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Pleasant Meadows

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Jul 17th, 2013
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  1. File 137289884971.jpg - (127.96KB , 500x705 , not you.jpg ) [iqdb] [google]
  2. 51333 Pleasant Meadows Keymaster 2013/07/04(Thu)00:47 No. 51333
  3.  
  4. Hi there. Some of you may remember that I wrote a little something called Being Meiling a while back. Well, I thought I'd try my hand at a little something different this time. Let's see how this experiment goes, shall we?
  5.  
  6. ---------------------------------------------
  7.  
  8. The alarm goes off, and I wake up. A quick flick of the wrist, and that damned annoying thing is shut off, leaving me to the peaceful sound of the wind blowing outside of my window. A bit of sunlight streaming in confirms that yes, it is indeed the crack of dawn. Time to get to work.
  9.  
  10. Another fine morning at Pleasant Meadows.
  11.  
  12. I decide to take my time getting ready; the rest of the staff, let alone the guests, aren't due until later this afternoon. Plenty of time to get myself presentable, and make sure that the manor is ready to entertain its party this weekend. Apparently we'll be having a full house due to some Japanese businesswoman or some such wanting to host a 'special party' for her friends.
  13.  
  14. Yes, we all know what THAT means. Some wealthy women are inviting some men over to a classy location in order to have some commitment-free sex, and possibly take one of them home. It happens, from time to time.
  15.  
  16. But it's none of my business. A good butler sees nothing, hears nothing, and speaks of nothing. If that's how they wish to unwind, then more power to them. I shall be the perfect servant during their stay.
  17.  
  18. I just hope none of them are old women who try to flirt with me. It has happened before, and it is unbelievably awkward. Fortunately, the maids always bail me out. The serving staff has to stick together, after all.
  19.  
  20. I leave my room and head towards one of the bathrooms in the servant's quarters, mulling over my current source of employment as I do so. It really wasn't what I had in mind, but that's life, sometimes. You do what you have to, until you can do what you wish. That certainly accounts for my being here. Not that working at Pleasant Meadows is unpleasant, mind you, but it certainly promises to be busy.
  21.  
  22. As I wash up, I consider the manor house. Mansion really. Pleasant Meadows, a fine New England house that came into the possession of its owner about, oh, thirty years ago. After using it for a vacation home, the man apparently found it to be a little too much house to live in, and began renting it out to people who wanted to throw a private party at a mansion, of which there were plenty. Pleasant Meadows itself is situated fairly far from civilization, the original owner being a bit of a recluse, and it certainly provides privacy to those who come here.
  23.  
  24. The place is sizable, that is for certain. The east wing holds twenty bedrooms, ten on each floor, each about as comfortable as a good hotel room. The central building has the main hall, a ballroom on the second floor, a couple of comfortable lounges, and towards the back are the dining room and kitchen, which open directly into the servant quarters. The west wing is all about entertainment, and has a large entertainment theater, a library, a billiards and gameroom, a sunroom, and even an indoor pool. It's pretty much set up as a weekend pleasure-palace.
  25.  
  26. On the outside, the manor has its gardens (all tended to) a hedge-maze (which has seen more than its fair share of a private rendezvous), and even a boathouse, for when people want to go out on the lake. Beyond that, the house is isolated by dense forest, with a single road eventually meandering out onto the highway.
  27.  
  28. Pleasant Meadows, where the rich and idle can come to laze away a weekend. And the serving staff will serve them with a smile, keeping our thoughts about said idleness very private indeed.
  29.  
  30. Ah, well. Not all of them are irritating fops. You can generally tell the pleasant guests from the difficult ones on sight. It's an acquired skill.
  31.  
  32. Appearing fresh and clean, I head back to my room and put on my uniform, a full three-piece suit complete with white gloves. I actually only got in yesterday, just in time to see the cleaning crew off, and double-check their work. As always, they did a bang-up job. I'd volunteered to be the one to come in a day early and make sure that Pleasant Meadows was ship-shape for its party, and to my keen butler's eye (another acquired skill), it looked perfect. So now, it was simply a matter of waiting for the rest of the serving staff to help set the place up, and then the arrival of our guests.
  33.  
  34. ...Alright, calling me a professional butler might be a bit of a stretch. I certainly wouldn't find a job serving British nobility. However, I am more than capable of looking after a house. Call me a glorified housekeeper if you wish; it's a source of income, and provides me with enough to support myself and save up for my actual dream job. Honestly? I got lucky. I was in the right place at the right time, met a senior member of the staff who was looking for a replacement for one of the workers here, and got brought on as a junior helper. Eventually, I made my way to my current position. I figure just another year here, and I can move on.
  35.  
  36. But, that's for the future! For now, this twenty-something not-a-butler-but-might-as-well-be has a job to do. And if you're going to do something, do it right!
  37.  
  38. ---------------------------------
  39.  
  40. Okay, meet our MC. He needs a few things to flesh him out:
  41.  
  42. [ ] A name
  43. [ ] A hobby
  44. [ ] A dream (what does this man want to do for real?)
  45.  
  46. As for appearance, do people want to leave it vague, or do you have suggestions as to what this fellow looks like?
  47. Expand all images
  48.  
  49.  
  50. ----
  51.  
  52. Keymaster 2013/07/05(Fri)00:48 No. 51372
  53. File 137298530730.jpg - (363.32KB , 800x1000 , mistress of ceremonies.jpg ) [iqdb] [google]
  54. 51372
  55. Okay, then. Might as well do a final walk-through of the mansion. In the past, it has helped in noticing a couple out-of-place odds and ends. Nothing that a guest would likely notice, mind you, but it never hurts to be TOO careful. Perfectionism is a virtue in this business, after, all.
  56.  
  57. I take one last look at myself in the mirror. Wavy brown hair, hazel eyes, clean-shaven. I had toyed with the idea of growing a mustache or a beard at some point, but those are expressly forbidden among the serving staff here. Fair enough; I don't know that I'd be able to pull the look off very well.
  58.  
  59. Alfred Arthur Westcastle is my name, named after my British grandfather and American father respectively. Apparently Granddad served as a full butler to some fairly dignified people in the past, so maybe in runs in the blood? I don't know. He seemed to take a great deal of pride in his service, but it was never my dream. But again, when one does a job, one should do it right.
  60.  
  61. I step out of my room and take a quick look around the servants' quarters. They consist of about a dozen or so rooms and two bathrooms, comfortable but not showy, for the staff that will be attending to the guests here. Nothing that really needs my attention; I find it very unlikely that any guest will be coming back here. I do take a moment to glance wryly at a landscape painting that graces the hall. It's one of mine; Eric, the head of staff, was very taken with it and asked to hang it as a sort of good-luck charm for the staff. I conceded, albeit with a bit of embarrassment; it's really not very good, although Eric insists that I'm just being too hard on myself. It was fun to paint, though; once I have enough money stored away, I'd like to attend a real College where I can work on my painting skills. But that's for the future.
  62.  
  63. I leave the servants' quarters and look around the ground floor of the central building. Kitchen looks fine, pantries are stocked. Dining room and lounges are tidy. Bathrooms, spotless. Good. Upstairs, the large sitting room and ballroom are in order, and a quick walk down the hallways of the east wing confirm that all of the rooms on the first and second floor are completely ship-shape. That's good; having to reorganize them myself is technically part of the job should the need arise, but that doesn't mean I have to look forward to it. And the head of the cleaning crew always gets this far-off look in his eyes whenever someone criticizes his work; likely just tuning them out.
  64.  
  65. ...Well, all right. I have also learned how to tune people out. But when you have a guest ranting at you because her tea was slightly too hot, you learn to tune out her voice to a distant buzzing static and nod your head on autopilot. It eventually becomes a basic survival tool for your sanity.
  66.  
  67. In any event, off to the west wing. Pool and jacuzzi are perfectly cleaned, and there's an assortment of bathing suits in stock. Judging by their profound lack of material, I can safely say that I know where this weekend is heading. But that's fine; let the wealthy have their fun. It's certainly none of my business. I just hope they don't forget I'm there and start rutting like animals in front of me. That happened once, and it was not a pleasant experience; the age of the participants did not help matters.
  68.  
  69. On the same floor as the pool, the entertainment center, complete with massive screen and a library of films has been properly set up, and the game room is all in order. I take a moment to select a few DVDs and set them out for the guests' convenience; newer movies that I think they might like. It's a simple courtesy. Upstairs, the library is tidy and quiet, and the long sunroom with its internal garden looks as perfect as can be.
  70.  
  71. It's a miracle; the cleaning crew did their job perfectly. If I were more religious I might get on my knees and thank God. Maybe the owner had a word with them after SOMEBODY forgot to clean up a small pile of cigarette butts in the pool changing rooms. I still don't know what those were all about.
  72.  
  73. On a whim, I slip down into the basement to check on things there; not that I REALLY expect someone to have planted a stinkbomb or left their dog behind, but it's always best to be thorough, just in case. One slip in prudence and yadda yadda yadda I'm sure I've made my point on that already.
  74.  
  75. Laundry room: no laundry. Utilities: functional. Wine cellar: with a selection of very fine wines, some of which I personally helped pick out. What can I say, working here gives one an appreciation for good wine and good tea.
  76.  
  77. In any case, the house seems like it will stand the perfect weather due to come our way, and may just withstand the attentions of a party of excitable rich women. Who are probably Japanese, from what I can tell. Hopefully, I can make myself understood to them. Not that much communication is always required, mind you; smile, bow, hand them a drink, and you're usually done.
  78.  
  79. I take a moment to step outside for a brisk walk, in part to clear my head for the busy weekend, in part to double-check the gardens. But again, it looks things are in order here. The gardeners at least take a great deal of pride in their work. I also make a quick jaunt over to the boathouse to make sure that all of the craft there are in order in case someone wants to go for a romantic spin on the the lake (they usually do). Again, everything is in order.
  80.  
  81. ...I can't help but gaze longingly at the boats. It's not quite the sea, but it's the closest I've been able to get to it for some time. At least Eric lets me take the boats out on the pretense of testing their performance; he knows better, I'm sure, but Eric is a man that take care of his people. I have to admit, as much as I like painting, I truly love the sea. I used to go out on the water all the time with my father when I was younger. Alas, cruel reality reared her head and I had to give up that passion, instead having to devote my efforts to making money and otherwise supporting myself. I suppose I could have joined the navy, but that really didn't seem the life for me.
  82.  
  83. ...If I manage to make it as an artist, perhaps I could buy a boat, and paint islands? Tending to a canvas on the back deck of my very own-
  84.  
  85. All right, Alfred, that's enough. Time to get to work. I can fantasize later. Right now, lunch. The staff should be along shortly, and the guests close behind them. I take one last look at the sunny, cloudless sky, and head back inside.
  86.  
  87. ***********************************
  88.  
  89. I've just finished cleaning up after lunch when the sound of the doorbell resounds through the manor. That's... odd. Did I accidentally lock the door? The staff should have come right on in. Shaking my head, I march to the front door to see what is amiss, pulling it open to see...
  90.  
  91. ...Oh my...
  92.  
  93. (Background Music! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdRS3DtXh3I )
  94.  
  95. ...Perhaps one of the most beautiful women I have ever laid eyes upon.
  96.  
  97. She's tall, blonde, and wearing a frilly purple dress that almost looks to be the same color as her eyes; some odd trick of the light no doubt. Long white white gloves add some class to the ensemble, which is slightly detracted from by her unusual hat. Still, who am I to judge? Her features appear vaguely asiatic, and a large suitcase is by her side. Putting this together with the information Eric gave me, I quickly deduce that this is...
  98.  
  99. "Yukari Yakumo," the woman introduces herself, confirming my expectations. "It's a pleasure to be here."
  100.  
  101. Ah. The one who hired the house in the first place. Training takes over as I bow politely to her. "The pleasure is all mine, Miss Yakumo. My name is Alfred, and I have the pleasure of being one of your attendants today."
  102.  
  103. Miss Yakumo giggles. "Oh, you're such a dear! But please call me Yukari, Alfred; I'd feel old, otherwise."
  104.  
  105. I raise an eyebrow. "Yukari, then. But if I may say, no one would ever think you old! Honestly, you don't look a day over seventeen." Which is very true; generous, mature figure notwithstanding, Yukari seems to be one of those naturally youthful women.
  106.  
  107. And judging by her pleased giggle, easily flattered. "Oh I can tell I'm going to like you, Alfie!" A nickname. Wonderful. "I'd be tempted to ask to keep you, but I have someone waiting for me at home." Which hopefully means that she won't be flirting with me. Oh, I do so hope.
  108.  
  109. I gesture to her bag. "May I show you to your room... Yukari?" She nods her acceptance, and I gesture for her to enter the mansion, hefting her suitcase as she does so. Ah, yes, just as one would suspect of a wealthy lady: it's heavy enough to be used to drown someone. Fortunately, I'm used to carrying heavy weights. Butlering: a good way to build upper body strength. Who ever would have guessed?
  110.  
  111. Yukari 'Hmmms' appreciatively as I lead her through the hallways. "I have to say, Yukari," I begin, minding to address her the way she requested, "You arrived a lot earlier than we were expecting."
  112.  
  113. "Oh, I'm sorry. Is that a problem?" Yukari looks a tad concerned, and I chuckle in response.
  114.  
  115. "Not at all! I came a day early just in case something like this happened. No, I simply wasn't expecting your arrival until this afternoon. The rest of the staff should be here in, oh, two hours? Come to think of it, I didn't even hear a car as you arrived."
  116.  
  117. Yukari laughs musically. "My driver can be very stealthy at times, and I wanted to look the place over before the rest of my guests arrived. They will be here on time, with the beaus coming along behind them." We come to a stop before her designated bedroom, and I open the door. "You do know what the plan is for this weekend, correct?"
  118.  
  119. I haul the heavy suitcase in. "In general terms, yes. You're having some lady-friends and gentlemen over for a... very nice time."
  120.  
  121. "What a discreet way of putting it," Yukari titters. "Well, that's basically true. I'm actually well looked after by my special someone, but while traveling through my hometown, I happened to come across a few lovely ladies who were being ignored by the local men in general." She shakes her head sadly. "A travesty, I tell you! So, I invited them here for a fun-filled weekend, and used my connections to identify some likely escorts for them. I guess you could regard it as a weekend of speed-dating."
  122.  
  123. I nod politely. "As you say... Yukari."
  124.  
  125. She gives me a sympathetic look. "Sorry. It's hard to leave off the 'Miss,' isn't it?"
  126.  
  127. "...A tad," I admit. It's hard to go against training.
  128.  
  129. "Well, Miss Yukari will do just fine." Miss Yukari sighs heavily. "And here I was hoping to make nice with the handsome young man in uniform~! Oh well, I guess I'll go easy on you, then." She gives me a friendly wink, and I can't help but laugh.
  130.  
  131. "I admit it's none of my business, but I assume you'll be playing matchmaker this weekend?" I inquire.
  132.  
  133. Miss Yukari nods cheerfully. "You are correct, Alfie! Sorry, Alfred. I'm just hoping to make the lives of a few lonely girls just a little bit brighter. Happiness should be shared, after all."
  134.  
  135. I nod. "Just as you say, Miss Yukari. Is there anything you need of me right at the moment?"
  136.  
  137. The blonde woman yawns, shaking her head. "Actually, I think I'll just take a little nap until the others arrive. Wake me up when they get here, will you? Oh, and have you heard the weather report?"
  138.  
  139. "I will certainly awaken you, and the weather is supposed to be sunny and cloudless all weekend long," I report, receiving a pleased smile in return.
  140.  
  141. "Excellent!" Yukari says with satisfaction, and then gently strokes my cheek, much to my surprise. The glove is so soft that I actually feel something twinge in my head. What is with this woman's presence?! Her hand releases my cheek and gently slides down my chest before drifting away. "It's so nice to have such a friendly, cheerful helper. Anyway! This young woman needs her beauty rest!"
  142.  
  143. "Certainly, Miss Yukari." I bow and make my exit, closing the door behind me. As I do, I realize that the chief guest has left a little present in my coat's chest pocket: a rather thick bundle of bills.
  144.  
  145. ...Well, now. Attractive, polite to the help, good tipper, and not inclined to pointlessly flirt with me? I like this woman already. I can handle a few eccentricities, as well as a plan that basically boils down to 'getting some friends laid.' A good tip can smooth over any problems. With any luck, the rest of the guests will be much the same. Feeling good about everything, I make my way to the kitchen to prepare a quick snack for when the rest of the staff arrives.
  146.  
  147. *****************************
  148.  
  149. I'm feeling considerably less good about things a few hours later. They're late. All of them. I've never heard of the staff being so late to an engagement. And would it kill them to give me a heads-up? Seriously, the rest of the staff should have been here by now!
  150.  
  151. Then I hear the doorbell ring, and my stomach hits rock-bottom. Miss Yukari's excited cry of "They're here, they're here!" doesn't help things.
  152.  
  153. Well, it's come down to this. I will apparently be taking care of a house full of guests until everyone else arrives. That is absolutely fantastic. I had better be getting a bonus for this.
  154.  
  155. Still, nothing for it. I square my shoulders and head to the front door, where Miss Yukari is practically bouncing with excitement. I pull open the door, and...
  156.  
  157. ...Huh.
  158.  
  159. Well, the second thing that occurs to me is that I can't see a vehicle anywhere. Did they have the same driver as Yukari? Some sort of phantom-stealth-ninja-driver? The third thing that occurs to me is that a very dark cloud on the horizon, about where the road would be, may very well be responsible for the delay in the arrival of the rest of the staff. Once again, the weather report proves to be worthless.
  160.  
  161. However, the first thing that crosses my mind is that this is one of the strangest groups that I've ever come across. And we've hosted everything from nudists to religious sects before.
  162.  
  163. Still, there are forms to stick to. "Welcome to Pleasant Meadows," I say, bowing to the assembled guests. "I hope that you enjoy your stay here."
  164.  
  165. "Thank you~!" the group of women reply, bowing in response. Must be a japanese thing, they certainly have the features for it. Most of them. I think. I step aside and take in the guests as they file in, one after another.
  166.  
  167. The first to enter shatters my mental image of this being a party for classy, upper-class women. Never mind that she looks... young, anyway. Late teens? She's small, but there's some definite musculature. No, what gets me is that the strawberry-blonde guest is dressed up as a punk, complete with chains and ripped sleeves. And are those novelty horns she's wearing?! Still, judging by the enthusiastic hug she gives the Mistress of Ceremonies, they're definitely friends.
  168.  
  169. Entry number two appears to have dyed her hair pink at some point, and is wearing an odd dress that looks vaguely Chinese. At least she gives me a polite nod as she enters. She is followed by a slender, somewhat officious-looking woman in a very elaborate uniform, and wearing an extremely detailed hat. Seriously, Yukari has nothing on this woman. I'd almost take her for a police officer, except that I don't think that most police services permit their officers to dye their hair green. Still, I get a polite nod from her as she enters as well.
  170.  
  171. And here's someone else with green hair, and about ten miles worth of ribbons strewn about her body. She actually seems to spin like a top as she takes in the building. Her eyes glance over me for a moment before she goes to greet Yukari. Bustling in behind her are two youngish-looking girls, one in a red dress, the other in some sort of purple-checkered skirt and pigtails. And what are with those shoes...?
  172.  
  173. Walking in behind those two, her entire body language conveying deep hesitation, is a blonde woman in a complicated getup that I can't even begin to describe. She glances at me with bright green eyes and a surly expression, not bothering to talk to anyone else. Those pointed ears look natural; must be a birth defect.
  174.  
  175. Behind her comes a blonde woman in a red dress, and one glance from her (her eyes look gold) immediately makes me straighten up by instinct. This woman has a definite 'Head Maid' vibe about her, one that immediately makes me feel subservient. Seriously, our senior maid, Sylvia, could take lessons from this woman. Fortunately, she seems to realize the effect that she's having upon me, and gives me an apologetic look before moving on. I find myself wondering why a woman on vacation would still be wearing her maid's uniform.
  176.  
  177. I go to close the door when I notice one last guest lingering outside, staring at the dark clouds in the distance with a quizzical expression. Noticing that she is alone, this woman shrugs and walks inside. She definitely has some outlandish getup; that scarf alone looks ten feet long. And why would such a classy woman choose to dye her hair purple? Still, it's none of my concern, really.
  178.  
  179. Standing there in the entry way, I look at the noisy bunch of women exchanging pleasantries with one another, already asking after the alcohol. I look at the driveway, depressingly absent of any sign of assistance from the rest of the staff. Finally, I take a long look at that black cloud in the distance, damning it for this situation. 'Clear Skies' indeed! I sigh heavily. This was going to be one of those days.
  180.  
  181. ****************************
  182.  
  183. An hour later, my mood has not improved. The guests are enjoying themselves in the lounge with a snack I hastily whipped up to sate them. It seems to be holding them off, at least. But where in blazes is everyone else?! At least their male 'companions' have yet to arrive. That would just be too much. Still, I have to remain dignified. It's only until the rest of the staff arrive, which should be soon, hopefully.
  184.  
  185. Hmm. I suppose it wouldn't hurt me to introduce myself to the female guests. I will be in service to them, after all, and if they remember to the tip the brave butler who saw to their needs despite the horrible lateness of the rest of the staff, well, that certainly would not be amiss, now would it? Besides, I am, for all intents and purposes, a butler. It is my job to see if they have any needs that need to be fulfilled.
  186.  
  187. Now then, Yukari seems to be amusing herself by sipping some wine and watching the others. Who should I speak to first?
  188.  
  189. [x] The official-looking woman reading a book.
  190. [x] The pink-haired woman admiring the artwork.
  191. [x] The punkish girl intent on consuming all of the whiskey in the house.
  192. [x] The surly blonde keeping to herself in the corner.
  193. [x] The woman covered in ribbons, gazing about the room.
  194. [x] The young lady in pigtails, who looks very excited.
  195. [x] The young woman in red, who is playing the piano.
  196. [x] The maid, who appears to be inspecting the furniture.
  197. [x] The classy woman, who is staring out the window.
  198.  
  199.  
  200. ----
  201.  
  202. Keymaster 2013/07/05(Fri)22:56 No. 51419
  203. File 137306501325.jpg - (204.41KB , 850x828 , the head maid.jpg ) [iqdb] [google]
  204. 51419
  205. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27DRGPD_-60
  206.  
  207.  
  208. Well, no reason not to talk to a fellow member of the serving profession. Intense vibe notwithstanding, she IS on vacation, and seemed to make a conscious effort to not be overbearing earlier. Besides, I'm curious as to just why such a woman would insist on being in uniform while supposedly here for a 'romantic weekend.' I mean, I understand pride in one's work, but this just seems a little bit excessive.
  209.  
  210. Shrugging mentally, I make my way over to where the blonde woman is carefully examining the furniture, running a finger along the wood and checking her fingertips afterward. Yes, she's testing for dust. How lovely, one of our guests has a maid's eye for detail. I can just see it now: endless comments on the decor and service, a carefully evaluating eye on everything we do, comparisons to her own home... it's the kind of attitude I've dealt with before, actually. Sylvia can be quite the taskmistress. So, at least I'm going into this prepared.
  211.  
  212. I clear my throat. "Is everything to your liking, Madam?" I ask politely.
  213.  
  214. "I believe so," the blonde maid muses, glancing about the room thoughtfully, "My compliments to your staff; you have cleaned this room adequately."
  215.  
  216. The Head Maid voice and demeanor pounds into my brain, and my training takes over. I straighten as much as I can and bow my head. "Thank you, Ma'am, I do try my best," I say humbly. Then I wince, realizing that I've just addressed this woman like I was a rookie at Pleasant Meadows addressing a senior staffmember. Hell, I STILL talk to Sylvia that way.
  217.  
  218. The maid blinks and looks at me in surprise, taking in my stiff posture and awkward facial expression. Then she has the good grace to blush and look embarrassed. "...Oh my. I am SO sorry!" she says, bowing frantically in apology.
  219.  
  220. I get a bit flustered. "Ah, no, Madam, please! It isn't proper for a guest to be apologizing to a member of the staff like this!"
  221.  
  222. "Ah, well..." the woman is blushing furiously and glances over to her fellow guests, noticing that Yukari is watching the exchange with no small amount of amusement. She shakes her head and turns back to me. "Sorry, but can we talk in private, please?"
  223.  
  224. "Er, very well," I say hesitantly. A quick glance around the room indicates that Yukari is the only one to notice our 'discussion,' giggling merrily into her hand. The others are preoccupied with their own activities, thank God. "If you'll follow me," I suggest, and lead the woman over to the empty dining room. "We should have privacy here. What was it you wanted to talk to me about?"
  225.  
  226. The red maid quietly walks over to stand by the long table, looking rather contrite. "So, I'm a maid. You must have guessed that, right?"
  227.  
  228. "The outfit was a definite hint," I note.
  229.  
  230. She snorts in amusement. "I guess it would be." Straightening, the blonde woman bows formally to me. "My name is Yumeko, head of household for the Lady Shinki."
  231.  
  232. I return the formal bow. "Alfred Arthur Westcastle, butler in service to the house of Pleasant Meadows. A pleasure to meet you."
  233.  
  234. "And you," Yumeko replies, smiling a little bit as she straightens up.
  235.  
  236. "No family names?" I wonder out loud.
  237.  
  238. She shrugs awkwardly. "They're... hard to pronounce. It's a very long story."
  239.  
  240. I nod in understanding. "I won't pry," I tell her. Probably wants to keep them a secret. I can understand that.
  241.  
  242. But Yumeko blinks and hurriedly waves her hands in negation. "No, no, no! You misunderstand! It's not that I'm trying to keep it a secret! It's just, well... honestly very hard to pronounce, um..." she wrings her hands in her skirt before groaning disconsolately. "This is so much harder than I thought it would be. I have NO idea how to act here!"
  243.  
  244. I burst into laughter despite myself. "You sound like my grandfather. Whenever he got a day of vacation, he kept bowing and calling people 'sir' or 'madam.' Said he never truly felt like he was off duty."
  245.  
  246. Yumeko starts giggling. "Tell me about it! Whenever I go somewhere, I instinctively start thinking that I should tidy things up a little bit. Whenever we go to visit Yukari, her servant Ran has to remind me that the household doesn't need another servant." Yumeko rolls her eyes. "Believe me, it gets embarrassing when you have to be ordered to relax by your employer."
  247.  
  248. I chuckle, letting my butler persona relax a little bit. "I can imagine. Grandfather was full of stories. I never really had that problem, though."
  249.  
  250. "Oh?" Yumeko looks interested.
  251.  
  252. "My grandfather was a full-blown British butler, with all that entailed. Me, I'm just a member of the serving staff who is good at acting like a butler. When I'm off duty, I'm off duty." I pause. "Except for the fact that I tend to clean up my own hotel rooms. Habits die hard."
  253.  
  254. Yumeko bursts into laughter at this. "Oh, I know! Once you get used to the life, it gets in your blood." She sighs. "Anyway, I'm sorry about earlier. I wasn't trying to make you uncomfortable or anything. I just felt the NEED to be doing something. Cleaning, cooking... what have you."
  255.  
  256. "You're supposed to be on vacation," I point out.
  257.  
  258. "Like I said, old habits die hard," Yumeko shakes her head ruefully.
  259.  
  260. "Is that why you're still in uniform?" I ask, quite curious.
  261.  
  262. Yumeko glances down at herself and blushes. "Um... well, I honestly don't have much of a wardrobe. Being Lady Shinki's servant really is my life. When Yukari convinced me to come on this little excursion, I realized that I'd need a new outfit. Then I made the mistake of asking Yukari and Shinki to take me clothes shopping." Yumeko slumps a little bit.
  263.  
  264. I shake my head sadly. "That can only have ended in disaster."
  265.  
  266. Yumeko winces. "They wanted me to dress up pretty for the 'beaus,' as Yukari keeps calling them. Let me put it this way: if I'd gone along with them, I'd have walked in showing a lot more skin than I'd be comfortable with." She pauses. "Then they tried to march me over to the lingerie section and I took off screaming."
  267.  
  268. I consider Yumeko's lovely features and generous figure. "Truly, it would have been tragic had you gone along with them," I say with a straight face.
  269.  
  270. Yumeko's face is equally passive. "I'd hate to have burdened you."
  271.  
  272. "Not at all. It is my duty to bear such burdens with a smile on my face." I feel myself grinning.
  273.  
  274. Yumeko blushes a little bit but rallies. "Now, Arthur! I'd have forced you to join in so I wouldn't feel so lonely!"
  275.  
  276. I shake my head sadly. "Alas, skirts do not agree with my physique. Such a shame."
  277.  
  278. "Ah, and you have experience wearing them, do you?" Yumeko is grinning herself now.
  279.  
  280. "One must be willing to cater to the whims of the guests, whatever they may be," I say stoically.
  281.  
  282. "True. Now, consider. I work for Shinki, who is... a dear friend of Yukari's. Consider what Yukari is doing here, right now. Consider what I have to put up with on a regular basis."
  283.  
  284. I think about it. I consider the fact that Yukari, fundamentally, rented a mansion so that she could set some women up to have sex. I consider what she must routinely come up with, and that Yumeko is forced to deal with it all. "I yield to your greater experience," I say, conceding defeat.
  285.  
  286. Yumeko looks triumphant for a moment, then shrugs. "And yet, consider what Yukari's own servant has to deal with."
  287.  
  288. It makes me shudder to think about it. "That poor woman."
  289.  
  290. "Truly a tragic figure." Yumeko agrees. The two of us look at one another, then burst into laughter, sharing that bond that maids and butlers tend to have. After a moment, I get my breath back and straighten up.
  291.  
  292. "So, to summarize, it was either wear your uniform, or wear something dictated by the whims of your mistress and Yukari," I note.
  293.  
  294. "And I'll take this outfit any day of the week," Yumeko agrees. She shudders. "Skirts should NOT be that short."
  295.  
  296. I feel a sudden pang of regret. Oh, the sights I am being denied! I shrug it off, pressing on to something else that has me curious. "So, Yumeko... may I call you Yumeko?"
  297.  
  298. "One servant to another?" Yumeko smiles at me. "I'd be delighted."
  299.  
  300. I nod in gratitude. "Thanks. So, I was wondering... what is this all about, really? It doesn't seem like a decadent party for rich women, which is what I was expecting."
  301.  
  302. Yumeko looks uncomfortable. "It's not. I mean, Yukari is a woman of great importance where she comes from, but not everyone here is necessarily a person of great note. Basically, Yukari recently found companionship... um, with my lady." She blushes at the admission.
  303.  
  304. I nod in understanding. It's not like it's so strange in this day and age. "Do go on."
  305.  
  306. "Well, Yukari decided that she wanted other people to feel as good as she did. While wandering around her homeland, she came across a few women that she felt needed a little romance in their lives, and set this whole thing up to give them that taste of romance." Yumeko looks even more embarrassed now.
  307.  
  308. I nod slowly. "She mentioned as much. So, you were one of these lucky women, obviously."
  309.  
  310. Yumeko nods in dejection. "Apparently Ran turned her down flat-out. Then she mentioned to Shinki what she was doing, and suggested that I come along, and, well..." she shrugs helplessly. "It's hard to say 'no' when two women like that gang up on you."
  311.  
  312. I nod, slowly beginning to understand. "You don't like doing this, do you?"
  313.  
  314. "No," Yumeko says flatly. "As much as I would... appreciate... a man in my life, this isn't how I want to go about it. I mean, hired escorts? They may as well be male prostitutes! I understand that I don't need to worry about it much and just have fun, but..." She shakes her head in frustration. "This whole thing is just really embarrassing for me."
  315.  
  316. I nod slowly. Yukari seems like a very difficult woman to refuse. At least Eric and Sylvia never meddled in our private lives. Offered advice, yes, but they would never be so heavy-handed about it. "You have my sympathies," I tell my fellow servant. "Is there anything I can do to help? And I'm not asking that as part of the job, either."
  317.  
  318. Yumeko looks at me hopefully. "Well... I notice that the rest of the staff hasn't showed up yet, and you seem a little overworked. I don't suppose... you'd let me lend you a hand? Just for a little while?"
  319.  
  320. I stare blankly. A woman on vacation is actually asking for chores? Or is this just an excuse to distance herself from an uncomfortable situation? Either way, I'm not really sure how to respond to her request.
  321.  
  322. [ ] Accept. You could use the help, and she really does seem uncomfortable.
  323. [ ] Accept conditionally. She can help, but only if she stays out of sight.
  324. [ ] Decline. You really can't permit such a thing.
  325.  
  326.  
  327. ----
  328.  
  329. Keymaster 2013/07/06(Sat)19:42 No. 51446
  330. File 137313975099.jpg - (200.34KB , 850x907 , workaholic.jpg ) [iqdb] [google]
  331. 51446
  332. I take a deep breath, then sigh resignedly, giving Yumeko a rueful look. "Well, after all, we must be prepared cater to the whims of our guests. However bizarre they may be." I shrug helplessly.
  333.  
  334. Yumeko sighs as well, practically slumping with relief. "THANK YOU, Alfred. You have no idea what a relief that is to me."
  335.  
  336. "Actually, I'm a student of body posture. Your current stance, not to mention your tone of voice, really does convey a certain extreme degree of relief without you telling me as much." I raise my eyebrow as I say this.
  337.  
  338. Yumeko just rolls her eyes. "You really do have the butler snark down, don't you?"
  339.  
  340. "So I'm told," I quip, leading her into the kitchen, "However, it seems to be something that comes with the territory. When one has to deal with the silly whims of the guests all day long, one learns to vent without them suspecting that anything is amiss."
  341.  
  342. "Though in my case, I do notice what you're saying," Yumeko notes, glancing around the kitchen.
  343.  
  344. "Well, you're a maid," I reply, "You probably use the lingo yourself. And you just put yourself back into that role, despite supposedly being on vacation." I hesitate. "Look, you realize that you can't escape into the servants' quarters for the whole weekend, right? I mean, people are going to go looking for you."
  345.  
  346. My new helper just waves me off. "Don't worry about it. It just means that one of the other girls gets two escorts hanging off of her. She'll love it. Probably be Suika, come to think of it. Anyway, if worst comes to worst, I'll just pass myself off as Yukari's personal servant."
  347.  
  348. I nod. "A brilliant deception that will last until someone thinks to ask about you. Which will take all of thirty seconds."
  349.  
  350. "Then I'll get down on my knees and beg." Yumeko shoots back.
  351.  
  352. I consider this, and ponder how Eric and Sylvia are likely to react to this situation: a guest, uncomfortable with the party plans, who is a trained maid, and is actually asking to lighten the load on the rest of us? "All right, so perhaps that will be somewhat effective," I admit. "But are you really sure that you're dealing with the root of the problem?"
  353.  
  354. "The others are likely to be too drunk to notice or care, and if anyone asks, I'll say that I had a lovely time," Yumeko says immediately. She pauses. "Besides, I didn't say that I'd be working all the time. Once I know that I'm home-free, maybe I'll relax in your lovely gardens. Or read quietly in your library. Anything that keeps me away from the rest of the debauchery."
  355.  
  356. I smile knowingly. "Ah. A valued guest making entirely unreasonable demands of the staff. NOW I'm back in my comfort zone!" Yumeko just laughs in response.
  357.  
  358. Still, I guess I understand where she's coming from. Yukari has clearly planned out a weekend of sheer debauchery, and Yumeko is not at all comfortable with it. It that case, it is my duty to help her have a pleasant stay here at Pleasant Meadows. If that involves letting her distance herself from the rest of the guests, then as regrettable as that may be, it is nonetheless my job.
  359.  
  360. In any case, Yumeko puts herself to work in the kitchen, helping me replenish the plates of appetizers for the guests. She also recommends some wines that they might enjoy (these women do seem to go through the alcohol quite quickly; they must have a high tolerance), and even gives me some pointers on food presentation. She's professional, and clearly highly experienced. This, then, must be the difference between a loyal servant and a mere employee. Not that I regret my life choices, mind you. Yumeko and I simply have different callings in life. Which does not in any way keep me from greatly enjoying her company.
  361.  
  362. The two of us bring out a couple of trays and set them upon the tables in the lounge, whereupon they are immediately set upon as though by a pack of frenzied, starving wolves. Albeit with varying degrees of class. Some of the women manage to gorge themselves while still maintaining a certain degree of elegance, while others simply don't care, nearly unhinging their jaws so as to stuff as much food in as possible.
  363.  
  364. Yes, this is much more familiar to me.
  365.  
  366. While the feeding frenzy continues, Yukari steps over to Yumeko, giving her a quizzical look. "Yumeko, dear? You're supposed to be a GUEST here. Not a part-time employee."
  367.  
  368. Yumeko shrugs. "You relax your way, I relax my my way."
  369.  
  370. Yukari sighs. "You are so uptight... Alfred, can you believe this woman?"
  371.  
  372. I consider Yukari's question carefully. "Well, I do know that some of the staff here take an inordinate amount of pleasure in properly folding clothing. I suppose that some people do indeed take pleasure in this sort of thing."
  373.  
  374. "Just imagine the tragedy of an out-of-work butler," says Yumeko, shaking her head sadly. "Forced to break into people's homes just to clean up and fold their laundry."
  375.  
  376. "A disease of the soul," I say, shaking my head mournfully, "Unable to get enough of their chores, they thrust their service upon others. Will these tortured souls ever know rest?"
  377.  
  378. Yukari stares at the two of us. "You two are screwed up."
  379.  
  380. "As you say," we reply, bowing politely. Yukari throws her hands up in frustration, and Yumeko and I share that private smile between servants. I'd say we can count that one as a moral victory.
  381.  
  382. In any case, Yumeko starts to bustle around and make herself useful, already looking much happier. Well, it's a strange way to relax, but who am I to question? A quick glance out the window shows me that those black clouds are even blacker than I first thought, and are getting closer. I sigh. Still no word from the staff. I really hope that the weekend doesn't get rained-out; guests with cabin fever are among the worst.
  383.  
  384. Well, I suppose that I should introduce myself to another of the guests, shouldn't I?
  385.  
  386.  
  387. [ ] The official-looking woman still reading a book.
  388. [ ] The pink-haired woman sipping some wine.
  389. [ ] The punkish girl hell-bent on consuming all of the whiskey in the house.
  390. [ ] The surly blonde retreating back to the corner of the room.
  391. [ ] The woman covered in ribbons, munching upon appetizers.
  392. [ ] The young lady in pigtails, who is taking notes on a notepad.
  393. [ ] The young woman in red, who is flipping though piano music.
  394. [ ] The classy woman, who is reclining while having a drink.
  395.  
  396.  
  397. ----
  398.  
  399. Keymaster 2013/07/07(Sun)18:17 No. 51502
  400. File 137322103994.jpg - (389.12KB , 500x1000 , dem legs yo.jpg ) [iqdb] [google]
  401. 51502
  402. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guiCN2TOhKs
  403.  
  404. Curiosity gets the better of me. Sitting quietly, reading a book, is a woman whose controlled demeanor gives me the impression of a police officer, or at the least some manner of legal official. Despite that, her outfit is... outlandish, to say the least. I have no idea if this is supposed to be some sort of regional cultural garb, or if this woman is just some sort of reenactor. Cosplay? Possible, and it would certainly explain her dyed-green hair.
  405.  
  406. And in the end, it's none of my concern whatsoever. Guests are permitted to dress however they wish with no fear of questions from the loyal serving staff, and this time should be no different. Besides, the way her hair is slightly longer on one side is actually a little appealing.
  407.  
  408. And those LEGS. By all that is holy, those legs should be criminal, they look so lovely. As I walk up to her with a professional smile upon my face, I'm suddenly very glad that I've picked up the fine art of carefully observing something from the corner of my eye. Well, enough of that. Attention on her face, be the perfect butler.
  409.  
  410. "Pardon me, madam," I say with a polite bow, "Is everything to your liking? Can I get you anything?"
  411.  
  412. She looks up at me with piercing blue eyes that seem to evaluate me down to my very soul. It's a very disconcerting feeling that thankfully passes quickly. The woman's eyes soften, and a hint of mischief appears in them as a smile crosses her features. "Now that's a nice offer," she says in a warm tone of voice, "Are you just offering because it's your job, or did you just come over here to take a closer look?" As she says this, the woman very deliberately uncrosses and recrosses her legs.
  413.  
  414. Oh yes, this woman knows what her finest attribute is, and isn't the least bit embarrassed about it. Then I shan't pretend that those legs are anything other than fascinating.
  415.  
  416. "Your ultimatum tears at my soul, madam," I say politely, eyes very deliberately locked with her own, "You give me such a difficult choice. But as an employee of this mansion I am in fact asking, as part of my job, if there is anything that this humble butler can do for you."
  417.  
  418. She snorts. "Unflappable, I see. But, I suppose you've dealt all sorts of things from your guests before."
  419.  
  420. "The full list of my experiences would shock you, I'm sure," I say smoothly, "But allow me to repeat my earlier question: is there anything that I can get for you?"
  421.  
  422. "So far, everything has been to my liking," she confirms with a nod, "But if you are making the offer, then you could spare me the trip by getting me a glass of wine from the table." I bow in acceptance, and make my way to fulfill her request. All right, this one likes to flirt a little bit, but it's all harmless. Not at all like that one woman from a previous party who kept leering at me. Normally, I wouldn't be opposed to a woman paying close attention to my posterior, but that woman could have been the very definition of the word 'cougar.' Not a comfortable experience. Fortunately, I seem to be spared this tonight. So far.
  423.  
  424. I return to my green-haired guest and hand her a glass of red wine, which she accepts with a smile. "A handsome young man in uniform handing me a glass of wine with a smile," she notes, "This is very close to being a long-term fantasy of mine."
  425.  
  426. "Oh, what is missing?" I inquire.
  427.  
  428. "Well, your shirt is still on," the green-haired guest quips, her playful smirk taking most of the insinuation out of her statement.
  429.  
  430. "Alas, house policy forbids me from disrobing in such a manner," I sigh, "Though I understand that there are certain clubs one can attend that would provide such a service. Among others."
  431.  
  432. "Hm. And how close are they?" she asks, eyes laughing.
  433.  
  434. "I don't make it a point to find such things out on my own," I reply. "If madam wishes, I could certainly investigate, but I suspect that it would involve a trip of several hours. Besides which, I am under the impression that similar services are already on their way."
  435.  
  436. The woman rolls her eyes. "Yukari and her ideas of a 'party.' Ah well, that's fine. It would be disastrous for my reputation if I were to be found in such a place. And my subordinate would never let me forget it."
  437.  
  438. "Now, why ever would your subordinate find you in such a place to begin with?" I ask in wide-eyed wonderment (to appearances, that is).
  439.  
  440. "Because she'd be there already, likely having already spent half of her pay," the woman snorts. "No, that's the sort situation I'd rather avoid." She glances up at me. "My apologies, I forgot my manners. I am Eiki Shiki, Ya... I work as a Judge," she corrects herself mid-statement. I let it slide without comment.
  441.  
  442. "Alfred Arthur Westcastle, pleased to be at your service," I say with a bow. "I had in fact wondered about the uniform."
  443.  
  444. Eiki glances down at her uniform. "Ah, yes... well, there's a very long story there, and it really isn't relevant to the situation."
  445.  
  446. I nod, seeing an attempt to change the subject at once. It was none of my concern, after all. "Well then, Miss Eiki, if I may inquire...?" She nods for me to go on. "If you are so skeptical of Miss Yukari's plans for a weekend 'party,'" I make sure to match her earlier inflection, "What is it that brings you here?"
  447.  
  448. She sighs and takes another sip of her drink. "I was in... Yukari's homeland on business when I happened across her," she begins. 'Homeland' now, and the name deliberately kept unspoken? Interesting. "Yukari feels that I'm too uptight, and work too hard. She felt that a vacation would do wonders for my disposition." Eiki shrugs. "I agreed that this was probably the case, and wound up accepting her invitation for a weekend getaway." She sighs wearily.
  449.  
  450. "Ah," I muse, "And it was then that Miss Yukari happened to mention the full details of what she had in mind, I presume?"
  451.  
  452. Eiki nods, blushing ever so slightly. "She did indeed. I immediately tried to get out of the agreement; such a... rendezvous was very much NOT something that I was interested in." The green-haired judge rolls her eyes. "Unfortunately, my good-for-nothing subordinate, Komachi, happened to be there with me, and absolutely would not stop hounding me until I agreed to go on this little excursion." Eiki shakes her head in annoyance.
  453.  
  454. "The time-honored method of getting your way," I agree, nodding, "Harass the other person until they agree to go along with you."
  455.  
  456. Eiki raises her hands in a helpless gesture. "And there you have it. I was strong-armed into coming here. No offense to you or your establishment, mind you."
  457.  
  458. "None taken," I assure her. This doesn't stop me from giving her a very skeptical look.
  459.  
  460. Eiki notices it and blinks. "What? I mean it, I have nothing against-"
  461.  
  462. "Not that," I say quickly. "What gets my attention is that a proud, willful woman such as yourself, employed as a JUDGE, no less, would allow herself to be coerced into anything that she didn't want to do." I give the woman a very penetrating look.
  463.  
  464. Eiki blushes... and then seems to wilt. "...Is it so terrible?" she asks quietly, looking away from me. "When your position alone seems to push away almost anyone who would want to get close to you, when most of the individuals you deal with regularly are subordinate functionaries, is it so surprising that one would leap at the chance to have just a little bit of companionship? Even if it's just for a weekend?"
  465.  
  466. My face immediately crumples in regret. Alfred, you fool! Of course the woman feels a little isolated! And here she is, just trying to unwind, and you go ahead and dig up all of her dirty laundry! I immediately bow as deeply as I can. "Miss Shiki, I do apologize. It was utterly unseemly of me to pry so deeply into your affairs, and I-"
  467.  
  468. "It's fine, Alfred," she tells me, patting me on the shoulder. A smile has found its way back onto her face. "I really should be honest with myself about my motivations. And there's really no shame in it, now is there? But enough about me, who is this young man that appears before me, verbally sparring like a pro? I have to admit, you're polite enough, but you really don't have that servant's air about you. A touch too bold, not that it's necessarily a bad thing."
  469.  
  470. I shrug, happy for the change of subject and seeing no reason to deny things. "I'm not a fully trained butler like our head of staff, Eric," I tell her, "Just a young man who has picked things up as he goes, trying to make some money before moving on to study his true passion. I do hope my services are enough."
  471.  
  472. "They are sufficient," Eiki agrees, "But I have to say, I really don't agree with the thought of someone doing something that they don't love with all of their heart."
  473.  
  474. "Well, needs must-" I begin, but am cut off.
  475.  
  476. "After all, one cannot be said to be truly productive if they do not love what they do with all of their soul. There will always be a loss of efficiency, while one's soul cries out for the talent it is unable to express. This leads the soul to being unfulfilled and malnourished..."
  477.  
  478. Oh dear. She's gone into a sort of lecture-mode, holding her wine-glass like a staff of office. Judging by the suddenly-widening gap between us and the rest of the guests, I can only assume that this is something rather normal for her. Well, what to do?
  479.  
  480. [ ] Just listen to her. She means well, and may have good advice.
  481. [ ] Nod politely, while tuning her out. Just think of something else.
  482. [ ] Make an excuse to be somewhere else.
  483.  
  484.  
  485. ----
  486.  
  487. Keymaster 2013/07/07(Sun)23:35 No. 51516
  488. File 13732401047.jpg - (301.03KB , 850x712 , i mean look at em.jpg ) [iqdb] [google]
  489. 51516
  490. HEY LOOK! I UPDATED TWICE IN ONE DAY CUZ I WAS REALLY BORED AND COULD SEE WHERE THE VOTES WERE GOING ANYWAY!
  491.  
  492. *Ahem* So enjoy.
  493.  
  494. --------------------------------------
  495.  
  496. I suppress a sigh and decide to just listen to the woman. Rambling lecture notwithstanding, she was simply taking an interest, and clearly meant well. The least I could do was hear her out and see what she had to say. If all else failed, I could simply tune her out later or find an excuse to be somewhere else.
  497.  
  498. "...and a malnourished soul is one prone to extremes of behavior in a desperate effort to find something to fill it. This is a slippery slope, one that ultimately leads the soul towards the path of damnation."
  499.  
  500. Huh. Not TOO melodramatic there, Miss Eiki?
  501.  
  502. "When one considers this, much becomes clear. In a bid to sate themselves, those who have not fed their souls ultimately turn to all manner of amoral behavior. This need not be terrible in and of itself at the start, but paves the way for further evils." Eiki is in full lecture mode now, leaning back and closing her eyes while she carries on, one finger raised to punctuate her points.
  503.  
  504. Somehow, I don't feel that earning money so that I can go to art school is going to turn me into a serial murderer. But I'd better not interrupt her.
  505.  
  506. "The worst aspect of this is how seemingly innocuous acts can build upon themselves as they are passed on to others, in a sort of avalanche effect," Eiki continues. "A man cannot or does not fulfill his dream, and thus becomes surly and cold to others. Others are affected by his attitude, or even denied the gentle touch that his kindness can bring. Thus affected, their own daily behavior worsens, and is spread to others, forming a sort of emotional and spiritual contagion."
  507.  
  508. Hm. In other words, 'misery loves company.' People do seem to spread their bad moods around, so I see where she's coming from, here.
  509.  
  510. "This results in a general spiritual malaise, if you will, and can even have more severe repercussions. This widespread contagion of the heart is one thing to be concerned about, yes. But more concerning is the fact that a handful of people will go even farther in an attempt to assuage their spirits. These are people that turn to self-destructive behavior. Drugs, alcohol, disruptive and illegal behavior, that ultimately is to their detriment and contributes to the overall feeling of displeasure in society at large."
  511.  
  512. Also true, if overstating the case somewhat. There are always people who, when faced with difficult times, decide to turn their frustrations outward rather than do something about their situation. Though, calling it a spiritual contagion was a tad... excessive, in my opinion.
  513.  
  514. "And finally you have those who turn fully to terrible crimes that I won't get into here, because they aren't worth repeating, but they should nonetheless be kept in mind. Of course, those who do turn fully to such terrible acts are a distinct minority, but it must not be forgotten that many small acts can build up into something terrible. For this reason, a large number of dissatisfied people is, when it comes right down to it, a far more fearsome thing than a small number of criminals."
  515.  
  516. Well, there is some truth to that. Nations have fallen due to people in general being displeased with the current state of affairs. A lot of unhappy people is a lot more frightening than a couple of criminals. So, points due for making a good point. Points subtracted for driving the point to death. Not the best show, Miss Eiki, but certainly something that can be learned from.
  517.  
  518. "In any case, that is why I cannot say that I approve of you being in a position that you do not pursue with your entire heart and soul," Eiki finishes, looking at me expectantly.
  519.  
  520. I purse my lips in thought. "You do make a very good point, Miss Eiki, though I personally feel that describing things as a general contagion of the spirit to be a tad... over-dramatic, if you will forgive me for saying so. However, I do understand where you are coming from. That said, I must point out that my current goal is regrettably out of reach under current circumstances. Thus, I must obtain the means to achieve said goal. Hence: my current position." I nod to myself. Yes, that sums up my current position quite nicely.
  521.  
  522. I look back down to Eiki... to see that she is staring at me, slack jawed. I blink, a little concerned. "Miss Eiki?" I prod, "I didn't offend you, did I?"
  523.  
  524. "Huh?!" Eiki jumps in her seat a little. "Oh, uh, no! Not at all! It's just, well..." She shifts uncomfortably for a bit. "...Most of the time, people tend to tune me out or run away when I try to explain my concerns to them. This is... a bit unexpected. I wasn't really expecting you to listen to me."
  525.  
  526. I stare at her. "You were expecting me to ignore you?" I ask, feeling a little guilty. The thought HAD occurred to me, after all.
  527.  
  528. "Well... yes," Eiki says with a shrug. "A lot of people don't like hearing about their failings, you see. I was afraid that my words would fall on deaf ears."
  529.  
  530. I think about it. "Well, if I may tender a bit of criticism, Miss Eiki... your speech, while very much on the mark and insightful, was nonetheless very wordy. To a rather extreme level. Concise usually works better."
  531.  
  532. Eiki thinks about it. "...If you don't follow your dreams, you'll become grouchy and bring people down. So try to have a goal to work towards and be optimistic."
  533.  
  534. I smile in approval. "Much better."
  535.  
  536. Eiki shrugs. "I don't know... I feel like I'm leaving out a lot of detail..."
  537.  
  538. "Maybe, but people are more likely to listen to you when keep things short and sweet." I reply.
  539.  
  540. Eiki raises an eyebrow. "So you're saying that I'm rambling?"
  541.  
  542. "I never said such a thing, Miss Eiki."
  543.  
  544. "No, you just implied it very heavily."
  545.  
  546. "With all of my being." I smile politely.
  547.  
  548. Eiki chuckles in response. "You sound like Komachi. She also says that I need to trim my lectures down a tad."
  549.  
  550. "Miss Komachi sounds like a lovely, highly intelligent woman, if we share an opinion," I say primly.
  551.  
  552. Eiki rolls her eyes. "In her own mind, she certainly is. And by the way? Pride is also a sin to avoid." She sighs. "Well, I'll consider your words, Alfred. But please consider mine as well." Eiki has a serious expression on her face as she says this. She really, truly does want me to take her words to heart.
  553.  
  554. I nod solemnly. "You have my word. I will meditate on what you have said." Eiki seems... extremely pleased at this. With a happy nod, she takes another sip of her wine and goes back to her book. I quietly excuse myself.
  555.  
  556. Yukari intercepts me as I step away. "So, do you have the patience of a saint?" she asks in wonderment.
  557.  
  558. I straighten my shoulders proudly. "A good butler knows when to pay careful attention, and when to simply smile and say nothing. I judged this event to be the former."
  559.  
  560. "...So that's a 'yes' to having the patience of a saint?" Yukari smirks at me. "Or were you just staring at her legs this whole time." I chuckle politely. Then I smile and say nothing. Yukari rolls her eyes and walks away.
  561.  
  562. Walking back over to the snack tables, I straighten things up a little bit as Yumeko brings out a few more sandwiches. Out the window, I notice that the black clouds have filled the sky over the mansion. Rain is almost assured, and a lot of it. This likely bodes ill for Yukari's plans for the weekend.
  563.  
  564. Well, might as well talk to someone else now.
  565.  
  566.  
  567. [ ] The pink-haired woman sampling some appetizers.
  568. [ ] The punkish girl now starting on a bottle of wine.
  569. [ ] The surly blonde lost in her thoughts.
  570. [ ] The woman covered in ribbons, trying to decide on a wine to try.
  571. [ ] The young lady in pigtails, still scribbling in her pad.
  572. [ ] The young woman in red, who is deciding on a song to play.
  573. [ ] The classy woman, looking at the paintings upon the walls.
  574.  
  575.  
  576. ----
  577.  
  578. Keymaster 2013/07/08(Mon)21:06 No. 51560
  579. File 137331758512.jpg - (503.38KB , 800x570 , right there.jpg ) [iqdb] [google]
  580. 51560
  581. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3B-tKOjLXqk
  582.  
  583. Hm. Upon due consideration, I have been neglecting my duties for far too long. Sitting in a comfortable chair in the corner is the pointed-eared woman I noticed earlier. I assume that her ears are some sort of defect; they look far too natural to be fake, though it would be rude of me to ask. But what concerns me is that this individual looks genuinely displeased to be here. While everyone else has found some way to occupy themselves, this individual simply sits brooding, staring at nothing with a dark expression on her face.
  584.  
  585. Well, time for this butler to perform his duty and attempt to raise her spirits. It's my job to ensure that all of the guests here enjoy themselves, after all. Thus, I walk over to the acerbic blonde, and start to bow and introduce myself-
  586.  
  587. "Don't bother."
  588.  
  589. -Oh?
  590.  
  591. "I beg you pardon?" I ask the woman.
  592.  
  593. "I said don't bother," she repeats herself, glancing at me dismissively with bright green eyes. "You're here to, what, make sure I'm having a good time?" She sighs. "Well, it's not going to happen. So don't waste your breath."
  594.  
  595. "Certainly, Madam. I shall instead endeavor to make your time here as miserable as possible," I quip. "It's a new type of exercise for me, but I daresay that it shall be quite cathartic. Now, do tell me, what do you despise the most from serving staff? I shall get right on it post-haste!"
  596.  
  597. Yeah, this one's going to be hard to deal with. Fortunately, there are ways to deal with such guests. Mainly by snarking with a perfectly straight face and polite tone of voice. They never know how to handle it.
  598.  
  599. Neither does this one, from the looks of her shocked expression. Her green eyes seem to flash, and I actually think I see her ears twitch in shock. Probably my imagination. I prepare myself for the inevitable, angry retort...
  600.  
  601. ...when a smile crosses the woman's face and she bursts out into surprisingly musical laughter. "Not bad," the woman compliments me, "I thought your type was all 'the guest is always' right and all that. Wasn't expecting a return shot."
  602.  
  603. "As a butler, I must fulfill the guest's every whim, no matter how random or bizarre it may be," I primly reply, "Therefore, if they are hell-bent on being miserable, is it not my duty to indulge them?"
  604.  
  605. The blonde sighs. "Don't worry about it. I'm already there without your help." She glances up at me. "My name's Parsee Mizuhashi. You?"
  606.  
  607. "Alfred Albert Westcastle," I reply, finally bowing to her. "If you don't mind my saying so, it seems unusual for a woman to come to a party intending to be miserable. One usually comes to these things to unwind and relax. Why the determined misery, if I may ask?"
  608.  
  609. "You sure like to talk fancy, huh?" Parsee seems a bit amused by me. She shakes her head. "I'm sort of the odd one out here. Everyone else here is significant in some way. Me? I guard a bridge. That's what I do. Not exactly glamorous, huh?"
  610.  
  611. "Madam, you are speaking to a man whose job is to clean up after guests who seem to take a perverse pleasure in making as big a mess as is humanly possible," I remind her.
  612.  
  613. "And deal with bitches like me, huh?" Parsee shakes her head. "Buster, you haven't seen anything yet. If you could see my bridge after a party back home..." she shakes her head again. "It takes me days, sometimes, to get all of the stains out of the planks."
  614.  
  615. "And where do you live, madam?" I ask, curious.
  616.  
  617. Parsee looks at me for a long moment, then shakes her head. "Never mind. You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
  618.  
  619. ...Interesting. A blonde woman with a Japanese name, but a near absence of Japanese features? Who is dressed bizarrely, and apparently works as a security guard for a bridge? And is unwilling to name her hometown, because I wouldn't believe her? My discretion is being sorely tested, I fear.
  620.  
  621. "Anyway, you'll have to excuse me if I'm not exactly sunshine and light," Parsee continues. "It's kind of hard to be cheery when you're surrounded by people who have it better than you in every way conceivable."
  622.  
  623. "It can't be that bad," I protest, "For all that they may possess, you must have attributes of your own."
  624.  
  625. She shakes her head. "Yukari is the most important person around where I'm from. Beauty, power, influence... she's got it all. Everyone else here has a lot going for them. Even the least significant either have their own newspaper or are a local celebrity. Me? Security guard for a bridge no one ever uses." Parsee sighs. "And on top of that, every other woman here has better hair, a better butt, or better breasts. Me? I'm at the absolute bottom of the totem pole. So you'll excuse me if I don't exactly like being surrounded by these reminders of how far down I am." The blonde woman glares at everyone else in the room, her eyes again seeming to flash. Trick of the light that.
  626.  
  627. As for myself, I immediately deal with the situation in the only way that I know how. I turn on my heel, walk over to the refreshment table, and return to Parsee's side with a specific plate. She stares at it suspiciously.
  628.  
  629. "What is this?" she asks.
  630.  
  631. "A plate full of a variety of cheeses," I respond, "I thought it would make a fine accompaniment to the massive amount of whine you're partaking in."
  632.  
  633. Parsee's jaw hits the floor.
  634.  
  635. I smile serenely.
  636.  
  637. "...The fuck did you just say?" she breathes.
  638.  
  639. "I am saying, madam, that you are 'fucking' whining. That given the chance, by the grace of the whims of some odd, wealthy woman, to leave the apparent 'fucking' drudgery of your life behind and actually enjoy yourself for a while, you are instead 'fucking' sitting in a 'fucking' chair glaring at everyone. I daresay, madam Parsee, that 'fucking' is exactly what you require. As soon as the other half of the guest list arrives." I take a deep breath, pleased with myself at having said everything with an even tone of voice.
  640.  
  641. Parsee stares at me for a long moment, before breaking out into laughter once again. It's a surprisingly pleasant sound, and I have to wonder if this grouchy woman ever tries her hand at singing. After a few minutes, Parsee wipes tears of amusement from her eyes and looks up at me with a wicked smile. "You seem to enjoy using that word a lot," she notes, "What's the matter? Not getting enough attention?"
  642.  
  643. "I'll have you know, madam, that in the course of my work here I receive a great deal of female attention," I say proudly. "From rather old women, with saggy skin and too much makeup, who are really too old to be dressing that way."
  644.  
  645. "Cougar-bait, huh?" Parsee notes, "At least you get some attention. Almost no one uses my bridge anymore. I hardly see anybody, and when someone does come along, it's mainly to just blow on past."
  646.  
  647. "So you get some time off," I note. "In case you hadn't noticed, I'm currently attempting to tend to nine guests while waiting for the rest of the staff arrive. This is likely to be the least busy I will be this weekend."
  648.  
  649. Parsee rolls her eyes. "Pssh. Remember what I said about having to clean up my bridge? Imagine having to rebuild it after a drunken brawl. I have had to do that repeatedly."
  650.  
  651. I blink in surprise. "...Must be quite the town you live in."
  652.  
  653. "You have no idea," Parsee shakes her head in dismay. "Everyone is a drunken lunatic, and I get to watch them all from a safe, uninvolved, disbelieving distance."
  654.  
  655. "I remind you once again where you are currently staying," I remind her. Parsee seems to consider this. "Drunken lunacy is the norm here, and I am witness to it all."
  656.  
  657. "You wanna hear about all the weirdness that people get up to back home?" She grins at me. "It would blow your mind."
  658.  
  659. "I have seen old people start to make love right in front of me, not caring that I'm there," I tell her.
  660.  
  661. "I've seen a group of elders start having an orgy in the middle of the street," Parsee responds. I stare at her, speechless. She shrugs. "It was a festival week. They have a lot of them."
  662.  
  663. I mull it over. "Remind me to never visit your hometown."
  664.  
  665. "Well, some of the bars are nice," Parsee admits, "It's just a pain when things get REALLY rowdy. Which they usually do." Parsee glances up at me. "So you have to deal with a lot of jerks too, huh?"
  666.  
  667. "An endless tide," I agree.
  668.  
  669. "Yeah." Parsee sighs, then does something strange. She pats my hand gently and gives me the shadow of a smile. "Must be tough, dealing with crowds like this, huh? I understand where you're coming from. Look, I'm just here to drink and maybe get laid. You're right, and I'll try to unwind. You won't have any trouble from me, okay?"
  670.  
  671. I pause. "You mean I won't have the chance to make you miserable?" I pout. "And I was so looking forward to it."
  672.  
  673. "Oh, go right ahead," Parsee says agreeably, "I need SOMETHING to bitch about, after all. Just make sure my bed is lumpy, and I'll take it out on the other guests. I'll leave you staff guys alone; sounds like you got it rough enough already."
  674.  
  675. "I appreciate the sentiment, but I'd really rather you enjoy yourself rather than ruin things for the other guests," I say hesitantly.
  676.  
  677. "Eh, they'll be too drunk to care," Parsee shrugs. "And I'll be fine. Just let me grab one of Yukari's 'escorts' and my weekend is made."
  678.  
  679. "Miss Yumeko seems to want to bow out, so you might get two," I respond. "How delightful for you."
  680.  
  681. "Do I even want to know what's going on in your mind?" Parsee asks with a smirk.
  682.  
  683. "Two men taking turns complimenting you on how the light shines in your hair?" I suggest.
  684.  
  685. "Alfred, you kinky biscuit," Parsee chuckles. "What's next? You enjoy long walks and holding hands?"
  686.  
  687. "Alas, I have been found out," I sigh.
  688.  
  689. "Pervert." Parsee laughs and shakes her head ruefully. She looks at me, her eyes seeming to glow again in the light. "...I envy you. You're so good with words."
  690.  
  691. "We all have our skills," I say dismissively.
  692.  
  693. Parsee sighs. "Yeah. I just wish mine were a little more useful. But fine, if it makes you feel better, I'll grouse in private." She looks at the other women. "I envy them, too. What they have. I wish I looked that good."
  694.  
  695. I glance over at Parsee.
  696.  
  697. [ ] "You have legs that don't quit. There. Better?"
  698. [ ] Say nothing.
  699. [ ] Leave her to her brooding.
  700.  
  701. ------------------------------------
  702.  
  703. Why is Alfred's banter so fun to write? Also, I am coming to see Alfred as being a leg man. Any objections?
  704.  
  705.  
  706. ----
  707.  
  708. Keymaster 2013/07/09(Tue)20:16 No. 51607
  709. File 137340101913.jpg - (263.18KB , 663x825 , taken off guard.jpg ) [iqdb] [google]
  710. 51607
  711. I sigh quietly. "Still wallowing in your envy, Miss Parsee?" I ask.
  712.  
  713. "It's sort of my thing," she chuckles in response. I shake my head, but the woman seems to have a point. I've never met anyone so hell-bent on being jealous of others.
  714.  
  715. "I don't suppose you've ever, say, tried to think positive?" I suggest. "Perhaps, wonder of wonders, reflecting on your own attributes? Things about yourself in which you can take pride?"
  716.  
  717. Parsee snorts in derision. "Right. Funny. Go on, then, Alfred. Name one thing about myself 'in which I can take pride,' I dare you." The blonde woman looks at me challengingly, and I choose to meet her head on.
  718.  
  719. "Very well," I say calmly, "Then for starters, the extremities you use for locomotion are magnificent. Did you need to register them with your local magistrate?"
  720.  
  721. Parsee blinks, taking a moment to parse what I just said. "Wha... the extremities I use for... you mean... huh?!" Oh, look. A blush. So she actually has a range of expressions beyond 'glowering' and 'cynical smile.'
  722.  
  723. "The parts of your body you use to walk, Miss Parsee," I carefully elaborate, "I am expressing approval of them, and commenting that they are finely muscled and nearly criminal in their appeal." I pause, taking in Parsee's bright red face. "Hm. No response. Fine, then I shall continue. Your 'gams' look like you win every foot race you participate in. How's that?"
  724.  
  725. "Sh-sh-shut up, dammit, or I'll kick your ass!" Parsee sputters, looking absolutely mortified.
  726.  
  727. "A terrible threat indeed, given that you look like you could kick me to the moon," I agree.
  728.  
  729. "N-Now you listen...!" Hm, I must say that she looks rather adorable when embarrassed. And I am badly overstepping my boundaries. Ah well, in for a penny, in for a pound.
  730.  
  731. "Indeed, I must say that 'dem legs' could kick down a wall. Rowr, indeed, madam." Of course, everything is said in the same even, polite tone. It's extra-confusing for people that way. Old trick I learned from Eric.
  732.  
  733. "Stop talking about my legs, dammit!" Parsee is actually trembling from embarrassment, her eyes flashing as she desperately tries to pull her skirt over the limbs in question.
  734.  
  735. "As you wish," I reply evenly, "Your eyes are bright, clear, and scintillating, like they'd been exposed to massive amounts of nuclear radiation."
  736.  
  737. "...Huh?" Parsee stares at me stupidly, her mind having apparently been thrown off its track.
  738.  
  739. I frown a little bit. "Hm. That WAS a poor one. I shall explain then. Radiation, such as from a nuclear power plant, is often associated in artworks with a brilliant green glow. I am comparing the bright green of your eyes to that glow."
  740.  
  741. Parsee stares at me. "You're saying I have mutant, glowing eyes? Is that a compliment?"
  742.  
  743. "I am saying that your eyes are bright and green," I shrug. "A simple observation. The glow makes one consider nuclear power when they're in a certain frame of mind."
  744.  
  745. "What frame of mind?" Parsee shakes her head in bemusement.
  746.  
  747. "The frame of mind one is in when they have to constantly listen to someone gripe about their circumstances. The frame of mind where they would seriously consider nuking their surroundings, had they the power, just to be free of it." I nod, pleased at my summary.
  748.  
  749. Parsee chortles. "In other words, 'Parsee, your griping is annoying everybody, cut it out.'"
  750.  
  751. "I said no such thing, madam," I say stiffly, "If you happen to infer such from my words, that is entirely your own interpretation."
  752.  
  753. "...Which doesn't mean I'm wrong," she notes
  754.  
  755. "I never denied your words, did I?" I smile slightly.
  756.  
  757. Parsee laughs again, leaning back in her chair. She really can have a melodious voice, when she lets herself. A pity; I suspect she rarely permits herself such activities as singing. "You know, I actually live not too far from a nuclear reactor," the woman comments.
  758.  
  759. I blink. "Then my words are completely on-target," I declare.
  760.  
  761. "If not completely complimentary," she grunts, standing up. "Well, I guess I'd better try to mingle, even if every fiber of my being screams against it." Parsee glances over at me. "I don't suppose you have any other comments that don't involve gaping at my legs or telling me I have nuclear eyes, do you?"
  762.  
  763. I think about it. This might be going too far, but... "You have a lovely voice. Try singing," I say simply, then walk away, leaving Parsee to stare slack-jawed as I depart.
  764.  
  765. Well, I think I've succeeded in getting her to open up a little. Well done, Alfred.
  766.  
  767. A sound gets my attention, and I look over at the windows to see raindrops beginning to beat against them. A sigh escapes my lips; it looks like the party is going to be an exclusively indoor one, after all. How fantastic. A glance at Yukari tells me that she has also noticed, and is not very happy about it. So, it seems that my wealthy, influential, and strangely youthful guest is going to be rather grouchy. This bodes poorly for my tip.
  768.  
  769. Ah well. Best to keep entertaining the guests, after all.
  770.  
  771.  
  772. [ ] The pink-haired woman, looking through the bookshelf.
  773. [ ] The punkish girl, endless void of alcohol.
  774. [ ] The woman covered in ribbons, sipping at her wine.
  775. [ ] The young lady in pigtails, lost in thought.
  776. [ ] The young woman in red, playing the piano.
  777. [ ] The classy woman, looking out at the rain.
  778.  
  779.  
  780. ----
  781.  
  782. Keymaster 2013/07/10(Wed)20:59 No. 51652
  783. File 137348995751.jpg - (216.42KB , 850x850 , a teacher at heart.jpg ) [iqdb] [google]
  784. 51652
  785. (So hard to find good music for Kasen... try playing this quietly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fds9SncZJAw)
  786.  
  787.  
  788. Well, there is one woman to whom I could be of immediate assistance. Making my way over to the woman with the pink-dyed hair (and hair-buns, no less) and interesting dress (I still think that it looks Chinese), I bow politely and offer my help. "Good afternoon, madam. Can I be of assistance to you?"
  789.  
  790. She looks over at me (even her eyes look pink, are those contacts?) and smiles warmly. "Thank you, but I'm fine. I was just perusing your selection of books here. I don't often get away from my home, so it's been a while since I've seen some new titles."
  791.  
  792. I glance over at the books she has been looking through and frown a little. "Well... these are all considered classic literature, madam," I say carefully, "I don't know that calling them 'new' would be terribly accurate."
  793.  
  794. "Er..." the woman blushes with embarrassment, "Well... they're new to me, in any case. I... sort of live away from the world, so the selection of books I have on hand is a bit limited. And honestly, I really haven't had a chance to look through any books from your country, or Europe. I suppose you could consider this a special treat for me."
  795.  
  796. "For someone who hasn't had a chance to read through western literature, you certainly speak the language well enough," I note. These words tickle something at the back of my mind, but I shrug it off.
  797.  
  798. The pink-haired guest giggles a little at this, as though at some private joke, then looks at me with a smile. "I'm something of a scholar, so I know many languages. But this doesn't change the fact that I haven't had much of a chance to read foreign books. I'm hoping to indulge myself while I'm here."
  799.  
  800. "Miss Yukari seems to have another sort of 'indulgence' in mind," I note.
  801.  
  802. She rolls her eyes in response. "Yes, because she says I need to cut back and relax a little more. Ah, I didn't introduce myself, did I?" She bows politely. "Kasen Ibaraki."
  803.  
  804. I return the bow. "Alfred Arthur Westcastle," I reply. From my position, I can't help but notice that her right arm is wrapped in bandages. Hm, but she doesn't seem to be in any visible pain... ah, yet another thing that is not for me to know. "Well, if it is books you are looking for, we do have a full library upstairs, Miss Kasen. These bookshelves are simply for guests who want some light reading while they happen to be in the lounge."
  805.  
  806. Kasen thinks about it, then shakes her head. "That's fine, thank you. There are plenty of books here to hold my interest, and I should really be here when the other half of the guests arrive." She pauses. "When are they due, exactly?"
  807.  
  808. "Some time ago, I fear," I reply, gesturing out the window.
  809.  
  810. Kasen looks out at the darkened sky and rain with a wince. "Ah. That explains why Yukari looks a little irritable. She'd planned an excursion out onto the lake."
  811.  
  812. "Not so advisable with this weather" I note, "Though I suppose certain thrill-seekers might enjoy it."
  813.  
  814. "Pass. I get enough excitement back home." Kasen chuckles at a joke only she seems to know, and I shrug. It really isn't my business, after all. Seeing that this guest has things well in hand, I'm about to excuse myself when Kasen stops me. "Alfred, do you mind if I ask you a few questions about your homeland?"
  815.  
  816. I blink. "Certainly, but won't you have a gentleman to answer all of your questions soon enough?"
  817.  
  818. She shakes her head. "I'd like to speak a moment with a local not specifically paid to agree with my every word." Kasen sighs wearily.
  819.  
  820. I raise an eyebrow. "Very well. What is on your mind?"
  821.  
  822. Kasen pauses. "The people of your nation... do you feel that they dwell on spiritual affairs? Or are they more materialistic?"
  823.  
  824. "I suppose it depends on whom you ask," I respond, "Certainly, there are many people in this country for whom God is a major part of their lives. Many others are more secular, more concerned with the affairs of this life than what may transpire in the next."
  825.  
  826. Kasen looks a little unhappy. "I'd thought as much. It bothers me that so many people neglect their spiritual health."
  827.  
  828. I shake my head. "Well, Miss Kasen, it's far easier, and often more important, to focus on the issue that is right in front of you. Acquiring the basics of life is often the biggest concern for any man. Life is often difficult, and we need to work hard just to get the essentials. Questions of the soul are often disregarded in favor of more pertinent matters."
  829.  
  830. Kasen shakes her head. "And that's what bothers me. Spiritual concerns being regarded as secondary, at best. It just isn't healthy."
  831.  
  832. I smile. "You sound like Miss Eiki, and her talk about nourishing the soul."
  833.  
  834. "The Y... I mean, Miss Shiki has the right idea," Kasen notes. She speaks of the judge with definite respect, I can't help but note. "It isn't good to ignore the needs of your heart and soul."
  835.  
  836. I shrug. "What is there to be done? I admit, household service isn't my dream, but it sustains me, and provides me with the means to one day pursue that dream. If I must focus on the now, then so be it. This doesn't mean that I can't keep one eye on the future."
  837.  
  838. Kasen ponders this. "That's actually rather philosophical of you," she says.
  839.  
  840. I cough. "Actually, that's a direct quote from Eric, the chief butler, though I fully agree with the sentiments. He's full of good advice, that man."
  841.  
  842. Kasen laughs at this. "Then I shall look forward to meeting him!"
  843.  
  844. "And he will be delighted to make your acquaintance, as well," I say. I hesitate, then push forward. It may be nosy of me, but curiosity has gotten the better of me. "Miss Kasen, if I may ask, why this concern with people's spiritual health? You seem genuinely distressed over it."
  845.  
  846. Kasen sighs, and seems to hesitate. "...I'm something of an ascetic scholar," she admits. "I live by myself in the mountains with a number of rare animals I take care of. I guess you could call me a traditional hermit, meditating in peace to pursue perfection of mind and body."
  847.  
  848. I blink in surprise. "Really? You don't fit my mental image of a hermit."
  849.  
  850. "And what would your mental image entail?" she asks, curious.
  851.  
  852. "Poorly dressed and insane," I say immediately.
  853.  
  854. Kasen gapes at me for a moment before laughing. "That's rather honest of you!"
  855.  
  856. "All part of the job, Madam," I say evenly.
  857.  
  858. "I happen to like my clothing," Kasen sniffs, still smiling. "And I'm not mad. I'm a seeker of enlightenment through the elimination of desire."
  859.  
  860. "...For someone who seeks to eliminate desire, you were certainly enjoying the food and drink earlier," I note, "Not to mention the stated purpose of this party. Do you intend to eliminate your desires by choking them?"
  861.  
  862. Kasen stares at me blankly. "Can you think of a better way?"
  863.  
  864. Huh.
  865.  
  866. Well.
  867.  
  868. I have to admit, she's got a point- oh blast it, now she's laughing again. "Very humorous, Miss Kasen," I sigh.
  869.  
  870. "Well, you DID believe me for a moment, now didn't you?" my guest teases.
  871.  
  872. "...Yes," I admit.
  873.  
  874. Kasen sighs. "Actually, I have a colleague of sorts who may very well have a philosophy much like that. As for me, well, just because I want to remove all desire doesn't mean that I can't enjoy life, now does it?" She smiles gently. "There's nothing wrong with taking pleasure in a good meal or good drink. It's just when one allows oneself to fall to excess that one falls from the path. Discipline in all things is of the utmost importance."
  875.  
  876. I nod my agreement. "It certainly is essential to my job." I think for a moment. "Then your philosophy also applies to male companionship? No wonder you're here for the weekend, ascetic scholar or no."
  877.  
  878. Kasen hesitates, face starting to turn red. "Well..." she hesitantly starts, "To be honest a friend of mind, Reimu, insisted I come out here. She said it would be good for me to unwind a little. Then I found out what else would be going on, and by then it was too late, and well... I mean, it's not like I'm against such things of course, but I've never partaken of such 'services' before and... I'm babbling, aren't I?"
  879.  
  880. "The rapid flood of words seems to suggest as such, yes" I reply.
  881.  
  882. She sighs. "...A friend got me to come here, and now I'm just going along with things."
  883.  
  884. "Now, now, Miss Kasen," I tell her reassuringly, "I'm sure you'll forgive yourself in the morning. After the second day. Surely."
  885.  
  886. "Your words fill me with comfort," Kasen tells me sarcastically.
  887.  
  888. "It's my job," I tell her with a smile.
  889.  
  890. Kasen shakes her head, laughing again. "You're quite the peace of work, Alfred." She looks at me inquiringly. "Do you mind if I speak to you again over the weekend? Your outlook on life intrigues me, and I wouldn't mind talking about it further." She pauses, then narrows her eyes. "And no, I'm not coming on to you. I mean talking to you about your life philosophy."
  891.  
  892. "Perish the thought, Miss Kasen," I say evenly.
  893.  
  894. [ ] "Of course, you may speak to me whenever you wish."
  895. [ ] "I suppose I can spare a moment of my time, occasionally."
  896. [ ] "Regrettably, I fear I will be quite busy this weekend."
  897.  
  898.  
  899. ----
  900.  
  901. Keymaster 2013/07/11(Thu)20:30 No. 51683
  902. File 137357460912.png - (808.19KB , 827x1170 , just curious.png ) [iqdb] [google]
  903. 51683
  904. I hesitate, sucking on my teeth. She seems honest about only wanting decent conversation, though I don't fully understand her reasoning. But that's a little beside the point. "Please keep in mind that this will be a busy weekend for me, Miss Kasen. I will be extremely busy, as will all of the serving staff." Which is true; unless I'm horribly wrong, I'm unlikely to have much time to speak to any of them (save perhaps Yumeko, the way things are going).
  905.  
  906. Kasen looks disappointed. "I see. That's unfortunate, but I suppose I'm being a bit unreasonable."
  907.  
  908. "I wasn't saying no," I correct her with a smile, "I was saying that I might not be available to you at all times. A servant's job is literally never done around here. But I can certainly spare some time for you, at least occasionally."
  909.  
  910. She looks pleased at this. "Then I thank you, Alfred. I appreciate you taking time out of your schedule for me."
  911.  
  912. "A butler's job is to tend to the whims of his guests, whatever they may be," I say gallantly. I pause. "Though I wonder if your time won't be taken up by these men that will be coming along. And again, while I'd certainly be happy to speak with you, why the sudden interest?"
  913.  
  914. Kasen shrugs. "I don't get out much, and I certainly don't get out abroad. I can't help but wonder what people are like in this country. How they think, and feel. In you, I see an opportunity to learn about other people. That's all. I'll probably talk to the other servants as well, if they'll be candid with me."
  915.  
  916. I nod in understanding. "And the 'escorts' that are coming might be less than candid." Kasen nods. "Very well. Then once again, I recommend speaking to Eric. He's quite the intelligent man, and would be pleased to give you his view on things."
  917.  
  918. "Then I look forward to speaking to you both," Kasen says with a smile.
  919.  
  920. "And while I may be busy, I shall also look forward to speaking with you over this weekend," I say with a smile. "Provided you manage to tear yourself away from whatever example of masculinity Yukari has provided for you."
  921.  
  922. Kasen giggles a little bit. "You know, you're a bit of a flirt, aren't you Alfred?"
  923.  
  924. I bristle at once at this accusation. "Miss Kasen," I say coolly, "I am NOT a flirt. Flirting is entirely unprofessional, and unbecoming of a dedicated servant."
  925.  
  926. "You've been flirting with HOW many women so far?" Kasen says skeptically.
  927.  
  928. "A butler may tend to the needs of his guests, including female ones, without it being considered flirting, Miss Kasen," I tell her evenly. "That I am able to carry on a conversation with someone of the opposite sex does not automatically indicate that I have ulterior motives."
  929.  
  930. "And the banter?" she asks, smirking.
  931.  
  932. "I am good at conversation. It's a skill I picked up. I don't see how that makes me a flirt. Would you prefer I stay wooden and silent?" I try to keep my voice even. Honestly, the nerve! Can I not speak with an attractive woman without people insisting that I'm flirting with them?
  933.  
  934. It's true that the women who flirt with me are usually old enough to be my mother, or have enough wealth that they think they can wrap me around their finger, and dealing with some relatively down-to-earth females with lovely legs is a nice change for me, but that is entirely beside the point! Any pleasure I may take in speaking with them is only professional pride at a job well done.
  935.  
  936. It is most certainly NOT flirting!
  937.  
  938. Really.
  939.  
  940. Of course.
  941.  
  942. Kasen shakes her head, clearly not convinced, but she lets it slide. "As you say, Alfred," she sighs.
  943.  
  944. "Thank you, Miss Kasen," I say with a nod, and take my leave. After a quick glance around the lounge, to see that the guests are occupied, I make my way into the kitchen and pick up the telephone. I dial Eric's number, hoping to catch him on his mobile. All I get is a message that my call cannot be completed. Well, there are probably issues due to the weather, but surely they could get a message to me and let me know what the hold-up is...
  945.  
  946. Well, I suppose there's nothing for it. Nobody ever said that this job was guaranteed to be easy. Think of the tip, Alfred. Think of the tip.
  947.  
  948. I'm jarred out of my thought by the sound of the rain increasing in intensity. It really is coming down hard now, isn't it? It sound like the heavens themselves have opened up. A quick peek out into the lounge reveals Yukari glaring out at the rain accusingly, as though blaming it for ruining her plans. Maybe it has. Either way, I should really give her some space and talk to someone else.
  949.  
  950.  
  951.  
  952. [ ] The punkish girl, at the whisker AGAIN.
  953. [ ] The woman covered in ribbons, who look deeply content.
  954. [ ] The young lady in pigtails, sampling the food.
  955. [ ] The young woman in red, still playing the piano.
  956. [ ] The classy woman, gazing out at the fierce rain.
  957.  
  958.  
  959. ----
  960.  
  961. Keymaster 2013/07/12(Fri)20:49 No. 51726
  962. File 137366215042.jpg - (178.01KB , 850x697 , spin.jpg ) [iqdb] [google]
  963. 51726
  964. Hm. Well, there's one person, at least, who seems to be enjoying herself. A woman dressed in a frilly red dress with spiral patterns embroidered on it, and long ribbons along her arms and tying her hair together. She really is an elegant, classy-looking woman; I have to wonder why she chose to dye her hair green.
  965.  
  966. Well, never mind that. I walk up to the woman, standing in the middle of the room with a content smile on her face, and bow to her. "Good afternoon, madam. Is everything to your liking, then?"
  967.  
  968. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fm51M8GY0gk&list=PL06907C7B4579755D)
  969.  
  970. Her response is to close her eyes and breathe deeply, almost shuddering in what looks like pleasure. No, I'm sorry, she IS actually shuddering in pleasure. It's like she's simultaneously drunk the best wine she's had in her life, had a fantastic meal, and had spectacular 'companionship' from a man all at once.
  971.  
  972. ...Should I be flattered?
  973.  
  974. "I'm going to assume from your reaction that the answer is a 'yes,' then," I comment.
  975.  
  976. The woman opens her lovely green eyes and smiles back at me. "I can assure, you, good sir, that you've already shown me a marvelous time!" she says, chest still heaving with apparent satisfaction.
  977.  
  978. I raise an eyebrow. "I'm extremely flattered, given that I've only spoken to you for all of two sentences. Three, now."
  979.  
  980. The ribboned woman giggles happily. "Then you must just be very good at your job!" she tells me.
  981.  
  982. "I like to think so," I reply, "Though I have to say, it's the first time a guest has shown such extreme pleasure at appetizers and a few glasses of wine." I pause. "Though it is a very fine wine," I admit.
  983.  
  984. The woman giggles at me again, and considers me with shining eyes. "Well, maybe it's your company I'm enjoying, hmm? Or your work ethic? After all, it is terrible misfortune to have to wait on so many guests with so little help! It's not like you can stop time, or anything."
  985.  
  986. "That would be endlessly helpful," I agree, thinking about how much easier that would make my life. "Alas, I am not to be so blessed. Still, I'm not in this totally alone. One of your fellow guests appears to have a rather exaggerated love of housework." I turn my head to look at where Yumeko is offering some wine to Yukari, with little success. "How fortunate for me that the house motto is to fulfill the guests' whims. Whatever they may be."
  987.  
  988. "True, but it must be so hard for you," the green-haired woman insists. "Oh! My name is Hina, by the way. Hina Kagiyama."
  989.  
  990. I bow politely. "Alfred Arthur Westcastle, Miss Hina," I say, "And it is simply part of the job. I assure you, I am completely at your disposal this weekend."
  991.  
  992. "How lovely!" Hina looks absolutely delighted. Maybe she's not used to being waited on? "And you're such a helpful young man, despite all of the... misfortunes... heaped upon you." She seems to linger on the word 'misfortunes' a little bit, for some reason. "Yes, having to wait on a room full of demanding women, with no sign of help from your fellows, and now this rainstorm which threatens to ruin so many carefully-laid plans..." she takes a deep breath and sighs contentedly, leaving me to stare at he blankly. If I didn't know better, I'd almost say that this woman was enjoying all of these difficulties.
  993.  
  994. Hina's eyes flick open and she looks at me for a moment before smiling. "But look at the bright side! No matter what your difficulties may be, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel! Just keep your chin up, and eventually all of your misfortunes will fade away!"
  995.  
  996. "That's very inspiring, Miss Hina," I tell her, smiling back.
  997.  
  998. She giggles. "Well... you could say that I help people out back home. I like bringing people's spirits back up!" Hina winks at me. "So if you need any help this weekend, just let me know, Alfie!"
  999.  
  1000. I shake my head, chuckling. "Now, now, Miss Hina. I already have one of the guests helping me out around the house. Any more, and I'm going to look like a taskmaster rather than a servant."
  1001.  
  1002. "Awww, and you wouldn't like having all of these girls at your beck and call? Hina teases me.
  1003.  
  1004. "As delightful as that sounds Miss Hina, I take pride in my work. I can't let it seem that my skills are so substandard that I need people to do things for me, especially not a guest." I pause for a moment, considering. "Though I would certainly accept any help in cleaning the toilets."
  1005.  
  1006. "Pass!" Hina giggles.
  1007.  
  1008. "How unfortunate," I sigh, to another smile from Hina. "But in all honesty, if I start recruiting houseguests to help with the work, the chief butler, Eric, is going to be very cross with me when he arrives. If he won't be already, mind you, once word about Yumeko gets to him." Which it will, though I expect him to be reasonable about that.
  1009.  
  1010. Hina's eyes get a far away look in her eyes. "How unfortunate that would be..." she says quietly, before shaking herself. "Don't worry, Alfie! I'm sure this 'Eric' won't be cross with you! Like you said, you're just granting our slightest whim, right?"
  1011.  
  1012. "Yumeko's whim in this case, yes," I admit.
  1013.  
  1014. "Then you have nothing to worry about! And I for one appreciate your hard work!" Hina smiles benignly at me.
  1015.  
  1016. I laugh a little despite myself. While I can't approve of her using a nickname for me, it still feels good to be appreciated. "I thank you, Miss Hina. Then, you aren't upset at having been rained out this weekend?"
  1017.  
  1018. Hina giggles once more. She seems to do that a lot, merry soul that she is. "Not at all! After all, it's such a lovely building!" She twirls in place, gesturing to the entire room. "There are so many impressive things inside. The architecture, the art, the books... I'm sure that we'll be very entertained this weekend!" I nod absently, a little distracted by the fact that Miss Hina is still spinning in place. How does she do that? She's spinning around on one foot like a top, at a perfectly even pace. She's even carrying on a conversation while doing it! And she doesn't show the slightest signs of being dizzy, at that.
  1019.  
  1020. "Well, I shall certainly do my utmost to make sure that you have a lovely weekend, Miss Hina," I tell her, still very distracted by her perfect movements.
  1021.  
  1022. Hina comes to a halt facing me, with no sign of dizziness at all. "Thanks, Alfie! I'll be counting on you! But the way things are going, I'm sure that I'll have a lovely time!" This said, Hina closes her eyes and starts spinning in place again, arms drifting out to the sides.
  1023.  
  1024. It's... a bit hard to explain. The motion is simultaneously eerie, yet relaxing. Hina's cheeks are flushed with genuine pleasure, while she inhales deeply in apparent ecstasy. She is, in the end, the very picture of contentment. Such an odd woman. Though staring for too long does make me feel a bit on the dizzy side.
  1025.  
  1026. [ ] Compliment her movements. Is she dancing?
  1027. [ ] Say nothing.
  1028. [ ] Mention that she's making you dizzy.
  1029.  
  1030.  
  1031. ----
  1032.  
  1033. Keymaster 2013/07/13(Sat)15:29 No. 51764
  1034. File 137372938590.jpg - (236.20KB , 850x1202 , odd but happy.jpg ) [iqdb] [google]
  1035. 51764
  1036. I stare an Hina in bewilderment for a little while, trying to figure her out. Her odd behavior, how she almost seems to be excited by this situation, and of course her unusual... dance? Granted, all of these women are what some would call a bit strange, but she actually comes across as being titillated by what's going on!
  1037.  
  1038. Well, maybe she just likes thunderstorms? Or maybe she's an indoor person? Either way, my attention keeps being drawn to her movements, that perfect rotation, like a dance. It vaguely reminds me of a dervish, and I have to wonder if she isn't moving to some sort of internal song.
  1039.  
  1040. Of course, she could just be moving to the sounds from the piano. The young lady in the red dress and hat IS rather skilled at it, I must say.
  1041.  
  1042. "That really is quite graceful," I muse out loud, "Is it some form of dance, Miss Hina?"
  1043.  
  1044. "Huh?!" Hina jerks to a stop and looks at me in surprise. A blush starts to cross her features. "Ah, sorry, I was doing that without thinking. Um... it's just sort of something I do, you see. It's my thing. Er... I don't know how to explain it..."
  1045.  
  1046. "Please don't apologize, Miss Hina," I urge her, "I wasn't complaining. Far from it, actually. Whatever you were doing, it was very mesmerizing. Is it a form of dance? It's quite pleasant to watch."
  1047.  
  1048. Hina blinks. "...You like my spinning?"
  1049.  
  1050. "Well, yes. I'm impressed at how you manage to pull it off with such precision. It's really very fascinating. Aren't you the slightest bit dizzy?"
  1051.  
  1052. Hina stares at me in surprise for a moment before a dazzling smile crosses her face. "Thank you! It's not often that I get complimented on it! Most people think I'm just being weird and twirling in a circle." She taps her lips in thought. "I can't really describe it to you fully. I guess you could call it a... religious observance."
  1053.  
  1054. "Like a whirling dervish?" I suggest.
  1055.  
  1056. "Hmmm... not quite," Hina muses, "Though I have read about that group. No, when I spin, I try to become a sort of living vortex, bringing the energy of the world to me and becoming one with it." She smiles again. "I guess you could say that I'm trying to bring all of the negativity in the environment to me, and nullify it through meditation."
  1057.  
  1058. "Fascinating," I reply, my interest now piqued, "So, it's a form of meditation that's based around making the world itself a better place?"
  1059.  
  1060. "Basically," Hina nods, "I draw all of the misfortune to me, and neutralize it so that it causes no harm to anyone."
  1061.  
  1062. There's that word again. 'Misfortune.' Hina seems rather fixated on it. "I haven't heard of this philosophy before," I admit, "Is it something unique to Japan?"
  1063.  
  1064. Hina chuckles, looking embarrassed, and maybe a little sad. "It's very regional. I'm the only practitioner, in fact. Some traditions are a little difficult to pass on. Since I'm all about bringing misfortune to myself, I don't necessarily have the best reputation back home." She pauses, looking hesitant. "Uh, I might have said a little too much there. Just forget about it, okay!"
  1065.  
  1066. "Whatever passes between us is between you and myself," I assure her, "And if I may say so Miss Hina, anyone who feels that you may be unlucky or unpleasant company is a complete and utter fool." Hina doesn't respond to this, instead just standing there looking happy. "It's a shame you have such a hard time passing such a tradition on. I would think there would be quite a few people willing to follow it."
  1067.  
  1068. Hina shrugs again, looking embarrassed but pleased. "It's a long story. It isn't always easy to get followers back home."
  1069.  
  1070. So she is some sort of religious official, then. Some sort of sect that has nearly faded away? What a shame that would be. As odd as Hina is, she is clearly a very pleasant woman. On a whim, I lift one foot in the air and push myself into a spin. It doesn't last very long, and I screech to a halt after a half-turn and nearly fall to the ground. How does she do that on the carpet?! I shake my head and turn to Hina, who is now staring at me in shock. "Regrettably, I'll have to leave the meditative revolutions to you, Miss HIna. I don't seem to have the knack for it."
  1071.  
  1072. Hina's body begins to tremble with mirth, and a laugh of delight escapes her lips. The next thing I know, she has wrapped her arms around my neck in a quick hug and given me a kiss on the cheek before quickly slipping back. "That was hilarious!" she giggles, covering her mouth with one hand.
  1073.  
  1074. I blink, rubbing my cheek where she kissed me. "Shows of affection are also part of your tradition, then?" I ask, feeling a touch embarrassed myself.
  1075.  
  1076. "No. That was just a little thank you," Hina just smiles, looking very happy for some reason.
  1077.  
  1078. "I can't claim to understand, but I am happy to have been of service," I reply, feeling bemused. Hina just giggles before going back to her revolutions. Once again, she seems completely content with the world.
  1079.  
  1080. I'm distracted from her unusual dance by a loud gust of wind which rattles the windows of the mansion. Oh dear, it looks like things are just going to get even worse. Yukari is sipping some wine, looking very disgruntled. Every so often, she glances up at a clock. The poor woman probably fears that her carefully-laid plans are falling to ruin. I consider going over there to cheer her up... before I realize that I don't want to be the outlet for a wealthy, powerful woman's frustration. No, I'll wait until she's calmed down a little bit before offering my condolences.
  1081.  
  1082. I just hope that the others make it here. Maybe once the storm subsides a little? In any case, I may as well speak with someone else now.
  1083.  
  1084.  
  1085. [ ] The punkish girl, hard at work at destroying the liquor supply.
  1086. [ ] The young lady in pigtails, sampling the wine.
  1087. [ ] The young woman in red, playing the piano contentedly.
  1088. [ ] The classy woman, starting to sway in a dance of her own.
  1089.  
  1090.  
  1091. ----
  1092.  
  1093. Keymaster 2013/07/14(Sun)01:09 No. 51789
  1094. File 137376415793.jpg - (150.84KB , 850x478 , obviously decorative.jpg ) [iqdb] [google]
  1095. 51789
  1096. Honestly, I've been wondering about one of the guests for a while now. The one with long, strawberry-blonde hair. Actually, the hair is the most normal thing about her. Long, intricately-designed skirt, sandals, a shirt that apparently has had its sleeves ripped off, and bows everywhere. The woman looks like a punk, to be quite honest. And topping it off are a pair of huge novelty horns, presumably attached to her by means of a headband.
  1097.  
  1098. Yes, this woman is arguably the most eccentric person here, and that is saying a lot. And that isn't even accounting for the fact that it look like the woman is well on her way to drinking her own body weight in alcohol.
  1099.  
  1100. Curiosity overcomes me, and I walk over to her to introduce myself. As I do, I find myself wondering just how old she is. She's short, but her features don't appear childish in the least. Actually, she has the face of an adult woman. And while very slender, there is considerable musculature under her skin. So, not a child. Maybe she's just a naturally small woman?
  1101.  
  1102. I bow to the woman. "Alfred Albert Westcastle at your service, Madam. Is there anything that I can do for you?"
  1103.  
  1104. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaXc36p5cx0)
  1105.  
  1106. The woman turns to me with a huge grin on her face. "Suika Ibuki. You can call me Suika. And what you can do for me is sit down and have a drink!"
  1107.  
  1108. I chuckle politely. "Unfortunately, Madam, I must decline. As a butler, I must be sure to attend to the needs of my guests, and-"
  1109.  
  1110. "Awwww, to hell with all that!" Suika declares, reaching up to grasp me by the shoulder. One tug is all it takes to force me down into the chair beside her. Well, one tug with all of the concentrated force of an avalanche behind it, that is. This women has to be half of my body size, and it feels like the has the power of a speeding freight train! Appearances are deceiving, indeed.
  1111.  
  1112. "Anyway, I already told you: call me Suika!" Smiling broadly, the young, horned woman shoves a glass of what smells like whiskey into my hands before taking her own drink. Which apparently consists of an entire bottle of very fine brandy.
  1113.  
  1114. "...Suika, then," I nod, bowing to her whim. "But I have to say, it's exceedingly poor form for a butler to drink on the job."
  1115.  
  1116. Suika just snorts. "Oh, please," she says, "I doubt you'd be the first servant to have a little nip on the side while dealing with a house full of guests."
  1117.  
  1118. Well, she's got me there. Admittedly, when the going gets tough, more than a few of us will duck into the wine cellar for a little liquid fortitude. Including Eric and Sylvia. What can I say? When you're overworked and dealing with difficult guests, a little something to settle the nerves goes a long way.
  1119.  
  1120. So it is that I sip a little brandy on my guest's dollar while Suika nods in approval. "There ya go!" she declares, "A little drink never hurt anyone! And besides, you looked like you needed it."
  1121.  
  1122. I look up in surprise. "Did I?"
  1123.  
  1124. Suika nods emphatically. "Hell yeah! I mean, I was watching you run around, trying to make everybody happy, all on your lonesome! You got a good work ethic there, but don't wear yourself out on our account. Take a moment to catch your breath every now and then, you're more likely to make people happy that way."
  1125.  
  1126. I sigh. "You're right of course, Miss-"
  1127.  
  1128. "AH!" My newfound drinking companion raises a finger in stern warning.
  1129.  
  1130. "...You're right of course, Suika," I finish.
  1131.  
  1132. She smiles cheerfully at this. "Much better! So yeah, must be hard trying to keep us all entertained, all on your lonesome, huh?"
  1133.  
  1134. "It's more effort than I care to admit," I concede, "Though I'm fortunate that all of you seem to be the patient sorts, and the type that can easily entertain themselves. Plus, Yumeko actually insisted on lending me a hand."
  1135.  
  1136. "Yeah, I dunno if she's sold on this deal of Yukari's," Suika nods. "Actually, a couple of the girls here are a little hesitant, but hey! It sounds like a good party! Lotsa food, and friends. Lotsa guys," Suika snickers at that last, "So all we need to do is have a good time!"
  1137.  
  1138. "Perhaps you can tell that to some of your fellow guests," I suggest, glancing at Parsee and Yumeko.
  1139.  
  1140. Suika waves me off. "Eh, once things start up, they'll be fine. Just you wait! Once the party starts going, that's when things'll get exciting!"
  1141.  
  1142. I frown. "And on that note, I have no idea what's keeping the rest of the staff, or the male half of the guest list. I can't even get ahold of them."
  1143.  
  1144. Suika purses her lips. "Look out the window."
  1145.  
  1146. I look out the window, at the black sky, the heavy rain, and the intense winds. "...I suppose the weather might be at least partially at fault for their delay," I admit.
  1147.  
  1148. Suika chortles. "Ya think? Face it, they're gonna be late. You're gonna have to deal with us for a while longer, so you might as well get used to it." The small woman suddenly turns a leering expression towards me. "Who knows? If you're lucky, you might just get to play escort for all of us all weekend~!"
  1149.  
  1150. I wince. "Sounds exhausting."
  1151.  
  1152. "Knowing some of us? Yep!" Suika grins hugely.
  1153.  
  1154. "Fortunately for my stamina, my job doesn't entail that manner of service," I say with a shrug.
  1155.  
  1156. Suika snorts with amusement. "Crud. And here I was, practicing my pick-up routines." Suika shakes her head in mock dismay. "Such a waste! Guess I"ll have to be patient and wait for the main event, huh? Well, at the very least, say you'll drink with me until they arrive!"
  1157.  
  1158. I take a long look at Suika. Then I take a long look at the rather impressive array of empty bottles she's gathered around herself. "Judging by your rate of alcohol consumption, keeping pace with you seems like a one-way trip to severe liver disease," I note.
  1159.  
  1160. "It builds character!" Suika protests.
  1161.  
  1162. "I fact, I can only imagine that increasing my blood alcohol level that much would actually mean transforming my blood into a mildly hazardous chemical."
  1163.  
  1164. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!" Suika says cheerfully. "Besides, you'll pass at long before you reach that point, anyway!"
  1165.  
  1166. "Preventing me from doing my job, and thus getting paid," I point out.
  1167.  
  1168. Suika considers this. "Right, no beer money. That sucks." She sighs dramatically. "Man, being surrounded by all of this top-shelf booze, and not being allowed to drink it? Sounds like pure hell. I don't envy your job in the slightest."
  1169.  
  1170. "It has its trials," I admit, trying to calculate the cheer cost of all of the alcohol she's imbibed so far. The number I come up with is a little staggering. "How much did you drink, anyway?"
  1171.  
  1172. "Enough to get a decent buzz, not enough to suit me!" Suika chirps.
  1173.  
  1174. "You must be the life of the party back home," I note.
  1175.  
  1176. Suika just laughs at this. "Me and my whole family are party personified!" she declares.
  1177.  
  1178. "I can only imagine," I chuckle. "So, are you just here for the alcohol or are you here for the, ah, primary thrust of this little get-together."
  1179.  
  1180. Suika grins again. "'Thrust.' That's about the main point, isn't it?" Damn. Walked right into that one. "But I'm here for the full deal! Got good booze? I'll drink it? Got something fun to do? I'll do it! Got some handsome men coming? Look out gents, here comes Suika!" She laugh uproariously at the last bit.
  1181.  
  1182. "...So that's a yes, then?" I ask.
  1183.  
  1184. Suika shrugs. "When Yukari told me about what she had in mind, I sure as hell wasn't gonna turn her down. I mean, me? Turn down a party? Not gonna happen? And yeah, when she told me that there were gonna be hot men here, sure I got a little excited!" She glances away. "Been a while, you know?" Suika mutters.
  1185.  
  1186. I take another sip of my brandy. "Men troubles?" I ask gently.
  1187.  
  1188. "Let's just say that someone like me has a little trouble getting some action back home," Suika says quietly, still looking away. Then she looks back to me, face covered by a huge smile. "But enough of that! Before you go back to work, you'll drink with me, right?"
  1189.  
  1190. [ ] "I'll certainly finish this glass with you."
  1191. [ ] "Just enough for a single toast, then I really must be going."
  1192. [ ] "Regrettably, I've dallied long enough."
  1193.  
  1194.  
  1195. ----
  1196.  
  1197. Keymaster 2013/07/14(Sun)15:20 No. 51811
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  1199. 51811
  1200. I hesitate for a moment before chuckling in defeat. "Well, the motto here is to fulfill the wishes of our guests, whatever they may be." I raise my glass. "To a pleasant weekend?" I suggest.
  1201.  
  1202. Suika grins hugely and carefully clinks her bottle against my glass. "I'll drink to that!" The two of us tilt our drinks back and take a long pull from them. As I swallow, I feel my throat burn as the strong liquor goes down it. It's definitely top-shelf stuff, just as Suika said. Normally, we're not permitted near this sort of quality; it's reserved for the guests after all. But I'll just explain that one of the guests demanded that I drink with her.
  1203.  
  1204. I already know how Eric will react. He'll be jealous that he didn't get here earlier. Well, serves him right for not getting here sooner, now doesn't it?
  1205.  
  1206. "Yeah, that's how things are supposed to be," Suika comments, nodding in appreciation. "No standing on ceremony, no 'sir' or 'madam.' Just two people having a drink together. Or better yet, a whole room!"
  1207.  
  1208. "We're certainly well on the way there, aren't we?" I comment, looking at the activities of the other guests. They mostly involve alcohol.
  1209.  
  1210. "Eh, what about it?" Suika says with a shrug. "Back in Gen- er, back home, drinking is just what you do to unwind!"
  1211.  
  1212. "Sounds a great deal like our wrap-up parties," I note.
  1213.  
  1214. My drinking companion's head swivels to regard me with sudden interest. "...Tell me more."
  1215.  
  1216. I chuckle. "Well, after a busy event wherein we have to deal with looking after a houseful of demanding guests and their odd little demands, hard-working serving staff need some time to unwind, you know? So, it's generally accepted that while we clean up the house, it's fair game for our own little celebration. A sort of 'hooray, we got through it,' celebration, you understand? I'm sure the owner knows, but he doesn't say much about it."
  1217.  
  1218. "Sounds like a good sort," Suika notes.
  1219.  
  1220. I shrug. "As long as the house is ship-shape and we make the guests happy, he doesn't much care."
  1221.  
  1222. The horned woman sighs. "You mean after this party, there's gonna be another one? And I'm gonna miss it?!"
  1223.  
  1224. "Even a butler needs to unwind, Suika," I remind her.
  1225.  
  1226. "Yeah, I guess. So, your big boss is a pretty chill guy then, huh?" Suika takes another long pull, and I follow suit.
  1227.  
  1228. "He is," I agree. "Like I said, as long as the house is in top condition, he's willing to look the other way after we've worked ourselves to the bone looking after our guests. It's part of the reason we're willing to put so much into it; the rewards are great."
  1229.  
  1230. "Huh. Maybe you do have a good deal here after all," Suika muses.
  1231.  
  1232. "It's not too bad," I agree, tossing the rest of my drink back in one large gulp.
  1233.  
  1234. Suika whistles and applauds. "Hey, not bad! Maybe you can handle your booze, huh?"
  1235.  
  1236. I grin. "The parties I just mentioned? Let's just say that the staff here works hard and plays hard."
  1237.  
  1238. "And I'm gonna miss it!" Suika complains.
  1239.  
  1240. "Now, now. You'll have a whole weekend full of drinking, carousing, partying, enjoying all of the services we have to offer, and of course the company of hand-picked male escorts," I remind her. Then the low rumble of thunder echoes from the distance. "In theory," I amend.
  1241.  
  1242. Suika glances out a window, where a flash of lightning briefly illuminates the ebon sky. Moments later, it is followed by a crash of thunder. The wind and rain have not let up, and the mansion creaks a little under the onslaught. "Yeah," my companion says slowly, "What are the odds of them actually getting here, anyway?"
  1243.  
  1244. "I'm sure they'll make it," I say confidently, "The staff here has a very good work ethic. They wouldn't want to let our esteemed guests down. And I'm sure that your escorts will arrive as well. Worst case scenario, you spend your weekend enjoying their company indoors."
  1245.  
  1246. "And there's aaaallll kinds of things we can do inside," Suika says with a suggestive wink.
  1247.  
  1248. "Or one thing you can do repeatedly," I comment with a raised eyebrow.
  1249.  
  1250. "I do have a lot of stamina," Suika admits taking another drink.
  1251.  
  1252. There's another flash of lightning and clap of thunder. The storm is worsening. I hope that everyone is all right... Eric usually is hell-bent on getting to the job on time, but if things are too bad, he'd have enough sense to wait until tomorrow, wouldn't he?
  1253.  
  1254. What am I saying? Eric would go through a raging blizzard in the middle of a war zone to get to his job. I'm sure he's going to be here, and will likely have no end of apologies for Miss Yukari. That's just how he is.
  1255.  
  1256. Speaking of Yukari, the blonde woman stares out at the storm accusingly for another minute before spinning on her heel and storming away towards the east wing. Probably towards her room.
  1257.  
  1258. "Oh dear," I sigh, "I suppose I should go speak with her, shouldn't I?"
  1259.  
  1260. "Eeehhhh..." Suika shifts uncomfortably. "Maybe not while she's in this mood. Yukari can be a little... scary... when her plans go all to hell. Just give her a minute to settle down, and then go talk to her."
  1261.  
  1262. "Scary?" I prompt.
  1263.  
  1264. "Scary, Suika nods. "Then she calms down and will just want a hug."
  1265.  
  1266. "Duly noted," I say, standing up. "Well, thank you for the drink, Suika, but I should really see to my other guests."
  1267.  
  1268. "Hang in there, Alf," Suika nods at me. "After all, it's just for a little while! And Yukari's a great tipper if you make her happy."
  1269.  
  1270. That DOES brighten my day. Now then, who to see to next...
  1271.  
  1272.  
  1273. [ ] The young lady in pigtails, looking around the room in interest.
  1274. [ ] The young woman in red, pondering at the piano.
  1275. [ ] The classy woman, swaying from side to side in a dance of her own.
  1276.  
  1277.  
  1278. ----
  1279.  
  1280.  
  1281. File 13738354916.jpg - (159.80KB , 850x638 , sorely underrated.jpg ) [iqdb] [google]
  1282. 51827 Pleasant Meadows, Thread 2 Keymaster 2013/07/14(Sun)20:58 No. 51827
  1283. Previous Thread: >>/others/51333
  1284.  
  1285. -------------------------------------
  1286.  
  1287. The young woman in red has been working on the piano practically since her arrival. It's obvious that she's a professional musician, and a very good one, at that. Curiosity overcomes me, and I make my way over to where she is staring at the keyboard, apparently lost in thought.
  1288.  
  1289. Getting a closer look at her, I see that she is a fairly slender woman, wearing a red hat that matches her dress, with a green star ornament on top. She seems oblivious to my presence, and is lost in thought. Her expression is very intense, to the point that I hesitate to interrupt whatever cogitations are going through her head.
  1290.  
  1291. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0kkf56-XUo)
  1292.  
  1293. As I hesitate, she lowers her hands to the keyboard and begins to play once again. I'd heard her music before, but I was always distracted by something (or rather someONE) else. Now, standing next to her as she plays the piano, I realize that I am listening to a master at work. Every note is hit just precisely, and the music flows perfectly between several different emotions. I find myself wondering what it would be like to hear her in concert.
  1294.  
  1295. Assuming that she is a professional musician, that is. And if she isn't she damn well should be.
  1296.  
  1297. After a few minutes, the woman's song comes to an end, and she nods at the keyboard in satisfaction. Seeing an opening, I give her a personal round of applause, with causes her to jump in her piano bench with a surprised "Eep!" and stare up at me in shock.
  1298.  
  1299. "A fine performance indeed, Madam!" I compliment her.
  1300.  
  1301. The lady in red just stares at me.
  1302.  
  1303. "Er... Madam? Am I troubling you?" I ask in concern.
  1304.  
  1305. She chuckles in response. "Far from it!" Grinning, she looks me over from top to bottom, and then back again. "Hello~ to you! You are just the sight my eyes needed to see!"
  1306.  
  1307. I cough awkwardly. Okay, that's bit more... intense... of a come-on than I'm used to, but I can cope. "Alfred Arthur Westcastle at your service." I tell her, bowing.
  1308.  
  1309. "Lyrica Prismriver," she says primly. Odd name, but I'm getting used to that sort of thing. "And unless I'm very wrong, you must be one of the men Yukari's bringing in!"
  1310.  
  1311. "Sadly, it seems that you are wrong in this instance," I correct her. "I am merely one of the butlers at this mansion, here to serve you... in a mundane fashion."
  1312.  
  1313. Lyrica's smile freezes. "...Really?"
  1314.  
  1315. "I fear so, Madam."
  1316.  
  1317. She winces. "Oh. Crap. Uh... sorry about that! I mean, I saw a handsome guy in a suit, and Yukari said she was bringing in handsome guys in suits, and well... I guess I jumped to the wrong conclusion?" She's blushing brightly, looking mortified at her mistake.
  1318.  
  1319. I frown a little bit. "Miss Lyrica, I was there when you came in the front door," I remind her. "In fact, I've been here all afternoon, ever since you arrived."
  1320.  
  1321. Lyrica cringes. "...That was you?" I nod, and she sighs, lowering her head the the keys with a discordant sound. "That's fantastic. I must look like a total goof right now, huh?"
  1322.  
  1323. "Well, resting your forehead upon a piano doesn't exactly convey an impression of high intelligence." I say carefully.
  1324.  
  1325. "You sound exactly like my sister Lunasa," Lyrica mutters. "And I mean EXACTLY." She raises her head to give me an apologetic look. "Sorry. Honestly, I live in a place a lot like this, except it's really run down. So when I came in, I guess I was looking more at the house than at the people inside of it. Then, I was kinda antsy for the guys to show up, so I was playing the piano to pass the time."
  1326.  
  1327. "Expertly, at that," I note, "And Miss Lyrica, I take no offense. At times, it is the duty of the serving staff to blend in and not be noticed. I'm just flattered that you find our mansion that pleasant to look upon."
  1328.  
  1329. "It is a nice house, but that doesn't mean I should have overlooked you like that." The crimson-clad girl sighs. "I know how frustrating that can be. But enough of that! You're here now, I'm very much paying attention to you now, and am very glad to make your acquaintance!" She grins at me, turning in her chair to expose a bit more leg. And a very lovely leg it is, but that is entirely besides the point.
  1330.  
  1331. "And I am glad to make yours, Miss Lyrica," I tell her politely. "I hope you don't mind, but I was drawn here by your playing. You've really managed to lighten the mood here. Do you play professionally?"
  1332.  
  1333. "I do indeed! I'm in a band with my two sisters." She tosses her hair and gives me a seductive look. "But was it only my music that drew you over here, hmmm~?"
  1334.  
  1335. "Not at all," I say in a quiet, intense voice. Lyrica smiles hugely and leans in closer. "It is my job as a butler to check in on all of my guests," I say in a more normal tone of voice.
  1336.  
  1337. Lyrica groans and slumps to the side. "Very funny. And is it your job to mess with your guests as well?"
  1338.  
  1339. "I have no idea what you mean, Miss Lyrica," I insist with a straight face.
  1340.  
  1341. "I'll bet. And I'll bet you're not laughing your head off inside right now," she retorts.
  1342.  
  1343. "Perish the thought, Miss Lyrica," I say, laughing my head off inside. It's her fault, really. I wouldn't be doing it if she hadn't put the idea into my head.
  1344.  
  1345. Lyrica raises an eyebrow. "So. You're a butler here, huh?"
  1346.  
  1347. "I suppose the uniform is a dead giveaway," I concede.
  1348.  
  1349. "That and you actually said as much," she points out. I nod in agreement. Lyrica grows a huge smile on her face. "So let me guess. It's your job to fulfill any desire I might have this weekend, right?"
  1350.  
  1351. "That is part of the job description, yes," I tell her.
  1352.  
  1353. Lyrica's smile turns into a leer. "So if I asked you to sit right next to me, you'd have to obey~?" she sings, patting the bench next to her.
  1354.  
  1355. "Well..." I hesitate.
  1356.  
  1357. "I mean, you wouldn't want me to complain that one of the butlers was being mean to me, would you~?" Lyrica coos, her eyes dancing with mischief. "I'm only asking for a little bit of companionship, after all. You wouldn't deny me that, would you?"
  1358.  
  1359. "Deny you, no," I say evenly. "But one of the tricks to learning how to be good company is first learning how to be bad company." I sigh wearily. "Are you really going to force me to belch the American National Anthem just to prove a point?"
  1360.  
  1361. Lyrica cringes. "Okay. Message received. Backing off now."
  1362.  
  1363. I sigh in relief. "Thank God. I never learned how. I tried once on a dare and was sick for the rest of the day."
  1364.  
  1365. Lyrica giggles. "That must have been some dare."
  1366.  
  1367. "Let's just say that the maids here can have a strange sense of humor," I say, rolling my eyes at the memory.
  1368.  
  1369. Lyrica laughs out loud and starts fiddling with the piano, playing a song absentmindedly. "I think I can stand not knowing. Anyway, would you bring me a drink, please?"
  1370.  
  1371. I bow politely. "Certainly. Just one moment." I cross over to the snack table and recover a glass of wine, which I bring back to Lyrica.
  1372.  
  1373. "Thanks," she says, accepting it gratefully. "And uh, sorry about he flirting earlier. But can you blame me? A handsome guy in a suit comes up to me, and I'm just supposed to do nothing?"
  1374.  
  1375. "Flattering as that is, Miss Lyrica, that is the sort of thing that complicates the job somewhat," I tell her honestly.
  1376.  
  1377. "Heh. I'll bet." She takes a sip of her wine. "Well, I guess I'll just have to wait for the main event, huh?" A massive crash of thunder comes from the storm outside. "Assuming they ever get here," she adds.
  1378.  
  1379. "Miss Lyrica, I have absolute confidence that there is no reason to worry on that account," I lie. Another crash of thunder serves to contradict me. Lyrica just looks at me skeptically. Cursed thunderstorm, robbing me of credibility. "I have absolute confidence that someone will be able to get here eventually," I say with a shrug.
  1380.  
  1381. "Bottomless well of confidence, aren't you?" Lyrica snorts. "Ah well. If no one shows up, I'll just break into your room at night," she says with a wink, showing that she isn't serious.
  1382.  
  1383. "I'll make sure to sleep with a stungun, Miss Lyrica," I say evenly.
  1384.  
  1385. "I'll make sure to ground myself," she replies.
  1386.  
  1387. "I also have heavy stick that I can sleep with," I counter.
  1388.  
  1389. Lyrica considers. "If all else fails, I can do naughty things to myself while thinking of you."
  1390.  
  1391. I wince. "Miss Lyrica, if you make me do the belching routine to ruin your image of me, it might be bad for my tip."
  1392.  
  1393. She laughs, and shakes her head. "True enough. Seriously, though, I'm sure things will be fine." There is another crash of thunder. "Probably. Anyway, care for another song?" She stretches her fingers over the keys.
  1394.  
  1395. [ ] "That song you were playing earlier would be nice to hear again."
  1396. [ ] "I can only stay for a minute before I get back to work."
  1397. [ ] "Sorry, I must take my leave now."
  1398. Expand all images
  1399.  
  1400.  
  1401. ----
  1402.  
  1403. Keymaster 2013/07/15(Mon)02:27 No. 51842
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  1405. 51842
  1406. I smile and lean on the piano. "How about that song you were playing earlier?" I suggest, "It was quite pleasant to listen to."
  1407.  
  1408. Lyrica smiles as she immediately begins playing the piano. "I'm glad you like that one! It's one of our old standbys. Kind of an oldie for us, but sometimes it's good to get into old habits, you know? It lets you remember where you came from."
  1409.  
  1410. "That's true," I agree. "You say one of 'our' old standbys. You're referring to yourself and your sisters, correct?"
  1411.  
  1412. "Yeah," Lyrica nods, easily holding a conversation while continuing to play. "I play the piano, Merlin plays the trumpet, and Lunasa plays the violin. They call us the Phantom Trio!"
  1413.  
  1414. "Phantom Trio?" I echo her, "You mean, not only do you play music, you also walk through walls and haunt people?"
  1415.  
  1416. Lyrica blinks and seems to hesitate before smiling. "That's right! So you'd better watch out or I WILL sneak into your room tonight, even if you lock the door. And I'll be invisible so you can't even see me!" Lyrica chuckles and winks at me. "Or, I dunno, I'll spook you with ghost-fire or something."
  1417.  
  1418. I laugh at this. "A master of music, and a master of supernatural arts, hmm?"
  1419.  
  1420. "You could say it comes naturally," Lyrica giggles. "Though I prefer to entertain people rather than terrify them."
  1421.  
  1422. "You do very well at the entertaining part," I admit, "But with a name like that, shouldn't you brush up on your other skills? Some people find a taste of horror to be very invigorating."
  1423.  
  1424. "Ohhh, is that your fetish~?" Lyrica sings, giving me a wicked look.
  1425.  
  1426. "You've got me. I'm a horribly perverted man who enjoys looking at pictures of ghostly women," I say deadpan.
  1427.  
  1428. Lyrica immediately bursts out into laughter. "Oh, man! You're a real piece of work, Alfred! Anyway, it's just a name. It's catchier than Prismriver Ensemble, you know?"
  1429.  
  1430. "Where did it come from?" I wonder out loud. "Phantom Trio is a bit of an unusual name, after all."
  1431.  
  1432. "The place we live is a little run-down," Lyrica explains. "We'd fix it up, but it's our mess, you know what I mean?"
  1433.  
  1434. I nod. "I suppose so. In a horrible clutter, you know where everything of yours is, after all. So anyway, because you live in what looks like a haunted house, people refer to you as phantoms?"
  1435.  
  1436. "Something like that, yeah," Lyrica says mysteriously. She keeps playing for a few more minutes before finishing with a flourish. I favor her with a round of applause, and she bows in her seat. "Thank you, Thank you! I'll be playing all weekend, or until I get a handsome guy to 'play' with, if you know what I mean!"
  1437.  
  1438. "Your meaning is roughly as opaque as sparkling spring water," I say dryly. "In any case, you are amazingly talented. You must be quite popular back home."
  1439.  
  1440. "We are," Lyrica nods, trying out a few combinations on the keyboard. "Especially my sisters. Merlin is just so bright and cheery, and Lunasa has this quiet girl's appeal, you know what I mean?"
  1441.  
  1442. I nod. "And then there's you."
  1443.  
  1444. "And then there's me," Lyrica agrees, then falling silent.
  1445.  
  1446. Ah. That explains things then. But it isn't something she's volunteering, and I have no right to go prying into her personal business. "Is there anything else I can help you with, Miss Lyrica?" I ask her.
  1447.  
  1448. Lyrica shakes her head. "Nah. I'm just gonna keep playing for a while, okay? Just let me know when the men arrive."
  1449.  
  1450. "I'm certain that will be an event that gets everyone's attention," I tell her. With a final wave, I take my leave of the pianist and walk back over to the snack-trays, which are starting to look a bit depleted. I take a few trays and walk back into the kitchen to refill them. As I do, I take a moment to turn on a small television hidden behind a cupboard door, turning it directly to the weather report.
  1451.  
  1452. "...so we aren't really sure where this system came from," the weatherman says on the small screen, looking a bit baffled. "Sorry, folks, we really didn't see this one coming! It basically formed up out of nowhere, and now we're predicting heavy storms all weekend long, with chances of flooding in several areas-"
  1453.  
  1454. I reach out and turn the television off. "Fuck!" I hiss through gritted teeth.
  1455.  
  1456. "That doesn't sound very promising," Yumeko notes from behind me, already refilling the trays.
  1457.  
  1458. I sigh and go to join her. "No, it doesn't. Which means a certain important guest is going to be very, very unhappy. I'm going to take some advice I was given and give her a moment to come to terms with things. THEN I'll give her the bad news."
  1459.  
  1460. Yumeko nods. "Yeah, that's probably for the best. Anyway, let me help you with these." Together, Yumeko and I carry the trays back out to the lounge, greeted by a loud crack of thunder that makes everyone in the room jump. No two ways about it, this is going to be a very rainy weekend.
  1461.  
  1462. As I set the trays back down on their table, I reflect that there are still two guests that I have not yet spoken to. I might as well have a word with them, if only because it gives Yukari more time to cool down before I give her the bad news. Who should I speak to first...?
  1463.  
  1464.  
  1465. [ ] The young lady in pigtails, now relaxing on a couch.
  1466. [ ] The classy woman, staring out at the storm in fascination.
  1467.  
  1468.  
  1469. ----
  1470.  
  1471. Keymaster 2013/07/15(Mon)20:25 No. 51887
  1472. File 137391992525.png - (821.24KB , 848x1200 , inquisitive.png ) [iqdb] [google]
  1473. 51887
  1474. Well, she's relaxed now, but one of the remaining guests was paying a great deal of attention to the mansion earlier, to the extent that she was even taking notes. Perhaps she intends to report on the service here? Come to think of it, it might be a good idea to have a word with her and leave a good impression of Pleasant Meadows. It might be good for business, after all.
  1475.  
  1476. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N04BpK6saXk)
  1477.  
  1478. I walk up to the young woman, looking very relaxed on a couch, and take a good look at her. Pigtails, purple blouse, purple checked skirt... and a very exotic hat and footwear. I'm not even sure how she walks around in those things. An extremely good sense of balance, perhaps? Well, it's none of my concern. I simply bow to her and make my introduction.
  1479.  
  1480. "Alfred Arthur Westcastle at your service, Madam," I say politely, "Is there any way that I can be of service to you?"
  1481.  
  1482. The lady with pigtails sits bolt upright, suddenly giving me every last drop of her attention. "Yes! Yes, there is most certainly something that you can do for me! Right this instant! Please!" She's practically vibrating with excitement,
  1483.  
  1484. "Er... very well," I say carefully, "And what would that be, exactly?"
  1485.  
  1486. She smiles with excitement. "Have a seat, right here!" she tells me, patting the space next to her on the couch.
  1487.  
  1488. Oh dear. Not this again.
  1489.  
  1490. "Regrettably, Madam, I am not in fact one of the escorts hired by Miss Yukari-" I begin.
  1491.  
  1492. "Huh?! Nonono!" The young lady blurts out, hurriedly waving her hands in negation. "I know that! I didn't mean to imply that you were!" She hesitates, then clears her throat and takes a deep breath before looking back up. This time, her enthusiasm is much more restrained, and she has a professional smile on her face. "Please let me start over. My name is Hatate Himekaidou, and I am the editor of my own newspaper, the Kakashi Spirit News. I am very pleased to be here, and I was wondering if you could answer a few questions for me."
  1493.  
  1494. "Ah," I say in dawning comprehension, "So you're a journalist, and you want to report on the mansion!"
  1495.  
  1496. Hatate nods in excitement. "That's right! I never get the chance to go so far abroad, so this is a really good opportunity for me! Anyway, I was waiting for you to get a spare moment so that I could interview you. Ah, with your permission, of course. Also, I'd like to take a photograph."
  1497.  
  1498. I nod agreeably. "The answer is yes to both, Miss Hatate. Also, I'm sorry I kept you waiting for so long." I sit down beside her as I say this.
  1499.  
  1500. "Oh, not at all!" Hatate assures me. "I understand fully that you were just doing your job! It must be difficult to have to deal with us all on your own." She looks very sympathetic.
  1501.  
  1502. I shrug. "All part of the job, Miss Hatate," I assure her. "It also helps that one of your number absolutely insisted on helping out."
  1503.  
  1504. "Yeah, a lot of the maids back home are like that," Hatate chuckles. She pulls out a cellphone and points the camera at me to take a picture, and I obligingly give her my best professional smile. "Thanks! Anyway, I really don't get away from home all that much, like I said, so I'm really looking forward to writing an article on this place!"
  1505.  
  1506. "I'm sorry about the weather, by the way," I say with a regretful glance out the window. "And the outdoor staff worked so hard to get the gardens ready, too. Alas, no-one instructed me in the proper usage of the weather-control knob."
  1507.  
  1508. "Oh, wow! You really have one of those here?" Hatate asks, scribbling excitedly on her notepad, eyes gleaming with interest.
  1509.  
  1510. I stare at her blankly for a moment before bursting into laughter. After a moment, Hatate joins in, perhaps a tad awkwardly. "All right," I admit, "That wasn't one of my better ones."
  1511.  
  1512. "Oh, uh, don't worry about it!" Hatate quickly assures me. "But never mind that! This place has a lot of interesting things. Can you tell me about its background?"
  1513.  
  1514. I nod, going into the official spiel. "Pleasant Meadows is actually a fairly old house that has undergone renovation several times before coming into its current form. About thirty years ago it came into the possession of its current owner, who wanted to use it as a vacation home. However, it proved to be a bit too expansive for that purpose, and so he had it converted into a private getaway for people who want to throw an exclusive party far away from any prying eyes."
  1515.  
  1516. "I see," Hatate mused. "So, it's a vacation spot for the rich and famous?"
  1517.  
  1518. "We have had a few celebrities in here," I admit. "Mostly, it's just a location for private parties that can be rented by anyone with enough cash on hand."
  1519.  
  1520. "Really? Like who?"
  1521.  
  1522. I smile. "Now, Miss Himekaidou, that would be breaching confidentiality!"
  1523.  
  1524. "Awww, c'moooon!" Hatate wheedles, leaning back in her seat. As she does so, the material of her skirt visibly slides up her thigh, exposing more skin. And it's a very nice thigh, to be honest. However..."
  1525.  
  1526. "Five out of ten," I say simply, shaking my head. "I am sorry Miss Hatate, but that really was rather labored."
  1527.  
  1528. "Ouch," Hatate winces, adjusting her skirt to something more modest. "Well, it was worth a shot. I'm really not used to using that sort of tactic. Stick to the basics, then?"
  1529.  
  1530. "It might be better, yes," I nod, feeling a bit of regret. It really was a rather nice thigh.
  1531.  
  1532. In any case, the interview goes on swimmingly, and I tell Hatate all about the history of the house, as well as a few of the more memorable stories (making sure to leave the names out, of course). By the end of it, I feel that I've left a good impression of the mansion upon her.
  1533.  
  1534. "This is excellent," Hatate comments, scribbling down the last few details, "I really appreciate this, Alfred!"
  1535.  
  1536. "Not at all," I say with a small bow, "It is my duty to assist the guests after all."
  1537.  
  1538. "And assist you have!" Hatate declares. "This is gonna be front-page news for sure! The intrepid reporter visits luxury accommodations overseas! Heh, none of my competition has ever printed anything like this." The young woman nods in satisfaction.
  1539.  
  1540. "Do you have a great deal of competition?" I inquire.
  1541.  
  1542. "I have the largest circulation now, ever since Aya..." Hatate trails off, looking a little ill. "Actually, never mind. The less said about her, the better."
  1543.  
  1544. "Sounds like quite the story," I comment.
  1545.  
  1546. "The kind that ruins reputations," Hate says seriously. "Like, forever."
  1547.  
  1548. I nod slowly. "I certainly have a few stories like tucked away in my mind. The things I've seen..." I sigh dramatically.
  1549.  
  1550. Hatate looks stricken. "Aww, come on! You can't hold out on me now! Gimme something to bring back home!"
  1551.  
  1552. "Regrettably, I am sworn to secrecy regarding the event that transpire with this household. Terribly sorry." I pause, smiling serenely. "But some of them really are quite fascinating."
  1553.  
  1554. Hatate glowers at me. "You're a jerk, you know that?"
  1555.  
  1556. "And you're the type to reveal your sources, then?" I point out.
  1557.  
  1558. Hatate giggles. "Good point. I'll let you off the hook this time." She glances down at her thighs. "At least until I learn this seduction thing, that is. I still don't know how Aya did it..."
  1559.  
  1560. Ah, a young female reporter, hard at work at learning all of the tricks of her trade. Including the bad ones.
  1561.  
  1562. [ ] Ask some questions of your own out of interest.
  1563. [ ] Does she have any more questions for you before you leave?
  1564. [ ] Excuse yourself.
  1565.  
  1566.  
  1567. ----
  1568.  
  1569. Keymaster 2013/07/16(Tue)02:01 No. 51915
  1570. File 137394010961.jpg - (135.49KB , 850x1062 , thanks for the interview.jpg ) [iqdb] [google]
  1571. 51915
  1572. "Ah, seduction," I sigh. "The timeless art women use to get their way over men. I've built up a tolerance to it, actually."
  1573.  
  1574. Hatate glances up at me, looking skeptical. "Really? Somehow, I think that all men say that until they actually DO get seduced. Then they spend all of their time denying it ever happened."
  1575.  
  1576. "Most of the seduction attempts on me come from women old enough to be my mother," I tell her. "The association alone is enough to kill the impact of any and all attempts on me."
  1577.  
  1578. Hatate winces. "Ouch. Good point." She considers for a moment. "But wait, wouldn't that just mean that an attempt from an actual, pretty young girl would be that much more welcome, and that much more effective?" She tosses her hair in an attempt to prove her point.
  1579.  
  1580. "Your logic is very compelling, and I choose to completely ignore it, Miss Hatate," I say politely, completely unmoved. Mostly.
  1581.  
  1582. She snorts in response. "Whatever you say, Alfred."
  1583.  
  1584. "Just so, Miss Hatate." I hesitate. "Actually, do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions? There are just a few things that keep occurring to me. Maybe you can sate my curiosity."
  1585.  
  1586. "Sure thing!" Hatate practically beams at me. "After all, it's the job of a reporter to inform! What would you like to know?"
  1587.  
  1588. "Well, for starters, 'Kakashi Spirit News?' Why 'Spirit News,' exactly? Do you contain reports on the doings of the proverbial other side?" I raise my eyebrow.
  1589.  
  1590. "Well, sometimes," Hatate says agreeably, "It all depends on what the undead princess is up to. Some of her goings-on are real sellers, you know what I mean?" I stare at her for a long moment. "...It's just a cool-sounding name. Don't read too much into it," she says awkwardly.
  1591.  
  1592. "You are completely unflappable," I say wonderingly. "Have you ever considered a career in butlering?"
  1593.  
  1594. "Don't you mean being a maid?" Hatate snorts.
  1595.  
  1596. "All I know is butlering. I'm sure I'd look horrible in a maid's uniform," I say evenly.
  1597.  
  1598. "Maybe, but it would it certainly sell well among some of my readers!" Hatate says wickedly.
  1599.  
  1600. "Once again, I must disappoint you, Miss Hatate," I say with a shrug. "Call me camera-shy, if you must. And the thought of some of your readers liking such a thing horrifies me. But moving on, I can't help but notice that your outfit is very... exotic, if you will. The hat and shoes, especially. I'm honestly not certain how you walk around in them. Aren't they bad for your feet?"
  1601.  
  1602. Hatate laughs and stands up, easily spinning around in a circle before sitting back down. "Not at all. I have very good balance. Everyone in my village does, really. And these shoes are just fine on my feet, honest! They and the hat are just part of the local dress where I live. Actually, there's a more complicated outfit, but it's a pain to get on and off, so I usually just wear this." She gestures at her clothing.
  1603.  
  1604. "You live in a village, you say. Does your newspaper have good circulation?" I ask my next question.
  1605.  
  1606. Hatate nods. "Yeah. The area I live is fairly tightly-knit, so it's easy for me to market my newspaper. I get a lot subscribers, and I have a reputation as being an honorable, trustworthy reporter!" She puffs her chest out with pride.
  1607.  
  1608. "I have no doubt," I nod. "Is it your role as a reporter that got you invited to Pleasant Meadows in the first place?"
  1609.  
  1610. Hatate laughs, nodding. "Yeah. I kinda got on Yukari's bad side a while back, so I made sure to write a really nice article about her not too long ago. Y'know, just praising her beauty, intelligence, generosity... that sort of thing." The young reporter shrugs. "Next thing I know, I get invited here! A chance to see the Out- to see the world abroad!" she corrects herself mid-sentence. Maybe it's her enthusiasm, but she seems to be letting things slip more often than the others.
  1611.  
  1612. "Not to mention the opportunity to spend time with some young men specifically paid to show you the time of your life," I note.
  1613.  
  1614. "There's that too, yeah," Hatate agrees, blushing slightly.
  1615.  
  1616. "Now, I'm not going to ask any questions about where you are from, because I understand and accept that such is not my business to know," I tell her evenly. "But I am curious about this: despite coming from Japan, and mostly having Japanese names, each and every one of you speaks English perfectly, without a trace of accent, despite apparently never going abroad. This includes yourself." I spread my arms wide. "How exactly do you accomplish this feat?"
  1617.  
  1618. Hatate stares at me blankly for a moment before understanding lights up in her eyes. "That's a secret~!" she sings, winking at me.
  1619.  
  1620. I sigh, defeated. "I thought as much. Oh well. I wish you well, Miss Hatate, and do not hesitate to come find me if there is anything that you require."
  1621.  
  1622. "Thanks, Alfred!" Hatate says as I stand up. "And thanks for the interview! I'll be sure to say nice things about you, okay?" I give Hatate a polite bow and move on. As I do, I glance out a window at the storm. It's as bad as ever, if not worse. The rain is pouring down in sheets, the wind is howling like mad, and the lightning is nearly constant. I'm just glad that Pleasant Meadows is so resilient. The last thing we need is a power failure.
  1623.  
  1624. Now, there's still one last thing that I want to do before talking to Yukari.
  1625.  
  1626. [ ] Talk to the classy woman gazing out at the storm.
  1627. [ ] You should really talk to the classy woman.
  1628. [ ] You haven't talked to the classy woman yet; remedy that!
  1629. [ ] Just talk to the classy woman already!
  1630. [ ] (No, really. I need you guys to talk to Iku so I can move on with the story.)
  1631. [ ] (...Please?)
  1632.  
  1633.  
  1634. ----
  1635.  
  1636. Keymaster 2013/07/16(Tue)20:23 No. 51970
  1637. File 137400620518.jpg - (269.81KB , 850x1347 , pure class.jpg ) [iqdb] [google]
  1638. 51970
  1639. I take a long look at the last of the guests, the sole woman I have yet to speak to. She's tall, and everything about her screams 'class act.' Still, she is not without her eccentricities, including hair dyed a purple color, a long ribbon on her hat that resembles antennae, and a huge scarf that must be at least ten feet long.
  1640.  
  1641. I'm once again struck by the strangeness of this latest group. There's obviously more going on here than I'm aware of, and Hatate was bad at concealing it. Normally, this would not be something I would dwell upon, as each guest is entitled to their secrets, the the various oddities just keep piling up. There's something peculiar about this group of guests, and I don't mean the hair dye.
  1642.  
  1643. But then again, it really is none of my business, is it? They are entitled to their secrets, and my job here is simply to serve. Shaking myself a bit, I walk up to the woman standing by the window and bow in introduction. "Alfred Arthur Westcastle at your service," I say politely. "Can I be of service to you, Madam?"
  1644.  
  1645. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rru3XqqORUk)
  1646.  
  1647. The woman glances at me with crimson eyes (contact lenses again?) and nods. "A glass of wine, if you please," she tells me, handing me an empty wineglass. I bow, and immediately head off to get her a refill. Red wine, by the scent. And she has exceptionally fine taste in wines as well, if I do say so myself.
  1648.  
  1649. I return to her side and hand her the newly filled glass, and she accepts it with a nod. I acknowledge her behavior mentally. This is a woman far more used to dealing with servants. It doesn't bother me in the slightest; I'm used to such things. Instead, I simply take the moment to observe her. The woman reeks of class, with a confident bearing and easy posture. She gazes out at the storm with apparent fascination, and sways from side to side in a precise rhythm that is too purposeful to be drunkenness. Instead, it's like she's dancing privately to the sound of the raindrops. What a fascinating woman.
  1650.  
  1651. I turn to go when I am interrupted by her voice. "Has there been any report on how long this storm is expected to last?" she asks me.
  1652.  
  1653. I turn back to her with a nod. "Yes, madam. According to the weather report, this system is supposed to remain for the entire weekend. There is even a risk of flood, I understand."
  1654.  
  1655. She looks genuinely troubled. "I see. Will this place your coworkers and the other guests at risk, then?"
  1656.  
  1657. I hesitate. "Regrettably, I didn't happen to notice which areas are likely to be affected, Madam-"
  1658.  
  1659. "Iku Nagae," she interjects, introducing herself with a nod.
  1660.  
  1661. "Miss Iku," I correct myself. "But as I was saying, I would be surprised if the local area was not affected." I gesture to the window. "This is the fiercest storm I've seen for a long time, and I have been here several years."
  1662.  
  1663. "This is the fiercest storm I've seen for a long time, and I've seen a LOT of storms," Iku says emphatically. She looks at me, still looking troubled, and perhaps a bit weary. "But again, do you think that your fellow staff are at risk? Or the gentlemen supposed to... attend to us?"
  1664.  
  1665. And yet another euphemism for it. "I'm certain you don't need to worry, Miss Iku. Our duty is to provide the best service possible to our guests, a charge we do not take lightly."
  1666.  
  1667. Iku winces. "I wasn't acting like that much of a bitch, was I?" She shakes her head. "Sorry. I forget that things are different overseas. I didn't mean to be too standoffish."
  1668.  
  1669. I shrug. "I take no offense, Miss Iku. Some people enjoy bantering with the butler. Others wish to be left in peace. I took you for one of the latter."
  1670.  
  1671. She shakes her head. "Well, the way things are going, you're going to be the only male companionship we have all weekend. So I'd better be nice to you, hadn't I?" Iku smiles slyly.
  1672.  
  1673. I wince, groaning a little as I take in the room full of eccentric women. "Your words fill me with unknowable dread, Miss Iku," I tell her, getting a laugh in response. "Fortunately, I have developed a finely honed skill at dodging."
  1674.  
  1675. "Angry guests?" Iku inquires.
  1676.  
  1677. "Angry guests, drunk guests, clumsy guests, grabby guests... the list goes on." I shrug again, and stare out the window at the near-constant thunder and lightning, at the howling wind and surging rain.
  1678.  
  1679. Iku looks at me carefully. "You're worried." It's not a question.
  1680.  
  1681. "I am," I agree, letting some of my worry appear in my voice. "I have never seen a storm so intense. The head butler, Eric, was supposed to arrive with everyone else in a van a few hours ago. Now, he's a good driver, and he's also the kind of man who is determined to get to the job no matter what. But this..." I gesture at the storm and trail off. "...I haven't been able to get a hold of him," I say finally, my voice very quiet.
  1682.  
  1683. Iku turns to me, now looking worried. "Do you think something happened to them?"
  1684.  
  1685. I straighten my back. "Well, Miss Iku, you have my assurances that-"
  1686.  
  1687. "No." Iku says in a calm, but sharp voice. I look at her in surprise. "I am not asking this of a butler. I am asking this of the man standing next to me. I ask again: do you think that something happened to them?"
  1688.  
  1689. I take a deep breath, then let it out slowly, leaning against the window for support. "...I don't know," I finally admit. "Eric is an excellent driver, as I said, but in this weather he could have gone off the road into a ditch, into a river, into the lake... I just don't know what happened to him." I gaze out at the storm, no longer able to conceal my worry for my friends and co-workers.
  1690.  
  1691. Iku nods sympathetically, then turns to look out at the storm again. "I'm usually very good at telling the weather," she explains. "It's sort of what I do, you see. But I just didn't see something of this... intensity... coming. It's a little unusual for me." She shakes her head. "Maybe the air currents are just different over here, I don't know."
  1692.  
  1693. I glance over at her. "You're the flashiest meteorologist I've ever seen," I quip.
  1694.  
  1695. Iku smirks back at me. "A girl has to be eye-catching if she wants to grab people's attention. Besides, this is nothing. You should see me dance."
  1696.  
  1697. "She dances and tells the weather?" I shake my head in amazement. "This must be the newest thing: dancing weather ladies. It'll certainly improve ratings."
  1698.  
  1699. Iku laughs out loud. "A butler who serves wine and snarks with the best? Is that par for the course over here, or are you just an anomaly?"
  1700.  
  1701. "I'm proud to say that I'm part of a long tradition, Miss Iku," I inform her. "The snarking butler is pretty much an expectation at places like these. I take pride in my work."
  1702.  
  1703. "And enjoy it, I'll bet," Iku says with a smile.
  1704.  
  1705. "There is a certain pleasure to it," I admit. Iku chuckles again, and the two of us gaze out at the storm, each wondering what has become of Pleasant Meadows' loyal staff.
  1706.  
  1707. [ ] "You seem tired. Is there anything I can do for you?"
  1708. [ ] Stand there in silence.
  1709. [ ] Excuse yourself.
  1710.  
  1711.  
  1712. ----
  1713.  
  1714. Keymaster 2013/07/17(Wed)01:54 No. 51992
  1715. File 137402604163.png - (968.29KB , 800x1119 , a surprise this update.png ) [iqdb] [google]
  1716. 51992
  1717. After a moment I glance over at Iku, and notice the slight bags under her eyes, marring her otherwise perfect features. "Are you all right?" I ask in concern, "You seem a bit tired. Is there anything that I can do for you?"
  1718.  
  1719. Iku laughs a little bit and shakes her head. "No, no. I actually feel a lot better than I have in a long while. I'm sort of here to recharge a little bit, you understand?"
  1720.  
  1721. "Difficult job?" I ask, "It must be hard to simultaneously dance and predict the weather."
  1722.  
  1723. Iku rolls her eyes. "Are you ever going to let that go?"
  1724.  
  1725. "Never," I declare, "I shall hang on to that mental image with all of the strength that I can muster." After a moment in which Iku just gives me a sardonic look, I shrug. "Honestly though, are you here to get away from the stress of the job?"
  1726.  
  1727. "Yes, but not my official job." Iku sighs and takes a long drink of wine. "You see, I'm sort of a caretaker for a young lady of high standing. One with very little in the way of impulse control."
  1728.  
  1729. I cringe. "All of a sudden I appreciate my job a whole lot more."
  1730.  
  1731. "Yeah," Iku says, slumping a little in soul-deep weariness. "Can you imagine what I go through in the run of a day?"
  1732.  
  1733. "Given the large number of rich young ladies that come through here? Yes. Yes, I can." I nod sympathetically to Iku. "The difference is that they go away at the end of the weekend."
  1734.  
  1735. "What a luxury that would be." Iku sighs happily at the thought. "But no; I have to keep one eye on her every day of the week because her parents are a) too busy, and b) have absolutely no idea how to deal with her. I'm the lucky one that has to pick up after her." Iku stares at me. "Imagine having to be the guardian, in everything but name, of someone like that."
  1736.  
  1737. "I refuse," I say flatly, "The nightmares would haunt me forever."
  1738.  
  1739. "I used to sleep well," Iku says wearily. "Now I wake up every morning wondering what she'll do this time. And she used to be so cute when she was little, too."
  1740.  
  1741. "And then puberty happened," I say knowingly, having seen it before.
  1742.  
  1743. "Don't remind me," Iku grumbles. "The worst part? She's managed to make herself a friend, and spends a lot of time visiting her in a place where the locals know how to deal with that kind of mass-destruction. Unfortunately, while it means she's out of my hair for a couple of days a week, it means she's even MORE wound up when she comes back!" Iku shakes her head in dismay.
  1744.  
  1745. "...How do you deal with it?" I wonder. At least my job has vacation days.
  1746.  
  1747. Iku stares at me. "Alcohol. Lots of it."
  1748.  
  1749. "It seems to be a regional pastime wherever you're from," I note, glancing around at the rather high amount of alcohol consumption going on. "And speaking of which... where DO all of you hail from, anyway?"
  1750.  
  1751. Iku raises an eyebrow. "Why Alfred, don't tell me you're prying!"
  1752.  
  1753. I sigh in defeat. "Normally I wouldn't but in this case... I really can't help it, Miss Iku. I mean, everything about your party just screams out at me. You're a pleasant group of young ladies, but I must say, you're very eccentric as well." I sigh. "Honestly, this is going to nag at me. I just keep wondering where in Japan you could have come from."
  1754.  
  1755. "You're very observant," Iku comments, before pausing to glance at the others. "...Then again, I suppose strong powers of perception aren't necessary here. I suppose we do seem a tad... off."
  1756.  
  1757. "To say the least," I say dryly. "So I apologize if I seem a bit brash, Miss Iku, but curiosity overwhelms me. Where are all of you from?"
  1758.  
  1759. Iku just smiles beautifully. "It's a secret," she says simply.
  1760.  
  1761. I sigh deeply, conceding defeat. "As you wish, Miss Iku. I suppose I'll just chalk this up to yet another experience I had while on the job." I glance over at her. "Though if you are truly desperate for a dance, might I suggest Miss Hina?"
  1762.  
  1763. Iku blinks at me, then glances over to where Hina is still putting on her little performance, spinning in place gracefully and serenely. "I can dance better than that," Iku asserts.
  1764.  
  1765. "I have no doubt," I say with a smile, and excuse myself.
  1766.  
  1767. The snack trays are getting low again. I pick up a couple and move to take them to the kitchen for yet another refill. I don't know how these women maintain their figure with as much as they're eating (and drinking). Maybe they get a lot of exercise? Speaking of drinking, off to the side I notice Yumeko desperately trying to cut Suika off from the alcohol. She isn't having a lot of luck. Shaking my head, I pass though the doorway and make my way to the kitchen.
  1768.  
  1769. (http://www.rainymood.com/)
  1770.  
  1771. Halfway there, I hear the telephone ring.
  1772.  
  1773. I run the rest of the way, skidding to a halt and picking up the phone. "Hello?!" I nearly shout into the receiver, heart suddenly pounding in my chest.
  1774.  
  1775. "Alfred!" Eric's voice comes from the receiver, and I sag in relief. "Good to hear your voice, old man! How are things there?"
  1776.  
  1777. "I am surrounded by strange young women, they're depleting our supply of alcohol and the storm of the century is raging outside," I report. "Honestly Eric, I'm going to have to request a bonus after all of this."
  1778.  
  1779. "And you'll get a bigger one than you think," Eric replies, sounding awkward. "You see... it seems that we won't be attending this weekend. Neither the rest of the staff, nor the, ah, male 'escorts' that were hired."
  1780.  
  1781. For a moment, the kitchen is silent save for the sound of rain and thunder. After a moment, I manage to form words again. One word, specifically.
  1782.  
  1783. "What." I say numbly.
  1784.  
  1785. "I'm sorry, Alfred," Eric sighs, sounding truly wretched. "I tried, old man, I really did. God knows I hate this more than I can say. I've NEVER missed an engagement! Never! But it's the storm. The main road is impassable; the bridge is out! And the secondary road has been plain washed away. We're going to have to hire someone to lay some dirt down just to get to the mansion!"
  1786.  
  1787. "...We're blocked off?" I say, still feeling numb.
  1788.  
  1789. "I'm sorry," Eric says again. "The weather slowed us down terribly, and by the time we got close to the mansion, there was no way in! I got as near as a mile away, and then the roads just...ended." He sighs, clearly unhappy. "I eventually found a land line at the hotel we're staying at. The weather is playing merry hell with my cellular service. Knew I should have changed companies..."
  1790.  
  1791. "Wait, how are we supposed to get out?!" I demand, suddenly very worried.
  1792.  
  1793. "We'll pay someone to lay down some dirt so cars can get through, but not until the storm is over," Eric tells me, speaking in his 'calm down' voice. His level tone makes me take a deep breath and try to get my bearings. "Worst case scenario, we'll have you escort the ladies out by boat. But in any case, we can't do anything until the storm breaks."
  1794.  
  1795. "And it's likely to last all weekend," I say, rubbing my aching temples.
  1796.  
  1797. "I'm so sorry," Eric says again, sounding miserable. "Alfred, I know this will be tough on you, but I need you to try to keep those ladies entertained. Look at it as a learning experience. And I'll make sure you're properly reimbursed for your efforts, all right?"
  1798.  
  1799. "Have I a choice in the matter?" I sigh.
  1800.  
  1801. "None, really," Eric admits. "Stay strong, Alfred. I'll check in sometime tomorrow. Good luck."
  1802.  
  1803. "Thank you," I say quietly, and set down the receiver.
  1804.  
  1805. Damn.
  1806.  
  1807. Damn, damn, damn!
  1808.  
  1809. I KNEW this would happen! What the hell am I supposed to tell Yukari?! I just stand there for a moment, feeling overwhelmed, before I take a deep breath to calm myself. Chin up. Stiff upper lip. Just as Eric taught me. I can do this. I HAVE to do this.
  1810.  
  1811. Quietly, I refill the snack trays and take them back out to the lounge. Glancing around, I see that the guests are coping with things fairly well. Iku and Hina are laughing as they dance together, Iku mimicking Hina's movements in her own flamboyant way. Yumeko is desperately trying to pry a bottle away from Suika, to no avail. Eiki and Kasen are conversing, while Hatate is leaning one the piano as Lyrica plays. Parsee sits by herself, drinking quietly as she stares out at the ever-darkening sky.
  1812.  
  1813. And I? I am about to go disappoint my customer. God help me.
  1814.  
  1815. Quietly, I make my way to the first room of the east wing's second floor; Yukari's room. "Miss Yukari?" I call out, knocking. The door yawns open in response; she must not have bothered to even latch it. Shrugging, I step inside, wanting to get this over with. I open my mouth to call her name again.
  1816.  
  1817.  
  1818.  
  1819.  
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  1826.  
  1827.  
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  1830.  
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  1847.  
  1848.  
  1849.  
  1850.  
  1851.  
  1852.  
  1853.  
  1854.  
  1855. And then I see the blood.
  1856.  
  1857.  
  1858.  
  1859.  
  1860. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKtJQqzro9w&list=PL663AAD73DC8B43F5)
  1861.  
  1862.  
  1863.  
  1864.  
  1865.  
  1866.  
  1867. Blood.
  1868.  
  1869.  
  1870. So much blood,
  1871.  
  1872. Blood on the bed, soaking it though.
  1873.  
  1874. Blood so thick, it looks like it's pooling rather than soaking into the mattress.
  1875.  
  1876. Blood splattered on the carpet, on the walls.
  1877.  
  1878. Purple bits of cloth and a few blonde hairs are mixed in, already turning the same shade of crimson. Her hat, almost obscenely, is placed primly in the center of the bloodstain. It's already turning red as it soaks the blood up.
  1879.  
  1880. So much blood.
  1881.  
  1882. Of Yukari's body, there is no sign.
  1883.  
  1884. But there is a message.
  1885.  
  1886. On the wall, written in drying, red (so red) blood is a single, dripping word:
  1887.  
  1888. DELICIOUS
  1889.  
  1890.  
  1891.  
  1892.  
  1893. [ ] React.
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