Note: This is a JP Interlude translated by Comun
Narration: Sei Shounagon, lady writer of the Heian Era. I first met her after she had already quit being Sei Shounagon. She gave away her title, Sei Shounagon, and her magnum opus, The Pillow Book, to allow her deceased empress to rest in peace.
Nagiko: should have nothing left in her, but she still could drive away a shadow of herself, born from misinterpretation. And then... she gained a form of closure, and a modest bond.
She rushed back to the Throne, promising we would meet again. And now she's here in Chaldea.
The scene opens in the library
Murasaki Shikibu: Oh... what are you doing here so late at night, Master? Are you looking for a book to read before turning to bed? If that's the case, do you have any particular genre in mind?
Fujimaru: I was wanting to read Nagiko's / The Pillow Book.
Murasaki Shikibu: ! !
Murasaki runs off
Murasaki Shikibu: Err... let me see... I can't find it in its shelf! It must be borrowed to someone... Ah, f-found it! What could it be doing here? We had a discourteous guest today. They didn't remember to return their book to the shelf after reading. Good gracious.
Fujimaru: (She was reading it herself, wasn't she?)
Murasaki is back
Murasaki Shikibu: Thank you for waiting. There are multiple versions, but the one I recommend is this one. A translation to modern Japanese. It contains editor notes with detailed explanations on each section, making it perfect for beginners. Like with my own The Tale of Genji, there are multiple version from different translators and editors, so one way to enjoy these ancient texts in the present day is to compare versions. Some versions use informal language and slang, making for a very entertaining read, although, I can't say I personally like it. The best option to make the genre not misleading to beginners is... ... Ah. S-sorry! I should have known when to stop ranting. Ahem. That aside, Master, why do you want to read The Pillow Book? Murasaki nods I see. It's about Nagiko... You're interested in what her life in the court was like. Yes, she served an empress in the court. Empress Fujiwara no Teishi...
Fujimaru: What was she like? / Do you know her, Murasaki?
Murasaki Shikibu: ... I do, of course. I served Empress Fujiwara no Shoushi, meaning, although there's a slight gap in our years of service, you can consider me an enemy of Empress Teishi, in terms of social standing. However... I don't believe Empress Shoushi truly saw Empress Teishi as an enemy. And neither do I. Many mourned and lamented Empress Teishi's premature death. Murasaki pauses for a moment Her joyous days as narrated by The Pillow Book are considered to be a mixture of fact and fiction. Even if that's true, I still believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that the beautiful and sagacious Empress Teishi that Sei Shounagon narrates is her truest self. An optimistic and amicable personality rich in wit, and never condescending. A lady like a gorgeous flower. Exactly as I heard described in life.
Murasaki Shikibu: ... ... Ah, that reminds me. I know a story about her.
Narration: One day, during one of her friendly chats with Sei Shounagon, Empress Teishi made unexpected question.
"Shounagon, do you love me?"
Sei Shounagon, trying her best not to freak out in face of this transcendentally unimaginable situation, gives a stuttering answer.
"Ah-I l-lo...l-l-l-l-lov-love you! Being honest here, bhh!"
At that moment, out of nowhere...
"AAAAaaaaaaaaachoo!" They hear a sneeze.
"Oh no, I heard a sneeze. That must mean someone lied just now. This is a sign from the gods telling me I can't let myself be deceived."
She left to her inner chambers before the situation could be fixed. Sei Shounagon was left behind, with tears in her eyes.
"Nooo, I do wuv you, don't weave me, Empwess Teishi! Aboo hoo hoo!"
End of the flashback
Murasaki Shikibu: Huhu... Well, that's the gist of it. She was a lady who loved to jest.
Fujimaru: I can't believe she had THE Nagiko wrapped around her fingers like this... / You embellished that story a little, didn't you?
Murasaki Shikibu: From what I hear, at the time she joined the imperial court, Sei Shounagon was Flashback to Nagiko shy and nervous in the court quiet and reserved... almost like a weak little animal, and the one who awakened her natural talents was no other than Empress Teishi herself(https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EpNsICsVgAAcWP4?format=jpg&name=large).
Fujimaru: How do you change someone into that?
End of flashback
Murasaki Shikibu: That's something you must reach your own conclusion by reading The Pillow Book. Here it is. Take the book. I wish from the bottom of my heart that you find it a good read.
We hear rumbling noises in the distance
Murasaki Shikibu: What...?
Nagiko comes crashing through the library doors
Murasaki Shikibu: AAAAH... My library doors!?
Nagiko stands up
Sei Shounagon: Terrible news, Kaorucchi! Emergency! It's really late at night, and Mast disappeared from their roo...m. Ok... I get what's going on here. You two had a good mood going on here until the third wheel showed up... Pardon my intrusion. Enjoy yourselves.
Nagiko scoots away
Murasaki Shikibu: You're mistaken! M-Master just came to library to borrow a book! Moreover, weren't there any problems that lead you to go look for Master?
Nagiko scoots back to the library
Sei Shounagon: Oh, that's right. Bad news. Terrible news. Things are getting bonkers in the cafeteria! Can you two follow me?
We run to the cafeteria
Fujimaru: What's happening?
Murasaki Shikibu: Shadow Servants?! What happened in this cafeteria?
Sei Shounagon: ... ... A tako-party.
Murasaki Shikibu: Excuse me, what?
Sei Shounagon: Tako-party. Takoyaki party.
Murasaki Shikibu: I, um... sorry, could please tell me everything that happened, in order?
Sei Shounagon: Aye. Our legend starts almost an hour ago.
Tamamo Cat: You clean up after you're done. Cats are nocturnal, so the night is our time to sleep. Although, I also sleep in the afternoon, naturally.
Sei Shounagon: Thanks a bunch! Leave the rest to us humans and take a good nappy-nap, kitty.
Tamamo Cat: Don't treat me like I'm your pet cat! What the hell do you think I am? Ok, I'll leave this rant to another day, because it gets long. I don't want to make you ladies and gentleman stay awake the whole night.
Cat leaves the cafeteria
Sei Shounagon: The house is ours now, folks. Put the octopi on the grill!
Suzuka Gozen: Yes, boss, no need to tell us. I like to do things quantity over quality! Suzuka starts making the takoyaki I got all sorts of ingredients here, but let's start from the classic, the octo.
Jane: Hold on! How come your grill is the only one with devilfish? I'm taking the Western approach to mine☆ Add some cheese, bacon, butter, and BAM!
Sei Shounagon: Whew, that's wild like the West! Is that how they do takoyaki in the U.S.A.?
Jane: In the States? I don't know how they do it, I'm just doing it the healthy way! There's a terrifying curse spread around the universe that makes Servants get fat, but not here in Chaldea! Yeehaw! Oh, do you want some of this, queens?
Medb: No cheese.
Medb: This side of the line is the Celt/Norse area. No cheese allowed. You don't mind that, do you, Scathach?
Scathach-Skadi: C-certainly. It is fine. This is my first time hearing of a "tako-party". I shall make no unreasonable demands. You are quite more knowledgeable of present day culture, Medb, so I leave the matters in your hands.
Sei Shounagon: C'mon, loosen up already! Grill whatever you want, eat whatever you want.
Scathach-Skadi: I-I see. So those are the rules here. Grill whatever I want... Eat whatever I want... Fascinating...
Suzuka Gozen: Yeah, seeing the pair of queens grilling some takoyaki sure is a powerful image... Actually, now that I think about we're also pretty high class.
Sei Shounagon: What's wrong, Rica? Did the cat get your tongue? Get up and put something you want into the grill.
Mandricardo: Nah, I just... I was just trying to get a cup of water. How did I get roped into this?
Sei Shounagon: Really? Meh, that's not a problem! What do you wanna eat first, Rica? Anything you dislike?
Mandricardo: Did you listen to anything I said...? I mean it. I just had dinner. My belly is full. Honest.
Suzuka Gozen: C'mon, it's fine. I read in The Pillow Book that humans have a second stomach just for takoyaki.
Sei Shounagon: Oh yeah, I sure wrote that.
Jane: That's the joke! HAHAHA!
Nagiko, Suzuka, and Jane laugh
Mandricardo: (Ok... I know they're not bad people, but I really wanna get out of here, fast...!)
Nagiko starts narrating from outside of the scene
Sei Shounagon: Well, you already got the gist of this part. Everyone was enjoying a fun party at first.
Murasaki Shikibu: Wait a second.
Sei Shounagon: Hm?
Murasaki Shikibu: This "tako-party" you spoke of... was free for anyone to join?
Sei Shounagon: Yeah. I was just talking with Paisen and Jane-Jane, we thought it be a nice idea to make some ugly food. While we're setting things up in the kitchen, the queen duo came along. Ah, are you asking because you wanted in on the party? Just kidding, I know that's not your thing!
Murasaki's caption curse activates
Caption: Nagiko tried to play dumb, but she's actually thinking "Kaorucchi wanted to go to the tako-party. I'll definitely invite her to the next one. But it'd suck if she came in wearing that. She'll be livid her dress started to smell like oil."
Murasaki Shikibu: Uugh...!
Sei Shounagon: What's wrong, Kaorucchi?
Murasaki Shikibu: Sorry, it was n-nothing. Just a sudden Taizan Caption Festival.
Sei Shounagon: Ok, I'm glad it's nothing bad! I'm continuing the story, okay? Anyways, everyone partied hard, until we noticed we were out of ingredients.
The flashback resumes
Jane: Huh? I'm out of cheese and bacon... No sweets either.
Medb: Then you go get more in the kitchen, Nagiko.
Sei Shounagon: Buhahahaha, what are you to order me around? A queen?
Medb: Exactly, a queen. I want ice creams for desert.
Scathach-Skadi: ... (can't speak because she burned her tongue)
Mandricardo: Ah...! Th-then I'm going! I just gotta grab random stuff from the fridge, right?
Sei Shounagon: It's fine, you can keep eating yours, Rica. I mean, looks there's still a whole pile of takoyaki on your plate.
Suzuka Gozen: And here's some more.
Sei Shounagon: Ok, I'll be right back! Takoyaki ingredients and ice cream, takoyaki ingredients and ice cream...
Mandricardo: Aaaaah, my chance to sneak away...
Scene cuts to Nagiko in the kitchen, searching for the ingredients
Sei Shounagon: Show yourself, wherever you are... oh yeah. Gosh, raw meat looks gross in big chunks like this. It's amazing Emiyan has the guts to slice this stuff. Do we have anything sweet? Fruits?
???: Oh? Look what we have here. You look troubled, Na-gi-ko!
Sei Shounagon: I know this voice...!
Mephistopheles: Yup, correct answer! Everyone's favorite idol, Hans Cristian Andersen!
Sei Shounagon: Hey, Mephy. What are you doing here?
Mephistopheles: N-N! Well played, you saw right through me! I can't ever resist this poor treatment! I'm starting to think this girl is the one I'm the least compatible with.
Sei Shounagon: Hey, we're doing a tako-party right. Want in, Mephy?
Mephistopheles: I mustn't. I'm a devil. As a devil, I won't be buying any silly friendship pretenses even on a summer sale, understood? Oh, but I might do it on a Christmas sale! Because it's in my nature to accumulate presents!
Sei Shounagon: Seriously, Mephy? You must have had such a lonely childhood... But, it doesn't matter, you're an adult now! Anything you want for Christmas?
Mephistopheles: Nothing, really. And I never had a childhood, so you have nothing to worry about! But I must tell. I've been in this little corner of the kitchen the whole time, observing, doing squats. And in my observations, Nagiko, I could infer that you were looking for some sort of food ingredient.
Sei Shounagon: Oh, you could tell? It's not anything specific.
Mephistopheles: Ta-dah! Here's jiang! This soy you see in my hands is an alluring product obtained through routes I'm not allowed to disclose! Believe it or not, one bite in the morning can keep you awake the whole day, and one bite in the evening can make you sleep the whole night! It can heal fatigue, remove stress, and induce poisoning! And it comes in the form of the most mystic chocolate! According to the package, it's still a prototype model:, not guaranteed to be properly digestible!
Sei Shounagon: Woohoo, you rock, Mephy! I love chocolate. It's vaguely nostalgic, though I don't what it takes me back to.
Mephistopheles: ... ... Hey, are you sure? It might go BOMB inside your mouth? It might not?
Sei Shounagon: Seriously? I've seen that happen in a cooking manga.
Mephistopheles: Ah, ok. Sure, whatever, take it away from me. I'm going back to my corner.
Sei Shounagon: Yaaay, thanks, Mephy! Let's go out to buy clothes together one day!
End of flashback
Fujimaru: You ate the chocolate?
Sei Shounagon: Yup, it was delicious.
Murasaki Shikibu: That's not the point. We're saying have being more suspicious of it.
Sei Shounagon: Wahahahahaha! I got so used to getting chocolate from the Candy Granny that I got careless! But here's the bad part. I got back to party bringing the jiang chocolate, we made takoyaki with it, and everyone ate. We all loved it, so it ran out pretty fast. But not too long after we ate it all, we started to feel sorta dizzy, and this black fumes started fuming out of our bodies...
Murasaki Shikibu: And these Shadow Servants were born from these fumes...? ! !
Sei Shounagon: Crap, they found us! If it's a fight you want, a fight you'll get! Bring it on, babey!
The Mandricardo sillhouette reveals himself to be the normal Mandricardo
Mandricardo: Wait, hold on! I'm me. The real guy.
Sei Shounagon: W-what? Rica? Didn't you turn dark back there?
Mandricardo: I, uh... I didn't eat any of the weird takoyaki. I was pretending to eat. Sliding them in my shirt, like this.
Murasaki Shikibu: In your shirt...
Mandricardo: Then I sorta just... failed to escape, so I stayed there, watching. No one noticed me there...
Fujimaru: You blended in...
Sei Shounagon: Why weren't you eating, Rica? You dislike takoyaki?
Mandricardo: N-no, I'm definitely fine with takoyaki. I just feel out of place with that loud crowd...
Sei Shounagon: Oh, I see. Hummmm...
Mandricardo: Ah, no, it's, uh, not really your fault!
Murasaki Shikibu: I have an important question, King Mandricardo. Do you still have one of the aforementioned takoyaki?
Mandricardo: Oh, yeah. Mandricardo looks for it in his shirt It's still here. There you have it.
Fujimaru: You figured something out, Murasaki?
Murasaki Shikibu: It's indeed not to be trusted... I can feel ill-intended magical energy in it. ... ... One bite heals fatigue, and removes stress. This is mere conjecture, but I believe the aforementioned chocolate might be a special spiritual drug that separates you from your stress by giving the stress a physical form. The stress you all unknowingly accumulated attached itself to the ill-intended magical energy, manifesting as a sub-species of Shadow Servant. Therefore, I may name them Stress Servants!
Fujimaru: Stress / Servants...
Sei Shounagon: Your names have no creativity... I like that in you, Kaorucchi!
Murasaki Shikibu: I, uh... Thank you... One side note about my theory. It reasonably explains you're completely fine despite having supposedly eaten one of the takoyaki.
Sei Shounagon: Huh? Was that a compliment? Nah, I guess it isn't.
Murasaki Shikibu: There's just one problem with it! Assuming they're true manifestations of stress, facing them is akin to facing the private matters of each person. We could be prying to into very personal subjects relating to them, and we must question the morality of-
Mandricardo: Enough exposition. They noticed us.
Scathach-Skadi: ... ...
Murasaki Shikibu: Goddess Skadi...!
Two more Skadis appear
Scathach-Skadi A: Ah... aAh... It'S hOt.
Murasaki Shikibu: Pardon...?
Scathach-Skadi A: ChAlDeA hAs ToO mAnY hOt ThInGs.
Scathach-Skadi B: AgReEd.
Scathach-Skadi C: AgReEd.
Fujimaru: Is that / Skadi's inner voice?!
Mandricardo: No, Master. I don't think it's that serious.
Scathach-Skadi B: WhY mAkE tHe BaTh So HoT?
Scathach-Skadi C: WhY yAkIsObA mUsT bE mAdE wItH bOiLiNg WaTeR?
Scathach-Skadi A: AaH... i CaN't HaNdLe ThE hEaT. CaN tHeY nOt SeE tHe FoRmS oF gRaCe ThAt CaN oNlY Be FoUnD iN tHe CoLd Of ThE hArSh WiNtEr?
Scathach-Skadi B: AgReEd.
Scathach-Skadi C: AgReEd.
Sei Shounagon: Agreed.
Murasaki Shikibu: I-I won't deny it, but I'd appreciate if you could save this conversation for another time!
Sei Shounagon: Ah, my bad. I replied on impulse. But since the cause of this is that chocolate, you don't need to think too hard to figure out that that's my fault, huh?
Mandricardo: ... ... I know we gotta put a stop to them, but I feel like it's a bad idea to duke it out here in the cafeteria. Master, can you go ahead to the Simulator room with the other Servants, and wait for me there? I'll lure them in.
Sei Shounagon: Y-you trying to die alone, Rica?
Mandricardo: Dying's not in my plans, no. Trust me... I can make this work.
Fujimaru: Rica... / Go for it!
Mandricardo: Yes, boss. I got this. The rest is up to you.
Murasaki Shikibu: We appreciate it! We're leaving to the Simulator room!
Sei Shounagon: Break a leg, Rica! I gotta take responsibility for my actions and those melancholies' asses! Kicking off the operation!
Sei Shounagon: Jane-Jane, wake up. You too, Paisen.
Jane: Hm... What's that? I conked out?
Suzuka stands up
Suzuka Gozen: What time is it? I feel like I took a super nap.
Mandricardo: Looks like their main bodies were unconscious. I can't see anything wrong with them. Guess we got nothing to worry about.
Sei Shounagon: Boooo. The chocolate got all hard and crunchy.
Mandricardo: Eh, it happens. Don't let it get to you. Not that I'm one to talk...
Sei Shounagon: Rest assured, Rica! I'll make sure that in the next one will stick to normally edible food!
Mandricardo: ... Next one?
Sei Shounagon: A more dignified tako-tea:, with just the three of us... Rica, Kaorucchi, and me! Just 3 people isn't a loud crowd, so it'd be much better for you, Rica! Wahaha!
Mandricardo: (... I don't think that I'll make that much of difference, with the loudest one still with us...)
Sei Shounagon: You wanna say something! What is it, Mandricardo?
Mandricardo: I'm... looking forward to the party...
Medb: Ugh, bloody hell... I doze off and woke up with a weird scar on my face. C'mon, wake up, Scathach. We should take a bath on our way ba...ck...?
Skadi is smiling and sparkling
Scathach-Skadi: Certainly. I cannot tell why, but I feel reborn. A feeling of satisfaction covers every inch of my body... Are these... the effects of the tako-party? Excellent!
Murasaki Shikibu: I believe you're mistaken...!
Sei Shounagon: Oh, don't sweat it. Everyone could relieve the stress of their daily lives. All's well that it ends well, right?
Murasaki Shikibu: You're, once again, being unreasonable... But I agree. All's well that it ends well.
Sei Shounagon: Ok, guys, case closed! One more day wrapping up on a happy ending!
Scene cuts to the hallway
Murasaki Shikibu: Good night, Master. Rest well, since I'm sure you're tired after all this. You too, Nagiko... Why don't you take at least the night to rest?
Sei Shounagon: Tahaha. If I feel like it.
Murasaki Shikibu: Oh, please...
Sei Shounagon: O-kay... Big favor, Mast. I know how late it is, but... please help me clean up the cafeteria!
Fujimaru: Yeah, sure.
Sei Shounagon: Woohoo, we're DONE! Claps, claps! Sorry for dragging you into this mess. After all that happened, I felt it won't be too nice to force everyone to help. Not that it matters with me making you do it. Wahaha!
Fujimaru: It's fine. / This is nothing.
Sei Shounagon: There it is... Your catchphrase. Gee, Mast, anyone can tell how tired you are. You know? I know. Like it's my place to talk, when I'm giving you more work!
Fujimaru: Nagiko, honest question... / don't ever feel depressed?
Sei Shounagon: Oh, why? Where did that come from, Mast?
Fujimaru: Because I know you're ...
Sei Shounagon: ... Good grief. That reminds me, I caught you borrowing some weird book in the library tonight. Yeah, you got it right. I'd lying if I said I was always feeling well. But it's not how you're thinking. Before I can feel depressed, I remind myself I want to be always sparkling! Hey, don't laugh. I'm being serious here. Uh, lemme explain what I mean by sparkling... It's basically... ... Yeah, you know what, Mast? I was hoping I could see her again in the Throne of Heroes, but she wasn’t there. She just wasn't... I think. I'm sure that now, nah, through all these 1000 years, she's been as far way from here as she could possibly be. In the eternal paradise 10 trillions lands away from us. And she might take peeks at us, say "how charming it is", and laugh. You see the deep shit I'm in? I'd hate if she caught me in a random moment of weakness. And all I can do about it is to never say I'm down. I need to be looking fine whenever she decides to check up on me, and to stay eye-catching so she can easily find me wherever I am. I can't write more of The Pillow Book now, but I still gotta let her know how emotional this world is, so for that, I need to be always sparkling. ... The end. Wait, where's the punchline? Gosh, how embarrassin', me just trying to meme myself at the end!
Fujimaru: (Is there anything I can...)
Fujimaru: (do for Nagiko?)
Screen fades to black
Fujimaru: (No, there's nothing...)
Sei Shounagon: ...
Sei Shounagon: HWACCHA!
Nagiko kicks Fujimaru
Sei Shounagon: What're you getting all emo for? Well, but... to be honest, I think about this sometimes. If, hypothetically, I stumbled somewhere along my way, would I be able to stand up and keep moving forward again? If my body started gradually losing its heat, like I woke up from the dream, and the color faded from everywhere I see, I don't feel like I could recover. ... So, like, if you ever get like that, tell me. We can go somewhere you've never been to, see something you've never seen before. Find your own sparkles, things you'll want to tell someone about. Let me believe the world is beautiful no matter where you go. I'm sure you can do it. ... Hm... Tbh, I'm still not sure I understand how the relationship between Master and Servant's supposed to go... Am I being weird?
Fujimaru: That was a really great advice...
Sei Shounagon: ... Hehehe, ok. Nice!
Sei Shounagon: AAAH, we lost track of the time. Tomorrow's gonna be a rough day if we don't hurry to bed. I'll line up some chairs and sleep here. Good night.
Sei Shounagon: The air conditioner thing here is good, and I can get Emiyan to slap me awake when it's morning. Real nice spot, really. Oh, I had an idea. Line up some chairs for you, too, Mast.
Fujimaru: Me, too?!
Sei Shounagon: Wahaha? Doesn't it sound fun? It's like a pajama party! C'mon, turn off the lights.
Fujimaru: Sure, fine.
Fujimaru: Nice, I guess.