|Louise & Yuka K.|
| Book: Be Careful What|
You Wish For, Chapter 21
|Written by||Vanishing Trooper|
Be Careful What
You Wish For
Be Careful What
You Wish For
Happy Holidays Guys~!
"So..." I muttered as I stepped out of the designated 'Servant's Carriage' along with Ruukoto.
"Fuga..." The robot-maid responded as I looked upward to take in where we now were. I recalled when Matilda told me back in the Charming Fairy Inn that the Valliere family, Louise's family, were one of the more prominent noble families in the country of Tristain.
"Hurm..." I mutter as I looked back in the direction we came from. We had already arrived at the Valliere estate proper...after travelling roughly several miles into the lands that the family owned. Additionally, if Ruukoto's geographic mapping was accurate, they apparently had a mountain in their back yard as well. It seemed that 'prominent' was a tad bit of an understatement in that regard.
"Finally home..." Louise muttered tiredly as she exited the carriage that she and her sister were using. We arrived here mid-afternoon, around a little past two o'clock local time according to Ruukoto, due to Eleanore 'insisting' that we reach our destination as soon as possible. So it came to pass that we rode the carriages non-stop since we first set off this morning.
"Stop complaining, little runt." The equally tired voice of the elder Valliere sister came from within the carriage as she pushed her sister out of the way. Why both of them seem so tired even though they just sat inside the carriage all morning was something I had no answer to.
"Agwah!" My master yelped out, almost tripping over herself. Thankfully, her sense of balance was far superior now than it was when she first summoned me so she was able to recover without much effort. Eleanore snorted before glaring at me an Ruukoto.
"Well what are you two waiting for? Help the coachmen get our luggages off the carriages!" The blonde demanded, her tone of voice reflecting the irritated expression she had. I gave a thoughtful hum before turning to Ruukoto.
"Fuga." Ruukoto stated without looking at me before walking off to unload the sisters' things. The gynoid assured me that it will take care of the luggage so long as I made sure Louise was kept safe. Ruukoto did not wait for my reply since it should already know that I would do what it asked with or without its request.
"I thought it was odd to hear carriages arriving at this time of day. I expected the two of you to arrive later today, not that I'm complaining of course." A warm feminine voice stated from atop the stairs that led to the estate's main entrance. I turned to the source, just in time to see a pink blur flash past my peripheral vision.
"Chii-nee-sama~!" Louise called out to the source of the voice as she ran up the stairs two steps at a time before embracing the person on top of the stairs, the action nearly sending them both backwards from the way Louise practically glomped the woman from the front.
"Oh...my...please settle down my little Louise." The woman my master referred to as 'Chii-nee-sama' said with a small pained smile as she seemed to struggle to be able to get her breath back after my master's sudden embrace. Upon closer inspection, the resemblance between her and Louise was striking. The woman looked like Louise with with Yuyuko's body...the wierd thing was, her presence reminded me of the ghost princess' as well.
A certain gentle kindess, a tinge of sadness and regret, and a small amount of acceptance and resignation.
That woman was dying and she knew it...I blinked at the realization and looked between her and my master. Does Louise know about this? I turned to Eleanore and saw that she had a distant and melancholic expression as she watched her sisters. I gave another thoughtful hum before walking up to the blonde Valliere sister.
"What do you want now?" Eleanore asked me, her voice and expression showing annoyance rather than what it previously did.
"Does Louise know?" I asked her as I gave a glace at Ruukoto, who was almost done unloading the luggage.
"What in the Founder's name are you talking about now?" The elder sister hissed at me with a narrowed glare.
"About the status of your other sister's illness. Does Louise know about her deteriorating health?" I asked and suddenly felt Eleanore's magic spike to a level I had never sensed in any human other than Louise herself. I noticed Ruukoto turn to us, likely sensing what I did as well. I gave the gynoid a short shake of my head to indicate that it was nothing to worry about.
"How do you know of Cattleya's illness? Are you a healer now too?" Eleanore asked curtly through gritted teeth. I glanced back at Louise and her other sister, who's proper name is Cattleya apparently, and saw that they were too busy embracing each other to notice us yet.
"No. I figured it out since she feels like someone who has resigned to their fate. As if she has...accepted what is to come." I stated simply while continuing to look at the young human woman who seemed like she was trying to make the most of what time she had left.
"And how, pray tell, could you notice such a thing?" The blonde asked me, obviously uncomfortable with the current subject matter.
"I have...experience...in dealing with such people." I said solemnly before looking back at Eleanore. I was reminded of the days when Marisa's old age was finally getting to her. When the Ordinary Witch of Gensokyo challenged me to one last Danmaku battle. When she thanked me for that and for Master Spark before saying that she was going to return all the books she took before catching up with Reimu on the other side of the Sanzu. The same resignation I saw in that old woman's face was similiar to what I was seeing in Cattleya.
She was going to die soon...and she knew that there was nothing that could stop it.
"Whatever you do, don't tell Louise..." Eleanore responded seriously while looking deep into my eyes.
"Why? Doesn't she deserve to know? Louise seems to be rather fond of her." I asked and pointed out while tilting my head to the two sisters.
"And that is exactly why you can't tell her! Do you have any idea what that news will do to that little runt? It would destroy her!" Eleanore hissed at me with as much contempt as she could muster. I looked up at the open sky when I understood what she meant by that. Considering just how happy Louise was about seeing her sister again, I assumed that she was one of the few...and likely one of the strongest emotional anchors that my master had in the past. If Cattleya were to die...
"I...see. I apologize if I angered you with my presumptions." I said, lowering my gaze back to the blonde. Eleanore was still glaring at me but it was with somewhat less intensity than before.
"Oh my! Big Sister Eleanore, I'm so glad that you finally have a new lover! I was worried that you were still hung up on the Earl of Burgandi. I am happy that you are able to find another man who would love you." Cattleya suddenly exclaimed, making the two of us turn to the young woman. Since she called Eleanore 'Big Sister', it would seem that she was the eldest, Cattleya was the middle, and Louise was the youngest. The thought was quickly shelved back into my mind because of what said woman had just stated.
There was a long and mildly uncomfortable silence that permeated the immediate area. Louise, Eleanore, and myself looked at Cattleya like faries staring straight at a Master Spark. Cattleya was smiling at us seemingly without a care in the world...and I was almost certain that I had just heard Ruukoto give out a snort of amusement.
"What?" All three of us said in unison to the middle sister.
"Yes? Is something wrong?" Cattleya asked with a completely innocent smile. Definitely getting Yuyuko vibes from this woman...
"So...the two of you are not lovers then?" Cattleya asked once more as we walked into the main entrance hall of the estate. Several servants who were going about their work all froze and turned to us when they heard the woman's words.
"No. We. Are. Most. Definitely. Not. Dear. Sister." Eleanore stated as attempted to glare at each servant that looked our way with each word she spoke. The servants took the hint very quickly and continued their work, seemingly ignoring us. Although I saw a few maids whispering among themselves when they thought we were no longer looking.
"Well you always do try your best to deny your true feelings until it was too late sister..." Cattleya mused before turning to me, completely ignoring the embarrassed glare that the eldest sister was giving her.
"Are you sure that you and my elder sister do not have a romantic relationship?" The middle sister asked me with pleading eyes, as if the action would make her apparent wish for me and Eleanore to be lovers come true.
"Quite certain. I apologize if our proximity earlier led you to that misunderstanding. Please know that your older sister and I have no such relationship and that she was merely clarifying something for me at the time." I stated diplomatically. Eleanore seemed to approve of my explanation and gave me a curt nod in response.
I glanced back to where Louise was being led by the shoulders by Ruukoto as my master trembled while muttering to herself about a possible relationship between me and Eleanore developing and what such a relationship would entail. I turned back to Cattleya and saw that she was staring at me intently right in the eyes. Is that supposed to be a way to check if someone was telling the truth which their family developed? All three sisters have done so to me at some point. Cattleya sighed before she started to look a little depressed.
"Huu~...and I was certain that the way you and Eleanore were looking at each other was a sign. My maidenly senses were wrong?" The pink-haired woman sulked while pouting at the floor. I was about to tell her that such a thing was not something to be depressed about when Eleanore beat me to the proverbial punch.
"When were they ever right in the first place? You've been reading too many of those trashy romance novels again, havent you?" The eldest sister accused while pinching her younger sister's right ear. The action made Cattleya grimace before she started helplessly flailing her in arms about in a display of pure slapstick idiocy that I would normally expect from Cirno's friends. Really, what was with these sisters?
I looked at my master and saw that she was sporting a small smile. Nothing like the triumphant smile she would show whenever she accomplished something great during her training nor was it the radiant smile she showed back when she first flew with me or whenever she talks about her beloved princess. It was a different smile, but I found it hard to dislike it all the same.
"Please let Chii-nee-sama go, Big Sis Eleanore. She and Yuka haven't even been properly introduced yet." Louise pointed out, making her sisters stop their silliness and regard the youngest sister. Both Eleanore and Cattleya looked between their younger sister and myself.
"Well...it's only proper for a noble. Since we already know each other, Cattleya should be the only one who should introduce herself." Eleanore begrudgingly admitted while maneuvering her younger sister in front of me before finally letting go of her hear. Cattleya pouted at her sister while rubbing the affected auditory organ before turning to me and giving me a perfect curtsy.
"It is a pleasure to meet you, I am Cattleya Yvette La Baume Le Blanc de La Valliere. I am the second daughter of the Duke and Duchess Valliere and I am...an Earth mage." Cattleya introduced herself but I raised a brow when she hesitated and glanced away from me for a second when she mentioned her elemental affinity. I paid the odd gesture no mind and took off my hat and placed it over my chest before giving the woman a nod and a warm smile.
"Salutations to you Lady Cattleya Yvette La Baume Le Blanc de La Valliere. I am Yuka Kazami. As I have already explained to Lady Eleanore Albertine Le Blanc De La Blois De La Valliere, I am the summoned familiar if your younger sister, Louise Francoise Le Blanc de La Valliere. I may seem inexperienced, but please rest assured that I will do all I can to take care of your sister." I introduced myself with the same smile as before...but it faltered somewhat when I saw a glint in Cattleya's eyes.
"Eleanore?" She asked me, referencing the last part of my introduction.
"No...I meant Louise, my master." I clarified and saw Cattleya nod at my words, the glint in her eyes not diminishing one bit.
"So, you plan on courting Louise instead...hmmm..." The middle sister muttered while seemingly deep in thought.
"That's not what I-" I started but was once again interrupted by Eleanore.
"Ca~tt~le~ya!" The eldest sister called out to her younger sister in an annoyed and sinister manner. Cattleya sensed the impending danger and immediately deemed it wise to use me as a makeshift shield.
"I was only thinking about your futures, I swear!" The middle sister exclaimed from behind me.
"Ahem!" A very loud and very deliberate cough caught all of our attentions which thankfully ended the silliness that was transpiring once again. We all turned to the source of the cough and saw Karin in full regal attire befitting her status as Duchess. It was the very first time I had seen the woman without her armor and it became very obvious where Louise and her sisters got their looks from. Even though she was supposed to be a middle-aged woman and was a veteran of several battles, she had no markings on her that would imply either assumption. Beside her was an equally well-dressed middle aged man who had blonde hair and a rather striking mustache. His eyes were as hard as steel and were as sharp as Youmu's swords despite one of them being behind a rather stylish monocle. He gave out a low hum as he looked at the scene unfolding before him. I was assuming that this was Duke Valliere. Husband to Karin and father to Louise and her sisters.
Both of them regarded their children and myself with cold eyes, as if trying to think of the best way to punish us all for what we were doing in the middle of the entrance hall of the estate. I glanced around and the servants who were working nearby were all gone. I blinked when I realized that Ruukoto had disappeared as well. So much for staying beside its mistress no matter what. The pregnant silence stayed that way until someone finally broke it to try to explain what was happening in the most reasonable way possible. That person was Louise...
"It's not what it looks like!" And true to form, she broke the silence with one of her trademark denials. I couldn't help but sigh and rub my forehead with my left hand after putting my hat back on. Louise alone was enough for me to deal with. Add her sisters to the mix along with her parents...and it was quickly looking like this trip to my master's home was going to be quite memorable indeed.
"And where were you when Louise's parents arrived?" I asked Ruukoto as we walked the halls of the estate with Louise leading us to her room. After the Duke and the Duchess dismissed us, saying that they will deal with their daughters at a later time, Louise suggested that we head to her room first for some rest and a chance for her to brace herself before having to face her parents again. Cattleya went off to check on her apparent collection of animals while Eleanore left for her room stating that she needed some rest after all the stress she had to put up with.
"Fuga." The gynoid responded simply as it effortlessly carried all three large suitcases that Louise brought with her. I wondered why my master had to pack so many things since she was only headed back home. One would expect that she would have more than ample supplies in her own home which meant that she needn't bring so much stuff in the first place. I shook my head as I dismissed the thought since it wasn't really my problem anyway. It wasn't like I was the one carrying all of it.
"Quite..." I responded to Ruukoto. Apparently, the gynoid made a logical judgement call to avoid any unnecessary confrontations between itself and Louise's family considering the reaction that Karin apparently had to it. It reasoned that there was no need for it to remain present at the time since I was already with Louise and was more than capable of dealing with any and all threats that came her way. It also pointed out that said threats were almost nonexistent considering our location. That and the fact that one of the other servants beckoned it to get out of sight lest the Duke and-or the Duchess direct their attention to it instead and getting a lecture on the importance of privacy when it came to listening in on family matters.
"Do I even want to know?" Louise piped up with a question after hearing my exchange with her gynoid. I considered the question before shaking my head.
"No need to worry about it. Ruukoto was just making excuses as to why it conveniently went out of sight when your parents made their presence known." I stated, making the gynoid in question look at me with what very nearly looked like a flat glare.
"Fuga." It said curtly, reasoning out that its explanations were not excuses.
"Regardless, we have more important things to worry about. Is this your room?" I dismissed the subject matter before asking Louise after we stopped in front of a particular set of double doors.
"Yes...it has been so long..." Louise muttered while tentatively stroking the fine wooden finish on the door, as if she was scared of opening it for whatever reason.
"Fuga?" Ruukoto asked. It was wondering if Louise was going to enter the room or if she had stopped at the wrong door or something.
"Just...give me a moment." My master answered, apparently understanding to a degree what her gynoid was trying to say. Ruukoto had told me that Louise had somehow managed to develop her own personal means to be able to derive whatever message it was trying to convey up to a point. She managed to do it simply based on the context of what they were doing or talking about at the time and drawing rough conclusions from that. Not bad considering Ruukoto only speaks one word as far as she could understand and there was next to no intonation or inflection to that word either.
"Are you scared? Don't be." I asked Louise before reassuring her by placing my hand on her shoulder. My master let out a sigh before putting the hand she was using to touch the door over the hand on her shoulder.
"I know..." She whispered before letting go and putting both her hands on the two door handles. I let go of her shoulder just as she pushed the doors open. I blinked to adjust to the sudden change in lighting because of the afternoon sun shining through the windows.
"Well...it is certainly larger than your room in the academy." I commented as I took in my master's bedroom. Her bed alone was nearly three times larger than the one at the academy. She could practically fit everyone in her little circle of friends on it and would still have room left over. The rest of the furniture was rather standard but were of much higher quality befitting the whole mansion motif. I did try to ignore that her room was actually larger than my own room in Mugenkan. Then again, I did not need so much room anyway and I could instantly remodel the mansion in an instant if I wished it.
I was most certainly not feeling inferior in any way to Louise simply because of the size difference between our bedrooms. To imply such a thing would be ridiculous. Really.
"Fuga." Ruukoto commented as it put down Louise's luggage on the floor. Yes, it did look like a room that a little princess might use. I heard my master gasp before running up to a certain part of the room that had a single chair. On said chair was what looked like some sort of cartoonishly made plush of a lion. The way that the lion's face and mane were made, the head looked like some sort of strange looking sunflower. Wait, do they even have lions in this realm?
"Oh~! How I've missed you Emilio~" Louise gushed as she picked up the stuffed animal and gave it a most generous embrace. Wait...
"Emilio? Why would you name a toy Emilio?" I asked my master with a raised brow. I was immediately met with a glare from Louise while trying to hide her toy from my gaze.
"Emilio is not a toy! Emilio is my dearest friend and my closest confidant when I was young! Isn't that right Emilio? My dear sweet Emi~lio~" Louise defended the honor of her toy before looking at it longingly.
"Fuga." I had to physically stop myself from snorting when Ruukoto suddenly deadpanned 'Cara Mia' in reference to how Louise was seemingly treating 'Emilio' like some sort of long lost lover. Further public displays of affection between Louise and Emilio were interrupted by a knock on the door.
"Excuse me, Young Mistress Louise? The Master and the Mistress requests your presence in the main lounge." The muffled voice of an old man called out from the other side of the door. I heard Louise take in a few deep breaths before finally responding, her grip on Emilio tightening as she spoke.
"Please tell them that I will be there after a change of clothes. Thank you Gerard." My master stated with as much conviction as she could.
"If I may, young mistress. It warms my heart to see you once again in good health and spirit. I wish you luck in your discussion with the Master and Mistress and know that I for one am very happy that you are home." The old man called Gerard said before all was silent once more.
"Gerard was my parents' first servant. He watched me and my big sisters grow up. He's like the grandfather we never met...one of the few commoners that I can honestly say that I love." Louise mused as she stared at Emilio and stroked the toy's head. She quietly walked over to the seat where she found the lion and gently placed it back on its chair.
"I'll be right back. Guard the room for me, alright?" She asked the lion before patting it on the head and turning to us.
"Are you ready?" I asked Louise as she gave a few more deep breaths before taking off her hat, along with the Founder's Prayer Book, as well as the rest of her clothes.
"Probably not..." Louise said with an uncertain smile as she took off her shirt. I made a thoughtful hum while looking down on the floor.
"Fuga?" Ruukoto asked Louise as it gestured toward the luggage she had placed on the floor. The gynoid was asking if it should bring out some clothes for Louise to use.
"No. If mother and father are asking for me, I need to wear something from that wardrobe. Keep it simple but tasteful please." Louise responded, once again getting the gist of what her gynoid was trying to say, before pointing to one of the three wardrobes around her room. Why there were three, I had no clue but there were more immediate concerns to worry about.
"Louise, look at me." I said as I walked up to my master and put my hands on her bare shoulders, not caring about her current state of undress. My master looked up at me with a worried expression. I can feel her body trembling under my touch.
"Yuka...I'm scared...nothing good ever happens when mother and father call me for a talk." Louise stated in a subdued voice. She flinched and I felt her tense up when I tightened my grip on her shoulders.
"Don't forget." I said to her in a serious tone. She blinked at me a few times, apparently not understanding my words.
"You have been through much, master. You have summoned the strongest youkai in Gensokyo. You have thwarted the most infamous thief in Tristain. You have saved a prince from certain death. You discovered and took into your service a machine that was created to save an entire world. You prevented a monster from killing countless people and saved an entire village. You are the inheritor of the magic that was wielded by the founder of your civilization" I reminded her of everything she had accomplished since she had summoned me. My expression softened as I reminded her of other things.
"You have made many friends, true ones at that. You have learned the value of the magic that you possess instead of treating it as your failure. You have been trained and even befriended my former student. You have taken the interest of the Border Youkai as well as the Shield of the Eastern Wonderland. You have gained many allies from various walks of life." I told her with a warm smile. Louise looked at me for another moment before giving out a smile of her own.
"Never forget what you have accomplished and those who are more than willing to help you along your way. You are strong Louise...and you are most certainly not alone." I concluded just as Louise's shoulders start to hitch up, tears starting to form in my master's eyes.
"Thank you..." Was all she said as she wiped the tears before placing her hands over mine.
"Louise, mother and father are looking for you." Cattleya's voice suddenly called out from the hallway. Before we could properly react, the door swung open as Eleanore started speaking as well.
"Come on little runt. It is a bad idea to keep mother and father waiting so-" Eleanore was not able to say what she was planning on saying because she and Cattleya were staring at us with glazed eyes.
"Ummm..." Louise started to say, her face getting redder and redder by the second.
"What the nine hells are you doing to my sister?" Eleanore suddenly screamed out at us.
Yes...definitely going to be a long visit...
"Hmmm..." I hummed as I leaned on the wall in front of the door that lead to Louise's bedroom. I stared at the door as I listened to the muffled sounds of Louise and her sisters as they assisted my master in getting dressed. After her sisters saw me and Louise in a rather...compromising position...Eleanore and Cattleya deemed it sound to kick me out of the room for the duration of Louise's preparations.
Because of how quickly the events transpired, I had left my parasol and my hat inside Louise's room. I just hoped that Louise or Ruukoto were able to put them out of the way. Eleanore was more than happy to be able to kick me out of her sister's room without much discussion. However, Cattleya continued to inexplicably channel Yuyuko by chastising me in a way that somewhat missed the point that her older sister was trying to make.
'None of that until you two are married or until you learn to properly lock the door.' Were Cattleya's exact words, much to the continued chagrin of her sisters and myself. Ruukoto was more than content in merely observing the proceedings...in fact, I had the sneaking suspicion that the gynoid was actually recording the whole affair. The doors finally opened and I was immediately greeted with a scowling Eleanore.
"You know as well as I do that there was nothing inappropriate going on between Louise and myself when you and Cattleya barged into the room." I immediately stated as I folded my arms and leaned back. Eleanore's brow and lips twitched a few times as she continued to glare right at me.
"And what kind of conclusion do you think I could even make after seeing the two of you in that state?" She asked the rhetorical question...to which I decided to give an answer to anyway for some reason.
"That a grown man was in the verge of taking advantage of your youngest sister in the middle of her own bedroom." I stated with a curt nod. The blonde Valliere sister was about to make another retort but the middle sister managed to save me the headache...by creating a brand new one.
"Louise is already late as it is, you two can continue your not-flirting later. The growing sexual tension between the two of you will still be there after Louise talks to mother and father." Cattleya pointed out as she exited the room and finally giving me a good view of what Louise chose to wear.
My master was wearing a light green short sleeved one piece dress that had slightly puffed up shoulders. I raised a brow when I noticed that it even had an emerald brooch in the middle of her chest that resembled a Forget-Me-Not...which was ironic since that flower is supposed to be blue instead of red. The whole thing actually reminded me of a Victorian era dress in a way.
Simple yet tasteful indeed...
My musings on how my master looked wearing something other than her uniform was interrupted by her sisters.
"All that talk you keep doing is starting to make me think that you're the one interested in the little runt's familiar instead." The eldest sister accused her younger sister with a pointed finger. Said younger sister blinked a few times before looking up and down my frame. Oh, please no...
"Well I can't say that I dislike him. Yuka seems to take good care of Louise and she seems to trust him implicitly as well." Cattleya commented which caused her sister to gape at her response.
"Can we please just...go." Louise cut through the growing sense of tension in the hallway. Her older sisters looked at her worried expression before clearing their throats.
"Thank you...for coming to fetch me." Louise muttered as she glanced between her sisters.
"Of course Louise." Cattleya immediately responded before leaning down and kissing Louise on her cheek.
"Well we have to make sure that you don't make things any worse than they already are." Eleanore stated after a few moments before putting her hand on top of Louise's head and giving it a light rub.
I observed the three Valliere sisters and had an epiphany. Both Cattleya and Eleanore had qualities that Louise already possessed, though much more pronounced. It seemed that her two sisters displayed two different extremes as to how Louise could develop as she gets older. Another way of looking at it was that Louise's current self was partly an amalgamation of her older sisters' personalities.
I noticed Ruukoto walk out of the room before closing the door behind it and decided it was time to get this started.
"That dress suits you well, Louise. Are you ready?" I complimented her attire before asking her that question again. Louise blushed at my comment before looking at the four of us surrounding her and smiling.
"I am now..." My master stated before we all went off to the main lounge of the estate where Karin and here husband were waiting for us. We entered the lounge which was a large European-esque sitting room with several fine couches and chairs laid out in addition to carpets, paintings, a fire place. Basically everything one would expect to find in this kind of place.
"And? What is your excuse for taking this long to answer our summons?" Karin immediately went out on the offensive as soon as we stepped into the room. I saw the Duke and Duchess sitting on two separate chairs that were in front of the fire place but were facing away from it. Karin was practically glaring swords at her youngest daughter while her husband was more than content in simply sipping whatever drink he had in the cup in his hand whilst keeping a keen eye on me.
I sensed all three of the sisters tense up at the words of their mother, even Cattleya who seemed to be the most unflappable among them. Seeing my master cower in front of her mother's glare, I maneuvered myself to get between Louise and Karin's line of sight. The former manticore knight commander changed her target from her youngest daughter to me when she realized what I was doing. I simply gave her a warm smile before speaking.
"Considering that it has been quite some time since my master had last come home, she wished to be as presentable as she could before her parents. Her older sisters were assisting her in that regard and it seems that it took longer than they had anticipated. I apologize in Louise's behalf." I stated before glancing back to the three sisters who were giving me varied looks of surprise. Cattleya looked very worried, Eleanore had a full-on 'what the hell are you doing?' look, and Louise just had an embarrassed but still surprised expression.
"I was not asking you 'familiar'." Karin responded to my words in pretty much the way I expected her to, with potent hostility. I was anticipating her to tell me to get out of her sight or something but it was her husband who spoke next instead.
"And who exactly are you? My wife told me that Louise had summoned a most unusual familiar. I was not expecting this kind of 'unusual' though." The Duke stated nonchalantly with a raised brow before putting his cup down and steepling his fingers in front of him with his elbows propped up on the arms of his chair. I rasied a brow at how casually the Duke was speaking to me, though I assumed that he was merely sizing me up. I let out a sigh and decided to introduce myself to Louise's father with a smile.
"Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Yuka Kazami. I was summoned by your youngest daughter during the Springtime Familiar Summoning Ritual at the Tristain Magic Academy. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance Duke Valliere." I stated with a smile and a curt bow. I heard and saw the man chuckle softly while Karin merely narrowed her eyes at me.
"That is Duke Eugene Francois De Lacroix De La Valliere to you, Yuka Kazami. I have indeed heard that you were quite the familiar and I would appreciate it if you would tell me 'who exactly' are you. Or should the question be 'what exactly' are you?" The man stated in the same casual voice but his words carried much more weight than it did before. It seems that Louise's father was just as interesting as her mother is.
"I see...I am starting to see where exactly Louise gets her insightful mind." I responded before giving out a soft chuckle. I had expected Eugene to be insulted by my words and actions but he still looked at me with a keen but almost amused expression. I glanced at Karin and saw that her expression had not budged an inch. I looked back to the three sisters and saw that Eleanore and Cattleya were staring at me with confused expressions while Louise just looked at me with a sheepish smile. I glanced at Ruukoto, our eyes met, and it simply shrugged at me. I shook my head and turned back to Eugene.
"Allow me to reintroduce myself then." I stated with more confidence while folding my arms and leaning back before giving Eugene a sinister grin.
"My name is Yuka Kazami. I am from a realm known as Gensokyo. Don't be surprised if you have never heard of it before, I have it in good authority that I am very far away from home. I am what is known as a youkai, the general term for fantastical creatures that have mostly humanoid features. My trademark ability is the unmatched ability to be able to manipulate flowers." I stated with confidence. My statement was met with varying degrees of wonder and confusion by those who still did not know me.
"The ability to manipulate flowers?" Eugene repeated the last part of my statement in question form as he stroked his mustache with his right hand.
"Indeed. I am capable of making flowers bloom and controlling them without any restrictions to size, number, or species." I clarified and allowed the idea to sink in. As I partially anticipated, the first one to react was Eleanore.
"Wait...was that what you ment when you said that you can make any flower bloom?" The blonde woman asked me with an uncertain accusatory tone of voice.
"Quite." Was all I said as I showed her my right palm. She gasped in shock when a small glowing scarlet flower suddenly bloomed out of nowhere.
"What flower is that?" Louise asked me in wonder since this was the very first time that I showed this flower to humans outside of Gensokyo.
"This is called a Fire Flower. Imbuned by the world with properties that can grant one a temporary ability of creating and controlling fire if they know how to use it." I explained right before the flower wilted back into my hand before disappearing as I closed the hand into a fist.
"You're...not...human..." Eleanore finally let out while staring right at me.
"Yes. As I said, I am a youkai. I am the only youkai that can manipulate flowers as far as I know. Although, I have branched out to other fields of power during my long life as Madame Valliere should already know." I said as I turned back to Karin who was still looking at me intently. I was expecting Eugene or Eleanore to follow up with more questions or for Cattleya to start asking questions of her own.
"How old are you and what is the extent of your true power?" I supposed that I really should have expected Karin to be the one to speak instead.
"Last I checked, I've been around for a little over a millennia-and-a-half." I admitted with a shrug, eliciting a narrowed gaze from Karin, a raised brow from Eugene, a gasp from Cattleya...
"That's impossible! You're lying! He's lying isn't he?" And that response from Eleanore before the woman asked Louise about it.
"It's true..." My master simply stated with conscious effort. I was not sure if she was embarrassed or frightened that the truth about me was being revealed to her family. She was certainly did not look like she was used to this kind of attention from them though. I decided to save my master further questioning from her elder sister by giving my own answer.
"Nothing is impossible. Nothing is certain. That is one of the few constant things in my life that I can be sure of." I told the blonde woman who shook her head before walking up to me and poking her finger at my chest.
"That can't be right! How can you live for so long?" She exclaimed the rather obvious question...which should already have an equally obvious answer.
"I am not human, remember?" I pointed out, making Eleanore flinch and back away.
"You are a monster then? A beast in human form? Hm?" Eugene picked up the discussion before raising a brow at something.
"Yes daughter? You look like you have something you want to say." Eugene asked as he tilted his head a bit to the side to take a better look at Louise. My master flinched and looked at her father before glancing at me. She opened her mouth a few times, trying to say something, but she would always just close it again with a grimace.
"Speak up Louise! If you have something to add then say it! Where did all that conviction from that time go? Was it all just foolhardy courage born from fear? Are you truly that weak?" Karin suddenly raised her voice at her daughter. Louise visibly started trembling at each accusation that her mother shot at her while shaking her head as if trying to deny them. The last question was the straw that broke the oni's back though as my master suddenly stepped forward past her sisters and myself to look right at her mother.
"No! I...Yuka is..." Louise started but immediately started to stall as soon as she realized what she was doing. She gulped before slowly backing away from the serious gazes that both of her parents were giving her. She suddenly flinched when her back bumped into me. I prevented any further panic by placing my hands on her shoulders like I have done many times before and whispered the words that she should already know.
You are not weak. You are not alone.
"Yuka...Yuka is not a monster...not anymore." Louise stated to her parents, no longer trying to back away. Karin did not give away any sort of reaction, though Eugene raised one of his brows at the sudden change in her daughter's behavior.
"Allow me to elaborate in my master's behalf...if you wish, I can tell you as much as I can. Although, I would suggest all of you to sit down for it will be quite the tale to tell..." I said with a smile before gesturing to the available seats to Louise and her sisters.
"I am certain that it will be..." The Duke mused before calling to Gerard for more tea.
"Let me get this straight..." Eleanore muttered before putting down the cup of tea she was nursing on the table. I had been telling Louise's family about myself for the past while now, mostly about my life in Gensokyo during the time when Reimu and Marisa were young and the incidents I was involved in at the time. I had since moved on to the days after Louise had summoned me and some of the things we've gotten into.
"Fouquet 'The Crumbling Dirt', the infamous thief touted to be one of the best current generation Earth Mages in Halkeginia is the tutor that Louise wrote home about?" The blonde Valliere sister asked from my side. For some odd reason, Eleanore and I were sitting together in one of the couches while Louise and Cattleya were sitting across us on another couch. Karin was to our side while Eugene was to side of the other couch. This...arrangement...was due to Cattleya 'insisting' that she sit beside Louise because she missed her younger sister so much.
"Yes, originally our plan was simply to take back the Staff of Destruction, expose the identity of Fouquet, catch the thief, return to the academy, return the Staff of Destruction, and call it a day. Of course, things did not go to plan...especially after we found out the motive behind her actions." I explained before taking a sip of my tea. I had to admit, their butler Gerard makes rather potent Earl Grey Tea. Dare I say that he even surpasses Siesta in preparing this particular blend of tea. I approve.
"Motive? What kind of motive?" The middle sister was the one who asked the question for a change. Unlike Eleanore and myself, Cattleya was not drinking tea. Instead, she had her arms around Louise and was cuddling my master like she was a doll or some sort of small animal. Louise on her part, did not seem to mind the attention at all. Which made sense since Cattleya seemed to be her favorite family member. Cattleya looked down at her younger sister when she started fidgeting under her grasp.
"Matilda is not a bad person...she was just forced to try to steal the Staff of Destruction." Louise piped up, getting everyone's attention.
"Matilda?" Cattleya asked her sister.
"Matilda is the augmented version of Fouquet's real name, which is Mathilda. We did that to hide her identity from the ones who had her try to steal the Staff of Destruction." I provided but it seems that my response was only met with more questions.
"And? Why would you try to protect a thief anyway? And who were the ones that hired the thief?" Eleanore picked up the questioning once more. I sighed before taking another sip from my tea. During the entire discussion, neither Karin nor Eugene asked any questions at all. Almost all the questions asked were from Eleanore with Cattleya asking a scant few every now and then. It almost felt like an interview between me and the eldest sister.
"That...is actually a bit more complicated. After we heard the whole story from Matilda, we managed to stumble into something much larger than a high-profile heist of an ancient artifact." I vaguely provided with a dismissive wave. I held up a hand before Eleanore could start complaining about how my statement did not answer any of the questions she asked me.
"As much as I would like to provide more...specific information about all this, nearly all incidents we became involved in after that attempted heist were in face connected to each other in some way. And unfortunately, Princess Henrietta de Tristain and Prince Wales Tudor asked us nicely not to disclose too much information...at least until the conference at Romalia has been completed. Especially after what happened at Tarbes..." I explained before taking another sip of my tea while looking right at Karin to see if she would react in any way or not. However, I noticed something odd about how Louise's sisters were looking at me...with Cattleya confirming my observation.
"Tarbes? That's a village near the boarder right? What does that have to do with anything?" Cattleya asked with a tilted head. Louise flinched in her grasp before my master and I looked at each other then at Karin, who had her eyes closed. I glanced at Eugene who gave a slight shake of his head, his eyes were also closed. It seems that the Duke knew about the Tarbes incident but...
"You never told your other daughters." I muttered, which made Louise gape at her mother in surprise.
"But...mother...you didn't tell Big Sis Eleanore and Chii-nee-sama?" Louise asked Karin before looking back to me and shaking her head slowly in disbelief. Karin lowered her cup of tea in a very deliberately slow manner before opening her eyes and looking right at her youngest daughter.
"Because they did not need to know." She said simply but I was curious as to the reasoning behind that. Was it simply a bother to tell Eleanore and Cattleya about the incident? Was she somehow trying to protect her daughters in her own odd way? Or was it something else entirely? I hummed and glanced at my master. Louise looked unsure as to how to respond to her mother's words. After all, the way Karin spoke held a sense of finality that did not really leave room for further discussion.
I saw Cattleya look worriedly between her mother and her younger sister before tightening her embrace on Louise a bit. Our eyes met and I almost felt Cattleya silently ask me what was going on. I answered by shrugging my shoulders. I had asked everyone that we knew, who were there at that time of course, to keep quiet about our involvement in the battle for Tarbes for Louise's sake. I knew that there will be rumors and the like flying around all over the place because of all the soldiers in the field, but I wanted to at least prevent any accurate accounts of our involvement from getting out.
Although I did kind of thought that Karin would at least tell her family about it though.
"What do you mean by that mother? What happened at Tarbes?" Eleanore, apparently quite the curious one, could not help but ask Karin about it.
"Because you did not need to know." Karin repeated her earlier statement but directed it to Eleanore this time. The eldest sister recoiled at the bluntness of her mother's words as if struck by something. She looked at her two younger sisters, then to their father, then to me. She was still unconsciously trying to find an answer even though she might not realize it herself.
There were no further discussions about that topic for the rest of the afternoon.
It was already late in the evening when I stepped out the double-doors that led out to the estate's vast garden. It was a very intricate and well maintained garden to say the least. I even expected a hedge maze to be there. Louise said that there used to be one when she was young, but it was...removed by Karin during one incident where she had gotten herself lost there. Apparently, the servants tried to look for her but were unable to get to her in a timely manner. Karin simply blew away the maze when Cattleya fainted from worry for her younger sister and developed a fever because of it.
That incident apparently happened years ago, long before Louise was admitted to the Tristain Magic Academy, so no trace of the hedge maze remained. That made me think about something though...
Cattleya was already ill enough to faint and contract a fever simply from worry even back then. Just how long has she been that physically weak?
Speaking of...Louise had decided to sleep in Cattleya's room for the evening, making sure to bring along Emilio with her. Ruukoto requested to stay with Louise and Cattleya to make sure that its mistress would be safe. Louise had accepted the gynoid's request with a suspicious eye but accepted it all the same. I had been the one to ask Ruukoto to stay with those two after I heard about my master's desire to spend the night with her favorite sibling. I asked Ruukoto to try to perform whatever biological scans that it could on the middle sister as discreetly as possible. Normally, I wouldn't have bothered with such a thing but Eleanore's words earlier that day made me cautious.
If Cattleya was already ill since childhood, then that means that she had been living with that for years. If the Valliere family had not been able to cure her yet even after all this time then...
Do you have any idea what that news will do to that little runt? It would destroy her!
"How troublesome..." I mutter to no one in particular as I savored the cool night air. I had left my hat and my parasol in Louise's room for the night so I merely put my hands in my pockets as I gazed up at the two moons of this realm.
"Considering what seems to have been going on in the little runt's life since you arrived, troublesome doesn't seem to begin to describe it." I heard Eleanore's trademark snarking voice from behind me. I raised a brow at her distance from me. She was only a few feet away from me yet I did not even sense her approach me.
"I am impressed Eleanore Albertine Le Blanc De La Blois De La Valliere. Not many beings can sneak up on me." I stated honestly to the blonde woman. It was true though. Short of Nitori deliberately sneaking up on me using her Optical Camouflage thingies in the middle of the Youkai Mountain, I can usually sense that something is approaching me so long as I was not focused on someone else.
"I learned the value of anonymity and stealth from an early age." Eleanore said with a dismissive wave of her hand as she walked up to stand by my side. She was wearing a light blue robe that covered most of her body as well as a purple shawl on her shoulders. She was even still wearing her glasses too.
"Couldn't sleep?" I asked her the obvious question.
"Look who's talking." She shot back while keeping her gaze at the gardens.
"I just did not want to be asked silly questions again..." I muttered as I recalled the 'conversation' I had with my subconscious during my little nap.
"What?" Eleanore looked at me with a confused expression after having been caught off guard by my words.
"Don't think about it too hard, you'll get a headache." I commented with a shrug of my shoulders. Eleanore scoffed at me before turning back to the garden.
"You wish to know what your sister has really been up to lately." I said as a statement since we both knew that it was true.
"I want to know what that little runt has been getting herself caught up in." Eleanore rephrased the statement but it was still pretty much meant the same thing.
"You are worried about your little sister." I gave another clear statement, though this time I had a small smirk on my lips. I was not sure if she could see my expression in the darkness or if it was just her general annoyance at me but Eleanore scowled at me all the same. Unlike humans, I was clearly able to see her expression even in the dark.
"Considering what your tales seem to suggest, if they are true, then the little runt has more things to be worried about than anyone else!" Eleanore hissed at me with much impotent anger as she could manage. Of course, I noted that she never denied being worried about her sister despite her harsh words to me. I decided that it would be less of an annoyance if I did not point that out to her. Although...
"Is it so important for you to be able to find out the truth?" I asked the eldest sister in honest curiosity. I heard her huff at me before she folded her arms over her modest chest.
"The Pursuit of Truth is something any scholar should have the desire for." Eleanore answered confidently as if quoting a passage in a book or something.
"And? Will anything change even if you find out? What will you do if you do find out? What is the truth even worth to you Eleanore?" I questioned and saw that she was about to speak but hesitated. I would imagine that if Derf were here, the sword would likely go on and give the blonde a lecture about what it means to pursue the truth and the consequences of what you may find out.
"You are a very irritating person you know that?" Eleanore finally settled with simply complaining. I chuckled and was about to respond when I heard a crackling sound in my ear. I had forgotten that the 'Hey-Listen' was still there.
'Fuga!' Ruukoto's sudden report made me stiffen and my eyes go wide. The eldest sister seemed to have noticed and gave me a questioning look.
"What is-" She was about to ask when I beat her to the punch.
"Cattleya just collapsed in her room and is coughing up blood." I answered but Eleanore was already running back into the building before I even finished my sentence.
Just what exactly are those humans to you?
I shook off the question my subconscious asked me and followed Eleanore to Cattleya's room.
Author's Notes: Yes, it's in the bottom this time. As most if not all of you should already know, Duke Valliere's full name was never revealed. The most that I was able to get was in the Karin SS Novels wherein her partner 'Centurion' was most likely the Duke himself. Since that is the case, I decided to give him a name instead. His name is based on French Painter Eugene Delacroix.