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Ancient Forces Against a Friend's Embrace

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When Ina woke up that morning, she knew what was coming for her. Already, she felt the headache starting to grow, causing her to shake slightly. Today was going to be a hard day to be one of the Ancient Ones' priests.

Even so, she tried to ignore it. She got up like normal and tried to go through her normal routine. Her room was a bit cramped, but the walls were a nice shade of violet that stood as a stark contrast to her plain grey bed sheets. Adorning them were several pictures, some posters she had thought were neat and others fanart that she thought were so cute they deserved a place on her wall. Along one side of the room was her set up for streaming and drawing, a small schedule also upon the desk they sat on.

She knew that she would have to cancel her plans for today, as much as she wished she didn't have to.

Her first priority, however, was getting herself presentable. Grabbing her artist clothes from her closet, Ina quickly got changed while trying to stretch away the aches in her back. Once she was done, she moved into the rest of her apartment - similar in look to her room, though with perhaps far more pictures - and went to the bathroom to clean up.

Some of the tension left her as she started to brush her hair. It was a familiar action that gave her a distraction to the hell she knew awaited her for the rest of the day. Looking in the mirror, she found herself smiling as she worked out some hair knots, being careful to avoid her flaps. She looked almost normal in her reflection, as if nothing was wrong whatsoever (ignoring her shaking hand and the bags under her eyes). She could almost pretend that nothing was wrong today, and she found herself relaxing.

That proved to be a mistake, as the moment her guard dropped, the voices of the Ancients began screaming in her head.

Ina took a sharp, pained intake of breath. She dropped her brush as she clutched her head, falling to the tiled floor. She curled up into a ball, feeling tears starting to fall down her cheeks and beginning to hyperventilate. Her eyes were closed tight and her hands covered her ears, knowing that lights and sounds only made it worse. Her thoughts were getting a bit muddled, but still, she silently prayed. Please stop! Please, leave me alone! I'm not part of your conflicts! I-it hurts! It hurts so much!

To her relief, some of the voices quieted down, and a few even "moved" far enough away to not bother her. While the Ancient Ones for the most part did not think like humans, many comprehended the prayers of their followers better than most would expect. They did their best not to cause unnecessary discomfort to their chosen. Plenty, however, either could not comprehend simple thoughts or would be too busy with something to comply. This group still rang painfully in her head, making her whimper.

The relief of pressure was enough for Ina to act, though. Opening her eyes slowly - wincing at the light that assaulted her - she mouthed an incarnation and watched as The Ancient Ones' Book appeared before her. Carefully, she uncurled herself and removed her hands from her ears, thankful that her apartment complex was always so quiet in the mornings. Her whole body trembling, she quickly turned to a page she knew by heart, wincing at the sound of crinkling paper.

Taking a deep breath, she began to read an incantation in a language no one upon Earth was ever meant to know. It was as awkward as always on her tongue and the pain in her head threatened her concentration, but she managed to keep her voice steady. Once she finished reading, a gust of wind surrounded her, and she could picture her eyes glowing a deep indigo as the magic took form. When the wind stopped, the voices in her head were muffled. They were never entirely gone, even if she used the spell on a good day, but it was manageable again.

Sighing with only slight relief, Ina shakily picked herself off the ground, taking a glance in the mirror. Deciding her hair looked presentable enough and that her teeth would survive one missed brushing, she simply washed her face before going back into her living space. Looking between her couch and armchair - both plush and a light blue-purple - she went over to the latter and collapsed into it, already exhausted today. She was half-tempted to turn something on the TV, but knew that would be a mistake if the voices got loud again.

Rubbing her eyes, Ina cursed herself for her carelessness in the bathroom, though she knew it had not really been her fault. Her relaxing had not caused the voices to grow louder - that had just been unfortunate timing. All that had done was delay her ability to summon The Book. If she had been prepared, she could have saved herself about seven minutes of pain, going by the clock on her phone. Now her aching was going to be worse for a short while.

Of course, she knew that she could have just cast the spell earlier and saved herself a lot of trouble. That would have been the smart thing to do when she first felt the headaches waking up. It took a lot of magical energy, however, making it difficult to do any other magic besides her tentacles without a blood price (something she would never pay). She hated limiting herself like that so early in the day.

Plus... a part of her had hoped it would not be necessary to. On these occasions - usually every few weeks when the Ancient Ones were in turmoil in the Realms Beyond - their cries and flexes of power were felt by all open to their thoughts. This resulted in a constant headache for those mortals, the only mercy being that they ended after a day or two (one could not fault the Ancients for quickly resolving cosmic problems).

However, that was just the best-case scenario, which rarely happened. Most of the time, there would be "crescendos" in the conflict that would cause pain Ina could never have imagined before her priestesshood, just like in the bathroom. They usually lasted about a quarter of or half an hour, leaving the unprepared inconsolable messes of misery where they laid. Sometimes there would only be one, but usually there were two or three, or even more than that.

And the worst part was that the protection she had was temporary. In a few hours it would wear off, and it would be several days before she could cast it again, sacrifices made or not. If there was another spike in the voices after that, she would be left vulnerable. Even this one did not make the pain of the current spike go away entirely. No other spell she had found in the book so far would help, either, even if she had enough magical energy left (though she was still looking in her spare time).

I still don't regret the deal, though, Ina mused tiredly. Even with these awful days, she still loved her position as the Ancient Ones' High-Priestess and all the powers that came with it. They had pulled her from a darker point in her life before it became worse, and it had partly resulted in her gaining new friends by joining Hololive, especially her Genmates. It wasn't intentional that this happened, anyway - just the unfortunate result of conflicts beyond even their control and the way the two realities coincided.

It still hurt badly, though - especially since it meant having to isolate herself from those same friends she had made.

Ignoring the new stinging behind her eyes, Ina fished her phone out of her pocket and brought up her manager's number. With light taps, she wrote, "Hey, Enma. I'm not feeling too well today. Can we cancel my streams for today? I'll make up for it by doing a drawing stream later this week."

She received a reply a few minutes later. "That's alright, Ina. I'll talk with the other managers here to let them know and make an announcement. Hope you feel better soon!"

Her worries about work now handled, Ina steeled herself for the hard part. With shaky hands that were not entirely due to her headache, she brought up the group chat for her Genmates and Kouhais. "Hey guys, I'm sorry to do this, but I'm not feeling great and am taking the day off. I'm sorry about the collab we had scheduled today, Mumei, but we'll draw together later this week, I promise! I'm going to lay down for a while, so I won't be able to respond to you guys. Don't worry about checking on me. I can take care of myself. Hope to talk to you guys tomorrow."

The moment she pressed send, Ina made sure her phone was on silent and tossed it onto the couch, back facing up. She knew that if she saw the messages that a fresh wave of tears would hit her. She could picture the replies being sent: Kiara making a fuss trying to get details of her condition to make sure it wasn't serious, Ame offering to time travel to prevent whatever situation got her feeling sick, the protests of Kronii to that plan that she would not really mean...

She turned her head away from her phone entirely. She longed to talk with them and hear their voices. or even let one of them over to hang out for a while. But if the voices got loud again, especially once the spell wore off... she could not put them or her chat through that. It was her burden to deal with, and she did not want them to see her in such an agonized state. She felt like she would break if she saw their sad and worried faces after an episode, to see their pain at being forced to watch.

She would never let that happen if she could help it.

Taking steady breaths, Ina got up from the armchair. She could tell through the dampening of the spell that the Ancient Ones had calmed down for now, making her thinking almost clear again. Dusting off her clothes from her earlier tumble, she decided to go back into her room and do some off-stream drawing. It would help calm her nerves and distract her from the inevitable pain she knew was coming. It would also mean she wouldn't have to see her phone, tempting her to reach out and make someone suffer with her.

Before she could begin walking there, however, a knock came at her door.

Ina turned to it, raising an eyebrow. She had not invited anyone over today, and she was sure she had no incoming deliveries. Did her friends ignore her reassurance from earlier? Had Sana been out doing something when she texted and had rushed over to check on her? Or was it Ame, having time-traveled to provide her help as quickly as possible? She also knew that Gura and Calli did not live far from there, with at least the Reaper having supernatural speed.

Whoever it was, she had to send them away before things got worse for her again. She went up to the door, thinking through the excuses she could give as to why they could not come in and that she was well enough to make food for herself. She swung open the door, ready to tell them that she did not need help.

Her words died on her lips when she saw who it was. She had to look down, for the person was far shorter than her. She was not greeted by the messy white hair of the Shark, or even the red hair in ponytails of the Rat. Instead, she saw yellow hair with green highlights, under a green and orange dinosaur hoodie she recognized.

"Pikamee?" Ina asked in shock.

"Ina! Ohao!" the kettle-girl replied, smiling widely as usual. "How've you been? It's been a while since we meet in person, yeah?"

"Yeah, it's been a minute," the Priestess said, still trying to process what the other girl was doing here. The two of them had collabed ages ago, and since then they had kept in contact with each other. Schedules and contracts meant they hadn't been able to play together again, but they had talked fairly often about their interests. Ina would sometimes give Pikamee some drawing tips, and in return Pikamee had tried to provide help with streaming ideas for her.

Still, while they were friendly, she would hardly call them close. So seeing the girl on her doorstep was very unusual, especially since she could not possibly know about her break today yet. Deciding to find out quickly, Ina cleared her throat. "So, what brings you here today? Not that I mind seeing you, but I'm pretty sure my apartment is a bit far from your home,"

Pikamee glanced away from her, rubbing the back of her head. "Uh, yeaaaah. About that, ummmm..." She gave a nervous chuckle. "Um, nice weather we're having?"

Ina sighed. "Pikamee, I'm a bit tired right now. Can you please tell me what's wrong? I would really like to just go rest."

Said girl coughed, now looking a bit guilty and almost frowning. "Right. Gomen, Sorry. It's just that, my house is a bit... infested right now."

That made Ina blink. "How bad are we talking here?"

"Exterminator said something like, thousands of roaches, all over house," Pikamee admitted.

Ina gasped, forgetting her problems and kneeling to check over her acquaintance. "Are you okay? What happened? Were you inside when they all got in?" She knew how much her fellow Vtuber was freaked out by bugs.

Pikamee gave a light chucked, but there was a shakiness beneath it. "It's okay! I was getting ready for dinner, then my vents started making weird noises, and when I started going out to check ventilators, they started crawling through." She shivered as she said this. "Anyway, I had my phone on me and called the exterminator. Now my house is being fumed, and I got someone else coming to check to see how the little fu- er, critters got in."

Ina sighed in relief, glad to hear that the other girl was not hurt. They may have only been casual friends, but the priestess still cared about the kettle-girl. They had had tons of fun on their collab, and she had been hoping for them to get closer one day when they had more time to hang out. Perhaps she even felt a bit of kinsmanship with her, knowing that they both had some trouble making friends.

Thinking about what Pikamee had just said, though, the Priestess felt a sense of dread as she realized the reason for her visit. "You don't have a place to stay right now, do you?"

Pikamee coughed again, averting her eyes. "Yeah. My wallet had been inside, and I didn't think to tell exterminator before he set up the fumes - he'll get money tomorrow for work or he'll sue, he said. So, I have no money for hotel..." She gave a long sigh. "I'm... sorry to spring this on you. But Tomoshika is out of town, and I can't put that kind of pressure on my new Kouhais. Since all my other friends don't live around here yet, and you're the only one in Hololive I know... can I please stay a few nights?"

Ina was torn between turning her away and letting her inside. If the Ancient Ones began getting loud again, then the last thing she wanted was to scare the electric Vtuber with her problems. It was hard enough imagining her closest friends seeing her like that, let alone someone who she had not had a chance to properly bond with. Yet it sounded like the girl had nowhere else to go on such short notice. And the vulnerable look on Pikamee's face... it made every kind fiber in her ache.

There was something else, too, just on the edges of her thoughts. The notion that there would be someone here... some form of comfort... human contact...

Before she could even comprehend those half-thoughts, Ina found herself speaking. "Alright, you can stay. I only have sushi and cookies to eat, though."

Pikamee gave one of her kettle-like squeals, hugging Ina's still kneeling form. "Arigato! Thank you, Thank you! I'll make this up later, I swears it!" She then pulled back, wide-eyed. "Wait, you said cookies? Let's go!"

With that, she ran past Ina into the apartment, laughing with joy. The Priestess couldn't help but laugh and smile herself, but there was an undercurrent of worry there. She did not know what had possessed her to say that - her thoughts now forgotten - but she was stuck with the choice. She only hoped that it would not end badly for either of them.

-----

Ina had almost forgotten about her issues by the end of the day.

At first, she had been worried about how she was going to keep Pikamee entertained, not knowing if the games she had were to her style. The problem was solved, though, when her guest expressed her desire to play 'Clubhouse 51 Games' again. She said that it was because she thought it would provide enough variety to prevent boredom, but the Priestess got the impression that she wanted to try and make up for her numerous losses last time. (She had definitely gravitated towards Connect 4 to play first.)

Results were... much the same as their collab. Nonetheless, the two of them were having a great time. Plenty of jokes and puns were made by Ina, causing the sound of a boiling kettle to ring through the entire apartment. The two spent a lot of time snacking on cookies and trying a few different kinds of sushi for dinner, trading stories about what the past few weeks had been like for them. Pikamee had even tried reading some non-spell-related text within The Ancient Ones' Book, which sounded hilarious to them with her Japanese-American accent.

Overall, Ina felt far lighter than she had expected to be just that morning. She had even wondered why she had never tried to invite Pikamee for some off-time before. Her guest's energy was infectious, and she found herself laughing along to things she did not even think were that funny. It was giving the Priestess ideas on future collabs they might be able to do, or at least ways she could introduce her to the rest of Hololive. She remembered that it was one of her dreams to meet the rest of English, after all.

It all just seemed to be going so well, despite the circumstances being a bit forced on them both. It made her troubles earlier seem like a bad dream, or that she had just been paranoid.

How she wished the peace would have lasted.

By then, it was late evening. The two of them were playing a game of checkers, and as usual, the game ended in Ina's victory. Pikamee leaned her head back against the couch, groaning in mock-exasperation. "Arg! RIgged! These games are rigged!"

Ina chucked, looking at her with amusement. "Seems like someone should practice a bit more before challenging the master of games, huh?"

Pikamee looked at her with a fake glare. "You! You's cheating, I know it! I'll expose it all one day. And whens I do, you'll be-"

"'Checker'-ing for a new job?" The Priestess suggested.

It took the kettle-girl a moment to process that, before groaning loudly. "Oh my god! 'Inaaaaaafff!'"

This made Ina laugh, soon joined by her companion. Once the two of them were done, Ina looked over at the clock on the wall and saw how late it was getting. Standing up, she turned off her Nintendo Switch and TV and began thinking about what she had to turn the couch into a temporary bed for her guest. There were some spare blankets in the closet for winter, but she did not know if she had any other sheets to make things more comfortable.

It was when she was done with the electronics that Pikamee noticed the time, too. "Whoa! It's very late, huh? I'ms so sorry for distracting you!"

"Hey, you didn't distract me at all," Ina reassured, turning to face her. "I had a lot of fun playing with you. You really turned a boring day into an exciting one, let me tell you."

Pikamee seemed happy about that and smiled, but she seemed confused. "Um, glad to hear. But... didn't you have streaming you needed doing today? I thought I saw some for the evening on your channel's schedule. I was ready to sit in the bathroom while you drew!" She laughed a bit at the idea.

Ina, on the other hand, had stopped smiling, remembering about what had happened that morning. She shuffled awkwardly as she spoke. "No- I mean, that was the original plan, but that got canceled."

The kettle-girl gave a sympathetic look. "Aw, that sucks. What was it? Technical issues? Did that Mumei girl get sick?"

"No, none of those things. I... wasn't feeling well, so I messaged everyone and canceled everything for today."

That made Pikamee blink in shock. "What!? What do you mean you aren't feeling well? What happened? Are yous okay?"

Ina looked away from her, using her arms to hug herself. She scolded herself for not lying and just blaming her computer. Now here she was, with the happy atmosphere ruined and upsetting a person she wanted more than ever to be another good friend of hers. She was also once again very aware of the looming issues about the Ancient Ones, the headache she had been ignoring now at the forefront of her thoughts. Her phone also came to mind, likely having sunk into the couch cushions, likely filled with concerned and reassuring messages from her friends...

She didn't realize she had been silent for a long time until she heard Pikamee speak again. "Wait, if you weren't feelings well when I came over, then... oh no, ohs no. I- I forced myself into here, didn't I? Oh god! I'm so sorry!" Her rambling seemed more directed at herself, tears starting to form in her eyes.

Panicking at the misunderstanding, Ina rushed over and grabbed the girl's shoulders. "No! Don't- you didn't force anything! I'm fine, honestly! You helped me a lot, actually! It's- it's just headaches, okay? Don't panic!"

That just seemed to make Pikamee more confused. "What do you mean 'a headache?' How bad is it that you canceled your plans?"

Ina tried to think of a convincing lie she could tell, perhaps involving having hit her head or just not getting enough sleep last night. She also wondered if she could turn the conversation towards jokes and distract Pikamee from the topic.

Those plans died, however, when she felt some pressure in the base of her skull.

It wasn't often that Ina got warnings that a spike in the Ancient Ones' activity was going to happen. It rarely helped anyway, the window barely being a few seconds every time. Even so, she shot up to a stand, eyes wide and stumbling towards the bathroom to hide. "G-give me a second. I'll be r-right back."

Pikamee looked after her, looking more worried than ever. "What's wrong? Are yous okay?"

Ina glanced at her quickly, hoping to choke out an excuse. Before she could, however, the voices started shouting within her head.

She couldn't tell if she cried out as she fell to the ground, too engulfed in the agony to comprehend anything but it. Her eyes scrunched up tightly, her hands trying desperately to block out the silent room that was just too loud all of a sudden. Her ward had long dissipated, leaving her completely exposed to this torture. She mentally shouted at the voices. STOP IT! PLEASE! NO MORE!

A few may have lessened their voices, but the majority kept shouting, either unable to stop without consequence or not caring about her suffering at the moment. Their shouts and cries continued to fill her brain, drowning out all sense of coherent thought. The room she was in and the awareness of her situation all faded away, leaving only the primal desire for it all the end - for the pain to go away.

It did not, however, going on for what to her seemed like an eternity. She did not know who she was anymore, only knowing that she was being torn apart by a mental force she could not fight. There was nothing to anchor her in place or provide any awareness. There was only the continual pain, the stray thoughts of Beings that were not her, and the pain, and the scorching light beyond her eyelids, and pain, and-

And then suddenly there was a warmth, grabbing on to a body she had forgotten she had. She desperately clung to this pillar of security, hoping against all odds that it would do something, anything to save her. There was also a sound that came from this pillar of salvation, and while it hurt to hear, something about it made her feel better. She wanted it to keep making that sound forever, if only to hear anything besides the turmoil that assaulted her very soul.

The agony did not go away, and it was hard to say if it had even lessened. Despite this, though, she somehow felt... better, now that something was preventing her from being swept away.

Eventually, the voices of the Ancient Ones faded away, whatever that had made them crescendo like that having been dealt with. She had a splitting headache, but her awareness was coming back to her. Once she was thinking clearly enough to remember her name was Ina'nis, she slowly opened her eyes and tried to make sense of her situation.

The first thing she noticed was that she was on the couch, despite remembering heading to the bathroom. She was confused for a moment before she realized that she was clinging to something. Her arms and legs were wrapped tightly around a moving lump covered in fabric, her head resting on one side of it. Something that she quickly realized was also hugging her tightly and petting the flaps on her head. Her heart dropped when she looked down and saw the familiar green hoodie of her guest.

A guest who had just witnessed one of the greatest tortures of Ina's life.

Even now, she could hear Pikamee whispering, her voice wobbly with crying. "I-it's okay. You're go-going to be fine. Just breathe. It's okay. It's okay. I'm here. It's... it's okay..."

Immediately, Ina let go of her vice grip and flopped to the side of the couch, breathing erratically. Before she could do much else, Pikamee's face was in front of her, the girl having gotten off the couch to walk in front of her. The Priestess could see just how red and puffy her eyes were, tear lines down her face and a worried frown on her lips - an expression she had never wanted to see on any of her friends for her.

Ina swallowed thickly, feeling like she wanted to cry but feeling all dried out. Her voice was raspy when she spoke. "P-Pikamee, I... I didn't mean to-"

"Are you alls right?" Pikamee interrupted, putting her hand against the Priestess's forehead.

Ina found herself leaning into the touch, whimpering slightly and desperate for any contact. "Y-yes. I'm fine now. I'm..." She sniffled loudly. "I'm so sorry you had to see that, Pikamee. It must have been hard to... to..."

The hand left her forehead and instead ruffled her hair a bit. Pikamee's voice was uncharacteristically gentle. "It's okay. I'm just glad you didn't hurt yourself when you fell. It was shocking, but... I'm glad to have helped." She glanced towards the apartment's small kitchen. "Do you need some water? It... sounded like you cried a lot."

Giving a weak nod, Ina moved herself to lay flat against the couch as Pikamee moved away, too exhausted to try sitting up. When Pikamee returned with a glass of water, she just barely managed to sit up enough to drink it without spilling it everywhere. Her hands shook heavily as she did so, but her guest helped her keep it steady. Once she finished it, she laid down again, watching as the electric Vtuber set the glass on the coffee table.

A heavy silence filled the apartment, neither of them really knowing what to say. Then, after coughing a bit, Pikamee spoke up. "Um, so... what was all of that? Is it related to that book of yours, that lets you make the tentacles, and teleport, and... all of that?"

Even with her lingering headache, Ina felt herself smile slightly at how awkwardly cute the girl could be. "Yes, it's sort of related to that, but it's not The Book itself. It's due to the Ancient Ones, whom I serve. They have conflicts in their reality that even I don't fully understand, and they result in..." She grimaced as she remembered the pain. "... issues, for people like me. There is some magic that wards against it, but it is only temporary, and it isn't perfect."

Pikamee frowned, seemingly trying to comprehend the information. "I see. It doesn't... happen often, does it?"

Ina shook her head. "It's only once every month or two, and they are normally back to their usual murmur the next day. Whenever it happens, I just cancel whatever I had planned that day and wait for it to pass."

This made Pikamee blink, tilting her head. "Wait, but then, who takes care of you? Did you not call any friends to help you this morning when you felt headache?"

"Of course not," Ina whispered, closing her eyes. "They don't even know it happens. I go through this alone so that I don't bother anyone. It's why I was worried earlier about-"

"WHAT!?" Pikamee screamed, causing the Priestess to cringe and open her eyes. The kettle-girl had a look of disbelief and horror on her face. "Sorry, but- what!? Why would you do that to yourself?! Are you out of your mind!?" The last sentence was said entirely in Japanese as her voice got choked with emotion.

Ina stuttered for a moment, surprised by this outburst. "I-I-I just didn't want them to worry! I didn't want them to get upset when seeing me like you did! It-"

"And what if you hurt yourself?!" Pikamee exclaimed, her voice on the verge of hysteria. "What if your head cracked when you fell earlier, and I wasn't here? What if it happened when eating and you choke on your own food? And you were clinging to yourself hard before - I worried yours nails would draw blood! What if you did worse than that while you were delirious? Do you think I or anyone else would have been happy to find you dead all because no one could look after you?"

Ina did not have an answer to any of that. She pulled her knees to her chest, laying on her side and trembling. Fresh tears were beginning to fall. She managed to choke out a reply. "I... didn't think about any of that. All I wanted was for them to be okay - to not have to worry about something they can't solve. To just be... powerless to do anything."

This made Pikamee's face crumble. She looked down at the floor, starting to shake herself. "So... it didn't help? Nothing I did made it any easier?"

The Priestess vaguely remembered the pillar of warmth, and her breath hitched. "Actually..." Pikamee's eyes met hers again as Ina spoke. "It did help. The pain didn't stop, but... it felt like something was keeping me steady. From losing myself to the maddening thoughts of the Ancients. I had never felt anything like that before. It was... comforting."

Some light seemed to return to Pikamee's eyes, and she reached out a hand. There wasn't any hesitation when Ina reached out and squeezed it. The two of them looked at their grasping hands for a long while afterward, silently reassuring each other that they were glad the other was there.

A thought came to Ina, and she hesitantly voiced her tentative hope. "Maybe I shouldn't have hidden it, but... I'm glad I had such a good friend to help me through that."

Pikamee stared at her a moment, and she worried she had spoken too soon until the girl gave a wide smile. "I'm glad I was able to help... and hopefully do its more in the future. Maybe being around in general?"

Ina managed a smile of her own, glad that the feeling was mutual. She also felt joy about the prospect of hanging out with her now official friend more. Many possibilities were running through her head, happy to do anything even if it had to be off-stream. Along with them were introduction plans for the rest of Hololive. It is exactly what she - and she hopes Pikamee - had been wanting to happen for ages now. Her only regret was that it had to be in such.... gritty circumstances.

As if reading Ina's mind, Pikamee spoke up again. "Hey, I really don't mind coming to comfort you again if those Ancient bast- er, guys start hurting you again. I think I has more freedom to change plans than you Holo girls, anyway. Still, though, you should tell your friends about this. I'm not always going to be around"

The Priestess's fears from earlier resurfaced, making her flinch. "But-"

"No buts of any kind!" Pikamee said firmly. "You may be right that seeing you in pain will makes them upset. But they will be more upset if they find out by accident like me, knowing you lied to them. So just get it over with, and just accept their hugs, for Christ's sake! I've seen you help them with their problems - let them help with yours."

Ina took a deep breath, slowly nodding her head. "You are really on fire today with the advice. Kind of shocking, actually - no offense."

The kettle-girl grinned in response. "That's patent Pikamee wisdom. If you ever need the answers of life, Pika-wisdom is the way to go!"

Thinking that over, Ina gave an amused smile. "Kettle of Ina's house, what is your wisdom? How should I tell my friends about my pains so that everyone remains calm?"

Pikamee opened her mouth to answer, but then paused for a second. After another, her cheeks slightly pinkened. "...We're sorry, but the wisdom machine is drained for today. We apologize for the inconvenience."

Ina burst out laughing at the response, soon joined by the sound of a boiling kettle. Once they calmed down, Ina turned onto her back and closed her eyes, feeling exhaustion finally catching up to her. "I'll call them tomorrow and talk things out with them. I'm too tired to tonight."

She heard Pikamee hum, moving in the direction of her closet before calling out to her. "I'm guessing you're not going to move from there."

"Too much effort," Ina half-murmured, sinking into the couch. "You can take my bed tonight if you want."

"Ha! No way!" Pikamee replied, putting a blanket over her. The Priestess felt her lay down on the couch's opposite end, her feet just barely touching hers. "If your gods wake you up tonight, I'ms going to be ready. I'll tear up that book if I have to."

Ina silently chuckled, too tired to tell her friend that that wouldn't work, even if The Book could be damaged. Even so, she felt happy that she cared enough to try, and that was all that really mattered.

And after tomorrow, there would be several people she knew would be willing to try and help her.