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31024 No. 31024
Yet Another Touhouvania Crossover ~ "Etude of Solemn Decadence"? Needs a better name...

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I remember it being some time around or before 1998, though with time my memory has grown blurry in regards to the exact year. What I do remember quite clearly, however, is that my arrival would be on the night of the harvest moon - the full moon nearest to the autumnal equinox. It would be a reddish tone that night; rather appropriate, considering the business which I was 'honored' with by being sent to handle - the assassination of one Remilia Scarlet, a powerful vampire whom the church had finally tracked down after vanishing some time ago, pinpointing her current residence to an area around the Yatsugatake mountain range in Japan. Actually, it wasn't quite that simple... Apparently, her mansion had magically reappeared in Gensokyo. Now, you might ask, why didn't we just go to this place called Gensokyo, bust up the mansion, slay the vampire and go for celebratory drinks afterwards in the local human village?

I'll tell you why. Gensokyo doesn't exist in the human world. It was unclear whether it was located within a pocket dimension of some sorts, or masked by a massive illusion, or something else entirely, but all you could see from the outside was the mountain range, a lot of forest, and an abandoned old shrine. Don't ask where we even got this information from, it's... complicated, to say the least. Naturally, we took precautions on following this lead, but the church had seen stranger things in its time; and, to be honest, so had I. And if the vampire got in, well, there would have to be a way for a vampire hunter to get in as well. It all sounded like a good idea at the time, really.

Clackety-clack, clackety-clack...

The hooves of the horses pulling the carriage pounded against the underused, slightly overgrown path headed towards the Hakurei shrine. Honestly, a horse-and-carriage method of transport felt largely archaic in that day and age already, but it was also strangely thematic, or so it felt to me. Besides, the church's offices in the Orient are mostly understaffed and underfunded, and this was the best they could offer us. Granted, a car would've probably been awkward to maneuver along a path like this in any case; with horses, we only had to endure the feeling of the carriage bouncing up every now and then, hitting smaller rocks and bumps in the road, smacking our asses into the seat on our way down; Reginald kept muttering curses intermixed with prayers for the wheels not to snap every few moments.

The evening sun was already setting by the time we got close, though you could barely even see it through the rainclouds covering the sky, pouring down upon us with enough force to put out several successive forest fires. I pulled my hood over my face; the howling wind slicing into my skin, raindrops beating me in the face, and odd bits of mud kicked up by the horses had gotten to be more than frustrating, and I'd have to save my energy for the bloodsucker we're hunting.

By 'we' I mean 'I', by the way. Reginald was just my driver, he handled the transport and I handled the abomination-extermination in these jobs. It was dirty work, but I suppose my role beat handling cars and horses while not having much other excitement in my life. Having said that, battling vampires and other creatures of the night isn't a particular brand of 'excitement' I would recommend to anyone, but I suppose someone has to do it, lest we let the world get taken over by a revived Count Dracula or who knows what other megalomaniacal supernatural fiend.

Why is it always world domination with these characters?

"We're here. Rain's not letting up though. Sucks to be you, I guess." Reginald's hoarse voice grumbled from my left side, forcefully spitting out each word one at a time. Not the most social guy, I tell you; he would've sooner sewn his own mouth shut than interacted with anyone on a social level, if he weren't getting paid to do such things. The man did earn his paycheck, though; I've known no finer getaway driver for when you've slain the evil lord of a dark castle and need to get out before either his minions eviscerate you in a roaring rampage of revenge, or the castle itself topples down upon you in its master's death throes. Not just getaway either, there was that one time we... Ah, but I digress.

Hopping off the seat of the carriage, I landed gracefully, or so I thought before my right foot kept going downwards into a deep muddy puddle with a sound somewhere between a splash and a squish. And those were new boots, too. I would have that vampire's head for this, I promised myself, yanking my foot out of the mudhole and kicking off the grime, a chunk of dirt hitting one of the horses in the side and freaking it out something fierce.
"Woh-hoa there, girl!" Reginald grips the reins, doing his best to calm down the beast which I had inadvertently agitated, before turning his tiny, blood-shot eyes towards me, baring his teeth silently.

Now, picture a man in his late forties or early fifties, his beard irregularly shaven but mostly kept short around his square jaw, sideburns sticking out to the sides, always wearing a floppy brimmed hat to conceal a balding spot on his otherwise dark head. His eyes were a grey tone, though I heard talk here and there that in his youth they were a brilliant blue; I wouldn't know, myself. As for his teeth, which he was showing me in a silent sign of discontent, they were in a rather impressively good condition, considering his overall level of personal hygiene which I had learned to put up with, save for the massive gaping cavity on one side of his right canine - it was a miracle the thing hadn't snapped off during the process of chewing food. At times, he would absentmindedly close his teeth and blow air through said cavity, making a disgusting noise as he sprays spittle in front of himself while doing so. As for the rest of him, he was fairly broad-shouldered, not too tall, far past his prime in terms of overall fitness, wearing rather plain clothing covered up by a dark raincloak matching my own. Unusually enough for him, he didn't reek of cheap alcohol that evening, which relaxed me just a little bit during the long ride to the shrine.

Reginald and myself were not friends by any means, our relationship being strictly professional. Personally, in my case, I tried to encounter as little of him as possible; not that I had anything in particular against him, but keeping company like that doesn't exactly make yourself look good to others, either. Association is a terrible thing, sometimes. In any case, it's not like the man had any particularly warm feelings towards myself, either, as he was one of those men who have little to no respect for those younger than themselves.

"C'mon now, youngling, be off with you. I've gotta get these two critters here back in one piece, and my gut feeling tells me my chances of doing so grow smaller with every minute I stay here with you."

"Thanks, Reginald, but you don't need to express concern over my well-being," I retort sarcastically. I didn't mean any harm, though - over the years, a vampire hunter learns not to rely on the support of others in one's work, as this inevitably leads to whichever lord of darkness you're after at the time kidnapping your friend and biting and/or killin him or her before your eyes, in a rather clichéd manner of provoking either despair or blind outrage. It's happened more than once, but luckily never to myself. They say one should learn from one's mistakes. I say it's better to learn from others' mistakes, so as not to repeat them unnecessarily. I can't say I wouldn't have felt somewhat remorseful if, say, Reginald were killed, but I didn't have any true emotional attachment to the guy. But this is irrelevant to my little tale, by now. As I turned to leave for the shrine, the rough voice called out to me again from behind.

"Oi, wait a sec... Y'sure you didn't forget any of your fancy crap? Make sure this time so you don't yell at me again for forgetting your stuff like that one time." Thanks for reminding me, Reginald. I won't get into what he was referring to, but I did a thorough check of my inventory before heading off, just in case - the Scarlet Devil Mansion would not be a place where I'd want to enter unprepared, or missing any of my tools of the trade. Yes, it was all there, I was ready to go. Giving Reginald an idle wave of the hand (which he didn't return), I turned around and started walking towards the shrine at the fastest pace I could manage in this weather, hearing Reginald bark at the horses in the background and the sound of hooves gradually disappearing into the distance, until it was drowned out by the roaring of the rain. The walk was fairly long, still, but Reginald refused to take the horses any closer. 'Place gives me the creeps', is what he said. I suppose an abandoned shrine in the middle of a forest will do that to people who don't wrestle werewolves and demons for a living.

Oh, and in case you're interested, here's what I had on my person at the time:

•A leather whip. Normally, it'd be considered vastly inferior to modern weaponry, but this one was... special. Yes, magic-special. Handed down from generation to generation of famous vampire hunters throughout the ages, it could only be used safely, and to its full potential, by a direct descendant of the bloodline whom it was entrusted to. Fortunately, my father hailed from a certain region in Europe known as Wallachia...
•Silver throwing knives. Lots of them. Lots and lots of them. I'd had far too many situations where I had run out in the middle of killing some sort of aberration, only to watch it scamper off with five or six knives jutting out of its back, never to be seen again. Why throwing knives, you might ask? In what appears to be a blatant 'fuck you' from magic to science, creatures of the night appear to be particularly resistant to gunfire; at least, they can shrug it off easily enough, and recover from such smaller wounds rather easily, but you can't just ignore a knife sticking out of you. Silver is particularly effective against creatures of darkness, but the church can't exactly afford to give every one of its agents a handgun loaded with silver bullets. Sure, a knife is more expensive than a bullet, but you can't pull a bullet back out of a corpse to recover it, so knives are more economical.
•'Special' throwing knives. Coated with silver, but made from a very specific alloy, and modified by yours truly to ricochet off walls in predictable patterns when thrown; useful for tricky shots, or catching a foe off-guard, making it think you've missed it until the tip of the knife comes out from the front of their throat all of a sudden.
•Silver throwing axes. A bit more bite than a knife, but heavier and harder to aim. Quite handy for grounding fliers though, assuming I manage to hit them.
•A pair of silver daggers. Not the most efficient weaponry one could imagine, but there are times when the whip fails, and whatever you're fighting is right there in your face. Mind you, I was more than capable of unarmed combat as well, but that sort of thing is highly impractical when everything has claws, spikes, massive battleaxes, or all of those together.
•Several bottles of Holy Water. Now, by strict definition, holy water is simply water blessed by a priest, but the church has its own special brand of the stuff. When exposed to oxygen via shattering the glass, it bursts into flames, igniting nearby foes; and as it is still blessed by a priest, it is highly effective against unholy beings.
•A cross-boomerang. Exactly what it sounds like; a silver-coated cross-shaped throwing weapon, its edges sharpened into blades, made from some sort of special alloy and enchanted with magic to ignore basic aerodynamics and return to its owner after being thrown. Can be tricky to catch, but I still have all of my fingers so I knew how to use it properly.
•A pocketwatch. Handy for telling the time, but has 'other' uses as well.
•A small box containing what I was told would be a 'portable gap'. Single use. It would get me into Gensokyo, but I would have to find my own way out myself. Typical. The origins of this little trinket were never explained to me.
•A light suit of leather armor. Not very protective, but better than nothing, and it didn't hinder my mobility too much. Countless straps and bands attached to parts of the armor held the rest of my items.
•Some Japanese money.

It was a miracle that I managed to carry all of this stuff around on me at the same time, though more on account of it taking up space, rather than weight; you have to be at least strong enough to carry a ton of crap around like this if you want to be an efficient vampire hunter. Eyeing my ruined boots with a glum expression, I cheered myself up with the knowledge that they'd probably have gotten caked with blood, demon bile and who knows what else during my romp through Remilia Scarlet's mansion anyway. A weak excuse, but there's no use crying over a pair of boots when you've got an undead horror to slay. Lifting my eyes against my will, I glanced towards the decrepit shrine, mercilessly being beaten by the rain and slowly torn asunder by the howling wind. It looked like nobody had visited this place in aeons, yet I knew better. Or, well, the church had claimed to know better, and that would have had to be good enough for me.

Making my way to the shrine, it almost seemed as if Mother Nature herself was trying to keep me from my destination; whether she was concerned for my wellbeing, or the vampiress I was after was behind the weather being this terrible, I never did figure out, but it hardly mattered. Utterly exhausted, I made it to the abandoned shrine, ducking inside and taking a moment to catch my breath and squeeze some of the water out of my hair; the wind had blown quite a lot of it under my hood, no matter what I did. Right, what was I expected to do there... Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out the small box, lifting up the lid to reveal two small red ribbons, seemingly attached to one another. How peculiar, is what I thought at the time with mild disbelief. However, instructions are instructions - I did as I was told, going back outside to stand in front of the miraculously still-intact torii in front of the shrine, I held the ribbons in outstretched arms, a thumb and index finger from each hand holding onto each ribbon. Then, I pulled them apart.

What I saw next went well up into the top ten list of strangest things I've ever seen - as I pulled the two ribbons further and further apart, an elliptical shape of nothing formed between them, spreading larger and larger, until it became large enough for an adult human to step through quite easily. I hesitated a moment - not something I normally do in these situations - and just... stared into the void that lay before me. A dark red nothingness, nearly black, countless disembodied crimson eyes staring right at me, following my every move with unblinking attention. The church assured me it was little more than a portal that would allow me to enter the pocket dimension... er... illusion world... whatever, inside of which lies Gensokyo and the Scarlet Devil Mansion. Uttering a mild sarcastic prayer to the heavens in a fit of blasphemy, I braced myself, closed my eyes, and stepped through.

What followed felt like a small eternity of weightlessness, all of my senses feeling detached from my brain.

And then, I fell on my backside onto what felt like grass. Opening my eyes, I discovered that it was indeed so; and, it wasn't muddy anymore. Hell, it wasn't even raining or windy! Looking up into the sky, I confirmed that it was still evening; a glance at the surroundings, however, threw me into confusion. The shrine was still there, but... it wasn't the same shrine. Or, well, it was, but it looked good as new. The dense overgrown forest I had been taken to had pulled back, as if by magic, giving way to man-made paths. What else seemed strange, was that I appeared to be on the other side of the shrine, as if my little step through the void had taken me straight through the building itself.

Make that one of the top five strangest things I've experienced.

I got up, rubbing my rump and scowling at how my mud-caked boots hadn't gone along with the metamorphosis of the surrounding area, magically cleaning themselves. This must've been Gensokyo - sealed off on the other side of the Hakurei Shrine. Speaking of the shrine, there were people there now. A woman dressed like a traditional shrine maiden, wearing a red hakama, a white kimono shirt, and tabi, was sweeping the shrine grounds with a broom. Her hair, adorned with a red ribbon, was a strange shade of dark purple, but I was told to expect strange things like that. In the distance, by a small lake, I could see a little dark-haired girl, presumably the shrine maiden's daughter, playing around with a gohei, making hilarious battle stances in the general direction of a very old and very bored looking turtle. My entrance being anything but stealthy, the miko spotted me almost instantly.

Blinking a few times at first, she exclaimed in Japanese: "...who are you, and how did you get here?"

I bowed politely - or at least I hoped it came off as polite, Asian customs were new to me at the time - and replied: "I'm a simple traveller, I came through the... border." Or was it called the great barrier, or something along those lines? I couldn't remember at the time. Blinking her eyes - which were also purple - at me a few more times, the shrine maiden tilted her head to the side with a slightly annoyed expression on her face, sighing far too audibly to be considered polite. I felt a little insecure, which was an odd sensation for one such as myself.

"Traveller, huh... I suppose that means you don't want me to just take you back out, now do you."

"No, I'm afraid I have business here in Gensokyo." She cocked an eyebrow at me, apparently surprised at my knowledge of what this place is named. To be perfectly honest, that was pretty much the limit of my knowledge - the place is named Gensokyo. It's populated by supernatural creatures that the locals refer to as youkai. There is a village of humans located somewhere, and the Scarlet Devil Mansion has recently appeared as well. The latter was my target in this mission. Or, to be more precise, Remilia Scarlet's severed head was my ultimate goal. But I wasn't going to explain the details of my mission to her like this, so I simply nodded in response to her question. With another discomforting sigh, she made a dismissive motion towards me with one hand, before pointing in the direction of a dirt path heading down the foothills.

"Then you'd best make your way to the human village, before the youkai get you. It's not nighttime yet, but some of them like to come out early in the evenings as well. Don't say I didn't warn you, or give you the opportunity to turn back. Now, shoo, I've got cleaning to do and you're tracking mud everywhere." Indeed, I was; uttering a brief thankyou to the woman, I turned around and started down the path to the village. Before I got far, I heard voices coming from behind me.

"Reimu-chan, please don't harass Genji..."

It was a bit of a long walk, but I managed to get to the village without being ambushed by man-eating predators, of a supernatural variety or otherwise. The mud from my boots had dried and mostly fallen off during the walk, though that didn't really make them look any nicer. Focusing my sorrow into vengeful hatred towards Remilia Scarlet in the back of my mind, I put on my best polite smile and introduced myself to some of the locals - hardly a dangerous action, as the vampire no doubt sensed my presence the moment I crossed the border. Unfortunately, the villagers didn't take too kindly to my arrival; my not-quite-perfect Japanese or noticeable accent might have had something to do with it, but the true underlying cause was something else entirely.

"Vampire hunter? We don't need no vampire hunter around here, we've got a status quo going on around here and we aims to keep it that way. Go bother someone else with yer unwanted services." And that was just one man. Most of the other villagers gave me a similarly cold welcome, if not as vocal. Well, this was not an uncommon sight; after all, vampires only terrorize their livestock enough to put fear into them, to invoke submission. Wanton slaughter is usually not something they do, rather picking off an individual victim or two maybe once a week, maybe once a month, depending on how gluttonous the parasite in question is. They placate the locals with promises to leave the community as a whole alive, as long as they don't do anything to enrage their dark lord.

And, let me tell you, few things enrage a vampire more than a hunter on their doorstep.

Eventually, I decided to simply go to the local tavern, which also seemed to serve as an inn of sorts; to put it bluntly, I needed a drink. After ordering something strong from the barkeep, I took a wide glance around the noisy, crowded room, which had actually quieted down considerably since my arrival; a handful of poorly concealed angry stares were directed at me, while others would either whisper amongst one another mysteriously, or laugh in my general direction.

"Pst, another one..."

"Ooh, doesn't want to live anymore, eh?"

"We should just kick the pest out of town..."

"Eh, won't do us any harm if Lady Scarlet guts another hunter. Not like we hired one."

"Ssh! Don't speak that name out loud!"

Meh, I had heard all this before. As I accepted my drink, the near-toothless barkeep grinned at me awkwardly, making it a little difficult to drink; ever get that feeling of being violated by someone's gaze? That's what I felt at the time with his beady asymmetrical black eyes following my every movement, making me unable to down my drink.
"...can I help you?" The first thing I managed to say, as it didn't look like the old man was going to open his mouth first. I kind of wished he wouldn't at all, his mouth stank of rotten fish.

"Ohoho, I believe I should be the one to ask that! This is my establishment, after all... Ah, and where do you hail from, friend? You look like an outsider, to me... We don't get many of those around here, as you might imagine."

"Correct, I'm an outsider." I kept my responses short and to the point, not wanting to hold a conversation of any length with this disturbing man. As he leaned uncomfortably closer, his bald head, hunched back and long, crooked nose gave him the appearance of a vulture eyeing its prey.

"Aha, I knew it! And that gear, that equipment... You're a hunter, aren't you? Ah, we've heard of your kind... I trust you're here to 'meet' with Lady Scarlet?" The sudden bitterness in his otherwise jovial tone as he uttered the name of the vampire I had been sent to kill caused me to raise my eyebrows inquisitively.

"Correct. Are the villagers fond of Remilia Scarlet?"

"'Fond' is not exactly the word I'd use, young one..." I wished people would stop mocking me for my age. "...more like, they fear the repercussions of your presence here, if you follow what I'm saying." I followed; should I fail, Remilia would take out her anger on the villagers. But I hadn't allowed myself to even consider failure as an option, so that worry went right out the window then and there.

"The only repercussions my presence will bring will be Remilia Scarlet's head decorating a pike in the middle of the village by the time I take my leave of Gensokyo." With confidence, I downed my drink instantly, slightly regretting it at once as it burned its way down my throat, though it didn't quite make me cough or anything of the sort. The old man looked on with glee, clapping his hands together like a child.

"Ah, I like you already! Such confidence, such youthful vigor!" Again with the youth. "I wonder, do you have the experience to back up your words and intent? Ah, but you should stay a while and rest for the night, child..." He wobbled slowly towards a window, too high for the tiny old man to see straight out of; but he wasn't trying to look straight out, he was looking into the sky, my gaze instinctively following his.

"Why, exactly?"

Another toothless grin spread across the old man's face, a dark, knowing aura emanating from him as he responded: "The harvest moon is out tonight. The mistress of the Mansion is at the peak of her power. It would be foolish to venture forth tonight."

Taking in his words, I looked up into the sky, at a large, blood red moon staring back at me like some sort of evil eye of ill omen...



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I don't know what I'm going to do with this, if anything. Just a random oneshot for now, created out of a need to write, and partially to try out the new and improved post character limit.

I'm going to get back to GH when the backups arrive, but... I dunno. Maybe I'll repost this in /sdm/ and update it once a week or so, if people care for it. If not, I'll just leave it to rot here.

So... yeah.

>> No. 31025
File 125157604465.jpg - (535.13KB , 1280x1083 , remii.jpg ) [iqdb]
31025
Oh, hell, why not.

[] I took the old man up on the offer. No point in underestimating the power of the lady of the mansion (or overestimating my own) when she's at the peak of her powers. Besides, I could use the rest - charging into a vampire's den in a tired state is suicide. Also, I might be able to get some information and/or supplies around town the next morning, if the locals cooperate.
[] I declined his offer. This mission of mine was not one that could be postponed, not even for one night - with every passing moment, the vampire could've been amassing more and more defenses against me, legions of demons and the undead and who knows what else. I could not allow myself to take that risk.

Also, testing whether image uploads are fixed yet.
>> No. 31026
>>414

[] I took the old man up on the offer. No point in underestimating the power of the lady of the mansion (or overestimating my own) when she's at the peak of her powers. Besides, I could use the rest - charging into a vampire's den in a tired state is suicide. Also, I might be able to get some information and/or supplies around town the next morning, if the locals cooperate.

Rest it's not going to kill you, and I don't think she's aware of things

But on another note how would this majorily affect Gensokyo's history?
>> No. 31027
>>421
If and when I do end up continuing this, you'll see by the end.

This would likely end up as a rather short story. More info:

1) No romance routes. Sure, you can flirt all you like through write-ins, but don't expect any serious attention to be paid to relationship building. (Especially considering the situation...)
2) As opposed to having one starting position and many final paths, this story has several starting paths you could take, but the final goal is the same for them all - you just have to get there without failing along the way. There will be several chances to die, but they'll hopefully not be random and obnoxious.
3) Write-ins are always welcome, unless they'd throw the story too drastically off-course. Let's just say that by default, they're acceptable, and I'll try to specifically state if I disallow them for a particular choice.
4) Don't expect me to update this very often once the backups arrive.
>> No. 31028
[x] I declined his offer. This mission of mine was not one that could be postponed, not even for one night - with every passing moment, the vampire could've been amassing more and more defenses against me, legions of demons and the undead and who knows what else. I could not allow myself to take that risk.

If he stays then that old dude is gonna try to kill him while he sleeps.
>> No. 31029
[x] I took the old man up on the offer. No point in underestimating the power of the lady of the mansion (or overestimating my own) when she's at the peak of her powers. Besides, I could use the rest - charging into a vampire's den in a tired state is suicide. Also, I might be able to get some information and/or supplies around town the next morning, if the locals cooperate.
>> No. 31030
[x] I took the old man up on the offer. No point in underestimating the power of the lady of the mansion (or overestimating my own) when she's at the peak of her powers. Besides, I could use the rest - charging into a vampire's den in a tired state is suicide. Also, I might be able to get some information and/or supplies around town the next morning, if the locals cooperate.
>> No. 31031
File 125172690778.jpg - (715.44KB , 918x1020 , f5d1bc3b3e0251361d374d11d2c59970.jpg ) [iqdb]
31031
(Note: Checking the inventory is always a valid action. So is dropping, looting or equipping items. Equipping weapons allows the character to have instant access to them, but makes switching in the middle of combat more difficult. By default, both hands are usually kept empty.)

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The man had a point. I was actually somewhat tired too, having endured the long trek through a storm, an interdimensional portal, and along an old unused dirt path to a village where the people would sooner spit at me than give me the time of day. Not exactly the best condition to go up against a vampire lord in, you would surely agree; especially if she was at her most powerful at the time. A meal and a good night's sleep would have been lovely for evening out the odds.

"Yeah, you have a point there. Maybe I'll stick around for a while longer. Assuming the locals don't gut me in my sleep and steal my things, of course."

The old geezer cackled to himself with amusement, a rather terrible noise coming from the bottom of his throat making me twitch in disgust. Honestly, this man was more repulsive than many otherworldly horrors I've had bleed or retch all over me in the past, in many ways. Yet still, as he sent his gaze over the spacious, poorly-lit drinking room, he seemed to emanate some sort of bizarre aura of authority, even the larger and more muscular men turning their eyes away from our direction. To tell the truth, and I do hope I don't sound cocky by saying this, I felt more than confident in my ability to defend myself at night from even the biggest bear of a man, as long as it was human. Still, the geezer reassured me by showing me the gaps between what little teeth he had left, and nodding in a meaningful manner.

"That won't be a problem. You have my word."

"I don't even have your name, let alone your word."

We took a brief moment to introduce ourselves to one another. The old innkeeper's name was Hiroyuki Sonobe, a name which I would later find out afforded him great respect and influence within the village for reasons I never did quite find out, nor truly care for. What mattered was that, for whatever reason, the old man seemed to have taken a liking towards me, and that put me off-limits from most of the local thugs and the like, as well as providing me with a handy bargaining chip for extracting further information out of the villagers. This could end up being easier than I had predicted, after all. For the moment, however, I was hungry, so I decided to order something to eat; it would also, hopefully, serve to wash down the mild feeling of nausea caused by whatever drink it was that I was served earlier.
The menu had a rich selection of rice, fried rice, noodles, or fried noodles. I went for the fried noodles, pondering the concept of bringing along a miniature stove on my next mission. Cooking had always been a bit of a hobby for me, and while I wasn't exactly a master chef, I felt fairly confident in my own skills. I go off topic like this a lot, don't I?

After enjoying a rather tasteless meal, I excused myself to my room. The tavern was connected to an inn through a small suspended corridor on the second floor, going from one building to another. The inn building itself had no doors on the outside at all. The room I was given was rather small and lacked any unnecessary furniture - a chair, a small desk, a small cabinet with drawers for stashing one's belongings for the night, and a small, hard bed. The bedsheets had some barely noticeable stains of who-knows-what on them, which I tried my hardest to ignore. A slight hunch prompted me to turn the pillow over, and sure enough, red stains on the (almost) white fabric. Apparently the shutters did little to keep vampires out of the inn. You know, a common misconception is that a vampire must first be invited, before they may enter a building. But people also believe other nonsense spawned from folklore, such as vampires having a weakness towards religious symbols and whatnot, which just makes our job more difficult in the end. Even the cross-boomerang I carried with me was more symbolic than practical in its design.
Well, sleep is important. Carefully, I placed my assorted pieces of weaponry in the cabinet as best as I could fit them, locking the impressive-looking padlock after I was done. It would hardly have kept out any supernatura being who REALLY wanted to get at the contents, but breaking such a lock would surely have made enough noise to wake me up. I'm a light sleeper. I decided to bring the whip to bed with me, just in case something tried to enter through the previously mentioned window that night, as well; can't stab myself in my sleep with the whip, either. Having stripped down to my underwear - no way in hell I was going to sleep naked in a bed like that - I shut the window and took the leap of faith, climbing into bed with the intent of getting myself some shut-eye.

That was the intention, in any case. Sure enough, as these kinds of stories would have it, a very familiar gut feeling woke me from my slumber in the middle of the night. Someone, or something, was in my bed, leaning over me. And I didn't recall ordering any 'service' of that sort, so the logical course of action was to kick said figure off of me, leap to me feet and grab the whip, all the while cursing the lack of electricity in the village. As if on cue, the moonlight shone through the window which I swore I had shut from the inside, illuminating my would-be assailant.
A feminine figure with proportions that would send most women into a rage of envy, modestly hidden away under a black dress with a long-sleeved white undershirt, decorated by red ribbons under the shoulders and a red tie. The woman's face was as enchanting as her body, the red hair and matching red eyes still hinting at supernatural origins, confirming that gut feeling I had earlier. This female creature standing before me finally acknowledges me with a devilish smile, before taking a few steps closer, obviously not regarding an almost-naked human with a whip as much of a threat. In my mind, I gave her another five steps before I'd attack; she stopped on the fourth. Completely exposed to the moonlight now, I took notice of the pair of black bat-like wings on her head, and slightly sharper-than-normal canines visible in her smile; however, they were nowhere near what would be necessary to perforate a human's neck. This was not a vampire, but something else.

"So. Are you just going to keep smiling at me all night, or are you going to tell me who you are and why you were in my bed just now? And you'd better have a good reason, too." Having said this, I uncoiled the whip, prompting the woman to take a cautious step backwards; whether or not she knew that the whip was specially enchanted to destroy unholy creatures, any living being would rather avoid getting lashed by a whip in general. That sort of thing just hurts. Despite this, the smile on her face didn't fade, although she did close her lips, gracing me with a coquettish curtsy before speaking to me. Or, I didn't know what else to call it other than 'speaking' - it felt more like I heard words in my mind, and I knew it was her, yet she wasn't 'talking' in the sense of the word you'd normally expect; her lips were not moving, she was merely maintaining eye contact with me through the whole thing. By the way, in hindsight, I realize that choosing the whip above a more practical weapon was foolish in such a situation - the room was far too small to use the whip effectively, should it have been necessary at the time.

I apologize, I did not mean to wake you, she 'said' to me in a voice that sounded somewhere between red and sugary, if that makes any sense at all. It's a little difficult to describe someone's 'voice' when they're speaking to your mind directly, bypassing your ears entirely. Somehow, I figured that by not meaning to wake me was less out of politeness and more out of wanting to do whatever it is she intended to do without interference, whether it was to steal my soul, eat me, or just plain kill me. By her appearance, I surmised it would have to be the first option - her inhumanly beautiful looks and the highly impractical head-wings gave her the appearance of a typical succubus.
I seem to have entered the wrong room, she continued in a mischievous tone, or perhaps this room turned out to be a better choice than expected? As she says this, she glances at the whip in my hand, and the cabinet stuffed full of consecrated weaponry. Of course, she could probably sense what was inside; there was enough holy water and silver in there to burn her all the way to hell and back again, if only it weren't locked out of my grasp - ironic, isn't it? Having little more than a whip to fall back on, and not nearly enough space to properly use it, I had to rely on a confident appearance, playing the intimidation card. More than a challenge when you're not even dressed, I assure you.

"And why is that?"

My master spoke to me of a hunter that had entered the lands. We were not aware, however, that you would find your way to the village so swiftly.

"Your master? Do you serve Remilia Scarlet, temptress?"

She seems to take that last word as a compliment, giggling to herself in a manner that would be considered cute for a human girl, but felt more disconcerting coming from a devil such as herself. Lady Scarlet is only my master by proxy; in reality, I serve the One-Week Wizard. Ah yes, the witch of the spring haze, Patchouli Knowledge, quite possibly Remilia Scarlet's closest ally. Not much is known about this enigmatic sorceress as a person, other than that the first known sightings of her were in parts of England in the beginning of the 20th century.
Also, she was not human - Patchouli Knowledge was of a certain 'magician species', which closely resemble humans but are of an unknown origin, and have a special affinity towards all types of magic. While she, herself, was not an active enemy of humanity by nature, her association with the dread vampire of the Scarlet family put her on my 'whip first, ask questions later' list, just to be safe. The fact that the church had very little information about her combat abilities didn't encourage me one bit, either, though what was known was that miss Knowledge's specialty was manipulating the elements themselves in their true, raw forms. Why doesn't the church give out fireproof armor for missions like these?

Ah, she resumed speaking, but let me not interrupt your rest any longer this night, o hunter... I must report your presence in the village to my master. Both she and the dark lady will be most interested to see whether you decide to pay us a visit, or leave with your tail behind your legs. Another childlike giggle followed the taunt, and before I could even react, she was out of the window again, flying off over the forest next to the village; had I been outside, I could probably have caught her with the whip, but as I mentioned before, I was in no situation to use the weapon effectively; I was more likely to either injure myself or merely look stupid, waking up everyone else in the inn. After following the infernal creature with my eyes until she vanished from sight, I spat out of the window before closing it again; the night was chilly, and was giving me goosebumps.
A negligible upside to the whole thing was that I now knew which direction the Scarlet Devil Mansion was in, although I could probably have found that out from the villagers in the morning in any case. No matter. From what the succubus - apparently Patchouli Knowledge's familiar - revealed, miss Knowledge had already divined my presence in Gensokyo, so there wasn't an element of surprise to speak of, which I would have lost through this event. Since there was no use brooding over the incident, I decided to go right back to bed, trading the whip for one of my daggers before doing so; I would not end up needing it, though, as morning soon came without any further interruptions to my rest, discounting a minor headache which I blamed partially on that drink last night and partially on being woken up in the middle of the night. I did not speak of the invasion of my room to the innkeeper.

"Ahh, good morning, good morning my child! Or should I say, good afternoon? You're awake quite late, aren't you?" Mr. Sonobe gave me a disturbingly warm greeting as I made my way down the stairs into the tavern building, which was pleasantly empty and silent in the morning. I had dressed back into my leather armor, but decided to leave my stash of weaponry behind for now. It would only get in the way during breakfast.

"Good morning. I don't suppose I could bother you for some breakfast, could I?" I could indeed. Rice seems to work as a meal for any time of the day, although it sadly turned out to be just as tasteless as yesterday's fried noodles. At least it was somewhat filling.

"You know, you should stick around for a month or so!" Keeping himself busy with cleaning up the room, the old man barks something nonsensical in my general direction; I didn't recall asking for conversation to go with the meal, but I indulged him with a response.

"Why do you say that?"

"Well, do you know what the full moon that comes after the harvest moon is called?" Of course I did. Hunter's moon. Seems the old man had a thing for symbolism and the like; however, the notion was ridiculous. It was already beginning to feel as if I had spent far too long in the village, and should have been busy slaying undead beasts in Remilia Scarlet's unholy mansion by now. After finishing up my rice, I quietly stood up and left the appropriate amount of money on the table; just before I went outside, however, I realized I should probably ask for some directions. Turning back to the old geezer, I pestered him for locations where I could stock up on some extra supplies before beginning my little adventure, sadly coming up with little results.

"Well, you'll be headed through the forest along the way anyway, child... If you're lucky, you'll bump into Mr. Kirisame's magic shop along the way. He's been considering closing it up and moving to the village in recent years, but he might have something handy to sell you for a low price. Ah, and there was that other store between the forest and the village... Run by a rather friendly young man who also used to work as an assistant in Mr. Kirisame's shop until a few years ago. The lad has absolutely no trace of any business sense, you you'll probably be able to find something useful for a good price."
I figured I might as well bring my weapons along after all - if I was going to be headed out of the village, I'd best be prepared to take down any youkai that decide to ambush me in the forest. Not that they're usually active in the afternoon, but the sun does start setting earlier and earlier as autumn rolls onwards. Due to my interrupted sleep, I had awoken late enough for the sun to already be on its merry way down its trajectory of descent. It wouldn't be long until the forest, at least, would fall under total darkness, the trees blocking out the rays of the low-hanging sun. Naturally, this only prompted me to hasten my steps. Along the way, I confirmed the direction of the Scarlet Devil Mansion from some of the locals, after much persuading and bringing up Sonobe’s name as an acquaintance of mine. It was supposedly situated on an island in the middle of the Misty Lake (or Scarlet Lake, as some would refer to it), north of the Forest of Magic. Seemed like the two shops Sonobe recommended would be right on the path, then.

The oddity shop I was told about was quite a bit out of the way from the rest of the village, on the border of the Forest of Magic; it made one wonder what kind of person would set up shop at a location like that, where they're sure to barely get any customers at all, either due to distance from the village, or the proximity to a forest full of man-eating creatures. Disregarding both of these factors, I made my way to the fairly sizeable building and knocked three times. No response. While waiting politely, in case the owner was currently preoccupied with something else, I read the large sign on top of the door. Kourindou. Still no response, so I knocked again, before finally letting myself in after I still didn't hear anything from inside. Since the door wasn't even locked, I figured the owner must have at least been inside, somewhere. If he can't even hear potential customers knocking on the door, he should at least have invested in a doorbell or something along those lines... Ah, but then I heard a light jingle overhead, a small bell hanging from a string above the door on the inside.

"Ah, just a moment! I'll be right down, please, do make yourself comfortable in the mean time." He could at least have provided a chair for customers to rest their legs, if there was a waiting period before one could be served in this man's store... Grumbling to myself idly in the back of my head, I decided to help myself to a look around the place, to get a better idea of what there actually was for sale there. I tell you, the variety was astounding, regardless of the quality. From ornate paperweights to antique muskets, from various kinds of Japanese swords to various kinds of American cigarettes... I couldn't even begin to imagine where this man got his stock from.
Eventually, footsteps sounded from the stairs leading up into the store's attic from behind the counter, and a pair of white boots came into view, stepping downwards in a solid rythm and gradually revealing their owner, a, tall, young-looking man wearing a rather festive-looking black-and-blue robe with a red pouch tied to the front. His hair was silver-toned, and his golden eyes were concealed behind a pair of glasses that fit him quite well. Overall, not an unpleasant-looking person, I would have to say; noticing me, he greeted me with a polite bow, which I made sure to return.
"Welcome to Kourindou. How may I help you today... Ah, I'm afraid I do not know your name, dear customer. Are you new in the village? A visitor from the outside, perhaps? I am the owner of this little shop, Rinnosuke Morichika. A pleasure to make your acquaintance."

"Feeling's mutual. Yes, I'm from the outside; is it really that obvious?" Naturally, I was being sarcastic, but he seemed to have missed that completely, eagerly wasting time by replying to my meaningless question.

"Why yes, your features and complexion are undoubtably European, and your choice of attire is most uncommon in these parts. Also..."

"Yes, yes, I understand, thank you." Deciding to keep trying to be polite to those I meet in Gensokyo for the time being (aside from the monsters, of course), I introduced myself to this man properly, and in response he asked me to sign some sort of guest book; figuring I'd humor him, I did so.

"I hope to see your face around here again in the near future, then."

"If all goes as planned, you won't see me again, ever. I do not intend to stay any longer than until my business is concluded." The man seemed somewhat disappointed by this, yet he kept the friendly expression on his face.

"Well then, what could I interest you in? A map of Gensokyo, perhaps?" I hadn't really noticed anything else in the store that would be of particular use to me in my quest, so I figured at least a map would be nice; the forest seemed more than large and dark enough to get lost in many times over.
"Ah, then you'll also be needing one of these." The man brought out a worn-looking old compass, the needle still seeming perfectly functional. Price negotiations went according to plan, and I ended up having the items practically given to me for free. I decided to take some time to chat with the guy about what I should expect to see in the forest; specifically, any hostile creatures that I would have to defend myself against.

"Well," he started, "most of them remain fairly passive until nighttime. But it's already getting dark in the forest, so the more powerful youkai in the area might already be wandering about. If you're lucky, you won't run into anything at all; at least the smaller and weaker critters shouldn't give you any trouble. If you do run into anything not quite small or weak, don't hesitate to run - I hear several of them can manipulate darkness or impair one's vision, making them nearly impossible to fight at night, when they're at their strongest."

"Thanks, but I think I can defend myself against one or two creatures of the night." He arcs a silvery eyebrow in response, though I couldn't tell if it was over concern for my well-being, or disappointment over my perceived arrogance. Not that I was actually being arrogant, mind you; I had simply fought my fair share of darkness-manipulators in the past, my senses having been trained to be sharp enough to do battle effectively even with diminished sight. In many ways, demons of this type were even easier to defeat than others, since they tend to rely on their victims being rendered utterly helpless when blinded. Having paid the man, I bid him farewell and continued along my merry way, hoping I wouldn't have to waste my time with any random beast that just happens to have a craving for human flesh that evening. Was it really evening already? Time certainly flies when you're preparing to storm the mansion of a vampire, doesn't it?

I found it rather difficult to believe any sane human would willingly live in the Forest of Magic. The noises of unfriendly beasts intermixed with what almost sound like ominous whispers, coming from between the massive gnarled elder trees, reaching to the skies and blocking out nearly all light that would reach the ground... A more squeamish person would have been too terrified to even set foor in the forest. Soon enough it became so dark that it might as well have been the middle of the night, in terms of visibility; in hindsight, I probably should have asked Mr. Morichika if he had a flashlight I could've bought. I tend to have these absent-minded moments at the worst possible times. Fortunately, vampires have a taste for the old fashioned and dramatic, so I would probably find a torch or candelabrum of sorts within the mansion, assuming I'd get there in one piece.

Sure enough, with the help of what I could see of the map and compass, I eventually found my way to Mr. Kirisame's house-turned-magic-shop in the middle of the forest. And I was already baffled by Kourindou's choice of location; what kinds of customers would risk walking through the forest just to get to a little family-run shop? Well, most likely the same types of people who would be interested in a 'magic shop' in the first place. Such as myself, for example. In contrast to my attempts back at Kourindou, a knock on the door here results in a tired man's voice inviting me in; somehow, I expected someone living in a place like that to keep the doors locked even when they were at home.
Once inside, the picture that was revealed to me was pretty much exactly what you would expect to see in a 'magic shop' - a bunch of old, ragged looking books (or erudite tomes or whatever the wizardy types like to call them) stacked on every surface with a reasonable amount of space on it, vials and flasks full of who-knows-what spreading mixes of sweet and bitter scents around the room, incense candles, scrolls, fetishes, charms, talismans, trinkets and other doohickeys. It was enough to make one's head spin. In the center of it all stood a middle-aged man, wearing what appeared to be western clothing - rather odd, as the man himself looked very much like just another one of the local people, although the way he carried himself suggested he was something higher than a regular peasant.
Indeed, I would soon find out that this was Mr. Kirisame, the owner of the shop and a retired magician. Over the course of idle chatter, he would explain how he gave up his adventuring days when he started a family, instead choosing to open a shop to sell the various items he had amassed over the years of his youth; and there were certainly a lot of items to sell, indeed. Sadly, my hunch was right, and the amount of customers the man got left much to be desired. He made just barely enough money to take care of his wife - who was, surprisingly, a blonde, European woman - and young daughter, Marisa. I didn't get to meet the two that day, as his wife was feeling ill and Marisa was supposed to be taking care of her while Mr. Kirisame tended to his store and a guest.

An older man was visiting Mr. Kirisame, claiming himself to be some sort of chronicler, noting down the events and goings-on in Gensokyo for future generations. A somewhat archaic method of doing so, is what I thought at the time - a scribe travelling about, writing things down by hand. It really did feel like I had stepped backwards through time, from the moment I first entered this strange land. Mr. Kirisame and the chronicler resumed their chat while I perused the items in the shop, finding most of them to be either far out of my league, or simply not terribly useful compared to what I already had. A pity; the store's owner seemed to think so too, disappointment plain on his face when I admitted I wasn't exactly a master magician in the usual sense of the word; my own magical talents were more... subtle, at a lack of a better word for it.

Instead, I took Mr. Kirisame's offer to join him and the chronicler for some tea, which he insisted that I should take as an apology for him not being able to assist me in my journey; I politely disregarded the notion, sipping my tea quietly as they continued their conversation. To be honest, I wasn't exactly paying attention to what it actually was that they were talking about, until the chronicler turned his attention to me, a friendly smile on his face that you'd expect a loving grandfather to show towards his favorite grandchildren.
"Ah, but do tell us of yourself, young one." Again with the 'young'. Even today I still wonder if I really did look that much like a kid, despite being decked out in enough equipment to make a grown man strain to support the weight.
"Where do you come from? What brings you to Gensokyo, and this house in the middle of the forest, hmm?" After the chronicler asks his questions, even Mr. Kirisame presses his fingertips together, crossing one leg over another and looking at me with interest. I told them... well, I told them the same story I've been telling you for a while, now, the chronicler nodding attentively now and then, jotting down notes furiously without even breaking a sweat. It felt a little awkward at first, but as I got into the flow I learned to ignore it. By the time I reached the point in the story where we are right now, the old man grinned at me as if I had given him a brick of pure gold.

"Wonderful, wonderful! This will be a tale to be remembered for generations to come, you know! Oh, but you must promise to pay me a visit once you return from your noble quest; I'll be staying at the inn in the village for quite some time. Will you promise to come and tell me how it all happened, in the end?"

"I make it a point never to give out promises, but I'll try to drop by if it's on the way. I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to get back out of Gensokyo, after all."

"Wonderful!" Somehow, I didn't appreciate the prospect of me being stuck in some sort of pocket dimension full of youkai as something one would call 'wonderful'. Regardless, I apologized and stated that I must be on my way, for the night drew closer with every passing moment and I had a perilous task at hand. Although we had bid one another farewell, before I could exit the building, the chronicler shouted to me, wobbling over to me from the guest room, dragging his long robe along the floor quite noisily.

"Do tell me, what should I name the first chapter in your soon-to-be epic tale?"



[] "Vampire Killer"
[] "Bloody Tears"
[] "Beginning"
[] "Bloodlines"
[] (Write-in)
[] "Do what you like. I don't really care."
>> No. 31032
[x] "Beginning"
>> No. 31033
[X] "Vampire Killer"

Naturally.
>> No. 31034
[X] "Vampire Killer" (Classic is classic)
>> No. 31035
[X] "Vampire Killer"
>> No. 31036
I have a question; is that chronicler

A) A skinny guy with glasses and a hat

or

B) dude with a beart and the last name Igarashi?
>> No. 31037
Better question: is the character we are voting paths for the 'Perfect and Elegant Maid?'
>> No. 31038
[x] "Beginning"
>> No. 31039
[x] "Beginning"
>> No. 31040
[x] "Beginning"
>> No. 31041
[X] "Vampire Killer"
>> No. 31042
[x] "Beginning"
>> No. 31043
Update?
>> No. 31044
>>1121
Bleh, site still not back on track? Fine, writing will commence after coffee.
>> No. 31048
File 125191519984.jpg - (151.84KB , 1280x1024 , Forest_fog.jpg ) [iqdb]
31048
Shorter update today, sorry.

Reposting because of horrible errors. I need to proofread.

-----------

I gave the short bearded man a bored glare, but since he wouldn't get the message I merely blurted out the first thing that came to my mind, in response to his inane question.

"...Beginning."

A simple, short answer, perfectly befitting of the first chapter in pretty much any book one could think of. Not that I particularly cared for the concept of someone writing down my adventures as if they were some tale to be read to one's children before bedtime, but I didn't really care enough to express my distaste towards this man not even asking permission to do so. He seemed pleased at my uncreative answer, gleefully scribbling it down in large, extravagant handwriting as if I had said something wonderful and amazing; I was distracted from my musings by Mr. Kirisame coming up to us, eyes fixated on me. Did either of us forget something?

"I think I may have found something that could be of use to you, after all. You do realize that the mansion is in the middle of the Misty Lake, right?" I nodded.
"Here, catch." He flicked something small, light and shiny to me through the air, which I caught; opening my fist, I saw what appeared to be an ordinary coin made from a metal I couldn't quite identify at the time - not quite gold, not quite copper - that is, ordinary except for the square hole in the middle. I soon recognized it as being one of those coins that were used as currency in Japan before being replaced by the yen, the holes in the middle were there so they could be strung together on a piece of string. However, I couldn't make heads or tails of why he would give me such a thing, pun quite possibly intended. Of course, we're talking about the owner of a magic shop, here.

"What is this? Aside from being an old coin, I mean."

"It just might help you get over the lake, if you play your cards right. When you get to the shore of the lake, flip the coin high into the air in front of yourself, and keep your eyes focused on it. I'm sure you can imagine that this is no ordinary coin."

Why does it always have to be oh-so-mysterious with these trinkets? If he had simply told me it would transform into a boat or magic giant turtle or something, I would have been less frustrated; however, I had decided to be polite, so I merely gave him my somewhat dry thanks.

"I don't suppose this will get me back off the island again when I'm done?"

"Sorry, it's only good for one use. Best I could do; if I had had two or more, you could've had them."

Figures.

"Alright, so how much do I..."

"Ah, just take it, you're pretty much the first person that's come here that would have had any use for such a thing anyway." I bowed my head to the storekeeper with gratitude.
"Oh, and... Good luck in there." With that, Mr. Kirisame and the eager chronicler headed back to the guest room, and I left the quaint little house behind, continuing my trek through the dark woods. And by 'dark' I mean 'nearly pitch black' - I had stayed as Mr. Kirisame's guest far longer than I had expected, and the sun had gone down. If what I was told were to be believed, the beasts of the forest would be at their most active after nightfall, so I heightened my other senses in case my sight should fail me.

This didn't turn out to be an issue. Soon enough, I noticed many, many pairs of glowing eyes ranging across the entire color spectrum, staring at me with what I could only guess was hunger from between the trees, their owners concealed by shadow. I tried my best to keep a confident stride - both animals and fiends tend to stay away from you, if you don't show any obvious fear - but this proved to be rather difficult, with the ground being uneven, entwined with thick, gnarled roots and made slippery by foliage, dead leaves and oversized slimy mushrooms of unrealistic colors. I must've stumbled a fair few times, but I managed to avoid tripping. How I wished at the time that I could simply cast a spell or something to create flames from my fingertips, both to illuminate my path and to scare away the creatures stalking my footsteps. A flashlight, torch, or even a lighter would have been a suitable substitute, too; sadly I don't smoke.

It didn't take long for the critters to grow more restless, no longer kept at bay by whatever intimidation factor a (seemingly) unarmed human wandering through a forest all alone in the middle of the night could possibly possess. I could hear noises, barely audible hissing, snorts, leaves and grass bristling under rapid steps, even mild growling. Every step I'd take, every move I'd make, they'd be watching me. Closer, angrier, speeding up their pursuit as I accelerated to a light jog. Then to a proper run. And then I started sprinting, but they were still keeping up. The noise was becoming deafening, whatever horrors were chasing me had long since given up on any form of stealth, turning into some sort of bestial angry mob hot on my heels, completely obfuscated by the darkness; a normal person would have probably collapsed from exhaustion and curled up in a fetal position to await their fate by this point.

Fortunately, I'm quite abnormal. I stopped and turned around, roaring back at them all in defiance; the pack of dark beasts scattered in an instant, but did not retreat completely, the hunger running through them steeling them for the task at hand - I was to be their lunch, or to make minced meat of them. Kill or be killed. Fine, if they wanted it that way... I backed up into a convenient clearing between the trees, glancing about in a wide arc. I was completely surrounded from all sides. Just as they started to approach, slowly but surely, with a killing intent visible in their gazes, the moon came out from behind the treetops, lighting up the scene; I sort of wished it hadn't, because this allowed me to see the creatures behind the ones at the front, whose eyes weren't visible before.
It almost made me laugh that they all honestly expected to get a bite out of me; I'd barely be enough to feed two or three of them. It was more likely that they'd turn upon each other after taking me down, the survivors feeding on both my carcass and those of the others that would die in the resulting massacre. Granted, some were smaller than others - what at first glance looked like a fuzzy white rabbit to me, turned in my direction to reveal itself to be little more than a head with no visible limbs, a blank white stare and a huge, constantly frowning mouth, gaping open and salivating in anticipation. It almost looked cute, in a really stupid way.

"Even in the forest, foes..." The fact that I was obviously talking to myself only meant that I was either getting really worried or really excited; or some strange mixture of both. How kind of Mother Nature to put this clearing right in my path, I thought, as I slowly reached for my whip. No walls, no ceilings, just a lot of empty space and a lot of hostile flesh all around me. Which would happen first, I wondered - would I clear myself an escape path and scare the rest of them off for long enough to flee with my life, or would I get swarmed?

Surprisingly enough, after a long staredown, the first creature to make any sort of offensive move was that little white fuzzball, lunging at me with impossible speed, considering it had no visible limbs to propel itself with; a loud CRACK echoed through the air of the forest that same moment, the ring of monsters taking a few steps backwards as the hairy thing dropped to the ground, wheezing and mewling in pain, a huge bloody gash where its eyes used to be. That one would be out of action for the rest of the night, and then some. The whip falls to the ground, smearing dark red stains into the grass, illuminated so brilliantly by the moon. Funny thing, blood; it seems red to you even in total darkness, when everything else would be grey. I flashed a wild smirk at the rest of the beasts, despite knowing well enough that they wouldn't comprehend human facial expressions anyway.

"So. Who else wants some?"

-----------

BGM: "Beginning"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuMWJJZb5OA

-----------

Apparently, they all did. Before I could even finish that one-liner, a tidal wave of enraged monsters was roaring towards me, threatening to crash over my head, blotting out the moon above me; time seems to freeze for a moment, my breath stopping in my lungs, the contorted faces on the more humanoid of the beasts petrified into horrible grimaces. All became silent. Then I stretched my right shoulder, a little, still firmly keeping my thumb on the button of the stopwatch in my pocket. How many seconds did I have left, five? Four? Three? Feeling my energy draining away from the exertion already, I pulled my right arm all the way back to my left side, before letting loose a wide, arcing, 360-degree lash, spinning in place from the force; I had put my full strength into that one.
A low, rumbling noise finally erupts as the blades of grass on the ground slowly begin to move in the wind once again, before what sounds like an explosion knocks all the creatures away from me; repocketing the stopwatch, I instead pull out one of my daggers, charging at the ones closest to me with a frenzied roar. Even my human stamina had its limits, but I could not afford to let up. I had to press the offensive, to take this attack of opportunity before they recovered from my little trick just now, or I would be gone. In life, these death-risk situations don't get progressively harder, you have to give your all, every time, or you'll screw up and won't get a second chance.

Kill or be killed.

Lash. Lash. Lash. Had to keep the motions fluid, keep up the momentum, never stop moving, never stand in one place for longer than a moment. It was like walking in circles; I would compare it to dancing, but that would sound pretentiously poetic. The whip would cut through the beasts like a hot knife through butter, being specially enchanted to do so, allowing my swings to follow through uninterrupted, each lash striking at least four beasts, knocking them backwards in a jolt of searing pain, or dismembering limbs, even killing the occasional critter that got hit in a particularly unlucky place. I swear I took one's head clean off, as if I were swinging around some sort of absurdly sharp sword.
Constant motion. Every time I stood still for even a moment, a stray swipe of a massive clawed forearm would graze me, tearing into my armor and adding a new source of blood loss. Always moving, had to ignore the growing feeling of numbness in my right arm. Arm goes from top right to bottom left, LASH. Five more creatures fell on their backsides, spewing blood into the air; it hit me in the face, even at that distance, blinding me for a brief moment; that moment was enough for a smaller one to cling to my leg, sinking its claws and fangs into my flesh with glee, but I could not afford to lose momentum. I took another step with my free leg, raising my arm and continuing with a motion from the top left to the bottom right, the whip arcing and flailing through the air with a sharp whistle, cutting down several more vaguely humanoid aberrations that had gotten too close for comfort; with my other hand, I stabbed the damned thing gnawing on my leg right through the skull, proceeding to pry it off but inadvertently getting it stuck on the blade for a short while; the extra weight prompted me to discard the dagger, instead reaching into my coat and promptly hurling a flurry of daggers into the night; one at a time, naturally, since it's difficult to throw many knives at once while still maintaining aim and enough force to kill. Thankfully, I've got good aim, hitting a few of them right in the head, if not quite between the eyes. It would have been more impressive if I had managed something like that in the heat of a serious battle, though.

-----------

Well, you've obviously guessed by now that I survived the ordeal, with me being here to retell you the story of how it all happened, so I won't bore you with the rest of that scene. Suffice it to say, I eventually got sick of the whole thing and smashed a bottle of Holy Water on a nearby rock, the erupting flames incinerating the closest few creatures and sending the handful that remained running with their tails behind their legs; at least for the ones that had tails. I couldn't tell which looked like more of a mess, the clearing with a half-hundred mutilated carcasses scattered about, already attracting ravens and other less supernatural scavengers, many with knives sticking out of their skulls or chests, or myself.
I proceeded to collect whichever knives were not damaged during the battle, cleaning them of the blood and bits of flesh and/or brains in a fit of insanity; after all, I was pretty much drenched in the stuff, myself. Feeling my hair, matted by blood which I couldn't even tell if it belonged to me or one of those beasts, I sighed in mild frustration. This would require several showers to get out. Maybe I could consecrate the door to a bathroom and get washed up once I'm in the mansion, I thought to myself while chuckling to myself in a silly manner. To my surprise, I was joined in said chuckling by what sounded like the voice of a young girl.

Oh, shit.

Turning around swiftly, whip ready to strike, I was greeted with the sight of a golden-haired little girl dressed in black and white, looking about ten years old at most, her face decorated with the smile of a playful child. A ribbon was tied in her hair on one side of her head, resulting in an overall appearance that would probably strike anyone as utterly adorable in a normal situation. However, this situation was far from normal - for one thing, what was this girl doing out in the middle of the Forest of Magic, all by her self, at night? Two, when did she get there? I didn't see nor hear anything, and I've been nothing but on edge since that battle just now. Three... her eyes were red, shining through the darkness and staring right at me widely, with a childish glee.

...I got a bad feeling about this, right then and there.

"Hi~!"



[] "Hi."
[] I just glared at her silently, hoping she'd just go away.
[] Whip first, ask questions later. That was my motto in situations like that.
[] (Write-in?)

In case of a confrontation...

[] Well, I still had some fight left in me, and I wouldn't hold back for some unnatural little girl, regardless of what she might really be.. (Battle strategy? e.g. keep a distance, stay in melee range, what weapons to use, etc.)
[] Diplomacy option! (Talk your way out of it. Be creative.)
[] I ran. I was still worn out from that battle just now.



(And no, that last choice wasn't just for combat music.)
>> No. 31049
[x] "Hi."
[x] Offer her some candies, little girls love sweet things.
>> No. 31050
[x] "Hi."

In case of a confrontation...

[x] Well, I still had some fight left in me, and I wouldn't hold back for some unnatural little girl, regardless of what she might really be..
-[x] Ready your whip and get ready to strike if she starts acting strange.
-[x] Ready some holy water as well.
>> No. 31051
[x] Talk with her a bit in hopes of convincing her that I was not worth eating.

if that fails
[x] use some holy water to attempt to attack or buy time when she's stunned by the sudden light to run.
>> No. 31052
[X] Don't remove the ribbon.
>> No. 31062
[x] Well, I still had some fight left in me, and I wouldn't hold back for some unnatural little girl, regardless of what she might really be..
-[x] Ready your whip and get ready to strike if she starts acting strange.
-[x] Ready some holy water as well.
>> No. 31082
[x] "Hi."

In case of a confrontation...

[x] Well, I still had some fight left in me, and I wouldn't hold back for some unnatural little girl, regardless of what she might really be..
-[x] Ready your whip and get ready to strike if she starts acting strange.
-[x] Ready some holy water as well.
>> No. 31115
File 125220876216.jpg - (127.19KB , 1131x1600 , rumia.jpg ) [iqdb]
31115
"Hi."

Not the wittiest reply, but I had no true idea as to the intentions of this strange, disturbing child. She looked small enough to bend over one knee and spank liberally, should she choose to be a pest; however, experience had taught me never to underestimate a foe based on size or appearance. There was this one time when I approached what looked like a tiny, impossibly hunched over little man... Ah, but I digress. She girl cocked her head at me, taking a few steps closer without a hint of fear in her eyes - yet another worrying factor, considering how I looked, all covered in blood and hair messed up. I must've looked more monstrous than most of the beasts I had chased off, at this point, yet this child gazed upon me with a cheerful smirk dancing across her face; and those eyes, those brightly-shining red eyes. Demonstratively, I uncoiled my whip and lightly cracked it to the side, grabbing a bottle of Holy Water into my other hand. While the injuries to my leg were rather minor, I still had to rest my weight on the other leg so as not to flinch.

Monsters can detect weakness.

"What are you doing in the forest this late and alone, girl?" I tried to keep my voice modestly intimidating - I did not have time to waste on another battle, nor on idle conversation with children with bizarre eye colors. If at all possible, I would've preferred to avoid any sort of conversation and get her to leave me alone. Still, it is best to assume that if something can go wrong, it -will- go horribly wrong. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, is what I would always say in these situations.

"I got hungry and went to look for a snack." The wicked child before me flashed a grin in my direction, the moonlight glinting off her perfectly white teeth, which looked just a little bit too sharp to belong to any normal human, even from a distance.

"I see. I'd offer you some candies or something, kid, but I didn't bring any. Sorry."

"Is that so~? Then... I'll have to munch on something more readily available, won't I?" Giggling to herself rather loudly, she made the forest around us echo; it seemed to be rapidly getting darker and darker all of a sudden, as her eyes widened in excitement, still shining through the enveloping blackness.
"But first... let's play. You look like fun."

----------

BGM: "Wicked Child"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPBE0TkEpBg

----------

Not waiting for her to make the first move, I took those last words as a declaration of battle, lashing my whip in her direction. She lunged at me into flight, that instant, the whip nearly missing her. However, I was expecting this; instead of attempting a predictable sidestep or anything of the sort, I dashed right at her, causing her to hesitate in surprise - just the reaction I needed. Dropping down into a slide, I passed right under her, attempting another attack with the whip from behind. The whip wrapped itself around her leg, and I immediately pulled back with all my might, causing her to crash into the ground in a rather painful-looking manner. Another opening for me to exploOOPS! The fiend seemed to have grabbed the whip and yanked me towards her with impossible strength; perhaps that wasn't such a great idea after all. Well, I wasn't going to let go of the whip, but I also didn't appreciate the concept of having my arms torn off, so I let her pull me, holding onto the whip's handle with one hand and being ready with that bottle in my other, as I flew through the air towards the hungrily awaiting dark child.

The sound of shattering glass resonates through the woods, flames bursting forth from in front of me; I dive right through, rolling onto the ground into a kneeling position, making sure I didn't manage to set myself on fire anywhere. Apparently, neither did the girl - she managed to wriggle herself loose from the whip just in time, flying out of the way before the bottle crashed into the ground where she was sitting. I did notice something, though: the flames were useful for penetrating the unnatural darkness that surrounded this girl, and she was covering her eyes, seemingly more afraid of the light than the fire itself. Interesting. Before the flames flickered and died off, I managed to grab a nearby dry branch and set it alight, turning it into some sort of makeshift holy torch. She seemed to reconsider attempting a second lunge after I did this, hovering above me cautiously, the darkness surrounding me trying to inch closer, the flames of the torch licking the black tendrils away as I swung it about.

"What's the matter... Afraid of the light? You really going to let some puny human with a torch scare you off? And I was hoping you'd at least be worth my time, if you were going to get in my way..."

Ah, resorting to taunting always drives the simple-minded ones into a bloodthirsty craze. Growling loudly, her fingernails taking the appearance of sharp claws, she descended from the sky with demonic speed, aiming for a head-on collision with me; a fatal flaw in her execution, however, was keeping her eyes on the torch I was wiggling about in my left hand. This time, I did sidestep, again catching her with my whip and redirecting her trajectory onto a collision course with a nearby tree, which was promptly knocked in half by the crash.

"Wah... You... you..."

Unable to even think of a word to use for a defiant meal such as myself, the blonde terror crawled out from the remains of what was once a mighty tree, hair and clothing full of splinters and covered with dirt and grass stains; I had sent her skidding across the grass twice by then. Those stains would be difficult to get out, is what I was thinking, trying to distract myself from the wounds in my leg. Yet again she soars at me through the air - this time I notice her focusing on my whip hand. One of the first things one learns during combat training is the importance of misdirection; the logical conclusion is to never let your foe know where your focus is. A distracting feint attack with my whip lashing through the air prompted her to descend just low enough to...

The sound of glass shattering was quickly drowned out by eardrum-rupturing howls and screams, the charred figure of a small child seen struggling engulfed within the flames produced by another bottle of Holy Water. The scent of burnt flesh was starting to spread through the air before she finally managed to put herself out; out of some sort of feeling of pity or sadism - I couldn't tell at the time - I had merely let her roll around aimlessly instead of putting her out of her misery. Her pathetic wheezing finally got to me, though. The fight had been mostly one-sided, even in my injured and fatigued state - the least I could do was give her a merciful extermination. For some reason, a spark of what is left of my humanity would always light up at moments like that, as I slowly walked to the lightly twitching body of the fiendish child, burned alive. That subtle feeling of remorse in the darkest depths of my heart... Luckily enough, easy to drown out. A job is a job. I uttered a small prayer for whatever kind of soul a manipulator of darkness such as her might possess, and...

...promptly grabbed the arm that was suddenly choking me with a vice-like grip with both hands, attempting to pry the not-quite-dead beast off of me. Slowly, almost tauntingly, she sat upright, her flesh already turning back to a normal color in small patches here and there. A wide, toothy grin spread across her face, those crimson eyes ogling me with a starving look once again. Apparently these youkai regenerated much faster than I had expected. At that time I couldn't tell anymore whether the approaching blackness was her powers firing up again, or my own oxygen depravation.

"...And you humans call us youkai stupid... Hahaha, you just, just, walked right next to me! Just like that. Did you... feel SORRY for me? Huh? Did you? Tell me. Oh, wait, you can't... What a pity!"

She laughed to herself some more, increasing in volume with every passing moment, my strength gradually decreasing in contrast. How pitiful for a vampire hunter to perish before even catching sight of the vampire's dwelling, would you not agree? As if to mock me, she leaned closer to me, still baring that impossibly wide grin at me, closer, closer...

Close enough.

Taking the most logical action at the time, I jerked backwards and headbutted the hell out of the bitch. Human or youkai, that sort of thing will knock you out good. And so it did, the hungry monster girl fell flat on her back for real this time; I even took the time to poke her with the tip of a dagger a few times, but she wouldn't wake up. As I wondered if I had manage to kill her after all, I heard a faint snore. Honestly... Well, I had no further time to waste on that sort of nonsense, so I merely continued onwards, consulting my map.

The map.
Where was the map?

Ah, I had shoved it inside my undershirt for safe keeping. For a moment there I had gotten worried - you know how in a stereotypical story, everything seems to go wrong for the protagonist at the worst time? Many such incidents occurring in a row? Well, in any case, the lake was off to the northeast from my current location, not really far at all. My passage through the rest of the forest continued without significant interruptions - just a few lone youkai to crack my whip at, or wild animals to yell at, and they would run off in fright. I had remembered to bring the makeshift torch along, which also served to help keep beasts away from me; I was glad to see it did not go out when I had to drop it during the fight with the blonde girl, to grab a second bottle of Holy Water.

It didn't take me long to reach the lake. The moonlight reflecting off the surface of the lake made it glisten in a manner that would be considered romantic by some, atmospheric by others, yet foreboding by one such as myself. The last sight of beauty before venturing forth into the mansion of the Scarlet Devil. Of course, the issue at hand was crossing the lake in the first place, but I had been given a trinket to deal with this problem. Before using it, however, I chose to clean myself off in the water, at least a little bit - washing the blood out of my hair, for example. After a few minutes of light bathing, I decided to give the strange coin a try. Now, what had the instructions been - flip it into the air and keep your eyes on it? I did just that. Something about the material of the coin was still strange to me... Somewhere between gold and copper in tone, yet with a silvery glint as it rotated through the air, almost as if it was in slow-motion... It had already begun its descent when I realized I had accidentally tossed it towards the lake, as opposed to flipping it straight upwards. Before I could reach out to catch it, however, someone else did.

The hand of the person that was not there just a moment ago would lead into the sleeve of a black robe. The person's other hand was holding a sinister looking scythe with a curvy blade, and his or her face was concealed by a hood. I froze on the spot - could that have been Death itself, said to be the right hand of Dracula!? But... no. To my relief and disappointment, when this enigma pulled back the hood, what revealed itself was not a skull, but a woman's head, red hair tied into pigtails matching a red pair of eyes, studying me with curiosity.

"...this is not the Sanzu river."

"I am aware of this."

The Sanzu river, by the way, is effectively the Japanese equivalent to the river Styx, conveniently located in Gensokyo. The woman in the black robe before me studied the air above my head for a moment, as if she were reading some text that wasn't really there.

"You're not about to die just yet, either."

"More importantly, how did you get here?"

"I have my ways. No distance is too great for me to cross it in an instant." I looked down next to her, spotting what appeared to be a small boat in the lake.

"Let me guess; that coin I just gave you obliges you to give me a ride on your boat? You're the ferryman of the Sanzu?"

"That'd be me, correct. But, as I said, this is not the Sanzu river, so..."

"But I gave you the coin. And I don't intend to take it back, either. So..."

While it took a bit of guts to jump into a reaper's boat, I was feeling rather audacious after my last brawl with the evil lurking in these lands. The boat rocked back and forth just a little, but I managed to make the landing look sufficiently cool without rolling it over and making a fool of myself. Smiling innocently at the ferryman... ferrywoman... ferryperson, I sat there and waited. She fixed me with a bit of an annoyed stare for a while, but finally relented upon noticing that I had no intention of moving. She stepped into the boat with me, her scythe transforming into an oar. I pointed in the direction of the Scarlet Devil Mansion's island looming up ahead, nonchalantly.

"Take me to my destiny."

...

Quite a lot of time had passed. The lake wasn't that large - was this woman taking me in circles for some reason? No, looking about I could clearly see we were on a direct course for the island. But then, why was the boat ride taking so damn long?

"Why is the boat ride taking so damn long?"

When troubled by questions, it is best to ask them out loud.

"The length of the ride across the Sanzu river, the width of the river itself... It is measured by how sinful your life has been. A pure soul would be across in a brief moment, a total sinner would take another lifetime..."

"But you yourself told me this is not the Sanzu."

"It isn't?"

Blinking, as if she had woke up from some sort of daydream, the reaper glances about her surroundings in a confused manner. Almost as if she had fallen asleep while rowing, if such a concept is even conceivable.

"Huh, so it isn't. Sorry, we should get to the island in..."

Thump.

"Oh, here we are."

I didn't even bother thanking this strange personification of death, leaping out of the boat instantly. I had more important business to take care of, than interacting with some sort of lazy-ass grim reaper. Come to think of it, she didn't seem grim at all, waving to me cheerfully. By the time I looked a second time, she was gone, along with her boat, as if she had never truly even been there. Maybe she wasn't. Maybe I suffered a concussion from headbutting that bonehead of a youkai back there, and hallucinated the whole thing while swimming. I was wet, after all, presumably from cleaning myself of excessive caked blood and gore on the other side. No matter now, I was finally at my destination. Well, almost - one last obstacle lay before me. The massive wall surrounding the mansion itself, far too tall to merely parkour myself over. Searching around for a while, through the simple process of following the wall in one direction, I found the gate - unfortunately for me, it was guarded.

A tall beauty of a woman was leaning against one of the two pillars, between which the ornate metal gate was fixed. Her eyes were closed and her arms crossed, giving her the look of a guardian in deep meditation, stoic and silent in the night. Her incredibly long hair was a bright red, shining in the moonlight and somehow making her seem even taller; from a distance, I could tell she was even taller than myself, and I am by no means a short person. She was wearing something reminiscent of a black Chinese dress, decorated with a pair of Chinese dragons coiling around her rather... impressive features. A black hat resembling a beret rested on her head, a golden star with the chinese character for 'Dragon' on the front. Even from so far away, I could see that her arms were toned and muscular. The church had heard of this person - she was Hong Meiling, Remilia Scarlet's personal bodyguard, whom she had met in Shanghai while fleeing from hunters across the world. Meiling had mastery over a force referred to as 'Qi', as well as several Chinese martial arts, specializing in Tai Chi Chuan. Furthermore, she was not human, but another breed of asian supernatural creatures that resemble humans at first glance. She was not to be underestimated, for her strength and agility were far beyond those of any human, even trained hunters.

And yet... the way her ample chest was slowly rising and descending... the look on her face...
She was sleeping.

Well, to be fair, it was the middle of the night, but weren't youkai supposed to be nocturnal? And wasn't she supposed to be guarding the gate, or at least be by Remilia Scarlet's side? How... irresponsible. You may not have sensed it from my manner of speaking so far, but I hold discipline in high regard.
...on the upside, this could have potentially made my job much easier.



[] Two boss fights in a row? Screw that, I tried to find a way to sneak in.
[] I woke her up. It would have been depressing, otherwise.
-{} I tried to persuade her that I had legitimate business with the mistress of the household, and had an appointment. Remilia Scarlet would be furious with her if I were delayed.
-{} I challenged her to a battle to earn my right of entry. She would not resist an honorable duel.
[] No use being a fair sport towards monsters; I attacked first, taking the opportunity presented to me by her unconcious state.

In case of a confrontation...

[] (Battle strategy? e.g. keep a distance, stay in melee range, what weapons to use, etc.)
>> No. 31116
[x] I woke her up. It would have been depressing, otherwise.
-{x} I challenged her to a battle to earn my right of entry. She would not resist an honorable duel.

[x] Battle strategy: No holding back, go all out with every weapon and option you have.
>> No. 31118
[x] I woke her up. It would have been depressing, otherwise.
-[x] Identify yourself as the hunter that arrived recently, and tell the guard that the mistress should already be dying to meet you. It's fine if you have to wait for the guard to get her permission first.

[x] Don't let her get closer than whip range. Use holy water to control her movement if necessary (e.g., throwing it at the ground between you). Keep a throwing dagger between your teeth when making whip attacks so she can't chance grabbing the whip away from you.

We've lost the element of surprise a long time ago, so we may as well play to the vampire's ego. Remilia is not the kind of person to turn down a direct challenge, and this way you might not have to fight your way through a cadre of servants who view you as a threat rather than as an amusement.

As for combat, holy water would be too slow to catch her, like with Rumia, but a throwing knife should be able to close the gap more quickly.
>> No. 31119
[x] I woke her up. It would have been depressing, otherwise.
-[x] Identify yourself as the hunter that arrived recently, and tell the guard that the mistress should already be dying to meet you. It's fine if you have to wait for the guard to get her permission first.
>> No. 31120
[x] Don't let her get closer than whip range. Use holy water to control her movement if necessary (e.g., throwing it at the ground between you). Keep a throwing dagger between your teeth when making whip attacks so she can't chance grabbing the whip away from you.
>> No. 31123
[x] I woke her up. It would have been depressing, otherwise.
-[x] Identify yourself as the hunter that arrived recently, and tell the guard that the mistress should already be dying to meet you. It's fine if you have to wait for the guard to get her permission first.

[x] Don't let her get closer than whip range. Use holy water to control her movement if necessary (e.g., throwing it at the ground between you). Keep a throwing dagger between your teeth when making whip attacks so she can't chance grabbing the whip away from you.
>> No. 31124
I think I'll start updating this one on weekends from now on, keeping my /th/ story on a daily update basis. Just so people know when to expect things.
>> No. 31484
>>31124

>updating this one on weekends from now on

So where's my update nigger?
>> No. 31485
People were actually reading this?

I'll try to have something up today or tomorrow. Or both, if I don't end up feeling as exhausted as I normally do on weekends lately.
>> No. 31488
>>31485
>People were actually reading this?
You fucking idiot.

No, I wasn't reading it, since I assumed you lost interest and it was dead.
>> No. 31490
>>31485
I don't think you understand.
Anon fucking loves Castlevania.
>> No. 31498
File 125339328854.jpg - (70.02KB , 639x480 , b14ea2615690d85eda3ae8f37234ac6d.jpg ) [iqdb]
31498
No, I figured sneaking in would be risky; the slightest noise could wake up the gate guard, leaving me at a disadvantageous position. Taking the advantage myself, and attacking her in her sleep? No, too dirty, even for me; call it a double standard, but I've always viewed the more humanoid, sentient and sapient minions with a slightly higher degree of respect as opposed to mindless zombies or misshapen monsters. Hong Meiling was as close to human as these beasts can get, the only visual hints at her supernatural origin would be the unnatural color of her hair, and her height. Seriously, she was at least a head taller than me. It looked like a formal introduction was in order, if I wanted to get inside. Disregarding all danger, I calmly walked up to her with the intent of tapping her on the shoulder, which proved not to be necessary - once I got close enough, her eyes immediately sprung open. Maybe she was meditating after all? Or maybe she's not as heavy of a sleeper as I had thought.

"...Do you have an appointment? I do not recall being told to expect any visitors to the mansion." Yep, her speech had a distinct Chinese accent to it.

"You could say that I do, in a manner of speaking."

"Hm? Explain yourself." Those brilliant blue eyes of hers almost seemed to glow in the dark; combined with the moonlight shining against her crimson hair, they made her seem strangely radiant. Intimidating, too, especially after she straightened her posture to the point where she was looking down at me, our eyes no longer level. This giant of a woman was openly clenching her fists, her face stern and her gaze gauging my every move, trying to determine whether or not I was of any threat; naturally, her eyes stopped briefly on my assorted weaponry, lingering longer on the whip than anything else.

Supernatural creatures can sense weapons that were designed to kill them, just as humans can sense heat radiating from fire.

No point in hiding it, then.
"I'm the hunter that arrived in these lands recently; I'm sure your mistress has already made you aware of my entry through the border." Her eyes widened slightly as I introduced myself in such a blunt, truthful manner, before narrowing once again; she nodded her head downwards just a light angle further, staring at me intently and waiting patiently for me to continue.
"In fact, the mistress should already be dying to meet me." Heh.
"Of course, it's fine if I have to wait while you go get permission from the lady of the mansion to allow me inside..." I stepped back immediately, already anticipating the lightning-fast rib-shattering strike aimed at my chest. It seemed she didn't take too well to jokes regarding her mistress. I barely had any time to grab the whip and a throwing knife before she charged for me, without a word.

----------

BGM: "Awake"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQ2JilGF7yI

----------

"What's the matter," I managed to utter, evading blows one after another, analyzing her style of combat, searching for weaknesses or blind spots as I prepare my own weaponry, "did I say something wrong?" Arrogance aside, she was extremely fast - but I was faster. Her blows came as thunderstrikes, a direct hit would certainly fell me in a single blow; I needed to get some distance, damn it! Grabbing the knife in my teeth by the handle for later use, I instead pulled out a bottle of Holy Water, smashing it into the ground and sending a wave of flame travelling forwards a short distance along the ground. The gate guard avoided this with a quick sidestep, yet this allowed me to step in the other direction to put some distance between us. Being a martial artist, close combat must've been her specialty, putting me at the advantage with the whip and a variety of ranged weapons...

"HAAAAAAAAAAA!"

Or so I thought. A blue sphere of flame just barely flew past me, the brightness leaving a streak of after images in my sight; the fireball impacted with one of the dried-up trees growing thinly along the edges of the island, exploding in a cloud of splinters and sending branches flying all over the place. By the time the after images in my vision cleared, she was already in my face; I just barely managed to leap out of her way, attempting to counter her attack with a lash of the whip, which she evaded with ease, lunging for me once again. Her long mane of hair flowing behind her, that fierce facial expression and that roar of anger, they gave her the appearance of a savage lioness. Or, well, a lion? Come to think of it, female lions don't have manes... Regardless, I think they're the ones that do most of the hunting. Whatever, the analogy's far too drawn out by now. Suffice to say, this was the first time that night when I felt -truly- afraid for my life, having to pull off countless acrobatic feats to avoid being mauled to death by this savage amazon. No, mauled, savage... those words do not do her justice. Her motions were graceful, flowing, smooth, never losing momentum, never stopping, like some sort of poetic, whirling dance of death.

Time and again, we would still end up close enough for a melee brawl, despite my use of Holy Water to create patches of flame that she couldn't cross. She was fast, yet I was faster, allowing me to evade or deflect most of her blows; directly blocking or absorbing one or two blows nearly knocked the wind out of me, my bones painfully protesting at what felt like being beaten with steel bars. The woman would deflect most of my own blows as well, completely ignoring even the ones that did connect, as if she felt no pain - or paid no attention to it. Most remarkable, except for the fact that I felt like I was gradually losing this battle. The guardian had no weakness, no openings for me to take advantage of; even as I managed to get far enough for her to be unable to strike me, she would hurl destructive spheres of Qi at me, against which I was mostly defenseless. Perhaps challenging her was not such a great idea, after all...

The sound of glass shattering echoed through the blackness of the night once more, followed by a high-pitched whistle ending in a loud crack - aha! Finally, I had managed to land a hit on her, anticipating her evasive movements and intercepting her with the whip, a wide red gash now marring the flesh of her arm. I took a little too long of a moment to revel in my achievement, however, as I soon found myself on the ground, following an earth-shaking stomp from the guardian. The wound I had just inflicted on her didn't seem to affect her in the slightest, and she simply lunged for me yet again as I lay there on the ground, dumbfounded. I had long since gotten tired, my breathing forced and my muscles aching, yet this woman had stamina to spare. What breed of youkai was she, anyway!? I rolled to the side just in time to avoid a kick that shattered the large rock that was behind me, and attempted another attack with the whip, this time catching her by the wrist.

Or, would it have been more accurate to say that I was the one that was caught? No, this time I anticipated the counterattack, letting go of the whip before she could pull me to herself; while this disarmed me, I quickly drew the knife from between my teeth, instantly hurling it at her before she could react.

"...Mistress..."

It caught her right between the eyes, which widened in a sort of surprise intermixed with sadness, before she dropped to the ground, dead as a doornail. Phew! Dropping to the ground myself, I took a good few minutes to catch my breath and wait for the aching all over my body to fade to tolerable levels. At times like this, it felt like an utter shame - an utter shame that such a fighter would have to fade from this world, fighting for the wrong side. And yet, all my life I had been taught that monsters are to be destroyed, that they are unnatural and do not belong in this world. She didn't look like much of a monster to me; scary, yes, but I liked to think my own battle-face was at least somewhat intimidating. Well, a vampire hunter has no time for regrets, only the task at hand; feeling at least somewhat rested, I got back up, sending a passing glance at the body of Hong Meiling as I walked to the gate. A large, ornate metal barrier between the territory of the Scarlet Devil and the rest of Gensokyo, made of black steel and adorned with spikes at the top. Going back to the guardian's corpse, I grabbed my whip and looted the key off her, allowing myself inside.

The mansion lay before me, beckoning to me. Somewhere in there, Remilia Scarlet was waiting for me to come drive a stake through the vile cavity where her heart would have once been, take her head off her shoulders, burn her to ash and scatter it to the four winds. The villagers would be free from her oppression, and the world would be rid of yet another evil lord of darkness. I gripped the handle of the whip tightly in anticipation; not much longer now. Mentally steeling myself for whatever horrors I would yet have to face within the halls of the unholy mansion, I pondered my next course of action; I would have to enter the place to begin with, somehow.



[] I busted in through the main entrance. All stylish vampire hunters bust in through the main entrance. It's tradition.
[] I looked for a window I could possibly break in through; while the front door would be a traditional entrance, it could have been guarded.
[] I checked the walls for some sort of grating leading down to the basement. If I had any semblance of an element of surprise left, I would have to take advantage of it.
[] I looked for a suitable tree to climb in the garden. The vampire's master bedroom would likely be on a higher floor, and I would not waste time starting from the bottom.
[] Actually, I went back to check if the gate guard had anything else I would've found useful in my quest.
>> No. 31499
>>Meiling killed by a knife to the head

Oh, the irony.
I wonder if she's really dead.
>> No. 31500
[x] Actually, I went back to check if the gate guard had anything else I would've found useful in my quest.
-[x] For all I know she could still be alive. I should cut her throat just to make sure.
>> No. 31501
[x] I looked for a suitable tree to climb in the garden. The vampire's master bedroom would likely be on a higher floor, and I would not waste time starting from the bottom.

Let's try not to waste energy on the other bosses.
>> No. 31502
>>31500
You Monster.

[x] I looked for a suitable tree to climb in the garden. The vampire's master bedroom would likely be on a higher floor, and I would not waste time starting from the bottom.

That is stylish, breaking through the windows and surprsing her while changing... not really.
>> No. 31503
[Cleaned Clock] I busted in through the main entrance. All stylish vampire hunters bust in through the main entrance. It's tradition.

You do NOT mess with tradition.
>> No. 31505
[x] Actually, I went back to check if the gate guard had anything else I would've found useful in my quest.
-[x] For all I know she could still be alive. I should cut her throat just to make sure.
>> No. 31507
>>31502

brings back memories of SDM LA... but I don't think we'll be so lucky in any regard.
>> No. 31508
[X] Actually, I went back to check if the gate guard had anything else I would've found useful in my quest.
[X] I busted in through the main entrance. All stylish vampire hunters bust in through the main entrance. It's tradition.

You can't break tradition, only add to it. besides, we may have to go through the rest of the mansion anyway. Sakuya will have to be removed from the equation before we get to Remilia first anyway, unless you want to fight both at the same time.

Though I don't think we need to go to the basement. For now anyway.
>> No. 31509
[x] Actually, I went back to check if the gate guard had anything else I would've found useful in my quest.
-[x] For all I know she could still be alive. I should cut her throat just to make sure.
>> No. 31510
[0] Actually, I went back to check if the gate guard had anything else I would've found useful in my quest.
-[1] For all I know she could still be alive. I should cut her throat just to make sure.

Better safe than sorry.

Nice to know you're still writing this.
>> No. 31511
[x] Actually, I went back to check if the gate guard had anything else I would've found useful in my quest.
-[x] For all I know she could still be alive. I should cut her head just to make sure.

You remove the head. Cutting throats is just an annoyance to these things.
>> No. 31525
[X] Actually, I went back to check if the gate guard had anything else I would've found useful in my quest.
[X] I busted in through the main entrance. All stylish vampire hunters bust in through the main entrance. It's tradition.
>> No. 31526
[X] Actually, I went back to check if the gate guard had anything else I would've found useful in my quest.
[X] I busted in through the main entrance. All stylish vampire hunters bust in through the main entrance. It's tradition.
>> No. 31527
File 125346367886.jpg - (45.06KB , 530x375 , dra.jpg ) [iqdb]
31527
Ah, but first. My resources were limited, and I was already gradually starting to run low on Holy Water; there's a limit to how much one person can carry at a time, of course. If I was going to be heading inside the mansion, it would've been wise to be as well-prepared as possible; perhaps the gate guard had something of value to me on her person? More keys, a weapon of some sort, anything... It wouldn't hurt to check. Plus, something else was bothering me... How easily she went down all of a sudden, after putting up such a fight. Something about the situation was just... off. I had learned to trust my gut feeling on such matters, over years of experience. I should have slit her throat, just to be absolutely sure.

Of course, 'should have' is as good as 'didn't' - the body was gone.

Not for long, though. Before I could reach for the whip and examine my surroundings, she was standing beside me, the wound in her forehead already mostly healed; superhuman regeneration is not exactly an uncommon feat among the children of the night, but my weapons were made of silver specifically to counteract this healing factor of theirs. Just what the hell kind of youkai was she!?
"I will NOT allow you to harm the mistress!" While saying this - no, not after, while - she delivered a forceful palm thrust to my abdomen, sending me flying and instantly knocking me out of breath. As I soared through the air in the general direction of the mansion's heavily reinforced wooden doors, I recalled bits and pieces of my briefing that I hadn't paid that much attention to at the time.

...

瑞獅 - Rui Shi. A literal translation would be "auspicious lions", a name for Chinese guardian lions. You know the ones I mean - the pairs of stone lions erected in front of Chinese Imperial palaces, temples, emperors' tombs, government offices, and the homes of government officials and the wealthy, said to have great mythic powers of protection. No wonder I couldn't put her down so easily... Odd though, weren't guardian lions commonly created in pairs? If her missing partner, if she indeed had one, was even remotely close to her in terms of tenacity, I probably would've lost that fight rather miserably if they had both been present.

Well, naturally crashing right through the wooden door - narrowly avoiding any metal bits - brought me back into reality. My lungs still struggling to take in oxygen normally once more, and what parts of my skin were exposed now full of splinters, I reached for a weapon - any weapon - keeping my eyes fixed on the double doors before me. As they began to part, I hurled the first thing I managed to grab through the air, right as the guardian leapt for me with murderous intent; a direct hit yet again, the silver throwing axe catching her in the skull, spraying me with her blood as she tumbled over me, crashing into the floor in a rather unceremonious manner. So, even a creature such as her would be incapacitated by direct damage to the brain. Wasting no time, I grabbed one of my daggers, rushing over to her unmoving body and cutting a deep gash from one side of her neck to the other. That ought to have put her down for good.

As I plucked the splinters of wood out of my arms, I examined my surroundings; the main entry hallway of the mansion, a long, wide corridor heading straight forward. Coincidentally, exactly where I wanted to be. After all, it's tradition to bust in through the front door, openly challenging the vampire in such a manner, despite the church urging those in my proffession to try stealthier methods of going about our business. They just didn't want to spend as much money on our equipment, that's all. A familiar - and not in a good sense - scent penetrated my nostrils just then, making me wince in mild disgust. I knew what that was. As my eyes were gradually adjusting to the candlelight, just barely illuminating the hallway, a bolt of lightning flashed behind the window, as if on cue, immediately lighting up what I was looking at.

Corpses. Piles upon piles of corpses. Mostly men, though there were a few women and even young boys visible amidst the decaying carcasses as well. The stench was beyond awful, the sight mortifying; someone with a weaker stomach than I would've lost the contents of their bowels right then and there, yet this sight was depressingly common to me. Amidst the stacked bodies in varying states of decomposition, there were various makeshift weapons, ranging from pitchforks to proper swords, as well as torches long since extinguished. I figured these were the remains of more than one angry mob come to torch the mansion, judging by some corpses seeming relatively fresh, in comparison to others: skeletons nearly picked clean by maggots, rats and other small scavengers and vermin.
Apparently Remilia Scarlet was, indeed, not particularly popular among the villagers... Even though I had seen this very same sight many times before, it never ceased to make my skin crawl. Less out of righteous fury than you'd expect; truth be told, I wasn't particularly fond of other humans either. They viewed those in my business with superstition, barely a hint of gratitude for ridding the world of monsters. I didn't hate them for it, but I didn't love them either. It was easiest that way, for both them and myself. Just passing through, maybe spend a night, kill the vampire, be off again. I did not seek praise from the people for my deeds; that sort of childish ideal had died in me long ago.

More candles burst into flames before my path as I walked further, footsteps echoing through the silence. A neat trick, that, yet hardly original; though, I had always been curious whether the candle thing was an automated magical process, or whether vampires love teasing uninvited guests in such a manner. Who knows. Maybe I could ask Lady Scarlet before exterminating her.

My thoughts were interrupted by what felt like a hand grasping my leg. Dear lord, it wasn't the gate keeper again, was it?

Ah, no. It was just a hand. Literally, just a severed, partially decayed arm, weakly clutching at my boot; I kicked it off and out of my way, grabbing my whip in anticipation of what was surely to come. A smirk slowly spread across my face as I analyzed my surroundings, mentally preparing myself, keeping alert. It was time for the warm-up.

The bodies on the floor were standing up, some more successful in their attempts than others. Their faces, dried and empty of all signs of life, slowly turned to me, dead eyes and empty sockets staring at me. Hundreds of them. Some corpses that were more decayed than others fused themselves together, rotten, decomposed flesh knitting itself together to form an abomination capable of walking; some had three arms, some were half-male half-female. It mattered little, though; all they were was dead flesh. People feel pity for zombies, because they remind us of those we once loved in appearance. Thus, rumors spread that their tormented souls are trapped within their bodies, eternally damned to serve their master's will until they crumble to dust. While it makes for a good story to tell your children before bedtime, in reality zombies are little more than puppets, manipulated through magic as if by strings. There is no mind, no sentience, merely one being's sorcery moving the carcasses out of his or her own will. Controlling this many at the same time... I was impressed. For a brief moment.

A whistle and loud crack resonated through the hallways, blood and pus and other juices spraying forth from the midsections of the row of zombies close to me, before their torsos detached from their legs. The constant decomposition doesn't exactly make them the most durable minions to send against a vampire hunter, as I'm sure you can imagine. A loud moan in a chorus sounds out in response, as an avalanche of the undead began to descend upon me. Well, no use saving it when it's useful... Another bottle of Holy Water goes into action, this time flung through the air in an arc, crashing right into the middle of the horde of zombies, engulfing quite a number of them in sacred flames. I must've taken out a fifth, maybe a fourth of their numbers with that alone, not wasting any time and proceeding to slice through them with the whip while they were busy toppling over one another, setting additional zombies alight.

The downside of zombies being mindless, soulless shells is, of course, that they feel nothing. You can set one on fire, slice off its body parts, and it won't even flinch, nor stop moving for you. This makes them something of a threat, despite them being fragile and slow. Zombie wounds have a nasty tendency of developing serious infections, too, due to the amount of bacteria covering their bodies, especially their mouths; a former colleague of mine ended up with a serious case of tetanus at one point, and that's not even the worst example. Even experienced hunters have died as a result of zombies, due to carelessness towards an enemy so weak. Similar examples can be brought from nature, such as venomous spiders. So small, you could step on them to kill them, yet lethal if they manage to bite you first.

The cross boomerang finally saw some use, as I had managed to get surrounded by a wall of rotten flesh, dozens upon dozens of arms reaching for me, trying to grab me, shred my skin, tear me limb from limb; a high-pitched whizzing sound was heard, alongside intermittent splatter noises, several zombies here and there falling apart as the blade spins through the air, slicing and dicing the walking cadavers into little pieces, before returning to my hand; not an easy thing to catch, I assure you, but it comes to you with experience. More lashes from the whip, I was practically whirling like a dervish, preserving the momentum and force in my attacks, cutting down zombies in droves. This all took much longer than one would expect, as every zombie that fell would fuse itself with whatever intact body parts it could find nearby, before getting back up again... It took some liberal use of Holy Water to finally burn them down to the point where the only moving parts remaining on the floor were twitching fingers and the like.

I had worked up quite a sweat by the time I was finished; as I wiped my brow with the back of my hand, I immediately frowned, discovering I had apparently just smeared zombie juices on my forehead. Eh, no matter... This was not exactly the cleanest job in the world to begin with. Zombies. Why is it always zombies? It's like some sort of rule of thumb for vampire interior design: 'Here we have the entrance hallway, complete with horde of zombies.' It never ceased to amaze me just how consistent such things turned out to be sometimes. As I wandered forth along the overly long hallway, I eventually came to a crossroads: one hallway leading left, the other right, the path in the middle going up a staircase; beside the staircase was another door, its simple design contrasting with the typically vampiric extravagance of the rest of the mansion's interior decoration. Naturally, lots of red everywhere, blood symbolism and all that. Must've been a door to a basement, or dungeon.

Suddenly, I felt like I was being watched. Whip still in hand, I glanced behind myself, just to see if that damnably persistent gate guard had somehow endured having her head nearly cut off; no, nothing. Left and right, nothing either. Was I just being paranoid? No, I was trained better than that...

I looked up into the ceiling, at a very, very large bat hanging upside down, staring back at me with red eyes that glowed in the darkness.

Goddamned bats.



[] The bat?
-{} I ignored it; maybe it'd do the same for me.
-{} Could my whip reach it?
-{} Throwing Axe.
-{} In a fit of insanity, I tried talking to it.

[] And the paths?
-{} Hallway to the left looked as good as any option.
-{} I picked the hallway to the right.
-{} Surely, the vampire would be lurking on one of the higher floors. I chose the stairs.
-{} I was already running somewhat low on supplies and energy. I checked the basement for either weapons, or something edible. Vampires tend to keep human food around for whatever reason.
>> No. 31528
[x] The bat?
-{x} Throwing Axe.

lrn2castlevania.
[x] And the paths:
-{x} I was already running somewhat low on supplies and energy. I checked the basement for either weapons, or something edible. Vampires tend to keep human food around for whatever reason.
need a savepoint.
>> No. 31529
[x] The bat?
-{x} In a fit of insanity, I tried talking to it.
[x] And the paths:
-{x} I was already running somewhat low on supplies and energy. I checked the basement for either weapons, or something edible. Vampires tend to keep human food around for whatever reason.
>> No. 31535
[x] The bat?
-{x} In a fit of insanity, I tried talking to it.
[x] And the paths:
-{x} I was already running somewhat low on supplies and energy. I checked the basement for either weapons, or something edible. Vampires tend to keep human food around for whatever reason.
>> No. 31572
[X] The bat?
-{X} In a fit of insanity, I tried talking to it.
[X] And the paths:
-{X} I picked the hallway to the right.

Are you sure you can take on a Bonus Boss right now? Even if we do kill Flandre, Remilia will be pissed off at us killing her sister, and simply go 'screw the rules' and send everything at us at the same time.
>> No. 31573
>>31572

Metaknowledge bro. According to the info our Vampire Hunter has, his organization isn't even aware of the existence of Flandre.
>> No. 31574
[x] The bat?
-{x} Throwing Axe.
[x] And the paths?
-{x} Surely, the vampire would be lurking on one of the higher floors. I chose the stairs.
>> No. 31578
[x] The bat?
-{x} In a fit of insanity, I tried talking to it.
[x] And the paths:
-{x} I was already running somewhat low on supplies and energy. I checked the basement for either weapons, or something edible. Vampires tend to keep human food around for whatever reason.

Skull talking games.
>> No. 31596
>some were half-male half-female.
Baron Ashura?

[x] The bat?
-{x} In a fit of insanity, I tried talking to it.
[x] And the paths:
-{x} I was already running somewhat low on supplies and energy. I checked the basement for either weapons, or something edible. Vampires tend to keep human food around for whatever reason.
>> No. 31598
File 125355196825.jpg - (50.56KB , 800x600 , 109974_dungeon3d.jpg ) [iqdb]
31598
BGM: "Poison Mind"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ft_U3YqGEL4&fmt=18

----------

The oversized beast and I stared at one another for what felt like minutes, both of us tensed in case the other attempted any form of attack, ready to evade and counter. Or, at least, I assumed as much from the way the thing was maintaining eye contact with me - animals don't usually do such a thing. But then, bats are usually not the size of a small child, either. Furthermore, its fur seemed to have a sort of purplish-blue hue to it, suggesting further supernatural origins. Who knew, maybe it was actually sapient? Inquisitively, it tilted its head at me as I loosened the grip on the handle of the whip... though, concealing something else with my free hand. Prestidigitation is a lovely skill to have in situations like this.

"Hello there." What was I doing? Why, I was talking to a giant animal whose vocal chords were naturally unable to produce human speech, of course. Don't you do utterly silly things when you're tired and stressed, sometimes? Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was wondering if I could 'talk' my way out of yet another fight. Zombies are one thing, but a huge bloodsucker like that? Looked like trouble to me. With curiosity, it blinked at me in response, one eye at a time, twitching its large ears to listen more closely.
"I don't suppose you could tell me where I could find the lady of the mansion? She's got an appointment with a whip." Suddenly, the beast... laughed? It was the only word you could use to describe it, a high-pitched, garbled chortle somewhere between the growl of a wild predator and the amused laugh of a young girl. Suddenly, the beast dived straight down towards me; before I could react, it exploded into a cloud of many, many smaller bats, enveloping me and deafening me with a cacophonic pandemonium of screeches. I covered my face for protection, effectively blinded by the swarm of leathery wings beating all around me anyway, keeping one eye open and trying to figure out what the hell was going on. As soon as the chaos had started, it stopped, the bats converging into a single column, a humanoid silhouette forming, before a flash of light nearly blinded me again; and before me was standing the Scarlet Devil herself, Remilia Scarlet!

"Hm, hm hm hehehehe!" The monster in the shape of a child before me uttered a wicked laugh, baring her fangs to me before covering her mouth with a hand encased in a fingerless long-sleeved velvet glove. She was wearing a light pink - almost white - dress with black and red details, a red sash around her waist. Black stockings with small red shoes. A light pink poofy hat matching her dress, with a large red ribbon tied on one side. All of this accentuated by the large pair of bat wings sprouting from her back, her wingspan wider than she was tall. And... fairly short purplish-blue hair, not long enough to reach her shoulders, framing a pale, sinister face glaring at me with a malicious intent with two large, brightly glowing red eyes, an evil smirk gradually widening into a sadistic grin; and in the blink of an eye, her face returns to a soft, polite smile.
"Saw right through it, didn't you? I must say that I am impressed. Welcome to the Scarlet Devil mansion! I'll be your hostess for the evening; Remilia Scarlet, most pleased to make your acquaintance..."

She effortlessly dodged the silvery throwing axe I had been hiding, leaping a good forty feet through the air backwards and landing on a wall; literally, sticking to the wall as if she were glued there, despite there being nothing to hang on to. The polite, welcoming smile on the fiend's face was still there, unchanged.
"Tsk. And you hadn't even told me your name yet, o mighty hunter. I've been watching you cut a path through my minions for a while now; tell me, what brings you to my humble abode with such murderous intent?"

"Murderous? Quite an amusing thing to hear from a fiend such as yourself, dear lady." I slowly walked over to the axe embedded in the expensive-looking carpeting, yanking it out of the floor and taking aim.
"Now, if you would kindly hold still..."

"Oh? But that would be no fun at all, now would it." She was standing right next to me; when did that happen? I turned around in an instant, swiping through the air with the axe blade, cleaving through nothing; because that was all that was there, nothing. A thoroughly amused giggle echoed through the foyer, the vampiress no longer anywhere in sight; her deviously sweet voice rang out soon after, taunting me with each syllable spoken.
"So bold and brave! And yet so hasty! You hunters are all the same; boring, without substance! But you're fun to watch, somehow... I'll give you a chance to earn the right to face off against me. Accept my challenge, and do battle with me for whatever righteous cause drives you forward! Decline, and leave with your tail behind your legs, before my servants tear you apart and feed you to the rats!"

Suddenly, the large double doors at the top of the stairs swung open.
"At the end of that hallway lies the door to my inner sanctum. It's been sealed with five keys; should you be able to locate all five, you will be able to open the door and face me in combat. Ah, but you already have one of the five, don't you?" Instinctively, I checked my pocket; I still had the key I looted off the gate keeper. So, it served a double function?
"I'll be watching; don't keep me waiting, and don't disappoint me~! AH-HAHAHAHAHAAA!" The overdramatic grandiose megalomaniacal laughter echoed for a good minute longer, as my frown curved the corners of my mouth further and further downwards. There's always a gimmick, always. Elaborate monster arena challenges, mazes full of traps and puzzles, or sealed doors with keys scattered about who knows where. Why do vampires love this shit so much!? It looked like it was going to be a long night... Or a fun night, for her. Not by the end of it; I would be the one to have the last laugh.

For the moment, though, I was more interested in the basement. My somewhat liberal use of holy water and throwing knives so far had left me mildly concerned about whether my equipment would last long enough; I had pictured this as a nice smooth quickly-in, quickly-out operation, and then the goddamned bathead threw some sort of arbitrary and elaborate challenge in my face, just to make my stay longer and my frustration heavier. No matter. I pulled open the heavy, bolted door to the basement, peering down into the darkness cautiously. I wondered why they'd need such a sturdy door, before realizing this passageway probably also lead down to the dungeon. Aside from prisoners, vampires tend to 'collect' exotic creatures and keep them in their dungeons for some reason the church hadn't quite figured out just yet. Maybe for the atmosphere? Nothing says 'dark and evil dungeon' like a bunch of minotaurs lumbering around with huge battleaxes, sniffing about for intruders to cleave in half.

Also, I was hungry. Exterminating unholy beings tends to build up an appetite, you know. For one reason or another, vampires tend to keep human food around; maybe they like to eat it for nostalgic value sometimes, maybe they like to have mortal guests sometimes for amusement, maybe there's no real good reason for it. All I knew was that I was mighty pleased to discover a stash of bread and frozen meat in one of the rooms in the basement. Had I the time and convenience, I would've dug around for more supplies and cooked myself up something nice, but this would have had to do for the time. I even found a stick of fresh butter, and the wine cellar, which I didn't hesitate to plunder. Not that I'd like to promote drinking on the job, but I was not one to turn down a fine red wine. Feeling somewhat refreshed after the meal, and my mood improved considerably, I couldn't help but feel curious about the passage heading down into what I surmised would be the dungeon. Weapons, I came down there for weapons, right? Nothing I could find in the basement store rooms, but perhaps I could incapacitate a guard and steal whatever he had on him.

I quickly came to realize that there were no guards posted at the holding cells, however; and I could see why. The bars were of an enchanted steel, reinforced with black magic to become nigh-unbreakable. Who could Remilia Scarlet be holding down here that would warrant such an investment? While investigating the weapon racks by the walls for anything usable (that is to say, anything un-rusted), I peeked inside each cell I passed by. Most of them had either skeletons gradually turning into a fine powder, or still rotting corpses being fed upon by scores of rats. A few prisoners still seemed to be alive, yet far beyond my capability to help - their limbs almost as thin as bones from starvation, their heads lolled down upon their chests as their minds had died long before their bodies. Some uttered incomprehensible wheezes and mumbles, while others were weakly bashing their skulls against the stone wall in an attempt to end their misery. Most of them had numerous puncture wounds visible on both sides of their necks; apparently the vampire would've needed to restock her private blood bank sometime in the near future.

And yet there was one particular cell that caught my eye, the captive seeming alive and well, the color of her skin still that of a healthy human; and yet, was she human? Something about her struck me as... different. Keeping my motions silent, I tried to examine her more closely, though this was difficult from a distance. I wondered... Who was this? Should I play it safe and leave her be? Or could I possibly gain an ally against the lady of the mansion, if I turned her loose? I sensed something about her. Power. You learn to sense such a thing if you've been in the business long enough. And I could use all the power I could get, in this situation. This could, potentially, be the beginning of a beautiful partnership...



[] She was a blonde woman, wearing a blue dress with a white shawl over her her shoulders, and a red frilly ribbon around her neck. She was cradling what looked like a small doll.
[] She looked like a young red-headed girl, with the notable feature of sporting two large gnarled horns on her head. For some reason, she was chained to the wall by the wrists and her waist.
[] She was a little girl with strangely blue hair, sobbing to herself quietly in the corner of her cell. On her back I could see what appeared to be strange icy crystals in a formation resembling wings.
[] (Other. Pick a default option too, just in case the write-in is unacceptable for whatever reason.)
[] I decided to play it safe and leave her for the moment. I would come back down to release her once the vampire was dead; no point risking her slowing me down.

And...

[] There was a large metal door in the distance which I chose to investigate; I thought I heard clawing from the inside...
[] I headed back out, and took the left path.
[] I headed back out, and took the right path.
[] I headed back out, and took the stairs.



----------

System message: Trevor mode activated. You may choose to gain a companion. Companions can aid you in combat, assist you with puzzles or other obstacles, or even pitch in in conversations; they might even let you access areas you wouldn't be able to on your own. However, while their main purpose will be to aid you, they may prove to be more of a hindrance or liability in certain situations, depending on the companion in question. Each one has their own specialties, but you won't know until you pick them because I'm a dick.
>> No. 31599
[x] She was a blonde woman, wearing a blue dress with a white shawl over her her shoulders, and a red frilly ribbon around her neck. She was cradling what looked like a small doll.

And...

[x] I headed back out, and took the left path.

Alice strikes me as the most dependable and her magic would be a nice back up to our physical might.

And if we had to ever check out the basement, we should do so last.
>> No. 31600
[X] She looked like a young red-headed girl, with the notable feature of sporting two large gnarled horns on her head. For some reason, she was chained to the wall by the wrists and her waist.
[X] There was a large metal door in the distance which I chose to investigate; I thought I heard clawing from the inside...

Oni time is the best time, besides Suika should allow us keep our weapon stocks high.
>> No. 31601
[X] She looked like a young red-headed girl, with the notable feature of sporting two large gnarled horns on her head. For some reason, she was chained to the wall by the wrists and her waist.
[X] There was a large metal door in the distance which I chose to investigate; I thought I heard clawing from the inside...
>> No. 31603
[X] She was a blonde woman, wearing a blue dress with a white shawl over her her shoulders, and a red frilly ribbon around her neck. She was cradling what looked like a small doll.
[X] There was a large metal door in the distance which I chose to investigate; I thought I heard clawing from the inside...

I'm tempted to put in a Flandre write-in, but I know it would never fly, no matter how fun it would be to see Remi's face when we bust in to fight her alongside her sister.
>> No. 31605
[x] She was a blonde woman, wearing a blue dress with a white shawl over her her shoulders, and a red frilly ribbon around her neck. She was cradling what looked like a small doll.
Suika would doubtlessly be more useful, but fuck it, I love Alice.

[x] I headed back out, and took the left path.
Nothing good can come of interacting with Flandre.
>> No. 31606
[X] She looked like a young red-headed girl, with the notable feature of sporting two large gnarled horns on her head. For some reason, she was chained to the wall by the wrists and her waist.
[X] There was a large metal door in the distance which I chose to investigate; I thought I heard clawing from the inside.

Interesting.
>> No. 31607
>>31603
inb4 Flandre is filling the role of Alucard.
>> No. 31609
[x] She was a blonde woman, wearing a blue dress with a white shawl over her her shoulders, and a red frilly ribbon around her neck. She was cradling what looked like a small doll.

We need our Sypha.

Sakuya as Grant

And:
[x] I headed back out, and took the stairs.
>> No. 31741
[X] She was a blonde woman, wearing a blue dress with a white shawl over her her shoulders, and a red frilly ribbon around her neck. She was cradling what looked like a small doll.
[X] There was a large metal door in the distance which I chose to investigate; I thought I heard clawing from the inside...
>> No. 31787
[X] She was a blonde woman, wearing a blue dress with a white shawl over her her shoulders, and a red frilly ribbon around her neck. She was cradling what looked like a small doll.
Fuck yes Alice
[X] There was a large metal door in the distance which I chose to investigate; I thought I heard clawing from the inside...
>> No. 31789
[x] She was a blonde woman, wearing a blue dress with a white shawl over her her shoulders, and a red frilly ribbon around her neck. She was cradling what looked like a small doll.

[x] I headed back out, and took the stairs.
>> No. 31799
[] I had her lead me to the library.
>> No. 31802
[x] I had her lead me to the library.

The sooner we do this, the stronger Alice will be.

I think we did forget about how cold Alice is prone to being.

A problem that Cirno or Suika wouldn't have (though they would have their own problems)

From what i figured.

Suika
Pros: High strength, possible flight, Mist ability, jovial.
Cons: Prone to drinking, bouts of childishness

Cirno
Pros: Eager to help and prove her self, ice abilities, flight
Cons: Very childish, dim, overconfident.
>> No. 31804
[x] I had her lead me to the library.
>> No. 31806
An accurate portrayal of canon Alice? I'm amazed. GJ.
[x] I had her lead me to the library.
Once we get her Grimoire back there's a chance she'll scram and leave us to our fate, but Koakuma/Patchouli evidently hold keys, so we don't really have much choice.
>> No. 31812
File 125365499511.jpg - (114.78KB , 600x652 , 5813c8d8b7e5a6f3b1795b3d5270f2aa.jpg ) [iqdb]
31812
Sage for reposting - noticed a BAD error.

Hope nobody else did. Previous votes still count.

----------

Perhaps being a loner would be my undoing one of these days, is what I thought at the time, considering my options and examining the woman from afar. Was there any particular reason for me always refusing any assistance on my missions? Perhaps there was some sort of inferiority complex - wanting to prove myself as capable despite my youth, that sort of thing. Perhaps I still hadn't gotten over my bout with misanthropy, though at that point I felt more apathetic towards people rather than outright hating them. Why did I even continue such a job, you might ask? A sense of duty? Revenge for the death of a loved one? Who knows... Can you ask the Sun why it continues to rise and fall every day? No, you can't; it simply does this because it doesn't know anything else. Neither did I.

I approached the bars, the woman still not turning her gaze to me, as if I weren't even there. Examining them, they felt unnaturally cold to the touch, glinting darkly as the torchlight hit them. Normally, bars enchanted in such a manner would be nigh-unbreakable... Fortunately for me, I wasn't a particularly normal intruder. Earlier, back in the storage rooms, I had found some empty bottles and water, and expanded my supply of Holy Water by splitting some bottles in half, filling the rest with normal water. I did say Holy Water combusts upon contact with oxygen, but this only happens when it's fresh; if your movements are slow and careful, you can pour it from one container into another after it's stood for a while, and it'll only burst into flames upon receiving a strong impact; such as, say, being smashed against the ground. As this action diluted the strength of the substance considerably, I left a handful of bottles as a higher concentration, for extreme cases - such as this one. Taking a step back, I pulled out a bottle and hurled it at the bars, the bottle shattering and covering the jet-black metal with sacred flames.

The woman finally raised her head to gaze in my direction, holding up a slender hand to shield her eyes from the bright light that suddenly engulfed her cell, the metal bars that once imprisoned her falling apart as if exposed to a particularly caustic acid. This had better have been worth the cost of that bottle, I thought, getting a better look at the captive in the light – an attractive, young-looking woman with short blonde hair with red hairband, wearing a light blue dress and black boots. How unladylike, I thought at the time when my eyes stopped on the boots, yet how practical. At least I wouldn't have ended up having to carry her up stairways. On her shoulders was a white shawl held in place by a pink frilly ribbon around her neck; a matching ribbon was tied around her waist, like a belt. Around her fingers were strange metal rings, clearly not for decorative purposes. The most indescribable feature about this woman, however, were her eyes. Even today I can't quite remember what color they were... Golden? Dark blue? Dark green? Orange? Light green? It was as if they were somehow different each time you looked at her, or changed with her mood...

"Hmph. So, you've come to torture me some more? Would it truly amuse your mistress to such a degree to hear me cry out in torment? I will not give her the pleasure." In hindsight, maybe a heroic vampire hunter would not be the first thing that comes to a prisoner's mind, when a person brandishing many, many knives and a whip suddenly busts into their cell, covered in blood and other filth here and there.

"Actually, I've come to break you out of here."

"Is that so?" Her voice sounded utterly distrustful, the look on her face supplementing this. She stood up slowly, dark green eyes fixated on me at every moment, before gently brushing most of the dust off her dress with her free hand, the other still hanging onto what looked like a small doll. Strange, white cured lines seemed to flicker through the air around her now and then, although I didn't know what to make of it at the time.

"And you would be... who, then? Not yet another witless minion of the lady of the mansion?" I felt a little insulted.

"On the contrary, I'm a vampire hunter."

"Ah, a holy warrior, then? Even worse... Your kind would sooner have me burned at a stake, before rescuing me."

"And you would be..?" She took a polite bow, sending a bitter smirk in my direction.

"Alice Margatroid, the Seven-Colored Puppeteer. Magician."

"A witch, then. As a matter of fact, the church has employed several witches in the past, providing them amnesty for their sins..." This was true. While black magic was considered an evil art, witches were far lower on our threat scale than vampires and the like; at times, one must fight darkness with darkness. I reached out a hand, trying to seem welcoming and non-threatening, her eyes still focusing on the whip on my belt.
"In return for your freedom, I would ask that you join me on my quest to defeat Remilia Scarlet. Do you not wish to have revenge against the one that imprisoned you here?"

"You don't understand, child." What did she just call me..!?
"I am not merely a magician by trade, I am a magician by species." Ah. Like Patchouli Knowledge, then? On the upside, this would mean that she'd be an even more powerful ally than I had anticipated; on the downside, though...
"I know you carry weapons that were designed to slay those of my kind. I can sense them."

-----------

BGM: "Tower of Dolls"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3FsKZZvUPQ

-----------

Suddenly, several small objects blasted out of the corners of the cell, flying past me in a blur, clouds of dust erupting from the weapon racks on the walls behind me; before I could react, I was surrounded by several small dolls brandishing a variety of weapons and torture devices. Sharp-looking ones, too...
"I'm afraid I can't quite trust you; surely you can understand this. I do appreciate you clearing the path back to the outside for me, though... Well then, I suppose this is good bye." Having said this in an inhumanly casual manner, she pointed her hand at me, icy blue eyes staring right at me in a cold and unfeeling manner as her palm began to glow, the dolls keeping me pinned in place.

A bright beam of light erupted from her hand, vaporizing all in its path, including a few of her own dolls; it nearly punched a clean hole right through the wall opposing her cell, too. Unfortunately for her, I had drawn my dagger and sliced through the near-invisible strings connecting the dolls closest to me to the rings around her fingers, the puppets falling to floor lifelessly. So that's what the little white lines were...
Sliding across the floor, right under the destructive beam she had fired at me, I attempted to sweep her legs from under her; she saw me just in time, hovering into the air to avoid me, in response to which I leapt back to my feet, anticipating another attack at any time.

"Talented, aren't you. No matter." Though the cell was small, it was also rather high, allowing her to float just out of reach; behind me, the dolls I had cut down exploded into flames, the noise and shockwaves catching me off-guard as the woman produced more dolls seemingly out of nowhere, manipulating them all at the same time with her magic. Cleavers, swords, some were even holding poking irons which they had managed to heat up somewhere; it made me wonder if the dolls had any degree of autonomy, or if she was truly controlling all of them individually, by herself.

"And yourself? The doll thematics being somewhat childish to a degree, I must say I'm impressed with your ability to multitask..." I said this as I cut the head off a doll that gets too close, narrowly avoiding the attack from its own pair of daggers. As I stepped back, another attempted to cut the legs from under me with an axe that looked far too heavy for the small thing to be wielding with such ease. A quick jump, landing on top of the thing and crushing its delicate frame, kicking it aside. Two more latch onto my arms, the scent of smoke alarming me to the lit wicks on their heads, rapidly burning; remembering the ones that exploded earlier, I ripped them off, tiny fingernails leaving scratches on my skin - they certainly were detailed, weren't they? - and flung them back at their own master, who gracefully avoided the small explosions in mid-air.

"...Hmph!" More dolls with bladed weapons came from all sides; I drew the whip, delivering wide, arcing lashes all around myself, made more difficult by the tight space and the whip itself getting tangled in the doll strings occasionally; looking up at the dollmaster, I saw neither the rage of battle nor the amusement of sadism on her face, but simply a focused expression, eyes concentrating on me and me alone, her control of the dolls being all but subconscious, as if they were extensions of her own limbs, of her will. Each doll that fell was quickly replaced, though I knew she would have to run out eventually... Fighting small, flying objects like these was incredibly tiresome and difficult, especially in such a tight space. I would have to go for their master, again. Putting away the dagger and pulling out a throwing knife, I spotted what I thought was an opening and hurled it at the woman; a doll sacrificed itself, diving in front of the blade which impaled it, the puppet falling to the ground, now useless. On the upside, this distracted her; apparently she hadn't anticipated how incapacitating the effect of silver weaponry would be on her dolls, powered by black magic. As her eyes darted from me onto the falling doll, I reached my hand into a pocket, clicking the button on the stopwatch.

Just before it hit the floor, the doll froze in mid-air, as did everything else aside from myself. The effect would not last long, however - I would have to make use of this window of opportunity immediately. Leaping as high as I could, I kicked off one of the floating dolls to propel myself higher; high enough to catch the woman by the leg with my whip. Just as it coiled around her ankle, time resumed, that low crashing sound threatening to burst my eardrums once again just as my weight yanked the witch down from the air, sending her crashing against the floor with me in a rather painful-seeming manner.

"...Agh... Alright, alright. I yield, you're more capable than you seem at first. I'll go quietly..."

"I already told you I wasn't here to kill you. I need your help."

"My help?" She looked at me, incredulous, her eyes a light green in tone this time.
"I already failed against the vampire once. A second time, and she'd have my head - I'd rather you either let me go or put me out of my misery before lady Scarlet takes her sweet time torturing me to death."

"Well, you'd have me to fight with, this time... Come on, let me help you up." I offered her my hand, which she didn't hesitate to accept, standing up and cleaning off her dress once again.
"So, how did you even end up here in the first place? I thought Remilia Scarlet only antagonized humans."

"Then you are naive and a fool. As for myself... I came here to offer the lady of the mansion my services."

"Your services?" She nodded, a grim look of hatred on her face as her eyes turned nearly black in tone.

"Her minions would ransack my dwelling in the forest along the way, whenever she sent them to gather victims from the village. Knowing myself to be no match for the vampire and her servants, I thought I could get in her good graces. She contracted me to construct for her a guardian - an unstoppable golem."

"So what happened then?" I asked, my back turned to her as I stepped out of the cell to look around, trying to decide which way to go.

"Tch. What do you think?" Her voice sounded understandably annoyed and frustrated, light footsteps approaching me from behind.
"I finished my greatest creation, my magnum opus, and my usefulness to her reached its end. I've been locked up in here ever since." She walked up beside me, glancing the other way, towards the stairs leading out of the dungeon, whereas I was more attracted to the large metal door in the distance; I heard some strange noises from behind it, I was certain of it.
"I do wonder how she intended to animate it, though... Even I have no completely figured out how to create an autonomous artificial lifeform just yet. Controlling such a creature through willpower alone would be quite a burden for the mage in question."

"There's a rather talented wizard in Remilia Scarlet's service, you know. Have you met her?"

"Patchouli Knowledge?" She turned to face me, eyes now a warmer, more neutral golden tone, no longer studying me as if I were a rat or some other form of vermin.
"I have heard of her, yet I've never seen her. Nor do I look forward to the prospect of meeting such a being, either..."

"Too bad. Apparently, the vampire's inner sanctum has been sealed off with five keys. I already have one, which I looted off the gate guard, yet I suspect the four others are kept by her other servants, Patchouli Knowledge among them."

"And what does all this have to do with me? I never agreed to help you, did I?" I sighed, tiredly.

"Look. Leave now, and the vampire will eventually find you and kill you, this time. Stay and help me, and we have twice the odds of destroying her for good. Then you can go home, I can go home, we'll never see each other again, and your life will be a whole lot less stressful. So... what do you say?" I extended my hand toward her as a friendly gesture. Youkai or not, inhuman or not, I did not sense the taint of evil upon her, that radiated from the lady of the mansion when I first met her in the foyer. She matched my earlier sigh, shaking my hand, her delicate hand having quite the firm grip. Unusual for a spellcaster, her skin had the feel of a person who works with their hands, probably from assembling those exquisitely made gunpowder-filled puppets. The attention to appearance for something meant to be sacrificed in battle seemed somewhat wasteful, though.

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend... I suppose. Fine then; lead the way, hunter." The lightest hint of a smile spreads across her lips, the coldness in her orange eyes all but vanished.
"Do you have any idea where we'd find these keys, then? I didn't have the opportunity to become awfully familiar with the layout of the mansion during my stay, aside from the library..."

"The library sounds like as good of a place to start as any, I suppose; but first... That door in the distance. Something about it is just..." Trailing off, I walked towards the door; it sounded like something sharp, like knives, was being dragged across the metal surface on the inside. No, not knives... Claws. Something, or someone, was locked behind that door, and it was compelling me to investigate. As I got closer, I noticed some sort of golden seal with a keyhole in the middle; the seal was patterned after a bat, with two snakes entwining themselves uner it in a helix pattern, the three creatures centered around the keyhole. Out of curiosity, I tried the key I got off the gate guard, to no effect.

"Strange, she didn't mention another sealed door... This one only has one, though. I wonder what's behind it?"

"Curiosity killed the cat, you know. Perhaps it would be wiser to focus on the vampire you're here to slay? Let's just-..."

"Hang on already. I just..." I pressed my ear against the door, leaning against it with my hands; I swore I heard a voice from inside. Another prisoner, perhaps? It sounded like the voice of a young girl, chanting something... It sounded like some sort of perverse nursery rhyme.

"...Lizzy Borden took an axe..."
More scraping and clawing.
"...gave her mother forty whacks..."
A childish giggle interrupted the rhyme for just a moment.
"When she saw what she had done..."
Silence; in hindsight, I should have pulled away right then and there.
"...she gave her father forty-ONE!"
The last word came out as a crazed shriek, but I couldn't recoil fast enough; something impacted against the door, sending me flying past Alice, falling onto my back and adding several more bruises to my already impressive collection. What was worse, however, was the fact that the top layer of skin on my left hand was marred by a serious burn wound; where it was leaning, there was a dent in the door, glowing a dim red from heat, as if someone had been taking a blowtorch to it. Good thing it wasn't my whip hand, I told myself in a vain attempt to cheer myself up, grasping my wrist and staring at the still sizzling skin of my palm.

"Ssssssshhhhhit."

"There, you see? I told you not to poke around places you have no business with. Hang on..." Alice grabbed the shawl around her neck, ripping out a strip of cloth and wrapping it around my hand, making me flinch from the pain.
"Don't be such a child about it, now..."

"You try saying that when you're the one with a second-degree burn on your palm." She merely smirked in response, eyes turning a calming shade of light blue. This woman, who just tried to kill me, was now radiating some sort of motherly warmth, tending to my injury.

"Maybe we should head back to the village and have that looked at..."

"No time. Just remind me to look before I leap, next time." Rolling her eyes at me, she followed me out of the dungeon, and the basement. What was that weird nursery rhyme about..? And what could've possibly caused the impact producing such a dent in the door, and that heat? I figured I might find out soon enough, but for the moment I was more interested in examining the door to Remilia Scarlet's inner sanctum. Alice and I headed up the stairs, walking down the long hallway illuminated by nothing but candlelight in silence, eventually coming to a stop before a magnificent large set of double doors, an elaborate system of locking mechanisms keeping it shut. Five seals similar to the ones on the door in the basement, with keyholes in the middle.

A star, with a lion and chinese dragon grasping it and looking at one another with furious faces.

A pentagram, with six bat wings sprouting from its sides, three on each side, and a heart in the middle.

A halfmoon suspended above an open tome.

A clock dial.

And two large hands suspended above a humanoid shape.

"Can you make heads or tails of this?" I asked the witch accompanying me, studying the door just to make absolutely sure I couldn't just ram through it and skip the vampire's obstacle course. Yep, it was sturdy enough to endure a nuclear explosion.

"Obviously, the vampire wants you-..."

"Us."

"...-us to defeat her servants and gather the keys. The images on the seals should hint at who the respective servants holding the keys would be..." She pointed at the halfmoon above the tome.
"This would be Patchouli Knowledge, the master librarian. I don't know about the others..."

"The star is probably the gate guard, Hong Meiling. I already have her key, but I doubt it'd be of any use without the other four."

"Well then," she responded, eyes shifting back into a golden tone as she peered at me from the corner of one eye, "where should we start?"

"Tell me again, how much do you know about the layout of the mansion?"

"Not a lot." Turning away from the door, she pointed back down the corridor we just came through.
"The hallway to the left on the first floor leads to the Alchemy Lab, where I constructed the golem. I don't know where the hallway to the right goes." Turning to the left, pointing down another hallway heading off into the distance, she continued. "This way is the library. Speaking of which... I wonder if my grimoire is still in the lab, or whether that wizard has taken it for her book collection by now. Hmph."

"Grimoire?"

"A magical tome of mine; without it, my powers are somewhat limited." I felt even more impressed at this woman; if she was fighting me in the dungeon without being at full strength, I didn't dare imagine what she would be like if she had that grimoire of hers.
"You're the leader, here, so the choice is yours."



[] I had her lead me to the library.
[] We headed back down, taking the left hallway to the Alchemy Lab.
[] We headed back down, taking the right hallway.
[] I noticed more stairs heading upward, at the end of the hallway heading opposite of the library.



-----------

System message: Alice has joined your party. Alice is a magician, specializing in magical offense, and a manipulator of dolls. She can also fly. Dolls may allow you to trigger traps, interact with switches too far to reach yourself, or scout an area safely. The dolls are filled with gunpowder, and may blow up weaker walls, or even reveal secrets. Naturally, they may also blow up enemies. Alice's personality is somewhat cold and collected, though she is not a completely heartless being. Her goal is to recover her mystical grimoire and escape the mansion with her life; gaining revenge on Remilia Scarlet and dismantling the golem she created would only be a bonus for her.
>> No. 31819
[x] I had her lead me to the library.
>> No. 31820
[x] I had her lead me to the library.

I hadn't realized Judgment had a Tower of Dolls remix.
>> No. 31847
[x] I had her lead me to the library.
>> No. 31848
[x] I had her lead me to the library.
We need her to power up ASAP. Afterwards, if we didn't meet her in the library (something tells me that only one NPC will be on each door) we can go for Koakuma: easy pick.
Finally, we should head on to the alchemy area... avoiding Sakuya for as long as possible would be the wisest choice, we need more exp (err, I mean, more 'knoweldge regarding Gensokyan monsters warfare') and items to stand a chance against her.
>> No. 31861
File 125390155682.jpg - (51.83KB , 750x541 , axearmor.jpg ) [iqdb]
31861
"The library it is then. You need to get that book of yours back, right?" Hesitantly, she gave me a light nod. I was just trying to be nice, yet I could still sense mistrust within her. Well, I couldn't really blame her, now could I? Carrying that much silver around on me, my very presence must've felt unnerving to her. In the back of my mind, I found myself wondering - if she got her grimoire back, would she escape on her own and leave me to my fate? Well, if her willingness to aid me was that weak, it would have been good riddance in any case. If not, I would simply have a stronger ally - a win-win situation, when viewed from such an angle, would you not agree? This same reasoning led me to have her guide me down the path she pointed out, towards the great magical library of the Scarlet Devil mansion - the Voile.
Now, I hope I'm not making it sound like we simply waltzed through the hallways without any interference; oh no.

Necromancy and demonology are the favored arts of vampires.

"It's still a ways off..." she said to me, leading me down this maze of corridors, no logic nor sense of design in the layout of the mansion's unending hallways.
"Tell me, though... You are clearly not Japanese. What brings you all the way to Gensokyo, just to hunt down one vampire? Surely, there are many others like her in the outside world..." Ah, the woman had taken an interest in me? In the sense that one would take an interest in a strange animal, or an eccentric weirdo. I was an anomaly, a nonsensical existence, in her eyes. Truly, what was my motivation? It's not like I was doing it for some sort of massive paycheck, after all.

"...Who knows. Maybe I'm running from my past? Or... chasing after it." Ask a silly question, get a silly answer; Alice, obviously, did not seem satisfied with my made-up-on-the-spot riddle of a response, yet she didn't press the topic further, her eyes turning a dull grey as her gaze shifted back into the unending depths of the corridor; she turned left, and I followed.
"And yourself? You definitely don't seem like you're from around here... Your name, your appearance."

"Hm... Where was I originally from, you ask?" She sent a pensive glance into the ceiling, and we walked a good distance in total silence, before taking the next turn right.
"...It's all a haze. I'm sorry," she gave me a mild smile, "I suppose I've forgotten about such things by now. Us youkai... We tend to live in the present, without clinging to our pasts."

"Hm. How did that saying go... 'Those who do not look to the past, have no future'?"

"A human saying, created by humans to apply to humans."

"Ssh." I silenced her, holding an arm out in front of her as I stealthily peeked around the next corner. My ears did not lie; what I had heard was a patrol of guards. Their steps heavy, metallic... Two large, extremely bulky suits of armor, one carrying a humongous axe with a curved blade, the other wielding a massive spiked ball-and-chain. They looked slow, they didn't look agile at all... And yet they were obviously in our way, patrolling in our general direction. The leather whip didn't seem like it'd be of much use against such a thick layer of armor, despite the holy magic contained within, or...

I heard a low grunt from one of them, as it stopped in front of a small doll, the two automatons staring at one another; a strange sight reminiscent of David and Goliath, the tiny puppet and the huge animated suit of armor looking up and down at each other, respectively. Then I noticed the burning wick on top of the doll's head; unfortunately for the animated armor, it failed to notice it. The doll suddenly lunged for its leg, clinging on to it tightly right before it exploded, sending the now one-legged guardian armor toppling over, off balance, flailing its axe through the air clumsily as it uttered a deep moan, attracting the attention of the ball-and-chain wielding one; as it turned its back to us to look to its disabled brother, Alice wasted no time in seizing the advantage, leaping out from behind the corner and firing a destructive beam of light at it.

As the smoke cleared, an axe suddenly came flying out of the dust cloud created by the beam impacting with the suit of armor, catching both of us off-guard; before I could do anything, it spun past us at high speed like some sort of ridiculously heavy, aerodynamically impossible boomerang, barely missing me and narrowly grazing Alice, making her flinch as it cut a small gash in her left arm. We managed to get out of the way as it suddenly came flying back, the one-legged axe armor catching it back in its metallic grip. The other one had a massive hole going through its back and chest, the edges still glowing a bright orange from the heat, yet it turned around with an unintelligible grunt, lifting the chain above its head and beginning to spin it around at an alarmingly increasing speed.

"Get back!" I grabbed Alice, pulling her back behind the corner as the spiked ball crashed into the wall behind where we were just standing, leaving a huge crater. Another disembodied grunt was heard, as the ball was slowly dragged back to its owner, the spikes leaving gashes in the carpeting and floor underneath.

"We should lure it here. This hallway isn't as wide, it wouldn't have enough space to swing that weapon around." I nodded to Alice's suggestion, peeking out from behind the corner; the armor was standing there, staring in my general direction expectantly, completely oblivious to the hole in its chest, and the other one was still trying to get back up, impossible for such a bulky and heavy creature when it was missing one leg. Drawing one of the rebound knives I had been saving up until then, I flung it at the wall, watching it bounce out of sight until a loud CLANK was heard, followed by a hollow moan. Peeking behind the corner yet again, I saw the suit walking towards us at a steady, aggressive pace, dragging the spiked ball behind itself, with a knife jutting out of its helmet.

"Here it comes..." Alice was already preparing another spell before I could even prompt her, her eyes a dark green tone and her face oddly calm for the situation. The moment the armor came into sight, it lost an arm as another beam blasted through its metal like a hot knife through butter. It was not its main hand, however, as it simply kept walking without pause, lifting the chain above its head and beginning to spin it yet again; or, trying to. There was barely enough space for the bulky thing to even walk in this corridor, let alone swing about a giant spiked ball as large as its own torso. I couldn't help but wonder what sorts of creatures these hollow animated suits were even meant for, since they were far larger than any man I had ever seen.
As it was effectively inhibiting its own already-slow movement by uselessly trying to swing that ball around, I seized the opportunity, running towards it and leaping into the air, delivering a flying kick to its helmet. Since my actual intention had been to knock it over onto its back, I hadn't expected the helmet to simply come off from the impact, thus I just barely managed to roll into a proper landing behind it; turning around, I could see that I had apparently managed to blind the thing, as it suddenly dropped its oversized weapon, flailing about wildly. Through the hole in its chest, I could see Alice preparing another doll, tossing it right into the thing's chest cavity; wasting no time, I pulled out the whip and snared its legs together, causing it to fall over with a pathetic low roar. I just barely managed to get out of the blast radius before the suit exploded with a loud groan, spraying bits of plating and shrapnel everywhere, covering my exposed arms with small cuts and bruises as I defended myself from the flying debris.

"Nicely done." The witch stepped over the smoldering remains of the animated armor, as cool and collected as ever, though offering me a mild smile as if she were praising me. I noticed her arms were injured by the explosion as well, and her dress was torn in places by the sharp metal pieces, yet she didn't seem to mind too much. And I had been worried she'd be a whiny helpless crybaby of a girl, too.

"There's still one more to take care o-..." Before I could finish the sentence, she grabbed me and pulled me down against the floor, a huge axe flying into the wall above us just a fraction of a second after. It would seem that the axe armor had managed to crawl its way to the corner, and hurled its weapon at me, hoping for a cheap kill. The axe now embedded in the wall, leaving the thing unarmed and rather helpless, we disposed of it rather quickly, reducing it to a condition not much more impressive than that of its partner.
"You've done this before, haven't you?" The magician woman merely responded with another light smile, eyes turning back to a light blue tone. I couldn't help but glance at the wound in her left arm, wondering if she was going to be alright. Granted, she did say she wasn't human... Perhaps this was merely a minor injury for her kind. In any case, she didn't show any signs of feeling any pain; maybe some discomfort, but nothing more than that.

---------

BGM: Wood Carving Partita
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__T2V0RUB1E

---------

Those two turned out to be the door guards for the Voile itself; wounded and somewhat tired as we were, I couldn't help but forget those superficial annoyances and be impressed by the sight that lay before me once we opened the gargantuan double doors. At first, it almost felt as if I were looking upon a model of a cityscape, before I realized it was actually a two-storey library stretching out further than the eye could see, gigantic bookcases reaching towards the ceiling. Surely, there must have been thousands upon thousands of books contained within here; a true shame they were only for the private enjoyment of one Patchouli Knowledge, the wizard we appeared to be hunting for the moment. I didn't exactly have anything in particular against miss Knowledge, nor was she included as an objective in my mission, but if she held a key to Remilia Scarlet's sanctum she would have to find herself on my hit list, unfortunate as that may have been. Alice seemed equally as stunned by the sight, if not more so.
"I thought you'd been here before?"

"I have. Yet, doesn't it still amaze you? All the knowledge that must be gathered here... It'd take several lifetimes to absorb it all..." Glancing at me for a moment, she added: "...even for one such as myself."

"Well, I'm sure the wizard won't be having any need for these books once we're done with her. You could probably bring some of them along once we leave the mansion." While maintaining idle conversation, I glanced about, trying to navigate within the dark, poorly-lit labyrinth of bookcases; it seemed larger than the human village itself, and Patchouli Knowledge could have been anywhere in there.

"I'm only interested in my grimoire for the moment." A somewhat snappy response, but I didn't try to push her further. I was far too busy getting slowly frustrated with just how freaking huge the place was. How were we supposed to find the damnable sorceress?

"Say, how many of those dolls do you have left?" I didn't bother asking her where she actually -kept- the things.

"Plenty. Why?"

"I think we're going to need you to scout the place for us. Unless, of course, you'd have any idea where the wizard could be?" She shook her head, instead producing several dolls seemingly out of nowhere, gently planting them on the floor. Next thing I knew, she closed her eyes, holding out her hands and waving them about, moving her fingers; the dolls sprang to life, rushing off in different directions; one north, one east, one west, one northeast, one northwest. It took a while, but eventually she opened her eyes again, beginning to summon her dolls back to us.
"Found anything?"

"The path to the north stretches further than my strings reach. The northwest path seemed to be a dead end, barely even guarded. The northeast path was heavily guarded for some reason, and..." She pulled up one of the strings; it had been severed, the doll lost to us. One soft sight later, she continued.
"The western path led to a room sealed off by a metal grate, with a door and lever inside. The eastern path lead to a set of stairs going up to the second storey of the library, though my doll couldn't reach all the way up the staircase."

"I see. And the guards?"

"Scattered about, here and there. As I said, the highest concentration is to the northeast. Various kinds of undead, and... what looked like tiny little hunched-over men, hopping about from bookshelf to bookshelf. A rather bizarre sight..."

"Ugh, those things."

"Hmm?"

"Nevermind. Hmph, which way could she possibly be... I'd rather not spend any more time in this maze of a library than we have to; we're likely to get lost or something." She merely responded with a smirk, glancing about herself.



[] West.
[] Northwest.
[] North.
[] Northeast.
[] East.
[] Let Alice decide.
[] Up the bookcases for a better view!
>> No. 31862
[X] Northeast.
Heavily guarded areas are there for a reason also
>what looked like tiny little hunched-over men, hopping about from bookshelf to bookshelf
I fucking hate frogmen.
>> No. 31863
[x] Up the bookcases for a better view!

hahaha, why does this sound so familiar
>> No. 31864
[X] Northeast.

Fleamen. Annoying little buggers.
>> No. 31865
[x] West
We're going to have to pull that lever at some stage. If the metal grate is actually going to stop us from entering the room, then:
[x] East
Up to the second floor to look around. Given Patchouli's intelligence, I wouldn't put it past her to use decoy tactics by heavily guarding an unimportant area. Then again, I'm probably overthinking things.
>> No. 31866
[x] East

Looking here first wouldn't hurt.
>> No. 31868
>>31865
[x] West
We're going to have to pull that lever at some stage. If the metal grate is actually going to stop us from entering the room, then:
[x] East
Up to the second floor to look around. Given Patchouli's intelligence, I wouldn't put it past her to use decoy tactics by heavily guarding an unimportant area. Then again, I'm probably overthinking things.

Hey, if you're wrong, no harm done. There isn't a time limit and this area seems to be lightly to no guarded so... We might even find something useful.
>> No. 31878
Tied between west and northeast?
>> No. 31889
>>31878
Not anymore! West wins! The west always wins!
>> No. 31895
[x]>>31868
>> No. 31983
West it is. Will update when I get around to it... Could be tomorrow, could be a week from now. I need to work up the energy to do two updates in one day again, since I'm focusing on GH over this.
>> No. 32018
File 125502598484.jpg - (30.32KB , 152x310 , 329ef821929475395444752d1f3167d9.jpg ) [iqdb]
32018
>> No. 32045
McCoy only ever comes out when a particular story gone for a month or more without updates, and usually signifies that it's technically dead/abandoned.
>> No. 32049
>>32018
More importantly, where did you get that picture? Sa interesting.
>> No. 32076
So I take it that you've given up on this due to your McCoy picture that you yourself posted? Am I right Taisa?
>> No. 32077
>>32076
IRC makes him crazy, have to sit back and wait.
>> No. 32079
I won't say I've given up; I'll just say not to expect an update to this one anytime soon. I did mention several times that GH takes priority; if I only have the time and energy for one story for a while, it'll be that one.
But no, humorous/non-humorous pictures aside, I'm not calling this -dead-. After all, I wouldn't know -when- I'll feel well enough to start updating both again. Could be tomorrow, could be a month from now. Who knows.
>> No. 32254
File 125684690867.jpg - (52.42KB , 375x455 , eHunchback.jpg ) [iqdb]
32254
Having mulled over the potential risks involved in any of the paths presented before us, I eventually came to a decision.
"West it is, then. That room with the lever definitely seems worth checking out, wouldn't you agree?"

As I started walking in the direction specified, glancing about my surroundings warily so as not to get taken off-guard by whatever guardians may be wandering about the library, Alice quickly rushed to my side, before matching my speed and watching my back.
"You want to check it out, despite the room being sealed off by a metal grate? I hope you can transform into mist or something, because it really didn't look like we could get inside... Don't touch that." I pulled my hand back just before my fingertips could reach some books on the shelf beside me, my eyes just barely making out a barely visible, translucent energy field surrounding the mystical tomes; probably some sort of security measure.

“For all we know, she could've hidden herself away in the room behind that grate. And besides..." I said, rubbing my palms together in anticipation, before cracking my knuckles much to my companion's apparent discomfort, "don't you find such oddities interesting? A strange, sealed-off room in a library... I know I'm dying to know what's inside. There's got to be a switch somewhere that lets you inside, right?"

"And I had thought you to be a person focused on your primary task. Do we really have the time to go exploring every nook and cranny of the mansion?" She didn't look particularly pleased with my choice, although she wouldn't overly protest against it either. Then, she looked to me with narrowed eyes, a hint of a smirk dancing across her lips, her eyes a pale green in hue.
"And what if the lever inside the room is what operates the grate preventing us from entering? Have you thought about that possibility?"

"Well, if that turns out to be the case, then it'll just be a short waste of time-... Duck." She moved out of the way just in time for my throwing knife to slice through a lock of her hair; a minor sacrifice for her, as the blade continued along its path through the air, right into the chest of a tiny little hunchbacked man, mid-pounce in an attempt to attack Alice with what appeared to be a rather oversized dagger for such a small creature. Furthermore, it knocked the little beast back, pinning it to one of the bookcases, leaving it dangling there, kicking and screaming with a grotesque screeching voice, until it finally croaked once, red bubbles of blood bursting from its cracked lips, and falling limp.

And dropping the dagger with an excessively loud CLANG.

"Shit!" we both uttered in unison, in a hushed tone; not that it did us any good, mind you, since I could already hear the gleeful, unintelligible grunts, and the rhythmic hopping noises, amplifying and increasing in frequency, coming towards us from behind.

"...We should probably run."

"Agreed." The lady kept her cool in the situation rather nicely, and for this I was grateful, sprinting off in our intended direction with her following closely behind; in hindsight, I figure she could've outrun me, being a youkai, although I wasn't exactly a poor runner myself. Our stalkers, of course, had the advantage of not having to circumnavigate the countless bookcases along our path, instead choosing to hop along the tops, giggling wildly and screeching directions to one another in some sort of incoherent demonic tongue. Or maybe those were really nothing more than animalistic barks, I never did figure that out; what was important to me at the time was avoiding the pack of flea-like men chasing after us. Left here or right? This way or that way? Having never been in the Voile before, I felt rather directionally challenged; Alice seemed far too busy keeping her dress from getting in the way to properly figure out the path we should take, as well, assuming she'd even been to that section of the library, considering it was the size of a moderate village. Sure enough, lady luck had chosen to abandon us for the time being, and we found ourselves in an inexplicably placed dead end, stuck between three bookcases and a wave of murderous hobbits closing in on us, brandishing rather painful-looking rusty blades and equally sharp-seeming toothy grins on their misshapen faces. Soon enough, we were completely stuck, glinting little eyes peeking at us even from up above, on the ledges of the bookcases.

"This doesn't look good," I blurted out, trying to gauge how many of the damned things had gathered around us; as the ones blocking out escape path were starting to pile up on one another, the number seemed to be far from small.

"As if I hadn't noticed. Do you have a plan?" Alice and I were standing back to back, with me facing the path between the bookcases and her staring up at the ones waiting to lunge at us from above.

"...You keep the ones up there busy. I'll clear us a path. Stay close."

"Got it."

"And try to keep the lightshow to a minimum, okay?" I heard her chuckle softly behind me, as I gripped the handle of the whip, keeping my other hand ready for-...

"GREEEHEEHEEEEE!"

Always let the enemy make the first move.

The little dwarf was immediately silenced as a throwing axe embedded itself into its throat and chest, altering its trajectory to the point where it flew into the other ones, knocking them over like bowling pins, giving me the chance I had been waiting for. As I rushed in with the whip, I felt the tingle of blood spraying onto me from above; sending a passing glance upwards, I spotted a small army of dolls battling the flea men, incapacitating them with magical attacks, skewering them with their own stolen weapons, often with three or more dolls ganging up on a single flea man, gracefully evading their attacks as Alice manipulated their movements with a grim focus, constantly backpedaling after me as I lashed left and right, my whip already soaked with the vile blood of the damnable little monsters. Not to say that I was killing a lot of them, oh no; the cursed things kept bouncing out of the way, left and right, hopping onto bookshelves and kicking themselves away before the whip could strike them, mocking me with their mobility and erratic movement. Gritting my teeth in fury, I decided to simply focus on getting them to keep their distance, and make sure none of them reached Alice, whose back was turned in their direction, the woman being focused on preventing an overhead ambush. At least her combat strategy was more successful in killing the things. To be honest, though, I had a bad feeling about the whole situation; despite our constant, slow movement, the fleamen kept drawing closer, forming a circle around us, some of them even managing to penetrate Alice's defenses, prompting me to defend her with my off-hand dagger from behind, while simultaneously focusing on the ones in front of us. In desperation, I reached for a certain something in one of my pockets, beginning to quickly utter a silent, rapid series of prayers; not that I'm a particularly religious person, mind you, but some of the weapons provided by the church tend to operate through holy words or gestures. Continuing to whip aside murderous halflings with one hand and fumbling the device with the other, I eventually pulled Alice closer and threw my coat over her.

"What are you-... They're coming!"

"...Oremus. Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui gloriosae Virginis Matris Mariae corpus et animam, ut dignum Filii tui habitaculum effici mereretur, Spiritu Sancto cooperante praeparasti: da, ut cuius commemoratione laetamur; eius pia intercessione, ab instantibus malis, et a morte perpetua liberemur. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen!"

As I uttered the last word, the rosary in my hands snapped, the prayer beads scattering all over the floor, bouncing in all directions, into the pack of bloodthirsty little man-creatures surrounding us; of course, they didn't think much of me throwing marbles at them, so they merely ignored them and lunged for us, finding us to be defenseless.

Then I pressed down on the small gem in the center of the crucifix, and an all-consuming bright white light emanated from each of the beads scattered on the floor, blinding us all; except Alice, hidden beneath my coat.

...

"Well, that takes care of that, I guess." I let Alice go, eyeing the sizzling carcasses of the fleamen that weren't completely vaporized by the blast of holy energy. My companion wrinkled her nose at the stench, glancing at me with eyes such a dark green in shade that they nearly appeared black.

"...I don't suppose you have any more of those on hand, do you?" She brushed off her dress, frowning at the bloodstains here and there.

"Only two more. I had completely forgotten about them, too... I guess that's what happens when you have tools too useful and rare to actually use in most situations, eh?" She responded with little more than a shrug, and we continued onwards.

"...I thought you said to keep the lightshow to a minimum?"

"Well, there's a limit to that sort of thing; after all, we wouldn't want to die in any case, now would we?"

"True enough. Ah, but... What do we do with this, then?" She stopped, pointing at a metal grate before us. The holes between the metal bars were large enough to see through, yet too small to stick anything larger than an arm through. The room was more of a brick alcove between bookcases, seeming rather out of place at first glance, a metal door inside with a lever beside it. The grate seemed to be designed to mechanically slide into the floor somehow, yet I could not find a visible switch anywhere.

"...Hm. I don't suppose you could send your dolls inside and have them pull the lever?"

"I could try." With that, she produced a number of dolls - where she kept them or their weapons remains a mystery to me to this day - and sent them forth, the miniature replicas of little girls crawling through the holes in the grating with nimble grace, scurrying over to the lever and gripping onto it as a team, all together... And pulling. And pulling, and pulling, yet to no avail; Alice herself pulled on their strings, yet stopped after a short while, sighing softly, before turning her cool, light blue eyes to me.
"Impossible. You'd need to be strong as an ogre to pull that lever. It's either rusted to the point of near-uselessness or designed to be used by stronger beings than my dolls; if I pulled any harder, I would merely snap their strings."

"Damn it... So this ended up being a waste of time after all."

"Can't you use that liquid of yours again?"

"No. This metal isn't enchanted with black magic... It wouldn't have any effect on it."

"Hmm." The witch examined the grate with me for a short while, before demanding my attention yet again.
"So, what was your second choice of direction?"

"Eh... Northeast it is, then."

"You mean the most heavily-guarded part of the library? A curious choice." We started walking, regardless.

"Well, they're probably guarding something important, wouldn't you think so?"

"Or it could be a diversion. Or a trap." The golden-eyed woman sent me a light smirk, as if teasing me for my carelessness.

"Possibly. But if we're careful, we just might find a clue, even if it is a trap."

"Lead the way, then."

-----------

(Part 1 of 2.)
>> No. 32256
Go on please.
>> No. 32258
File 125685734391.jpg - (351.68KB , 795x1100 , SkeletonWarrior.jpg ) [iqdb]
32258
Much better. With most of the flea men guarding the library dead, getting around was significantly easier for us, the only sounds echoing through the massive library being our quiet footsteps.
"Hmm... This way." Alice gestured towards a seemingly random path that looked the same as any other, so I naturally trusted and followed her. After all, she'd been to the library before. A few times, before being thrown into the dungeon. Speaking of the dungeon, I figured I ought to examine it further at some point; surely it would go deeper underground, wouldn't it? Vampires have this odd habit of tossing their enemies into their dungeons without a thorough removal of their weapons and other items, so you tend to stumble upon the most unexpected things in them; mystical swords, ancient artifacts and other items of power. Traps, too, of course, and starving, discarded minions.

Suddenly, I noticed something from behind the next bookcase; holding my arm in front of Alice to stop her from moving, I cautiously peeked out, examining what turned out to be an animated skeleton sorting books on a shelf. It would not be much of a threat; animated skeletons are prone to breaking easily, their bones usually kept together with artificial methods, such as screws or magic. Their lack of muscles and other such features means they're essentially nothing more than soulless puppets, completely controlled by the sorcerer that raised them. Taking a chance based on gut instinct, I stepped out from behind the bookcase, approaching the skeleton. Alice was not amused.

"What are you doing..?"

"Sssh." The skeleton completely ignored my presence, continuing to sort books in a mechanical, systematic manner, its motions always the same. I waved my hand in front of where its face used to be, to no reaction. So, this one had automated magic bound into it. An efficient method for getting work done around the library, though taxing on the magician who controls the skeleton; unless... I reached my hand into its rib cage, feeling around for something; and then I found it.

"Aha!" I exclaimed, pulling my hand out, as the skeleton fell apart into a lifeless pile of bones.

"What did you do?" Alice came out from behind the bookcase, peering at me curiously with those grey eyes of hers, a mildly concerned look on her face as if she didn't trust me to know what I was doing.

"Relax. I just removed this." I showed her what I was talking about; a small gem about the size of a cell phone, glowing faintly with an eerie purple light.

"Ah. That's a philosopher's stone, it-..."

"I know, I know." She actually seemed impressed that I would know what one of those was, but I had seen them used before by various magicians and witches. While its possible uses are numerous, a philosopher's stone - a specially prepared gemstone created through alchemy - is most often used as a sort of magic batter, that can store energy or actual spells within itself. The particular one in my hand was rather small and didn't have much energy transferred into it, but not much is needed to keep an animated skeleton working for a long time. My gut was right, as usual; as I had heard Patchouli Knowledge was one of the world's most accomplished alchemists, this knowledge of mine would be a great disadvantage to her. If all of her undead servants were fully automated, then she would not be aware of us attacking them, or putting them down. After detailing my thought process to Alice, she nodded in approval, smiling at me.

"Impressive. I don't dabble in necromancy, myself, so I wouldn't have guessed..."

"Necromancy is nowhere near as common as you'd think... This is a simple animation spell, a non-complex routine weaved into it, and an energy source to sustain the spell independently of the magician that cast it. I've seen witches do the same to their brooms to have them sweep the floor while they're busy with other things.

"Hm. I see. Well, as you might have noticed, I specialize in a more direct manipulation of objects. I find it more reliable." I couldn't tell whether my correcting her knowledge of certain uses for magic offended her, but her eyes took on that cold blue tone yet again, as she glanced about our surroundings.
"Well then, we should keep moving. I think I hear more clattering of bones from that direction..."

She was correct. More skeletal servants, carrying books, shelving books, rearranging books... Miss Knowledge certainly seemed to love her books. Compared to the usual clumsy motions of an animated skeleton, these operated in gentle, graceful movements, cradling the tomes as if they were small children; some of them were even wearing what looked like gloves. I was amazed.

"I don't suppose we could just walk right past them? They seem to be too occupied with their tasks to pose a threat... Or would your preferred method involve lashing your way through them with that whip of yours?" Alice offered me a subtle smirk, as if she were making fun of me; to be fair, my ragged, blood-caked appearance at the moment did make me look like some sort of brutal barbarian. I chose not to dignify the woman with an answer, instead leading the way through the completely harmless skeletons; they had likely not even had any combat directives woven into the spells that animated them. No, they weren't even aware of their own surroundings, save for where the books and bookcases were; one of them bumped into me for a moment, and promptly tried to walk right on through me, rather unsuccessfully. I pushed it aside, and it casually strolled over to the nearest stack of books anyway.

"...Hm, those look different, somehow. And not in a good way." I pointed towards a few patrolling skeletons; these were actually equipped with swords and armor, various glowing runes inscribed into their equipment; presumably, spells for providing awareness of their surroundings, and some semblance of an adaptable mind (sometimes referred to as Arcane Intelligence in magicians' circles) for combat purposes. Again, not the most durable guardians, but anything is dangerous if you give it a sword and have it in large numbers.

"They seem to be patrolling in a fairly simple counterclockwise pattern... Maybe we could sneak past them?" Alice offered her input as I pondered the best course of action to take in our cur current situation.

"Or you could just blast them," I retorted with a smirk, playing along with the violent image she seemed to have of me, only to have her roll her eyes in my general direction.

"They're likely to be linked together through some kind of sensory network; if we take one out, the others will know where to come. Are you sure you want to take that chance?"



[] We had lost the element of surprise long ago. It was better to destroy Patchouli Knowledge's skeletal warriors, as opposed to having her summon them to her defense when we confront her later.
[] Avoiding unnecessary combat was the best course of action to take. We decided to try figuring out the pattern the skeletons move in and avoiding detection.
[] Wait, she could fly, right? So, why not go -over- them? I scaled the bookcases, motioning for her to follow. Platforming is in my blood.
>> No. 32259
[x] Avoiding unnecessary combat was the best course of action to take. We decided to try figuring out the pattern the skeletons move in and avoiding detection.
she's probably just summon them again if we fight her anyway, best not to waste time and items fighting now.
>> No. 32260
[x] Wait, she could fly, right? So, why not go -over- them? I scaled the bookcases, motioning for her to follow. Platforming is in my blood.

Damn you.
>> No. 32261
[x] Wait, she could fly, right? So, why not go -over- them? I scaled the bookcases, motioning for her to follow. Platforming is in my blood.
>> No. 32262
[x] Wait, she could fly, right? So, why not go -over- them? I scaled the bookcases, motioning for her to follow. Platforming is in my blood.
>> No. 32263
[x] Wait, she could fly, right? So, why not go -over- them? I scaled the bookcases, motioning for her to follow. Platforming is in my blood.

Why did you even write in other choices?
>> No. 32265
[x] Avoiding unnecessary combat was the best course of action to take. We decided to try figuring out the pattern the skeletons move in and avoiding detection.
She's probably just summon them again if we fight her anyway, best not to waste time and items fighting now.
>> No. 32321
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32321
Suddenly, a thought occurred to me - rooms have three dimensions. Keeping my voice a hushed whisper just in case, I waited for the nearest skeletal warrior to wander a good distance away before attracting the attention of my companion, who had been busy grimacing at the bloodstains and tears in her dress.
"Say, you can fly, can't you? I recall you hovering out of my reach back during our little scuffle down in the dungeon..."

Her eyes turned a dull shade of grey, as if I had offended her with my inane question. "...Until you pulled me to the ground in some manner I still do not completely understand, yes. I'm a magician, after all."

"Good. In that case, I say we take an alternate route."

"What do you-... Oh." Alice seemed rather quick to understand, once she saw me beginning to scale one of the tall bookcases, sighing to herself softly and mumbling something about disrespect towards the books, floating off the ground and ascending alongside me.
And I'm not kidding when I say tall. The bookcase must've been at least 20 feet tall, if not more; looking down from the top, I felt rather glad for not being afraid of heights; can't afford to, in that line of work. In any case, being careful to maintain my footing, I took a few cautious steps to gauge how stable the case was - as if it were bolted down, not wobbling in the slightest. Perfect. A fall from such a height, while by no means lethal, would be rather painful in the case of an improper landing. Fortunately for me, this sort of thing was something I did on most of my jobs; I had developed quite a sense of balance and distance perception in my career. Working myself up to a fast walk, then a light jog, and finally a full run, only the balls of my feet touching the sturdy wooden surface of the case, the edge was rapidly approaching me as I heard Alice call out to me from behind.
"Wait-..!

Too late. I had already kicked off the bookcase, and was presently gracefully soaring through the air, grinning at the oblivious skeletal guardians patrolling beneath me...
...before barely managing to catch onto the edge of the next bookcase with a *thunk*; luckily not loud enough to draw their attention. Okay, so it had been a while since I'd last done something like that, but at least I didn't fall, right? Pulling myself up, I came face to boot with my amused companion, leaning down to offer me a hand; I grudgingly accepted, avoiding the gaze of those blue eyes of hers.
"Thanks."

"You're very welcome. Would you like me to give you a lift, perhaps?" The tone of her voice betrayed that she was merely making fun of me; I promptly ignored the 'offer' and continued along the 'path', my timing and agility improving with each bookcase I crossed, Alice following closely behind and keeping an eye on the unaware minions beneath us.
"Quite reckless, aren't you?"

"Tsk," I responded mid-leap, the witch keeping up with ease, "aren't you one to talk? Offering to join forces with a vampire and ending up getting locked up like that." That seemed to have shut her up; or so I had thought, before turning in the direction she was facing and noticing exactly what she was looking at: Light. Radiating dimly from a distinct open area between bookcases, in the distance to the side.
"...You think that's Patchouli Knowledge?"

"In the open, just like that? Granted, this library is essentially like her own personal room... It wouldn't surprise me." Nodding in response to Alice's comment, I changed direction, motioning for her to follow. The skeletal watchmen became less numerous as we got closer to the source of the light, until there were eventually none to be seen at all. Nothing unusual there; even wizards would probably prefer not to have smelly decomposing corpses or clattering bags of bones shambling about near them. Once we got close enough, I carefully descended the bookcases again; while a surprise attack from above would have been stylish, I wasn't about to risk breaking anything in the case of an unsuccessful fall. Besides, perhaps the situation could have been handled in a civilized manner?
"So... How do you intend to do this, if I may ask?" Alice interrupted my thought process, gracefully hovering down to the floor beside me; a small, exquisitely dressed doll with a blue dress and red ribbon, whom I had pegged as her favorite, helped adjust her dress as she peeked towards the light from behind a bookcase.

"Well, if at all possible, I'd like to try and talk her into surrendering her key to us without a battle... To be quite honest, the thought of battling an elemental magician of her reputation isn't particularly attractive to me."

"I don't think that'll work." She peered at me from the corner of a dark eye.
"Patchouli Knowledge and Remilia Scarlet are... closer, than you'd think. I don't know the full extent of their relationship to one another, but I highly doubt she would willingly betray the vampire simply to save her own skin. Assuming she even considers us a threat, of course."

A sigh escaped my lips; how typical. Another battle, then?
"Right, so... We should probably ambush her somehow. I've heard she's not particularly strong physically, so if we can take her by surprise before she can cast-..."

And suddenly, we found ourselves in the middle of the library, at the source of the light - in front of a large, wooden desk, a lit candle illuminating the surrounding area, a relatively spacious circular area between the otherwise tightly-packed bookcases. And sitting behind the desk was the woman herself, Patchouli Knowledge, casually reading a large, heavy looking tome.
"What the-..."

"This is very interesting," the wizard exclaimed, her tone emotionless and cold as ice; Alice didn't seem to be particularly amused.

"That's... My grimoire! You-..!" My enraged companion's words were suddenly caught in her throat, as Patchouli Knowledge raised her gaze from the pages, the inhuman purple eyes piercing right through us, as if she were examining us, trying to gauge whether or not we were of any danger to her. She seemed neither impressed nor intimidated, standing up with her face completely expressionless.

"Yes, the grimoire... Fascinating, and yet disappointing. The Ultimate Magic that was contained within these pages... It is missing, is it not?" Glancing to the side, I could see Alice clenching her fists, her face tense as she tried her hardest to maintain her composure.

"...Yes, it is."

"A shame. And I was hoping to add a valuable piece to my collection... I suppose you have come to reclaim your little book of spells, then?" Receiving a bitter nod from Alice as a response, the sorceress slowly turned her icy gaze to me, moving towards us with slow, nearly silent steps. As she drew closer, I could -sense- the magical energy radiating from her.
The woman looked just as I had imagined her from the data the church had on her - long, purple hair, several decorative ribbons tied in it here and there, the color of her eyes matching her hair and confirming that I was not dealing with a mere human. Resting on that peculiar head of hair of hers was a nondescript lavender cloth hat, a golden halfmoon ornament attached to its side. She was also wearing a long overcoat, its color a pale lavender matching her hat, and underneath it all was a purple robe; these garments flowed as if upon an ethereal wind as she moved about, accentuating her frail appearance, which in turn was in stark contrast with the imposing gaze in her eyes. As thin and sickly as this woman looked, you would have been a fool to meet her gaze and not feel a mix of fear and respect. Unfortunately, paying respect to those who associate with devils was not in my job description.
"And you; I trust you are here to meet the lady of the mansion? My familiar had already informed me of your presence in the mansion; I was wondering whether you would make it here, as well. It seems Koakuma had misjudged you - we did not expect you to make it past the gate guard."

"Really? I'm sorry to hear that, miss Knowledge; but I would have you know that you were the first one I chose to visit, once lady Scarlet informed me of the little obstacle course she had in store for myself and my companion here." Alice scoffed quietly at being referred to as a 'companion', but I paid little heed to this at the time, instead offering the sorceress a polite smile which she didn't return.

"I see. Then I suppose you would be after this..." Producing a key from seemingly out of nowhere with a handle in the shape of a halfmoon, she held it up to show it to us for a brief moment, before slipping it back into her sleeve.

"Why yes, yes we are."

"However," she continued, "Remilia did tell me I am not to merely give it to you. So, I will simply store this away for the moment..." A fick of the wrist, and Alice's grimoire disappeared into thin air, provoking a soft gasp from her; it seemed that grimoire was more important to her than I would have imagined.
"...Now. How do we resolve this situation?"

With those words, the sorceress slowly hovered off the floor, eyes still intently focused upon us; while I was maintaining a friendly grin, in my mind I was nervously trying to piece together some sort of plan on what to do next. Battling a wizard of Patchouli Knowledge's level would have been something new even for me. Looking to the side, I could see Alice tense up as well, the anger within her subsiding to give way to intimidation.
"Yes, well..."



[] Talk.
-{} Diplomacy option.
--{} (Optional: write-in)
-{} Pre-combat banter.
--{} (Optional: write-in)
[] Strike first.
-{} (Optional: Specify combat strategy; possible for both characters)
>> No. 32322
-{x} Pre-combat banter.
[x]Dodge, then strike.

You can't lash out a whip if you know you'll be safe to dodge afterwards.

[x]Keep the fight in patchouli's face as much as possible, she seems physically weak, overwhelm her with your strength, have Alice support you from the backrow.
>> No. 32323
[x] Waiting for a glorious write in.
>> No. 32324
[x] Pre-Combat Banter
-[x] "It's simple. I can tell you're a reasonable person, even if the master of the household is not. Since your time is likely precious to you, I'll come right out with it, so we can get out of your hair as soon as possible."
-[x] "We're going to have a contest. I'll explain the set-up and rules first and then you can tell me if they are amenable to you."
-[x] "Firstly, Alice, you'll take this vial." Hold out a glass of holy water to her, while giving her a wink as you're turned away. "Now take to the air, kindly."
-[x] "Now you Miss Knowledge. Catch." Toss the bottle in a lazy underhand arc.
[x] Strike first.
-[x] Before it makes its way into her hands, while her eyes are fixated on it, lash at the bottle with your whip, so that its contents spray out all over the unsuspecting magician.
-[x] "Now!"
-[x] Alice keeps to the air. You stay on the ground, attempting to close the distance while Patchouli is distracted.
-[x] If she takes to the air, harry her with throwing axes.
--[x] If she manages to evade them, or they are ineffective, communicate to Alice that there's nothing you can do. Hide behind a proximal bookshelf behind Patchouli and in front of Alice, then scale it. When you reach the top, attack Patchouli from behind with daggers, the whip, or (if close enough) tackle her to the ground with a leap.
>> No. 32325
[x] Pre-Combat Banter
-[x] "It's simple. I can tell you're a reasonable person, even if the master of the household is not. Since your time is likely precious to you, I'll come right out with it, so we can get out of your hair as soon as possible."
-[x] "We're going to have a contest. I'll explain the set-up and rules first and then you can tell me if they are amenable to you."
-[x] "Firstly, Alice, you'll take this vial." Hold out a glass of holy water to her, while giving her a wink as you're turned away. "Now take to the air, kindly."
-[x] "Now you Miss Knowledge. Catch." Toss the bottle in a lazy underhand arc.
[x] Strike first.
-[x] Before it makes its way into her hands, while her eyes are fixated on it, lash at the bottle with your whip, so that its contents spray out all over the unsuspecting magician.
-[x] "Now!"
-[x] Alice keeps to the air. You stay on the ground, attempting to close the distance while Patchouli is distracted.
-[x] If she takes to the air, harry her with throwing axes.
--[x] If she manages to evade them, or they are ineffective, communicate to Alice that there's nothing you can do. Hide behind a proximal bookshelf behind Patchouli and in front of Alice, then scale it. When you reach the top, attack Patchouli from behind with daggers, the whip, or (if close enough) tackle her to the ground with a leap.
>> No. 32327
Almost want to vote for >>32324 , but I'm not sure the toss-and-splash will work so well. I mean, she's not undead or particularly unholy, is she? Not to mention I think she'll see it coming.

Otherwise, it sort of seems good, combat-wise.
>> No. 32328
No votes?

And here i thought that everything Taisa writes turns into gold.
>> No. 32329
[X]Strike first
-[X]Get close to her and keep up the pressure, don't let her cast a spell.
-[X]Try to pin her to the ground and keep her in your range, ask alice for help on this if you need to.
>> No. 32330
[x] Pre-Combat Banter
-[x] "It's simple. I can tell you're a reasonable person, even if the master of the household is not. Since your time is likely precious to you, I'll come right out with it, so we can get out of your hair as soon as possible."
-[x] "We're going to have a contest. I'll explain the set-up and rules first and then you can tell me if they are amenable to you."
-[x] "Firstly, Alice, you'll take this vial." Hold out a glass of holy water to her, while giving her a wink as you're turned away. "Now take to the air, kindly."
-[x] "Now you Miss Knowledge. Catch." Toss the bottle in a lazy underhand arc.
[x] Strike first.
-[x] Before it makes its way into her hands, while her eyes are fixated on it, lash at the bottle with your whip, so that its contents spray out all over the unsuspecting magician.
-[x] "Now!"
-[x] Alice keeps to the air. You stay on the ground, attempting to close the distance while Patchouli is distracted.
-[x] If she takes to the air, harry her with throwing axes.
--[x] If she manages to evade them, or they are ineffective, communicate to Alice that there's nothing you can do. Hide behind a proximal bookshelf behind Patchouli and in front of Alice, then scale it. When you reach the top, attack Patchouli from behind with daggers, the whip, or (if close enough) tackle her to the ground with a leap.
>> No. 32331
>>32328
/sdm/ is not the great board it once was. It's sorta dead, if you haven't noticed.
>> No. 32332
>>32331
Has nothing to do with it. Once someone comes along with a good story it will get lively again in no time.
If there is a good writer with a even better story, people will find it on their own.
>> No. 32333
>>32332
Of course, said story should have regular, frequent updates, too...
>> No. 32334
>>32328

Not a easy or simple vote, that's why.
>> No. 32335
[x] Pre-Combat Banter
-[x] "It's simple. I can tell you're a reasonable person, even if the master of the household is not. Since your time is likely precious to you, I'll come right out with it, so we can get out of your hair as soon as possible."
-[x] "We're going to have a contest. I'll explain the set-up and rules first and then you can tell me if they are amenable to you."
-[x] "Firstly, Alice, you'll take this vial." Hold out a glass of holy water to her, while giving her a wink as you're turned away. "Now take to the air, kindly."
-[x] "Now you Miss Knowledge. Catch." Toss the bottle in a lazy underhand arc.
[x] Strike first.
-[x] Before it makes its way into her hands, while her eyes are fixated on it, lash at the bottle with your whip, so that its contents spray out all over the unsuspecting magician.
-[x] "Now!"
-[x] Alice keeps to the air. You stay on the ground, attempting to close the distance while Patchouli is distracted.
-[x] If she takes to the air, harry her with throwing axes.
--[x] If she manages to evade them, or they are ineffective, communicate to Alice that there's nothing you can do. Hide behind a proximal bookshelf behind Patchouli and in front of Alice, then scale it. When you reach the top, attack Patchouli from behind with daggers, the whip, or (if close enough) tackle her to the ground with a leap.

It's so stupid that it HAS to work.
>> No. 32337
File 125789245057.jpg - (795.39KB , 1558x1200 , b1cb30f28d9c51902e8f7226cec34673.jpg ) [iqdb]
32337
No getting around it, then; if it was a fight she wanted, then a fight she would get. The trick was, therefore, in getting off to a favorable start.
"It's simple. I can tell you're a reasonable person, even if the master of the household is not. Since your time is likely precious to you, I'll come right out with it, so we can get out of your hair as soon as possible." Raising a purple eyebrow, the wizard kept her gaze fixed upon me, analyzing my every move thoroughly; to distract her reflexes, I resorted to using various hand gestures and the like while speaking.
"We're going to have a contest," I exclaimed as I raised my index finger as if for emphasis.
"I'll explain the set-up and rules first and then you can tell me if they are amenable to you."

"A contest? Hm... Do explain, then." The suspicion was plain in her voice, which was as cold as her eyes, blinking just infrequently enough to be rather unnerving to behold; at the time, however, I couldn't afford to lose my cool.

"Firstly, Alice, you'll take this vial." I held out a glass of holy water to her, while giving her a wink as I turned away; the magician accepted it with mild hesitation. Understandable, since I had essentially given her a fragile container full of a substance specifically intended to be effective against creatures of the night, which includes youkai magicians.
"Now take to the air, kindly."

A polite nod and smirk later, and my green-eyed companion floated upwards as she was told, Patchouli Knowledge's eyes lazily trailing after her in quickly fading curiosity.
"And just what, pray tell, do you intend to-..."

"Now you Miss Knowledge," I interrupted her, "Catch." I promptly produced a second bottle, tossing it in a lazy underhand arc, the sorceress instantly focusing on it and reaching out her hand.

Perfect.

Before it made its way into her hands, her eyes still fixated on it, I quickly drew the whip and lashed at the bottle, instantly shattering it and sending the combusting contents spewing onto her, the wizard's eyes widening just before the flames engulfed her.
"Now, Alice! Attack!" Immediately after roaring out the command, I dashed for the immolated Patchouli Knowledge, whip and dagger ready to put the woman out of her misery just as one of Alice's beams of destruction flashed before my eyes, crashing into the fire; she was still hesitantly clutching onto the bottle. And then...
"Whoa!"

----------

BGM: "Elemental Tactician"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4WfGPTjncc

----------

I managed to dive to the side just in time before the flames converged into a dense, brightly glowing sphere in the palm of the unharmed Patchouli Knowledge, promptly blasting forth in a torrent of searing fire and barely missing me; her other hand was extended towards Alice, an arcane circle slowly rotating before it like a barrier.
"You would hope to overcome me with magical fire? The very elements themselves are my allies, child, you cannot hope to win with such tactics." However, I could see red marks on her hand, and the sleeve of her coat had been burned; so, at least the holy power contained in the blessed 'water' still worked against her, even if it was to little effect.
"Tell me... You fight for the church, do you not?" The barrier morphed from a circle into a sphere, enveloping her completely in an orb of glowing arcane runes. Her eyes were just as calm and focused as before, glaring right through me as if I were nothing.
"Do you believe in Hell, hunter?"

I got up quickly, cracking the whip against the floor while staring right back at her, sending a glance at Alice, who was gathering up energy in her hands while summoning her dolls out of nowhere.
"Maybe I do. Why do you ask? Want me to send you on a trip there, perhaps?"

"Actually... I believe -you- will be the one to experience what hell would truly feel like today, hunter." Having uttered these ominous words in a threatening monotone, her clenched fist once more burst into flames; suddenly, she turned and lashed a tongue of flame in Alice's direction, sweeping across the dolls in the air and causing the gunpowder contained within them to explode; a chain reaction of explosions spewed fire and embers everywhere, the shockwaves knocking Alice back into one of the bookcases. However, by the time Patchouli had turned her attention back to me, I was close enough.

Or so I thought. One sudden gust of wind out of nowhere later, and I found myself on the floor next to Alice, back against a bookcase. The flames were spreading across the section of the library at an alarming rate, and yet the bookcases and books were all untouched - shielded by some unseen force. Following Patchouli as if she were its mistress, the flames converged around us in a circle as she slowly floated closer, a fireball suspended in the air above her palm. The heat was slowly getting unbearable.

"Hey, Alice... You alright?" Standing and helping my companion get up as well, I was treated to a quick dismissal towards my expression of concern for her wellbeing.

"Naturally," she said, "it would take more than that to put me out of action. Ah, but here she comes again... Got a plan? Your little trick with the bottle didn't seem to work." She was still holding the bottle I had given her, though.

"It did burn her a little, though. We just have to distract her... Can you keep her busy and cover me?"

"Of course. It won't be easy though... She took out most of my dolls with one attack. I'd rather not send any more out pointlessly." After wiping a thin stream of blood from her chin and lip, she took flight yet again, Patchouli following her before I could rush in for another attempt at an attack. Goddamn flyers. Looking up, I could see Alice keeping a bare minimum amount of dolls out at a time, channeling her power into them to fire an array of magical beams at Patchouli Knowledge, the sorceress avoiding Alice's blasts and her barrier deflecting the weaker ones from the dolls, some of them actually redirecting in my general direction.

"Hey, watch it!" Forwarding my complaints to Alice in the form of frustrated shouts, I dashed for a bookcase behind the two; I'd have to get close enough, somehow. Along the way, I stopped for a brief moment - Patchouli was hovering in place, trading blasts with Alice, the latter struggling to defend herself and avoid the merciless barrage from the purple sorceress. Sensing a chance, I reached for my throwing axes, hurling several in her direction... only for my jaw to drop, as she stopped the blades with merely an extended hand, turning to face me yet again, a disappointed frown finding its way onto her face.

"What did I just tell you, hunter?"
With that, the axes spontaneously seemed to melt and liquefy, forming together into a reflective spherical glob resembling quicksilver. Before I could even react in any way to this bizarre sight, a portion of the metal was shot back at me in the form of deadly sawblades. Only thanks to my honed reflexes was I able to leap and dodge-roll out of the way, the blades embedding themselves halfway into the floor as if to demonstrate the sheer force that was propelling them - I'd surely have been cut in two, had I been hit by any of them. A sharp pain coming from my right thigh did betray to me that I hadn't completely avoided every single one just perfectly. However, I didn't have time to bleed; forcing myself to stand up, I resumed running for the one tall bookcase. The metallic sphere shifted and contracted as she held her hand pointed out towards me, forming new weapons to impale me with, when all of a sudden a bright beam of light clipped Patchouli Knowledge's shoulder, drawing blood and prompting her to turn her attentions back to Alice.
"Ah yes, you..."

The most unnerving and intimidating characteristic of this woman was how calm and emotionless she remained over the whole ordeal.

Suddenly, she waved her arm towards Alice in an arc, the remainder of the metal flying towards her, splitting up into smaller globules, which in turn took the shape of a storm of razor-sharp daggers; even Alice, with her magic and dolls, could not defend herself against such an attack, the occasional dagger penetrating her shielding and grazing her skin, covering her in tiny cuts, until one caught her directly in the shoulder; interrupting her scream was the monotone voice of Patchouli Knowledge, yet again focused on me, almost at the bookcase, dodging still-burning magical flames scattered across the floor of the library.

"It is useless to run. After all, you cannot escape the wrath of the elements... The elements are all around us. They can overcome any obstacle, eroding away all that lies in their path." What I heard next made my heart sink a little; a dull, roaring noise, getting louder with every second. Just as I ducked behind the bookcase and began my ascent, roaring waves of water crashed forward from all around us, between the bookcases like raging rivers. The two magicians were hovering well within safety, yet the water threatened to carry me away as it slammed against the bookcase full-force; barely maintaining my grip, I began a race against the rising tide, determined to make it to the top before I drown, or before Patchouli manages to kill Alice; either scenario seemed rather likely at the time. Fortunately for me, the sorceress didn't seem fond of the idea of -completely- flooding her own library; by the time I reached the top of the tall bookcase, the water had stopped a few feet below me. Patchouli and Alice came into view again, the former as stoic and calm as ever, pelting my companion with an unending barrage of magical projectiles, Alice struggling to defend herself with a barrier maintained with one hand alone and the aid of a few dolls, the other arm crippled by the jagged metal blade embedded within her shoulder, the wound bleeding profusely and staining her dress. Gritting her teeth furiously, her strength was quickly fading - I would have to act immediately, wasting no time. Throwing knives? No, she'd just do that metal trick again. Whip? She was too far. I had to disable her somehow, anyhow, I...

Oh, hell, it'd worked once for me that day already, hadn't it? Getting a running start, I leapt across the water, lashing out with the whip - just as I did so, Alice noticed my attempt, hurling the bottle of Holy Water I had given her at our foe. The distraction worked this time, my whip just barely hitting its mark, coiling itself around her leg as I yanked the wizard downwards with my body weight. This unexpected turn of events seemed to have caught her completely off guard; her arm stretched out too late, and the bottle smashed right into her, shattering. Or, well, into us; for about a second or so, the sensation of the liquid fire dripping onto my skin from above forced me to grit my teeth in pain, before we fell into the water, a loud hissing noise drowning out everything else as the flaming form of Patchouli Knowledge went underwater, slowly sinking. After catching my breath, I looked up at Alice, still breathing heavily from exertion herself.

"...Good job."

"Thanks. You too." Though her reply was short and dry, I swear I could see a light smirk dance across her face for a brief moment, despite her being badly injured. And then, just as I began pondering how I should go about diving for the key off miss Knowledge's corpse, well... Since when are things ever that easy?

"What the fu-..." Before I knew it, the library itself seemed to quake with the fury of the earth itself, and I found myself enveloped in a whirlpool, a shocked Alice looking on as the waters were draining away, the sheer force pulling me along with it, downwards, me being too far from anything to grab on to... And then she emerged yet again. Patchouli Knowledge, her clothes and hair severely burned in various places, her skin marked red here and there, her face a bitter scowl, and her arms spread to the side, palms turned upward.

"Still you persist. Still you do not die. Champion of the church, servant of God, are you familiar with Genesis 3:19?" I wasn't exactly in the best condition to answer or nod, preoccupied with panicking for my life and all that, so she merely continued.
"...return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."

And then I saw it. The very floor of the library itself had been torn asunder, shifted and cracked, a wide gaping chasm swallowing up all of the water and anything in it. Trying to swim was futile; the merciless current was merely too strong. Struggling desperately, I looked up at the sorceress one more time; those cold, unfeeling purple eyes, damning me to my demise, not a shred of pity or remorse.

And then, I fell.

----------

(Part 1 of 2.)
>> No. 32338
fuuuuuuuck
>> No. 32339
>(Part 1 of 2.)

FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF

It's great to see what patchy's capable of when her health isn't holding her back. anticipating the next part.
>> No. 32340
Good lord
>> No. 32341
Anon waited
>> No. 32344
File 125796170295.jpg - (525.79KB , 794x1087 , 698006c5c00f4de1953860fb3715709b.jpg ) [iqdb]
32344
And then, just before the gaping maw of the earth swallowed me up whole as I fell, clutching my whip for dear life, something stopped my fall, abruptly enough to almost make me lose my grip on the whip's handle; looking up, I could see Alice leaning over the side of the chasm, the whip gradually sliding through her grip before she managed to wrap it around her wrist. The look on her face was something that I'll never forget - her eyes an impossibly dark blue, almost completely black, her teeth gritted as her face contorted into a subtly twitching grimace, her messed-up hair over her sweating face. Thin lines of smoke rose from her hand, the enchanted whip doing what it did best; the burning sensation must've been beyond torture.

And yet, she didn't let go. Thinking quickly, I wasn't about to let her keep holding me like that any longer than absolutely necessary, so I turned myself to face the wall of the seemingly bottomless pit I had fallen into, gripping the whip tightly and scaling upwards, as quickly as I could, assisted by Alice gradually pulling me up with her good arm. Once I finally managed to get back out, she exhaled heavily as if she'd been holding her breath the whole time, and I noticed strings heading from her other hand to one of the support beams underneath the walkway of the second level of the library, several dolls clinging to it with their tiny bodies; one string had snapped from the force when she stopped my descent, a doll lying lifelessly on the floor as if it were dead, severed from her master's power. Rising up once again, Alice examined her hand, wincing; red lines of severe burn wounds wound around her wrist, a charred-black scar of dead flesh heading down her palm. It even caused me pain to merely look at it.

"...Thank you, Alice. I owe you my life."

"Don't mention it." Even in such a condition, she found it in herself to smirk at me for a brief moment, before gripping the blade still embedded in her left shoulder, twitching lightly as the searing pain in her hand prevented her from grabbing onto it properly.
"You can return the favor by helping me with this." Doing as I was told, I nodded and reluctantly gripped the blade, counting down from three before pulling it out of her shoulder, my companion flinching and grimacing yet again as the bloody jagged dagger came out of her flesh with some resistance.
"Thanks," she muttered, weakly closing and opening her fist, the feeling apparently already beginning to return to her arm. As I cast the blade aside, we turned our attention back to the hovering Patchouli Knowledge, who had been observing us silently the whole time, interrupting with neither word nor attack; her eyebrow was raised, yet her face had the same dull expression on it as before, despite being marred by burn wounds (which were, admittedly, already showing signs of slowly healing). Her hat had gotten lost, at some point, her impossibly long purple hair now freely flowing in some sort of ethereal wind that surrounded her.

"Are you quite ready to finish this foolishness? I do not have all day, I would have you know." Tch! Stifling my anger, I stood myself between Alice and Patchouli.

"I'll fight you by myself."

"Hey-..." Before my companion could protest, I turned my head to the side and gave her a brief smile, looking at her from the corner of my eye.

"You're in no condition to keep going. Just hide, for now; I'll be fine." Despite the utter lack of belief in my words in her eyes, she eventually gave me a hesitant nod, ducking behind one of the nearby bookcases; the shielding spell cast upon it to protect the books would act as a sufficient barrier against the sorceress's attacks.

"Perhaps Remilia was wrong to tell me to hold back against you."

"So you weren't using your full power after all. I -did- think it was odd that you'd have this much trouble against just the two of us, based on what I've heard of you, miss Knowledge."

"Complimenting your foe. Witty. Then, I suppose I had best finish this now, should I not?" A sly smirk flashing across her face for just an instant, she extended an index finger into the air, the tip glowing brightly, a brilliantly shining sphere of light forming above her head and quickly expanding, growing brighter, brighter...
"Be consumed by the fury of the Sun like the ant that you are."

I had no time to waste; I could already feel an uncomfortable heat rapidly picking up. As I gripped the whip tightly and began dashing towards her, it escalated to sauna-levels, and kept going, the light becoming brighter and more blinding as I got closer, closer... not close enough just yet. No. I -had to- get close enough. By the time Patchouli Knowledge had generated a miniature sun inside the library, I gathered up all the strength in my legs and leapt towards her.
"Wrong! The light is not my foe, it is my shield!" With that line, corny as it sounds today, I struck in her general direction with my whip, everything in front of my eyes having turned a pure white, my clothes already sizzling and smoking in the impossible heat...
And then, I touched the ground, landing clumsily yet remaining on my feet, dropping to my knees as I waited for the after images to fade from my sight. Indeed, her spell hadn't struck me with its full force, yet beneath my training and powers I was still human, after all. When my vision cleared, the first thing I was Patchouli Knowledge, slowly descending from the air; my attack had almost missed in my blinded state. Her eyes were widened, in stark contrast with the stoicism of the rest of her face, a thin cut forming on her right cheek, a trickle of blood heading down her face from where I had struck her. Her feet touched the ground, and she regained her composure almost instantly.

"...Very well, I yield."

Huh.

"...What, just like that?" I stared at her, incredulous; Alice and I had been gradually losing this battle, and then the wizard merely gives up? Watchful of any trickery or deception, I kept the whip ready, although I was willing to give this woman a chance to explain herself. The light sound of footsteps from behind distracted me for a brief moment, and I turned to notice Alice approaching us, clutching her still-bleeding shoulder and glaring at miss Knowledge.

"I grow tired of Remilia's games; my health is unfit for prolonged combat, and I would rather not cause any further unnecessary damage to my library." As if to demonstrate the health issue, she coughed into her fist precisely once, before continuing.
"I will give you what you seek, and you will not step foot into my library again. Are these terms agreeable to you?"

What else was I to say?
"They are agreeable. You will hand over the key, then?" Without a word, she produced the key out of nowhere again, holding it out to me in an outstretched hand. Cautiously, I stepped closer and took it from her - I couldn't detect any magical trickery. Good.

"And my grimoire," Alice added. The book materialized in the wizard's hands, the clasp on the leather bindings sealed, and a few of Alice's dolls went to bring it to her. Cradling the book with her good arm, a satisfied smile spread across her face, her eyes a pleasant shade of light blue.

"No hard feelings, I would hope." Alice responded to Patchouli with a mere shrug of one shoulder, flinching a little as the other one still refused to cooperate properly. It's a little hard to forgive someone that soon after stealing your stuff and stabbing you through the shoulder, after all.
"Was there anything else..?"

"Well," I exclaimed, a thought suddenly dawning upon me, "I don't suppose you have some sort of map or blueprint of the mansion's layout handy?"

She furrowed her eyebrows in response.
"Such a thing would be rather useless. The mansion itself is a creature of chaos; its layout is ever-changing, shifting about unpredictably. However..." Walking back to her miraculously intact desk, she sifted around the papers for a while, before pulling out a small scroll, touching it with her fingertips and muttering some words I couldn't make out from the distance. She waked back to us, coughing quietly a few times along the way, and handed the scroll to me; unrolling it, I saw a top-down plan of the mansion and its main hallways, the side paths unmarked. Before my very eyes, the ink the plans had been drawn in seemed to shift and dance about, morphing and twisting until it looked like a completely different building entirely.
"That might be of some use, perhaps."

"Thank you kindly, miss Knowledge. Then, if you say you will not hinder our progress any further, we'll be taking our leave of you and your library..." Lightly patting Alice on the back, I began heading in the direction I remembered the exit being, before a monotone voice calling out from behind stopped me in my tracks.

"Wait." Patchouli Knowledge's violet eyes were still staring at me as if something were on her mind, a subtle smile barely visible on her lips.
"I have a parting gift for you." Having said that, she waved her hand through the air, five colorful glyphs appearing out of nowhere, promptly summoning five gems into existence.
Philosopher's stones. My grip on the whip tightened, yet the wizard wagged her finger at me, shaking her head.
"Do not be alarmed. There is no trickery involved here. That weapon of yours..." She gestured at the whip in my hand.
"...It was created through the art of alchemy, was it not?"

"...Indeed it was. Why do you ask?"

The smile spread into a mild grin, as if the scholar had come upon something very interesting all of a sudden.
"I am willing to offer to you a boon; I can unlock a portion of the whip's innate power, the force of malleability within alchemical tools, the ability to become something more." Another wave of the hand, and the five stones lined up before me in the air.
"Pick a stone. Strike it with the whip, and its elemental power will be drawn into it, enhancing its performance in a unique manner."

"...Why would you help me in my goal to destroy your master any further than you already have?"

At that point, it almost seemed as if she were chuckling, laughing at me.
"Because I feel you should definitely meet Remilia, and speak with her at length. I am willing to improve the odds of you making it all the way to her. Besides, I am confident that you will not be able to defeat her, no matter how much I could possibly aid you. After all..." A dangerous glint is visible in her eyes for just a brief moment, and then her face takes on its usual emotionless glare.
"...had I wanted to kill you, simply and efficiently, I could have siphoned away the air around your heads to create a vacuum, or flooded your lungs with water. Or drained the iron from your blood, or set fire to your insides. Yet all I did was provide you with some visually impressive entertainment, at Remilia's request. She secretly wishes for you to succeed in obtaining the keys, too." And with that, she gestured towards the five floating crystals, waiting for my decision; I glanced to Alice for advice, yet she shook her head, unable to comment on the situation.



[] Green Crystal - Wood
[] Red Crystal - Fire
[] Yellow Crystal - Earth
[] White Crystal - Metal
[] Blue Crystal - Water
[] None. I didn't trust her, or her 'parting gift'.

----------

System message: Alice has regained her grimoire, enhancing all of her abilities, as well as providing her with a few additional tricks.

No, you can -not- pick more than one crystal.
>> No. 32345
[x] Red Crystal - Fire

Fire's pretty good against most things in evil filled castles save for the most obvious of things (like fire demons)
>> No. 32346
[x] White Crystal - Metal

Now go back and write about Romancing Touhous.
>> No. 32347
[] White Crystal - Metal
>> No. 32349
[X] Red Crystal - Fire

I remember the Vampire Killer's special in PoR being a burning lash, so there you go.
>> No. 32350
[x] Red Crystal - Fire

Come on baby, light my... whip.
>> No. 32351
[x] White Crystal - Metal

Leather to Chain to Fire, you've gotta go in order.

Also:
>I yield.

wat. I was looking forward to killing her.

>"...had I wanted to kill you, simply and efficiently, I could have siphoned away the air around your heads to create a vacuum, or flooded your lungs with water. Or drained the iron from your blood, or set fire to your insides."

Well when you put it [i]that way...
>> No. 32352
[x] White Crystal - Metal

Leather to Chain to Fire, you've gotta go in order.

Also:
>I yield.

wat. I was looking forward to killing her.

>"...had I wanted to kill you, simply and efficiently, I could have siphoned away the air around your heads to create a vacuum, or flooded your lungs with water. Or drained the iron from your blood, or set fire to your insides."

Well when you put it that way...
>> No. 32353
[x] White Crystal - Metal
>> No. 32354
fuck, double posted and didn't save password, my bad.
>> No. 32355
[0] White Crystal - Metal

METAL AS FUCK.
>> No. 32356
>>32349
As good reason as any I guess.

[x] Red Crystal - Fire
>> No. 32357
[x] White Crystal - Metal
>> No. 32359
What day is it? perhaps we should choose just like patchy chooses the spells...
otherwise:
[] Red Crystal - Fire
>> No. 32360
[x] White Crystal - Metal
>> No. 32365
[x] White Crystal - Metal

Nothing can destroy the Metal.
>> No. 32378
File 125817733126.jpg - (1.34MB , 856x1000 , 125379984361.jpg ) [iqdb]
32378
I had indeed remembered being told that the alchemical whip could take on other forms, and something within me lead me to trust this wizard's offer; even though I had been fighting her just moments ago. She had held back and let us live, no? Pondering the situation over carefully, I somehow saw myself choosing to imbue the whip with the elemental force of fire, promptly stumbling upon some sort of fire demon in my next destination, that draws strength and nourishment from flames. Such a situation would certainly have been likely considering my average level of luck on these missions...
Deciding to go for the most reliable, if least exciting sounding option, I cracked the whip once, before striking the white crystal. The philosopher's stone shattered into many brightly glowing pieces, like tiny balls of light hovering through the air, suddenly being attracted to the whip like a magnet and being drawn into it. The weapon in my hands began to glow with an almost blinding brightness, the handle in my hand turning cold as steel. When the glow had faded, I found myself holding a long chain, about a man and a half in length, with a small spiked ball on the tip.

"Very interesting." Patchouli knowledge certainly seemed to be pleased by this development. Truly, at the time, I was more impressed by how such a simple and barbaric method of infusing the whip resulted in such finely crafted chain links. Alice seemed quite surprised as well.
"The qualities associated with metal are unyieldingness, rigidity, persistence, strength and determination. The metal person is controlling, ambitious, forceful and set in their ways as metal is very strong; and they are self-reliant and prefer to handle their problems alone. Just as metal can conduct electricity, the Metal person has strong impulses and generative powers and can bring about changes and transformations for those who come into contact with them. The negative emotion associated with metal is grief, while the positive emotion is courage."

"Er... Thank you for that, I suppose. I'd like to hope it hits harder, too." I couldn't tell if she was trying to encourage me with that little horoscope thing just then, or weird me out. My companion had already lost interest in my newly upgraded weapon, instead turning her attention back to her grimoire, examining it for damage, missing pages, that sort of thing. Cradling it like her child. The wizard seemed mildly disappointed by this lack of interest from her fellow magician..

"Very well then, our business is concluded." She idly dusted off her coat and robe, frowning at the tatters and burn holes, eventually allowing herself a frustrated sigh as it becomes apparent that the garments are probably beyond repair. She looked at us for a brief moment with those emotionless eyes, before suddenly pointing her arm in our direction, prompting us to take a cautious step back.

"What are you-..?"

"We will meet again, albeit under vastly different circumstances, hunter."

...

A bright flash, everything going white, and a feeling of weightlessness tugging at our stomach for the briefest of moments, and we found ourselves outside of the library yet again. A bizarre experience, yet new to neither of us, so we simply swallowed once to fix the messed-up pressure in our ears and continued onwards, the library doors behind us shut with strange runes glowing on the surface - locked as well as can be.
Teleportation had always been somewhat unsettling to my stomach - it feels like someone ties a cord to your navel and yanks you to your destination in an instant. The momentary weightlessness can be more than a little disorienting, as well; I still have no idea how witches and the like ever get used to such a sensation. On the walk back to the foyer, I examined my new-and-improved weapon, weighing the chain in my hands, poking the spikes on the ball tip and promptly adding another tiny wound to my already impressive collection for that day. Trying not to think of how much blood I could possibly have had lost by that time, I decided to strike up some conversation on our strangely unhindered journey.
"So," I said while jumping over the immobile, utterly destroyed suit of animated armor we had dispatched on the way to the library, "how's your hand?"

Holding the book in her left arm, the shoulder already mostly healed save for some stiffness in her motions, she sent a frowning glance at her right hand, black and red scars still blemishing her previously smooth and beautiful, slightly pale skin. At some points where the whip had cut deeper into her flesh, I noticed the cringe-worthy sight of exposed finger bone. It was not showing any signs of healing just yet, and despite this my companion kept a cool expression, no pain visible in her face to speak of.
"It'll be fine. I'm a youkai, after all." Confidence. I like that!

"Yes, well, this whip was -created- to be effective against your kind..."

"You underestimate 'our kind', human. That which does not kill us, only makes us stronger." My companion smirking softly, a light blue eye glanced towards me.
"Or, well... Not really. But we can heal from almost anything, given enough time."

I nodded in response, moving on to examine my inventory. Moderate amount of Holy Water left; I'd have to star saving them for when I really need them. Plenty of throwing knives, some axes, some ricochet knives... Not exactly comforting considering we'd only gotten two out of four keys so far, yet you often end up using whatever weaponry you find lying around in the castle or mansion by the end of your quest. Surely there must be an armory somewhere, I thought.
"I'm running a little low on gear... How about you? How many dolls do you have left?"

"Some... Enough to last me a while, although I would like to get my hands on some materials if at all possible." After a while of walking, we had made it back to the foyer, the exit of the mansion in plain view, a human-sized hole still in one door where I crashed through. Among my countless sore spots, I couldn't even figure out which ones were from the impact of flesh and bone versus reinforced wood.
"Of course, now that I have my grimoire, I can just-..."

All of a sudden, she stayed quiet, turning to the side and eyeing me with a tense look in her eyes - now a dark green - and suddenly pointing her hand directly at me, her palm beginning to glow dangerously with a bright light, various small symbols in the cover of the book beginning to illuminate as well.



[] I attacked her before she could cast her spell.
-{} (Optional: Specify method of counterattack.)
[] I froze and stayed perfectly still.
[] I dived to the side to avoid the blast
>> No. 32379
[X] I froze and stayed perfectly still.
Have faith.
>> No. 32380
[] I froze and stayed perfectly still.
>> No. 32381
[X] I froze and stayed perfectly still.

We should have faith in Alice, she might be trying to heal us with a spell.
>> No. 32382
[x] I froze and stayed perfectly still.
After saving our life in the library, I'd be surprised if she plans on vaporising us now. Besides, in the worst case scenario we get a '[x] Back 1 choice' and pick something else.
>> No. 32384
[x] I dived to the side to avoid the blast

There's probably something behind us and she expects us to dodge.
>> No. 32386
[x] I froze and stayed perfectly still.
>> No. 32387
[x] I dived to the side to avoid the blast
>> No. 32388
[ℤℯ] I froze and stayed perfectly still.
Fuck.
>> No. 32389
File 125825307786.jpg - (230.98KB , 1080x1440 , 9c1a844a2e8cf144a814fd44561eadd2.jpg ) [iqdb]
32389
I stopped right where I was, not moving, tensing up all over my body. What the hell? Time seemed to slow down for me as my mind went into overdrive, attempting to analyze the situation. Yes, of course, it made perfect sense! Since she'd gotten what she came for - her grimoire - I was no longer of any use to her. The exit in plain view, one last obstacle was in the way of her escape from the mansion. Me.
...And yet, it didn't add up. If she had wanted me dead and out of her hair, why did she injure herself to such a degree by saving my life back in the library? No, she wouldn't have done such a thing. It didn't make any sense. How much time had passed? A second, two at most? Taking a leap of faith, I decided to trust my youkai companion and merely stood where I was.

The blast of destructive energy nearly blinded me, forcing my eyes to shut in pain.

"Gyukh-..!"
That wasn't my voice. Opening my eyes, I instantly somersaulted forward, turning around and rubbing the after-images out of my eyes, the stench of burnt hair invading my nostrils from where the beam had just barely grazed my head. As I stood up, chain whip in hand, standing before us was none other than Hong Meiling. Yes, again. That woman simply would not stay dead! She was grasping her shoulder, gritting her teeth as smoke escaped from beneath her fingers, where Alice's spell had struck her. The wound on her neck from my dagger had healed almost completely.
"...Tch. I almost had you, too." Releasing her shoulder and shaking the blood from her fingers, she flashed a predatory grin in our direction, cracking her knuckles before taking a more combat-ready position. Her strange, unexpected confidence was somehow... worrying.

"I already put you down twice on my own; what makes you think you've got any chance against the two of us?" Moreover, why was she not dead? Don't youkai die when they are killed? I could distinctly remember slitting her throat to the point where her head was barely even attached to her body anymore. She chuckled in response in an amused manner, making a taunting hand gesture in my general direction.

"Put me down? I'll have you know that I can take a LOT of punishment... Why do you think Lady Remilia hired me? And besides..." She gestured around the mansion interior, before continuing.
"...There is less room for you in here to avoid me. You're fast - and I admire that - and thus managed to avoid me landing a direct blow on you. But now I know how you fight. This time... Well, we'll see, won't we?" And with that, she made a dash for us, almost quicker than the human eye could follow.
"Defend yourselves!"

And defend ourselves we did. Pulling out a throwing knife, I hurled it right at her, only to see her parry it to the side with her bare hand, the blade flying off to the side harmlessly without even impeding her momentum. Gasping in surprise, Alice just barely managed to project a magical barrier in front of us, right before Meiling's fist impacted it with a thunderous smash that made the very air ripple visible - and shattered it, sending Alice flying down the stairs and crashing to the floor below with a loud thud.

"Alice!" Turning and looking after her was a mistake. When I turned back to face our assailant, I could only catch about a microsecond's worth of a glimpse of her applying a forceful palm strike to my abdomen, knocking the wind out of me and sending me down to where Alice was, my bones protesting painfully as my body hit the floor next to her. Thankfully, it didn't feel as if I had broken anything. Getting up quickly, I checked to see if Alice was alright, temporarily forgetting that she was the youkai and I was the fragile human in the situation. Still, she didn't appear to be trained in physical combat, and I knew that both of our lives would be at risk if we tried fighting Meiling under these circumstances. Unlike Patchouli Knowledge, she would not hold back, and if she claimed to have understood my fighting style from facing me only once...
"We've got to get out of here," I said, helping her up and pulling her out of the way just in time for Meiling to come crashing dowm from above, her punch turning the floor tiles where Alice had just been into a fine dust, leaving behind a crater about a meter in diameter and half as much in depth. Pulling out a bottle of Holy Water, I smashed it between us, taking Alice along and heading down a random corridor at full speed, the flames allowing us to put a small distance between ourselves and the zealous guardian, who promptly gave chase yet again, crimson hair flowing behind her. As we ran, Alice would fire further destructive beams behind us, only for Meiling to dodge them or deflect them, occasionally even hurling spheres of her own energy at us. Finally, it had gotten to the point where the look on my companion's face said she had had enough - producing a doll out of nowhere, she hurled it back at Meiling, whose natural reflex was to punch it into little pieces...

"...Get lost already, you damned watchdog!"

...Causing a massive explosion, orders of magnitude stronger than the ones from her regular gunpowder dolls, even knocking her and myself off our feet for a moment. Looking back, we couldn't see any trace of Meiling within the smoke and flames, the section of the corridor caught in the blast radius being utterly destroyed to the point where returning to the foyer from the same path would seem unlikely. Despite this, we decided not to take our chances, quickly standing up again and resuming our running pace. Thinking it to at least be safe enough to speak once again, I decided there were things that should be said in this situation.

"By the way, thanks for the save back there. For a moment, I almost thought you were going to take me out and leave, now that you have your book. Not that I'd have blamed you or anything, all things considered..."

My companion turned her orange eyes to me with an amused smirk, brushing her hair out of her eyes mid-run.
"Well, I had considered it... But I'm known to aid humans at times simply out of sympathy. Besides, if I had done so, then I'd also have helped you out back in the library for no reason, no?"

"I still owe you for that one."

A smile on her face, she turned her head forward again.
"You can repay me easily enough. We still have my golem to disable, and Remilia Scarlet to get revenge upon." Excellent. With that comment, I could finally tell that Alice would prove to be a trustworthy and reliable companion, and my faith in her was justified.
"By the way, where exactly are we headed..? You still have the map, don't you?"

Oh. Yes. Of course. Slowing down to a jog, I pulled out the map and examined it, trying to recall just what direction we took in the foyer and attempting to pinpoint our current approximate location. The appearance of the ink on the scroll, constantly swimming about as if it were alive, didn't exactly make this any easier.



[] Alchemy Lab
[] Clock Tower
[] Inner Quarters
>> No. 32390
[x] Alchemy Lab

I think the Golem would be here.

That and I'm sure we can find some nice things in there.
>> No. 32391
[x] Alchemy Lab

Inner Quarters is mid game, Clock Tower for endgame.
>> No. 32392
[x] Alchemy Lab

Meiling is the fucking Terminator
>> No. 32393
[x] Alchemy Lab
>> No. 32394
File 125826186533.gif - (148.30KB , 589x661 , akuma-gif.gif ) [iqdb]
32394
[X] Alchemy Lab

I'm feeling that Meiling will reappear after each and every victory in each wing of the SDM.

We better hope that Akuma comes out of nowhere and kicks her ass or something.
>> No. 32395
[x] Clock Tower

Just because
>> No. 32396
[x] Alchemy Lab
>> No. 32397
Damn, Meiling is quite the Implacable Woman, isn't she? Vaguely reminds me of the SA-X, but even worse.

[X] Alchemy Lab

Clock Tower is the demesne of Death, which means it must be the penultimate stop for us.
>> No. 32406
>>32397

>Meiling vaguely reminds me of the SA-X, but even worse.

Right, Meiling is actually intelligent, which the SA-X lacked in great quantities.
>> No. 32412
>>32406

SA-X was powerful and relentless , but ran on basic instinct. That and most of the time Samus had to run and/or Hide.

Meiling is that but has intelligence and is able to come back for more. It's no way the last that we see of her.
>> No. 32426
So how are things going Taisa?
>> No. 32429
File 125866339985.jpg - (287.82KB , 480x640 , 45dd3eb143e3cfa045a3020d03757213.jpg ) [iqdb]
32429
>>32426
see
>>/th/104377

On the other hand... Since this story doesn't seem to have devolved into a cesspit of hatred due to its obviously different nature, I might actually be tempted to update it more frequently from now on... Hm.

Hell... Tell you what. I'll start writing right now.
>> No. 32430
>>32429

Don't worry about all the negativity on that, I think there's a sizable amount of readers like me who are afraid to post anything positive due to the possibility of random anger directed our way.

Point is, you're doing a great job both there and here, just gotta make sure the people conjuring those shitstorms don't interfere with your thinking. Do that, and the vast majority of people will enjoy your writing, except for those morons who cannot be placated under any circumstances.
>> No. 32431
File 125867104396.jpg - (286.17KB , 674x942 , 3f1469a248d465a2af68bcb34ac3fcce.jpg ) [iqdb]
32431
>>32429
Thanks. Hang in there.
>> No. 32432
File 125868133695.jpg - (174.69KB , 1125x900 , d73ef912e3fba207b3de8c9d2c9f8f3d.jpg ) [iqdb]
32432
>>32394
What's with all the Street Fighter references in my threads all of a sudden?

--------

Dragging my finger along the path we took certainly helped me focus on where we were going, the dancing ink finally converging into something coherent.
"We seem to be headed for the alchemy lab. You said that golem of yours would be there, right?"

"Indeed. Judging by the design of one of the seals on the door, I'd assume the golem holds one of the keys we seek, as well..." Her voice trailed off a bit, and her dull-grey eyes glanced to the side as she slowed down to match my pace.

"...You seem somewhat more concerned by this than I'm comfortable with."

"Yes, well... Consider the fact that I'm the one who constructed the golem. I know all of its strengths and weaknesses; I know what we'll have to expect."

"So, what -are- its weaknesses?"

A bitter smile danced across her lips for just a moment.
"That's my point. It has none." Glancing at me with narrowed eyes, she continued.
"What? Did you really think I'd allow my magnum opus to have a single flaw or blemish in its design?"

"I didn't mean to offend," I chuckled in response, feeling somewhat unnerved, "but I was actually hoping you'd be able to just tell it to self-destruct, or just give us the key or something..."

"Unfortunately, I was forced to allow Remilia Scarlet to determine the command words to control the construct herself; naive of me, perhaps, but you have to admit I didn't exactly have much of a choice in the matter. I was either to do as I was told, or be thrown in the dungeon."

"And yet you were thrown in the dungeon either way. You honestly didn't see that coming?"

"I did," she snapped back, "but an uncertain fate is still more comfortable than a certainly poor one, would you not agree?"

"Good point." Just as I had managed to pocket the map again, we heard a crash echo through the hallway behind us; looking back in disbelief, we saw in the distance a fist having punched itself through the burning rubble from Alice's bomb doll, quickly joined by another hand, and finally a rather scorched-seeming Hong Meiling pulling herself out from under the debris, face contorted in fury. Or so we assumed, unable to properly see her facial expression from so far away. Not far enough, mind you; the moment she fully freed herself, she dashed for us with demonic speed, prompting us to pick up our pace yet again, lest she catch up to us in such a narrow corridor with no room to outmaneuver her. Her feet impacted the floor with enough force to crush small craters into it - was this her true speed!? In a straight line, we had no hope of outrunning her.

"There, the laboratory entrance! If we can only make it, we can seal it off from the inside!" Unfortunately for us, Alice's idea came too little, too late; Meiling would be upon us in a matter of seconds. Deciding this would be the best time to try out the new and improved whip, I turned around and lashed forwards with the chain as best as I could with the limited space in the corridor, the spiked ball at the tip hurtling towards the gatekeeper with murderous velocity; she just barely lunged to the side to avoid it, and what I saw next baffled me. Her feet touched the wall, and she actually continued running along it for a second, before pushing away and swinging her leg at my head with a kick that would surely have been enough to decapitate a mere human.

Leaning back with a speed that impressed even myself, I managed to flip away from her, landing on my hands and feet just in time to notice her foot crashing through the wall with a thunderous echo as she narrowly missed me; making use of the brief delay in her assault as she proceeded to dislodge her limb from the wall, I quickly smashed a vial of Holy Water against the floor between us - it would win us at least a few seconds of time, but no more than that. Sprinting towards the laboratory entrance yet again, I noticed Alice already waiting by a lever, a concerned look on her face as she impatiently gestured for me to hurry the hell up. Pushing the limits of the human body, I dashed for the laboratory with a velocity that would leave a Kenyan olympic runner envious, but I could already hear that familiar, ominous sound coming from behind, the unyielding guardian already having broken through the fiery barrier I had created.

"Pull the lever! Close the door!"

She hesitated for a brief moment upon hearing my desperate shouting, before leaning down on the lever with her fully body weight, the thematically rusty metal shifting and groaning as it slid downwards, releasing the mechanism and allow a thick, metal door to begin its slow descent, sliding down from a slot in the ceiling to seal off the corridor from the laboratory. It would be close, and I knew it - a fraction of a second too late, and I'd be locked out with Hong Meiling, only to end up a bloody smear on the door once she'd be finished with me.

"I have you now! Die one thousand deaths!"

I was too slow.

Alice noticed this, leaning down and looking at me from under the door, already halfway closed; in desperation, she put her hands under the mercilessly sliding metal slab, in an attempt to slow down its descent just enough for me to make it. Now, youkai magicians aren't particularly known for their supernatural physical strength, but they're still at least slightly tougher than the average human. While her efforts provided a minimal effect at best, I could hear her grunting, and I could picture her gritting her teeth - this was all the motivation I needed. Tapping into a source of adrenaline reserved only for the most desperate of situations in a human's lifetime, I pushed myself to speed up just enough to drop into a slide just in time to make it through; the moment I crossed into the laboratory, Alice let go, the metal door dropping into its groove with a loud crash, soon followed by the impact of Meiling's fist or leg against its surface, and some fruitless pounding. As both Alice and myself fell into sitting positions, gasping and trying to catch our breath, we eventually heard the sound of Hong Meiling's footsteps rapidly disappearing into the distance from the other side. Had she given up? Did she know of an alternate entrance? Or did she simply assume the guardians of the laboratory or the golem itself would take care of us? At the time, we didn't particularly care; we were too busy trying to recover from our phenomenal exhaustion.

"That's... -pant- ...that's twice now that I owe you my life. You seem to be making a habit of it."
My jesting tone provoked a mild frown from her at first, although after a few deep breaths she seemed to have cheered up, herself. Of course, being a youkai, she'd recover from mere physical exertion much faster than me.
"Perhaps you're the one making a habit of nearly getting killed, instead."

"Perhaps." I stood up, my breathing mostly under control again, my body still aching all over from having to endure such strain no human was ever meant to undergo. I think I tasted a bit of blood, but I didn't exactly have the luxury of paying much attention to such trivial matters at the time.
"So. You've been here before. What can we expect?"

"Mostly Patchouli Knowledge's laboratory assistants. Skeletons, perhaps the occasional fairy. Oh, and... probably an elemental or other form of construct, or two." Standing up as well, she went through the futile habit of dusting off her mostly-ruined-by-then dress.
"Also, I'd watch your step if I were you. Just in case.

Listening to her speak, I went over to peek around the corner into the depths of the laboratory. What struck me first was the sheer heat - the massive laboratory itself was segmented by a series of catwalks suspended in the air between multiple levels of sections filled with strange instruments, and desks stacked full of bizarre chemicals, all suspended in the air among gigantic vats of molten metal being poured from one gargantuan cauldron into another. Skeletal servants and strange little winged girls were seen skittering about, fiddling with the tools and chemicals, transporting odd objects or pieces of metal from point A to point B, constantly seeming busy.

"The golem is in the laboratory at the very end of this wing of the mansion."

"...why?"

"Why what?" Alice seemed perplexed at my sudden question. God damn it! I was starting to get frustrated.

"Why is it -always- at the -end-? Why can't the item or monster I'm looking for be near the beginning of an area? Ugh, it's like some sort of Murphy's Law of adventuring..."

"...Right. Well." Joining me by my side, my blonde companion glanced towards our destination, a look of determination in her eyes, the color of which I could not determine at the time in the orange light cast by the vats of metal.
"How do you propose we conduct ourselves this time?"



[] Carefully. Wouldn't want to break stuff.
[] Aggressively. Give the minions no chance for counterattack.
[] Stealthily. We couldn't afford to waste further energy and weaponry on needless combat.
>> No. 32433
>>32432

Well think of it, Akuma vs Meiling would be one heck of a fight.

> Die one thousand deaths!

Don't tell me she knows the Raging Demon...

[X] Carefully. Wouldn't want to break stuff.

Who knows what those chemicals are.
>> No. 32434
[x] Stealthily. We couldn't afford to waste further energy and weaponry on needless combat.

Too bad Alice never considered giving that Golem a character flaw (weak point)
>> No. 32435
[x] Stealthily. We couldn't afford to waste further energy and weaponry on needless combat.

I consider them character flaws.

Perhaps we can concoct some sort of explosive on the lab to replace our holy water.
>> No. 32436
[x] Aggressively. Give the minions no chance for counterattack.

Interesting.
>> No. 32437
[x] Stealthily. We couldn't afford to waste further energy and weaponry on needless combat.
>> No. 32443
[X] Carefully. Wouldn't want to break stuff.
>> No. 32454
>>32435
An excellent idea.

[D] Stealthily. We couldn't afford to waste further energy and weaponry on needless combat.
[a] Ask Alice if it would be possible to construct any kind of weapons, tools, explosive devices/mixtures, or anything else similarly helpful with the materials here. Anything to help replenish or add to your offensive capabilities would be a welcome addition.
[-] Did anyone else of note work with or under her in the lab? If so, they're likely to still be here, and any advance warning or information would help.
[ℤ] What are the specs on and offensive capabilities of her golem? Again, it's best to know your enemy.
[ℯ] Inventory & Status

It feels good to make write-ins, again.
>> No. 32455
[X] Stealthily. We couldn't afford to waste further energy and weaponry on needless combat.
-[X] Ask Alice if it would be possible to construct any kind of weapons, tools, explosive devices/mixtures, or anything else similarly helpful with the materials here. Anything to help replenish or add to your offensive capabilities would be a welcome addition.
-[X] Did anyone else of note work with or under her in the lab? If so, they're likely to still be here, and any advance warning or information would help.
-[X] What are the specs on and offensive capabilities of her golem? Again, it's best to know your enemy.
-[X] Inventory & Status

I'm slightly disappointed there were no really hazardous environments like collapsing flooring to a seemingly endless abyss or idk... Any one who played Castlevania IV remember Stage 5 and halfway through there was this long corridor where the walls rotated around and around with skeletons occasionally bursting from the walls attacking all the while the flooring was collapsing as you went along?

Overall I've enjoyed reading this~!
>> No. 32456
>>32455

Remilia I doubt would care to have her mansion look so soddy, that and taking down whoever survives long enough to get to her is fun to her.
>> No. 32457
Your story is awesome and you should feel awesome.
>> No. 32467
File 125893392354.jpg - (366.98KB , 1600x1200 , mad-scientist.jpg ) [iqdb]
32467
BGM: "Dance of Gold"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FG3Bo2i8Nos

--------

"Stealthily." Glancing around the massive complex of what seemed more like a gigantic steel mill than a laboratory, taking note of the various guardians I could spot bustling about, I reckoned we couldn't afford to waste any more time or weaponry on this than was absolutely vital.
"It'd be a good idea to avoid unnecessary combat in our current state. Wouldn't you agree?"

On the subject of our current state at the time...

--------

Me
Status: Good (not Poisoned, Cursed, or Petrified)
HP (Health): ~66% (Moderately wounded, minor effect on physical combat ability)
MP (Magic): ~90% (Barely any magic used so far)

Alice
Status: Good
HP: ~50% (Significantly wounded, noticeable effect on physical combat ability)
MP: ~66% (Moderately drained; note: Alice has a larger MP pool and recovers between battles)

--------

"Current state? Don't be-... agh!" Alice winced in as she moved her arm about; it had regained its motion, yet was still weak and caused her no small amount of pain to use properly.
"...Don't be absurd. An injury like this is fleeting to a youkai. Then again, you, on the other hand, are a human, and I haven't fully healed yet, so... Point taken."

"I'm glad we see eye to eye on this." Before heading into the depths of the laboratory, I decided to give my inventory a brief once-over, just to get an idea of how much of my original arsenal was still remaining.

--------

Inventory:
Me:
•Chain whip. Though heavier to swing about, it would strike foes with much deadlier force of impact than its previous leather form. (Effective against all foes)
•Silver throwing knives. Plenty of them.
•A handful of Rebound knives.
•Quite a few Silver throwing axes.
•A silver dagger. The other had gotten lost at some point.
•A few last remaining bottles of Holy Water. Best saved for serious predicaments.
•A cross-boomerang.
•A time-stopping pocketwatch.
•Two Rosaries.
•A small box. Empty.
•A light suit of leather armor. Damaged and torn in several places.
•A bit of Japanese money.
•A Philosopher's Stone. Nearly depleted.
•A basic map of the mansion. Magical, as an unchanging map would be useless after an hour or so in this house of chaos.

Alice:
•Alice's Grimoire. Supposedly, used to(?) contain the 'Ultimate Magic'.
•Dolls, capable of wielding weapons larger than themselves with ease, and filled with gunpowder. Not many remain.
•Heavy explosive dolls. Unknown amount, presumably only a few more.
•?????

--------

...So, my coat and pouches were still full of stuff to a burdening degree, yet my supplies were actually low in the overall sense. How annoying. If only I could've destroyed, I dunno, the candellabra scattered about the mansion and used their parts as ammunition, or something like that... Packing my items back up, I turned to Alice once again.
"Say... Do you think we could make use of any of the materials here? Constructing any kind of weapons, tools, explosive devices/mixtures, or anything else similarly helpful. We're both low on supplies, so anything to help replenish or add to our offensive capabilities would be a welcome addition."

"Likely." A quick, dry response, as she rubbed her shoulder lightly to ward off some of the pain, violet eyes narrowed and twitching lightly.
"The variety of reagents available in the laboratories is nearly endless."
Straightening herself once again, she joined me by my side, aiding me in planning out a route that would be the least likely to have us seen by the minions and Patchouli Knowledge's laboratory assistants. Speaking of whom...

"Did anyone else of note work with or under you in the lab? If so, they're likely to still be here. I'd like to be prepared, in case we do end up having to fight them."

"Aside from Patchouli Knowledge herself? No one of note, no; she offered some of her own input and assistance during the process of creating the golem, but I mostly worked alongside her faceless assistants. Aside from her and myself, there are very few magicians 'of note' in Gensokyo..." Pulling back behind the corner as one of the alchemists wandered past, dragging a large, steaming cauldron on wheels behind him, she stared into the ceiling pensively for a moment.
"There was that one man that lives in the forest, too Mr. Kirisame. He's retired, though, choosing to raise a family rather than actively pursue magic. I do still interact with the Kirisame family on a sporadic basis, discussing matters of magic with the man, and I've been asked to babysit young Marisa a few times... Ah, but now I'm rambling on about insignificant things. Excuse me."

I merely smirked to her in response.
"It's alright." After all, it's somewhat heartwarming to hear that not all creatures of the night are inhuman monsters, but could interact with humans on a civil level, even show affection; the woman beside me was one I could honestly call my friend, in our situation. I owed her my life, after all, and she continued to aid me despite having every opportunity to leave after recovering her grimoire; should she find herself in a similar situation, I would not hesitate to return the favor, even if it meant risking life and limb.
"I've met the guy - seems like a nice fellow. Anyway..." I peered out from behind the corner; the alchemist had left by now, leaving the suspended laboratory section closest to us empty and unattended. This was our chance, and we would have to be swift to seize it.
"We have to go. Now."

"Very well." A smile found its way onto her face; I was amused to sense that this was somehow exciting for her, a thrill of adventure and danger that dulls the pain of aching wounds and battered bones, something I had almost forgotten by that time despite my youth. It only gets less fun after the first time, you know. This was a good thing, as it meant our spirits would be high and our stamina would be slower to drain in battle; and if what my companion had to say was true, we would surely have had a battle of epic proportions on our hands once we reached the end of the laboratory. Checking the walkways heading to and fro from the suspended room, finding them to be clear for now, we took a moment to peruse the materials available to us on the various tables, laid out in an orderly fashion.

Various flasks, beakers, test tubes, bowls, urns, glasses... Containers of all shapes and sizes, glass, clay or metal, you name it, you could find it there. While some contained strange and bizarre substances I could not identify, and others held liquids useless to us (such as embalming fluids for the creation of undead constructs), I happened upon a few chemicals I could recognize. Smiling to myself, I proceeded to help myself to some empty bottles, carefully pouring the materials into them in precisely measured increments; two parts this, one part that, some of these, little bit of those, and mix the whole lot with water. Ah, but first...

"You're making more of that firewater of yours?"

"Firewater? That's what some people call strong alcohol on the outside. This is Holy Water." Note the capitalization.

"Holy water, you say? So, you are also a priest, if you are capable of blessing the water?"

"Not exactly..." I pulled out my dagger while speaking, holding out one hand and promptly gripping the blade; Alice merely watched on wordlessly as I pulled the blade out of my hand, cutting a gash into my palm which, as expected, began to bleed instantly. I placed my hand above the large container of water and squeezed my fist, dripping a good dose of blood into the clear liquid. While I was neither a priest nor an annointed member of any clergy to begin with, the blessings imparted unto me by the church combined with my bloodline were more than enough to give my blood sufficient properties to sanctify the water. (To be quite honest, I'm an atheist. Yes, I do realize this makes little to no sense considering my proffession, but that's another story.)

As I proceeded to add the holy water to the mixtures to restock on my supplies, Alice approached me... apparently sewing up a crude cloth doll of simple design. Naturally, in the situation we were in, she had neither the time nor the resources to produce her usual miniature works of art, like that one favorite doll of hers that was aiding her by bringing her supplies. This would do for the time being, though.
"I managed to find some sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate. How convenient." How convenient indeed. Unfortunately, we heard footsteps approaching once again, so we had to pack up what we had gathered and get ready to move onwards.

Except we heard footsteps coming from both walkways heading further into the laboratory complex. This was bad. Rushing back towards the entrance would take too long, judging from how close the footsteps were coming from, and openly charging to attack them first would get us spotted, bringing the entire staff of the lab upon us.
"Alice, fly below the room."

"What about y-..."

"Just do it. I'll be fine." Nodding, my companion backed out of the door in the direction we came in, hovering off the walkway and under it, hiding herself beneath the suspended room. As for myself, I had to think quickly - and this is difficult to explain in words, but I'll do my best - I rushed to the corner between the two doors the steps were coming from, promptly climbing up and keeping my hands and feet pressed against the walls so I wouldn't slide down, lurking in the ceiling and holding my breath.

And waiting.

And waiting.

Eventually, the first alchemist waddled into the room, completely oblivious to my presence. These creatures, living in the laboratory as if it were their home, were among the most wretched beasts I had ever seen. Their bodies were unholy mockeries of men, misshapen and impossibly thin, giving them an almost skeletal appearance. Their skin was yellowed and leathery from overexposure to strange gases and chemicals, peeling off in certain places in loose-hanging shreds, exposing their slimy, festering flesh underneath. What little of their skin I could see was that on their balding heads, tiny tufts of discolored hair scattered about at random, ready to fall out at any given moment; the rest of their bodies were either covered by an oversized, baggy lab coat, or wrapped tightly in filthy bandages, presumably to keep their flesh from disintegrating in the caustic vapors they must have waded through on an hourly basis during their work. To top it all off, their faces were encased in gas masks, saving me from the sight of their grotesque, toothless, dead-eyed visage. All this combined with the unbearable strong stench of formaldehyde and sulphur to nearly make me lose control and vomit right there.

Instead, I opted to put it out of its misery; not a moment too soon, since it had just turned around and spotted me, emitting a muffled "Mmph! Mmph!" before my boot made contact with its fragile spine, knocking it head-first to the ground and extinguishing its sorry excuse of a life. Not even taking the time to recover from the fall properly, I gripped the whip and swung it in a diagonal arc out of the other door, catching the other alchemist by surprise as the spiked ball at the tip of the chain smashed into it with the force of a wrecking ball, sending it flying off the catwalk, falling into the depths of the laboratory with a muffled scream; glancing downwards, I caught a glimpse of its body turning to ash from the heat before it even reached the gigantic cauldron beneath us.

"It's alright to come out now," I said to the air beside myself, Alice promptly floating up next to me just as I finished speaking.

"Do you think we were noticed?" She glanced at the dead alchemist in the room behind me, wrinkling her nose. To think that she had to endure their presence while working on that golem of hers...

"No, I don't think so. Say, I was curious..." I coiled up the chain and put the whip back on my belt, and we proceeded to sneak along the floating maze of the laboratory, Alice guiding the way, me following closely, occasionally pausing and waiting for the alchemists to patrol out of our way, going about their duties; at other times, I would sneak up on one, snapping its neck from behind before it could notice me, dumping its corpse down to the blazing inferno below so as not to leave behind evidence.
"...Could you tell me more about your golem? What are its offensive capabilities? How well is it armored? Does it have any special properties I should know about, perhaps magical enchantments? It's best to know your enemy; I'd like to be prepared when we end up facing it. Of course, this is assuming we'll have to fight it, which seems rather likely from what you've said..."

"Indeed." She sighed softly, whether at me or to herself, I could not tell.
"It is, essentially, a gigantic flesh golem under the surface, given life by a combination of Patchouli Knowledge's Philosopher's Stones, and Remilia Scarlet's dark magics, to form a Soul Stone." Ah yes. A Soul Stone is a powerful artifact, similar to Philosopher's Stones, with the noted difference of being powered by, well... souls. Sounds like something out of myth, yet the mechanics are not all that complex, really, and the power output is orders of magnitude more powerful than that of other magical power sources. Naturally, toying around with souls is inherently taboo, banned in all respectable magic circles.
"In fact, those corpses you probably saw in the entrance corridor? After the completion of the golem, Remilia Scarlet sent her minions out on frequent, minor raids, to spark an uprising from the villagers. The resulting angry mob provided her with an ample amount of souls to power the golem with..."

"...Just how long had you been sitting in that dungeon before I rescued you?"

She responded with a dry laugh, turning her narrowed grey eyes to me as if I had asked something utterly trivial.
"Well... To put it in human terms, let's just say that it's fortunate for me that youkai magicians don't need to 'eat' in the conventional sense of the word."

I merely swallowed, choosing not to pursue the topic further; she merely continued detailing the golem's designs.

"It is coated from head to toe with magically tempered Damascus Steel, forged by youkai - the things that can penetrate its armor are next to none."

"For a change, your competence disappoints me, my dear Alice."

She smirked in response, yet the expression quickly faded.
"Its actual combat abilities are fairly limited... It mostly relies on smashing foes with its fists, although it is capable of magical blasts of energy if its targets are out of its range; it's not particularly fast or agile. Using magic would drain its soul stone more rapidly than melee combat, of course, although I added an inhibitor to it to prevent it from overusing its magic..."

"Mhm, mhm..."

"It also has runes inscribed into its armor to protect it from magical and elemental attacks, done by Patchouli Knowledge; if I could get close enough, I could possibly mar the runes and dispel the enchantments, but, ah... I would also be likely to get crushed like a fly."

"Well, we'll see about tactics when we get there... I need to give this some thought. It sounds to me like you've created a monster. For now, let's just keep going."

Not too soon did I turn my attentions back to the path before us, too, as we suddenly came within sight of an alchemist heading in our direction, standing in the opposite direction of the walkway we were about to cross.

"Fuck!"

Just as I managed to spit out the curse and make a dash for the vile creature, it turned tail and ran in the opposite direction, out of the room it was in and towards a larger, central laboratory section. I pulled out a knife and flung it at the alchemist, hitting it in the right shoulder and provoking a cry of anguish, muffled by the gasmask on its face, yet doing little to impede its momentum. Two more knives joined the first one in its flesh as I gradually caught up with it, one in its side and the other in the left arm, yet it just kept going - I could see its goal ahead of us, an elaborate lever connected to a gigantic vertical structure, green liquid bubbling in glass domes attached to it by thick tubes in the ceiling of the laboratory itself.

Thirty feet.

More knives strike it in the back; one catches it in the leg, causing it to stumble forward, nearly falling over.

Twenty feet.

Another knife hits it in the other leg, this time more successfully, slowing it down to a limp.

Fifteen feet.

I was too slow.

Ten feet.

An axe hit it in the left shoulder, splitting its torso nearly in half; by this time, it was howling in pain non-stop, still wobbling towards the lever, reaching out with its right arm.

Five feet.

The cross boomerang made quick work of its arm, cleanly slicing it off, leaving behind a useless stump.

Then it tripped, finally croaking loudly as it died.

And fell right onto the lever, causing the green fluid to drain into the central pillars of the laboratory complex, released out of scattered vents across the entire area in the form of a thick mist - this was the cause of the gasmasks worn by the alchemists. The anti-intruder system.
Poison gas.

Instantly, I wrenched the gasmask from the dead alchemist's head, scraping off what little I could of the slimy dead skin and flesh which had fused to it over time, promptly shoving it into Alice's hands.
"Take this, quickly! Put it on!"

"Don't be stupid!" She rejected the mask, pushing back at me with nearly enough force to cause me to lose balance, her voice nearly hysterical.
"I'm a youkai, you're just a human! I'll be fine, you need it more than I do!"

I opened my mouth to protest, yet all I could do was cough, the noxious vapors already beginning to invade my respiratory system; my eyes began to water and sting as I merely stared at Alice, the woman's face showing me an expression I had never seen before...



[] Damnable stubborn woman..! I reluctantly put on the gas mask, removing my scarf and throwing it to her; it would at least reduce her intake of the gas, hopefully enough for us to find our way out of the deadly clouds.
[] I pretty much tackled her right then and there, literally -forcing- the mask onto her face. As for myself, I made do by wrapping my scarf around my face; hopefully, this would let me survive long enough for us to find our way out of the gas.

-------

The music links?
[] They're atmospheric/they help envision the scene/I like them, etc.
[] I don't care about them/don't click them anyway.
[] Useless waste of space/stop posting them.
[] They're badly chosen/they don't fit the scenes at all.

>> No. 32468
[x] Damnable stubborn woman..! I reluctantly put on the gas mask, removing my scarf and throwing it to her; it would at least reduce her intake of the gas, hopefully enough for us to find our way out of the deadly clouds.

I hope she's right.

And about the music? It's nice though for "Dance of Gold", the remix you choose wasn't that good (The original was better)
>> No. 32469
[x] Damnable stubborn woman..! I reluctantly put on the gas mask, removing my scarf and throwing it to her; it would at least reduce her intake of the gas, hopefully enough for us to find our way out of the deadly clouds.
>> No. 32470
[x] Damnable stubborn woman..! I reluctantly put on the gas mask, removing my scarf and throwing it to her; it would at least reduce her intake of the gas, hopefully enough for us to find our way out of the deadly clouds.

[x] Find another gas mask ASAP for Alice. Who knows what kind of unpleasantness the gas will wreak on her? Remilia screwed her over once before; who's to say the gas won't be effective on youkai as well? The best security system is one people don't know about.
[x] Once that's done, come back and retrieve your weapons from Stumbles the Pincushion, here.
>> No. 32471
A sudden thought:

Has the protagonist's gender ever been confirmed?
>> No. 32472
>>32471

I was actually wondering that as well, actually. I don't think any gender specific pronouns have been used with the protagonist. People just keep calling us "you".

There's one way to find out:
[x] Check crotch
>> No. 32473
[x] Damnable stubborn woman..! I reluctantly put on the gas mask, removing my scarf and throwing it to her; it would at least reduce her intake of the gas, hopefully enough for us to find our way out of the deadly clouds.

[x] Find another gas mask ASAP for Alice. Who knows what kind of unpleasantness the gas will wreak on her? Remilia screwed her over once before; who's to say the gas won't be effective on youkai as well? The best security system is one people don't know about.
[x] Once that's done, come back and retrieve your weapons from Stumbles the Pincushion, here.
>> No. 32474
[x] Damnable stubborn woman..! I reluctantly put on the gas mask, removing my scarf and throwing it to her; it would at least reduce her intake of the gas, hopefully enough for us to find our way out of the deadly clouds.

[x] Find another gas mask ASAP for Alice.

Perhaps head back to where we dealt with the first two alchemists.

Music links, you choose some mixes I don't agree with, but I like them. (The proper mix plays in my head, anyways)
>> No. 32475
[x] Damnable stubborn woman..! I reluctantly put on the gas mask, removing my scarf and throwing it to her; it would at least reduce her intake of the gas, hopefully enough for us to find our way out of the deadly clouds.

[x] Find another gas mask ASAP for Alice. Who knows what kind of unpleasantness the gas will wreak on her? Remilia screwed her over once before; who's to say the gas won't be effective on youkai as well? The best security system is one people don't know about.
[x] Once that's done, come back and retrieve your weapons from Stumbles the Pincushion, here.
[x] Check crotch

This.
>> No. 32478
[x] I pretty much tackled her right then and there, literally -forcing- the mask onto her face. As for myself, I made do by wrapping my scarf around my face; hopefully, this would let me survive long enough for us to find our way out of the gas.
[x] I like them
>> No. 32480
[x] Have the protagonist pull Alice behind a corner for those kinds of shenanigans or something.
>> No. 32482
[x] Damnable stubborn woman..! I reluctantly put on the gas mask, removing my scarf and throwing it to her; it would at least reduce her intake of the gas, hopefully enough for us to find our way out of the deadly clouds.

[x] Find another gas mask ASAP for Alice. Who knows what kind of unpleasantness the gas will wreak on her? Remilia screwed her over once before; who's to say the gas won't be effective on youkai as well? The best security system is one people don't know about.
[x] Once that's done, come back and retrieve your weapons from Stumbles the Pincushion, here.

>[ ] Check crotch
lolwut. Tell everyone to wait and suddenly pull down your pants?

[x] I don't care about them/don't click them anyway. I have my own playlist.
>> No. 32483
[x] Damnable stubborn woman..! I reluctantly put on the gas mask, removing my scarf and throwing it to her; it would at least reduce her intake of the gas, hopefully enough for us to find our way out of the deadly clouds.

[x] Find another gas mask ASAP for Alice. Who knows what kind of unpleasantness the gas will wreak on her? Remilia screwed her over once before; who's to say the gas won't be effective on youkai as well? The best security system is one people don't know about.
[x] Once that's done, come back and retrieve your weapons from Stumbles the Pincushion, here.
>> No. 32484
[0] Damnable stubborn woman..! I reluctantly put on the gas mask, removing my scarf and throwing it to her; it would at least reduce her intake of the gas, hopefully enough for us to find our way out of the deadly clouds.

[1] Find another gas mask ASAP for Alice. Who knows what kind of unpleasantness the gas will wreak on her? Remilia screwed her over once before; who's to say the gas won't be effective on youkai as well? The best security system is one people don't know about.
[2] Once that's done, come back and retrieve your weapons from Stumbles the Pincushion, here.
>> No. 32485
>>32482

>[ ] Check crotch
> lolwut. Tell everyone to wait and suddenly pull down your pants?

"Excuse me Remilia, but could you please wait a moment? I need to check something."
"Oh? And what would this something be, per chance?"
"The something is in between my thighs within my pants."
"..."
"You can look if you want."
"...what..."
>> No. 32489
[x] Damnable stubborn woman..! I reluctantly put on the gas mask, removing my scarf and throwing it to her; it would at least reduce her intake of the gas, hopefully enough for us to find our way out of the deadly clouds.

[X] They're atmospheric/I like them/I tend to find the original if the suggested link does not suit my taste.
>> No. 32490
>>32472
>People just keep calling us "you".
Or "person".
>> No. 32497
[x] Damnable stubborn woman..! I reluctantly put on the gas mask, removing my scarf and throwing it to her; it would at least reduce her intake of the gas, hopefully enough for us to find our way out of the deadly clouds.

[x] Find another gas mask ASAP for Alice. Who knows what kind of unpleasantness the gas will wreak on her? Remilia screwed her over once before; who's to say the gas won't be effective on youkai as well? The best security system is one people don't know about.
[x] Once that's done, come back and retrieve your weapons from Stumbles the Pincushion, here.
>> No. 32551
File 125920214016.jpg - (27.04KB , 347x346 , poison-718296.jpg ) [iqdb]
32551
As the noxious vapors began to gradually fill my lungs, I quickly realized we didn't have time to argue about this; spitting curses at the damnable stubborn woman in my mind, I put on the gas mask, quickly removing my scarf in the process and throwing it to her. She understood immediately, wrapping the red cloth around her face tightly - it would filter out at least a little bit of the gas, hopefully slowing down its effects on her. As my breathing gradually became easier once again, I cast a brief glance down at Stumbles the Pincushion beneath my feet, what seemed to be one fifth of my arsenal sticking out of his lifeless corpse. Unfortunately, I couldn't afford to take the time to start wrenching the blades out of his sticky flesh - we needed to find a way out of this gas before it was too late. At the very least, we would have to find another mask for Alice.

As luck would have it, this would be far easier said than done. As if some sort of silent alarm had rung out in the heads of the alchemists (or, you know, the sight of the mist and the obvious connotations with it), they all seemed to have vanished - on occasion, we would catch brief glances of them scurrying behind impassable blast doors from a distance in a frenzied panic, too far away to catch. Curses! Wiping the grime-crusted eye windows of the mask with my fingers, I glanced to the side at my less-protected companion, clutching the scarf to her face and squinting her eyes; while she seemed to be enduring it rather well, I could already notice her motions becoming slower, more sluggish. Whereas she had slowed down her running to allow me to keep pace with her up until then, the roles had reversed, and I found myself leading her along by the hand; she was struggling to keep up, at one point stumbling on her feet. I promptly helped her up and resumed running, frantically searching for something... anything that could get us out of this mess - surely, there had to be some sort of system in place to cleanse the air of the fumes after the threat was over?

We must've spent ten to fifteen minutes dashing through the depths of the laboratory, Alice's increasing weakness becoming more and more apparent; whenever I could, I stopped for a few seconds to scour the nearest table for anything resembling an antidote to the poison, also allowing Alice a moment to catch her breath and get some rest, something she was in rapidly increasing need of from all the running. I couldn't very well ask her if she was okay with the mask muffling my every word, nor would that question have been worth asking in the first place: merely looking at her was enough to tell me that she had overestimated her resistance to the poison in her injured state. Her wounds were already blackening, and her grey eyes were beginning to look glazed over...

All I could do was stop and shake her for just a moment to get her to regain at least some clarity, yelling a muffled 'Hang in there!' at her through the mask; I'm not quite sure she even heard me, but a few blinks later she seemed to be at least a little bit lucid again, and we pressed on. Grinding my teeth, I felt like I was dragging her along by that time, thoughts of hunting vampires and whatnot long since pushed aside in my head, until I turned around a corner and bumped into something limp and skinny.

"Mmph!? Mmng, mmphbl!" The lone alchemist immediately threw up its hands in surrender, releasing the heavy metal cauldron he had been carrying and backing against a wall, shivering in a cowardly manner and shielding himself from me with his frail arms.

Too late to surrender.

I gripped the foul thing by the neck and smashed its head against the wall, mustering up all the willpower within me to keep from utilizing my full strength; I was -this- close to simply bashing a hole into its skull in my rage. After I had made sure I got his attention, I pulled back the mask in front of my face just a tiny bit, careful not to inhale any of the deadly gas, speaking quickly.

"The gas. How do we stop it?"

He hesitated, mumbling something incomprehensibly while fiddling with his long, crooked fingers, avoiding my gaze; I promptly bashed his head against the wall two or three more times, the pathetic wretch whining like a stuck pig the whole time. Realizing this method would yield little in the way or results, I grabbed the mask on his face and ripped it off, tearing a good bit of the skin on his face off along with it, provoking a shriek of pain and horror as the fumes assaulted his mouth and nostrils.

"Talk, and I might actually reconsider butchering you."

He immediately started flapping his lips, unused to forming coherent words, his misshapen face and mouth filled with widely spaced black stumps where teeth should have been clearly unsuited for such a task.

"Shweeeetchesss! Pull schweeeetchesss!!"

"Where?"

A trembling arm pointed a long, bony finger in a direction, roughly in the same direction we were headed and to the side. My pathetic little victim was beginning to have serious difficulty breathing, both from my vice-like grip around his skinny neck and the toxic gas displacing the oxygen in his lungs. Another smash against the wall for good measure, leaving a dark red wet stain where his skull impacted the metal, followed by further mewling and screeching.

"You're not lying to me, are you? You're not hiding anything, are you? Because if you are, so help me-..." I could feel my fingers tightening their grip involuntarily, only loosening again once I saw the alchemist struggling to speak again.

"P-puh-phull shweeeetchesss at shayme thyyyme, or noo werrrkh..!"

Guessing that would be all that I could milk out of the alchemist, I tossed him aside, cleaning up his gas mask a bit and giving him one last glare of contempt.

"...Well, I did say I wouldn't kill you..."

I promptly left the room, ignoring the croaking and wheezing noises from the foul creature I had left to its fate in the poison.

Mask in hand, I glanced about nervously, trying to locate my afflicted companion, the gas having become dense enough to obscure my vision to the point where I could barely see my hand in front of my face; a silhouette of a humanoid leaning over the side of one of the walkways filled me with dread, and I rushed over to Alice at once, only to see her shiver momentarily before the contents of her stomach went over the side. Pulling her limp figure back onto her feet, I cleaned off her face as best as I could, before fitting the mask on her face; what little good it would do to her at this point, at least it would allow her to breathe some clean air, hopefully stifling the poison's process for a little while...

"We've got to keep going," I mumbled to her through the mask, receiving no response; her hand was beginning to feel alarmingly cold in my grasp, her legs barely strong enough to support her own weight anymore. The foul toxin was wreaking havoc on her blood stream, the blackness of her wounds having spread to her lips and fingernails already; she hardly even seemed fully conscious anymore, merely stumbling after me in a blind haze, her not falling over a minor miracle in itself. The sheer heat from the gigantic cauldrons of molten metal beneath us didn't do much to help, either...

There!

In the distance, I could just about make out some sort of control terminal for the laboratory, the most prominent feature being a set of switches protected within glass cases, spaced away from one another - the cleansing system for the laboratory. If we could merely reach the switches and throw them in synchronization, we would be rid of the poison gas, and hopefully find an antidote for Alice before it would be too-... No. I couldn't afford to even consider the chances.

Just then, as we finally reached the terminal, I froze in my steps in horror, Alice dropping to her knees the moment we stopped running.

There were three switches.

---------

System message: Alice Margatroid status change (Poisoned).

(Part 1 of 2.)
>> No. 32553
DOLLS
>> No. 32554
>>32553

Eh, good point, I guess I didn't think about dolls because of the whole not-entirely-lucid thing. Deleting post anyway.
>> No. 32649
File 125951531069.jpg - (172.39KB , 800x540 , fef35a5d407da7b3d89ab0ba3f091118.jpg ) [iqdb]
32649
I helped her up. I had to, because she couldn't stand back up by herself. I wanted to let her rest, but it was impossible at the time. We had to act immediately; I helped her stabilize her stance, leaning her against the wall and placing her hands on the switch; at that point, it looked like she couldn't even see it herself anymore. I had to have faith in her, though - and myself. Two adventurers, three switches... Despair slowly beginning to clutch my guts, I glanced downwards at the dolls dangling from the rings on her fingers lifelessly. If only...

...Come on, Alice...

...Oh come now, don't look at me like that. It's to early in the story for me to tell you about something as overdramatic as my tragic failure to save her life, isn't it? Indeed, before I could allow myself to lose all hope, I caught a glimpse from the corner of my eye of one of the dolls stirring; her favorite one, in fact. My companion's hands trembling on the switch, she still mustered up the strength to guide her doll to the third one between us, even as she barely stood on her feet, her face covered by the mask - I could only picture her expression at the time. A moment that seemed like an eternity passed, before she slowly, weakly turned her head in my direction; I nodded at her, and gently pressed down on the switch, Alice pressing down on hers with her entire body, and the doll struggling to keep up with us, but...

*Clank.*

...

Nothing. Did we fail?

...

Nope. A few moments passed, and the whirring of unseen mechanisms became audible, the air gradually beginning to clear up as the gas was sucked out of the laboratory. Mind you, this was by no means a quick process due to the sheer size of the place, but eventually the air became clear enough to breathe again; I promptly ripped the gas mask off my face, having no desire to have the grime and filth that had accumulated on the inside from being worn by the alchemists anywhere near my own skin any longer. No sooner did I draw my first breath of cleansed air than I heard the sound of Alice dropping to her knees yet again; I promptly rushed over and tore the mask from her face as well - with how weak her breathing had gotten by then, it was more likely to suffocate her than do anything else.

"Come on, breathe now. Just focus on breathing..."

A faint wheezing informed me that my words were wasted; her breathing was quick and shallow, and I could tell she was already struggling just to remain conscious. Running out of ideas, I lifted her up onto my back, carrying her as I ventured forth into the depths of the laboratory once again...

...

Although we had been walking for minutes, it felt like hours at the time; the feeling of someone shivering against you despite it being hot, the feeling of their life force gradually draining away as you have no way to help them despite them being so close to you... It just does that to your perception of time, really.

"...Ngh..."

"Don't waste energy on speaking."

"...You underestimate youkai. We don't..." She paused to cough violently a few times, almost seeming as if she was going to throw up onto my shoulder.
"...We don't die so quickly from something like poison. I'm surprised it even worked against me at all..."

"...The green fluid turned into a purple mist when it was released. Strange... yet also familiar, somehow." I could tell I wouldn't be able to get her to shut up; I decided it'd be best to talk to her to get her to stay conscious, instead.

"Purple mist... There is a flower that produces poison that even youkai are weak against. The Lily of the Valley. How... well-prepared of the vampire." Indeed. The weak grip of her arms tightened around me just a little; with my own arms being occupied with holding her legs as I carried her, I was counting my blessings for there being no more staff within range of us in the laboratory, all of them having evacuated to other sections of the mansion complex. Eventually, we came to the body of the alchemist that had activated the security system in the first place, numerous knives and an axe still sticking out of its back. Gently and carefully setting Alice down for just a moment, I was momentarily frightened by her eyes being closed, the pallor of her face and her eerily calm and relaxed expression suggesting the worst. I did manage to wake her up by shaking her about a little, though, to my great relief; slowly opening those grey eyes of hers, she blinked at me as if she were unable to see me clearly.

"...Where are we now?"

"Still in the library. Try to stay awake, please..."

She just smiled at me in that disturbingly peaceful manner, again; unable to look at her in such a state, I turned around and began yanking the blades out of the alchemist, wiping the dried blood off against its lab coat.
"Hey, if I do end up dying here... Can I ask you for a favor? My grimoire, could you-..."

"No."

"No?"

"No, I'm not making a dying promise to you. Let's not tempt fate, alright? I'll get you a damn antido-... Oh?" Feeling something in one of the alchemist's pockets, about a millimeter away from where one of my knives was buried into its flesh to the hilt, I reached in and pulled it out, producing a corked vial of unidentified purple fluid. Of course, the 'unidentified' part prevented me from getting my hopes up just yet. If only I could test it somehow, before-...
"...Hey, Alice. You still alive there?"

"Mhmm."

"I have an idea."

...

Setting my companion down on a conveniently located chair by one of the tables in the laboratory room, I casually walked over to the seemingly lifeless body of the alchemist I had interrogated in regards to the location of the security override switches. Promptly delivering a kick to his side, I triggered a violent coughing and wheezing fit from the wretch, the poison coursing through its veins and nearly having extinguished what little life remained in its ruined shell. Turning its beady whitened eyes to me, its eyelids opened up wider than I had thought possible once it noticed me dangling the vial in front of its face; too weak to lift its arm from the floor, it merely gurgled in my general direction pathetically.

"You want this?" I removed the cork from the vial, only to see the alchemist attempt something vaguely resembling a nod. Having found my test subject, I poured some of it down its gaping mouth, lifting its head just a bit so it could swallow.

Thirty seconds passed.

Sixty. I checked on Alice; she was still conscious, though her ability to focus on her surroundings had faded again.

Then it started taking effect. Violently. The alchemist's body suddenly started thrashing and flailing about wildly, contorting painfully, shrieks and growls coming from its throat like some unholy cacophony of pain, the wretched creature bashing its own limbs bloody and broken against the floor, and then... It inhaled, deeply, glaring at me with a lucid clarity in its eyes.

"HERTZZZZZ!!!"

I promptly kicked it in the head, a loud crack accompanying me putting it out of its misery.

...

Having witnessed the antidote's rather unpleasant side effects at first hand, I glanced at my companion with no small degree of worry. Walking over to her, I managed to get her attention by shaking her about a few times and calling her name.

"Alice... Alice..."

"...Hmm..?" She opened one eye, offering me a faint smile as a greeting.
"Good morning..."

"It's not morning. Alice... This might probably hurt." I held the vial in front of her face, allowing her to focus on it.
"Quite a lot. I'll be here for you, though... alright?"

I wasn't quite sure whether she even understood what I was saying, at first, but then she simply nodded to me - no words or other gestures, just a firm nod. I laid her down on the ground, my scarf under her head, and helped her drink the antidote, much the same way as I had with the alchemist before.

Moments passed.

"...Hey."

I looked at her face, those grey eyes staring right back at me. Brushing some of her hair away from her face, I tried my best to give her an encouraging smile as I responded.
"Hey..."

"I just wanted to say something."

"...What did you want to say?"

"Thank you."

...

A minute had passed, when her eyes suddenly shot open again, this time a dark green and impossibly wide, her face contorting into a horrid grimace, her muscles tightening, fists clenching and unclenching, fingernails digging into her palms, her back arcing as her entire body twisted and turned in a sudden violent fit of torturous pain; all I could do was grip her wrists and rest my weight on her, keeping her from harming herself, holding her in place. With Alice's body thrashing and flailing beneath my own, her groand and screams the only sound echoing through the silence of the laboratory, all I could do was wait, and endure...

...

Eventually, she had calmed down, passing out immediately. I feared the worst at first, but she had still been breathing, and after a few moments I swore I could see the color beginning to gradually return to her face, and feel her pulse becoming stronger. All I could do, really, was hoist her back onto my back and press onwards. Onwards, into the darker depths of the infernal laboratory, the heat and stress wearing down my energy, yet I knew I had to keep going, that I couldn't afford to lose any more momentum than I already had, that I had to remain steadfast and determined. My senses were not dulled by exhaustion - they were tensed and honed by my unyielding will. I could feel Alice's heartbeat against my back, and this gave me the courage I needed to keep going, her soft, calm breathing reassuring me and renewing my faith.

Eventually, I came to a selection of doors with labels on them.

'Food for the younger mistress'
'Warp room'
'Elemental laboratory'
'Factory'

So, the laboratory had further sections to it? No wonder we hadn't seen any of the elementals Alice had warned me about; not that I was complaining. Choosing the most logical-sounding choice, I carefully turned the valve to unlock the steel door to the factory. Stepping inside, I was greeted with the sight of several raised platforms, mechanical constructs in varying states of completion lying prone on them - some only torsos, some with a few limbs, some almost complete, others seemingly only there for repairs and maintenance. But we did not come there for the regular automatons, no; our goal was at the end of the room, on the largest platform.

A colossal metallic titan stood on the suitably gigantic slab of metal, hunched over and posed like a gorilla prepared for battle, yet unmoving, its weight rested on its gargantuan fists and almost comically disproportionate legs. Its entire body was coated in thick metal plates that would make a tank look fragile, swirled patterns dancing along the metal's surface, colored runes decorating its wrists, shins and chest. It had the look of a giant suit of armor, its 'face' fashioned after a stereotypical knight's visor, a hollow blackness visible from inside. Its protective layering had no signs of weak spots of gaps through which we could have attacked, and any obvious blind spots it would have had had twice the amount of plating - it seemed to be impossibly heavy, yet I knew very well that with sufficient magical energy - such as from a soul stone - it would be able to support its own weight without issues, turning it from a disadvantage into an advantage. Its mighty fists would surely crush us in a single blow, should we get caught in one of its swipes or punches. Of course, I would first have to wake up my companion... I set her down for the third time that night.

"Alice. Wake up; we're here. I found the golem."

Slowly opening her eyes, now a dark shade of blue, she looked up at me lazily for a moment... before my words sank in, in response to which she instantly seemed to regain her energy and sprung to her feet, albeit clumsily at first. While determination and willpower had returned to her, she was still weak from the poison that had been ravaging her body until not long ago. Still, it was good to see her state had improved!
"...I see." She actually seemed... disappointed?
"I never thought it would come to this. Me, having to put down one of my own creations... Ah, I wonder if this is what a mother feels when she is forced to kill her own child?" A bitter chuckle, before she looked at me with a faint smirk dancing across her lips, which had regained some of their natural color again.
"I'm sorry, I probably sound foolish. It's nothing more than a lifeless, unholy construct, after all."

"Unfortunately, it's also pretty damn big and heavily armored. I don't see the key anywhere on it, and since it doesn't have pockets, I can only guess they put the key somewhere -inside- of it. How do we destroy it?"

"I don't know," she replied bluntly, grimacing a little.
"I specifically designed it to be nigh-invulnerable to just about anything I could think of."

"I see..." This presented a problem for us. I had no doubt Alice's master creation would be every bit as powerful as its creator's competence would suggest, and then some; not to mention the effect of the soul stone powering it, and whatever dark magic Remilia Scarlet and Patchouli Knowledge could have infused it with. Glancing about the room for anything that could possibly be of assistance, I spotted a black-covered tome on a table near the golem itself.

"What's that book? Is it relevant to our little golem problem at all?"

"Well, not exactly... It is a tome containing instructions on how to enhance metal through magical means. I doubt it would be of any assistance in -defeating- it..."

Hmm...



[] I had an idea. I went for the enhancement book anyway.
[] I had an idea. If it was invulnerable, then we would simply have to work backwards and remove its defenses, one at a time. I went to distract it, and had Alice mar the blue and red enhancement runes.
[] I had an idea. If we couldn't destroy it, then we'd simply have to get the key from inside of it, right? I wondered whether the visor on its face opened up or not...
[] I had an idea. Perhaps we could trick it into falling to the depths of the laboratory, from the suspended room which we were in? We could surely find our way down and get the key, assuming the thing didn't survive the fall...
[] She said 'nigh-invulnerable'. Anything breaks apart eventually if you hit it hard enough, and enough times. No items, no sub weapons, whip only, final destination.
[] I had an idea. (Write-in)
>> No. 32652
[x] I had an idea. I went for the enhancement book anyway.
-[x] See what it might offer, since it might boost my whip somehow.
[x] I had an second idea. If it was invulnerable, then we would simply have to work backwards and remove its defenses, one at a time. I went to distract it, and had Alice mar the blue and red enhancement runes.
>> No. 32653
[x] I had an idea. I went for the enhancement book anyway, to powerup my metal whip.

[x] She said 'nigh-invulnerable'. Anything breaks apart eventually if you hit it hard enough, and enough times. No items, no sub weapons, whip only, final destination.

THIS CHOICE. IT WAS MADE FOR ME.
>> No. 32654
[e] I had an idea. I went for the enhancement book anyway.
-[e] See what it might offer, since it might boost my whip somehow.
[e] I had an second idea. If it was invulnerable, then we would simply have to work backwards and remove its defenses, one at a time. I went to distract it, and had Alice mar the blue and red enhancement runes.

I like these choices.
>> No. 32660
[x] She said 'nigh-invulnerable'. Anything breaks apart eventually if you hit it hard enough, and enough times. No items, no sub weapons, whip only, final destination.

WHY BOTHER WITH OTHER CHOICES HERE
>> No. 32665
[x] I had an idea. I went for the enhancement book anyway, to powerup my metal whip.

[x] She said 'nigh-invulnerable'. Anything breaks apart eventually if you hit it hard enough, and enough times. No items, no sub weapons, whip only, final destination.

The only choice.
>> No. 32666
[x] I had an idea. I went for the enhancement book anyway.
-[x] See what it might offer, since it might boost my whip somehow.
[x] I had an second idea. If it was invulnerable, then we would simply have to work backwards and remove its defenses, one at a time. I went to distract it, and had Alice mar the blue and red enhancement runes.

We're full of good ideas.
>> No. 32670
>>32649
>"...Where are we now?"
>"Still in the library. Try to stay awake, please..."

Derp.
Should obviously be 'laboratory', not 'library'. They begin and end with the same letters, damn it.
>> No. 32671
[x] I had an idea, No, lots of them. But I went for the enhancement book first.
-[x] See what it might offer, since it might boost my whip somehow.
[x] Back to golem-killing:
[x] Idea One: Ask about the possibility of causing parts of its armor to rust, weakening its defenses and structural integrity, and possibly creating a few weak points.
[x] Next idea: see if it was possible to remove or weaken the soul stone which (and/or the spells that) allows it to ignore the physics that would demand this thing collapse into an immobile heap of metal.
[x] I had a third idea, too. If it was invulnerable, then we would simply have to work backwards and remove its defenses, one at a time. I went to distract it, and had Alice mar the blue and red enhancement runes.

SCIENCE!
>> No. 32673
[x] I had an idea, No, lots of them. But I went for the enhancement book first.
-[x] See what it might offer, since it might boost my whip somehow.
[x] Back to golem-killing:
[x] Idea One: Ask about the possibility of causing parts of its armor to rust, weakening its defenses and structural integrity, and possibly creating a few weak points.
[x] Next idea: see if it was possible to remove or weaken the soul stone which (and/or the spells that) allows it to ignore the physics that would demand this thing collapse into an immobile heap of metal.
[x] I had a third idea, too. If it was invulnerable, then we would simply have to work backwards and remove its defenses, one at a time. I went to distract it, and had Alice mar the blue and red enhancement runes.

Works for me~!
>> No. 32674
[X] I had an idea, No, lots of them. But I went for the enhancement book first.
-[X] See what it might offer, since it might boost my whip somehow.
[X] Back to golem-killing:
[X] Idea One: Ask about the possibility of causing parts of its armor to rust, weakening its defenses and structural integrity, and possibly creating a few weak points.
[X] Next idea: see if it was possible to remove or weaken the soul stone which (and/or the spells that) allows it to ignore the physics that would demand this thing collapse into an immobile heap of metal.
[X] I had a third idea, too. If it was invulnerable, then we would simply have to work backwards and remove its defenses, one at a time. I went to distract it, and had Alice mar the blue and red enhancement runes.

Sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic, and vice-versa.
inb4 Alice already thought of those and put in defenses to counteract them.

> 'Food for the younger mistress'

Thanks for reminding me of Flandre. We're gonna have to take her out as well as Remilia. The question however, is whether we should do so before or after Remilia.

I vote before, that way we don't have a pissed off Flandre at our throats. Sure, then we have a pissed of Remilia, but we have a better chance of surviving a mad fate manipulator than a mad apocalypse-in-a-can.

And yes, we will have to take out both Scarlet Sisters. You saw what Flandre did to that blast door, and she wasn't even trying. She could get out whenever she wanted, such as sensing that her sister was suddenly killed and coming for the ones who did so.
>> No. 32675
[x] I had an idea, No, lots of them. But I went for the enhancement book first.
-[x] See what it might offer, since it might boost my whip somehow.
[x] Back to golem-killing:
[x] Idea One: Ask about the possibility of causing parts of its armor to rust, weakening its defenses and structural integrity, and possibly creating a few weak points.
[x] Next idea: see if it was possible to remove or weaken the soul stone which (and/or the spells that) allows it to ignore the physics that would demand this thing collapse into an immobile heap of metal.
[x] I had a third idea, too. If it was invulnerable, then we would simply have to work backwards and remove its defenses, one at a time. I went to distract it, and had Alice mar the blue and red enhancement runes.
>> No. 32678
[x] I had an idea, No, lots of them. But I went for the enhancement book first.
-[x] See what it might offer, since it might boost my whip somehow.
[x] Back to golem-killing:
[x] Idea One: Ask about the possibility of causing parts of its armor to rust, weakening its defenses and structural integrity, and possibly creating a few weak points.
[x] Next idea: see if it was possible to remove or weaken the soul stone which (and/or the spells that) allows it to ignore the physics that would demand this thing collapse into an immobile heap of metal.
[x] I had a third idea, too. If it was invulnerable, then we would simply have to work backwards and remove its defenses, one at a time. I went to distract it, and had Alice mar the blue and red enhancement runes.
>> No. 32681
>>32674
>As I got closer, I noticed some sort of golden seal with a keyhole in the middle; the seal was patterned after a bat, with two snakes entwining themselves under it in a helix pattern, the three creatures centered around the keyhole.
>> No. 32686
[0] I had an idea, No, lots of them. But I went for the enhancement book first.
-[1] See what it might offer, since it might boost my whip somehow.
[2] Back to golem-killing:
[3] Idea One: Ask about the possibility of causing parts of its armor to rust, weakening its defenses and structural integrity, and possibly creating a few weak points.
[4] Next idea: see if it was possible to remove or weaken the soul stone which (and/or the spells that) allows it to ignore the physics that would demand this thing collapse into an immobile heap of metal.
[5] I had a third idea, too. If it was invulnerable, then we would simply have to work backwards and remove its defenses, one at a time. I went to distract it, and had Alice mar the blue and red enhancement runes.
>> No. 32753
File 125990211986.jpg - (455.14KB , 1500x916 , 24f37148cb9f8ce4c79578fe36cf1f10.jpg ) [iqdb]
32753
"Come now. Surely the golem would at least be vulnerable to the basic weaknesses of the metal that covers it? Couldn't you use your magic or something to cause it to rust..?" While I didn't exactly want to ask her to help me with the thing in her weakened state, the determined manner in which she stared at it and the way she refused my offers to help her stand only showed me that asking her to stay back would be useless. She shook her head.

"Precisely the types of weaknesses I've made it impervious to." Figures.
"Not only is magically damascened metal inherently resistant to environmental damage - such as corrosion - but the blue rune on its left wrist is attuned to the element of water, created by Patchouli Knowledge for protective purposes. Add to that the fact that my skills in -elemental- magic are not nearly as formidable as hers, and..."

"Right, right..." Well, that idea went out the window right then and there...
Wait, a book on magically enhancing metal? One glance at the weapon by my side resulted in the logical realization dawning upon me - if my weapon would not be powerful enough to penetrate the golem's armor normally, then I would surely be able to empower it to a sufficient degree to actually do so.

"I've got an idea anyway. Is the golem active?"

"Yes," Alice responded immediately, leaning herself against the nearby wall to better support her weight, still having minor difficulties standing for a long period of time.
"You can't see it from here, but I can sense the magics cast upon it are in an active state. The soul stone within pulsates with power."

Figures, again. As luck would have it, the table with the book on it was right next to the golem's platform.
"Cover me, then. I'm going in." Before she could ask, I was gone. As I dashed for the table, I saw no movement from the golem - was its range of aggression proximity based, or did it have its own field of vision? Probably should've asked Alice before charging in without any consideration of my own well-being. It was too late by then, though; I dive for the book, rolling into a tensed-up stance on the table and gazing up at the gigantic construct, ready to spring back in evasion the moment its fists came raining down on me. Fortunately, they didn't; it was as unmoving as before, staring down at me with the empty blackness behind its visor. Deciding not to tempt my fate, I turned tail and headed back to my companion anyway.

"Look out!"

Upon hearing Alice's words, I instinctively leaped forwards. And then, a split-second later, I heard it - not the screeching sound of metal struggling against metal, but a series of smooth clacks ending in a loud smash, shaking the very floor of the suspended laboratory room we were in. Stumbling and nearly tripping over, I glanced over my shoulder to see the golem, stepping off its platform, an unholy light flaring from behind its visor as it turned its head in our general direction, raising its colossal fist from the equally massive dent in the floor it had created right behind me to its side before beginning to follow me, its movement astonishingly quick for its size and bulk.

---------

BGM: "Tower of Dolls" (Chronicles version)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcizlIz3HsA

---------

Perhaps the most jarring aspect of the abomination wasn't even its speed, but... how silent it was. You'd expect a giant golem covered in who-knows-how-many layers of metal plating to cause an awful lot of noise whenever it moves even one limb, yet the only sounds produced by Alice's creation were the smashes of its heavy feet against the floor, and the clicking together of the joints of its armor. Compared to the clumsy and slow masses of barely mobile metal most wizards choose to pass off as golems, this was indeed a masterpiece. Which was, of course, a bad thing, what with it rushing in our direction with a silent, animalistic ferocity, like some sort of twisted robotic version of King Kong, several tons of metal fist swinging through the air in anticipation of crushing us into wet stains on the floor.

As it turned out, it was actually faster than me in a straight line; I had to duck and weave between the other platforms in the laboratory, book cradled in my hands, to evade the colossus. Diving behind a partially finished earthen golem, missing only a head and arms, I was promptly showered with tiny rocks as Alice's creation lashed its forearm right through its torso, reducing it mostly to rubble. It made one mistake, though; it climbed up on the platform itself, in an attempt to close the distance in a straight line. Just as planned! No, really, don't look at me like that; it's not like my next move was improvised or anything. Throwing a nearby lever, exactly as I had wanted to do (oh be quiet already), I was treated to the sight of the golem being crushed between the platform and the chute in the ceiling above it, far too small and tight for its humongous frame. Well, a more accurate description would be that it was the ceiling that was crushed, rather than the golem itself; however, this would hinder its movement long enough for me to rush behind the corner where Alice was waiting for me, a look of both concern and a strange thrill on her face.

"Oh wow, it works much better than I could ever have imagined! Would you just look at it? My design is flawless! It's so nimble and yet so powerful, and-..."

"I'd hate to interrupt your gushing over how awesome your deadly machine is, but could we please focus on destroying it now?" A disappointed look on her face, she peeked out from behind the corner to make sure the creature hadn't freed itself just yet. I flipped open the black tome, skimming over the pages as a frown gradually spread itself across my face. All black arts. Anything that seemed even remotely useful had a significant amount of dark magic involved in it; not something I'd want to inflict upon my holy weapon, assuming these spells would even function on it at all. And yet, one spell in particular caught my eye...

"Soulsteel?"

"A cheesy name to call it by, I know." I couldn't see her face from behind the corner, but I could tell she was smirking.
"Black steel, dark steel... There's no real proper term for the stuff, since it's something of a taboo among magician circles. Essentially, souls are magically 'hammered' into the metal to make it lighter and more durable, improving its overall performance exponentially. The same stuff that the bars in front of my cell in the dungeon were made of-..."

She pulled her head back and looked at me for a moment. Then, we both broke out into a subtle smile.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

"Perhaps. But we'd better hurry; Goliath is breaking free." The sounds of stone and metal being smashed coming from inside the laboratory room confirmed her statement.

"Goliath? You named it?"

"Of course. Does a mother not name her children?"

"You-... Nevermind. Look, can you handle this? I'm no good with black magic, for... obvious reasons..."

"Of course, but I'd need you to keep it busy for a while. Also..." She narrowed her eyes at me, light green irises glinting curiously in the faint glow radiating from below us.
"...I am surprised that you would ask me to do something like this to human souls. Not that I, myself, have any particular moral issue with it, but-..."

"Use the ones in the soul stone."

"What?"

"The soul stone. It'll drain some of its power, no? Besides, they're trapped for now anyway... The sooner we defeat your golem, the sooner the souls will be freed." She nodded in response, understanding my plan completely. Now for the tricky part... 'Distracting' the golem. How do you distract something without a mind? A golem's intellect and behavior is based on what the master has given it, similar to computer programs or AI; it would have various protocols according to which it would react to various situations, not necessarily limited to the logic of living beings. A golem is entirely focused on its assigned tasks and objectives, ignoring all else; even its own safety is delegated to a secondary level of priority compared to its primary purpose.

It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

Well, when in doubt, hit it with something. Jumping out from behind our little corner, I attracted the thing's attention with a triumphant yell, just as it finished digging its way out through the ceiling and dropped to the floor off the platform, quaking it and sending me falling on my backside. In hindsight, that triumphant yell wasn't particularly impressive after all. No matter - I was in its sight once more, and that placed me on the top of its priority list. Squishing me, to be exact. Indeed, it immediately proceeded to pursue this goal, with me narrowly being able to avoid the horizontal swipe of a huge hand after the golem performed an impressively quick dash in my direction. Not giving me a moment's breather, a vertical smash with the other hand quickly followed as soon as my feet touched the ground again, prompting me to roll to the side, the room quaking once more; as opposed to myself and Alice, the golem kept perfect balance despite this.

"How's it going?" I yelled to her after dodging a few more experimental swings, noticing to my mild distress that the golem seemed to be studying my movement patterns... and adapting to them. Damn it, I was used to these things being slow, clumsy and dumb! If only Alice could've taken control over it... but I suppose the rest of the story would be somewhat boring if we had just steamrolled through the rest of the mansion on the shoulders of an unstoppable machine, no? Oh, and my earlier idea of hitting it? Well, my whip bouncing off its surface harmlessly didn’t even seem to affect its motions at all, so I quickly stopped even trying; with the adaptability this thing was showing, I didn’t want it to suddenly catch the whip and drag me into its lethal grasp or anything.

"Almost done. Don't interrupt." Taking the time to snap at me in response, Alice resumed the ritual. Now, enhancement and imbuing magic tends to require reagents to work, but in this case said reagents were conveniently located inside the golem itself. Sure enough, its surface began to glow, its attacks ceasing as it stopped to look at its arms, examining this strange and unexpected change to itself; had it been a living being, it would've looked confused. The sound of a hundred muffled screams seeped into my ears like a sharp whisper as the glow subsided, being absorbed into the golem's armor as if nothing had happened... except for the fact that it was now a stylish black in tone. Perfect, I thought with a smirk, this would be easier than I had thought at first.

Or not. Seemingly satisfied with its new colors, the creature took to assaulting me with a newfound fervor, its swings faster and more accurate, one arm misdirecting me while the other nearly missed me. And by 'nearly missed' I mean it eventually managed to graze me with its thumb. And by 'graze' I mean it caught me completely off-guard and smacked me right into the wall, my ribs protesting in the form of a sharp pain in my side; sadly, I didn't have the time to check whether or not I had broken any ribs, because it was coming for me again. Its motions were slower than before, though; yet not slow enough, because I couldn't roll away in time to avoid the massive fists coming down at me with crushing force.

Luckily enough, I didn't have to, as a familiar beam of destructive energy came from the side, knocking the golem's arms off-course and sending them crushing down into the floor beside me with enough force for the shockwave to send me flying again. This was beginning to get annoying, and my side was killing me. The golem, completely unharmed by the blast, glanced to the side to analyze this new threat, in the form of its creator leaning one hand against the wall, the other held in the golem's direction, having just fired the aforementioned blast. Taking full advantage of the opening I was so generously provided with, I reached for a bottle of Holy Water and smashed it into the golem's leg, which was promptly engulfed in holy flames. Success!

Except not. Its leg, mostlyy unscathed, was promptly raised in the air and brought down right where I was standing a split second ago, flaming liquid spraying about from it. Curses! At most, I had ruined the lovely swirly patterns on the surface of its armor, but I hadn't done any serious damage to it.
"Didn't work! What's wrong?"

"The runes protect it from such forms of damage!" Alice provided cover fire for me as a the golem proceeded to chase after me, fists crashing down around me like... like something that crashes down on top of you and kills you. I'm out of analogies to use, sorry. While Alice's blasts didn't really harm it, they provided some knockback, slowing it down and ruining its aim. Suddenly, it stopped following me. I took another swing at it with the whip as I noticed this, only to have it bounce off harmlessly; indeed, black steel being more durable than normal metals, physical attacks would be utterly useless now. I then noticed what it was doing - gathering up energy in its fists, its visor-face turned towards Alice. Crap. She noticed, too, but her movements were too slow to avoid it...

"Watch out!" I yelled as I dove towards her, tackling her to the ground just in time for the blasts of energy to fly past our heads, right into one of the massive chains suspending the room over the laboratory (brilliant design choice there)... and sending the room off-balance. Us being nearest to the corner with the severed chain, the sudden tilt nearly sent us falling to the hellish depths. Conversely, the golem, despite weighing who knows how many tons, maintained its balance, slowly and carefully inching its way towards us. I helped Alice to her feet, trying to keep us steady as the teetering of the room eased up a bit.

"...Do you think you could disrupt the runes, somehow?"

"I'd need to get close to it..."

"Gotcha. Stay close." Her nod of affirmation decidedly less confident than before, she followed me as I carefully sidestepped in the golem's general direction, whip ready in hand. Its movements were more calculated now, yet slower and easier to predict. Each swing of its massive arms would send it dangerously close to becoming off balance and toppling over, falling to its doom; despite the magic empowering it, it was still subject to the laws of physics, and thus, momentum. Sidestep here, jump there, make sure Alice is right behind me... Ah, there! Swinging the whip forwards after another sidestep, I hooked it around its wrist, grappling onto it. It promptly responded by yanking its arm up, pulling me into the air.

Just as planned. Using the momentum from the golem's miscalculated maneuver, I swung over its head and behind its back, the whip catching onto its shoulder while still being hooked to its wrist; I swung between its legs and quickly pulled the chain around its leg, granting me enough leverage to struggle against its strength for a short period of time... Just long enough for Alice to hover over to the immobilized arm and perform her magic. Its head rotating in place like that of an owl, the golem quickly noticed what she was doing, grabbing for her with its other hand, narrowly missing her as I pulled a little harder on the chain. Deciding then and there to show me just which of us was stronger, the golem yanked its hand free, the whip uncoiling itself from its wrist and me falling down on my ass, somersaulting backwards clumsily until managing to stop myself against the wall.

"Did you get it?"

"I got one set... I'll need to get at its back, too."

Understanding, and with minor hesitation, I charged right at the metallic monstrosity staring at me with that unholy light in the gaps of its visor... and whipped it in the face with a loud clang. Not even any sparks, just a clang as the golem's head spun to the side a little, before slowly rotating to face me again. Predicting the incoming swipe of its hand, I leapt into the air and backflipped over it, landing on its other hand with surprising grace as it attempted to catch me by surprise with a follow-up attack. Gripping onto its thumb for dear life, I held on even as it shook its hand about in its silent fury, keeping an eye on Alice stealthily sneaking up on it from behind. Just a little bit longer, and... Damn it, did it have eyes in the back of its head? It noticed, again, promptly turning around 180 degrees and smashing its hand right into Alice, sending both her and myself flying into one of the walls on the upper side of the tilted room with a hard crash. As I worked up the strength to push myself up onto my hands and knees, having had the wind knocked out of me, Alice spat out some blood and raised her gaze, eyes a dark blue in tone as she glared at her creation, slowly beginning an upwards walk in our direction with the intent of finishing us off. The runes surrounding its right forearm and torso had dimmed.

"I managed to disable... Two sets... Don't think I can handle any more, Patchouli Knowledge's power isn't... easy to break, even if I know the specific enchantment process."

"Which ones did you get?"

"Water, and... fire."

"Good." Standing up, I pulled another bottle of Holy Water out and flung it down at the golem; it blocked it with its right arm, the liquid bursting into flames once again, black soot flying through the air as the holy fluid ate through its corrupted armor, and yet...

It wasn't going to be enough. The damage was visible, but it was getting too close, too fast, and I wouldn't be able to burn it fast enough; nor did it look like I'd have enough bottles to even attempt such a thing. Nervously trading glances between a bottle in my hand and the approaching, relentless titan, I noticed Alice, mustering up the willpower to stand on her unstable feet, gripping her grimoire against her chest with her free hand pointed at the golem, and...

Exhaling, exhaustedly.
"My energies are too low, I..." She looked at me, uncertainty in her gaze.
"I need your help for this."

"...What do I do?" In response, she took a step closer to me, our shoulders touching, and brought the book in front of us, holding it as if she was about to open it.

The golem was already charging up another energy blast in its hands, preparing to destroy us once and for all.

"...Do you trust me?" She asked me this, at such a time and place; yet, from the look in her eyes, I could tell she was serious about this.



[] I nodded.
[] I hesitated.
>> No. 32754
[] I nodded.
>> No. 32755
[X] I nodded.

Dual Crash.
>> No. 32756
[x] I nodded.

Of course we trust Alice.
>> No. 32757
[x] I nodded.
There was another option?
>> No. 32758
[x] I nodded.

A knife or a kiss?

...christ, Sakuya's going to be a p--

Oh, right.

Awesome.
>> No. 32762
[X] I nodded.
>> No. 32763
[x] I nodded.
The only useful partners in life or dead situation are those who value your life as much as theirs.
>> No. 32764
[x] I nodded
>> No. 32769
File 125996174341.jpg - (45.38KB , 662x470 , Just as planned_.jpg ) [iqdb]
32769
>>32753

>Just as planned.

Ahehe, it had to be done.

Also:

[h]I nodded.
>> No. 32775
File 126005651684.jpg - (114.42KB , 522x555 , 42b41e3c555553d2a2514580672c4d99.jpg ) [iqdb]
32775
I nodded. Alice had proven herself to be nothing but trustworthy and reliable, after all. Besides, the alternative was to get turned into a smoldering pile of ash by her golem, just about to finish charging its deadly blasts...
"I trust you."

"Good," she responded with a brief smile.
"Now, this will probably feel strange..." And then, she opened the book right in front of my face.

I could -feel- the magic seeping into me, each glowing sigil that my eyes glanced over filling me with power. Alice grabbed the bottle of holy water in my hands - I could feel her slender fingers entwining with my own around the glass, a warmth spreading from her body to my own, the magic within our blood mingling as she borrowed some of my power. I looked down at the approaching unholy construct.
Yes.
We could do this.
We wouldn't lose.
Almost instinctively, I mouthed the spell that she was casting, her arcane power mixing with my holy power, the bottle in our hands shattering without harming us, just as we raised our hands to the sky.

"Hydro Storm!"

The smoke and gas naturally present in the laboratory thickened and converged in the ceiling, swirling about and forming what appeared to be dark clouds above us and the golem. At the very last moment, once I felt the spell cast complete, I managed to pull my coat over Alice to protect her, just as I had back in the library... And then it started raining. To me, it was a refreshing, cool rain, yet to the golem it was like a mix of acid rain and a napalm strike. Its movement slowed and became strained, the metal screeching against itself, tiny patches of flame multiplying upon its surface as the holy water drenched it completely, each drop impacting it like a small meteor, punching holes into its armor, melting it, dissolving it, destroying it, burning it to ash. The sound of a chorus of screams and wails was deafening, as the souls bound within the metal were released upon its destruction.

The blast never came - soon enough, the storm cleared, the smoke from the sizzling golem thinned, and I thought it safe to let go of Alice once again. As we looked down at our assailant, I smirked, knowing victory was at hand. What presented itself before us was a naked, walking giant of stitched-together flesh, some limbs still ablaze, others scorched back, one hand burnt to uselessness, its featureless 'face' staring at us with a haunted glow shining out of a socket that was meant to be its eye. Some of its stitches and staples having come undone, a similar glow was escaping from within its chest; I could feel its energy slowly draining, and yet it still pressed on, slowly and clumsily climbing up the tilted floor towards us, raising one fist in the air, reaching for us.

"I'll need you to cover me one more time, Alice."

A bit of a sad frown on her face from seeing her 'child' about to be put down, she nodded to me, pointing her hand at the golem as her palm began to glow; several of her dolls flew out to surround her in a circle, also pointing their little artificial hands out and beginning to glow.
"Got it. Go."

I went. Ducking and staying off a bit to the side away from the still-functional fist, I gripped the whip tightly in my hand, the golem keeping its one 'eye' on me as I approached and slowly turning towards me, upon which I was treated to the pleasing sight of its right arm being blown into smithereens, one thick beam of destructive power accompanied by five smaller ones orbiting it hitting it right in the forearm and sending pieces of meat and splintered bone flying everywhere. Now disarmed - pardon the pun - the golem was entirely at my mercy. The first impact of the spiked ball at the tip of my chain whip struck it directly in the chest, the force enough to send it staggering a step backwards. Even so, it would not relent, lunging for me once more with what energy it had left; I rolled backwards to evade it, focusing my momentum into another whip strike aimed precisely in the same spot, followed by another, and another; soon enough, the wet sound of crushed flesh was replaced by that of shattering bone, my strikes unending and swift, right on the mark, the golem unable to focus on anything other than keeping its balance, the concept of lost hope unknown to the mindless beast. Another attempt at rushing me with its shoulder, foiled by another of Alice's beams from behind. Eventually, what remained of its ribcage crumbled, revealing its 'heart', a grimly pulsating stone of dark purple, appearing nearly black unless hit by the light.

"There! Alice!" Before I could even look back at her, a doll rocketed past my head a full speed, making a beeline for the soul stone and clinging to it. The golem turned its eye downwards in what would seem like confusion in a living being, and then... looked at me.

It's times like that when you have to wonder if even non-sentient, non-sapient constructs and mindless drones know what's going to happen to them. It's almost sad, in a way.

Almost.

My whip struck the doll with perfect aim, detonating it and sending pieces of flesh and bone flying all over the laboratory, even beyond the suspended room we were standing in, bone shrapnel shredding through my clothing and grazing my skin, blood and other fluids splashing into my face and hair. The golem toppled over lifelessly, its torso torn asunder, falling onto its back and rolling backwards off the edge of the suspended room, falling to the fiery hell below as is befitting of such an unholy creature. Left behind was the soul stone, hovering in the air before us; I rubbed my eyes to clean them of the gunk from the blast, and noticed a thin crack on the surface of the stone, gradually spreading all over, the pulsating slowing down as if it were a dying heart... And then it shattered, a torrent of souls escaping into the netherworld with cries that almost sounded grateful.

*Chink.*

"The key!" we exclaimed in chorus, as the small, golden piece of metal we had endured all these hardships for casually bounced and rolled its way down the floor after falling from the soul stone, slipping over the edge where the golem had smashed a hole into the wall...

I next found myself hanging off the edge, barely having managed to grasp the key in my hand in the air, supporting my weight with my legs and one hand struggling to clutch both the wall and stopwatch in my hand. I released the button, carefully climbing back into the room and examining the key. In perfect condition - good. Only two more to go, huh... Catching her breath, finally having been given the chance to relax after all the bullshit we had been put through during our little adventure in the laboratory, Alice approached me, keeping her balance steady on the tilted floor.

"You're fast."

"Thanks. It wasn't all me, though." I showed her the stopwatch, with a smirk.

"Is that what you used to defeat me back in the dungeon? Interesting trinket." She examined it a little more closely, blinking those blue eyes of her with a reserved curiosity.
"...However, we should get out of here. I'd rather not spend any longer in this damnable place than I have to."

"Speaking of which... Are you feeling okay, now? Your face isn't as pale anymore."

"Yes, thank you. Again." She smiled, earnestly, bowing her head to me as we made our way out of the room, backtracking our steps to find the exit.
"It seems I owe you my life now, too."

"Consider it an exchange, then; you've saved mine twice, and now I've paid off one of those debts," I responded with a smirk, glancing around and trying to remember the way we came from.
"I still owe you for one more time."

"If that's how you wish to think of it, then so be it." She chuckled lightly; I guessed she was right about youkai recovering from injury and exhaustion faster than humans. Certainly, from her movements and the look on her face I could tell she was still in various pains and tired, yet she had the strength of will to shrug it off and press onwards. I admired that in her.

And then we came to the selection of doors once again. I stopped, rubbing my chin in thought and pondering the situation over.

"What's wrong?"

"Well, do you remember when we were running from Hong Meiling before entering the laboratory? You blew up the hallway to slow her down; I don't think we can go back the way we came after all."

"Hm. Do you propose we find an alternate path out of the laboratory, then?" She tilted her head at me, a somewhat nervous look on her face as her eyes glanced from door to door, as if calculating the risks involved with each of them.

"Maybe... Give me a minute to think it over."



[] 'Food for the younger mistress'. Surely not dangerous. A meat cellar? Storage for blood?
[] 'Warp room'. The obvious choice. Where it would take us, of course, was the mystery...
[] 'Elemental laboratory'. As good as any other choice, even if it meant we would likely get into more battles.
[] On second thought, Hong Meiling would likely be waiting for us at any of these choices. I decided to go back the way we came and figure out a way to get through the collapsed hallway - she would never see it coming, and we would avoid another unnecessary fight.

---------

System message: Unlocked ???? ability!
Inventory update: You now possess the Gate Keeper's Key, Library Key and Laboratory Key.
>> No. 32776
>Hydro Storm

I fist pumped IRL.

[x] 'Warp room'. The obvious choice. Where it would take us, of course, was the mystery...

SOTN style, sure why not.
>> No. 32777
>[] 'Food for the younger mistress'. Surely not dangerous. A meat cellar? Storage for blood?

This won't be as easy as we'd think, since chances are there'd be some nasty beasties down there.

>[] 'Warp room'. The obvious choice. Where it would take us, of course, was the mystery...

Who knows, a real gambler's choice

>[] 'Elemental laboratory'. As good as any other choice, even if it meant we would likely get into more battles.

Perhaps some fights, but perhaps an opportunity to do some home made elemental enhancements.

>[] On second thought, Hong Meiling would likely be waiting for us at any of these choices. I decided to go back the way we came and figure out a way to get through the collapsed hallway - she would never see it coming, and we would avoid another unnecessary fight.

Not that likely I'd think especially with the warp room.

I wonder what the ???? ability is
>> No. 32778
[x] 'Food for the younger mistress'. Surely not dangerous. A meat cellar? Storage for blood?

Down into the darkness.
>> No. 32779
[x] 'Food for the younger mistress'. Surely not dangerous. A meat cellar? Storage for blood?

Inb4 "The Forgotten One" from Castlevania:LoI is there suspended on meat hooks forever destined to feed Flandre
>> No. 32780
[x] 'Warp room'. The obvious choice. Where it would take us, of course, was the mystery...
Mystery~
>> No. 32781
[x] 'Warp room'. The obvious choice. Where it would take us, of course, was the mystery...

Chances are we'd find a nice short cut.
>> No. 32782
[x] 'Warp room'. The obvious choice. Where it would take us, of course, was the mystery...
>> No. 32783
I'm tied between these two choices.

[?] 'Food for the younger mistress'. Surely not dangerous. A meat cellar? Storage for blood?
[?] 'Warp room'. The obvious choice. Where it would take us, of course, was the mystery...

While going out of our way to cut off Flandre's food supply might be a good idea (or not) the warp room could take us anywhere, such as Flandre's room.

So how will we take on the bonus boss?
>> No. 32784
[x] On second thought, Hong Meiling would likely be waiting for us at any of these choices. I decided to go back the way we came and figure out a way to get through the collapsed hallway - she would never see it coming, and we would avoid another unnecessary fight.
It's so basic that it has to work. Meiling couldn't have sit down and waited on the same place after they collapsed that hallway: she must be somewhere else, trying to get a hold of the intruders again... and that'll be her undoing.
>> No. 32785
[x] 'Food for the younger mistress'. Surely not dangerous. A meat cellar? Storage for blood?

How much magic does the stopwatch consume per use? 10%? And as a possible "no shit" observation, we're probably Sakuya, aren't we?
>> No. 32787
>>32785
Depends on how long time is stopped for. It can just slow it down too, like in the later Castlevania games; this, obviously, costs less MP over time to maintain.

Oh, same policy applies here as in GH: Write-ins pretty much always welcome. Combat is generally set to auto-pilot outside of choices for what weapons to use and a general strategy, but if you want to dictate such things in more detail, or use tools and items (inventory in >>32467 ) in any other situation and see what happens, go for it.
>> No. 32788
>>32785

I had been under the impression the MC was male...
Not that the gender really matters so much as who is where as I thought Sakuya is already at Remilia's side.
>> No. 32790
>>32789
Fairy Maid Legion
>> No. 32795
>>32789
>A star, with a lion and chinese dragon grasping it and looking at one another with furious faces.

>A pentagram, with six bat wings sprouting from its sides, three on each side, and a heart in the middle.

>A halfmoon suspended above an open tome.

>A clock dial.

>And two large hands suspended above a humanoid shape.

We still have keys to get from Koakuma and Sakuya by looks of things. Given that Sakuya's almost certainly the Clock Tower boss, the Inner Quarters will probably be sexy time with Koakuma.

>>32785
>And as a possible "no shit" observation, we're probably Sakuya, aren't we?
Nope, pretty sure she's a boss judging from the above.
>> No. 32797
>>32795
Then why are we a vampire hunter with the ability to stop time and loaded with silver knives?

Not to mention the fact that Taisa's been very careful not to reveal the character's name or gender?

If it's not Sakuya, it could be some FACE YOUR OWN EVIL TWIN boss.
>> No. 32798
[x] Food for the Elemental Warp Hallway
>> No. 32799
>>32797

>Then why are we a vampire hunter with the ability to stop time

Because it's a sub-weapon.

>and loaded with silver knives?

We have a pair of silver knives and an unknown amount of throwing knives. I wouldn't say we're loaded.
>> No. 32800
File 126015691629.jpg - (1.31MB , 1280x822 , sdmcvcrew.jpg ) [iqdb]
32800
Take it easy people.

Have an awesome picture.
>> No. 32801
>>32800
Patchy looks badass. And guarded by Meiling?
>> No. 32806
[x] On second thought, Hong Meiling would likely be waiting for us at any of these choices. I decided to go back the way we came and figure out a way to get through the collapsed hallway - she would never see it coming, and we would avoid another unnecessary fight.
>> No. 32807
>>32797
>FACE YOUR OWN EVIL TWIN

http://castlevania.wikia.com/wiki/Doppelganger <-?
>> No. 32816
>>32799
>Because it's a sub-weapon.
HURRRRR

Also, the daggers are silver and the knives are silver-plated.

So yes. She is still loaded with silver knives, you picky fuck.
>> No. 32818
>>32816

u mad?
>> No. 32840
File 126041120840.jpg - (78.20KB , 500x550 , cleanin_meido.jpg ) [iqdb]
32840
Castlevania: Judgement OST is now available over at /words/. Discussions are welcomed, also taking requests of any album wanted.

Thread is almost at autosage so to speak, hope it's not minded I posted this...
>> No. 32842
Added Rondo of Blood (PC-Engine OST) on /words/ discuss ect. saging for post count...
>> No. 32864
[x] 'Food for the younger mistress'. Surely not dangerous. A meat cellar? Storage for blood?
>> No. 32868
Votes are tied between Warp room and Food for the younger mistress.
>> No. 32870
[X] 'Food for the younger mistress'. Surely not dangerous. A meat cellar? Storage for blood?

I'm sure this is some prerequisite to tackle the hidden boss Flandre, and get the good ending. Because Flandre is Alucard.
>> No. 32871
[^___^] 'Warp room'. The obvious choice. Where it would take us, of course, was the mystery...
>> No. 32875
>>32783

I'm picking one of the choices now.

[X] 'Food for the younger mistress'. Surely not dangerous. A meat cellar? Storage for blood?

Also, what is the ???? ability Taisa?
>> No. 32876
And apparently we have auto-sage.

New thread please.
>> No. 32910
>>32909