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Hyuuint

Posts: 13

Joined: Mon Jan 04, 2016 11:27 am

Post Fri May 13, 2016 10:14 am

Re: (Insert Clever Title Here)

Unexpected Interruptions.
Timestamp: Weeks before the starting events of Hard Canon, just after Devin's Detentions finish.
Locations: Skorpion's Lab, Tiffaney's Lion Den, Devin's Workspace
Authors: Hyuuint, Skorpynekomimi, O-Ring
Characters: Brittany, Skorpion, Tiffaney, Devin

---

Skorpion was, as usual, in his lab, elbows-deep in something. This time, however, instead of the shuttle, he was working on a forklift. This was an unusual forklift in that it had a few robot arms mounted alongside the forks. As he attempted to remove a wire, he heard from behind him a chime from a nearby tablet. This was not his normal indicator, and frankly, almost no one was supposed to be able to contact him there at all, save for a select few. He turned around, frowning at the computer. "Don't just sit there and beep, TALK to me." He extracted an arm from the forklift to take the tablet from a drone as it was brought over to him, flicking a switch on the side so he could control it directly. "Congratulations. You have reached Prince Skorpion of the Principality of Sealand. Who dares disturb me from my labours?"

"Greetings, Skorpion. I was hoping to get in contact with you at some point. My apologies for interrupting your work, but I found out that this was the time that would have the least amount of unwanted ears, save for your drones." A new, female voice came from the tablet, though there was yet an image to correspond with.

"The drones don't have ears." Skorpion replied. "Who are you, and how did you get into my network?" And why haven't the AI or the firewalls stopped you?

"My name is Brittany. As for how I managed to get into your network, I simply asked the AI you have installed politely to let me through. I have a matter to discuss with you, concerning a near-step-son charge of yours." Her voice came across as polite though cool, as though she was trying to keep herself in check.

"I seem to be acquiring family fairly rapidly. Is this about one of Tiffaney's children?" Skorpion asked, handing the tablet back to the drone as he returned to his work.

"Yes. Devin, as a matter of fact." She answered promptly.

Skorpion let out a sigh. "If he's hacked into your computer, I am not responsible for what he does. I merely hold a controlling interest in his corporation as a stockholder, and don't employ him directly except as a contractor to Sealand National Solutions."

"He did not manage to do so, but his attempt was amusing. I managed to gather quite a bit of data concerning direct technopathic capabilities." He could all but hear the smirk in her voice. "But that is only part of the reason as to why I have contacted you."

"If you want to hire him, talk to him about it outside of school hours. If you want me to stop him, then the answer is no. However, since you're using a US military IP to contact me, I'll have to amend that to 'hell no', because I wouldn't work with you bastards even IF you paid me. Which I know you'll try to weasel out of."

"You have finally tracked the IP then. Very well. The current IP is merely a borrowed one. I do not work with any military, directly, nor do any of my colleagues." She responded, with a little more tact in her voice this time.

"So, you're merely stealing their stuff?" Skorpion shrugged. "Fair enough. I got my start doing just that. So, having said that, why are you contacting me through a supposedly secure line?"

"In your own line of studies, have you heard rumors of a secret cabal of supergeniuses from across the globe, conspiring together to actively make things right, or at least better, for the world?"

"Many. Are you seriously claiming to be the Illuminati?" Skorpion asked, slightly incredulous.

"Hardly. The Illuminati were nothing more than a gentleman's club founded in the 1600s gone wrong and overblown. We are an actual group with actual goals. A good example would be this." As she finished, a not-detailed blueprint appeared on Skorpion's screen.

"A broken cold fusion reactor?" Skorpion asked. "Interesting, but inefficient. Add a catalyst screen there, you've missed a valve there, those transistors are the wrong way round, and that should fix it..." He paused. "Wait, that was a test, wasn't it? Either way, it's still inefficient compared to thermonuclear fusion."

"It was not, but thank you for pointing out the flaws in an older blueprint. It proves why you have been given Class Six clearance in the event of your arrival. Further, we understand the inefficiencies, and have been working to correct them." She responded, politely enough. "In approximately two years time, we will have perfected the model, and be ready to produce as needed."

"You do realise that I've had a thermonuclear reactor propping up my office desk for nearly a decade now, right?" Skorpion asked. "Wait. Arrival?"

"Correct. If you are ever needed to be in one of our facilites, or if you desire a visit on your own time, you would have clearance for up to Class Six projects." Was the crisp response. "For references, your significant other holds a Class Nine."

"I'm not surprised by that; she's a genius. I'm just a soldier with a computer in my head." Skorpion shrugged again, connecting the final cable and stepping back from the forklift. "Am I to assume you want me to join your little party so you can all laugh at the engineer, or do you just need someone who actually builds things instead of just designing them to death?" He asked, as the forklift started up.

"You give yourself too little credit. According to the files, you too would be qualified for Class Nine access. The only things holding you back are your more criminalistic tendencies." Again, he could hear the smirk in her voice. "As for building, while that is a useful trait, most of the people involved are capable in their own right. We do not judge skills, but rather incorporate them in ways to make what should not be possible for decades happen sooner. For example, that two-year project we mentioned was to get the cold-fusion to be common technology at that point. Thermonuclear to follow within another two years."

"I don't know if you people had noticed, but I'm a little busy here with my own projects." Skorpion explained as the forklift turned this way and that, checking it's surroundings with the sensors mounted to the sides of the cab. "Nation-building, a space program, liberation of metahumanity. Also, that's Prince Skorpion, by the way."

"You are not officially recognized as of yet." There was a sigh from the other side, before she continued. "We have gotten off topic. As per the nudgings of my associates, I have contacted you to make sure that you would approve Devin joining our midst."

"As I said before, ask him. Maybe Tiffaney. I am not responsible for him. Hell, even Lucius has more say in his actions than I do." Skorpion remarked as the forklift turned towards him, arms spread wide. "Ah, crap. If you'll excuse me one moment, I think one of my drones has gone a little skynet on me. Please hold." Skorpion switched the line to a playlist of heavy metal stored on the network before sidestepping the forklift as it lunged for him, stepping back in behind it as it turned for him again. A brief bullfight ensued, until Skorpion was able to board the forklift and shut it down. He picked up the tablet again and flicked it back to the voice link, leaning back and propping his feet on the steering wheel. "Also, if you're planning to take him away from here, you can't have him. I'm going to need him for most of the winter. Also, I'm totally recognised; the UN addresses me as such, and I only had to threaten three other delegates to get them to."

"I was planning on contacting Tiffaney first, but according to your case files, you become extremely jealous and protective of beings you do not know coming into contact with her. Do you deny this?" She stated and asked bluntly enough.

"Well, that IS my job as her boyfriend." Skorpion conceded. "Besides; for all I know, you might want to use her to create more super-soldiers, and we can't have that."

"As a product of such a program, however positive the raising conditions were, I would not ask her to do the same. I know her history." Brittany answered. "As for Devin, he would be required to finish his schooling first, however overqualified he is. Outside of extenuating circumstances we do not allow anyone to join unless they are of our designated legal age."

"Good. So, you'd be one of Shiori's 'sisters', then?" Skorpion asked, grinning.

"That is correct. First batch, second recipient." Was her response. "Her current facilities are a beta that I have been working on, and I decided the best way to field test the devices involved would be to put them in the most hazardous yet controlled environment imaginable."

"I suppose a gym full of magical girls would suffice for that. I have a similar system here, but it mostly gets used for playing Quake, or DayZ." He sighed. "Truly a waste of it's capabilities. Anyway, why call NOW? Why not when I first found him?"

"You know perfectly well why not." The mild crispness to her voice returned. "He had been through a terrible experience, one no one should have to go through. You yourself were not in the best of moods to be contacted with. Lastly, I was not involved with this cabal until a year after your discovery. His current admittance is one that has been orchestrated by me. I find his abilities, his knowledge, and his personality very striking. And from what I have heard about Shiori's other class, he has been doing his best to change his own opinion of the world. I would like to think that the environment he would be in would help foster those ideas, while keeping him in a position to help without directly dealing with those he does not consider his 'peers'. A feeling I have felt myself, and have since worked upon."

"I think he needs to be kept grounded, personally. That's why I suggested Tiffaney enroll him at the Academy in the first place; socialise him, get him used to being around people instead of holed up in some ivory tower away from the real troubles. Isolation won't help his superiority complex." Skorpion explained.

"While it is not true isolation, I do see your point. And that is another reason I contacted you instead of Tiffaney first." She paused, breathing in a bit. "You have the best idea of him with little emotional reason to muddy your opinion. So, that is what I ask. What do you think of the proposal, honestly." Her tone suggested that his decision could decide how she would go from there, if at all.

"As long as he's not completely isolated from baseline humanity, I feel it'd be good for him. I'm sure he'd excel at whatever use you have for him, as well; at least, as long as it interests him." Skorpion chuckled softly. "Also, I'd suggest moving your base of operations OUT of the US, especially if you're planning on making use of their old projects. They're a little grabby when it comes to what they think is theirs, hence why I felt it necessary to make any attempts on my life an act of war." Skorpion concluded. "If you want space in Sealand for your organisation, I'm sure I can work something out."

There was a sigh of relief on her end. "That means a lot. Thank you. As for our base, we move often, for the sake of scenery change. I will contact my superiors, and see if there can be something done."

"Also, step up your security. If I was able to trace you that easily, the CIA may have as well. And if they figure out you're talking to me, well, watch your backs. They don't like me very much; it's probably something to do with collecting their old projects."

"I have nothing to worry about. Our security was only compromised because we are directly connected. Far as the rest of the world is concerned, this connection does not exist." There was a beep from his tablet. "Try this program. It should mesh well with your current securities, and add an extra layer of protection."

"Interesting. I'll have Devin look over it when he's finished his homework." Skorpion remarked. "Is that all, or can I get back to preventing a robot uprising?"

"You may get back to your duties. Oh, and by the way? The blenderbot to your left just wants a hug." With that, the connection terminated, and the tablet went silent.

Skorpion looked to his left, raising his eyebrow at the cleaning bot. "Of course you want a hug, I programmed you to chew on ROUS. Go bother Cathal, or go find those gnomes he's so nervous about." Skorpion rolled his eyes as an evil cackling echoed from the airvents. "I'm sure I fixed that fan, as well. And as for YOU..." He pointed at the nearest security camera. "We need to have words about you sticking to security protocols."

---

Tiffaney had been down in the lion habitat, laying on the grass which she had managed actually make grow in a sub-basement. The two boy cubs played around nearby as the girl cub slept against her. "Are you comfy?" She asked the little cub balled up against her as she pet her. The cub slightly adjusting herself as a reply. "Oh, hello there." She said as a small drone floated up to her.

The drone held up a tablet, and in seconds a face blipped onto the screen. The woman on the screen had blonde hair, a very nice complection, but her features were nothing compared to her eyes. The irises were bright silver, and constantly sparkling from the activity of the tiny machines in her system. "Greetings, Tiffaney. It is a pleasure to meet you, electronic face to electronic face. I am Brittany."

"Ah, Shiori's sister. Hello. I'm happy you decided to contact me." Tiffaney said cheerfully, sitting up, which disturbed the cub that was trying to sleep, forcing her to make herself comfortable in Tiffaney's lap.

"You were expecting me then?" Brittany's eyebrows raised just a little.

"No. I'm just always happy to meet the family of my friends." Tiffaney said, petting the little cub in her lap while smiling to the tablet.

"Ah, I see." The eyebrows went back to normal. "I am contacting you in regards to your son, Devin."

"Oh?" Tiffaney mused. "Is this about you wanting him to join a particular group of individuals with advanced intellect?" She guessed.

"That is correct. His abilities have proven to be quite formidable, his intelligence impressive, and his current work in trying to go upon a more moral route in the world commendable." Brittany listed this out as though it was simple data. "I believe that, after he has completed his schooling for social purposes, he would enjoy the position and benefits our group could offer." After a small pause, she continued. "Were you informed of this by Skorpion, or did you actually take heed to the rumors that have since surfaced?"

"Most rumors are based off a degree of fact." Tiffaney said, her smile warming. "As for Devin. I feel that after his schooling is done I should leave his future to him. He's a bright boy, clearly. I mean you wouldn't be contacting me if he wasn't." She rambled a bit. "If he wants to, I'll let him."

"I understand that. But he is currently underage, and I was told that I must contact his guardians first, then him with your permission. You and Skorpion qualify for that." Brittany stated this as blandly as a tennager would about being reprimanded by something.

"I approve, but don't take advantage of my son." Tiffaney warned, after all, she had been lured into her work with super soldiers with promises of making the world a better place, and she would tear apart the planet to save one of her kids.

"I can put your mind at ease by stating that he would have as much contact with those that he desires as he desires, and that you yourself have near perfect access to most of the facilities and projects we offer and command." The scientist on the other line stated simply, eyes glittering faster.

Tiffaney nodded. "Then if he's okay with it, so am I."

Brittany gave her own sharp nod. "Very good." There was a few seconds of an awkward pause, before she continued. Brittany's face softened at the same time. "Tiffaney, on behalf of the group, and myself, I want to say 'Thank you'."

"I wish you the best on making the world a better place." Tiffaney said.

"No, I mean...." Brittany may have been intelligent, but even this was hard to put into words. "What I mean is: You are inspiration to many of the people who work with us. Several scientists worked or were forced to work in conditions such as yours, some worse. You stuck by your morals, you rescued no less than four subjects, raised them as your own, gave them chances. They thank you. I thank you." She breathed in and continued. "I, uh, also wanted to say.... My sister has good choice in friends. You two could make a lovely couple, though I should suggest that you tell Skorpion to ease off of the interrogation method. That could scare off a lot of people, not to mention that that is why he is at Six while you are at Nine."

Tiffaney was caught off guard by that. "Me, an inspiration? I'm just a woman who made a mistake and is trying to make it up to the people she hurt." She said, feeling confident that she was on the right track to doing just that. "And as for Skorpion. I'll try to convince him to be less capture and ask about his questions. I gave him a bit of a scolding after Shiori, but we'll see if he keeps it up."

"Thank you." She looked up to something offscreen, before returning her gaze to Tiffaney. "We will have some time. Do you have any questions for me or about the project? You have enough clearance to warrant that."

"I suppose I have time to listen." Tiffaney replied.

---

Some time later Devin was working on his android, a tablet propped against a wall on his worktable. "Okay. Power source. It's a relitively small frame, so I can't just Skorpion the solution..."

PING PING PING went the tablet. No ringing of the bells though, for it had none.

Without looking Devin swiped the tablet, answering the incoming chat. "Hello."

"Good afternoon, Devin. How are you?" That was not a voice he had heard before, and yet the accent was so familiar.

"Well. Who are you and why are you bothering me?" Devin asked, setting down his pencil to look at the tablet. "I'm busy." He added in a very teenager-esque manner.

"My my. How rude of you, especially since I granted you a peek at my holo-room blueprints." It seemed that Brittany had taken in some of her 'father's' habits when trying to sound enigmatic.

"Brittany, then? Thanks. That saved me some time and effort. I'll find out the rest eventually, but I appreciate the cooperation." Devin said with a grin.

"I had a feeling you would enjoy them." She allowed him a moment before continuing. "Now, I have matter of important business to discuss with you."

"Go on." Devin mused, gazing at the tablet in half-interest.

"I believe you already know what I am going to talk to you about. My sister was never good about dropping subtle hints."

"You want me to join your collective of geniuses, right?" Devin asked. "I refuse. I've already been a collectors item once, and I'm not about to put myself under anyone's thumb again."

"And what makes you so sure that we would treat you as little more than a collectable?"

"Because that's how the last secret organization treated me. Those idiots wasted so much of my valuable time with their "tests", and now I'm having more of my time wasted with school, and you want me to waste EVEN MORE of my time after that. If I were immortal I'd endulge you, but alas immortality is wasted on Lucius. I'm beginning to detect a theme with this world and waste." Devin said with clear frustration.

"Well, that depends on your viewpoint. Tell me. If you were given the chance, with your abilities, what would you be doing? Answer honestly."

"I'd be making robots so when we're done killing ourselves off there be more than buildings left." Devin said with a mild hint of sarcasm mixed in with the natural teenage smart assery.

"Ah, so you would be specializing in AI. Now, would this be more along the lines of combative, civilian, or a mix of the two so that they could pick and choose for themselves? Would they have a sense of 'evolution' to their programming so they can go beyond the call of their initial lot in life?"

"As of now I'm working on a variable emergency responce android, or VERA. As the name would suggest she's meant to respond to most emergency situations, and everything down to her design is intended to have a calming effect on the human psyche. So wherever my whims take me."

"Interesting. You would be interested in our robotics and AI division then. Actually headed by one of the first Aware AI in the world, they try to keep to the areas that you just described."

"And soon I shall enslave humanity under the iron fist of a robotic army, and RULE THE WORLD!" Devin announced with a bad supervillan impression. "... That was a joke, regardless though that sounds mildly intriguing."

"Heh, believe me, we get plenty of that joke in that part of the program." She gave a very unlike-her chuckle over the intercom. "We do have a defense sub-division, one that may interest you as well, considering your companion."

"Are you talking about Whisp, or my assault drones?" Devin asked as a certain project he was supposed to be working on for Skorpion came to mind. "Crap, I forgot about that..."

"Both actually. Then there are astrophysics, the agricultural, sociopolitical, economic, the humanitarian efforts. But, I suppose you really want to hear the best part about us."

"And that is?" Devin mused.

"Simple. We keep to the background. No unnecessary fanfare, no prying eyes save for our own for each other, equal collaboration overall, and very limited contact with those we do not want to deal with."

"Sounds a little too perfect. Maybe someone's just segregating you from the dull masses for their own gain?"

"We check that. Constantly." There was the sound of typing, and another ping on Devin's tablet.

Devin took hold of the tablet, leaned back in his chair as he read the messages, and for once he wasn't underwhelmed.

"It is a packet about our program as a whole. Who is involed, where, how, and sometimes when if they are not always available. I cannot ask you to make a decision right now. You are under age and I am under orders from your mother to let you finish your school year. But, when the time comes, I will await your answer. Buuuut there is a bit of a loophole."

"Go on." Devin said as he continued to read. "What clearence would I be granted?"

"Technically, I cannot grant you any true clearance. It would be unethical for me to officially allow you to join, not as a full member. Completely against the rules, and your mother's wishes."

"When the time comes, how much? I hate secrets. They're annoying. Especially the secrets of other geniuses.

"Oh easily 7th or 8th rank, 9th if you can manage to remove some of your hostility towards others. But in the meantime....how would you like to be an intern?"

"You mean work for free, but sneak peeks at some projects while I'm there to get a better grasp of how you operate?" Devin asked with a grin. "Tempting, and as for my hostility. I trust you understand where that stems from?"

"Correct, though it would also extend to you getting help from more sources because of your connection. And I do. I have some folks that would like to talk to you about that, when you feel comfortable enough."

"I'm ingenious, not insane. I don't like people, but I'm not gonna go on a rampage for no reason." Devin explained. "Besides, I'm trying to be more friendly, it just comes out wrong most of the time."

"You misunderstand. I mean folks who you could talk to concerning the source of your social problems." She didn't change the tone of her voice much, but it was enough for Devin to understand just what she meant.

"No. I can handle my own affairs, and killing Max is going to be a refreshing step in sorting them." Devin answered. "It was expensive so at the very least I hope it'll be a satisfying as I think it will be." He said, pausing a few seconds before adding. "... You care, at least. So I can't be upset over that."

"I can respect your decision. Speaking of, I will leave you to yours. It is not an offer to take lightly, take your time. When you need to contact me, you will find the way. Before I leave you be, do you have any questions or comments?"

"Not for the time being." Devin said, placing the tablet back against the wall. "I'll try giving it a shot, though."

"Very good. I suspect we will be in contact soon. Oh, and a note: expect her at two in the morning. Give or take a few minutes." With a click, the line went dead.

"Mmhmm." Devin muttered before going back to planning VERA's power source.

---


Skorpion is working on his toys. And gets interrupted
Brittany is on the line, and needs to talk with him.
It's Brittany with no E. Remember that.
Devin is invited to become a part of super-geniuses. Skorp and Tiff are already given clearances.
Skorpion needs to work on his people skills to get better clearance.
The Illuminati were stupid doodoo heads.
Skorpion likes the idea, but says that Devin and Tiff should make the decisions.
Cleaning bots want hugs too.

Tiffaney is having fun with her lion cubs. And gets interrupted.
Brittany again, what a shocker.
Devin's invite is clarified with her.
Tiff and Brittany seem to get along rather well.
Tiff also gets a shock about being an inspiration to folks.
Polite chatter ensues.

Devin is also working on his toys. And gets interrupted.
You know full well who it is.
Devin seems to like her, and already has an idea of the cabal.
Shiori sucks at subtle hints.
Lots of yes to the idea, but a sulk at the need to finish school. He's too good for it.
He is not a collectable though.
Devin can also hunt down his own problems.
Oho internship? And a brochure?
He's left to mull the decision around in his head, as well as Brittany's last, cryptic words.

---

Devin slept soundly in his bed, having worked his brain into exhaustion thanks to the extra workloads he put himself through, when, suddenly! A figure pounced him, jostling him awake. The catboy snapped to conciousness and looked down at the interruptor, peering bleerily yet determinedly.

"Hi Dev," was all Whisp could muster before she zonked out in mere seconds, snoozing cutely on the now rather awake meta. She hadn't even bothered to change into pajamas or something.

Devin glanced at the clock.

2:03 am

"......Damnit."

---
Summary:
Pounce!
Zzzz~
Dammit.
<<

Skorpynekomimi

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Posts: 95

Joined: Sat Mar 01, 2014 3:06 pm

Post Fri May 13, 2016 1:29 pm

Re: (Insert Clever Title Here)

Bait and Switch
Timestamp: Definitely before hard-canon.
Location: OCSB, just outside the CATastrophe club.
Authors: Skorpy, DarkTan, Hyuuint.
Characters: Lola, DT, Shiori.


---

"Shiori~" Lola called out, approaching the catgirl. "I need you to do something for me, now you've finished..."

"Be there in a moment." Shiori called out. She set her tray down and made her way to where Lola was waiting. "How can I help out?"

Lola reached out to take Shiori's hand, tugging her along. "Come with me~ I've got something super special for you."

"Oh dear. Is this another one of those overall sets? 'Cause I like them, but they've been used a fair bit too much lately." Shiori asked, looking slightly worried.

"No, no, this is different." Lola explained as she tugged Shiori into a small room a short way down the corridor from the club. After guiding Shiori inside, she rose up on her tiptoes to kiss the catgirl softly, before handing her a lingerie set . "Here. Try this on and wait in here, I'll be back in a bit~"

Shiori held up the set, and looked it over. "Eesh. Bit fancy compared to the normal stuff. What's the occassion?"

"Wait and see~" Lola answered cryptically, giving her a hug before slipping out.

---

Lola scampered off to find DarkTan, who was sat in a comfy chair in the dressing room, ogling the dancers as they changed. "Oh, DT~" She called out as she approached him, grinning mischeivously.

"I know that grin...." DarkTan turned to his favourite bunnygirl, "Either you have done something horrible to someone, or you want me to do it for you, right?"

Lola shook her head, her ears swishing side to side. "Nope. I just wanna introduce you to someone and explain some stuff, that's all~" She smiled sweetly, taking him by the arm and tugging him from his chair.

"It's is a health inspector?" DarkTan groaned as he got up from the chair, "I'm running out of places to hide them."

"No; I don't need you for that. I don't know why you don't just put them into the chili, but that's not the point. The point IS, there's someone you need to meet." Lola explained, hopping impatiently from foot to foot.

"A vendor?" DarkTan asked, sounding slightly more enthusiastic now as he followed Lola through the club halls, "I do need a new source of Ghast Peppers.*"

"Just wait." Lola rolled her eyes as she led her boyfriend to the door in question. She knocked twice, before opening the door and hauling him inside. "Shiori~"

"Who is...Oh." DarkTan eye's bulged a bit; suddenly feeling light-headed as all of his blood found somewhere else to go.

Shiori had stood up for Lola, posing just slightly in the outfit the bunnygirl had given her earlier. "Yes Lol-" And then she noticed DT. This caused an immediate luminescent blush and a belated attempt to cover herself up as a cute little eep escaped her lips.

Lola snickered, nudging the two closer together. "Shiori, meet DarkTan Canto, my boyfriend. DT, meet Shiori, my friend-with-benefits. We've been playing around for a while. You don't... Mind that, do you?" She pouted and batted her eyelashes at DT, peering up at him through her ears as she leaned forward to show off her modest cleavage.

DarkTan was torn. On one had, he really enjoyed staring down Lola's shirt. On the other hand, there was a new girl to shamelessly ogle as well. His eyes darted back and forth between the pair(s). "Um...uh...nope..."

All the poor supergirl could do was keep covered and grow redder by the second.

"Good~" Lola grinned triumphantly, turning to Shiori. "Heyhey, why so modest now, hm? You've been up on stage in way less..."

"Th-there's a difference between on-the-job nuditiy and intimate n-nudity, Lola." Shiori stuttered in response. She gave a very nervous smile to the bunnygirl, managing to look cuter in the process.

Darktan shook his head, "Wait, she's been on stage?"

Lola nodded. "More than a few times. I know you've seen her, but I'm pretty sure you weren't looking at her face. Maybe this will jog your memory, though." She reached around behind Shiori, retrieving the girl's large and fluffy tail, petting the nervously-fluffed fur as she held it up. "And of course there is, dear."

"Aha!" yep, i remember her now," DarkTan nodded, "Guess I should have been paying more attention to the top too." The dhampir chuckled, "Nice to meet you," he said with a wink.

"N-nice to meet you too." Shiori replied back, holding out a hand to shake his.

DarkTan skipped the handshake and picked up Shiori in a hug before allowing himself to slowly slide to the floor, his eyes glassy, "I can see it all now...." His voice sounds dreamy and disconnected, "It's all makes so much... Wait, what happened? I saw the entire universe for a second there."

"You... Hugged me, then zoned out for like fifteen minutes." Shiori noted with some concern to her voice. She'd stopped covering herself in the process.

"Interesting...I have new recipies to try now," DarkTan grinned widely; a rather disturbing sight.

"If you say so?" The snowleopard girl gave Lola a confused look.

DarkTan turned to Lola, "Does that happen to you?"

"No. I think it's just you." Lola poked at DarkTan's head, frowning slightly. "I think he needs caffeine."

"I think so too." Shiori hrmed to herself, then grinned. She gave a quick wink to Lola, then pulled DarkTan into another hug. "Just seeing what happens, ya know?" She giggled.

The leader of ORAZ zoned out again, eyes staring off far into space, possibly at one of the FGTL's satellites. His weight sagged against the snowleapord-girl. "So many stars...."

Shiori giggled some more. The sensation causing DarkTan to melt further. "Think we ought to keep him like this for a while? He seemed tense."

Lola nodded. "Yeah, he needs to chill out a bit, and he IS less trouble this way. Think we should get him to sign a shopping trip off on expenses while he's out?"

"I like that plan. I need more parts for more of my Force."

"So that's where the Jeep comes from...."

"He might be going a little deep now..." Lola shrugged. "Cuddle him some more, see how he works out?"

Shiori nodded in agreement, giggling further as she shifted DarkTan onto a couch with surprising strength, keeping his head nestled on her chest.

DarkTan began to mumble the answer to the Grand Unification Theory in such a manner as to reconcile thousands of years of religious and scientific debate.

"And new poles, because Shiori's been bending them. Proper reinforced ones." Lola added, smirking.

Shiori blushed again at the reminder. "It's not really my fault. They weren't designed for super-soldiers."

Lola patted her ears softly. "I know."

---


"So, um, how'd this happen?" DarkTan asked gesturing between the pair of cute girls.

Shiori had let DarkTan go after about an hour's worth of him in a zen state. "We... Just kinda met. I forget who, but someone directed me here to help with the railroad, I met Lola in the process, and she convinced me to help out with the club as 'cover', and we hit it off at some point."

Lola nodded, hear ears bouncing. "Blame the catboy. You know which one. But yeah; she walked in looking to help with the Railroad, and she really didn't take much convincing to fill in for one of the girls. Repeatedly." Lola giggled, grinning. "Then, despite her protests, she turned out to enjoy it. She's quite popular; even has her own little fanbase~"

Shiori merely turned her personal shade of red in response to the accusation. "Only a little bit." She protested in a small voice.

Lola petted Shiori's ears some more, giggling. "Downright adorable."

The catgirl lightly nuzzled into the petting.

DarkTan was busy "D'awww-ing" so hard he cracked a rib. Shiori heard the audible crack, and gave DarkTan a worried look.

"Aw, he'll be fine." Lola patted DarkTan. "He heals fast."

"Ok, good. Already worried enough with him going into super zen state." Shiori leaned over and whispered to Lola. "Does... That ever really happen to you, or do you think he's playing it up? Cause, if that's a thing, then, uh, that's just weird."

"Not happened to me, but I think it's your boobs. They seem to have that effect on guys. Some girls, too."

Shiori went beet red again, then sighed. "Much as folks love them, I'm starting to wish they'd shrink a little..."

"Be proud of them." Lola advised. "You can't change your body type no matter how you try, so you're better off just learning to love it." She paused, considering things. "Well, aside from Skorpion managing it somehow."

"Miiine's a little more literal than you think." Shiori gave a nervous giggle. "When I was, uhm, younger, I started early. And quickly. They, the people who raised me, tried to fix it, ya know? But, uhm, the things in me." She blushed even harder. "They decided they would stay, and kinda fight it to this day." She bowed her head in sheer nervousness "Kinda why they feel the way they do, with the weight and the soft and all that."

"Then you're blessed rather than cursed with them." Lola replied, sinking her hands into the aforementioned boobs and squeezing. "They're not going to sag, you're healing up any back strain, and they're totally awesome."

"TH-thanks...." Shiori was little more than a ball of catgirl now. "B-B-but I don't think the point of this meeting is me, it's him!" She pointed upwards to the dhampir.

"Yeah, true." Lola admitted, releasing Shiori in order to grab DT's hands and stuff them where hers had been moments before. "There we go~"

"GYEEP!"

DarkTan simply grinned and kneaded his fingers a bit, "I'm gonna have to agree with Lola on this one."

Lola nodded enthusiastically. "They're, like, the biggest smooshiest boobs ever~"

"Yeah, I kindas wanna smother myself in them."

"Y-yes, I know, people keep telling me that." Shiori stuttered as she squirmed. "Could you not grip so hard?"

DarkTan chose, or maybe it was suggested, to take that moment to zone out again, falling over on his side.

The snowleopard girl that was turning into the color of ripe tomatoes gave Lola another concerned look.

Lola handed her a pack of markers. "Go nuts."

She looked at the markers, at the zoned Darktan, then back to the markers, and grinned a massive, mischievous grin.

---

"What'd you discover this time, DT?" Shiori asked innocently enough.

Lola stifled a giggle, hiding the markers behind her back.

"That Sharpie is a viable substitute for Botox," the dhampir said, face completely devoice of expression. Well facial expressions at least. Certainly, one could call the colourful artwork an expression of sorts.

"Heheehe" Shiori giggled out loud, unable to hold herself back. After a few moments, she lost her grin, and started to curl up again. "So, uhm, what are we? Doing, I mean?"

"Well, I was introducing you two so I don't feel guilty. Then we proceeded to getting DT to fondle you while zoning out, and after that I was considering making fun of you talking like a cowgirl?" Lola produced a cowboy hat from a pile of props nearby, settling it atop her head with her ears sticking out of notches cut into the brim. "Howdy, y'all~" She said in a stereotypical texan accent, giggling.

"Er, howdy?" Shiori giggled back, then leaned to whisper to Lola. "You're not making fun of the, uhm, stuff we do, right? I know it's weird, but..."

Lola shook her head. "I'm not that bad. Just the accent." She grinned, kissing Shiori softly.

Shiori returned it heartily, while DarkTan suffered a nosebleed, streaking his marker facepaint.

"Wh-what I meant was, uhm, what are we 'three' going to do now?" Shiori curled up a bit more.

"I... Don't see a reason to change?" Lola said, shrugging. "Although if you want to play with DT, go right ahead."

"What, uh, just like that?" Shiori blinked at the two of them. "I thought, I dunno, there'd be more discussion or something?"

"Why? I like you, and I know you won't steal him away from me. I know he won't stray without permission, and he's quite clearly into you. Otherwise, he knows I love him, and if he starts to feel unappreciated, I can throw a few strippers his way to keep him occupied." Lola shrugged again. "Were you expecting drama and angst?"

"A little? I dunno. Hm." Shiori looked nonplussed for a moment. Then she grinned massively, blushing just as hard, as she pulled the two of them into a biiiiiiig hug.

Lola gave a squeak of surprise as she was dragged into a hug, just managing to turn her head to the side to avoid being smothered.

"This mean we're all at the level of 'friends with benefits'? Or special trio, or...?" Shiori looked to each of them, keeping them in a very comforting, squishy hold.

"Maybe? DT, what do you thi... Oh, nevermind, I'll ask him later when he's not comatose."

"Hehe, I did it again, it seems." She snuggled up with the both of them. "Wanna stay like this for a bit?"

Lola squirmed into a more comfortable position, nodding. "Just make sure he doesn't melt or anything."

"Hehe, no promises." Shiori grinned widely, getting comfortable with the pair, snuggling mightily.

---

Summary:
Lola lures Shiori into a closet after the club closes, and gives her an outfit to wear.
Lola then lures DT into a closet.
The same closet.
Boyfriend, meet friend with benefits.
Friend with benefits, meet boyfriend.
Look, boobs!
Boooooobs~
Boobs that send DT into a zen trance.
Revalation about Shiori's past!
Gyeeeep!~
Another love triangle resolves into a nice stable threesome. Ish.
Skorpion [FGTL]
- Skorpion - Lucius Ogilvy- Lola Usagi- Cathal Jones -
- FGTL/Sealand - CMGY Academy - CATastrophe Club - Kemonomimi Railroad -

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CantoAnathema

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Posts: 24

Joined: Thu Mar 13, 2014 5:04 pm

Post Tue Apr 25, 2017 11:15 am

Re: (Insert Clever Title Here)

Joya no Kane
Location and Time: the bar
Character(s): Mana, Yuki, Saeko, Lenore, Aneko, Howell, Tschim, Eloise
Author(s): CantoAnathema, Sareth, Saeriva


Midway into her step, Takeda Mana froze, the way one does when they realize they have forgotten why they entered a room in the first place. Of course, for the maid, this was something of a regular occurrence and she was hardly alarmed. Her wits were such that, upon the slightest distraction, she could easily lose her place in the world and need to find it again. She could not easily recall how she had arrived here and so--as one full of slumber at the moment of waking--she closed her eyes with a slow and heavy blinking, pulling herself together.

Ah, there it was! She reached down and picked up the plush-wolf that had been snipping at her heels (or rather, she had stepped upon and thus been disoriented) and then finished walking to the small window, which she opened with an efficient click-clack of the latch and sill. As if responding to her action, a gust of air swept into the room with a pleasant force, bearing along with it the smell of street, city, and summer.

Mana smiled and idly brushed a strand of gusted hair back behind her ears.

The season would soon come to a close. They had missed the longest days awhile back, somewhere amidst all the festivals, parties, and dramatics, and now each night grew a little bit colder as the weeks had passed. Still, there was much to do before they greeted the autumn. She turned back to the room and to her littlest lady.

"<Now then, Yuki-oujosama. Shall we prepare your dolls for their trip?>"

"Haaaaai," came the unpersuaded reply. The girl sat, amidst several boxes that looked much larger than they actually were when placed alongside a small child. Each one had the start of packaging material in it but the intended occupants--Yuki's doll collection--had yet to make it inside. As one might expect, she was far too busy playing with them still.

Mana smiled. After all, she was used to far more hysterical responses and, compared to the mania of one or the sullen silence of another, Yuki's indifference was so unremarkable it was actually a relief. Far be it from the maid to offer her opinion but she might confess her fondness for this particular addition to her lady's family.

Kneeling carefully across from the little girl, Mana folded her white maid apron and black skirts beneath her legs and gave a smile.

"<Are they excited?>" She asked.

Yuki wiggled a shrug, which was enough to convey that while the answer wasn't no, it certainly wasn't a yes either.

"<Akane doesn't like being packed.>" Yuki reluctantly yielded.

"<This one understands that feeling.>"

With a sympathetic nod, Yuki picked up that particular doll - dressed in a rather detailed kimono and delicate sandals. "<It's boring just waiting with nothing to do. Don't you think?>"

"<What if we gave her something fun to do while she's inside?>" Mana suggested, considering that was how she usually kept herself from being bored. Though her definition of "fun" was almost the polar opposite of a four year old's.

"<Like coloring books? Akane likes coloring.>" With this burst of inspiration, Yuki rushed into the neighboring room to find her doll some coloring books to keep her occupied during their trip. Satisfied that the additional packing material couldn't hurt, Mana stumbled back onto her feet. She needed to report her progress with the little lady and, satisfied that Yuki would continue on this route for awhile, see how she could best support the rest of the family.

The kitchen had been largely packed and cleaned; its boxed contents were now placed along the hall towards the stairs below. The bedroom was as of yet untouched. There was no certainty they would finish all the work today and so her lady had suggested leaving it for last. Mana trod carefully, or rather, with awkward precision past the doll boxes and other items of Yuki's partially-gathered belongings. For such a brief period of their residence, the girl had quite a healthy amount of toys, clothes, and sundry. The maid was careful not to disturb them, although it was unlikely anyone would have noticed even if she had.

Reaching the stairs, the maid grasped the handrail with a sort of earnest fear that usually only is found in the anxious young or fragile old. Mana, given the nature of her existence, was a bit of both. More importantly, the fields that blanketed Tokyo these days interfered with her in small but significant ways and combined with her usual lack of grace, stairs were a particular hazard. She took each one with a slow, intense caution. Fixated on her steps as she was, she was practically on top of the individual going up the stairs before she noticed, colliding with them with a soft thump.

"<Ah! This one apologies for being in the way, Saeko-sama.>" Mana fretted, frantic with apology and bowing as best she could while still holding onto the rail.

With a laugh-like smile, hinting at the fact she had rather let the gynoid stumble into her on purpose, Saeko waved it off with a hand, which she then offered to the maid's aid.

"<It's fine, Mana. The pleasure was mine. Has Yuki finished putting away her toys?>"

"<Ah! This one apologizes. We are still working on it. Yuki-oujosama has been very diligent, making sure everything is safe.>"

Saeko's expression warmed; even a dull eye could catch how the mention of her daughter improved the woman's usually dark countenance. Still, you might have expected the expression to be accompanied by some maternal gushing: gossiping about the child's embarrassing mishap, boasting about their talents, giggling about their latest cute what-have-you.

There were no such words from Saeko. In the flame that lit up smile and upturned her gaze towards the living rooms, there was a reminder that this woman had brought her daughter up without need or desire for outside aid, approval, or interference. Her pride and delight were fiercely her own.

While dull in many other ways, Mana was still a maid and desperately attentive to her ladies' feelings. She gave a careful bow, disentangling herself from the hold and putting herself downwind of those emotions--intense and unreasonable as she knew they could be--opening the way for Saeko to go to Yuki above. "<This one was going to assist the others downstairs. Will that be all, Saeko-sama?>" She excused, as she bowed yet again.

"<Yes, thank you, Mana.>" Saeko with the slightest of bows in reply, before she began heading upstairs. Despite herself, Mana watched; as ever unable to keep from the slight envy of those who walked so elegantly and without tripping over empty air. That was when she noticed the splotch of moisture left upon the steps. With a quiet 'eto', the maid leaned a bit to examine and half-extended a hand towards the spot. No, not spots. Footprints. Delicate, damp prints of a delicately bare and damp foot. Mana's fingers traced the edges of them, noting their glisten.

She looked up towards her lady and uttered a not-so-quiet "<Eto...>"

At her height upon the steps, Mana now saw the glistening of the woman's feet and ankles, trickled down from beneath the kimono's hem, lasciviously slicking upwards. Inwards towards--

"<Aneko,>" Saeko said. She did not turn; if anything, she seemed to pose for Mana's gaze upon her backside. Just her face shifted, enough to smile at the maid, cheeks blushed with a different sort of pride. "<is downstairs. In the bar.>"

Knowing enough to realize she did not remotely know enough to reply, the maid lowered her head and bowed deeply. Saeko laughed, a girlish giggling, and continued upwards. As she disappeared, Mana gave a confused sigh (or a sound of one) and descended.

Stepping into the bar proper, her eyes were quickly upturned to another of the ladies. This one was a dragon, by all rights, covered in satin and lace in place of scales. Her legs were drawn up snugly beneath her, perched atop a genuine hoard that took up a not insignificant amount of the barroom floor. Beneath her lay countless piles of precious things: gold, wrought and un-wrought, gems and jewels; silver baubles red-stained in the ruddy light reflected off her dress. Jewels and coins poured out from the red-gold satin of her skirts like another layer of petticoat. Strings of pearls coiled lazy around one ankles, spilling out of finely painted china cups and lacquered parquet treasure boxes dotted around the expanse of wooden counter. Faberge eggs lolled on their oblong axis around the bar-top. One knocked against a minutely detailed stacking doll, toppling it to the floor.

Lenore couldn't possibly be comfortable, perched on such a costly bed. If she was uncomfortable, she didn't seem it. Or at least, she didn't notice her own discomfort. She paged through her open sketchbook, spread across her lap.

Mana opened her mouth. Then, she thought better and closed it again. Once Lenore was satisfied (for now) she would put away the toys (again, for now, and back into the sketchbook) and find some other aesthetically pleasing collection to gorge upon. There was little sense in pestering her now. The maid knew that all too well.

The bar counter interrupted with a sudden and very loud bang! This was quickly followed by an equally sudden and quite a bit louder outburst, of "Dio dasai!" This was merely the prelude for a steady stream of multilingual profanity, as Aneko crawled out from behind the bar, one hand atop her head and the other scraping furrows into the floorboards. Mana turned from Lenore's hoard and rushed towards her mistress' aid, only for her feet to catch on the fallen trinkets from the pile and send her toppling forward -- crashing heads with another loud bang.

A bell chimed as the front door opened and closed. Then there were footsteps, heavy and a little clumsy, that staggered to the counter. Howell dropped his arm-full of boxes on the bar top with a painful grunt. Each of them was heavy-laden, tagged in scrawls of fat black marker all along the sides. He looked at Lenore's glittering hoard only a moment, dull from familiarity. He sighed, and bent to pluck a bauble from the floor.

"Lenore," he said, turning over an elephant made of crystal and gold foil. It glinted, even in the murky light of the bar. "We're supposed to be cleaning up. You'll give poor Mana a headache."

"Can dolls get headaches?" Lenore asked, but didn't look up from her sketchbook. She didn't wait for a response, either. "If they can then she's probably already got one."

"Why?"

"She just banged her head on Aneko's."

Howell blinked, then leaned over the bar where the two women were rubbing at their throbbing heads. "You alright?" he asked. "Need a hand?"

In response, Aneko lifted her head towards him and revealed an expression that loosely translated into "Put that hand near me and I will rip it from your body and beat you to death with it". Mana, being her poor idiot attendant, murmured several pained and dazed 'eto' before scrambling to help her mistress to her feet.

A few moments later found Mana attempting to reattach her frilly maid's headpiece to her disheveled hair. Her efforts were significantly hampered by only having one arm. At the bar counter, Aneko was using said arm to hold a small bag of ice to her forehead, as she poked about in the boxes Howell had just brought in.

Howell sighed at the room full of girls, until resting on Mana's empty sleeve fluttering pathetically. He watched her at least until some combination of pity or mercy compelled him to move. He set Lenore's crystal elephant on her knee, then reached up to fix the poor maid's hair piece. Howell's steady hands fastened it nimbly and elegantly, though he muttered the whole time.

"Kennahara," he said. "You always have such bad luck..."

"Oh! Not at all, Howell-sama.This one has always been very fortunate." Mana was quick to smile, while bowing awkwardly in gratitude for his aid.

Howell's mouth quirked, not quite a smile, but a pleasant enough expression. At least it was accepting of her word. He turned to Aneko.

"Don't you think it's time to give that back?" He asked. He didn't motion to the absconded limb, more than to quickly glance over it.

Aneko glanced up from the bar and looked across from Howell, to Lenore, then back to Howell and her maid. "Do you mean me and Mana's arm, or Lenore and El Dorado?"

Yet, despite the sharpness in her voice, Aneko slid from her stool and returned to her maid, proffering the limb. Mana made to humbly decline it (that which her mistress wanted, after all, was that which she would dutifully provide) but a click of Aneko's tongue put an end to it and the maid took her own arm back with embarrassed reluctance.

Howell laid a hand on Lenore's head.

"You too," he said, mussing her hair a bit. Lenore groaned theatrically. She rolled her eyes, she slumped into her lap, but she did snap her sketchbook shut. She allowed Howell to help her from the pile, in a landslide of golden coins and rings. "There are more boxes outside," he said, once Lenore's efforts were significantly diverted. "I'm going back for more."

"Ah, this one will assist shortly, Howell-sama." Mana was quick to assure, even as she struggled with re-threading the various cords between her lower and upper arm. With a gesture of not-to-rush and the clinging of doorbell, Howell stepped outside.

"<How does she even have this much stuff?>" Aneko wondered, half in grumble and half impressed at Saeko and Yuki's rapid accumulation. With a shake of her head, she lowered herself from the bar stool and stretched. "<I should probably encourage her to sort through this stuff before we move it.>"

Clicking her arm back into place, Mana added, "<After all, mistress and Saeko-sama will be needing new kimono!>"

The speed with which the mistress turned upon her maid was audible. The floorboards all but cracked beneath her heels, groaning in pain, and some loose napkins were sent fluttering across the bar in the cyclone that swept up at her rotation. Mana was quick too--already a quarter-bow down to apologize for her impertinence. Then she realized that her lady was not angry. Far from! Aneko stood now gaping at her maid, cheeks ablaze with embarrassment. She seemed almost ready to refute such a words but her own speech failed her. If one knew better, they might guess that the woman had been thinking of matching tomoesode already.

"<D-don't be silly!>" Clapping her hands to her cheeks, Aneko shook herself and breathed deeply. "<Hurry up now, let's help Howell with the rest of this junk.>"

"<Yes, mistress.>" was all that Mana said, trailing behind dutifully--and to keep her lady from seeing her smile.

With another doorbell chime, they walked out of the bar and turned a quick corner, down to the alley that ran alongside the building. A narrow stairwell too ran parallel, descending towards a small but serviceable storage basement for the multi-level complex of which the bar was but a part. At the base of these stairs, before it descended fully into the dark, Howell was piling up some more boxes.

He looked up from the stack as they approached, though, as soon as he did his eyebrows knit together. His mouth dropped open for a split second at the color in Aneko's face, before closing it again. He turned to Mana instead.

"How's your arm?" he asked.

"Eto..." Mana effaced, "It is, how do they say... good as new, Howell-sama. Thank you for your concern over this one's condition."

"How's your arm?" Aneko asked, the color draining from her face as she took interest in the newest stack of boxes and as she descended the steps. "What the hell is she keeping in these? Bricks? Gold bars? Copies of Japanese Election Data since the Occupation?"

"Gold bricks would have been lighter," he said. "These are mostly books." He popped open the the nearest box and dug both his arms in, dragging one out for illustration. "This box is manuals, mostly. Plumbing, and--" he rummaged again. "Electrical wiring? Fix-it-yourself, household stuff."

They were a mishmash of utility, as well. Some books looked to be heavily annotated, with sticky notes providing easy reference, and were fraying at the spine from old but urgent use. On the other hand, others were hardly touched -- or had clearly been thrown against a wall (at best) or stabbed repeatedly (almost worst). Not all were geared towards the budding small-business owner as well. As the collection of boxes went deeper, there were a few handbooks on such things as trendy new hairstyles for the pre-adolescent girl in your life, how to get all sorts of stains out of tatami, and a whole slew of advertisements and brochures for preschools and elementary schools in the area. Beyond that were the cookbooks, of both anarchist and housewife persuasion, and the collected wisdom of centuries of Japanese home remedies, for body and household. Beyond even that, it was a bit more esoteric: with Greek andRoman poetry in the original, and a scattering of foreign science fiction. Alongside these were pamphlets and propaganda from the local politicians, their usual vitriol and misrepresentations rendering them equally entertaining as fiction. Then again with the how-to books, among them: a loosely bound copy of 1,001 Kami and Why They Hate You: An Abridged Kinugyokutoshū, an alarmingly put-together, leather-bound copy of The Smoking Mirror and Vuh, a very weathered copy of the poorly translated Hjälpa! Jag är förlorad! (A Guide to Your Årsgång), and a retro-inspired collection entitled, Why Not Sticks? A Beginner's Guide to Cleromancy.

“Did you know that in Latin, a 'v' is supposed to be pronounced like a "w"?” Howell asked, somewhere between the classical Roman poetry and the political hand-outs. His had glasses found their way out of his left breast pocket and onto his nose, as he paged idly through the smattering of opened books. “Because I didn't. I mean, I took Latin in school, but apparently I’ve been pronouncing almost everything wrong. That’s…” he had to pause a moment to think, “at least a hundred years, now. I had no idea until just recently.”

"Howell, dear, how are you still alive--or maybe that's why Tschim's the way she is? Something lost in translation, perhaps." Aneko laughed, flipping through the a few books the way an old grandmother might pass through her high school yearbook. "I know what you mean though. I had to get a tutor from a nearby temple for Sanskrit."

"E...eto..."

Aneko spared a moment from the book she had freshly opened to glance back at her maid, who was fidgeting at the sight of a cleanly packed box being opened up like freshly hunted game.

"<Ah, Mana dear. Go check in on the rest.>" The mistress inclined her head down the last few steps, towards the basement hall and door beyond. "<We'll sort this out.>"

With a bow, Mana ignored the bold fraud of that claim (Howell had never sorted anything out in his life and Aneko tended towards brute force resolutions) and did as ordered, leaving the two alone to muse about their origins and educations. With slow and unsteady steps, the maid descended down the steps and hall towards the last storage area of the bar.

The basement unit shared none of the summer outside. Despite her inability to feel temperatures, the chill in the air was so tangible that Mana could not help but shiver in discomfort. It misted around the sole light fixture, hung from the ceiling. It crept along the edges of the concrete floor like a morning frost. Such a cold room, she couldn't help but think. It made her think of winter in a way she disliked.

In the midst of this cold--indeed, almost frozen--basement, sat two women, one cradled within the lap and arms of the other. Well, woman-like individuals. Eloise was not old enough to carry that title and Tschim too old by far. Surrounding them were numerous boxes in such various arrays of being opened or resealed, labelled or relabeled, that the stacks of them now resembled strange banners, declaring some ominous portent. With such a mess ahead of them, Mana all but lost hope of ever managing to move the family from the place.

Tschim raised her head slightly, stiffly. Her chin rose just far enough from Eloise's hair to make eye contact. She opened her mouth as if to greet her, then seemed to think better of it. She closed her wine-red lips and grinned instead. It was pretty, Tschim always was, but it made Mana shiver, entirely separate from the cold but just as unpleasant. Tschim leaned into Eloise again, moving her lips soundlessly against the girl’s glossy black hair. She blinked up to Mana on the stair before allowing herself to be set to her feet. Tschim pat the girl’s shoulder to shoo her toward the maid, and turned her attentions to the scattered mess at her feet.

To say that Mana was a coward would be unfair. She had never faced physical danger, in either past or present life, and her childish fears of ghosts and monsters turned out to be perfectly reasonable in retrospect. So when Mana took the child's hand and pulled her towards the door, away from the basement--away from Tschim--it was fear that moved her, but fear of a frighteningly reasonable sort. Had she been a more maternal spirit, she would have called it fear for one's child. She wasn't though, being rather dim and sweet, so it simply was a general panic. As if frozen in place, Tschim smiled and Mana barely managed a bow before she and the girl were out the door.

As they began their ascent back to the fair world, the maid looked to the girl and, seeing the frosted-red on her cheeks, all but cried, "<We'll get you warmed up right away. This one will prepare some hot tea and you can sit outside and enjoy the sun and this lovely weather and Aneko-sama would be very upset if you caught a cold!>" Aneko, Howell, and their collection of boxes had moved elsewhere, leaving the stairs clear. "<How does that sound, oujos-->"

The question caught in her mouth, as Mana was struck by the girl's expression. The chilled nonchalance had frozen solid, despite the warm breeze that curled down the steps, and the girl's feet were rooted to the cement, no longer following the maid's steps.

"<Eloise-oujosama...?>" Mana inquired.

But her eyes! Mana was slow to notice the heat in the girl's eyes, an intensity that looked upward. How long had it been since the child had worn such an expression? Slowly, the maid turned to follow that gaze.

A man, at the top of the steps.

"Tatti," Eloise's voice trembled, but held fast -- as fragile and indignant as hope.

That man laughed, his arms opened.

"I'll have to speak to your mother about that. You know I don't speak Yiddish."

As Mana's feet gave out beneath her, Eloise was already up the stairs, out of the cold, and into the light.



----Summary:----
- Canto I: Mana, Aneko's maid, helps Yuki pack for their move away from Tokyo.
- Canto II: Mana heads down the stairs and meets Saeko.
- Canto III: Mana enters the bar and sees Lenore and her pile of treasure.
- Canto IV: This space for rent.
- Canto V: Mana finds Aneko behind the bar, attempting to clean. Injuries are sustained.
- Canto VI: Howell enters and comments upon the situation because he's actually getting work done, unlike some people.
- Canto VII: Mana is unfazed by Aneko tearing her arm off.
- Canto VIII: Mana follows Aneko out side to help Howell with Saeko's boxes of stuff that would get you burned at the stake in multiple senses.
- Canto IX: Mana visits Tschim and Elosie in the basement, retrieving the child.
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