As the gate closed behind her, Kagerou paused and let out the smallest of sighs. She stole a quick glance backwards and found that the gate guard was still smiling, watching her with with arms akimbo. The guard nodded at her, her green cap slumping forward a little as a result of the gesture, as if to urge her on in a friendly manner to keep on moving forward. Kagerou obliged and steadied her resolve before starting again towards the building ahead.
The path ahead wasn’t very long but there was plenty to distract a wandering eye—chiefly the large hedges and flowerbeds that were in full bloom. Kagerou looked somewhat amazed at the variety of flowers and the many different colors on display. Some of these floral patches had been arranged in such a way as to make a pattern. Most were simple geometric shapes or checkerboard design but there seemed to be a few that were meant to be objects or animals. Those were further away by a large fountain so it wasn’t easy to discern at a glance. At any rate, the smell was positively lovely and a soft breeze carried the delicate perfume quite well.
If she had any desire to stop and look (or smell) closer, she hid it well. Her gaze stopped wandering as she neared the doorway and instead she looked expectantly at the dark and thick wooden doors. She had just reached for a grotesquely heavy-looking brass knocker when the doors began to swing open with a groan. A pair of small girls dressed in smart short-sleeved uniforms stood at either end; fairies dressed in the typical warm-weather uniforms of the Scarlet Mansion greeted her with a smile.
“We’ve been expecting you,” one of the fairies said and beckoned her in with a casual wave of her hand.
“Yeah,” the other fairy added, “follow Ana here and she’ll take you to the Mistress.”
Kagerou nodded and began to follow the fairy. She chose to stay silent and slyly looked around at the luxurious atmosphere within the manor. Lots of polished surfaces and dense and expensive-looking bits of wood and stone were decorated with everything from simple patterns to frescoes and carpet. She saw grand staircases and equally imposing corridors with a myriad doors leading to… well, probably all sorts of things. It was the type of atmosphere that could be easily overwhelming if one stopped to try to appreciate every single detail. Luckily, Ana kept a brisk pace and Kagerou followed without lagging behind.
The fairy maid hummed a cheerful little tune to herself as she led on, her wings occasionally fluttering in sync to the melody. Ana didn’t really seem very special for a fairy—perhaps only a touch taller than average—and was only really noteworthy for her somewhat more-graceful-than-average gait. She wore her flaxen hair medium-length and straight, with short bangs in front. It suited her slight frame and still somehow hinted at the slight impishness that was present in all fairies.
“Here we are,” Ana announced as she knocked on a door. They were on the second floor, in what felt like the eastern wing of the large mansion. She opened the door gingerly, calling out softly, “Mistress? Your next audience is right on time and is here to see you.”
She signaled for Kagerou to wait outside for a moment and disappeared into the room, leaving the door slightly ajar. The door muffled her next few words a little too much to distinguish. It wasn’t very long until she returned. She peeked out from the room, jutting out her upper body into the corridor with lissome ease. “She’ll see you now,” she said with a broad smile as she popped back into the room.
Kagerou shrugged almost imperceptibly and followed.
Though there was still probably an hour or so of daylight left, the room was dark and lit only by lamp and candle. Kagerou seemed to adjust to the relative darkness easily and quickly saw that there were no windows in the room. It was a small space that could be best described as cozy—aside from a pair of paintings and a small bookcase in the back, there was a sole fainting chair in front of an unlit fireplace. It was there that a small figure reclined, an arm resting on the armrest and propping up her head.
“That’ll be all,” the figure said to Ana, the light from the lamps casting deep shadows on her body. The fairy maid performed a small curtsy and left, closing the door behind her. The figure raised a glass with her spare hand, swirling the dark liquid some before taking a sip. “So, you really are a werewolf,” she said, bemusement clear in her voice.
“Indeed I am,” Kagerou affirmed, daring to take a step closer to the figure.
“I honestly thought that Sakuya was pulling my leg,” the figure laughed, “but I can definitely tell that you’re one. Even if your presence weren’t obvious, there’s always the unmistakable smell.”
“Isn’t that a rather rude thing to say to someone you’ve just met?” Kagerou asked, her brow scrunching into a mild frown.
“Oh, I didn’t mean anything by it, it’s just an innate ability” the figure laughed again, like it was no slight at all, “I’m sure you can tell what I am at a glance, too.”
“You must be Remilia, vampire and mistress of this vast mansion,” Kagerou said stiffly, adding, “though, like you, I could also tell as much from your scent.”
“You’re quick on the uptake,” Remilia sat up, coming into clearer view. The vampire mistress wasn’t very physically imposing but she had an aura about her that likely equal parts natural and practiced confidence. Her short, almost messy, hair framed a face that had sharp features—most noticeably red eyes that were focused and intelligent. She tapped a finger on her glass, causing a somewhat melodious ring. “Well, what’s your name then?”
“I suppose that’s fine,” Remilia commented, as if the suitability of the werewolf’s name were a serious concern. “Well, I’m Remilia Scarlet as you have already divined. This is my home and I look forward to working with you. I trust you’ve already heard all the details from Sakuya?”
“Some things like the duration and pay. Many specifics were left unmentioned,” Kagerou replied, “but I was told that there would be someone to guide me through things.”
“Hm, is that so?” the vampire paused, either for dramatic effect or to buy herself a moment to think, and took another longer sip from her glass. She seemed to savor every last drop, nearly slurping at the end. “Knowing Sakuya I think she’s probably made all the necessary arrangements. There’s a parcel for you in the next room down the hall. I'd wager that will help you sort things out. Come find me in my study afterwards and we’ll talk some more.”
Despite the polite tone, there was something very final about the vampire’s words. A youkai like her was likely to only get irritated if she didn’t have things exactly her way. Kagerou seemed to realize that and made no fuss before leaving the room. Whatever it was she thought about her first encounter with Remilia, she did a good job of hiding it in her face. She simply looked around in the hallway, guessed which room the vampire had meant and went on in.
Curiously, the room was illuminated by the remaining afternoon sun. It had two broad windows with heavy curtains tied back on either side. This was a more sizeable room with various bits of furniture including a chest of drawers, chairs and a small writing table. It was there that she found a large parcel wrapped in brown paper and tied with twine. Not finding anything else that could have been meant for her, she untied the string and unwrapped the contents.
The first thing she saw was a letter addressed to her. She picked it up and read it quickly. Beneath lay a uniform, much like the ones that the fairy maids wore. She picked it up and examined it. On closer look, it seemed that it was made of better material with superior stitching and embellishments. The color was darker; the dark blue and white material was several shades deeper than the fairy’s azure. Kagerou ran one of her long red fingernails across the material, evidently relishing the nigh-frictionless glide that resulted.
She took a final look at the brown wrapping to see if there was anything else in there that she had missed. With a silent nod to herself she began to loosen the buttons on her dress.
That seemed like as good a time as any to introduce myself. More importantly, she had yet to notice something very important about that new uniform of hers. It would only be polite to point it out.
 If she was hiding a tail under that dress, it would scandalously hike up an already short skirt.
 That maid headdress would require some alterations to fit comfortably over those long ears of hers. -------- Hey, so this is a story I’ve been thinking of doing for a while. I was going to start it in October to begin with and then that good-for-nothing handsome fellow Moral half-assedly revived nanowrimo so I decided to wait and do it then. Daily updates and all that jazz though this first post is something of a setup and introduction.
I’ll also be debuting a feature that I specifically introduced for stories like these: a timer. When the timer reaches zero, votes are closed. It’s the only sane way to be consistent about update times as I still gotta write every day. That takes time, as you might image. It’ll be ticking down just below every update:
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/01(Thu)13:00
[x] That maid headdress would require some alterations to fit comfortably over those long ears of hers.
I’m going to guess that we are either Sakuya or some nondescript background character who’s good at being a fly on the wall. The way things have been presented makes me lean towards the latter, but who knows.
[x] That maid headdress would require some alterations to fit comfortably over those long ears of hers. It would be tough to get any work done if she had to constantly readjust her headwear. Better make sure it fits right.
I've abused my admin powers to bring forward the countdown clock by an hour. I may have overestimated the amount of time it needed to be open for votes. Probably won't do it again.
>>63697 >>63696 >the most important part of a maid's outfit isn't the tactical garter One day you'll come around.
Also, it's the first vote so you don't really need to overthink the options. As amusing it is to watch, I'm not playing 14D chess right now. s'just for establishing a tone and something that I can occasionally callback to, so just go with whatever you think is cutest/funniest or whatever. We'll be getting to slightly more thinky options soon enough.
“So what do you think of the uniform?” I asked, thinking of no better way to break the ice.
Kagerou stiffened, her ears perking up like a pair of antennas. She scanned the room once again, looking a little disoriented by my sudden interjection. Not a surprising reaction in the least. For all intents and purposes it seemed like those words had come from nowhere.
“Yes, I’m really here. You’re not just imagining things,” I said, hoping to reassure her.
“I can’t see you,” she replied quietly, trying in vain to discern where my voice was coming from. She would have no such luck. My voice wasn’t in the room.
“Sure you can,” I explained, “I’m right in front of you. Next to something that can open very large doors.”
She frowned, not really getting the joke. I could already tell that I better not lay it on her too thick. At least not right away. Relationships take time and effort. I’d likely have many more chances to see how she reacted to frustration.
“I don’t know why you’re playing games with me,” she grumbled, “it’s not exactly very polite.”
“Didn’t you read the fine print?” I asked, immediately clarifying, “on your contract.”
“Contract?” she had since placed the uniform on the desk and was pacing aroudn the room, probably looking for hidden compartments or something that could hide a person. “Do you mean the one I signed the other day?”
“That’s the one. Remember how Sakuya gave you something and likely told you it was very important you wear it at all times?”
“She said I wouldn’t get paid if I didn’t...” her realization was almost immediate. She put a hand down her blouse and grabbed me. “That’s pretty amazing,” she said, looking at the iridescent pendant.
I was pretty small, the length of the average finger and about as wide. A simple silver cap on one end had me affixed to an equally unremarkable chain that hung around her neck. I was some sort of crystal, somewhat opaque but colorful. Those colors shifted every so often and the contrasting bands changed hue and brightness. It was a subtle effect and I suppose that the oddest thing about it is that I didn’t seem to cast any light on my surroundings despite my vivid nature.
“Magic is pretty neat,” I conceded, a little awestruck by my appearance. “I take it that you didn’t actually read the contract and just signed right away?”
She smirked, likely feeling stupid. “She made me an offer that I couldn’t really pass up. It’s the first time I’ve ever signed anything. Didn’t think it would be a big deal.”
“And the drop of blood she asked for wasn’t suspicious at all?” I asked, honestly feeling a little incredulous.
“That maid pricked her own finger as well. I just thought that was how contracts were.”
“That bound us together. It came into force the moment you stepped into the mansion grounds,” I explained.
“Oh… okay. So I take it then that you’re the someone that’s going to be instructing me?”
Kagerou was unflappable. Personally, I would have been a little more unsettled if the jewelry I was wearing started talking to me. Then again, if I were a werewolf then maybe I’d accept the absurd more easily to begin with. I’d have to think about it some more later. What was interesting was that the silver on the chain didn’t seem to have any adverse effects on her. I guess popular culture got that one wrong.
“Kinda?” I said, feeling like I needed a head to scratch just about then. “I’ll give you the short version since it’s clear that you aren’t going to read your contract anytime soon: I’m here to make sure you do your duties properly for the duration of the contract. I can share what I know of the mansion and give advice.”
“Alright, gotcha,” she said with disinterest. It seemed she was too busy checking me out, gripping me tightly, watching me change color, shaking me and otherwise figuring out what my deal was. “Hey, so, you’re talking only in my head, right? Can you hear what I’m...”
“No, I can’t read your mind… not directly and not most of the time,” I told her. “Though I can generally feel any strong emotions and get a feeling for any particularly clear and direct thoughts.” Kagerou smiled silently and closed her eyes, focusing. “Hey, rude! Not to mention anatomically impossible.”
“That’s pretty neat,” she laughed, “at least I know how to annoy you now.”
“You should also know that I experience the world mostly through your senses. Though it’s kind of like in a dream where you’re looking at yourself from an outside perspective. It’s hard to explain but don’t go pretending I can see through walls or something.”
“I don’t really care about that,” she was painfully honest. “So you’re watching me all the time?”
“Whatever hang up you’re thinking about, don’t worry,” I assured her. If I had any eyes I would have rolled them. “I’ve got plenty to do here whenever you want some privacy. So go ahead and get changed, I won’t peek. Just gotta tell you that you may want to get that headdress fixed, whenever you move your ears it’ll start to slide off.”
“Keep the advice coming,” she said wryly, already accepting that I’d be bothering her all the time. It made me like her even more.
“This is fun, but you don’t really want to keep Remilia waiting long. She’s way more bratty than she lets on. Probably wants to show off some more.”
“Hm, maybe I shouldn’t have signed that contract so easily,” she sighed. “I’m not really good with people, truth be told.”
“I can help you deal with these weirdos. So, see? I’m useful.”
“Useful?” she arched an eyebrow and changed the subject, “ But for now, you’re right, let’s get going. What should I call you by the way?”
“Al is fine. I think my name is… Aleister? Al-Kindi? Maybe Albert?… oh, could be Alice? Not sure, all I can say for sure is that it starts with ‘Al’.”
“Right, Al it is,” she nodded and let me once again freely hang off her neck. “While I get changed, tell me something interesting about this place. Or how to deal with the people. Or you know what? That maid never really told me why she picked me in the first place. But whatever really, pick the more interesting one.”
Without feeling self-conscious in the least, she resumed undoing her buttons and slid the top part of her dress from her shoulders. It was a small gesture of trust that I intended to pay in kind. I shut out her world for a moment and gave the request some thought.
 Tell her a little about about the main residents and their quirks  Talk about her and why she was picked in the first place
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/02(Fri)13:30
[x] Tell her a little about about the main residents and their quirks
I feel like we'll be able to learn more about Alphonse from what she has to say about the SDM folks. Wondering if we have any connection to Flan's crystals, though Al is more likely Patchouli's doing. I hope she didn't turn Alice into a piece of jewelery.
I'm not sure if she has picked it up, but I feel that her condition is the most obvious reason. Remilia really didn't believe that she was an actual werewolf (I wonder why?) and she wanted to see it for herself. The silver chain was probably meant to be another test.
Knowing Remilia she probably is happy that werewolves were forbidden by the world (and thus, sent to Gensokyo) before vampires did.
Anyway, if she knows why she was selected, she can fulfill the hidden expectations that exceed her job description.
I was only dimly aware of the noise of rustling fabric. There were a lot of things I could think of saying to her. Not many of them useful. As useful and great as I was, I wasn’t omniscient. There was archived information I could search for and draw upon but even that had its limits. So I opted for something that bordered a little on speculation though it was something of a non-answer. Still, had to clarify some parameters first.
“What did Sakuya tell you when she was pitching the idea to you?” I asked her.
“Not much,” Kagerou replied. I felt a vague sensation of confusion on her part, though it didn’t seem it was from my question. “These costumes are way too complicated,” she complained, “I’ve never seen so many tiny little buttons and hidden straps before.”
“Hang in there,” I said with disinterest, “I wanted to know if there was a specific phrase or word Sakuya used that stood out to you.”
“Because I couldn’t begin to guess why she chose you without more information.”
“So you’re saying that you don’t know?” she asked, growling a little. Sounded like a dog warning a passerby that they’re walking too close to their home. But it didn’t seem it was directed at me—her thoughts were pretty focused and hinted that she was frustrated at a particularly stubborn button she was trying to fasten.
“Not exactly, no. It’s not like I’ve ever talked to Sakuya before. Well, at least not in my present state. I do have some other information about the mansion in general, I was thinking I could make an educated guess.” I wasn’t that useful right then, I’ll admit.
“I don’t know if it’ll help,” she said with a smirk once she triumphed over her stubborn button, “but she said was pretty confident that I’d naturally fit in here. Mostly, I was relieved that she wasn’t about to attack me again. Those knives of hers are really scary.”
“I believe those are special knives that were made by...” I paused, finding that the rest of that information was not available. “Well, that’s not the important part,” I didn’t dwell on it, adding, “I suppose that it’s not that strange to expect a youkai to handle youkai better. Where I’m from, werewolves and vampires have a sort of love-hate relationship. Maybe it’s something like that?”
“I’m not really looking for love and I’d rather be left alone than hate anyone,” she said with a sigh as she encountered her next obstacle.
“I don’t think you get what I’m saying but it’s okay,” I said, “we can figure it out as we go along together. Is there anything else I should know about you before we move on?”
“Dunno, anything that’s special or out of the ordinary about you or your life,” I lamented the lack of shoulders I could shrug.
“Besides being a werewolf? Not really. I live by myself and stay out of the way of most folk. I wouldn’t be surprised if that maid picked me because I was the only one to say yes. This doesn’t seem like something that the other youkai she’s beaten up would do. Youkai pride and all that,” she sighed again, that time caused by her own train of thought. There seemed to be a lot there that could be unpacked. I'd revisit the subject at some other opportunity. I was curious to learn more about her.
“Mind me asking what she’s promised to give you as a reward?” I asked the last thing left to cover.
“Actually, I do very much,” she said, suddenly getting a little worked up. Anxiety that raw was hard to mask as anything else. “Let a girl have her secrets, Al.”
“If you say so, wolfy,” I let out an over-the-top sigh as a protest. “You about done? I’m tired of not seeing things.”
“Pretty much,” she said, having successfully managed to dress herself. The fancy maid uniform was a surprisingly good fit for her—it was like the proverbial glove with no fabric being overly tight or excessively loose. It was also a lot more… subdued up when compared to the fairy’s uniforms: I got the feeling that the fairies were also meant to be eye candy whereas the head maid was meant to be more dignified and reserved. The skirt wasn’t as short, for one, and there was considerably less amount of skin shown off overall.
“Looking good,” I said, “though I think I was right about the headdress. It’s smooshing your ears a little.”
“They’re just tucked in slightly for now. I’ll look for some needle and thread latter, I have an idea that might fix it,” she said, trying to look at her unclear reflection in the large windows. She looked to make sure that the amulet she had salvaged from her old dress was fastened securely in front, where the ribbon would have otherwise gone.
“A woman of many talents,” I concluded.
“Not that many,” she fired back, having found something in her new pockets, “looks like that knife enthusiast left me a couple of pointers for the job. Wonder if she didn’t fully trust the snarky crystal to do its job properly?”
“Like I said, never talked to her before. Not sure about the circumstances of my creation,” I tried to play it off like it was no big deal. A stupid, braided maid wasn’t worth getting upset about. “Those look like index cards, haven’t seen those in a while.”
“Index cards?” she flipped through several of the conveniently-sized notes. Apparently she had never been to a library or needed to catalog something. “After reading a pair of these I think it’s best that I read the rest later. It’s pretty specific stuff about special situations.”
“I’m sure it’s all stuff I can just tell you anyways,” I said. “Leave your old clothes here, we can leave them in your room later.”
“Right, wouldn’t want to keep a vampire waiting too long,” Kagerou agreed, “where do I have to go now?”
I pulled up my current map of the mansion. Aside from the restricted areas and other parts whose topography was kept ambiguous, it looked like things were still largely being kept in the same configuration. Remilia’s study was in the same wing of the building for now and could be reached by taking one of the smaller stairs that broke up the smaller side corridors. I let Kagerou know the best route.
I had to admit, she sure looked like she belonged there. Her movements were quick but measured and smooth. Almost dignified, even. If you were into maids, then scrappy wolf at least looked the part. She knocked on the door without hesitation. I was glad to see that she wasn’t really nervous on her first day of the job.
“Oh, now you look decent,” Remilia said as soon as the new wolf maid came on in. Before Kagerou could even so much as take stock of her new surroundings, she followed up with a bold demand, “give me some of your blood now. A teaspoon’s worth will do.”
The unexpected request took Kagerou aback and it didn’t seem like she knew what to say.
“Yeah, giving a vampire your blood sounds like a terrible idea,” I told her, “I’ll get you out of this one. Hopefully without upsetting your employer. Just let me think for a moment.”
“Um… oh darn this silly thing!” Kagerou smiled sheepishly as she twitched her ears, causing the headdress to move and slip. She pretended it was unintentional and tried to ‘fix’ its position. As far as I was concerned, she definitely got points for being able to think on her feet.
 She should play the request off as a joke. And remind Remilia that a great vampire like her surely wouldn’t embarrass herself by asking something so crude from an employee.  It’s clearly just a test. Kagerou should stand up for herself. How else is she going to be able to deal with unruly fairies and intruders if she’s a pushover?  As much as it hurts to admit it, one of those index cards apparently had instructions on what to do in this exact scenario.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/03(Sat)13:00
>“I don’t know if it’ll help,” she said with a smirk once she triumphed over her stubborn button, “but she said was pretty confident that I’d naturally fit in here.
A practical joke then? This Sakuya has some backbone.
Not saying that's the only reason, but is probably part of it.
Also, I wonder what we really are. The situation kinda reminds me of that story about Voile's books and knowledge being sealed into a guy. Our knowledge seems too limited for this to be the same thing though. He (she?) has dropped hints about being familiar with the mansion some time ago ("It seems things are mostly the same") but he has somewhat modern knoweldge. That can be added, though, so my crackpot theory (we are Sakuya's predecessor) is not impossible. Just extremely unlikely.
>Head maid uniform
Ah, new information. So we're supposed to assist and/or replace Sakuya? Now I'm reminded of that Simpsons episode where Smithers hires the obviously-incompetent Homer as his replacement, for obvious reasons.
>A stupid, braided maid wasn’t worth getting upset about
No love lost here, uh?
[X] It’s clearly just a test. Kagerou should stand up for herself. How else is she going to be able to deal with unruly fairies and intruders if she’s a pushover?
Either it is a test and we pass, or it isn't and she sets clear boundaries from the start. A contract does not mean giving up our will.
...unless it does. This is Gensokyo after all. Something like that probably has happened before.
The only hint about this option I've found is:
>"A youkai like her was likely to only get irritated if she didn’t have things exactly her way"
To which I say: sucks to be you, vamp. Her blood is ours, is what made our bond and we ain't giving up a drop of it.
I guess my wording wasn't so great, but I meant the second choice to be something more along the lines of:
 It’s clearly just a test. Kagerou should be blunt in her refusal. How else is she going to be able to deal with unruly fairies and intruders if she’s not clear and direct?
All three choices are about standing up for yourself, otherwise there'd be a "let Remilia have some blood" option. Writing quickly has its drawbacks sometimes like not being able express myself as well as I meant. The choices overall should roughly map to be something like: 1) Be diplomatic 2) Be brash 3) Mystery box that relies on Sakuya's wisdom and experience
[X] It’s clearly just a test. Kagerou should stand up for herself. How else is she going to be able to deal with unruly fairies and intruders if she’s a pushover?
Al clearly does not like Sakuya and consulting the index paper right on the first problem we face doesn't look good for our cute independent wolfy who don't need no man. Remilia also doesn't seem the type to be fooled by people sucking up to her.
>>63725 I believe Al being unsure of the circumstances of his creation implies that he was recently created.
[x] As much as it hurts to admit it, one of those index cards apparently had instructions on what to do in this exact scenario. I'm interested in seeing what Sakuya's got for us. Plus, Kagerou fumbling around with index cards
“I think I got it,” I said, having thought over a few different possibilities. Though anything that would affect her self-image and appeal to her pride, like shaming her, would likely be the most effective solution, there was something to be said for placing Kagerou directly in the firing zone. It would be less ambiguous and probably not too bad for the werewolf’s ego when the dust settled. Hopefully.
Remilia had her arms crossed and stood only a short distance away. We had caught her with an open glass cabinet, evidently where she kept a bottle of fine something or the other. The prospect of an actual drink was evidently less exciting than fresh blood. Although… there was no reason why the two couldn’t possibly be combined.
“Don’t yield. Be firm in your refusal,” I advised before she ran out of a reasonable excuse to stall.
“Are you sure..?” she mumbled.
“We can have this debate or you can convince Remilia that you’re not just a pretty face and a pushover.”
She focused her mind once again to form a very clear thought. I didn’t mind being called that orifice so long as it got results. “Be firm but polite,” I told her, trying to drive the point home.
“Well, that sure took a while,” Kagerou forced a smile, having finally adjusted that unstable headdress of hers.
“I don’t like being kept waiting,” Remilia complained, clearly not amused.
“My apologies,” Kagerou said, likely suppressing a shrug. I wouldn’t say that she was afraid but I felt a certain tension in her that was the product of uncertainty. There was no doubt that she felt that there was the possibility of a fight-or-flight type of scenario breaking out. “I can’t comply with your request,” she said after a pause.
“I’m not asking for a favor,” Remilia’s left eye twitched with irritation. It was the tell of a woman who was seldom refused. It may have been her vampiric nature, but she seemed somehow larger in presence than her short stature and dainty clothes would otherwise indicate. A normal person would have been unnerved without really understanding why.
“Be that as it may, I’m still refusing,” Kagerou held her ground.
“Tell her that it’s not a part of your duties,” I told her.
“I’m not completely familiar with every aspect of my job yet,” Kagerou started, her words sharp and with a serrated edge, “but degrading myself on your whim is definitely not something I’ll do. I’ll quit right now if you don’t treat me with the respect I deserve.”
“Hm, I guess a bluff isn’t too bad,” I told her. There was some truth to her words, I felt, but something told me that whatever compelled her to accept the job in the first place would make her put up with a lot of questionable things.
“It’s only as a favor to Sakuya that I won’t destroy you right here and now,” Remilia smirked, like it was supposed to be a joke, but there was a clear lack of warmth in those words. She uncrossed her arms and turned her palms upward in supplication, as if she were burdened with a fate only a higher being could fully understand. She further opined, “my compassionate nature will be my undoing.”
“It’s good to see we’ve cleared up this misunderstanding,” Kagerou nodded, letting go of some of the tension in her body.
“It’s only been postponed,” Remilia broadened her smirk into a cold and particularly toothy grin that allowed sharp fangs to pop out from her small mouth. “Fetch me a glass and fix me a drink,” she ordered as she walked away from the cabinet and towards her desk.
Kagerou nodded again and did as she was asked. The cabinet contained everything that she needed. “The smaller glass,” I instructed her. I suspected she knew next to nothing about drinks and the vampire would likely want something with a kick to it to get over the unpleasant taste of having a subordinate refuse her. A snifter of what looked like brandy would do the trick. “Pour only a finger or two in there, glasses are never meant to be full.”
Remilia had retreated to her desk and was now pouring over an open book, a quill and ink well next to her. Her choice of writing implement spoke volumes about how out of touch she was. I would have told Kagerou just that but it seemed that my hirsute companion was distracted. Without the threat of a vampire’s wrath, she had taken to becoming awestruck.
The study was both small and intimate and large and imposing. The first part of this contradictory effect was accomplished by the presence of fine wooden furniture—a solid oak desk and a padded chair matched the cabinets and bookshelves—and other things like small busts and a hand-painted globe took up spare space. The second was covered by a tall, vaulted, ceiling that was elaborately decorated. It wasn’t exactly the Sistine Chapel, but the sprawling scene above was nothing to scoff at. Whoever painted it likely followed the vampire’s whim to the letter as the large scene had a Remilia-like figure sitting on a gaudy golden throne and presiding over an assembled court of sycophants and vassals. Of course, the came bearing the most luxurious and exotic gifts and laid them at her feet. A psychologist could most definitely spend weeks learning about the way her mind worked just by looking at all the flourishes and details that occupied every centimeter up there.
Unlike the first room where we had met her, this place was well-lit. The lamp on Remilia’s desk was the only obvious source of light. Clearly, though, it only cast a soft light that only made the area around her desk a viable work area. The other sources of light, particularly those that lit up the large scene above, were not obvious to spot.
“Give her the drink before she finds more reason to get annoyed,” I snapped my metaphorical fingers.
It did the trick and Kagerou turned her attention to her capricious mistress once again. “I hope that this is to your liking,” she returned smoothly to the role of maid.
“It’ll do,” Remilia snatched the glass away from her hand and sniffed its contents with her eyes closed. “I can’t expect a werewolf like you to innately understand the finer things in life. All you do all day is run around in the woods, roll in the mud and fight with one another. And all that non-stop rutting! Talk about an indecent and crass existence.”
She shook her head and tut-tutted, then finally took a drink. Kagerou didn’t seem too pleased at Remilia’s description of her kind, her ears having become stiff and pointed back as if she were ready to snarl at any moment. This time, the headdress was coming loose unintentionally. The werewolf seemed to be struggling to keep a straight face.
 She’s just being goaded. Tell her to take a deep breath and let it go even if Remilia keeps being petty.  A few choice comments about vampires might be appropriate. Hopefully she’ll be able to hold back.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/04(Sun)13:00
[X] She’s just being goaded. Tell her to take a deep breath and let it go even if Remilia keeps being petty. I want Kagerou to defend herself but not by insulting Remilia. Let's not push it any further than we already have.
[X] She’s just being goaded. Tell her to take a deep breath and let it go even if Remilia keeps being petty.
Remilia's reaction to our first choice makes me suspect that the rivaliry between vampires and wewolves is a thing in this story. I suspect that the right choice was checking the hints but it probably was something about accepting-which she wouldn't do anyway.
The play on her pride option left Kagerou flat footed if Remilia refused to play ball and she definitely would have, considering her unreasonably antagonistic nature.
So, as for this choice, she's just still being antagonistic for the sake of it, but considering she's got all the power here, there's no way arguing would be a good choice.
“Play it smart,” I said with a sigh. Petty bickering seemed unavoidable but Kagerou most definitely didn’t need to go overboard. “First day and all, don’t make it too personal,” I reminded her. I wasn’t sure whether or not she’d listen to me as there was a look in her eyes showed more than casual irritation.
“I suppose that no matter how wide the gap between our abilities and natures is, it can’t be helped,” Remilia said after taking another drink.
“Yes, it’s truly unfortunate that you typically don’t get to enjoy a nice sunrise,” Kagerou said, rather bluntly I thought. Wasn’t that great of a comeback.
“It’s but a loveable quirk,” Remilia shrugged it off, “there’s just so much to do and so much I can do with my powers that daylight hasn’t even crossed my mind in years.”
“Perhaps I can s-” Kagerou started.
“No threats!” I yelled, hoping to interrupt her. “Pile on the quirks if you want to get to her.”
“...shut up,” the werewolf grumbled.
“What was that, my dear?” Remilia cocked an eyebrow and seemed to scrutinize Kagerou’s face.
“I was just saying,” Kagerou cleared her throat. She had a hand behind her back, curled up almost into a fist. Her long nails dug into her forearm’s skin, reddening the area. “I always heard that vampires can’t even go into places uninvited. Seems like a rather pathetic limitation for such a powerful being.”
“That’s- not quite true,” Remilia said, her cadence changing almost imperceptibly as if unsure how much to say. I had no idea where Kagerou had picked up that bit of information. The vampire paused, seemingly to offer an explanation but then thought the better of it instead saying with a laugh, “well, it’s certainly rude to barge in somewhere without an invitation. Aristocracy, undead or not, is better than a common furry lout.”
“Stakes? Crosses? Running water? Garlic?” I spouted off the things I knew about vampires off the top of my head.
“I said, shut up,” Kagerou growled.
“Are you quite alright?” Remilia asked, putting down her glass with a patronizing look of concern.
“Just fine,” Kagerou replied, “I was just wondering how truthful I should be to my new employer. A vampire’s weak point does seem to be its ego, after all.”
“Well, I won’t disabuse of that notion since you may be right,” Remilia took the comment in stride, adding without a hint of irony, “I’m better than most of my kind but we can be real divas from time to time.”
Kagerou’s next thought was loud and clear enough to make me blush. “For the love of- don’t you even dare!” I could already picture her employment being remarkably brief.
“Well, love,” Remilia went on, “we should talk about something more practical now. Do take a seat. Pour a drink for yourself if you like.”
Against all odds, Kagerou held back from burning it all down in a fit of insanity. She shook her head at the offer of a drink and silently pulled up one of the other nearby chairs. I really didn’t get her. Just a moment ago she seemed so fired up, so ready to go. Her hairs stood on end, there was clear tension in her muscles and other signs pointed towards her being close to jumping on the vampire to try to claw her eyes out. She was a youkai and usually meant that it was hard for her to deny her nature.
“I find these conversations a little tedious,” the vampire continued, “but it’s best to avoid misunderstandings rather than allow unpleasant things to occur.”
“Yes, I agree,” Kagerou said, sounding as if the previous back and forth hadn’t happened at all.
“Good. Now I’m not going to place too many rules and impositions on you during your time here. Sakuya has delegated the more tedious aspects that you would otherwise have to deal with,” Remilia explained with a wistful look in her eyes. Like she was romanticizing the work itself. “Basically the only thing I’ll ask is for you to come promptly whenever you're summoned and to treat me with the utmost respect my station warrants me… whenever others are present.”
“I don’t have to be nice to you when we’re alone?” Kagerou asked with genuine confusion in her voice. Couldn’t blame her. I thought Remilia was pompous enough to insist on Mistress this and Milady that.
“I hope you are but,” the mistress of the mansion tapped the side of her glass, like she had earlier. The strikes were too weak to produce any distinct notes, which caused her to tap a little harder until a dull but distinct ring emerged. “I know how challenging it can be for a mere werewolf to observe decorum. No, don’t get angry!” she preempted any reaction with a smirk, “it’s just a joke. I’ve simply found that informality can be both amusing and more efficient when dealing with problems.”
“...alright, I’ll keep that in mind, Remi,” Kagerou couldn’t help herself, going for something embarrassingly informal.
The vampire seemed tickled by her boldness, “werewolves are always so amusing. Keep your wild side private and be earnest in your work and I think we’ll be able to get along famously.”
“Speaking of, where should I start?” she asked.
“There’s no much for you to do tonight,” Remilia said, “Sakuya saw to it that things would be taken care of for at least a day. I may require you to attend to me at dinner later but I haven’t decided if I would just prefer a small meal while I work here. Oh, yes, before I forget—use your own discretion for your duties. I won’t be up during the day usually so your time is your own so long as the work gets done. If you need to discipline staff or make a more general decision, I’ll trust your judgment.”
“That seems… a little too generous,” Kagerou said with justifiable suspicion in her voice. Yeah, it didn’t seem normal that someone like Remilia give a stranger so much freedom. Then again, vampires were known to be capricious creatures.
“I trust Sakuya and she elected to trust you,” Remilia explained. “Ah! Yes, one last thing: while you represent me in any capacity, your actions should always reflect positively on this household. If I hear of villagers being terrified by a werewolf while you’re working here, there will be hell to pay.”
“It’s insulting that you would even say that,” Kagerou frowned.
“Good, good. Then that’s one less thing to worry about.” Changing the subject once more, she complained, “I wish you had given me some of your blood, though. That would have made for a very interesting evening.”
“I think that might be a sex thing,” I joked, getting a little bored of the exchange. “You might want to file a complaint with HR.”
“HR?” she muttered.
“I forget we’re in Gensokyo sometimes. Sorry, never mind.”
“You should work on that habit of mumbling to yourself, it’s unbecoming for a lady,” Remilia smiled yet again and the subtext was clear. She didn’t need to add the words, ‘as normal as it might be for a werewolf.’
“I’ll try my best,” Kagerou nodded and then stood up, “I’ll be taking my leave if it’s all right with you.”
“Sure thing, I’ll call you if I need you.”
With the door closed behind her, Kagerou let out a large sigh. Though she hadn’t broken the skin, parts of her arm were flushed where her nails had dug in for a while. It didn’t seem like she was too upset about what had just happened and I couldn’t feel any of the hostility I had felt earlier.
“Vampires, huh?” I laughed, “can’t be helped, right?”
“Something like that,” she smiled bitterly, “I would be interested in finding out why she picked on me so much and then just… was weirdly friendly.”
“She’s been alive for longer than you and me. And advanced age makes some people loopy you know,” I told her, keeping any half-baked theories to myself. Any speculation now would be premature and possibly hinder her work efficiency. It was my job to make sure she did her best. “So, pumped about your new job?”
“I don’t know… it still feels a little too unreal. Like it’s not actually happening.”
“It’ll feel real soon enough,” I said, “come on, let’s get you settled in and then go do something besides talk.”
“Sounds good to me. Lead on.”
Though the corridors were mostly windowless, I was pretty sure that the sun had just set. Creatures of the night were just starting to stir elsewhere.
 Observe the fairy staff and their routine  Get fresh air, perhaps talk to the gate guard  Explore the mansion a little and get to know its points of interest
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/05(Mon)13:00
-- >>63747 A little too late, mac. I have to write when the timer ends to keep to the schedule, sorry.
Fuck me, I'm someone else who was going to vote (a writein that wouldn't have won anyway so thankfully it wouldn't have mattered) but I had a secure connection failed error and couldn't connect to the site for the whole day. That shit really fucks with nanowrimo timervoting, and I feel like I get that fuckin thing every other week.
Before doing anything else, we retraced our steps to the small room where Kagerou had left her clothes. Along the way we saw a few fairies scurrying around, chattering excitedly among themselves. Whatever work they were supposed to be doing was clearly taking twice as long due to their lack of discipline. That said, the corridors looked clean enough that it didn’t really seem to matter. For whatever reason, there was little build up of dust on surfaces.
Our more immediate destination was on the far end of the upper floor of the wing. It was there that Kagerou would have her own private space to relax and unwind in during her downtime. It was generous billeting with a whole series of rooms combining into a small private apartment just for her. The decoration, tending towards golden and loud as the rest of the mansion, wasn’t really to my taste but it was a space comparable to a luxury hotel. It was unclear to me whether or not it was meant to be an extra perk for the new maid or if it was simply an otherwise spare area that might as well be put to good use.
Kagerou was clearly pleased with what she saw. More than once she asked me if I was sure that I had taken her to the right place. “I mean, just look at these windows!” she had her hands on her hips, looking on in satisfaction at the view beyond. Much of the adjacent lake felt close enough to touch and the vista extended off to the mountains off in the distance. A small balcony was tucked off to one side as well, granting an overview of the rear garden. The sun had set some time before but the light of the waning moon was bright in the night sky.
I had to stifle a laugh when Kagerou, entranced by the soft silken top sheets, jumped on her soft bed and began to roll around from side to side. She stretched out her arms and legs, trying to see if she could reach the edge of the large mattress. Finding that she couldn’t, she flailed around happily, making pleased and slightly squeaky noises. “So soft! I feel like I’m lying down on a cloud,” she sighed as she settled down.
If I had told her about the private bath and all of the other facilities just beyond a nearby door, it felt like she could have been moved to tears. I let her rest enjoy the new bed for a few minutes; the smile she wore wore was unguarded and worth seeing. Eventually, I coaxed her along, telling her that she would have plenty of time to rest later.
As a final act before moving on, she pressed a pillow up to her face, sniffed vigorously and then exclaimed with a giggle, “fresh flowers!”
With that interlude behind us, she agreed in moving on to observe the rest of the mansion’s staff. Fairies were rarer on the higher floors which were mostly bedrooms and the most intimate of drawing room and activity spaces. The would only likely come in to clean and only with specific instructions to that effect. As for the rest, they likely started off in the morning and methodically worked through every room throughout the week. Because of the size of the interior it would be hard to imagine that they ever really stopped.
“You’ll find their rooms off to the far side of the building, where the outside terrain slopes slightly,” I told Kagerou. They lived in a large communal space that was basically its own apartment. I couldn’t imagine that there was the same level of luxury as the upper residences but it was likely still a very comfortable existence for those fairies.
Kagerou didn’t seem interested in exploring those spaces, instead opting to head for the main kitchen. That was where most of the fairies would be at that hour of night, split between preparing their mistress’ nightly meal and the idle cleaning staff that were enjoying meals of their own.
Even with the large distances between rooms, floors and corridors, it was easy to tell how close you were to the kitchen just from the smell. It was a permanent mix of the smoky smell of burning wood with myriad spices that hinted at the broad range of dishes that were often prepared there. As we neared, Kagerou followed her nose, so to speak, and didn’t ask for directions. She found the maid’s dining room first and witnessed the evening gathering first hand.
A number of fairies sat on either end of long wooden tables on similarly long benches. These were a far cry from the polished dark woods of Remilia’s study. Instead, they made from simple light-colored planks that were nonetheless thick and sturdy-looking. That was probably for the best as the wood had been stained over the years by a reckless disregard for coasters or place mats. Not that the fairies seemed to mind; a whole gang of similarly-dressed girls were all talking loudly, almost trying to speak over one another in their excitement. The room was vaulted and decorated with simple red brick on ceiling and walls. It had the festive atmosphere of a beer hall.
The only fairy to even notice Kagerou was the same thin girl that had led us to Remilia. She had been sitting on one corner of a table, reading a book instead of merrymaking with her fellow fairies. She sprang to her feet nervously and scurried over to the werewolf. “What brings you here, ma’am? Is there anything I can do for you?”
“I’m just taking a look around,” Kagerou said, noticing that it was the same girl from earlier. “I figured that I’d take a look at what you guys were doing.”
“Right, right,” Ana nodded, “very smart of you. Miss Sakuya does like keeping an eye on us as well.”
“Ask her about how they’re organized,” I suggested, finding that my practical knowledge about them was limited.
“So, do you guys have a boss? I mean, one of your own. I can’t imagine I’d have to speak to you guys individually to get things done,” she said, still scanning the room. A few of the fairies were having supper—some sort of rich-looking soup full of what looked like onion and mushroom.
“Um, well, there’s a team leader for the each of the squads,” Ana said.
“Squads?” Kagerou asked.
“Service, Cleaning, Kitchen, Gardening and Auxiliary… those are the five.”
“Oh, and which one are you?” Kagerou looked at the smaller girl, clearly expecting her to be in charge of one of the squads.
“Well, I’m part of the service squad and we mostly attend to the Mistress and her guests… I’m not really the leader though...” she explained, an apologetic smile appearing on her lips. “We’re the only squad without a leader since Miss Sakuya liked to give out orders personally when it came to Mistress Remilia.”
“Congratulations then, I’m making you the new leader of the Service squad,” Kagerou patten her on the shoulder with a toothy grin, “I’m going to need a reliable pair of eyes and ears to help me deal with these fairies. You seem to know your duties well enough.”
Ana’s blue, doll-like, eyes widened. “A-are you sure? I mean, we’ve only just met and there’s surely other more reliable fairies that you can turn to.”
“Nah, I’ve got a good feeling about you,” Kagerou defended her pick, “I’m still new here so I’ll be in your care.”
“So long as you think I’m worthy,” she fairy bowed deeply. Her wings fluttered excitedly, betraying her inner emotions.
“That’s enough of that,” Kagerou tapped her on the shoulder again, urging her to straighten herself and knock off all the thankfulness. If I had to guess from the look of unease in her eye, my lupine friend wasn’t too used to others treating with so much respect and reverence.
“Sure, whatever you say, boss,” the fairy maid beamed at Kagerou with puppy dog eyes, “I’ll try to live up to your expectations. But…” her expression darkened, “I’m afraid I’m going to have to impose some more first.”
“Well, the other fairies… don’t quite see me as leadership material,” she confessed, “in fact, they like to tease me because I take the job a little more seriously than them. So, um, if it’s okay, could you talk to them?”
“Is that all?” Kagerou laughed, clearly relishing the idea of being a role model, “I’ll make the announcement personally. I doubt anyone will take issue with my decision.”
“Thank you so much!” the fairy started to bow again but Kagerou poked her on the forehead, prompting her to cancel the motion. “Most of the Service squad is sitting at that table over there—“ she pointed to one of the longer tables off to the side.
“I’ll take it from here,” Kagerou said with perhaps a little too much confidence. Fairies were energetic, irreverent and often scatterbrained. It was a miracle that they had been trained to any sort of proficiency to work day in and day out at the mansion. Out in the wild, they’d just spend all day playing and wasting time. Hell, even seeing them all dressed in uniforms was something of a minor miracle.
It wasn’t my job to make the decisions, like promoting a fairy she had just met to an important role. I was supposed to smooth over any mistakes and give advice on the best course of action. That said, other than being insufferable if necessary, I couldn’t really do much about getting her to listen.
 Getting a group of fairies to go along with anything is like herding cats. She should be nice but firm and make sure they understand her decisions are law.  Fairies are unfocused by nature but like having fun. Giving them a treat first and they’ll be eating out of the palm of her hand.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/06(Tue)13:00
I warned Kagerou not to be too soft when it came to dealing with these fairies. There was no reason to be harsh or rude but if she didn’t set boundaries, they would walk all over her. She approached the table where Ana’s squad were gathered but they were too caught up in animated conversation to notice her. They were apparently talking about their days while sharing a loaf of what looked to be day-old bread. An empty bottle of wine also sat ungraciously to one side.
“Hello, could I talk to you all for a moment?” Kagerou announced her presence normally, raising her voice just above the volume of their own conversation. A few fairies turned, smiles on their faces that quickly disappeared when they noticed that the speaker wasn’t one of their own. Fear of the unknown would work for her if she tried it. She tapped one of the last oblivious fairies on the shoulder to get her to shut up and added, “I’ll make it quick.
“My name is Kagerou and I’ll be temporarily be acting head maid. You may have heard of something to that effect.”
“Miss Sakuya doesn’t really tell us anything,” a shorter maid said, frowning.
“In short, I’m your new boss. After Lady Remilia, that is,” Kagerou explained. So far, so good. She was avoiding using big words and was getting right to it.
“Ah! Nice to meetcha, new boss lady!” a bespectacled fairy with brown curls bubbled forth an interruption. She raised an empty cup as if to propose a toast, saw that it was empty, looked at the wine bottle and then pouted.
“It’s Miss Kagerou,” another fairy elbowed the pouty maid. That one was a little more on the plump side and had shorter reddish-brown hair.
“Right, sorry about that Miss Kagerou,” the pouty maid looked apologetic.
“It’s fine,” Kagerou was clearly amused by the fairies, a nascent smile forming around the edges of her mouth, “more importantly, I wanted to make an announcement. I was told that this squad doesn’t have a leader.”
“Yup, Sylvia quit because she wanted to spend more time with her boyfriend,” the curly-haired maid lamented.
“It was really stupid of her too,” another fairy offered her opinion, unprompted, “Why give up a nice bed, cute clothes and free food and a lot for some guy?”
“He was pretty cute,” another chirped in, “I think I’d do the same.”
“Oh not y-”
“At any rate-” Kagerou asserted herself before things went too off the rails, “I’ve already picked a new squad leader.”
“She’s pretty quick, innishe?”
“I wanna touch her ears, they look soft.”
“Maybe she picked you, Cecily!”
There were a few other comments made that were drowned out by the fairy’s collective buzz. A few simultaneous conversations erupted between a number of them. It was hard to imagine these girls ever managing to buckle down and concentrate on anything. Kagerou’s nascent smile had gone as she tried to regain control and keep their interest.
She tapped one of her long nails against the table. It wasn’t so much the noise that caused the fairies to pay attention but more that it was long, red, and seemed to point at a few of them menacingly. The fairies stopped talking. “I’ll be entrusting the new leader to coordinate all of you when I’m not around,” Kagerou continued, “so listen to her and do your best.”
“Um, so who did you pick?” the fairy maid with glasses and the curly hair asked.
“I was just getting to that,” Kagerou seemed annoyed that she got interrupted yet again. She motioned to Ana, who had sidled up silently earlier. “I’ve picked Ana to lead you all.”
That announcement certainly got the fairies all revved up again. There was a mixture of disbelief and congratulating with a few mean comments about Ana thrown in for good measure. Apparently not everyone got on that well with her mostly due to how she sometimes carried on. One of the things I caught quickly was that she had some sort of one-sided… thing for Sakuya. The exact wording was rude but so I suspected that it was just unfounded teasing.
“Be firm,” I reminded Kagerou.
“My decision is final,” she said, looking at the few fairies that seemed to feel the strongest about the new appointment. “I won’t have any of this disrespectful talk, either. If I hear that you’ve been talking about Ana behind her back, I’ll make sure the offender is properly punished,” she rapped her nail on the table again, “is that clear?”
“Yes’m,” was the universal response. One of the maids whispered something about the new boss not being as cute as the old one but Kagerou pretended she didn’t hear it. It didn’t seem she was in the mood for escalating things right at that moment.
“Alright, good. That was all I wanted to tell you, it’s been nice meeting you,” she nodded and then turned to Ana. The taller fairy was a little flustered, not having quite expected the reaction from her teammates. “I need to borrow you for a moment.”
One of the fairies let out a particularly suggestive “OooooOoooh~” but I didn’t catch which one of them it was. Kagerou rolled her eyes.
“What can I help you with, Miss Kagerou?” Ana was eager to be helpful, despite the lingering smattering of color that still lingered on her cheeks.
“I wanted to meet the other squad leaders and get a feel for the staff,” Kagerou said.
“Hmmm, that might be difficult to do right now,” she sounded genuinely remorseful.
“They’re not all here right now, I don’t think,” she looked around the large room to the other groups of fairies that were chatting and enjoying their down time. “They might be anywhere, it’s hard to say.”
“I’ve got a solution to this,” I offered an idea, “call a meeting tomorrow with the rest of them. You’re the boss, you can do whatever.”
“That’s not too bad,” Kagerou agreed. Ana brightened with those words, having taken them to mean that she hadn’t let her new boss down. Kagerou didn’t seem to pick up on that and instead just repeated my suggestion to her.
“I’ll get word around,” Ana nodded, “if you’ll allow me, I’ll get to it right away. No idea how long it’ll take me to find them all!”
“Sure-” Kagerou started but found that the fairy maid was overly zealous. She was halfway towards the door before Kagerou could get another word in. Even when they were trying to be helpful a fairy still acted like a fairy, it seemed.
“I think I’ve had my fill of fairies for now, how about you?” I asked her.
“Yeah, same. I could do with a little fresh air.”
I looked at my reference map. Though she hadn’t said it outright, I imagined that the strong smell coming from the kitchens was putting her off. Understandable when you’ve got a sensitive nose. So I decided to suggest somewhere quiet where she could really take in that fresh air. I could also satisfy my curiosity regarding some of the stranger things I had noticed on the map.
 A jaunt through the rear gardens ought to do the trick. An unlabeled building somewhere there was a curious omission.  Climb to the roof and stargaze awhile. The fact that the clock tower had an incomplete floor plan was odd.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/07(Wed)13:00
>>63772 Sure is, mentioned 2-3 times in previous updates. Made me look, too. I swear half of the time I feel like I'm forgetting to add stuff because I have to write quickly.
>>63769 >>63776 As always, anything I write depends on having an audience that's active in the voting process. I enjoy writing and I don't easily get bored of it. That said, good luck getting (other?) people to read and vote when (probably) literal autism kept people from breaking a tie in my last story even though the alternative was me dropping it. Even here and now, and I'm not complaining in the least about the story or the turnout thus far, you'd be surprised at how many people read stories without voting for whatever reason. Maybe you'll manage to inspire a strong showing and usher in a revival of everything. In the meanwhile, I'll still be writing what I currently can.
Getting access to the roof proved to be incredibly simple. Though there was a proper stairwell on one far end, it was easier to find a hatch on the upper floors that had an old ladder still attached to it. Rusty marks and a discarded chain nearby were indicators that it was supposed to be shut tight; I figured that the fairies had come up to do maintenance and simply forgot to put the padlock back. The old ladder groaned as Kagerou made her way up above but it held.
A cool breeze greeted us as she popped her head out through the hatch. She inhaled deeply, filling her lungs with fresh nocturnal air. Seeing how it flapped about, she took off her headdress and discarded it casually back below. Without anything to stop the air current, her eyes flopped back momentarily. Hearing the metal below her groan again, they perked up with determination as she climbed fully up onto the roof.
The space above wasn’t as large as the interior of the mansion might have made it seem. The central roof area was akin to a courtyard—it was a large open area with tile and railings along the edges. It was basically featureless save for a pair of severely weathered statues that once upon a time depicted a pair of angelic figures, winged and smiling. Their lush wings were retracted and obscured by the simple, long-flowing robes. Most of their facial features were worn down and it was hard to tell whether they were originally meant to be real people or idealized figures. It could have just as easily been a pair of kitschy garden decorations or something found by a chapel.
Kagerou yawned and stretched out her arms, rotating her shoulders and neck and enjoying the feeling of subsequently relaxing her muscles. She stared at the still-large moon above intently, evidently enjoying the soft moonlight that gave the roof an almost otherworldly feeling. The wind whispered softly every now and then but it was otherwise quiet up above. Off in the distance, beyond the sloped roofs elsewhere and the nearby clock tower, everything seemed to be completely at peace; Gensokyo was uneventful as could be.
“Please don’t start howling at it,” I broke the spell of silence after a few moments.
“I won’t,” she reacted passively to my words, “it’s not even full, so no point.”
“What’s the deal with wolves and the moon, anyhow?”
“You’ll see if we’re together next full moon,” she answered cryptically, a broad smile on her face. With a shake of her head, she sighed wistfully and her ears slunk down. “Do you like looking up at the night sky, Al?”
“About as much as anybody, I guess,” I said.
“In the long nights, especially in the winter, there’s not much else to do but look up. Especially if you want to keep out of trouble,” the same enigmatic smile as before appeared on her lips, “I’ve spent a lot of time in awe of the heavens and I think I know as much as anyone can about their patterns without having studied a book.”
“Hm, that’s pretty cool, I can’t say I’ve spent that much time looking up there. Not that common in the cities. Not just because of the light pollution but because it’s hard to find the time.”
“You need to make time for the things that you enjoy,” Kagerou said, “even if it means you first have to do all the things you don’t want to do to get them out of the way.”
“Yeah, I agree. That’s probably why I’m here in the first place.”
“Oh? What do you mean?” she asked.
“Ah, it’s nothing,” I said, changing the subject, “still, all in all, I think we’ve had a good first day, right? Hopefully things will keep on going smoothly.”
“We’ll see,” she said unenthusiastically and changed the subject again, to something closer than it was, “you don’t really like talking about yourself that much, do you?”
“Hm? Want me to tell you more about where I’m from or something?” I asked, feigning ignorance.
“No, you’d probably tell me that,” she asserted correctly, “I just meant that you’re not really good about talking about what you’re really thinking and what you’re feeling. Every time I think you’re going to say something a little more intimate, you change the subject.”
“It’s okay. I think I’m about the same,” Kagerou shook her head and walked up towards the edge of the roof. The gardens were below and surrounded most of the grounds. Only a few odd detached structures and clearings otherwise broke up the plant and statue-filled landscape. She closed her eyes and took another deep breath, exhaling slowly. She laughed softly to herself and then said, “feel free to go at your pace, just do me the same kindness.”
“Fine by me,” I chuckled, appreciating that I may have not given her enough credit before.
Kagerou continued to gaze silently out by the roof’s edge for some time, leaning her body on the stone railings. Although she did gaze up at both stars and moon from time to time, she spent long moments looking at the surrounding expanse and the occasional distant points of light. There was a smattering of woods and gentle hills immediately near the mansion on three sides and on the other was the large lake that stretched out for some distance. We were on the far end from the lake, looking at the main entrance and the lonely road beyond that led to several junctions and, eventually, the human village and other locations. The soft glow of light could just be discerned off in the distance, indicating the location of the settlement.
For a moment she looked off into one direction and thought of home—it was a thought so unguarded that I couldn’t help but hear it. The dark patch of land looked unremarkable at our distance. I wondered how she lived and what she would normally be doing instead of playing maid at a spoiled vampire’s estate. I supposed that I had enough of an inkling of how her life normally was, given her reactions to fancy bedsheets and indoor plumbing.
“You wanted to do something up here as well, right?” she asked at last.
“How did you know?” I was genuinely curious.
“Call it a hunch,” she shrugged and brushed away an errant strand of hair that the wind had blown onto her face.
“I wanted to see what it was like up here. I’ve seen maps but… it’s not the same as actually going somewhere.”
“And well, if it’s alright, I wanted to check out the clock tower,” I sad. There wasn’t any concrete reason for me wanting to go there other than the map omitted some parts of some rooms. Not that that meant there would be anything interesting in there, just that more likely the old data didn’t preserve itself as well as it should.
“Sure, alright,” she let go of the railings and started towards the clock tower.
The old tower had seen better days. It was several stories tall and cropped up from the rest of the mansion like a chubby spire. Like much of the exterior, it was made from ruddy-brown materials and only the large face was made from something silvery-white. This face had large metal roman numerals attached to mark the time as a large minute and hour hand rotated around them. Both face and metal parts were slightly dirty and weathered—perhaps outright stained by a few things here and there. It must have been a bitch to clean. That, combined with the fact that it’s not noticeable from a distance, is probably why it wasn’t in as good of a condition as the rest of the mansion.
“Oh, there’s something over here,” Kagerou’s eyes caught the glint of something by the rear door that presumably allowed access into the tower. She bent over to pick it up and frowned.
“A dagger. And a bloody one at that.”
“It feels a little dusty, probably been here for a while,” she said, holding up the blade to the moon to see it better. There were large splotches of dried blood all along the blade. The hilt looked immaculate and so it looked like whoever had last used it had performed masterful stabs that didn’t linger too long in the body. Kagerou gripped it with her hand, feeling the weight of the blade, “it’s really light,” she said. And it wasn’t too long either—just about a hand-and-a-half or two long—meaning that was a quick and easy to use blade.
“I don’t see any blood stains on the floor, it might not have been used here,” I said.
“There’s always another possibility,” she furrowed her brow as she performed a quick stabbing motion to try out the knife.
A bright light in the sky interrupted our conversation. “A shooting star?” I asked as Kagerou craned her neck up to see where it came from.
“No, much closer than that!” she tensed up, both ears and hairs on the back of her neck edging up. The light intensified for a moment before it came hurtling down towards the roof. I thought it would crash but instead it slowed down at the nick of time and gently deposited itself on the surface. A figure was left standing in the dark, something in their hand, but otherwise impossible to see more of in the distance.
A klaxon sounded. It drowned out my thoughts. “It’s a goddamn intruder!” I yelled, upset by how sudden and intense the noise was.
“Eh? How can you tell?”
“Can’t you hear that bloody wailing?! It’s the alarm!”
“I can’t hear anything,” she said quietly, almost drowned out entirely by the continued blaring.
“Must be a special fucking feature then!” I yelled, almost yelping out in discomfort. “One of those stupid fairies must have seen the light and sounded the alarm, turning my life into a complete shit show.”
“Calm down, there has a to be a way of turning it off,” she said, edging closer towards the new arrival. The figure had stopped to look up at the moon but had begun to walk deliberately, almost sneakily towards the proper stairway.
“…” I wished I were dead. It was like a stadium of elephants trumpeting tinny music directly at me, with horrible whooping thrown in there for good measure. I couldn’t think properly. Much less deal with an actual intruder. “It’s your job to deal with these people, go beat their ass and maybe this thing will finally shut up!”
“...I don’t really think fighting right off the bat is such a good idea, Al.”
“For the love of-! Just get to it, woman! I’ll start just screaming like a lunatic if you don’t; I feel like I’m halfway there already. Come on you damn werewolf, time for fangs and nails. Stab that asshole if you have to, just make it stop!”
“Fine already! I’ll take care of the intruder, so shut the hell up!” she lost her cool. Maybe I had been just a little too loud and a little too annoying. One thing was for certain, I wasn’t the only one to be taken aback by her outburst: the intruder stopped short of the stairs and turned around, noticing that someone had been stalking them.”
“Oh thank you sweet goddess,” I sighed with relief.
“Eh, what?” Kagerou was confused caught between noticing that the intruder had noticed her and the fact that I was no longer yelling like a drunken sailor.
“The alarm stopped just then, everything back to normal,” I explained. If I could smile, I’d be beaming something brighter than the moon. “Looks like we lost the element of surprise, though.”
“Yeah, we sure did,” she said, gripping the dagger tightly. The may intruder have seen a glimmer of steel flash in the dark as they took a few steps back. A few strands of light appeared around them, something magical and that was sure to mean that a fight was inevitable. The only question that remained was whether to go in hard and try to decide it right away or if to take it slow and look for an eventual opening.
 Fortune favors the bold.  Patience is the watchword.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/08(Thu)12:40
No point in jumping in blindly when the element of surprise is lost. Play it smart and look for an opening.
>>63777 Fair enough. Although, if you are considering dropping a story because of lack of votes, why not just ask for a certain amount of votes for an update? If people are reading without voting like you are saying, then it puts a word out to them.
Also, I'd like to believe we actually have a lot more readers than it looks, this place could use more activity.
>>63779 I did multiple times :^) Also tried reminding people on IRC, other chats, keeping a steady schedule, doing long updates, doing short updates, more frequently etc. Over months and years I did just about everything. But it's not something I can do by myself like, for example, I don't think I've ever seen any of my stories recommended or talked about in the various other threads and that might have helped. Now, I know that I suck but I've also been told by people in IRC they enjoy the stories so I think that's a disconnect caused by complacency. If you enjoy reading something, then vote and tell others to do so as well. As the site's administrator I know for a fact that there's loads of people who read threads without voting or saying something. Getting them would help, yeah, but mostly I think you just have to light a fire under your asses. I'll still be here, still as glad to write 2hu fanfiction with people as always.
But yeah, if you want to talk about such things, it's probably to take it to another thread or talk to me on IRC or whatever. Let's keep things focused on this story here.
There were a few good meters between us and the intruder. A sprint could close the distance in an eye blink but it couldn’t guarantee that the intruder wouldn’t react in the meantime. I could feel Kagerou getting worked up, her senses sharpening and focusing solely on the person in front of her. My own perspective on the world changed; outside of the very vivid image of the intruder holding something almost as long as their height, the courtyard lost some of its color.
“Don’t hold back,” I told her, feeling that she might not have listened to me if I had said anything else, “mix it up, take risks if necessary.”
She said nothing, evidently trying to work out a quick plan of action. Though I didn’t really have a body I could feel as such, I could still feel something akin to a rush of adrenaline. I could feel the knife in her hand like I was holding it in my own. Its weight, how hard she was holding it, how she kept her nails from getting in the way of her nimble fingers—I internalized it all. The moment stretched itself out in time and it felt like an eternity before Kagerou made her move.
The moon watched silently as she rushed towards the intruder. The youkai’s intensity was difficult to describe. The amount of energy that she put into every quick step was outright inhuman. I was never an athlete of any kind but I could appreciate just how abnormal it was to be able to accelerate so quickly. Her thoughts seemed singular, focused and utterly alien. And yet, there was an eerie calm that permeated her actions; it was something that confused me to no end. Thankfully, my understanding didn’t really matter.
As Kagerou launched into action, the intruder had some time to react. They dropped whatever it was they held on their hand and took a step back. Their hands moved quickly in a well-practiced fashion. Kagerou focused intently on tracking both their eyes and hands, always aware of what they were looking at and what they were doing. There was something yellow, something gold, something… brown. All three. A flash. Another. Didn’t matter. Danger was coming. We all understood that instinctively.
The werewolf didn’t bother to dodge. On her last bound, when the intruder was barely two or three body lengths away, she did something unexpected. She threw the knife at the intruder. It was a clumsy throw—done with strength more than finesse—and the dagger twisted through the air erratically, arcing away from the intruder. At the distance between us, it would be close but not close enough.
The intruder dodged the knife easily enough by pivoting to the side. Light began to shoot out from their hands, intense as it was colorful. Red, indigo, gold, green. There wasn’t enough time to processes what was what, when. Or how. The intruder was quick on their feet, pivoting back into a ready stance. They stood ready to dodge any more incoming knives.
That, of course, wasn’t something Kagerou could do even if she wanted to. She took a blow from the bullet-like projections without flinching; I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. How did she not feel the same thing? Or react in the same way? I tried to gasp, not understanding what was going on and finding that things were happening to fast for me to process rationally. In what could have only been fractions of a second, Kagerou had closed the gap. More than that, she had made contact with the intruder.
For a moment, all was still.
The intruder, a young girl who wore an expression of utter confusion, lay on her back, stunned. She had expected another knife, a flashy attack or whatever else that was quick and small. She had not considered in the possibility of being tackled by a werewolf. The knife throw from earlier had thrown her off and given Kagerou a chance to be decisive. The brawl was over almost as soon as it started.
“Hey, let go of me!” she complained, short of breath. With her arms pinned, it didn’t seem like she could hurl any more bullets at us.
“Intruder subdued,” Kagerou said with a grin that could only be described as smugness incarnate. In the brief frenzy of action she had worked herself up to the extent that the tiniest beads of began to appear on her brow. Her breathing was heavy, not so much from the exertion but from the electrifying current that still possessed her body.
“You cheated! I demand a do-over,” the intruder squirmed, thrashing about and offering sharp kicks of resistance in retaliation. Kagerou quickly put an end to that, pinning down her lower body with her knees. She smacked her lips, looking at the short intruder as if gazing at a rabbit caught in a trap. “Hey, don’t you dare think of doing anything weird to me! I won’t hold back if you do!” the intruder protested.
“Eating up humans isn’t part of your job description,” I said, thinking of a certain classic fairytale.
“I know it isn’t. I’m just having a little fun,” Kagerou laughed, “you wouldn’t know it but she’s been annoying to me in the past.”
“What? I’ve never acted annoyingly towards anyone in my life!” the girl yelled unconvincingly. “Don’t make me beat you up again, you crazy wolf.”
“As much as I’d love a little more payback, I think we can just talk this out like civilized people,” Kagerou replied, “that is if you promise to behave.”
“I’m always well-behaved!” the girl protested.
“Promise not to run away or to try and fight me and I’ll let go,” Kagerou said softly. She loosened up her grip on the girl’s thin arms as a gesture of good will.
“As if I could trust a cheater!”
“Then do it because you’re so well-behaved,” Kagerou mocked her, clearly not over her almost-frenzied rush.
“…ya drive a hard bargain,” the girl sighed, “fine. I promise. For now.”
“Good,” Kagerou let go of her and got up. She dusted herself off right away, noticing that she had scuffed up parts of her outfit.
“It’ll come out in the wash,” I told her.
The other girl, for her part, did much the same. She stood up and reached for a long, point and wide-brimmed hat that had been knocked off when she had been tacked. It was black with a white bow that matched the rest of her outfit: alternating black and white between skirt, blouse, vest and frilly apron. For all intents and purposes, she was dressed like a cosplayer’s conception of a young witch. The long object she had held earlier turned out to be a broom, adding to the look.
Before putting her hat back on, she quickly combed her hair with her fingers. Not that it did her much good. Her blonde hair looked like it had a hard time keeping itself in place. Save for a single braid that was held at the end with a small ribbon, every shoulder-length strand was at least a little bit messy.
“I thought you were going to shoot at me, they usually shoot at me here,” the girl mumbled, dusting off her hat and patting down her rear free of dust.
“I’m surprised the fairies even try that anymore,” Kagerou said, as if questioning how efficient they’d be at dealing with an intruder.
“Only when the other maid tells them to. Easy-peasy to dodge, same as her knives. Heck, I guess things can’t always be quite so easy, right?”
“I guess not.”
“Say,” the girl said, any hostile intent she may have had fading into an easy-going smile, “where’s Sakuya anyhow?”
“Um...” Kagerou paused, realizing that she didn’t quite know herself, “Al?”
“Al?” the girl echoed, not understanding that I was there.
“Oh, I thought you knew,” I told Kagerou, “she’s away on maternity leave.”
“Really?” Kagerou seemed to think back, if I had to guess to their last meeting. She wrinkled her nose and seemed to have a followup question. Maybe out of respect for Sakuya’s privacy, she didn’t ask.
“Really what?” the girl looked at her with concern, “did ya hit your head or something?”
“Ah, no, it’s nothing,” Kagerou talked to the girl direction, “Sakuya is away on maternity leave. I’m taking over for her while she’s gone.”
“Ah, no kiddin’?” the girl crossed her arms, “that’s big news, can’t believe she didn’t tell me. I should come by more often so I’m not outta the loop.”
“So, why are you here?” Kagerou cut to what was actually important.
“I was invited,” the girl smiled like it would be an immediately credible explanation.
“Guests don’t normally fly onto the roof and try to sneak in,” Kagerou said, understandably skeptical. The fairy staff may not have been an elite bunch of servants but even they would have likely been trained to announce guests properly. Then again, if she had shown up out of the blue then maybe the gate guard would have stopped her instead. It’s odd that Kagerou had to do it.
“And normally I’m not tackled by a wolf girl maid,” the girl laughed, “life is full of surprises, isn’t it?”
Kagerou growled, “how rude. Last time you were like this as well, didn’t even bother to learn my name.”
“I meet a lot of youkai all the time,” the girl shrugged, “but I guess you’re right. I know some people who would chew me out for not introducing myself properly and crap. I'm Marisa, hiya,” she said with a wink.
“...I wasn’t asking you to introduce yourself,” Kagerou sighed, “all the same, I’m Kagerou.”
“’The Wild Wolf of the Scarlet Mansion’!” Marisa laughed at the wholly made-up title, “ally to vampires and cunning enemy of the beautiful ordinary magician!”
“Please, don’t go around calling people such weird things,” Kagerou shook her head, “or calling yourself beautiful.”
“Aw, lighten up!” Marisa beamed, “you’ve changed since the last time I saw you. I feel a weird power inside of you now. It’s kinda interesting, my heart was racing during our fight.”
“Um, thank you?” Kagerou seemed to be strangely embarrassed by Marisa’s comment. She coughed into her hand and changed the subject, “so were you really invited here. The intruder alarm was set off.”
“You guys have one of those?” her eyes widened, weirdly impressed by that fact. I could almost see the racing, wildly imaginative thoughts that were occurring to her. No doubt something ludicrous like a contraption involving fairies, a brass bell and some duct tape.
“Kinda, but you still haven’t answered my question.”
“Yeah, I really was. I’m supposed to go to meet Patche for tea. We had a weird conversation the other day at my place, so maybe she wants to talk more.”
“You haven’t met her yet,” I explained quickly, “probably can be found in the library. Patchouli is Remilia’s longtime friend.”
“Well then, you won’t mind me keeping you company while we look for her then, right?” Kagerou proposed.
“Guess not,” Marisa shrugged, “sometimes those fairies think they can try to play pranks on me, they probably won’t try it if you’re with me.”
“So it’s settled.”
As Kagerou said that, the clock’s hour hand reached the number eleven. A few chimes rang out but not as loudly as the size of the clock had made me expect. The sounds was carried far, more due to the stillness of the night, but it was still quiet enough to not hear if you were in one of the windowless rooms deep within the mansion.
“Hey, by the way,” Marisa said, picking up her broom, “that’s a pretty cute uniform you have. It suits you.”
“...thanks,” it didn’t seem like Kagerou knew how to take a compliment properly since she quickly turned away to lead her towards the stairs.
It was strange. At some point during the encounter I became aware that I could see more than I normally could. It wasn’t until Marisa lagged behind a little that I realized that I could… kind of see what she was seeing. It wasn’t quite like with Kagerou that I could feel her senses directly; the input was too muddled and took some filtering to get used to. All the same, it felt like the range? Perhaps details? Something about my perception was enhanced. It was difficult to judge independently as I had no eyes of my own to compare as a baseline. Memories of senses were frustratingly difficult to compare with the present.
 Ask Kagerou to keep on chatting with Marisa and try to find out more why Patchouli supposedly wants to see her.  Try to shut out Kagerou and focus wholly on Marisa and her senses to see what happens.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/09(Fri)13:00
>>63795 >Patchouli's magic >Remilia fated her to make a maid family line like >>63796 said >Could be Rinnosuke >Yukari shenanigans >All of the above Take your pick. It's (probably) not Al since he hasn't been to the mansion in a long time.
[x] Try to shut out Kagerou and focus wholly on Marisa and her senses to see what happens. The first one is something shell probably do anyway, but I believe that this experiment should let us find out if she's lying or not. We won't get much chance to do this without anyone other than a fairy, and matching species might be a factor.
That said, maternity leave? So I guess I was both right and wrong with my forced vacation theory.
The way to the library was anything but direct. It was located on the lower floors, sunken on the eastern side of the mansion. Finding the right staircase and the right corridor to follow could be challenging to someone not familiar with the surprisingly large interior layout.
The stairs leading from the roof weren’t in the best of conditions and the old wooden steps creaked as any weight shifted around on them. While there was very little in the way of dust and dirt, it felt like the cleaning wasn’t as thorough there as in the rest of the building. Only a few of the many lamps that lined the walls were even lit—another curiosity in a place where the illumination tended not to come from conventional sources like candles and electricity. Still, it was only a short way down to the first door and the first corridor that they had to take. A little penumbra wouldn’t kill them.
I gave Kagerou perfunctory instructs on the best path downwards. Service stairs and storage rooms may not have been the most glamorous part of the mansion but they offered a more direct route to the library. At any rate, it was more for me than for her. I didn’t feel like talking much and, if they got lost, I reckoned that Marisa could find her way down. A slight inconvenience and loss of face as the head maid was very survivable.
I was very interested in Marisa. Some of that, if I had to be honest, had to do with a lifelong fascination for magic and all the impossible fantasy that was pervasive in the collective imagination of people like me. Who didn’t want to be able to cast a fireball, have a cute (and often sassy) familiar and fly through the skies? Being close to someone like her, someone real, was exciting beyond words. I cursed the fact that the materials I had access to were limited in scope. Sure, there were references to the types of denizens in Gensokyo but very little about specific individuals.
It was just as well that I didn’t currently have a body. Looking at her (as it were) and all she represented would have made my heart pound like a jackhammer and my face as beet red as a teenager’s fantasizing about the person they liked asking them out. I tried to calm myself. I could feel myself getting stupidly worked up. If I didn’t concentrate, I’d miss my chance. It took another minute or two to start forcing myself to think of her of less of a symbol and more of an opportunity.
When you have a body, it’s hard to imagine reality through any other way other than what your senses perceive it. Even putting aside the massive and often undervalued bias that’s found in our psyche, things like what “blue” looks like and what “savory” feels like on our tongues feels so true, so universal that we think that it’s the same for everyone. The subjectivity of existence was made clear to me ages ago but the experience with Kagerou only reinforced my suspicions. Seeing things through her eyes, feeling the smells and sensations of touch were simultaneously comfortingly familiar but also disorienting at times. I couldn’t call on clear memories of my previous senses but I knew that they had to be different.
“Hey, so, how long have you been doing this?” Marisa asked, distracting me momentarily. I tried to shut that out. To shut Kagerou out as well. They talked every now and then but I wasn’t really interested in what they had to say for the moment. If I got caught up in the flow then I’d miss my chance to find out what was happening. Maybe even why it was happening.
My mind had adjusted surprisingly quickly to the werewolf’s reality. The longer Marisa was around, the longer I began to feel that that wasn’t all there was to the world. Yes, I could feel beyond what Kagerou felt. But it wasn’t quite the same. There were small incongruities such as variable amount of shadow and sharpness to objects. At times things took on a very subtle but different tint to them, much like with an old monitor that was long-since dying flickered every now and again, altering the colors onscreen. Other senses had those irregularities as well; the soft sound of footsteps on carpet seemed to get pitch-shifted on occasion.
It was by focusing on those differences that I was able to begin to separate the overlap. It wasn’t easy and the occasional word exchanged by them made it altogether more challenging. I felt anchored to Kagerou and she was the default, the correct, way of experiencing the world. It didn’t help that Marisa’s senses seemed to be inferior in every regard—she saw less, particularly in dim lighting, heard less frequencies and outright couldn’t smell things like the wild flowers in the detergent used to clean the various carpets.
And yet, if I got close to something like a breakthrough it was because I realized that both emphasized different things. Whereas Kagerou was trying hard to remember which path to take, scrutinizing doors and junctions, Marisa turned her attention to the various objects and decorations they passed by. The lingering gaze on a particularly shiny bust of Remilia, made from polished marble helped me narrow down her perspective.
The whole ordeal was taxing in a strange way. I didn’t really feel fatigued like I would have in my own body but my thoughts became unfocused and the actual connections I had started to make, diffuse. I wanted to keep on trying, keep on seeing how far I wanted to go. There was something I was just beginning to notice about Marisa, something exciting that felt like finding a lighthouse in stormy waters. I wasn’t sure what it was but it felt beautiful and pure. If I could reach it, or understand it, I felt like maybe I could start to learn to be a magician as well.
“I’m so full of it,” I complained to myself.
“Hm? Did you say something?” Marisa asked. They were near the library, just a short walk away from a side entrance.
“No,” Kagerou replied.
“Must have been my imagination then,” Marisa shrugged.
“Been a long walk, huh?” I said, “we’re almost there.”
“Mmhm,” Kagerou acknowledged quietly. If Marisa had heard me, even for a moment, it was clear that that it was no longer the case. I decided to stay quiet for a while because I was still incredibly tired. Not thinking for a while would be… really pleasant.
Maybe a nap wouldn’t be so bad?
 Patchouli wasn’t as cool and aloof as she seemed. She was actually sensitive and caring and always made the most of those intimate moments.  Though she catered to the vampires’ whims a little too much, Sakuya was still a wonder to behold. Especially when she allowed herself to relax.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/10(Sat)13:00
The snow continued to fall without pause. At first there had been signs that it was meant to be the slightest of flurries, with the only evidence it had snowed disappearing into wet and cold earth the next day. The sky had deepened, clouds growing grayer and thicker, in the morning and the resulting snowfall had become a pleasant surprise. It was extremely gratifying to be somewhere warm, somewhere where the serene beauty of a quiet wonderland could be contemplated at length.
Though perhaps it might have been better if it weren’t quite so warm. What had been a most pleasant nap had become uncomfortable enough that I had to shift positions. It wasn’t the most efficient way of keeping sweat from forming on my neck and brow but it was all I could manage without giving up the pretense that I was asleep wholly. I was careful not to impose on my pillow too much and tried to move my head without shifting anything out of place. As always, I wasn’t nearly as clever or careful as I thought I was.
“...and so you’re back from the dead,” she said, her tone betraying no emotion.
My reply was an unsolicited yawn. That made her laugh softly—as if internalizing and accepting that it just couldn’t be helped. Patchouli put down the book she had been reading, leaving it to the side and opted to focus on me. She began to run her fingers softly through my hair, gently massaging my scalp with her delicate fingers. She cooed softly, with none of the sternness she normally displayed at the library, “what a spoiled child you are.”
“I can’t help it, sorry,” I said, enjoying the feeling of being touched by her. She was right about my being a child—I felt safe and at ease, like there was nothing in the world that could ever bother me. “I’m afraid you’ll just have to put up with my selfishness a while longer.”
“There has at least been a lesson learned here,” she whispered, almost as if unsure whether or not I’d gone back to sleep. A fair enough precaution, given how relaxed I felt and how thin the line between dreams and reality felt.
“Is it about metaphysics?” I egged her on, bringing up a favorite topic of hers.
“More than you might appreciate,” she said. I could feel the playful whimsy in her words.
“Don’t keep me in suspense then.”
“As usual, don’t be so impatient,” she chastised and scratched the back of my head. I felt as an old hound with a doting master, completely given in to the hedonist feelings of being pet by an exceedingly familiar hand. “The lesson here is simple enough for you to grasp at its most basic: that you cannot handle your drink as well as you may claim.”
“…I don’t see how that’s related to metaphysics,” I said, a stupid smile on my lips in spite knowing that I was being teased.
“That is why you’re not an expert on the subject,” she said with some finality.
“You can’t really blame me for drinking so much, though,” I countered lazily, “the wine was simply too good. I’ll have to thank Remilia for sharing such a fantastic bottle from her reserve.”
“A shame she couldn’t join us,” Patchouli said somewhat more dryly, almost as if she felt guilty about the fact.
“Yeah,” I agreed, “same goes for Sakuya. I almost get the feeling she’s been avoiding me lately. And with this sudden trip… well, I don’t know what to make of it.”
“It’s rare for the shrine maiden to be in a good mood and willingly invite guests over,” Patchouli observed, “Remilia is quite fond of her, so it’s only natural she’d make the most of the opportunity.”
“Nobody likes a pouty child,” she laughed again at my expense.
“Fine, fine, I can take a hint,” I was too lazy to care about winning right then. I shook my head slightly, giving her some warning that I wanted to shift around yet again. I rolled onto my back and looked at her face. “I’ve got to say though, I really enjoyed my nap. I doubt I would have been able to sleep so peacefully if the others were here.”
“A spoiled and selfish child,” she said coolly, looking down at me with those deep violet eyes. At first it had been nearly impossible to read her. That gaze of her seemed inscrutable and her tone was hopelessly flat and unemotional. It was only by spending so much time in close proximity, withstanding the occasionally withering and sardonic comment and treating her with respect that I was able to see that there was a real richness to her character.
“I’m really happy,” I said with a laugh of my own, “I don’t think I ever expected a real witch to ever be so fond of me.”
“...you’re getting carried away,” she continued in the same tone, though a rare impish smile manifested itself on her lips. She placed a hand on my forehead, and gently swept away the hairs there that had become disheveled as I had slept.
“I got carried away a long time ago,” I pointed out the obvious, “how else would you characterize my unilateral move of claiming your lap as a pillow?”
“That was naughty,” she agreed, “and I think you should be punished for it.”
“Oh? Yes, I suppose that’s fair enough. Had anything in particular in mind?”
“Let’s see...” she paused for effect, placing a hand on her chin as if she hadn’t already thought up something as soon as the subject came up. Before she could get her suggestion out, she was overwhelmed by a sudden fit of coughing. She quickly covered her mouth and frowned. Having others see her feel ill, even for something stupidly minor, was something she had never been comfortable with.
This fit was barely a spasm, something that anyone with a dry throat may have done before fetching a glass of water. It wasn’t worth making a big deal over normally. Patchouli recovered almost immediately though her breathing immediately after became somewhat more deliberate as she tried to prevent it from occurring again. I wished that we had brought a thermos of tea in case things took a more unpleasant turn.
I may have imposed on her too much. Though I knew she didn’t want an apology or my sympathies, I still felt guilty about it. We had eaten the same things, drank more or less the same amount of wine. I hadn’t really let her rest, having selfishly decided to nap and use her as a prop.
All I could say was something from the heart, “thank you.”
“...what a foolish thing to say,” she said but nonetheless showed a more unguarded smile. “I’ll entrust you to clean up before we head back.”
“Not a problem,” I told her, sitting up. The heat from the greenhouse might have accentuated my drowsiness earlier and exacerbated her chronic condition. The spot we had chosen for our picnic was just below a tall tree that almost reached the opaque panels above. We were surrounded by all sorts of plants, more different types than I had ever seen before. It was a year-long refuge for greenery and a source of many of the components that Patchouli needed on occasion for research.
There were several items that had been left sitting out on the large blanket we had used as a surface. The empty bottle of wine had been knocked over earlier, thankfully long-since devoid of its contents. I reached for a few leftovers and wrapped them carefully with cloth wrapping we had commandeered from the kitchen. Patchouli in the meanwhile removed her hat and loosened her robe, letting her head and skin breathe.
“Ah, you’re still here, good,” Remilia arrived with impeccable timing. Sakuya stood next to her, holding a parasol with one hand and a bag in another. A clump of rapidly-melting snow was stuck to the parasol.
“There’s still some food left,” I stood up, “no wine, though.”
“Not a problem,” the vampire sauntered up to us and looked at me and then Patchouli. She was looking at my disheveled hair and her loosened clothes if I had to guess. She made no comment other than cocking up an eyebrow momentarily. “Sakuya,” she commanded the servant, “take out the bottles we brought and uncork them. We’ll be joining this picnic.”
“Very well,” Sakuya nodded. While her mistress began to tell us in detail about how there’s no reasoning with that shrine maiden and why she had to return so suddenly, I noted that Sakuya’s gaze momentarily found my own. She stuck out her tongue at me, looking incredibly childish. I smiled back at her but she had already moved on to pouring out a glass of wine for her mistress. Once again she was the very image of a consummate professional.
The snow continued to fall outside. It looked like it would go on for a whole day yet. I was glad I was somewhere so warm and full of life.
“I heard you the first time,” Kagerou answered, “pull yourself together.”
“Hm?” I blinked. Well, not really. But I focused in and out nonetheless. The exterior world was back and, in the center of it all was Kagerou. The werewolf was somewhere in the mansion… walking back towards the kitchen, it looked like. I tried to reconcile the nondescript hallway I was in with the map I had on hand. Middle section somewhere. Probably. Fuck. It felt like I had been hit by a bus.
“You weren’t responding earlier when I needed information,” she complained, “I’d appreciate it if you told me next time you were going to take a nap.”
“Well… I don’t really sleep,” I told her, still struggling to make sense of what had happened. I had no idea how much time had passed. Though she was right, I guessed I did take a nap. I did dream, after all. Not that that was supposed to happen.
“Whatever then,” she shrugged.
“What happened to Marisa?” I asked, trying to piece things together.
“Nothing. I took her to the library, she met that Patchouli person who, by the way, was rude to me, and I took a quick look around the library. I asked you a few things and you didn’t reply. Neither of those two girls seemed like they wanted me to stick around, either. I don’t know how much time I spent there before you started babbling something about food and wine.”
“Oh… sorry. I can’t really remember any of that until just now,” I confessed. “Where are we going now?”
“You said Remilia wanted to see me,” she frowned and paused, “do you really not remember that?”
“Must have been on autopilot,” I said.
“Never mind, but if I said she wanted to see you… then it’s probably true. Maybe.”
“Keep moving,” I told her, trying to sound confident, “I’ll figure out what’s going on.”
I wasn’t a computer and didn’t keep log files of every single thing that I did or happened. That said, it made sense that I would have some way of confirming a priority directive. The problem was that I was interfacing with something that both was and wasn’t part of me. It wasn’t instinctive, like pulling up a map or pulling up the scope of Kagerou’s contract. It was made more difficult by the fact that, once again, I wasn’t a computer and thus didn’t have a reliable clock I could check information up against. So I just started thinking about Remilia, trying to find anything I could relating to her and what I could recall from the day.
“...it’s likely time for dinner,” I said, finding that the information seemed to come from nowhere, “expect to have to wait on her while she eats. A lot of pouring, clearing of dishes and putting up with boring stories.”
“Understood,” she nodded, sounding none too enthused about having to go back to see Remilia. I couldn’t blame her. It would be extremely dull.
I felt a growing kinship for the humble pigeon. Not only did I suddenly know what we had to do but where we had to go. It felt like if we just followed these invisible lines we’d reach her in no time at all. And all would be right. I guided Kagerou as best I could, while trying to sweep away the vestiges of my earlier torpor.
“Hey, Al?” she paused just before the dining room door.
“...it’s nothing, sorry,” she said, thinking better than to ask her question. She hadn’t recovered her headdress yet and her ears slunk back as she reached for the ornate golden door handle.
 Encourage her to hang in there. Remilia wasn’t so bad.  She didn’t need to worry about me. I’d be fine.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/11(Sun)13:00
[x] Encourage her to hang in there. Remilia wasn’t so bad.
This is the least we can do after leaving her alone to deal with Patchouli. Anyway, my theory is Al was brought or stumbled into gensokyo where he died after building a harem and was brought back to life in his current form.
“Perk those ears up,” I said, as Kagerou stepped into the dining room. “You don’t need to worry about me, I’ll manage. Don’t get too distracted here, you don’t want to give her any excuse to dress you down.”
If she found my assurance comforting, she showed no signs of it. There was no nod, no murmur and, most importantly, no real change to how subdued her ears still were. Perhaps there was still a lot of trust that needed to be built up. Or, simply, she had fears of her own that she didn’t feel like sharing. I got that. I was the same. All I could do is be vague when the subject came to me.
The room itself was far more subdued than I imagined it would be. A single table made of a light polished wood, no longer than a half dozen seating placements in length, sat by a large window that looked out towards the rear garden. A simple white table cloth had been set on it with crimson details along its edges, mostly in the shape of flowers. A single place had been set at the center of the table and a pair of forked silver candle holders sat at either end, their candles already lit.
The furniture was similarly functional and elegant with a large china cabinet alongside one of the walls and a chest of drawers along another. Another door off to one side served as a service entrance with a dumbwaiter beyond that had a direct connection to the kitchen. As for the rest of the décor, there were a pair of oil paintings; one depicted a group of peasants jubilant about harvesting their golden fields and another a hunter with his dogs chasing after prey in the woods. Even the wallpaper was a sensibly simple light green, that was evocative of grass and wilderness in general.
According to my map, the room was something of a private dining room. This was in contrast to a banquet hall and larger, surely more imposing, spaces that were reserved for guests and whenever there was a need to impress. I found myself thinking that it could be a nice place to take breakfast on a rainy day, looking out beyond at the landscape through the window.
Remilia stood at the window, looking out into the night. She looked small and unimposing, not at all like vampires were often depicted. It was only the pair of wings tucked behind her back, dark and bat-like, that implied something preternatural about her.
“I apologize for making you wait,” Kagerou said, her voice quiet but carrying far.
“I can’t expect you to be as prompt as Sakuya,” the vampire said without turning around, “that girl has… well, let’s just say that she’s unusually gifted at being a servant.”
“Be that as it may, I’m ready to do what you ask of me.”
“But not give me your blood,” Remilia sighed, still sore about the earlier refusal.
“Still isn’t going to happen, sorry,” Kagerou stood her ground.
“That’s fine,” she turned around and smiled, “knowing where we stand with one another is more than sufficient.”
“Would you like to take a seat while I ask the kitchen after your meal?” it felt like Kagerou held back a sigh and chose to move things along. Her ears were neutral and semi-floppy, alert but otherwise not betraying any other emotion. The vampire nodded and took her place at the table.
I told Kagerou about the dumbwaiter in the other room. Failing that, that there were service stairs that directly linked to the kitchen area. Remilia’s meal had been sent up already up on a tray, covered by a series of silver lids. “Don’t place them on the table directly, serve to the plates as needed,” I instructed her on the basic serving style. I didn’t know exactly why I knew those things, just that I had probably observed it before.
Kagerou brought the tray over to the other room and found a small collapsible base that had been tucked away next to the china cabinet. She acted calmly, and deliberately and looked like a proper maid. Placing the tray down on another surface momentarily, she expanded the spot for the tray and then set it down.
“What will we be having tonight?” the vampire asked.
“Looks like...” Kagerou lifted up the lids, “a...”
“Give me a good look,” I said, “this is what I’m around for. Looks like rockets, say ‘arugula’, and tomato salad followed by a stewed ham hock with... shallots and white beans and some sort of red pudding for dessert,” I helped her out as best as I could. Hopefully that would put to rest any doubt in her mind that I couldn’t be relied upon.
Kagerou repeated what I told her, fumbling the pronunciation slightly. I supposed that a wild wolf living in Gensokyo wouldn’t have really had a cause to know about those sorts of things. Remilia didn’t seem too thrilled at the prospect of salad, puffing up her cheeks when Kagerou served her a normal portion on her plate.
“Don’t forget the wine!” she said as she stabbed at the leafy greens with some annoyance. Kagerou hadn’t and was already busy pouring out of an uncorked bottle. The vampire nodded approvingly but was unimpressed by her salad. She crinkled her nose; if I had to guess it was the slight bitterness that got to her.
“There’s also what looks like to be a vinegarette there...” I had noticed a small almost finger-sized bowl at one edge of the tray. As soon as Kagerou turned her attention to it, I realized it wasn’t simple salad dressing.
“...” Kagerou sniffed at it, confirming what we both realized.
“She’ll need that,” I said.
“Forgive me,” Kagerou interrupted the vampire’s upset stabbing, “you’ll need this to enjoy the salad fully.”
“Ah, yes,” Remilia perked up, understanding immediately what it was, “I thought they would have put it in the main dish, it seems that they’ve decided to change it up today.”
Kagerou poured the liquid mix of blood and spices directly onto her plate. It was barely enough to cover a third of the served leaves but it was enough to saturate the dish with its unique smell. I didn’t know what werewolves normally ate but my companion looked a little worked up and not because of disgust. There was something primal about the smell to her, I supposed. Or maybe it just was that she was more like a dog than I thought and the sight of food, in general, was straining her good manners.
“Say,” Remilia seemed to read my thoughts, “would you like to join me? You can set yourself a place if you like, they always make too much food for a single person to handle. I won’t be having more than a bite of the next dish, this salad proved to be a far more worthy adversary than I first contemplated.”
It was a noble offer. One befitting a thoughtful mistress. Given what we had seen thus far regarding her ego, I had no doubt she thought that it would only enhance her standing in Kagerou’s mind. What she didn’t account for, however, were the dark splotches of dressing and piece of leaf that stained her lips and were stuck to her chin, respectively. That made her look more like a child than a sophisticated member of the midnight aristocracy.
I chuckled quietly to myself. Kagerou perked up her ears, trying to understand why.
 Kagerou should go for it. Remilia misses Sakuya and is looking for companionship.  It might be better to avoid getting too familiar with her to avoid trouble down the line.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/12(Mon)13:00
[x] It might be better to avoid getting too familiar with her to avoid trouble down the line.
Can't help feeling like this is either a long-con setup for humiliation or some of sort of "Remi turns Kagerou into a Sakuya-replacement" drama. Either way, I don't like the smell of it; the notes of shenanigans are too strong.
[x] It might be better to avoid getting too familiar with her to avoid trouble down the line.
I too like Remi, and I actually think becoming close friends is a good idea, but just joining in on the meal? That's hardly maid behaviour. Feel free to converse, perhaps even sit down and have a small amount of drink, but I don't think setting yourself a place is proper.
[X] Kagerou should go for it. Remilia misses Sakuya and is looking for companionship.
While I agree that it isn't maid like behavior, the tone of the other vote makes me reluctant to choose it. Each vote obviously influences more than the immediate moment, but this one feels like one of those that are even more important than that.
Thus, I'll vote it even when I disagree with the immediate result
There was something to be said for the stoic and efficient maid, the one that catered to her master’s whims expertly. It was that type of servant that often became so essential to the daily routine that she could be thought of as an appendage, a simple extension of another person’s will. I didn’t think that Kagerou could become that—she was too independent to subsume herself entirely. At best, she could become a source of comfort owing to familiarity. I wasn’t sure if that was the best way to go but it did seem like it would be difficult to prevent it.
Whatever restraint she may have wanted to show had been quickly eroded by the show of goodwill and, more importantly, food. Kagerou set a place opposite Remilia, barely listening to my instructions on which fork went where. Like the vampire, she didn’t seem too enthused by the prospect of greens and passed completely on the remaining salad. Instead, she hastily attended to Remilia, serving her only the smallest of portions at her insistence, before pouring a generous helping of ham hocks and beans onto her own plate.
“I’m proud of my kitchen staff,” Remilia boasted, liberally drinking from her glass of wine, “there isn’t anyone else in Gensokyo as skilled with herbs and spices. Even the finest ingredients are handled with the care and respect they deserve.”
“Mm,” Kagerou barely responded to the conversation, letting the vampire blather on as she ate. Hungry like the wolf, indeed.
“Of course,” Remilia seemed unfazed by the lack of response, sparkling with pride and self-absorption, “it was a chore to train them at first. You wouldn’t believe how useless fairies are at learning! You tell them to mind one thing a thousand times and they’ll still make a mess of it if you’re not constantly supervising them. It was a struggle, I tell you, but in the end patience and my genius managed to conquer their natures.”
I could understand why Kagerou wasn’t paying much attention. She hadn’t eaten anything all day from what I could tell and the food was pretty good. The meat was wonderfully tender, basically falling off the bone, its flavor enhanced by a remarkably savory sauce that was boldly seasoned with a few unique herbs. I couldn’t tell what they were through her senses but I did know that they brought out a subtle sweetness to the meat that was delightful. Though not as hopeless as her mistress, Kagerou also now sported the signs of a hasty and messy eater and I had to insist that she use a napkin to wipe around her mouth every now and again.
“...and that’s another thing about those so-called oni,” Remilia was still animated well into another serving, punctuating her sentences with increasingly erratic hand gestures, “have you ever seen one in the same place as a tengu? No, of course you haven’t! They’re like cats and dogs. Can’t stand each other, I think. Funny how that works out, isn’t it?”
“Sure is,” Kagerou gave another one of her stock replies. It may have seemed rude but, to be entirely fair, it wasn’t like the vampire was actually asking her for her input. At one point Kagerou did try to drive a conversation but found herself quickly shut out as her mistress changed the subject once more. Maybe she wasn’t loosened up enough to just go for it. I wasn’t very sure, she was basically ignoring me all the while. I knew that some of that was to avoid looking like she was talking to herself but I think that she was simply too engrossed in the moment to care about anything else. She couldn’t blame it on alcohol either—she didn’t drink a single drop from Remilia’s bottle, leaving all the more for the vampire to enjoy.
“Really, the noble devil’s burden is more than most can bear but I see it as my duty to educate and civilize because-” Remilia flitted from topic to topic as she drank more. She had no shortage of commentary to offer on other youkai, on humans and how she saw herself in the grand scheme of things. The only thing she seemed to enjoy more than talking about her opinions was her wine.
And Remilia really seemed to enjoy the wine. So much so that she stopped expecting Kagerou to pour her another glass early on. In another breech of protocol she got up at a certain point and brought the bottle to the bottle, placing it right in front of her. Naturally, she didn’t bring the wine coaster and the table cloth was soon stained purple with the rogue drops that were carelessly allowed to dribble down the exterior. If either noticed, they didn’t seem to care.
“...really, it’s things like that that make me wonder if the other youkai are even trying,” Remilia concluded, closing her eyes, placing an arm on the table, raising her hand and turning it upward like she was offering a dish of essential truths.
“Would you like dessert?” Kagerou finally remembered that she was supposed to be a maid as well. Bones picked neatly clean and a nearly-empty food tray were the victims of her lapsed memory.
“Oh, I really shouldn’t,” Remilia waved the hand that was holding her wine glass recklessly, almost spilling the red liquid all over herself. “I think I’ve had enough to eat for now. Need to watch my figure and all,” she sighed, “let me tell you, the challenges us of the nobility have to face are simply too unfair. Everyone has these high expectations of you and maintaining a proper image can become so… yes, um, tiresome.”
“I’ll try a piece if you don’t mind,” Kagerou said, getting up.
“Ahh…..” Remilia shook her head, “alright, you convinced me, I’ll have a bit. But just a bit!”
Kagerou cleared out the dirty dishes and placed a pair of smaller dessert dishes at each place. She didn’t serve much to either herself or to Remilia, clearly aware that this was merely the decadent indulgence of desire.
“It’s pretty good,” Remilia smiled after trying a small scoop of pudding.
“It is,” Kagerou agreed, showing off a satisfied smile of her own. Turned out that the red color was caused by the use of strawberry. The texture was soft and the sweetness not too excessive. For all her bragging about this and that and how money and station made her superior, Remilia was at least right about her cooks. I could scarcely imagine an everyday meal like what they just had being as good anywhere else in Gensokyo.
Remilia drank the rest of her latest glass shortly afterward and sat back in her chair, a look of sublime contentment on her face. She crossed her arms and closed her eyes, stating, “I almost feel compelled to confess my sins. I haven’t felt like this in a long while… faith and desire… do you know what I mean?”
“I’m afraid I don’t,” Kagerou answered, “I know that a lot of youkai as of late have been turning to those weirdos in the mountain or at that temple but it hasn’t really appealed to me personally. Maybe it’s just not for me, I’m not sure. Salvation and bettering yourself is better if it’s more practical, I think. Like minding the problems youkai have every day...”
“Hm, that’s nice,” Remilia brushed off what she had to say, not so much because of contempt or disinterest but because she had clearly really wanted to share her next story. With a wistful look on her face she began, “I remember this priest I was once acquainted with. He was the third son of a much-esteemed family; tall, auburn hair, blue eyes, a soft yet masculine voice that made it seem like you were the only one in the world that mattered...and a great laugh and sense of humor… ah, they don’t make them like they used to.”
Remilia bit her bottom lip as she became lost in thought. A streak of red intensified in her cheeks and around her nose and I wasn't convinced that it was entirely due to the copious amounts of alcohol. Evidently, Kagerou didn’t seem to think so either and so she asked, “what happened to him?”
“The priest. The tall priest.”
“Oh,” Remilia grinned, fangs jutting out from her small mouth, “we had a habit of engaging in most vigorous discourse nearly every time we met. I learned a lot about the local church and theology from him and he… well...”
“...” Kagerou leaned in, hanging on the vampire’s every word.
“-let’s just say that he delighted in learning about the supernatural first-hand and I was often foolishly pleased to teach him,” the vampire giggled like a schoolgirl. So much for the dignity of a noble. “It was a sad day when we parted ways but it was for the best.” Remilia tapped the side of her glass, producing a series of quick and sharp notes, and quickly added, “fate had other plans for him. And I made sure...”
“...yes?” Kagerou asked after a while. Remilia had trailed off and closed her eyes, as if thinking carefully about what she would say next.
“...” There was no response from Remilia. Either she was lost deep in thought and reliving those pleasant memories or...
“I think she fell asleep,” I said, taking a guess. She was entirely relaxed in her seat, her shoulders slumped down, clothes pinched and loosened by the awkward position she was resting at.
“I think you’re right,” Kagerou frowned.
“I’m surprised she lasted this long,” I commented, noting the obvious, “she downed most of that bottle like it was nothing. If you also factor in that she was also drinking earlier… well anyone would be sleepy after all that.”
“I suppose so,” Kagerou sighed, “what should I do?”
“Clear the table. Take her to bed. Standard maid stuff that you should be doing instead of focusing on your appetite.”
“You don’t get to judge after disappearing on me earlier,” she grumbled, not amused.
“Be that as it may, get to it,” I once again wished I could shrug. There was no point in getting into it with her, we’d only end up wasting time.
Kagerou cleared the table. She put all the dirty dishes and scraps of food onto the tray before heading to the dumbwaiter. There was a button next to it, one that I told her to push. It probably sent a signal to down below. After a few moments, the tray began to descent and disappeared down the dark shaft. She closed up the door and returned to where Remilia had collapsed. The vampire hadn’t moved a muscle.
“What should I do?” Kagerou asked, snuffing out the candles on the table for good measure.
“Well… you’re a werewolf. Not just a normal girl,” I offered a hint.
“...what are you getting at, Al? I’m not in the mood for jokes.”
“No jokes. Just carry her,” I told her, “she’s small enough and you look strong enough. I’ll guide you to her bedroom.”
Kagerou groaned but quickly saw that there was no other alternative. It didn’t seem like Remilia would cooperate anytime soon by waking up. She opened the door first before returning to Remilia and swiftly scooping her up in her arms. Turned out that I was right about both of them. The vampire didn’t feel very heavy from what I could tell and Kagerou managed the weight just fine.
As she started down the corridor, mistress in her arms like an oversized winged baby, she sighed again. I told her the fastest way to get to the bedroom; unfortunately she would have to climb some stairs with her precious cargo in tow. Remilia barely stirred though, at one point, she opened her eyes wide and seemed to stare intently at Kagerou. “Cute doggy,” she laughed softly before closing her eyes again and falling into an even deeper sleep.
“I won’t say anything if you don’t say anything,” I said to Kagerou. She just nodded and carried on.
Remilia’s bedroom wasn’t nearly as garish as I expected to be. Other than a portrait that depicted a younger-looking version of herself in fine clothes and a golden circlet, little about the room was excessive. Sure, a four-poster bed wasn’t exactly that common nor was the mahogany coffin that sat atop it but it wasn’t trying to show off like much of the rest of the mansion’s furnishings. Kagerou laid down the sleeping vampire gently on the bed.
“You’re going to have to change her before putting her into that thing,” I told her.
“I don’t really want to,” she complained.
“You have to, she’s a vampire,” I said, finding it amusing that she had a coffin on a fancy bed.
“I meant changing her.”
“Trust me, she’ll thank you later,” I told her, “it won’t be so bad, just rummage through those drawers over there and I’m sure you’ll find pajamas or something.”
With no other alternative, she did just that. It wasn’t clear where in the armoire or in the various drawers her sleeping clothes would be so Kagerou just opened up compartments at random. A few of them were locked and most were filled with luxurious-feeling garments and unmentionables. A pair of short silken pajamas were tucked away in one of the drawers. Not wishing to waste any more time, Kagerou went with that and returned to the unconscious vampire.
“...you don’t really need me to tell you how to undress someone, do you?” I asked after she hovered over her sleeping mistress, hesitating.
“No, I’ve got this,” she sighed even louder.
She loosened every button and every string she could find with a light touch, almost as if thrusting her hand into a fire to retrieve a chestnut. The nobility sure enjoyed its frills and many layers of clothes and so it took the werewolf more than a minute to strip Remilia down to her basics. Surprisingly plain, I thought, given how fancy the other clothes she wore seemed. It was difficult to believe that something so small and helpless-looking could be a powerful vampire in command of a vast mansion and an army of fairies.
Kagerou slipped on the pajama bottoms first, more confident about the vampire’s pliability by that point. She yielded without a struggle, just occasionally twitching her eyelids whenever her limbs were forced into a new position to slide something on. Then came the top, leaving her dressed in a cream-colored and comfortable-looking set of pajamas. Satisfied with her work, Kagerou opened the lid of the coffin, which turned out to be remarkably light, before once again scooping up Remilia in her arms and then laying her down.
“…I think that’s fine,” I said, watching as Kagerou slipped on the cover of the coffin again.
“I hope so,” she said, gathering the vampire’s discarded clothes before heading out. She returned to the dinning room and collected the stained tablecloth as well. Good for her, being proactive in her duties. I guided her to the laundry room, where she dropped off the bundle to a sleepy-looking fairy that had been assigned the late shift. She barely acknowledged Kagerou and looked relieved when she left her alone again.
The werewolf yawned on her way back upstairs. The cumulative fatigue of the day had finally caught up to her. “You should rest up,” I told her, “there’s nothing else you need to do right now.”
“You’re right,” she nodded, though she chose to go one more place before retiring to her bedroom. She found the spot from which she had climbed up to the roof again, keen on reclaiming her headdress. It had vanished. She looked around the immediate area carefully but couldn’t find any trace of it. After another large yawn, she gave up and retired for the night.
She drew a bath before going to bed though I had to explain to her the basics of having spigots and mixing in hot water with the cold so she didn’t scald herself. While she relaxed in the water, I let my mind wander as well and shut out her senses for a while. It felt good to have some time to myself.
“There’s clothes in the footlocker by the bed,” I told her once I realized she had come out of the bath. I just knew that to be true and I didn’t quite know why. Though I was tempted to find out just how hairy she really was, I respected her privacy as best I could and limited my access to her senses.
Kagerou dressed herself in long, plain white cotton pajamas, folding her uniform neatly before diving into bed. There she laid splayed out, letting herself be overwhelmed by the desire to rest. I still hung around her neck and felt the warmth off her body directly. Soon enough, she fell asleep.
I wasn’t really capable of sleep. So I couldn’t join her. And, besides, there was still one more thing I had to do. I concentrated, reaching out into the distance. I followed the instructions that had been left for me and, though I didn’t know where I was going, I knew whom I was meant to talk to.
It was late but I was sure she would still be awake.
“Hello, I wish to report in,” I announced myself. I felt the warmth of a fire and heard wind howling off in the distance. It was cold beyond the immediate area and I found myself in a relatively comfortable location. Rather, she did.
“Has everything gone according to plan?” Sakuya asked, not losing a single moment to pleasantries.
“It’s been a busy first day but yes, I think so,” I replied.
“Good. And Lady Remilia?”
“She tried to make her life more difficult in the beginning but then she eased off.”
“I see,” she said without betraying what she was thinking. I could feel something really hot in her hands as well. The smell… if I concentrated… yes, she was having a cup of tea. And… she wasn’t in her uniform either. It felt like she was dressed more plainly, in something more bulky. “Do you foresee any problems?” Sakuya asked, breaking my concentration slightly.
“Not at the moment,” I said, “I’ll be making sure that she does everything she is supposed to.”
“Alright, I’ll be counting on you,” she said. I could almost feel like she was going to say something else entirely but instead, she followed up with a more generic query that hinted at impatience, “is there anything else I should know?”
 Remilia went a little overboard and lost her composure.  Patchouli invited Marisa over at a late hour for unclear reasons.  The fairies were behaving for the moment but it might be necessary to keep a close eye on them.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/13(Tue)13:00
“There is one more thing,” I said, “about Remilia.”
It was hard to tell if she was interested in what I had to say. Unlike with Kagerou, I couldn’t see a face and, therefore, her expressions. No emotions or thoughts leaked either, making her perfectly inscrutable. Even what little I could feel about her environment was so faint, so distant that it might as well be unreal. How much that was an effect of the magic that allowed us to talk in the first place and how much of it was her unwillingness to allow me free rein was unclear.
I told her about Remilia’s drinking, how she had started early and had kept it up until collapse. How she wagged her tongue freely and how she had to be carried to bed. Sakuya didn’t say a thing, letting me add as much detail as I felt necessary.
“Is that all?” she asked after I ran out of details to share.
“...is this something I should worry about?” I asked, finding myself a little frustrated at the lack of reaction.
“Only if she starts singing,” Sakuya replied.
“Singing? What’s wrong with that?”
“...hopefully you won’t ever find out,” Sakuya said flatly but just then, for the briefest of moments, I could almost picture a smile flashing across an otherwise undefined face.
“Well, anything I can do if I even do get to experience the pleasure?” I asked, trying to coax more emotion out of her.
“Pray and atone for your sins,” she stated like it was an entirely reasonable course of action. Without missing a beat, she moved on, “Good luck either way. I’ll expect another report in a few days.”
“Will do, goodbye.”
“...goodbye,” she echoed softly. The ‘call’ didn’t end right away. I could feel Sakuya lingering on the other side for a few more moments until someone took a deep breath. I couldn’t discard it was just me imagining myself having lungs again.
For the next several hours I withdrew into my own world. Mercifully, I had a few ways to entertain myself. It wasn’t quite the regular internet, but I had some sort of connection to a wider network of… something. I wasn’t sure if it was others like me or something else entirely but I could access information and share opinions on things. Most of it was inane, much like the regular internet, but there were actual communities discussing everything from how to make the best drinks to how much they hated their bosses. Even if they were just like me and weren't normal people, I wasn’t about to go around sending messages about my true condition. I whiled away the time chatting to people about music, games and my other hobbies back from when I had a body.
Time tends to fly when you’re not doing anything in particular. At some point the sun had come up and Kagerou barely noticed. Clearly not a morning person by any definition. She had rolled around several times during the night and had an arm hanging off the side of the bed when there was a knock at the door. She barely reacted.
Some time passed and there was another light rapping at the door.
More time, another knock. Still nothing. A quarter hour passed. Another knock, followed by the door opening.
“Miss Kagerou?” Ana cautiously called out. She came closer to the bed and stood there silently, as if unsure what to do next. “Miss Kagerou, please wake up.”
“Mmmrrph...” Kagerou let out a soft growl. A warning, no doubt.
“...” the fairy stayed quiet for a few more moments.
I was bored by the whole interaction. “Hey, wolfie, wake up,” I said firmly, “rise and shine, people need you.”
Kagerou growled again, baring her teeth though her eyes remained closed. Ana took a step back, rightly feeling that it was a potentially dangerous situation. “I’m sorry...” she said quietly, retracing her steps.
“Come on, wake up!” I was less gentle, “Wake the hell up!”
That did it. Kagerou sprang up in bed like she had been struck by lightning. She was on all fours, ears sharp, teeth displayed and hairs standing on end. A deeper growl came forth as she looked around for the interlopers that had dared to disturb her sleep. If I had had a body, the lesson there would have been: ‘let sleeping werewolves lie’. And though I wasn’t afraid of her, she scared the fairy maid senseless.
Ana fell on her rear at the sight of Kagerou reacting like a lunatic. She crawled away swiftly, at a complete loss for words. Her wings fluttered as if she wanted to take actual flight to get away.
“Calm down,” I tried to get Kagerou under control, “remember where you are.”
Kagerou growled again but seemed to take my advice to heart. She sniffed around before looking down at the bed, at her arms and pajamas and then at the rest of the room. Her ears wiggled down to a less aggressive posture but she remained on edge as she got off the bed and stood on two legs. She spotted the nearby fairy, who hadn’t quite made it back to the door, and frowned.
“You scared the shit out of her,” I told her.
“...mmm” she grunted, still struggling to find her words.
“Apologize before she has a heart attack.”
Kagerou closed her eyes. She rotated her shoulders, releasing some of the tension there and sighed. “Stop running away,” she said simply.
Ana paused her scramble, like a deer caught in headlights. Her face was a pale mess of emotions and she was still quivering from the shock.
“I’m… um, sorry,” Kagerou slowly became civilized once again, “I didn’t mean to… you see… well and uh, sorry about that.”
“I didn’t meant to make you angry!” the fairy explained with tears in her eyes.
“Oh boy, you made a cute and innocent fairy cry, hope you’re proud of yourself,” I couldn’t help but rub it in.
“Shut up!” she snapped, remembering the pendant she was carrying and, by extension, me.
It did seem that she did forget that only she could hear me. Ana reacted poorly to Kagerou’s outburst. If she had only been half-scared to death, the fairy was now completely emotionally collapsed.
“Nice going!” I certainly didn’t help things with that. But it was fun to watch. Kagerou remembered something really important just then. The mental image she showed me of what she wanted me to do was equally unhelpful.
“I didn’t mean you—it’s… well, sorry again,” Kagerou tried her best to remain calm. “Look, stop crying, I promise I won’t yell again.”
The fairy flinched as Kagerou took a few steps closer, arms open in a non-threatening gesture.
“The big bad wolf is now approaching to eat up her latest victim whole, bones and all,” I commented, trying to explain what the scene probably looked like to the fairy.
“Okay, listen, I’m going to sit down and you can get up and do whatever you want,” Kagerou halted and did just that. “Once again, I’m sorry, it was just a big misunderstanding.”
Ana was understandably skeptical. Wiping away her tears with her blouse, she slowly mustered the courage to stand again. She observed Kagerou carefully, ever ready for any sudden movements.
“Listen, I don’t really deal well with new environments and I forgot where I was,” Kagerou tried to explain to the skittish fairy, “it won’t happen again, please believe me.”
“...okay,” Ana said, nodding. She kept her distance, with a clear line to the door but looked a little more convinced that she wasn’t going to be assaulted by a marauding werewolf.
“So, I take it you need something from me?” Kagerou asked, trying to hold back a yawn. With the adrenaline gone, she was back to being a sleepy creature with droopy ears.
“I just-” the fairy looked hesitant to bring up whatever it was. She still didn’t know how Kagerou would react. “Well, I did what you asked,” she said.
“I called a meeting of the other leaders… and they’ve, um, been waiting for a while to see you.”
“Ah, I see. I’ll be along as soon as I get dressed.”
“Oh, okay,” the fairy nodded, “they’re downstairs by the main entrance.”
“Thank you for letting me know, you may go now.”
The fairy maid curtsied and left hastily. Smart girl. Didn’t want to push her luck. “Hopefully it won’t be like this every morning,” I said.
“Shut up, Al. Not in the mood,” Kagerou frowned and got to it. She changed quickly and drew open the curtains. It was a nice day out: there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. It was still before noon but not by much. Late to bed, late to rise—that was the only way to realistically keep up with a vampire.
Kagerou got dressed quickly and made her way down to the front entrance. Five fairies were assembled by the door, looking expectantly at her. Though their basic designs were similar, they each wore a different color of uniform with several variations; a couple had thick aprons on, others longer skirts and still one carried a satchel with her.
“It’s about time!” a maid in yellow, with dark short hair didn’t hide her feelings at all. She was the one with the satchel.
“Sophie, mind your manners!” Ana snapped at her, mortified.
“It’s alright,” Kagerou smiled, a perfect picture of serenity. “I’m sorry to have kept you waiting. I won’t take much more of your time. I simply wanted to meet you and know who I would be working with during my time here. I’m Kagerou, the new head maid.”
“Right, right,” Sophie wasted no time introducing herself, “Sophie, Head of Auxiliary. I keep things smooth: doors greased, storage spaces organized and do the type of work the other fairies think they’re too good for. Sakuya wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Kagerou remarked.
“I’m Emily,” another maid piped up. This one wore black and had a thin white apron on. She wore glasses and her dark brown hair was done up with a ponytail. “Head of Cleaning. My job never ends. There’s always something to clean. Please to meet you.”
“Likewise,” Kagerou flashed another smile as Emily curtsied.
“Huh, I guess I’m next,” a girl with lighter brown hair spoke up. She wore dark green and her skirt was also longer, about ankle-length. She also had an apron on but it was more rugged than Emily’s. She didn’t seem either deferential or hostile and acted incredibly relaxed, “I take care of the gardening. If you really need to, call me Mary.”
“Sonia,” the last of the maids cut in. She was the one in a dark reddish-brown uniform and with a similar color of hair. It was a similar to Ana’s in design except that she wore a long apron that extended past the short skirt. “I’m in the kitchen most of the day. You let me know what you need and when, and we’ll have it cooked.”
“Nice to meet you both,” Kagerou said. She praised Sonia, “I had the pleasure of trying your cooking last night, as Lady Remilia shared her food with me. It was really good.”
Sonia nodded and crossed her arms. It was a prideful gesture that seemed to say: “of course it was delicious”.
“Well, you’ve already met me,” Ana piped up nervously, “but I’m the new head of service and I attend to our Mistress’ every need and that of her guests. Every fairy is also supposed to do their part for security but in practice...”
“Not everyone is brave enough to stand and fight,” Mary said with a giggle, “but Miss Sakuya usually does such a good job that we don’t really need to worry.”
“I’ll be trying my best on that front, too,” Kagerou said. She was likely going to bring up the incident with Marisa but didn’t get the chance.
“That’s great. Now that we’re friends, can I get back to work?” Sophie interjected.
“Yes, that would be best,” Kagerou said, adding a final comment, “feel free to talk to me if you ever need anything. I’ll do my best to see that you get what you need.”
With that, the group dispersed. Only Ana and Sonia remained behind.
“It’s late but I could still make you breakfast if you like,” Sonia volunteered.
“That would be lovely, thank you,” Kagerou said. Sonia nodded and went away towards the kitchen.
“I’m sure that they don’t mean to be disrespectful,” Ana made excuses for them, “they’re just not trained like I am.”
“It’s fine,” Kagerou shrugged, “I was told that too much formality was a bad thing recently. I’m sure it applies here as well.”
“O-of course!” Ana still didn’t really know how to deal with Kagerou. It felt like she was dangerously close to pouting but somehow she kept herself in check. “I’m sure your breakfast will be ready soon. You may take it wherever you like. I have no problem taking it to your room.”
“If it’s alright, I’ll be in the dining room where Lady Remilia ate last night,” Kagerou stated.
“Sure, no problem at all!” Ana beamed, “I’ll make sure everything is going smoothly in the kitchen.”
“...don’t push yourself,” Kagerou said quietly. Ana had turned and left without waiting for another prompt, making it doubtful she had heard her at all.
We returned to the smaller dining room upstairs and waited. In the daylight, the view from the window lived up to expectations. It captured parts of the garden, with its mix of blooming flowers and decorative statues, and the landscape beyond—forest, lake and mountains off in the distance. Kagerou set a place for herself and sat and stared out, deep in thought.
It didn’t take very long for Ana to reappear, carrying a tray of food. Scrambled eggs and toast. A classic. “It may not look like much,” she noted, “but we’ve perfected a technique that was passed down from an interesting traveler that came here several years ago. You won’t be disappointed.”
“Thank you, Ana,” Kagerou dismissed her with a smile. She ate the meal with relish, though with much less voracity than the preceding evening. The eggs were fluffy and retained just the right amount of moisture. They really went well with the lightly-toasted bread.
“So, are you ready for another day of work?” I asked her as she finished her last bites.
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” she replied, showing none of the tension from earlier. For all intents and purposes she had fully gotten over the shock of waking up.
I had a list of duties that she was supposed to attend to during the course of the week. It would be best to do one of the more urgent ones first. I discarded supervising the fairies to make sure they didn’t slack off partly because things seemed fine for now and partly because I was sick of dealing with them.
Probably something more time-consuming that couldn’t be done at any moment would be best. Every resident, fairies included, needed to eat and that meant regular trips into the village for supplies. Taking care of that before the stores got too low was important. It was a job for more than one person, as well, just from the sheer amount of things that needed to be bought and carted around.
Making sure that there were no undiscovered security breaches was likewise vital. Marisa may have been an invited guest but the large grounds and the riches within the mansion drew the attention of all sorts of people, many of them shady. There was ample opportunity to undermine a wall or fence. And the large lake that led right up to the garden was a particularly large security concern and needed to be watched.
 Go get fresh produce and supplies from the village.  See to the security of the mansion.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/14(Wed)13:00
“Just get a couple of fairies to help you out, it won’t be that bad,” I suggested, trying to overcome her odd resistance to the idea.
“You’re kidding, right?” Kagerou frowned and torpedoed the suggestion, “you want me to take a group of fairies to a really busy place filled with people? That’s not going to end well and you know it.”
“Oh come on, it’s not like they’re going to pickpocket and steal things,” I countered.
“No, but they might wander off, get into trouble, annoy people. You know, the things that fairies usually do everywhere else,” she said, painting a very clear picture, “they’re not up on the walls here because of Sakuya.”
“And now, you,” I would have smiled smugly and crossed my arms if I had any, “you can crack the whip and keep them in line if needed.”
“I’d rather carry everything myself,” she grumbled, not enthused at the idea of keeping fairies in check. I couldn’t blame her. It was a thankless and never-ending task.
“Just take Ana, then,” I tried to reach a compromise, “she seems well-behaved. Not liable to play pranks or buy stupid amounts of candy instead of food.”
“Look, even if we do take her, there’s still a bigger problem I need to solve,” she sighed, frustrated that I had worn her down to get to the heart of the matter.
“...if you laugh, I swear I’m going to crush your pendent,” she threatened.
“You’d lose your job,” I wasn’t scared of her. All bark and no bite.
“And you, your life,” she tried to flash a cold smile, a clear attempt to intimidate me.
I didn’t buy it. Besides having supreme confidence in her cuddly and lovely nature, I was pretty sure I was indestructible. Or, well, as close to indestructible as a magical material can be. I could probably only be dissolved by a concentrated spell or something, not by brute force. Still, no point in antagonizing her needlessly or we’d be at it all day.
“Let’s leave that issue aside for now,” I tried the diplomatic tack, “I’m your friend and I won’t ever laugh at you. That’d be mean.”
“You’re really full of it, aren’t you?” she sighed.
“Just a little. But, seriously, you need to trust me here. We’re stuck together and we need to cooperate in order to keep moving forwards,” I gave her the boilerplate speech, not believing it fully myself. But for all practical purposes, we weren’t going to get the supply run done if she didn’t open up.
“Alright, alright, I get it.” Kagerou yielded, putting her hands up in the air as she shrugged. If any fairies were watching the (seemingly) one-sided exchange, they probably would have pegged her as insane. Not that that would necessarily be bad, as fear of the insane wolf boss lady might keep them in check.
“...so,” she was hesitant, her ears once again slinking back. Kagerou scratched behind an ear, as if to perk herself up, but there was no change in their position. “Fine, so,” she began again, “I know it’s stupid and silly and a normal person wouldn’t care. But that’s just the thing—I’m not normal. And you need to understand that it’s really unpleasant when you’re there and there’s nothing you can do.”
“Just spit it out,” I was impatient. We didn’t have all day.
“I was getting to that. Listen, I’m not comfortable with the way I look. People stare.”
“Is that it?” I asked less to mock and more to make sure that I understood the problem.
“Pretty much. The ‘furry wolf girl’ isn’t a good thing to be. Women look at all the fur and… and the kids treat me like a dog… it’s not nice,” she said as she slumped her shoulders, collapsing in towards herself. “This uniform probably won’t help things any, I feel like I’d get lecherous stares from men.”
“Listen, I’m not going to lie,” I gave her the brutal truth, “I see where they’re coming from. People are dicks and can’t help themselves. They will stare, point, whisper and make fun of things they don't understand. Easier that way.”
“Alright. So you see why I don’t want to go to the village,” she sounded hopeful that I wouldn’t insist any more. She was wrong.
“I understand but that’s just something you have to deal with,” I didn’t mince words, “it’s part of the job and there’s no getting out of it. We all have to do things we don’t want to at times.”
“I know but...”
A solution came to mind. I interrupted her, “hold on, we can at least make it not as bad. All you need to do is cover up. A cloak. Find one of those and you can pass off more like a mysterious stranger than a werewolf.”
“Isn’t it a little too warm for that?” she poked a hole in my idea.
“You’ll just have to endure it. It doesn’t need to be thick, just be long enough and have a hood.” It was a crime in principle to hide her legs but it was a necessary sacrifice.
“Hm...” she seemed close to being convinced. She wrinkled her nose pensively and then looked down at her body, trying to imagine how she’d look.
“It’ll work, trust me.”
“...alright,” she finally gave in.
With that sorted, she returned to her room to look for a cloak. There had been more things in the footlocker other than her sleepwear but she had been too tired at night to sort through it all. I wondered if Sakuya had picked everything in there herself as there seemed to be every sort of outfit for every sort of situation. More impressively, they all seemed to be in Kagerou’s size, which said a lot about her eye. Maybe some people would consider leaving clean undergarments for someone you don’t really know as presumptuous or creepy but it certainly was practical.
“I think you’ve found it,” I said as she held up a simple dark gray cloak. I was sure that, in dim lighting and with chanting in the background, it would otherwise look ominous. In the light of day, however, it was merely an inoffensive solution to our problem. Luckily, it wasn’t a winter cloak either, so Kagerou was unlikely to suffer from heatstroke on her way to the village.
She put the cloak on. Aside from the scandalous amount of ankle it left exposed, it did a good job of hiding her non-human features. She took off the amulet she had put on her maid uniform and affixed it to the cloak, using it as a fastener to keep it closed. Kagerou kept the hood down for the moment, wisely choosing to keep as fresh as possible for as long as possible.
After I reassured her that she looked inconspicuous enough, I told her about a coin purse that had been left just for this sort of situation. It had more than enough money to pay for just about anything we could need. And I knew that there was more money elsewhere if we needed it; it was hidden away behind sconces and lamps, occasionally inside vases, and sometimes secreted beneath brittle blocks. Nearly every corner of the mansion had money distributed in that manner. It was a weird approach to securing money for sure. But, hey, it seemed to work for them.
We headed down to the kitchen area and found Sonia bossing around a couple of idle fairies. She was more than happy to take a break and tell us what we needed in terms of food. Afterwards, she went one step further and found one of the idle kitchen fairies and told her to ask all the other bosses what they needed from the supply run.
“Thank you so much,” Kagerou thanked Sonia.
“I want to keep on making great food,” she said, “it’s important we have everything we need in the kitchen. It’s the same for all the other squad leaders, I’m sure.”
I wasn’t so sure about that but it was a lovely bit of initiative all the same. As we waited for the fairy runner to come back with her dispatch, we headed down to the storage areas nearby. There was a proper larder as well as a more general pantry but we weren’t looking for food. We were looking for a storage shed that was built along the exterior wall. Kagerou got a few strange looks from a few fairies but that was to be expected. They were fairies, they didn’t understand the utility of a cloak or importance of blending in with a crowd.
The the supply cart within the storage shed presented our next problem.
“You’re probably going to have to push that,” I told her. It was a small wooden cart, the type that could be pushed easily by a single person. The problem was, as we both identified quickly, that it’d be unwieldy to move around the shops and stalls of the market and shop around for the best deals.
“...I don’t want a fairy,” she complained, threatening to retread that whole previous discussion.
“We agreed that Ana was fine. Besides, who else is there?”
“There’s only one other person that I’ve met who works here and isn’t a fairy...” she started to suggest something way too irresponsible.
“She already has a job,” I argued the obvious and commonsense point of view.
“The mansion will survive a couple of hours without her,” she insisted on the stupid idea, “we can get some of the fairies to fill in temporarily.”
“That sounds like a really terrible idea.”
“You know I’m right. This is the most practical solution. Someone who isn’t a fairy that can hold steady in a location and we can trust to watch over the cart,” she argued. It wasn’t that she didn’t have a point, I just thought that the risks outweighed the benefits. What would happen if someone chose to break in and pillage the place? A bunch of hapless fairies couldn’t do squat.
“...we really shouldn’t,” I tried to hold my ground.
“I trusted you,” she said, reminding me of the compromise with the cloak unfairly, “I need you to trust me now.”
For a moment I thought she was going to add, “what’s the worst that could happen?” but she thankfully didn’t tempt faith.
 She’ll have to make do with Ana. End of discussion.  The gate guard is the best choice after all.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/15(Thu)13:00
For the second time in the day, Kagerou was upset. She didn’t take my insistence that we carry on with a fairy that well. The name-calling wasn’t really a problem—I had heard worse in my time—but it was the claims that I wasn’t worth trusting that were most hurtful. “It was stupid of me to think you had my best interests at heart,” she said rather dramatically at one point.
Still, as disappointed as I was that things had taken that sort of turn, I was still credible enough to get her to relent. She wasn’t going to quit over not getting her way. Like we had established earlier: there were things that she would have to do she wouldn’t like. Our relationship was another matter entirely. I could definitely understand her perspective and, in overriding her direct appeal to me, I had violated one of those unstated agreements that were part of any relationship.
Ultimately, work was work. And I was around because of the contract she signed.
Ana was thrilled to help out. She almost purred with satisfaction as Kagerou told her that she was her special pick for a special task. When we finally set out, after making a list the things we needed, Ana happily started humming to herself as she pushed the empty cart. She greeted the gate guard with enthusiasm and loudly bragged that she had been hand-picked by the head maid herself to keep her company. Wishing us good luck, the gate guard waved goodbye and watched us the whole way until we disappeared out of sight.
The path from the mansion to the village wasn’t direct. A humble dirt road, only about as wide as our cart, wound around woods and hills. We didn’t encounter anyone for about an hour, meeting only a wandering merchant that had been thinking of trying his luck selling shiny baubles at the mansion. Kagerou ignored the man entirely but Ana seemed impressed by the various knickknacks he produced from his pouch. He probably wouldn’t make it past the gate guard and would be turned away.
As we approached the village, thickets and denser patches of trees gave way to increasingly larger fields. Some of the fields lay fallow but most were dedicated to rice cultivation. The rice plants were still young and barely poked above the shallow layer of water in the fields. There wasn’t much work to do in the fields at this point in the season and so we only saw a few people in the distance maintaining the channels or inspecting the plants.
Our simple dirt path ended at a three way intersection before too long. Kagerou paused and let Ana rest a moment. Surprisingly, the fairy had managed the trip well and had been able to deftly avoid mud and vegetation. Kagerou hadn’t been in the best of moods for the trip and had quickly shut down a few attempts at ‘I spy’. This had done little to dissuade the fairy from talking about how much she loved ‘all the pretty flowers there’ or ‘the cute birds in that tree’. No matter how much Kagerou scowled or tried to ignore her, Ana remained upbeat and blissfully oblivious.
The sun was firmly up on high in the sky and the day was decidedly warm. That didn’t stop Kagerou from putting up her hood before we set off again. There were normal villagers on the road now, some carting goods like we would be and others simply out for a nice stroll. They were happy to mind their own business and most of our interaction was limited to a polite nod as we passed one another.
Though she wasn’t really in a chatty sort of mood, I could tell that Kagerou was still apprehensive about being in the village. Once we actually reached the first few buildings, I noted that her movements became a lot more hesitant and stiff. She avoided eye contact wherever possible and tried to divine the quickest route to the market.
Ana, on the other hand, was delighted by the new sights and sounds. She stood out in her very distinct outfit and garnered looks from many. Being the center of attention was no problem for the fairy; she smiled at strangers and waved at any who greeted her. A group of young children that we passed seemed to enjoy seeing the fairy so much that they all started playing at being fairies themselves, flapping their arms like they were flying, all the while laughing with glee.
I said nothing, understanding fully by the look in her eyes that Kagerou was still too annoyed with me to speak.
The village turned out to be larger and more active than I thought it would be. The streets were wide and well-maintained with a mix of one and two-story buildings as far as the eye could see. There were smaller side streets that fed into the main thoroughfare and all sorts of businesses and services were on offer. We had arrived around lunchtime and the streets were full with carts with vendors hawking food and snacks to those passing by.
In that increasing hustle and bustle, Kagerou looked about as inconspicuous as she could ever hope for. When we encountered the first of the produce stalls and stores she got right to it without hesitation. Ana tried to stay out of the way, leaving the cart on one side of the street and delighted herself with people watching. I would have liked to join her but I found that Kagerou’s antipathy translated into reduced access to her senses. I was quickly overwhelmed with the sights and sounds, unable to filter out more relevant information quickly.
The werewolf did a decent job at picking the right supplies. I thought that she could do with more haggling here and there but she was still able to secure a reasonable discount on some of the larger and more expensive purchases. I knew that she wasn’t receptive to my advice so I didn’t bother to inject myself into the process. The cart slowly but surely became filled with all sorts of goods; things like fresh fruit, bolts of cloth and nails were all on the supply list. The money she had brought proved to be more than enough to get everything that she could find.
Interacting with shopkeepers and merchants seemed to be no problem for her. They were polite and didn’t seem to care that she had tried to hide her face and body away with the cloak. It seemed likely that they knew she wasn’t human; it would be obvious if they happened to catch a glimpse of her eyes. Still, they treated her with the same interest (or lack thereof) as with any other customer. Kagerou eventually became a little less stiff and more confident, though she did continue to check from time to time that her cloak was still fastened correctly.
As she carried some of the last items on the list, something odd happened. She stood to one side of the crowd and discretely sniffed at the air. There was little I could tell from the mix of food, spices and bodily odor that hung around the crowd with my more restricted access to her senses. Kagerou looked around and settled her gaze on someone who was walking towards one of the side streets. It was a girl with short red hair, who was wearing a short cape that ended at around her waist. Seemed a little pointless as protection from the elements, given that she was also wearing a short skirt. Some sort of weirdo with a questionable fashion sense, clearly.
The cloaked wolf looked around again, looking into the crowd for something or someone else. A few moments passed. It didn’t seem like she found what she was looking for. And so she rejoined the throng and continued her work.
When we returned to the cart, we found Ana eating one of those sweet dumplings they sold nearby. “A nice man gave it to me and called me cute,” she explained happily, “humans sure are great.”
Kagerou frowned but let it slide, instead saying, “We’ve nearly everything that we came for. There’s a few things that are sold out or they don’t have. I think we can go back now.”
“Oh, do we have to?” Ana pouted, “I was kind of hoping I’d get to have more candy. The stuff at the mansion is always only just for Lady Remilia.”
“Maybe next time,” Kagerou said, looking warily around at the crowd. The fact that we had passed a couple of what were very obviously some sort of youkai didn’t make her feel any more at ease.
 Both of them could use a treat for a job well done.  Keep quiet and let Kagerou’s bad mood work itself out.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/16(Fri)13:00
>>63862 I enjoy the colorful spin to choices and comments and all but just to be clear: which choice is that a vote for? I don't want to risk misinterpreting reader intent just because I'm an idiot and think something is ambiguous.
>>63861 There may or may not have been about a thousand words of cut content today. It may or may not have contained additional 2hus. That's just the way life is. I'd worry more about other better characters getting spurned in earlier choices and trying to right those injustices in the future.
>>63864 It is a vote for the second option. As in "Relent (your intent to make up with her, for now)"
I always add comments to my votes in order to add nuance to what often surmounts to a binary choice. While it doesn't affect the story (until it does: the effect that theories or comments have on CYOAs is a fascinating topic for me, especially when we consider that this genre started with complete freeform writing-which, hilariously enough, hit its ceiling almost immediately due to the potential narrative structure nightmare it represents- which quickly turned into prewritten choices with selective write-in options and even that is nowadays just two choices -again, binary- mostly due to the increasingly complex stories that the evolution of the genre demanded, the quickly increased pace of the modern world in general and entertainment in particular -as shown by a few write-in only stories that experienced far less votes than the, at the time, site average and the severely decreased pace of sudden write-in only votes in regular stories, alongside the increased appearance of the trainwagon infection, which is another can of worms entirely- and the general diminishing amount of voting readers -lurkers being another figurative can of arguably less figurative worms- mostly because I caused direct changes to stories due to them. Almost as fascinating as little brain facts, like how our mind can only store a finite amount of information in its short term memory bank -think of it like RAM or any other volatile memory- and having long winded parenthetical elements between one half of a sentence and another makes it almost unreadable, but I digress) it serves another function: like how explaining a concept to another person is proof of your understanding of it, and how performing a complex action under duress is a testament of your mastery of it, writing down the reason for your vote, even if it is short and succinct, like absolutely all of my posts are, is a test or how good your motives and/or how sound the theories behind it are. Also, it gives me more time to think and to catch hidden hints in the story and the choices about which option is the optimal one. Because the idea of having a "good" and a "bad" option (or a "good" and a "better" option if you want to call them that) is something that I've accepted as inevitable in any story that wants to have stakes (so, basically, every story except slice-of-life, porn and tales authored by Remilia)
However, this time, I also edited the vote which, as I can see now, could be confusing. Sorry.
>>63865 Gotcha. I certainly don't mind that and reader input and creativity in general. And I appreciate any and all effort voters make. I really do appreciate comments and do take them into consideration when writing to the extent that scenes I had planned can be significantly altered depending on feedback. At the very least, it does motivate me to see people engaged and both voting and commenting.
I could probably say a lot more about the other points you've raised but I'm trying to keep myself as straight to business in this story as possible and don't really want to risk derailing the thread.
I'll just state that I don't consider any of the choices inherently good or bad because of how the story is structured. It's a personal journey for the characters where what they learn and how is probably more important than the end result. There are some counters that I'm keeping track of, that said, but hopefully it's the sort of thing that's also evident due to the tone of the text and how choices are worded. Not really 'good' or 'bad' in the sense of reaching a satisfying resolution to things though. Just different.
Before they left the village, I felt compelled to speak up. It was an unwelcome intrusion, with my lupine host frowning as soon as she heard my voice. She signaled for Ana to hang back as she delivered an unambiguous tongue-lashing.
“I thought you took the hint and were going to shut up for a good while,” she spoke, conscious not to raise her voice over the noises of the crowd.
“I still have a job to do,” I said, trying to be careful and avoiding direct confrontation.
“Job? Sure. And I bet it’ll remain that way until the next time you need me to do something I don’t want to,” she complained, “then I’m sure it’ll turn into a matter of what’s good for me and that I should trust you.”
One of the passing villagers turned her head to look at the weird cloaked figure that was talking to herself. It wouldn’t be a good idea to keep on engaging her along those lines no matter how I really felt.
“Forget you and me for now,” I tried to make my point quickly, “think of Ana. She behaved well. You’ve done what you set out to do. That deserves a reward, don’t you think? Treat her to something nice. You’ve got the money. Hell, treat yourself to something nice as well.”
Judging from her expression, there was more she wanted to say. Possibly shout. But she was altogether too aware that she was out in public and felt every stray gaze keenly. She leaned back against the exterior wall of a nearby building. Ana watched with a puzzled look on her face, leaning in and placing her arms on the cart. Kagerou noticed and looked directly at the fairy.
With a sigh, she motioned for the fairy to follow and they set off. A small stall by the market’s entrance was selling dumplings. Kagerou noticed the strong smell first and craned her neck to look at the food. It seemed that she did decide to listen to me, after all. She approached the stall and watched how the seller fried up a batch for another customer.
“Would you like some?” she asked her fairy companion.
Ana’s eye widened, “would I?! I’d love some!”
Kagerou placed an order and paid with a few coins. The fairy watched the whole cooking process excitedly, keeping an eye on the dumplings as they browned and excess moisture dissipated. She received the small bagful gladly and made sure to express her gratitude properly, “thank you so much Miss Kagerou, they look really tasty.”
“You’ll have to eat them while we walk,” the werewolf said, “I want to make it back as soon as possible.”
“Not a problem!” the fairy exclaimed. She followed closely, pushing the cart as well as she could. Minding the cart, the path forward, other people and the dumplings taxed her to capacity. She awkwardly took a bite while leaning in towards the cart and barely managed to not hit an old man who had been crossing the street.
Seeing that close call, Kagerou told the fairy to wait a moment before eating. She led her beyond the main streets and onto a smaller path that cut through behind some buildings. There was a small space there, one with a few trees and where the residents of the nearby homes left their laundry out to dry. They sat in the shade and Kagerou let the fairy take her time eating. She refused the offer of a dumpling politely and quietly gazed up at the sky. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking and, tempted as I was to talk to her again, it felt like that would be a terrible idea.
After the fairy had had her fill, she popped up to her feet and eagerly began to push the cart again. Kagerou led them out of the village and onto the road. That Kagerou didn't allow herself a treat felt like an oddly indirect and spiteful dig at me.
The journey back to the mansion was moderately uneventful. Ana pushed the cart steadily and without difficulty, only occasionally struggling whenever the road sloped up or there was a particularly sharp bend. Kagerou helped make sure nothing fell off and sometimes helped the fairy push whenever the incline was too steep. The early afternoon sun was merciless all the while and forced Kagerou to loosen up her cloak after they were once again on the smaller road that led to the mansion.
The gate guard greeted them cheerily, “welcome back. Had a nice trip?”
“It was great!” Ana answered excitedly. It was remarkable how, despite doing the lion’s share of the work, she was still so energetic and upbeat. “I got to eat really tasty things and see a whole bunch of different kinds of people. And, um, I was called cute! So I’m really happy about that.”
The guard laughed at the fairy’s reply and crossed her arms. “Lovely to hear you had fun,” her blue eyes showed an earnest warmth. She opened up the gate with a smile.
The last stop for the cart was where the journey began. Ana went off ahead into the mansion, still managing a cheery spring in her step. She returned soon after with a group of fairies in tow. They descended upon the cart and each grabbed whatever supplies they could carry in their arms. A somewhat messy system of unpacking but the results spoke for themselves—the cart was empty and ready to be stored away in just moments. Hopefully the fairies could be trusted to sort whatever they were carrying it and store it in the right place.
After putting the cart away, Kagerou ignored the fairies and went back to her room. She took off the cloak and freshened up. The cloak had kept most of the dust off from her clothes but she still found it necessary to pat herself down to get trace amounts of dirt off of her. Afterwards she washed her hands and face, both to cool down and clean off sweat.
“I’m going to rest for a while,” she announced as she drew the curtains and tossed herself onto the bed. “Don’t bother me,” she warned me, still resentful.
I said nothing. It was disappointing that she wasn’t listening to me anymore. Every time I opened my mouth, I reminded her of why she was pissed off at me in the first place. So, I let sleeping werewolves lie and tuned out the real world.
Kagerou got up more than an hour later. She ventured downstairs to the kitchen. It was an impressive space filled with multiple large stoves, a large central table where all sorts of foods were being readied for meals and, most impressively, an enormous wood-fired oven that took up a whole wall at the end of the room. It was hot and the smell of food saturated the air. As it was already past lunchtime and Remilia wouldn’t be awake for a while, only a few staff hung around. Interestingly, it wasn’t just fairies that worked the area and a few squat imp-like creatures carried foodstuffs around, struggling to reach the counters.
It appeared that Kagerou was looking for Sonia and she left the kitchen when she saw that the fairy wasn’t around. She found her in the fairy’s dining room, among a group of idle fairies who were playing some sort of game involving small brightly-colored discs.
Her end objective was to have a light meal or snack and she asked Sonia if there were any leftovers or something simple she could have. The fairy laughed, stating, “there’s always leftovers” and instructed another nearby maid to go fetch Kagerou a plate. The maid returned promptly with what looked to be some sort of stir-fried rice. Kagerou thanked them and sat at a different table and quietly ate her meal.
After she was done, she chose to do nothing in particular. I was tempted to tell her to use her time wisely but I decided not to irritate her further; she’d cool down with time if I just gave her some space. The sun was beginning to get low in the sky and she spent some time taking a leisurely stroll in the front garden. It seemed like she wanted to talk to someone that wasn’t a fairy. Circumspectly, she was making her way towards the front gate and its guard.
“You’re needed,” I interrupted her plans, sticking to the point as much as possible, “Remilia is in her room and she wants to see you.”
She nodded, barely acknowledging that I was there. Kagerou had a good sense of direction and found her way back to the bedroom in no time at all. There she found Remilia half-emerged from her coffin, hair a mess and looking like she had died and not quite fully come back to life. Which, I suppose, is applicable to vampires in general but Remilia really did look a shade more dead than usual. Her red eyes were bleary and unfocused.
“Ugh, you’re here,” she greeted Kagerou with a distinctive lack of cheeriness. Not a morning person either, it looked like.
“What can I do for you?” Kagerou asked, trying to act professional.
“A head transplant,” the vampire groaned, “mine feels like it was kicked around all day.”
Oh, apparently vampires could get hangovers. That was a weirdly comforting thought. If I ever happened to be chased by an angry vampire, I decided that I would try to bait them into a drinking contest. Not like I could reasonably stand to take them on otherwise.
“Would you like some breakfast? Water?”
“I don’t think I could keep anything down right now,” Remilia waved her hand dismissively. “I just want to die but even trying to sleep isn’t working out anymore.”
“Try walking into sunlight, that should do it,” Kagerou joked.
“Funny little werewolf,” Remilia forced a laugh, clearly unamused. “You’re going to have to clean up this coffin, so crack all the jokes you want.”
“Oh...” Kagerou sniffed the air. There certainly was something that smelled unnatural coming from the direction of the vampire. “Take a bath, I’ll take care of it.”
“See that you do,” Remilia clambered out of the coffin, barely able to stand. She wobbled and winced, rubbing her temples with her hands. “I think a bath is a good idea. It’ll warm up my bones at least. I feel cold.”
Remilia lurched towards the bathroom, pausing to strip off bits of her clothes every few steps. Kagerou watched her, likely to make sure she didn’t fall over. Once the vampire was safely inside the bathroom, she collected her clothes and then turned her attention to the coffin.
In spite of the ghastly smell, something akin to a jar of vinegar that had been haunted by an angry spirit, things were not as bad as they had first seemed. I had suspected vomit but was glad to be proven wrong. At least mostly wrong. There was a fresh sample but it was tiny, likely from when she woke up. The fine cushioned interior was stained with sweat most of all.
“Wipe away what you can now, I think it’ll have to be worked over by a team of fairies to get it to be usable again,” I told Kagerou, no longer concerned about upsetting her.
She, in turn, didn’t seem to be upset at me anymore, saying, “yes, there’s no way I can do a good job by myself.” Remilia’s disgusting bodily residues had brought us together once more. I told her to go back downstairs and find the faeries specializing in cleaning.
The assembled team didn’t seem too happy to do their assigned task but their quipping led me to believe that it was hardly the first time that they had to clean out a dirty coffin. “We’ll bring another one up from storage,” Emily said as she arrived to supervise the group. She adjusted her glasses and looked around the room, sighing, “oh Mistress..”
“It’s best you leave as soon as you can,” Kagerou warned them, “it doesn’t seem like she’s in the best of moods.”
“It figures,” Emily said, hurrying up the fairies. They took everything from the room that smelled or was clearly dirty and left.
“You should check up on Remilia,” I told Kagerou, “make sure she hasn’t drowned or dissolved or whatever.”
The bathroom was as hot as a jungle. Remilia had turned the water up to almost scalding temperatures and was soaking in a large round tub. The moisture instantly clung onto Kagerou’s hair, making her look and feel damp. “How are you feeling?” she asked the vampire.
“Like I’m being punished by the heavens,” she laughed but then closed her eyes and sucked air through her teeth.
“It’ll pass,” Kagerou reassured her.
“If it doesn’t, I’m killing everyone at the mansion and then myself,” she… joked? There was an uncomfortable ring of truth to her words.
“We can’t have that,” Kagerou said.
“I just know that even boiling myself in here feels less terrible than my head,” the vampire groaned.
“Let’s get you out of there and try to do something about that headache of yours. Maybe a little light exercise?” Kagerou suggested, “I don’t usually drink so much that I feel bad but I always find that moving around when I feel sick makes me feel better. I’ll have to insist that you drink water first, however.”
“I think I’d rather you crucify me,” Remilia got out of the tub slowly, struggling to figure out how much strength she had to use to lift herself out. “But.. I guess I don’t have any ideas of my own.”
 Let Kagerou handle things in her own way.  Patchouli might have a better idea of what to do with Remilia.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/17(Sat)13:00
[x] Let Kagerou handle things in her own way. Called it.
As much as I hate joining a dogpile on a vote, we're clearly in shit with Kagerou as it is. Second-guessing her judgment at this point, no matter how questionable, just feels like a bad path to tread. Hands-off until absolutely necessary is a much more prudent course of action.
Getting Remilia to do anything was a test of patience. The vampire was slow, irritable and eager to lash out. Even something as basic as drying herself became an ordeal. I wasn’t sure that toweling down your employer was part of the head maid’s job description. Nonetheless, Kagerou had to step in and help Remilia as she had a hard time reaching her legs without losing stability.
“I think that’s good enough,” Remilia declared as Kagerou was hard at work drying her hair with the towel. The vampire nearly flinched every time the werewolf touched her. It wasn’t out of embarrassment—she did not attempt to hide her body or make Kagerou look away—but because the simple act of rubbing her head worsened her headache.
Kagerou found another drier towel nearby and wrapped the small vampire in it. Without clothes or jewelry on, and the clear look of discomfort on her face, she looked disturbingly fragile. Her small frame and youthful features were deceptively disarming. It was hard to imagine someone like that being a blood-sucking horror that struck fear in to the hearts of people and youkai alike. If not for those wings, it would be easy to picture her as a normal and bratty young girl. Indeed, I found myself thinking that it looked more like Kagerou was stuck being a babysitter than acting the part of a proper and dignified maid.
Remilia sat on her bed quietly as Kagerou rummaged for clothes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it didn’t seem like Remilia had any exercise clothes on hand. Putting aside that she was, obviously, a vampire and that entailed certain realities for her constitution; she was physically unimpressive for the most part. Her body tended towards thin and almost skeletal in places, with very little in the way of fat or muscle. That wasn’t to say that she was wholly a disaster. It was only that she would have a long way to go if she ever wanted to get toned and look conventionally healthy.
In the end, the best that Kagerou could do was a sleeveless white undershirt and plain short skirt. They weren’t ideal workout clothes but they would allow Remilia to maximize flexibility and keep from overheating. She had to help the vampire get dressed.
“You’re serious about this, aren’t you?” Remilia scowled, being helped with her undergarments. Judging by the way she barely registered the werewolf’s touches and well-intentioned gropes, she was used to getting dressed by others. The displeasure was strictly at the prospect of having to work out.
“Just lying around isn’t going to do anything,” Kagerou replied.
“Very well. If that’s what fate has in store for us,” Remilia smirked as if that was supposed to be a clever line. She ran her fingers through her hair, combing it precariously. If I had to guess, she was fearful that using a proper comb would do her head in for good.
“Maybe you should get changed as well,” I spoke up, “I don’t know if vampires value solidarity much but I think the risk of her vomiting on your uniform isn’t zero.”
“Where’s the best spot where we can do this?” Kagerou asked. I think it was a question for me, though the vampire answered.
“I’ve an exercise room I got on a whim when Sakuya said—well it’s not important what she said,” Remilia shook her head, “in the lower floors. It’s next to a few other specialized rooms.”
“I know the place,” I said. It wasn’t that large a space but it would do for stretches and maybe light jogging. A little cramped for more than two people but, for now, the only larger space on the grounds were the gardens. And I was pretty sure that the last of the afternoon sun would be decidedly unhealthy for Remilia.
“Are you capable of making it down there yourself?” Kagerou asked, “I’d like to get changed and join you.”
“I’m not an invalid,” Remilia snapped but immediately regretted raising her voice. She winced and closed her eyes.
“Alright, then I’ll be down in a few minutes.”
With a dismissive wave of her hand, Remilia hurried Kagerou on and stood up, “yes, yes, go. I’ll manage.”
What an odd mix of misplaced pride and willpower.
Kagerou smiled at her but shrugged her shoulders. She left and went back to her room again, turning once more to the well-stocked footlocker. Unlike Remilia, it seemed that she had appropriate clothes for the occasion: a sporty pair of black shorts and a white and red short-sleeved jersey. I told her that those were probably her best bet and she got changed quickly. Before joining her mistress, she found an idle fairy and told her to bring a lot of water down to the exercise room. The fairy looked at her like she had been asked to take a rocket to the moon but scurried off to do her best.
I led Kagerou down to the appropriate area of the mansion. The lower floors were decidedly less ornate than the rest of the mansion. Things like the fancy sconces, busts, paintings and all of that were missing. Many of the doors down there led to storage rooms of one sort or another. Only the side that hosted the library and a few off-limits areas had a different atmosphere to it.
Remilia had found her way to the exercise room alright. She sat atop a large medicine ball, looking paler than usual. It looked like she was already winded from just going down flights of stairs.
Kagerou looked around the room. There were weights and a few exercise machines and equipment lined up around the walls along with an array of different-sized medicine balls. The room itself was decently-sized, about the size of a tennis court. A pair of fairies arrived, rolling in a wooden barrel. Water, presumably. They right it up and produced a smaller bowl that they left on top. They looked at Kagerou and then at Remilia then back at Kagerou. Luckily for them, they held their tongues and left.
The barrel had a spigot attached to it. Kagerou grabbed the small bowl and opened the tap, filling the bowl with water. She drank some first and then handed the bowl to Remilia. “Here,” she said, “have some.”
She drank the water silently, looking at times like she would have a hard time keeping it down. There was a heave as she put the bowl down but she managed to pull herself together. “Now what?” she asked.
“Some stretching and we’re gently going to get your heart pumping faster,” Kagerou explained.
“My heart is- eh, never mind,” Remilia spared us an explanation and got up on her feet. Despite still looking about as bad as she likely felt, she seemed to earnestly humor Kagerou’s attempt to help her.
The session began simply enough—general calisthenics. Kagerou energetically demonstrated an exercise before letting Remilia try it for herself. She kept her eye on the vampire’s body and made sure she didn’t slack off or do anything that could end up hurting her. I was working up a sympathy sweat just watching Remilia struggle to do something as basic as a sit up. The werewolf was in good shape for sure and, despite having to patiently repeat her demonstrations multiple times, it didn’t diminish her enthusiasm.
“I feel like my insides want to blow out through my mouth,” Remilia huffed as she let herself collapse on the padded mat underneath. Though she had barely completed the warmup, her partly moist shirt already clung tightly to her.
“Hang in there,” Kagerou wet her fingers with water and wiped Remilia’s face free of sweat. “Breathe and just focus on the motions, ignoring how terrible your body wants you to feel and you’ll be fine.”
“That’s advice more than one noblewoman has heard on her wedding night,” Remilia laughed weakly. She closed her eyes and groaned, complaining, “I don’t think this is working.”
“Give it time,” Kagerou said, before urging her on to the next exercise. It didn’t look like she’d make it through the whole barrage that Kagerou had planned.
“I’m impressed she hasn’t outright collapsed yet,” I said. Green around the gills didn’t begin to describe how iffy Remilia looked. Every time she stopped doing an exercise she paused, closed her eyes and looked ready to die. Even the tiny sips of water that she drank every now and again looked like they threatened to overwhelm her delicate stomach. “Maybe you should ease up and reward her?”
“Hm...” Kagerou looked at her sweaty, mostly useless boss with a look of pity. She probably agreed with me that pushing harder wouldn’t accomplish much. “Remilia, is there any sort of exercise you would prefer to do?” she asked, “maybe it won’t be so bad if you’re having fun.”
“Fun?” the vampire appeared to consider the notion impossible, frowning at Kagerou. It wouldn’t have surprised me if a string of obscenities followed her incredulous question. Maybe it was her pride as a self-declared noble that kept her from debasing herself. She sighed and then tried to slow down her breathing. There was a suggestion after some thought, “I’m mildly confident of my performance at badminton.”
“I… don’t know what that is,” Kagerou said apologetically.
“A sport, “ Remilia explained, “can be played one on one or in pairs. There’s a court next door, I had it installed after it became a trend in certain circles of privileged peers.”
“Would you like to play that then?”
“Like to? No,” Remilia exhaled sharply, “but if you’re going to keep torturing me in my enfeebled state, it might as well be something I’m decent at.”
“Very well,” Kagerou nodded, “you’ll have to explain the rules to me.”
The pair left the exercise room and went next door. Kagerou brought some water in the bowl with her. There was a small court there, smaller than a tennis court, with a net dividing it in two halves. It didn’t look like there would be that much room to maneuver around without going out of bounds. A series of rackets were mounted on a wall rack and a box of shuttlecocks had also been left by the side of the room.
Remilia was ragged but she patiently explained the basics of the game. There were some rules about the position one had to be in to serve but the gist of it was that the rackets were used to hit the shuttlecock and keep it from touching the floor. Keeping the shuttlecock within the boundaries and away from the net were also important. It was a game that promoted shorter, sharper swings and a fair degree of dexterity to position the shuttlecock in the right place.
Kagerou was quick to understand what to do though she asked Remilia to feel free to correct her as they went along. The vampire agreed but smiled confidently. Each assumed their position diagonally opposed on either side of the net. Remilia insisted on serving first, mirroring the enthusiasm Kagerou had shown her earlier with the other exercises. Her eyes sharpened as she served, and the shuttlecock went cleanly towards Kagerou’s side. Kagerou swung, hit the target but couldn’t control the direction well, causing the shuttlecock to land out of bounds.
“I’m sure you’ll get a handle on things soon enough,” Remilia said, more animated than she had been moments prior. Even though she clearly was still short of breath, she was looking more like her confident old self. She served again and Kagerou swung at the shuttlecock, hitting it again. It fluttered in the air, slowly, but was in-bounds. Remilia struggled to shift herself quickly to the side and return it. It was a sharper snap that almost caught Kagerou off guard but she returned the shuttlecock again with more confidence. Remilia failed to connect her swing, barely missing by a centimeter.
She smiled and congratulated Kagerou though it was clear that she was annoyed. Her eyes narrowed and her brow furrowed as she concentrated on the game. Kagerou served clumsily, barely managing to hit the right spot of the court at the right height. Remilia returned nonetheless and managed to score a point because Kagerou incorrectly estimated the deceleration of the incoming shuttlecock. That said, it looked like she was quickly learning from her mistakes and was getting better at the game with each passing moment.
Though Remilia was clearly better at the game, she was also fatigued and couldn’t match Kagerou’s quick feet and even quicker thinking. They were evenly matched at first but the werewolf was gaining the upper hand. With a mix of pain and determination in her eyes, Remilia swatted away the sweat forming on her brow and then served again.
 Tell Kagerou to take it easy on Remilia.  Watch quietly and let the match get more intense.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/18(Sun)13:30
 Tell Kagerou to take it easy on Remilia. or  Watch quietly and let the match get more intense.
I can't decide. The first seems like it would be for the best and could avoid something bad happening, but at the same time may bother Remilia. The second seems like it could end up poorly and possibly get Kagerou in hot water.
I am picking [X] Watch quietly and let the match get more intense. because I expect things to go wrong, and Kagerou to feel the error of her ways. I am looking rather ahead on this choice.
[x] Watch quietly and let the match get more intense. While being merciless with Remi feels like a dick move, going easy on her feels like even more of a dick move. She'll know and then you'll have hurt pride to deal with. Might as well just beat her in a "fair" contest.
It's only a friendly game for light exercise. Don't go fill try-hard, but don't just let her win, either, you know? A moderate amount of effort. And don't hide that you aren't giving it your all. It's just for fun, and too much exertion and Remi might puke or collapse, after all. In fact, make sure to take breaks to stay hydrated. If she's mad about you not going full force, you can play again later when she's not suffering from a hangover.
I get what you guys mean about her not appreciating being allowed to win, but a grumpy hung over remilia losing to a werewulf maid first thing in the morning is likely to go even worse, given her personality.
Sorry guys, the update will be a little late today. I think it'll be 2, maybe 3, hours from now roughly. I try to keep to a predictable update schedule but I may have been as naughty as Remilia last night and am paying the price.
For a good while, things seemed to go back and forth quite evenly. Kagerou had gotten the knack for serving and was dealing fairly accurate serves and positioning herself for the likeliest returns. Remilia made up for whatever fatigue she was feeling by using her wrist deftly and adding subtle touches to her swings that kept Kagerou guessing. Those little tricks and Kagerou’s raw energy made for an interesting game, one that intensified fast.
They were neck and neck for that first game, with Remilia edging out with 25 points over Kagerou’s 23 after the werewolf lost her concentration. The small court saw them constantly shifting places and both had worked up a good sweat. “It’s best out of three,” Remilia announced, too drained to do much gloating. Her hands looked absolutely pale and clammy and it was no small miracle that she avoided keeling over.
“This is a fun game,” Kagerou said, undaunted after the initial defeat. She keen-eyed and was great at tracking the shuttlecock’s initial stratospheric ascent. I could feel a rush of energy inside of her that was almost overwhelming. Fired up would be a mild way of putting how she felt.
The second game began with Kagerou furiously scoring several points over a hapless Remilia. The vampire could do little but watch as her opponent’s superior speed and energy kept beating her grit and technique. The onslaught wasn’t absolute, however, as Remilia rallied using fast-sinking shots that strained Kagerou’s ability to both move and swing her racket competently. The lack of planning ahead hampered the werewolf but her raw power carried the day. The game went by faster than the first and Kagerou ended up winning with a notable point margin.
Remilia was dead on her feet. Her legs wobbled unsteadily whenever she moved around. And yet, she grit her teeth and tightened her grip on the racket. Before starting the next game, Kagerou fetched the bowl of water and offered some to Remilia. The vampire accepted grudgingly, but gulped greedily. She handed back the nearly-empty bowl with a cocky grin that contrasted with her clearly exhausted body. “Let’s decide the winner once and for all,” she said, wiping away a mix of sweat and spilled water from her face.
“In a moment,” Kagerou replied eagerly before leaving for a moment. “...I thought I closed the door,” she mumbled to herself before going to fetch more water from the barrel in the other room. She relished the hydration, lapping up more than bowlful in a single drink.
Refreshed and raring to go, both of them assumed their starting positions on the court. Kagerou began solidly, maintaining a level of energy that was impressive three games in. Calling her a natural at the sport would be a gross overstatement but it was impressive how quickly she picked up the subtleties tied to positioning and use of her wrist. She could read Remilia’s actions with some success and kept prolonging rounds that would have been decided on the very first swing in the first game. It was rare for her to miss a swing and only the trickiest of shots, radically changing the flight path of the shuttlecock, caught her off-guard.
Remilia was a wreck. She dry heaved in the short breaks between a point and a serve. Worse, she rejected Kagerou’s concern entirely and insisted that she focus on the game. Clearly she was too tired to taunt properly but I could see in her eyes that she burned with an overwhelming drive. Her shirt was soaked through with sweat. It had long passed since she cared about what her body was telling her. Pride kept her on her feet and willpower made her able to coax otherwise dead limbs into swift action. I wouldn’t say that her movements were nimble nor elegant but they kept the game competitive for a surprising amount of time.
There was no large gap in the score and the game continued in a wild back and forth. Every point was hard-fought and celebrated with a brief smirk or the silent clenching of a hand. I hadn’t thought Remilia capable of enduring after the thrashing during the last game and was excited to see the game go to a golden point due to a tie.
The serve was smooth, the forehand response quick and controlled. The shuttlecock rose, was carefully intercepted and flew back over the net. An ambitious overhead strike smashed the projectile quickly towards the floor and to victory. There was a moan as a lightning-fast backhand almost scraped the floor and just managed to knock the shuttlecock back into the air. The returning blow wasted no more time, angling the shot towards the back and and hopefully just out of reach for the overextended opponent.
The match ended with both the maid and her mistress down on their hands and knees, utterly exhausted. Remilia wheezed and sounded like she would empty her stomach onto the court. A thick stream of saliva flew out of her mouth but the eruption contained itself to just that. Without caring even a little about her dignity she collapsed onto the hard floor, looking like a deflated doll. Kagerou used up her remaining strength to rush over to her but, seeing that she was breathing normally and contentedly, opted to imitate her mistress and melt into a relaxed puddle.
“I feel like I may have gone overboard,” Remilia confessed after a long silence.
“The game may have been a bit too much for someone in your state,” Kagerou lamented dourly, moving her head up to look at her noble opponent. If vampires were supposed to be cursed and reprehensible creatures, then surely Remilia now fit the bill; she was as pale as a corpse with only the briefest of flushes around a slightly-swollen ankle showing there was any life inside of her. They had met only recently but I was sure that Kagerou knew that that disheveled little girl with quivering wings and absolutely free of flattering makeup was not the face her mistress preferred to show the world.
“Game? Hah!” Remilia still somehow managed to laugh, her excitement coursing out in the form of a dry wheeze. “I’m not talking about the game, I’m talking about last night.”
“The drinking, then?”
“Yes, as shameful as it may be to admit,” Remilia sighed, justifying herself, “there were a lot of factors to that that I don’t expect you to understand. It’s difficult at times to be that dependable and in-control individual everyone imagines you to be.”
“You don’t have to put on airs around me, I don’t care,” Kagerou said.
“It’s not just me—it’s...” Remilia sighed again, “no, it’s not important that you know.”
“...if you say so,” Kagerou didn’t seem pleased to be shut out but she couldn’t exactly insist that Remilia explain herself either. Their hard-fought match may have created a new bond between them but it was too early to tell whether that naked look at each other’s drive would lead to greater tolerance and understanding. For all of Kagerou’s care and patience in nursing the hungover vampire, many boundaries still remained untouched..
“I have a reputation to protect,” Remilia followed up, “it should go without saying that I don’t want any gossip about my indisposition to be circulating around.”
“The fairies saw some of the mess,” Kagerou said, “I can’t really do anything about that. If I told them to be quiet, it’d just make it a juicer secret.”
“Perhaps you’re right,” Remilia said, closing her eyes and accepting reality.
“Don’t worry, if I hear anyone here saying something bad about you, I’ll discipline them.”
“Ah, yes, the scary werewolf will keep the children at bay,” Remilia chuckled. She covered her mouth with a hand as another fit caused her to twitch uncontrollably.
“The scary werewolf reminds the vampire that right now she is no position to make fun of others,” Kagerou declared, allowing a smug smile to plant itself on her face.
“Ooh, forgive me. I wouldn’t want to be devoured by you now,” Remilia joked without taking offense. After all that had happened since she woke up and during the match, she didn’t have a leg to stand on.
“As you are, you look absolutely unappetizing,” Kagerou pawed at her in a joking manner, scratching the vampire’s arm with one of those long nails of hers.
“And I… I wouldn’t drink your blood now even if you insisted,” she fired back, fading away quickly. “I think I need to rest,” the exhausted child of the night concluded, “take another quick bath to get this grime off of me and then just lie down.”
“Do you need help getting up?” Kagerou offered, looking like she was in no state to deliver.
“No, I’ll be fine,” Remilia assured her maid, curling up into a ball. “I’m going to stay like this for five more minutes and then I’ll get up. That’s a promise.”
“Alright, I believe you,” Kagerou said, no doubt a true believer in Remilia’s vast reserves of willpower. Someone weaker, less confident would have never gone for three games. “I suppose I’ll clean things up here and then freshen up before returning to work.”
Kagerou was tired but could still draw upon her reserves to get work done. She tidied up around the court, placing rackets back on the wall and shuttlecocks in their box. The exercise room was the next destination and she quickly moved back any equipment she had moved and put away mats and other accessories. By the time she returned to check in on the collapsed vampire, she found that her mistress had been true to her word and was gone.
“Go take a bath,” I said, “you reek like a wet dog.”
“I didn’t miss you for a moment,” she growled but took the time to sniff her arm to see if there was any truth to what I said.
“You’re used to your smell, trust me on this one,” I drove the point home, “I wouldn’t want to be caught in an enclosed space with you.”
“Whatever,” she pouted like a teenager trying to assert that she only cared that I shut up and not those, like, totally retarded things I was telling her. Obviously she lacked the more overt signs of rebellion—things like piercings, tattoos and a very suggestive choker—but the principle was the same.
“Come on, doggy, less fighting and more getting things done,” I encouraged her to move past her issues with me.
Unfortunately for her, the game had tired her out enough to keep her from snapping at me indefinitely. Once she gave the court a final look-over, cleaning up Remilia’s spittle and sweat with a towel, she returned upstairs and to the world of the living. I half-expected a mewling ‘I am just doing what I said I would, this had nothing to do with you’ but she chose instead to hold onto her dignity as a werewolf and ignored my prodding remarks altogether.
I wasn’t keeping careful track of time but Kagerou took her sweet time in the bath. I heard her hum as she relaxed; it was kind of annoying for me as I was busy off in my own world and trying to shut her out. When I vaguely felt the warmth recede and the cool air of her room on her skin once again, I returned to her world.
“Mmhmm, looking fluffy and smelling of cinnamon and chamomile,” I said of her as she donned her uniform again and checked herself in front of a mirror. “I think you could easily place third in a dog show.”
“Third?!” Kagerou scoffed, offended at both the result and hypothetical situation, “I wouldn’t submit to letting people judge my looks and behavior like that.”
“So you say...”
“And so you’ll shut up,” she said firmly, shutting down any further talk about bath soaps, shampoo, pageants and her own looks.
I yawned, feeling bored. “If you’re that fired up, there’s more work for you to do. While you were scrubbing yourself free of that mangy stink, you got a few messages.”
“Messages?” she asked, looking around her nightstand for notes.
“Summons, more like,” I said, “through me.”
“Oh, is Remilia up and about already?” she frowned, not hiding how she felt about dealing with her vampiric mistress again so soon.
“Not from her. Those would have been priority messages and I would have interrupted your bath.”
“Why didn’t you just tell me when the messages came in?”
“I’m not your secretary,” I replied. “Besides, it seemed like you were enjoying yourself. And I was enjoying not sharing your body for a while so there was no rush.”
“Well, ok. We can talk about this later, I guess,” she sighed, “just let me know what the messages are.”
“One is them is from the fairy staff. Excitable words, a few vague pleas for help and a clear lack of understanding how to send their message,” I told her, “there might be something going on in the kitchen but, then again, maybe they just burned a piece of toast and are overreacting.”
“And the other?”
“A short message from the librarian,” I relayed, “asking you to come by to, and I quote, ‘perform contracted duties at the library come evening’.”
“Any clue what she meant?” Kagerou asked, her ears preemptively slinking down at the news.
“Not a mind reader,” I reminded her, “this is like email. And it’s not real time.”
“Right, never you mind,” I explained partially, “it’s just written words. No voice. Couldn’t say what their mood is.”
“I’m still tired,” she announced, “I’m going to sit down for a few minutes before going.”
“Sure thing. It’s not like the mansion is at any risk of burning down or becoming the epicenter of a magical calamity,” I said rather helpfully.
 Bail out the fairies.  Have her fulfill her contract.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/19(Mon)13:00
[x] Have her fulfill her contract. Feels like a rock and a hard place. Contract matters sounds like something that could screw us immediately, but there's always the remotest chance that whatever the faeries are dealing with could screw us later. As such, probably best to face the devil you know and hope any coming reaming comes with lube.
By the time the break ended, the sun had long since set. The evening was darker than the previous night, with the moon partly obstructed by clouds. Kagerou had spent some time sat down, staring out the window, before finally deciding it was time to get down to business.
I didn’t need to tell her which way to go in order to reach the library. Kagerou was a quick study when it came to directions, even in a place as sprawling and given to strange floor plans. She didn’t encounter a single fairy on her way down, which was somewhat worrying. Usually a pair of them would be cleaning an area or hauling around laundry or something similar whichever direction you went. I said nothing, not wanting to make her second guess the decision.
The library was an absurdly large space at the lower levels of the mansion. We came in through a door that revealed rows and rows of stupidly-tall bookcases as far as the eye could see on the floor below us. They converged towards the center of this massive space, where the shelves curved and became even more vertical and seemed to extend to several floors above, perhaps even as high as the roof. It was hard to say just how many books could possibly be found there but it was enough to merit suspended platforms that traveled up and down to make retrieval easier.
Kagerou took a flight of nearby steps down onto the main level of the library and proceeded briskly towards the center of the area. There were other people in the library and occasionally it was possible to see a quiet figure popping over the top of a bookcase with a load of books and then quickly disappearing somewhere else. With a book collection so sizable, it would impossible to keep order except with the help of an army of librarians. It might have been telling that we saw no fairies—I suspected that something like a classification system would be too much for them and they’d quickly get overwhelmed.
Among the rows of shelves there were the occasional gaps and spaces that hosted a wide variety of different objects. Many of these were host to a seat or two would that were set either by themselves or alongside small table. Other objects like display cases for maps or older books could also be found as could larger tables and even benches. As we got closer to the central space of the library, these spaces became wider and their furniture more ornate and comfortable-looking. This culminated with the central space, the one with the semi-circular and ridiculously tall bookcases, hosting several large tables, desks, sofas and reading chairs.
It was in the center that we found Patchouli. She sat in a reading chair, a thick tome open in front of her. Though it felt like it was the first time I had actually seen her, the witch seemed so unquestionably familiar. Her violet eyes matched her long, familiar violet hair. Her clothes—a long gown that could be mistaken for a robe in a light shade of purple with a matching cap—were likewise things that I knew from elsewhere. I could almost feel the tightness of the knots on the ribbons she wore on both her clothes and hair, like I knew just what it took to get them to stay still.
“...it’s been a while,” I found myself blurting out inexplicably. Luckily for me, my slip of the tongue only inconvenienced the werewolf.
Patchouli noticed as Kagerou approached. She finished reading a page, took a nearby bookmark and placed it within the book. With a cool stare and no hint of what she was really thinking or feeling, she acknowledged the maid’s presence. “So you’ve come,” she said.
“You wanted to see me?” Kagerou asked. It was clear that she wasn’t very comfortable in the library. Perhaps the sheer quantity of books around her made getting her bearings more difficult. Too many things to distract the eye. Her wandering eyes settled on the golden crescent fastened on the witch’s cap.
“I thought you would bring tea,” Patchouli frowned, seeing that Kagerou came empty-handed. She had the bearings of someone who had been getting little sleep; under her eyes there were slight discolorations which threatened to turn into bags soon and she spoke slowly, deliberately, as if trying to carefully filter her thoughts before they became words.
“I wasn’t aware that I had to.”
“It’s only proper, don’t you think?” the witch raised an expectant eyebrow. Ignorance was clearly no excuse with her.
“...did she really call me over so I could serve tea?” Kagerou grumbled.
“You are a maid,” I reminded her, “but it’s probably just her way to get you to sit down and be at ease.”
“You’ll find all you need if you go straight through there,” Patchouli said, pointing towards a corridor between the bookshelves.
“Right,” Kagerou nodded, trying her best not to sigh. Once she was sure she was out of earshot, she whispered to me, “people like her get on my nerves. They expect everyone to already know what they’re thinking all the time. As if it’s the most obvious thing in the world.”
“Hmm...” I couldn’t bring myself to agree with her, “I think she’s just seeing how you react. Witches are weirdos in stories, don’t you know? Though I think that’s just probably people misunderstanding them. It’s a crying shame, too, since she’s just so cute and all.”
“...really?” my companion seemed to disagree with my views on magic users. She scoffed and adopted a look most smug, one that made her feelings transparent.
“Really,” I affirmed, adding some levity, “don’t judge my opinions too harshly now—I also think you’re cute.”
“I’m flattered but not interested,” she rolled her eyes, navigating towards the far wall.
“It’s not a romantic thing,” I told her, “being able to recognize beauty with an impartial eye is important. Even if someone isn’t your type I think it’s still worthwhile to see how other people might think differently.”
“I think you’re full of something and it’s certainly not impartiality,” she shrugged just as she found what she was looking for. There was a kitchenette tucked behind a pair of bookshelves and behind a small door. There were tins full of tea, a kettle and cups, a sink and a small stove that could be used to heat the water.
Kagerou wasn’t really good at the whole tea thing. I couldn’t say that I was much better so I kept my mouth shut as I watched her work. She packed loose leaves into an infuser while the kettle was on the fire and prepared a nearby tray with everything else. Once the water had gotten hot enough, she carried everything on a tray back to where Patchouli was.
Patchouli sat at one of those longer tables, silently waiting for the maid to return. She watched with some interest as Kagerou poured out the tea before urging her to sit opposite her with a nod towards the empty seat.
“Have you ever had your fortune told by the tea leaves?” Patchouli asked her as she sat down.
“No, I haven’t.”
“Something I read said that werewolves can see fortune if their inner selves are in harmony with their surroundings,” she said, adding, “doesn’t seem like it’s true, does it?”
“It really doesn’t,” Kagerou said, taking a sip of the tea. It had turned bitter. Maybe the water had been poured when it was too hot. She didn’t seem to like bitter things much and did little to hide how she felt about the tea; she frowned and put the cup down.
Patchouli took a sip from her cup. She seemed indifferent to the taste. “Let us talk about your skill set later,” she said, setting down her cup down as well, “I wished to talk about something else. You have been contracted to see to the needs of this estate. Remilia gives me considerable latitude when it comes to taking the initiative. And so I’ll be asking you to do a few things for me. It may take you a few days.”
“There’s a lot that I need to keep track of every day,” Kagerou pointed out, “I’m not sure I can dedicate a lot of time to your request and do it properly.”
“It won’t need much extra time. This is something where you simply have to keep an eye open for an opportunity.” Patchouli reached into a fold in her clothes and produced a folded piece of paper. She placed it on the table and slid it closer to Kagerou. “If you read this,” she explained, “you’ll find a list of items that I need. Collect them all and bring them to me. It will solve some ongoing problems.”
Kagerou opened up the piece of paper and looked at it. It read like a parody of what a witch would want to put in her bubbling cauldron. “A werewolf’s hair?” Kagerou looked at Patchouli like she was trying to have a laugh at her expensive.
“Pubic would be ideal,” the witch said like she was talking about varieties of tea, “but three normal ones would also suffice.”
“I- listen, I’m not going to do that. I didn’t give Lady Remilia a drop of my blood and I’m not giving you my hair.” Kagerou stuck to her guns and looked like she was losing patience with her.
“You should never give her your blood,” Patchouli agreed vigorously, sort of surprisingly, “her humors would be in complete disarray for weeks!”
“I honestly don’t know what she’s talking about. Don’t expect me to bail you out,” I told Kagerou. When it came to real magic or witchcraft, I wasn’t very knowledgeable.
“The hairs are for a charm,” Patchouli added more detail, hoping to sway the reticent werewolf, “as are the rest of the items on the list. I will explain more once you deliver these things to me. I will need to you cooperate further in its creation later.”
“I could simply have a familiar scrape your pillow for hairs, you know,” she said, once again making it sound like that sort of invasion of privacy was the most routine thing in the world. “If you hadn’t wanted to deal with all of this, you should not have signed your contract. It’s all covered in the fourth article in the terms.”
“...alright, I believe you,” Kagerou gave in rather than face the horror of reading the fine print. She exhaled sharply and cut three hairs from her head with a quick pass of one of her long nails. Placing those brown hair on the table, she looked back at the witch with an expression that asked if that would be good enough.
Patchouli looked straight ahead at Kagerou, unconcerned wit the hairs. “I didn’t actually need your hairs,” she confessed, “not for this, anyhow. Knowing that you are reliable is more important than that.”
“...okay, maybe she’s more weirdo than cute,” I admitted, “I still like her, though.”
“So, are we done here then?” Kagerou was impatient. I couldn’t blame her. The exasperation was clear in her voice, “I’ve got your list, will keep an eye open. Don’t waste my time anymore otherwise I’m going to ignore you contract or no.”
“There is one more thing,” Patchouli said, pausing to drink more tea. She reached into her outfit once again and produced a pair of… cubes. Shiny, colorful cubes, whose materials were unlike most things I had ever seen. That is, except for me. “Pick one,” the witch held a cube out in either hand.
“What are those?” Kagerou asked.
“Fragments,” she replied, “ask your pendent which to choose.”
“I think she means me,” I said.
“Obviously,” the maid grumbled. “Can you tell me anything about them?”
“I’m not sure...” I tried to focus on each of the cubes. There was color there. Intense color. And was that… music? Something felt very, well, alive about them. “Pieces of me or simply like me?” I asked myself. No answer came. I just knew I had to pick one.
 Sakuya had felt so warm that night and her touch burned brightly in my memory.  Patience and kindness had spared me from certain death at the hands of a vampire.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/20(Tue)14:00
I'm very sorry it took this long to get this update out but things came up and I've been away from the computer for most of the day. I'll still be aiming for an earlier hour for the next update though I've left it a bit later in order not to make the voting period too short.
Kagerou reached for the cube in Patchouli’s hand. She grasped it gingerly, as if afraid that he colorful object would shock her as soon as she touched it. Nothing that fanciful happened. Patchouli put the other cube away as Kagerou inspected her new possession. It sure was pretty. Myriad colors shifted about in seemingly random patterns and pulsated with varying brightness.
“...” Kagerou seemed bemused with the tiny cube and stared at it silently.
“Keep it close,” Patchouli instructed, with a fixed stare at her chest. It wasn’t a lecherous stare or, for that matter, even directed at her. It was a message directly for me. “Enjoy it,” she said so quietly, so quickly that I wasn’t even sure that she moved her lips at all.
“Let me touch it,” I said, drawing the werewolf’s attention away from the cube. “It’s a gift for me.”
Kagerou sighed, caressing the edges of the cube gently as if that would somehow make it react differently. She looked up at Patchouli who had reclined with a satisfied smile in her chair. The witch offered no further insight. Kagerou pinched the cube between her index and thumb and brought it towards her bosom. She was no doubt uncomfortable about doing it in front of Patchouli but she nonetheless shoved her hand down her blouse and towards me.
The fireplace was at full roar. Though the wood split up and crackled as it burnt up, none of its heat could be felt. The room itself, small and with its single window shut with a thick curtain drawn over it, simply failed to warm itself up. Even the bed, with its luxuriously padded quilt and multiple layers of sheets, did little to address the dearth of proper temperature. It was a terrible problem. One that, in more my lucid moments, I suspected was entirely my fault.
The ceiling seemed so distant. Before I had gotten to bed, I could have effortlessly stretched my arm up and touched the plaster. Now, however, it might as well have been all the way up on the Moon. But that was alright. In between chills and overwhelming fatigue, my mind wandered. It projected its half-maddened thoughts up on the white surface, made a better suggestive canvas by the flickering of light and shadow as the fire consumed the logs. Dark shapes danced around and distorted, giving fake texture and depth to what I saw. In those moments where I was less sure—sure of everything, maybe—I could see both memories and my imagination crudely animated up there.
“How do you feel?” she interrupted a familiar scene that had manifested itself time and time again.
“Like shit,” I replied, my voice sounding like croak. Everything felt like it was sore, so things like chills were a welcome distraction.
“I’ve brought you a herbal tea,” she said, placing a tray on the nightstand.
“Thanks,” I said, “I wish you’d get rid of her, though.”
“Her?” she checked my temperature for the millionth time, placing her hand gently on my forehead. Her expression was neutral, as if to assure me that everything was routine. There was a pale glint as she withdrew her hand, of light reflected off the ring she wore.
“Fatima,” I replied, her name sounding far more guttural than I intended. “She’s been keeping me company while you’re busy,” I explained, “over and over I see her. Remember her, I suppose. Nasir, too.”
“They’re not real,” she said, a subtle note of concern seeping into her voice. Sakuya had been taking care of me for… hours? Days? A while. For however how long I had been in that bed. All that while she had diligently nursed me, bringing food and keeping me clean and comfortable. She had been quick to joke that I would be up and about in no time at all and whenever I felt like talking, was quick to keep the subject light.
“She was real,” I told her, “met her just south of the Zarqa. It was a whole year. you don’t really forget that sort of thing.”
“Maybe I should let some fresh air in here,” she sat down next to the bed on a stool and offered up the cup of tea.
I tried to sit up but found it too difficult. Saying nothing, she put down the up of tea and helped prop me up and placed some pillows behind me as support. “I feel really cold, I don’t want fresh air,” I complained, “and besides, I know what you meant. I know she’s not in the room. I’m not that far gone!” I coughed that last bit out and felt so winded afterwards that I had to take a moment before accepting the tea.
I looked at her while I took a sip. She was studying me carefully, looking for signs of either recovery or further decline, all the while sporting an amicable smile that was meant to reassure me. If I had had more strength I would had tried something playful, like tugging at one of those twin braids she wore in front and tell her that she wasn’t as good of an actress as she thought. She may have had the others fooled, but I could see right through her. Just like with Fatima.
“I think I love her more with time,” I confessed, the bitter drink making my throat and airway feel a little less sore.
“Maybe I should leave if you’re going to do nothing but talk about your ex-girlfriend,” she teased, more concerned that I drank the tea than what I was actually saying. I was used to her being like that. She was only serious when she absolutely needed to be.
“It wasn’t like that,” I said, “I was a kid and had a crush. And I think she liked me too, I remember the look she gave me from time to time. But she loved her cause much more. And Nasir. I never stood a chance.”
“Hm, so you shied away from confessing?” she fussed with one of the ribbons on her right braid, tightening it, “and here I thought you were a lot more courageous than that.”
I drank my tea slowly. It was pleasantly hot and made my stomach feel, well, something other than discomfort. “Maybe I did lack a bit of courage in those days,” I said, thinking about it. “But when you meet someone that’s rebelling against everything without bothering to look at themselves as well, you can’t really reason with them. I realized that many years after. Even if I had become her lover, she would have dumped me as soon as it was slightly inconvenient for her.”
“Sounds like a pitiful excuse to me,” she smiled knowingly, “I’m always honest about things like that.”
I was too tired to say something appropriate as a response. If I tried to change my train of thought, I risked complete derailment. And then where would I be? Just staring at shadows on the ceiling until I became lucid once again. “Nasir,” I continued, “was my friend as well. He became a politician later, you know. Dunno if Fatima ever told him how he felt; he probably would have smiled and said something cool like ‘I know’ and kissed her. ”
“Fine...” she got the hint, pouring more tea out of a teapot and into my cup, “why have you been thinking about them?”
“There was a lot going on in my life back then and I felt very alone. Even when I was with them I didn’t really cut loose as much as I should have. I think I’ve changed for the better...” I closed my eyes and drank more tea. It made me happy even if I knew that, if more of my taste buds were functioning, I would have normally gagged from the taste. “I’m living more in the moment, enjoying what I do have. I don’t need to dwell on her anymore and so I love her for allowing me to grow. Time is a precious thing” I said, smiling at her.
“Yes, it is,” she agreed, returning the smile easily.
I gave her back the empty teacup and slunk back down into the bed. She helped me settle in once again. “Hey, Sakuya?” I asked.
“What is it?”
“I’ll get better soon, right?”
“Without a doubt,” she replied firmly.
“Good, good,” I nodded weakly. “Can I hold your hand? I still feel really cold though I’m sure my fever is higher now. I could see it in your eyes earlier.”
“Bluffing won’t work with me,” she said quietly, correctly guessing I was fishing for information.
“Can’t blame me for trying,” I said, letting the precious focus and presence of mind I had held onto dissipate some.
“It would be dull if you didn’t,” she said and then quietly reached for my hand. She was as warm as the fire normally would have felt. Her slender fingers coiled over my left hand and tightly held on. It was a soft, cloud-like feeling to have her hold my hand—even the small spot where I could feel the relative coolness and hardness from her ring. I was sure that I felt sticky and probably disgusting after being ill so long. It didn’t seem to bother her as she quietly stood vigil, holding on to me for as long as I could remember. Her affection was dearly felt and allowed me to set aside anxieties and pain.
I felt as a small ship tied in at a safe harbor. However much it may rain, or waves crash up against me, I wouldn’t sink so long as I remained tethered to her comforting touch.
“She has really soft hands, you know,” I said, “I wonder what moisturizer she uses.”
“Who does?” Kagerou asked as she climbed another flight of stairs.
“Sakuya,” I replied.
“And how would you know that? You don’t have hands,” she pointed out quite logically.
“Oh… I just do, is all,” I said, realizing that I had completely lost track of reality again.
“Had fun with your cube?” she asked, keeping a deliberately slow pace. We were far from the library, on the other side of the mansion. Near Remilia’s bedroom if I wasn’t mistaken.
“I don’t think fun is the right way to describe that,” I told her, “but it was interesting.”
“It disappeared with a bright flash as soon as it touched you,” she said, playing up her own inconvenience, “next thing I know you’re quiet for the longest time. That bookworm smirked at me and told me not to worry about it and then just told me to go away and go do something else for the time being. Kind of rude, don’t you think?”
“Sorry, still think she’s cute,” I laughed, feeling playful, “but don’t worry, I’d only scratch you behind the ears, my lovely.”
“Try it and I’d bite your hand off,” she cautioned, baring her quite-sharp teeth.
“Next time I have a hand, we’ll see what actually happens. I bet you’d relax so quickly you’d be begging me to rub your belly next.” I could have gone on all night, but I was worried about what I might have missed. “So where are we going now?” I asked.
“I wanted to check in on Remilia. Make sure she hadn’t keeled over and died,” she said.
“Reasonable enough,” I said, “it did look like she was at death’s door earlier.”
Before we reached the vampire’s inner sanctum, Kagerou stopped by an unused bedroom. The door had been left ajar for whatever reason. There was no one inside and a careless fairy was likely the likeliest suspect for why the door wasn’t closed. Kagerou wandered over to the window and stared out at the moon. It had been freed from the clouds for the moment. She silently closed the curtains before leaving and shutting the door.
“Hey, Al?” she asked, keeping her voice as low as possible.
“Are you alright? You’d tell me if that cube was harmful, right?” she sounded a little hopeful at the last part.
“I’m fine. And I think I’d tell you,” I said, “we’re stuck together. Anything I want to do depends on your cooperation.”
“Is it really just that?” she asked, “would you tell me if you had your own body?”
I thought about it. No clear reply came. So I was honest, “I don’t know. I’m trying to be as straight as possible with you. Not sure why but I think that, as far as people go, you’re alright. So you deserve my cooperation.”
Kagerou grabbed me, removing the pendant from under blouse and staring at it directly in her hand. I still looked as I had before, colorful and mysterious. She traced a finger on my surface. I felt smooth and not cold. Not warm either. Just not as cold as you’d expect something like a gem to be.
“Let’s keep cooperating for now,” she said after a moment and placed me back out of sight. “So how do you think I’m doing as a maid so far?”
“About average,” I told her, “the previous chief maid left big shoes to fill. Could stop time, you know. Well, allegedly, according to this file I have here.”
“Average is fair,” she nodded, “I never thought I’d be at a place as silly as this mansion. The people here are different than what I’m used to.”
“I think you’ll keep on improving, you have the potential” I told her.
“Thanks. A compliment from you is liable to make blush, so you better cut it out,” she joked.
“There is one thing you should watch out for. Well, keep an eye on, at least.”
“And what would that be?”
 That beautiful witch sure was vague as to why she needed to make a charm in the first place.  It was odd that Remilia’s pride would let her lose control in front of someone she had just met.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/21(Wed)13:00
[X] That beautiful witch sure was vague as to why she needed to make a charm in the first place.
Remilia has a perfectly reasonable excuse for acting like she did. And she probably just missed Sakuya.
Patches doesn't. And Kagerou did not like that-whereas she enjoyed her bout with Remilia quite a bit. If one option is likely to continue mending the bridge between the main characters, it'd be this one.
“I don’t really know what to make of her,” Kagerou confessed, “I can tell she can be really dangerous but she’s also really… simple sometimes when you think about it.”
“I think so, too,” I said, “but Remilia has more going on that might seem obvious.”
“Maybe. But she doesn’t really seem like the type to plan anything out in detail,” she said.
“You’ve only known her for about two days. That’s a little too early to tell,” I argued.
“True enough. It would be nice to know more about her. Or the people here, in general. I feel like they all know about me much more than I know about them. To me, this was always ‘that place over there with those strange youkai’,” she sighed.
“Isn’t that Gensokyo as a whole? At least humans would no doubt think that.”
“Humans like you?” she stared down at where I was with a smile.
“Maybe,” I wished I could shrug again. “Still, it’s healthy to be skeptical sometimes. And I wouldn’t trust that vampire—or any other-”
“-Youkai?” she interrupted, having a laugh at my expense.
“Certainly not a rude youkai that keeps interrupting,” I huffed.
“I understand, don’t worry,” she said with a nod, “it is strange. I think it’s obvious she cares about what others think. I mean, just look at this place!”
“The rich really have poor taste,” I concluded.
“And she’s in love of herself,” she added.
“How many paintings and busts of her have we seen already?”
“I lost count at around a dozen,” Kagerou laughed. The sound echoed down the corridor. It was a reminder that we should be discreet when slagging off the boss. Kagerou noticed it as well and lowered her voice, “I’m not going to trust her fully but I still have a job to do.”
“As do I,” I said, “doesn’t mean it’s as straightforward as they want us to believe it is.” I thought back to the cube and what I say. It was simple at all. And I still wasn’t convinced that a werewolf was the best or most logical choice for a head maid, virtues of my particular very fluffy and cute companion aside.
But we were at an impasse and time was wasting. So we left conspiratorial talk behind for the moment and carried on. We went to check in on the mistress of the mansion, hoping she hadn’t turned into a dehydrated pile of bones in the interim.
Remilia wasn’t in her bedroom. Kagerou checked around quickly, looking in the bathroom for good measure, but found no sign of the vampire. The fairies had done their job, at the very least, and brought up another similar-looking coffin and placed it on the bed. That was something worth celebrating.
Kagerou sniffed the air. “You know, I won’t stop comparing you to a dog if you keep doing dog-like things,” I gave her a fair warning.
“Shut up. Anyone with a nose would notice the smell,” she made a not-too-subtle dig at my lack of corporeal form. I supposed I didn’t really pay much attention to her nose. Sight and sound were easier to tune into.
“Oh, yeah, I guess they would,” I said, realizing what she was smelling. It was like a fancy car freshener. A bit woodsy and a bit lemon-y. Nice attention to detail, cleaning staff. “Way better than sick vampire.”
“Agreed. So, think she’s in her study?”
“That’s a good bet,” I told her, wishing in part that I had a more reliable way of locating people. The idea of having a bat radar was amusing.
Remilia was, as predicted, in her study. We found her dressing down a fairy, complaining about her incompetence. Her self-inflicted curse seemed to have been lifted as she performed with full vim and vigor. Kagerou cleared her throat loudly and interrupted a particularly gruesome threat involving impalement.
“Ah, yes, good, you’re here!” Remilia clapped her hands together like an overly-stimulated toddler. “You can go now,” she shooed away the poor, deathly-pale-from-fright fairy like the preceding tongue-lashing hadn’t just happened. The poor girl, a member of the service staff, could barely remember to curtsy as she scrambled to flee. “Good quality help is so hard to come by these days!” the vampire exclaimed loudly, no doubt intending it to be heard by any and all.
“Was there a problem I should know about?” Kagerou asked cautiously, sensitive that she could also be the target of the vampire’s ire quickly.
“Not really, no,” she replied, “just the usual level of excuses one gets whenever they ask if something has been done yet. These fairies need to feel the crack of the whip every once in a while.” She smiled, recalling something, “...or the cold of a sharp knife.”
“I’m glad to see that you’ve recovered your… energy,” Kagerou said.
“I can turn into mist, a bat, cause maidens to faint just by looking at them, and make priests renounce God with my mere presence… a little alcohol can’t possibly keep me down for long,” she said with an absolutely normal level of modesty. Clearly she was in a great mood.
The vampire wore something different as well: a short-sleeved dress that was cut low in the back, ended above the knees, and was as dark as midnight. Embellishments of red and black were found along the hem and few ribbons. It contrasted well with her pale skin and red eyes. She had taken the time to apply makeup—dark eyeliner, a subtle touch of blush and a reddish-peach color lipstick—and I had to admit that it pronounced her desired effect. A sophisticated look for a sophisticated monster. She had wholly vanquished the image of the collapsed wretch from earlier.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Kagerou nodded politely but I could just feel that she was struggling to keep her eyes from rolling.
The very excitable vampire walked over to Kagerou and clasped her shoulders, “my dear werewolf, I’m sure your kind has many talents as well. They obviously aren’t comparable to my own, but you shouldn’t feel too inferior. Diversity makes life less dull.”
“Yes, Mistress, I won’t,” Kagerou replied in the most condescending tone imaginable. While she was having fun at her mistress’ expense, I was still very much aware of how little I made use of her nose. I took a moment to note what Remilia smelled like: I expected a strong perfume but instead it was the pleasing smell of rose water.
Luckily, vampire was too in love with herself to notice. She let go of her shoulders and returned to her desk with a spring in her step, “I have something I want you to do for me,” she said.
“Anything, Mistress,” Kagerou smirked.
“Tomorrow, I want you to dust off the large book of recipes and make sure the kitchen staff are up to snuff,” she said, “make everything and everything. The trickier the better. If they fail, punish them until they get it right. If they succeed… well, they won’t, but if they do, you can break out the rum. The fairies love that for some reason.”
“Oh, alright,” Kagerou replied. I, too, didn’t really see that coming. I told Kagerou to ask her if she would then like a special meal at some other time.
“It’s merely a dry run,” Remilia replied.
“A dry run for what, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“That, my curious werewolf, is a matter for another day,” she avoided giving a direct answer, “all I’ll say now is that the idea came to me in the bath. After our little match, I felt a sudden urge of excitement and that led me to think of a most genius idea.”
“Involving a lot of food?”
“Involving many things,” she delighted in being vague, “I’ll have you stress test a fair deal of things for the next few days to make sure there are no unforeseen setbacks later on.”
“...I understand,” Kagerou said, realizing that there was no point in trying to pry more information from her.
“Hm, I think I’ll talk to Patchy. She ought to help me with things, or at least provide some feedback,” Remilia said to herself. Looking at her head maid one more time, she stopped herself from heading off to the library in a rush. “I’ll expect you to be at dinner later,” she said, “but before I forget—I also wanted to present you with something.”
She retreated behind her desk and opened a drawer. After rummaging around and tossing out valuable-looking coins and jewelry, she found what she was looking for. “This is for you,” she presented a brooch to Kagerou. Made of a dark, shiny metal, it was shaped into a giant black bat with its wings outstretched. “Let it never be said that I do not reward good service.”
“Oh… thank you,” Kagerou took them to her hand and looked at them carefully. I could already tell she would never wear them.
“Think nothing of it,” she said, reciting a speech she had obviously been working on in her head for a while, “nobility obliges. Whether it’s superior working conditions, charity for the poor, fairness in sport and competition or something else altogether: superior breeding and status carries with it a most just burden. Without our exemplary morality, then how would the masses guide themselves? I shudder to think how dark the world would be without our example.”
“At the very minimum, I should thank my new badminton partner for reviving my interest in the game. It must be fate that brought us together,” she laughed softly, apparently somehow amusing herself, “I’ve unfortunately let my skills decay to an unacceptable extent and almost paid the price. ”
I found her delusions funny. “Maybe you should give her superior noble mind a little dose of the truth,” I told my companion. Judging by how her ears had flopped during that whole speech, I wagered she was in agreement.
 Her fancy words can’t hide the fact that she’s still sore about losing the match.  It was her first time playing and she almost won. Next time it’s inevitable Kagerou will win.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/22(Thu)13:00
To those convinced that theirs is the only truth, any suggestion otherwise is at best a distraction and usually otherwise an insult. I think both Kagerou and I knew that challenging Remilia, even with nothing more than words, could at any time become something lethally dangerous. The pleasantries and back and forth we had shared was no guarantee of safety if she were ever truly upset.
As a youkai herself, I had no doubt Kagerou wouldn’t mind throwing down if it ever came to it. Still, best it didn’t. Not that I’d ever tell her, but I was surprised that a werewolf could match wits with a vampire. That bigotry of low expectations wasn’t my fault though—I readily blamed books and films for showing them as little more than wild killing machines most of the time. Vampires were the suave and seductive type, by contrast. Unless they sparkled, that is, then they had no personalities.
“I had never picked up a racket before in my life,” Kagerou said, sounding like she was talking about the weather, “sure wasn’t hard to get used to it. I completely wrecked you during the second game.”
“Power can trump elegance at times, unfortunately,” Remilia conceded without much issue, offering a backhanded compliment, “though I suppose you would be rather good at fetching and jumping around.”
“I’m not sure there’s much elegance to be found in someone who was sweating as much as an ice fairy under the summer sun,” Kagerou shrugged, keeping a certain degree of circumspection in her taunt.
“Technique and form carried the day, naturally enough. In the end all that uncouth display from the other side amounted to sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Remilia’s eyes widened and her cheek twitched upwards, in egregious self-satisfaction.
“It’s a shame that there were only three games,” Kagerou said, “I had energy for several more. And with only a single point determining the outcome… I think I would have been able to keep on improving had we carried on. It’s a shame that you were at your limit. Then again, I’m glad that you avoided hurting yourself too much.”
“That’s a great showing of spirit and all,” Remilia countered quite easily, “but I was playing at a fraction of my potential. That wasn’t even my final serving form.”
“You can have as many forms as you like,” Kagerou followed up, ears twitching with every word as if to emphasize their weight, “I’ll still defeat them all.”
“We’ll see about that,” Remilia crossed her arms, projecting a confidence that was so thick it threatened to consume all.
“We will, soon enough,” Kagerou echoed, crossing her own arms in a standoffish manner. Both could do naught but smirk at each other, eyes locked in a quiet battle for dominance. There was notable tension in their bodies and each stiffened their heads, threw back their shoulders and stuck out their chests—kind of like two cocks staring down each other before a fight. To an outside observer, it was a display that was equal parts sad and amusing.
“I could watch this forever,” I whispered, “but I’m also afraid you’ll starve before looking away. You've made your point. You’re the hungry, scrappy challenger looking to dethrone the overconfident king. You’re also prettier, bustier and whatever other metric you want to use to feel superior.”
“Bustier?” Kagerou gasped before snickering. I wasn’t sure if the vampire heard what she said precisely, but she didn’t seem too amused at being laughed at.
“I look forward to settling this later,” Remilia said, a fang poking out of her mouth as she lightly bit her lower lip. “It’s exciting to finally get into the groove again.”
“I’ll be seeing you later, milady,” Kagerou forced a stiff, almost mechanical-looking curtsy at Remilia. The determined look in her eyes did not diminish in any capacity. It was the same for Remilia.
Maid and mistress soon parted ways after for the moment. While Remilia was probably headed off to see her friend at the library, Kagerou turned to her duties as chief maid. That mostly meant wrangling fairies and making sure nothing was on fire. She headed down to the kitchen area to make a few announcements and prepare things for the next day.
“...oh dear,” Sonia reacted to the news she’d have to work all day with understandable dismay. “I’ll tell the rest of the staff later,” she said, giving a very good reason for the decision, “if I told them now, they might purposefully mess up the Mistress’ dinner.”
“Speaking of, I was curious about something...” Kagerou quieted her voice, leaning in to speak to the fairy, “was that sauce last night…?”
“You should ask Miss Sakuya about such things,” the maid answered equally quietly, her eyes confirming what we were all thinking. Asking about the extraction method and preparation would only serve to upset everyone involved.
Thankfully, Kagerou got the hint. “I just want to eat things you would eat, to be clear,” she said, despite being a youkai herself, “I manage just fine with my current diet.”
“I understand,” the fairy nodded, offering no real judgment on the decision either way.
“I’ll be around tomorrow to supervise, help out if necessary,” Kagerou shifted the topic back to its original tack.
“Don’t take this the wrong way,” Sonia looked up apprehensively at the werewolf, appearing like she half-expected to get a knife in the ribs for her honesty, “but I’d prefer it if you kept out of my way. I like doing things in the kitchen a certain way. I spent a lot of time learning from Miss Sakuya and she’s really strict and serious, so I don’t want to do anything that messes with that.”
Kagerou laughed in response. “I’m not going to take over,” she explained, “don’t worry about that. I’m not very good at cooking, having really just cooked for myself my whole life.”
“Oh, alright, sorry,” the fairy brightened up, though it seemed like her candid little request had been embarrassing—she avoided direct eye contact with Kagerou afterwards.
“Say,” Kagerou changed the subject again, “you wouldn’t happen to have any mandrake, would you?”
“Mm, maybe? Would have to check the stores,” the fairy signaled another and called her over. She asked her to check for the ingredient. “I’ll let you know as soon as they’ve looked. If you’ll excuse me now, I have dinner to prepare.”
“Of course,” Kagerou nodded and let the fairy go about her work. Only the kitchen staff was hard at work at that time of night; the others had long since done their work for the day and were no doubt up to no good.
“Was that on the list?” I asked the obvious.
“Yes, that witch can’t even be bothered to check the kitchen,” Kagerou huffed.
“Why would she when she could just send you?”
“Being a maid is lovely,” Kagerou grumbled, crossing her arms and watched the night’s meal being prepared. It didn’t seem like a group of fairies and a few impish creatures could ever hope to accomplish much. And yet, vegetables were chopped, sauces made over a steady fire and not much went wrong. Sure, there were moments of confusion and absent-mindedness but these were kept in check by Sonia who was quick to chastise and to step in when necessary. She had been trained well and her only real shortcoming was that she couldn’t be everywhere at once.
One of those stumpy, toothy creatures walked up to her and grunted something. Sonia at what it was carrying, nodded and pointed at Kagerou. The creature waddled its way to Kagerou, taking its sweet time despite being surrounded by frenzied fairies. It presented a slightly damp piece of paper that held something else wrapped inside.
“Thank you,” Kagerou took the offering as the small creature shuffled off without so much as an acknowledgement. “I think this is the mandrake,” she said while unwrapped. It was certainly a root of some sort—brown, thin and with little tendrils that presumably absorbed nutrients—but I had never really seen mandrake before.
“One down, a million more to go,” I summed up our plight, “let’s hope we can get everything else as easily.”
“Yeah,” she agreed, “guess I should keep this somewhere safe.”
That somewhere was back in her room. The head maid took one last break that night, storing the first ingredient for the charm in a drawer, before returning to duty. It was time for dinner and Remilia was still chuffed and in a talkative mood. She had Kagerou join her again and babbled on and on about herself and her interests. Who knew (or cared) about the best horses in Picardy? To her credit, Kagerou comported herself well. Still eating like a wasting waif but she kept up the illusion that she was listening to Remilia.
The vampire was back in the saddle when it came to drink. She had a pair of glasses of wine like she hadn’t been sick as a dog just a few hours earlier. Maybe there was something to her being a vampire and therefore more resistant to poison. Or maybe she was an alcoholic. Frightening lows were offset by comfortable and mellow highs. There was no way of telling.
“I have a lot of planning to do tonight,” Remilia announced after she had her fill. Like the day before, she barely touched most of her food, only really eating more of her ‘special’ dish. “I’ll call you if I need you, but I think it unlikely.”
Without waiting for Kagerou to clear the table or offer a digestif, Remilia left. “I get the feeling she’s bored on most days,” I said, “otherwise she wouldn’t be so excited about something new.”
“Sounds likely,” Kagerou shrugged, clearing things up quickly. There were no dirty tablecloths or stains to deal with so it took her no time at all to have the small dining room looking good.
“So, how are you feeling?” I asked, “tired?”
“A little. It’s been a long day,” she said.
“Let’s take it easy for a while, then. No idea if she’ll call on you again today but it’s probably smart to wait an hour or two at least before calling it a day,” I advised.
“Sounds reasonable,” she agreed.
 A moonlit walk through the rear garden by the lake would be lovely.  Take the time to admire the mansion’s art collection and noteworthy objects.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/23(Fri)13:00
In contrast to the front garden, whose carefully-cultivated flowerbeds caught the eye, the area to the rear of the mansion was relatively subdued. It was a space that welcomed idling, with paved paths and stone benches placed strategically around fountains and hedges. There was a distinct lack of symmetry and the many paths meandered towards uncertain ends. Some ended in a copse, others near the edge of the property or by the lake. This was a private area, where someone keen to enjoy nature but also their privacy could duck into a gazebo or lose themselves just beyond one of the clever breaks in the terrain as it sloped down towards the shoreline.
The light from the moon was unreliable, being occasionally interrupted by a passing cloud that hid its waning face. Even so, Kagerou had no problem seeing where she was going and she leisurely strolled through the gardens with no particular destination in mind. She stopped in front of one of the larger fountains, one topped by a cherubic nude perpetually relieving himself with water. Placing a finger into the edge of the pooled water, she splashed lightly and playfully.
“It’s a nice evening out, don’t you think?” she asked, taking in a deep breath of fresh night air.
“It’s a shame that no one seems to take advantage of all this space,” I said, “a few torches or lamps and it’d be a cozy spot to have a few drinks or talk.”
“You’re right, Al,” she nodded, “it does seem like a waste that there’s no one around to enjoy it. Then again, the whole mansion sort of feels like that.”
“Vampires are stupid,” I concluded without any nuance. No point getting into what went through Remilia’s mind when she decided to have a chateau in the middle of an eastern wonderland. Compared to the village and how they lived, the Scarlet Mansion was an opulent palace.
“They are unusual,” Kagerou agreed, “I’ve been around nature all my life, so I find all those large rooms and complicated corridors weird.”
“There’s even more extravagant places in the outside world,” I told her, recalling the many images of Versailles and the Castle of the Nymphs I had seen. Remilia lived in little more than a hovel by comparison. I had always wondered if the people who had lived there bothered to make full use of all the space and luxury.
“Hm… so have you been to places like these before?” she asked.
“I don’t think I have,” I said. I didn’t want to talk about my life, even the parts I could remember. I felt like I would have to spent too much time explaining to her things like technology and society at large. “The important thing here is that the high and mighty vampire decided to copy from lowly humans and did a so-so job. Don’t tell her that, it’d drive her crazy.”
“I’ll hold on to that in case she’s ever too annoying,” Kagerou chuckled softly to herself, probably imagining Remilia’s horrified face at being called out. “That’s not all that’s off about this place,” I decided to tell her about some of the stranger things I noticed on the maps, “did you know that there’s supposed to be an observatory in the floor plans somewhere? Like, a place to look up to the sky. And a solarium, a place meant to get plenty of sunlight. How useful do you think that would be to a vampire?”
“Maybe she’s being considerate and thinking of her guests,” Kagerou shrugged.
“...I think we both know she wasn’t. It’s probably just another thing she can brag about.”
I continued to talk about the easily-overlooked rooms and areas of the mansion. Kagerou seemed mildly interested if not somewhat incredulous about the sheer variety of rooms and the space they must have occupied. “Hard to think that all that would fit in that building,” she said, looking at the mostly-windowless structure.
“I’m not sure I understand it myself. Math isn’t my strongest point, I’ll admit, but it’s almost as if there’s more room inside than outside.”
“Vampires, huh,” Kagerou shrugged again, as if that was somehow an acceptable explanation to all inconsistencies.
She took interest in some of the landmarks that I mentioned that were nearby. There was no real sense of urgency to her questions, just idle curiosity of someone killing time until they’re maybe needed again. There was a small hut on one end of the property, tucked away between some trees. The wood had been decaying for some time and it looked like no one had used it in decades.
“It’s supposed to be a hermit’s abode,” I explained, looking at the legend on the map, “why and who was supposed to live there, I have no clue.”
“Why would a hermit live near a vampire?” she asked.
“Maybe it was a retired vampire hunter making sure Remilia didn’t get out of hand?”
“...” she didn’t have any plausible guesses either. There was nothing inside of the simple hut either—no furniture, clothes or anything else—and it almost seemed that it had mostly been a decorative building.
“There’s a shed where they keep broken statues, want me to guide you there?” I consulted the map again.
“No, that sounds boring. Is there anything else?”
“Mysterious unlabeled building in the middle of a maze?”
“Ah,” Kagerou seemed interested in that one. Her ears perked up, “where is it?”
“Towards the lake,” I signaled.
I came to appreciate Kagerou’s senses more as she effortlessly navigated the dark garden. I was certain that a normal human would have tripped numerous times over a loose stone or found herself without any points of reference. I noticed that she was guiding herself not only with sight—but also with sound. As we approached the lake, I could make out the sounds of water moving about as both waves and in the form of a small stream that fed into the lake. I was certain that in complete silence, she’s be able to hear the heartbeat of a rabbit dozens of meters away.
The unlabeled building turned out to be a greenhouse and the maze more like a few shrubs that zig-zagged and cut up a direct path there. It was large, at least two stories tall and wide enough to house a likely respectable amount of plants.
“Smells like fertilizer,” Kagerou said after a long, sharp whiff of the air. “Different than what they use at the village, this is more earthy and complex.”
“It looks like it’s in use,” I said, piggybacking on her keen senses to notice tracks by the entrance.” Wouldn’t surprise me if they grew organic crops or exotic fruits for Remilia’s luxurious meals.
“Oh, what’s that?” Kagerou noticed a dark figure jutting out to the right by the lake’s shore.
I looked at my map. There was supposed to be a grotto nearby. The figure was standing on a thin pillar. Perhaps it marked the grotto’s entrance. Or maybe it was simply another fountain, except broken. Either way it was different to most of the other statues we had seen. It wasn’t made of stone and it didn’t depict Remilia or a standard nude.
Kagerou forgot the greenhouse and moved closer. Stone steps led down to the shore and the statue.
 It depicted a bare-chested mermaid with a friendly smile.  The statue was a normal-looking girl. Normal save for a missing head.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/24(Sat)14:00
Sorry this one took so long, I was unfortunately called away for most of the day.
The statue was located at the very edge of the mansion’s grounds, where stone and brick gave way to sand and grass. The lake was mostly quiet but ever-present, its small waves lapping up tirelessly only a few steps away. Kagerou had paused in front of the statue, her back to the dark body of water, and was looking carefully at the statue. She squinted and looked at it from top to bottom, interested in the figure depicted.
From what I could tell, it was meant to be a mermaid stood atop a column of water. Most of the statues in the garden looked like they had been exposed to the elements for a long time, stained with dust and dirt and often marked by bird droppings. This statue, however, looked immaculate, and perhaps was made from a different material altogether. The quality of the craftsmanship was likewise different, generally inferior, and her features were rougher and her lines less graceful.
Still she smiled, a smile that may have been intended to be placid but ended up looking slightly goofy. Whomever made the statue wasn’t a master of the craft and there was a distinct lack of detail in her expression and body language. Her modest bosom was exposed for all to see, nipples perpetually in a semi-swollen state. It wasn’t meant to be erotic, probably. I thought the design more playful and naive than anything else; the mermaid had one hand outstretched as if to invite anyone nearby to take her hand and jump into the nearby lake. That didn’t seem like the best of ideas. Though she would probably be fine, with her fins and forked tail, anyone else would probably drown before too long.
In a sense, these imperfections gave the statue a lot more personality than her by-the-numbers brethren elsewhere. It didn’t seem like Kagerou was admiring the statue for its quality as art, though. She circled around, coming close to the base of her column as the fountain she was meant to be a part of was not working. With a hesitant prod, she confirmed that it was, indeed, made of stone.
Her ears stood erect as she noticed something. A sharp inhalation followed. She sniffed the air around the statue in short bursts. I couldn’t tell what she was searching for. All I could detect were traces of moisture in the air. Naturally, she was more in touch with her senses. Not having found what she was looking for, she walked towards the lake and repeated the exercise. Then again, towards the rocky entrance of the grotto. There she paused and smelled the air with slower and more deliberate sniffing.
It was a fascinating process to watch, even if I didn’t quite get it. I didn’t feel any malicious intent or particular excitement from her but, all the same, I felt like I was watching a wild beast track down its prey. She scanned the surrounding stone and ground carefully, seeing that the cave was basically connected to the lake by means of a small and shallow inlet to the right of the entrance. A few plants had grown around the area and she was careful not to step on any of them or otherwise make much noise. Convinced that the way forward was into the grotto, she slunk in quietly, every footfall deliberate.
The grotto wasn’t very large, its entrance barely tall enough for Kagerou to get past without having to duck. The interior space was, perhaps, only as wide and high as one of the smaller rooms in the mansion like a guest bathroom or a large storage closet. Water flooded half of the space, filtering in from the lake. The other half was a dry slope where a bench and a pair of statues had been set down.
Fixtures for torches or other sources of illumination had been installed along the walls though only a few candles that had been placed on the bench were alight. They produced a dim light that cast long shadows. It had the look of a votive display directed at the pair of… well, vampires. Not Remilia but not quite not not Remilia. She even had her arms crossed, like I had seen the vampire mistress do several times already. The second statue looked familiar and close to not-Remilia but had more of a childlike smile. It was artistic liberty constricted by the demands of the person that commissioned the statues.
While I was distracted by art and light, it seemed that Kagerou had found what she was looking for. I hadn’t noticed a large, meaty-looking tail flopping about at the edge of the water. The werewolf stood rigid, her whole body tensed up as she carefully observed as best she could. Her breathing became slow, almost halting, as she maneuvered to get a better look without letting herself be noticed. Soft humming echoed around the rough stones that made up the grotto. It was wholly without concern and lacked any awareness of the stalking wolf’s presence.
“My, you’re smooth!” the humming was interrupted momentarily by a cheery voice belonging to a young woman.
Kagerou froze in place. I could hear her heart beat, dull and rhythmic, as everything else quieted down. A moment passed. Two. The humming resumed. Another moment had to pass before she relaxed enough to risk taking a step closer. Her ears became as sharp as daggers but soon flopped as recognition swept onto her face.
“What are you doing here?” she asked the fish, clear annoyance in her voice. The voice boomed around in the closed space, echoing off rocks and water.
The fish gasped, her tail flopping around in confused excitement as she looked around desperately for the source of the voice. In truth, the fish was only half a fish. In her panic I could see that she shared much with humans, having arms, hands and a not-very-fishy head. A mermaid, in short. She was a far cry from the bare-chested statue outside, wearing a green outfit with hemmed frills that wrapped around her in traditional Japanese style. Where the dress ended, a large gray tail jutted out.
She had been hunched over a pile of something by the water’s edge and had knocked over everything in a botched attempt to take flight through the water and towards the lake. Kagerou was one step ahead, however, having pounced on her. In a nature film, that would have been the scene where the hungry wolf had caught her prey and started tearing into it. Kagerou wasn’t trying to hurt her, instead she was telling her to calm down and to be careful, “you’ll hit your head on the rocks if you flop around like that,” she warned.
“Ah, ah AH!” the mermaid cried out in alarm, finding that she couldn’t escape the werewolf’s strong grip. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”
“I’m not going to hurt you!” Kagerou howled in a counterproductive fashion. The mermaid continued to apologize and then plead, begging to be spared. The werewolf held tight, trying to reassure her, but all reassurances fell on deaf ears. Only when the mermaid accepted her (imagined) grisly fate, whimpering and tucking into herself, did the struggle finally come to a close.
“I’d say she needs a hug,” I said, feeling pity for the witless mermaid, “but you’re already holding her too tightly.”
Kagerou ignored me, trying to reach the distraught girl, “I’m going to let go of you, it’s alright now. I’m sorry if I frightened you. I, uh, didn’t realize you’d react that way.”
“...” the girl was mumbling something to herself, tears in her eyes. I felt really bad for her and I wasn’t even the one who had wrestled her into submission.
“Can we please start over? We got off on the wrong foot. I’m sorry,” Kagerou sounded deflated, her ears drooping down as she tried to comfort the girl by gently patting her on the back.
“...you’re n-not-?” the girl stuttered something quietly, unable to turn around and face her attacker.
“I’m not going to hurt you, promise,” Kagerou reaffirmed.
“Please don’t eat me.”
“I won’t!” Kagerou promised yet again, sounded frustrated. With her long nails and wild streak, I could understand how she might have been typecast her whole life as a dangerous beast. Too bad, as she really was a nice enough and relatively civilized werewolf.
“Then why-? Last time you bit me! Please, don’t finish the job...” the girl wasn’t exactly coherent, swapping between pleas, shock and outrage.
“Like I told you, that was a misunderstanding,” Kagerou sighed.
The girl finally turned around and looked at Kagerou. Her dark blue eyes were wet with tears. She was a mermaid, alright. Though she had hair, styled in a cute fashion with shoulder-length curls, she had a pair of fins on either side of her head instead of ears. She smiled uneasily, as if trying to make sure that she was really in the clear. “Are you really not going to-?” she looked into Kagerou’s eyes directly, trying to find the goodness in her before noticing her outfit, “from the mansion?”
“Yes, I am. I was just having a look around. I was trying to see who could be in here,” Kagerou explained, not very convincingly. I was sure she felt terrible about what just happened but her words were stiff and not emotional enough. The poor frightened mermaid needed reassuring.
“Well, I’m allowed to-” the girl put a hand over her mouth as she realized something, “if you don’t know, then I shouldn’t tell you, I think.”
The mermaid seemed as a child who really, really, really wanted to talk about something but couldn’t because she pinky swore she wouldn’t tell anyone else. She wiped the tears from her eyes and adopted a sheepish smile. There was still tension in her body, particularly in her tail which still flopped back and forth slowly. Almost like a nervous tic. The equivalent of tapping a foot or having a restless leg.
“You can tell me,” Kagerou said, evidently not being able to resist a secret. That risked coming on too strong—yet again. Because the werewolf had to work on her people skills, it was incumbent on me to do something. Calm the girl down, earn her trust. Before she really did start coming off as the big bad wolf, devourer of innocent maidens. While the mermaid didn’t seem to fear for her life anymore, it was clear that she wasn’t completely at ease. Personally, I would have hugged her. Had I any arms. If Kagerou did that, or made sudden gestures or moves, it might just whip the mermaid up into a panic and cause her to think that she was being attacked again.
 A gentle kiss on the forehead will help make things right.  Offer her the bat-shaped broach as a token of friendship.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/25(Sun)13:30
Both excellent choices, again. A shiny thing has been bait for fish like creatures for millennia and a kiss is extremely cute.
However, I think it will definitely scare her. While having her teeth close and not suffering a bite should be all the example she needs, I feel she'll become too scared to even notice.
As for the gift, Remilia will demand us to wear it for sure and will be mad if we give it away... or will she? What if we spin a tale about us telling stories of her magnanimity? The tales of the great Remilia will expand through all of Gensokyo!