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File 136106719590.jpg - (157.62KB, 1000x899, simple pleasures.jpg) [iqdb]
28702No. 28702
This is a practice story, to see if I’m truly cut out for this CYOA thing. Hopefully it doesn’t go off with too many problems.
----------------------------

“We are all haunted, all of us, by things we can see and feel and guess at, and many more things that we can't.”

~ Beth Gutcheon ~

----------------------------

Lying in the shade of one of many verdant trees that makes up a little grove just on the outskirts of my village, a young man cozily reads about local legends long past in faraway kingdoms he’s never been. While he may never experience such an adventure himself, he doesn’t mind too badly. He takes to reading any chance he can get, briefly eluding the toils of his work as apprentice to a knowledgeable weapons manufacturer. Contrary to what images may emerge to someone told about his looming profession, the boy really has no wishes to go out and pursue a life of defending the village or hunting potentially threatening youkai. He simply wanted to make something useful for the other men to do, they being far more built and daring to fit the life of a soldier or hunter. Not only that, risking his life in such a gruesome manner would be directly infringing on the duties of the shrine maiden, the local celebrity everybody knows about regardless of their race. So there he sits, his shoulders dug into the exposed base of this oak tree, enjoying a lunch break for all it’s worth.

While it’s certainly a good book, I must admit I’ve grown tired of reading it over and over. There are only so many different selections to choose from in our undersupplied library, as proud of it as we may be. Eventually, one will come to realize he has perused every single text to be found, and must then make a choice to either give up the habit or reread something he already knows by heart. To deny myself the privilege to written works is unheard of, much like the passerby who keeps a package of food all to himself without any though for the monks he may pass. So I’ve come to rotate through stories quite familiar to me by now, always sitting here in the lap of a mighty tree—when the weather permits—usually with a light snack to gratify me before heading home for the evening, and feasting on the comparatively larger dinner.

Today is no exception. Reaching in the paper sack by my side, I pull out a strange type of roll shaped in the style of a conjoined tube, complete with a hole in the middle. When I had gone to the bakery earlier this morning, I inquired as to the name of this bizarre item, for I’d never seen anything like it. The woman at the counter informed me it was a bread known as a "bagel". Apparently they’re quite popular outside of Gensokyo, but virtually unknown locally. Even she admitted to me she had come to know of them only recently through the maid who works at the devil’s mansion by the lake. Already reason enough to be suspicious, if that’s the point of origin, she further told me the rolls are formed by taking the yeast dough and boiling it in water before moving to a more traditional baking method. How exactly one cooks bread by putting it in a pot instead of a stove is something I don’t entirely understand, nor do I really want to understand. She must have sensed my unease with the concept, for she quickly assured me that despite the unusual preparations they were actually quite good, and even went so far as to serve me one as a free sample.

Chewing on it now, it certainly can be defined as ‘edible’ and very much like normal bread in texture and taste. Perhaps it’s slightly more challenging to bite into, but nothing that couldn’t be aided by a cup of water on the side.

After several minutes of browsing my eyes, I reach a good stopping point. Taking the plain bookmark laying on my shirt and sliding it in between the proper pages, I shut the book and insert it back into my carrying bag. Feeling the onset of a particularly good yawn, I prop myself up using the tree trunk behind me as a support. A few more moments of stretching my arms out to loosen the stiffness in my muscles has me noticing I’m still holding the bagel. Hmm, there only appear to be two or three bites left. I’ll just save it for later. I subsequently return it to my snack sack, which in turn is put into my carrying bag.

It’s a relatively peaceful day out right now. Clouds are in the sky, but it isn’t overcast, so the sun has had moments throughout the day to make itself known. Currently it appears to be just around noon, if not a few minutes past. I should have a little bit of time left to wander the village before I’m required to return to the shop. Maybe I’ll finally get a chance to go and check out—



The wind shifts and catches my ear just right. I am briefly aware of a faint noise traveling from behind me back into the woods. It finishes just as quickly as it starts, but immediately I pinpoint its identity, for it seems pretty obvious what I heard (or at least thought I heard) just then.

Music. Quiet, but powerful music.

My previous thought momentarily forgotten, I turn in the direction I believe the music first emanated. Focusing myself, I try for another audio peek of that brief snippet of noise, but come up with nothing. It's just static whiteness mixing with the wind. Certainly, this melodic apparition now has my curiosity, but I couldn’t just head out into the forest like this, searching for the source spot of something which could very well be gone by this point, or never existed in the first place. I have heard of the dangers of traveling alone, what with all the hungry demons lurking in the shadows waiting to converge on some unsuspecting human, and I definitely don’t want to become one of those fools. Still, this isn’t the Forest of Magic; this is a small grove, far less dense than that woodland metropolis and clear on the opposite side of the village. I should be able to alert somebody if I run into danger, even though there are barely any guards on this side. But I also have to take into consideration my remaining time. I absolutely cannot be late to my duties.

[] You have time, go look for the source.
[] Make a mental note and come back later.
[]Forget about it, walk around town a little.
---------------------------------------------

For the record, the first paragraph is from the protagonist’s POV; he just felt like using third-person in that instant to set the mood.
Expand all images
>>No. 28703
[x] Forget about it, walk around town a little.
>>No. 28704
[X] You have time, go look for the source
>>No. 28705
[X]Forget about it, walk around town a little.

This is a practice vote, to see if I’m truly cut out for this voter thing. Hopefully it doesn't go off with too many problems.
>>No. 28706
>>28705

Har har. You tickle my funny bone indeed, good sir.

Though seriously, I wonder myself why I felt the need to keep that line in there. It should read closer to 'This is a simple first story, so I can get my feet wet with experience and allow myself to build up to more grand ideas.'

Anyway, I'll leave the voting booth open a little while longer, just in case there happen to be a few unaccounted bodies left in the fields, and once Danbooru 2.0 stops freaking out and manages to stabilize itself.
>>No. 28707
[X]Forget about it, walk around town a little.
>>No. 28708
[x] Make a mental note and come back later.

Because why not.
>>No. 28709
File 136125366493.jpg - (211.78KB, 850x1088, brochure lady.jpg) [iqdb]
28709
Right then, thanks to those of you who put something closely resembling faith into me. It's good to know this board hasn't yet become as dead as...well, you know.
----------------------------

WINNER: [X] Forget about it, walk around town a little.

Eh, I’m probably imagining things. That book must have really loosened me up if I’m so susceptible to hearing random bits of pretend music. Hell, if I did heard anything in the wind, it was just the remnants of some dying gossip spread by some desperate tengu, looking for news to sell his flailing tabloid. What won’t those lowlives do to generate profit?

Sure of my theory, I sling the strap of my bag across my shoulder and start walking to the nearest village entryway. I seem to have caught a good moment to begin my return trek. The sun, previously covered up by one truly lengthy cloud, finally breaks free from its vapory curtain and shines total intensity back onto the earth below. This warming, toasty comfort is a welcomed sensation. It really rouses my awareness and shakes the last clinging fragments of drowsiness burrowed into my spirit off. I should be all set mentally for the rest of the afternoon.

Approaching the entrance, I nod a friendly acknowledgement to the one guard on duty. He grins back at me knowingly before stepping aside to let me walk past. Once inside the boundaries, I’m reminded of how early I usually take my lunch break. The normally vacant dirt walks have begun to congest with fellow villagers, all scrambling as smoothly as possible to quell the hungry youkai of their guts. Already several semi-long lines have formed at various stalls brimming with anxious customers looking to buy a cheap meat bun, or some skewered shellfish off the grill, or perhaps just a bowl of seasoned noodles. It’s a good thing none of the children have been let out of school yet; no doubt a few of them would accidentally end up trampled by some impatient person—mind blinded by sights of glorious food—not paying the slightest bit of attention to his surroundings. That and the more delinquent ones would revel in this confusion, picking pockets by the dozen.

Not caring much for the scene of eateries at the moment, I do my best to navigate around the ever-shifting rivers of people. Soon I make my way into the heart of the village—the square. Here several traditional types of businesses make their claim to the betterment of the community. I don’t often get a chance to explore this portion of the town. My routine has me wake up at my family home, head immediately to the armament shop, savor a brief break before resuming work for six more hours, then back home to sleep and perform the same schedule once again. It’s a demanding job, but I’ve grown accustom to it. Though, now that I have an opening I could take a look into that little idea that sprung to mind not a few minutes back, before I had short-lived audio hallucinations. Yes, for the longest time I’ve been wondering about—

“Free tea ceremony!”

Huh? No, that’s not it. Rather, it was—

“A perfect chance to shed the sinful clothes of your soul! Come and try some soothing sitting meditation in the shadows of Myouren Temple and bring yourself closer to enlightenment!”

…Well, that’s certainly not what I was planning to do. Those aren’t even my own thoughts. Turning my head left, I catch a gaze of the sudden loud proclamation. On the opposite side of the square stands a young girl clad in a light pink button up that almost entirely conceals her white dress, given away by the hem sticking out the bottom. Cradled in one arm appears to be a stack of flyers, presumably for the temple she mentioned beforehand. One might ponder the reasons why a little girl is advertising a Buddhist monastery that didn’t even exist until recently, but they likely wouldn’t get very far before noticing the very tell-tale signs of her true nature.

A pair of fluffy, floppy ears resting upon a head roofed by some odd greenish-blue colored hair I don’t remember the name of, not that it matters, for it isn’t a hue known to normal humans like me. In fact, despite only recently becoming acquainted with her, most villagers could recognize her presence the instant she started speaking.

Kasodani Kyouko. The yamabiko youkai.

“Invite your parents! Invite your uncle! Invite everybody you’ve ever known as soon as you can!”

As she waves her free hand robustly to attract interest for the announcements falling on mostly deaf ears, a part of me can’t help but feel sympathy for all the effort she’s making. Then again, it’s understandable why her attempts at promotion fall flat. Despite how friendly she seems, her nature as a youkai makes her a natural target for contempt. This reputation isn’t helped by her general rareness when it comes to appearing in the village. Whenever she leaves the confines of the temple, a majority of townsfolk choose to ignore her attempts at igniting a conversation, whether it be out of fear of her bringing them deafness, or just thinking her to be a nuisance. If it’s meant to discourage her, it doesn’t seem to be working. She just comes back the next time even more determined to smash these intentional barriers down with cheerfulness.

So now I find myself standing in the middle of the road, staring at this spectacle which doesn’t even seem to realize its own futility. It certainly would not look good on my part to stay motionless, and become a proxy spectacle for others to ridicule as well.

[] Go over and talk with Kyouko.
[] Continue onward to the shop.
[] Wait, maybe something good can come from my standing here…
>>No. 28710
[x] Go over and talk with Kyouko.
>>No. 28711
[X] Go over and talk with Kyouko.

Sure, why not? I'm sure that talking with her will humor us in some way.
>>No. 28712
[x] Go over and talk with Kyouko.
>>No. 28713
[x] Go over and talk with Kyouko.
>>No. 28719
File 136168352041.png - (642.75KB, 760x760, greet & meet.png) [iqdb]
28719
WINNER: [X] Go over and talk with Kyouko.

Admittedly, it is somewhat depressing for such a booming little girl to be disregarded when she’s only doing her best on the part of her institution. Just how long has she been standing out here for? A few minutes? Half an hour? And if she has been here a while, how did I manage to space out so much and not take notice of her immediately? Is the attitude of everybody else starting to infect me as well?

Ah, no no. I shouldn’t be thinking like this, especially when I’m still coming down from the high of my lunch break. It’s good to have positive thoughts in the body, is it not? And this oblivious youkai, totally unaware of how easily she has stolen my attention, currently appears to be crammed full of positive emotion. Even though she doesn’t act like she’s concerned with the lack of responses to her public rallying, maybe it’d be good if someone gave her a few words of encouragement, to assure her that what she’s doing right now isn’t pointless.

Granted, that someone shan’t be me. I’ve barely ever spoken to Kyouko, save for when she was first initiated into the monastery and the head monk thought it would be a great idea to walk her around the village and introduce her to every single person. From what scare information I understand about her race, yamabiko are naturally skittish around humans as a whole. I was one of the last ones she came to meet, and by that point the whole trip had made her so tightly wound she barely could even offer me the proper greeting. Though she has gotten better since then, just what kind of effect did that have on her psyche? I know it’s silly to think about the inner workings of a youkai to this degree, but now that I’m on the subject it just won’t leave my mind alone. I suppose it’s in my nature to be easily distracted by these sorts of thoughts, but what am I to do? I brought up the topic in my head. I can’t just abandon it suddenly for the purpo—

“Move it, fool!”

Eh?! Just barely, I dodge the path of an oncoming fruit vendor shoving his barrow of produce down the clustered square at high speed. The wooden wheel bounces the cart unevenly on the rutted dirt road, making it all the more astonishing the man doesn’t lose his grip and let the yield tip over. He has one swift moment to shoot a glare at me before barreling his way further down traffic. From the looks of things, he won’t be anymore forgiving to any additional obstacles he encounters. So then who exactly is the fool? Watch who’s in front of you next time!

…It occurs to me just then that I still haven’t really moved from my spot at all. Onlookers are more than likely labeling me as an idiot as I speak. Well of course I deserve it, given how I’d been wasting time by paying attention to the troubles of unimportant people. There really is no one to blame but myse—

“Excuse me sir! Are you all right?”

And how do I keep getting interrupted mid-thought? Spinning to confront this newest distraction, I…find myself face-to-face with Kyouko, now moved from her corner of the square, a look of worry plastered on her face. The pent-up outburst that had been ready to escape my lips dissipates just as rapidly as it had formed.

Well, if I wasn’t going to say I felt foolish before, that certainly isn’t the case now.

Instinctively straightening myself and running a hand down my shirt to brush away some imaginary dust, I politely clear my throat before speaking to Kyouko. “Yes, I am fine. I was just a little startled is all.”

The frown doesn’t leave her face. “Are you sure about that? It didn’t sound as though it was a little bit. More like a man being speared through the shin.”

“Don’t worry yourself,” I continue in my calm voice, “it was nothing anybody had to seriously look into that mu—wait.” I just caught something at the end there. “What you mean ‘being speared’?”

“Oh! N-nothing, it’s just…” She looks down momentarily, as if regretting her word choice. “I was doing work for the temple when I heard this really shrill scream. I turned to look, and I saw you diving out of the way of that merchant’s cart.” Lifting her head back up, she continues, “I didn’t know if he’d clipped the back of your foot or something, so I just wanted to make sure you were all right.”

Is that all? Well, at the very least it’s quite thoughtful of her to respond to my own shortcomings in such a considerate manner. She really is shaping into the mold of a true awakened one, at this rate…

Wait, did she say I screamed? Did I really scream? How did I not notice that I screamed?! All of these simple observations that I suddenly don’t even recall myself doing—it's like my senses all spontaneously decided to check out for a holiday!

Ugh, but that’s not the issue right now. Stay focused. Thank your miniature savior, man. It’s the polite thing to do.

“No, he didn’t hit me, I was at fault for not minding the time of day. But thank you for your concern all the same, Kyouko.”

As soon as I finish saying this, her expression swings from apprehension to an awed joyous look, as though I had literally just shown her a glimpse of Nirvana.

“You remember my name,” she murmurs loud enough for me to hear. “No one else has bother trying to state it, so far.” Her engrossed stare lingers for another moment before she composes herself and beams an ecstatic smile toward me. “You are very welcome, sir. May the steps you take forward bring you better days.” Finishing this statement, her enthusiasm dwindles slightly. “Ah, although I wish I could say for what. My deepest apologizes, but I don’t quite recall your profession as well as I do your countenance.”

“That’s okay. I don’t expect most people to when they first meet me.” After all, I don’t do much to make myself stand out from any other person in the village. Most days I’m in the back of the shop, wiping and polishing sacred family weapons for local warriors when they’ve become too sullied to display in the home. This line of work isn’t one that has high marks in socialization. Thusly, I inform Kyouko of my vocation. “I’m the apprentice for the weapons maker here in town.”

Hearing this, the youkai girl puts on a thinking look. Those leaflets she’s been carrying this entire time find themselves being rhythmically tapped by the fingertips of her available hand. I can hear her moaning to herself, connecting my words to her past experiences. She’s really making an effort to remember me, isn’t she? Someone she hardly even knows. This must be what they call the pure kindness of a monk’s heart.

“Ah! Now I remember you!” She seems to have solved her mystery. “You’re the person Shou talks to when her wakizashi is being repaired, right?”

“Well, I’m the one doing the repairing,” I correct part of what she said.

“Even better then!” Kyouko has the look of a father proud of his son for passing a coming-of-age trial. “You are quite the facilitator to her duties, for which everyone at Myouren Temple thanks you humbly. Be sure to keep up the good work, Mr. Clang-Clang!”



…I’m sorry, what?

“What did you just call me?” I hope the confusion in my voice is evident.

She stares back at me as though I’d just misunderstood the most obvious truth in existence. “You know, that’s your job. Making new equipment, fixing other peoples’ equipment. Like, you beat it into shape with a mallet…and it’s noisy. Uh, ‘c-clang clang’ and everything…r-right?” Over the course of her description, she loses the prudent atmosphere she had built up, assuming she knows exactly what my occupation entitles. Clearly, she shows off her devotion to Buddha and his teachings in no better way.

Also, that is the worst nickname I’ve ever heard given to anybody, myself included.

Granted, I couldn’t say something so uncouth and disheartening to someone as uncannily cute as this child, in spite of her real nature I know all too well. As a matter of fact, I wonder how many more fellow villagers I’ve managed to alienate since starting this casual conversation with a youkai. Not to mention I’m still situated on the exact same patch of road that has been my rest stop for who knows how many minutes now. Perhaps I should remedy that?

“Y-yeah, that kind of what I do,” I gingerly tell Kyouko, eager to change topics. “It’s a bit intricate to describe briefly.” As I move toward the area the yamabiko previously occupied, I continue, “If you’re genuinely interested, I could talk about it some other time. Just don’t use that name for me anymore, okay? It doesn’t reflect very well on myself or the shop.” Hopefully that’s gentle enough to let her know, but not totally shatter her spirits.

From what I can gather, it didn’t. She nods her head in comprehension as she starts walking alongside me back to her former region in the square. “Okay then. Sorry about perplexing you and all that. I’m not sure what title I should give someone of your stature.”

“You don’t need to worry about that, just call me by my name. It’s _______, by the way.”

Kyouko giggles to herself, readjusting support of her flyers. “I knew that. Shou mentions you a lot when we’re cleaning.”

Nearing our destination, I can’t help but notice that the streets have gotten much more crowded since I first arrived. Most of the people waiting to be served at the food stands are now returning to their respective buildings, plainly seen with some type of foodstuff or the leftovers and packaging of recently departed delicacies. Some banter among friends or co-workers in between finishing off the few bites they have left. I can taste the inside of my mouth watering up, but I paid no attention to this physiological cue. Come sundown I’ll be enjoying my own little morsel of heaven.

Instead, I further the discussion with my companion, choosing the most transparent topic on my mind. A topic that I would have already discussed had outside circumstances not intervened…or maybe not, because if it hadn’t been for aforementioned circumstances I wouldn’t be having this discussion in the first place. Anyway, the point is, I continue talking, all the while maintaining awareness of my surroundings so not to bump into oncoming traffic.

“So Ms. Kyouko, you said earlier you were doing work for your monastery. Might that have something to do with the shouting I saw you doing before?”

Her eyebrow rises for a second at the different choice of honorific, but swiftly vanishes at the observation regarding her preceding activity, replaced with a wide smile. “You heard that? That’s good to know. I had the idea after meditation this morning. I was thinking about how difficult it is for Mother to maintain the temple and spread faith at the same time. Since everybody else already has an assignment, and my main duties don’t extend further than basic chords and sweeping the gate path, I thought it was something I could handle. So I asked Mother if I could write up a few pamphlets to hand out to lunch goers, and she was ecstatic towards my idea!” Her voice has gradually increased in volume during this bit of reminiscing. At this point, she takes the stack of papers from under her shoulder and presents them to me with both hands. “She even gave me the ink and paper sheets to write with! So I was busy after that marking them all down to be ready by midday! And I did it! And I just got into the village to circulate them but then I saw you and thought you were in trouble and I haven’t had a chance since then and…um, y-yeah.” She closes on a lame note but retains an elfin smile in between two reddening cheeks.

Well, in a way, her explanation relives me—I hadn’t been subconsciously drowning out her yells. But upon closer examination I realize just how thick that stack is. There have to be several dozens of leaflets bunched together in her arms. I can’t even imagine how much they must weight. And did she say she’s been doing this since morning?!

“Sooooo, you wrote down every single one of those by yourself?” She nods ardently. Wow, it’s scary to think how efficiently youkai can use up short amounts of time. I don’t want to know how many of those she has now. “I see,” I respond in a manner hiding my true astonishment, “And ‘Mother’ is…?”

Kyouko looks at me baffled for a moment, like I’m not in on some special secret, before grasping her lack of details. “Oh! That’s just the name we use for Miss Hijiri when she isn’t around. Everybody else spoke like that when I first joined, and I guess I adopted it too! It makes sense though. She really does act like a surrogate mother to us. The way she goes out to care for the forgotten and mistreated who meet her…” She stops and closes her eyes, apparently remembering something very personal. I can see her shiver ever so slightly before opening her lids and peering at me, eyes sparkling in a way indicating deep spiritual understanding. “You just don’t want to leave someone like that, someone who can show you the trail to your life’s purpose.” She sighs and opens her eyes all the way again. “But I’m talking about uninteresting things now. What matters is that Mother is Mother, and we all love Mother very deeply! Even if she is embarrassed when we call her that,” she admits sheepishly.

Right then. Hijiri, of course, is the benefactor and head monk of the temple my acquaintance has been mentioning. While I don’t know her very well myself, I have heard generally good words from others who visit the temple on occasion. Not that it means anything to me, what with my busy schedule and all. I’d never have the time to look into something as dedicating as the vows of the monastery.

Bringing me out of my thoughts, Kyouko speaks up again. “Anyway, that’s how my day has gone. What about you? How has your day been?”

[] Mention the incident at the end of lunch.
[] Don’t mention it. It’s not important.

SECONDARY VOTE: Take one of Kyouko’s pamphlets?
[] Yes, out of politeness.
[] Yes, due to interest.
[] No.
----------------------------

If you feel like including a name for the protag, you may do so as long as it isn’t too silly a reference to some obscure show/movie/comic/book I’ve never heard of before.
>>No. 28720
[X] Don’t mention it. It’s not important.
[X] Yes, out of politeness.

How 'bout Keiichi? That's a nice enough name, I figure.
>>No. 28721
[X] Don’t mention it. It’s not important.
[X] Yes, due to interest.

Seconding my predecessor out of laziness to come up with a traditional-sounding Japanese name.
>>No. 28722
[x] Mention the incident at the end of lunch.

SECONDARY VOTE: Take one of Kyouko’s pamphlets?
[x] Yes, due to interest.

I wonder what she knows about it. I'm curious about where this story is heading. Prismrivers perhaps?

I'll go along with Keiichi provided anon doesn't try to make him into his namesake.
>>No. 28723
[x] Mention the incident at the end of lunch.
[x] Yes, due to interest.

I don't even know who Keiichi is but the name sounds nice.
>>No. 28731
Right then, here's the situation: I am adamant that this story shall go on with regular updates every week, but I also am not going to neglect my regular life. It so happens this week has to date been especially brutal when deadlines are concerned. Most of my energy is going to go into that, but do know that I am plotting out dialogue and events to the delight (?) of my current audience. For now, I declare voting closes by 23:59 this coming Friday. Hopefully by then someone will have broken the current tie in the main option.

>>28722
>I'll go along with Keiichi provided anon doesn't try to make him into his namesake.

You needn't worry. While I know the brand—if it's what I think it is—I'm not familiar enough with the material for that to be a likely outcome. Probably.
>>No. 28734
>>28731
Understandable, shit does happen. Just tell us about it and not vanish when it does happen.
>>No. 28735
[x] Mention the incident at the end of lunch.
[x] Yes, due to interest.
Tiebreaker.

You have a very unique style Writefriend. I look forward to anything you may write in the future.
>>No. 28736
[x] Mention the incident at the end of lunch.
[x] Yes, due to interest.
>>No. 28737
[x] Mention it
[x] Take the pamphlet out of interest.
>>No. 28738
[X] Don’t mention it. It’s not important.
[X] Yes, due to interest.
>>No. 28739
[x] Mention it
[x] Take the pamphlet out of interest.

Goddamn he talks to himself even more than Kyo. And he filled like 10 novels already.

Now that'd be a good name, if that vote is still going.

[x] Kyo(n)
>>No. 28740
[x] Mention the incident at the end of lunch.
[x] Yes, due to interest.

Waiting warmly for next update. There's something in your style that keeps things interesting.
>>No. 28741
[x] Don’t mention it. It’s not important.
[x] No.
>>No. 28778
File 136337579463.jpg - (161.67KB, 503x700, make me smile.jpg) [iqdb]
28778
WINNERS:
[X] Mention the incident at the end of lunch.
[X] Take a pamphlet due to interest.

“My day?” I pause for a moment. My day so far has been rather uneventful besides this current conversation, passing by similarly to any other day I’ve ever lived through. Not that I don’t mind recounting my experiences to anyone who asks for such information. I’m just not used to being spoken to when the chance for a social situation comes up, which itself is already a rare occurrence. Even within the confines of my family I barely have the time to learn how their day went. My younger siblings have schoolwork and chores to attend to, and our mother spends the majority of her time keeping the household in top shape. It used to be easier when I assisted her in the mornings and evenings since my own mediocre school grades held me back from a more eminent position in the village, and before father’s eyesight began to fail. But given the chance to apprentice someone as prominent as my boss and contribute to the continuation of the village’s growth, it was an opportunity I could not refuse. Subsequently, the obligations my mother has to tend to have increased and left her perpetually busy. It’s a massive strain on her, and I’d love to still stay around and take my share of the load, but the money I make now keeps us situated enough to satisfy the tax collectors. It’s not the best solution in the world. It’s the one that leaves us fed and relatively well off, however.

Of course, now I’m digressing. Back in the present, I go ahead and respond to the dear yamabiko’s question. “It’s been fine, so far. I woke up, got ready for work, had some quick morning tea, bought my lunch on the way out—well, actually I got it for free.” Remembering the earlier episode, I rub the back of my neck. “Some weird foreign roll I’ve never heard of. Then I checked in to work and greeted Mr. Touma—that’s my boss, you see—and spent the rest of my morning forging some blades I was commissioned to make by the town assembly.” She nods her head as I speak, showing her interest in a topic I’m sure she doesn’t understand in the slightest. “I finished one before my break, and now I’ll be spending the rest of the day shaping the others.”

“I see,” Kyouko replies with a grin, “you have quite the workload ahead of you.”

“Yeah, but it’s nothing too difficult for me. I had a relaxing lunch. Although…” For some reason, my thoughts go back to when I was packing up at the end. Should I really say something about that, such an insignificant event?

Kyouko notices my hesitation. “Although? Is something the matter?”

…Eh, why not? It’ll make for an amusing laugh. “Oh, not at all. It’s just—when I was leaving my lunch spot I thought I heard something. Sounded like far-off music.”

“Music?”

“Yeah,” I state, rubbing my neck again and closing my eyes. I feel a little silly disclosing this trivial note, but I close out the thought for clarity, “it wasn’t too clear what kind it was or what instrument. I thought about going out to look for the source, but…eh, it was probably just my imagination running awry. The wind playing tricks on my ears and all that.” I mean, clearly that’s the rational answer. Why would anybody go out into the middle of a grove just to play music? Don’t they realize the potential dangers of such an insolent act? Any fool in earshot of a starving beast would be pounced on in an instant! So sure in my line of thinking, I open my eyes, expecting a smiling girl to agree with me in waving off this superstition.

Kyouko has an uncertain frown in her lips. While she doesn’t appear to be overly worried, there is an aura about her that makes my bowels want to instantaneously jettison. For the first time since we started chatting, I can feel sweat forming on my scalp.

It’s another few seconds before she cautiously responses, “Are you sure about that?”

Crap, did I say something wrong? Why is she asking that question again? Even though the way she’s now acting seriously makes me want to break into a panic, I have to maintain my composure. Losing it in this busy square would only attract even more unwanted interest. Speaking as calmly as I can through stuttering mouth, I replied, “O-of course I’m sure. There wouldn’t be a reason to hear strange sounds at this time of day, after all! It has to be the wind or some trick of the mind, d-doesn’t it?”

My yamabiko companion studies my expression for a moment, then breaks eye contact to stare at the backdropping to my left. She seems very lost in thought, pondering away with as serious a face as she can manage. If I weren’t so flustered and scared by her change in demeanor, I might even find it cute. After a few seconds, she resumes our conversation.

“Those are reasonable guesses, and you could very well be right in deeming them as little more than imagined tricks.” She pauses to take a gulp of air. “I however am not so sure, due to past experiences of mine…” Kyouko opens her mouth as if to continue, but is interrupted by some apparent thought crossing her mind. Her eyes broaden in fright before she hastily shakes her head. “Ah, no. I shouldn’t speak about such ridiculous things, especially when we’ve just formally met. My apologies for spreading unnecessary conflict onto your conscious,” she states, bowing deeply in front of me. “It is unwise to mislead a fellow being from the path of enlightenment in such an unwarranted manner.” She straightens up and goes on, “I’ve already kept you long enough from your own personal duties. You should make your way back to your shop, and perhaps we can carry this discussion on later. Thank you for your company,” she says moving to walk past me, probably in order to resume her attempts of handing out her pamphlets.

Oh, no you don’t.

She emits an audible squeak when I reach back to grab her shoulder, snatching a piece of her jacket instead. I greet her twirl of the head with a friendly smile—at least, as friendly as I can manage when my insides are ready to rupture at any moment. No matter how uncertain I am about this whole situation, I cannot deny this girl has caused my curiosity levels to skyrocket. She is keeping something from me, and I will figure out what it is, in the politest manner viable.

“Kyouko, wait. There’s no need for you to rush off like this. I mean, yeah, maybe we did just properly meet a few minutes ago, but that’s no reason you can’t tell me about whatever you were going to say.”

Ideally, that would be sufficient to change her mind were she just an average human girl. Youkai, despite their unfamiliarity with the finer aspects of social society, are more difficult to convince when one wants to argue a point. Even with my reassuring words, there is a sense of doubt in this puffy-eared lady. She looks at the ground and fidgets, pressing her feet into the packed dirt and tightening the grip of the leaflets in her arms. “D-don't you have to tend to those swords? You said it’d take you the rest of the day, and I wouldn’t want to be the one distracting you from your task, so...”

What a thoughtful girl. It’s nice to hear her consideration for my sake, but I can’t help chuckling a bit at her reasoning. “Is that what you’re fretting over? You don’t have to worry about that. I told you it’ll take until dusk to finish preparing them all.” After saying that, though, she doesn’t seem wholly persuaded. What else do I have to do to get her to—hold on, I know something that can help me here. “Hey, I have an idea. Why don’t you accompany me on my way to the shop? I’m sure you’d have enough time to explain these ‘experiences’ before I need to return to my shift.”

I’m partially expecting her to hesitate, which she does. “Um, well...that would be nice, but I still—”

And now the clincher. “And in exchange for listening to what you have to say, could you give me one of your pamphlets for later, so I have something to read the next free chance I get?”

The reaction is nothing short of adorable. No sooner do I finish speaking, Kyouko’s face colors a shade of red comparable to the shrine maiden’s uniform. She begins to breathe deep, flustered breaths through her mouth at the lowest pitch still audible to human ears. “R-really?!” she manages in between one such pant, “You’re not saying that just to be nice to me, are you?"

“Course I’m not. The whole reason you’re out here is to attract interest for your temple, correct? You alone already have me halfway there. If the others are as fun to talk to as you are, Kyouko, I’d do myself a disservice to not meet them.” Granted, I don’t believe all Buddhist traditions would completely consist of fun, but after talking like this for the last several minutes, it’s something that genuinely intrigues me. I still don’t have the time to consider monkhood a realistic career path, but if it means a chance to remove the burdens of my daily life by even a portion, I’d someday be eternally grateful to Hijiri and her followers.

While I briefly lose myself in thought, Kyouko recovers enough to not appear off-guard. She’s still blushing, but there’s an added invisible radiance about her now, beaming with pride and accomplishment, as though she had pulled in the most uncooperative fish after a ten-hour struggle. “Well, if that’s the way it is, there’s no helping it,” she states in a tone some might describe as arrogant, but most everybody would agree as confident. Shuffling behind me again, she turns around and addresses me with a smile, “Lead the way, please.”

I respond with my own smile, and we are off, side by side once more making our way out of the square. Perhaps people are looking at me oddly, but right now I don’t notice that. It’s one of the last things for me to think about presently whether these villagers have labeled me as even more of a freak in my small stated choice of action. There’s probably a lot more I’ll be thinking about than I ever thought was possible real soon.



There were some people that favored christening our protag "Keiichi", but that particular subject seemed to dry up after my previous announcement. Running a small vote here just to confirm:

All in favor of naming the MC Keiichi?

[] Thumbs up.
[] Thumbs down (something different).
[] Thumbs down (we don't need a name).

------------------------------------------

End of Part 1 of this update. Part 2 will be out...at some point.

I'd like to take this moment to apologize to all my readers for not posting any new content in almost two weeks up until now. I have a goal I'm making my way towards, but the path keeps getting bombarded by roadblocks everywhere I turn my head. There are two major reasons for this:

1) Remember in my last status report how I said I was busy with RL problems? Yeah, that extended into the following week, and is likely to only pile up as time goes on. It won't seriously keep me from planning out this story, because I have a pretty good idea where I want things to eventually end up. But it does mean that more time will pass in between updates as I juggle all these different tasks before me, and just to share a secret with you all, I'm not a very good juggler. Physically or metaphorically.

2) This slightly overlaps with the previous reason, but in the process of typing this update I managed to momentarily box myself in a corner. I accidentally make the mistake of letting some dark emotions take control of my fingers, and the way things were progressing sounded far too dire than the actual situation called for. So I tried to fix it by removing that and intentionally writing a softer, more understanding response between the two characters. It ended up sounding like some sappy, shitty VN dialogue that I never want to lower my standards to after resting a day on it. Finally, I came up with what is in the above text. I hope that it's a good compromise between the two extremes that will help advance the plot.

With that said, I thank you all for your patience and for not leaving unnecessary "when's the nex update, LOL" posts in the meantime. I've been very much at work, and while this is only half of what I wanted to post, it will do for now. I just want to douse any fears that this thread ends up getting scrapped like so many others. I have not forgotten my priorities, and I will make sure to keep pushing that weight all the way to the end, no matter how long it may take to get there. The day I no longer continue this story is the day they bury me six feet in the cold, hard ground.

...

Right then, now that that's out of the way, I'd like to use the rest of this post in a productive manner that doesn't needlessly bump us closer to autosage. With that in mind, let's respond to reader comments!

>>28735
>You have a very unique style Writefriend. I look forward to anything you may write in the future.
>>28740
>Waiting warmly for next update. There's something in your style that keeps things interesting.

Why thank you. I've been told in the past by teachers and friends each my style is something they've never read before, and quite entertaining. Nice to know that extends to strangers as well.

>>28739
>Goddamn he talks to himself even more than Kyo. And he filled like 10 novels already.

Do you not want me to provide you with more quality content to digest? Maybe it is a little more spacious than ye standarde update, but I like to think that's the charm of writing from the first-person rather than the more frequent 2nd person. It's a closer connection to what the protag is thinking personally than if one got a whole bunch of "You wake up in a forest" or "This is what you think" messages. One of the reasons why I'm doing this, in fact, is partially because of the lack of quality first-person CYOAs on the site. The only one I can think of reading off the top of my head would be AoS's first run, and I stopped myself partway through the second thread because S.L.D.T. hadn't found his touch yet. Not that I'm bad-mouthing 2nd person storytelling or anything, it's just not what I consider myself skilled at.

>>28731
>Just tell us about it and not vanish...

That's not going to happen. I'm almost always lurking somewhere on this site, usually in the archives looking through the backlogs of finished/ongoing stories. Hell, I was lurking here for a good half-year before I maned up enough to post something.

Finally, I just want to give a quick shout-out to whoever it was that FINALLY updated the Story List. That's been a long time coming, and was quite necessary. It's also nice to see this story listed as well, though I want to mention that "We are all haunted" is not the title of this story (that will finally be revealed in the next update or two), and I will give a name to my trip the next time I speak up. I refrain from doing so right now since the purpose of this message is to show I'm still kickin'. That being said, stay tuned for Part 2. It should be up by some point before March ends, and I thank you all once again for your continued cooperation.
>>No. 28779
[x]Thumbs up for Keiichi.

No plot related options? Well, okay I guess. I'm not a guy with a knack for cool names, so I'll stick with this until someone else comes up with anything better.

Glad to see you back, and don't worry about being late. As long as it doesn't take you two months to update, we value quality over quantity when it comes to updates.

Just a tip, from writefag to writefag: you might want to avoid infodumps like in the first paragraph. It breaks the flow of the narrative, and makes it more tedious for readers.
>>No. 28780
[X] Thumbs up.
>>No. 28781
[x] Thumbs up.

If you were to do anything like info dumping, it's best done during a lull in life.
>>No. 28782
[X] Thumbs up

Let us christen our MC with his new name.

Anyways, I enjoy how this story has been unfolding so far, and I'm interested to see how it'll progress over the next few months. Remember that even if you take a month or two to make an update, there's sure to be a few people who'll vote on this story, and a number of others lurking around. Of course, we don't want you to take a hiatus from this story by any means, but if RL is taking up the majority of your time, then we'll be okay with being put in the back burner as long as you come back soon.
>>No. 28783
I'll refrain from naming choices. Kyouko overload attracted me to this story.

I do have a comment/complaint, though. What's up with the dialogue? Kyouko has been characterized as a kind of childish/cute girl so far, right? But her dialogue ranges from 'pretty normal' to lines like:
>“Ah, no. I shouldn’t speak about such ridiculous things, especially when we’ve just formally met. My apologies for spreading unnecessary conflict onto your conscious,”
or
>“Okay then. Sorry about perplexing you and all that. I’m not sure what title I should give someone of your stature.”

It's a bit of a jarring transition. Even if it wasn't for the characterization angle, nobody talks like that. It feels like you're jamming thesaurus words in the story for no real reason.
>>No. 28795
Ye there?
>>No. 28800
>>28795

Aye, I's be here a'ight.

Yeah, so March has passed and still nothing to show physically. My continued regrets to everyone for this bogging down of matters, though there is good news. I have come up with a strategy that should hopefully allow me to both keep up-to-date on RL issues and still have time to work on the story little by little. This strategy is already in effect, and I have managed to write more in the last couple of days than I did the entire previous week. If all goes well, I should have something within the next ten days, give or take a setback. Again, I thank you all for your patience, and just to prove I don't live in a bubble...

>>28779
>>28781
>>28782
>>28783

My humble thanks for the kinds words and critique of what little I have so far. I have taken this criticism to thought, and will strive to make the necessary adjustments. I'm aware of the relative nothing that's been the plot to this point, and guarantee that the buildup period is close to ending. Just a little more garnish on the plate, and THEN we shall feash on meat and potatoes.

So that is all. Carry on with your activities, gentlemen.

Also, namin' an' sagin' while status updatin'... Told you I'm a man of my word.
>>No. 28816
File 136686412348.jpg - (262.30KB, 500x627, case of nerves.jpg) [iqdb]
28816
Guess who's baaaaaack~ ...Without further ado, the long-awaited continuation of the previous update.
------------------------------------------

“Now then, you were talking of past experiences?”

The question brings Kyouko out of her short reverie, drawing her attention away from the bustle of the village back to me. “Hmm? Yes, of course! Well, I am in training to become a nun. With that in mind, I can’t allow myself to wander off from the temple for too long. I have my responsibilities, tending to odd jobs and sweeping the pathway clean of obstructions.” She pauses to muse something, then continues, “I get the feeling too that the most unwanted, tedious jobs are given to the newest inductees. So I’m never able to join my sisters at our scheduled bedtime, and always come in several minutes late.”

Well, that’s unfortunate. “How many minutes is several?” I ask innocently.

Again my walking companion goes silent, actually stopping in the road this time. Her gaze trails to the packed dirt as she crunches numbers in her head, and finally responses a little unsurely, “Um...a couple hours?”

I freeze momentarily, even though I’d stopped walking as well. I know that the temple grounds are relatively substantial, but if what I just heard is true, it leads me to conclude one of two options. Either those grounds are much larger than I’m assuming, or Kyouko is a perfectionist of incalculable proportions. I can’t decide which choice startles me more, so I settle instead for mumbling a weak answer. “...I-I see.”

“It’s not as bad as you’d think it to be,” the yamabiko replies, her tone carrying a comforting weariness. “It actually reminds me of when I used to live in the mountains. The air is so thin and the bodies so few, you’re just able to concentrate on your given tasks. And I’m able to hear so much more clearly than in the daytime. I’ve grown used to picking out the subtlest of noises, listening to a particular one for a moment, then moving on to the next one, and the repeated pattern of my work combined with that...” She lets a long sigh escape her, the recollection of her routine seeming to put her mind at ease again. “It offers me some good bonus meditation,” she concludes as we start down the path once more, “or the opportunity to recite a few sutras. At least it did until recently. That’s when I started to notice, well, things.”

Right then, here’s where I bite the firecracker and hope it doesn’t spark in my mouth. “What sort of things?”

“Oh, things that aren’t anywhere close by. Strange noises, I mean. Sometimes in the direction where you said you have lunch at—” She makes a vague hand motion in the direction behind us— “Other times further out, or maybe even in the opposite direction. It varies from night to night where they start.”

So it moves around? That’s a troublesome thought. I don’t believe anyone inside the boundaries of the village has any need to worry, but if someone were caught out late at night and ran into whatever apparition Kyouko’s describing without formal danmaku training or a form of defense…

Wait, why am I thinking like this? There’s no definite proof there actually is some strange being making noises in the woods. Yet in the residue of one failed attempt at a joke, I’m letting myself be dragged into an unknown situation. Youkai or not, this is information being supplied to me by a young girl. She can’t completely know what she’s talking about.

Trying not to sound too dubious, I proceed to ask, “And have you gone out to investigate these noises?”

She shakes her head. “No, leaving the grounds after everyone’s gone to bed is a demerit of unnecessary action. If I let myself be distracted from my role as groundskeeper, I’d delay my own enlightenment and betray the trust my sisters have put in me. I couldn’t bear to disappoint them in such a manner.” Spoken in a resolute voice, with steeled eyes to boot. Her conviction to what she believes and learns is admirable, but still…

“But you don’t really know if what you’re hearing is real or not. If you haven’t even taken a crack at determining something is out there, what makes you so certain about this? What you’re talking about could turn out to be nothing.” I’m not trying to sound disbelieving or critical, but if she wants to convince me one hundred percent on this, there has to be an enormously strong reason why she feels this way.

Kyouko’s posture stiffens for a second. The words of doubt would appear to be ramming at her skull, looking for a weak point to pierce before ransacking the rest of her senses. It only lasts a second though—the expression she wears hasn’t change from her previously spoken words. Looking in my direction, a renewed sense of willpower spreads throughout her face and into the breath coming from her lips. “That isn’t the case,” she states firmly, “I know I’ve been hearing something, it can’t just be an illusion. In my experience growing up in the mountains, it’s crucial to one’s survival to know which sounds are fake and which aren’t.” Turning her head skyward toward the cloudy airspace, she continues, “If these had been illusions, echoes or atmospheric noises, they wouldn’t have held my attention for so long.”

…Okay then, I give credit when it’s due. Having an argument about the existence of a particular sound with a creature whose existence is reliant on the manipulation of sound does show a clear signal who possesses the right of way. Of course Kyouko would be an expert regarding the matter. But even ignoring that, I can’t help being impressed by her outlook on things. I only formally met her a few minutes ago, and already I feel like we’ve been friends for far longer than that. I can grasp an understanding of this young child, well wise beyond her years, and see for myself just how pure, kind and generous she truly is. Not only that, the optimism she scoops up in buckets from who knows what reservoir seems to flow infinitely out of her, taking all bad circumstances and putting them in a new light of hopefulness. It makes me feel bad for doubting her beforehand. After all, I was in a better position to find out about that music or melody or whatever, and I didn’t bother with it initially. That really gives me no right to call her out on her theories. And frankly, if I am wrong I probably couldn’t be happier about it.

That being said, I have noticed a quirk in her mannerisms—well, specifically that itself. Even with a heighten feeling of maturity, her tendency towards social situations seems a little too…official. Maybe I wasn’t realizing it before due to a lack of alertness, but her vocabulary is far more expansive than the average adult here, let alone any person in the age group she physically appears to belong. It just seems off and unusual to talk with somebody resembling an eleven-or-twelve-year-old girl, and then suddenly hear her speak in such a superfluously precocious style. Maybe her time in the temple has something to do with it?

At this point, the two of us have made it through whatever remains of the midday crowd. I can see the weapons shop ahead of me, the wooden structure sitting as plain as ever. Though only one-story tall, it extends out into the back quite a ways, as the building also houses a storage area for the materials needed to form the tools in question. It is situated between two other buildings, with a side alley on either side. I motion toward one of these alleys, and Kyouko follows with me. No need to look strange out front while talking with a youkai, causing everybody to further wonder about my allegiances. That and the two of us can be out of the street, taking up less space.

“I take it this is the shop?” she inquires, hers eyes carefully examining the grain of the exterior boards.

“It would be,” I affirm to her, setting my pack down to the ground and leaning myself against the wall. Man, my shoulder needs a bit of rest after that period of lugging. Even a little soreness heading back inside could prove detrimental to my progress. “So I’ve thought over what you said about your mystery noises, and I have made a decision.” Pausing for her full attention, Kyouko watches me in a mixture of wonder and anticipation. Then, my mouth twists into a smile and declares, “I would like to help you make it a mystery no more.”

The young yamabiko’s eyes widen and her mouth hangs slightly, before converting into the most joyous face that I’ve seen her express yet. “You would? Oh, thank you so much!” she cries unreservedly, the leaflets in her arms jiggling around with the syncopated bouncing up and down she exerts from her legs. After a few seconds of this she remembers where she is, and her composure returns. She then proceeds more subdued, “That is, I greatly appreciate your willingness to assist me in this matter, and look forward to the day when such an occasion may come.”

Yeah, there it is again. The whole overly formal tone of voice she uses. It’s far more obvious when following up a more childish episode, like what just happened. I really ought to address that with her…

“Um, but how exactly would you go about helping?” she asks, still maintaining the speaking role in our talk, “Not that I mean to deter you, but you don’t strike me as the experienced type when it comes to incidents such as this.”

Well, now she’s redirected the topic. I’ll have to bring up my point later. “You’re right—I’m not—but I do have an idea. You said you can’t leave the temple because it would upset the others, right?” She nods in response. “Well, maybe you could explain what’s been going on for the past…well, however long it’s been happening. Have you, by any chance, told any of your, erm, sisters about what you’ve been hearing?” Her answer is to hold her hands together fretfully and peek at the ground once more. I can see the outline of a faint grimace start to form, but I don’t let it. “Kyouko?”

“I haven’t yet.” Her voice is quiet and stressed, and she has to breathe a few times to calm down enough to continue in an even tone. “I know I should, and I really want to, but I’m...nervous.”

“What you mean by nervous? If there’s something strange you’re hearing, I don’t see why you wouldn’t call out to somebody for help.” Kyouko doesn’t reply. She just maintains that dour appearance, and when it’s apparent she has no retort to give me, I decide to help her out. “Do you think nobody would believe you?”

That certainly works. The moment I finish asking, her eyes dart back up to me, and she has a miniature freak out. “T-that’s not it! Uh, I-I’m sure they’d take the time to listen to me, but...they’ve been around so much longer than I have, they may not seriously consider what I tell them.” She’s had to put her free hand to her chest to keep herself from shaking. It seems pretty clear this is a topic that bothers her, but she manages to speak further, “They—well, Shou and Ichirin—they respect me for my commitment to the Truths, but to them I’m sure I resemble nothing more than another silly little kid. If I asked one of them for help, they’d probably think it was part of a joke I was scheming.”

So that’s what’s keeping her back. Insecurities so universal to man, nobody ever speaks of them aloud: fear of rejection, and self-doubt. Despite all her bravado in maturity, she really is a little girl at heart. I somehow doubt that Shou and this other person she mentioned would react so unsupportively. Still, if Kyouko is hesitant about asking a fellow peer in training, perhaps somebody she is more willing to reach out to is in order. “Have you thought about telling someone else? Say, Miss Hijiri for instance?”

“…I had pondered telling her, but as I’ve said she’s already managing so many other obligations I wouldn’t want to be a hindrance. It’d be best if she didn’t have one more thing to fret about.” She says it in such a slow, resigned way; she doesn’t seem to put any self-worth into the possibilities of her own future. It’s like she believes there’s no real chance she could ever go on an exploring assignment, or just kick back for a small dose of childhood whimsy. The poor girl, even in her chance at freedom she feels locked up and sealed to a fate of extreme faith, conforming to a single ideal that must never waver in the search of spiritual oneness with the cosmos. That, and her continued use of words she really has no reason to be saying, for it comes across as trying too hard to be accepted.

Even though that’s exactly what she wants, isn’t it? The acceptance of those close to her, and the acceptance by that family to let her wander and learn and still be young and enjoy the time while it lasts before inevitability in reality takes over and gives her the role she’ll assume for the remainder of her days…

Ugh, I’m getting too philosophical again. I can feel something in my gut tossing about, demanding I don’t just stand here but actually do something to comfort her, to help her out. I totally intend to do so, but I wish it wouldn’t nag me endlessly like this.

Leaning down to be eye level with her, I place my hand reassuringly on Kyouko’s shoulder. She doesn’t react in any way, just staring at me halfheartedly while I make my case heard, “You know, you don’t have to tell them the whole story. If you just briefly mentioned something was bothering you, and that somebody outside the temple could help you best, I’m sure that would be enough to explain your situation without expressing too much concern.”

“Do you really think that would work?” she quietly asks, though I can see the light in her eyes gradually brighten once more.

“Absolutely,” I beam softly. I have to relight the confidence I saw earlier, as much for her well-being as for my sense of closure. “So how about this for a plan; when you head back to the temple after you’re done distributing and do your usual daily routine, talk to Hijiri before bedtime and say you want to explore something tomorrow at lunch with someone you know. If she asks about me just say Shou knows me, and everything should be okay. Then you can explain everything to me more clearly, and we’ll have more time to look into this mystery.” I finish by squeezing on her shoulder supportively and posing a final interrogative remark. “Does that sound good?”

My plan appears to ignite a small flicker of hope from within Kyouko. She still has a faraway gaze in her eyes, but at least it’s joined by a minuscule smile—thin, but visible on close inspection. Her cheeks have heated up as well. In a far-off drone she replies, “Yeah, that could work…”

Before she gets any further, the world detonates behind me.

Or rather, it sounds that way, as the sharpest cracking noise imaginable between an iron window frame and the outside walls of the building echoes throughout the alleyway. Loud as it is, that’s not enough to startle me. To be more precise, it’s the booming, authoritative voice that accompanies it almost instantaneously.

Boy![i]” I trip over myself with a yelp as the deepest, most oni-like instrument of sound a human could ever possess directs itself at me. For a moment, my breath is caught in my throat, shaking with horror. [i]No, this can’t be happening. I tried to time it perfectly. This can’t be happening!

And yet, it is. As I straighten up to face the inescapable scolding forthcoming, I look at Kyouko in front of me. Even though that brief assault wasn’t aimed at her, she clearly came away with splash damage. Her expression of shock is paired with some brewing tears in her eyes. I give her a brief exchange in my face, one I hope says something like, ‘Don’t be afraid. This has nothing to do with you.’ She seems to comprehend, and stiffens her lips close with a look of determination. Yeah, there’s a brave little solider.

Happy to know that my companion is standing firm, I turn around and do the same. From this point on, only my good fortune can guide me as I establish attention to the man glaring at me from the open window. The man whose job it is to make me into something important, and the most well-known and respected bladesmith in the human village.

My mentor and boss, Touma Osamu.

“You’re a full two minutes late,” he notes darkly, in a measured tone of voice. “Normally you return well before your lunch break is over, so I find this sudden deviance from the regular schedule to be…odd.” His nose scrunches up, the spectacles resting upon them shifting in a manner that makes his stare even more foreboding. “Care to explain why it’s so?”

I do my best to steel myself for a brief response. In trouble though I may be, it isn’t all that bad. If you can believe it, this is only his disappointed mood. I can still reason with them. “My deepest apologizes, Mr. Touma,” I state while bowing low, “I was on my way back from lunch but ran into a mutual acquaintance. We’ve been chatting while I prepared to return to work, and the talk ran longer than my walk back.” I straighten up and continue, looking at him dead on, “The two of us were just about to finish, sir. If you would permit me but a few more minutes, I’ll be back inside the shop making up lost time.”

The older man doesn’t budge. He simply continues to bore his eyes into my own, his crossed arms bulging like massive chains, for what feels like forever. After a few moments, his stare adjusts to the small girl behind me, remaining hard as ever. Though I dare not turn away to look—removing my attention from Mr. Touma would only result in further discipline—I can feel Kyouko’s nervous trembling right behind me. Understandable, of course; his ability to intimidate people who’ve erred or deliberately caused damage is legendary within the human settlement, and as far as I know he’s just as ordinary a mortal as I am.

“I take it you’re the ‘mutual acquaintance.’”

A shaky voice responds, “Y-yes, I would b-be.”

Following another pause, he says, “I’ve seen you walk around town, occasionally. You’re from that youkai integration cult, correct?”

“Um, w-well y-yes, although we n-normally t-think ourselves a Buddhist monastery.”

Further on with the staring, before he finally grunts out a simple, “Right,” and focuses back on me. “Keiichi, boy, I don’t think I need to remind you of the dangers of associating with strange youkai, especially radicals like that one.”

I swallow in my throat. I can already tell this is going to be a hard one. “With all due respect, sir, we weren’t discussing anything outside normal conversation. And I hardly believe someone as young as she is would have the knowledge or reason to attempt a hostile revolution. She doesn’t have a bad bone in her body.”

Mr. Touma’s eyes narrow at my assertion, and he counters, “None that it’s willing to show you, anyways. Listen, I’m not going to get into a debate on the trustability of one youkai species versus the next, as it’s neither the place nor time. Let me just say that it isn’t wise to go along with every single virtue a youkai leader preaches simply because they sent out a little dog girl to entice the more gullible among us.”

“A-actually,” Kyouko interjects feebly, “I’m not a dog species, sir. T-that’s a common misconception I get—”

She cuts herself off when the pair of piercing eyes returns to scrutinizing her. “Ah, my mistake then,” he muses momentarily, before slightly amending his previous statement, “Just because they send a goat girl to recruit the uneducated, or the occasional outsider.” I can’t see it, but I hear Kyouko audibly huff at the passive-aggressive slur.

“I understand what you mean, sir, but that isn’t—”

“Then if you understand the issue, there’s no reason to continue,” he interrupts, turning his full attention back to me. “Now then, back to the original point: your break is over. It’s time to resume work.” While he can certainly be vocal at times, Mr. Touma tends to keep to the main aspect of his lectures. He appears to have gone back to that mode.

“I will head inside, sir, when my previous conversation is finished. We honestly were almost done talking, and it won’t take much longer.” I mean, it would leave an extremely sour taste in my mouth if I were to just up and walk away from helping out a friend with a relatively serious problem…

“You will do as you are told boy, as long as you serve as my apprentice. Otherwise, I might just have to find someone who can listen properly.” …but I also realize how important it is for my future to keep at my task of sword manufacturing; if I managed to lose my coveted position, who knows if I could find another opportunity as good as this one.

Somewhere beyond me, I can almost feel panic start to set in.

[] Listen to your boss, go back to work.
[] Bargain with him; surely he’ll listen to reason.
----------------------------

Right then, so there was a bit of a setback, but I still managed to put something out this month. Got to be proud of that, I reckon. There was going to be another "behind the scenes" author's rant at the end of this post, but I feel too exhausted to write anymore tonight. It took all my will to simply get this section complete, and it still isn't everything I was initially going to type.

For now, I'll simply say you have a week to vote, and leave it at that. More substantial news shall follow in the next few days.
>>No. 28817
[X] Listen to your boss, go back to work.

We've already discussed pretty much everything with Kyouko, and the boss-man doesn't seem like the type to listen to reason.
>>No. 28818
[X] Listen to your boss, go back to work.

He was pretty clear.
>>No. 28819
[X] Listen to your boss, go back to work.

Glad to see you back, writefag.
>>No. 28820
[X] Listen to your boss, go back to work.

It's unfortunate that we must cut our conversation short, but it's clear that this can wait in the face of our every-day duties.
>>No. 28821
[x] Bargain with him; surely he’ll listen to reason.

Well I'm going to try not like the noodle spines in front of me. If this is the attitude you're going to take, this might as well be "daily rut the story"
>>No. 28823
[x] Quit on the spot and kick him in the balls.

I'M NOT WORKING FOR A RACIST


...WHAT?
>>No. 28824
[x] Quit on the spot and politely excuse yourself, you dont associate with racists.
>>No. 28825
>>28823
>>28824
I think you two are going a bit too far, though it's nice to see some gusto, however misguided.
>>No. 28826
[X] Listen to your boss, go back to work.
>>No. 28833
Let's hope that nothing bad happens to Kyouko due to the seeming inability to take a stand.
>>No. 28834
File 136752508520.jpg - (172.64KB, 850x966, parklife.jpg) [iqdb]
28834
So a few quick things I want to address with y'all. Voting has CLOSED, and I shall get to work on the story once the weekend arrives. I haven't been able to schedule any good chunk of time for writing this week because of RL problems, but the load will considerably dwindle for the rest of May. I'm also going to concentrate on reducing the length of my updates, since it feels like that's what keeps me from a more frequent presence on the site. Note that last update well exceeded 3,000 words, by far the longest to date. I don't yet have the stamina to regularly type up that much, so by cutting down the amount it will lead to more to read for the long run.

>>28817
Is that what you think, or merely what you want to assume?

>>28819
For the record, I wasn't actually gone during this time. I was just slowly chipping away at the story, bit by bit, until I had a sizable enough chunk of story I could be satisfied with. I'm not the quickest of writers, understand.

>>28823
>>28824
It's nice to see your inner compassion for equality working through, boys, although I think you're both cutting Touma here a little short. We've barely been introduced to him, and this is not necessarily the only facet of his personality. Think about where we are: even with the loosening of hostility between human villagers and youkai, don't you believe there would be a few older citizens who still subscribe to the established principle of "don't trust a youkai as far as you can throw it"?

Although I will admit the "kick him in the balls" write-in made me laugh a little.

>>28833
Nah, she's not gonna suffer any deep-seeded trauma, if that's what you're getting at. The next update is planned to be the last time we'll see her for a while, anyway. Have to move the plot along and all that. The voting option, however, determines how long that wait will be. *toothy grin*

Finally, random Nitori 'cause I feel like it. That's all.
>>No. 28835
>>28834
I was concerned she might pay the price for anon ignoring the plot hook like in some forms of fiction, where choosing not to help her results in "she was never seen again"

So this means we'll wait longer because anon were more like japanese harem leads than real men? A shame was not many stories have Kyouko, most are too stuck on older games.
>>No. 28836
>>28835
Why so frustrated, Wiseman?
>>No. 28837
>>28834
>deep-seeded
"deep-seated".
>>No. 28875
You still alive down here?
>>No. 28890
Well, just barely, but that doesn't mean any of us are feeling malnourished.

Right, so...whole month between calling the votes and no physical sign of progress. That's definitely dispiriting to a degree. I will admit to putting my own skills in doubt for a while, which is part of the delay, but I've managed to regain my motivation over the past few days and finally broke through a major barrier that kept my inkwell capped, so to speak. I should have something ready for consumption within the next 48 hours, and we will AT LONG LAST arrive at the story proper. Will it be worth the wait? That's for you to determine, dear Anon.

>>28837
Thanks, I couldn't remember how that saying went. They both sound so appropriate, though.

>>28833
>>28835
>>28836
Truely, 'tis an honour to be graced by thy infamy.
>>No. 28898
File 137021744859.jpg - (213.70KB, 850x1190, shadowing you.jpg) [iqdb]
28898
Image has been hidden due to plot spoilers. Proceed at your own risk. Or, if you had "expand all images" enabled, well...oops.
------------------------------------------

WINNER: [X] Listen to your boss, go back to work.

Sweat is starting to roll down my forehead, although I think that’s more from the midday sun blazing downward than any nerves I feel building within me. In the months I’ve shadowed my boss, I’ve managed to gage his reaction on various topics, whether from the rare comment he gives when pushed for a direct answer or, more often, through his unique language of facial expressions and upper body movements. Even if he has a firmly rooted opinion he will not budge on—such as this traditional outlook on a human’s interactions with a youkai—I have found it is possible to make him relent should I come up with a convincing enough argument. His current stance tells me so, as the tense blades of his shoulders aren’t firm enough to appear absolutely rigid.

I hope the fact I can tell the difference between two ways somebody stands isn’t a sign of having nothing to do in between jobs. I’d like to think of myself as a productive person.

Well, I gain nothing from simply thinking about things! It’s time to convince him how I intend to wrap up the little chat Kyouko and I are having, how it won’t be but another minute more, and that I’m even willing to work overtime today to make it up to him. This is simply to iron out the last few details that need confirmation, and make sure there are no misunderstandings between me and her. I can feel the momentum building within me! The birds chirp a song in my honor! The crickets play a tune to accompany my statements! The crowd murmurs words of encouragement from a distance! I can do this! I! AM! …

…wait, the crowd?

My head glances down the alley. Oh, look. There’s a whole group of villagers, observing the debate that’s been going on between me and my boss. They keep their distance from us three and whisper to each other, the gossip sure to evolve into something far more malignant. A few occasionally gesture to one of us. Some have a very palpable glare bound in this direction. I can assume who they’re for.

What’s that feeling? Ah, right. That would be the momentum I described before, realizing it’s standing on loosened soil and plummeting into a sinkhole, hoping never to be found.

This has now become entirely the wrong time to drag this out. How long have those people been there? How much did they overhear? Surely, Mr. Touma isn’t so loud as to attract attention like this, is he? But even so, they’re still here, and if I tried to defend myself not only would I come across as gripy and unreliable, but it would also get me labeled as a deserter for going against the will of the village. That could eventually lead to banishment from town, forcing me to live outside the walls. There’s no possible way I could make that work by myself. I can’t let these people dictate my future. I have no other choice but to comply for right now.

But that means I can’t finish talking with…

Sighing disheartenedly, I bow toward the looming figure that is my mentor and speak clearly, “I understand. I apologize for disobeying your orders, sir. I will not let it happen again.” My eyes are closed the whole way through. I don’t want them open to catch a side-glance at any nasty motions the uninvited audience flings my way. After bowing, I straighten and turn around to Kyouko. She wears a petite expression of despondency, unnoticeable to anyone standing from afar. Well, I’m right here, and I can empathize completely. “I’m sorry,” I mutter to her, before making my way to the front of the building. Much as I’d like to finish things off more orderly, staying in this position for very much longer only makes interaction between us more complicated for the future. Hopefully she understands.

With that, I head to the front doors. That means going down the alley and pushing through the assembled throng. What an adventure.

Behind me, the shouting starts anew. “What do you want? There’s nothing here to see. Go off with you!” It seems Mr. Touma finally noticed the crowd as well. He’s never been one to care for gossip, so the act of sending the tattles on their way makes me feel somewhat better. Still, I can hear bits and pieces of dialogue as everyone returns to their respective jobs. Some continue to speculate about my allegiance, others seem to have already condemned me in their minds. It becomes such a silent tempest of noise I can almost hear the wind itself cussing out these circumstances.

Huh, so I can make out faint details such as that, and yet a massive wall of peepers mysteriously escapes my awareness.

When did my senses become so selective?

Once inside the shop, I firmly latch the door closed, wishing not to see any more people than I’m required for the next several hours. Mr. Touma is already sealing the window shut, grumbling to himself about how the casements need replacing. He tends to do that with a lot of the older mechanisms around the building, although it is one of the older structures in the village.

“Now then,” he rasps, making his way to the double doors leading to the smelting area, “I recall you were in the middle of a forging assignment for the training corps. You’ll want to get on that.”

I nod, before my mouth delivers some choice words. “There really wasn’t any need to be so surly to her, sir.”

He pauses to look at me, a face passing that would rather not continue this line of conversation and just move on. I agree with that, but I’d like it to end on more finite terms. “Everything has its purpose in time. You are to be here shaping and weighting the blades. I saw the paper slips the yamabiko was carrying. That girl was clearly given her own task. The two of you taking time to talk to one another only served to distract both of you from your respective duties.” His eyes narrow before he concludes; “I merely guided you back to your currently required course.”

“And I’m grateful for that, sir, like I’ve been since the day you hired me. I wouldn’t want to disappoint you if my livelihood was at stake. But there is a difference between slacking off and giving a moment to hear the concerns of a…” I stop, wondering if that word I have in mind would only strain things further. Well, maybe if I slightly altered it. “A very friendly youkai, such as Kyouko. She just wanted some help with a personal trouble, and she was willing to put her faith in me. The least I could do is repay her.” All told, I’m not sure why I feel it important to divulge this private information to Mr. Touma, old-guarded as he is. Perhaps if he were able to have another perspective to view my situation from, he could develop a better understanding? Whatever the reason, it feels necessary to give a voice to Kyouko’s dilemma when she’s unable to speak it herself.

Something in what I say seems to have reached my boss, for he stares at the floor closely in the room across the doorway. It doesn’t resemble a look of concession, but it also isn’t as sharp as it had been moments before. It takes me a few seconds to realize he is addressing me, as his tone has grown hushed. “Keiichi, I would never attempt to drive a barrier into your private life. The friends you wish to associate with are up to you. I have no say in the matter. And to give aid to a friend in need is a most honorable gift to impart, so long,” he stresses, “as that does not interfere with your working hours. Surely, if this is as important an issue as you make it out to be, there can be time made between the two of you to discuss it later, can there not?”

Well, that’s not quite what I expected, although I’m not sure what was to be expected from this. In any case, it’s a sufficient response for me to hear. “I suppose so, sir.”

“Then that should be the end of this. You have found your focus once more?”

I breathe in deeply and smile. It feels like the first time I’ve done that in several minutes—smile I mean, though I guess an argument could be made for the other option given this atmosphere. “Right in front of me, sir.”

Mr. Touma makes a single nod, not turning to face me. “Go finish shaping those blades.”

Without another word, I make my way past him and open the doors leading to the smelting room. I feel somewhat better about how things are right now. Yes, maybe the way I parted with Kyouko wasn’t how I envisioned it taking place, but it’s the way it happened. I can’t argue with it any longer. For now, I have to put this behind me. Nothing else is going to break my stride or slow me down. Oh no, just get back to work, and know that there’ll be another chance to talk with her. If I have time, I could walk to the temple and see what the visiting hours are. It shouldn’t be too…

…I just realize that I never took one of Kyouko’s pamphlets like I said I would. Now my mood has been soured ever so slightly.

Damn crowd.

----------------------------

“Damn crowd.”

High above a stone-and-wood built weapons shop, unseen by natural eyes, a lone figure floats several meters from touching anything in particular, cross with the world. Having just made her way from a section of the shop’s roof right above a window, she takes her time to pocket a shaker of unfamiliar substance—a shaker she had been scrambling to retrieve moments before when it seemed the tension between the young kid and the old, bald man was about to tip over. That proved entirely unnecessary with the abrupt appearance of a new, unwelcomed and unplanned third-party. Now having to watch her source of amusement be unceremoniously whisked out of her grasp again was proving to be more aggravating than she’d initially expected.

“Why do humans have to be so concerned with the babble of others, anyway?” she asked no one in particular. She chuckled before a chance for imaginary folks to answer could be given. “Well duh, I know the reason for that,” she spoke as her free hand playfully knocked her on the forehead once, “the suffering of others is fun to watch!” So obvious as well. She was experienced in the ways of making people’s lives distressing, subtle and otherwise, in order to make her life less so. If it had managed to get her this far, why stop now?

Still, it was a bit of a bother. All this work put into one simple human for one half-hour, and it proved fruitless. “Must be more out of practice than I thought,” the woman muttered as she pulled a wood pipe from inside her blouse. It was true that she could feel her old powers returning, slowly but surely, but it was still far too gradual a pace for her. She was used to tick-tock flow; every single second of a plan being put to good purpose to ultimately realize the final outcome. Naturally, she was the one to profit most from the success, but she didn’t mind if overflow made its way to other wanderers. She had never been particularly greedy, after all. Just take what’s necessary, and give the leftovers to someone you know can benefit you even more in the long run. That was one of the best lessons she had learned in the centuries that pasted, and she stood by her creed.

Lighting the pipe with a simple spell, the unseen lady took a bulking inhalation of the sweet fumes, all the while pondering the scene that had taken place moments ago. “Okay,” she exhaled, muttering quietly, “so the first try didn’t work. Big whoop. That’s what usually happens with all the great thinkers and inventors. Initial theory fails? Go back and fix it so it doesn’t fail; simple as that.” There was a good plan set up in there, it was just a matter of tweaking it to keep the guinea pig on course, striding to the goal.

Granted, that shouldn’t be too difficult to accomplish now. She had overheard much of the conversation between the kid and the wimp yamabiko, and could tell his curiosity rose with every word uttered in his direction. It was quite fortunate for assistance to emerge from one of them. Their naiveté to their surroundings would be their downfall, as it was only a matter of time before everything fit into place.

Once more, things would be going her way.

Usual smugness restored, the woman chuckled in her throat as the smoke’s odor began to saturate the area. “See you around, kid. It won’t be much longer.” Then, wrapping her silky ribbon tighter to her body, she flew off for the forest. There would be much strategizing done that night.


----------------------------

The rest of the day went by quickly after my stimulating encounter late in the morning. Stirred once more to work, I was able to polish and cut two additional swords to add to the one from previously. There’s still quite a bit more to do, but two swords is incredibly fast paced in this industry. The amount of labor and attention to detail to create a perfect blade is of top priority, and anyone who can blaze by at this rate is considered a treasure in his own right. I’m just lucky that treasure happens to be me.

Once I’m done for the day, I present the output of my energy to my employer. Mr. Touma thoroughly inspects the weapons with his eyes and hands, running his fingertips gently down the fuller and then the edges. He carefully weighs each blade in his palm to make sure neither has been deformed in any part of the metal. Once satisfied, he gives me a pleased grunt and a nod—the standard body language for ‘good job’—and hands the pair back to me to place away in storage. It’s the small things like this that make me glad to be a part of the village’s defense force, however indirect.

The one downside to my passion and commitment is that I often go beyond what’s technically required for my shift. Most days that only means a few minutes past six, if the workload has been relatively moderate. On a day like this though, I can see that nearly a full hour has gone by, once I exit the windowless smelting area. Yep, right on the wall clock—fifty minutes past the hour. I’d asked for a higher salary, but that isn’t an option until my apprenticeship becomes a full-blown job. If it becomes my full time job, of course.

Grabbing my carrying bag, I say my farewell for the day and exit out into the street. The sun is roughly halfway through its descent of the horizon, and the village has likely been sealed up for the night. That means I can’t go to the temple—I had pondered visiting Kyouko to apologize for the way we left earlier, but it looks as though I’ll have to put such a thing off for the moment. I do hope she manages to sort her worries out. I’m glad to see her acting so strong and capable for her own well-being (at least, for a youkai her age), but her occasional lack of self-worth poses as somewhat troublesome. Does it stem from her bashful nature? Her upbringing? A desire to better conform to new surroundings? Hopefully other people have noticed this. It’s not good to see someone so cheerful and sweet have to fret over the silliest of tribulations. I know that we happen to share a tribulation currently, but I’m just a human, and not a very physical one at that. Even if she looks to be absent in strength, I imagine she’d be able to take care of herself when push comes to shove.

In a way, that's how we're similar and different to one another.

It’s not a very long walk home, so I arrive there within a few minutes. Along the way, I keep myself entertained with visions of the meal I’ll be eating tonight. It’s bound to be something special. We don’t make the largest of incomes, so family dinners are mostly sparse between the five of us. But after saving up some jar money for a few weeks, we like to indulge in a more elaborate form of cooking every once in a while. The types with fancy meats that take half-a-day or more to prepare and come served with trays of additional sides. Because of the rarity it has grown to be one of my most looked forward to events. And tonight is what that feeling has been building up towards.

At least, that’s what I thought.

“We still don’t have pork in the ice box?”

Mama Kiku is bent down in the bottom shelf of the pantry, looking for a container of still partially warm food cooked earlier in the evening. Despite how cramped our pantry is, this proves to be a minor contest for the woman who’s stared it down more times than I can count. “Yeah, sorry Ke’chi. ‘Parently there was some sorta miscount at the butchery market. Didn’t have as many pork roasts as they ‘spected. Should have a fresh shipment ina couple a days, but until then,” she stands up with a solid, tray-sized box, the kind with a lid you flip open on hinges, and presents it to me, “we’ll hafta settle for the usual.” She says it with a laid-back smile, a smile I’ve come to enjoy seeing. Even if there is an impressive amount of work that’s been dumped into her lap, my mother is able to take it all in stride, as just another task that needs settling. There isn’t very much that can truly upset her at this point in her life.

While disappointed by the news of delayed oral heaven, it can wait just a bit longer. After all, the longer you hold back on something enjoyable, the better it will taste once it finally appears. With that thinking in mind I accept the boxed meal with gratitude, and go to sit at our main table. As I eat the slightly soggy (but still completely edible) grub, my younger siblings run by to chat with me. We exchange some basic back-and-forth, talking about our respective days, me leaving out the major details of my day. I tell them about the bagel I was given, and pull it out of my sack to present. The way their eyes light up upon witnessing the bizarre bread is enough to make me fold in when they ask to take a better look at it. So the two rip the remaining chunk in half, each taking a respective oversized bite. My sister thinks it’s too hard to chew, which is understandable given her underdeveloped mouth, while my brother asks with a gleam in his eyes if I could bring him one when I return home tomorrow. Well, that shouldn’t be a problem, and I ruffle his hair to tell him so. As is typical he squirms away from me in his seat, talking about how he’s too old to be receiving the cute boy praise inflicted upon him the last several years. Yeah, you may be twelve, but you’ll always be prone to pets as far as I’m concerned.

I think this is just what I need: a small dosage of simple family time, after all the craziness that has been my day.

Once finished with my meal, I wash out the insides of the box tray and put it away in the cabinets. The rest of the evening is spent preparing for bed and doing some brief bedside reading from my checked out book. This aides in my drifting into a different state of consciousness, with the flicker of my oil lamp also serving a beneficial hand. The instant I reach a good stopping point, I place the title on my nightstand and retire for the day. There is no major disturbance while I sleep, and my dreams are not much to speak about.

The new day arrives shortly after, with a mixture of contradictory feelings bound inside me. Eagerness to once again stand before a wooden counter and make the future of the local Gensokyo militia come closer to being a reality. Excitement in my search to figure out whether I was hearing anything at all yesterday. Dread at the thought of something horrible overwhelming me when I get there, or just discontent to find an absence of anything remarkable to behold. Really, from thinking solely about what will happen when I get off for my lunch break the rest of my morning routine and walk to work are simply a blobby background I saunter through. Even my visit to the bakery is hazy, but I somehow remember to order a biscuit with a covered cup of jam for spread. At least that sorts out where my lunch is coming from.

The weapons shop is the same as it’s ever been, and I get to work the moment I enter my area. Everything I am able to do with a mechanical set of motions well drilled into my head at this point, and I don’t really need to focus all that closely for this particular assignment. It’s only stylizing the hilts of the almost completed swords, properly dressing them up with the insignia of our village’s defense order. There are specific instructions in regards to how to go about this, and doesn’t take more than a couple of hours until completion. The remaining time I use to sweep up the shop floor and clean out the furnaces. Have to keep them in top shape, or else the quality of the blades could go down ever so slightly. It also helps that doing this gobbles up more time between now and lunch.

Annnnnd here we are at long last! Time to go explore that forest! I walk up to the front counter where Mr. Touma sits quietly looking over a news magazine. “I’ll be taking my lunch break now, sir.”

“Very well. Don’t repeat what happened yesterday.” He doesn’t peek up from his article.

“Understood,” I confirm. I’m assuming he means the ‘being late by two minutes’ part of it. He probably could care less what I do with my time, so long as I show back up when I’m required.

Now outside the shop, I decide to do a last minute run-through of all my belongings. Admittedly, there isn’t much, but I like to be certain that I have all my carrying items with me. It’ll do to pass the time as I wait for Kyouko to show up. After all, we did talk about—

Wait a second.

I introduced the basic premise of my plan, but before we could discuss it any further, I was cut off.

I proposed meeting up, but not where or when we’d meet.

Oh gods. Damnit all, in the heat of stress I totally let something important slip my mind! Again! This memory of mine is proving to be a greater obstacle than I ever suspected.

Well, no problem. I’ll just walk over to the temple and see how she’s doing. I know the general location, and it shouldn’t take too long. I’ll just pop on by and ask someone there where she…where she…sh-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e…



…she’s running late. I don’t know why she’s running late. I told her what to do, didn’t I?

Oh well, I can wait, like, five minutes for her. If she doesn’t show, tough beans. She had her chance.





…Guess that pussyheart didn’t have the necessary courage. Whatevs. I’ll ride this one solo, then.

Make sure my bag is secure on my shoulder, and I’m off. Shame that girl had to wimp out. Serves the dumb bitch right. She probably makes for a terrible Buddhist, anyways.

Huh. This sounds unreasonably harsh…not that I could care less. I’ve got a forest to attend to.

----------------------------

On the roof of a stone-and-wood built weapons shop, unseen by natural eyes, a woman lies in silence, watching an everyday villager make his way toward one of several exit gates. Her eyes remain fixated on his distancing form, all the while she takes her time screwing the cap onto a shaker of unfamiliar substance. The name is somewhat misleading; while the contents are unknown to the living organisms around her, she is quite familiar with the properties of the contained powder. She did spend a great number of years developing the formula, didn’t she?

After the cover has been fastened, she encloses the small frame in her fist, resting her chin on her hands, the sustained musing expressing not leaving her face long after the young man is out of sight, or when the briefest of breezes blows strands of blue across her view. That’s one potential pitfall knocked out—now for the main plan to finally be under way.

“Nice try, my little puppet. Nice try, but not this time.”


----------------------------

Walking out of the walls now. Better wave to the guard on duty. Look friendly, and all that.

I suppose now’s a good opportunity to eat my biscuit. Don’t waste any more time on this hunt than what’s needed.



Right, so here’s the tree where I usually eat and read. Lookin’ good, tree.

I examine the grove in front of me. There appear to be three equally comparable paths laid out: one heading to the left, another traveling to the right, and a middle way obscured with mild plant overgrowth.

Any one looks just as good as the other.

[ ] The left path.
[ ] The middle path.
[ ] The right path.
------------------------------------------

For once this thread is archived and properly deleted, I present a link to the original image used:

http://danbooru.donmai.us/posts/1250992

That way, all you future readers need not worry about missing something in two years' time. I understand your frustration in those instances. I've been there. If nothing else, you can't say I'm not thoughtful of my audience.
>>No. 28899
File 137023965749.png - (18.84KB, 371x395, IT'S COULDN'T FOR GODS SAKE.png) [iqdb]
28899
Couple things

>He probably could care less what I do with my time
AAAAAAAGHHH

>Any one looks just as good as the other.
If we have absolutely no indication about the result of our choice, doesn't it turn out to be completely pointless?

Well, anyhow.
[x] The left path.
>>No. 28900
Goddamn it, she doesn't show up and he's going all harsh? Way to go guys.

[x] Flip a coin for me.

When it comes to such choices that's what you might as well do as not even gut feeling helps much.
>>No. 28901
[X] The middle path.

Alright.
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