The Scarlet Devil Mansion is Now Hiring
The day of Youmu's final exam arrived.
She had stressed about it for the entire two weeks leading up to it, but Sakuya never revealed what it would be until the day before. The apprenticeship had gone well, or at least according to Youmu, but somehow she didn't feel at all prepared for the final exam Sakuya conjured up.
The mansion would be hosting a dinner party, and most of Gensokyo's big names were invited. Including Yuyuko. Youmu was dying to see her again, but wasn't sure whether her presence would throw her off her game at the critical moment.
Youmu would have to take care of everything, including the prep, the cleaning, the cooking, serving the guests, and anything else. And, of course, Sakuya would be "unavailable" during the entire day. If Youmu could handle the entire event while maintaining her composure as a maid of the Scarlet Devil Mansion, she would pass.
True to her word, Sakuya had mysteriously vanished the day of the exam. Despite her anxiety, Youmu didn't have any problems during the first half of the day. The preparations for the feast were simple enough since no one was watching.
That time went by quickly though, and before long Youmu had to wake Remilia up. She wished to get up earlier than usual, so Youmu had to wake her in person.
Sakuya had trained her in this, naturally. At the proper time Youmu softly entered Remilia's room and turned the gas lights on. Remilia didn't wake up just from that, so Youmu sat down by her bedside and gently rocked her. After tossing and turning, Remilia spun around and grabbed Youmu's arm.
"Good morning, mistress. The guests should start arriving in a few hours for your dinner party."
Remilia grumbled and rubbed her eyes, releasing Youmu's arm. Youmu helped her sit up in her king-sized bed. Considering Remilia's petite frame, it was a strange sight to behold. From there, Youmu walked Remilia through her normal morning routine. Sakuya was usually the one to do this, but now it was Youmu's responsibility.
Ninety minutes later the door knocker echoed throughout the mansion, signaling the arrival of the first guest. It caught Youmu off guard since it was half an hour earlier than she expected. But she fixed her uniform, strode up to the front door and was ready to do everything Sakuya had trained her to do. She turned the knob and prepared to greet her first guest.
Her words stuck in her mouth.
The guest wore a long silk dress—black, with a pattern of gears in gray—that stretched down to her high heels. Her shoulders were bare except for the dress's straps, and her white locks of hair framed her face in a way such that Youmu almost didn't recognize who she was looking at.
"I, uh, I don't...Sakuya..?"
Sakuya chuckled. "I'll let that one slide. Want to take your one do-over?"
Youmu cleared her throat. "Ahem, welcome to the Scarlet Devil Mansion, Miss Izayoi. Allow me to show you to our lounge."
It felt kind of strange leading Sakuya, but Youmu was grateful for the little "practice run." They went to the lounge, and Sakuya walked over and sat next to Remilia on one of the couches. Youmu stood next to the door and checked the fireplace to make sure the fire was still going.
"Ah, my dear friend, how long has it been?" Remilia asked.
Sakuya smirked. "Years, I'm sure. Must have been that time in Venice, if I recall."
"Oh no, I do remember a more recent scuffle with that blonde vampire in Scotland. You know the one, she slipped through your fingers and ran off to the east."
"Ran off? Last time I checked she was trapped in a school." Sakuya replied. The two of them went on like this for a little bit. Youmu had absolutely no idea if they were doing this show for her benefit, or if they were actually reminiscing. But before too long, the knocker rang again and Youmu had to greet the guests for real.
"Welcome to the Scarlet Devil Mansion, Miss Hakurei."
Reimu's reaction was to snort. "Wow, alright Sakuya Junior. Food's free, right?"
Youmu smiled. "Of course. Allow me to show you to the lounge."
The guests slowly filed in after that. Alice showed up next, then Yukari and her familiars, the satori and some of her pets, Sanae, even Rumia.
And finally, of course, Yuyuko.
"Welcome to the Scarlet-"
"Youmu~" Yuyuko tackled Youmu to the ground in a bear hug. Youmu was being squeezed so tight she could hardly breath. "Youmu, I missed you!"
Even though she knew she was being tested, Youmu couldn't resist hugging Yuyuko back. "So have I. I'm glad to see you, but, er, if you wouldn't mind..."
It took about another minute for Yuyuko to actually release Youmu and let her stand on her own two feet.
"Please allow me to show you the results of my efforts, Lady Yuyuko." Youmu said, trying to put on the proper demeanor.
"You're so cute, Youmu~" Yuyuko said, draping her arms over Youmu's shoulders. Youmu sighed, and showed Yuyuko into the mansion anyways. Hopefully Sakuya wouldn't penalize her for this...she wasn't responsible for the actions of the guests, was she?
Yuyuko wasn't as much of a complication as Youmu expected, but she certainly drew attention to herself and Youmu. Which was the opposite of what maids were supposed to do, so as much as it pained Youmu to leave, she bowed and exited the lounge.
A few more guests arrived, and Youmu decided it was time to announce dinner was ready. The truth was it had been ready for at least an hour and time-locked to remain fresh, but that detail wasn't necessary to share. Only Sakuya knew it, and maybe Remilia.
Youmu brought a triangle into the lounge, and rang it once to gather attention. Once everyone quieted, she bowed. "Dinner is ready, please make your way to the dining room."
Reimu practically shoved Youmu over in her haste to get there. The others were more subtle, and once everyone was situated Youmu brought out the food. She couldn't do it with as much showmanship as Sakuya could, but she did her best.
The hardest part was pouring drinks. It was the one task that can go horribly wrong. A simple bump or shove and a guest's clothes could be stained, ruining their entire night. Youmu went around and poured everyone the drink of their choosing, being meticulous not to spill a single drop.
It occurred to Youmu after about twenty minutes she had no idea what the guests were talking about. She was so focused on making sure everyone had what they wanted, the conversations turned to white noise. This turned out to be her first major mistake.
"Youmu!" Remilia said sharply. Youmu spun towards Remilia. "I do not enjoy repeating myself."
Youmu bowed low. "Please forgive me, mistress."
Remilia held up her empty wine glass, and Youmu walked as quickly as she could to refill it. She glanced at Sakuya as she did so, but she seemed not to be paying any attention. It would be foolish for Youmu to assume that, though.
Once the guests finished dinner, Youmu announced that dessert would be served in ten minutes. The guests seemed very satisfied as Youmu cleaned up their dishes and removed the leftovers from the table, returning it to a clean state.
For dessert Youmu prepared a two-layer chocolate and vanilla cake. The smaller top layer was laced with blood while the larger bottom was not. Youmu brought it out, and cut everyone (who wanted one) a piece. Youmu had prepared alternate desserts for those who did not want cake, and placed a tray of butter cookies and a tray of muffins on the table as well.
Reimu seemed to gobble up some of everything. Youmu had never pegged her as a glutton, but she was certainly acting like one. The others were a little more refined, but Youmu couldn't help but notice only Remilia, Yukari and Satori ate elegantly like noblewomen.
Once everyone finished their dessert, Remilia stood up from the table and tapped her spoon against her glass a few times.
"Thank you for coming, everyone," she said. "It feels wrong to pay so little attention to our guest of honor, so I believe it appropriate to finally speak on it." Remilia turned to Youmu, and gestured for her to step up. Youmu didn't know what to do but comply. "Youmu here is in an apprenticeship with Sakuya, as you all know by now. This feast acts as her final examination. So, Sakuya, how did she do?"
Sakuya rose from her seat. "Konpaku Youmu," she said and turned towards her. "Your first day I told you that you would have two hours per day on break. I said this with the full expectation that you would take six."
"But you didn't. You did exactly what I said, and have been continuously working for nearly your entire time here. I gave you task lists assuming you would complete about half, but every time you completed all of them, or only missed one or two. I gave you textbooks assuming they would go unread, and yet again I was wrong."
Youmu's mouth hung open. "Wait, wait, I..I was working too hard?"
"I wouldn't say that," Sakuya said. "You made plenty of mistakes tonight. They are mistakes that only I likely noticed, but they were mistakes all the same. Your stance never stuck and you always had to readjust. The food was imperfect. You didn't serve the guests in the proper order nor did you properly judge their preferences. And it was clear you were not keeping up with the conversation when Remilia had to repeat herself. You are not even close to reaching your potential."
Sakuya stepped away from her chair and walked around the table towards Youmu and Remilia. Youmu sucked in her breath when Sakuya stepped towards her and placed her hand on Youmu's shoulder.
"That being said, this event was run with all the elegance and charm this mansion demands. You have exceeded all of my expectations, Konpaku Youmu, and there wasn't a chance you would fail today. Congratulations, you pass."
It took a moment for the words to register in Youmu's brain. When they did, she threw away all restraint and embraced Sakuya. The crowd gasped when Sakuya returned it.
"Woo, we're rich!" Exclaimed Yuyuko. The others laughed and started applauding Youmu. She reluctantly let go of Sakuya and turned back to the guests, giving one long bow.
"Here, this is for you," said Sakuya. She pulled from behind her back a present wrapped in black paper with white ribbons. Youmu stared at Sakuya and gingerly accepted it.
"M...may I?" Youmu asked. Sakuya nodded, and she began to undo the wrapping. Inside was a book, the cover simply reading "For Youmu." She flipped through some of the pages. "What is this, exactly?"
Sakuya smiled. "I taught you how to serve in this mansion, but made no effort in teaching you how to serve your master at the Hakugyokuro. I detailed everything you need to know, such as how to clean tatami mats and thinner walls. There are also a few things specific to you that I never got the chance to teach."
Youmu skimmed some of the pages, and then closed the book and bowed. "Thank you," she said. "I...what this means to me, I..."
"I understand," Sakuya said. "And you are always welcome back here, Youmu."
Remilia raised her glass. "I'll drink to that," she said. "Come back soon now, Youmu."
Sakuya handed Youmu a glass, and everyone clinked their glasses in the toast. Youmu beamed.