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With a heave you threw yourself against the mass of people, gesturing for Tokiko to follow as you forced your way in the direction of the stage area. If there was one thing you had learned in this goddamn game it was that one-on-one fights were far too hard to control for your liking. An alliance, even if just a temporary one, would swing this fight hard against the flying maid and frankly after she took a pot shot at Flandre you were in no mood to give her anything resembling a 'fair' fight. Hell, if you didn't think she would dodge or block it somehow you would have happily shot her in the back - or gone to hunt down her partner were it not for the fact that whoever it was could be hiding anywhere in the crowd and thus be almost impossible to find until it dispersed some more.

You snorted in annoyance. Given how more than a few of your opponents had played you wouldn't be too surprised if the maid's partner would be hiding out as far from the battleground as possible simply so they wouldn't be targeted. While you couldn't exactly fault the strategy you knew it wasn't one you could use yourself - you cared for Tokiko too much to leave her face an enemy alone. Flandre on the other hand... you needed to find somewhere for her to hide, somewhere close by but far enough away that she had could escape if things went badly. Had your sister been here you would have sent Flandre off to escape with her, but since you couldn't find her right now that wasn't an option.

Unfortunately there really wasn't many good hiding places that were not on or behind the stage itself so you had little choice but to let Flandre follow behind as you shoved your way through the crowd. Behind her came Tokiko who was making sure that the little blond girl wasn't swept away or knocked down by the panicking people heading in the opposite direction to your group. Despite the screaming and yelling filling the air you were more than able to pick out screams of a... different... kind. Screams of pain rather than fear, of people hit by the stray shots of the knife-like projectiles the maid was firing at the stage with almost reckless abandon. Hell, it was pretty obvious to you that the silver-haired woman simply didn't care about anyone else being caught in the crossfire between her and Wriggle. For her part Wriggle wasn't really firing back as much as you expected. Occasionally a stream of glowing yellow lights would cut a path above the crowd - but they seemed to be of similar level to Tokiko's first spells rather than anything more spectacular.

That implied.... what exactly? Off the top of your head you could think of a whole host of reasons why a player would be limiting themselves to low level spells - perhaps they had nothing better or what they did have wasn't useful for offense. Hell, they could simply be waiting until the crowd was dispersed some more so as not to hit any bystanders. You hoped that was the reason - it would be nice to be on the side with the overwhelming advantage in firepower for once.

As you approached the stage you made a decision on what to do with Flandre - the stage was little more than a collection of hollow platforms. Platforms which a young girl could easily crawl underneath if, for example, she didn't want to be stabbed by a veritable blizzard of flying knives. Naturally this was exactly what you instructed the blond girl to do as you approached the stage.

She went under, you and Tokiko went over, and from that point everything started heading downhill - not that you were aware of this at the time.

* * * * * * * *

With a number of battles under your belt you had approached this one with the air of a seasoned professional. Unfortunately most of those battles had been spend with your lying on the ground in pain, and sadly this trend didn't seem likely to stop anytime soon... Which explained why within moments of leaping atop the stage you had fallen off it while clutching at your bleeding nose having just been punched in the face by the spandex-clad actor who had turned out to be both Wriggle's partner and rather paranoid. Thankfully you had managed to avoid having your nose broken, mostly due to the toughness boost being a partner gave you, and the misunderstanding had been cleared up quickly when Wriggle realized exactly who had come to her aid.

Right now you were kneeling down behind Tokiko and her shield spell while clutching at your nose with one hand and holding out your grimoire with the other. One of the many things you had learned practicing with Koishi lately was that any spell you cast with the grimoire out was noticeably, thought not hugely, more powerful than the same spell cast while the grimoire was... wherever it went when it wasn't in your hand. You'd also worked out that some spells - Tokiko's shield for instance - could be made larger simply by... well... 'throwing' more of yourself into the spell when you cast it. Given that you could now place the draining sensation of casting a spell as being an actual drain on your own magic you assumed this feeling meant that you were passing more of your own magic over to Tokiko when you cast the spell. When you did this with your partner's first two spells it resulted in more bullets being fired at once but when you did this with her shield instead it had ended up making the shield larger with the more power you passed over.

Needless to say right now you had over-charged her shield to make it large enough to shelter not only yourself but also Wriggle and the red-wearing bastard who had punched you. You would have liked to cover more but no matter how much power you used the shield had never grown beyond a few feet across during practice and you didn't expect it to do so under fire either. Your hands were clenched tightly, one in a fist and one around your book, and every time you hear another scream of pain from a bystander who hadn't moved fast enough - or had been crippled early on and remained in the line of fire now - your knuckles turned white as you clenched harder.

The maid, her name confirmed by Wriggle to be Sakuya, had not given your group any chance to parley or even move somewhere less crowded. Her spells weren't exactly strong compared to ones you had seen from others, but they were just so damned fast and she was blasting them out like a knife-throwing machine-gun. Scatters of knifes, lines of knives, knives which would just appear before launching at you... Anyone without a convenient shield ability would have been perforated to bits by now simply from the sheer volume of metal the maid was able to put in the air. Magic metal anyway - the knives only seemed to hang around for a short while after hitting something or being deflected before they faded away... leaving anyone unfortunate enough to have been stabbed to bleed out on the floor. A quick peek around Tokiko's shield showed that there was more than a little amount of blood on the ground and not all of it was from adults.

You hissed nastily when you realized that for a couple of people lying out there the amount of blood pooled around them was more than their bodies had been able to lose.

Charguto” You flinched at the sound, and feeling, of a spell being cast nearby and turned to look at the most likely source of Wriggle's partner. The red masked man was holding a dark green book open in one hand while his partner was crouching down with a look of concentration on her face - she was also glowing ever so slightly red. “Charguto” When the man stated the spell again the glow grew slightly brighter and it continued to do so when he cast the spell two, three, four times more. By the time he was done Wriggle was glowing bright enough that you had to squint slightly in order to look directly at her.

“Get ready.” She murmured, hissing slightly in what seemed like pain. “We'll give you an opening - our spells are pretty strong, but they take so long to charge up we can't use them while under fire.” She glanced at her partner. “Fast movement?” She asked, causing him to nod once. “Right... Let's go then.”

The man slammed his book shut and seemed to take a deep breath. “CASTAFF

Wriggle vanished.

No, actually it seemed more correct to say that she moved - at such a speed that she had literally disappeared before your eyes. Turning away from where she had been you immediately noted that the sound of knives hitting Tokiko's shield had ceased and because of this you allowed yourself to peek out into the open.

Ah. So that's what Wriggle was doing. All through the air knives were being knocked aside to clatter harmlessly to the ground as Wriggle evidently zipped about faster than the eye could follow to deal with them. Why she didn't try to attack Sakuya directly you didn't know, but with no knives to block you did have a wide open shot at the flying maid. “Tokiko,” you hissed as you rose to point not at Sakuya but just behind her - you weren't stupid enough to assume that she wasn't good enough to dodge a direct attack so you were going to go with what had worked against a god a long while ago. “Doban!” You yelled. Tokiko's shield burst into nothingness as she whipped her arms up and fired two short lines of bullets at Sakuya. As expected the woman moved so that they barely missed - a method of dodging you had noted that everyone seemed to favor which only served to make them particularly susceptible to this trick of your partner's. The bullets buzzed past Sakuya, impacted against the ceiling of the shopping center, bounced off of that at an angle which let them to hitting into a far wall which they bounced off once more before making a bee-line towards Sakuya's unsuspecting back.

And she simply dodged again.

No... that wasn't quite right. What you had just seen was... well, hard to put into words was an understatement. The best way you could explain it, even to yourself, was that one moment she had been hit... and the next moment she hadn't as she had in fact completely vanished...

“It's a fake!” you yell, startling the man behind you and causing Wriggle to suddenly appear in the air as she stops dead. You on the other hand were already looking about wildly, searching for wherever the real Sakuya was, a dim feeling of worry building at the back of your mind.

Flandre had known who she was.

Flandre had called out to her and she had reacted, which implied that either Sakuya had swapped with the fake without being noticed or that she had been controlling the fake from nearby.

As far as you were aware the only people Flandre had admitted to knowing were all quite happy for her to have remained locked away in the basement of her sister's mansion. Flandre had never really claimed to dislike any of them, indeed much of what she said was the opposite but even so...

There was no real doubt in your mind that, whatever the objective she originally had, the maid was going to go after Flandre possibly to get rid of her or... maybe even to try and recruit her to whatever side she was on.

Would Flandre agree to go with her? You had no idea and you weren't entirely willing to find out as you suspected that the blond girl's judgment in such things was impaired at minimum. What was it they called it when a prisoner came to like their jailers too much? Stocky home syndrome? Whatever it was you were sure Flandre had it given how she constantly talked about most of her 'friends' in such glowing terms despite the fact all of them were quite happy to leave her locked away. A whole raft of names, which now you thought about it had included a Sakuya, had come up during conversations with Flandre about the people she knew and lived with.

Now you thought about it hadn't Meiling's name had come up too? You weren't entirely sure what to think of that since she hadn't seemed the kind of person you imagined imprisoning someone... though it wasn't as if you actually knew much about the woman beyond the fact that she was fast on her feet and kicked like a mule. You supposed you were willing to give her some slight benefit of doubt as you vaguely recalled that some things she had said after beating you and Tokiko down implied that she was pleased for Flandre to be out and about. A conscientious objector perhaps?

With the way Sakuya had barely needed to think before trying to spear Flandre on a knife you were pretty damn sure the maid was not such an objector. You grimaced as you realized that such a view was not exactly a good indicator of personality since it was the kind of thinking this survival game was set up to cause... on the other hand Sakuya had fired on random civilians so it was a pretty fair bet that her personality was rotten anyway.

Yeah. Like hell you were going to let her get her hands on Flandre.

You found Flandre backstage, where her escape route underneath the stage had naturally led. Unfortunately you also found Sakuya - though if it was the real one or another fake you had no idea.

Not that it mattered since the moment you saw her you ordered Tokiko to, in your own words, 'blow her goddamn head off'.

* * * * * * * *

Sakuya threw herself up and away as a shot of energy passed though the space her head had been occupying up until a mere moment ago. How depressingly predictable. The boy that had so disrespectfully been carrying the young mistress around like some kind of commoner had, predictably, shown up to play the heroic knight. Probably in an attempt to extort some kind of gain out of the young mistress against her best interests. Not that the young mistress had any favor to give that wasn't the true property of the mistress anyway, the commoner was really wasting his time.

At first she had suspected that the commoner was the young mistresses' partner back when she had first seen him through the eyes of her doppelganger. A useful spell that - one she would have to look into replicating on her own once she returned to Gensokyo - it allowed her to work at a distance with a remote body capable of doing everything she could except take a hit, which was a small price to pay for it's use. Naturally upon spotting the young mistress and her possible partner she had responded quickly to take out what, according to the mistress, was one of the two biggest threats within the entire set-up of this war of survival.

The power to destroy anything with barely a thought... such an ability would end any opponent regardless of how much power they had unlocked from their grimoire. The only real competition for the title of 'biggest threat' would be the ability the netherworld princess supposedly had, that of being able to kill with a thought. Saigyouji and the young mistress... neither could be allowed the chance to progress far enough to unlock what were likely higher-tier abilities.

On the other hand, were one to obtain either as a controllable asset...

Saigyouji was right out on that score as the woman was, frankly, a manipulative bitch on a par with all the top players of Gensokyo. There was little, if anything at all, in existence that could be used to control the woman and what little was capable of doing the job was either out of reach or more dangerous to the controller than the controlled.

The young mistress was another matter entirely as it would be but child's play to remind her of her big sister, the mistress, and explain to her how much the mistress would want her to join up and help her win. The mistress was one of the few people that the young mistress would do anything for after all - the others being the black-white rat and the slacker guard, neither of whom had appeared to have claimed the young mistress already.

Evidently this commoner and his equally common partner had attempted to turn the young mistress to their side but it was obvious that neither knew what they were dealing with - anyone with any sense of self preservation would have had the young mistress safely sealed up in some way to prevent 'accidents'.

She sighed.

“Young mistress,” she said, “Your sister has instructed me to fetch you. She misses you terribly.” Ugh, now there was a lie and a half. Of course the mistress missed her sister, she wanted the insane girl where she could see her rather than wandering the world where she could hurt someone or worse get hurt herself. Or perhaps she just wanted the most powerful weapon in the game under her control - Sakuya had long given up trying to work out exactly how the mistress's relationship with the young mistress worked. Sometimes the elder girl seemed to want to protect her from the world, other times she seemed to want to protect the world from her. Most of the time she just seemed to want the embarassment to the Scarlet name, the young mistress's insanity, to be kept out of sight.

The maid leaned to one side to avoid another shot, this time one aimed more at her center, and sighed again.

“Do you mind?” She asked, her voice hardening. “This does not concern you. The young mistress will be coming with me.”

* * * * * * * *

“Do you mind?” the maid asked in a terrifyingly cold tone as she returned to standing upright after dodging a shot from Tokiko that had been intended to blow her chest out her back. “This does not concern you. The young mistress will be coming with me.”

You frowned.

You glanced at Flandre, crouching behind what appeared to be a large amplifier of some kind. She had been so looking forward to this ever since your sister had told her about it and explained what such a performance was.

Now it was ruined.

There was a crowd of injured, dying and already dead out in front of the stage.

Your sister could be among that number.

All because, from the sound of it, Flandre's 'sister' wanted her returned.

Probably so she could be locked up again.

You scowled.

“Fuck. You.” You stated, glaring at the maid. “Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.”

* * * * * * * *

What did that commoner just say?

“If you want to kidnap Flandre,” he stated, his eyes seemingly afire with anger, “Then you'll go through me first.”

Oh joy, a white knight type. She'd met a number of those before in her service to the mistress - mostly in the form of vampire hunters after the sisters themselves and the occasional inquisitor who came after Patchouli for being a famous witch. Each and every one of them so puffed up with their own arrogance and belief that they were on the side of 'good' even though they never seemed to have any issue with slaughtering the maids - all innocent fairies - by the score. Well, she knew how to deal with them at least.

* * * * * * * *

The maid's eyes closed then she sighed lightly and took a deep breath.

“In that case,” she stated. “Die.”

The first barrage of knives came entirely without warning - a dozen steel blades just appearing a foot or two in front of the maid and giving you little to no time to react before they shot in your direction. Thankfully Tokiko had already moved and had grabbed a wooden panel, possibly left over from the stage construction, and heaved it in front of you just in time for the wave of knives to puncture it instead of you. Flashing your partner a quick grin you lift your leg up and kick the entire panel, knives and all, back at Sakuya - who quite naturally leapt over it and thanks to her ability to fly remained in mid-air.

Glancing around you tried to come up with some sort of plan to fight this woman now that you were sure it was the real one and not a fake - a fake wouldn't have needed to dodge after all. The backstage area, unlike out front, was cluttered with plenty of things to use as cover and was also cut off from the rest of the shopping center thanks to a mix of heavy curtains and metal scaffolding crisscrossing all over. The curtains wouldn't be too hard to escape through if needed but they were heavy enough that one couldn't simply pass by without having to move them aside or cut a way through - hopefully that would limit Sakuya's flying some although they would make it harder to escape quickly under fire. Flandre was huddled down behind a set of speakers, her knees drawn up and her hands clutching at her head... It was obvious she was scared, worried and simply unable to run away even if the route under the stage - too small for you but perfect for her - was still clear.

[ ] Lure Sakuya to the front of the stage.
[ ] Lure Sakuya through the side-curtains.

[ ] Grab Flandre and escape to the front.
[ ] Grab Flandre and escape through the side.

[ ] Stand and Fight - Baraika (Ranged)
[ ] Stand and Fight - Zai Bassha (Melee)

Hot, Warm, Cool, Cold
For those new to SoS:
I don't accept write-ins unless asked for (though occasionally attempts have earned extra stuff).

The 'temperature' vote is used to set a general tone when i make decisions as to what Shiori does that aren't workable for putting to a full vote.
Hot is your hotblooded passionate type, Cold is your coldblooded schemer type. Warm and Cool are just less extreme versions.

Based on previous votes Shiori tends more towards warmblooded reactions.
Oh boy... Talk about a hard choice. But are we meant to take one of each group of two or just one?
Just one, i grouped 'em in sets of two to make it more obvious that they're generally 'lure', 'escape' and 'fight' choices.
Sakuya's goal is to leave here with Flandre. Attempting to lure her might just make it so she forgets about us and takes Flandre. Fighting her still leaves Flandre unprotected, and she might exploit this chance. I'd say securing Flandre is a priority.

With that said, going through the front means being in an open area at the mercy of her barrages. Let's hope that by escaping through the curtains she is limited enough so that Wriggle can get a hit in.

[x] Grab Flandre and escape through the side.

And, given the reasoning that led to this vote:
Come to think of it, where's Wriggle and her partner? Still at the front, did they follow or did they escape?

Anyway, I'm not too sure about the lure. I suppose >>24834 is right about it: Sakuya's target is Flandre. But part of the lure's goal is making sure she follows too, so I assume the option will also makes sure Sakuya focus on us. Also, I doubt we'll really be able to escape her with Flandre. fighting with Flandre in that state nearby is not exactly a good idea either I think.

Anyone else has an opinion?
Well, congrats on stumping everyone Desu. Either everyone is thinking or letting someone make the first step. Not surprising since any option can fail spectacularly because of something forgotten or a false assumption.

[x] Grab Flandre and escape through the side.

Ultimately, we came her for Flandre, so let's get her out of this. If Sakuya's partner didn't follow, then he'll be at the front. If he did in the confusion, then there's a chance he'll give his location if he follows us.

I just hope Wriggle escaped this or is still here ready to take out Sakuya's partner fast. I am very interested in an alliance with her and hope she won't be taken out because of this.
[x] Grab Flandre and escape through the side.
[x] Cool

Flandre looks like she might snap soon if she's left in there, so getting her out of the line of potential fire is a priority. Going full out Cold might just spook her further, but at the same time you don't want to go too hot and run the risk of getting blindsided as a consequence of haste, so one of Warm/Cool would likely be the recommended attitude.

With any luck Akira's still relatively unhurt and in the area, she might be able to run Flandre the rest of the way out while you doubleback to assist and/or find Wriggle and whip up a quick plan.
>>24841 here. Thanks for reminding me to vote for the temperature. I have the same reasons as you.

[x] Cool
[x] Stand and Fight - Zai Bassha (Melee)
[x] Cold

I hold little hope that Wriggle will come in and save us big damn heroes style, so it's up to us to end this.

Securing Flandre is all well and good, but Sakuya is a cold-hearted whore who excels in ranged attacks. Attempting to run away from a ranged attacker who attacks faster than we can react will end poorly. The only way we would be able to escape with Flandre is by sacrificing Tokiko to protect our flank while running, limiting our ability to cast spells. And as strong as I like to pretend Tokiko is, I hold little hope of her being able to take down Sakuya without spells.

No, what we need to do is get into melee range while she cannot fly, and strike her down. Melee has served us well in the past, and from all indications, Sakuya does not appear to favor close quarters combat. She'll be out of her element, and easy to kill.

Cold because I'm still pissed at her attacking Flandre, and to a lesser extent, the random civilians. Not to mention she is a huge bitch in general.
No offense, but any plan can fail badly right now. The danger of yours? Flandre see two persons she knows trying to kill each other in cold blood and she's already frightened beause of what Sakuya did. Now she'll see us in a way she never did before. What do you think that will do for her mind?
Flandre is a big girl; I'm sure she'll get over it. Any damage it does to her relationship with us can be fixed up at a later date. We can't do that if we are dead, or if Sakuya takes her.

Simply put, we can't afford to have Sakuya and Remilia brainwash her into thinking we are the enemy. Flandre is too strong for us to survive with her as an antagonist. She must be on our side or bad shit will happen.
Except right now, it can be damaged to the point of her running away or being scared enough to explode us if we approach.

You want cold-blooded logic from my part? If we get hurt trying to get her out, who do you think she'll explode?
>who do you think she'll explode

Absolutely no one. Because she cannot explode people. She has no partner, and no spells, and her salient abilities are off limits while outside the border. She also cannot run away. Shes here to stay, and shes powerless. It's up to us to get her out of her, and running isn't a viable option for reasons stated above. The only surefire way out of this pinch is killing Sakuya.
Yuugi is proof enough that even without a partner, her strength is still all in there. And the point of her being scared enough to run away still stand. I can understand fighting, but cold-blooded? That I have a problem with.
>It was obvious she was scared, worried and simply unable to run away.
>simply unable to run away.

She cannot run.

Why do you have a problem with cold blooded? Sakuya has killed innocent people, has tried to kill Flandre, has tried to kill us, and is currently trying to appropriate Flandre from us. Just what the hell else does she have to do to piss you off; eat babies?

She's a massive cunt, and must be put down. Not every person we fight can be argued with and "redeemed" like Mystia. Sakuya is a perfect example of someone we don't want running around. She needs to die.
Who the hell said anything about redeeming Sakuya?

Anyway, it's clear we can't convince each other, so I won't bother arguing further. Let's see if we convinced anyone else to vote.
>Who the hell said anything about redeeming Sakuya?
Well, you said you had a problem with cold blooded, and have been arguing against it, but you never explained what it was. I assumed that you just liked Sakuya. My apologies.

I doubt this will affect any ones votes though. This story doesn't have a huge voterbase, and most of them are inclined to play it safe.
I suppose I should explain that at least: when I think cold-blooded, I think without mercy, completely serious and telling Tokiko to take any chance she get to kill Sakuya. And I'm pretty sure we don't want Flandre to hear that. Cool is about the same but less extreme so that's why I want to go with that.
I see now. That makes for a fundamentally different argument. You should have put that forth from the beginning, man. Though whether it is right or not to be that way in front of a fragile sanity like Flandre's is still up for debate.
[X] Stand and Fight - Zai Bassha (Melee)
[X] Cold

I assume we'll be entering a state of Tranquil Fury following this option?
What's the point of hot or cold if you people are half-hearted about everything you do?

Lack of conviction is just gonna bite our ass on the long run.
This. Soo incredibly fucking this.
I fail to see how this has anything to do with conviction. I still believe being too cold right now will bite us.
[x] Grab Flandre and escape through the side
[x] Cold

Pick an option and stick with it, faggots.
[X] Stand and Fight - Zai Bassha (Melee)
[X] Cool
Anything will bite us at this point. It was stated quite clearly that things will go down the drain by the end of the first segment.
[x] Stand and Fight - Zai Bassha (Melee)
[x] Cold
[x] Ran option

This story always makes me scared to vote, but I still like it.
extremes are generally worse, that's how genocides, etc happen.

Her abilities are limited; just because Tokiko's basically neutralized in such a state doesn't mean Flandre is. If she snaps, things will get ugly.

[X] Stand and Fight - Zai Bassha (Melee)
[X] Cool

Indeed, if Flan gets the wrong idea... she might join Sakuya willingly.
Stalin breathed air, and he was a gigantic asshole.

Just because something caused an action, doesn't mean it's necessarily bad and we should refrain from it at all costs.
Zealotry gave rise to more evil than moderation.
[B] Stand and Fight - Zai Bassha (Melee)
[B] Cool
Since it looks like voting/discussion has wound down - Calling for Cool Melee response.
And inaction/apathy lets more evil go about unchecked.
Your eyes flicked up and around, taking in the terrain once again as your mind went over the advantages and disadvantages you had here. Sure you probably missed a couple as this practice wasn't entirely familiar to you but on the whole you decided that the playing field was slightly in your favor. Sakuya's biggest advantage - her flight - was hampered by the scaffolding and curtains, not to mention the wires and cables running from the backlighting setup which she would have to avoid unless she wanted to get tangled up. As to her spells... all you'd seen so far had been a variety of projectile attacks involving various knives. While these attacks were powerful in terms of how much metal they put into the air the knives themselves were verging on the weaker side of things as even a sheet of plywood was enough to shield against them. Hell, even Tokiko's first spell - the shotgun - would have blown straight through something like that without stopping. With all the boxes, speakers, tables and other bits of kit lying around you had plenty of cover to defend yourself with.

Leaving this backstage area would put you in relatively open terrain where Sakuya, as her doppelganger had, could simply pin you down with overwhelming firepower.

Speaking of that fake... you'd have to watch out for that in case the maid tried to distract you and go for Flandre - you didn't exactly know what she was after anymore, would she still try to take the girl? Or would she instead try to take the girl out as she had originally? Did it even matter? You were going to make sure she didn't have a chance to so much as glance at Flandre again after all.

Still... leaving Flandre alone was a risk, especially in the state she seemed to be in now as you weren't sure if she would even notice an attack coming her way - much less avoid it. You take a quick breath and glance at your partner, then smile thinly when she nods in understanding as you gesture at Sakuya. From there you take off running, vaulting over a bunch of equipment as you head towards where Flandre was huddled up to one side of your opponent. Normally such a rush would have resulted in you being turned into a pincushion in seconds but as you ran you knew that Tokiko was charging the maid on her own.

Zai Bassha!” Or perhaps not so much on her own since you were casting support without even looking back. Tokiko knew how to work with that spell now and you trusted her to keep Sakuya busy while you got into position and either protected Flandre or convinced her to run for help. The former was the preferable option though as the only 'help' around was Wriggle and her partner - and since neither had come to join you backstage you were more than a little suspicious as to what they were doing... assuming they hadn't fled the building already. If you knew where your sister was right now, or even your mother, you would have eagerly sent the blond girl off to join them but you didn't and you couldn't so protecting her yourself was your only real option right now.

A yell from Tokiko made you drop suddenly into a slide just in time for a barrage of knives to slice through where your head had just been. Risking a glance back you smirked at the sight of your partner grabbing Sakuya by one ankle and swinging her, club-like, into a stack of cases and crates. Not that it seemed to keep the woman down as a mere moment later she was up and looking entirely uninjured... you frowned at that as even someone supernaturally tough should have shown some sign of injury - did Sakuya have access to some kind of protective of recovery spell perhaps? Maybe it was tied in with the doppelganger she had - could she have switched out at the last second? Both possibilities were something you filed away in the back of your head as reasons why not to assume Sakuya was down until you were absolutely sure of the fact... actually, you thought, it was probably best to apply that rule to everyone, since who knew who had spells capable of similar results?

You grimaced as Sakuya appeared to be setting up for a small barrage and quickly sought shelter by knocking over a collapsible table and hiding behind it. You also chanted out Tokiko's shielding spell so she would be able to ignore the attack herself. Still... Sakuya could easily keep the two of you pinned down if she wanted - given the sheer volume of knives she, or at least her doppelganger, had been releasing earlier it was pretty easy to deduce that her knives spell was cheap in how much stamina it took from her partner. That or her partner was some kind of stamina freak... either way it meant that she could likely keep shooting until your own stamina - and thus Tokiko's shield - simply wore out.

That wouldn't do at all.

Looking around you tried to think of some way to take out or distract Sakuya while not getting caught in the rain of pointed metal that was pincushioning everything around the maid. Hell - one knives spell? From the look of it you were starting to think that aside from her clone all her spells involved flinging vast quantities of sharp metal about and that they were all dirt cheap to cast. Now how the hell were you going to do something without being caught in any of her spells?

It took a few precious moments - and a steady drain from Tokiko's shield on your even more precious stamina - before you hit upon a plan of action. Scooting over to one end of the upturned table you were using as cover you took a deep breath, prayed hard inside your head, and threw one arm out and hoped it wouldn't get stabbed. Luckily it didn't and you were able to achieve your aim - grabbing hold of a bunch of cables which hung from light fixtures above.

Specifically, after discarding those cables which were wrong, light fixtures that were right above Sakuya.

You tugged, hard, on the cables and while some merely popped away from the lights above you were more than rewarded when two of the lights - evidently fixed to the scaffolding above less expertly than the others - ripped free of their moorings to come crashing down atop the knife-happy maid.

Well... no. Actually she dodged at the last second - but her dodge did send her straight into the falling cables, resulting in several moments of confusion as she was temporarily entangled in the mass of wires. More importantly it resulted in a cease-fire that was long enough for you to sprint out from behind your cover and slide into new cover alongside where Flandre was seemingly having a breakdown. As an afterthought you also cast Tokiko's shotgun spell, letting her pepper the maid with bullets while she was partially immobilized. From then on you turned your attention to Flandre, though you did one eye out for when Sakuya inevitably got free.

“Flandre?” You whispered, hoping your voice sounded reassuring. “Flandre? Are you alright?” you reached one hand out to rest it on her shoulder - only for the blond girl to react by slapping it away as soon as it got too close. “H-hey... Flandre...”

“Leave me alone!” She yells, completely ruining any hope that Sakuya might not notice you with the girl. “I don't wanna go back to big sis! I wanna go home!”

Something about the way she said that seemed to hit you in the back of your mind. She wasn't talking about her home - she was talking about yours. What, really, did that say about the girl? That your home with it's single crazy mother and it's snarky ape of a sister and the probably-going-to-die-horribly-sometime you was preferable to being with her real family?

You stand.

“Home it is then.” you state, looking down and giving the crying girl a little smile. “And if your sister or her lackey here has any objection to that... well...” You glare at Sakuya as she finally untangled herself from the cables you had caught her in. “They'll just have to take it up with me.”

“I see.”

As you look up Sakuya discards the last of the cables that had been entangling her. “Young mistress,” she asks in an unexpectedly soft voice and seemingly ignoring you in favor of Flandre. “Is it true? Do you really not wish to return to Lady Remilia's side?” Seeing the blond girl nod once the maid seemed to sag slightly in the air. After a moment she drew in a breath and straightened herself up before smiling lightly at Flandre. “This family you have found,” she murmured, “it seems to agree with you.” She turned to look sharply at you. “But still - If the young mistress shall not stand by Lady Remilia then the young mistress must be removed from this contest with the utmost of force.”

You gesture for Tokiko to join you as Sakuya rises somewhat higher into the air and lifts one hand above her head. You feel a buzzing in your head - the same as when someone casts a spell in close proximity only... this was different. Bigger. Quieter. As if the caster was much further away and still the buzzing sensation was reaching you - you knew now that the buzz was the vague sensing of similar magic thanks to your grimoire but if you were able to sense it while being far enough away to not actually hear Sakuya's partner cast a spell...

This was probably not going to be pretty.

Declare! Illusion Existance - Clock Corpse!


[ ] Write in.

Yes. You did read that right. I'm leaving this one free and up to you - just like Shiori you have no idea what's going to happen next. Have fun and try not to die!
Oh crap... Considering how she didn't get hurt earlier, should we go for her partner after somehow surviving the barrage? Should be fairly close after all.
If it's a spell card, or something like it, we either Bomb it or Time it out.

We might be able to fend it off with our shield spell and make a run for it, and we don't have anything that would do enough damage to shock Sakuya out of her spell...

...Well, if it's a write in, maybe we can manually create a spellcard of our own? Although that could eat up more than just stamina.
It's been a long time since I've seen that card, so I had to go replay EOSD to see what's up. It's actually one of Sakuya's easier spellcards, signifying that she isn't as tough as she appears to be. That's dandy and all, but Shiori doesn't know that.

Now, outside of a phenomenal write-in that covers all conceivable angles, we should simply do what is obvious in these cases.

[x] Dive for your makeshift table defense
[x] Geshiru when shit gets real.
[x] Dive for your makeshift table defense
[x] Geshiru when shit gets real.
What does Geshiru do again?
Quick Tokiko spell list:

Baraika - Shotgun spread of danmaku bullets. Damage decreases with range. Number of bullets is equal regardless of being fired one or two handed - so firing in different directions with each hand results in half strength attacks each way.

Doban - single projectile (two when fired two-handed), can bounce off of solid objects up to a fair number of times before impacting as a normal bullet. Number of bounces is pretty instinctive on Tokiko's part but tends to default to 'once' or 'many' rather than a specific number.

Geshiru - Shield spell. Forms a small plate-sized shield in front of Tokiko which blocks direct attacks. The shield emits waves of energy from it's edge which also stop attacks albeit more via deflection than direct blocking. Tall enough to cover herself entirely when standing, wide enough that she could have someone stand up either side and them be pretty much covered. When huddled together could probably cover a good handful of people.

Zai Bassha - A buffing spell which allows Tokiko to access portions of a singular fighting style she has learnt through pain. This means a second casting would be required to switch from 'Fighting like Meiling' to 'Fighting like Yuugi' for example. It also buffs her physical abilities (Flexibility, Speed, Strength) somewhat to make the style viable to use. Would likely get her ass horribly kicked if she tried it against the person she's mimicing as it doesn't make her an expect - just capable.

Other important grimoire information which is *confirmed* as being seen occuring by shiori.

Some players can fly - no spell appears to be cast to allow this.
Some players can use innate abilities - no spell or partner appears to be required to allow this.

All players automatically possess their normal physical characteristics such as speed or strength. Oni are strong as Oni, Tengu are fast as Tengu.

Tokiko is above Shiori's strength and toughness, though not by much. Tokiko also heals faster than Shiori.

As an advantage Grimoire-holders are slightly buffed physically in order to make them a touch more survivable. Shiori is slightly stronger, faster and tougher than an average human and will also heal a bit faster. Note he is *still* below the abilities of Tokiko even with this improvement.

'magic' outside that allowed by the grimoire is heavily locked down. Tokiko can make a small flame with effort however.

Shiori is capable of making his hair or fingernails longer - though still not too reliably.

That should be a fair rundown on Tokiko and Shiori's abilities as fighters.
>This means a second casting would be required to switch from x to y

Expound upon this. Does it mean that we cycle through our mimicked skill-set endlessly upon each casting? Does it reset back to Meiling and work its way around upon some arbitrary time constraint? Will I have to keep a running tally of just who's physical abilities we are in line for? Is there any method we have of determining just who we have mimicked (for instance, is Momiji counted in this list?) Is it retroactive; does Kanako count?

Sorry if I'm being a little overbearing, but this is important.
Thanks a lot
In theory anyone who's beaten Tokiko up enough would be viable for copying and even then the copy is proportionate to how much they did.

Ah, for example - Meiling pretty much kicked Tokiko's ass with her martial arts, mainly kicking, so Tokiko can mimic Meiling's legwork to some extent. Yuugi on the other hand only really let loose on Tokiko with her 'Knock Out In Three Steps' - so that's pretty much all Tokiko can mimic of her aside from a few strength-boosted wild swings.

It is retroactive in the sense that asskickings she got before unlocking the spell (Meiling and Yuugi) became part of it, but Kanako wouldn't count since Tokiko was never the target of Kanako's wrestling-style moves during that fight - the spell doesn't copy other spells or abilities, just physical violence. Technically you could say Kanako was copied but since all she did was punch Tokiko in the gut it's really kind of worthless. Had Tokiko been caught up in some holds or throws then she'd be be able to mimic them.

Simple rules:
Getting her ass kicked counts.
Watching someone else get theirs kicked doesn't.
Being knocked about by a spell doesn't.
Being attacked at range doesn't.

Momiji is one i could argue either way... Tokiko did physically fight her, but never really experienced the attacks connecting so technically she wouldn't be mimiced... but then you could argue that for when yuugi KOiTS-ed Tokiko so, eh. Regardless anything she mimiced from Momiji from that fight would have involved fighting with a sword - not terribly useful when unarmed as the Zai Bassha spell would not arm her.

As to the style switching - i doubt i'll likely ask for votes on which to use... but you never know. The style may change entirely by choice - no pre-set cycle. It just needs the spell to be re-cast in order to select a different style.

In simple terms Tokiko's spell currently allows her to one of the following at a time (allowing both Momiji and Kanako in here):
1) Be more flexible and fight a bit like Meiling.
2) Be a bit stronger and perform Knock Out In Three Steps like Yuugi.
3) Be a bit stronger like Kanako.
4) Be a bit faster and swing a sword a little like Momiji does.

The strength boost from Kanako and Yuugi would be about equal so unless you get into a good ol' brawl with Kanako sometime there's really no point to mimicing her as Tokiko never actually learned anything about *how* she fights directly.

As to keeping track - I'll be keeping a list of anything significant she may mimic, but it's not something Shiori would find written in his Grimoire. Given i mentioned them practicing with the spell while training with Koishi a little while back i have no problem with you knowing the list as of now (which is basically the one i wrote a paragraph or so above).
So yeah. Looks like i'm willing to explain mechanics of spells and such not directly explained within the story - though i won't explain anything thats tied into the plot.
We actually get stronger/faster/flexible depending on form? That is absolutely fantastic.

Last couple of questions. Do spells change in any way upon repeated casting? Is there any sort of delay between casting spells? What about switching spells rapidly? Forgive me if any of this is answered already, it's been a long since those first couple of threads. I should probably go re-read them, anyways.
Repeat casting has no effect on Tokiko's spells.

Casting delay is kind of negligible, but there are some spells better suited to rapid firing while some do have slower build ups. For Tokiko her fastest casting spell is probably Doban (bouncing bullet) since she was able to fill a hallway with repeat castings way back against Meiling.
Her slowest... i'd say Geshiru (Shield) but it's a warm up time of under a few seconds at most. Contrast that to Iku - who we saw waaaaaay back - who had a lightning spell with a pretty long (relatively) charge time.
The only other real limit to casting speed is how fast a grimoire holder can yell them out. Obviously the more complex the spell name the less rapidly you can do this without messing it up.

Combining spells ... iffy subject since Shiori hasn't really seen anything much in that sense. The closest he's seen is probably Kanako - who had one spell which created some onbashira to hit things with and another which fired one of 'em off like a missile. Presumably then the second spell is useless unless the first is cast before it.

Switching spells rapidly wouldn't do anything for Tokiko.
[x] Dive for your makeshift table defense
[x] Geshiru when shit gets real.
[x] when its finishes use Zai Bassha (Yuugi)
she won't expect a weak bird youkai to have super strength
We already tried brute strength. Swung her into crates without any visible effects.
It might be clever time play at work; it's hard to tell how that defense works, but it has to have a flaw. A little no-note bird girl suddenly hitting like an Oni is bound to catch her off guard. Though it'd be best to see how lowly Sakuya considers her as such a tactic is best if Sakuya's grossly overconfident.
Let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Sakuya is about to use the first spellcard we have ever seen in these fights, and our plan is to use our most draining spell to shield ourselves against it. Worst case scenario, we won't even have enough mana to cast Zai Bassha.
[X] Stay near your makeshift table just in case.
-[X] Put into effect Koishi's dodging lessons.
[X] Geshiru when shit gets real.
[X] Cold

Be sure to wacth your peripherals!
[X] Stay near your makeshift table just in case.
-[X] Put into effect Koishi's dodging lessons.
[X] Geshiru when shit gets real.

Pretty much all we can do after all. And like >>24931 stated, we ned to watch out. The name of the spell does start with Illusion after all.
Is this plan going to defend Flandre as well? We should at least make sure she's behind cover.
She's still behind the table. Depending on Tokiko's location, she will easily be covered by Geshiru, if the table isn't enough.
If it's a spell card, then it's a good chance it'll be more spread out than her previous attacks, giving us a better chance of getting through.
Actually, I believe the knives shoot towards your position in this card, could be wrong though. The votes for trying to graze them are just silly though, as Shiori has no idea whats about to happen, except that its fast and bad.
What to do if everything we come up with seems no good?
We wait for Desu to update so we can vote accordingly. Same as every other time.

I update? I thought this stuff just sort of appeared after i got drunk enough...

Anyway, consensus seems to be leaning towards using cover and/or mad dodging skills while saving the shield spell for when shit gets real so that's where i'll be going (or at least trying to go) with this.
I'd have chimed in earlier, but I kept getting distracted, and by this point most of the things I'd have suggested have already been put forth.

That said... Depending on projectile density grabbing a loose pipe or two and using Zai Bassha to pick up Momiji's speed boost to swat the knives out of the air might provide a reasonable alternative defense, as I believe it's a lower drain than holding the shield for a decent length of time, and it's been mentioned that the knives themselves are fairly light and easily knocked aside. Or, at least, the ones form her previous attacks were, the spellcard might use heavier and/or enhanced shots, so you'd want to get a feel for the card before committing to something like that.

On a related note... Sakuya's partner. Either s/he's hiding close enough to watch the fight well enough to cast spells when appropriate, perhaps being cloaked by another of Sakuya's spells, or they have some alternate means of sensing what's going on. One option would be an as-of-yet unlocked ability, be it mental communication/shared senses or something else along those lines. The other option, and a rather more simple one, is that her partner's hiding out in a security station of some sort and is watching the fight remotely via surveillance equipment. Which, come to think of it, may have already occurred to Wriggle or her partner, so they may very well be hunting them down while you're keeping Sakuya occupied.

And for the future, Tokiko may want to go out and learn some actual combat styles though methods that don't require her head getting beaten in, particularly along the lines of grappling maneuvers, as landing a dislocation on a longer-ranged fighter like Sakuya would likely be crippling. Akira would likely be a good source of assistance on this, provided she managed to get out of that earlier mess intact.
Is hot blood ever useful in this story? It seems like an idiot button.

We know Sakuya is aiming for Flandre yet people don't seem to be putting any special effort into protecting her. This won't end well.
Might as well add a useless tide-pissing vote while I'm annoying everyone with non-update posts.

[x] Search for a fifth spell: super-speed. It worked for Wriggle.
- Try combining it with Zai Bassha.

I'm surprised no one suggested searching for a new spell before.
>aiming for Flandre yet people don't seem to be putting any special effort into protecting her.
Step one. Dive behind table that Flandre is also behind.
Step two. Use our only shield spell to cover us.
How do you figure we aren't covering her? Our entire plan centers on defending ourselves, and by proxy, her.

That's because its a fools pursuit. We might as well wish Sakuya dead.
Bad comparisson... we have Flandre. Wishing her dead might actually work.
I see where you are coming from. Clearly, we need to drag Flandre into every battle and have her kyuu people dead, amirite?

Stop being silly.
I'm just saying that maybe being betrayed by a trusted caregiver and defying her beloved sister might be enough that Flandre would kyuu Sakuya, given some prodding. That's nowhere near the same as kyuuing random people or dragging her to every battle.

Of course, it's a moot point. There's no way that Flandre would do it without convincing, and Sakuya is the only person present that even knows what Flandre is capable of.
I got you. Prodding Flandre into kyuuing Sakuya would certainly be a very effective plan. A little risky, perhaps, but one that would decisively end this fight. Too bad none of the other anons would ever let it fly.
Yeah, but we can't plan to do it. Shiori doesn't know enough. All he can do to prod her is get beaten up... and we're currently planning to do just that.

Flandre saving us is the same as Koishi or Wriggle saving us. Completely out of our control.
To say that things went to hell after Sakuya's declaration would be something of an incorrect statement. Also a terrible understatement.

It, and you still weren't entirely sure what 'it' was exactly, had begun slowly and had begun with Sakuya. At first 'it' seemed like a slight haze in the air around the maid, a haze which seemed to you like some kind of rapidly expanding balloon. As the haze expanded it came into contact with things - wires, boxes, scaffold and eventually the ground itself. Each time it touched these things the point of contact burst into blue-white flames which ate their way along the object as the haze passed through - leaving nothing, not even any ash you could see, behind.

Escape would have been a great idea if it hadn't been for the sheer speed of the expansion and burning effect, so fast it was that even moving as quickly as you could the haze had already expanded past you before you had even turned away to run.

It tingled.

Your brain, still reacting in panic, didn't get the message that what had happened had already beaten you for another few seconds. During this time you had finished turning away from Sakuya and had begun to run... though as the realization that you're not on fire kicks in you slow down and come to a halt in a few steps. Flandre, who you had evidently dragged behind you, also comes to a halt and the young girl hisses in surprise as she looks around.

It's not hard to see why.

All around you, where once there had been all the trappings of the backstage area, was an empty space. It stretched a fair distance in all directions where the area simply ended with great brick walls upon which were even greater giant clock faces - like the kind seen on a European clock-tower only... bigger. Much bigger. Glancing around you estimated this area to be about the width of a football pitch from one side to another... and you couldn't see anything that looked like an exit of any kind in any of the walls.

You swore once and spun to face Sakuya only to freak out, internally, at the mass of blue-white bullets - bullets, not knives - she had just fired in all directions. As the cloud of bullets spread out you felt your heart rate drop in relief as you saw just how far apart many of the projectiles had spread. Heck, even you could dodge these! They weren't even going that fa-


-st and... Holy hell! There were knives [i]everywhere[i] now! You threw yourself to one side to avoid what seemed to be a swarm of knives that were all aimed in your direction. You hit the ground harder than expected and winced in pain only to immediately forget about the pain as a knife - part of a group which had been sent out separately to the ones aimed specifically at you - sunk into the floor nearby. The floor was a thick red carpet you noticed now and it seemed entirely undamaged by the knife and the bull-


You forgot about the bullets!

You rolled onto your back just in time to see that you needed to move the hell out of the way immediately. Unfortunately being on ones back is not the best position to be in if one wishes to make a quick dodge - as you found out much to your horror and pain when you failed to dodge the slow bullets entirely. When you realized that there was no way to avoid being grazed by the shots you panicked, your mind flashing back to the very first battle you had where Tokiko had literally blown Lily's chest open with bullets just like these. Then the bullet hit and the only thing you could think of was pain. Pain in your upper thigh as the bullet felt as if it was carving a slice of flesh from your leg. Agony in your abdomen on the opposite side as one just clipped you a little above the hip and felt like a shard of metal being pushed into you. You could feel your heart pumping like mad, your brain all but trying to explode in your head, you were passing ou....

A shadow passed in front of you and, through blurry eyes, you saw the silver hair of your partner as she stood with her arms spread wide to intercept what looked to be the next wave of knives coming your way.

Your heart stopped. Just for a moment, the briefest fraction of a second, but it stopped dead as your fuzzy brain went from barely working to practically overloading as it calculates - in exquisite detail - what the effect of that many knives would have on Tokiko's body. You screamed inside as you tried to push your body to move but one leg wasn't responding and even the slightest twitch of the other send paralyzing lances of pain down that side of your body. One arm vaguely reached out but nothing was working, you couldn't... there was nothing you could... if only...

[ ] Hot
[ ] Warm
[ ] Cool
[ ] Cold
Y'know, i was going to follow the previous write in more - then this happened. Hooray for sucking at following longer votes i guess?
[x] Hot
This is not going to fly
[x] Hot

The first casualty is always the damn plan.
[x] Cold

We always go cold when Tokiko gets hurt. She's about to get hurt.
[X] Cold

Tokiko gets hurt, no mercy to the enemy.
[x] Cold
[x] Cold

The frustration Shiori must be feeling over not being able to protect Tokiko in all of these fights is surely surfacing. I don't know about you guys, but constantly being the weaker link and needing protection would infuriate me. To see Tokiko being hurt because Shiori wasn't fast/strong enough would definitely be cold anger.

So much for our brilliant plan. I guess it just can't be helped, as Sakuya pulled out a fucking reality marble.
What's this about the plan being destroyed? It isn't. This is the shit got real moment that we were saving our shield for.
[x] Cold

Screw you, Sakuya, and not in the nice way.
Shield? No. We've been hit, and now it's time to counterbomb.

If there was a time for an... explosive emotional outburst, this would probably be it.

That said, there are problems that could arise regardless of choice here. Cold? Nice for when you actually have a moment to to get your thoughts in order, but he's been tagged a few times and Tokiko's about to get skewered, so time is not a luxury you currently have. Warm/Cool strike me as a bit too indecisive for the current situation. Hot might cause him to miss something important... but it's also the option that feels most likely to get him to fight through the pain and act.
[ ] Hot

As >>24964 said, there's no time to be cold.
[ ] Hot

Hot is fast.
Act? What the fuck do you think he's going to do, develop spontaneous ass-kicking ability? Shiori needs to learn his place: in the back, far from the fighting, like all the other partners he's fought.
It's not like there's time to think of something either. We need to do something NOW, whatever it is or Tokiko is going to bite it before Shiori's eyes.
Why is hot better at acting than cold? I can understand voting for hot because you like hot-blooded narration, but you seem to think not voting for it will lead to an immediate bad end. Silly.

lol tie votes
For all that I voted Hot, both options are workable, but have different potential downsides.

They could both, for example, lead to using the shield. Hot would do so faster and prevent Tokiko from getting tagged at all, but he might not notice that, say, he doesn't have the book out, which would cause an extra drain and leave him less able cast later in the fight. Cold would take a moment to get it together and pull out the book for more efficient casting, but Tokiko would likely take hits in the interim, which would hamper her own ability to fight if an opening presented itself.
I don't think that's how the temperature works. Shiori isn't going to turn into some calculating robot that would let Tokiko be hurt just because he is thinking coldly.

For example, in this choice, Tokiko being attacked will lead him to anger in all responses. Hot would be a more passionate fury over her immediate danger, leading him to do all in his grasp to protect her simply because she is being hurt in any circumstance, whereas I view cold leading to the same end, but via frustration. Frustration at her having to endanger herself to protect him, and being weak enough to be placed into this situation in the first place. That is not to say he wouldn't be pissed off that she is being hurt, but it would be for a slightly different reason.

But in the end, this is all just lolopinions, so feel free to disagree.
I'd vote but this whole thing sounds like a hopeless boss fight. The whole thing NEEDS an asspull to have something of a chance.
[x] Cold

I've nothing to say, besides this line.
[X] Cold
Consistency I suppose, but we could really vote for the other end of the scale every once in a while
We did. During the Meiling fight.
>Every once in a while
Just so y'all know - i've called this as cold since the votes stopped a few days ago.
Are you writing? If so, hurray!
Time seemed to slow down as you forced your mind away from the pain in order to think. You knew this state wouldn't last long - the pain was too great to ignore for more than a few seconds at best - but it was all you had so you were going to make the most of it.

Plans formed in your head one after another and each was quickly dismissed as impractical, impossible or would involve sacrificing either Tokiko or Flandre in the process. Needless to say those plans were right out as there was no way you were going to let either girl die just so you would survive. If only you had just a little more time to work with! Tokiko's shield spell would easily stop Sakuya's attack, but it had two major flaws. The first being how long the damn thing took to come into existence, in reality it was a time measured in seconds but they were seconds you didn't have... not if you factored in the whole 'in too much pain to speak clearly or quickly' issue at least. The other flaw was that... well... you weren't entirely sure the shield would work. It was pretty much only capable of blocking things from the front and with the wide angled spread of the homing knives you were more than a little worried that a good number would slip in around the side and hit you, Flandre or Tokiko anyway.

You could maybe use the physical enhancing spell, Zai Bassha, that one was almost instant when cast and it wouldn't be hard for Tokiko to grab you and Flandre and get the hell out of the way with it. Except there was no way in hell you were going to stay conscious if Tokiko moved you that quickly - and you really, really didn't fancy your chances of survival if you passed out and left Tokiko without magical support.


Magical Support?

There was something important in those two words. As the first slivers of pain broke into your state of concentration you turned your mind towards this sense of importance - it was the best lead you had in terms of ideas right now so you had no choice but to take it.

Magical support. Magical... support... You turned the words over a few times as you tried to work out why they seemed so important. For a moment you wondered if that sense of importance meant one of Tokiko's other spells but try as you might you couldn't see how you could use them right now. Her shooting spells wouldn't save you, her shield spell was too iffy to use in this situation and her reinforcement would leave you in need of even more recovery than be...for...e...

A thought shot through your brain like lightning.

Was that even possible?

Tokiko hadn't mentioned anything like that - but it wasn't as if you had gotten far enough that she would have reason to tell you either.

It's easier to make the body do something it already wants to do.

That description of magic popped into your mind as you considered your new plan.

This... this just might work. Even if it didn't the plan was still the only one you had which held even the slightest chance of real success and didn't inevitably end with you either dead or unconscious. Okay, yeah, it had a fairly good chance of you dying horribly anyway but a slim chance of success was by far better than no chance. If you were the more hot headed type you'd probably have rationalized this as making your own luck or luck favoring the courageous.

But really? This was just the least pathetic choice out of a whole range of pathetic choices.

You took a deep breath - as best you could anyway - and tried to search inside yourself for that gelatin-like mass of magic you knew you possessed. The first thing you noted when you found it was that it was smaller than usual, probably a result of using Tokiko's grimoire earlier. Was there enough of it left for what you had planned? Given that you had no idea how to really judge what you had left nor did you have any idea how much you needed to use for your plan.... It really didn't matter - it would have to do whether it was enough or not. Carefully you visualized, as best you could, what you wanted your magic to do and then...

And then...

You pushed.

* * * * * * * *

Flandre squeaked in surprise as you rose, your wounds hissing and popping with pinkish steam as they appeared to close up at speed - not perfectly though, there would be more than a little scarring around the areas as this was magically sped up natural healing and not some kind of super regeneration ability.

It also hurt like a bitch. Two bitches even.

Rising to your feet you staggered forward as you pumped more and more magic into your protesting body. Moving was natural right? Your body wanted your muscles to move right? This, like the healing, was just another application of the hair and nail growing you had learned - forcing magic to make your body do something it wanted to do and do it better than normal. Your stagger turned into a loping run as you covered the distance between yourself and your partner even while Sakuya's knives sped towards the same target. You vaguely noticed Flandre practically dancing around the knives and bullets which weren't on-target so, for the moment, put her out of your mind as you focused on Tokiko.

Despite the fact that the gouges in your side and leg were now gone they were still raw and tender so that each step you took felt as if you were ripping your wounds open and fresh every time. You staggered towards your partner until you were close enough to reach out and put your left hand against her right shoulder - evidently you hadn't exactly gone in as straight a line as you had thought. The silver-haired girl tensed and let out a gasp of fear at your touch before she twisted her head to see who had come up behind her. Her eyes widened at the sight of you and then widened again as you flung her, violently, by the shoulder so that she practically flew to the left while you attempted a dive to the right as Sakuya's knives speared through where you had both been standing.

Key word: 'Attempted'.

For the most part you had succeeded as non of the knives hit you anywhere immediately vital and none of them hit Tokiko anywhere. The problem was that in flinging Tokiko away your arm, the left one, hadn't quite got out of the way as fast as the rest of you had.

If being grazed by bullets was painful then having your arm turn into some kind of horrible porcupine of knives redefined the entire concept of pain. In a moment of panic you grabbed what magic you had left and shoved it into your metal-speared arm as hard as you could in the hope of re-creating your earlier healing success. You didn't really notice if it had succeeded or failed as at that moment your body chose to start not listening anymore and you had the most curious sensation of falling forwards, then halting as someone grabbed you from behind. Whoever grabbed you grunted before pulling you upwards at the waist.

Huh. Too short to be Tokiko then, she would have been able to grab you around the chest. Flandre maybe? Flaaaaaandre. Huh. She was stronger than you thought with the way she was able to swing you around like this in order to avoid either of you being shot. Wooo... You wondered if anyone else had noticed that all those knives and bullets looked rather pretty when you weren't being hit with them.

A tiny part of you could tell that the rest of you was slipping into a half-awake state of shock. That tiny part of you, however, could do nothing but watch while your brain largely started to act with less and less conscious reasoning ability.

It observed as Flandre danced you around Sakuya's attacks - not all that gently but it wasn't like she was big enough to do better - until eventually the wave of attacks seemed to peter off and eventually cease entirely.

It listened as Flandre spoke... but without the rest of your brain working properly it had no idea what she said, only that Sakuya recoiled from her words in fear. It watched as Sakuya yelled something back and it seethed as it felt Flandre shake behind you.

fsu yu” It mumbled through your mouth, which caused Sakuya to look down at your body with some surprise. Maybe she thought you were dead?

That little bit of your mind that had resisted going into shock wasn't entirely sure you weren't.

And with that it too surrendered.

* * * * * * * *


[ ] Iron Oxide Alley -OR- And We All Fall Down,
[ ] Peach Turtle Bear Dragon -OR- Firearm Artillery.
[ ] She Doesn't Need Earrings -OR- Albino Alpha Keratin
[ ] It's Not Easy Being Green -OR- Yeeeeeeaaaaaaah!

So everyone should be picking 4 choices. Each line will be tallied seperately so in the end i'll be writing one from each set.
Look like Flandre finally had enough. Now let's see...

[x] And We All Fall Down
Not sure, but maybe related to those snippets mentionning piloting lessons. With Sanae?

[x] Firearm Artillery
Tenshi and Iku are probably for the other choice. Firearm had me think Reisen, but she's out. Then again, something of war makes me think of Kanako. I know she's more melee, but maybe it's referring to a support attack she gained?

[x] Albino Alpha Keratin
Albino... Maybe Mokou?

[x] Yeeeeeeaaaaaaah!
Because Yeeeeeeaaaaaaah!
[X] Iron Oxide Alley
[X] Firearm Artillery.
[X] She Doesn't Need Earrings
[X] Yeeeeeeaaaaaaah!

[x]Iron Oxide Alley
[x]Firearm Artillery.
[x]She Doesn't Need Earrings
[x]It's Not Easy Being Green

Shiori is a bad ass motherfucker, though I am incredibly concerned about his arm. Being pin cushioned will definitely have some adverse effects on his range of motion unless he gets some magical healing or something.
because it reminds me of the dead space 2 trailer:
[ ] And We All Fall Down
[ ] Firearm Artillery.
[ ] She Doesn't Need Earrings
[ ] Yeeeeeeaaaaaaah!
[x] And We All Fall Down,
[x] Peach Turtle Bear Dragon
[x] She Doesn't Need Earrings
[x] It's Not Easy Being Green

I hope all fall down is Yamame. Made me think of ring around the rosies.
[X] Iron Oxide Alley
[X] Firearm Artillery.
[X] She Doesn't Need Earrings
[X] It's Not Easy Being Green

I'm guessing firearm relates to Okuu's control rod, since it resembles a cannon and controls nuclear fire.

Just o be safe,
[X] Utsuho option
[x]And We All Fall Down
[x] Peach Turtle Bear Dragon
[x] She Doesn't Need Earrings
[x] It's Not Easy Being Green

I suppose if she doesn't need earrings she doesn't have ears?
[x]Iron Oxide Alley
[x]Firearm Artillery.
[x]She Doesn't Need Earrings
[x]It's Not Easy Being Green
[Q] Iron Oxide Alley
[Q] Peach Turtle Bear Dragon
[Q] She Doesn't Need Earrings
[Q] Yeeeeeeaaaaaaah!
[x] And We All Fall Down
[x] Firearm Artillery
[x] Albino Alpha Keratin
[x] It's Not Easy Being Green

Albino Alpha Keratin sounds like a Momiji option, and It's Not Easy Being Green sounds like a Parsee option. I'll be damned if I have any clue as to what the other options are, though.
[x] Iron Oxide Alley
[x] Firearm Artillery.
[x] Albino Alpha Keratin
[x] Yeeeeeeaaaaaaah!

Albino's are white and Keratin is found in hair, so the white alpha-hare sounds like Tewi Option. I suppose Firearm Artillery means Gun-Cannon, right? And CSI option means Renko, of course.
Iron oxide is rust... Rust alley... Socket... Notori wa.

However, I choose
[x] We all fall down, as the old nursery rhyme goes... Ashes... Ashes... We all fall down. I believe this is a mokou scene.

[x ] Peach Turtle Bear Dragon: self explanatory Tenshi Nitori ... Ns about bear... Kaguya

-OR- Firearm Artillery. Okuu?

[x ] Albino Alpha Keratin I assume this is the reisen option. Dunno about the earings comment.

[x ] It's Not Easy Being Green: Yuuka. I'm not sure about the meme reference.
...I think 'It's not easy being green' is actually Suwako. Unless I'm very much mistaken, that line was originally spoken by Kermit the Frog. Suwako is a frog goddess, so there you go.

Also, the vote opposite that one is Renko. It's an oh so obvious CSI reference.

[X]Iron Oxide Alley
[X]Peach Turtle Bear Dragon
[X]She doesn't need earrings
[X]It's not easy being green
[X] And We All Fall Down
[X] Firearm Artillery
[X] She Doesn't Need Earrings
[X] It's Not Easy Being Green
Calling with:

Firearm Artillery
She Doesn't Need Earrings
It's Not Easy Being Green

The first two are a tie... so i may end up writing both, or i'll pick one at random.

Evidently when i last wrote this post i was less coherent than i thought.
just in case people are wondering - no shit isn't dead here. Just a combination of massive blockage and me being sucked into some unholy megaproject thing I sparked off by accident that's taking up all my time.
As long as you brought some magical frills back to decorate Tokiko's dress, I'm fine with waiting.
Best of luck, AD!!
Just bumping. Still nothing AD?
I am actully curious when AD will come back, its been ages since his last post
Yeah... the simple fact is that lately I've kind of fallen out of the Touhou fandom for various reasons. With luck I'll draw myself back in eventually but I guess this'll be fairly dead until then. Though I admit that saying this now leaves me open to certain people bugging the hell out of me until I do something... ahahahaha...

My butt is now inflamed.
You have no idea how happy you admitting this makes me. Most people just turn their backs, but you, you remembered to turn around and say goodbye. Thank you.

And it's totally cool, I had a falling out with your story as well~
I hope you come back sometime soon. We'll be waiting
We're still waiting.

Although I'm hurting too.

BFP's over, right? We're still here and we'd love to see you.
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