[ ] Stood still. I felt that the spell wouldn’t harm me.
[ ] Used my magic to…
-[ ] Create a solid shield to block the spell. Serra’s purely magical barriers were their own undoing.
-[ ] Blast the spell with fire. A strong spell could blow away Erk’s darkness.
-[ ]
[ ]

---

So, when I say sooner updates, I actually mean I’ll start writing sooner. If the update happens to explode in length, well, you don’t actually get it sooner.

>>9423
Doesn't abusive Alice route sound fun? I think it sounds fun.
>>No. 9442
[x] Stood still. I felt that the spell wouldn’t harm me.

Our instinct?
>>No. 9443
-[x] Blast the spell with fire. A strong spell could blow away Erk’s darkness.
>>No. 9444
[x] Used my magic to…
-[x] Create a solid shield to block the spell. Serra’s purely magical barriers were their own undoing.
>>No. 9445
[x] Stood still. I felt that the spell wouldn’t harm me.
>>No. 9447
[x] Used my magic to…
-[x] Create a solid shield to block the spell. Serra’s purely magical barriers were their own undoing.
--[x] Try to put it at an angle to deflect the spell instead of outright blocking it.
>>No. 9452
If a tie holds once I start writing, I plan on writing whichever one of the tied options was voted for first. You all may want to talk it out and weigh the pros and cons of each option, since getting more votes to tiebreak might not happen. If nobody wants to change votes that's fine too - I'll have a fun time writing.
>>No. 9455
If the standing her ground choice was useless it wouldn't have been included and it might be a sign of Alice's talent with magic emerging.

And I'm not sure if a physical barrier would be a good against against MAGIC.
>>No. 9457
Although I'm tempted to vote "cast magic missle at the darkness"...

[x] Used my magic to…
-[x] Create a solid shield to block the spell. Serra’s purely magical barriers were their own undoing.
--[x] Try to put it at an angle to deflect the spell instead of outright blocking it.

This looks significantly better.
>>No. 9467
File 133867910152.jpg - (112.69KB, 350x418, I-realize-this-is-Canas-deal-with-it.jpg) [iqdb]
9467
I reacted without thought, throwing out my right hand instinctively. I felt Luminita drain magical energy from the air as my spell took form. It was a shield – what else would one use to deflect an attack? The metal round shield that appeared in front of me was not a shoddy knockoff like the byproducts from my attempts to use a strange magical system. I wanted a shield and envisioned it with all the focus I was able to muster. Without looking, I knew the round shield was floating in the air just beyond the tips of my fingers, three meters in diameter and several centimeters thick. It was curved slightly outward and held no decorations. It was simply a solid sheet of steel, meant to stop everything.

As the magic yielded to my will my head grew hazy. It almost felt like a headache without the pain. There was a pressure in my brain, as if it were trying to think of what it did not know. The feeling intensified as I imagined the shield before me resisting and deflecting the orbs of darkness flying towards me. I ignored the annoyance and focused as best as I could, angling my shield slightly to deflect the incoming attack better.

Once the dark, rippling spheres made contact with the outside face of my shield I realized my mistake. I had assumed that it was because Serra’s barriers were purely magical in nature they were unable to stop the darkness. The barriers were virtually unbreakable to magic, voiding every attack Yuki and Erk had used before, but they had no capability to stop physical attacks. Every single arrow, sword strike, and flung boulder of dirt had been evaded instead of blocked. Since Serra’s barriers failed against the new spell I had assumed a different type of defense would work.

I was partly right, but a physical shield was not the answer. The dark orbs scattered all of the magic I had poured into my shield as they passed through. As the magical energy holding it together was thrown back into the environment, the shield fell apart. Its circular form blurred as the solid shield transformed into a floating metal slurry. Of course, even if the shield were one-hundred percent real steel it would not have stopped the spell. The dark orbs passed through the physical components of my former shield like a ghost through a wall.

My body jerked and threw itself to the side as the purple orbs appeared at my fingertips. It was a reflex to try and get out of the way of the attack as best as I could. Unfortunately, with such a last second evasion I could hardly avoid all of it, only managing to find enough empty space for most of my body but leaving portions of my torso and limbs to touch the-

-gaping abyss, a void without end, the face of oblivion. It was not sentient in the slightest but it felt hunger. Its very concept was to devour without exception, designed so that nothing could prevent its purpose. There was history in the darkness, a history of death and consumption. It was created to destroy and in that capacity it was beyond successful. Humans of all calibers had fallen to the hungering darkness, shocked when their defenses and resistances had failed. Overconfident and smug, they believed a spell caster could power through adversity with their magic. How wrong they were. They shielded their bodies with magic but failed to secure their souls. Likewise, mighty fantasies of yore fell to the spell. Massive dragons, arrogant in their superiority over humans, scoffed at the trivial spells slung at them. Yet their magic resistance did not protect them either, the capricious creatures weak in heart and mind. Their will was subverted by instincts such as greed and lust, leaving their massive souls bare for destruction. The magic was finely honed to afflict living beings with the concept of death, and few such beings were prepa-

-dark orbs, every area of contact burning in pain. I was unable to catch myself before I hit the ground, my arms flailing as I hit the dirt face first.

Strangely, the spell did not hurt as much as I expected. Considering how urgent and panicky Serra had acted, I was expecting a life or death situation. There was the feeling of a mild burn, the kind one might associate with a paper cut, but that was easily ignored. My body felt more exhausted than usual as well, but little else felt wrong.

What was that? I thought as I laid on the ground. Something had happened when the spell made contact with me. I tried to recall exactly what I experienced but it was impossible. Something was nagging me, poking at my brain much like the pseudo-headache from before. There was something missing, some bit of knowledge eluding me. Questions I wanted to know but didn’t even understand how to ask. How annoying. What was it? I was right before, but I was wrong. I felt it – my thoughts weren’t wrong but-

My chain of thought was broken by the loud shouts around me.

“Hey Alice, look at me! You alright?” Yuki’s face pushed itself into my field of view, obstructing my vision of everything else. The speed the witch could move at was ridiculous. I was positive that Yuki had been on the far side of the basin when the spell hit, but she was the first one at my side. “Up you go!” Strong arms lifted me into a sitting position as the witch fussed over me, looking into my eyes and checking for signs of injury.

“No! NO! What do you think you’re doing? Put her down right now!” Serra came storming over twenty seconds after Yuki had gotten to me. She wrested me from the clutches of the witch and laid me back down on the dirt, a look of sheer panic covering her features. She tried to hide it by speaking calming words in soft tones but her body betrayed her. I felt her hands shake and watched her eyes dart back and forth in dread. She held her scepter in one hand and swept her glowing-blue free hand over my body. I could tell that she was more experienced at healthcare than Yuki. Serra checked my pulse, measured my breathing, and tested my reflexes. She ran through a number of physical tests and magical ones as well. I heard her mutter as she swept her scepter over my body, “…lower organs fine, energy levels good, no hormonal imbalances…” The aura of fear emitted from Serra slowly disappeared as her check-up continued on.

“How are you feeling Alice?” The demon asked me.

“I feel fine.” Sighing, the pink haired girl helped me stand up.

“I don’t get it…” I stretched my limbs as Serra muttered next to me. Looking around, I was glad to see everybody else seemed to be okay. The other demons were all standing around looking none worse for wear.

The group naturally congregated, coming together once the fight had ended. As per usual, Yuki was the first one to speak. “Well, we didn’t exactly get to finish but I’m sure we all know who would have won.”

“Ah, indeed young magician. Thank you for acquiescing to my victory so easily!” Leraie instantly took credit with no hesitation.

“Hold on there old man, don’t make me-”

“How can you all stand there and babble like this!” Serra exploded, the demon throwing her hands into the air in outrage. “Erk!”

The purple haired mage jumped when Serra shouted his name, his gaze looking up from the ground. He looked terrible. The rest of him seemed fine, but his face was a mask of grief. “Yes?”

“I can’t believe you! You were supposed to be the responsible one! You were supposed to end it quickly or keep the battle maniacs in control! You klutz! Dunce-head Erk, what were you thinking? I swear Erk, if you thought-”

“Enough.” Hiei spoke, his gruff voice putting an end to Serra’s tirade. Every single word from the pink haired demon had cut into Erk, the mage faltering with every syllable spoken.

“What the hell Serra, stop ripping him a new one. Don’t you see he looks like shit? Besides, I don’t see what the problem is. I feel a bit woozy, but nothing major after eating that dark crap with my face.” Ko spoke up in the silence, asserting her opinion with the same force she usually did. Despite the rough exterior, it was cute how the demon adamantly fought unfairness.

“Look at that, the kid is speaking some sense for once! Hahaha!” Yuki slapped Ko on the back as she laughed. The verbose archer said nothing but did raise an eyebrow, seemingly of the same opinion as the others.

“You guys,” Serra began, clenching her eyes tightly as she tried to stall her agitation, “you don’t understand at all. This was irresponsible! This was a fluke, a miracle! Things should-”

“Should not have turned out like this at all.” Erk interrupted his pink haired friend. He turned to me right after and apologized. “I’m so sorry Alice. I…I should have lost all your trust because of this. I hope I can regain even a fraction of it in the future.” The mage spoke with such gravity that nobody interrupted him. Everybody waited silently for the demon to explain his ominous apology.

“Elder magic,” Erk began, “is a fascinating system I have been researching. There are many stories of its effects yet few actual primers on its functions, the simplest kernels of knowledge dispersed throughout-” The mage abruptly stopped talking. Shaking his head, he continued, “The history is unimportant. Some have called these spells dark magic but the name means little. This system of magic is one that affects the soul.”

Yuki was the only one of us who reacted to Erk’s initial explanation. The witch’s joyful demeanor became plagued with hints of worry. She averted her eyes, looking at the ground as she muttered quietly to herself.

“There are accounts of human wielders that, due to their own carelessness and lust for power, destroyed their own souls in the quest for greater knowledge. Deviating from the established spells outlined by others is a sordid affair. The particular spell I used was originally designed to ignore common magical defenses.”

“So your spell goes and eats a person’s soul no matter what tricks they use to stop it. Okay, why am I still here then?” Ko asked.

“We demons are powerful creatures little devil, in both mind and body; perfect beings in many cases, fit for war and able to endure great loss,” Leraie said, his voice as proud and venerable as ever.

“We have large souls,” Hiei noted.

“That is correct. I specifically modified the spell for larger coverage and a lesser effect.” Erk agreed with the two other demons and continued. “When I first discovered the spell I thought it was perfect for when Yuki brought me out for some inane duel. Fluctuations in the soul can cause any number of effects such as tiredness and fatigue.”

“Enough to give you an edge in combat,” Yuki spoke up, her gaze focused. “You adjusted the effectiveness of the spell to take into account our physiology?”

“Yes. Speaking broadly, it’s the changes in the amount of soul that cause effects. I only hold the barest understanding of metaphysical biology, but the amount of soul this spell destroys is minimal. Our bodies would regenerate this amount in a week.”

“A human’s soul isn’t as large as a demon’s, is it?” All of the demons turned to look at me after I asked my question. With my feelings and intuition, it was simple enough to follow the logic as to why Erk would feel so devastated.

“…That’s right.” The mage answered me with his eyes closed. “Caught up in the moment, I only thought of the battle at hand and the countermeasures I had prepared; an imbecile mistake.”

I knew little factual information about souls. Tales and stories about souls and spirits abounded back in the village, but none of the simple farmers and other residents had the knowledge of what exactly a soul was. Yet, it was easy to guess as to what could happen if I lost large parts of my soul at one time.

…Something still isn’t right. My mind refused to leave the subject alone. The conclusion I had drawn was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Death? Wrong, it had to be wrong. It didn’t feel that way at all…

“Hey Alice, you okay there?” A hand clamped down on my shoulder. Ko stood next to me, peering into my eyes.

“Y-yeah, I’m alright.” I smiled sweetly at the redhead, the minor inconsistencies I felt ultimately non-important to the situation at hand.

“Is that how it is? Then the littlest one amongst us is mightier than she looks! Certainly, that shield looked worthy enough to stall one hundred arrows.”

“Definitely! I was so impressed Alice, I never thought you could do something like that. With that much talent you’ll be as great as I am one day!” The two demons closed in and fussed over me, taking turns complimenting the metal shield I had conjured. With everything I had read about and practiced a bit, creating the shield in a panic was simple. Although I couldn’t tell if it was Luminita or my own ability which made working the magic feel instinctive. If nothing else, the experience gave me a great many ideas and subjects to think about.

“…completely fine Erk, how is that possible?”

“I don’t know.”

“Even nicking her should cause some damage. She’s barely had any time to live and grow!”

“I know.”

“You’ll take responsibility?”

“Of course.”

As I was been harassed by the archer and the witch, the purple and pink haired demons approached me. Serra attacked with great ferocity, pushing through the opposition in order to drag me into a crushing hug.

“Oh you poor thing! How dreadful was this, being forced to sit in the muck while those hotheads beat each other up? By all that is right in the world I will treat you properly next time we meet. Mark my words little Alice, we’ll go shopping in fabulous style!”

Erk knelt down and spoke even as Serra had me clutched between her arms and her rather small chest. “I…I can’t convey how ashamed I am.”

“I forgive you,” I immediately responded. Apologizing was a habit of mine. Momma showed me that a simple apology often defused a tension-filled situation.

“…You’re too kind.” Erk gently reached out, proffering his hand to me. I hesitantly reached out with my own hand, wondering in my mind, What is he doing? The mage carefully held my hand and brushed his thumb against the back of it, the contact causing shivers to run up my arm. Then he kissed it. The girls around us snickered and laughed while the men made their own jokes. My own face was flushed with embarrassment. I wanted to look away from the surprising scene, but Erk’s gaze was magnetic. “I swear to you,” the mage spoke, “I shall never harm you again. In our interactions, your safety shall be paramount in my thoughts. This oath I do swear, on my honor and by my word as a magician. Creare Contractus.”

A sudden spike in magical activity washed over us, energy enwrapping Erk’s outstretched arm. The confluence of magic dissipated in an instant, leaving behind a bright red tattoo in the shape of a shield with a book inlaid on the demon’s wrist. Erk then released my hand and stood up, rubbing his wrist slightly.

“Erk! Why would you do that?” Serra detached herself from me, instead choosing to smack the mage’s shoulders.

“This was an unforgivable mistake, a lack of awareness and control that I must never forget.” Erk shook his head, turning to address me once more. “Please pardon my presumptuous actions. This contract is a selfish thing and binds only me; if it bothers you any then cast it from your memory. I plan on researching this matter heavily for some time. If you have any worries that you believe you can share with me, I would be more than honored to aid you. If you wish to never associate with me again…then I understand. Good day.” The purple headed mage bowed and told me where he lived before taking off, Serra offering her own farewells before following him.

My head was spinning in circles. What just happened? I thought. The mage had been so focused on himself that I never even got a word in edge-wise. However, it was probably for the best. With all the information and emotions swirling around I needed time to sort out my thoughts. Since it appeared that I was perfectly okay, there was no need to rush things.

“A Magician’s Contract, huh? And so open-ended too. I have to say, he’s gained a lot of respect from me.” Yuki commented as we watched the two demons leave. “Just think Alice, you’ve basically got your own slave now. Isn’t that great? You can probably guilt Erk into doing whatever you want now!” The flaming witch laughed heartily.

“How sweet kid, you’ve got your own magical knight in flowing robes now. He might not be as massive as Leraie over there, but I can think of a few things I’d like to do with him,” Ko poked me in my side, having leaned over to whisper suggestively in my ear. I shoved the redhead away and covered my face with Luminita, taking a time out to compose myself.

“As exciting as this bout has been, a battle well fought is tiring indeed. Our melancholic friend had the right idea. Even the great need rest! I must depart for now – we shall clash again soon brave witch. Farewell!” Leraie flew off as swiftly as the other two had. Hiei also took off, as quiet as he naturally was, muttering some number as he left.

“Drat, that broke-up a lot faster than I wanted,” Yuki complained after the other four demons disappeared. “Sure it was a bit tiring, but I still have plenty of energy! Sorry Alice, looks like you won’t get to see the really flashy finishers I had planned out.” I didn’t doubt that the witch had hundreds of more spells up her sleeves alongside the dozens she had casted during the battle.

“Oh how the mighty have fallen; the warriors of Makai get exhausted after a half-hour battle.”

“Hey kid, I didn’t see you out here with us.”

“Sorry, the last thing I want to do is mess up my clothes like you.” Ko tilted my head so I could see the witch’s clothes. I hadn’t noticed it before, but the witch’s black dress was covered in small blood smears, scorch marks, and sharp cuts. The other combatants must have been in an equally ragged state that I failed to notice.

“Uh-huh, sure kid,” Yuki’s dismissal of Ko’s fighting capability caused the redhead to bristle. I couldn’t imagine the little devil with head wings fighting on the level of those I had just seen, but Ko obviously thought differently.

“I think I’m gonna go take a quick nap. How about you Alice?” Yuki asked me.

Even with all the excitement, it had only been a little over an hour since school had ended. Like Ko, I had ended up eating and watching, expending little energy. Even the scare with the dark spell hadn’t exactly been tiring. With plenty of hours left before I had to head back to Pandemonium, I wanted to…

[ ] Go to the forest with Ko; I had promised after all.
[ ] Relax in the city. There had been too much excitement for such a short amount of time.
[ ] Return to Pandemonium early. I felt overwhelmed and needed to rest.
[ ]

---

>>9455
As far as my votes go, I try not to include ‘useless’ ones. Generally speaking, every possible decision I propose has some significant difference from the others. This case was a bit murkier, as almost all of the choices here were mostly characterization-style choices, influencing how I write Alice/events in the future.
>>No. 9468
[x] Go to the forest with Ko; I had promised after all.

you seemed to be pulling in a bit too much FE7 for my comfort.
>>No. 9469
[x] Go to the forest with Ko; I had promised after all.
>>No. 9470
[x] Go to the forest with Ko; I had promised after all.

Go with Yuki, get grazed by dark magic. Why do I get the feeling that we'll be attacked by something in the forest now?
>>No. 9471
>>9468
Thanks for the feedback. How much is too much in your opinion? If you didn't know about FE7 would you still be able to follow what had happened?

This isn't a crossover fic, it just so happens I need characters to inhabit Makai and while I could create my own like a good author, I find throwing in references to be fun. If it fits with my story I'm not afraid to use it - these bits of FE7 just happened to fit. This isn't to say I'm just cutting and pasting; I change whatever I want about these characters as I need to. Using other fictional characters just makes a characterized template for me to work off, and maybe give the readers a general idea as well. It makes my life easier, but everything should still make sense if you don't "get it." That's the only worry I have with doing things like this.

>>9470
Dunno, maybe you're weird.
>>No. 9472
[x] Go to the forest with Ko; I had promised after all.

Alice keeps her words.
>>No. 9473
>>9471
using the words "Elder Magic" was going a bit too far for a place like Makai. Also FE7 is among the lease obscure FE's. If you only included one or the other, then it might have gone over my head.

Just warning you to be careful as we don't need a repeat of Sonic or Meta Knight.
>>No. 9475
>>9473
Alright, thanks, I'll keep it in mind. Being remembered in infamy is not exactly how I want this story to go.

Story-esque content is usually something I don't discuss, but this is pretty easily guessed with a bit of intuition based on what has happened (and it's not very important). Makai is much more international than the rest of Gensokyo, considering Shinki's foreign roots and travels. This shows up in things like names, designs, and the knowledge contained within. Specifically, Makai's learned magicians have come across many different magical systems. I'll try to keep the references in check so I don't get sagebombed or anything, but any magic system in Earth's history can probably be learned about somewhere in Makai, or at least alluded to.
>>No. 9549
File 133930752696.jpg - (10.09KB, 241x163, this-board-is-going-to-get-very-lonely.jpg) [iqdb]
9549
I wanted to keep my promise with the redheaded devil. “I think Ko and I are heading out into the forest for awhile.”

“Eh? You were serious about that?” Ko looked bewildered with her eyebrows furrowed and her mouth gaping open.

I didn’t understand why the girl was so surprised. “Why wouldn’t I be? It’s not like I was lying; I really would love to go out with you.”

The devil turned her head aside, head wings flattened against her head. After Yuki started roaring in laughter I understood what was wrong. “W-wait, I d-didn’t mean it like that!”

The two demons calmed down in a minute, although Ko still looked slightly miffed as she stood with her arms crossed against her chest. “You’re so cute Alice,” the witch happily said while rubbing the top of my head. “Still, I didn’t think you’d head out again after all this. Are you sure you’re up to it?”

“Uh-huh. It’s not like we were the ones fighting.”

“I guess that’s true. Shucks, I didn’t think you would cling to this idea so much – I really don’t wanna go trekking around outside after the fight.” Yuki sighed loudly, lamenting her circumstances.

Ko stuck out her tongue before lightly grabbing onto my arm. “Well then don’t, you anemic hag. It’s not like you need to protect the kid or anything – I’ll have everything under control.”

“Oh really?” A raised eyebrow questioned the devil’s claim. “Alright then. Have fun Alice, Ko. Don’t get lost, don’t get hurt, and don’t try anything sketchy while you’re alone!” The witch turned tail and fled quickly, blasting off at her usual speeds. I shouted goodbye while the demon next to me cursed as loudly as possible.

“Honestly, I didn’t think you’d remember this considering all the excitement,” Ko commented as we slowly took off into the air, gently floating in the direction of the forest.

“It wasn’t very long ago though,” I explained, “and you seemed so excited too. I wouldn’t forget my promises!”

“Dumb kid…” I heard Ko mutter as she sped up. I twirled around midair with Luminita as I followed the demon, the crystal forest quickly expanding to fill my view. The jagged spikes of crystal jutting up from the ground formed a virtual wall, growing parallel to the lake and effectively cutting the city off from the other parts of Makai.

The crystal was beautiful in its mimicry. The hibernating trees of winter were captured in perfect and massive form. The intertwining branches of crystal formed a thick canopy while the numerous trunks highlighted the importance of the pathways carved through the ground. Other than trees, low lying shrubs and bushes created heavy undergrowth that would be unpleasant to try and push one’s way through. Ko carefully lead me onto one of the many paths, pointing out the beauty of the forest. To the unknowledgeable eye the place was simply a mass of crystal, but the goddess had put far more effort into the sprawling expanse than that simple description would imply.

“All of these trees are real, you know?” The demon stroked the trunk of a particularly droopy tree as we slowly meandered by.

“By ‘real,’ do you mean they grow like regular trees?”

“That’s true too; the crystal expands just like a normal forest would. Some demons come out every once and awhile to manage the place, clearing up the paths and thinning out the forest. But what I meant was that all these crystals were based off of real, organic plants from somewhere.”

“Really? So they look like the trees from back around the village?”

“Not just the ones in you know, but plant life from the outside world too. The goddess recreated things from all over the world that would never normally interact, right here in Makai.” Ko played up Shinki’s power without sarcasm. The demon was genuinely impressed by the feats as was I.

The impromptu botany and ecology lesson continued as we roamed through the forest. “…upwards of one-hundred meters tall, and only found on the other side of the world from Japan. Special trees such as this are the norm around here, not the exception.” The redhead had taken to pointing out some of the more fabulous trees.

“Wow Ko, you know a whole lot!”

“Not particularly – anybody can recognize a few trees if they tried.”

“But you actually have tried,” I emphasized my point. “I bet you could name every tree in this forest! Quick, what’s that?”

“That’s a pygmy rabbit, pretty much the smallest kind there is. It digs its own burro- wait, that’s not a tree!” The small rabbit I pointed out twitched its nose at us before disappearing into the underbrush.

“See? See? You’re really smart!” I giggled when Ko relented, kicking at the ground and turning to continue down the path. Her self-esteem issues were rather adorable; it was simple to embarrass her once I realized the secret.

Having let the demon cool, I continued with my more serious question. “Do you know all this because you come out here so much? Somehow, Yuki barely knows what a tree was.”

“Of course she doesn’t – she’s a complete airhead, literally and figuratively. She always flies everywhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if she has never step foot inside the forest.” I frowned and Luminita crossed her arms, both of us glaring at the demon for avoiding my question. Ko watched us unhappily before giving in and answering. “Yeah, I go through the forest instead of over it whenever I head out. Sometimes I don’t go further than here – there’s a lot to see even in this calm place. Throw in an ecology book or two and I can spend hours out here. There’s plenty to watch, especially since things are constantly changing.”

Ko grudgingly admitted to her bookish habits. I smiled and patted her on the head, the demon grumbling and knocking my hand away after a moment.

“There’s no grass here, how do the animals survive?” I wondered. The rabbit I had pointed to looked like a living being, brown coat and cute ears full of warm life.

“They eat, how else? I didn’t think you were that stupid Alice.” Ko grinned when she answered me, so I replied with a deft kick to her calves. I high-fived Luminita once the demon yelped. “I’m serious Alice. As far as I’m aware, they eat the crystals.”

“How is that possible? Crystals are…crystals. They aren’t food!”

“This crystal isn’t exactly the hardest stuff around.” The demon demonstrated by shattering a tree branch with a flick of her fingers. “Besides, the goddess created all the animals. For the vegetarian ones, I think she made them eat the surprisingly nutritious crystals.”

Truly, the time put into the detailed forest must have been immense. The only example of the goddess creating something I knew of was when she put together my room, but the forest was many times larger than the little square area. Even if it took her one second to create a species of tree or animal it still would have taken her hours, if not longer, to populate the forest. That didn’t even take into account the fact that the other parts of Makai were also filled with alternative life.

An hour had already passed when Ko drew to a halt at a junction two paths. “Wait here Alice.” The demon wagged her finger at me before starting to walk off into the forest.

“Where are you going?” My voice didn’t hitch in panic, but I was worried. Being left alone was terrifying.

“Don’t worry kid, I’ll be right back. I need to take care of business. So uh, don’t follow me.”

I sighed and sat down with my back against a tree. “You don’t need to worry about things like that, do you?” I looked down at Luminita, who was nestled in the crook of my arm. The doll shook her head slowly as if she was unable to comprehend that I had actually bothered to ask. “I think it’s a serious question. I don’t want to have to clean up after you.”

The doll whacked me on my arm. “Hey, don’t be violent. It would be awkward for both of us!” Luminita’s small hands attacked while she stared up at me in defiance. I raised her up and shook her a bit to stop the assault. “Geez, you’re easy to anger.”

Luminita and I stared at each other for a minute before the doll relaxed, holding her arms out in apology. I drew her back close to me and hugged her. “I guess what I said was pretty embarrassing, huh? Sorry.” The doll patted my shoulder in acceptance.

A loud crunching sound caused me to look up. Only a few meters away stood a spider; a huge, massive spider whose legs were taller than me and whose body was large enough for me and Ko to ride on comfortably. It was black and hairy, covered in so many blue crystal shards that is could easily camouflage itself and disappear into the forest. Six black eyes were looking straight at me.

I glanced down at my doll who in turn looked back up at me. “Do you think it wants a friend?” I asked Luminita.

A disgusting hissing noise emanated from the spider. I quickly took to my legs and dived to the side when I saw the spider spit strings of web at where I was sitting. The webs splattered against the base of the tree, smoke wafting up from where the crystal slowly melted underneath the webs.

“Sorry Mr. Spider, I don’t think I can be your friend!” I screamed as the spider turned and launched more of its acidic web. I took a step back and braced myself before lifting Luminita into the air in front of me. A gleaming shield appeared before me, the threads of magic weaving it into existence. The dull echo of webs splattering on metal echoed brought a grin to my face.

It was simple to follow my instincts. Luckily, they were actually correct this time around. The crystal coated spider continued to spit web at me but my shield held, the slight smoke from the corrosion of metal not worrisome in the slightest. The web wasn’t acidic enough to eat through my shield before I recreated the layer of metal.

“So how long do you think he’ll keep trying this Luminita?” The doll, even with its arms held out in front of it, managed to shrug. I imagined that the spider would run out of web or venom eventually, but it showed no signs of stopping in the minute or so of continuous fire.

“Are you okay Alice?” I heard Ko shout as she bulled her way through the forest, snapping branches and trampling shrubbery without care. “I heard you scream so I- holy fuck it’s a spider!”

Once the impacts on my shield ceased I dropped my defense, the metal falling to the dirt with a thud. Ko was standing a bit to the side and behind the spider, pointing and screaming her head off. I watched as the spider assessed the new warm body and found it to be easier prey, ignoring me completely.

“Uh, Ko?” I called out, “You might want to…uh-oh.” The demon was practically incapacitated. Beyond her screaming, she didn’t react in the slightest when the spider crawled closer to her.

“…these fucking bastards with their gross, spindly legs and their disgusting eyes- dear goddess why the fuck are its eyes so large and…”

Willing my legs into action I sprinted over to the demon, shooting past the sides of the spider to stand in front of the girl. I pulled another shield into existence as the spider once more tried to eat via venomous web.

“Ko? Hello?” Despite all the activity I wasn’t worried about the situation. If anything, I wanted to palm my face in embarrassment at how comical the scene was.

“…hot damn I hate these fucking crawling sons of bitches and how they cause shitty goose bumps all over my skin because of how nauseating they…”

“Hello little child baby demon? Girl with a really stupid name? Uh, your head wings are dumb! Ko?” Keeping the shield in place with my will, I turned around and tried to catch the redhead’s attention. Pressing her usual buttons did not work, nor did waving my hand in front of her face draw any response.

“…love to stomp this piss poor excuse for a creature but it looks so revolting I would never tough its repulsive, wretched body for any reason unless I had a huge ass hammer…”

I stood there lamely, trying to figure out how to resolve the situation. Rolling my shoulders, I decided to try my hand at extermination. Momentarily popping out from behind my shield, I concentrated and swiped my hand, launching my first legitimate fireball at the spider.

The flaming orb exploded against one of the spider’s legs, the fire blazing hotly before dissipating, the concussive force of the projectile not enough to damage the spider. The creature shrugged off my spell like a human does a fly bite. I hopped back behind my shield when the poisonous webs grew too close for comfort.

“Well, that didn’t work. Any ideas Luminita?” I asked the doll. Luminita tapped her head as if in thought before she snapped her fingers and started to mime out an action.

“That’s a smashing motion, right? So…a hammer?” Luminita nodded furiously and pointed towards Ko. The doll’s advice seemed reasonable enough, so I tried my best to create a hammer with my magic. It was surprisingly easy to shape metal in a form other than a shield. The large two-handed war hammer that I conjured levitated just as easily as the oversized shields I had been using.

With weapon formed, I realized it was possible to smash the spider on my own. My fireball didn’t exactly work, but dropping heavy metal objects on the spider was probably more effective. Working off this assumption, I turned back around and tried it.

The roar of an annoyed spider sounded like a high-pitched squeal. I supposed that nobody liked having an anchor dropped on their head. Giving up on the surprisingly tough spider, I went back to plan b.

“Ko!” I shouted. The demon’s babbling was incessant, so I slapped her. The redhead shut up after that and looked at me. “Spider. Tough. Here you go.”

The little devil stared dumbly at the floating hammer before grinning. She grasped the weapon and swung it around easily. Whooping in joy, she jumped out from behind my shield and yelled incoherently.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the berserker-like attitude, but Ko showed a surprising amount of finesse. The little devil dismantled the spider in quick order. First she rushed over and planted her feet firmly, taking a massive swing at the spider’s leg. There was a disquieting crunch as the lowest joint on the front leg was roughly destroyed. From there Ko continued, crushing each leg on the spider’s left side and crippling it.

The spider was too slow to react in any meaningful way. In the span of a minute the creature was collapsed on the ground, the entire left side of its body ravaged. An immobile target was an easy one, which Ko capitalized on. Striding over to the head of the spider, the devil pitched backward and slammed the war hammer down.

Ko sauntered over to me as she wiped her hands, having left the hammer imbedded in the spider’s crushed cephalothorax. “Whew, that was a big one; what terrible luck. I hate spiders.”

Luminita and I both scratched our heads. “I noticed.” How else could I respond to the ridiculous situation?

“Alright, let’s go then!” The demon took off happily, practically skipping further into the forest.

“So you’re afraid of spiders, huh?” I innocently asked Ko as we walked.

The redhead laughed as she answered, “Not afraid, but I really hate them. And don’t think you can use any of this against me, because it won’t work. I’m not embarrassed when it comes to those monsters.”

She saw through my intentions immediately. Defeated, I settled for a complimentary conversation instead. “You were really amazing. I wasn’t able to hurt it at all.”

“Eh, you hand out praise too easily. When you can’t brute force your way through a challenge you need to figure out the tricks to succeed.” The demon chuckled as we talked. “What was really amazing was that hammer you made. You must have a knack for creating stuff. Aren’t you tired at all?”

“Not really. It’s easy to use magic like this. I think Luminita helps a whole lot.”

“Your doll, huh? I guess a magical focus makes all the difference. Still, don’t expect to have the same kind of ridiculous power all these other demons have. A bit of confidence is good, but you can’t get too cheeky.”

“You’re just afraid of my true power, aren’t you?”

“I said don’t get cheeky kid.”

The two of us laughed and joked as we continued through the forest. We stopped every now and again as Ko mentioned facts about the flora and fauna or I had some sort of question to ask. Eventually we managed to reach the outer edge of the forest.

“Woah…” I had been blown away the first time I saw Makai’s landscape, and seeing it again was no different. The reds and blues that permeated the rolling hills were beautiful from both air and ground level. Other forests dotted the landscape alongside small lakes and large plateaus. There were farmhouses and fences along the hills with just as many other towers and walls, all skirting the edges of the deserts and jungles. The land was full of strange features that would never be found in a single environment if nature had its way.

“Impressed kid?” Ko asked me as she wrapped an arm around my shoulder. “I have to say, even I’m still amazed at this place the goddess has created.”

I gazed out at Makai for several minutes, mesmerized at its exotic beauty. Ko was silent too, enjoying the scenery as much as I was.

“I don’t recognize that one.” The redhead pointed to a well-built stone tower atop one of the larger hills that I could see.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean it’s new. The goddess or someone else must have put it up in the past week. I wonder what’s inside.”

“Did you want to go check?” I asked the demon. Everything that I saw looked interesting enough to visit.

Ko shook her head in response. “Nah, not now. We’ll have to head back in a bit. Even if you don’t feel tired now, you will in another hour. If nothing else I’m sure hunger will be catching up with us soon. It’s not the best idea to explore the unknown when you aren’t at your best. Although, I’ll probably head out there sometime tomorrow. Want to come?”

With the little devil's offer in mind, I…

(One choice from each block)

[ ] Accepted, thinking that it would be best to go…
-[ ] Right after we woke up
-[ ] After school ended
[ ] Declined, because…
-[ ] It didn’t feel safe
-[ ] I wanted to do
[ ]

In regards to dinner, I wanted to eat…

[ ] In the city…
-[ ] Wherever Ko wanted to
-[ ] Someplace that served
[ ] Back in Pandemonium
[ ]

---

I’m surprised I wrote this update with all that’s happening this weekend. Wohoo!
>>No. 9551
[x] Accepted, thinking that it would be best to go…
-[x] After school ended

In regards to dinner, I wanted to eat…

[x] In the city…
-[x] Wherever Ko wanted to
>>No. 9553
[x] Accepted, thinking that it would be best to go…
-[x] After school ended

In regards to dinner, I wanted to eat…

[x] In the city…
-[x] Wherever Ko wanted to


>>9471
Nice to see that you're as weird as me.
>>No. 9555
[x] Accepted, thinking that it would be best to go…
-[x] After school ended

In regards to dinner, I wanted to eat…

[x] In the city…
-[x] Wherever Ko wanted to

Sure, bandwagoning.
>>No. 9602
File 133980943641.jpg - (249.07KB, 489x551, summer-time-is-here.jpg) [iqdb]
9602
I jumped at the opportunity. “Of course!” Alice, explorer extraordinaire! Dashing heroes and glorious adventurers often began their stories with something as simple as investigating a haunted tower. The prospect of an exciting, fantastical adventure was massively appealing to my young mind.

“Heh, aren’t you a bit too exited?” Ko had reached out and held onto my wrist as I jumped in the air, preventing me from flying off.

“No way; this sounds so interesting! Do you think there are evil ghosts in the tower? Or maybe a scary dragon? What if there’s an evil wizard plotting to take over the kingdom? We have to stop him!”

“And what would make us the heroes, hm? What if we’re the evil villains that go barging into homes and looting them? It’s tough to tell the difference between good guy and bad guy.”

“Oh, uh…” I put a rein on my fantasies. “Is that somebody’s home?”

Ko laughed and slapped me on the back. “You’re so well-mannered, aren’t you? Save your excitement, ‘cause I have no idea why that tower is there. It might be a new farmer’s house, or it could be the keystone to an ancient monster’s prison. The innocent, redheaded maiden would have to rely on the spellcasting prodigy to save her if that was the case!” I jumped on the idea with childish abandon, letting all sorts of zany situations play out in my imagination. The demon girl humored me as we walked back through the forest, hypothetical situations of every heroic sort bouncing between us.

“…and it turns out to be a beacon for aliens that just want to keep all life from being completely wiped out!”

“I don’t think so, kid. That’s hideously overcomplicated and no sane person would ever come to that solution.”

“Uh, I guess. Then how about if the tower is actually a time gate…”

The trip back through the crystal forest didn’t take nearly as long as when we first went through. Ko didn’t stop to talk about any of our surroundings and I couldn’t settle down when my imagination was running wild. Thanks to the demon’s subtle guidance we emerged from the forest directly in front of the city, far away from the site of Yuki’s mock battle.

“So, oh mighty and genius sorceress, dost thou hunger for vital nourishment?” I whacked Ko with Luminita for making fun of me. “Hey, no need to get violent. It was a serious question.”

Poking my stomach in wonder, it responded with pained groans. Smiling sheepishly, I followed after the devil as she began to work her way through the streets.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“Some place to eat, duh.” Ignoring the little devil’s smart response, I watched the various food stalls and restaurant fronts pass by. The delicious smelling grilled and fried things were ignored by my guide.

“Where are we going?” I tried again.

“Did you have a particular place in mind?”

“No…”

“Great, then it’s my choice, isn’t it?” The redhead smiled sweetly at me. It was a look of pure mischief. With my guard raised, I warily watched our surroundings.

After a few minutes, sudden recognition set in. I was slowly becoming more and more familiar with the dizzying streets and sights, most of the city still an unknown blur in my memory. However, the specific turns and alleys that Ko chose to wander down were places I had been led once before. My sense of direction complimented itself for realizing where we were going after I saw the suggestive sign that marked out Sebastian’s sketchy bar.

Ko glanced over her shoulder as she pushed open the door. “Well, aren’t you gonna come in? There’s no food waiting outside, after all.” Her delight at my uneasiness was beyond irritating. Steeling myself, I entered the debauched establishment and quickly shut the door.

The dark and smoky bar was exactly as I remembered it. My attempt to ignore the illicit sounds emanating from the darkness was slightly more successful than in my first visit – my face was only as bright as a slightly wilted rose. As always, Luminita served as a makeshift shield to hide my blushing face.

The grandfatherly-like bartender was smiling at the two of us as we took our seats. Once more, no other patron was taking advantage of Sebastian’s well-lit bar, leaving the old demon free to polish a glass. After we had properly seated ourselves, he spoke. “Children, how may I be of service today?”

“We’re starving here old man. Whatever you’ve got cooking back there would be great.” The bartender gave a slight bow before disappearing.

“So when did you want to head out?” Ko asked me as she pushed aside my doll-shield.

I tapped my cheek in thought. “For tomorrow? Uh, after school?” I assumed exploring would take far more than the few hours of free time we had before classes started – I didn’t want to miss the second day of lessons any more than the first.

“What a good little student. I’m sure your teachers would absolutely love to have you.”

“Kwoh, dow ‘inch mah cheeks- ow. Why does everybody keep doing that?”

“The curse of being young and attractive, child.” Sebastian returned to the bar with a large tray held in his hands. He deftly set down two steaming plates and accompanying silverware, two glasses also placed in front of us.

“You still have some of that fireberry wine on you, right? I’ll take some of that.”

The bartender grabbed a bottle from behind him and uncorked it, carefully laying the neck across his forearm and pouring the pale red liquid into Ko’s glass. “Very well. And for you, child?”

“Is there anything I can drink?” Bars back in the village were essentially sake dens. They were havens for the working farmer and catered to their tastes. I was cautious as to what the demon bartender might have in the bottles behind him that were safe for a child.

“Perhaps a juice would be to your liking? I have a striped-apple juice that compliments this meal.”

“Okay, that sounds good.” With Sebastian pouring out my own drink, I was able to take a good look at what the bartender had brought us. Carefully testing the food, it seemed like a well seasoned plate of chicken along with a small salad and side of mashed potatoes; far from standard village fare, but still common enough if one shopped around a bit. Ko showed no qualms about the food, attacking it with fork and knife as soon as Sebastian had shifted his attention away from her. Thanking the bartender for his service, I began to eat as well. It felt strange not using chopsticks, but at least I had used “Western” utensils before.

There was no conversation between us as Ko and I devoured our food. We ate quickly in order to offset the hunger that had built up from the hours of walking. The plates were spotless once we were finished.

“Whew, I’m stuffed. Thanks for the grub, Sebastian.” The little devil thanked the bartender as she swiveled around to lean back against the bar. I carefully set my used silverware down and thanked the older demon as well.

“I’m glad you enjoyed yourself children. You two seemed to be more famished than I would expect.”

“Well, you know how it goes old man. Some…activities make a pair absolutely starving.”

“Indeed. Although, I believe your friend is a bit young for conventional tastes.”

“Is that what you think? I think Alice is cute enough to be rather attractive to a certain demographic.”

“I suppose that is true. I wonder then, how you went about this business of yours.”

“Maybe I could tell you? There are plenty of positions-”

“We were exploring the forest!” I broke in, knowledgeable enough to understand that whatever the two were implying was far from decent.

The old demon chuckled while Ko pouted. “Geez Alice, you can’t just give up real information so freely. Don’t you know that knowledge is precious?”

“Fret not child,” Sebastian comforted me, “talk amongst friends is hardly a matter for concern. Besides, I am fair in my dealings. Despite what this rambunctious child might believe, I am not so cruel as to take advantage of the unprepared.”

“It’s true, Sebastian is pretty good about it, but he’ll still try to get as much as he can.” Ko looked at me seriously, her eyes shifting almost unnoticeably to watch the bartender’s face. “Don’t talk about your abilities around him; that’ll be worth a pretty penny if you ever need it.”

“Such an obvious ploy child, although I can’t say I’m not curious, now.”

I tried to follow what the two demons were talking about. I knew that they considered information a trade good – exchanging it to try and get the ‘better deal’ as it were. I remembered the old demon mentioning it the last time I had sat at his bar: although my connection with Ko gained me a bit of leeway, it would take fresh news to get anything special from Sebastian.

“So old man, what can you tell me about new construction?” Ko asked over her shoulder, tilting her head as she glanced around.

“I’m afraid that is a rather broad question, child. Why, there are any number of things pertaining to housing and walls that the masses quibble about.”

“Tch, fine then. That new tower out beyond the forest – who and why?”

“Oh my, that was rather direct. Certainly, giving up such exclusive info-”

“Cut the crap, I know you know about it already; it’s been a few days since I was last out there. So spill it.”

“No need to make such offending accusations.” Even feigning hurt, the bartender’s expression never changed from his constant smile. “Yes, the ominous tower atop the tallest hill. I know of it, and of its appearance alongside a band of sallying demons, embarking upon their solemn duties. For what reasons I cannot say; the loosest lips are not found amongst the sharpest swords.”

Ko slumped down onto the bar. “Well that was spectacularly unhelpful.”

“For you, perhaps. I wonder though if such knowledge is more informative to other parties, such as those I owe for their news that was feely given.” The old man looked at me, his smile and squinted eyes an effective mask over any subtle messages. Still, I caught the implied meaning of his statement.

I had spent so little time in Makai that it wasn’t difficult to remember everything I had seen so far. The number of sword users I knew of that had a reason to rush out of the city and into the rest of Makai numbered only one.

“Huh, what are you going on about now old man? You can’t mean her. But you do? Hey Alice, does this old coot’s words ring any bells?” The little devil turned to me and poked the side of my head.

“Ah, I don’t really know,” I replied. The information, while interesting, was nothing concrete. It answered nothing as to why the tower was built. The most I could do with it was orientate my speculation.

Ko sighed as she rolled her head around. “Eh? Whatever, this lead was a bust. I guess we’ll find out for ourselves then.”

“Your adventuring I understand,” Sebastian broke-in, “but do you plan to bring along the goddess’ newest child as well?”

“What’s it to you? Maybe I do, maybe I don’t.” Ko answered the snooping demon defensively, wrapping an arm around my shoulder and pulling me slightly away from the bar.

“Such recklessness from our youth these days. On behalf of the goddess I feel obligated to ask; are you adequately prepared for such a responsibility, child?”

“Damnit, why does everybody keep questioning me? I can fight well enough and know enough about Makai and humans to keep Alice safe on my own. Besides, I get the feeling she’s strong enough to do a fair bit of damage herself. We don’t need a babysitter!” I managed to shrug off the demon’s arm before she wrenched me from my seat.

“Ko,” I began, “he’s just worried about us. I don’t think that’s something to get angry over.”

“Really now? I hear him questioning our competence and ability. If that’s not a sign of mistrust I don’t know what is.”

“Can’t he just be double-checking? Even the strongest of people need to ask for help sometimes, don’t they?”

“Well-spoken, child; you are truly far wiser than this young firebrand here.” I glowed when the old demon complimented me. Momma’s and daddy’s silly little sayings were good enough to gain the respect of ridiculously long lived beings. “I am afraid it is my fault. I should have phrased my inquiries more appropriately considering what I know of this child.”

“Well thanks old man, point out all my flaws even more, won’t you?”

“A character trait is not inherently positive or negative, child. A flaw is only a perception.”

“Impetuous is a good thing, eh? Sure, tell that to everybody else.”

Sebastian chuckled before turning his attention back to me. “Truly, perceptions are a revealing thing. Every person sees the world slightly differently. For instance, I am sure most of my peers see a new, well-mannered human child before them. Others might see a new friend.” Something had changed about the bartender in a manner of seconds. Everything about him, from the tone of his voice to the look on his face, appeared unchanged but something had happened. “Others see a new and talented magician, a new master to serve, a new pupil to teach, a new pool of information, a new sibling to protect, a new fount of worry, a new customer to enchant, a new source of stories, a new toy to play with, a new daughter to spoil – perception is a fickle thing. How does one perceive themselves, child?”

“What in the name of the goddess are you talking about old man? You’re gonna scare off my cute source of amusement if you keep such an oppressive atmosphere around.” Ko cut through the tense feeling in the air with her sharp complaints.

“My apologies.” The bartender’s unseen presence dissipated in instant, leaving a non-threatening old man polishing a glass behind. “Perhaps my age is showing? They say the elderly tend to get carried away.”

“Sure, sure, whatever. I never mentioned anything about Alice’s talent in magic.” The speed at which Ko switched from apathetic to threatening tones was instantaneous.

“Did you not just say so?”

“Don’t play games with me. Everybody that saw Alice bust a move went home and none of them are dumb enough to go around flapping their lips needlessly, but you already knew. How did you- actually, forget it. This is one of those things you won’t tell me anyway.” The little devil huffed, leaning over to whisper in my ear conspiratorially. “Alice, remember to assume that every demon you meet is a master magician that can read minds, see the future, and cut a flying swallow out of the air with a single sword strike. You just can’t tell with these old fogies.”

“How paranoid, child. If such delusions are the norm for you, perhaps everything you have told me until this point is suspect.”

“You know who’s delusional? Rita. Did you see that girl wearing…”

The conversation returned to light-hearted banter for a time, Sebastian refilling our drinks as we ran out. Most of the talk was simple gossip, relationships and scandalous events being large topics. The bartender began to talk about the changes in Makai’s landscape over the past week at Ko’s prompting.

The devil paid her dues by relating the events of Yuki’s mock battle. “…formed Magician’s Contract. Pretty crazy, ain’t it?” Ko finished her succinct summary.

“I do not believe so, child. That one values his word as most inestimable, not his magical power nor his social standing, unlike others.”

“Well, I still think it’s pretty crazy. Why would anybody give up their freewill for such a silly reason, right Alice?”

“…I thought it was rather kind.”

“Of course you do, who wouldn’t want their own slave?”

“He’s not my-”

My protests were trampled on. “Seriously though, giving up the ability to act as you like has got be one of the dumbest moves a guy could make.”

“Expand your perceptions, child. Is it not possible that the boy considers the contract a finality, an affirmation that even if given the free choice, he would act in such a manner anyway?”

“I guess. I still think it’s pretty dumb, though. I wouldn’t give up my freedom for anything short of the world.” The little devil emphasized her opinion by slamming her empty glass onto the table.

“Valuing freedom most highly is admirable, child; no less valuable than one’s own honor, by some perceptions.” The bartender eyed me once more after he finished refilling Ko’s drink. “What about you, child? What do you hold most dear?”

“She thinks manners are most important, obviously. That crazy girl has hit me more than enough times because of them.”

“Is this the case? Courtesy and decorum are ingrained her, that I can see myself. Yet core values are often much more hidden, revealing themselves in desperate action and in contemplative thought. What say you, Alice Margatroid. What is most important to you?”

The atmosphere grew serious again. Such a simple mannerism such as the use of my full name caused Ko and I to sit up in attention. The moans and cries from the darkness were silent as far as I was concerned. All of my attention was focused on the grayed demon standing before me. His uncomfortably large presence reasserted itself, only slightly subdued from before.

What is most important to me? I repeated the question to myself, carefully pondering the significance of the statement. How do I perceive myself? Everything Sebastian said was ultimately centered on information – the old demon wanted to know everything, it seemed. Yet even if his questions were intrusive, they were still worth asking. What do I hold most dear? I was silent for a few minutes, lost in memories as I tried to come to an answer.

I thought the most important thing to me was…

[ ] Sweets.
[ ] Power.
[ ] Knowledge.
[ ] Family.
[ ]

---

Vague and cryptic vote ahoy! Who knows what it could be for? (Me, obviously). Is it about characterization? Future routes? Hidden powers? A complete waste of time? All of the above? None of the above?

If you want to leave a little explanation for what you choose (especially if you write-in something), that would be great.

In other news, maybe I can keep somewhat close to my ideal bi-daily update pattern now that the evils of exams are finished.
>>No. 9603
[x] Knowledge.
Friends and family can fade from time, power without goal is useless, but knowledge allows one to give a goal to power, to remember friends and family.
>>No. 9604
[x] Family.

I believe this is at the heart of Alice's personality, power is just an incidental effect from her current one.
>>No. 9605
[x] Family.

I'd say sweets but they're really just one of the many delicious byproducts of Family.
>>No. 9606
[x] Family.
>>No. 9607
[x] Family.

Just because I want to see some new story that has less to do with power crazy manic.
>>No. 9612
File 133997862480.jpg - (414.39KB, 638x1000, only-missing-a-rubber-ducky.jpg) [iqdb]
9612
The most important thing to me was family. It was painfully obvious. Everything I recalled pointed back toward family. “Careful there sweat pea; you have to lift with your legs if you want to keep up with the boys.” I had learned the necessities of life from my parents. “Over and under Alice, keep the stitches tight.” They had taught me practically everything I knew. “You can do this sweetie, just borrow one from the four and then subtract it.” Wilderness survival techniques, proper village decorum, and stories from the outside were all mine to learn. “Richard the Lionheart and Saladin were powerful men, each seen as heroes by their own sides.” More than basic knowledge, my family took care of me. “Oh cupcake, how did you hurt yourself now? Don’t cry. I’ll fix it right up.” From maintaining my physical and mental health to staunchly protecting me from others, my parents were ridiculously attentive. “Remember Alice, you are just as important and talented as any of these chauvinistic old men.” Of course, I had friends amongst the other villagers, but my parents were my flesh and blood – the two people in the whole world that showered me with unconditional love and care.

They did everything they thought they needed to and more. Nothing was too good for their little girl. If there was more time, I would have experienced so much underneath the aegis of family. As it was, I had just been reaching the age where I could understand the scarier and more mature topics my parents thought important. “Not everybody is kind and sympathetic, sweetie. Some bad guys are truly black-hearted, using whatever means necessary to hold on to their power.” Why the two gambled on ritualistic occultism to escape their homeland. “Parasites are all they are, Alice. They seek our protection and take what they can before leaving us as fish on the hooks.” Why our village, despite the threat of youkai, remained isolated on the edges of Gensokyo. “The Hakurei would be more than happy to adopt you if we ever had to leave you, pumpkin.” What would happen should our luck finally give out. “You need to run as fast and as far as you can.” What would happen if the things that went bump in the night were too strong for the village guards. “Me and the other men aren’t special, sweetie; our arms and armor only go so far to fight off the bad guys. Your mother, on the other hand? She’s something else entirely.” What would happen if the protection of the Dragon wasn’t enough. “Stay strong Alice. Run, now.” What would happen if everything I knew was systematically destroyed, a wasting disease causing the organs of the strongest to turn to mush before a horde of monsters burned and killed every single person I had ever come to love!

“Holy shit, what the- Alice! Damn it girl, can you at least try to- fuck, Sebastian, look at what you did!” The little devil wrestled with my body, keeping me from falling off of my seat in a heap. I couldn’t see the girl or anyone else through the sudden waterfall of tears.

The chill cut into my bones, the world feeling as sharp as ice. I clutched onto the only warm thing around, shoving my face into the soft and inviting arms as far as possible. Even with the stream of profanity leaving her mouth, Ko never slackened her grip. The demon drew me as close as she could, cradling me in her arms to ward off all the world’s evils.

“You really are a crybaby, aren’t you?” Ko asked, not unkindly as she took a napkin and wiped my face. It took several minutes for me to calm down and stop shedding tears, the memories I had dredged up slowly receding from the forefront of my mind.

“Thank you.” My words were simple and understated, but the way Ko’s smile lit up told me that she appreciated my thanks all the same.

I readjusted my blue ribbon as I properly sat back up, doing my best to look somewhat presentable. Sebastian look as unflustered as ever, but I noticed that he was averting his eyes from my unseemly display.

“Family,” I declared, my voice causing the bartender’s gaze to re-focus on me.

“Is that your answer?” The old demon asked me, his ancient and powerful presence nowhere in sight.

“Yeah. Family is everything. What can anybody do without family? A baby can’t survive without family and children can’t learn. Families are loving, caring, and supportive. Everything…everything should be done for the ones you love. Cherish them, protect them, and never…sniff…never leave them alone…”

Ko’s arms enveloped me in another hug, preventing my from shedding any more tears. “Hey Alice, I’m…I’m not going anywhere, okay? Whatever has happened, whatever will happen - I’ll be right here if you want me.”

The redhead spoke softly, her words careful but decisive. I could tell she didn’t know what specifically caused my distress but she was more than intelligent enough to guess. Her perceptiveness was a godsend for my ailing emotions.

“Very well then,” Sebastian slowly said, “that is a worthy perception of the world. Venerate your ideals, child, and never let them go.” The old demon picked up Luminita and presented her to me. “I believe you two have spent enough time in this smoky den of mine. I shall take no more of your time this day.”

Ko and I took the none too subtle hint and bid farewell to the bartender. Having been there twice, I wasn’t even sure if the bar had a specific name.

I started to walk down the street, Ko’s arm wrapped around my shoulders and Luminita held snugly to my chest. The demon was following my lead wordlessly while I mindlessly headed downhill. Even with Ko’s assurances, I was still working to recover my composure.

We reached the “beach” of the city after some time. The crowds of demons that occupied the streets had dwindled to a meager few who were lazing about on the edge of the crystal lake.

I looked out at the massive expanse of blue for a moment. I imagined that the rolling waves were actually moving, the tide was pushing up onto the sandy beach and that there were seagulls soaring up above – a forlorn attempt at understanding what the beaches of my parents’ memories were like.

“Are you coming with me Ko?” It was already a forgone conclusion that I was heading back to Pandemonium. The physical activity and mental stress of the day was enough to send me straight to bed if I gave in.

“Eh? Well…” Ko finally let go of me and frowned. “I guess. I’m not looking forward to meeting the goddess or her maid, though.”

“Why? They aren’t mean.” We took off, lazily moving through the air towards the massive crystal castle.

“Mean, huh? Sure, driving me off with a flurry of swords isn’t mean at all.”

“Yumeko can be, uhm, intense, but I don’t think she would attack anybody without a reason.” The mental image of a dozen swords cutting through a flaming dragon appeared in my mind but I disregarded it.

“Sure, sure. It just so happens that everything I do seems to set her off. If I fall into a trap hole or something, try to avenge me, okay?” I giggled at the demon’s usual exaggerations.

“What about Shinki?”

“What about her? She isn’t mean, sure, but I wish she was. The goddess is so disgustingly saccharine that I feel like my heart will explode every time we talk. She’s unbearably fussy, too.” I supposed that Ko had a rather accurate point.

We touched down onto a platform and headed into the castle. Guiding Ko by the hand, I weaved my way through the hallways to reach my room.

“You certainly figured your way around quickly – how’d you manage it only a few days?” I pushed open the door to my room and let the demon in.

“I had a bit of help,” I admitted, plopping down onto my bed.

“No kidding. This place is a monstrous labyrinth. A normal person would need more than a single ball of thread to navigate around here.” Ko idly tossed one of the fancy shoes I had received as a gift up and down.

A sudden knock on the door preceded the appearance of Yumeko. The maid bowed before addressing us. “Greetings ladies, would you care for any refreshments?”

“No thanks Miss Maid, we ate before we came here.” Ko answered extremely quickly, responding before I had even begun to open my mouth.

“Wonderful. How about you, milady?” Yumeko flicked her eyes over to me.

“No thank you.”

“I see. May I retrieve anything else for you?”

“Can I get a bath Miss Maid? I’ve been running around in the grimy forest so I feel pretty filthy.”

Yumeko’s eyes narrowed slightly as she shifted her gaze back to Ko. “Not a problem. I shall return momentarily.”

As the maid was heading out the door, Ko called out. “Make sure the water isn’t too hot – you wouldn’t want to burn little Alice now, would you?”

I thought I saw smoke starting to rise from the top of Yumeko’s head. “Of course.”

“And could you pretty please bring me a change of clothes as well? And a towel, obviously. Actually, now that I think about it, a drink would be nice too. I’d say more alcohol ‘cause I’m not nearly tipsy enough but that would make me a poor role-model. A chocolate milkshake sounds better!” The redhead was shouting by the end of her demands as Yumeko had started walking away sometime halfway through Ko’s list.

“Am I taking a bath too?” I wondered.

“Did you want to? I figured you would need one since you were stomping around out there with me.”

“Sure.” Ko’s thoughtfulness brought a smile to my face.

We waited around for a few minutes, talking about nothing. Once Yumeko returned we followed her over to a wash room. It wasn’t the small one next to my room but a larger one down a floor. The walls and floor tiled with something like marble. The center of the room dipped down and became a circular pool, large enough for fifteen adults to sit around the rim comfortably. It was filled with gently swirling water, small wafts of steam rising from the surface. Around the sides of the room were other things one might expect to see in a bathhouse. Racks of toiletries lined the walls, filled with various scents of shampoos, conditioners, and soaps.

“A room built around a single bath, huh? I see the goddess hasn’t changed any.” Ko shrugged as she picked up a spare change of clothes from one of the racks and examined it.

“And neither have you, milady. Will this be all?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m good. Thanks Miss Maid.”

Yumeko bowed to the little devil before turning to me. She pointed to a pile of clothes as she spoke. “I have prepared a change of clothes for milady as well. The topmost garment may be worth looking over.”

“Thanks Yumeko.” Bowing once more, the maid left us to our bath. Ko practically flew out of her clothes, slipping into the bath in a matter of seconds.

Stepping over to the indicated rack, I looked over the clothes left for me. A cute, pink set of pajamas had been folded up nicely for my own use. When I picked up the strange blue piece on top, I squealed.

“What’s going on Alice?” Ko propped herself up on the floor with an elbow, the bath deep enough that the rest of her body could disappear under the water. In her other hand she held a brown drink with a striped straw sticking out the top.

“Look!” I held Luminita up for Ko to see. Instead of her silver outsider clothes, the doll was sporting a navy blue one-piece swim suit. I thought she looked absolutely adorable and Luminita apparently agreed since she shyly clasped her hands behind her back.

I pouted when Ko simply rolled her eyes and turned back around. Some people could not appreciate the little things in life. Disrobing quickly, I stepped into the bath next to Ko, finding that a small ledge ran around the sides of the bath for its occupants to sit on. My toes scraped against the bottom when I let them dangle, the water only rising up to my stomach while I sat on the ledge.

“Ah, now this is relaxing.” Ko stretched backwards, hands free after having finished her milkshake.

I hummed in agreement, carefully brushing Luminita’s hair. She had squirmed a bit when I first started to try but quickly calmed down, sitting in my lap in resignation.

“With all the time you spend taking care of your doll, you’d think you could take a minute to clean yourself.” Ko’s hand waved in front of my eyes to break my attention.

“I’m already in the bath?”

“Sure, you’re in the water, but I haven’t seen you scrub yourself down or shampoo your hair any.”

“Eh? Well, you haven’t either!”

“Bzzt, wrong answer. I did that while you were playing dress up. You should pay closer attention.”

“W-why would I do that? Why are y-you?”

“Maybe I just like watching you, huh?”

“That’s so creepy!”

The little devil frowned and grabbed a hold of a brush and a bottle from the side of the bath. “Well, no need to be rude about it Alice. To think, I was gonna be the helpful older sister and make sure this cute little girl bathed properly.”

I looked between the brush and the bottle in confusion. “What are you going to do now, then?”

Ko hummed as she squirted some of the soap onto the end of the brush. “Oh, the same thing, pretty much. Just a bit more forceful, now.” The demon’s lunatic grin was all the warning I had before she lunged.

I panicked and tried to get away but the bath was too small for any effect evasive maneuvers. Once the redhead had latched onto my arm it was too late. I squealed as Ko rubbed the brush against my skin, scraping away all the impurities.

“S-stop Ko! T-that t-tic-ahaha-tickles!”

“Maybe you should be a bit nicer in the future, eh? Bath time can be pretty dangerous~!” The little devil was merciless, the thistles of the brush sweeping across my chest and down my thighs. Kicking and bucking did little to deter the demon, even when I managed to land a solid blow or two on her body. The massive increase in soap bubbles floating on the surface of the war was a testament to Ko’s unassailable victory.

“See, now isn’t this more calming?” Ko had finished scrubbing me and moved on to washing my hair. At that point I had given up all hope and ended my futile resistance. The demon likewise relented, soothingly running her hands through my hair without malice.

“Y-yeah…” I closed my eyes and let my thoughts wander as the demon washed my hair. Ko does it differently than momma, but it still feels nice.

The two of us finally finished the terrible cleaning process and could slump down in the warm water without a care. We didn’t speak for several minutes, simply enjoying the bath for what it was.

Another few minutes went by and Ko showed no signs of moving, having somehow managed to sink down so only her head was calmly resting against the side of the bath, eyes closed and breathing steady.

At that time I…

[ ] Continued to relax in the bath. It was fine to rest there until bedtime.
[ ] Climbed out before I became a prune.
-[ ] After all, I wanted to before going to bed.
[ ]

---

Too lazy to offer up in-character activities outside the bath. Reading books, bugging people, exploring, and anything else inside Pandemonium are all within the realm of possibility. If you choose that option and aren’t specific enough with a write-in I’ll just do whatever I want, as always.
>>No. 9613
[x] Continued to relax in the bath. It was fine to rest there until bedtime.

We got grazed by dark magic, got attacked by a giant spider, and had a bit of a breakdown. I do believe some relaxation is in order.
>>No. 9614
[x] Continued to relax in the bath. It was fine to rest there until bedtime.
>>No. 9615
[x] Continued to relax in the bath. It was fine to rest there until bedtime.
>>No. 9633
[x] Continued to relax in the bath. It was fine to rest there until bedtime.

Too lazy to think of something else.
>>No. 9637
File 134024042287.jpg - (46.31KB, 600x480, argh-a-day-late.jpg) [iqdb]
9637
I continued to relax in the bath. Sinking into the water, I carefully balanced Luminita atop my head and tried to emulate Ko. A peaceful break from life’s concerns was the most blissful thing.

I had started to nod off but the sound of the door opening roused my attention. Turning around, I stared up at the naked body walking towards the bath. Shapely hips swayed back and forth, long silver hair carefully framing the smooth skin and luxurious curves of the goddess.

“Shin-” I started to speak, but stopped when the goddess held a finger to her lips. Staring dumbly, I watched Shinki quietly saunter over to the edge of the bath, kneeling down behind Ko.

“Eh, what was that, Alice?” Ko asked me with her eyes clothes. The goddess was shaking her head, a mischievous smile adorning her face. Sensing the dangerous situation brewing, I picked Luminita off the top of my head and quickly scooted along the ledge to create some distance.

The redheaded demon opened her eyes when she sensed me move away. She took a moment to sit up and turn towards me. “Yo Alice, what are you doing- shit!”

Ko immediately began to dive away as soon as she saw the naked figure looming over her. It was a vain attempt; the goddess sprung just as Ko’s eyes widened, well-toned arms wrapping around the little devil.

Revenge was sweet. I laughed when the goddess fell forwards, dropping underwater and taking Ko with her. Waves and bubbles broke the surface before the two demons popped up, locked in a heated struggle.

The little devil was doing her best to thrash about and break free, but Shinki held her child in an inescapable hug. Much like a caged animal, Ko gave up her struggles, settling on looking annoyed and snarling whenever Shinki rubbed their cheeks together.

“Aw Ko, I’m so glad you came to visit me! You haven’t stopped in to say hello for awhile. It’s been so lonely without you here!” The amount of skin contact between the two was outright indecent, even if there were only the purest of intentions radiating from the goddess.

“I- I- I wonder- can I speak without you- without you- rubbing- I give up!” Ko’s response was unnecessary for the goddess’ enjoyment. Shinki twirled around with Ko in her arms, lamenting on the amount of time the two hadn’t spent together.

It must have been annoying for Ko to have a wet, silver mop of hair shoved into her face over and over again while the two demons cuddled. It must have been rage inducing to be treated as an over-sized doll, manhandled by the whims of a goddess. It must have been beyond embarrassing for the little devil, since I was watching it all.

Eventually, Shinki shimmied up next to me holding Ko in her lap. The little devil tried her best to appear seething, but the bright red flush across her face and the head wings laying flat against her hair betrayed her true feelings. I didn’t shy away from the goddess, since the feeling of the naked body leaning into me was more comforting than embarrassing.

“How was your day Alice?” The goddess’ smile was beatific.

“It was…eventful, but I’m okay.” Shinki listened while I recounted what had happened after I left Pandemonium in the morning. The goddess interjected playfully, chuckling at the various antics I described. She looked only slightly worried when I mentioned the close encounter with Erk’s magic and mildly disgusted when I provided graphics detail about Ko’s fight with the spider.

“Life is a strange thing, isn’t it? To think those little spiders might grow so large.”

“You mean you didn’t make it that big?”

“Oh dear, no! That would be far too icky for us, wouldn’t it?” Skinki laughed as she bounced Ko up and down, the redhead muttering a few choice words under her breadth. “I’ll keep the scary spiders away from you in the future, dear.”

“I didn’t know they grew that big…” It was rather troubling news. The last thing I wanted was for tiny house spiders to become man-eater sized.

“They don’t, Alice; at least not usually. Ambient magic tends to do strange things, though. I’m not sure how that spider’s diet developed, but anything is possible.”

I sighed in relief. “Does that mean you couldn’t create something like that?”

“If I tried I definitely could, but creating life is terribly taxing, dear.” The goddess promptly dealt with my curiosity. “One might think it as simple as recreating the necessary parts, but doing it with magic poses a problem. Can you guess what the issue is, Alice?”

“I’ve never created life. How am I supposed to know?”

“Oh my, I didn’t think you were a quitter.” The goddess’ accusation was frustrating. I buckled down and thought about it more, wondering why the goddess expected me to understand. I was no super powerful demon; I couldn’t create life. Yet, that wasn’t necessarily true.

“I’ve never created life…but I’ve made other things?” Shinki clapped her hands in excitement, using her legs to catch Ko when the redhead tried to escape. “The shields I made felt real, but they weren’t, were they? The metal was…full of magic; magic that kept everything together. Without the magic they weren’t shields, they were just blobs of metal.”

“That’s right. Creating things with magic, that don’t rely on magic to survive, is ridiculously difficult, Alice. Especially when they are made of so many vital parts – even if I get everything else right, a little slip-up on an organ like the heart would ruin everything.” I listened carefully to the goddess’ explanation. “Artificial things are easier, especially if you’re creating something made of a single material like those shields you mentioned, but it still isn’t a simple task.”

“So you can’t just poof things out of thin air?”

“I never said that, dear. ‘Poofing things’ is possible, but takes disproportional amounts of energy and concentration. Building objects up from an itsy-bitsy level isn’t exactly efficient. It’s much easier if you just transmute things; working with already existing materials makes it much less difficult.”

The goddess frowned when she looked at me. “Actually, I’m rather surprised. The shield that collided with Erk’s spell shouldn’t have remained, even if the metal was in a somewhat dismal state…” Shinki reached over and pulled me into a joyful hug. “How wonderful! My newest daughter is so talented at the art of creation; perhaps I’ve found the heir to the throne!”

I only stiffened in surprise for an instant, but it was enough for the goddess to notice. Shinki broke the hug off immediately. “I’m sorry Alice. I wasn’t thinking.” She looked like someone had punched her in the gut.

I took a deep breathe before smiling. Considering the emotional roller coaster of the day, I felt prepared to deal with the issue right then and there. “I…I wouldn’t mind being your daughter.”

Shinki’s expression improved from devastated to queasy. “Are you sure? I don’t want to be presumptuous.” My outburst that morning was still nipping at the goddess’ conscious.

I blinked, before reaching down to free Ko. The goddess gave up the redhead freely so I could pull the demon over to my side. Even trapped by the goddess’ legs, Ko had been paying attention to the conversation; she gave me a reassuring smile and a thumbs up. I appreciated the gesture but had to drop my gaze in order to speak my mind.

“I’m okay with it. Now, that is. Before I was…I still wasn’t okay. Now? I’m still…I’m still having troubles but- but I figured out that family is very important and it’s really tough to be okay if you don’t have family and, uhm…” I stopped and shook my head when I realized I was rambling. Instead, I tried a question to organize my thoughts. “Shinki, you think everybody in Makai is your child, right?”

“That’s right.”

“And some of them call you mother. Or they think of each other as brothers and sisters, right?”

“Yes, some do.”

“Makai is really just one big family then, right?”

The goddess paused, a troubled look briefly appearing on her face. “Maybe a very large one with bickering relatives, but yes, I think we are.”

“I…was an only child. I…I think it would be nice to have brothers and sisters.” I felt Ko rubbing my back and Luminita patting my arm, both encouraging me to continue.

“I’ve been thinking about it a whole lot, ever since I ended up here in Makai. Momma and daddy always wanted me to be loved and happy. Even if they couldn’t be the ones to do it, I think they wanted that. Momma and daddy will always be momma and daddy, but…I don’t think they have to be the only ones. Some of the other children in the village weren’t as lucky as me. They didn’t know who their real mothers and fathers were – but they still had family. They had people caring for them that they called mom and that they called dad.”

I looked up and saw the guarded anticipation in Shinki’s twinkling eyes.

“What I mean to say…is that family is everything. Momma and daddy will always be part of my family so…please Shinki…let me be a part of this family. Please let Ko and Yuki and everybody else be my siblings, or my aunts or uncles or crazy third cousins. Please let me be your daughter, Mom. Please.”

I was quickly enveloped in a group hug filled with love and comfort, tinged with the sense of belonging and relief. I didn’t even need to hear Shinki’s response, “Of course, dear, you don’t need to ask for that,” to feel the acceptance.

I cried again for the umpteenth time, but for an entirely different reason than in the past.

I wasn’t sure how long the embrace lasted. I didn’t know how many times I had been hugged and comforted since entering Makai. It still felt amazing.

Somehow, Ko and I both ended up sitting on Shinki’s lap. It was a bit of a tight squeeze, slightly awkward considering we were all still in the bath, but far too comfortable to try and move.

“How delightful,” Shinki laughed as she rubbed both of our heads at the same time, “spending time with both of my youngest daughters; truly fortunate for me.”

“Why are you even here in the first place, anyway?” Ko sounded grumpy but didn’t try to bat away the goddess’ hand.

“I felt you arrive, dear, and considering I’m usually the one that has to go find you I thought it prudent to take advantage while I could. Finding Alice was a joyful bonus!”

“Looks like I brought the heat down on you too, kid. My bad.”

“Oh, I’ve been too negligent – my own daughter must be desperately craving affection considering her despondent words.”

“Wa- No! No! Don’t you dare sm-mraagh.” The desire to escape the general area of the goddess was growing with every second Ko was trapped against Shinki’s impressive chest. I didn’t think moms generally acted that way – there was still plenty of adjustment to my new family that I needed to do.

“I’m so glad the two of you are getting along.” Shinki spoke with me nonchalantly.

“Ah, yes. We, uhm, had a rough start but I think we’re friends now.”

“Good, good! My second-youngest is behaving her self, yes? She’s setting a wonderful example for her younger sister?”

“Of course I am, so if you just let go of me- waaagrah.” Perhaps Ko acted as a type of drug, causing the goddess to behave in a terrifying manner.

“Hmm, I thought I taught my children proper manners. At least Alice is a good girl!”

“What? I didn’t even curse or any shit- bwaragah.” All of the splashing Ko caused was rather unpleasant. Every flailing arm that didn’t land on the goddess’ chest ended up sending a spray of water into my face.

“Where did I fail this poor child? How heart breaking.”

“Goddess- wagha- Shinki- bwargh- Mom, please!” The redhead fell backwards as soon as the goddess released her, landing in the center of the bath and kicking up a sizeable wave. Luminita managed to block most of the water from hitting my face, but she was none too happy with being used as a shield.

“Ow, Luminita, don’t pull my hair! I’m sorry, please- ow, let go.” By the time I had separated the doll’s hand and my hair, Ko had clambered back up onto the ledge, dubiously reclaiming her seat on the goddess’ lap. She must not have hated the hellish treatment as much as I thought.

“You have such a happy relationship with your doll, don’t you dear?”

“Yep, thank you for giving her to me.”

“Hah, no need to keep thanking me Alice.” Shinki watched me and Luminita with a raised eyebrow. “It’s quite strange though.”

“Is something wrong?”

“No dear, nothing wrong. Just, unexpected. You see, although it’s in the shape of a doll, that focus is, well, a doll.”

“That was a spectacularly eloquent example of our goddess’ spee- wait, no, I’m sorry! Not again! Whew, that was close.” I found myself agreeing with Ko’s unfinished sentiment.

Shinki sighed before she tried again. “Perhaps I should say it more blatantly? The doll isn’t supposed to move on its own.”

I held Luminita out and looked at her. She shrugged and shook her head, just as unsure as I was.

“It’s alright dear, don’t worry about it,” the goddess assuaged any worries I might have had. “You might just be projecting – things like this can happen with magic. If anything, this just further shows how talented you are!” I sat there and soaked up Shinki’s praise like a sponge, much happier with pats on the head than the intense affection Ko received.

“Anyway dears, as much as I love spending time with you two, I believe little Alice has things to do.”

It was news to me. “Huh?”

“Lessons,” Shinki said with a smile, “arranged by Mai. Such a dutiful child, that one. They just arrived at Pandemonium, so you might want to go get ready, dear.” I nodded, remembering Mai’s concerns after class had ended.

Shifting to climb out of the bath, I stopped momentarily. “Ah, uhm, t-thank you…Mom.” I gave Shinki a quick hug and a peck on the cheek before fleeing the water. I might have been blushing rather profusely, but nobody could see with my back facing the bath.

The sudden whistling that rang out when I bent over to put on my panties didn’t help my embarrassment problem at all. I managed to derive some satisfaction from Ko’s screams as I quickly dressed into the provided pajamas.

Sticking my tongue out at Ko (who promptly cursed at me and was once again rewarded for her efforts), I bid farewell to the two demons, leaving the younger one to her one-on-one time with the goddess.

I arrived at my room with some time to spare. I was finishing brushing my hair when a polite knock on my door signaled the arrival of three demons.

Yumeko was the expected guide for the visitors and left after she inquired if we needed anything. Mai looked just as she had a few hours ago, if not more haggard looking. The other visitor was someone I hadn’t seen before. He was taller than the average adult male, and much better looking. His features were angular and sharp but alluring. What was strange was the black cap he wore alongside the black trench coat, black pants, and black boots. The demons of Makai seemed to think that dressing up in a single color was the secret to success.

“Alice, is now an appropriate time for a short tutoring session?” Mai asked, all business.

“Yep! Nice to meet you mister…”

“Minamimoto. ’Sup,” the male demon greeted me, an easy going grin plastered across his face.

“Yes, well then, good luck. Behave yourself Minamimoto.” With those few words Mai left, not even saying farewell.

I harrumphed after the witch disappeared. “That was rather rude.”

“You’d be too - she’s been flying towards her limit to get this little shindig together.”

“Ah, I’m sorry, that was careless of me.”

A heavy hand fell on my head, ruffling my hair. “I don’t care, bwahaha! Let’s start iterating, yeah?”

My first tutoring session was surprisingly fun. Although eccentric, Minamimoto definitely knew math. The demon was a genius – not only did he understand crazy mathematical ideas, he could explain them too. After a few questions to figure out how much I knew, Minamimoto launched into an excited lecture about division. Considering that his exclamations referenced super advanced math that I didn’t even know how to try and understand, it was surprising that the demon could enjoy explaining such simple concepts to me. It wasn’t just a lecture either as Minamimoto included copious amounts of theoretical examples, real-word demonstrations, and word problems. The lesson lasted only an hour but the time passed quickly. I felt like I had a solid understanding of a fundamental mathematical concept. Before the strange demon left, I asked him why enjoyed math so much.

“The world's made up of numbers, and life is just one big equation. How can I not enjoy math?” Grinning at me, the demon placed his cap on top of my head. Business concluded, he strolled out of my bedroom.

“Uhm, do you want your hat?” I called out.

“It’s yours! It’s on a whole different magnitude than that garbage sitting there; a present for my rising investment. Keep your development exponential and you’ll be differentiating in no time.” Sighing, I placed the stylish black-baseball cap next to the yellow hard hat sitting on my drawer.

Looking at the worksheets Minamimoto had left me, I took a bit of time to finish a few problems on my own. Nodding in satisfaction, I closed the door, dropping my room into the darkness. Then I grabbed Luminita and crawled under my sheets. Sleep followed soon after.

---

The girl lit the incense, carefully trailing after the older woman in front of her. They stopped briefly at the fifth body of the day, the village’s shrine attendant offering basic respects to the deceased before moving on. The dead man’s remaining family, two boys, fell to their knees and wept after the girl and woman walked away. The woman was stone-faced as she went about her duties, treating each body equally but briskly.

The girl helped with the proceedings impassively. It was nothing new to her – this had been her daily life for the past week. She could complete her responsibilities without tears, without worry. The girl ignored the weeping children, the sobbing wife, and the barking dog. She ignored the silent eyes watching from draped windows, the worried faces glancing over, and the grim sentinels standing watch over the funeral.

Thirteen bodies in total were buried that day, graves shallow and given the minimum treatment to be proper. It was a necessity. Manpower was lacking in the village, most of the strong men already sleeping in the earth.

“Let’s go, Alice.” At the woman’s command, the girl hurriedly grabbed the rest of their things and left, not sparing a second glance at the devastated families sitting near the mounds of the dead.

She managed to copy the woman’s stoic expression all the way home. The two females put their supplies away as they tried to relax. The woman left to clean herself while the girl sat down.

Her tough face couldn’t last. Quietly, alone in her home, the girl broke down. Tears that had been dammed were released, the façade of strength shattered once she was away from the public eye.

Ms. Inoue wasn’t able to recognize her youngest child in her final, feverish hours.

Sora had gone trapping in the forest – his father found him hanging from a tree with his stomach ripped open.

Mr. Mizushima stumbled around the plaza, vomiting blood, before tripping into the well and falling twenty meters to the stony bottom.

Lily’s throat had tightened and closed off after a side performance, slowly choking her to death over the course of an hour.

The Yoshida twins had been playing in an abandoned house when a wooden beam had fallen, snapping one’s neck and driving a spike into the other’s brain.

Mr. Moreau’s legs had shattered while scouting for a wild youkai, the hunting party finding his dismembered corpse hours after.

Maki had simply collapsed dead in the middle of the street.

The girl was insulated at first, the initial deaths at the river all she saw. The village was quiet but peaceful as those who had survived recovered, and life went on for a few days. Then the deaths began all over again, strong men and women falling alongside the weak. The girl traveled from body to body, incident to incident, assisting the woman’s failed attempts to save the dying. The girl saw it all, from the bakers she met every day to the farmers she welcomed back in the evening. Then someone in the grieving family would die, and the girl was forced back again, and again, and again. She cried for the dead and for those left behind, for the ones whose lives ended abruptly and without reason.

She hoped that the deaths would end, that the remaining villagers would remain strong and healthy, new families forming from the broken and devastated bonds. She hoped that life would return to normal.

Her hopes were just that, hopes. Friends and family continued to fall around her, until everything collapsed.


---

I woke up with a yawn. My motions were mechanical, my body somehow knowing to drag itself to the washroom and clean up. Slightly more awake, I thought about the day ahead. Ko and I were going exploring, but not until after class had finished. That left me with a few hours of free time.

Considering my options, I decided to…

[ ] Head into the city and…
-[ ] Look for something exciting
-[ ] Search for more clothes to wear
-[ ] Visit to do
[ ] Stick around Pandemonium and…
-[ ] Explore the other rooms
-[ ] Sneak into the magical vault
-[ ] Work on my crafts
-[ ] Practice my cooking
-[ ] Read in the library
-[ ] Practice in the training room
-[ ] Examine in the armory
[ ] Find to bother
[ ]

---

Pick a bunch, pick a few, write-in, don’t. Last minute preparations for the cautious or time to goof-off for the confident!

>>9633
Fair enough; pretty dumb of me I admit. I’ll try harder in the future. Maybe.
>>No. 9639
[x] Stick around Pandemonium and…
-[x] Work on my crafts
-[x] Practice my cooking

I know the context of the Shinki/Koa skinsmanship is innocent... but i can't say my thoughts were.
>>No. 9640
[x] Stick around Pandemonium and…
-[x] Work on my crafts
-[x] Practice my cooking

>>9639
You're not the only one.
>>No. 9646
File 134032397275.jpg - (665.30KB, 900x1222, get-your-minds-out-of-the-gutter.jpg) [iqdb]
9646
Shinki and Ko watched the young girl exit the bath in haste. After the goddess punished the snarky redhead for her attitude, the two demons relaxed, Shinki idly stroking Ko’s back. “So Ko, you’ve been behaving yourself around Alice, yes?”

“Didn’t we already go over this? Of course I have. What do you take me for?” The cute little devil flicked her head to the side, annoyed at the goddess’ mistrust.

“Mmm, I’m sorry, dear. I know you’re as responsible and talented, if not more so, than any of the other demons here.” Ko grinned at the goddess’ admission. Affirming aloud what everybody knew in their hearts was always sweet.

“Are you really sorry? Somehow, I don’t believe you.” The girl’s grin disappeared when her eyes narrowed, filled with justified suspicion.

The goddess looked stricken, horrified that the intelligent little devil wouldn’t trust her. “I didn’t think you were so distrustful. What can I do to make you believe me?”

A smirk graced Ko’s lips. “Well, I can think of a few things that only the hands of a goddess could do.”

Shinki looked puzzled as she tapped a finger against her cheek. “Really now? Why, I do happen to be a goddess. Perhaps I can help with your needs?”

“Ah!” The little devil screamed in surprise when strong arms wrapped around her chest. The little devil was dragged out of the bath as Shinki moved to sit on the dry tiled floor, feet resting on the bath’s sitting ledge. The goddess held the beautiful redhead lovingly, the little devil’s back pressed firmed against Shinki’s voluptuous chest.

“So Ko, maybe I can help you clean up?” The silver-haired cougar whispered huskily, hot breath curling tantalizingly around the redhead’s ear.

A light blush formed on the pure and innocent girl’s cheeks. “W-wow, I d-didn’t t-think y-you’d a-actually…”

“Shhh, dear. Let me take care of you, alright?” Ko could only nod as smooth hands glided across her body, dancing fingers tracing light circles on her skin. The girl moaned as the tiny sensations overwhelmed her perceptions, her entire body shivering in delight. Those skillful and experienced hands slid downwards, brushing against-

“No! No, no, no! Never ever! Ko, you liar!”

“Hey, I was reading that!”

“No you weren’t! You weren’t reading what I wrote at all! That never happened!”

“Oh, and how do you know that, Alice? Hm?”

“I-I-It’s im-im-impos…ss… Ah, no! Never! It’s imposs- ugh.”

“Unpleasant mental images?”

“Shut-up! It never happened!”

“Well doll girl, unless you have proof, I wouldn’t be too sure of your-”

“No!”

“Ow! Damn it, you’re supposed to be too embarrassed to sic your fucking army on me- Yeouch! Can’t you walk away for more, damn it, more than a minute?”

“No!”

“Geez, I see your vocabulary is expansive- geh- today. Would you stop already?”

“…”

“Ugh, finally. For a supposedly mature and responsible woman, you’re only ever abusive to me now. You know, it makes a girl wish for the good ‘ol days; you were so nice and cute back then.”

“You only show up to intrude on my plays, mess up more stories, or prank me these days.”

“Come now, that isn’t true; it’s only most of the time, and only while you’re working. Still, I guess I should diversify a bit more. Would breaking into your house be a better option?”

“No.”

“Great, it’s a date. Anyway, you know the goddess is more than a thousand years old, right?”

“So?”

“I’m just saying, she’s had a whole lot of time to-”

“Go away!”

“Holy shit, that’s the exploding dol-”

“…Ugh. She was lying. That never happened. She was lying. That never happened. Breathe in. Breathe out. Okay. I think I can- ew, ew…Sorry children, I think I can- just don’t think about it Alice, come on- continue now. Let’s see...”

---

Filthy perverts, tsk.

So, yeah. I’ll continue the plot even if there are only two votes, but for now I’ll give others a bit more time to weigh in if they want.
>>No. 9647
>>9646
You forgot Keiichi's law: "All men are perverts". Alice is going to be lucky if she doesn't end up with some sort of complex.
>>No. 9649
[x] Stick around Pandemonium and…
-[x] Work on my crafts
-[x] Practice my cooking
>>No. 9650
[x] Stick around Pandemonium and…
-[x] Work on my crafts
-[x] Practice my cooking

Alice having a play about her past?
>>No. 9652
[x] Stick around Pandemonium and…
-[x] Read in the library (let luminita pick!)

Wow, just catching up and... Good thing I got an appointment with the dentist today.
>>No. 9656
File 13405700561.jpg - (362.53KB, 700x700, worst-day-ever.jpg) [iqdb]
9656
I decided that I had neglected my practice long enough. Even when I spent the day helping out around the village with all sorts of chores, momma always found time for me to practice ‘womanly duties,’ as many of the villagers called them. If my parents ever heard somebody say that they would laugh away once we got home. As far as they were concerned, dividing tasks by gender was silly. Still, they thought it was important I know how to mend my own clothes and such, so I ended up learning anyway.

First, however, I decided to take care of the most important meal of the day. Meandering through the halls, I found myself staring down an empty kitchen.

“Alright, this doesn’t look so hard. We can do this, right Luminita?” The doll nodded with enthusiasm, pumping her arms in the air. Confidence boosted, I decided a basic outsider breakfast was simple enough. How hard can it be to make an omelet?

The first misstep was causing the first egg to explode, the shards of shell sprinkling the bottom of the mixing bowl. Then I singed my finger on the magical fire that the stovetop unleashed. After I cleaned up the water from the faucet that had splashed everywhere, I was finally prepared to start cooking. It was never this tough when I was helping daddy!

Five minutes later, I was staring at a smoldering pan, a blackened mess stuck to the bottom. “Huh. Do you know how I turn the heat down?” My sous-chef gave me a bemused shrug when I picked her up. “Maybe if I barely touch the rune…”

It took two more tries, but I eventually figured out how to effectively use the magical stovetop. After seven eggs, three cuts of pork, and four slices of bread, I managed to sit down to my wonderful breakfast. A delicious pork omelet awaited me on a plate, two slices of buttered toast sitting off to the side right next to a glass of milk.

Digging into my meal, I was relieved that it tasted okay. Not great, but not terrible either. The little bit of burnt egg gave it a unique taste, off-setting the subtle blandness pervading the rest of the dish. The slightly cold and tough pork in the center gave the omelet an interesting texture. The toast was a bit soggy from all the butter I had smeared over it but didn’t taste horrible.

At least the milk was cool and refreshing.

Slightly disappointed, I cleaned up the mess I had made. Luckily, washing dishes and pans was more of my expertise. It was one of the tasks I could do to help daddy save time.

With things back in a somewhat presentable state I headed off, skipping along the halls with Luminita, intent on practicing me sewing. I didn’t think there were any supplies in my room, but my mental map had a room labeled ‘Arts and Crafts.’ I figured that it was the best place to start looking for materials.

As I was walking, Luminita suddenly squirmed out of my arms and pulled me to the side. Floating in midair with my hand holding hers, Luminita flew up towards a door and banged on it. I opened the door and she flew in, dragging me inside the library. “What are we doing here, Luminita?”

The doll didn’t answer me, instead quickly scanning the walls of books. I followed along without resistance, flying up and down at the urgings of the doll. I wondered what exactly was happening when instances like this occurred. I knew for a fact Luminita didn’t move if I wasn’t touching her, yet when I did she seemed to fly and move around all on her own. I didn’t really understand what the goddess meant when she said I was ‘projecting,’ but it was assumable that I was one the one causing Luminita to move. How and why I wasn’t sure, but I appreciated the extra life it lent to my doll either way. The non-magical dolls I had back in the village definitely weren’t as helpful as Luminita was.

Eventually the doll stopped and backtracked a few shelves over. I refocused my gaze and checked out the various titles of the books Luminita was hovering over. “Wait a second.”

Luminita raced over and pulled a book off the shelf as soon as I had read the title. I panicked and reached over with my free hand to grab the book before it fell to the floor. “This isn’t funny!” I was tempted to throw the doll across the room but managed to curb the impulse. In my hands I held a copy of An Idiot’s Guide to Cooking; How Not to Set the Kitchen on Fire. My pride wanted to shove the book back onto the shelf but my rational side held onto it instead. “Is this all you wanted?”

The doll saluted me.

“Fine. I guess I should thank you.” As much as it felt like a wicked bout of teasing, the doll had a point. If I ever wanted to improve I would have to start learning from somewhere. “Here, hold this.” I wrapped my arms around the doll, freeing Luminita’s hands to carry my new reference book.

Mood dampened, I made my way out of the library and over to the arts and crafts room. Stepping inside, my expectations of a ridiculously luxurious room were met. The goddess pulled no punches when she furnished her castle. The room was two floors high and stuffed to the brim with various materials. Rolls of fabrics and cloths were suspended from the ceiling and sitting on racks. Sheets of wood, metal, leather, and other materials were stretched out along the walls and sitting on tables. Other than raw materials, there were plenty of finished goods as well. Glass eyes, metal bolts, spikes, screws, and plenty of other bits were stored in bins on the ground, tucked neatly under the various racks and shelves throughout the room. There were glues, threads, tapes, and plenty of other supplements scattered about as well. At the very front of the room next to the door was a vast array of tools. Sewing machines, crochet needles, power saws, ice picks, and everything else one might need were neatly and compactly on display, some tools freestanding while others hung from all sorts of hooks and mounts or laid across tables and shelves.

The room was organized chaos, almost every bit of space occupied by something, yet everything accessible from the three-dimensional pathway. Anybody that couldn’t fly with precision would find it difficult to reach anything past the door.

“Ah, this is so fluffy!” I had dived right in, sampling everything the room had to offer. From white furs to sleek black satin, the room seemed to have everything. Even if it didn’t, I assumed the other rooms labeled ‘Arts and Crafts’ throughout Pandemonium contained anything else I could imagine.

I’m not sure how much time I wasted just feeling all the different materials, but I eventually returned to the purpose of my visit. Collecting some simple linen, I cleared enough space off of one table for me to sit at. The heap of materials surrounding me crowded my workspace, but I could put my set of needles and thread down without losing them.

I started simply, working on all the different stitches I knew. Momma was never a fan of the fancy ones since she usually just mended clothes, but I had taken an interest in embroidery. There was a rhythm in creating artsy stitches that I enjoyed. It helped that the end results were cute too.

Once I was confident my skills hadn’t decayed I started on something more difficult. I had never done much in the way of sewing anything wearable – it took a lot of planning and technical skill I just didn’t have. Still, I liked to imagine that I could make gallant ballroom dresses, or at least a little doll hat.

Carefully measuring out dimensions, I cut into the fabric I brought with me. I worked diligently, sewing together scraps of cloth before realizing it wouldn’t work as I intended. The scissors came out and I snipped through my work, redoing parts over and over again. Outer layer, inner layer, lining, brim – each piece of my work was slowly stitched in, until I arrived at an adequate finished product.

Carefully fitting the hat onto Luminita’s head, I cheered when it fit perfectly. The doll sported a new beret, white and grey linen covered in multi-colored flowers. The hat didn’t exactly match the rest of Luminita’s futuristic outsider clothes but the clash didn’t make me less proud of my work.

Amateurish and poorly constructed, I still had a long ways to go to create anything similar to the majestic kimonos that the professionals could make. After I finished cleaning up I checked the time. With a comfortable twenty minutes or so, I had plenty of time to leisurely fly over to the school.

I wondered if I should have said goodbye to Shinki or Yumeko before leaving, but I had no idea where the two were. Considering I couldn’t tell if they were inside Pandemonium without searching for them, I decided to head out.

“So what do you think Luminita? Do you like it?” I started up conversation as I glided over the crystal lake. The doll tipped her new hat, the fixed smile on her face seemingly accurate. When she pinched the rest of her outfit I giggled. “I’ll make something matching for you later, okay? I’d need some more time to plan it out. Oh, I know what I can do.” In an effort to have my doll somewhat matching until I could finish an outfit, I concentrated on the palm of my hand. Slowly, a cute floral hairclip shimmered into existence. It looked like vines wrapping around a red rose, sparkling in the ambient lighting.

I took out Luminita’s old hair clip and tried to attach my new one. Wait, why won’t it- whoops. It took a few seconds, but I realized that I had been so focused on the appearance that the clip wasn’t functional. It was just one piece of metal. With a mental flick the clip disappeared in an instant. With my mistake erased I started over, making sure the clip could actually be used. “There you go.”

Will this disappear? I wondered how far my magical creations could go. Even though the goddess said using magic to create objects was taxing, I seemed to accomplish it without much difficulty. What was different about what I made compared to the real things? It was something else for me to think about. For now, the longevity of what I created would be tested with the small floral hairclip.

I spent the rest of the flight thinking how I would design an outfit for Luminita. Even though it would be less time intensive to simply create an outsider-like hat, I had no idea how to go about it. Creating a simple floral dress or something would be simpler, but I had never created a full outfit before. I decided to visit the library and find a book on creating decent looking clothes before I started on the rest of Luminita’s new outfit.

My relaxed flight ended when I landed in front of the school building several minutes early, gracefully joining the stream of demons. I followed the mob all the way to the door, where I decided to wait off to the side for my redheaded friend. As I stood around, I recognized some of the demons entering the building and greeted them politely. Practically every demon entering the building seemed to know me, smiling and waving as they walked by.

The little gem clock’s beeping had stopped and the last of the demons had entered the building, but Ko still had not shown. Slightly miffed, I turned to enter the school building when there was only a minute left.

A high-pitched squeal caused me to turn back around. I was just in time to see the redhead crumple into an undignified heap on the ground.

“Ugh, fuck me.” The demon slowly wobbled to her feet, brushing the dirt off of her clothes.

“Ko! Are you okay?” I rushed over to the girl and glanced over her. She looked like a mess. Her hair was wildly trying to escape from her head in every direction, the black vest she was wearing unbuttoned and barely hanging onto her shoulders. Her white undershirt looked burnt, and her black skirt had a cut running straight down the side, exposing her thigh to the open air. There were a dozen other small cuts and soot marks littering her person as well.

“No, I’m not bloody okay!” I flinched at the girl’s scream, surprised by the venom in her voice. The redhead sighed and rubbed her eyes. “Sorry Alice, didn’t mean to yell. I’ve been having a pretty shitty day, though.”

“Ah, it’s not a problem.” She looked terrible, I could understand that. “Are you really hurt?”

“Nah, it looks worse than it is.” We walked into the school side by side. Luminita reached over to rub Ko’s arm, causing the demon to laugh and pat the doll on the head.

“Did you walk into a fire?”

“Pfh, basically. I know I’m not very lucky to begin with, but today’s been absurd. Hell, not even today – parts of yesterday too. Other than that whole fiasco with the goddess, I practically flew into a building on the way home. I swear it rose out of nowhere!”

“Was spending time with Shinki that bad?”

“Eh? Of course! What’s that thing the outside has…law suits? I could sue that woman for child abuse!” As much as she protested, I still believed that the demon didn’t truly feel that way. “Still, you’re right. That wasn’t so bad, but when I woke up today it was because I rolled of my own damn bed.”

“Aw, that’s cute! You move around in your sleep, just like a kid.”

“Shaddup.” A brief scuffle later and Ko continued. “So then I go to get some breakfast out, no big deal, but a fucking fryer explodes as I’m passing by. It didn’t hurt much, but my clothes were signed. I mean, seriously? The asshole said he was using some new-fangled magic flash fryer, but that thing couldn’t have been legal…oh who am I kidding, we don’t have any laws around here.”

“If that burned your shirt, then why didn’t you go change?”

“Zip it, doll girl. I was pissed and had things to do, okay? Right, so I finally got some breakfast, which scalded my mouth, and then tried to get my errands done; just some prep work and stuff. Of course, the first oxygen tank I look at is a fucking cheap piece of shit which also explodes on me – I slugged the bastard that tried to sell it before going to get a more reliable one. Then a pair of sword-fighting idiots goes and throws their swords, conveniently slicing into my good clothes and taking off some of my hair. After I finally get all this shit and more together it turns out my damn clock is beeping, so I haul ass to get over here but fly into another fucking building. Really, these crappy stone works are terrorists, hell-bent on ruining my day.”

“Uh…”

“And now we’re late because I’ve been standing here ranting at you for no good reason so hurry up and pick a room! Geez, I’m sorry! So. Damn. Frustrated!” The demon shouted and kicked the wall, instantly screaming in pain.

I really was speechless. Ko’s epic, profanity filled rants were more heated and passionate than anything else I had ever heard. Even the rowdiest of the drunken farmers back in the village weren’t as crass as her.

Returning to the matter at hand, I quickly scanned the list of teachers. Although the list had been neatly created, a red line had been drawn through one of the room assignments. Thinking quickly, I decided to head over to…

[ ] Room 1, with Aselia teaching Calligraphy
[ ] Room 2, with Lain teaching Modern Systems
[ ] Room 3, with Henrietta teaching Modern Weaponry
[ ] Room 4, with Charlotte teaching Baking
[ ] ̶R̶o̶o̶m̶ ̶5̶,̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ ̶M̶a̶i̶ ̶t̶e̶a̶c̶h̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶H̶i̶s̶t̶o̶r̶y̶
[ ] Room 6, with Shauna teaching Ballroom Dance
[ ] Room 7, with Iris teaching Metallurgy
[ ] Room 8, with Cossette teaching First Aid
[ ] Room 9, with Fia teaching Meditation
[ ] Room 10, with Aht teaching Trap Making

---

I suppose I should note that although these are everyday classes, I obviously won’t be covering all of them. They’re a privileged time to get info dumped about the setting, have a few subtle hints snuck in, or get Alice to pick up some fancy new tricks that may or may not become important based on later decisions.
>>No. 9657
[x] Room 3, with Henrietta teaching Modern Weaponry
>>No. 9658
[x] Room 8, with Cossette teaching First Aid

Koa could use it.
>>No. 9659
[x] Room 8, with Cossette teaching First Aid

>>9658
And even without Koa, Alice is more fragile than any of the demons here, it wouldn't hurt to know how to tend to any injuries we receive.
>>No. 9660
Whoops, forgot to answer questions (whether they were directed at me or not).

>>9647
Just saying, I'm pretty sure most people don't like thinking about their parents...doing things.

>>9650
Well, someone has to be narrating in the first-person as opposed to the second-person point of view.
>>No. 9662
File 134077156973.jpg - (689.30KB, 907x1268, how-practical.jpg) [iqdb]
9662
I decided to head over to room eight, Ko fuming as she followed me. As I put my hand on the door I paused, thinking the situation over for a moment. Referencing past experiences, I firmly grabbed Ko’s arm and opened the door.

“So even if we may not-” The teacher’s speech stopped once the door opened. Working quickly, I yanked Ko’s arm and sent her stumbling into the room ahead of me.

“Hey, hey, no need to shove!”

“Oh, a few latecomers? Please come in, sit!” With the entire room of demons staring at us, Ko and I made our way to the open seats conveniently located at the front of the room.

I sighed as I took my seat. This teacher, Cosette, appeared to be of the kind variety. Without any harsh admonishment or physical punishment, my entry precautions proved to be unnecessary.

“Welcome to my class. My name is Cosette and I’ll be covering the basics of first aid. Pay attention, alright?” The demon was a blonde woman, her impressive figure covered by a blue, military-esque uniform. “So as I was saying, although we demons might not all have the same anatomy, there are still basics that apply to all of us.”

What followed was a very on-point explanation of different injuries and their relevant treatments. Cosette explained how to deal with surface wounds, internal bleeding, and even organ failure. The first aid she described was rather comprehensive and surprisingly complex, but boiled down to stabilizing the injured enough for a more trained person to take over.

“Why can’t you just heal them with magic?” Cosette had finished her lesson early and split the class into smaller groups, handing out different reference papers and supplies for everybody to look over. Being the late-arrivals, Ko and I were in prime position to receive the majority of the teacher’s attention.

“It’s a lovely idea Alice, but even magic can only do so much in a pinch. It just wouldn’t be safe to throw magic at an injured friend and expect it to work out.” I was asking Cosette plenty of questions, carefully remembering each of her answers.

“So if Ko lost an arm then I can’t just regrow it?”

“Hey, I don’t approve of this example.”

“It is possible, but you might be missing plenty of other critical details in the process if you’re not exactly sure of what you’re doing. Even if you manage to regrow her arm, would it be functional? Would the nerves connect to the rest of the body or would it just be a fleshy imitation? Or maybe you attach the arm but don’t fix the bleeding from the original cut and it becomes an internal injury? It’s best if you can stabilize your patient first, Alice, before trying anything fancy. If you study up a whole lot, it might become an option.”

“I can only fix the problem if I understand it? That makes sense, but what if I don’t know what’s wrong?”

“Just try your best Alice. In the end, that’s the greatest thing you can do for anybody. In a more specific sense there are plenty of techniques, magical and non-magical, that we can use to diagnose issues.”

“Like Serra’s staff or the goddess’ wand?”

“Oh you’ve met Serra? How wonderful, did you like her? She’s definitely my superior when it comes to magic but I think I have a stronger grasp of the outside’s science.”

“Uh-huh, she was really nice. She said we would go shopping the next time we met.”

“Splendid, maybe I can come along too?” Cosette shook her head rapidly. “But let’s see, back to your question. I’m not sure what wand you’re talking about but yes, Serra’s staff is versatile. It’s a special focus that is enchanted with analysis and barrier magic. Just like how the outside uses x-rays or blood tests to identify problems, Serra uses different spells to get at the same information.”

“Aren’t all the material and scientific methods inferior to magic, then?” Ko didn’t have nearly as many questions as me, but she was paying close attention as usual, picking apart the statements of our teacher.

“Not exactly. It really depends on perspective. While we can ‘cheat’ on certain aspects with magic, it usually won’t matter much. Repairing a spinal chord, for instance, is as tough for the outside as it is for us. It just so happens that we can create a whole new body while they can’t – I think that’s mostly a difference in time spent, though. Give the outside’s science another few hundred years and they’ll be on par with what we can do now.”

The shuffling of seats broke up our conversation. With class ending, I got up and followed the crowd out. Ko lagged behind me before pushing her way through the crowd and catching up to where I was. She had a blue messenger bag slung over her shoulder. When I asked her about it she grinned. “Cosette had some supplies I could have. All those first aid materials we saw in class, mostly, but there are a few fancy gifts too.”

We stopped outside the school house, finding a clear alcove away from all the outgoing and incoming demons. Ko rummaged around in the bag before pulling out what looked like a blue light bulb. “Hold still, Alice.”

The redhead pointed the device at me and chanted a few words. A light began to glow from the device, some sort of spell sweeping over my body. My skin tingled as the magic swept back and forth.

“What was that?”

“Shh, I’m listening.” Ko hushed me with a wave of her hand. The demon was holding the magical device to her ear. After another few seconds Ko smiled and tossed the light bulb-like object up and down in one hand. “This is pretty cool, Alice. It’s basically a scanner tuned to a human’s anatomy.”

“A scanner? What did it tell you?”

“All sorts of useful stuff about what kind of condition you’re in. I was disappointed though; your three sizes aren’t very interesting.”

“What? Why does that even matter?”

“Don’t worry kid, you’ll understand when you get older.” I glanced down at Luminita but the doll didn’t have a clue. “So, before we head out I have a few things to-”

A pale white hand touched Ko’s cheek. The redhead whirled around, knocking away the offending appendage as she faced the one who snuck up on her.

“Oh fuck, not this crazy bitch.” Ko’s words weren’t very comforting, nor was her stance. My friend has instantly adopted a defensive posture, standing in front of me with her arms cautiously held at her sides.

Glancing over Ko’s shoulder, I saw a white angel. Pale, snow-like skin and long, shimmering silver hair were what instantly drew my eye. Next I saw the red eyes, then the sleek black dress. The final feature of the woman, a wicked looking smile, set me on edge.

“Hello, little one~” The pale demon purred her words seductively.

“Let’s go Alice. Quickly, now.” Ko tried to usher me away from the area but a wall of wires stopped our movement. Glistening metal wires shot out from the demon’s hands, forming a cocoon around the three of us. Even though we were basically in the middle of a street, there was no room for escape.

“Please don’t leave me alone so soon. Especially when I haven’t even introduced myself to the cute little one~”

The demon slinked forward but stopped when Ko growled at her. “Tell me what you need and go away.”

“Pooh, you’re no fun~” The malicious aura emanating from the woman didn’t disappear, even though she looked less frightening when she was pouting and twiddling her thumbs.

A type of Wild West stand-off took place, the two demons staring each other down. Having adapted to the initial surprise, I decided to intervene. “Nice to meet you Miss, my name is Alice Margatroid.”

“Oh Alice, how polite you are. Call me Iris,” the demon answered. Her response was ridiculously sweet between the tone of her voice and her subdued yet cat-like smile. I had no idea what to make of the demon.

“Great, you know her name now. Is that all?” Ko pushed as much as she could. Her head wings were as flattened as much as possible and her fists were tightly clenched.

“Of course not silly! Why, I’m here to pick you two up~”

“Is that some sort of sadistic innuendo? ‘Cause we’re not going with you.”

“But weren’t you two heading out past the forest?”

“Yeah, so?”

“Won’t it be lovely, trekking out into the wilderness together?”

“No, it would actually be worst than sitting in a tub full of spiders. Who said anything about you coming with us?”

“Did I not just say so? I’m so excited to get to know you Alice~”

The sudden shift in attention caught me off guard. “That’s…very kind of you?”

“Back off you psycho.” Ko cut right back in. “The last thing we want is for some sadist murderer to follow us around.”

“Such name calling tugs at my heart. What ever gave you that impression of me? All I wish for is a peaceful world.” Iris clasped her hands together as if in prayer.

“Yeah, sure. Next time you run across something that wants to eat you, how about you don’t flay it alive?” Wait, what? The small revelation about the demon before us made me even more nervous.

“I don’t think you should care about one insignificant incident now…”

“Frankly? I don’t care what you think. Drop the wires and let us go.”

“And what would you do if I said no? Can you stop me little one~?” The silver haired demon licked her lips, red eyes bright with excitement.

“Fuck…” Putting my hand on Ko’s back, I could feel the girl quivering slightly. I wasn’t sure what else Ko knew of Iris and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to know.

The pale demon’s laugh sounded like tinkling bells. “Relax. Don’t look so much like forlorn sheep.” Iris’ declaration was followed by the withdrawal of the wiry cage, the metal threads whipping about before retracting and disappearing into the demon’s dress. ”Some dear friends are dreadfully concerned for you two and would love nothing more than to chaperone your little exploration. Unfortunately, they seem to be indisposed and sent me in their stead~”

“Who was it?” I asked, curious as to who was worried about Ko and I.

“A little witch with far too much energy; it seems she fell a tad ill.”

It was easy to guess who Iris was talking about. “Is Yuki okay?”

The demon giggled again, somehow pure sounding despite the malicious aura she emitted. “Just fine, just fine; a little cold won’t kill her, I’m sure~” The demon’s words were less reassuring than they should have been.

“So you’re actually letting us go?” Ko’s brow was furrowed as she asked. The redhead was more focused on the situation at hand.

“Should I not? If you love them, set them free~”

My redheaded friend didn’t need a second prompting. “Let’s go Alice,” she whispered, grabbing my arm and taking off in an instant. Ko flew backwards for quite a while, her eyes trained on the demon we left behind. Checking over my shoulder, I saw Iris cheerfully waving goodbye.

Ko calmed down once we lost sight of the demon, her good cheer returning quickly. “Alright! We need to stop off over there before heading out, Alice.” I followed the demon’s lead, landing on the roof of a nondescript building. The redhead jumped into an opened window, returning with a second bag slung over her shoulder. “It’s the supplies I picked up this morning. Let’s go!”

I couldn’t help but worry as we flew towards the forest. It’s terrible being sick. “Hey Ko,” I spoke up, “do you think Iris was telling the truth? About Yuki being okay?”

“Yeah. That demented woman is pretty freaky, but I don’t think she lies. If Yuki really is sick, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mai was taking care of her. I swear those two are the most unrepentant yet oblivious lesbians I know.”

“If you say so.” The rest of our flight went smoothly. Before long, we were floating at the edge of the forest.

“Above or through Alice?” Ko asked me.

I was confused for a moment before I realized she was talking about the forest. Since our destination lay on the other side, we could always just go over the top like I had with Yuki when I first arrived in Makai. Alternatively, we could easily make our way through the forest’s winding pathways.

I thought that we should…

[ ] Go above the forest; I didn’t want to run into any more surprisingly large monsters.
[ ] Trek through the forest…
-[ ] Quickly. Freakishly large spiders were uncommon; it would be fine.
-[ ] Cautiously. There was no reason to be careless.
[ ]

---

What a useless vote, right? I mean, it’s not like there’s any danger or anything around these parts. Nope, completely safe here.
>>No. 9663
Iris as in the girl from that creepy flash game about her being a bunny or something?

Also
>basic first aid
>how to fix orgasm failure
Whatever, I'm just nitpicking, but that's kinda a mistake you shouldnt make.

[x] Go above the forest; I didn’t want to run into any more surprisingly large monsters.
>>No. 9665
>>9663
That's a pretty big flop, I agree. When I was drafting I was thinking about cardiac arrest or some sort of lung failure, but I should have just said CPR or something. Whoops, that's what I get for proofing at midnight.

And, considering I don't know what game you're speaking of, nope! Bzzt, wrong reference.
>>No. 9666
[x] Go above the forest; I didn’t want to run into any more surprisingly large monsters.
We really should learn some basic offensive spells after this.
>>No. 9668
[x] Go above the forest; I didn’t want to run into any more surprisingly large monsters.

I wonder when we'll meet Elis.
>>No. 9669
>>9665
Considering Makai is the kind of place where everyone being turned into cats is only given a passing mention, and there is magic that kills your soul, perhaps treating organ failure is considered basic here.
>>No. 9675
File 134108307447.jpg - (313.54KB, 714x665, no-pain-no-gain.jpg) [iqdb]
9675
I thought that we should fly over the forest. There was no point in wasting time following the winding paths through the crystal trees. Besides, meeting more giant-sized monsters was not on my to-do list.

“Sure, that’s fine,” Ko agreed, so we took off. We had to rise several more meters into the air but we were soon coasting over the tree line. Some of the crystal trees were tall enough that they stretched into the darkness, likely touching the unseen ceiling of Makai. Fortunately, there was enough room to weave between them.

“Is this going to be dangerous, Ko?” The question had been on my mind since yesterday. Every demon we told our plans to had questioned us. Ko was adamant that we would be okay, but the uncertainty was gnawing at me.

“What, going out to see that tower? Nah, it’ll be fine.”

“Are you sure? Everybody else was worried.”

“Yeah, yeah, we’re good. All those old guys are concerned about nothing.”

“So there’s nothing that can hurt us out there?”

“Eh, I never said that. The further out from the city you go, the more crazy things get. I don’t like venturing too far ‘cause the going gets really tough. I made it all the way out to this big wall of fire once, but I was practically in pieces. Still, things are safe enough right around the forest. Maybe there are a few vicious animals or some rough terrain; nothing major.” Ko spoke of lethal threats like she was reading a grocery list.

“So it is dangerous?”

“I don’t think so. I can handle all of the stuff around here, even if I have to protect you. Not that you can’t handle yourself – I think those shields of yours would be more than enough to stop a wolf or two.” I wondered whether Ko’s assessment was accurate. My shields hadn’t been tested against a serious but not overwhelming attack.

“What if it’s a giant wolf?”

“Make a bigger shield.”

“Ko, this isn’t funny!”

“I’m not trying to be funny. That’s some grade-A advice right there.”

The girl’s flippant responses caused me to fret more. “I’m not even sure if my shields can stop something dangerous. Making them bigger might be impossible!”

“They’re already larger than you, what’s a meter wider? That’s beside the point, anyway. I can keep you safe no problem.” The redhead turned backwards for a moment and flexed her muscles. It wasn’t the smartest move considering she nearly collided with a tree.

“What if it’s a spider?”

Her shouted response was instantaneous. “I’ll crush it!”

“You won’t stand around and babble?”

“No way! You just haven’t seen me at my best, that’s all.”

“So far I’ve seen you caught by my flood, Yuki’s spell, a giant spider, the goddess’ embrace, Iris’ wires – am I missing something?” I counted off the incidents finger by finger.

“I also collided with Erk’s spel- those aren’t important! I wasn’t prepared for a fight in any of those cases. They caught with my pants down, basically. I’m hyper-attentive right now. A swallow on caffeine couldn’t juke me.”

“Uh-huh…” Skepticism was oozing from my voice.

“Bah, be that way then. I guess a little worry will keep you focused, but I have everything planned out.”

“Is that why you have an entire bag of stuff? What’d you get anyway?” Ko’s black messenger bag was the same size as the blue one she received from Cosette, each bag hanging off a different shoulder.

“In here? Just some food, a few medicines, anti-venoms, a mask, some holy water, and a few other basics.”

“Holy water is a basic supply? Is it even a real thing? Are demons allowed to touch it?”

“What are you thinking of, some sort of Christian thing? Plenty of religions use a type of ‘holy water’ – it just so happens we have a goddess of our own, you know? Since everything around us has been touched by the goddess, splashing some goddess-blessed water around can work wonders. Here, catch.”

The redhead threw a small vial over her shoulder. It was barely larger than my thumb; I could have easily crushed the container in my hand if I wanted to. “Hey, be careful! It’s tough to catch things while flying around.”

“Pfh, stop whining. You caught that easily enough.”

“That’s not the point. What if I had drop-” A sudden coughing fit cut-off my retort.

“What the- Oh, damn it!” Ko was next to me in an instant. She slung an arm around my shoulder and slowed us down, quickly dropping in elevation. “Alright Alice, can you put this on with all that wheezing?”

I grabbed the white mask Ko offered me, pulling the strap over my head to secure the contraption in place. It looked like a surgical mask with a single string attached. “Yeah, just like that. Now breath in slowly and then out again. There we go. Keep it steady. Good, good.”

The demon kept up with her reassurances as we descended. Ko looked like the incarnation of calm through my panic-stricken eyes.

We were standing on Makai’s red dirt once more when Ko said something different. “Here, you should be safe now. Hold still for a moment. Okay, keep breathing through that mask until you feel better.”

I took Ko’s orders to heart and tried to steady my breathing. Over the span of a few minutes, my coughs slowly eased in intensity and frequency until they stopped completely. I ripped the mask of once my breathing felt normal. “Fwah- What was that Ko?”

“Bit of miasma. With all the crazy amounts of magic bottled up in Makai, we get some strange weather patterns; clouds of toxic gas mix in with currents of magical energy and sometimes a few evil spirits. We ran into one of those pockets a few seconds ago. It takes a bit for a demon’s system to notice, but a human like you is more sensitive.” The girl still spoke nonchalantly, as if she were explaining how to bake a cake.

“So I could die just by flying around?” It was ridiculous to think such dangers were out there.

“It’s not likely, kid. A bit of nausea or some breathing problems is the worst from that level of exposure, as you’ve seen.”

“But I might’ve died if I stayed up there longer?”

“Relax Alice, I’ve got you covered. Most of the bad miasma is further out and farther up than where we were. I checked you with the scanner too; a few seconds wasn’t enough exposure time for any long-last effects. It looks like your body was just noticing the poisons by the time we started to descend.”

What is wrong with her? My mind raged. Death isn’t pleasant. It isn’t something to take lightly. Organs decaying and putrefying, maggots devouring flesh from the insi-I shook my head free of the memories. “How can you sound so calm? I could’ve died!”

“You didn’t! What’s the problem?” The redhead shouted right back at me. “I fucked up, okay? The detection charm I used wasn’t sensitive enough, and I almost didn’t notice your wimpy ass coughs. I could have screwed up so bad I would have lost you forever!” Ko’s voice quavered as she yelled. “You think I want you to disappear?”

The two of us stood in silence, fuming. How was I supposed to feel? Touched? Enraged? Horrified? Relieved? I didn’t know how to react, so I didn’t.

The tension between the two of us was painful. We couldn’t look at each other. To gain more time to reflect, I ended up asking a hollow question to try and push aside the issue. “What’s the mask do? I can feel the magic in it.”

“That mask can filter out the toxins in the air. I got it after my stored oxygen idea exploded.” The first from Ko’s voice disappeared. She had slipped back into a calmer and more neutral tone.

“So…you got this for me?”

“Well yeah, along with most this stuff.” Ko sluggishly lifted her black messenger bag in emphasis.

“I see.”

I diverted my eyes and glanced around the area. We had landed some distance away from the edge of the forest, perhaps a fourth of the way to the tower on the hill. The other major features nearby that caught my eye were the farmhouse-like structure and the blood red river winding around the hills; I hoped that it was regular water tinted by the color of the dirt. There were also plenty of different crystal formations and plant-like life that I could see growing all around us along with the occasional animal quickly popping out to peek at us.

“Anyway, there’s our destination,” Ko said as she began to walk towards the tower.

We had stood around long enough for me to organize my thoughts. I…

[ ] Demanded that Ko stop because…
-[ ] I couldn’t trust her enough.
-[ ] The trip was looking far too dangerous.
[ ] Followed Ko…
-[ ] Like a duckling. Anywhere away from her was life-threatening.
-[ ] At my own pace. She’d notice if something was wrong, so I could go look at everything!
[ ]

---

Crazy weather ruining my update; I wonder if the bottom of the ocean would have more stable power? Geothermal energy seems pretty cool.

>>9668
Me too.
>>No. 9676
[x] Followed Ko…
-[x] Like a duckling. Anywhere away from her was life-threatening.

I don't think Koa did that on purpose; she's just not used to watching out for a mere human.
>>No. 9677
[x] Followed Ko…
-[x] Like a duckling. Anywhere away from her was life-threatening.

Yeah, let's try and avoid a shallow grave.
>>No. 9679
[x] Followed Ko…
-[x] Like a duckling. Anywhere away from her was life-threatening.


Can a demon even die permanently in the first place? Maybe Koa was just not used to the thought of a permanent death?
>>No. 9683
>>9676
Or maybe she's out to add another head to her collection as discreetly as possible?

>>9677
Yeah, shallow graves suck; at least six feet under, people!

>>9679
I'm taking this opportunity to point out I love speculation from my readers. Further, I'm willing to answer any question and comment on everything posted. Of course, the truthfulness behind anything I write outside the story should be suspect, and I may not even address the question in my answer. Meow.

...Yeah, yeah, I'm getting back to writing. Can't sue me for procrastination.
>>No. 9729
File 134135119299.jpg - (155.75KB, 662x694, Im-a-scary-hellhound.jpg) [iqdb]
9729
I rushed over to Ko’s side, stumbling a bit as I ran.

The redhead turned at once when she heard me. “Huh? What’s wrong Alice?” Before I could grab her arm she reached out, holding onto my shoulders and looking me over. “You weren’t bitten or anything where you? Feeling light headed? Cloudy vision? What’s wrong?”

“Ah, no, nothing’s wrong.” I squirmed under her scrutiny.

“Why were you running over here, then?”

“Well…” I fiddled with Luminita’s hat, the embarrassment of why I ran over catching up to me. “You’ll protect me, so I feel safer next to you.”

Ko scratched her cheek and looked away from me. “I’d do that no matter where you are, kid. Like I said, I don’t want anything regrettable happening to you.”

I smiled and wrapped my arms around one of hers, leaning into the demon’s side. “Thanks Ko. I know you’re looking after me. A little mess-up or two is normal.”

“W-what are you- geez. What’s with the affection all of a sudden?” Ko stammered for a moment before regaining control of her voice. She rubbed my head with her free hand. “My messing-up can cause massive trouble. Is it okay to write it off like that?”

“You look like you’re beating yourself up for doing a good job,” I told her, explaining how I saw the situation. “We already yelled at each other, and I don’t really like yelling. I’m sorry.”

“Heh, not this again. I should be apologizing to you; it’s your well-being that I’m not careful enough of.”

“I don’t think you could be more careful, Ko. You already got a whole bunch of stuff you wouldn’t normally need for me, right?”

“Yeah.”

“So you’re prepared! You’ll watch out for me and protect me, so there’s nothing more to worry about.”

“Definitely…I’ll definitely take care of you…” The dangers of Makai still worried me, but I thought it would turn out all right as long as I had Ko with me. In truth, I felt embarrsed at how much time Ko seemed to spend looking after me. Once I got older and more experienced, the demon wouldn’t need to spend all her attention on me.

“All right, enough of this drama! I think you’ve had more than enough for a few days.” With the situation taken care of, the two of us began walking towards the tower again. Ko tried to shake me off her arm for a few minutes but gave up when I wouldn’t let go. Even after Ko explained that every other possible threat would in this part of Makai would be blatantly obvious, I refused to release her arm.

Defeated by my stubbornness, Ko started to point out different species and features while we were making our way towards the stone tower. She spoke about how the crystals were colored differently because of the elements comprising them. She pointed out that many of the animals scampering about differed from those that lived in the forest, in both diet and ability. We would stop as Ko told me what she thought was interesting and sometimes what was dangerous.

“Why are there actual plants out here but not in the forest?” I asked after Ko plucked a sunflower for me.

“Want the short answer? I dunno.” Ko shrugged with one shoulder. “I mean, these plants have to be modified in some way because biological plants require sunlight, soil nutrients, and rainfall, none of which are regularly available down here. So there’s no reason why the plants here couldn’t exist in the crystal forest as far as I’m concerned, but they don’t. I suppose that because there’s no wind or animal migrations, the plants can’t spread their seeds far enough into the forest. If they even produce by seeds, that is. Some of these plants are plain but I know there are a bunch of exotic ones around.

“I asked around once and most people never gave me a straight answer. Honestly, it felt like most of them didn’t know or were giving me the run-around. The clearest answer I received was from the goddesses’ delightful maid: ‘Crystals are easier to manipulate than plants,’ whatever that means. Now that you have me thinking about it, I might go investigate it again.” It was a typical answer from Ko; large doses of suspicious skepticism and knowledgeable analysis.

“Oh, okay. That makes sense.”

“What’s wrong kid, you sound disappointed.”

“No, I’m not. I’m just wondering what those exotic plants you mentioned are like.”

“You want to see some strange plants? Sure, I think I know a few that grow around here.” Our straight path towards the tower took a detour as Ko led me around hills and crystals, searching for the fantastic organisms living in Makai that would catch my interest.

“How about this?” Nestled in the shadow of a pile of rocks, a single red tulip-like flower swayed back and forth. Somehow, it looked happy as it moved. “It’s one of the fire flower variants growing in the area.”

“Fire flower? Why’s it called that? Does it let you shoot fireballs or maybe it spews fire?”

“Huh? What kind of inane idea is that? Here, watch.” After mocking my imagination, Ko bent down and yanked a nearby carnation out of the ground. She backed us up a few steps before tossing the carnation at the fire flower.

I gasped as the carnation erupted into flames. The normal flower burned, disintegrating into a pile of ashes at the base of the fire flower’s stem. The fire flower itself looked unharmed, continuing to sway back and forth. “Nasty little guy, isn’t he? I hear there are a couple of these in Gensokyo too. Apparently, magic-types love to use these fire flowers in potions and enchanting and stuff.”

“If I were to touch that…”

“Yeah, it’d burn you, but only for so long. The biggest pain would be if your dress scrapes against the vindictive bugger. If you were walking by, you wouldn’t even notice until the entire bottom rim of your dress was smoking.”

Ko sounded confident in her knowledge. “Have you, uh, learned this through example?” The slight twitch in Ko’s eye was enough to provoke a wave of giggles from me. Tousling my hair, the demon led me away from the fire flower and back towards the general direction of the tower.

Our movement was slow between the playful scuffles and the impromptu ecology lessons. Ko didn’t know how every plant fit into alchemical potions or how every crystal might be formed into jewelry, but did know what was dangerous and what was interesting. There were plants that could turn invisible, crystals that would reflect scenes from the past, harmless squirrel-like animals that could walk on water and far more dangerous, shell-less turtles that were best left alone.

“…kick it in the eye and fly out of the burrow as fast as possible and you’d be fine.”

Every single story and warning Ko handed out added to the wriggling suspicion I had. “Ko, how much of this did you learn by experience?”

“Some of it.” A curt answer was far more telling than the demon would have wished. She tried to shake me off her arm again but I held on tight, grinning at her knowingly. She started to put the rest of her body into it, trying to peel me off with her free hand, but I refused to let go.

The two of us screamed when we suddenly smashed into the ground. I wasn’t hurt, having landed on top of Ko’s side, but the fall was surprising. Ko cursed as she laid on the ground with me sprawled atop of her. “How did I lose my balance when you don’t weigh anything, kid? This rotten luck is killing me!” The girl grunted in annoyance. “And would you cut it out already? I’m not a pillow or a support column – you’re old enough to stand on your own.”

“But Ko, I thought you liked me?” I whined. Slightly rocking back and forth caused Ko to roll from her side to her back, giving me even more room to lay down.

She swatted at my head when, instead of getting off, I simply settled down on top of her. “Sure, but there’s a limit-”

“You said you would take care of me.”

“Yeah, okay, but-”

“I feel safe right here with you.” I managed to find a comfortable position, placing my head at the crook of Ko’s neck. She didn’t have a comfortable chest for me to lie on, but her hair was silky smooth.

“Geez, if you weren’t a kid I’d think you were drunk. This isn’t- up we go!” I squeaked when the redhead suddenly pulled me tightly against her body by wrapping her arms around my sides. She took to the sky, jetting upwards in a few seconds.

A low growling sound caught my attention. I wiggled around in Ko’s arms so I could crane my neck over her shoulder. Down below us, a pack of not-dogs had surrounded us. These brown-coated animals were huge, easily the size of me and Ko. Blazing fires were alight all over the creatures, the orange and yellow flames not bothering the dogs in the slightest.

“Aren’t they cute, Alice?” Ko laughed as she spun me around and let go of me to fly on my own.

I watched the dogs close in and circle underneath us. I counted four of them, each of the dogs looking upwards while they paced. “They look like they want to play with us.”

“Hellhounds are definitely known for their playfulness.” The redhead gave a clichéd name to the fiery dogs prowling about.

“Really?”

“Well considering they breathe fire on each other while they play, sure, why not?” Between the sharp white teeth and the long claws adorning each paw of the hellhounds, I wasn’t going to be flying closer to them any time sooner. The beasts looked savage, their eyes narrowed and red.

“So they can’t reach us up here?”

“I don’t think so. Let’s check.” With those alarming words, Ko spat at the hellhounds. Her saliva was unerringly accurate, impacting directly on the snout of one of the dogs.

It must not have liked that very much. The hellhound reared up on two legs and opened its mouth, a blast of fire spreading out like a cone towards us. I hiked my knees up reflexively, but it proved unnecessary. The animal’s fire only reached a couple of meters into the sky before fizzling out.

Ko gave me a thumbs up. “We’re safe. They can’t jump far and the whole fire act is the only special thing they can do.”

“Why didn’t you mention the hellhounds when you were going over all the dangerous things around here?” Of all the threats that Ko thought might injure me, the fire-breathing dogs were not one of them.

“I didn’t think they’d be a problem. You fly as low as we are for a bit, then they’ll get bored and find something else to eat. They don’t prowl like cats either, so if you’re watching out you’d see them coming a mile away.”

“Did the goddess make a lot of dangerous animals like these?”

“Predators are a part of any ecosystem. It’s no exception here. Of course, all of the terribly dangerous ones are kept far away from here. I think the hellhounds are the top of the food chain in these parts.”

“Are all these predators from other parts of the world too?”

“I think so. Most of them are, at least. I know for a fact that the hellhounds are nostalgic for the goddess – those dogs could be found all over her old home, the one she left behind for Makai.”

We floated around for another few minutes, but the hellhounds did not leave. They ended up resting directly underneath us. Two of the hellhounds nestled down together and watched us, while the other two began to pace around the area in a large, lazy circle.

We continued to wait and see if the dogs would wander off on their own. I was fiddling with Luminita’s clothes when I noticed a twinkling in the distance. “Hey Ko, what’s that?”

“Hm?” I pointed out the flashes of light I saw. “It’s tough to say. They could be anything from somebody fighting to some crystals exploding. Wanna check it out? Maybe you’d rather drive off our friends here? Or we could always just head off towards our original goal.”

“Can we really do any of that while the hellhounds are laying down there?”

“Honestly, they look like they’re getting comfortable. If we fly off towards either of those places, we could just drop back down after a bit and walk without a problem. So go ahead and choose whatever.”

Ko left the decision to me. When I asked her why, she told me she was flexible. Thinking about our options, I decided that we should…

[ ] Pick a fight with the hellhounds. We’d show them why trying to eat us was a bad idea!
[ ] Investigate the source of the lightshow. Somebody might need help.
[ ] Go explore the tower as planned. There was a plan we should stick to.
[ ]

---

Seriously responding to comments now. Generally, any vote that leads to a bad end (death, the end of the world, or something like those) will be a specific action rather than some vague behavior (‘Jump off the mountain’ as opposed to ‘Climb Mt. Everest’). So if you really don’t want to see a bad end, you’ll probably know what choice would cause one; if you can’t tell then that means more fun for me! As a reference, there has been one vote which would have lead to a bad end so far.
>>No. 9730
[x] Go explore the tower as planned. There was a plan we should stick to.
>>No. 9732
[x] Investigate the source of the lightshow. Somebody might need help.

Pretty lights
>>No. 9733
[x] Go explore the tower as planned. There was a plan we should stick to.

>>9729
Would that near miss bad end happen to be from that little incident with Erk?
>>No. 9734
[x] Investigate the source of the lightshow. Somebody might need help.
>>No. 9735
[x] Go explore the tower as planned. There was a plan we should stick to.
>>No. 9738
>>9733
Ding-ding, we have a winner! See? It's not that hard to notice. Now, what do you want for your prize? We have FREEDOM, answers, snippets, cake, some other stuff...
>>No. 9747
>>9738

anything but cake please
>>No. 9750
Do you have tiramisu?
>>No. 9751
>>9738
what about a 1995 Makai beauties calender?
>>No. 9764
[x] Investigate the source of the lightshow. Somebody might need help.

The tower would still be there the next time we explore. However, the lightshow may stop anytime.
>>No. 9766
File 134150396617.jpg - (35.24KB, 338x400, apple-pie.jpg) [iqdb]
9766
Posting to say the vote is called, just in case some wise-guy wanted to try and break the tie after I already wrote the update.

>>9750
I ain't no fancy dessert chef.

>>9751
Sure, let me just jump in my time machine.
>>No. 9770
>>9766
That was a reference to the likely time frame of this story, that's all.
>>No. 9775
File 134153507044.jpg - (404.83KB, 660x860, belief-is-powerful.jpg) [iqdb]
9775
I decided that we should continue on to the tower as planned. There had already been a few problems; no need to go looking for more trouble.

“Cya puppies, behave yourselves.” The hellhounds lazily watched us leave. They quickly disappeared from my field of vision as we flew towards the tower.

Ko had us land after passing over several hills. I didn’t want to poison my body by accidentally running into a cloud of toxic, so I had no problems with following Ko down.

After the excitement, we quickly resumed our meandering approach to the tower. Ko was none too pleased when I latched back on to her arm, but she was resigned to her fate and didn’t fight me. We walked without getting too off-track, managing to make good time in our progress.

The tower grew and grew in size until it loomed before us. ‘The ominous tower atop the tallest hill’ was how Sebastian had aptly described the tower. Looking from a distance, it wasn’t possible to understand how high the construction reached into the air. The hill was steep to the point where one should start climbing instead of walking. Then there was the height of the tower itself. The construction easily climbed several stories into the sky, higher and higher until I had craned my neck all the way back to see the top.

Gothic architecture was the main inspiration for the tower. White stone was cut and stacked into a main, circular tower and four supports. The pointed tops of the columns were adorned with crosses, architectural sculptures of humans and animals wrapping around the different sections of the tower. Although it was beautiful to look at up-close, there was a presence to the place as well. Standing at the foot of the white tower was awe-inspiring, the euphoric feeling almost as strong as when I first approached Pandemonium. Even though the tower wasn’t nearly as impressive architecturally as the crystal castle, there was some other force lending strength to the tower. If I had to name it, I would have said belief.

“Well, I wasn’t expecting this,” Ko commented. “I’m surprised I couldn’t see any of these details from a distance.”

We flew into the air, circling around the tower at entrance level. The sculptures above the door were varied. I wasn’t sure what exactly they were meant to depict, but it all felt very religious. Various humans were dressed in eastern and western robes. Lions and dragons were intertwined with crosses and spiraling circles.

“Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and those are all just the ones I know. What the hell is this leaf thing? Geez, she was well-traveled.”

“What was that, Ko?” The redhead floated closer to the sculptures, pulling me along.

She raised her free hand and pointed out different depictions and symbols embedded in the structure. “These are all religious symbols. The Cross, Star of David, Faravahar, and everything else all relate to human religions outside of Gensokyo. You might even recognize a few of these from your own village.” Other then passing knowledge, I didn’t. Our village had been spiritual without religion, holding onto basic respect for the Dragon and little else. Wishing for good harvests and divine protection from momma’s powers were the most we prayed for on a regular basis.

“No? Well that doesn’t really matter. You don’t need to understand where they’re from or what they mean to figure out who made them.”

With the bits of information I had picked up from Sebastian and Mai, it was easy enough to conclude. “The goddess. Shinki has traveled around the outside and she was probably following Yumeko out here too.”

“Yumeko eh? I guess that’s what the old-geezer was talking about with all that ‘sword’ nonsense. Good detective work Alice. The only question we have left is why the goddess put up a huge ass tower in the middle of nowhere – not that she usually has an important reason, but still.”

“I don’t think we can figure that out from looking at these pictures.”

“Of course not kid, that’s why we’re going to investigate inside.”

Looking over the tower, there was only one obvious method of entry. “We’re going through the front door, then?”

“Unless you want to kick in one of those tiny glass windows, yeah.”

“No, that’s okay, we can go in like normal people. Make sure to knock first!”

“Knock, eh? Sure, I can act civilized Alice, but it would be great if you’d let go of my arm first.” I begrudgingly released the demon’s arm and prepared myself. Ko didn’t need to remind me that there was the possibility of danger, whether there was someone else inside or not. The most I could do was mentally prepare and hold Luminita at the ready.

We floated in front of the single wooden door located at the top of the hill. As politely as she could, Ko tapped three times on the entrance to the tower.

There was no response.

She glanced at me warily before trying one more time, slamming her fist into the door so the sound would reverberate throughout the large structure. Her punch caused the door to swing inwards and bang against the stone wall. “Huh, I guess it was open.”

We entered and landed on the stone floor. The inside of the tower was less spectacular than the outside. In fact, it was a desolate place. The first floor was a wide, empty circle. From wall to wall there was nothing but specks of dirt that had floated in from outside. The only peculiarity was the staircase built into the far wall that spiraled upwards to the next floor.

I stepped past Ko but the redhead grabbed my shoulder. “Careful Alice. You might wanna look more closely at the shadows.” Squinting my eyes at the edges of the room, I noticed what Ko had.

There were snakes hiding along the walls. They were black beasts, seemingly made of the shadows they sat in. I called them snakes, but that was only because they had winding bodies. Their heads looked like a variety of animals, from actual snakes to mice and rabbits. Although they had no eyes, I knew they were watching us. Their heads were turned directly as us, and some of them tracked me as I stepped back behind Ko. “Those aren’t real snakes. I can feel the magic in them; a whole lot more than was in those hellhounds.”

“That’s good to know Alice. Frankly, unless we get an invitation, I don’t fancy trying to cross the room. With how crappy my luck is today, those things probably explode or some shit.”

One of the shadowy snake-like beings moved after Ko finished speaking. It slithered out into the center of the room and looked at us, before turning around and making its way towards the stairs. It hopped up onto the first step and turned to look at us again.

“I think he says its okay for us to go up, Ko.”

“So they’re sentient? Or maybe someone is controlling them…” The redhead speculated as we climbed the stairs. We crossed empty room after empty room, barely enough light entering through the single window on each floor to illuminate the staircases. The number of snake-like beings lessened as we ascended, until the unfurnished rooms were truly empty besides the two of us.

Eventually, one floor looked different from all the others. There were no more stairs leading up, and the room held actual furniture. Church pews formed several rows, a red carpet running from the stairs and through the aisle they formed. A stained-glass window filled the far part of the wall from floor to ceiling. It looked something like a red sun.

Someone was kneeling directly in front of the window when we arrived on the floor. She was a young woman, stooped on the ground with her hands clasped in front of her. Her long black hair looked pristine, a white head scarf rimmed with gold hiding the roots. The rest of her white dress was similarly pure looking with tasteful blue streaks highlighting the edges and joints of the dress.

“Hey there,” Ko loudly said with preamble, “thanks for letting us in.”

The little devil stamped her foot when the lady kneeling on the floor didn’t respond. “Uh, Ko, I think she’s praying.”

“Obviously. I guess we wait around until our magnanimous host deigns to acknowledge us?” Ko loudly fell onto a pew, sprawling out as she usually did. I did my best to sit properly next to her and waited.

Once Ko had quieted down I was able to hear the lady on the floor speaking under her breath. There was some sort of rhythmic cadence to what she was saying, although I couldn’t make out the individual words.

When the woman stood up I smacked Ko in the ribs. The redhead glared at me. “I wasn’t asleep, you know. I heard her stand.”

I smiled sweetly. “Just making sure.”

“Welcome, weary travelers. How might this humble servant be of assistance today?” The demon woman’s voice was surprisingly quiet. The soft tones in her voice matched her subdued demeanor perfectly. Yet, I could sense something in the woman. There was a dangerous part to her, I was sure.

“Just checking out your fancy home-church-tower thing you’ve got here. You just had it put up, right?” Ko was direct and to the point, striking out towards the heart of our business.

The black haired woman clapped her hands together. “Yes. I was blessed to receive this glorious place of worship from our goddess.”

“Cool. So why did- Ow!”

I managed to stomp on Ko’s foot as I stepped forward into a small curtsey. “Hello miss, my name is Alice and this is Ko. How do you do?”

“It is a lovely day; a bright future provided by the goddess, more so thanks to this fortuitous meeting. I am Maria. I offer whatever I can to you, Alice and Ko of the flock.”

“Great, so then I’ll just ask you straight up. Why did the goddess create this tower for you?” Ko’s search for information was barely delayed by pleasantries.

“The goddess called and I answered. Our creator bade me to observe her works and return her lost lambs to the flock if they should so appear in a bout of serendipity. With a kind benediction she left me with this solemn duty, a trial I was eager to accept. So now I pray here for the sanctity of our kind, awaiting both my holy messengers and the shining sign that my work is complete.”

Ko whispered in my ear. “Did you understand any of that?”

“Uh, no? Maybe she’s talking about Reimu Hakurei? I think she was walking around in Makai when Yumeko and the goddess headed out.”

“So Maria,” the redhead continued, “the goddess asked you to watch out for the Hakurei shrine maiden when she was passing by?”

Maria answered us with her hands clasped and eyes shut. “Yes, the goddess did indeed bid me to take heed of the foreign power that graced our soil. It is hard to subdue selfish pride. A vessel of the gods not our own deserves the utmost respect and proper aid. We cannot so arrogantly ignore those of differing faith.”

Ko and I looked at each other. We were in agreement; Maria’s excessive speech was confusing.

“Alright, so…what are these ‘holy messengers’ you mentioned?” The little devil was being as thorough as she could be, picking out words phrases that were unclear yet seemingly significant.

In response, Maria held out a slender arm. One of the shadowy snakes infesting the lower parts of the tower curled around her limb, having appeared out of nowhere. “My faithful familiars act as the messengers of the goddess, bringing to me the sights and sounds from across this sacred portion of the realm.”

I stood around and waited for Ko to ask another question, but the redhead shrugged her shoulders when I looked at her. We had learned everything we set out to find – I guessed that Ko didn’t want to play twenty questions to try and figure out anything more specific.

The religious demon spoke and broke the silence. “Would you two care to join me for a meal? I have little more to offer than what you may already carry with you, but to share your belongings in generosity is to invite the goddess’ grace and purify the mind.” When I glanced over questioningly at Ko, she raised her black messenger bag a bit. Peeking inside, I noticed what looked like boxed lunches of some sort.

Maria had recognized that Ko brought food even when I hadn’t. Did the demon guess because Ko was carrying two bags? Or did she have some way of finding out? Was she speaking based on blind faith or some kind of intuition?

My mind wandered off on a tangent until it stumbled upon a much more important fact. We had been far too rude.

I blushed in embarrassment, for myself and Ko. The little devil had barreled into what felt like a holy place and bombarded the well-natured Maria with cold questions. My simple attempts at proper greetings did not belay the fact that we were only interested in satiating our curiosity. Yet, the white-clad demon had agreeably gone along with our questioning without complaint.

Glancing at Ko, I saw that she was ready to cut and run. She was hardly a polite girl, and I knew she was more than willing to forcefully turn down any offers. I wasn’t sure if she found Maria’s presence uncomfortable or just didn’t like being cooped up inside. However, the little devil waited for me to decide once more.

We were going to…

[ ] Share a meal with Maria. It was the least we could do to repay her for her time.
-[ ] I wanted to ask her
[ ] Leave the tower and…
-[ ] Eat outside. We weren’t going to share Ko’s food with a free-loader!
-[ ] Go explore first.
[ ]

---

>>9770
Oh? That’s not too shabby of an estimate. You’re off by several years from where we are right now according to my timeline, but any attempt to bridge the wonderful PC-98 to Windows divide and keep everything else consistent becomes a mess. I’d like to think I have my dates worked out, but there’s only so much I can do.
>>No. 9788
[x] Share a meal with Maria. It was the least we could do to repay her for her time.

Best to be polite.
>>No. 9793
[x] Share a meal with Maria. It was the least we could do to repay her for her time.
>>No. 9806
[x] Share a meal with Maria. It was the least we could do to repay her for her time.
>>No. 9833
File 134179876449.jpg - (229.81KB, 400x557, happy-picture-for-the-memories.jpg) [iqdb]
9833
We were going to share a meal with Maria. “We would love to eat here. Thank you for offering.” I bowed to our host, ignoring Ko’s grumblings from my side.

“How splendid. I have little to share beyond the floor and minor provisions, but what I have is yours.” Maria led us over to the floor space in front of the sun-like window. There was enough open space there for us to sit comfortably.

“I don’t see why we’re still-” I interrupted Ko with a stern glare. We’re doing the polite thing if it kills you, my expression told her.

Ko chuckled, patting me on the head while she set her bags down. “Fine, fine, whatever you want.” The redhead worked quickly, setting down a blanket on the stone floor and laying out the various dishes she brought.

It was simple picnic fare, ingredients for simple salads, sandwiches, and other side dishes that were easy to store and carry.

The three of us sat down on the edges of the blanket and waited. Specifically, Ko glared at Maria like a hawk while the religious demon smiled and bowed her head. “Well, is the floor all you’ve got to offer?” Ko’s brusque attitude didn’t seem to offend Maria like it did almost everybody else. At least, the regal woman didn’t let it show.

One of the shadowy snakes slithered along the floor and curled around Maria’s neck. The familiar gestured with its head, drawing our attention upwards. I saw an opened hatch in the ceiling, and out of it tumbled a number of snakes. The creatures quickly reassembled, creating a ladder up towards the ceiling by intertwining their bodies. Once the ladder had completely formed, more snakes began to make their way down. It was a strange sight to behold. The snakes exiting the ceiling had their tails wrapped around bottles and other food stuffs. They latched onto the writhing ladder with their mouths and slid down, helped along by some of the snakes comprising the ladder.

“Huh.” That was all Ko said while she watched the proceedings. When the first familiar made its way over to us, the redhead grabbed the bottle it was carrying. She read the label and popped the cork, pouring out some of the clear liquid into one of the cups she had brought.

Ko threw her head back and downed the shot of liquid in an instant. “Woah, that’s some good stuff. Alright, I appreciate the contribution, Maria!” The redhead ignored the few other things Maria’s familiars brought down, such as the different breads and accompanying spreads being set down.

“Blessed be the sanctified sustenance of the goddess. Her care for those of the flock is unparalleled.”

“So, is that uhm…”

“Vodka! Delicious vodka!” Ko shouted happily when I paused.

“Is that alcohol special then, Maria? Is there some sort of magic in it?” I wondered if the religious descriptions Maria gave to the food she offered had some special meaning to them.

“Is not the touch and attention of the goddess enough reason for praise?”

“I guess; so she gave it to you and you consider that holy?”

“Indeed.” I concluded she just liked to speak that way. “Please, Alice, eat. To ignore the food provided is a sin. It would be a disservice to leave oneself hungry in the face of politeness.”

At Maria’s urgings we ate quickly, the praises for delicious tasting food occasionally interrupting our meal. The fare might have been on the simpler side but it was an enjoyable meal nonetheless. The food Ko brought and the food Maria offered disappeared swiftly, leaving only a few pieces for us to graze on while we talked.

“How long do you think you’ll be here, Maria?” I asked curiously. From the demon’s previous description, she basically sat in the tower all day and waited for the goddess’ signal to leave.

“I cannot presume to understand the entirety of the goddess’ plans, but I do not foresee myself here a week hence.”

“Foresee? Are you a fortune teller too?”

“No, I have but only my own intuitions and the teachings of the goddess to base my predictions upon. Of course, the words of the goddess are enough to guide any decision.”

“Whew, you’re really heavy on the religious stuff, aren’t you Sister?” Ko lazily waved the bottle of vodka through the air. It looked like the alcohol was already half gone.

“I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but you’re the only one I’ve met that is, uh, religious about the goddess, Maria.” People like Sara and I saw the goddess as a mother, while demons like Mai and Yumeko still held Shinki in the utmost respect – I hadn’t met anybody venerating the ‘goddess’ until I met Maria.

“In their hearts, all of the goddess’ flock believes as I do. Their faith in their creator is strong. They are confident in the protection offered by the one we love. It is this belief that allows the goddess to spread her benevolence to all.”

“Sure, if you say so, but I can’t see her as more than an overly affectionate cat partaking in a hallucinogenic mushroom.” Ko’s opinion was tinged with disgust.

“Indeed, our goddess is unique. Still, it would be unwise to ignore her-”

The sound of an explosion accompanied the sudden shaking of the tower.

“-or belittle her attentions. All might be equal according to her teachings, but some are certainly more ridiculously prepared for the trials we might face along the way.” Maria didn’t even stutter at the slight interruption.

“Uhm, is that normal around here?” I asked after nobody addressed what I saw as an issue. I didn’t think there were many demons in Makai that would wantonly cause explosions.

“No, it isn’t,” Ko’s voice was filled with suspicion as she started to stand up. Unfortunately, another ripple shook the tower and the little devil lost her footing.

I squealed when I hear the sharp crack of glass shattering. “Damn it!” Ko screamed in frustration. The vodka bottle Ko had been chugging throughout the meal lay shattered on the floor, the remaining alcohol spilling around the shards of glass.

The redhead continued to rage. She accidentally flicked her scarlet blood around as she furiously shook her hand. I grabbed the blue medical bag Cosette had given to us and pulled out a moistened rag and a roll of bandage. “I was almost finished with that! Argh, what a waste. And all these cuts I’m getting are starting to piss me off.”

“Ko, stop moving, please.”

“Do you know how much this stings? I can’t just not shake it.”

“I thought I was the child here,” I muttered as I tried to clean up Ko’s wound. Her hand had been cut by the glass shards, but the flowing blood made the injury look worse than it was. The demon wasn’t worried about the seriousness her wound in the slightest and neither was I. However, Ko was getting her blood on my clothes, which was just unsightly.

By the time I had bandaged Ko’s hand up, Maria had finished cleaning up the mess. Her familiars had swept over the spilled alcohol and glass shards like a mop, leaving a cleaned floor in their wake. Ko thanked me before dropping back onto the blanket, sulking at the loss of her drink.

“What an unfortunate turn of events. Perhaps inebriating oneself and poisoning the goddess-given body of yours is an unwise course of action.” Maria admonished Ko with a smile.

“Oh please, I’m not even drunk. Besides wasn’t that vodka a gift from the goddess in the first place? How can I cherish it without drinking it?”

I stopped Maria from responding with a wave of my hand. I could easily imagine the two bickering for as long as Ko felt like it, which might last a very long time and derail the important conversation we were having. “You weren’t worried Maria. Do you know why the tower started shaking?”

“Yes. Agents of the deceased have been cleansing this land of those unfortunate souls drawn to the goddess’ power. I believe that one of these esteemed visitors is just coming into her power and has been receiving…enthused instructions from her superior.”

Ko helpfully provided a translation after I glanced questioningly at her. “Reapers are picking up all the evil spirits around here, as a training exercise if Maria is right.”

“Reapers?” My mind imagined a skeleton dressed in black that figured into many of momma’s tales.

“Yeah. Shinigami tasked by the Yama to go out and collect the souls that don’t gravitate towards the Sanzu. Don’t you know about this? I thought it was common knowledge for the humans above us.”

“Uh, it is. You mean human souls, right? They get ferried across the Sanzu to be judged and sent off to the afterlife.”

“That’s right. Of course, not every soul is well-behaved. That’s why we get all the different types of ghosts who gravitate towards other places. It just so happens that all the bad ghosts seem to like Hell, whether the Yama sends them there or not.”

I thought back to Mai’s history lesson and her distinctive terminology. “So evil spirits just…float into Makai? Because it was made by a demon?”

“That’s my understanding of it. I don’t really deal in all that occult, magical mumbo-jumbo, you know? I’m sure there’s somebody better you can ask about it.”

Maria spoke after Ko finished. “It is truly unfortunate. The beings that can recognize the goddess’ true divinity are unable to receive her gifts.”

“I don’t think the evil spirits come down here ‘cause they realize how awesome the goddess is, Sister.” Ko sounded dismissive, but I could tell she was interested in a differing opinion.

“Oh? But they do. Those poor, misguided souls can feel the bonds of kinship with the goddess and her creations, but are unable to comprehend her teachings. Without self-control and self-restraint, they are ultimately unable to be as we are. They cannot be brought into the flock and are instead cast adrift, prey to their natural instincts. The mercy provided by the agents of the dead is the most the goddess can offer them.”

Maria’s solemn words ended the conversation, her voice tinged with a deep sadness that I didn’t know how to address.

A sort of depressing mood set in over the three of us. We endured it in silence for a minute before Ko had had enough.

The redhead stood and helped me up. “Well, time to go, Alice. We still have places to see, after all.”

I helped Ko with her bags before carefully picking up Luminita. I thanked Maria for her hospitality and, after a bit of prodding, Ko did as well.

“It is no problem. I wish you safe travels under the aegis of the goddess. Should you require my aid in the fortune, you need only ask for it. Follow the goddess’ path even against adversity, and you shall certainly find the way. Good fortune, Alice, Ko.” Maria sent us off in her verbose manner, her familiars trailing us until we flew out the door.

We floated low in the air as we stretched our limbs. “Whew. I guess that wasn’t so bad – I’ll have to come back and grab some more of that vodka someday.”

“Drinking is bad for your health.” And your manners, but it doesn’t really matter in your case, I thought.

“Hah, my liver is made out of iron! One bottle of goddess-fabricated alcohol isn’t enough to even give me a buzz.”

I shook my head and ignored the girl’s boasting. “What did Maria mean when she talked about the teachings of the goddess?”

“Huh? Oh, those. I’m not sure if there’s anything formal. The ‘teachings’ are those pleasant, upright, and morally sound things that you’re all about, Alice. I think there’s some religious stuff, like Buddhist teachings, mixed in but they aren’t specifically important.”

“I see.” Momma had been adamant about being polite and kind; in that respect, Shinki was a great mother. “Where are we going next?”

Ko and I started to fly away from the tower. “It’s tough to say. There’s this extravagant crystal formation not far from here, but maybe we can go watch those reapers practice.”

“If they were causing explosions, I’m not sure that it would be safe.”

“Sure, I suppose. Then, I guess I can just show you-”

The both of us stopped flying when the moaning began. It was barely noticeable while we were talking, but it only grew louder over time. The sound of a hundred voices crying out reverberated in the air around us.

“Oh you’re fucking kidding me.” Ko started to dig around in her bag after she cursed.

I clutched Luminita tighter. The disquieting sounds seemed like they were coming from all around us. The situation was creepy. There was a chill in the air around me that wouldn’t go away. My heart was aching slightly, and I could feel something oppressive creeping towards us.

Looking over my shoulder, the tower was already a few minutes of flight away. To my vision, it was no larger than a water-bottle in size.

“What’s happening, Ko?”

“Well, I think we have a spirit problem.” The redhead spoke calmly as she continued to dig through her things. She pulled out some spherical looking object as well as what looked like a small hand mirror.

“Do you mean like a whole bunch of evil spirits clumped together?” Given the trend of our previous conversation and the goose bumps I felt, I thought it was a reasonable guess.

“Yup. Spooky, ain’t it? Do the howls of the dead frighten you, Alice?”

Frankly, they did. I was terrified. The moans had only grown louder and louder, morphing from slow utterances to pained screams.

“Shouldn’t we be leaving?” I asked. A horde of evil ghosts didn’t sound like pleasant company.

“Nah, I think it’ll be fine. The weak spirits that congregate around here can be disturbed, easily. Blazing holy fire is more than enough to divert them.”

“How man spirits are you talking about?”

“A bunch, I guess. You see, Makai’s a big place and most of the evil spirits like to gather further down and in, but I figure those reapers were gathering up all the spirits around this area for practice. Once they finish practicing, I’m sure there are only so many spirits the shinigami can bring back at once.

“And all the evil spirits they let go want to head back to where they were before.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Which, in this case, seems to be headed directly through where we are right now.”

“Yeah.”

“And you think it’s a good idea to stay floating right here.”

“Sure, I’ve done it before. I plan on just frightening them off so they go around us, and then we can continue on our merry way. We could try and go around them, but the spirits like to form these unavoidable clouds that have a tendency to chase you if they can feel you. Honestly, it’s easier to just throw this baby into the mix and wait it out.”

“What is that?”

Ko stopped tossing the metal sphere up and down and held it out for me to see. “Light grenade. It explodes. Then it floats and burns. Spirits don’t like exploding and burning things that float.”

The little devil was confident, that much was obvious. She thought she could drive off the souls of the dead with one or two simple devices.

Still, as I floated next to Ko, a cold sweat rushed throughout my body. Even if Ko had dealt with situations like that before, I hadn’t. The screams of the dead intensified as they grew louder and it was -the wails of a mother who had lost her only child to- absolutely terrifying.

“There they are.” Ko pointed out at the swarm. I had sensed them from far away, and my vision was able to confirm it when they drew closer. The appearance of the spirits was akin to a storm cloud that shifted about like a wave. It was a mass of dark swirls that -tore skin from flesh and ripped out eyes- stretched from the ground to far above us, individual wisps visible only on the edges as they danced through the air. It would take some -torturous groans of a man having his organs eaten by- fast flying to try and skirt the edges, especially if the spirits would try to collide with us like Ko suggested.

Terror. Despair. Fear. Depression. Hate. Death. Horror. Death. The oncoming spirits were radiating negative emotions -blazing fire, his skin melting in- that smashed against my willpower in a roaring wave of -falling, bones tearing up through muscle and- apprehension, attempting to hold my mind -offered no protection against the driving spike straight through- captive in distress.

The dead drew closer and closer, so I…

[ ] Turned tail and ran. I flew away as fast as I could…
-[ ] Backwards towards Maria’s tower
-[ ] Sideways towards the crystal forest
-[ ]
[ ] Stuck around…
-[ ] And hid behind Ko
-[ ] Prepared myself as best as I could…
--[ ]
[ ]
>>No. 9838
[x] Stuck around…
-[x] And hid behind Ko

Ko knows what she's doing; and if she doesn't, the spirits will probably Bad End us regardless of our choice.
>>No. 9839
[x] Stuck around…
-[x] Prepared myself as best as I could…
>>No. 9842
[x] Stuck around…
-[x] And hid behind Ko

For the moe
>>No. 9846
[x] Turned tail and ran. I flew away as fast as I could…
-[x] Backwards towards Maria’s tower

This can't end well
>>No. 9847
>>9838
Would I really put in a bad end when the thread is finishing up? That seems unfair.

Then again, your pessimism is inspiring me...

>>9842
Nothing more sweet than relying on your cool older sister to save the day, eh?
>>No. 9850
>>9847
Better to be a breathing pessimist then a dead optimist.
>>No. 9882
File 134204553434.jpg - (12.61KB, 1022x756, such-a-good-scenery-artist.jpg) [iqdb]
9882
I scampered through the -tornado of blades cutting into his- air as quickly as I could.

“You okay back there, Alice?” It was difficult to hear Ko over the -pained cries of a woman- screaming. As the spirits grew closer their crescendo of noise became almost -a barrage of shots ripping through her- unbearable.

Hovering directly behind Ko, I held Luminita with one -dismembered arm stomping down on a- hand and Ko’s back with the other. I couldn’t -talk with the molten metal searing- decide whether I should scrunch my eyes closed and wait for everything to pass or peek over Ko’s shoulders and -cry tears of blood while her brain was- watch the oncoming swam. “Y-yeah…”

“You sure? Kind of feels like you’re trying to rip my vest off; not that I would mind.” Ko was shouting by this point, but I could still hear -rage at the familial betrayal in- a joking lilt in her tone.

“I-I’m okay.” My voice refused to rise above a -quiet sobs of despair weeping at- whisper, so I was replying more to Ko’s back than the demon herself

All the features of Makai ahead of us were obscured by the -bright red axe falling down onto- dark, misty bodies of the spirits. The individual wisps could be identified when the swarm was practically on top of us. Each smoke-like figure -watching everybody die, die, die- was a slightly different shade of grey, each of the distorted faces I thought I saw, unique.

The voices continued to whisper to me, scream at me, wail at me. Specters from the past mixed with -the accusatory stares that it was all- those of the present and haunted my mind with howling visions. Their yells and shouts filled the air, causing -the dogs to rip the skin away- the air around me to vibrate and shake.

“Fuck off spirits; I’ve got a little girl relying on me!” The shout cut through the confounding voices and reached my ears. Ko sent the grenade whizzing with an underhand fling.

I could imagine it from Ko’s descriptions and my own understanding. Once Ko explained what the device was, however simply, I knew what would happen. The stressful situation must have caused my intuition and natural instincts to work on overdrive. My brain tried to fill in any gaps of knowledge I had in order to prepare for what would occur.

Magic and technology rarely mixed, but the inventors of Makai had ample access to both. The light grenade must have been patterned after an outsider weapon and then enhanced with magic. I didn’t know half the things I should have. I couldn’t name the dozen different metals alloyed together nor the spells that and rituals used to make the device. Yet, the grenade’s outer shell and inner core had both been woven together with magic that I could feel. A single glance at the metal was enough for me to know how the metal would rupture, if not why. My mind reached for conclusions, trying to predict the future in order to banish my apprehension.

The grenade would explode after a few seconds, the outer shell illuminating with a blinding white light as the skin of the grenade peeled away. Then the inner core would burst, causing the metal to scatter in a thousand different flakes around the explosion point. The magic binding those flakes together would activate, causing lines of fire too ignite between the individual pieces. The magic would hold everything in a fixed position, the end result being a brilliant burning sphere, searing anything caught within and warding away anything outside.

My intuition wasn’t wrong, as I found out much later, but I had no way of knowing that at the time.

A spherical cage of fire did not erupt in the sky.

There was no searing light to force our eyes shut.

The dark clouds did not part.

Nothing happened as I thought it should have.

The howling of dead was not stopped by the orb of metal flung into their ranks. The encroaching tide continued unabated.

I stared dumbly while I clutched onto Ko’s back. I kept waiting for the detonation that would drive away the -wrenching tear of a neck snapping in- horrible feelings. The redhead’s confident words rung in my ears -ripped off by the bloody teeth- even if as my hopes and predictions were dashed.

“Damn! Shitty useless piece of crap!” I was still waiting for the promised explosion when we -crashed into the spiked pit- started to plummet towards the ground. Ko had turned around, wrapped her arms around my waist, and dived.

If I were in a normal state of mind I would have been screaming. Falling backwards -down the ragged slope, skin peeling- faster than gravity would normally pull was a sickening feeling.

Ko leveled off and skidded along the red dirt before we crashed into the ground. We rapidly bled -from every orifice, the tides staining the- speed until it was safe for the redhead to land properly. She had stopped on the other side of a hill, putting a rather useless barrier between the spirits and us. I could still -barely moan in pain as the disease ravaged- see the expansive dark cloud that was ready to run right over us.

“Hold this.” A mirror was shoved into my free hand as Ko has us crouch on the ground.

Bright red eyes stared into my own. Despite the utter failure of her plan, I still didn’t see any worry in the demon’s eyes. She was a sea of calm amidst the bellowing storm. “You’ll be fine, Alice, no problem. Keep a tight hold on that and they won’t even notice you. No matter what happens, don’t worry too much, okay? Everything will be great, just gotta give it some time.”

A warm hand covered mine. I wanted nothing more than to hold onto it forever, to clutch it tightly to my chest and bask in its warmth.

Ko’s smile was still fresh in my mind when the darkness enveloped us.

I squeezed my eyes shut on reflex once all the light faded from my vision. Scrunched in as tightly as possible, I screamed and held on to Ko’s gift like a lifeline.

It took a moment for me to realize nothing untoward was happening. In fact, being inside the swarm of the dead wasn’t frightening at all. Opening my eyes, there was nothing to see but the swirling darkness. The screams of the dead that had been haunting me had reached the point where they had become meaningless white noise, a simple distraction to tune out. I didn’t feel Ko’s hand on mine but it seemed like the comfort was unnecessary.

Something was strange.

It was impossible for nothing to be happening while I waited in a passing cloud of evil spirits. Granted, I had no factual knowledge, but I thought they should have been attacking me or possessing me. Evil spirits were supposed to be filled with ill-will and malicious intent.

Bringing my hands close to my face, I was able to make out Lumitia’s tiny hands waving at me. On the other side, I saw myself.

A full-bodied me was standing in the mirror. Even with the darkness around me, the image in the mirror was perfectly clear. My skin looked deathly pale, my hair was an unfortunate shade of grey, and my pretty blue dress was a darkened purple mess, but my own self was unmistakable. I stood in the mirror, watching me with a strange grin on my face. My not-quite-reflection twirled around, arms spread wide. Within the mirror I could see the evil spirits swirling around me. They flowed over and under my form, treating me like a rock to swerve around. Looking more closely, I could see something else inside the mirror as well. An even darker blackness was whirling around in the mirror, swishing around in tight circles around my body. The few spirits that tried to touch my mirrored self were met by the pure darkness and were consumed, their wispy bodies disappearing. I watched myself watch me with crazed, happy eyes, idly dancing in the whirlpool of darkness. Myself raised a finger to my lips and waved goodbye, as if she knew that I was going to-

I dropped the mirror. It was a gut reaction, instinctive after I finally managed to break my gaze from staring at the not-me I saw in the mirror.

The evil spirits had passed. I realized it after a few seconds. The howls of the dead were already quieting. The spirits’ noise wasn’t nearly as frightening as it was before. I watched the cloud head off deeper into Makai with a happy sigh, glad that the ordeal was over.

I collapsed onto my back and held Luminita up above me. “Wasn’t that scary, Luminita? I’ll be happy if I never see another ghost again.” The doll nodded in agreement, waving her arms in excitement.

Reasoning that lying on the ground wasn’t the best use of my time, I picked up the mirror. I checked to make sure it wasn’t broken after I had dropped it, but made sure to avoid looking directly at it. Whatever the mirror was supposed to reflect wasn’t something I wanted to see again.

With everything looking none worse for wear, I spun around in a circle.

My redheaded friend was standing with her back to me a few meters away from me. “Hey Ko!” I called out to the demon in order to grab her attention.

She ignored me. “How rude,” I sighed, and began to walk over to the girl, ready to hand back the unsettling mirror.

“You know Ko, this mirror is weird. What is it supposed to-” The words died on my lips. My walk slowed to a halt once I examined my friend. The girl was still turned away from me, but I could see her shoulders shaking. In fact, her entire body was trembling, all the way down to her clenched hands and rocking feet. It sounded as if she was grinding her teeth as well.

“Ko?” I carefully took a step forward and tapped the girl on the shoulder.

She jumped, springing into the air and whirling around. I took one look into her eyes and…

[ ] Hugged her. She looked miserable.
[ ] Tried to catch her attention. She looked lost.
[ ] Handed back the mirror. She looked annoyed.
[ ] Stepped away. She looked pissed.
[ ] Talked about the incident. She looked frustrated.
[ ] Poked her stomach. She looked stressed.
[ ]

---

While we’re still talking about bad ends, I’m not in the business of setting up traps. Nothing is dumber than having nine-tenths of the vote options lead to a bad end. They should be rare and meaningful events.
>>No. 9883
[x] Hugged her. She looked miserable.
Its always hug time.
>>No. 9884
[x] Hugged her. She looked miserable.

One option vote
>>No. 9886
[x] Hugged her. She looked miserable.
>>No. 9887
[x] Hugged her. She looked miserable.
>>No. 9888
I'll admit, some of the votes in the past have had me confused. I'm so glad to see some things are constant.

As usual, I start writing and post whenever. Keep on voting unless I update/say otherwise.
>>No. 9891
[x] Hugged her. She looked miserable.

Either something fun happened, or Koa was mindraped.
>>No. 9893
[x]Picked her back up and walked home. She was scared.

I'm just throwing this out there.
>>No. 9911
[ ] p j g [ g y ] [ y g ] [ ] [ y ]
>>No. 9912
>>9911
What the fuck.
>>No. 9931
File 134241046145.jpg - (177.06KB, 849x1198, first-thread-so-close.jpg) [iqdb]
9931
I hugged her.

Even holding onto Luminita, I could easily wrap my arms around the girl in front of me. I wasn’t quite sure what was wrong with her, but the comfort of a hug could work wonders.

After all, the girl looked like she needed it. Ko’s eyes were bleak and dispirited. The usual bright confidence I saw was nowhere to be found. The girl was squinting too, her eyelids flickering as if she was fighting to keep them open.

The rest of her stance was just as haggard. Once I started to hold the demon, her shaking became all the more evident. She was slouching too. I had to hold her up because it felt like she was going to collapse at any moment.

“Don’t worry Ko, it’ll be okay.” I tried to emulate the warm and motherly aura that momma and Shinki exuded. If Ko was lacking her usual self-assurance then I would have to lend her some.

The little devil didn’t say anything to me in response. She gnashed her teeth and squirmed in place, but she seemed to be struggling with something else. The girl stood in my embrace without reacting to my presence.

Then, ever so hesitantly, her arms began to move. Those trembling limbs were dragged from her sides and slowly rose up mine. I felt her clench hands unfurl and stiffly rest on my back.

I hummed and rubbed the demon’s back, stroking gentle circles with my free hand. I put all the comfort I could into the movement in order to try and cheer my friend up.

I hadn’t been able to do anything for anyone. I had relied on my parents and other adults all my life. The benevolent demons of Makai continued the trend of caring for me.

Even if it would have been my future duty, I hadn’t been able to save anybody. A man wasting away in the span of hours was beyond me. A woman buried in a mound of rubble was beyond me. At least once, I wanted to make something right with my own hands.

Yet, my efforts didn’t seem to be working. The longer I held Ko, the less calm she became. Her frame quivered more and more. Her swaying and rocking became more violent, and the chattering of her teeth gave way to pained moaning.

I couldn’t feel a trace of the active and boisterous girl I knew in the body I was holding. “Everything will be alright, Ko.” I hugged her tighter, willing my emotions to reach the girl and help her calm down.

For a second, it felt like I succeeded. Ko’s form slackened in my arms, all the tension I could feel disappearing from the girl’s muscles.

“I’m glad you’re oka- Aah!” The little devil finally returned my hug, firmly squeezing me instead of awkwardly maintaining the form of an embrace.

It was a tad uncomfortable. “Hey Ko, can you let- Ngh!” I gasped when the hold on my back tightened further.

The demon’s hands had spread out, one moved to my upper back and one to my lower. I could feel fingers digging into my skin as Ko held me pinned against her.

A spark of fear jolted through my body as the sensation of being crushed became more and more prevalent.

My limbs were tingling as my body was constricted. I screamed while I could, the last sizeable breadth of air evacuating my body in a rush.

I tried to push the demon away, to break the embrace, but I couldn’t. My own weak arms could do nothing. My strength was incomparable to a demon’s.

Strong arms squeezed the energy out of my body, confining my lungs and preventing any words from escaping my throat.

I threw my head back and let out a soundless cry, the pain in my torso overwhelming. Through the tears that had welled up in my eyes, I could see Ko’s face.

The demon’s head was tilted downward, causing her short red hair to cover her eyes. Her mouth was grinning dementedly, growing larger with every sob of pain I uttered. I could hear a sickening laugh emanating from behind those teeth, a low-pitched gurgle-like chuckle that was reminiscent of putrid black mud boiling over.

Why? I thought to myself.

I-I don’t want… My mind was frozen, but my body tried to free itself. Unfortunately, physical struggles were useless, and I wasn’t able to concentrate to form any effective magic.

T-This is… Luminita had fallen from my grip once enough pressure was applied to my back. Without her help, there was nothing that could be done.

I just w-wanted… Terrible memories flashed before my eyes.

I d-d-d… Memories of malicious laughs and terrified shrieks, of scalding flames and bloody claws.

I… The happy memories I held seemed so far away, drowned under a sea of misfortune.

…w-want…d-don’t w-want… Even a child knows their limits. A bit more pressure, a second longer, and everything would be finished.

…I don’t want to die!


















…what?



My lungs spluttered and sighed in relief. “Haaaaaaah.” The gasp for breadth was a terrible sound, wet and splotchy.

I coughed and twitched as my body re-adjusted to normal conditions. My limbs felt like jelly, and my vision was splotched with colors.

I was lying on the ground. Far away, I saw Ko likewise slumped against the earth. Something had torn me from Ko’s grasp and sent the demon flying.

“Oh my, to think the little one would fall to such lows~”

The voice came from the one standing over me. “You’re…Iris…” The long silver haired and pale skinned demon was unmistakable. She was the one who had accosted me and Ko as we were leaving the school hours ago.

“Indeed I am. I’m so glad you remember me~” The demon’s wicked smiled, which normally would have been off-putting, was a surprising comfort. “I can’t tell how serious your injuries are since I didn’t cause them, so I hope you’re well Alice~”

What part of me looked well to her? I was laying on my side in a ragged heap, the sensations just returning to my arms and legs. I could barely see, hear, or concentrate and between the wracking gasps for breadth I was sobbing uncontrollably.

I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t help my neighbors, my parents, my self, or my friend. If my new family wanted me dead, why didn’t I oblige them? I couldn’t even die correctly, let alone try and save anybody. What was the point in struggling on? The reasons why or how weren’t important to my ailing, fixated mind.

While I was lost in my own thoughts, my ears picked up on Iris speaking. “I must say this isn’t quite what I expected from you~” The pale demon was talking to Ko’s collapsed form, but the redhead wasn’t responding. “Definitely, your soul and willpower were strong enough for something like this before. I wonder what changed. What unfortunate luck you must have today~”

Iris must have grown bored musing to herself because she returned her attention to me.

I was curled up as tightly as I could be while I lay on the ground, trying to protect myself from any more pain. I wanted everything to go away and for the crazy course of events of finish.

Soft hands peeled apart my shell and lifted me up.

Another one… I didn’t understand. The demon with the most bloodthirsty aura in Makai that I had met was cradling me and whispering in my ear. I could imagine her as a mother in another reality.

“Poor child. You’re no monster like us. This is truly cruel treatment for one so pure~” Iris held me tight, her baleful presence unnoticeable while I was clutched to her chest.

Am I crying again? I was tired of it. Momma had told me to be strong, yet it seemed like all I had done in the past few days was cry. I cried over a few hurt feelings and my own failures.

Enough was enough. So what if my reflection in that mirror unnerved me? It didn’t matter if my closest friend just tried to kill me. Family tried to murder me but family kept me safe. A girl who promised to take care of me destroyed her vow without a word. There was too much for me to possibly consider, to think about, to analyze and to decide. There were too many emotions. The crippling depression countered the blinding rage and mixed together with the ice cold fear to leave my heart aching.

If I distanced myself from the events around me, I wouldn’t need to feel a thing.

Iris stood me on my own two feet when she noticed I had stopped crying. Although a bit wobbly, I managed to maintain my balance.

“On your feet already, hm? With such a stony expression, too. You’ll grow into an excellent fighter~”

“Why are you here Miss Iris?” Focusing on the small details would let me ignore the situation and any ugly thoughts.

“Have I not told you? The little witch asked me to chaperone your little outing~”

“Didn’t you let us go, though?”

“Of course I did; you couldn’t have had your trip if I didn’t~”

Iris’ vague responses were frustrating. Perhaps obfuscating the truth was a side-effect of living for hundreds of years. “You followed us, then?”

“It is poor taste to renege on one’s word.”

“RAAAAAAAAGH!” The shout interrupted our conversation.

Ko was screaming at the top of her lungs, clutching her head with both hands. She thrashed wildly back and forth for several seconds, rolling on the ground in a fury.

“We might be out of time. How sensational~” Iris stepped closer to Ko, leaving me behind. The pale demon whipped her hands out to her sides, silver wires tumbling from her finger tips and towards the ground.

In front of us, Ko had risen to her feet. She gracefully spun out of her crazed rolling and stood steadily, weapons held at her sides. She had pulled two weapons out from somewhere. In one hand she held a pistol. It was a stout and blocky thing, all straight lines and utilitarian looks. In the other hand she held a knife, short and pointed like the kind that daddy had received from a friend in the war.

“This is so exciting! How will she fare with her inhibitions removed? I wonder~”

Dispassionately assessing the two demons, I realized I didn’t know who might win in a fight. The Ko I knew was confident in her abilities even if nobody else was. Iris practically oozed killing intent, but in the end I had never seen either of them in combat.

“You might want to leave Alice. Things are going to get messy~” Iris glanced over her shoulder at me and winked. “I’m no saint; I deal in the carnal delights. Exorcism by blood is all I care for~”

The short standoff was broken when Ko raised her head at the same time she raised her pistol. Iris’ head whipped back around as she moved with her opponent, a swing of her hands causing silver wires to shoot off in every direction.

The redhead was far away, but I could see her eyes as clearly as ever.

Her face might have been grinning and her body might have been thirsting for blood, but her eyes still looked distraught.

Those red eyes were tinged with misery.

What could I do?

[ ] Fly away towards…
-[ ] Maria’s tower
-[ ] The city
[ ] Watch the fight from…
-[ ] Further away
-[ ] Right where I was
[ ] Interrupt the battle…
-[ ] With words…
--[ ]
-[ ] With actions…
--[ ]
[ ]

---

>>9911
Uh…if this is a cleverly hidden message I applaud you – it’s subtle enough that I gave up on deciphering it after two seconds.
>>No. 9936
[x] Fly away towards…
-[x] The city

Boy we screwed up. Hopefully we can get someone to handle this better than we can.
>>No. 9938
[x] Fly away towards…
-[x] Maria’s tower

I wanted to vote "interrupt the fight by bashing Koakuma with summoned shields until she drops", but Alice isn't strong enough for this right now, and any mistake means having a frenzied demon armed to the teeth in front of a poor and sweet little girl.
And while I would certainly laugh at the predictable bloodbath, I think I would be the only one here. So no.
>>No. 9939
>>9911
You mean " jpggy jpgyg y"?
>>No. 9940
[x] Fly away towards…
-[x] The city
>>No. 9944
[x] Fly away towards…
-[x] The city
Sadistic demon vs crazed Ko.
Something tells me that little Alice will be traumatized if we stay. Well, more traumatized, at least.
>>No. 9956
>>9936
Don't be too hard on yourself - things can always get worse!

>>9938
Naw, you wouldn't be the only one. I'm pretty sure I would enjoy it.

>>9939
...?

>>9944
I hear unstable MC's are all the rage these days.

Blah blah I'm procrastinating, you can still vote, same stuff as usual.
>>No. 9957
>>9931
[x] Fly away towards…
-[x] Wherever Erk lives.

I assume he's near the city, but either way Alice needs to hustle.
>>No. 9987
File 134266302641.jpg - (108.48KB, 900x600, so-long-farewell-I-hate-to-say-goodbye.jpg) [iqdb]
9987
“If you ever have a problem sweetie, just ask for help. Nobody could refuse an angel like you,” Daddy’s advice rung in my ears. In the end, I was still a child. No matter how mature or responsible I might have been, I couldn’t compete with the demons. If it took all of my willpower to avoid giving in to crippling emotions, I was useless. Fleeing was the only action I could take.

The booming of Ko’s pistol shook me into action. I stooped low to quickly pick Luminita up from where I had dropped her. With no time for hesitation, I scooped up Ko’s mirror as well and took to the sky. Regardless of the danger, magical flight was faster than my legs would ever take me.

I had to find help. Someone else could fix whatever had happened to my friend. There’s no way Ko actually wants- I stopped myself from thinking about what was happening and focused on my goal; breaking down in tears wouldn’t help me.

There had to be someone who could understand what was wrong. I knew of so many intelligent or competent demons. Erk seemed to know a lot and so did Mai and Yuki. Even if nobody else could help, surely the goddess would be able to do something. I just had to tell them what was happening.

“Kyaah!” I screamed when I was suddenly batted to the side. An explosion rocked the air near me, the concussive force causing me to tumble.

Once I managed to stabilize my flight, I turned my head to see what had happened.

Iris and Ko were dancing in midair. The pale demon was laughing as she rose and dived, silver wires whirling around her. Ko was matching pace with her opponent, darting around and using her knife to slice through the wires that neared her.

When the redhead raised her gun I took off as fast as I could.

She was aiming at me.

Explosive rounds were spewing out of Ko’s pistol. It wasn’t a traditional gun that relied on conventional ammunition – the flaming orbs that left the barrel were obviously not bullets. It was some strange mix of magic and technology that was filling the air with explosive fireballs. The amount of projectiles the pistol managed to fire wasn’t as ridiculous as Yuki’s magical barrages, but Ko’s shots were much more accurate.

Those fireballs would have blown me up and turned my body into ashes if they had landed.

My attempts at evasion were lackluster compared to Ko’s aim. Nearly every shot was perfectly aimed along my flight path; one in a dozen rounds veered wildly off course. The only thing that saved me was the premature detonation of the projectiles.

Wire birds were colliding with the shots before they reached me. The hawk-like constructs swooped in and blocked the deadly explosives. Their bodies melted and dispersed in the process, but they stopped each round dead in the air.

Flicking my gaze around, I saw the flock of wire birds circling around in the sky. There were at least a hundred of them, and they were everywhere. Even though Ko’s gun was spitting out something like two-hundred rounds per minute, a bird would always dive in and disappear in a fiery end.

The wire creatures were forming around Iris. The pale demon was whipping her hands around and lashing at Ko with those silver wires, but not every wire was used to attack. I could see different strands glisten as they flowed around and behind Iris, rapidly weaving together into the shape of a bird. Those constructs would snap free from Iris’ wires and rise into the sky to circle around, waiting for the chance to sacrifice themselves.

My quiet appreciation for Iris’ skills was interrupted by the roaring demon. Ko was flying directly at me, gun spitting explosives. So fast. The glinting combat knife that was splitting silver wire like butter was calling for my blood. Stopping my flight for even a second was a fatal mistake.

“How disappointing~” A mass of silver violently smashed into Ko, knocking her aside. “Such brutish grace, yet you aren’t focusing on me at all. I might just kill you at this rate~”

Whether Iris was actively protecting me or just enjoying herself was irrelevant. I used the opening to speed off once more, intent on finding sane help in the city. Everybody will be okay!

Explosions continued to shake me, causing me to swerve around in the air and waste time. I was headed for the trees above the crystal forest. The toxic miasma in the air wasn’t a concern compared to the crazed killer pursuing me.

Why… Even if I was fleeing for my life, my mind still tried to understand the situation before I forced it to stop. The fact that Ko was actively chasing me with killing intent was all I needed to know.

A quick glance behind me showed that the redhead was shrugging off Iris’ attacks. Ko’s knife separated wire nets and whips before they could entrap her. She spun and whirled in the air, flipping upside down and sideways to obtain better cutting angles. The girl was actively avoiding the larger attacks Iris was throwing out as well, all while maintaining her firing aim and straight flight velocity. The end result was that the redhead closed the distance between us at astonishing speed.

“Get away!” I screamed, lashing out with my will. The cool comfort of magical energy swirled around me before exploding outwards and behind me. It was raw, unguided magical force that happened to coalesce into an irregular lump of metal.

The block I instinctively launched was slow and cumbersome, wholly unfit to be a projectile. It was too large and easily dodged, but I couldn’t refine it any more. My grasp of magic was tentative; sapping my focus from trying to go faster was not something I could afford to do.

Readjusting my flight path for all the explosive turbulence was my best chance at escape. The top of the crystal forest was already in sight and growing larger. It was simply a matter of getting there.

Every glance over my shoulder buffeted my mind with doubt. Ko seemed like an unstoppable force. She held her pistol steadily on target and never let up her ranged harassment. Even when she kicked out her legs or spun in tight circles, her focus remained on me. Her combat knife flared out above and below her, swept in circles and jabbed at a dozen points to sever silver wires without missing a beat.

Her defense wasn’t perfect, but it didn’t need to be. She suffered dozens of cuts, bleeding from any number of superficial wounds without a care. Her manic grin and desolate eyes never wavered.

I cried out when one of the explosions singed my ankle. It was a minor burn, but a terrible omen of what was to come. Relying on Iris’ wire birds to block Ko’s pistol shots became less and less effective as the redhead drew closer. With only a dozen meters separating us, the wire constructs couldn’t react quickly enough to deal with Ko’s constant fusillade.

No, no, no! The towering crystal trees would give me a chance, letting me slip out of that abominable pistol’s line of fire.

The question was would I reach them? The explosions came closer and closer. Bits of melted wire pelted me as they lost cohesion and scattered to the winds. I was tossed around more and more, slowing my flight by magnitudes.

Ko was practically on top of me. The birds were already exploding at my back. Through sheer rate of fire, the explosive rounds would break through my avian protectors. The few seconds I needed to reach precious cover were seconds I didn’t have.

Fortunately, the cover of the trees came to me.

For a quarter of a second, I registered the fact that Iris was floating in front of me, just on the edge of the crystal forest. Then the trees moved.

The sound of shattering crystal was loud and abrasive. It grated on my ears much like fingernails scraping across a chalkboard. The outer edge of the forest was being destroyed, dismantled at the trunks by silver wires.

With a pull of her hand, Iris had severed hundreds of crystal trees from the ground of Makai. A flick of her fingers sent the smaller trees flying, and a wave of her arm caused the floor-to-ceiling pillars to come plummeting down.

“Pay attention Little One!” Iris was shouting over the roar of shattering crystal, “Don’t dissatisfy me when I’m trying so hard for you~”

The red eyed demon had uprooted an entire chunk of the forest and thrown it into the air. She’s crazy. The avalanche of crystal might have been the death of me, but I couldn’t stop flying. For whatever reason, Ko was ready to rip me apart, and letting her reach me was a guaranteed end.

Whispering a quick prayer, I plunged into the storm of crystal.

It was a whiteout; branches flew upwards, trunks fell downwards, and jagged shards were thrown sideways as trees collided with trees. Everything in my vision was crystal blue, sometimes tinged with red when the fragments flying around cut into my skin.

I turned and twirled with all the concentration I had. Dodging a massive trunk meant stalling in mid air, then ducking a branch and hiking my legs over a spinning gale of leaves. Diving straight downwards allowed me to barely avoid a falling spire of crystal, but didn’t stop a column from slamming into my stomach.

A spike of crystal nearly took out my leg and another fragment was a razor’s edge from tearing apart my throat. I threw magic around in a wanton effort to stay safe. Blobs of metal sprung into existence, deflecting crystals before disappearing or being ripped apart. I tried my best to block and evade all the flying debris, but it would have taken Herculean effort to make it out safely. I was fortunate that some shards that would have impaled me changed direction, giving me time to deflect others and chart out safe paths through the flurry.

The storm of falling crystal dragged me with it, battering me from all sides. All of my upward progress was halted, leaving me with nowhere to go but down. A chill ran up my legs when my bare feet landed on the jagged glass fragments littering the ground. With a forest of trees still falling towards me and no good place to run, I hunkered down.

I curled up into a ball, threw my arms over my neck, and screamed.

The deafening echo of crystal impacting against metal lasted for a minute, the crashing and shattering pounding into my ears. My heart raced with the sounds. Once the noise settled down, I opened my eyes and saw nothing but darkness.

I reached a hand out and the darkness parted for light.

Crawling towards the light, I found myself staring at a field of crystal. Shards of blue had obscured the red dirt of Makai completely. Some of the larger and sturdier trees were still relatively intact, leaning against each other and looking as if they were still rooted in the ground. The scene was similar to an actual forest which had been torn up by a hurricane.

Turning around, I tapped on the silver dome of metal which had formed over me while I took shleter on the ground. It was dented in numerous places, with shards of crystal sticking out of it, but it had apparently protected me as I quivered in fear. I wasn’t sure where it came from, but it responded to my will easily enough. Magic was instinctive, so it was possible that I had created it on accident.

“Agh,” I winced when I finally registered the pain. I made it out of the torrent of crystal alive, but not unscathed. I gingerly sat down on a flattened part of the metal dome to check myself.

I was a mess. I could feel the stinging from all the cuts and the aches from all the would-be bruises. Every time I moved there was a sharp pain in my torso that might have been a broken bone or something worse. I had no way to tell.

The most I was able to do was to bandage my obvious wounds. Fighting back tears, I ripped apart my dress and blouse to cover my injuries. I wrapped my feet which had been rendered a bloody mess, tied off my arm which bled every time I moved it and staunched the flow of blood from my thighs. I didn’t notice any of the fatal injuries that Cosette had pointed out, but I wasn’t exactly in the most attentive state of mind. The longer I spent without professional care the more danger I was in.

Once I finished patching myself up the best I could, I floated up and away. Flying didn’t seem to aggravate too many of my injuries and walking on my torn-up feet was out of the question.

From the air, the area looked like a mess. A small blue island had formed on Makai’s ground, a trail of broken crystals leading to the impact site from where the forest had been ripped apart. It resembled a large teardrop.

The semi-circular chunk of missing forest looked pitiful. I could imagine the animals that had lived there wondering where their home just went.

Before I left, a laugh pulled my attention back to the ground.

In the ruined wonderland of crystal, a snow-haired and redheaded demon fought for their lives.

I knew I should have left immediately, but I didn’t. The scene was mesmerizing in its own way, and my decisions after being knocked around silly were suspect.

I watched Ko attack Iris in a fury. The redhead eschewed flying, instead preferring to run and leap through the air at her foe. She dashed toward the pale demon and swooped in low to take Iris’ feet out from under her and then spun upwards with her knife before flipping backwards in a display of acrobatics. She would land and charge again, leading with her knife before zipping past Iris and flipping about. Ko was fighting like a bull, charging at Iris again and again.

The sadistic demon was standing still, only making the slightest movements to avoid Ko’s knife. Iris laughed and waved her arms about, slinging her wires at Ko every time the girl charged.

They say a best defense is a good offense; Iris was following the maxim to the letter. The wire fighter was relying on Ko’s instincts of self-preservation. Every time Ko charged, Iris would swing her wires around, sending the silver lines cascading around her opponent. Ko was forced to disengage, to spin around and cut the threads before they reached her, effectively stalling her offense. The redhead couldn’t fully commit to an attack without leaving herself open to a decisive blow.

However, Iris’ style was imperfect. What should have been a flawless defense against any sane opponent wasn’t quite working against the little devil. Iris’ silver wires weren’t always cut. Sometimes, they withdrew from Ko’s body coated in red.

The little devil was outright ignoring some of Iris’ counter-attacks. She would stick close to Iris a moment too long, allowing dozens of the silver wires to cut into her body. Yet Ko made the most of that time, jabbing with her knife and hand to rip into Iris’ flesh. Ko would eventually flip away, avoiding any fatal strikes to her person before attacking again.

It was a bloody affair. In a fight were neither combatant could land a killing blow, every clash left more tears in the combatants’ clothes, more blood gushing from open wounds. Lacerations covered Ko’s body, while Iris was missing noticeable chunks of flesh from her limbs. They must have been in excruciating pain, but neither screamed. Iris was laughing wildly and Ko was grinning in maddening silence.

Ko slid in for another attack, twisting her lower body while she swung her knife high, aiming for Iris’ neck. The silver wires surged forward and around, a few cut by the moving knife while others threaded into Ko’s body like needles. The tip of Ko’s weapon drew a bloody line across Iris’ neck; the demon had craned backwards just enough to avoid a life-ending blow. Ko’s arm continued to move, sliding down her sides and severing the wires that had imbedded themselves into her skin.

However, the equilibrium was broken. Their wounds were finally affecting them. Ko’s movement was too slow, her knife slicing downward just a fraction slower than in their previous clashes. Whereas Ko would have normally cut the wires and leapt away, Iris’ hand shot out and grabbed a hold of Ko’s wrist before the girl could escape.

The little devil flicked her fingers and reversed her grip on the knife, preparing to plunge the weapon downwards and separate Iris’ hand from her arm, but the paled haired demon pulled first.

Iris drew back her arm and yanked Ko’s hand away, literally.

Silver wires were attached to Iris’ palm and a severed hand was held dangling from them. Ko’s hand had been cleanly separated at the wrist, her knife still clutched in the detached fingers.

The redhead didn’t scream, or react to the fact that her hand had just been severed. With that manic grin on her face, Ko thrusted forward with her other arm and grabbed on to the side of Iris’ head. The redhead pulled, taking from the pale demon a clump of her hair, her ear, and much of the skin around her cheek and eye. Iris’ mouth was gaped open in laughter even when the raw flesh of her face was exposed to the open air.

I vomited. Grave wounds were not a new sight to my eyes but my body still wasn’t accustomed to them. Watching two people rip each other part was nauseating. It was the first time I had truly observed a struggle to the death. Nobody covered my eyes and I didn’t run away screaming. I floated in the air and watched the two demons honestly try to bloodily kill each other.

Of course, with Ko’s knife hand missing, the fight was over. Iris kicked Ko away from her and spread her silver wires. The little devil couldn’t avoid them, and had no way of cutting them.

The metal strands dug deep into her flesh and wrapped around her. It was to sound of laughter that Ko’s knees were torn away from the rest of her body.

The sight of Ko writhing on the ground, one arm ending in a bloody stump and her legs taken off at the knees was a sight that would never leave me. That thrice-damned grin on her face, the realization that the redhead didn’t care what was happening to her body, was the picture of madness that was emblazoned in my mind.

I vaguely noted that I had floated closer during the fight. Finding help was still at the forefront of my mind, but I wasn’t sure what good it would do. The fight had ended. It would take several minutes to get to the city and bring somebody back; there was no chance for immediate medical care. The wounds we had suffered from would either be non-fatal or beyond aid.

“You put up more of a fight when you’re in control Little One~” Iris was speaking nonchalantly, as if she wasn’t missing half of her face. What kind of mental fortitude did she have to ignore that kind of injury?

The pale demon must have noticed my approached. She turned and only showed me the good side of her face when she spoke. “I told you it would be messy, Alice~”

I nodded. I had already emptied my stomach and my emotions were already dulled from before. There was nothing else to do but impassively take in the mess, to memorize the sights and smells of flesh and blood.

“I do believe they shall be quite crass with me~” Iris was checking over her body. She winced when she poked at the different gouges and tears in her body. “If nothing else, I’ve made a mess of the goddess’ beautiful creations~”

Iris would be fine. When I considered how she acted and what I saw, the wire fighter wouldn’t be in any danger.

Assessing my friend on the ground left me unsure. Ko was still grinning and writhing on the ground, moving around her thighs and arms in a vaguely threatening manner. She couldn’t change position, though, as Iris had left the girl pinned to the ground via wires threaded through her shoulder joints.

Iris watched me stare at Ko’s pathetic figure and commented, “Mhm, a little dismemberment shouldn’t inconvenience her; we can fix that~” Her words passed through one ear and out the other.

I floated closer to my friend. Why did this happen? I couldn’t understand. She had promised everything would be fine, that I would be safe. She kept her word, in a fashion. Things went terribly wrong, but I was still in one piece.

Ko… The emotional barriers I had so carefully erected to survive the chase were being torn down by my thrashing friend.

It became worse when Ko started to mewl. The redheaded girl moaned and shook. Her miserable eyes grew watery.

If I had any tears left I would have cried myself. She was suffering. Even if that maniacal grin on her face was immovable, the rest of my friend was sobbing in pain.

“Ah, here comes that delightful woman. She was a tad slower than I expected~” Iris was referring to Maria, who was coasting through the air towards us. I wasn’t surprised to see the religious demon – she said she was watching over Makai through her familiars. She had to have noticed the situation occurring outside her tower.

While I watched Maria fly down towards us, I noticed something amiss.

It was quiet. After the roar of evil spirits, the explosions of Ko’s pistol, the crashing of crystal, and the laughter of battle I had become accustomed to the noise. Complete silence was strange.

It was also alarming. Ko had just been groaning.

I looked back down at my friend. Depressed eyes looked back up at me.

She wasn’t shaking or murmuring. The girl was as steady as a rock when she moved her handed arm. Even if it was pinned at the shoulder, she could still pivot her arms around the elbow.

If she was trying to kill me before… My gaze followed her remaining hand as it grasped a shard of crystal.

I gasped and brought my arms up. The jagged shard flew through the air and embedded into my forearms.

Iris reacted immediately, silver wires surging forward to subdue the girl on the ground. However, Ko had armed herself with another shard right after she had flicked the first. Her arm was already in motion.

It was ridiculous. The two demons had moved and reacted before I even registered the pain in my arms.

Those response times were absolutely, truly ridiculous. Ko was in the process of releasing the second shard by the time she heard my scream, but she reacted all the same.

The redhead’s eyes widened ever so slightly. Her grin twitched for an instant.

Whatever madness had taken her must have weakened while she was lying broken on the ground.

Ko’s grip on the jagged shard tightened, holding on to the improvised weapon instead of flinging it towards me.

And her arm followed through with its movement, flying past the point where it should have stopped.

No…

Ko’s body convulsed as blood gushed out of her throat. The crystal shard had been jammed into her neck, cutting a red smile under her chin.

That insane grin which had adorned itself to Ko’s face completely disappeared.

My friend smiled at me. It was small and subdued, but she looked happy instead of insane. Even those miserable eyes had gained a slight glow of warmth.

Ko laughed. Blood bubbled at her throat, but my dear friend laughed. It was one of the sickest, sweetest sounds I have ever heard.

Then she stopped moving completely.

“Not again…” I stared at my friend. I stared at the still warm body.

-wails of terror as they burned alive-

The one thing I never wanted to see again. The one feeling I didn’t want to experience any more.

-neck caved in, flesh bitten off and limbs torn-

Another person, another friend, another family member.

-ghastly screaming, the worst pain imaginable-

I had been with her through the agonizing process, from beginning to end.

-desperate cries for-

It was the first time that ever happened.

-cold, lifeless-

Ko died in front of me.

---

Girl of Death, Part One: Precious Memories – End

---
>>No. 9990
File 134266315059.jpg - (98.30KB, 500x698, how-does-this-make-you-feel.jpg) [iqdb]
9990
Well then.
















Thanks for sticking with my story through the first thread. I appreciate all my readers, especially the ones who took the time to vote or throw out a bit of conjecture.

This is the last story post I have for this thread. I’ll begin Part Two in the second thread. Until this thread dies (and even after), I would like to take the time to get some feedback.

Writing all of this has been an experiment as I tried different things to see what I liked. Looking back on what I’ve written, I know what I would like to change and improve for the rest of the story.

If my beloved readers could chime in with their own opinions on the story, I’d be delighted. Critique everything – How was the pacing? Were the updates too long, too boring? Should I sacrifice length for speedier updates? Did the votes seem meaningful, or did you feel like I was ignoring everybody? Was my prose too purple or too short? Any mood whiplash, or did things occur as you expected?

Comments of this nature would be great. Any thoughts you all have would help me improve and make the experience better for everybody. I always accept criticisms, even during the story, but I’m specifically asking for them at the end of each thread.

Since this is pretty selfish, I’d also like to take this discussion time to answer any questions or concerns you might have. Whether they’re about the story or not, I’ll answer your inquiries. Were you confused by something I wrote? Are you curious about what would have happened if a different vote was chosen? Do you want to know my favorite brand of cheese?

As always, my answers may or may not be serious, especially when the question pertains to spoilerable material. If I think your question might be answered through the course of later events, I’ll probably give you the run around.

If it’s nagging you or bugging you, bring it up. If you want to praise my holiness or flame me to the darkest hells of the abyss, go ahead. If you feel like dropping my story…well, if you tell my why then maybe I can convince you to stick around, but that’s your decision.

Thanks everybody!

TL;DR – Comments, critiques, questions and answers time! Next thread == continuation of story.
>>No. 9994
LESS COMMENTS LESS CLIFFHANGER AND MORE UPDATES

And less gore too. Seems a bit weird for a little girl to see a demon tearing its face off and going "oh hi whats up?". Sure, she puked, but given what kind of nasty crap she witnessed, it's a miracle she's didn't passed out.

And by the way, I liked your Koa hijacks.
>>No. 9996
your tone is rather uneven, makes it pretty jarring to consider the kind motherly goddess running the same world where various horrors run amok. Consistency helps.

I hope the dark elements have good reasons for being there and not some juvenile attempt at being 'cool'.

I feel this story still has some promise though the next thread would determine if my doubts would be dispelled or not.
>>No. 9997
>Were the updates too long, too boring? Should I sacrifice length for speedier updates?
I liked the long updates. The walls justify the relatively slow update speed, if it is even slow.

>Any mood whiplash, or did things occur as you expected?
Well, Koakuma's possession and (at least apparent) death did come on rather fast. But that might be deliberate.

>I’d also like to take this discussion time to answer any questions or concerns you might have.

What's your intended level of adherence to canon? (Notably, the amount of canon material pertaining to Makai is relatively small, so even a closely cleaving story would be plowing a lot of new ground.)

>If it’s nagging you or bugging you, bring it up.

Several things are, especially as regards canon.

First,
>Ko died in front of me.
But she showed up in the narration already, so it clearly didn't stick. Unless Alice is telling this from the afterlife.

Death being cheap for youkai, as it is for fairies, has been one of my pet peeves since at least THIS SHRINE. But I can't tell if it was cheap or expensive; and since this ends abruptly, I can't even tell if death was misidentified. (Since Perfect Memento states that youkai can be cut into five pieces and heal quickly, I wouldn't expect blood loss, three impromptu amputations, and a tracheotomy to be lethal.)

So, urgently awaiting resumption.


Second, Koakuma is technically a devil (originally, akuma), rather than a demon (originally mamodo), who are the inhabitants of Makai, created by Shinki, according to Mystic Square. Vampires are the most prominent variety of devil, and are explicitly stated to be related to oni, implying that other devils also are. Oni may originate from Hell (the one which is or was used to punish sinners) and certainly live and work there; ergo, it is unlikely that they are Shinki's creations.

However, Elis is also a devil, and inhabited Makai in Highly Responsive to Prayers. That, and all of this is from canon sources, but Touhou has a fuzzy canon, especially between sources. So there's probably no direct conflict, but it is something to be aware of.


Third,
>>9994
Pretty much all of this. Especially surprise and disbelief that Alice remained conscious through all this. The possibility that she was on an extreme adrenaline rush actually makes it more likely that she would lose consciousness.


>Do you want to know my favorite brand of cheese?
Since you asked, yes.
>>No. 10000
This is a good story, But that random grimderp just caught me off guard. It came out of pretty much nowhere, And it's kinda a bad idea to randomly pull that shit.
>>No. 10004
>>9994
That is fairly normal, she had already gone through a fairly traumatic experience, and on top of that she was dazed from blood loss, and potentially a concussion. Not to mention the fact that adrenaline has to be serious pumping through her body further numbing Alice.

>>9996
This isn't exactly all that surprising when you consider that to her (Shinki) these things are probably far from dangerous. Not only that it was never stated that she is omnipotent just the creator, and when the large spider was previously mentioned to her she pretty much stated magic does weird shit to things.

>>10000
It wasn't random, the story literally starts off with it. There is a reoccurring theme of her missing her parents that are dead. She was sent to run away while they died to give her time. This story is based in Grimdark with an attempt at making the protagonist, or Alice happy.

At least that's my take on it.
>>No. 10005
File 134271834845.jpg - (91.11KB, 800x532, fuckin emo.jpg) [iqdb]
10005
Alice is still the Witch of Death in Mystic Square. I guess that writefag wants to explain why.

I'm just happy that "witch of death" doesn't mean in this case "fucking emo grimdaaark bitch".
>>No. 10011
>>10000
Did you have some suspicion that it was coming, or was this truly out of left field? Either way, it would be my fault for not preparing expectations better.

>Dark Tones
Well, I think they have a place. There’s a plot somewhere out there!

>What's your intended level of adherence to canon?
I’d like to keep cannon as intact as possible. Descriptions, events, places – I’ll try to keep these somewhat close to what we factually know. However, I’m not afraid of changing things if it turns out they don’t work within the frame of the story as I planned (although I like to think everything meshes as it is now).

In regards to Makai – yeah, I’m taking liberties. I tried to draw logical conclusions from the few cannon details available and then imagined what a well-traveled hyper-active all-powerful child would do with a giant white canvas and cans of paint.

>Demons and Devils
Damn it you Elevens!

Joking aside, I’m actually an American idiot – this type of technicality didn’t occur to me. Thanks for pointing it out. That being said, how much this will affect the story is minimal. In the end, Koakuma was still created by Shinki. This story will probably continue to operate under the idea that devils and demons are pretty much interchangeable, because frankly I’ve already written it and the details are too vague to bother a serious rewrite.

Various religions and creative works all depict devils and demons differently. Some times they’re the same, sometimes they’re not. Maybe one group composes spirits and the other fallen angels, or one group is more chaotic than the other. Since I already have two confirmed devils romping around in Makai (and only three others outside of it, the Scarlets and Kurumi, who are vampires) I’m probably just going to assume that the terms of devil and demon are not mutually exclusive and roll out in my ignorance.

Also, where is it stated that Oni and Vampires have a relation? I don’t remember stumbling across that information other than roasted soybean stuff.

>Youkai and Life
Other than the fact that I take Akyu’s words as an opinion, she only notes trends in youkai. Since the concept of ‘supernatural creatures’ encompasses a massive swathe of territory, I work under the assumption that your generic lowest-level youkai is generally more fit than a human and nothing else. They’ve got all the important bits to survive, and losing them might very well mean death. You might want to think about what death really means, though.

This pulls me into the second point I want to clarify – although the demons of Makai can be considered youkai, they are not exactly Japanese, and are thusly outside the specific area of expertise that most of Gensokyo’s population deals with. How familiar is Akyu with Western-style creatures, and are the traits seen in Japanese creatures applicable to the supernatural throughout the world?

>Safety and Consistency
The world is hardly a safe place, you know? An orphan living in some ghetto is generally safe if they have a place to stay where adults can watch over them, like a foster home. Even a few steps outside that home could be safe, but if that kid wanders out of sight and down a dark alley? Things can get dicey.

Of course, even if I meant to include some jarring shifts in tone, it’s my fault if I didn’t properly adjust the reader to such an environment. Thanks for pointing that out.

>Cheese
Crappy American cheese, because I’m poor and that processed shit is all I ever eat. Wohoo!

>Falling Unconscious
Well guys, there’s a funny thing about that…

>Children
I just want to say, they confuse the hell out of me. Even when I was kid, there’s so much random shit they can deal with. My buddy and I stabbed open a fetal pig’s gut, spilled green bile everywhere, and then cut off its head and laughed. Another kid flipped his shit, tossed the pig out the window, and ran.

Even the littlest kids can be so damn surprising. I might not be able to look at a friend who had his leg cut open by a chainsaw, but then some six-year old runs up and yells “Cool!” Of course, it varies from child to child, but on a whole I’ve found little kids to be ridiculously resilient compared to ‘mature’ adults.

>>10004
I like this guy.

Geez, that was long. Thanks for the comments guys; it helps to shore up my story. Progress is still being made on the update too, so I proclaim victory!
>>No. 10016
>>10004
Gee, dude, writefag required our opinion, we gave it. No need to argue with us.
If anything, you're just being annoying rather than helping. It's not a "let's suck dicks" competition, it's a "let's post what we disliked in this story" kind of advice.

For really, I know I already said it, but I really liked Koa's hijacks of the stories. I'd like to see her reaction to Alice telling how she died.
>>No. 10022
>>10016
I wasn't really trying to argue to be honest. I was merely pointing out that these things were not 'odd' 'random' and had 'consistency.'

Sorry if it came off as something else.
>>No. 10025
File 134284809332.jpg - (24.95KB, 479x380, cannon.jpg) [iqdb]
10025
One thing that strikes me from the story (and to a lesser extent the discussion): This version of Alice has a very strong mind already.

>>10011

>cannon
"Canon" refers, in context, to original works which fan fiction is inspired by. "Cannon" is a type of artillery piece.
Also, you don't need to capitalize things like "demon", "devil", or "oni", since they're species names and not proper nouns.
Other than that, your technical writing is quite good, and I don't remember seeing any mistakes in it.

>Demons and devils
There are few, if any, consistent features between demons. It's impossible to even tell whether several characters are or were even supposed to be demons or not. (Alice's status as a former human seems to have been a retcon, as she was based on an Alice from another series who was a demon. YuugenMagan, one of the least physically humanoid named characters in Touhou, is also probably a demon.)
However, devils have consistently been winged humanoids with bat wings on their backs. Koakuma had them originally in fanon, and later in a cameo in a canon comic. Three devils, two of which are vampires and all of which are powerful, have also displayed the ability to turn into bats.

>Oni and vampires
The kanji writing of the Japanese word for 'vampire' contains the kanji for 'oni'. Remilia points this out in her route in Immaterial and Missing Power, and in so doing claims to Suika that she is also a type of oni. This is reinforced by the soybean weakness.

However, just because vampires specifically are related to oni may or may not mean that devils as a whole are.

>Youkai and life
...I'll assume you mean the lowest level sapient humanoid youkai, since the real lowest level ones are stage enemies, often without discernible anatomy.
All I can think of regarding death is the difference between clinical death and brain death, and that Miko stated that youkai expect to be reborn if they are killed.

>Pig fetus incident
Even disregarding the desensitization that would likely be a prerequisite to acquiring a pig fetus in the first place, seeing your best friend getting cut to ribbons in a life or death situation is quite a bit different from mangling something that is obviously already dead and blatantly inhuman in play.
Also, at least some of children's apparent resilience is the result of simply not knowing that they should be reacting emotionally to the thing they appear to be resistant to. I would expect that the child who thought that a chainsaw wound was cool would not have yet understood what had happened, whereas Alice most certainly did.


>>10004

I honestly can't tell if you're arguing that she should or shouldn't have been fainting at that point, since blood loss, high adrenaline levels, and concussions can all induce loss of consciousness, the former two by reducing the blood flow to the brain.
Of course, a flying position might put the head lower relative to the body, so that blood flow decrease to it would be reduced.
>>No. 10053
File 134298208655.jpg - (4.37KB, 133x107, this-was-so-funny.jpg) [iqdb]
10053
Relax guys, we’re all friends here, whether you like it or not.

My apologies for the wait on the update. There happens to be a certain Beta event going on that has sucked my time dry.

>Technical writing
Ah, this makes me feel better. I end up doing the drafting and proofreading on my own so I can get a bit paranoid about quality. I can admit that there are errors you might not have noticed, but I’m not going to point them out.

Also, I always split the drafting and the editing of story updates across multiple days, but I don’t put the same effort into these comments. If these seem chock full of errors, that’s because they are.

>Capitalization
Just gonna rant about stupid creative works from books to video games that have ingrained the bad habit of capitalizing non-human race names into my boyhood psyche. I try and correct it when I see it, but sometimes I slip up.

>Pig fetus
Well I’m not sure about you, but in my old school system dissecting things was a standard experiment all the little kiddies got to enjoy. They started us off with frogs early on and moved on to the big stuff later.

>Death
People die is they are killed…don’t they?

---

“Hey!”

“Oh, Ko, how are you? I’m surprised to see you here this early.”

“I’ve had a lot of fun today because of you.”

“Excuse me?”

“I was coming into town on an errand and do you know what happened? Those guards wouldn’t let me in!”

“I see. That’s rather unfortunate. Perhaps their wives laid down the law?”

“Oh, I’ll show them who should lay- that’s not the point. They think I’m a psychotic killer because they were listening to your story!”

“How troublesome. I didn’t mean to inconvenience you.”

“Too late for that, Cupcake. Why did you even tell them I nearly killed you?”

“Because that’s what happened?”

“It’s the truth now? How many of your stories have ever used the truth, huh? I still remember Mokou busting your ass for that bar tale about her and Eirin.”

“W-well, t-that was, uh…”

“When you started to circulate that steamy Moriya story.”

“Those two found that story amusing!

“And that domineering bit between Cirno and Remi.”

“H-hey! That story was based on legitimate facts!

“The little tyke threw a snowball at her! How the hell does that equate to a sudden interest in B-”

“Okay! Okay, I understand. It’s just that this story is more important. I didn’t want to gloss over my own failures by changing what had happened.”

“…Well damn. You know I don’t blame you, Alice.”

“Yes, we’ve gone over the issue enough times. It’s part of our history now; I wanted to respect that.”

“Sure. You really know how to obliterate my anger, Alice. Still, I didn’t expect you to just lay out the truth.”

“Storytelling is an art; I take liberties here and there.”

“Of course. Geez, what am I supposed to yell about now?”

“To be honest, I thought you would be more upset about my telling of your own death.”

“Eh? Really now? I thought you knew me better than that. I don’t mind the truth. Besides, if somebody ever took an interest in my life I’d be more than happy to enlighten them.”

“I see….wait. How did you get here in the first place?”

“Whaddya mean?”

“I mean we’re standing in the center of the village. You said the guards wouldn’t let you in.”

“Oh. That. Right. I actually flew in while invisible. If I’m talking to you, I guess I’m not really invisible any more.”

“STOP RIGHT THERE DEMON!”

“Hot damn. Catch you later, Alice!”

“ARCHERS, AFTER HER!”

“Oh dear…Well, she’ll be fine. Probably. Let’s begin, shall we?”

>>10052
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