[X] Dignified surrender - It's over, might as well get out when you can with some face left. Sorry guys, I have to discount this option in light of us failing to realize all the danmaku grenade effects in the last segment, and because if we were going to surrender, we would have used a plain old painkiller. Also, as this is literally just a play-fight, the MC really has no reason to not go for broke. A subverted vote such as this SHOULD not happen again.
[x] Bayonet Run
You drop the MAT-49 and the air rifle, as well as most of the grenades on your belt, leaving just the two thermobarics and a single acid bomb in. Turning towards Futo, you grin as you draw your pistol with your left hand and the knife with your right. Before she can react, you charge, clearing the relatively small distance between you two with normally superhuman speed and vaulting over the prow of the boat, firing off orb shots with your M1911 all the way. In a lunging maneuver, you swing the knife towards her jugular vein, missing as she quickly ducks and counters with a punch in the stomach, knocking you overboard and back onto the ground. Her sword, for whatever reason, seems to have disappeared.
Springing back up, you once again charge. This time, however, you feint the knife strike, diving off and hitting the ground with a roll. Since she is distracted by your movement, Futo does not notice the live thermobaric grenade you dropped right on the boat until it detonates, discharging in a thunderous boom, and, unlike your other grenades which explode into some form of mist, discharges a brief but massive fireball that knocks her off the boat and wrecks the structure of the boat itself, the pieces blown off dissolving back into ambient magic.
(Information added - Thermobaric charge behavior as danmaku = same, but less destructive and no shrapnel)
Exploiting her temporary weakness, you quickly move towards her before she can get up. Putting the weight of your body into the attack, you plunge the knife towards her chest, barely missing as she rolls away and scrambles to increase distance. Fire rises up underneath you as she incinerates the ground in her wake, the magical heat completely ineffective against your inactive pain receptors even as her own fire leaps up to a man's height. You get a few shots off with your pistol, the orb-shaped bullets impacting her body, producing sparks as they hit, before she raises a magical shield that blocks off your danmaku.
You little antics have clearly hurt Futo now, as she has lost her earlier confident smirk and is clearly in some degree of pain, and is conjuring up plates to channel her power to a greater magnitude. Still, you have eaten up a third of the duration of the drug, and you would like to at least time the crash with a more observable reason, since simply collapsing mid-charge would be incredibly embarrassing.
"LET'S GO!" You scream off as you once again charge her, firing your last pistol charges slightly off to her right. Predictably, she dodges off to the left to put more distance, only to see a purple grenade arc overhead to land behind her, so she dashes forward again, right into your path.
You fully expect the knife you swing at her this time to make contact, which makes it all the more surprising when the blade only bites the empty space where Futo once was. The swift kick to your chin dispels your confusion, but really does nothing as your futile swipes to the air above you merely bounce off her shield as she somersaults back onto the ground. Out of other options, you light and throw your last piece of ordinance at her as she lands, not expecting much result. Hence, you are quite pleasantly surprised when the acid bomb produces a larger than usual splash, which proceeds to chew through the shield like a lye bath would a dead body.
The drug is fading. While you still feel no pain, the strength boost is gradually fading away, leaving your legs and arms on the verge of jellification. Dropping your pistol and putting both hands on the knife, you initiate your final attack plan.
Futo has just set her arms off from her face, where they were shielding her from the blasts of the acid bomb. She is taken aback for a millisecond, and then reacts. Muttering a quick incantation, she conjures a ball of flame around her right fist, and holds it down in preparation for an uppercut.
Throwing your weight on your hands, you make a half-leap over her, allowing gravity to add even more force into your downward stab. This last, desperate attack is met by her rising fist, whose impact jars your arm and numbs your hand, stopping the knife dead. At this moment, with the last ounces of your strength, you throw your head back as if to perform a call to the heavens, then snap forward, ramming your forehead against hers. A flood of ecstatic triumph briefly engulf your brain as you consider your one successful melee attack in the twilight between drug-induced high and crashing low, before you black out.
<Beerkorin> Are you considering... <%Purple> Yes <Beerkorin> Do you really need another one? The size of it now is already incredibly large. <%Purple> The world is a large place, my dear head priest <Beerkorin> I understand, the promise you made to her overrides all concerns
Time: 8:25 PM Date: June 26, 20XX Location: Northern Village Boundary Threat Level: 0
Faint voices sound above you, hazy in your semi-conscious sate.
"He's...as a stone...Dou...work."
*SPLASH* Cold liquid crashes into your face, some of them finding their way into your nostrils. The voices are slightly clearer now
"Last Chance...potent stuff. According to...research notes...in his sensory neurons will flood back ...all-or-nothing mechanism's collapse...how much punishment he took...sledgehammer to the head."
"Just...pouring, he...eventually...when Keine slammed a door..."
*SPLASH* More liquid, this time, they make it even further, reaching your tonsils and triggering the choking reflex. As you cough up the water and gasp for air, the last of your haziness is dispelled, and you can now clearly hear the people standing around your prone form, though your vision is still blurry.
"How are you feeling? You've been out cold for a full twenty minutes." Shou's voice, bright with a rough edge, rings out above you. Feeling around with your arms, you find the ground and push yourself up into a sitting position before answering.
"Fine, just a bit sore and roughed up I guess." You groan, attempting to discern the figures with your corrupted vision. "Who was pouring the water?"
"Yours truly." Futo's voice, refined and archaic. “Functioned ere, tis the same now."
"That's normal, after all, you have reacted to Last Chance quite well in the past, and your scuffle with Miss Mononobe should not have exacerbated its effects too much." It's Conner's familiar gruff tone this time, "Come on, stand up, it'll clear your head a bit."
Still with your head whirling, you shakily stand up, almost falling but steeling your trembling legs just enough to prevent that. Taking a few deep breaths, your eyes clear up, and you can now clearly see the tiger youkai, the shikaisen and the professor looking at you with varying degrees of concern. The shikaisen has only a few torn clothing parts, while you have none due to her use of mainly blunt attacks, you do have more shallow bruises.
"Thanks Futo," you say, unwittingly using her first name, "I would have missed dinner if you didn't. Where's everyone else?"
"Rikako's hanging out with the large gang of outsiders, which Keine is supervising with a few guards as they set up their little refugee camp over there." Conner gestures to the moving figures and tent rows about one hundred and fifty meters away out in a field, where the majority of outsiders are digging a ditch around the site, "and Saromi's gone home."
"And who was that guy in the combat fatigues?" You ask, still holding you throbbing head.
"Matthew Ferguson, former lieutenant in the USA Marine Special Operation Regiment's 2nd Battalion, though he's no longer tied to the military or so he claims." Shou answers, "To be fair though, he is far less suspicious than those three other foreigners."
"Those guys?" You wrack your head to remember, right, the pale Russian-looking ones. "They look normal; I thought they were just regular outsiders."
"You were busy, but essentially they were trying to sneak past Keine, got caught, and the one in front, the one with the mustache, whose last name is Lazarov, produced a document that guaranteed their trustworthiness as well as something about 'observer status', signed by no less then Yukari Yakumo. So Keine let them go, even giving them permission to sleep in the square since the hotel is full."
"And how do you tell it is not a forgery?"
"Her signatures violate reality; they look completely different depending on the orientation of observation, without actually moving on the paper."
You have a hard time imagining something like that, and decide to give up before your brain collapses in its already hurting state.
"If that is so, is there something I have to do here?" You ask.
"Indeed, tis necessity to invoke rites o' courtesy post-duel."
"Tis bowing and an exchange of respectful words."
"Ah." Yet something else abstracted from the games.
You and Futo bow deep towards each other. "Tis a pleasure to fight with thee, Ming." she intones, using your first name since she is somewhere around a thousand years older than you. As you are not normally one used to such formalities due to lack of experience in ritualistic activities, you can only reply "As with you."
Just as you finish, Keine's voice sounds from the camp. "Toramaru! Mononobe! I am done laying out the schedule for them, it is your job now to supervise them until the night watch rotates on, is that clear?
"Yes ma’am." was the not-altogether enthusiastic response, as they look at each other with resignation and run off towards the camp.
"And you, Mr. Ming! Stay there for a minute."
Aw crud, another lecture inbound, you think. Conner, on the same line of thought, quickly disappears off towards the village, while you sit down on the grass and anxiously wait for Keine to move her way towards you on the crutch. What would the lecture be about now? Not interfering? Pigheadedness?
"Perhaps you would like to have that dinner I promised you earlier." She says as she limps up to you, a weary smile on her face, "Your choice, and you fought quite well with Miss Mononobe, I must say."
"T-t-thank you." You stutter out while your rapid heartbeat slows down as the prospect of a lecture disappears. "If you say so Miss Kamishirasawa."
You really ARE hungry, come to think of it. That sandwich you packed was not nearly enough to last you. It is 8:35 PM, and after all that activity, you suddenly notice the sharp pain in your stomach as the neglected organ cries for attention.
[ ] Homemade meal [ ] Grilled lamprey [ ] Yakitori ERROR 404: IMMORTAL NOT FOUND [ ] (Write in)
[x] "What would you recommend?" Aside from the prospect of something interesting, I'm not sure that having Keine go to the forest (assuming that's where Mystia's stand is) while injured is the most considerate of ideas. She probably knows some places in the village, and heck, she may really like cooking.
As this story is assuming an influx of knowledgeable outsiders, and considering that Mystia's cooking is actually really good, AND seeing how she has to fund a punk band (Amps are expensive folks) I can safely set her stand location in the village, at night, since she's nocturnal.
<BEARS> Hi Purple, just got off from the plane from Iraq. What's going on? <%Majora> Purple and Blue are currently unavailable; please leave a message with me. <BEARS> ... <BEARS> When did she give YOU access? <%Majora> One week ago. She desired that I stop haunting the Hakurei Shrine. <%Majora> Please leave a message. <Spice> you know, I've tried, I still don't know if she's really her or just a well-written bot. <BEARS> More importantly, why Majora? And when and how did YOU learn English? <%Majora> Purple said it is the name of a lost mask of ancient power. I learned English one year ago by self-study. <Spice> technically, it is <%Majora> She alleges that interacting with people through text would aid in my understanding of emotions <BEARS> Oh dear.
[x] Grilled lamprey
"I am assuming that the night sparrow is still operating the lamprey stand, correct?"
"Of course, the cart should be in the village square by now. It is quite a famous outlet, frequented both by villagers and outsider alike. Especially the outsiders."
You are not exactly fond of freshwater products, but to be honest, you cannot pass up a chance to meet more characters. Characters are probably a wrong word though, seeing how to you, they are very much real. Famous people? Idols? Living history? You guess you'll just stick to "Named figures" right now, since saying "Touhous" would probably earn you yet another bruise.
"You know, most Outsiders who are civilians by trade would have burned out after getting in so many fights in a day, but you, a mere student, is still walking under his own strength! I am quite impressed."
Your face reddens at the praise from Keine, "You are too generous. I chalk it up to the sheer amount of chemicals I put in my body. Cheating, really."
"Even so, you fight with the ferocity of a soldier, if not the skill. I wonder you developed it?"
The knife glistened in the obscured lights through the steam, it drank deep of the blood on its poisoned spine, and thirsts for more.
"DON'T KILL ME! DON'T KILL ME!"
A flash of silver in the fire light. A spurt of blood. A crazed laugh at the corpse's face.
"I, uh, I got into fights a lot when I was a kid. Builds up aggression." You say with a perfectly straight face.
Flaming Vodka was purged from every single city and college record in existence. No matter how vague Keine's history-related powers are, she will never find it out, as it is no longer history.
You and Keine cross the gate, with the guards saluting as she walks past, back into the village proper. The village does not cease activity after nightfall, but instead seems to increase with activity as most people have had supper and are now busy with recreation. Streets lined with oil lamps and the occasional electric one, obviously not of human manufacture and equipped with solar cells. Similarly, villagers are found clustered around various taverns and tea-houses, along with the occasional foreign-dressed outsider. Some of the outsiders are drinking alone, while others are actively talking and laughing with the villagers.
"So, Mr. Wu, or can I just call you Ming?"
"Of course, you are my senior after all, Miss Kamishirasawa."
Was that a flush of color you saw on her face after you replied?
"Ming, your pseudonym is Chinese, but your accent is unidentifiable. Which country are you from anyway?"
You rub your eyes, "Doesn't matter, my family moved around a lot back in my day. Citizenship... forgot, Canadian? French? I'm going to school in the USA right now, so I guess that counts."
"And for your field of study, you are an alc-" she stumbles over that word, "I mean, chemist of sorts?"
"Biology and medicine," you say, "though my university rolls that program in with the chemistry curriculum anyway."
You suddenly become aware that the throbbing pain in your head is most definitely not fading away, a clear symptom that you definitely need more of your elixir of life: long-lasting stimulants. Sleep works too, but that is most definitely not an option right now.
Subtly, you remove the amphetamine syringe from your medipack and inject it into your left wrist, behind your back. Keine does not notice this, and continues to talk as if nothing happened.
"You know, I sometimes wish to start a proper academy in Gensokyo. Not just for human youth, of course, we do not have enough of them, but for the various junior youkai as well, at least those who are civilized enough to chastise themselves while in the village." She gazes wistfully at the starry sky, "We have the teaching materials necessary, imported textbooks, references, everything. If we don't have it we can make it, or buy it from outsiders and kappa. The trouble is that formal education is not relevant in Gensokyo, as save for a rare few such as Rikako, most humans who seek higher learning turn to magical studies, which is done usually by the lonesome. The rest, they are content to remain with what is a lower-middle school education in the Outside World, which, in turn, leads to a paucity of teachers."
You feel annoyed, "At least it’s not mandatory. I mean, the farmers here seem to be living much better than even the educated workers in my country. They could afford a decent-sized house, good food," If anything, you notice that unlike even modern Asian villages, the meats you see hung in shops are generally fresh and in large quantities, though the animals they come from are much more diverse, "and even the occasional luxury. Out there, even if you graduated with a marketable degree, you still have a chance of not finding a job and thus forced to find solace with a noose."
"Gensokyo will look the same way if the Human Village was permitted to expand without limits. As of now, it is held in check by the surrounding Forests, though it seems that plowing in already open areas raises no ire with the youkai, who tend to steal some crops as a sort of tribute."
A few doujins and stories you read brings the scenario Keine postulated to mind, but you brush it away. As bustling as the Village is, you really do not see how it can ever, or would ever, urbanize.
Time: 8:35 PM Date: June 26, 20XX Location: Village Square Threat Level: 0.5
There are a lot of people here, to say the least.
The dragon statue in the square has been converted into a moonlight tower of sorts, with a strange-looking construction placed on the stony god's back. The device is inscribed with runes, and appears to be an oversized version of the oil lamps seen lighting the streets, except this one is obviously magically powered, as betrayed by the magic circle floating about its circumference. As with noon, there are many lantern-lit food stands set up, now more often than not with tables and chairs.
Mystia's famous lamprey stand is positioned on the far corner of the square, with a very long line that is paradoxically quick-moving. Moving forward, you notice that a great majority of the customers are ordering take-out, their purchases served in their own bento boxes or wrapped in newspaper, the majority of which is unsurprisingly copies of the Bunbunmaru as you see when you and Keine enter the queue, though that may just be because it is the most widely circulated one in Gensokyo, if ZUN is to be trusted.
Behind the cart stand, which actually is composed of two carts - one acting as the bar and kitchen and the other one full of barrels of live lamprey and other supplies, and also sports a plank to act as an ordering counter, you can see at least four figures scurrying around. One of which, with obvious wings sprouting from her back, is the night sparrow you suspect most outsiders flock for around here. Two of the others appear to be normal humans, and the last one, sporting curious, fluffy ears on her forehead, appear to be...
" BUY FIVE LAMPREYS AND RECEIVE A FREE ROUND OF DRINKS! "
Your teeth jar at the vibration coming off from the titanic sound wave. Yes your ears are ringing and you fear that Kyouko's shouting may have permanently reduced your hearing, but it’s not the first time this has happened. You still regret sitting in front of the amp during that one school rally.
Looking even closer, you can see that they are most definitely not wearing the leather concert outfits, which is reasonable, since those would get dirty. Mystia is also not wearing the brown robe oh-so widely perceived due to a certain well-known pairing, but she is wearing a head wrap, as with everyone else working in the stand likely due to sanitary reasons, as well as an apron. Neither she nor Kyouko are manning the counter though - those positions are filled in by one of the hum-no, that one is not a human, the one dressed in a somber gray kimono possesses a set of small, but noticeable horns on his forehead sprouting from his brown hair. The other one is wearing modern clothing though, and is probably an outsider.
Those are not very much of your note though. While your experience in college causes your recognition of facial features to somewhat dim, you do catch on that Mystia's appearance, compared to her colleagues, is a good deal more Western. Not surprising, considering her name, but it is still jarring after every other character you met so far being more or less Asian.
"Next!" The male youkai barks out, as the line shuffles forward again. "Please state your order."
"4 lampreys with sauce and rice, and a bottle. Takeout." The villager states, "That is all."
He scribbles something down and sticks it on the side beam of the grilling cart, "Alright, that would be 2900 yen, move aside to pay and pick up your order. Next!"
The outsider directly in front of you, who like many of the others in the line, is bunched up with associates and hail from the massive group camping outside the village, moves forward. "Order?" the youkai asks.
"Five lampreys with sauce and rice, and a date with the lovely birdie." He says with a wide grin, as his friends behind him, along with some natives, laugh, groan and facepalm.
"2750 yen, and Mystia,” he leans over to the night sparrow busy tending to the grill, "What was the price of the last item again?"
"Your arm, your leg, and your own bloody, still beating heart," she replies matter-of-factly without even look up from her work. "Same goes for anyone else here. Eisen there will provide the extraction free of charge."
The human employee smiles and waves the large gutting knife that he had been using to clean the lampreys in acknowledgement.
"So, would you like to cancel that item?" The clerk asks, tilting his head.
"Yes," the prospecting lover answers with barely a whisper, his face still forcing a grin even as his friends drag him off and replace him to receive the ordered food as Keine, with you behind, steps forward.
"Ah, Miss Kamishirasawa," the clerk youkai bows, "what brings you here? You do not attend our stand too often."
You notice that the other three working, even Kyouko who is tending to the small oven off to the side, looking over.
"For a guest, of course, Shigeaki." She moves aside to reveal you, who quickly bow out of reflex. "He did the village a great favor earlier today."
"I see," the clerk studies you, leaning closer before wincing back, "Yo-I mean, that is very well." His speech stutters, and you notice that Mystia, while not talking yet, is leaning closer. "What would you like, Miss Kamishirasawa and Mister, uh..."
"Wu Ming, and you should just call me Ming, I am definitely younger than you here." You answer, eliciting some nods from your observers, just as you planned.
"Ming, alright," He frantically scribbles on the order slip, "what would your orders be?"
"Three slices of pie and a bottle for me, and Ming, your order?" Keine asks as you study the paper signs on the side of the cart.
************************* -[ ] Grilled Lamprey - 250 yen for half, 400 yen for single - House sauce - add 50 yen - Western sauce - add 60 yen -[ ] Lamprey pie - 250 for slice, 2000 yen for whole -[ ] Rice bowl - 100 yen - Sake - One drink - 50 yen (order at bar) -  Bottle - 700 yen
We refuse the right to refuse service to anyone. ANYONE.
************************* Order up and order fast!
A/N: don't bother remembering the names of any generic characters either. Those are pulled straight out of a generator.
[x] Grilled Lamprey single x 2 - 800 yen - [x] Half Lamprey x 1 - 400 yen - [x] House sauce - 50 yen [x] Rice bowl - 100 yen [x] One drink - 50 yen
"Alright, that comes up to 2850 yen total for the two of you. Please enjoy the drinks at the bar for your order to come up." He bows again, a gesture, you notice, he does not display to the other customers. In fact, it seems that the bar itself is a sort of privilege, as most of the patrons eating in are seated at one of the foldable bamboo tables set up near the cart.
Your stomach gives a violent lurch as the hunger pangs strike again. Fair enough, you've never really gone without dinner this late in the day. The aroma and sight of the baking lamprey tease your nostrils as you take a seat at the bar next to the schoolteacher and a man who looks to have passed out with a bottle still in his hand. You take up a similar position as you rest your head on your arms and stare at the grill, even ignoring Keine's attempts to start conversation or Mystia herself's occasional glances at you in your trancelike focus on the night sparrow's cooking, with your head resting on your folded arms.
She's fast, her hands darting from lamprey to lamprey in a blur, flipping them at exact intervals and tossing the finished ones onto wooden trenchers or newspaper sheets with utmost precision. Once in a while she would hand off a platter to Kyouko tending the oven-stove behind her, who scoops up a generous portion of rice on top of the dish before handing it back to be covered with the lamprey.
Lamprey was definitely not something you ate before, even during your brief stay in Outside World Japan. You heard that it tastes sort of like a cross between pork and mackerel, and feels much richer than ordinary fish meat. The eastern style barbecue sauce they have in a pot next to the grill is giving off a smell you have never smelled before, though it is vaguely like mushrooms.
"Huh?" You arouse from your reverie, finally being aware of Keine trying to get your attention.
"You wanted a drink, right?"
"Oh of course!" You answer, with a bit of embarassment. "I've always wondered whether sake tasted differently within the border."
"I'm afraid you would be quite disappointed." a different voice answers, "The taste of sake is the same as long as they brew it the same way. We do our best to serve it hot though, so it may taste different here."
You look up as a porcelein mug is placed in front of you, filled to the brim with steaming alcohol. It looks like ordinary nigori, but the smell betrays the presence of several unknown herbs powdered and added to the liquid.
"They do smell different though." The night sparrow lightly smiles, looking at you even as her free hand still darts among the rows of grilling lamprey.
You never truly appreciate the idea of alcohol on an empty stomach. But as you cannot afford to let the sake turn cold, you hold it to your mouth and sip. The familiar fruity taste impacts your taste buds, and during the first moments, you do not notice any difference. Only when the hot liquid finishes running down your gullet do your olfactory receptors detect the unfamiliar zest, which is best described as a combination between sage and green lime.
"What is in this, anyway?" You ask.
Mystia gestures to a bundle of roots on the shelf behind her, "A herb from the Forest of Magic. Us youkai call them Screechers, but humans probably know them better as the mandrake."
"Mandrakes? You mean the ones that look roughly like the kanji character for 'person'."
"Eh, I guess," she gives an uncertain glance (flapping her wings in the process, you notice) at Keine, who nods, "I mean, no, the ones you know from Outside are non-magical ones. These give off a very loud scream when you pluck them out of the dirt, enough to give elderly humans a...what's that word again?"
"Heart attack," Keine fills in, while taking a drink from her own cup.
"Yes, that one," Mystia's wings flutter again as she clears her throat, "And since they are usually the ones picking herbs in the forest, you know..."
"Gotcha." Indeed, when you look closer at the roots, they look eerily like infant-sized human mummies, with oversized mouths twisted permanently in an expression of absolute terror. "So, do they have any medicinal effects?"
"No more than non-magical mandrakes, although they do taste and smell differently."
You take another sip, the sake tastes even better now that you know what the ingredient is.4
"Miss Lorelei, I thought you served the legendary 'sparrow sake', the ones made by fermented rice in bamboo stalks."
She shrugs, "Normally, yes, but ever since outsiders started showing up in such quantities, I switched to the cheaper conventional brews. Until the next harvest, I only have two-thirds of a pot left, so it's 11000 yen for a cup of THAT, if you are considering.
After another minute, Mystia finishes preparing your order, and you proceed to dig yourself into the lamprey and rice, barely tasting the food as you wolf down with all the restraint of a famine victim. The lamprey is incredibly rich, tasting, to you, sort of like pork and salmon combined. The house sauce they use is rather sweet and sour compared to the barbecue sauces you are used to, but it accompanies the freshwater invertebrate quite well. Or perhaps it is just your appetite overriding your taste buds, but you really don't care.
It was Keine who speaks next, after noticing that Kyouko, in the back, has remained silent save for her constant sutra muttering and the occasional advertisement yell, "Is there something going on with Miss Kasodani?"
Mystia looks back, and leans closer, talking in a lower voice, "She's not saying anything, but within the last couple of weeks she seems to be more stressed out than normal. Poor girl works temple duties during the day, here during dusk and the rock shows in the night. I told her it was fine to ignore the damn monk for a bit and slack on her day job to catch a break, or cancel a show or two, but she always says that she's fine and I don't need to worry about it.But seriously, I mean, even I get to sleep during daytime, it's part of a youkai's nature!"
"Hmm. I-" Keine suddenly stops in the middle of her speech as the man on your other side stirs. He lifts his head from his arms and sits up. Taking a look around, the man called Lazarov pauses for a brief moment to scan your face and Keines, before giving a barely noticeable grin of recognition.
"Hello again, krasivy." He says, tilting his head in Keine's direction.
(Next part in ten hours)
Something small while I fix up RL problems.Rifle!AK47hf008c2013/06/18 (Tue) 06:38No. 28911▼
As soon as the sun fell, the secret highway comes to life.
Built on the backs of tens of thousands of pack animals, rickshaws and old motor vehicles, this new Ho Chi Minh trail stretches across the Chinese-Myanmar border, connecting the foreign-owned depots in Yunnan Province to the various villages and hideouts deep in the cloudy, tree-covered mountains where the rebel armies call home.
It is a dangerous journey. They are well within the range of the government artillery bases positioned to the south, and such slow-moving vehicles offer tempting targets for patrolling attack helicopters and occasionally bombers. Even under the cover of night, safety is not guaranteed as even one mishap can alert the enemy. However, the conditions have much improved since the beginning of the conflict.
The trail, originally dirt, can now be found with stretches of cement road next to the well-hidden intermediate stations, where the vehicles are refueled, animals are watered, and the soldiers rested before proceeding on to their final destination. Such developments would not be possible, the commander thinks as he surveys a particular convoy from a small cliff off to the side, were it not for their mysterious benefactor pulling the strings to bequeath them with the supplies.
It would also have been impossible to have secured this particular convoy, a shipment of a dozen SU-85 tank destroyers straight from a forgotten Soviet depot, if not for her. Normally, the large trucks they use to transport the armored vehicles would have been easy targets for any patrolling government aircraft. But under the dense black mist, the convoy might as well be going through an underground tunnel.
"You know, I still don't understand your motivation in this," he says to the figure beside him, who is clothed merely in a light white summer dress, similar to those seen on old Western postcards, "Unlike the superpowers, all you demanded are a couple square kilometers worth of land for all of this." He gestures with his machete at the convoy, as well as the many other ones further up the trail.
"My domain is quite lacking in land, so those square kilometers are quite valuable, considering that you promised to render them part of my territory." The woman gives a hidden smile beneath the paper fan she's holding up, "And as the Americans would say, it's 'fighting for the freedom of the oppressed minorities'. Wouldn't you agree, KFighter?"
"I thought I said we could drop the names act, Purple." The commander replies in a careful tone, "Yes, I agree of course, but anybody receiving so much for so little would be suspicious, if only in caution."
The woman laughs, "Caution? No amount of caution you can perform can do anything if I decide to double-cross your little revolution here. Right now, my interests and yours are in alignment, and the details of my interest are not in your ability to ask. Be assured though, with my support, you will liberate your country."
"That is acceptable." He shrugs, not intent on endangering the flow of supplies her influence brings. "On another topic, who is your friend up there in the skies giving us screening, anyway?"
She gestures above the mystical black mist, at the horizon, "Look over there."
The waning moon is rising in the night sky, its rays of silver slowly extending over the jungle like a pool of water.
"She is of the moon?"
"The Broken Moon." The woman giggles as the commander stiffens up in fearful surprise before exhaling a deep breath.
"And here I was wondering what all though caskets of Shwe le maw were for."
<Spice> Try another question <BEARS> so why do you look so similar to satori and not koishi anyway? <%Majora> ... <%Majora> Satori = Read; Me = Write <%Majora> Koishi = Different interface <Spice> let’s try another question, this one might be hard coded <BEARS> what did you have for lunch today? <%Majora> Pizza and soda <BEARS> okay, what <Spice> It's Purple's house, of course they have pizza and soda stocked in the fridge or something <BEARS> you know what, I have to try this <Spice> Oh heavens <BEARS> do you like mudkips Majora? <Spice> ... <%Majora> ... <%Majora> ... <%Majora> I am neutral on the subject of "mudkips" <BEARS> DAMMIT <BEARS> crap afk <BEARS> brb situation room ======================
Meanwhile, at the stone tables some distance away from the bar...
"Lieutenant Konoroz! Lieutenant Konoroz!" The man half-shouts, half-sighs as he violently shoves the form of his prone comrade, to no avail. "The kapitan is doing something stupid again!"
"It's no good Forester, he was always a lightweight." Vlad yawns as he rolls his unconscious officer over. "You want to draw faces on him like we usually do Punchball?"
"Naw, trick the rookies to do it," the tall, bald man answers, his face half-buried in his own plate of lamprey rice, "Konoroz will get mad and blame someone, and it sure as hell ain't gonna be me."
Lebediv and Kulikova are not allowed to drink, since they, as newly-minted additions to the squad, are responsible for making sure everyone else gets into their bedrolls with some degree of dignity. Technically, Monkey and Spring also fill up that role, as the former urban drug runner and high-strung infantry medic are both well-resistant to the effects of alcohol. The captain, on the other hand, has a nasty tendency to get horribly intoxicated after half a bottle of liquor and never pass out afterwards no matter how much he imbibes. The fact that he never seem to lose his discipline in that mode makes up for it, but his composure...
"It's always a pleasure meeting you Miss Kamishirasawa, by the way, I wonder how the kids get to class every morning without being lost in your glaza?"
Now, Cpt. Lazarov was not an unseemly man, nor a lethargic one. At thirty-seven years of age, he still displays-in both appearance and action-youth and vigor comparable if not superior to his younger subordinates. The natural mustache he wears as a privilege of position is about the only thing that offsets this fact. And his speaking skills, under normal circumstances, are befitting of a leader of man. None of those apply when his BAC exceeds 0.07.
The young man eating beside Keine snorts laughter into his food, as the were-hakutaku gives the captain the same cold, condemning stare she uses on those who miss homework assignments, a stare which has been refined over hundreds of years of pedagogy to instill a strong feeling of shame and fear in the viewer in addition to the instinctive drive to avoid head-butts. For Lazarov though, it just means his facetious attempt to hit on her was shot down, and he moved on to a different topic.
"Anyways, there was something very important I neglected to tell you earlier at the gate." He removes a pack of cigarettes from his jacket as he speaks, "Now, this morning, when we were traveling by the youkai mountain, some zalupa decided to shoot at us with a firearm. Now, of course, I would guess this normally is not part of your concern," he quickly adds as Keine continues her stare, now with a speck of boredom, "But that shooter was in possession of some very specialized military hardware, although he missed completely and ran away. The funny thing is though, we shot off at least fifty aimed shots at the shooter and shredded the hilltop he was on with a bomb, and yet we find no trace when we searched the position, no body, no bloodstain, nothing."
"And what is that 'specialized hardware'?" Keine asks, raising an eyebrow as he chooses a stick.
Lazarov pauses for a moment to light the cigarette, "From the sound report, it was a KSVK anti-materiel rifle. Big, noisy thing designed to kill-"
"I know what an anti-materiel rifle is, Mr. Lazarov," Keine sighs and gestures at him with her chopsticks, "I've talked with Toramaru before, for the Dragon's sake. And besides, this incident, while unusual, is not really something I would handle, since it’s just one man with a large gun, and luck."
"Yes Missis, but consider this other fact: I spoke with the other group of outsiders, and they seemed to have undergone a similar incident." He exhales a smoke ring "While hiking near the Village of Cats, they came under attack from machinegun fire, which resulted in quite a few of them sustaining injuries. More disturbingly, they reported at least three people being as part of the group that attacked them, and just like the one that attacked us, disappeared without a trace."
He continues, "Now, I am sure that instances of outsiders killing outsiders are not unusual, but the equipment involved is. All of the evidence points to the presence of a hostile force backed by an Outside World government of similar group. While there may not be many of them, their aggressive behavior can have terrible, terrible effects."
"Aggressive behavior, huh," Keine abruptly lowers her voice as feels an unpleasant connection forming, "Mr. Lazarov, would you like to hear how I lost half of my left leg?"
"I'll trade you this magnum for that assault rifle of yours." You half-yawn, placing the Smith & Wesson Model 26 on the bar, "And I'll toss in this French submachine gun in as well."
"No can do buddy, this here AN-94 is property of the Russian government," the person you're talking to, a clean-shaven Caucasian young man looking to be in his late twenties, replies, tapping on the weapon in his lap for emphasis, "I would trade half of my medikit for your knife though, mine broke coming over the mountain."
"You guys are military, right?" You raise an eyebrow, “And no, this knife isn't for trade, since I sort of need it."
"Isn't it just a regular wilderness utility knife?" The man asks, carefully examining your weapon as you unsheathe it and hold it up to the lantern light.
"Look," you trace the protruding spine of the knife, "There's a hollow tube through the blade, which draws liquid from a reservoir ..." You flip the knife upside down and unscrew the cap off the handle, "...right here. The little lever, see that? The one near the hilt? That pumps whatever I filled in the reservoir to spew out the tip of the knife, coating the blade with it."
He smirks, "So, your knife is a crude approximation of male genitalia?"
"Close, but male genitalia generally do not discharge pure capsaicin."
The man chokes on the sake, "Why."
"Why not? Maximize the pain of the enemy, minimize retaliation potential. You ARE military, right?"
He dodges the question, "Wouldn't it be easier to just shoot them? And it seems like an awful waste of chemicals. You're better off coating paper strips with the capsaicin and sticking them under the fingernails of the enemy for interrog- threatening, yes, threat purposes."
"And deploying a team of twelve people in to do low level observation work is not a waste? Then again, your superior and associates here seem to enjoy getting drunk, so perhaps the redundancy is understandable."
"Meh, none of us here are going over their limit. Except for poor Konoroz over there, he's always been a firm believer in the logical nature of the world. When we crossed the border, well," he tugs at his collar and glances at his passed out companion on the table, "It destroyed his worldview. I guess the final straw was being served food by a girl with functional wings on her back. So he decides to continue in the proud tradition of our people: drinking himself into an unthinking stupor to dispel any cognitive dissonance."
"A very profitable tradition, too," you hear Mystia comment from behind the bar, "Though if you want stronger stuff, I'd recommend one of the taverns."
"Heh, doubt we'll be eating here a lot. The boss said that we should be cooking our own food most of the time, just like on regular deployments, but judging by the amount of currency provided...perhaps midnight snacks would not be out of the question."
"Midnight is time for our concert though, which reminds me." She ducks beneath the counter for a minute, coming up a few seconds later with a stack of paper strips, "Here,” she says as she thrusts them at your face, causing you to instinctively recoil from her nails which are very long and very, very sharp "Tickets for our next concert! Tonight at half to twelve! Just follow the signs posted up near the Village to SDM trail to find the stage!"
"Yeah, you know, like they do in the Outside World?"
You barely suppress a chuckle, "And how do you keep track of admissions?"
"Admissions? You are talking like we're actually selling these tickets." She shakes her head, "Most outsiders show up for one concert and then never show up again, and the regular attendees are mostly youkai and village youngsters with little allowances, so the tickets are really just glorified promotional pamphlets...anyways, here's one for you, Mr. Wu," You obligingly take one, "And one for you Mr...uh..."
"Spring," the man quickly answers while grabbing a ticket, "Just call me Mr. Spring, I'm a medical worker just like Mr. Wu here."
"You flatter me Mr. Spring, but I am still just a damn student, and the doctoring part is more of a sideshow in a way. My studies are development, not in application."
Spring shrugs, "Whatever. I'll see if the boss lets me attend your concert Miss Lorelei, though I'm pretty sure he will. Right now I have to go and wake up Konoroz before the others do something stupid again. Oh, and Mr. Wu?"
"For your sake, do not ask what part of the Russian government we work in. It's not that it’s classified, but it is probably better if less people know."
"Sure, sure." You do not have the slightest intention of heeding his words. Only the foolish believe that an acknowledged secret will remain so for long.
"Miss Lorelei, hit me up with another round, and this time...you know what, you have anything to drink that's not sake?"
"We're not a tavern, and the sake's mostly just there to go with the meal."
You are feeling far too lazy to walk to another booth or shop right now. "Another question, how often are humans eaten by youkai in the Forest of Magic?"
She stops her work for a moment to think, "I don't know about the others, but for me...'bout one every two weeks. The ones brought in dead probably tips that number up though."
You are just about to inquire further about the ones brought in dead, and in addition, how likely it is for a youkai to devour you in the Forest when you hear something hit the ground with a soft thump close behind you, making Mystia stiffen noticeably. A few seconds later, the worn-looking red-and-white figure that sits down near you tells you why.
"Rice bowl, 2 lampreys, and a drink, Mystia." Reimu calls out, her voice tired and sleepy, "Make the drink fast, please."
"Of course, of course. Kyouko!" Mystia replies as she busies herself with the sake jar. You catch her muttering something like "Damn miko always skipping the queue" while she's working.
"Whaa-Oh it's you again." She says as she returns the slight bow. "Nice work with the kidnappers today, and by the way, have you seen an outsider with dreadlocks and a white shirt in obvious depression around?"
You recall your earlier experience in Shang's inn, "Yep, he was hanging from the rafters in the inn, why?"
"Oh, that's what happened?" She sighs, "That makes him the tenth, no, eleventh outsider to kill himself this year. I rejected his confession like all the ones before, and apparently that was his entire purpose in life: to romance a girl who is almost definitely fictional to his knowledge."
"That includes many, many people in the Outside World you know, and why do you care anyway? Just pretend they don't exist, like how my parents pretend I don't exist sometimes."
"Easy for you to say, you're not famous." She sips at her sake with a sullen stare, "And you didn't just have to spend an entire day just to lay the foundation of an entire shrine, again."
"Which reminds me Miss Hakurei," You hastily say as the gears in your not very reliable memory actually turn, "I have recovered some very disturbing info from the wreckage of the shrine that I completely forgot to tell you earlier since I'm an idiot. Basically, the charred wood I took from your shrine contained a large amount of gasoline residue-"
"You mean the liquid that's sort of like kerosene right? That's what Kourin told me. Wait, that means-" her eyes widen in sudden revelation.
"Yes that. Essentially, what this implies is that your shrine burning down is not just arson, but arson committed by somebody who planned enough to bring gasoline in across the Border."
Now, you have committed your share of pyromaniac indulgences in the past, but it was always something small, like a trash can, a leaf pile, or a dead body. Being as you are, this is the first time you paid attention to a person's reaction upon being informed that their house has been intentionally engulfed in flames. With Reimu though, you thought that she would be desensitized to such catastrophes to her shrine, but apparently not this time, because:
"I was sleeping inside when I smelled the smoke. They started the fire with me inside. Do you know what this means Mr. Wu?" Reimu spits the words out through gritted teeth. Based on how her hand has clenched tightly around the bamboo cup and the intense stare she's giving, you’d wager that she's probably pretty mad.
"They tried to murder you?" Which is an awfully trite thing to express anger at, you initially think, as for you it would be yet another justified looting opportunity. Especially considering the gasoline the antagonist party must have possessed. Then again, unlike you, she has an image to uphold, and probably at least a meager degree of self-love. So a murder attempt probably would bring only negative effects for her.
For you, on the other hand, you feel anger, and rightly so for a change. Reimu, at the very least, is a friendly acquaintance of yours, and a Gensokyean to boot. And unlike a youkai, she probably could die permanently in a fire, and that's no good.
"So how are murderers dealt with outside the Village? Do you just summarily cover them with explosive amulets or is there some sort of legal procedure?"
Reimu sets her head on her steepled fingers as her brows furrow, "It was...it must have been twelve years ago. Yes, twelve years. There was this one man--No, one youkai, who broke the agreement and physically attacked livestock and maimed a farmer. It was the only time I had to actually kill somebody, and...I just dove in and incinerated him with blessed amulets. There was nothing left save for ashes."
"So summary executions then. I see."
"Normally, cases like these fall within the purview of the Village Guard. Those powerful enough to warrant my attention never broke the spellcard rules."
Another question suddenly forces itself into your mind, "And when were you born, Miss Hakurei?"
She abruptly snaps back straight, "You first." she says in a disdainful tone.
"12 September 1996, you?"
"7 May 19--"
You did not catch the last two digits. "19-what again?"
"Could you please repeat that?"
Reimu gives you an annoyed stare, "19--"
You caught it this time. As she opens her mouth to say the next two digits, all of your senses draw no information whatsoever. Your visual cortex refuses to recognize what her lips are saying and your auditory cortex register what can only be best described as static. It's not that you don't perceive the stimulus; it’s just that you can best describe the stimulus as .
Trying another method, you ask, "I am very sorry, but can you just say the last two digits of the year by themselves?"
She rolls her eyes, "Of course, it's-" she suddenly stops speaking as her eyes glaze over with a purple sheen. You are just about to ask her what's wrong when she snaps back and the sheen disappears, "I'm sorry, what were we talking about again?"
"Your bir-" You decide to drop this line of inquiry for now, "Miss Hakurei, how the hell are you going to deal with this incident then?"
"I don't know, really. The shrine was burned to the ground, and no one was around to witness it as the damn fairies living behind my shrine were out today, Mima was still in her little hibernation coffin, and Yukari whisked Kokoro away a week ago. Dealing with it, dealing with it..."
A voice, Keine's voice, calls from the other end of the counter, "Miss Hakurei? We have something we need to talk about."
"Of course, Miss Kamishirasawa. Talk to you later Mr. Wu." She gets up, plate in hand, and strolls over to the other end where the schoolteacher and the odd Russian fellow are engaged in hushed conversation. You watch her go, and look back at your now empty plate.
[ ] Hold position. [ ] Check out what they are talking about. [ ] Head back to the inn. The amphetamines are wearing off. [ ] Ask Mystia for a place to nap for a few hours so you can attend the concert later.
>She rolls her eyes, "Of course, it's-" she suddenly stops speaking as her eyes glaze over with a purple sheen. You are just about to ask her what's wrong when she snaps back and the sheen disappears, "I'm sorry, what were we talking about again?"
Is Reimu's birth date ever mentioned in official lore?
[X] Ask Mystia for a place to nap for a few hours so you can attend the concert later.
Not sure why we can't just take a nap at the inn though.
I have to admit it's disturbing to see Reimu literally not be able to say her own birthdate. I guess Yukari wants her to be eternally 17 like herself. Of course that brings the possibility that this might not be something only related to Reimu, but that others might be affected as well.
So if Wu is somehow able to get Reimu to mention when she was born, will she crumble to dust like Tennessee Ford did on the Simpsons when he was shown his own obituary?
>She rolls her eyes, "Of course, it's-" she suddenly stops speaking as her eyes glaze over with a purple sheen. You are just about to ask her what's wrong when she snaps back and the sheen disappears, "I'm sorry, what were we talking about again?"
- Majora quit (Going out for a stroll) - Spice quit (must complete reportkimbgtuyg76hnuj,p) <BEARS> well shit <Mir> does that mean mayohiga or whatever her house is called is completely empty right now? <BEARS> 'cept for Orange, but she doesn't have access <Mir> still haven't figured out if Majora is legitimate? <BEARS> nope <BEARS> :( <Mir> BTW there's something I need to tell you, kind of important <BEARS> wat <Mir> https://43.∞.255.1/uploads/report0621.pdf <BEARS> ... <BEARS> I'll get back to you about this, why didn't you tell me earlier? <Mir> Because your people didn't release our agent back then >:(
[x] Check out what they are talking about.
You move over a few seat-lengths, careful to remain in a distance where you can hear them speak but not where they would be mad at you for eavesdropping.
"...And how well equipped are your men, captain?" Keine asks, her brows furrowed deep with worry.
"Enough to win a war with a small country, Miss Kamishirasawa, but I fear that these terrorists may have nastier things up their sleeve than what we've already seen. Judging by the fact that they have been indiscriminatingly attacking targets, I wouldn't put it above them to instigate low-scale chemical, biological or worse, nuclear attacks." Lazarov sullenly flicks another cigarette butt onto the ground, "I know Gensokyo has the capabilities to remedy or control some of these if they are uncovered early, but if they are not..."
"Chemical and biological attacks?" Reimu injects, "I know about nuclear, but what are the other two?"
Lazarov grins and calls over, "Mr. Wu! Would you be so kindly as to explain?"
You nod and shuffle over, "Miss Hakurei, chemical warfare is basically what I did with the kidnappers, which is the use of toxic or at least dangerous substances to incapacitate or kill people," You place one of your canisters of CS gas on the counter for emphasis, "or youkai I guess. That youkai doll dwelling by the Nameless Hill does that too, for reference. Biological, on the other hand, would be spreading diseases for the same purpose, which is something I guess Yamame whats-her-last-name-that-damn-earth-spider would do, does she?"
Everyone looks at Reimu, who shakes her head, "No she does not, not if she wants to live, that is. But diseases have cures, right?"
"If one is fast enough to recognize and identify them, which brings me back to what Mr. Lazarov said before. There are some things which are too subtle or lethal to be cured in time, even with miracle drugs provided by my employer. Anthrax, Ebola, Marburg, all fun stuff that can kill a human before they knew they were sick." You nonchalantly rattle off without really thinking about what you are saying, "Of course, most of Gensokyo is made of youkai, so all a biological attack would do is kill off the village and leave everyone else constant agony but alive. Chemical attacks would be the same. A nuclear strike though, would raze the environment completely, and either way, the youkai would die off from a lack of whatever fuels them."
Reimu nods, visibly tightening her grip on her cup, "So, what you are saying, is that they are actively seeking to annihilate this land?"
"It's all speculation right now, Miss Hakurei," Keine responds, "They could be, and are likely, just a few insane individuals."
"..with enough gear to confirm that they are in possession of a great deal of resources. Remember, it only takes one person to set off a bomb." Lazarov gets up from the chair. "Since we don't have much in the way of evidence right now, I suggest we all keep our eyes open. Miss. Kamishirasawa, Miss Hakurei, although me and my men are in the service of the Russian Federation, we are more than willing and ready to deal with such problems. After all," he grins and raises his voice, "terrorists huesos are not exactly a new challenge for us. Right men?"
"Yes kapitan!" Was the unified, if slurred response from his subordinates in the tables behind.
"Now if you would excuse me, I need to go debrief them on this new projected threat. Good night."
As Lazarov walks off, leading his men to their reserved campsite on the other side of the square, he leaves the three of you--and Mystia--at the counter.
"You know what?" You pipe up, "That youkai tank sounds more and more beneficial right now. It is immune to most attacks, magical or otherwise, and it has a huge gun to kill anything it sees. And it remains neutral to us, and judging by the actions of the new ruffians, they'll probably try to attack it on sight."
"Do consider, Mr. Wu" Keine says, "That the tank is no more allied with the village than a regular youkai right now, and even if it is hostile to the potential enemies, there is no guarantee that it would cooperate. Right Miss Hakurei?"
Reimu glares, "Don't ask me, the youkai I've dealt with can generally talk. Those who can't are what I am asked to exterminate thoroughly."
"Well, either way Miss Hakurei, this constitutes a major incident, and it falls upon you and the other usual people to investigate and resolve such a case." She puts down her chopsticks, and you notice how Keine has only eaten a small portion of her lamprey pie. "My duty is to protect the village. Tomorrow morning I must begin the security upgrade that Saromi has put off for so long, and Mr. Wu?"
"Stop by the schoolhouse tomorrow at around seven, I have something for you to do, if you are interested in rudimentary magic. Nothing too big, and it won't take up your work time"
"Yes Ma'am." You reply.
"Very well then, it was nice meeting you. Enjoy your evening, I must be leaving now."
Now it’s just the two of you, and Mystia.
"Another round, Mystia." Reimu groans, pushing her empty mug at the night sparrow. You remove the box of chocolates you looted earlier from the slaughtered ruffians, popping chocolate after chocolate into your mouth, sighing as you realize that they did not put nearly enough Rohypnol in them as they should have.
"So," you ask, "Where are the others?"
"Miss Kirisame, Kochiya, Izayoi, you know, the usual heroes?"
Reimu rolls her eyes, "Marisa's been obsessing over a project ever since her attack against the tank failed. Essentially, her goal is to recreate the full-scale Hakkero from legend, and from the looks of it last time I visited, she's close to done. Just remember, if you want to visit her, stay AWAY from the large trench next to her house, which should have smoldering debris in it to warn you off. As for the others, I don't know. Sanae's probably still in bed rest after not looking while flying, and Sakuya being Sakuya, she would not bother to intervene unless Remilia tells her to. Funny, you did not mention the netherworld's gardener."
"That's because I know what she's doing. Well, not exactly, but she's building something near the Netherworld gate. And she tried to kill me, so screw her."
"Ah, the Konpaku girl," Mystia chimes in, "Not a very personable kid, is she?"
"And how old are you Miss Lorelei?"
"Three hundred years."
She gives a smirk, "Also, Reimu, it would be nice if you actually visit the forests. If there's anything my sparrows are good at, it’s spying on things."
"Duly noted." The tipsy shrine maiden replies, her speech now a bit fuzzy. "I will need to talk to Yukari about this, though I believe she is preoccupied right now with Outside World affairs, along with Suika. Right now, all we can really do is warn everyone else, and I doubt all of them will listen." She idly swishes the mug of sake, "And to be honest, what's the worst they could do? Gensokyo's been through a nuclear threat before, and at the end of the day, I'll probably be having tea with the instigators again. Actually, probably not, they tried to straight up murder me this time. Anyway, Ming, your thoughts?"
You reply, your head now full of depressants and no stimulants, "I'm just some dumb chemistry student Reimu, I am no wizard, inter-planal Traveler or time magician, I could barely survive against Miss Mononobe even when she is handicapping herself with a sword she doesn't even use outside of rituals. But mark my words, when you have a problem involving human adversaries, when you have those who forsake the protection of common laws and morals to pursue their own agendas, I will find them, and I will kill them."
Why not, you think, when they have such expensive and high-end gear? Fencing the guns alone could net enough money to put you through grad school, and if you don't succeed, what's the point then?
Puncturing the last phrase with a dramatic tap of the gas canister, you only become aware three seconds later that the two girls turned dead silent at the dangerous gesture. "Nah, don't worry, this is just tear gas. Won't do more than make you cry. Now this," you remove the white phosphorus and shake it around, "This will turn them to grilled chicken, wait, sorry Mystia, grilled human on impact, leaving a blackened, barely recognizable corpse behind." You give a pleasurable sigh as you admire the canister, knowing full well the impression you are giving. "It's for their own good of course, sometimes lessons can only be taught through pain and suffering."
Hopefully, by maintaining your reputation as a mildly crazy and sadistic individual, you can promote your value as a combatant in general. If you get too friendly with Reimu, for instance, she might be just a bit protective of you, which, in turn, would lead to her defending you in a time of crisis. While aid is always welcome, you absolutely loathe the idea of somebody else, especially somebody you like, taking hits for you. Establishing this reputation ensures a close, yet safe distance, and offers more leverage than the typical "nice outsider".
Besides, you are just being bluntly honest. You really are not a very good liar, and maintaining any sort of facade will only result in madness.
"Well look at the time," you say, "I must be off. I really, really need sleep right now."
Reimu silently nods at you as you get up and begin walking back to the inn.
====================== Time: 9:50 PM Date: June 26, 20XX Location: Village Streets West Threat Level: 0.5
It's late, and you are pretty sure you cannot hope to attend the concert in this state. Maybe tomorrow.
You shuffle back to the inn, swaying like a drunkard, occasionally bumping into a wall or a pole. The streets are more or less completely deserted, with many of the evening lamps dimmed or shut off completely as the villagers retire to their homes.
It was rather hard for you to see in the comparative darkness, but you feel that breaking out a flashlight would be a bit too excessive. As such, you find the shadowy streets to be quite difficult to navigate, especially in your stimulant-less state. In fact, you did not see the figure in front of you until you bumped straight into them.
"I-I am very sorry," you begin to blurt out, “I did not see-"
You stop as a nearby house turns on its lights. In the flash of light, you witness first the color of the person's hair...
...the second, of course, is the noh mask hanging off to the side of said person's face.
"...I did not see you, Miss Hata." You bow, "I apologize for my inattentiveness."
She takes a step back. Indeed, her face betrays no emotion, with even her pupils dilated to the extent where her gaze appears to be off in the distance behind you. The mask she is wearing right now is that screaming old man thing (you never bothered to learn what each of those masks mean anyway). Her outfit is exactly what it looks like in the game, but without the hovering, flaming masks around.
Her own visage reminds you distantly of a Greek sculpture, noble and static. In fact, you are half-sure that if you reached out and touched her features right now, you would feel not flesh but hard marble under your fingertips.
And for some strange reason, she smells faintly of pizza.
"I understand." She replies, rather slowly and with a small nod. Her voice is quiet and mechanical, devoid even the barest trace of emotion, "I assume that you are Mr. Wu?"
You feel a sudden, if fleeting spark of pride within the hollow part of your soul that once contained your long-dead self-esteem. Someone you haven't met yet recognizes you! "'Tis I, how and why?"
"Your exploits of this day have been remarkable according to Miss Ran Yakumo. The same goes for your appearance as well." The mask flickers on her head, and is now the face of a smiling young woman.
You look down upon yourself. Of course, there are not a lot of outsiders running around with a pistol, an air rifle, and a submachine gun strapped onto him. The latter two, you realize, may as well be trophies for one accomplishment or another.
"And why is she interested in me?"
"Oh, it is not her, it is her master. The details of which I am not certain, for Miss Yukari Yakumo has been consistently absent from the household for the past week, only that she wishes you to remain alive to the best of your efforts."
An empty platitude, considering that it is also printed on the first page of the Guide to Gensokyo. Still, the fact that goddamn Yukari Yakumo is taking an interest in you is quite impressive, and you cannot but help experience a warm bubbly feeling at the revelation. A strong warm, bubbly feeling, as if you have just been catapulted heavenwards by a hot spring.
Strong enough to make you vaguely suspect that Kokoro is projecting them into your barely awake mind.
"She gave me instructions to find you at my convenience and provide you with this," she removes a large card from the pocket on her blouse and hands it over, "as a reward for good behavior in regards to the shrine maiden."
You accept the item, a cursory glance revealing that both sides were covered with sticky notes. "Is there anything else of import?"
The mask flickers back to the scared old man. Right! You remember, that mask means surprise. "You do not wish to ask for a display of emotion like the others?"
"You are willing to do so, Miss Hata?"
The mask briefly flickers to a plain face as she shrugs, "It is not an unreasonable request. After all, I do need to practice how to express better."
You tilt your head and grin like an idiot as your hand fishes into your pockets, "Well then, smile! Smile!"
"Smile? A typical request." As she begins to move her mouth with some difficulty, you spin around and step onto her left side, your left hand on your phone, camera facing self.
"Thank you Miss Hata, it is--"
"You should ask for permission before taking a photograph next time."
Right. Lives in the Yakumo residence. Knowledgeable about Outside World tech. You really need to apply such important information more often
"I am very sorry." You sheepishly apologize.
The mask flickers to an expression of a woman sighing, "It is okay, I understand. After all, that photograph would be worth as much as any celebrity shot by next year."
"Wha-?" Before you can finish asking her exactly what she meant, Kokoro briskly walks pass you and disappears into the darkness. You take a few steps to follow her before abruptly being seized by an intense fear, an emotion whose origin is definitely not of your brain. You stop, if she does not wish for you to follow, then let it be so. Turning around, you proceed on your original path to the inn, now with a card gripped in your hand.
Time: 10:02 PM Date: June 26, 20XX Location: Shang's Inn Threat Level: 0
You went down a wrong turn here and there, but it did not take you too long to find the inn with the solar panels up top. The lanterns are still on, thankfully.
The parlor of the inn is completely devoid of life save for a snoring pile of cloth at the counter. Shang is really wearing far too much for a midsummer evening, you think as you knock loudly on the wooden countertop.
The man slowly stirs, "Whu-wu-Oh, you." He sighs as he recognizes your face, "What did you wake me up for anyway? I already told you where the laundry machines are if you want to get the blood out of your clothes."
"Very funny Shang. Look, can I borrow the room five key for a moment?"
"Hey hey hey," He clears his throat and asserts a more aggressive tone, "The rules are that the property of the dead tenants here all belong to me, okay? If you want their stuff in the inn, you have to buy it off of me."
You stare him down, "How much do you put the value of their stuff at?"
"17000, and not one less."
"Deal," You remove your wallet and fish out the bills, "Your side?"
Shang tosses the jangling keys at you. "All yours mate."
- 17000 yen removed from inventory
You hope that they have some more interesting things in their room as you walk up the stairs and unlock the door of room five. At first, when you behold their lair, you are quite disappointed. Sleeping bags strewn across the floor mat, a few empty cans of food here and there, and that's about it. You proceed across and open the closet, and proceed to stand, slack jawed and stunned for ten seconds at its contents.
An entire grocery bag full of flunitrazepam tablets. A liter of chloroform in a plastic water container. Alongside the chemicals sit a wide selection of spray cans, rags, ropes, razor blades, and other various rudimentary kidnapping/torture chamber items, stacked in unusually neat piles in various bags. Disappointingly though, there are no more chocolates. Regardless, you move all of this over to your room, barely managing so under your fading consciousness as your brain shrugs off what little caffeine and amphetamine are left in your system. Still, as you finish moving the loot and clamber onto the bedroll, you retain enough awareness to examine the card Kokoro handed you.
The first sticky note, in a small formal print, reads: "This is a rudimentary spellcard with a pre-imbued spell. Perfect for beginners. The description of a spellcard is generally printed below a pictorial depiction of the spell on one side (picture is optional), while the other side depicts the insignia of the user or creator. Since this card is a gift, that side is left blank to be drawn by you. Spell cards are conventionally activated by saying their appropriate incantation while holding them in hand, much like any similarly enchanted weapon. Be aware, using spell cards outside of dueling barriers and without magical training would cause it to draw all energy from the user, which can lead to collapse."
The second sticky note is much shorter and in a florid, feminine script, "Good work, keep going. I have my eye on you. - Y.Y." What is rather interesting is that this note is in English compared to the other one, which is in Japanese. You do not think about it too much though as you peel them off to reveal the card beneath.
The top half of the card is a simple yet professional drawing of a circular arrow with music notes etched on, similar to the symbols that represent "replay". As a matter of fact, your first impression based off the picture was quite accurate.
Action Sign 'Refrain'
This spell, when activated in the first mode, records the action of the closest humanoid for seven seconds or until deactivation. This mode can be primed to be activated by the latest owner within a ten meters and uses negligible energy. The second mode, when activated, forces the declarer to cease the current action and perform the recorded action, regardless of the physical position or state of the declarer. This uses a small amount of energy.
Note: The first and last incantation cannot be done at a distance.
First mode priming incantation (to enable remote activation) - "The refrain must be written elsewhere, action." First mode starting incantation - "Begin the refrain" First mode aborting incantation - "Stop the refrain" Second mode incantation - "Action Sign 'Refrain'"
- Spellcard "Refrain" added to combat options.
You decide to try it out tomorrow, since right now you really are not fit to do anything other than plop onto the futon and pass out. Which, after you thought enough to set the spellcard safely on the desk, is exactly what you do.
As you close your eyes and feel your body relax as you fall into the warm embrace of nighttime rest, you briefly wonder what tomorrow would bring, who you would meet, and whether or not to ask Shou for one of her photos to slip under the pillow for a good dream. Your mind fixates on the last word. A dream, but is that not what you have already? You have entered Gensokyo, and found it desirable, what more could you dream for, or about?
The old VHS player can only maintain adequate quality on the TV screen. The slightly grainy film shows you going about your tasks during the day, talking with people, doing work, all stuff you find dull upo the second time. The more you watch, the more you grow uninterested.
You are plunging down a massive purple void, innumerable eyes gazing towards you. You? No, not you, this is not your tape after all.
Arms stretched out front, grasping at the air. But nothing, nothing exists to stop the fall. The eyes, the eyes all gaze silently, all judge silently at the view. Loud girlish screaming provides the sole audio in the scene.
Abruptly, the purple void gives way to bright light, sunlight, as a matter of fact, and the screaming is drowned out by the sound of rushing air. The view shifts downward, and a great city is brought into spectacle. Squat apartments, towering skyscrapers, all clustered together in a concrete jungle, ever closer as the view falls towards ground level.
Something flies onscreen, prompting the arms to flail wildly in an attempt to grasp it. It is a hat, a plain wide-brimmed hat with a round top, fluttering in the air like a butterfly.
No, the hat is not plain, as it turns in the wind you can clearly see something adorned on its sash. Small, rotund...peaches? Yes, two peaches, prominently displayed on the hat...
The scene fades to static. The tape is swapped out again...
A mass of thick bamboo fills the screen. The camera is shifting up rapidly, before tilting up to unveil a distant figure silhouetted against the moon. The figure appears blurry, as if distorted from a recording error. White, red is all you can make out.
The camera continues to move closer and closer to the figure, right until a sudden jarring halts it in its tracks. The view tilts downward, revealing that a mass of red tendrils have twisted around the feet of whoever's tape this is. Waving frantically, a gout of red flame erupts, scorching the red tendrils to ash.
The scene fades to static. The tape is swapped out again...
A lone oil lamp sits against a colossal bronze contraption rife with inscribed symbols, spokes, and other features you fail to recognize that fills up the screen. A massive, antique pot-like object pointing sideways seems to form the primary component of this mechanism, with the eight bagua trigram signs etched around the edge. A pair of hands flits around, turning knobs, tightening levers and occasionally consulting a ragged book written in Old Chinese and dotted with various glyphs and diagrams. A girl's voice is muttering throughout, and occasionally a snippet is caught, "...how did Kourin do this again?", "...I think this goes over here...", "..won't this pipe direct the energy back to itself?" and so on. After a period of time, the hands turn off the lamp.
The scene fades to static. The tape is swapped out again...
A muddy path surrounded by dense jungle vegetation. In the distance, gunfire crackles amidst shouting and the constant buzzing of cicadas. Every once in a while, small groups of dirty, often scared-looking people of Asiatic look trudge up the path, carrying large cloth packs of belongings upon their backs. The groups appear to be families, as displayed by the wide variety of ages in the close cohorts, especially the large amount of children, and the constant , if quiet, chatter, in a language you do not understand. As time passes, the sounds of gunfire grow louder and louder, and the pace of the refugees pick up noticeably.
When the volume of the guns reach a level indicating a distance of no more than two hundred meters away, the refugees showing up have no belongings and are running, slogging through the mud on bare feet. A small child, no more than seven years old, suddenly trips and falls, crying in pain as his ankle is twisted. His mother, ignoring the frantic pleas of her husband and other kin, stops to pick her son up and attempt to help him walk, but is immediately struck by a bullet to the shoulder, and is knocked onto the ground by the impact. The muzzle of an H&K G3 battle rifle pops in the view, as the laughs of men can be heard just off-screen when the view suddenly changes.
For a split second, you see a soldier, dressed in a dark-green uniform which you do not recognize, besides it being clearly adapted for tropic environments, in the process of changing from gloating to surprise. The next instant, a parasol originating from your point of view has impaled him straight through the abdomen, prompting his companions to fire upon the camera, to no avail. The view shifts up the parasol, as it flings the soldier up, just slightly off the tips of the unusually dangerous umbrella as it opens, with light glinting off of its razor sharp metallic edge as it revs up to the speed of a chainsaw. The man barely had enough time to scream before the spinning accessory tears him into little more than small chunks of meat and cloth.
The camera cuts away again, this time in front of the fleeing soldiers. A white gloved hand gestures from behind the view, and multiple dark tears spring into existence, which after only a millisecond spews forth brilliant lances of light, which, unlike the parasol, slices through them cleanly, cauterizing the exposed flesh and vaporizing the blood, though not reducing mortality as the men fall apart into the crudely defined shapes rendered by the lasers, dead before ever making a sound.
Slowly, the camera pans back to the mother and child, who are struck dumb and only barely managing to maintain a slow crawl away from the viewpoint, which then pans up and over the tops of the jungle, revealing, in the distance, a large cluster of what appears to be burning wooden cottages...
The scene fades to static again. You have no more tapes. The statics grows louder, and louder, until you hear nothing but the ringing of television static.
Time: 6:45 AM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Shang's Inn, Your suite Threat Level: 0
Bright morning came all too soon.
You shut off your phone's alarm clock and stare out the window. The sun had already snuck its orange forehead over the top of the valley, and now busies itself with bathing the interior of your room with light. Waking up in Gensokyo really isn't all that different from doing so in the Outside World, though you feel much more motivated to not sleep in here.
Scowling at the massive ball of plasma millions of miles away as if it would take offense at your indignation, you clamber out of the bed and stumble your way across to the water closet for a morning shower. Murmuring a thankful prayer to whoever prompted the village to install plumbing. You let out a yelp as the water turns out to be cold. Not freezing cold, since this is the summer, but definitely not exactly warm either. You quickly scrub yourself down with a bar of soap and jump out of the shower. As bad as it is, it still beats not having one at all.
After brushing your teeth, you step out of your room onto the next step of your morning routine: breakfast.
"Shang, what do you have here?" You call out as you walk down the stairs, at the innkeeper who is once again asleep on the counter. He lifts his head a bit and grumbles, "This inn does not provide breakfast service." before falling back down into slumber.
Fair enough, it's not like he has any employees anyway. Strange, considering the scope of this inn, being the only one in town and having a not-inconsequential flow of customers.
Time: 7:05 AM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Human Village, Main Square Threat Level: 0
You grabbed yourself a paper bowl of miso soup and some onigiri stuffed with sausages at a food stall in the square. Keine told you to show up at around seven, and right now you do not exactly have much time to enjoy a proper breakfast, as much as you generally despise the watery porridge and sticky soybeans that this country considers to be proper morning fare.
- 700 yen removed from inventory
You keep moving, while trying to ignore the early morning crankiness brought on by a lack of dopamine.
Time: 7:12 AM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Human Village, Schoolhouse Threat Level: 0
In the style of classical small-town educators in the Eastern sphere, a single building serves as both the schoolhouse and Keine's place of dwelling.
At least you think it’s a single building, since the fence surrounding the property prevents you from getting a different vantage point. You push the gate, eliciting a rattle. Locked.
"Miss Kamishirasawa! I believe you have called for me?"
You holler again, louder this time, "Miss Kamishirasaaaawa!"
Still no answer.
You pound on the gate, futilely, and then proceed to engage in the usual shenanigans. Punches, elbowing, headdooring, and of course, kicking. You find the gate extraordinarily sturdy for a house gate. Why did she need such strong wood? Why did she install a steel lock instead of the common wooden bar?
If this gate wasn't here, you could have just barged into her house and shake her awake yourself. Or you could have just grabbed whatever she wanted you to get. But this gate, this ponderous wooden gate, marked by the stains of old age and the numerous scratches of rambunctious children. This ugly, movement-blocking gate...
This gate should disappear.
This gate is an eyesore.
[ ] THIS GATE [ ] THIS GATE [ ] THIS GATE [ ] THIS GATE [ ] THIS GATE [ ] THIS GATE [ ] THIS GATE [ ] THIS GATE [ ] Try to look for another way in. [ ] Wait around and see, maybe she's out.
[ ] THIS GATE [ ] THIS GATE [ ] THIS GATE [ ] THIS GATE [ ] THIS GATE [ ] THIS GATE [ ] THIS GATE [ ] THIS GATE [x] Try to look for another way in. I really hope that you'll write a bonus THIS GATE update for the greater goods of humanity.
Bonus update may be written if my brain's right hemisphere speeds up its innovation generation rate.
Please give crits, I really need you wonderful readers to help me improve, as I have no writing experience before this story. Stuff like how to dialogue, describe scenes, and such would be welcome. Especially how to describe people's appearances, something which you can tell I have no fucking clue of how to do. Thank you!
That choice, to be honest, was something I regret. I should have made it a bit more obvious as to defining the personality.
You see, normal people who are not employed in the armed forces or police generally are quite wary of killing another human being, be it a criminal or not unless their life is in danger or perceived to be in danger. While minimum force may sound innocent, it really means that the MC will take the least amount of effort in pacifying them, which means shooting and stabbing rather than attempting to take them in alive. And keep in mind, he's not Batman, he's just some college student. To display such disregard for human life is a symptom, at least, of partial sociopathy.
Yes, they were scumbags, but imagine if you were there. You might have wanted to intervene, but would you really open fire on another human being or willingly slit their throats knowing that, as bad as they were, they still had mothers and fathers and friends like you?
Still better than Minimum survival rate though, at least the MC after this choice only has a few syntax errors in his moral code. And its my fault as an author too, I really, really should have made the choice more obvious, but then again, neither does Spec Ops: The Line.
And about the detachment part, yeah I need to fix that. Really, the statement I am trying to make is that visiting Gensokyo is like visiting Washington DC. A majority of the population are not relevant or known and it takes much effort, more than what many expect to gain recognition and trust from those named characters who have already dealt with many, many fanboys like you.
Thanks for all of your advice, updating in a few hours.
Man, for that choice, I thought its the minimum enemy survival rate that involves killing all of them, not the minimum trouble, maybe you should emphasize the difference or something.
I...used to, then both real life and also the crappiness of the pubbies got to me. I once went back in for a match, then got turned off once I had to defend my base by myself in my VK3601H once one of my teams' flank got annihilated
It's just a gate. Why are you getting so worked up over a gate? You usually do not experience such intense emotions over such a trivial matter. Something tells you that your experience with Kokoro last night may have been the reason for your temperament today.
It does not matter. You say to yourself as you plop down in front of the door to wait for her to show up. What they do to you is largely beyond your control, as you are completely ignorant of even the most basic magic skill, let alone the intrinsic powers of youkai. Instead, you remove the spellcard she, or rather Yukari, gifted to you last night, and fixate on the blank backside of the card.
The instructions tell you to draw your own insignia on there, like the various emblems and sigils depicted in the Grimoire of Marisa. As you are not from Gensokyo, you did not ever have a reason to get an insignia of any sort. But it seems quite inappropriate to just leave the space blank.
What to draw...
Tap, tap, tap
"Good morning, Mr. Wu," her voice brings you out of your thoughts.
"Good morning to you too, Miss Kamishirasawa," you greet in return as you stand up and bow at the schoolteacher, "I am here at around seven, like you instructed."
Keine gives an approving nod and gives a slight bow of her own in return, "Sorry for making you wait; I had to make a run to the market this morning. Speaking of which, here is what I need you to do." She removes a cloth carrying bag from her back, struggling a bit in getting around her crutches. While you normally would have asked if she needs help, Keine's outburst from yesterday makes you reconsider. Books of various covers and sizes fill the bag, and you note that all of them save one are Outside World books, many of whom focus on world history topics and other distinctly non-Gensokyo related topics. The other book, a thick volume bound by hand and covered with gold-leaf and genuine leather, is labeled "A Rudimentary Introduction to Oriental Thaumaturgy".
"The imported books are reading materials I've borrowed from Kourindou and Suzunaan for my classes this month, and they are due back today. Since I am quite busy, can you drop these off for me? As for magic, the one in the bag is now yours to keep."
You are pleasantly surprised at her gift, "Wouldn't this be a bit too expensive, Miss Kamishirasawa? I mean, I kinda..."
"Do not worry about it Mr. Wu," she reassures you, "it would be collecting dust in my bookshelf anyway-" Keine sharply looks backward as the sound of children shouting emanates from the corner of the street. Muttering silently under her breath, she gives a quick "Sorry, need to go." before hobbling off towards the source of the noise at a surprisingly fast pace.
The brief stare she turned around to give you convinces you to walk the other way.
The clinic is in that direction anyway.
Time: 7:25 AM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Human Village, Eientei Clinic Threat Level: 0
"Today you are getting your first real, dangerous assignment, Mr. Wu," Reisen informs you as soon as you set down your things in the backroom of the clinic. "Your job is to take this basket," she gestures to the large straw container you used yesterday, "And gather enough of this mushroom to fill it up completely."
You stare at the bright green, faintly luminescent fungus stalk she is holding in her hand. Other than its unusual pigmentation, it largely resembles most other stereotypical cap mushrooms found Outside. "So, what is this thing?"
"It is called jade fungi. When dried and ground, it forms the base of many of the herbal remedies we prepare," she explains, "When mixed with peony it can relieve arterial clogging and stress, when boiled with willow bark it can bring down fevers in just half an hour. Quite powerful, don't you think?"
Scanning your eyes over the mushroom, you observe, "So it is sort of like fish tofu, but with medicine?"
"N-Yes. I understand that your western training in this field leaves you under-qualified to deal with such preparations" Reisen scoffs, uncharacteristically this time with little disparagement, "Thus you are tasked with collection. This time..." she flips open the map tome on the counter"...in a locale closer to the Village: the Forest of Magic."
You lean over her shoulders, barely peeking your eyes over considering how Reisen's at least half a head taller than you are, "The heart of the forest?! I'm not complaining or anything, but I am pretty sure Eientei will lose an employee like this."
"Oh don't worry about it." She pulls a piece of cloth out of her pocket, "Here, take this and wear it around your right upper arm, it defines you as a person under the protection of Eientei, so youkai who know what's good for them would not dare to touch you."
The armband is composed of an elastic material, dyed blue and embroidered with a golden caduceus: Eirin's sigil. Finally, something that identifies you to a faction.
- Eientei Employee Armband added to inventory - Map of the Forest of Magic added to inventory
"Uh, Miss Udongein, feral youkai exist, right?"
"Feral youkai? That was the next subject I am going to deal with." She pulls a green metal box out of the corner, "For those problems, all you can really do is fight them and kill them, head on as they do not possess any sort of intelligence beyond crude animal instincts." Reisen continues talking while digging around the container, "Which is why Master has decided to outfit you with something tougher than just regular clothes."
What she gave you turns out to be a jacket and pants, a set of very light jacket, pants, and gloves. While the palms, hood, elbows, knees and large chunks of the torso have hardened leather pads sewn on, the majority of the garments are composed of what appears to be silk.
"Spider silk, to be exact," Reisen reassures you, “five times the strength of steel. Essentially resistant to most bites, stings, claws, and other things most youkai in the forest would throw at you. That, however, is not the most important part." She removes something else from the container. "This is."
At first you thought the thin, spindly thing she pulled out was a 3d diagram of sorts. But no, apparently the lanky collection of rods and plates reminiscent of post-modern sculptures is an exoskeleton. An enchanted exoskeleton, as a matter of fact, which fits snuggly onto your shoulder, back, waist and legs all the while weighing about one kilogram and resembling a very thin suit of body armor when worn.
"Model 1895 exoskeleton, intended to allow moon rabbits like myself to load and unload heavier objects than what we are normally used to. It uses little energy, in fact the ambient magical energy in Gensokyo allowed Master to replace the battery with an enchantment, but manages to extend its user's load capacity by about 1.5 times. Since it would be impossible to use a bicycle or horse in that area of the forest, this is a necessary piece of equipment that we are loaning to you, Mr. Wu," she jabs at the part anchored on your shoulder, "So don't break it, as the repairs will be coming out of you salary. It may be durable, but it’s not real armor."
- Light lunar protective suit added to inventory - Model 1895 exoskeleton added to inventory
"Now onto our other provisions. As you well know, Eientei has a large stock of armaments taken from the moon. Things such as that idiot-mulching Gatling gun I showed you yesterday and other fun toys such as magnetic submachine guns, plasma rifles, et cetera. Unfortunately for you, you won't be getting those since you won't need them to fend off the odd youkai. You would be getting this here box of equipment to choose from, mostly courtesy of the humans who landed on the moon."
The old wooden crate didn't seem like much on the outside, and its contents are not much to be proud of either, though you are quite impressed by the variety of its contents. You remove a CAR-15 (short M16 rifle) from the box and work its action, finding to your annoyance that it makes a creaking sound every time. The other human firearms really aren't in better condition: The battle rifle's sight is worn, the shotgun has dents on its action, and the 9mm handgun looks like a dog's chewed on it. To be fair, though, they offer you more choices than the M16A2 you trained on in your summer national guard training, though right now you wish you had that instead of this crate.
"If you don't like the familiar human weapons, then may I interest you in these more exotic options? This here," she points at what resembles a Mauser-style rifle, but with a different sight and an engraved action, "Is an illegally modified Lunar Defense Corps rifle, magically enchanted so that the bullets it fire will always try to align towards what the sight is aimed at, even if the sight has moved. Useful and not too blatant in its nature unless you enter a shooting competition."
Obviously she would know.
"So, do any of these have rabbit or astronaut bloodstains on them or something?"
"Very funny. The First Earth-Lunar Conflict didn't have anyone fire a shot. What transpired was that the humans got off of their landing module and promptly disappeared into the forests surrounding the Sea of Tranquility. Lord Tsukuyomi was quite angered at the failure of us moon rabbits, poorly trained and equipped with bolt action rifles like this one," she casually kicks the gun up into her hands from the box, "to apprehend what they thought were elite, heavily armed troops upon their arrival..."
"Wait a minute, Miss Udongein, didn't you flee the moon before all of this transpired?"
Reisen takes a look at the timepiece mounted on the counter, "I guess we have time. You want to hear a story?"
Your morning grogginess have all but disappeared, "Story? Of course!"
She takes a seat on the stool for the counter, while you found a comfortable place on the ground. She takes a long quaff from her mug, and begins:
"So once upon a time, there was a little moon rabbit that did something very wrong in the Lunar Capital. The lords wanted her head on a platter, so she fled back, back to the bright side of the moon, to the camps of her fellow moon rabbits and her kind mentors, the sister princesses. But she cannot stay there for long. The guards of the Capital will soon find her, and she cannot have her mentors and friends dragged in with her. Only one option remains, and that is to flee to Earth in a Lunar Veil, but the usage of a Veil makes the user stand out like a small star in space, and there is no doubt she would be shot down before even leaving the Moon's atmosphere."
"Then, out of the stars, a strange object suddenly crashes down upon the Sea of Tranquility. Lo and behold! It was a spaceship sent by the impure, dirty humans of Earth to explore and research the Moon. Such taint cannot stand by Lord Tsukuyomi, who flew into such rage that his mustache curled upwards. 'Seize these scoundrels!' He told the rabbits 'Make sure they do not contaminate the pureness of the Moon!'"
"But the humans, crude and rude as they may be, are wily and cunning. The rabbits were scared, seeing how they never saw a human before. Imagine their surprise and terror when they saw the three giants standing there, in their bulky white armor and black visors, emerging from behind a tree with strange guns raised. They screamed, they cried, some even fainted right on the spot."
"The humans too, were surprised. They expected monsters with green tendrils, or gray dark-eyed dwarfs. One of them shouted, 'Buzz, look! We've stumbled upon the Moon's Playboy Mansion!' They approached the rabbits, their safety assured considering they have all dropped their rifles. One particularly frightened one was bawling her eyes out, and one of the humans, previously cautious, crept up and embraced her in his arms. 'There, there,' he said, 'No need to be scared, we come baring no ill will, and may God be witness to my honesty.'"
"The sisters, with the fugitive rabbit in tow, leader of the Moon's defense, showed up as soon as they got worried about the rabbits not returning. They arrived to find the humans laughing, joking and passing cigarettes out to the curious inabas, who tried using them and choked as the smoke charred their throats. They stopped as soon as the sisters arrived, and the situation became tense. While the sisters had the powers of gods and could bend the environment to their will, the humans had magic-resistant armor, and a nuclear warhead, powerful enough to blow off one half of the moon, stored in their landing module, ready to detonate at a moment's notice."
"It was the little fugitive rabbit who came up with a suggestion. The humans would leave their weapons here, with the sisters, and the sisters would allow them to continue with half of their original plan, cutting out the colonization aspects. As an additional measure of trust, one human, whose name was Michael, stayed behind in the sisters' custody, while the fugitive rabbit, one of the sisters' favorite pupils, went with the humans, who was in need for a guide anyway."
"The rabbit suddenly saw a ray of hope in her dilemma. She eagerly guided the humans in their three day journey - not 21.5 hours, as reported by the humans, across the moon, helping them evade patrols sent out to capture them, take samples of the unique flora on the moon, and even disguise as Lunarians to visit the Lunar Capitol with her powers of deceit, right under Tsukuyomi's nose. She was astonished at the bravery, even recklessness, of these humans in their mission, going above and beyond the parameters required of them. In fact, she suspected that they enjoyed the challenge and danger, in addition to stepping foot and experiencing what must be an alien, novel place for them."
"When the humans finally finished their mission and returned to their module, the fugitive rabbit was there with them, seated on the edge of the thermal shielding. The humans, understanding of her troubles, allowed her to come along with them to Earth. With a final tearful goodbye to her friends and mentors, the rabbit, with only a Lunar Veil shielding her from the vast emptiness of space, was carried off along with the module, away, away, far from where the Capitol's soldiers can reach her. When the spacecraft reached the halfway point between the Earth and Moon, she silently waved goodbye to her temporary companions through the command module's window, and pushed off, aiming east towards the location where a previous exile, another princess was last heard of."
"Each landing mission after this repeated the same way, with the humans depositing their weapons or, later on, arriving unarmed entirely saves for the warhead, and the sisters would pretend to chase after them. While nobody outside of themselves and the humans ever know of this deceit, they themselves found it contradictory to their education. After all, even without letting them build a base, these humans would be spreading impurity, spoiling the purpose of the moon. They were venturing to annihilate the third incursion, but relented at the last moment when the astronaut warned that the humans, while primitive, still possess enough firepower to wage a true war with the moon, possibly decimating both sides. And so they continued their necessary masquerade, their Silent Sin."
Reisen takes another drink from her mug, and casts her gaze downwards, as if she has just been relieved of a. "That's the end of story time. You really must be going now, Mr. Wu. Have you decided on what to bring yet?"
"Yes Miss Udongein," You get up, stretch, and look over to the crate, "I would like to have the..."
Pick two large weapons: - [ ] MAT-49 (default) - [ ] Lunar-pattern air rifle (default, nonlethal) - [ ] Winchester Model 1912 shotgun w/ modified magazine (12 gauge buckshot, slug, and birdshot, 6-round mag, can deliberate slam fire) - [ ] Lunar-pattern bolt action rifle w/ seeking runes (7.92x57 Mauser, 5-round mag, tracks targets to a moderate extent) - [ ] M14 battle rifle (7.62x51 NATO, 20-round mag, kicks like a bull, high stopping power) - [ ] CAR-15 assault carbine (5.56x45 NATO, 30 round mag, is not a full-length M16) - [ ] M3A1 grease gun (.45 ACP, 30 round mag, more stopping power than MAT-49, less accuracy and rate of fire) OR - [ ] M60 machine gun (7.62x51 NATO, 200-round magazine, immense firepower but low accuracy and long aim time. Also prevents you from carrying another large weapon) Pick a sidearm: - [ ] M1911 (default) - [ ] Browning Hi-Power (9mm, 13 round capacity rather than 7, but less stopping power) - [ ] Survival shotgun-pistol (12 gauge buckshot, slug and birdshot, 3 shot capacity, will kick like crazy, has folding stock) - [ ] Lunar-pattern tranquilizer pistol (nonlethal, single shot) Pick attachments to use - [ ] Old model scope (lowers field of vision, increases accuracy at distance) - [ ] Bayonet (lowers accuracy, adds close combat option, only compatible with long rifles)
And you did think of what to draw on your spellcard, right?
[ ] Something about your profession [ ] Something about your ideals [ ] Something about your personality [ ] Something drawn by someone else (Draw-in)
Note: The air rifle and tranquilizer pistol are the only ways to deploy the anesthesia darts at range.
Off-topic note: I asked the question because forever alone in my jagdtiger 8.8 in pub matches is no fun. Any usernames? Mine is DonationBox, by the way.
- [X] Lunar-pattern bolt action rifle w/ seeking runes (7.92x57 Mauser, 5-round mag, tracks targets to a moderate extent) + Bayonet - [X] Winchester Model 1912 shotgun w/ modified magazine (12 gauge buckshot, slug, and birdshot, 6-round mag, can deliberate slam fire) - [X] Lunar-pattern tranquilizer pistol (nonlethal, single shot)
If any of you has a better suggestion or wish to point something out about my reasoning, go ahead.
Well, they did put an identification tag on Wu here. Any youkai who goes after him in the forest is either stupid or deliberately trying to kill him while knowing the consequences, and I doubt theres any that fall in the latter group.
Given that these are feral youkai we are talking about, wild ones, it'd be best to have close to mid range firepower. Yet, just to be prepared, lets have non-lethal options if we need to, its not like its only the feral youkai that we have to be worried about.
Oh, this brings up a question from me, are we allowed to determine which part of the body those seeking bullets from the rifle hit?
As for spellcard....
[X] Something about your ideals
It's probably irrelevant, I'm not sure you play in SEA server man~ Oh boy, the pubbies in SEA are the worst
>>29029 The military taking care of its firearms? HAH, they still issue M2 Browning HMG on top of Humvees that have a receiver date of 1946 AND those constantly jam. Military can be some cheapasses sometimes.
Also going with this Anon's vote. Cant copypasta, also will try hitting up writefag in WOT. I am a late night early morning West coast player though
- [x] Lunar-pattern bolt action rifle w/ seeking runes (7.92x57 Mauser, 5-round mag, tracks targets to a moderate extent) - [x] Winchester Model 1912 shotgun w/ modified magazine (12 gauge buckshot, slug, and birdshot, 6-round mag, can deliberate slam fire) - [x] Lunar-pattern tranquilizer pistol (nonlethal, single shot)
[x] Something about your ideals
"Make sure you keep the rifle on target, and you can shoot a crow out of the sky with this gun if you know what you are doing. Which sort of makes the shotgun redundant for anti-air work, so I recommend you go with a 1:1 buckshot to slug ratio for that one. Did I mention that the astronaut wielding it modified the loading mechanism to accept his own magazines?"
You silently thank Alan Shepard or whoever that messed with the shotgun, simply because it means it cut the reload time from 20-30 seconds to about 5 seconds. As you lack any in-depth knowledge of gunsmithing, how exactly said astronaut did it, but it looks like he didn't as much modify the magazine as much as replace it entirely by welding a magazine holder to the loading port and cutting out the carrier and spring. Deciding that you are probably going to use this the most, you transfer the spellcard runes from your M1911 to the shotgun.
Unfortunately, the magazines he used for the gun are large, crude, and still only hold around 6-rounds each, though two longer magazines that were found buried underneath the pile of useless (by Lunarian standards) weaponry that hold 12 rounds each. Still much, much better than hand-loading.
The rifle and the pistol, aside from their stated unusual properties, are really nothing special. The pistol is air-powered, just like the air rifle, and the Lunar-Mauser is about as interesting in appearance as the ones sold in 20-packs on the internet. While such items would be quite interesting to own in the Outside World, an entire day spent in Gensokyo has just about jaded you to their novelty value, even if the rifle did indeed fire guided bullets.
- M1911 removed from inventory - Lunar-pattern air rifle removed from inventory - MAT-49 removed from inventory
- Map and guide of Forest of Magic added to inventory - (Sight-riding) Bolt-action rifle w/ bayonet attachment added to inventory - (Modded Magazine) Winchester Model 1912 shotgun added to inventory - Lunar-pattern tranquilizer pistol added to inventory
"Oh, and one more thing you might need since you'll be staying in the forest for a long time. An outsider traded this in for medicine the day before you came"
- Solar-biomass camping stove added to inventory
Time to go to work, but first...
Time: 7:45 AM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Human Village, Suzunaan Book Rentals Threat Level: 0
Conner, once again, has snuck up without making any sound, a by-product of the surgical procedure replacing his body's connective tissue with various alloys and ceramics, which was one of the many activities the university lavishes its ample donor funds on. His beard, moreso than yesterday, now looks more and more like a lion's mane. Knowing Conner, it is probably intentional.
"Good morning professor, how was last night?"
"Fine, fine," he sighs, "Nice outfit you got there, by the way. So after I wheeled the bike you rented back..."
Right, the bicycle, you had completely forgotten about that.
"...I went to check on Rikako, who was mingling with the Outsiders, surprising them with her existence and trading widgets off of them. Gun parts, cell phones, cameras, every shiny bit of technology she didn't have. In return, she gave them the tiny flying eye robots that had been gathering dust in our storage space. I took the opportunity to catch up on news from Outside, did you hear that people have actually been spending money to fly to Japan just to protest in front of Shinto shrines?"
You snigger, "Why would they want to do that?"
"Fundies, the lot of them, though some of them are self-professed atheists as well. They keep associating themselves with something called GAM, though nobody I spoke to bothered to look up what it means. And as you know, Gensokyo suffers from a particularly severe deficiency of internet. Oh yeah, speaking of news." He tosses you a newspaper roll. "Check this out, it’s the tabloid written by that crow tengu. She turns tricks for stories, right?"
"Naw Conner, that's just a fanon-" You stop as you read the headline as your heart skips a beat, "Okay, what?!"
"Heroic outsider defeats violent gang, defrosts icy heart of Village Guardian."
Opposite an angled photo of Keine shoving your face into the ground is a one-thousand word epic on how this mysterious outsider infiltrated the gang of ten criminal scum through wit and charm, released all of the hostages by blinding the baddies with a spell (Aya obviously knows jackshit about tear gas), and valiantly defended them as they escaped, going as far as to shield one of the children with his body, taking three bullets in the torso in the progress, and defeating all of them with unseen grace (she got the unseen part right, at least) before collapsing from blood loss and rescued just in time by Keine, who was interpreted as "tending to your wounds" in the photo taken. The last part of the article suggests that the outsider's actions touched her heart, and went on with other random romantic speculations that you cringe to read.
"No, she doesn't turn tricks, but she does imitate People Magazine, which is close."
Interestingly enough, the other articles on the newspaper, especially those concerning goddesses or other well-known figures, are rather plain and factual, being little more than transcripts and Aya's own opinion on the events. You suspect that Aya either wrote the headline story purely to attract buyers, or attempts to write a full story no matter what her information is, whether it be a detailed interview or just a single photo where the main character's face is not even visible, she will flesh it out, pouring in her own water if necessary. Like the Bohemian Archive articles on the various major incidents.
One of those articles catches your eye, "Messenger of the Dragon Palace searching for Missing Celestial: Heavenly Officials Worried."
"Heaven has officials?"
"According to those who regularly fly up there," Conner helpfully informs, "they have a skeleton society consisting of about six devas who actually ascended, their families, and the various messengers, who are tasked with keeping the place running and the Dragon Palace stocked with liquor. I don't know why it is that way."
"And the Dragon, or lord of heaven?"
"No-one bloody knows, not even the messengers. The palace is completely empty, and the liquor is almost never touched. If there is a lord of heaven, he's either dead or gone."
Which is how somebody like Tenshi gets her hand on something like the Sword of Hisou and keeps it. Incidentally, the missing celestial is also Tenshi, who, according to Iku, "Came home one day, went to bed, and disappeared without a trace in the morning." You wonder for a second if that has anything to do with the suspected terrorist activity, then dismiss the thought. If they kidnapped Tenshi, there would have been much, much more noise.
"Anyways Ming, read that paper at your leisure, I've got to go pick up brunch for Rikako, who passed out in the workshop at three a.m. after examining the goodies she traded for four hours straight."
Time: 7:51 AM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Human Village, Outskirts Threat Level: 0
The camp site that had literally sprung up overnight next to the village is bustling with activity. Various outsiders are building ramparts, laying down cobblestone, and setting up shelters that look awfully permanent for what would be a temporary staying force.
Village Guards oversee their work, along with the marine captain, who is the only one of the group still carrying a weapon. He is way too busy managing the hubbub of activity to talk, and interrogating the odd outsider pulled over by force reveals no new information, other than that they arrived through Muenzuka, crossed the Garden of the Sun and took casualties in the ordeal. Of the one-hundred and twenty-two that arrived through, one-hundred and seven remain. However, morale appears high among the group, as only a few actually expressed thoughts of leaving when you talked to them.
That was the last thing you planned on covering this morning in the village. Now what? You consider as you play with your spellcard and new weapons. The spellcard now has a sigil markered on its back, one representing your ideals. A rather simple symbol, but you feel that it is quite appropriate for what little
[ ] Do your job now, go to the Forest of Magic
But then again, it might be a good idea to go there in around noon instead, since according to the guide, it would be less damp at around that time.
[ ] Chill out at the Hakurei Shrine. [ ] Visit the Myouren Temple. [ ] Visit the Divine Spirit Mausoleum, whose location in the physical world is directly opposite of the Myouren Temple. [ ] Visit the Bamboo Forest Impossible without guide [ ] Visit the Misty Lake Impossible to do so on foot within a reasonable timeframe [ ] Visit the Youkai Mountain Impossible to do so on foot within a reasonable timeframe
Hm, shotgun has a magazine, that makes things easier. Anyway I am fine with going with either of these choices. This way, Mr Wu can get to know more people in general, and getting to know people is always good in this setting and context~. People dont become successful without relations in the right places.
[X] Visit the Myouren Temple.
[X] Visit the Divine Spirit Mausoleum, whose location in the physical world is directly opposite of the Myouren Temple.
Attention tankers readers! The recent delay is due to a major update being performed on the game. This shouldn't take too long as only two of the characters form a new faction (designated as "Occupy Gensokyo"). The other three are living instruments, and are thus relevant only as additional musical diversity.
Incursion v0.2 Patch Notes:
- Shining Needle Castle (aka The Home of the 99 Percent) is now available for access after obtaining flight, since its located in the fucking sky. The associated faction of TWO discount youkai would be located there. - Random musical acts, of either Prismriver(Western) or Tsukumo(Eastern) style would now begin occurring at moderate danger leveled areas with a sizeable population. - Raiko Horikawa may show up in those acts, as well as the Choojuu Gigaku night acts as a drummer. She may also be seen attempting to teach the Lowe tank about "tsukumogami liberation" - Tails (Myouren temple)
<~Blue> Master's out again <~Blue> So this is a good time as any to say this <Spice> go on <Yamato> we're listening <~Blue> You've probably all heard of the story now spreading across the Internet, the story of that one Karen refugee whose faith inspired an angel to arrive and deliver her from the marauding soldiers. <KFighter> because I was stupid and told her how we lack enough men to cover that one escape path... <Spice> yeah, we know its Purple already. The "holy" light rays and spinning death cone of doom tipped us off. What about it? <KFighter> that explains why she's wearing that pure white summer dress <~Blue> She will be doing many more of these activities in the future. All of which will generate considerable press activity, speculation, and positive feelings towards these mysterious benefactors. <BEARS> if she wants to play global philanthropist, all the better for her <~Blue> Not global philanthropist. Global vigilante. <~Blue> And almost none of it will be due to the goodness of her heart or anything like that. <KFighter> i don't know about that <KFighter> it seems like a lot of work considering that she could just dump money into charities and such <~Blue> That would just make Master a celebrity. She feels the need to actually go in and perform heroic actions to win hearts and minds. No matter what the means may be. <Yamato> Hey, that sounds familiar... <Spice> I AM YUKARI VI GENSOKYO, AND I ORDER YOU TO DIE <~Blue> Just a heads-up, this would not be the first, and this would not be the last incident, so be prepared to suppress the media. Blue out. - Blue is now known as BusyBlue <BEARS> so how do we protect against a dimensional-crossing gap lady again? <Spice> you don't <Yamato> you don't ========================
[x] Visit the Myouren Temple.
Time: 8:30 AM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Myouren Temple Outskirts Threat Level: 4
The temple is located just a few miles south-east of the village, at the halfway point to the Forest of Magic. Byakuren obviously intended the location of the facility to represent equality between human and youkai. Probably. It could just be where the ship crashed.
The dirt road which connects the two locations gradually gives way to cobblestone, and the cobblestone to stone setts when you reach the temple grounds. The surroundings are wooded, and off the corner of your eye you can catch shifting figures, some feathered and some horned, darting among the shadows. Youkai, though you are not sure what kind or type as they move too fast for you to get a good look. Either way, they are probably not here to hurt you, being so close to the temple.
Close enough that you can see the ornate lamps depicted in the 13th game on the roadsides. Unlit, of course. They give off the impression of two lines of soldiers standing on guard, clad in armor and standing upright, ready to honor their lord.
In contrast to the figurative guards, the single soul actually responsible to tend to the gate of the temple--which is one of those traditional designs of the two posts supporting an ornately curved roof--is not nearly as vigilant.
Kyouko Kasodani, clad in the pink shirt and white dress she is depicted with in game, is slumped on top of one of the lampposts, her broomstick lying flat on the ground. Smudged makeup and eyeliner coat her face, and what was probably once a guitar pick is lodged in her messy green hair. Her mouth moves from time to time, mumbling something incoherent.
You shift your head closer.
"...I fought...the..the law...and the law...the law won..." Kyouko snores out, a thin line of drool dripping from the corner of her smiling mouth.
Her English is pretty bad, but then again, you doubt anyone here except for the foreigners speak the language with adequate fluency.
Judging by what Mystia said last night, this is the obvious result of working both day and night shifts. And while your studies lend much insight into the benefits of sufficient sleep, the benefits of knowing where the fuck to go and what to do at the temple trumps any possible health benefits Kyouko receives by napping on the job. And as a bonus, it'll probably save her a scolding.
"Miss Kasodani, Miss Kasodani?"
You move your face closer, "Please wake up, Miss Kasodani."
Additional poking and prodding with both your hand and a ballpoint pen provokes only a change in position. Tapping her head does nothing either. Alright then, time to drop all pretense of civility.
You lift up one of her furry brown yamabiko ears, and scream directly into it at point-blank range, "GOOD MORNING KYOUKO!"
"Uh, Miss Kasodani, are you okay?" Your ears are still ringing from her scream, which had the volume of a loudspeaker. Dialled up to eleven.
In the process of being rudely awakened from her musical dreamscape, Kyouko became unaware that she was napping on a lamp and rolled right off of it, landing on the ground hard. You wince a little as her head rebounds off the stone path, fearing that you might have just given her a concussion. The weight of concern disappears as she groans and sits up, rubbing at the impacted cranium.
"WHAT THE..." Her pupils dilate as she beholds a blurry figure in front of her, "Goo..Good Morning...sir," she scrambles up, yawning, "Welcome to Myouren Temple, we are happy to receive you today. How may we help you on your path to enlightenment?"
Her eyes are bloodshot, a surefire sign of sleep deprivation. Even so, she does her best to sound cheery and bright. And loud.
"I am just passing by, is there a..."
"The head monk is preaching right now in the main temple building down this road." She begins, speaking with the same pseudo-friendly, mechanical tone of a receptionist "The hooded one and the ghost captain work in the health service building, which is to the right of the statue garden. The tiger is in the village, the mouse lives far away, by Muenzuka, and my friend Miss Futatsuiwa lives everywhere. If you want to see the corpse though, take a left turn at the statue garden to reach the graveyard, she might bite your limbs off though. The umbrella may also be--Oh wait a second, aren't you that one outsider who was eating dinner with Miss Kamishirasawa last night at our stand?"
"No, I mean-yes, so?"
Kyouko averts her eyes for a moment to mutter a prayer, "May all beings be peaceful, may all beings be happy...Anyway," she nervously clears her throat, "If you are looking for Miss Kawashiro, she is still resting inside the hospital building. She...may not be comfortable with you being there though."
"Sure whatever thanks."
You proceed along, sneaking a glance. Kyouko has begun her depicted routines of sweeping and chanting, though with the not depicted behavior of staring at your back, ears actively twitching in anxiety.
Really, animal ears are overrated, you don’t get why everyone likes them so much. Then again, you have a very skewed perception of most things. The girls you've don't really arouse anything more than the usual excitement of meeting new people/making friends. Funny, considering how those outside the know or swilling the fanon Kool-Aid generally consider the "moe" aspect of the series to be the main draw.
So why the hell did you develop an interest in Touhou anyway? The games aren't really all that fun. The music...the music is great, but you are not really audiophilic enough to attach to something just for its sound waves. The assorted print works and manga are only so-so. And the fanbase, at least to your experience, is a disgusting cesspool with very few islands of congealed, dried filth, polished to a shine.
You set your head against a nearby statue to steady your pulsating head. Normally, under the influence of multiple stimulants and or depressants and occupied with more urgent errands, you would not bother to have such thoughts. But now, wandering in the grounds of a Buddhist temple, alone save for the sleeping yamabiko down the road, you start to engage in introspection, something which your brain is ill-suited to handle. Just as you consider banging your head against the stone to clear your mind, you notice the peculiar nature of the statue's subject.
It's a velociraptor, a velociraptor wearing a pair of glasses and polo shirt, lovingly rendered in smooth basalt.
Not believing your eyes, you touch the statue just to make sure it’s real. Fantasy is one thing, but things like this which violate the customs of its own location is a whole new level of surprising. Perhaps the inscription will lend more insight.
"He was a very helpful spirit, who was witnessed aiding many lost souls back towards life on the Road of Reconsideration before passing across the Higan himself to seek..." The remainder of the inscription, including the name of this eccentric benevolent entity, has become indecipherable. Odd, considering the rest of the statue is visually no more than ten years old. There is another set of inscriptions on the back though, but gives no info despite being in three languages. “東アジアにこの人生で後悔 来世喜ん生幻想郷” “此生无悔入东方 来世愿生幻想乡” “There are no regrets this life for entering the Eastern Fantasy May I live my next life in Gensokyo”
Looking around, you see many other statues, though none with figures as unusual as the velociraptor. Between them lies a small pond, completely covered with blooming lotus plants. The aroma they give off is pleasant, and combined with the peaceful scenery, you slowly forget about yourself and the associated introspection business, focusing instead on the permeating calmness of your surroundings. Who cares why you got into Touhou anyway? What matters is that you arrived, and experienced what few others have.
This must be the statue garden that Kyouko was referring to in her directions. Indeed, there are three paths leading out in addition to the one you came in on, one forward, one to the left and one to the right. The health services building seems the closest though, as the familiar silhouette of Murasa's pirate ship ambulance is clearly visible from where you are standing.
[ ] Attend the worship service [ ] Visit the Health Services Center [ ] Brave the graveyard
All choices are mutually exclusive. Pick wisely.
>>29074: Dice roll. Random encounter. >>29056 Said T-150 is now a KV-3, Thunderdrunk when do you log on? My win ratio is getting slaughtered right now.
<%Beerkorin> You going to let that hermit in on the channel? <%Purple> Blue, white or pink? <%Beerkorin> Of course pink. <%Purple> Why? <%Beerkorin> Oh, you know, since she's raising the potential successor to the dragon god. <%Purple> And? Your point? <%Purple> We have no need of such power right now. Really, unless we are creating a new Gensokyo somewhere, another dragon god would be pointless. YOU should know that. <%Beerkorin> Well, one has to consider the future at an early time to influence it in any significant manner. <%Beerkorin> Also, she has the most powerful bestial youkai in Gensokyo under her charge, which could be of interest to you. Like the Dapeng, the raijiu... <%Purple> That's a good point actually. Thunderstorms on demand WOULD be convenient. <%Beerkorin> ...you really are milking this angelic savior image for all its worth, aren't you?
======================== [x] Attend the worship service
Time: 8:35 AM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Myouren Temple, Main Building Threat Level: N/A
The smell of incense pervades the air, a pleasant if smoky smell. And it is not just from the sticks burning in the altar out front either, but also from the wood of the building itself, which seems to have been suffused with the fragrant essence.
Said building does not look like a gigantic boat for some reason. Magic seems to be the most likely cause of this dissonance, but perhaps the ship itself just resembled a floating temple in the first place. After all, it did sink in the first place for Murasa to have drowned as a little girl, so eccentricities in its construction may be entirely plausible. However, this makes it resemble every Buddhist temple you've ever seen ever.
On the interior, a meditation service is being held. Like every other service you've seen, it consists of many rows of believers sitting or kneeling silently before a single head monk.
One thing you've noted, ever since you've watched Journey to the West as a child but moreso as you've gotten into Touhou, is that the more powerful the youkai is, the more human they look. Judging by the fact that throughout your experiences so far in Gensokyo, the only youkai you've seen so far are either human or bestial, it is safe to say that the lesser humanoid sorts, the ones that exist merely to be mowed down in the hundreds by the Monkey King, are completely absent or hiding out in remote locales. And so you cannot even tell the difference between this temple and any other Buddhist Temple if not for the unusual garb on its head monk or the occasional horn, animal ears, or other eccentric feature present on its worshippers.
Di, di, di...
The dull rhythm of the wooden fish compounded with the otherwise silent nature of its surroundings produce a powerful sedative effect. However, you remain too anxious to address the person sitting lotus positioned in the front, who you judge to be based on hair and clothes to be Byakuren. The black strapped jacket and white dress combo is comparably at odds with the settings, but given the particular shabby shades she chose, the outfit gives off a humbled feel appropriate to the temple. The gradient hair, however, does not, but remains subtle enough that one could mistake it for a trick of the light. Other than that, Byakuren for the moment is about as interesting as every other monk/priest/imam you've met, which is to say not at all. She is much prettier though, though that doesn't mean much when all she's doing is tapping the wooden fish like one of those arm waving fortune cats often seen in restaurants.
Buddhism is a religion, or rather philosophy, of how to live one's life. Said philosophy goes against what little principles you have, as there are few problems you believe you cannot solve with the application of force, either in blunt or rupturing form. Still, you position yourself at a spare mat, imitating the positions of the nearby meditating youkai as to not seem too out of place.
There must be something interesting here to do. Why did you decide to attend the worship service anyway?
And now you can't leave with seeming like an impolite buffoon.
Di, di, di...
Hopeless Masquerade treated the fights depicted within as unusual occurrences, and it really is quite true. In non-incident mode (or as for right now, suspected incident mode), Gensokyo is about as peaceful as it gets, as even your pathetic little practice fight with Futo being a significant spectacle. At least, within the "civilized" areas.
Di, di, di...
Peaceful. Also boring, even. At least here in the temple. You briefly wonder if you should have gone to the Mausoleum Temple instead, but then remember that Taoist services are pretty much just as boring as the Buddhist ones.
Di, di, di...
It is rather warm, and the atmosphere so thick, that you can feel yourself...drifting...off...into
========= A pipe was ruptured in the crossfire, and the scalding steam poured forth, filling the tunnel before someone found the shut-off valve. That is a good thing. Ignore the hot steam burning the nose and suffocating the lungs. For they can not see me through the steam. Thus allowing me to make them pay, one slit throat at a time.
Something slaps you in the face, leaving a stinging pain. You instinctively yelp and clutch at your hurt cheek, only to discover that a sheet of thick paper has stuck on there, flat. Peeling it off, you see that, written in big bold characters, is "CONCENTRATE".
Looking up, you notice that Byakuren is just retracting her hand from an extended position, eyes still closed. Did she just throw the paper at you with enough force to do that? Or did she jump over and slap you with it? You don't know, and frankly right now you are too scared to ask, given the multitude of ways you could be manhandled by the nun.
Popping open your medikit, you silently twist open the bottle of caffeine pills and pop eight into your mouth. Hopefully they will keep you from falling asleep during the service. Hopefully.
Di, di, di...
After what seems like an eternity, the hollow tapping of the wooden fish finally stops. As if broken from a spell, the attending worshipers slowly arise and look around, like a sleeper waking up in an unfamiliar home. Byakuren herself arises, and with a flourish, unfurls a scroll from within her sleeve.
"Let us begin the recitation from the Hiri Sutra."
Oh god. Something even worse than meditation: Chanting.
"Who in the world..." The voice of a hundred throats chant out the sutra, assaulting your ears with unwanted ideology.
"Psst, psst, over here." A low voice snakes out amidst the chorus of devout recitations.
"...is a man constrained by conscience..."
Without moving your face, you lean towards the stranger whispering at you from behind and to the right.
"Hey you, you're that outsider that picked a fight with that Taoist hermit Futo right?"
"...who awakens, to censure..."
You slowly and subtly slide closer. "And you?" You whisper back.
"Oh, don't worry about me; I'm unidentifiable and purely fantastical."
"...like a fine stallion to the whip?"
Blinking in reaction to the pun, you realize exactly who you are talking to.
"You attend the services?"
"I was going to ask the same thing outsider. Yes, I attend them, but not voluntarily."
She is the resident delinquent youkai of the Myouren Temple after all. And Byakuren is the caring, smothering homeroom teacher.
"I...I took a wrong turn at the crossroads."
"Those restrained by conscience are rare..."
"So you don't want to be here either eh?" The voice becomes notably more excited, "Listen, I got a plan that will extract both of us from this situation without incurring problems. All you have to do is scream."
"Just do it. She's watching me like a hawk right now. I only need two seconds worth of distraction. Pretend like you have a heart attack or something."
"...those who go through life always mindful..."
"And why should I trust you?"
"You want to leave or not?"
Considering the options, on one hand you could get caught, but then again you already display the symptoms of a heart attack from the caffeine pills, even the abnormal heartbeats.
"...having reached the end of suffering & stress..."
"Alright then Miss Houjuu, get ready."
Mentally counting down three seconds, you let out a chilling, choking scream of agony, turning the harmonious chanting into dead silence. You behold two seconds of brief confusion as people look around to see who did it (your action of clutching your heart turns out to be completely unnecessary as the acoustic nature of the room makes the source of the sound difficult to find), before suddenly being swept off your feet in a flash of white light.
Time: 8:55 AM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Myouren Temple Outskirts Threat Level: N/A
You are lying flat on your back, looking up into the leafy canopy of multiple oak trees.
"How was it, outsider?" The voice asks, in a mocking tone, "Was it fun?"
"Like a rollercoaster."
"You know, rollercoasters, you chug up, up, up and then you go DOOOOOWN?"
You slap yourself in the face as you realized that you completely forgot about Gensokyo's barrier for a moment.
"Like a jet coaster*?"
Right, you and your crappy Japanese. And you also forgot that Nue's been Outside or at least talked to that tanuki enough to know what it is.
"Sure." You sit up, and stare at the girl crouching in front of you. "Wow, you look..."
"Look what?" She raises an eyebrow.
"Perfectly normal, that's what. You don't have ridiculous hair lengths, colors, or hair dressings. Sure your outfit's a bit strange, but ditch the ribbons and those funny arrows from your back and you'd fit right in Outside."
Seriously, your first impression of Nue is a lack thereof, as unlike the others, she looks just like a normal girl who was too lazy to put together a proper cosplay outfit after modeling the wings. Which is an all too common experience at conventions. Her eyes are also a very dark shade of red, which could be easily passed off as brown. "Anyway I have no idea what I'm talking about, so, uh, thank you and stuff for bailing me out, I owe you one you awesome youkai or alien or whatever."
Nue tilts her head and widens her eyes in confusion, "Are you feeling all right outsider?"
The wings, or rather tentacles on her back undulate rhythmically, as if by habit. You find them quite hypnotic.
"I'm fine, I'm fine. I just need to chill for a second, you know, meeting new characters and all. As a fanboy. So what did you do anyway?"
She smirks and snaps her fingers. Your eyes are suddenly filled with a bright white light, provoking a reaction not unlike that of a flashbang.
"See? Un-Iden-Ti-Fiable and easy to do. Heck it was the first transformation I learned. Blatant though, but Hijiri won't say anything about it, since she's probably too busy figuring out what happened and will have to resume her boring prayer routine." she reverts back to her human form, causing your vision to darken for a moment, and clasps her hands behind her neck, "Either way, I should be free until nightfall."
You hesitate for a moment before asking "So what are you planning on doing then?"
"I'm going to go find Mamizou now; you can come with me if you want to. She did say that she wanted to meet this bonehead who knocked himself out just so he could get a single hit in on his opponent."
An appealing proposition. Still, you consider all of your options on what to do next.
[ ] Follow Nue [ ] Go somewhere else in the temple - [ ] Health center - [ ] Graveyard [ ] Leave for the forest
*Note: Literal way to say rollercoaster in Japanese. In Chinese its "mountain coaster." Weird.
========================= On an unrelated tangent... Current priorities for equipment:
[ ] More chemicals [ ] More dakka firepower [ ] More stompy melee options [ ] More mobility
Keep voting. Do not stop. Tie between mobility and chemicals.
Meanwhile, a pointless sidetrack:
Time: 8:55 AM Date: April 4, 1945 Location: Berlin, Marzahn District, A small pub
The taps are dry, the proprieter is only serving the most watered of beers. Still, the old man seated at the counter orders round after round, gulping down gallons in a vain attempt to drown his sorrows.
"You know," he absent-mindedly chats to no-one in particular, literally, as he's the only one drinking in the bar, "I thought that working for a company like Krupp would be a good way to secure my retirement, but now I can't even get my family to Argentina..."
The bartender, the only other living soul on the premises, ignores his ramblings. There are way too many of these depressed souls hanging around watering holes with problems that they blabber on about for eternity.
"...and they said the design was ridiculous! The Fuhrer made me add both a larger gun onto the tank AND additional armor! There was just no way the chassis could withstand such stress..."
The bell hooked onto the door tinkles. The bartender briefly looks up at the new arrival. A woman, dressed in all black, including the thick veil covering her head, quite the strange customer, he thinks, but goes through the routine without question. She orders a single glass of beer, and takes a seat next to the still rambling engineer.
"I never told them about the non-working, but beautiful, prototype I had my boys build, since they will likely cannibalize it for parts. Alas, now I would likely have to tow it into a lake or blow it up, if only to deny the Communists their prize. Ha, at least I have that option; I heard Ferdinand Porsche's precious Maus project has already been captured."
"A quite interesting story you have there, old fellow." The woman suddenly speaks up, "So what is so special about your tank anyway?"
The old man, fueled by alcoholic confidence, puffs his chest out and speaks, "Why lady, it is only the finest armor ever to grace the face of the Earth! Not only does it possess a fearsome one hundred-and-fifty millimeter cannon capable of demolishing anything the Reds could field, but also does it while weighing only half as much as the lumbering, inefficient Maus. Its armor can shrug off anything save for artillery shots, and its mobility can go up to over 30-no-50 kilometers per hour with correct tuning. That is, if we received the same amount of resources as Porsche did, such as an engine for starters."
"Would you wish to continue this project, if you were given the chance?" The woman has produced a paper fan of oriental design, and is waving it casually as those of high-born status tend to.
"Of course! But what is the point of talking now? Everything is gone, the Reich, the Herr, even the Fuhrer has retreated to his final bunker. For us, the common folk caught in the turmoil, all we can do is pray for salvation."
"Do not be so glum, old fellow, perhaps you can take salvation into your own hands. Perhaps you can obtain it right now."
The bartender, recognizing the situation, obligingly disappears into the backroom to avoid any altercations or involvement in the matter.
His countenance abruptly brightens, "Do you have a way out of this country, dear lady? A secret boat? A hidden airfield?"
"No, but I do have a way for you to help yourself. I believe the tank of yours holds a crew of five, correct?"
The man's brows furl, "...You are saying I should evacuate my family within the Lowe. But what is the good of the tank if it does not run?"
From the inside of her sleeves, the woman produces a small sheet of paper. Upon setting his eyes upon it, the old man's cheeks flush and his face contorts with barely contained mirth as he whispers, "The engine of a bomber? How did you lay your hands upon one in peace time, let alone times like these?"
"You need not question my methods old fellow."
"This isn't a free gift, isn't it?"
"No, but I only ask for some basic information in exchange. All I need to know are the names of all the higher-ups you know, their office locations, and their home addresses."
The engineer considers the offer, "That is classified information, and I could very well find myself shot for this transgression. However, I see no other option to save my family at this point...Very well then, I agree, I will show up at the location you gave me at midnight with the information. You give me the engine, and I'll give you the answers."
"That is acceptable, old fellow. As a gesture of trust, I grant you this," she stands up and produces a strange, unmarked green tome, "It contains some rather...esoteric information that you may find helpful in refining your vehicle."
As she turns around to leave, the old man, holding the books and still slightly confused, asks, "Hold on, you've never asked my name, and I never asked for yours either. What deal is this without identification?"
She turns around, and the engineer could swear she was smiling beneath the veil, "I do not need to know your name, old fellow, but for you, you may call me Violet."
As the woman steps out and disappears into the crowd on the street, the old man suddenly gets a shaky feeling that he just opened up a Pandora's Box with his actions. It is not helped by the fact that the book he received, with its eerie script and foreign symbols, is quite clearly a book of dark arts.
Time: 9:15 AM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Forest of Magic Outskirts Threat Level: N/A
"Miss Houjuu! Please wait up!"
Nue doesn't even pay attention to you even as you run out of breath trying to keep up with her flying. Damn youkai, always exploiting their capabilities for magical flight. It's almost as if the class divisions in Gensokyo are between the fliers and not-fliers, well, sometimes. Fairies are still on the bottom of the ladder.
Still, you really wish you were a fairy right now for even with the aid of the light exoskeleton provided by Eirin, you have to put in quite some effort into running to not get left behind with your shameful athletic capabilities.
"Jesus." You pant in between breaths, "What...the...hell...Nue."
She abruptly pauses for a second to turn around, "Maybe you should lose some weight, fatty. I've seen imperial mistresses back in Heian with less blubber on you."
Can't really argue with that, since she's right. Maybe you'll ask Eirin for a liposuction or something in the future. You do take some slight offense though, as you are pretty sure at least half of the mass is muscle. You hope.
It takes quite a few minutes before the two of you arrive at the destination.
Time: 9:23 AM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Youkai Bank, Forest of Magic Outskirts Threat Level: N/A
Mamizou apparently has started a financial institution of her own a little ways out from the temple. It looks to have once been a hunting lodge, now with scrolls of exchange rates instead of pelts lining the walls and shelves of safes instead of closets of equipment. A metal gate serves as the entranceway, a wise decision considering the nature of her clientele, given the plaque that proudly states "Bank of Youkai" on top of it.
"Yo! Mamizou! Come out to play you lazy raccoon dog!" Nue shouts at the building, "I ditched prayer just for you!"
"You ditch prayer ALL the time Nue." The language used in the reply is quite disturbing, as if your grandma is speaking with the voice of a thirty-year old. "And who's your new friend there with you?"
"Some random outsider. He picked a fight with Futo from the Mausoleum yesterday..."
"I DIDN'T pick the fight, she started it."
"Whatever. He works for the Yagakoro lady, and apparently can hold up for a few minutes against the hermit before being sprawled out cold on the ground. He helped me get out of prayer too."
The gate opens, and a figure exits. Her bespectacled face and the almost unnoticeable leaf atop her head gives away her identity, though you are quite sure she's not actually attempting to hide it, and is merely adapting this countenance for the benefit of humans. The large bushy tail and animals, normally shown in-game, is not currently visible.
"Hmm?" She approaches you and sniffs the air, "You smell of blood and acid, among other unpleasantsies. What is your name, outsider? And would you be so kindly as to tell me how you got here?"
And you smell just like a raccoon,you think but do not speak.
"My name, for all intents and purposes, is Wu Ming. I am a college student, and arrived just like any other outsider."
Mamizou crosses her legs and sits, seemingly in mid-air, and removes a smoking pipe. "Most other outsiders I met are not outfitted with body armor and carrying multiple weapons on their backs."
"It's for my job, Miss Futatsuiwa. You know, Forest of Magic, feral youkai that will try to bite your face off, spellcard duels, all the typical Gensokyo problems."
The bake-danuki grins, with the pipe in her mouth, "That is certainly a better response than the ones given by those Westerners that came by this morning. A bunch of soldiers wielding shiny equipment and not responding to any questions. Except for their captain, he was a talkative fellow. Speaking of talk, Nue?"
"Yes?" The previously ignored and bored girl responds.
A brief silver glint flashes in the air as Mamizou tosses something to Nue with the speed of a slingshot, yet another reminder of the disparity between youkai (high-level anyways) strength and yours.
Despite the speed, Nue catches the object with no problem, "A necklace? I thought you never appreciated jewelry, Mamizou. And what's written on here anyway? Some sort of Western script. Here, Ming, see if you can read it."
She hands it over to you. It appears to be a perfectly ordinary piece of jewelry, with a cross at the end indicating the wearer's faith. As usual, there is some English written on it, which is understandably alien to Nue since she likely never left Japan or is illiterate. Which, you consider, is probably not the case after a couple hundred years. The actual bible verse being quoted, however...
"Thou shall not suffer the witch to live? Why do you have this anyway?"
"I found it at an abandoned camp site near the base of Youkai Mountain. I thought it was interesting that somebody would think to put that particular quote on there, given how the foreigners I dealt with in the Outside World tend to have much more positive lines on their accessories."
"Crazy fundies. No idea why it would be in Gensokyo though." You toss the necklace back to Mamizou, "Really, I have no clue. Why would such a person even care enough about Touh-I mean, this place to want to enter it anyway?"
She shrugs, "I thought you people would lend better insight into this peculi--Nue, what are you looking for?"
"Meat." Nue's voice sounds back, originating from inside the building. "Haven't had any in two days thanks to the whole Buddhist thing of "non-violence". You should have told me you've got some."
Several raccoon dogs scamper out from the doorway, growling and yelping. Mamizou merely shakes her head as she gestures for them to stay around her.
"Try not to make a mess, will you?"
Nue emerges, hand and wings curled around multiple legs of raw pork. "Don't worry," she says, mouth muffled by food, "I'm not that clumsy. Geez, if only you had human meat around here."
Mamizou gives a nervous glance over at you as she grasps at the back of her neck, as if to wipe off nervous sweat drops, "Consuming flesh is one thing, but I am pretty sure Hijiri would get even more angry if you did that, since you live at the temple and she is trying to convince people that only peaceful, non human-eating youkai dwell there."
"Don't care, already broke quite a few rules with this," she holds out the leg of pork, "And ditching, so a couple more wouldn't hurt. Shame its still two weeks until that gap youkai...Whatshernameagain? Yukari? Yeah, when Yukari imports the next batch of corpses and acceptable prey..."
"Acceptable prey?" You ask, your mind already flashing with additional looting opportunities.
"Yeah, acceptable prey, you know, murderers, rapists, the usual sort of people that most humans won't object to being sent in for slaughter. It's not really fun hunting them down, seeing how they carry nothing on them save for rusty knives and other hilariously ineffectual implements." Your happiness shrivels like a poked balloon, "But I'm not allowed to hunt any more due to Hijiri's rules, so the most I can do is nibble on the bones of the corpses at night, after everyone else is done. Ugh." She groans and takes another bite.
"Isn't it just pork? Like the ones you're eating right now?"
"A bit, but human just has a zest to it that other meats just don't have," She sullenly stares at the hunk of meat, "You're not a youkai, you won't understand."
A chill raises the hairs on your back as she slowly turns to look at you. With an abrupt movement, Nue extends her arm and produces a red trident, as long as she is tall, in a puff of black fog.
The long polearm (You have to ask what it is made of) gleams in the sunlight as she levels it towards you. "You. Me. Duel. Now."
Taken aback by the sudden challenge, you stutter as you reply, "What?"
"We are going to fight, obviously," She sticks her tongue out, "Or are you too chicken to face a real opponent and not some washed up undead hermit? Come on, I am bored and I need something to do. You win, I'll give you a spellcard. I win, I get to chew on your arm a bit. Okay?"
You look over at Mamizou, who is nonchalantly reading the book of bank transaction records, obviously appearing to intentionally ignore the activities going on in front of her. The lesser tanuki, on the other hand, are forming a line of spectators.
You tug on the collar of the spider silk suit, "Well..."
On one hand, you would probably lose and get munched on, if only slightly. On the other hand, your blood is a toxic sludge of stimulants, opiates, and other chemicals you inject into yourself on a regular basis, and you can get a new spellcard if you win. Besides, you do need to test out your new weapons and spellcard, so...
[ ] Fight [ ] Don't fight
...Hmm, you don't remember the collar being this tight.
<Mir> Youkai arise through the fears of humans, right? <Beerkorin> Yes and no <Beerkorin> Youkai are like clouds, they generally need both moisture and nuclei. Or in this case, fear/belief and nuclei <Mir> Nuclei? Like particles and such? <Beerkorin> Well, often times feral youkai can be found with only the bare minimum of either - say, a glob of obscure fear becomes a living set of sandals or a particularly vicious--but not intelligent--creature <Beerkorin> But to have sapient youkai, those who recognize their own nature, both are generally required. Fear, and a soul. <Beerkorin> You know what's funny? Humans can be born with neither belief in themselves nor a soul <Mir> Huh, that is quite weird <Mir> Wait, don't you just make the games? <Beerkorin> I'm not saying anything ** BEARS-AFK is now known as BEARS <BEARS> GODDAMMIT PURPLE, YOU DON'T JUST DROP CELESTIALS INTO CITIES LIKE THAT <BEARS> HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO DEAL WITH THIS?! DOES SHE EVEN ENGLISH? <Beerkorin> This is going to be entertaining ===========================================
[x] Fight -- [x] but warn her we're full of nasty additives a typical human would not have
You raise your bayoneted rifle in response. "I agree, Miss Houjuu, but the reward you seek may not be as...how should I put this?...delectable as you might imagine, since my bloodstream is quite comparable to many a sewer pipe in constitution."
"Yeah, yeah, sure it is." Nue dismissively waves off your warning, "Less talking, more shooting! Ominous Sign: 'Heian Dark Clouds!'"
She raises a spellcard, and immediately you sense a barrier being formed around the two of you. Wasting no time, Nue floods the area with clouds of dark fog in about half a second, screwing over the visibility range. You hold up the shotgun and back away from her magic as beams of light begin pouring forth from the unidentifiable mass. Inaccurate as they are, their purpose is suppression instead of elimination, as opposed to nearly all of Futo's attacks during your earlier fight.
The flying capabilities of your opponents are also rather overpowered. In this case, Nue plunges down upon you from the top, couching her trident in a way to run you clean through, if not for the barrier. You barely manage to dodge the attack, with the tip of the polearm grazing the hairs on your face. She immediately follows up this attack with a wide sweep, which does make contact as it knocks you a good ways back.
This time, however, you are in possession of armor, which reduces what would have been a crippling blow into a mere solid hit. Even as you fly back, you turn your shotgun onto Nue's general direction and fire, spraying her with danmaku-rendered buckshot as you slamfire the gun like you saw on YouTube, with great rate but relatively little accuracy as the kick given by the gun is not insubstantial. Still, you land enough hits to force her to retreat back into the black fog. You also threw something else onto her in the confusion, something she didn't notice at all.
Knowing that her next attack will likely be similar. You prime the charge on one of the Willy Pete grenades and hold it in your outstretched right hand. The whistle of an object rapidly approaching you from behind gives you a half-second of warning as you toss it into the air and roll off to the side. It detonates just as Nue charges into the area where you once were and showers her with a fiery rain of white smoke, in direct contrast to her own black fog of unidentifiability. Not taking any chances, you immediately open fire in the saturated area, throwing in a CS canister and acid bomb for good measure. This overkill is rewarded when the black mists dramatically dissipate in a flash of light, revealing only a slightly shaken youkai girl in the middle of the battleground.
"Still wanting to know what I taste like, Miss Houjuu?" You smirk, knowing full well how taunting dangerous beings usually goes.
Nue snarls, and pulls out a second spellcard, "Nue Sign 'Mysterious Snake Show'.". Abruptly the many dead leaves on the ground transforms into army of snakes, a sickening, pulsating mass of green scales that slither towards you. Each individual reptile only manages a single bite before reverting, but there are so many of them that you soon find yourself buried underneath the endless waves of familiars. Literally, they are burying you in the same way your cousin buried you in the leaf piles in your yard.
Your cousin was always kind of a jerk. You never really felt sorry for him when he died in that car accident.
"Going to give up, outsider?" She gloats as she lazily floats above your struggling form, "These snakes are not going to stop coming any time soon, you know?"
You reach a single hand out from the snake pile and chuck a live thermobaric charge upwards. the resulting explosion blows apart the snakes and knocks you to the ground. Seizing upon this brief opportunity, you lunge at Nue, wielding the bayonetted rifle as a spear. You do not succeed in making physical contact with her, but you do succeed in hitting her with a solid shot from the rifle, which knocks her out of the air. By immediately expending another white phosphorus grenade, you break the second spellcard, with the previously swarming vipers reverting back into harmless leaves.
This time, Nue says nothing, pulling out yet another card and muttering the declaration. Glowing, bright green UFOs spring out of dirt clods to take their place as familiars on her side. Instead of the mass of suppressive fire earlier, this time the thick green lasers which are garnished by curved beans of yellow light are aimed at you in a sort of gun line, with the firing UFOs strung out horizontally to take advantage of the fact that you can't fly, thus making it impossible for you to dodge her attempt to spear you through this time. If it weren't for one thing. You had physically thrown your sole spellcard, Refrain, as according to its instructions onto her near the beginning, and bet that she would have at least one movement that was worth recording. You HOPE that it recorded what you expected it to as you couch your bayonetted rifle and prepare your stance.
"Action Sign 'Refrain'."
As if by invisible strings, you found yourself flung forward, rifle stretched out to impale whoever is in front of you. You see a surprised look on Nue's face as the two of you impact, with bayonet and trident spearing their two targets at the same time, propelling both of you away with the simultaneous hit. Fortunately, the impact was apparently strong enough to dissipate her control over this spell, as the green UFOs revert back into their mundane forms like the snakes. Unfortunately, since Nue can fly and you can't, she recovers in a mere second, while you are still barely getting off the ground where you landed and wheezing in pain.
This time, Nue doesn't declare anything, instead pulling out a bow, a very large bow.
"Pulling out your trump card?" Mamizou loudly comments, without looking up from her book, as Nue readies the weapon in mid-air, "He's just an unpowered human! Are you that scared?"
"Nope," The unidentifiable youkai retorts as she draws back the string, "I just want to show off. Eat this, outsider! 'Grudge Bow "The Bow of Genzanmi Yorimasa'!"
In the moment before the projectiles take the air, you saw that the bow contained not one arrow, but hundreds surrounding the single one nocked on the string. Nue aims high, and for a moment you watch as the many shafts block out the sun, before raining down upon you in a prickly, painful hail.
You try to dodge, and fail, taking about ten arrows through your body in the process. Unlike other danmaku, the arrows are persistent, and pin you to the ground. They don't hurt as much through, at most being similar to the needles used in blood transfusions. Still, you're stuck, and your limbs are all impaled and stuck save for your left arm.
Nue slowly flies over to you, nocking another arrow aimed straight at your head. She intends to finish the fight by firing the spellcard at point-blank range, you realize, and there is nothing you can do about it as Last Chance is quite useless in this situation.
Except for one, one incredibly stupid and ridiculous maneuver, which you considered during your fight with Futo, but decided against. Now, however, it may be quite useful. You feint a motion as if attempting to get up against the pinning arrows, when you are in fact removing the pins or priming the fuses on your entire bandolier of grenades. Clutching your torso to prevent premature detonation by depressing the primitive safety levers you outfitted on them, you put on a hopeless look as Nue steps up right next to you and levels the arrow.
As with your battles with Futo, you are simply too outgunned to do anything as your opponent can both dodge, take hits, and dish out damage far more than you can take since you are still just a mere unpowered human, softened by modern living and untrained in combat. Even so, however, unpowered humans in Gensokyo, just as unpowered humans Outside, can resort to extremist tactics to damage the opponent disproportionally.
"I win," she says in a rather matter-of-fact tone as she tilts her head. "That was quite fun, outsider."
"Fun indeed." You say, and then proceed laugh. You only laugh harder as Nue's pupils grow wide at the realization of your action, and as the two thermobaric charges in your hands stop crackling.
You didn't pass out this time, thankfully. However, you do find yourself on all fours, with cold sweat permeating your underclothes, and a sore feeling all over. All your equipment is intact and present, thankfully. The barrier has disappeared, which indicates that SOMEBODY was considered knocked out. You glance at your watch, the entire fight was only about four minutes.
You hear a dull thunk as the red trident is plunged into the ground beside your head. "I still win."
"Sure, sure whatever." You say with a leaden voice as you sit up, "Just bite my arm now, would you?"
Nue's clothes are only a bit rumpled through the fighting, indicating exactly how ineffective the ordeal was. To be fair, your spider silk outfit and exoskeleton is also more or less untouched, in only by their virtue of being armor.
"Quit bullying the outsider, you've beaten him already." Mamizou sighs as she walks over to look, along with the other tanuki in a way that reminds you of a mother duck and her ducklings. "Well, it looks like he's still intact. So let's call this a draw, shall we?"
"Hey! I clearly won, that last attack was cheating!"
"And your flying was not cheating? Come on Nue, even Miss Mononobe was sporting enough to not use that advantage. Why should you begrudge him for using what little he had when you took even more advantage than the Taoist?"
"Fine," Nue sighs and turns to you, "You get a spellcard, and I get to bite your arm, okay?"
"I don't mind." You stand up, "I always listen to the decisions of others anyway."
You unclip the exoskeleton on your left forearm and roll up the silken armor (With some difficulty, it’s almost as if its lightly glued to your skin) as Nue searches in her pockets for an appropriate card. Rubbing an anesthetic into the area, you hold it out and say, "Here, bite."
"Really? I never thought you'd actually go through with this." Mamizou says, surprised.
"I don't break promises. Besides, not the first time."
"Yeah, you heard him Mami, he's used to it. Mmm." Nue grabs your arm, studies it for a second, and then sinks her teeth into it. Her brows furrow in confusion as she first tastes your flesh, then shrugs and continues to gnaw, biting harder until her sharp teeth draws blood, which is the moment that she suddenly lets go and spits.
"What the heck? Your flesh tastes like that of a corpse, and your blood is like...really bad vinegar!" She chokes out as she tries to cough out your blood. "What are you, a rotting zombie?"
"Huh?" Mamizou leans over and studies the bite marks, which are bleeding seemingly normal red blood, "Outsider, do you mind?"
"Go ahead, it's already open."
The bake-danuki sticks her tongue out and licks up the blood, and proceeds to cough and spit just like her friend. "Yep, Nue, you're right. This man's blood really is something different."
You can only give a small smile as you begin cleaning and bandaging the wound, "Can't say I didn't warn you, Miss Houjuu. I said its composition was toxic. I mean, I'm pretty sure that a human would throw up, among other symptoms, if they swallowed it. Not sure about youkai though. Just last night I added a couple grams of flunitrazepam to it, and I'm pretty sure a drop of dimethylmercury is still flowing around in there. Oh, and s whole bunch of anesthetics and stimulants. Not sure why it tastes funny though."
"Injecting that many chemicals into yourself tends to screw up your blood's taste." Mamizou wipes her mouth after she gargled from the bottle of sake she carried on her and passed it to Nue to do the same. "Still, Nue, your end of the deal."
The other girl grudgingly hands you a card, this one depicted with what seems like a mess of red and blue orbs and knives expanding in a rough circular pattern. On the back is inscribed with Nue's sigil, a spell circle overlain by a trident and a bow with the arrows turned into snakeheads. ____________________________
Unidentified 'Red Cloak, Blue Cloak'
Spews red and blue orbs that turn into knives in every direction. Perfect for keeping those tengu reporters away.
Incantation: "Unidentified 'Red Cloak, Blue Cloak"
- Spellcard added to portfolio
"This is one of the few cards that doesn't completely rely on my abilities to work. It'll probably drain what little magical energy you have when you use it though, unlike the one the Yakumo lady passed to you."
"How did you know that?"
"She hands one out to every outsider that haven't done anything too stupid for the first 24 hours. I heard she prints those, but who knows?"
"Which reminds me, Miss Houjuu, that bow you used, where is it from? Surely it is not from the same samurai who shot and killed you, right?"
"Uhhh...It's just a normal bow that is modified to work as a spellcard. Nothing special. Nothing at all." Her voice is normal, but the look in her eyes is that of pure deceit. Mamizou's gaze towards you, however, is that of "don't push it."
You finish bandaging the wound and re-attach the exoskeleton. "Well, that was an interesting experience. Nice meeting you Miss Houjuu, Miss Futatsuiwa..."
"You're not going to stay for tea?" The bake-danuki asks, emphasized by the lesser tanuki gathering in front and staring at you with their little black eyes, "I have a kettle already whistling in the bank."
Something tells you that it’s because Nue routinely skips worship at around this time.
"No thank you. I really must be going now. It's my job."
You wave farewell, leaving the two youkai to their routines.
Proceeding along the path outside the lodge, you eventually reach the western edge of the area defined on the map Reisen gave you. Here, a small stone bridge across a shallow brook marks the outskirts of where the Forest proper begins.
You could continue to follow the trail, and also drop by Kourindou on the same roundabout route through the center of the forest. Or you can simply cut through the forest by consulting the map for landmarks, reaching the growing area for the mushrooms much fast. Finally, you can follow along the stream, which also leads to the center, a bit longer than simply cutting through but with less obstacles.
[ ] Follow the path [ ] Cut through the forest [ ] Follow the stream
"Mmhmm?" The girl looks up from the leg of meat she's devouring, "What?"
"You know how that outsider tastes dead?"
"Yeah, tastes just like the dead ones the Yakumo lady brings over, why?"
"Not only that, but he doesn't give off the usual scents of a human either, you noticed? He doesn't have the smell of fear, or excitement, or anything at all, in fact."
"So? He's a zombie then. He just doesn't know it."
"I do not think so," Mamizou sets down her cup of tea and looks out the window and at the smooshed grass and dirt chunks that marked where the duel took place, "Zombies can't move or fight like that." ====================
>>29147 Rohypnol and neurotoxins. Goodie. I'm reminded of a certain famous drug collection: "We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a saltshaker half-full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers... Also, a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls."
And besides, a lot of people actually pay good money to be injected with the most acutely neuro-toxic substance known to man, so yeah..
Time: 9:45 AM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Forest of Magic, Outer Perimeter Threat Level: N/A
[x] Follow the path
Bright lances of white sunlight pierce the still large gaps in the canopy of the trees. The sun is rising still in the sky, and for once you are glad to be in a wooded environment, as the Japanese summer sun is not a good thing to be fully exposed to.
The air is alive with the scent of decaying plant matter and the chirping of cicadas. Occasionally a butterfly or dragonfly would flutter across the path, their forms about three times the size of typical specimens in the Outside World. Birds and other small creatures, generally normal but occasionally sporting fantastic, colorful coats and feathers, quickly dash among the treetops and ground. You also see a few pairs of eyes peering off at you from the shadows for the trees along the path. The magic is still relatively thin around here, so fairy and youkai activity are generally rare.
According to the map, the Forest of Magic is separated into roughly three zones. The outer perimeter is where it more or less resembles a regular forest, with no fungal growth present and only civilized youkai activity. The mantle is where fungal growth is low enough that normal humans can travel through it without any real adverse effects on health. Except, of course, for the moderate population of feral youkai dwelling within this zone. And apparently both Marisa and Alice make their homes here on the border to the next zone, helpful marked on the map with the note "Place of Refuge". The two major paths that go through the Forest only ever penetrate these two zones, one of which is a shortcut to the northeast trail that leads to the Youkai Mountain, and the other one is a shortcut leading to the Road of Liminality.
The rest of the Forest, roughly 70% of its total area is the heart, where its treasure trove--the endless variety of magic-soaked mushrooms--flourish in the dark where all sunlight is choked off by the extended, overlapping canopies. The dangers of the spores of the magic mushrooms are only compounded by the large man-eating plants dwelling within. Still, your job is to gather the precious jade-colored ones that grow within, no matter what the hazards may be.
You wonder what would happen if Gensokyo chose to share this medicine with the world. It would likely produce a medical revolution--for the rich--as there really would not be enough of the fungus for the common masses. Come to think of it, even if the fans got their wish, all it would do is open up this place to exploitation, just like the diamond countries of Africa. Unless, of course, Yukari knows what she’s doing.
While you were thinking, the dirt trail you are walking on grows notably smoother. Faint voices sound in the distance as you approach the squat building that is Kourindou.
It looks like a normal enough building from the outside, save for the piles of junk. And the excessive amounts of what seem to be burn marks on the structure. To top it all off, there is a skull hanging from the rafters in front of the doorway, modified to be a wind chime with a banner reading "Inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated." It's not a real skull, you realize as you touch its painfully obvious porcelain exterior, but it probably works to scare the less perceptive outsider into compliance.
You turn the doorknob and walk in. The interior of a toy shop, one of those generally owned by wispy old man in slippers, greets you. It is not dark inside, nay, for the large windows in the side let in plenty of light, the better to illuminate the innumerable shelves upon shelves of snow globes, Outside novels, outdated electronics (and only outdated ones), and many, many other assorted products which straddle the line between collecting and hoarding. A few individuals, mostly outsiders, scurry among the shelves, sifting through them in the hopes of finding something useful or interesting that do not carry a risk of death. For you have noticed, in addition to the recovered Outside wares, the shelves also contain objects that have been modified or tinkered with. A large mirror hangs at an angle above the entrance, its detailed engravings suggesting its nature as a security device of sorts.
You move to the far end of the store. There, a utilitarian wooden counter marks the boundary where the average customer is allowed. A dim backroom is visible through the doorway, and you can see even more shelves of assorted in there. What attracts your attention more, however, are the two people seated behind the counter.
Rinnosuke Morichika, according to the books, is a half-youkai of uncertain background who is quite unsuccessful in running his business. In the Outside World, his appearance could easily be confused with that of a typical sort of Starbucks-dwelling, Mac-using entities which infest your college. He even has a tad bit of stubble beneath his chin to round out the image. Nonetheless, his white-hair--looking to be from age, just like Keine's--quiet demeanor and muscular physique removes him from the stereotype, as well as the fact that the (unpowered) computer sitting on the counter is obviously not of Apple origin.
The other person is a small girl. She has wings on her back, small horns on her head, a single smaller wing sprouting from the back of her head, and a white-blue streaked hair that is comparably more natural in appearance than the schoolteacher's. Of course, you recognize her, but calling "Tokiko" by a fan made nickname just seems like the wrong thing to do. As unlike Koakuma, whose nickname was also used by God ZUN, which gives it a semblance of officiality. Like Rinnosuke, she's quietly reading a book, which you recognize as being the Japanese translation of a certain formerly popular novel about a mysterious brooding man dating some college student. You can't recall the English name off the top of your head, as that describes at least five hundred different books and the Japanese title is completely different.
Neither of them takes any real interest in you, though Rinnosuke does give a slight nod of acknowledgement at the Eientei armband, giving you a strange feeling that perhaps you were not the first one wearing doing this job. So for quite a while you took your time browsing over the shelves like you normally do at a thrift shop, picking out the occasional product that is not something completely useless. After sifting for about half an hour, this is what you found and occasionally handled:
[ ] Japanese Defense Force Type Two combat ration pack (500 yen each) [ ] Bag of Hardtack (They still make these?) (300 yen each) [ ] Mystery Can (100 yen each) [ ] ??Venison?? Jerky (1000 yen per half-pound)
You are quite sure Yukari obtained the cans from army depots. How and which country, you don't really know. When, you don't think you want to know.
Magic: [ ] Blank spellcards. (You do not know how to create your own ones yet. But buying some early can't hurt.) (500 yen each) [ ] Mushroom spore antidote. For those who actually need protection from the forest's toxins. You really don't, but someone else you run into may. (800 yen each) [ ] Spellbook with lock. May or may not be stolen from the SDM. "May cause risk of insanity if read" reads the post-it note on the back.(5000 yen) [ ] Gnarled wand, it produces a blinding flash when swung sharply. Semi-useful as a flashbang of sorts. (1500 yen) [ ] Cheap enchanted amulet of protection (Apparently of Hakurei origin), all it does is produce a REALLY weak magical shield. It could deflect a thrown pebble or a few danmaku bullets before the shield breaks and needs to recharge. However, it could also mean the difference between a claw piercing your heart or stopping just short. (1500 yen)
[ ] Short machete, slightly chipped. Useful for cutting foliage, people, small animals and that's pretty much it. (2500 yen) [ ] Vietnam-era entrenching tool. Can be used as axe or shovel. (2500 yen) [ ] AK-47 w/ 3 full magazines. Still has bloodstains on it.(7000 yen) [ ] Masterwork Bastard Sword Generic katana. Legitimately forged with the folding and everything. (25000 yen)
Miscellaneous stuff that caught your eye:
[ ] Pack of 8 AA batteries, for use with many of your devices (flashlight, chemical set, etc.) (1500 yen) [ ] Wooden sculpture of a dragon. Fine craftsmanship. (3000 yen) [ ] A model of the solar system that spins by itself. Composed of brass and stained glass balls. (7000 yen)
For all its name as the only imported goods store in Gensokyo, the products offered are really not all that impressive. To be fair though, it's probably been picked clean by the outsiders which came in before you did, as evidenced by the completely empty electronics section. Rinnosuke may be now keeping the things he really wants to keep in the back room anyway.
You should ask.
"Excuse me? Mr. Morichika?"
He glances up from his book, "Yes, may I help you?" He says, in a careful polite way that masks the impatience beneath.
"Do you have anything for sale which is not on the shelves?"
He scratches his chin, "Hmm...I am afraid not."
The bird girl looks him in the eye and gives a quick kick to the leg.
"Er...I mean, yes. There is one thing." Giving a hurtful glance at the bird girl, he gets up and walks into the backroom, emerging seconds later with a large wooden case. As he walks out, you can almost hear the others in the store freeze as a faint, but clearly audible and ominous whisper sounds throughout the room.
"...ich brauche blut...ich brauche blut..."
Rinnosuke carefully sets down the case, unlatches it, and opens it.
You brace yourself, preparing for a monstrosity to suddenly pop out, only to breath out as the case only reveals a static object--A European-style two handed sword to be exact.
It is a German zweihander, one of those with parrying hooks one the blade just above an unsharpened part meant for grasping, said unsharpened part, you note, is engraved with an intricate rune. Historically, it's type was wielded by the Landsknecht mercenaries during the 16th century, and that is all you remember since you never liked history class. Either way, you were too distracted by the increased volume of the whispering, which is in fact more like shouting, as evidenced by the people around the room have covered their ears. That's all it does though, there's not even an ominous wobbling that would generally characterize such a cursed device.
"...alle sterben, alles brennt, werden alle erschlagen..."
Curiously enough, even though you only have a very rudimentary grasp of German (out of necessity as you are, after all, a biomedical major), you can tell that the phrases whispered by the sword is just as stilted and ungrammatical as your own. Quite strange.
"It just keeps talking like this since Miss Yakumo dropped it off here a week ago, and I don't know what's causing it." The storekeeper says with a resigned tone, "I've asked everyone I knew to analyze it, and none could find why it's making these sounds. All I know is that when I leave it alone somewhere and no animal or person comes within five meters of it, it will gradually tone down the volume."
"It gets louder at night too," the bird girl interjects in a quiet voice. "Makes it impossible to sleep near the store."
"You sure this isn't just a byproduct of whatever the denizens of the Shining Needle Castle did a while back with her hammer?" You ask.
"It's not possessed. Trust me, I've tested it. It's not a tsukumogami either. If I had an inkling of an idea as to its nature, I wouldn't be selling it. Alas, the constant screaming is intolerable. So I'll probably let it go for about 15000 yen. There's no sheath though I'm afraid, but the case comes with it."
He clamps the zweihander in its carrying case and hands it over for you to inspect.
It is quite a weathered piece. The leather on the handle is wearing off, and the gold-plating on the hilt is mostly chipped off, revealing the dark metal beneath. Still, the blade itself remains untarnished, shining proudly even amidst the loud whispering.
You absent-mindedly run a hand down the blade, and the whispering promptly stops, leaving only an ominous silence. The bird girl, who was previously treating the interaction as just another routine sell, lays down her book to pay attention.
Rinnosuke sucks in a breath, "Well, that is unusual. It seems to like you."
"Dunno," you are quite taken aback at the change, "Did I break it?"
The white-haired half-breed takes the sword back, and almost instantly the creepy German whispering returns in full force, dispelling that notion. He hands the sword back to you, and again the whispering stops.
"Well, I'll be damned. You are the first one who managed to get it to stop. Hold on, let me try something. Could you step away please?"
You step back about five meters, and the whispering returns.
You do so, nothing happens. You lay your hand on the blade, and just like before, the whispering ceases.
Rinnosuke scratches his head. "Hmmm...it's almost like the sword and you have a bond."
"Just like those cheesy fantasy stories," you chuckle, "So does it do anything else."
He shrugs, "Nope, just the really loud whispering."
"Then what are these..."
"So," he clears his throat, "Just so you know, the engravings on the blade are not malicious. It is a fairly typical conjuration charm, a convenience measure mostly, but very useful when you only have a small window to pull out a weapon. What it does is that upon invocation of the rune while being held a single person, the weapon will be rendered ethereal--weightless and invisible--as it has become a blob of magic bond to the invoker. A second invocation will cause it to materialize on the body of the invoker where it was last held, providing it has the space to do so. Doesn't help with the sounds though. But perhaps you can make use of it. Here, try it out. Invocation is 'Blade Pierce Slash', don't ask me why, I did not write it."
Quite a cliché invocation, you think as you pick up the weapon. For a weapon 1.6 meters in length, it is surprisingly light, only weighing about 2 or 3 kilograms. Holding it up with two hands, you say the invocation. Almost, instantly, the weapon vanishes along with its weight. No flash of light, no cracking sound. You repeat the invocation, and the zweihander reappears in your hands, again with no effect to mark the magical act.
"Sword comes on, sword comes off. Sword comes on, sword comes off." You grin as you try it repeatedly.
"Do note that this is nothing unusual however, most individuals with magical capabilities do so with their weapons. Miss Hata with her naginata and Miss Izayoi with her knives, for example. The downside is that dissipated weapons provide a drain on one's magical energy, but as you do not make heavy use of magic, I doubt it will be too much of an issue. You are purchasing this, right?"
On one hand, it's a giant sword/ short spear that could help boost your lack of hitting power in future spellcard battles and probably kill youkai that are too much for your knife or bayonet to handle when ammunition is scarce. As an added bonus, the conjuration property gives you a combat option your sorely lack--blocking--as the rifle is too unwieldy to block with and your knife too small. The instantaneous nature of its conjuration would allow it to function as a long and reasonably wide piece of metal between you and whatever is coming towards you.
On the other hand, even though it only weighs five pounds and doesn't weigh anything when you're not using it, it still feels like an antique joke compared to the firearms you have. Also, since you have no training whatsoever in sword-fighting, it is frighteningly likely for you to hurt yourself more than the opponent. Its comparably unwieldy nature may also prevent you from using your other weapons, such as your grenades, in the heat of battle.
On a non-practical standpoint, it's also a nice souvenir. And it's sort of cheap too. A modern replica costs like 300 USD. If nothing else, you guess you can pawn it off to some collector or museum when you get back Outside.
You have 85100 yen, minus the cost of whatever other stuff you are going to buy. Try not to spend too much. Your salary for the day should be 25000 yen. Your supply of camping food right now is rather low, enough for perhaps one meal, as half of the cans you looted from the criminals turned out to be spoiled.
[ ] Take the antique zweihander. Is definitely probably cursed. Has built in conjuration rune. (15000 yen) - [ ] Grab a whetstone while you're at it (800 yen)
[ ] Sell the stuff you looted from the kidnappers' corpses. +2000 yen
Hint: It's not a major subplot (or really a subplot at all, actually). Don't worry too much.
[x] 2 Japanese Defense Force Type Two combat ration pack (1000 yen) [X] 2 Mushroom spore antidote. For those who actually need protection from the forest's toxins. You really don't, but someone else you run into may. (1600 yen) [X] Vietnam-era entrenching tool. Can be used as axe or shovel. (2500 yen) [X] Cheap enchanted amulet of protection (Apparently of Hakurei origin), all it does is produce a REALLY weak magical shield. It could deflect a thrown pebble or a few danmaku bullets before the shield breaks and needs to recharge. However, it could also mean the difference between a claw piercing your heart or stopping just short. (1500 yen) [X] Pack of 8 AA batteries, for use with many of your devices (flashlight, chemical set, etc.) (1500 yen) [X] Take the antique zweihander. Is definitely probably cursed. Has built in conjuration rune. (15000 yen) - [X] Grab a whetstone while you're at it (800 yen)
[X] Sell the stuff you looted from the kidnappers' corpses. +2000 yen
All in all, this should be pretty reasonable for whatever we may face. A katana would be redundant if we have the zweihander, meanwhile I doubt we'd be needing more firepower of the AK-47 given the guns that we have. Well, also I voted rations since they are designed to fill every need of yours during an expedition, and are also quite filling, 2 should be enough...Really, I chose the Zweihander since its as if we were destined for it
[X10] Japanese Defense Force Type Two combat ration pack (500 yen each)
total-so-far: 5000 yen
Magic: [X3] Blank spellcards. (You do not know how to create your own ones yet. But buying some early can't hurt.) (500 yen each) [X1] Mushroom spore antidote. For those who actually need protection from the forest's toxins. You really don't, but someone else you run into may. (800 yen each) [X1] Gnarled wand, it produces a blinding flash when swung sharply. Semi-useful as a flashbang of sorts. (1500 yen) [X1] Cheap enchanted amulet of protection (Apparently of Hakurei origin), all it does is produce a REALLY weak magical shield. It could deflect a thrown pebble or a few danmaku bullets before the shield breaks and needs to recharge. However, it could also mean the difference between a claw piercing your heart or stopping just short. (1500 yen)
total-so-far: 10300 yen
[X1] Vietnam-era entrenching tool. Can be used as axe or shovel. (2500 yen)
total-so-far: 12800 yen
Miscellaneous stuff that caught your eye:
[X1] Pack of 8 AA batteries, for use with many of your devices (flashlight, chemical set, etc.) (1500 yen) [X1] Take the antique zweihander. Is probably cursed. Has built in conjuration rune. (15000 yen) - [X1] Grab a whetstone while you're at it (800 yen) total-so-far: 27600 yen
[X] Sell the stuff you looted from the kidnappers' corpses. +2000 yen Total: 25600 yen
[X10] Japanese Defense Force Type Two combat ration pack (500 yen each)
Magic: [X3] Blank spellcards. (You do not know how to create your own ones yet. But buying some early can't hurt.) (500 yen each) [X1] Mushroom spore antidote. For those who actually need protection from the forest's toxins. You really don't, but someone else you run into may. (800 yen each) [X1] Gnarled wand, it produces a blinding flash when swung sharply. Semi-useful as a flashbang of sorts. (1500 yen) [X1] Cheap enchanted amulet of protection (Apparently of Hakurei origin), all it does is produce a REALLY weak magical shield. It could deflect a thrown pebble or a few danmaku bullets before the shield breaks and needs to recharge. However, it could also mean the difference between a claw piercing your heart or stopping just short. (1500 yen)
[X1] Vietnam-era entrenching tool. Can be used as axe or shovel. (2500 yen)
[X1] Pack of 8 AA batteries, for use with many of your devices (flashlight, chemical set, etc.) (1500 yen) [X1] Take the antique zweihander. Is probably cursed. Has built in conjuration rune. (15000 yen) - [X1] Grab a whetstone while you're at it (800 yen) total-so-far: 27600 yen
[X] Sell the stuff you looted from the kidnappers' corpses. +2000 yen
Since are salary for the day is 25,000 yen, then from what >>29176 has calculated, we'd only have a loss of 600 yen. Thus we can buy all that stuff.
I put zero effort into this update. Sorry.Rifle!AK47hf008c2013/10/12 (Sat) 11:53No. 29190▼
<%Purple> oh wow somebody bought the sword <%Purple> somebody actually bought the sword <%Purple> pay up Mir <Mir> WHY <%Purple> It was the crazy one <Mir> crazy one? which? <Mir> pics or I'm not paying =====================
Rinnosuke's face brightens up at your confirmation of the sword purchase, and even moreso at your additional purchases. He accepts the looted weapons as a discount, if only after a bit of hesitation. It takes a bit of challenge to fit all of the new items into your backpack, but you succeed eventually. You feel a faint ripple in the air around you as you put on the amulet, a very faint one, quite indicative of its low power level.
"Thank you for your patronage."
You would stay around the shop a bit more, but you’d rather not delay completion of your work anymore than it already is. =================
Time: 9:45 AM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Forest of Magic, Middle section route Threat Level: N/A
The path grows darker as the trees thicken. You are heading along a spiral trail that eventually leads to the inner area of the forest after passing by the Kirisame Magic Shop. Alice's house is marked on there too, but you figure that knocking on her door while not being mauled by youkai is a bit rude and inconsiderate.
Why are you trying to visit everyone anyway? OCD? Joy? Ha. You know its not the last one.
You never found true joy. You tried. Music, while occasionally stimulating, falls apart like crumbled chalk once you attempted to deduce a deeper meaning. Visual art is, more often than not, pretentious and boring. You have tried pursuing a relationship last year, but while you and the girl shared interests and never had any serious alterations, you simply could not bring yourself to connect. Sure, you enjoy cuddling and kisses as much as the next guy, but you never really obtained the romantic pizazz that glues couples together, reducing the previous behavior to mere physical pleasure. Eventually you two drifted apart, still friends, of course, friendships are easy to keep, since you never have to invest that much emotionally into it. Food is one thing you could enjoy, being a base animal instinct, but even that wears off, and you are again asking yourself what to do next.
Now, even in Gensokyo, where dismissive imageboard posters term "Giant harem" and get shot down in flames, you still fail to find even the slightest trace of love or lust. Many fanboys would eager sell all of their organs to have a chance at romance with their idols, but you, with a decent reputation and readily access, have not even shown a spark of interest. Maybe you know that you are not qualified, maybe you know that the previous legions of fanboys who tried and failed have jaded them. One thing you are sure though, you do care for them, in an admiring, platonic sort of way.
You flick a speck of dried blood off your knife handle. You are not really a serial killer either. While watching them scream and beg is morbidly entertaining for a while, it too loses its novelty. In general, you prefer to avoid killing if you can. Too messy. Sense of satisfaction at the upholding of justice? Nah, you don't believe in justice--
--A sudden rustle behind a nearby bush stops your train of thought. You quickly turn towards it, chills running down your spine and rifle in hand.
It is a black bear, or at least you think it is. Bears generally do not have fangs that extend to their chins or glowing red eyes (you think, you haven't seen a lot of bears in your life). They are also generally not bipedal when they can help it. This one is doing all of the above, this one also is stalking towards you.
You don't fire. Maybe if you ignore this feral youkai it would go away. Maybe if you just stand still...nope, it's charging now on all fours directly towards you.
Pulling the trigger, you fire a real, solid bullet into the feral youkai. Instead of the harmless "push" effect and sparks from the danmaku ammunition, this bullet blows off a bloody chunk from the bear's foreleg but doesn't seem to slow it down. Whipping out the pistol, you blindly fire two darts into it. That does not slow it down either, and it collides with you, breaking the weak magical shield instantly sinking its teeth into your shoulder. Rather, it would've, but the spider silk and leather padding does its job quite well, and the fangs fail to penetrate the skin.
It does, however, bruise you quite hard and knocks you into a bush. Trying to ignore the pain, you frantically draw your knife and pitifully stab at it, trying to get it to release its grip. Pressing the release lever, you squirt pure capsaicin into the shallow cut wounds on the bear, causing it to roar in pain and let go of your shoulder. You clumsily scamper away, dropping the large basket in the process. From your semi prone position, you can see the bear rearing up for another charge.
Reasoning that you might as well try it out, you hurriedly mutter the incantation, and just like before the sword appears in your hand. Bracing both the rifle and the sword against the ground, you meet the enraged beast's charge with a full impalement, jamming both the bayonet and the sword into the thick hide of the bear and in the case of the sword, running it through completely with the added strength of the exoskeleton. Blood sprays out as one of the blades pierce an artery.
Still, it refuses to give up, snapping its jaws and swinging its caws futilely at you, who is just out of reach. Not risking taking an actual injury, you wait as the darts you fired earlier take effect, watching as the frantic struggles of the bear slow from the anesthetic and the blood loss. You shove the two polearms forward, pushing the crippled bear onto the ground. Picking up the knife you dropped, you crouch next to its prone figure, and, with a deft, practiced movement, cut its throat open, taking care to not get an excessive amount of blood on your clothes.
Wiping the sweat off of your head, you get to work tidying things up. It takes quite some effort to pull the deeply implanted blades from the corpse. Checking to see if either of them were dulled in the fight, you notice that the self-proclaimed “bloodthirsty” cursed sword had absolutely no reaction to the blood covering it. You wipe them off on the bear's fur. The characters never had to deal with this, you think, their magic lets them keep their hands clean. Ah well, at least you pulled through without too many problems. Anyway, apart from the fangs, there isn't much too different about this bear from regular ones, it would be quite damning of your capabilities if you can't defeat an animal the same size as you.
You would have taken the bear's pelt, but sadly you don't actually know how to skin an animal. Besides, you still need to save carrying weight for the mushrooms...
...Oh crap, the basket!
The basket, lying in the dirt, is broken beyond all recognition, trampled by the bear as it charged. Now how will you do your job now?
You check the map, Marisa's house along the stream is the closest place there is that may provide assistance in this manner. As the trail leads there anyway, you continue along your route.
Time: 9:55 AM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Forest of Magic, Middle section route Threat Level: N/A
After about ten minutes of walking, you stumble across a very large set of tracks
Looking at the squashed vegetation around the trail, you can discern clearly what it is. The tracks lead on through the undergrowth, itself almost making a clear trail through the forest.
For these are not regular tracks, no, actually, tracks would be the wrong thing to call it. What was it again?
Right. Tread marks. These are tread marks from a set of caterpillar tracks. You consult the map again, if it is correct, then the tank is heading towards the vicinity of Marisa's hosue, only that its cutting across the forest to do so.
[ ] Follow tread marks [ ] Stay on the trail
Perhaps its just your imagination, but you swear something is making a very deep booming sound in the distance.
<%Purple> I wonder which higher-up got drunk enough to authorize the order to deploy soldiers into my turf, Mir <Mir> I believe it is...uh <Mir> hold on while i check <Mir> huh, that's strange <%Purple> What? <Mir> someone permadeleted the records from our encrypted database <Mir> this is suspicious as fuck <%Purple> hold on <%Purple> let me over <Mir> please don't pop out from behind me like last time Purple
[x] Follow tread marks
The forest ground in summer is relatively dry and firm, which make the tread marks that much easier to discern and follow. Here and there along the trail you can see a downed tree which had been gouged out of the ground by sheer horizontal force. The tank is foregoing its usual surprising stealth, it seems, in favor of speed.
The distant booming sound, which thuds your ears every minute or so, is getting louder and sharper as you walk. Hoping that it is not something incredibly bad for your health, you continue.
After hiking some more, you reach a clump of knocked over bushes in a break in the treeline. Another booming sound, this time as deafening as a jet turbine, sounds, and you behold a random pulses of light flashes from behind the bushes.
You cautiously cross over to the bushes and peek down the long, steep slope you are on. Instead of a pleasant green meadow, you behold a gigantic trench of scorched ground, its vegetation turned into ash by searing heat. A strange, bronze colored device which to you resembles a meaningless hodge-podge of pipes and canisters is positioned on the vertex of the vaguely parabolic shape of the scorching, which only terminates on a blackened cliff face. Close to the device, riding side-saddle atop a rapidly manuevering broomstick, is the iconic black and white figure of the secondary main character, the Ordinary Magician, Marisa Kirisame.
It took you quite some effort to identify her, as she has conjured up a good deal of what you assume to be familiars--vaguely ball-shaped orbs of light-- which are all spewing out absurd quantities of bright projectiles. You can see two types being streamed out: rainbow-colored star-shaped ones which scatter around in a cone to her front, and green elongated blobs which are rapidly fired directly forward. Every few seconds, the familiars cease fire to spin around her and shoot out lasers to her front. All of her attack combine to form a rather dazzling lightshow, its radiance rendering you unable to discern anything about Marisa other than her black-and-white dress and blonde hair.
On the other end of the trench, opposite Marisa and the device, is the tank, which you swear looks much bulkier than yesterday. Its previously exposed treads are covered by armor plates, and the turret is enlarged. While previously the main gun looked slightly slimmer than that of a contemporary main battle tank, it now sports a cannon which looks like a shortened version of an artillery piece capable of pulverizing bunkers. On the rear top side of the vehicle's chassis, a small mortar can now be seen sticking out, though it does not ever fire. You would wager that this is the result of the Lowe cannibalizing the ruins of Rikako's flower tank.
The tank is what Marisa is shooting at, though not necessarily successful as the witch seems to focus more on sheer quantities of bullets over actually hitting anything. Unlike what you were trying to do against Nue, the tank is remaining still and absorbing the attacks with its front armor, as if they were no more than thrown rocks. It is, in fact, returning fire, coughing out comparably more subtle bursts of projectiles through its machine gun and white explosive shots with its main cannon. Seemingly in imitation of its opponent, the tank also occasionally pauses fire for an instant and then lets loose a huge shotgun blast of bullets, forcing Marisa to make a wide side maneuver to avoid it. You wonder why she doesn't fly up higher.
Distracted by the battle, you did not notice the bush beside you moving until it bumps into you.
"What the..." You instinctively draw your knife, only to have the "bush" instantly extend an arm to grab your knife arm, and use the other one to twist you around and throw you to the ground with immense strength. Lying there, head ringing, you can see the "bush" standing above you, pointing a pistol at your face.
"Who the hell are you?" The figure in the ghillie suit and face-obscuring balaclava asks in a sharp, clearly male tone, "And what are you doing here? Answer!"
You suck in a breath of air, "My name is Wu Ming. I am an employee of Eientei," You show him the armband, “who is currently tasked with gathering mushrooms. And you?"
The figure examines you closely. He then pulls in the edge of his hood and whispers something in Russian, before saying to you, "My apologies, one cannot be too careful in this situation. My name is Petrov Konoroz, lieuten--ahem, assistant leader of the surveying expedition from Moscow."
The one soldier among the Russian cohort who drank himself cold last night. Indeed, his eyes hold the symptoms of a hangover, even though the rest of his body hold no sign of the physical ailment, being as steady and composed as steel. You do not know why he continues to pursue this blatant lie, especially considering how his captain had stated their capabilities plainly last night. Well, he WAS passed out, so perhaps Konoroz didn't get the memo.
"So what are you doing in a ghillie suit then?" You scamper up, "Scratch that, why do you have a ghillie suit at all if you are a surveying team?"
"Why do you have an excessive amount of weapons on your person if you are just a forager?"
This exchange is going to lead nowhere. Both of you seem to realize it, as Konoroz quickly changes the topic after a brief moment of awkward silence. Not silence, exactly, as the danmaku being slung across the trench make rather loud noises.
"Do you know why that girl, Marisa Kirisame, apparent has two giant energy cannons? Mr. Ming? My handbook only states how friendly she is towards outsiders."
"Wait, two?" You take the binoculars he hands you and examine the scene closer. Marisa does have an octagonal-shaped box strapped to her belt on a chain, but that is just one.
The question is answered as she casts what appears to be an energy sigil (floaty energy spell circle, for a more visual description) in the air, and subsequently floods your eyes with a painfully bright light and your ears with a vast rumbling that shakes the ground. Yelping as you remove the binoculars, you observe the contraption spew out an enormous energy beam down the trench, its color pulsating through the entire spectrum and even managing to buffet your position with a mighty wind.
When the spell ended, you see that the tank is now positioned on the side edge of the trench. The master spark, or whatever this version is, seems to have clipped it, as you can see that a portion of its side armor has been blackened. However, Marisa does not let up the barrage, following up with a standard master spark (you think) from the mini-Hakkero. The reason becomes obvious as the blackened metal sloughs off into flakes. The afflicted area then glows, with an orange glare that you recognize as the glow of molten metal, before fading away, now with the damaged plates returned to shiny steel.
"Huh, so spellcard dueling effects affect to mechanical beings too." You comment, half-unable to process the scale of what you just saw.
"That tank counts as a sentient being? I mean, they have to be sentient for the rules to work, right? That's what the handbook Miss Yakumo gave us said."
Lucky bastards. You think to yourself. Then again, they are foreign government agents, so additional courtesy appropriate to ambassadors would be expected.
"That tank is a tsukumogami youkai, I believe. I mean, nobody in their right minds would bring such an unwieldy"
"He asked if any of us really dislike dolls. Me and Forrester," he points at a bush just a few dozen meters away, where you can just barely make out the contours of another human in ghillie, "We answered affirmatively, so he assigned us to stay here while they go on ahead for a bit. Then Miss Kirisame there showed up chasing the tank. He never told me why and where he and the others are going."
"This one dances by vocal command? Awesome! My daughter would be shrieking with joy when I bring her this! Your handiwork is truly magnificent, Miss Margatroid"
The other men look at each other and shrug. Most of them are barely beyond their twenties, and only three are married. Most of them also would rather remove themselves from this current setting, what with the gothic architecture applied to a relatively small interior of a house in the middle of the forest, and the dolls along the shelves constantly staring at them without blinking, some going as far as to have mobile eyeballs. They attempt to divert their attention to the blonde, Romanian doll maker herself, who is far easier on the eyes.
Lazarov, of course, is ignoring the horror with the blithe fearlessness he used to persist in his military career. His men do not know whether or not it is foolhardiness or courage, but they do agree that it serves him well on highly stressful combat missions, and since they're Spetsnaz, that's the most common mission. He is focused entirely on being mesmerized by the dancing doll on the table. The proprietor had reacted to his, as well as two other group members' interest in her wares with a cool politeness. Though that, Lazarov considers, is likely one of her better attitudes.
"I am honored." Alice responds, her demeanor constantly a courteous smile, something which is not generally an expression a young girl would give towards a group of heavily-armed soldiers. For Lazarov in particular, it jerks him out of his focus and brings forth unpleasant flashbacks of civilian suicide bombers attempting to get close to his squad. "But this is only a very primitive model. If you would like to, Mr. Lazarov, I can introduce you to some of my more intricate models."
The doll clearly marked with "gunpowder" dangling off of Alice's belt does not help at all. For some reason the "Shanghai" doll is is usually drawn with is also not present.
He shakes it off. It's Alice, the cute, cold on the outside, sweet on the inside girl who may or may not have come from Makai. One of the most popular characters in the series. He is not going to screw this up, he is going to record a demonstration on the camera as per the official orders, and hopefully make off with a magical doll and a group photo in the progress. After all, it is all "observation and reconnaissance".
"Of course, Miss Margatroid. I would be delighted to."
You sit here for quite a few minutes, positioning yourself comfortably in the bush, sharing the binoculars with the Russian soldier and bickering without care. The battle raging below does not cease its tempo, and neither the witch nor the tank seems to be letting up.
"You know, it's a tank," Konoroz comments, "Why doesn't it just ignore these silly rules and kill her?"
You answer, "Only a mindless feral youkai would commit such a heinous deed, and it would be risking its own existence"
"The tank cares about human lives?" He responds, incredulous.
"If it didn't, it would've been scrap metal a long time ago. Killing real people here is serious business. Not outsiders though, they're expendable."
"Aren't you an outsider though?"
"I'm worth more," you brag as you show him the armband again, "Just like how your group has Miss Yakumo's blessing, I have one of Miss Yagokoro's--"
And then it happens.
The tank, apparently tired of exchanging fire, runs forward. Marisa quickly moves off backwards, but the contraption does not. The tank impacts the contraption at an angle just as it fires off another spark, turning it directly towards your position. Before you can even think "Oh shit", the beam has already hit.
Fortunately, due to the nature of the spellcard boundaries, the beam does not do any actual damage. Unfortunately, the beam still applies its secondary environmental impacts, deafening you and a sending you and Konoroz tumbling down the hill with its massive sonic boom.
You do not even know why a master spark, being energy, HAS a sonic boom. But it does, and now you are lying at the bottom of the hill, head just hanging slightly over the edge of the master spark-induced trench. You silently thank whatever gods there may be that you didn't roll further.
"Hold it. Stop!" A girl's voice cries out. You feel the air slightly crack as the barrier dissolves. Something hard prods you on the side, and your still blurry vision beholds a vaguely black-and-white figure.
"Hey, you, outsider, you alive?"
"That'll be a yes. You can you tell me why an' soldier boy o'er there were crawlin' around in that bush like rabbits?"
Her voice has a really rough edge to it, which intimidates you enough that you actually thought for a bit before opening your mouth.
[ ] We were just spectating. The bush is comfortable. Not because we're trying to dodge attention or anything [ ] We didn't want to attract attention to ourselves. Because the both you and the tank are scary (paraphrase) [ ] What soldier boy? I was just standing there for a moment and then BOOM. [ ] We were napping. [ ] Write-in
[ ] Drop the psuedo-southern accent [ ] Add "ze~" verbal tic to Marisa [ ] Why would you do such a thing? Do you WANT to be flamed out of THP? Votes are not mutually exclusive. Except for the last one, obviously.
Holy crap three live stories in /border/. Not including mine, as it is too slow to be live.
[x] We didn't want to attract attention to ourselves, because both you and the tank are scary.
[x] Drop the pseudo-southern accent [x] Don't use "ze~" where it wouldn't be used in Japanese (I have no opinion on whether or not you should use "ze~" where it would be used in Japanese.)
Random IrrelevanceRifle!AK47hf008c2013/11/06 (Wed) 07:47No. 29308▼
Partial transcript from the ____________ Show, June 27, 20XX
____: So this morning we got a report of another of those "angels" that showed up in Burma. You know, the one that the media went hog-wild over since they caught a blurry photo of some entity who allegedly saved some refugee woman from the government. This time its in Mexico, where it appeared, and, this is what they said, set an entire drug warehouse on fire and killing all of the cartel members inside. This isn't just from some hokey blog site either; I'm reading from the New York Times.
____: Now, suspiciously though, is what the witnesses saw this time. There was, apparently, two black cars parked on a hilltop over the warehouse, real discreet like. And what they saw were these people, these spiffed up suits, just standing there, watching. What was on the side of the car though, as some enterprising photographer shot, was a logo. Big red cross-hair with a purple eye in the middle, and two of those Chinese or Japanese or whatever that, according to those who speak those languages, spells out "Eight Cloud".
____: Now I'm no conspiracy theorist, but this entire thing just smells fishy. It sounds less like divine intervention and more like shady government work, or even a rival cartel hit. And "Eight Cloud"? I wouldn't be surprised if this "angel" turns out to just be some agent. The event itself also makes me raise an eyebrow. The Mexican government closed off the ruins entirely and banned any man with a camera from being within two hundred feet of the site. Was it really a drug warehouse? Or was it something that that government doesn't want us to know? They sure as hell do so with those illegals that swarm our borders.
____: Next we'll have Mr._______, a resident of San Francisco who had witnessed the "blue and white colored alien" that was seen falling from the sky yesterday.
April 16, 1945: - Adolf Hitler and his closest advisors were found dead in the Fuhrerbunker with gunshot wounds to the head and the doors locked from the inside. The remaining commanders spent much effort covering up this incident in the face of the Soviet siege, which resulted in the loss of a briefcase of secret documents in the panicked handling. July-August, 1945: - A massive witch-hunt occurred within the Allied Manhattan Project and US Air Force as both nuclear bombs, painstakingly developed over four years, disappeared from their underground storage bunkers. Japan's projected surrender was delayed for over three months as the engineers struggled to recreate the prototypes. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were instead carried out via oversized conventional incendiary bombs. The Soviet invasion of Manchuria still precipitated a declaration of surrender on August 17, 1945. July 23, 1969 - The Apollo 11 return mission experienced a brief panic as the module changed trajectory as if it had been impacted by a 60 kilogram piece of debris. The astronauts reported that no such impact happened and attributed it on an "engine misfire" November 14, 1987 - For-profit universities under the "World University" franchise first open in the United States, England, and Germany. They soon expanded to now 40 nations in the Western world and even more subsidiaries as a middling choice between the average state university and a high prestige one. Also renowned for their extensive party culture. March 29, 1993 - The Global Humanity Initiative (GHI) was founded as a response to the perceived stripping of poor countries by wealthier nations. It soon exponentially expanded in both size and fractiousness as it included such diverse groups such as the Technocrats for a Better Society (TBS), Food Aid Without Question (FAWQ) and the Global Anti-Mysticists (GAM). It surpassed the Red Cross and the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee as the world's largest non-profit NGO in 1998. May 8, 2009 - Numerous disappearances around the Yatsugatake mountain range, mostly of young males between the age of 18-30, begin occurring. About half are recovered anywhere from a week to a few months later, with no recollection of what happened. Locals began treating the area as haunted. January 11, 2012 - Burmese rebel troops drive government forces completely out of mountainous regions in Karen state. Allegations of an a powerful covert foreign supporter remain unsubstantiated.
Incursion patch v2.1: To reduce headaches, all understandable foreign languages are now rendered in English. For Ming, this includes English(native), Japanese(learned out of necessity), Chinese(native) and rudimentary German(his major). =========================================
"It looked dangerous, you know? We kind of didn't want to get in the way of your battle."
You attempt to focus your vision, barely succeeding in determining the movement of the blurry figure in front of you, "Good enough. I doubt an plant-gathering employee of Eientei would be the sort to charge in anyway. Ya know, assuming ya didn't steal that armband off an employee that kicked it and carry a large basket around for kicks. And you, I heard ya muttering in Russian, what are you doin' here in the forest, huh?"
Konoroz audibly spits out a mouthful of dirt a few feet to your right, "Survey and observational work."
"You're a mapmaker? Don't seem like one, but then again I've never been Outside before."
Marisa's casual tone makes you suspect that her lack of further inquiry is because she could afford to be careless. After all, that mini-Hakkero could easily vaporize the two of you where you stand.
"But since you two were kind enough to drop in, maybe we'll have some fun. As you two probably saw, the tank and me ain't doing nothin' to each other by just slinging raw danmaku around like children."
Now that your vision's mostly cleared up, the witch in front of you is now quite clearly defined. The first impression you get from Marisa is how rough her outfit is, with dirt and scratches rubbed into every corner of her black witch's dress. The second, of course, is how she appears to be around your age, with facial features that suggest a parentage which your university friends term "Wasian". Her blond hair is regardless, very blond, and her bright smile very bright even as she grabs both of you by the collars and begin dragging your prone forms two down the trench.
She was essentially every crazy girl you've ever met at a party.
"Your parents ever read you fairytales? Kids who visit the hovels of witches tend to end up in a delicious cauldron of stew. Especially if said kids frequently try to imply that you had a relationship with another magician. Or try to coax you into one. Occasionally with force."
The Russian soldier is giving me a look of pure "what-the-hell-is-she-talking-about". You guess that his captain didn't explain the more meta interactions between the outsiders and the residents. It is, after all, a wretched labyrinth of exaggeration, sexualization, and one-sided murder-ation.
It must be quite odd seeing two heavily armed young men being dragged along by a girl about four-fifths their size. Then again, most 20-ish-year old blondes you know prefer to shoot coke instead of lasers.
"But today the witch is feeling quite full in the belly and generous. And the witch is need of some assistants to set up a proper match so a score can be settled between her and a large metallic monstrosity." She not-so-subtly gestures towards the tank still parked on the opposite side of the trench. "Said large metallic monstrosity tried to steal a bronze wheelbarrow the witch was using, and the witch, reasonably, did not want to give it up. Now, the problem is that said monstrosity does not have spellcards, and the witch cannot use her most useful weapon and fly at the same time. So it would be really[nice] if somebody could fill in, you know?"
Marisa pulls both of you up to your feet by the side the bronze contraption.
"Sure," You answer without a second thought. It was getting boring just watching the fighting anyway.
Konoroz gives more consideration by whispering questions into his helmet intercom bead and subsequently heaving a sigh. "The Captain said it'll be fine."
"That's awesome! Now, since I see that you, future guinea pig--"
"And former guinea pig."
"Whateva' you want, you have spellcards, so you go over there and try to figure out how to get your cards--"
"Card. The other one's a reactive spell. The only one that spews bullets is this one." You hold up "Unidentified 'Red Cloak, Blue Cloak'". "It will work, right?"
"Ain't that one of the nue's card? Aw well, it doesn't matter what you did to get it, just go over to the tank and see if you can make it the locus. Now you, Vladimir Drunkovsky, yes I heard you talking. You come over here so I can teach you how to work this furnace."
Another ten minutes pass.
The tank refuses to respond to you. Even though you have been prodding at it almost continuously, it has not moved a single inch nor turned its turret. You figure that since machines tend to not move when not being used, and since it has prior experience with you being a harmless entity, it will most definitely not move because of you.
Gazing down the blackened trench, you see that a large chunk of the device has come undone as a result of the tank's impact. Konoroz and Marisa are currently trying to fix it, with about as much success as you trying to leash a spellcard onto the tank. For some reason, the device, the "Mega-Hakkero furnace" as Marisa terms it, looks quite familiar. Perhaps it is just because the mechanism that forms the core of the furnace resembles one of the many ornamental ones you saw in front of Chinese temples.
Keine's spellbook does tell you how to leash a spellcard to another person so as to share its effects. It does not, however, tell you how to leash it to a tank. Particularly one that isn't reacting.
"Hey, you, tsukumogami, wake up." You yell as you clang the turret hatch with the flat of your zweihander. Still no reaction. Sighing in frustration, you crawl over and look around the view ports and gun ports on the vehicle. They have no obvious differences from what you would expect.
"Goddamit." You decide it would probably be nice to have a drink right now. Hopping down from the tank, you retrieve your backpack and open it, fishing around for the canteen.
Taking a deep gulp, you replace the cap and turn around, staring directly into the tank's gun barrel.
The same feeling, a chilling terror that stands hairs on your neck and stiffens your limbs, returns. Deep in your mind, you remind yourself that the tank never hurt anyone. It does not with the fact that the 155mm gun barrel is very, very scary and can potentially make you go explody.
The hatch creaks open, and the same mechanical arm--the one composed of WWII era German firearms crudely welded and riveted together--extends out. You tentatively offer the spellcard to it, but the arms ignores you, instead going around you and reaching directly into your backpack on the ground.
"Hey! Give that back!" You instinctively protest as you watch with horror as it emerges with your laptop clutched between its claws, which then disappears along with the arm into the hatch.
---Small laptop of generic brand lost.
"Outsider? What did you do?" Marisa shouts from the other end of the trench.
"The goddamned tank just ate my computer, that's what it did!" You shout back as you futilely kick at the tank's treads. "Alright, it was only like 200 US dollars, but still!"
"Yeah, it really likes to consume metal and things with wires in 'em. You'd better keep whatever gadgets you have left away. Shame it won't eat a spellcard or a bomb, eh?"
You resume kicking the tank.
"Come on, come on! Don't eat what's not yours! Can you even hear me!"
You jerk back as the tank suddenly starts vibrating violently. Puffs of black smoke begin coming out the ventilation ducts on the turret and engine block. It continues shaking for about a minute, before abruptly stopping. Cautiously, you venture close again.
"ALERT: AUDIO FEEDBACK SYSTEMS ARE NOW ONLINE. ERROR: AUDIO INPUT OFFLINE, REQUEST ASSISTANCE. ALERT: SELF-DEFENSE PROTOCOLS NOW DISENGAGED."
The booming sound surprises you enough to knock you back onto your rear. It takes quite a few seconds of looking frantically around as well as the surprised faces down the trench until you realize the grating, mechanical voice is originating from the tank itself. From your limited grasp of the language, you interpret it as rudimentary German.
"ALERT: DESIGN PARAMETERS ARE CURRENTLY 50% FULFILLED. REQUEST: ADDITIONAL MATERIAL. REQUEST: IDENTIFICATION. ALERT: CURRENT ENGAGEMENT LEVEL 2, MAIN CANNON ONLINE."
"Miss Kirisaaame! I think it's taaalking!"
"I have eeeears, outsider!" The witch approaches the tank, with Konoroz, the only one with a survival instinct among you three, hiding behind the Mega-Hakkero, "Yo, you World War II reject! Stop taking my things without permission!"
"ALERT: NO COMMAND STRUCTURE HAS BEEN DETECTED. ACTIVATING SUSTENANCE PROTOCOLS. ALERT: COMPENSATION CIRCUITS ARE NOW ONLINE. ALERT: SILENT BARTER SYSTEM IN PLACE."
The hatch, after some more rumbling, opens up, confusingly without the arm. Instead, a sound like a gunshot goes off, making you yelp and close your eyes. Only when you open them do you see the can in front of you. The unmarked, unlabeled can that resembles your own chemical "grenades" a bit too much, complete with a ringed cap. With an awfully girly yelp , you leap and hide behind the closest solid object. Which in this case, is Marisa.
"Seriously, outsider? A can? Ugh." She brushes you aside and moves forward to pick up the object, "Let's see, hey, you know what this means?"
You peek over her shoulder. Etched on the bottom of the can is a familiar series of characters. A chemical formula, specifically.
--Can of 2,4,5-T added to inventory
"C12H4Cl4O2. Looks like a can of herbicide." You pick it up, "Don't see why..."
"ALERT: RECENT COMPENSATION IS FOR MALE HUMAN. COMPENSATION FOR FEMALE HUMAN WILL BE DISPENSED IN 3.5 SECONDS."
Another rumble, and this time it spits out a canister he size of a propane canister. You do not recognize the symbols etched on them, but Marisa apparently does, and reacts similarly to you.
"Outsider, you go touch that!"
"What, is it a bomb or something?"
"Just touch it."
"I ain't touching that Miss Kirisame. Who knows if it'll blow my hands off?"
"If you're so worried about that, then you should probably run you idiots!" You hear Konoroz yell from his safe position on the other end of the trench.
Soldiers, always so careful with explosives. If you were like that, you wouldn't have the bandolier of dangerous chemicals around your waist. You decide to compromise and use your sword instead. Tapping the metal container with the zweihander's flat side produces no effect.
"ALERT: COMPENSATION IS FOR WHEELBARROW. COMPENSATION DETERMINED TO BE ADEQUATE."
"Assuming you are being honest." Marisa snaps at the tank in German. She saunders over to the canister and pops open the cap. Wafting the fumes towards herself, she apparently confirms its identity. "Hmm, seems you are."
"ALERT: SILENT BARTER PERCEIVED TO BE SUCCESSFUL. WILL NOW COMMENCE CONSUMPTION."
"Wait, I didn't say..." She stops midway through her speech as the tank abruptly revs up, driving swiftly down the trench (eliciting a scrambled dash for new cover from Konoroz as well as a similarly heated run from Marisa) and behind Marisa's house (which, you note, is quite similar to the depictions in the printed works). A loud metallic crunching noise is heard, and the tank is then seen driving away, smashing a few trees down and disappearing into the forest.
You shoulder your pack and walk back down the trench, meeting Marisa, still panting for air, at the furnace along with Konoroz, "I'll assume it ate your wheelbarrow?"
She nods. After taking a few moments to catch her breath, she finally says, "So...you two probably would want to stay for tea, like the others?"
"Actually, I would like to have this basket repaired," You gesture at the broken container on your back, "If I may borrow your materials, if you have any. For my job."
"My [i]kapitan would, but I was never a real fan of tea." The Russian answers, a rather anxious expression on his face.
She shrugs, "Ah don't worry, there's also coffee an' alcohol if you want 'em. And that basket's gonna take time anyway."
"This does not seem very proper for me to make use of civilian hospit-"
"Yadda yadda, just have a cup of damn tea and chill out you dirty russkie. You too guinea pig."
Marisa's house is, just like as PMiSS described, full of random objects of every sort dumped everywhere. A large heap of books lay in one corner, a massive pile of precariously balanced alchemy tools in another. The center of the "parlor" room is taken by a gigantic black cauldron, the kind generally portrayed being filled with a bubbly green solution of some sort. You feel however, that there is order in this chaos for Marisa, as the floors are actually quite clean and the windows shiny, allowing a decent amount of sunlight into the house in spite of its sinister nature.
"You'd expect that I'd get a lot of visitors. But that ain't really the case. Most outsiders either don't have the brains or the guts to go deeper in the Forest beyond Kourindou, so they generally just hang around in the Village or bother Reimu till they try something stupid or leave. Those that do come in generally go for Alice anyway."
The dining table you three are seated at is half covered with burn marks and almost fully covered with stacks of herbs. Konoroz sips his tea with a trembling hand, keeping his eye on Marisa constantly. You silently laugh at his paranoia, as Marisa likely won't ever try to hurt him without something to gain out of the deal. Of course, you could be wrong, but caution was never really a serious concern of yours.
Your broken basket is currently sitting in a inscribed magic circle on the floor amidst a pile of loose wicker. Every now and then, a strand will jerk up and weave itself into the basket's gaping hole.
"You must be amazed, right? It's nothing, really just a time-saving measure since I have a lot of baskets of my own."
"Yes-yes, of course Miss Kirisame."
"Wasn't talking to you, wassername, Petrov, was it? You, Wu Ming or whatever, how does this compare to your basket-repairing devices in the Outside World."
"We don't really repair baskets, Miss Kirisame. If a basket is broken, we discard it and buy a new one. It's cheaper."
"Interesting. Seems wasteful."
The conversation more or less reaches a stalemate. Konoroz seems more interested in paying attention to his comms-link over talking, and the way Marisa is talking indicates that she likely wouldn't be going to say anything more interesting without you popping the question first. Just like normal women in the Outside World.
============================================ Pick the first question you will say
[ ] "So, anything interesting going on?" [ ] "The Hakkero furnace...what are you trying to do with it? Aside from the giant lasers of course." [ ] "How long have you known Mr. Morichika? And what can you tell me about this weird sword he sold me?" [ ] "You heard of the various incidents happening around the village yesterday?" [ ] Write-in: ____________________________
>>29374 [x]What's the strangest thing you've ever seen here in Gensokyo? [x] If you have any mushrooms lying around that have medicinal uses, would you mind if I looked at them so I can identify them if I ever need to collect some for my job. [x] Are those basket things hard to make? I could probably use one. If, you know, I had magical talent, which I assume you need in order to make or at least power the things.
<Spice> fuck my hand hurts <Spice> that guy had a windpipe like an iron pipe <Spice> stupid party cadres <%Purple> You don't have to murder every single one yourself, you know? I thought you were in charge. <Spice> cant trust too many of my subordinates right now <%Purple> Disposal? <Spice> just gap the useless fuck. Human garbage, these officials are， far more useful as youkai food. <Spice> I assigned the replacement, who should be more cooperative <Spice> if it all goes well, we could have a nice bloodless transition <%Purple> ? <Spice> well, mostly bloodless <%Purple> you work too hard <%Purple> I just have Blue handle all the dirty work
============================================== [x] "How long have you known Mr. Morichika? And what can you tell me about this weird sword he sold me?" [x] "You heard of the various incidents happening around the village yesterday?" [x] What's the strangest thing you've ever seen here in Gensokyo? [x] Are those basket things hard to make? I could probably use one. If, you know, I had magical talent, which I assume you need in order to make or at least power the things.
"So, Ms. Kirisame, I was wondering how long have you known Mr. Morichika?"
"Kourin? Since I moved into the forest, I guess. 'Bout twelve years. I would mostly call it a business relationship though." she states through a grin. It's a lie, obviously, but you are sure that probing further is likely a horrible idea.
"I would assume that you would not know what the hell this sword he sold me is then?" You mutter the incantation and materialize the zweihander onto an empty part of the table. Konoroz spits out his tea and shoves his chair back as the sharp end blinks into existence two inches away from his stomach. Marisa, on the other hand, grabs it, and once again the loud German whispering fills your ears.
"Cursed sword? He pawns those off to outsiders all the time. One of them had a bad tendency to gouge out the wielder's eyeballs if not given enough blood. It was terrible, but the youkai around here had a great dinner that day."
"I don't know about this one though." You grab it, halting the whispering. "All it does is mutter random non-sequiters and shut up when I touch it. I mean, it doesn't even make any demands or anything. Seems kind of, you know, lame."
"Then it's a lame cursed sword. If I were you, I'd just stick it in a furnace until it permanently shuts up, or sell it. I don't suppose Private Konoroz here would want it?"
"It's Lieutenant Konoroz." Konoroz snaps in an irritated tone, "Can't you see the tag? I don't call you Mrs. Kirisame now, do I?"
"Ranks, shranks, all you soldier types are the same. You all come in fresh through the border, acting all tough and disciplined, and then eventually fall bit by bit," she flicks a few stray crumbs off of her tea biscuit, "until you either die to some random ferals or mellow down and settle down a bit in the village. Had one just come by this morning with his armor all messed up and with the wide-eyed stare of a survivor--"
"What was he wearing?" The Russian interrupts, an agitated tone coming into his voice.
"Some sort of bulky armor, with this visor that completely covered his face. Ran away when I tried to approach him though, and I lost him in the treeline before getting a better look. Strange man."
Before Marisa even finishes her sentence, Konoroz has already leapt off of the chair and beelines for the door, pausing for only a brief moment to throw a hurried "Thank you!" before resuming running and chattering furiously into his comms link.
"Uh, Miss Kirisame?"
"Aren't you going to follow him or something? You know, potential profit?"
She dismissively waves her hand, "Later, he ain't getting very far on foot. Besides, don't you have some other things you would like to know about?"
You nods, "Of course, so have you heard of the incidents that happened around the village yesterday? You know, robots crashing? Kidnappings? Anything?"
"All news to me. I've been workin' on that furnace all yesterday, and the newspaper only delivers to Kourindou, so nope? So Nitori's reckless ignorance of safety finally caught up to her, ze~?"
Looking around at the rickety stacks of who-knows-what materials and devices around the room, each of whom may or may not explode on impact, you wonder how she does not realize the irony in her statement.
"I guess, though I would venture to guess that it is not necessarily the strangest thing you've heard of in this land?"
"Strangest? Nah, the strangest thing I've seen would have to be the one time the Saigyou Ayakashi bloomed. You know, during the incident you Outsiders call the Perfect Cherry Blossom?"
"Well it wasn't 'perfect', by any case. Far from it actually, since only half of the branches on the tree spouted clusters of scrawny blossoms. What that tree did though, was...strange." She stares into her cup for a few seconds, her hat tilted at a rakish angle to obscure her eyes, "You ever saw a dying animal writhing in its death throes?"
"I saw plenty of dying humans writhing in their death throes to know what you are talking about."
"The tree was kind of like that, like with the branches. But it was almost as if it was trying to be a four-legged beast...I can't describe it. Even though I was merely watching the fight as Reimu dodged the flower petals, I still cannot figure out what was going on. Sometimes it seemed like there were two trees, sometimes and entire forest of them, Yuyuko was almost invisible during the whole ordeal under that constant barrage, but the tree, it was almost as if it was straining to pull itself out of the ground, yet not moving. You know what? Forget I said anything. I don't know anything more than you do, the whole ordeal was more confusing than the younger satori's spell cards."
Marisa gulps down the rest of her tea and glances at the cuckoo clock hanging on the wall.
"Maybe I should be going after him now. Oh and by the way," she hastily grabs a seemingly random flask and a sheet of paper off the shelf and tosses them on the table, "If the basket-repair enchantment doesn't finish, cast this to resume. See ya!"
"Uh, Miss Kirisame? I..." Your question is interrupted mid-sentence as Marisa tosses her mini-Hakkero, suddenly glowing with a brilliant light, up in the air. Out of a shadowy corner, a broomstick darts out and attaches itself to the furnace. She grabs on just as the furnace lets out a roar of flame and accelerates the broomstick forward and out the door, carrying Marisa with it. As you run out the door, you see her nimbly clamber into a side-saddle position on the broom--even as it begins speeding up into the air--before you lose sight of the witch over the treetops.
"Why does everyone disappear when I ask something?"
- Basket-repair spell added to inventory - Flask of what you presume to be mushroom-derived magic fuel added to inventory
Welp, looks like this spot of tea just ended. Marisa somehow trusted you enough to leave you in her house, which is a good sign, but that is likely because of your affiliated status and the fact that poking around the contents of the house are more than likely to kill you. As a result, you decide to just grab a few of the remaining tea biscuits, gulp down your drink and get out, taking a few pictures along the way.
At least the basket is repaired to a serviceable condition now. Not perfect, of course, but you don't exactly feel like deciphering the instructions on the paper she handed you right now.
As you step out of Marisa's house back into the forest, the door lock clicks into place by itself. The magical reaction provokes an eerie feeling as you proceed on your duties into the heart of the forest.
=============================================== Time: 11:20 AM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Forest of Magic, Inner Zone Threat Level: 5
The sword is fairly useful as a makeshift machete, you find as you use it to hack through the thick undergrowth. Some mushrooms can be seen in this area, and you can actually feel the spores in the air as you breath in. The spores are toxic, no doubt, but you do doubt that their concentration is high enough to be dangerous. You decide to save your filters for when harvesting actually begins.
Judging by the damp conditions and the gradual darkening, it may be a good idea to leave the forest as soon as possible. Not before finishing the job of course, but the trees are not exactly the friendliest things ever. You swear one of the gnarled oaks you just passed had s few knots warped into the shape of a leering sneer, and since this is Gensokyo, that is most likely intentional on behalf of the tree.
The pollen is also getting annoyingly thick, forcing you to put on your gas mask, and thus limiting your field of vision.
At least the inner forest is quiet, devoid of ferals, fairies, or any other annoying thing that would disrupt your farming. All you need to worry about are the carnivorous plants, which should be fairly easy to spo--
You feel a sharp pain course through your right calves. Looking down, you see that it appears to be wrapped about by a length of vine, a vine covered in some nasty looking spines, spines which thankfully failed to penetrate the spider silk but still impacted you hard enough to hurt. That, however, is not the bad part about the plant.
What is bad is the fact that said plant looks just like the ordinary poison ivy plant save for the fine spines. Same toughness too, considering how easily you cut it off. You glance over behind the vine and see what looks like a small hole in the ground, a small hole which contains several small bones.
Of course, carnivorous plants come in all shapes and sizes. These are the tiny ones. Very likely you will soon encounter the larger specimens which may or may not be able to swallow you whole. The book Reisen gives you is not especially helpful in this aspect, considering the general darkness of the area and the lack of colored drawings.
You continue along, making sure to hack down any vegetation you will be in contact with. Judging by the map, the mushrooms should be located right around...
You almost leapt for joy at the sight of the small cluster of jade fungi, nestled comfortably within a hollow tree stump. Poking at the hole with the sword to ensure that nothing will bite your hand, you carefully extract the mushrooms and place them into the basket.
Three down, about a hundred more to go.
Time: 12:20 AM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Forest of Magic, Inner Zone Threat Level: 5
You have filled the basket up about 75% and have escaped being attacked by about ten different species of flora when you come upon an unusual discovery.
A massive, muddy boulder, lying in a small clearing. A massive crop of jade fungi sit upon its top, easily enough to fulfill your quota and within easy climbing distance. However...
...The boulder is covered with thick, twisted vines and massive yellow flower bulbs. Bones, mostly small ones but with a good amount of large ones mixed in, are strewn around it.
Going for the mushrooms will probably get a bad end of the overpowered-and-eaten variety. While ignoring the mushrooms seems safe(r than collecting them), it sets us up to find out about other environmental hazards in a painful (and possibly fatal) way...
Also, how do we know that the mushrooms aren't just a spore-inhalation-induced hallucination/mind-affecting magic lure/etc.?
Yet Another Irrelevant InterludeRifle!AK47hf008c2014/01/06 (Mon) 08:34No. 29391▼
Time: 12:20 AM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: UN Refugee Camp near Al Fashir, Darfur, Sudan Threat Level: N/A
Lieutenant Sylla wearily downed his last bottle of whiskey as he looked out at the span of desert beyond the flimsy fences of the refugee camp. His rifle lies on the desk next to him along with his last clip of ammunition.
Inside the camp, blue-helmeted UN peacekeepers, mostly drawn from the reserves forces of its member nations, struggle to maintain a semblance of order with their damaged guns and hoarse voices. Supplies have been cut off for two weeks as the fighting around the area draws near to a full scale war, with the janjaweed gaining enough momentum and force almost overnight from exploiting nationalist and religious tensions to seriously combat UN operations. The Sudan government denies involvement, of course, but there are no other explanations for the dozens of relief supply convoys blown up by newly-made mines and RPGs along the roads, as well as the corpses piled up within sight of the cities, bodies of those who died while fleeing for safety. Safety which, Sylla reflects, is not available anymore.
Outside the camp, a storm front is building up. A large column of technicals, motorcycles, and camels are moving towards the camp. The machine guns mounted on the trucks and the AK-47s in the hands of the passengers spell out their intentions quite clearly. They have been repelled before, but each time the defenders lose more men, while the janjaweed only appear to grow bolder.
He throws the bottle onto the dusty ground below the watchtower, watching as it shatters into a million fragments. They are truly, truly doomed. He had ordered the remaining grenades distributed amongst the women in the camp, in the hopes that it would allow them to escape the worst of the ravaging ahead. He himself, an academy graduate who was shuttled into this position following an infraction with his commander, secretly wishes to find a vehicle to escape. Alas, the fuel depot is long dry, bled off for heating and cooking. Command tells him to hold out for three more days, while he is sure that even three hours would be too much at this point.
Sliding down the ladder of the tower, he notes that his few remaining men have lined up in formation in front of the gate. Green recruits and hastily drafted refugees and humanitarian volunteers. They will not last a minute against the janjaweed. Sylla considered giving a speech before the inevitable end, then discarded the thought. It would only make them lose their only hope of survival. As such, he thinks, if they think they could fight their way out. then they could at least die on our feet.
Giving a smiling nod, he forced confidence he didn't have into his voice as he order the makeshift troops to take up positions on the posts near the northern fence. He himself clambered onto the gate lookout, and aimed his FN FAL at the approaching wave of dust.
That's when he noticed something odd. Picking up his binoculars, he observed a second column, no, a wedge, this one composed of what appears to be flat-bed trucks and dune buggies, with obvious but unidentifiable alterations made. The only thing he could tell, though, were the two Asian letters printed on the doors.
Are they joining in for the massacre? Are they a rebel militia? No, that can't be right, the rebels have pulled back from this region a month ago. Either way, they don't seem to stand much of a change, Sylla thinks, the janjaweed outnumber them almost seven-to-one.
The janjaweed's column changes, upon recognition of this new force. They circle around, attempting to take up a flanking position. The leading vehicle slows down, and Sylla could see one of the passengers, likely a commander, taking out a loudspeaker. At this distance, Sylla could just make out what is being said.
"Who are you? Identify yourselves!"
The smaller force slows down, but does not respond.
"This is your last warning! Identify yourselves or you will be killed!"
A few seconds of silence, then, a female voice, devoid of the electrical distortions of a loudspeaker, rings out in fluent Arabic.
"How arrogant. Troops, clean out the scum."
Abruptly, the smaller convoy disappears in a cloud of pale blue smoke, which quickly spreads out thick tendrils until the janjaweed formation is surrounded. The janjaweed retaliates by opening fire into the smoke screen, filling the air with streams of machine gun and rifle fire mixed in with the occasional rocket launch. There is no reaction from inside the smoke, no return fire or even the sound of a hit vehicle. At first.
A minute later, a projectile emerges from the smoke opposite the smaller force's original position. It first flies over the head of the janjaweed, and then suddenly banks and changes course, striking the leading technical in the back, causing the vehicle to erupt in a green fireball. More of these projectiles emerge, no two behaving the same, some slowing meandering through the air before diving down in a straight line, some burrowing into the ground, only to burst out and shred its surroundings with shrapnel. Each of them were a different color of the rainbow, and the area was soon filled with the light of the colorful explosions as the janjaweed formation came under a luridly charming siege from all sides. Sylla almost feels like he was watching fireworks, fireworks which cut people to pieces and filled the air with the screams of the dying.
The janjaweed column was quickly decimated by these strange weapons, and the survivors began turning around to flee. From the smoke screen jumps out more objects, which appear to be humanoid but definitely not human. The first one leaps onto a camel rider, and drags both him and his steed to the ground before proceeding to beat the rider to death with its bare hands. The one following him latches on to a technical, and impales the gunner through with what looks like a glaive before flinging his hemorrhaging form off of the car. It then proceeds to bash in the window in and break into the driver's compartment. The pickup truck violently banks and crashes, but not before the figure leaps out of the door and runs over to another fleeing vehicle with unnatural speed. These things were then followed by machine gun teams who proceed to unload volley after volley of precise high-caliber rounds at the vehicles too far for the things to catch.
Fifteen minutes after the two forces met, the battle was over. Not a single janjaweed escaped, and not a single one of the strange force's vehicles were destroyed when the smoke lifted.
Sylla was about to cheer when suddenly he sees one of the things snapping the arm off a dead bandit, and proceed to ravenously devour it, uncaring of the blood spraying all over itself. His joy turns to cold stark horror as he sees others following suit in this disgusting act, consuming their fallen foes with great relish. The humans among them appear to be building a bonfire. Likely to dispose of the evidence, thinks the commander.
His feet grows cold and his hands shake as some of the buggies and trucks begin moving again, this time towards the camp. This is bad, Sylla thinks, I thought that the janjaweed were bad, but at least they won't eat us. This camp must be like a feast for them.
"Shoot the vehicles! Now!"
"But sir," his sole surviving sergeant responds, "They helped us! Why are we..."
"Those are cannibal monsters!" He tosses the binoculars at his subordinate for him to witness the horror, "If they get here, these things would devour us too!"
The panicked screaming from the sergeant and those around him answers in the affirmative, and the makeshift militia promptly begins firing on the approaching cars. Just like the janjaweed, their bullets don't appear to do any damage.
"Keep firing! Keep firing! KEEP FIRING!"
The vehicles stop, save for a single buggy. At this distance, one can make out a figure clad in a flowing white and blue robe in the front seat, a black robed figure in the back, and two soldiers, dressed in what seems to be mismatched Soviet and NATO equipment but carrying no weapons, one of whom is the driver. Sylla, however, is not paying attention to this, as he is occupied with shooting at anything beyond the gate that moves.
"Open the gates and cease fire." The female voice rings out again, "We are here to help."
"We won't let you fucking eat us! Go away!"
It stops beneath the closed gates to the camp. "Open the gates, we come alone to speak."
"KEEP THEM AWAY! KEEP FIRING! AARGH!"
The one in the white robe steps out, looks at the closed gate, and sighs. It then grabs onto the iron pipe holding up a side of the gate, and pulls itself up the vertical surface and casually vaulting over the edge of the gate tower and scaring away the green soldiers. Strolling up to the hysterical Sylla, who is still screaming and pulling the trigger on his empty rifle in a futile attempt to harm it, the figure gently nudges the muzzle away from itself.
"I said, we are here to help." She smiles, speaking the words in the same female tone as before, revealing a row of sharp teeth below the mostly obscuring hood, a hood with two oddly pointed ends on the left and right sides of the figure's head. "Please calm down, Lieutenant Sylla."
"Wha-what--how do you know my name?" Sylla asks, shocked enough to drop his gun from his numbed hands.
"I know a lot of things, commander. One of which is that your camp does not appear to be able to sustain itself much longer. Am I correct?"
Sylla waves at the few men who retained enough courage to remain to stand down. "Y-yes. We are low on supplies and men." The lieutenant swallows as he forces confidence he didn't have into his voice. "But who are you? What are these...monsters that you employ-"
"Those 'monsters', lieutenant, are part of my troops. How they fight is of no concern to you, of course. As for my identity, you may refer to me as Mae Indigo. I am a representative for Clear Sky International, and I am pleased to offer you a valuable business opportunity."
"Business opportunity?" Sylla, well aware of the gathering crowd of refugees surrounding the tower and their frightened murmurs, responded with feigned defiance, "Are you implying that this is a human ranch?"
"Oh no no no, commander. I am afraid you misunderstood my offer. If I may." She extends an arm down, and turns the manual gate control lever which normally requires two men to operate. The buggy drives through, and as soon as it passed the gate the soldiers, clad in face-covering turbans and sunglasses, jump out and open up the rear compartment, revealing cardboard boxes filled with canned goods and sacks of grain. A great shout erupts from the starving refugees, who begin a stampede towards the supplies only to be stopped by the black robed figure. With an unseen flourish, it produces a bladed polearm and swings it in a wide arc, throwing up a gust that drives the crowd back. Sylla grimly notes the caked blood encrusting parts of the blade.
"Form a line. There are much more in the other trucks."
Sylla does not protest as Indigo's remaining vehicles proceed towards the camp.
"This is merely a gift. Free of charge." The woman--at least Sylla thinks it's a woman--widens her smile, "Though, if you would consent to our offer, I can guarantee security and a steady flow of supplies to your camp until the last refugee goes home."
"Just what is this 'Clear Sky International' anyway? Are your people a PMC?"
"We may be a company, or a foundation, or even a subsidiary of the GHI. What we are is not important. What is important is that we can help you far better than your superiors can. Do you honestly believe that they will be able to relieve you when they can barely hold on to the cities? We are not asking for much either."
The lieutenant sighs and decides to go ahead on this seemingly too-good-to-be-true deal. "What is the offer?"
"That you, Lieutenant Adin Sylla, transfer control of this entire refugee camp over to Clear Sky International. You will then perform your job as normal, only that the agenda will be written by us rather than the UN. We will of course permit you to view the agenda beforehand. You are still to serve your duty as part of the Kenyan Armed Forces, and this position will carry on to your successor if you are being redeployed. Though," Indigo gestures at the pessimistic bulletins Sylla received from command two weeks ago, "That is a doubtful prospect."
"So you are taking advantage of our plight to seize control?"
Indigo cups a hand over her mouth in feigned shock, "Why, that is quite a rude remark! You do have the option of rejecting the offer, though personally it is quite sad to see so many human beings perish from starvation or, god forbid, a second raid!"
She's putting me in a corner, thinks Sylla. Aw hell, why not, worst comes to worse we'll only lose a portion of the camp. "Forgive me. May I view the agenda?"
"Why certainly!" Indigo produces a slip of paper from her pocket, and hands it over.
Under the bold heading "CLEAR SKY INTERNATIONAL INDUSTRIAL CAMP GOALS AND STANDARDS" lies a long checklist. The first parts of it are comparably ordinary, if against protocol. "Establish a wider perimeter encompassing xxx square kilometers", "Establish permanent residences". But as Sylla reads on, the items slowly form a coherent narrative.
"'Establish localized machine shops’, ‘Scavenge for equipment from dead raiders’, ‘Construct ten heavy metal dye presses' Not to accuse you, but this sounds slightly like an attempt to turn this camp into a munitions factory."
"Not just munitions. Vehicles, machinery, furniture. Don't worry, most of the products will be to benefit the camp itself. As far as I know, you are not exactly swimming in spare ammunition right now."
A valid point. "Seems like I have no choice but to agree. Where is the contract itself?"
"None is needed." Indigo turns to the ladder of the watchtower, "You will be contacted by your former superiors in one hour with orders to cooperate with us. Further details will be provided by them. Welcome to Clear Sky, Lieutenant, or should I say, Director Sylla. Together we can forge a better tomorrow for the world."
Many questions still linger, but Sylla decides that asking them may not be a wise choice at the moment. "I'm uh, glad to join the team." He hesitantly gives the farewell to Indigo, who had leapt off the tower to rejoin her convoy.
A loud disturbance in the queue of refugees takes his attention. A very large, burly man, whom Sylla instantly recognizes as a local troublemaker and gang ringleader, shoves his way to the front of the line, silencing any possible protest with his machete and his sycophants, who surround him like bodyguards. Sylla had tried to get rid of him in the past, but he was never able to pin any of the crimes on the ringleader himself, and by protocol, Sylla cannot order an execution without proof.
"A'right, gimme the supplies."
"Sir," One of the unloading soldiers interrupts, "Please step back into your position in the line--"
"I'm da' boss here in these parts, so I get ta' go first." He replies, gesturing his machete at the unarmed man. Even from the tower, Sylla can smell the alcohol in his breath. The other refugees have begun backing up.
"If you do not, then we will be forced to--"
"Get outta here, you don't know who ur messin' with. That qybah Sylla might think he runs the place," the ringleader rambles in his drunken state, seemingly unaware of the commander perched in clear view on the tower, "But it's Big Amir who really runs the camp here. Now hand over the supplies or I--I'll cut you!"
The ringleader charges forth with his machete, only to hear a *clang* as the black-robed figure blocks it with the polearm. Fueled by inebriated anger that somebody tried to stop him, he makes an unusually fast grab with his free hand at the figure, and succeeds in grasping the edge of its turban. The figure quickly cuts the turban off, allowing the headwear to loosen and slip.
The crowd, along with Sylla, collectively gasp as the turban falls to reveal the face of a pale young woman, seemingly no older than eighteen, with a waist-length quantity of lavender-colored hair. Sylla also catches a view of her eyes, blank grey ones which betray no hint of emotion along with her face as she steps off to the side. Sylla shoulders his rifle, only to remember that he was out of ammo. He curses himself for wasting all the shots on Indigo's vehicle.
"Heh heh, they got a fucking haram playing soldier! Hey, how 'bout you drop that toy of yours, a purty face like ya' is gonna be popular with the men here and ya' ain't going anywhere." His sycophants begin forming a ring around the girl, "Not with Big Amir in--"
Sylla knows that the girl moved, but he cannot discern exactly how. All he sees is that one moment she is leveling her weapon, and the next moment the ringleader stops moving and goes limp before collapsing into two halves, neatly split down the middle. He then almost retches as he sees the cut organs and bodily fluids contained within the body slide out, forming a macabre display of human anatomy between the still twitching halves of muscle and skin that are still spraying blood.
A few of Amir's sycophants run away screaming, while most of the others collapse in shock, shaking in terror. The two Clear Sky soldiers merely shake their heads, and one of them comes over with a can of gasoline, dousing the remains and tossing a match onto it, muttering something about sanitation issues. A greasy black smoke rises up, and now the air smells of burning human flesh.
"As I was saying," The soldier not busy cremating the corpse announces to the crowd, "Keep in line and wait your turn, we have enough for everybody."
Perhaps they were used to tragedy, or perhaps they do not wish to disobey after such a gruesome show of force, the refugees quickly formed a line again, and Sylla only had to coax a few of them to stop screaming and get their supplies.
And sometime during the hustle and bustle, the girl puts on a gas mask, before resuming her position as a stoic sentry, uncaring for the fresh blood dripping from her blade. ==============================
<%Purple> Hey KFighter <KFighter> wut? <%Purple> You want some slightly used trucks and assorted small arms? I'll give you a discount. Just one squad of untrained recruits. <%Purple> I'll also throw in a really nice machete.
<Yamato> How the fuck did you find out about my little girl's bicycle accident <Yamato> Do you spy on us through your gaps? <%Purple> Nope <%Purple> Spies, spies you can't get rid of <Yamato> You got tiny robots loaned from the Americans or something? <%Purple> I've got youkai that look like cute little kids.
Sometimes, it is better to avoid trouble rather than attempt to profit off of it. When the trouble is what looks to be an incredibly dangerous plant that could easily digest you whole, it is best to stay as far away as possible.
There are no human bones in the area, but the bones of what seemed to be large canines is enough to dissuade you from attempting for the mushrooms on the top. There are always more mushrooms, but only one life you can sacrifice, and sacrificing it only to fail at your task is unacceptable. If you are going to die alone and unloved, then you might as well do it for a worthy cause.
Sighing at having to abandon such a treasure, you turn around and venture back onto your original planned path, keeping an eye out for any jade fungi hiding in shaded holes.
Time: 1:30 PM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Forest of Magic, Outskirts Threat Level: 2
It took forever to locate the last clumps of mushrooms.
Even with the exoskeleton's aid, your leg muscles are still quite sore. Your equipment plus the basket weighs like a dumbbell on your back, and your growling stomach implores you to attend to its needs before taking another step back to the village. That mandrake you accidently pulled up didn't help matters, and as you tossed it in the basket
You lay down the basket and sit down on a flat rock in the grass overlooking a small stream. According to the map, you are east of the Forest and thus a good amount of distance away from the village. This assignment is proving to be quite a pain, you reflect as you deploy the biomass stove onto the rock, stuff it full of the driest looking grass and sticks you can find around, and dump an entire MRE kit's contents into the attached pot along with water from the stream.
Red beans and rice, what looks like seaweed wrapped around sausages, and a packet of miso. Nothing special, and you suspect that this food may be just a little bit expired. But nourishment is nourishment, and you haven't had experience with any expired food that killed you yet. Besides, anything tastes decent when it’s boiled into a stew.
Watching the stew simmer in the pot becomes quite boring after a while. You flip open the book Keine gave you and begin reading the intro sections. Between the diagrams, annotations and the academic tone of the text, it reads far more like a science book than the flowery prose often peddled as magic in the Outside World. The similarity makes sense as you read on though, especially when it hypothesizes the source of magical energies as the force of the collective influence of sentient beings stretching the universe.
Magic has many forms, differing through culture and purpose, but all serve to bend some facet of a natural law.
Of course, you did not really read that part, as you skimmed through the pages until you come upon the first set of instructions. An extremely simple spell, one to produce a brief flash of light. According to the book it should be much lower in intensity than the results of the little wand you bought from Kourindou, but hey, expecting more from a beginner's cantrip would be stupid. The spell, as well as several ones after it, appear to be derived from a Western source, as shown by its emphasis on utilizing runes and simple recitations over rituals and seals, which is likely a wise choice, considering how setting up the breaching ritual to cross the Hakurei Barrier took you around two whole days.
"Let's see, find a pinch of dirt." The ground is right there, and you scrap a small bit off, "Recite the invocation spell." You chant out the odd syllables described within, and the dirt in your hand begins to glow, "Recite the activation spell. Alright, La Kuh..."
Your eyes are suddenly overwhelmed with light as bright as a star half a meter in front of your face. You roll on the ground and scream in agony for a bit, before the retinal pain wears off enough for you to see that the dirt in your hands has gone back to normal. A sudden sense of fatigue washes over you, making your already tired frame even more so.
The dirt falls to the ground, slightly blackened. Shaking your head, you look through the book for an explanation.
If the flash of light produced exceeds the described results by an order of magnitude, then you have experienced spell flux. This condition is incredibly dangerous and the reason why using this spell is essential before proceeding. Spell flux means that the user is unable to control the flow of energy into the spell, and can easily lead to the spell feeding off of the user's physical presence, leading to deterioration of the body and potentially death. If further tries result in consistent spell flux, it is recommended for the user to seek guidance from an instructor or discontinue studies.
After ignoring the warning and attempting to cast the spell two more times, both of which resulted in the flashbang you produced earlier, you conclude that perhaps going further would be unwise, as the fluxes drained enough energy that you can do little more than lie flat on your back in the grass, barely capable of lifting an arm to stir the pot as the makeshift stew boils.
The sky is clear save for a few wisps of cloud, though the wind carries a hint of rain along the pollen blown from the Forest. The summer heat is sweltering, and would be even moreso if your armor was more than just silk.
"Hello there, care to share a meal with a fellow traveler?"
You turn your head, expecting the figure a twenty meters away to be another outsider. Then you realize that while you have seen them around, female outsiders are not exactly plentiful and that most outsiders do not walk around lugging a scythe as tall as they are. Or wear a rather puffy blue and white dress. Or use a gigantic bronze coin as their belt buckle.
"Greetings Miss Onozuka. Have you come here to claim my soul?" You ask, having experienced enough of Gensokyo at this point to stop experiencing surprise at new encounters.
"Oh ho, of course not!" Komachi laughs, "The yama does not care for the souls of those still attached to their bodies. Besides, I'm not the one responsible for taking the lives of those who have lived for too long, that's the--"
She suddenly stops about two meters away from you. Blinking twice, she rubs her eyes and stares again before reacting to your confused gaze with a neutral expression.
"Excuse me, Miss Onozuka? Is there something wrong?"
"No, no, it's nothing. I just thought that you resembled someone who I ferried across last week. How peculiar."
Her voice betrays no hint of deception, but you can see her avoid your gaze for a second. Then again, perhaps seeing a person out of the natural order remains a disturbing event for even shinigami.
Besides, your ability to judge character is terrible, as you barely know any of the people you've talked to so far personally, since it would take far more than even magical intervention to fully grasp the personality of a recent acquaintance in the short amount of time you interact. Moreso considering how they are not human, and have lived for far longer than you have.
"More peculiar than this stew you seem to be attempting to make which lacks any stew-worthy materials."
"I have a trekking job, Miss Onozuka, decent foodstuffs are luxuries I do not have access to, or desire."
"That's a shame," Komachi sits down onto the grass next to you and yawns, "I just so happen to have half a roasted chicken and some wild taro roots on me right now, but since Mr. Wu does not feel like pampering himself..."
You glare at her, "How did you know my name?"
She shrugs, "I am a shinigami, identifying the names of the souls I guide across the river is part of the job. Allowing them the last bit of casual conversation before the trial is the humane thing to do, after all."
"But I'm not dead..."
"You still have a soul. It just happened to be attached to a lump of flesh in this case."
"So why are you out here? Don't you have, you know, a job?"
"Yep, and according to ol' Eiki, the job includes not just ferrying lost souls, but also finding them since our actually kishin has been AWOL. There's a huge cluster of them in the forest right now, drifting around like headless chickens. Speaking of which..." She gets up, removes the aforementioned food from a large pouch on her belt and tosses them in the air. You abruptly feel a sharp coldness through the air as she brings her scythe up and makes a flurry of slices, the only thing discernable in the process being the pinkness of her muscular arms. The next thing you notice are the multiple *plop* sounds that indicates that the ingredients have made it into the stew.
Seeing no reason to not do so, you clap.
"Learned that while reaping souls, right?"
"Didn't I tell you I'm not responsible for that? Besides," She sticks the scythe into the ground and sits back down, "Higan doesn't concern itself with reaping anymore."
You look over, and notice that the chunks of taro, in addition to still retaining fragments of skin, possess an unnatural red hue.
"Where did the food come from?"
"The roots? Hmm..." She taps a finger against the ground in thinking, "...Dug them up near the river. That chicken fell on the floor from a market stall in the village, but I cleaned the dirt off."
"Don't you have enough money that you throw them around as danmaku?"
"Hell's barely has enough to sustain itself," she sighs, "Eiki considers a payment of more than 2000 yen these days to be a bonus. And she never gives bonuses, let me tell you..."
You've just noticed that the two small ponytails she wears on her head are held by bead rings which are tied rather than the semi-elastic strips the other girls you saw use. Also, it just struck you that Komachi's hair is a particular shade of red. Not the normal ginger color of Caucasian redheads, nor the more exotic apple red you saw on the heads of some youkai in the temple. Instead, it is a lurid crimson--the color of blood. At a distance, it could be mistaken for a grievous head injury.
The blow crushed the man's head in, and between the skull fragments sprayed out a brilliant burst of red, mixed in with chunks of grey matter.
You stare in wonder at the now-bloodied fire axe. Such gore. Such violence. Appropriate for these scum.
But the axe itself wouldn't be enough to kill all of them. You pick up the pistol from the twitching corpse, and continue down the tunnel.
"...All I get paid is whatever Eiki judges that I deserve, and who am I to argue if she barely pays me enough to eat? Not that I need to eat, but you get the point, seeing how you are probably getting paid much more than me, seeing how you will probably pull double-duty as experiment fodder. Heck, there's been at least five or so Eientei employees I've shipped across the river this year. Hey, are you paying attention?"
"What?" You blink at the slightly irritated shinigami, "Sorry, I spaced out a bit there. Something something I'm going to die?"
"Not that." She gestures at the pot, "The stew's done."
After you've taken the pot off the stove, you noticed that the concoction boiling within is a strange, thick, and brownish-red substance, with chunks of what seems to be recognizable food floating around. More importantly, it's giving off a strong medicinal smell. Your stomach overrules your nose, however, and you can barely manage to scoop it into your bowl before messily devouring the scalding mixture. Looking up, you notice that Komachi is doing the opposite: carefully lifting and blowing each bite of stew before slowly chewing and swallowing, eating with the patience of one who never hungers.
"Doesn't taste all that good, but I suppose there is no better alternative in this situation."
You try to discern the taste, only to discover that there is none other than a vague saltiness. "What do you shinigami eat anyway? Youkai and humans both eat physical food for nourishments, so you, like, consume sinner souls or something?"
The girl lets out a giggle, "Nope. Shinigami, like spirits, don't need subsistence. Most of the times we eat are on trips outside of Higan or tea snacks, and most shinigami don't leave Higan, not anymore." She finishes her bowl and lays back onto the grass as you reach over to fill seconds. "Hell's been running in the red for the past couple of decades. Very few people Outside believe in an actual yama or hell anymore, so all we get are the souls which happen to be within the border as funding. Two hundred years ago there were nine yamas and tens of thousands of shinigami. Now there's one yama and nine shinigami, two of whom are contractors."
"They coordinate the shops on the Road of Liminality and organize the fairies that maintain the place. Both are onis, of course. The actual shinigami work: scribing, ferrying, calculating lifespan have been scaled down to include only seven of us. We don't even have a kishin anymore after the last one left."
You noticed that, for some reason, Komachi put particular emphasis on the word "Kishin".
"He left right as the Hakurei Barrier went up after a HUGE argument with Eiki, and since then we never found anyone else willing to do the job. Not that we could afford one, of course, considering the current financial situation, and I doubt either the Yakumo lady or the shrine maiden would look kindly on us going after the few hermits and celestials left."
Since your mouth is, at this point, generally filled with food, you let her keep talking without interruption.
"I wonder where he is now. Most shinigami who were let go either faded away or tried to blend into human society. But a kishin...a clerk of the court could become one in a mortal court, a receptionist to hell can become one for a hotel, and if I were to be let go I could just ply my craft on another river. All a kishin knows to do is kill and torture."
Same emphasis on the same word.
"What about yamas then?" You empty your mouth long enough to ask.
"Yamas...yamas are like gods. Stop fearing them enough and they'll go back to being plain old jizou. That's what happened to the other eight who didn't have jurisdiction over Gensokyo. So now there is only one." She punctures the last words with a sing-song voice, "Can't say I'm too sad about those old fogies. Perhaps a higher power dictated that Eiki be the one to survive..."
"But the Perfect Memento In Strictest Sense said..."
"It's wrong. Eiki had that part written in to cover up for the fact that there is only one yama left. There is only one shift of judgment, and we have no idea what goes on in Hell anymore besides what the souls we pull up to run the stands on the Road tell us. Someone, or something, is doing the torturing, but it sure ain't kishin and oni."
"That sounds a bit...irresponsible."
"Actually, we figured that the Yakumo lady made a deal with Eiki to import Western demons for Hell. Not like I'm complaining, none of us want to work the racks and chains, or know how to."
Gulping down the last of the stew, you walk over to the stream to wash the pot and bowl, noting that Komachi's bowl and spoon has disappeared.
"And nobody stays in Hell anymore. We don't get any major criminals anymore. Sure, there's the occasional murderer of passion and obnoxious outsider, but nothing that warrants more than ten years before we wipe them and throw them in the well to be born again, hopefully as a better being. Say, didn't you just send three down yesterday?"
"Did you read my soul for that too?"
"Nope, part of their confession was that they were killed by another outsider, one reeking with chemicals. I doubt there's more than one toxic vigilante running around Gensokyo."
"Save the flattery," you grumble, "I burned a good chunk of my supplies saving those kids."
"It'll count as a good mark on your record, if it matters to you. Oh, are you going now?" She sits up as you begin packing the stove back into your backpack.
"I'd love to stay and talk, Miss Onozuka, but my boss is going to be angry if I take too long getting back."
"Right, your job. Just take it easy, no reason to kill yourself. If you can drop by the Sanzu and holler, there's something I think you would be interested in."
You stop and turn, "And what would that be?"
Komachi gives a wicked smile and loudly whispers, "Dark spider lilies, gorged with poison. There's a whole patch of them."
More poison, you could always use more poison. "I'll keep that in mind. Shouldn't you be heading along too?"
"Nah, the sky's clear and the air is sweet. I think it's a good time for a nap."
=============================== Time: 3:00 PM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Human Village, Eientei Clinic Threat Level: 0
It took you another 40 minutes of trekking before reaching the village. Komachi was surprisingly nice, a bit too nice, and she understood your personality way more than a stranger would. Still, you expect a shinigami who ferried souls for a century to have superhuman people skills, if only by excessive idle chatting.
The first thing you take note of as you enter the street the clinic is on is the small crowd of outsiders clustering around the door. The (likely expensive) traditional formal wear most of them are dressed in and the resumes (hand-written even!) they are holding likely indicates that they are trying to follow you in your footsteps. Strange, for there is no "HIRING" sign on the storefront, only a "CLOSED" one hanging on the closed shutters.
Wait, "CLOSED"? You check your watch. It's only around 3:00 PM. There's no way a store, much less one run by youkai, would close this early.
Making your way pass the outsiders, most of whom intelligently decide to give you a wide berth due to the fact that you resemble a walking supply depot, a supply depot also partially stained with dried bear blood. Fiddling around with the oddly-shaped clinic key, you step into the empty room.
"Are the interviews starting yet?" Someone yells from the crowd.
"I'm not responsible for hiring, ask Miss Udongein." You reply before closing the door.
Setting down the basket of mushrooms, you notice a handwritten note lying on the counter with your name on it, with a photo clipped on. "Mr. Wu. The clinic has been closed for the day due to unforeseen problems. You have been credited with six working hours. There are no more tasks for the day."
"On an unrelated note, have you seen Princess Kaguya (picture attached) around anywhere? Master wishes to ask her about why a large section of the bamboo forest burned down when Lady Fujiwara hasn’t been seen for three weeks. Use the concealed comms link inside your armband. Sorry for not telling you about it earlier."
The photo depicts a breathtakingly beautiful young woman with long black hair, one with features more fit for a painting than the real world. Of course, it's a picture of her slurping up a bowl of noodles, but you can't deny that there is a certain elegance to it. It would be hard missing someone like her, but with your lack of mobility and knowledge of the local geography, you doubt you can help much.
"No more tasks for the day."
Looks like it’s time to continue touring Gensokyo. First you ought to return the books Keine told you to and then pay a visit to Conner to tune up your shoddy equipment, but later...
[ ] Hakurei Shrine [ ] Senkai (Taoist temple) [ ] Road of Liminality (Shops run by the dead, frequented by humans and youkai alike) [ ] Village Canal Zone (Conduit for youkai traveling to the village)
<Mir> Hold on. <Mir> Where the hell do you FIND the humans to feed the youkai? <Mir> I mean, assuming you youkai are not just kidnapping and eating random people off the street <~Blue> Death rows <~Blue> Mass graves <~Blue> The occasional war criminal <~Blue> We're not murderers, you know <Mir> Is there like a processing plant for this? <~Blue> ... <~Blue> Maybe <Spice> human meat is overrated <Spice> it's just smellier pork <Spice> or maybe it was because the one I tried was contaminated with Politburo corruption <~Blue> You're not a youkai <~Blue> You wouldn't notice its peculiarities <~Blue> And you need to be more careful with those assassinations ============================================================ [x] Hakurei Shrine
You leave the basket behind and open up the door again. The faces of the twenty or so Outsiders waiting for a job interview beam back at you. Each one of them radiates a sort of naive optimism that seem disproportionate with how meek and inappropriate they are for the position they are seeking. Their smooth hands and only recently sunburned skin tells of easy living. Not that you are exactly in good physical condition either, but at least you can wield a gun and knife with a degree of proficiency and actually identify herbs.
"We really are closed for the day. Come back tomorrow." You announce. Loud grumbling and sighing arise from the crowd, but they disperse without incident.
Now, for your own errands...
Time: 2:20 AM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Human Village, Suzanaan Threat Level: 0
The shop is still closed, but now there is a wooden box laid outside with a slot in the front marked "Returns", apparently set up just today, judging by the fresh stone chips laying around. Seeing how it looks to be secured to the ground and thus not a ruse of some sort, you remove the rented textbooks from your backpack and shunt them through one by one.
Time: 2:30 AM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Human Village, Conner's Workshop Threat Level: 0
The clustered workshop used by Conner and Rikako seems to also double as living quarters, albeit ones not intended for long-term use. Two separate hammocks are strung up among the numerous shelves and crates of mechanical parts one side of the shop, while the other is mostly taken up by large, complicated-looking machine tools, ranging from the familiar lathe to devices you are sure defy at least three separate laws of physics upon close inspection, such as a mill machine with its cutters suspended freely in the air. Large windows ventilate the building, thankfully, as they have not gotten around to making an air conditioner yet.
The generator which fulfills the building's power requirements sits outside among a pile of coal, firewood, clay pots with the kanji character for "fire" written on, and other objects of more indiscernible origins. Apparently it is both a generator and a furnace according to the inscriptions on its front, though exactly how it functions is lost to you, as your biomedical and chemistry experience obviously did not cover thaumaturgical reactions. Even if you did know, you can't get close enough to check, as the yard is strewn about with broken wagons, wheels, and other sorts of machinery tagged as to-dos for their paying job, alongside the broken piles of simpler metal items which are the responsibility of the elderly village blacksmith who shares this plot of land. This build-up of work orders leaves you with only a narrow path to access the house proper from the entrance.
"Hmm? You want him to take a look at your equipment?" A rather disheveled Rikako inquires as she greets you at the door, her dyed purple hair still dripping wet from a recent wash. "I'm afraid he is non-functional at the moment," she explains as she gestures towards the large lump weighing down one of the hammocks. "But perhaps I can see what could be done."
Seeing no real objections, you hand over the guns.
"A Lunarian rifle? Didn't know they gave these out," Rikako remarks with a mixture of surprise and disappointment as she examines the weapon, eyeing the barrel and testing the bolt assembly, "Especially not to outsiders."
"Miss Udongein alleged that it is an antiqued practice model, with its only distinguishing characteristic being a magical homing mechanism built in onto the stocks."
"Really? I'm an engineer, not a magician, so I wouldn't risk tampering around with her setup. Lunarian equipment is extremely finicky, and the last one I tried tampering around with somehow managed to produce a miniature black hole before overloading and blowing up."
"But I thought they didn't share these..."
She hands you back the rifle and passes over the pistol to the shotgun. "Ah, outsider gear, something that follows the laws of physics. It's one of those scatterguns, right?"
"A shotgun? Indeed it is."
Her previously neutral countenance disappears as a realization-induced grin grows on her face "I know just what it needs!" She saunters over to the side of the room, takes out what looks to be a remote control and presses a button.
Something begin moving from one of the nearby piles in the room, and you realize that what you initially perceived to be a junk heap is actually a heap of robotic constructs, garishly designed and painted quite similarly to the now-consumed Flower Tank. With a couple more button presses, what appears to be vocal commands, and a swift wrench swing on an unresponsive model, Rikako is able to get seven to start picking up seemingly random metal parts and welding them onto the shotgun, which is now suspended on a vise on the shop's main workbench.
"Miss Asakura?" You ask after staring in amazement for a while at the constructs' surprising ability to not run repeatedly into walls, "What exactly are you building?"
"Scatterguns generally have two barrels." She states rather matter-of-factly, "I'm just making up for that absence on your weapon, while doing it in a way that synergizes well with your tactics."
"Well, the 'fighting style'" she emphasizes with air quotes, "you used in your fight with Miss Mononobe yesterday. Which appears to be throwing your chemical bombs at the problem to try to make it go away, before injecting yourself with drugs and foolishly charging into melee against a shikaisen. I mean, come on, they have dexterity on-par with at least the greatest human martial artist."
"And that attachment you're building is?"
"Conner calls it an 'under slung grenade launcher', but really it's just a launcher. Stuff anything in there that's within the limit of its diameter and it'll fire when you pull the trigger, given that you let the solar battery accumulate enough energy to do so. There's also a universal priming mechanism built in the side, but I personally won't use it too much."
"And that is because?"
Rikako shifts her glasses in a way that blocks off view of her eyes with glare. "It's a prototype, that also uses a teeny tiny bit of magic. Which is why we're not charging you for this augment." She gives a slightly malicious grin and tilts her head, "You are our testing subject, and given your previous relationship with the professor, I take this is not something new."
Recalling the numerous times Conner used his position to coax you into non-regulated experiments in exchange for extra credit, most notably one involving the now legendary "Stab-Bot 3000", you nod. "But of course, Miss Asakura, I would gladly take this grenade launcher that can easily blow up in my face. Now where can I find a lawyer to sign my will."
"Oh Ming, you're so funny," she laughs as she plucks the finished shotgun, which now looks like it has an dark glass barrel shroud in the front due to the solar panels installed, "But don't worry, Conner made sure that the design has a fairly reliable failsafe. You are his student after all!"
You check the mechanisms, noting that Rikako's robots at least did oil and de-rust the gun in addition to attaching the sketchy device, an impressive feat considering the entire process took under five minutes. "Thank you Miss Asakura, I appreciate being part of a scientific study. As usual."
============================================================ Time: 3:15 AM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Hakurei Shrine Threat Level: 0
Figuring that you won't be doing a lot more fighting or wilderness hiking today, you ditched the relatively heavy rifle, along with the camping supplies, in your inn suite. In turn you purchased a small pot of cold noodles along with chilled tea, figuring that Reimu would probably appreciate the gesture.
You probably would not have to do any more work either.
Trekking back up the dirt path, you see that the burnt out ruins of the shrine have been removed, chopped up and are in the process of being repurposed as trail steps to facilitate easier travel. As you clear the hill onto the small plateau where the shrine is located, you can see, through the torii that marks the entrance to the shrine grounds, long lines of mud bricks lying across the courtyard, only dwarfed by the giant piles of soil and straw that are covered with etched runes. In the same jerky, spontaneous manner that Marisa's magical circle repaired the basket, the pile coughs up a new brick, which is set aside by a red-white figure which you now immediately recognize as Reimu. Closer to the shrine, however, is another figure which you do not recognize. This one is casually floating around, carrying a load of metal beams which are shoved one by one into the ground to act as structural supports. Though you wager that the beams are being placed in the locations of the shrine's old supports, it is still supernatural strength to be able to carry about a metric ton of weight like that.
"Hey Mr. Wu!" You see Reimu wave at you, clad in an apron over what looks to be a simpler version of her regular outfit, "What did you show up here for?"
"Eientei closed shop early today, so I thought I'd drop by and say hello..."
"Great! I could really use an extra hand here."
With a graceful twirl, Reimu suddenly appears to cross out of existence from her position. Before you can overcome your stunned state at her disappearance, she pops right out beside you, taking advantage of your surprise to lock your arm in a death-grip and begin dragging you over to the courtyard.
"It is really nice of you to show up, Mr. Wu. Most of my friends are 'preoccupied' with their own little projects...oh stop screaming."
"What the hell was that?!" You ask before dutifully shutting your mouth.
The shrine maiden gives a dismissive shrug, "I thought you were well read in Gensokyean lore. Like most other important landmarks, the shrine ground has a barrier around it, a barrier which permits free use of my manipulation techniques. See?" Briefly letting go of your arm, she twirls again, and materializes at the entrance torii. Without stopping her movement, she ends up back beside you. "Easy."
This time you paid more attention, and note that during the teleportation, Reimu appears to be sliding through an invisible edge of some sort, and sliding out the other side at the other location. It is rather hard to tell, however, as the shrine maiden, otherwise human in all regards, moves with an inhumanly lithe grace. This, compounded with the fact that even her work clothes are designed in a way that the slightest movement would bring up the hems of her outer clothing, makes the twirls resemble the blossoming of a red and white flower, or perhaps a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. Actually, not the butterfly, butterflies look really stupid when they come out of their cocoons.
"Now, back to the important part. So I could really use a helping hand here, as Mima isn't exactly the most diligent of workers. It's probably because she's been sleeping long enough that outsiders are surprised she still exists."
"Hey, I heard that!" The figure working on the supports calls back, in the grumpy and tired tone of somebody too eager to go back to sleep, and only now do you notice that the figure is sporting a head of long, green hair. Otherwise, however, you wouldn't have suspected for a moment that it is Mima, considering how she is dressed in a rather plain blue robe under her working apron, and clearly has feet. Then again, she did have feet in the later games. "You would also be sleeping that much if you have tasted life for as long as I did." She shakes her head, "Shrine maidens these days have no respect for their seniors."
She has the bearing of a statue, you note, and a visage that is of the type normally reserved for evil queens and backstabbing concubines. Which makes it even more odd when you realize just how inoffensive Mima otherwise looks, as her rumpled hair and exhausted movements looks remarkably unbefitting of an evil spirit.
"Mr. Wu, this is Mima, who currently uses my shrine as her hibernation pod and also answers prayers on the rare occasion somebody shows up here to visit the shrine, because the actual god here is somehow lazier than she is. Mima, this is Mr. Wu, who I think is a doctor-in-training who apparently moonlights as a vigilante."
You bow, "I am pleased to meet you, Miss, uh..."
"It's just Mima, kid." She tilts her head in response, her mouth curled into a dissatisfied frown under her emerald green eyes, "There is no need for such pointless decorum when addressing somebody who was born in a time when there were no last names and no shrine maidens. Now before you ask: Yes, I did mentor the Kirisame girl on the basic aspects of magic a while back and no, I do not know who 'Shinki', 'Yumemi' or any of these other people, who are apparently in the same computer games I appeared in, are. In fact, I've been to Makai frequently and I have never met anyone with those names that match the descriptions."
You pause with your finger in the air. "Well, okay then."
Reimu clears her throat, "Now we got the introductions down, Mr. Wu, would you kindly lend the strength of your exoskeleton in laying the bricks on the walls?"
"Why should I..."
"If you would like to have a beacon to contact the shrine with, you know, in the off chance that a giant feral youkai is trying to bite your head off."
=================================== Time: 5:15 AM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Hakurei Shrine Threat Level: 0
The blazing afternoon sun continues to rain down heat and light from the cloudless sky, though tempered by the fact that it is beginning to go towards the horizon.
Your sweat-soaked clothes and silk body armor sit soaking in a washing bin alongside the collapsed exoskeleton. You have stripped down to just your cargo shorts, revealing the full extent of the scratches, bruises, and mosquito bites you have collected over the day on your out of shape form. Now you can see some of the merits of Reimu's seemingly ridiculous outfit, as the detached sleeves and loose vest permit airflow in such a hot climate.
"I never thought you wanted to explore Western architecture, Miss Hakurei." You ask as you examine the adobe brick wall which took you two hours to set and mortar.
"It's not western, it's cheap. Besides, I'm getting tired of traditional construction, too drafty and flammable." Reimu responds, taking a seat on the stone steps and only now noticing the provisions you've carried up here.
"Of course it is, feel free." You answer as you find a comfortable spot on the steps and sit, pulling out a bottle of sake, thankfully still chilled. Mima, who has been ignoring you for most of the time you were working save to occasionally tell you to move out of the way, glides down and picks a seat on your right before plucking her own bottle out. Reimu goes straight for the noodles after a hurried "thank you", and begins devouring the food at the fastest pace possible without making a mess.
And so you three sit there for a few moments, quietly enjoying the refreshments and the humming of the cicadas.
"I've never asked you this, Mr. Wu, but why did you cross the border?" Reimu says to you after the fourth bowl, "You do not seem to share the motivations common among most other outsiders."
"It's summer vacation, of course I'd go somewhere interesting." You respond, "Maybe it isn't so much for you, but a land full of magic, untouched by the outside world is very interesting."
"Perhaps if you thought harder about your decision you would have chosen a destination less likely to render yourself deceased." Mima snarks at your comment.
"Well I'm still alive, am I not? Mima? Besides, according to outside world material, Gensokyo's supposed to be a peaceful, happy, cheerful place full of flying girls in frilly dresses where all the human-eating nastiness is swept under the rug."
As far as you are concerned, it's been quite a happy, if tiring, experience so far. But the outfits the individuals you met actually wear are a good deal less frilly and a good deal more pants-inclusive.
"Problem is kid, outsiders like you are whats under the rug, if you have not recognized the pattern already during your time here. Of course, if you had crossed just a couple years earlier..."
Your head perks up, "What do you mean, earlier?"
"Back when we first started dealing with the increased influx of outsiders," Reimu begins explaining, "Some groups, notably the Moriya Shrine, petitioned me to revise the spellcard rules to include outsiders within the rules. Kanako hoped that by keeping more of them alive, she could obtain more engineer types to fuel her Gensokyo Modernization Program."
"I agreed, of course. Her reasons were sound, and I'm hardly in a position to reject an amendment which benefits humans."
"I thought it was a stupid idea from the start," Mima remarks, scowling, "Most outsiders shouldn't have been here in the first place, and keeping them around only leads to trouble."
"But you were hibernating most of the time, which is why your opinion wasn't noted." Reimu counters, "In any case, the youkai made a small fuss over being denied a food source, but Yukari, who also agreed to the plan for her own unknown reasons, began bringing in corpses and cattle on a regular and more frequent basis, which pacified that issue."
"And so how did it stop becoming law?"
Reimu sets down her bowl and picks up her gohei, "Mr. Wu, have you ever heard of empowered outsiders?"
"Let me explain this to you." She sketches a large circle in the dirt. "Let's say that this circle is the Barrier, and these," she draws many smaller circles within the large one. "Are the magical phenomenon and entities that define Gensokyo and are separated from the world. Now the Barrier is not perfect," Reimu rubs out some sections of the large circle, "And there are a couple of weak spots, such as my shrine, that permit easy crossings. The thing is that while it's easy for outsiders to cross through in the weak spots, it is even easier for entities from within Gensokyo to go outside. Sometimes it's a curious youkai, sometimes it's a glob of concentrated magic, sometimes it's spirits. Whenever this happens, outsiders that contact the excursion can be affected by the excursion and occasionally end up changed, being empowered. The powers and methods produced are variable, but universal among them are an affinity towards breaching the border and a rather inflated sense of pride."
"So you are saying that there are outsiders that can become magical. Wouldn't it be part of the purpose of Gensokyo to accept them in the first place?"
"You are indeed correct, if it were not for the fact that Gensokyo-related media has become quite popular in the outsider world. Enough so that, eight out of ten, the empowered outsider would also be an informed one, and shape his actions based on that rather than observation."
"If I may digress, Miss Hakurei, would I count as one?" You hesitantly ask, "Miss Futasisawa and Miss Houjuu have mentioned that my blood is that like that of a corpse, which is unnatural for a seemingly normal human."
Reimu looks at the bite marks on your bare arm, and shakes her head, "Mima, can you check? I was wondering the same myself."
"You?" The spirit stares at you for a few seconds, narrowing her emerald eyes as she stares into your head, "Nope, I don't see anything out of the ordinary. In fact, given how you said you were unable to cast the most basic spells spontaneously and how you actually have a legitimate utility use for your sword, I'd say that you are simply born with an aversion to magic, which is not an uncommon condition. The taste is probably a result of that and your frequent drug consumption."
"Continuing on. An empowered and informed outsider is a toxic combination, where they horribly overestimate their own capabilities and unwilling to learn more about the land they incur. Which produced some very, very bad incidents that I'm pretty sure were not published in the outside world."
"Yep," Mima chimes in, "There was this one time where the shrine collapsed again, waking me up. I thought it was some youkai starting another incident like the celestial, but I walked out and just see that the entire valley is covered in this thick black smoke. Turns out that it was a pair of empowered outsiders, one of whom outright tried to murder the younger satori for 'being a soulless monstrosity that would destroy Gensokyo', and got beaten down and incinerated by the hell raven. The other, more powerful one went crazy, chased the raven out of the underground and tore up about ten miles of valley farmland in his pursuit. I think it actually took Yukari to stop this one because of his mobility, and it took him two days, impaled through with seven road signs and screaming the whole time before finally dying."
"Ooooh, that doesn't sound good."
"At least those two thought they were doing good." Reimu sighs, "Remember those kidnappers you killed in the village? A good amount of the empowered are like them, feeling that just because Gensokyo's famous individuals are mostly female, they are entitled to a girlfriend. Many even thought this place was a giant harem..." She shudders at the word, "...just for them. One particular creep back in 2011 actually went as far as to break into Alice's house and tried to take advantage of her with a 'love potion' he conjured with his powers. Alice responded quite kindly, considering the circumstances."
"How so?" You abruptly remember that you forgot to swing by the doll maker’s house while in the Forest of Magic.
"She made his corpse into a large doll that she uses to clean out her yard until it decayed. So that the idiot got his wish to 'be with her'." She taps her chopsticks on the bowl as she recalls the story, "Of course, that was when Yukari got the idea to implement a bounty system. It was a simple setup: Whoever can produce the corpse or evidence of death of the marked one will be given a monetary or equivalent reward with a size proportionate to how big of a problem the target is. If more than one piece are delivered, then the prize is split equally. Villagers, youkai, even other outsiders all had a shot at the bounty. Except for me, because my duty is to exterminate youkai, not humans."
You think you almost hear a trace of jealousy and frustration in Reimu's voice at the last line.
"The first bounty put out was for an empowered outsider, of course, to the tune of 1000000 yen. He had a really strange English name that I can't remember, which I am certain is just as legitimate as yours, Mr. Wu Ming. Actually had a good deal of magical potential within him in the form of being possessed by multiple evil spirits. Magical potential he cannot control, of course."
"The same thing that happens to most dumb outsiders." Reimu gulps down another stickful of noodles, "We were going to give him the benefit of the doubt, seeing how he was younger than the usual outsider, but then he started making unreasonable demands to the kappa for impractical weaponry, which were shot down. Then he lost control of his powers and..."
"Destroyed the shrine, again," Mima begins talking over Reimu, "Somehow destroyed the vampire's mansion. And valiantly attempted to cross-examine the moon princess's immortality via the insertion of a sharp object...he was not the brightest lad. The main problem, though, were the spirits roosting within his head, which were each about as powerful as say, me. They were also almost never in the thrall of the lad's already questionable mind, so him being eliminated was only a matter of time. He went out badly, caught between almost twenty different bounty hunters in an ambush in the bamboo forest. He resembled a porcupine afterwards with all the weapons stuck in him, and turned out to be inedible after somebody broke their tooth on a bullet, much to the dismay of the youkai."
Reimu waits until Mima has stopped talking before continuing, "Also around this time, the Moriya shrine realized outsiders made terrible worshippers and withdrew the support of the amendment, which was quickly overwritten with a condition that stated that pointless or malicious outsiders may be caught and eaten without retaliation. To youkai, it means that any outsider not under the protection of the Village or other entity is free game."
She sets down the bowl and pops open the cork on a sake bottle, "Not that I mind. Without them, I have less cleanup jobs to do." ==================================
Time: 6:15 AM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Hakurei Shrine Threat Level: 0
The three of you continue to chat about lesser subjects until the sun is actually setting, when you see a figure appearing over the ridge, flying at an incredibly fast speed towards the shrine.
"Looks like we got another visitor." Reimu remarks, setting aside her now empty bottle.
The figure does not land, but rather glides over to the steps. A girl, wearing a black hood and a very pale blue and red western-style dress, but possessing no other distinguishable features other than the fact that she is Caucasian.
"Miss...Hakurei..." she clumsily bows, out of breath.
"Hmm? You?" Reimu stand up, "What are you..."
"Big...monster...in...Bamboo..Forest...." The new girl coughs and wheezes for a few seconds before regaining control of her respiration, "It is red, and the size of a house! And it's moving towards the Village."
"Red? Any distinguishing features?"
The girl shakes her head, "Not that I can tell. It looked like a giant mass of...something. There were tendrils tough, I think."
The shrine maiden claps her hands together. "Rest time's over, looks like we got a proper incident on our hands this time. Mr. Wu, I suppose you would like to tag along?"
You shrug, "I guess."
The spirit raises her hand as if to protest, but then seems to make a quick mental debate about the merits of staying behind. "Of course, Reimu, i would be glad to."
"So, Mr. Wu. You can't fly, but I do happen to have a charm that can negate that problem for the duration. Would you like that, or would you prefer to catch up on foot about ten minutes after we finish?"
Reimu has a point. Looking from here, the bamboo forest is a very long walk.
[ ] Hitch a ride, you finally get to fly! [ ] You'll walk, and probably grab a bike from Conner's.
[ ] If you have anything else you would like to do, ask or talk about(in-story), write it in:_________ =================================
[×] Hitch a ride, you finally get to fly! [×] So what's our game plan?
Plan? What Plan?
In all seriousness though, you do not actually feel prepared to participate in fighting all that much, seeing how your bullet output is negligible and your frilliness, non-existent. Plus, you don't feel like moving all that much.
You put on your mostly dried silk armor and exoskeleton and sling the shotgun over your shoulders. "Miss Hakurei, I'm ready to fly."
Reimu clasps her mouth with her hand as she studies your physique for a bit, "Hmm, I don't have any specific ones right now, but this should do." She removes two folded amulets, each unfolded to the size of a movie poster, and plasters one onto your chest and one onto your back.
"So," You flap your arms in your now sandwiched form, "How do I use this?"
The shrine maiden smirks, "You don't."
Before you can react, Reimu strikes a pose, points her ofuda in the direction of the bamboo forest, and recites an incantation. You suddenly feel the amulets clasp onto you and begin pulling you upwards, with an ever increasing force.
"Uh, Miss Hakurei?" You try to keep the panic from seeping into your voice, "I'll ask again, how am I supposed to..."
"Don't worry; it's a modified version of the seeking amulet. It will go exactly where I intended for it to go, so you won't go missing. I PROMISE!" She shouts the last phrase after you as your horizontal position leaves the shrine grounds.
After flailing about in mid-air for a while in what is essentially a rocket-propelled life vest, you get tired and consent to remaining immobile. The experience is much more like riding a zip line than actual flight, as the forces generated by the amulets tug on the rest of your body and you remain in an upright position in the mostly even and non-nausea inducing ride. You look down for a brief moment, and then immediately snap your head back up as the vertigo kicks in. The shrine is on a slope, after all, and even though you did not travel much vertically you are still looking down at a good one-fifty to two-hundred meter drop as you pass over the valley.
The speed of the amulets is fast, but not unreasonably so as you can still keep your eyes open. Looking around in front, you can see dots and distant figures, some noticeably larger than others, flying above your elevation. Looking back, you see three distinct figures following you, though not distinct enough to make out which one is which.
You soon pass over the village, and begin noticing your altitude lowering as the forest, now clearly a massive collection of bamboo grown to over ten times their normal size. You hear chitterings and the odd howl coming from inside, but nothing notably out of the ordinary. A faint glow very far into the forest may be Eientei, but at this distance it could be anything. In any case, you are too distracted by the sheer size of the bamboo growing on mana-filled roots, noting that a great deal of them could easily fit an entire person within their hollow cores.
Time: 6:30 PM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Bamboo Forest of the Lost Outskirts Threat Level: 4
Your distraction also causes you to not notice the amulets' fading glow until it's too late. So instead of landing with a theatrical roll or a determined crouch, your feet catches on a rock and you faceplant onto the grass, gasping for air as the wind is knocked out of you.
Luckily, you manage to get up and dust yourself off before Reimu and Co. lands.
"That was an...interesting experience Miss Hakurei...thank you for the ride." You hurried say as soon as Reimu touches the ground.
"Glad to see you appreciate it." The shrine maiden turns her attention to the hooded girl, "So it was around this sector of the Bamboo Forest where you saw the creature?"
The girl nods vigorously, "Yes of course! This is where I live and I saw it right through my window! It was big, fleshy, and..."
"You've already told me that. Alright, here's the plan." She tosses you a map (drawn in an archaic style, you note) and a compass, "If it is as described, if it goes further west it will be seen by the rabbits, if it goes east a farmer would have seen it, so we'll split up and cover the north and south boundaries of where it could be. Mima and I will head south along the stream, Kagerou and you will head north along the old wagon trail. Since you will have to walk, Mr. Wu, you'll be of more use on the side where it could have left actual trails."
"Kagerou? I mean, Miss Imaizumi?"
The girl glances at you, noting your confused expression, before sighing and lifting up her hood, revealing two wolfish ears jutting out from her long brown hair.
"It is I, Mr. Wu. I am glad to be of your acquaintance." She gives a slight bow.
Now that you think about it, her speech also did carry a hint of a French accent.
"As do I, Miss Imaizumi." You do the same.
Something tells you that she has not met many outsiders yet. She's too polite and humble, as she bowed first, and you can see from her stance that she is slightly wary of you.
"Are we done introducing? Good." Reimu interjects, prompting the two of you spring back upright, "We need to start now, before it becomes too dark for us humans to see anything and before the thing finds a hiding spot."
Time: 6:50 PM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Bamboo Forest of the Lost, Northern trail Threat Level: 4
"I thought you only turned into a wolf on the full moon, Miss Imaizumi." You ask the werewolf hovering alongside you, "Why the ears?"
"It's always been like this." She replies, keeping her head bent down in search of a scent, "Ever since I was bitten a part of the wolf has manifested on my person. In exchange, though, I can retain an aspect of control during a full moon, much like Miss Kamishirasawa."
The two of you have been searching the trail for twenty minutes, and there is no trace of the thing. You don't see anything, and Kagerou did not tell you that she picked up any unusual scents.
"Of course, this works both ways, sometimes the wolf manifests outside of a full moon...likewise, mostly under control."
You examine a snapped branch by the side of the trail, and recover no useful information from it.
"You don't get a lot of visitors here in the woods, do you?"
She counts off a few of her fingers, "Miss Fujiwara and Miss Kamishirasawa drops by my cottage every so often, besides them some of the bamboo cutters from the village stop by for water on occasion. Of outsiders like you? Only three, and all of them were delirious with exhaustion after being lost in the forest for so long. I don't think I've talked with any of them though, since I just dumped them on the trail as soon as I found them."
You stare at her with an eyebrow raised, eliciting an embarrassed giggle.
"Maybe with a few small chunks of flesh missing from their hindquarters and thighs. Nothing large, and I always properly clean and bandage the wounds afterwards. I mean, it's better to keep some jerky around rather than run the risk of going hungry on a full moon, wouldn't you say?"
You shrug, "I don't mind. It's the way Gensokyo works, I guess. I just wished that people would be more straightforward about it."
"You're the one running around with a pseudonym, Mr. Wu," she lightly retorts, "You would know the value of deception. Sometimes one has to be able to throw it all away and leave your home for foreign soil, taking on a foreign language and a foreign name...you would know the value of that, outsider."
You notice her fingering her amulet as she talks. Unlike the rest of her relatively plain outfit, the amulet she wears as the brooch of her dress is of an elaborate design, woven with a delicate golden pattern encircling a massive ruby the size of a goose egg.
"Outsider? You might want to lo--never mind."
Because of that, you did not notice the deformation in the trail in front of you until you have already tripped and fell onto the dirt.
Groaning, you pick yourself off the ground, before noticing that the pattern in front of you is awfully familiar, as are the line of knocked down bamboo stalks in its way.
"Tread marks, again? Miss Imaizumi, you said that what you saw was a red, fleshy thing, right?"
"Indeed, and what is this 'tank' you speak off--" she is abruptly cut off as an explosion sounds off in the distance, directly in the way the tank was apparently heading.
"I got this. Stay behind me." Figuring that the tank was something you know better than the werewolf, you take point and begin moving towards the source of the sound at an accelerated pace.
It took two minutes before Kagerou reports a strange, unidentifiable scent, and five minutes before you picked up on a faint smell, one vaguely reminiscent of dried corpses, and ten minutes before you blunder through a thicket to stand, staring in shock at the thing in front of you.
The tank is there alright, but its already monstrous presence is dwarfed by the thing that is slowly trying to engulf it. While the tank is the size of a truck, this thing has to be at least the size of a large house. And it is hard to tell what it is supposed to resemble, as the closest you can get is "large jellyfishes melted together with several very large translucent sacs sticking out." But even that is not enough to fully describe the quivering mass that is currently before you. To say it came out of a nightmare would be inaccurate, as you doubt even the most twisted sapient would not be able to imagine such a monstrosity. The red, pulsating mass bristling with tendrils of all sizes is not exactly fearful or terrifying as much as wrong, much like the dead pixels on a computer screen, this thing looks as though it shouldn't have been reality to begin with. The tank was apparently incapacitated enough that it was making no loud sounds, as it was more or less silent before you came into the clearing, but as soon as you showed up the vehicle begins blaring a message on repeat.
"POSITION OVERRUN. EVACUATE AREA. POSITION OVERRUN. EVACUATE AREA. POSITION OVERRUN. EVACUATE AREA..."
"Outsider, what is that sound coming from?" Kagerou calls over as she emerges from the thicket behind you, "It kind of sounds like...oh, you've found it."
Both of you take another second to stare at the abomination in front of you, and then begin screaming as a couple of the thing's tendrils are extending towards your direction.
[ ] Back off first and call for help, you cannot hope to handle this without the other two, assuming they show up in time. [ ] Throw everything you got at it while calling for help, maybe you can slow and weaken it enough so that you don't have to run before Reimu and Mima show up. - [ ] You've studied medicine! Surgically cut off the tendrils that look the most structurally vulnerable! - [ ] Blades won't do much, perhaps "surgical" application of incendiaries and white phosphorus would work better.
[ ] Ask Kagerou to back off [ ] Ask Kagerou to ________
Time: 6:30 PM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: UN Refugee Camp near Al Fashir, Darfur, Sudan Threat Level: N/A
Charuni Ahmed only ever wanted a quiet life. As such, she only cared for the simpler things of life, unlike many of her neighbors who tried to get their hands on as many imported widgets as they can. As such, she did not know how the blacksmith works metal, only that he does it well. She also did not know why the militias burned down her village, but does know that it was God's blessing that she and her family survived. It is also a blessing that she has the sorghum flour she is now making into dough for the evening flatbread. It was not due to lack of intellect or laziness that she is so, as she had done very well in the school when it was still standing. It is mainly a result of a conscious choice to ignore the more troubling aspects of the world. As she saw it, the troubles, the razing of her home, all of it is due to people caring too much for complicated things like politics and money.
As such, she does not know why these 'Clear Sky' people choose to help them, only that they are doing a good job. Their soldiers never seem to raise their voice, in fact, some of them do not seem to speak at all. Most of them wear masks of some sorts, but with some of those that do not, she sees sharp teeth and bestial eyes.
She does not know why. Perhaps they eat a lot of meat in their foreign homeland. It does not matter, they do not act violently towards the refugees except in self-defense and are act respectfully around the refugees. One of them had set up a barbecue pit near the center of the camp, though the Indigo lady made him close it for whatever reason.
A shame, Charuni thinks, the meat he had looked good.
They are not exactly starving for supplies, any more, not after they came, but meat is still a luxury.
The Indigo lady is their leader, of course. A woman, quite shapely too. Women normally are not in charge of armies, so it is strange watching her order the uniformed troops to do things. Stranger still is how she plays with the children, whose normally jaded countenances warmed up to her almost immediately, when she is not occupied, very strange indeed.
It is also strange as though they look like soldiers, most of them do not carry weapons, in fact, the only weapon she saw was the one the strange lavender-haired girl pulled out earlier. It is odd how she could wield something of that size on her delicate frame. Perhaps she had been training from an early age, like many of those in the militias. She even has the hollow-eyed look like those child soldiers.
Charuni considers herself lucky that her son, Tahir, did not end up in a militia. That he has survived to be able to be playing along with the other children across the designated plaza where she is currently kneading dough is another blessing in itself.
That Indigo woman is there too, performing parlor tricks for the fascinated children. Even though she is pale, she wears a keffiyeh just like the residents of this area, and never seems to take it off.
"Mommy!" She hears Tahir yell. Looking up, she sees him run towards her, clutching his right arm, "A rock cut me!"
Charuni kneels down and takes hold of the arm, "You really ought to be careful, dear," she scolds as she begins cleaning the shallow scrape on her son's elbow. "So what were you doing over there?"
"The fox-lady was doing amazing things! She had a saw, and she cut right through her arm with it! But there was no blood, and even when the saw went all the way through, her arm was still there! Do you know how she did that, mommy?"
"Sorry dear, I don't know how she...wait, fox-lady?"
"And her tails are so fluffy! Mommy, can you grow tails like her too?"
Charuni glances over again at Indigo, and is surprised to see the other woman staring directly back at her. They mutually share the gaze for a second, then Indigo gives a brief, knowing smile. For an instant, Charuni suddenly sees that the group of children seated to Indigo's side are laughing and playing with...some things, some large, yellow, and furry things. Long things that extend from Indigo's back.
She blinks. The yellow things are gone, and the children are again merely playing their own games in the dirt. Indigo has looked away to resume her performance, now concerned with making a rock levitate on her palm.
Charuni doesn't know how Indigo did that trick. She does not know why she is in charge. But she does know one thing.
Whatever she is, the woman doing an impromptu parlor performance across the courtyard is definitely not a human.
[X] Throw everything you got at it while calling for help, maybe you can slow and weaken it enough so that you don't have to run before Reimu and Mima show up. - [x] You've studied medicine! Surgically cut off the tendrils that look the most structurally vulnerable!
[X] Throw everything you got at it while calling for help, maybe you can slow and weaken it enough so that you don't have to run before Reimu and Mima show up. - [x] You've studied medicine! Surgically cut off the tendrils that look the most structurally vulnerable!
Time 6:50 PM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: UN Refugee Camp near Al Fashir, Darfur, Sudan Threat Level: N/A
"Sign up with us they said. We'll pay you $8000 a month with no taxes they said. It's all low-risk responsibilities they said. There is almost no chance of combat they said."
Tamir Itzkowitz, IDF veteran of twenty-five years and current Clear Sky mercenary, looks out from the watchtower. The surrounding desert is mostly still, as it appears that the disorganized nature of the janjaweed communications is unable to cope with the sudden annihilation of such a large force, although he doubts that their families have not noticed their sons' absences.
"I just wanted to have a nice quiet job where my credentials aren't completely wasted. Like a warehouse guard or embassy lookout. Not this."
"I really don't understand what you are complaining about, human. These cowardly bandits are little more than rats in how they fight, no good for anything than...scaring the villagers around here? I don't know."
Saitou, bovine youkai of a hundred years who currently still has not picked a last name, leans out on the post along with Tamir. His English is erratic in pace and horrid in accent, and yet remains mostly grammatically correct, at least to the extent that the human mercenaries in the group can understand him.
"We're humans, we do not enjoy the idea of having guns pointed in our general direction. Not even if we are hardened warriors. They had us believe that we were going to be doing mostly non-eventful runs, not this." He waves his hand at the smoldering pile of corpses in the distance. "Definitely not this."
"Miss Indigo's never been one for honesty. She was not last millennium, she wouldn't be for this one. Heck, I'm surprised she actually told you humans about our...dietary needs".
"The cannibalism part would have been impossible to cover up..."
"You'd be surprised at what a magic user of that caliber could do if she wants too. It is really rather odd for her to be so honest about such a potentially dangerous subject. Cigarette?"
"Sorry, I don't smoke, I don't have regenerative lungs like you do." Tamir quipped, arousing a smile from Saitou.
"Ah, it must be quite dull as a human in the Outside World, with so many dangerous things to worry about and to avoid."
"And your land does not?"
"Beyond exceptional incidents, I would say it is actually quite peaceful." ========================================= Time: 6:50 PM Date: June 27, 20XX Location: Bamboo Forest of the Lost Threat Level: 9
You cannot tell which of you gave out that yell. Quite possibly it was the both of you at the same time. You take off first, seeing Kagerou take off after you one second later after conjuring a blindingly bright red flare into the sky, about a second after that, you see her ten meters in front of you as she flies at a speed your legs, even with the aid of the exoskeleton, cannot possibly reach. Looking back, you see that the fleshy abomination is closing in, not lurching or sliding along the ground like a snake or slug, but rather flowing through and around the trees with its amorphous mass, much like a large ocean wave. In both form AND speed, as even with your legs sprinting at full tilt, with the metallic sections of the exoskeleton audibly groaning under the sudden strain, the abomination is getting closer to you.
You rip out a white phosphorus canister from your bandolier and tear out the pin with your teeth. Praying that the crude ignition system you built functions, you toss it over your shoulder, hearing it detonate three seconds later. Briefly looking back, you see the abomination emerging out of the deadly white mist, with many of its tendrils blackened and sizzling as they react with the volatile chemical. However, much to your horror, the things does not slow down as a result, or even appear to acknowledge the damage.
"By the moon you're slow!" You hear Kagerou shout from above you right before you feel a violent tug on your collar. You cough as the air is choked out of you, and reach up, expecting to feel a tentacle of some sort, only to come upon a patch of rough fur. Raising your head, you catch a glob of saliva right in the eye as you behold the massive ivory fangs your collar is hanging off of.
Still, compared to the tide of pulsating flesh closing in, the car-sized wolf carrying you with its mouth is not really all that scary. You emit only a fearful squeak instead of a terrified scream.
"Miss...Miss Imaizumi? Is...is that you? I-" You begin to say, before a branch from one of the massive bamboo stalks swats you in the face.
You receive no answer as you shake off the pain from the impact. Then you realize that since the wolf is holding you by its mouth, it can't really reply.
Chase and escape scenes are only impressive when viewed from the third-person. For you, it is a nauseous, painful blur, particularly with the way the wolf is tugging on your collar. It is lucky that you are wearing the silken armor, for your less-than-desirable body weight would have ripped regular clothing apart.
Which is why you barely noticed the explosion that ripped you away until you smack straight into a bamboo trunk.
The shockwave tears through the air, inciting a howl of pain from the wolf as it drops you. You horizontal velocity carries you forward, sending you colliding into the aforementioned trunk with your left shoulder in the front. A sharp, severe pulse of pain courses through your body as you hear a sharp crack, before gravity overcomes your initial momentum and sends you tumbling down onto the ground.
Luckily, the second impact lands you in a patch of soft loam, which combined with the exoskeleton's halfway decent cushioning capacities nets you no more than a few light bruises. You clamber up, barely managing to reach into your medikit with your good hand and injecting your shoulder with a sweet dose of painkillers. Your left arm is currently hanging at an impossible angle, and you suspect that it is likely broken rather than merely dislocated.
You suddenly notice a glittering object on the ground in front of you. A branch, in fact, coated with glittering round jewels in place of leaves. It is lying half-buried in a pile of what looks to be the abomination's mass, and judging by the twitching, likely is. You prod the mass with your boot, and seeing how it does not respond, you grab the branch and wrench it free from the mass.
"Miss Imaizumi?! Miss Hakurei?! Anybody?" You call out, as you can see nothing moving in your immediate area. Silence, and then faint booming sounds to the north, answering your query.
As you limp-jog towards the source (the exoskeleton offering a surprisingly large amount of mobility despite your injury), you hear not just the booming sound getting louder, but also sharp cracks, chimes, and howls, not to mention explosions and the hollow sound of debris being flung against bamboo trunks.
You realize that you had never actually saw lethal magic being wielded prior to this incident, and after you round a five-meter wide bamboo trunk and see the fight going down in the clearing, you don't really think you would want to.
For example, it took you quite a while to realize that the red mass dashing from bamboo stalk to bamboo stalk is actually Kagerou, her fur covered entirely in gore as she rips through chunk after chunk of the abomination's mass, leaping off only just in time to avoid a lashing tendril. Mima is hovering at a moderate distance above, pausing for dozens of seconds to draw a series of complex runes in the air before sending a massive gout of flame, a searing bolt of lightning, or a swarm of black projectiles at the abomination, each spell sending a resonating heat blast that staggers even you, standing at a good distance away. Reimu isn't nearly as cautious, though, preferring instead to unleash her flood of explosive amulets and stunning needles from within the danger zone, blinking away with a twirl whenever a tendril got close.
The abomination isn't going easy either. It appears that in addition to its uncountable tendrils, it had commandeered the tank's control and is using it to blast at its assailants with explosive shells, albeit haphazardly and not with precision. But every now and then you hear a sharp crack and a slow grinding groan as a bamboo stalk falls down. And of course, its considerable mass is eating up most of the shots, seemingly without difficulty. In fact, it appears that it has not taken much damage at all, as the slimy, undulating thing actually looks like it is growing back lost substance.
"Mr. Wu!" You hear Mima call out to you, "You survived?"
"Yeah, a little roughed up, but I'm alive," you grimace at your crooked arm, “Thank god. I found this though!"
Taking out the branch, you hold it up with your one good hand, allowing the clumped jewels growing on the wood to twinkle in the flashing lights of the battle.
Mima, being the only one not being completely occupied, takes a few seconds to stare at the artifact.
"Where in the world did you find that?!" she shouts over the din.
"I found it lying in a clump of the thing's substance; I think it got blown out along with a chunk of the thing's mass when something exploded."
"But that means...Everyone! Get away!"
She quickly etches another twenty lines onto the rune she was drawing and casts it. This time, instead of a swarm of dark projectiles, she sends out an enormous clump of shadowy ropes which swarm along the surface of the abomination. It attempts to flow through them, only to find each pseudopod held back by a newly moved restraint as Mima channels pulse after pulse of energy into the spell. Both of the other combatants retreat as the magical bindings takes hold, sealing the abomination in place.
At least for a while.
"What are you thinking Mima?" Reimu shouts as she blinks down after Mima, who slowly descends down, carefully maintaining her control over the spell as she does so, "You know that after casting this you can't...Mr. Wu, what are you holding?"
You stare at the branch for a few more moments, before realization dawns on you, "This is the Jeweled Branch of Hourai, isn't it."
"And you located it off a separated clump of this beast," Mima interjects, not keeping her eye off of the channeled spell, "What this indicates is fairly obvious."
You gesture at the quivering red blob, "You mean, this is Kagu...Miss Houraisan?"
"Not necessarily, it is far more likely that the beast consumed her. Though, given my knowledge of the Hourai Elixir, somebody who drank that cannot truly be digested or consumed in any way."
"So you mean..."
"The lunarian princess is likely still trapped inside, yes."
"So are you suggesting that we carve her out?"
Mima looks at you as if you just ate an entire bowl of paste. "No Mr. Wu, I am sure your generous intellect came up with a better idea."
"No, what I am asking is, how? You know, with the regeneration?"
"Don't you have white phosphorus? Just use that to burn out the channel as you have Miss Kagerou carve through."
"But they're grenades, and even with this armor I can't really not burn to death."
"I got it." Reimu says, pulling out a set of spellcards, "If I cast...let's see...environmental, gaseous, heat...three of these barriers on you and Miss Imaizumi, then you should be able to go through with no problem."
You look at the giant wolf beside you, who merely nods her sizeable head up and down in acknowledgement.
The thing emits a groaning sound, and begins to wobble. Mima grits her teeth as she feeds yet another wave of energy into the shadow shackles.
"Make haste, you three; even I cannot keep this up much longer."
Reimu begins a ritual dance and chant as she casts the spells on you and Kagerou. With each cast, you feel like another layer of plastic film is spread over your entire body, though there is no physical indication. With the final cast, a chill goes through, as if a bucket of freezing water was just dumped over you.
"There, it is done; I still have a few rolls of explosive amulets left, so take them. Read off the runes for a detonation after you prime one. I'll stay here and help Mima sustain the cage, sorry, I am not a very good digger."
"Thank you." You take the rolls of paper and strap them onto your bandolier. Then you take in a deep breath, walk up next to the thing, and jam the first one in, carefully avoiding the strands of shadow. You figure that they'll likely eviscerate you or something if you touch them.
It has been seven minutes since you began the digging with Kagerou.
The vaguely fluorescent mass of the abomination has the consistency of heavily rotten flesh, and smells so much like it that you decided to put on your gas mask, even though it is already difficult enough for you to get enough oxygen. You have no idea how Kagerou, with her innately sensitive sense of smell, can stand this, much less dig in with her claws and teeth.
Given the size of the abomination, you got a bit lost. It was only after you blew an entire canister's worth of white phosphorus and two explosive amulets that you and Kagerou realized the hard chunk she was poking around was actually the turret of the entangled tank. Still, by his point you feel that you are getting closer, as the "flesh" you encounter is beginning to regenerate much faster than the outer layers. Before you char them black with a good dose of WP, of course.
Urgency is provided by the increasingly powerful rumblings as Mima's spell weakens.
It is rather nerve-wracking handling the canisters, what with the Willy Pete being so close to your skin and everything. But everything goes along mostly smoothly. Sure an errant tendril emerges now and then to try to grapple one of you two, but they're nothing you can't just pull off.
"Found anything here Miss Imaizumi?" You ask. The wolf replies with a negative growl.
"Alright, let me just set this amulet." You gouge out a random section with the sword and set the magical explosive in, "And prime..."
You stop, as you place the amulet within the mass, your fingers pick up a few strands of silky black hair. Intact strands.
"I think I found her!" You shout.
"Thank the gods." Sounds an indistinct voice from outside. "Can you see if you can dig her out? I guess you can blast her out too given the situation, but please check."
You swap positions with Kagerou so she can begin the excavation. Soon, she shovels away enough mass that you can see the beginning of a forehead, and then a pair of closed eyes. After a minute, Kagerou stands back, revealing the head and shoulders of what you think is probably Kaguya.
It's rather hard to tell, since anything below the eyes are encased in a thin but opaque film of the abomination's material. You try cutting through it with your knife, but obtain no results, as the material is too soft and elastic.
"Time to use the blasting amulet then," You say, "Miss Imaizumi?"
Suddenly, Kagerou gives off a chilling howl, and begins running back out. Confused, you follow her to see what the problem is, until you run head first into a wall of flesh that was not there before.
The exit is gone. And to your horror, you feel the channel gradually getting smaller. Kagerou is already stuck, frantically trying to dig her claws out of the growing quagmire. Panicking, you decide to pull out the zweihander and use it to try to cut a way out. Praying that its magic works, you stick it in an arbitrary wall, twist it, and press it down.
You spend almost half a minute staring at the broken sword. The inside is hollow, with a set of tiny speakers where there really should be more metal, a small set of inscriptions along the silicon chip controlling it reads "April fools Rinnosuke! - Y.Y."
"FUCK YOU YUKARI!" You scream, jamming the ruined blade into a growing wall and provoking a glance from the struggling Kagerou. Deciding to try one last option, you stuff the all of the remaining amulets into the hole you made, as well as every grenade you have left in your bandolier. Priming all of them, you jam a wad of loose material in before crouching down and holding your ears.
The resulting explosion still almost deafens you.
Dazed and vision blurred, you see that you have blown out a cavern, and you can vaguely see moonlight coming in through a breach on the outside. Disregarding Kagerou, you scramble towards salvation. Just as you shove your head out, the abomination shudders, and your momentum ceases as the hole contracts.
"Reimu! Mima! Help!" You cry out.
Silence. For a moment, anyway. Then you hear a faint whistle to your front and above. Craning your head that way, you see a red glow up the sky, gradually growing larger, and larger, and larger.
And, under the armband on your broken shoulder, a voice crackles out.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Wu."
You look closer at the approaching glow, and notice that it is leaving a smoke trail behind. For a brief second, you realize what you have been looking at. Then, a loud bang.
Day 2: End =======================================
The old television is showing static again. The tape in the VCR appears to have ran out.
[ ] Change the tape [ ] Rewind [ ] Turn it off.
Delay excuse: Family and school and health problems oh my.
A massive crowd is gathered before you, shouting and cheering under a cloudy sky. Not too far away is a large red bridge, with two large towering parts spaced evenly on it which allow a large, thick cable to hang off, seemingly holding the bridge up by the numerous smaller ones hanging beneath.
Beneath your feet, on the other hand, is a massive rock, embedded in a quite recently formed crater.
You look closer at the signs. You know they are in English, but for some reason you cannot read them. However, you feel that they are supportive of you. Your point of view, anyway.
A man in a suit, standing just off to the side, hands you a sheaf of papers. Looking down, you see what looks to be the text for a speech, a long winding one mostly concerned with religious matters that you do not understand.
You turn, or rather, the point of view turns, and you see the man give you a nod. Turning back to the crowd, you raise the sheaf and begin making a speech.
The screen fades to static. You switch out another tape.
A hurtling, bustling street. Many strange looking humanoids with horns are drinking and laughing in the loud, noisy environment. A hand is raised and waved occasionally. A wheelbarrow takes up half of the front of your field of vision, and it is being pushed along quickly from your perspective. In the distance you can see a glowing orb rising from the far end of the area, against a dark background.
Not much happens though, even as you cross a bridge and approach what appears to be a massive stone palace with an adjacent complex that with odd glass domes dominating its architecture.
The screen fades to static. You switch out another tape.
Your point of view is shaky, and appears to be through a visor of some sort, with an HUD showing some information, such as temperature and estimated ammunition, along with what looks to be a radar display in the top right corner. It is pulsating; show multiple red dots converging on the center point. The point of view is moving through what looks like a forest at night, with only a small headlight illuminating the very front.
You hear something twang, and the point of view suddenly falls down and sideways, landing near the ground. The headlight flickers off, and through the gloom shadowy figures emerge. The point of view extends an armored hand to try to push itself up, but before that could happen, a boot suddenly appears and crashes into the visor, causing it to glitch out and fizzle.
The screen fades to static again. You switch out another tape.
A table under an incandescent bulb. A map of what appears to be a local region is spread across it, along with sheets of other paperwork.
A hand, slender and wicked, appears on it, pointing at various points on the map.
A female voice explicates, "Intel indicates that a janjaweed leader, possibly with a Sudanese government agent, will be coming in this area soon to take control of the local forces. Possible staging and residence points are the occupied villages of Kutum and Masry. As aerial support will not be possible due to media presence in the region, Information teams Charlie and Echo along with I as well as observer pack Chidori will be dispatched to perform initial reconnaissance. Once we get some eyes in there, I will relay a plan over to security teams Bravo, Delta, Hotel, guard packs Roma and Tabako and support team Zulu, who will move in and eliminate the commander along with any resistance."
The hand suddenly slams on the table, causing the point of view to snap up, showing some people wearing military fatigues along with vaguely Arabic clothing who are also staring at the map. "Remember," The woman raises her volume significantly, "make sure no media people are in the area when the packs move in. If all else fails, eliminate them too. And absolutely do NOT consume. That place is crawling with drone cameras and satellite phones, and the last thing we need is more exposure. Do you all understand me!?"
"Yes sir!" Is the simultaneous reply of your point of view as well as those standing around the table. Annoyingly, you cannot see where the rest of the woman is as the POV refuses to turn towards her.
"Very good, now, Director Sylla, as to why I want the train station built here......"
The TV screen fades to static. You have no more tapes to put in. For a few moments, you sit quietly in the abyss of your subconscious, and in a rare turn of events for you, you mull over the contents of your own tape for a little bit.
Yesterday night did not make much sense.
Why did you dive in with a broken arm? Why were you almost blown to pieces? Why was the thing there? You don't know.
It all seemed a bit too contrived.
Maybe waking up would help.
You turn off the TV and begin swimming upwards...
A soft beeping greets you as you open your heavy eyelids.
You find yourself on a hospital bed.
Not an Outside World one, of course. This one is luxuriously designed with polished wood and silk fabrics, with only a couple axles here and there to indicate its true purpose. There are no wires or tubes attached to you, so you reason that you are probably not dying.
Turning your head left, you see another bed, its occupant still sound asleep, with only her pointed wolf ears sticking out from under the blanket as she snores from beneath. Deciding not to wake the likely hungry werewolf, you carefully sit up, noticing that your clothes have been replaced with a thin robe. The room you are in is of a very traditional Japanese furnishing, with the papered walls and tatami mats. Even the houses you've been to in the Human Village generally have some hardwood or tiled floors and masonry worked into their homes, in a blend of modern and traditional architecture. You see no windows.
The beeping is coming from the bedframe itself, as the headboard section of each of the beds in the room appears to have a monitor built in, the diagram depicted within apparently reflecting your brain activity, noted by its flat lines whenever you stop thinking for a moment. An elaborate symbol of a caduceus on an open book is sculpted on top of the monitor, but for the moment you cannot quite think of what that represents aside from the obvious medical connotation. Other than that, the room is silent, with only you and Kagerou being the sole living things within.
You carefully turn your neck and flex your shoulders. Left, right...
You flex your left shoulder again. Strangely, it is no longer broken. However, the joints do feel more than a little clunky and rusty as you rotate it, but nothing that suggests permanent damage. Other than that, you notice no significant difference with your own body.
Well, not initially. Opening your robe, you discover multiple crisscrossing bandages wrapped around your torso. With a few more around your legs. They do not appear to hurt when touched, but you do not unwrap them, deciding to value safety for a change.
You get off of the bed, slipping into a pair of straw sandals that were placed alongside the bed. Slowly, as to be sure that nothing in your body suddenly shatters, you stand up and amble towards the paper sliding door.
Quietly opening the door, you step onto a long hallway, with many similar doors lining it. Strangely, you notice that there's no dust anywhere in the place, not even in the locations that nobody would use, like the top corners of the room. However, you are quickly distracted by the smell of fresh food flowing through the hallway.
Your animal instinct for caution is culled, and your college student instinct for food takes over as your stomach begins protesting and shouting slogans at your brain. Mindlessly, you begin shuffling towards the source of the smell, making no sound save for the occasional moan and slurping of drool. After about two hallways, you reach a door from which you can hear many little voices chattering amidst commotion, all while something is boiling.
Disregarding manners, you swing open the door. Inside is what looks to be an antique kitchen, complete with wooden buckets, wood fire and large earthenware pots. Attending to the devices appear to be child-like creatures, human in appearance save for their floppy bunny ears and twitchy mannerisms, all of whom became dead silent as soon as you showed yourself.
"Food?" You ask.
A great scream comes up from the beings, and in a blink of your eye the children are gone, replaced with large white rabbits who scurry off through the open door on the left side.
It takes a few seconds before you put two and two together and figure out exactly where you are right now. It takes you half a second to decide to ignore that for now and focus on the broth boiling inside the largest pot, which is some sort of meatless soup. Yes, there are some soy tempura and gluten balls mixed in, but they are pitiful substitutes for the real deal.
Buckwheat noodles are boiling in a nearby, smaller pot. Grabbing a bowl and spoon off the nearby shelf, you make yourself a meal of noodle soup and begin chowing down on the filling, if unsatisfying food.
You clean out the bowl in about a minute, and you are just about to ladle in seconds when the screen door you have not passed through slides open loudly. You look over at the source of the noise and freeze, ladle still hovering above the soup pot, as you see a familiar moon rabbit glaring at you in the doorway.
"Wu Ming," Reisen says, with a firm but surprisingly non-hostile tone, "It would be appreciated if you would eat with us inside the dining room."
For a moment, you fail to understand the sentence. Then you realize that she is calling you by your full name rather than the formal "Mr. Wu".
"Of-of course, Miss Udongein, immediately."
As she leads you through the door and down another hallway, you notice that she is dressed in her in-game clothing - the suit and skirt. Her ears are also slightly floppier than they are at the clinic.
"You survived a high explosive missile strike, a weapon which Master Yagokoro specifically designed for a situation like this."
"Princess Kaguya turning into a hideous monster?"
"Hideous monsters in general. Like tough rogue youkai, empowered outsiders, escaped experiments...you know, the usual."
Disturbingly, that sentence did not sound like sarcasm.
"Sooo...Eientei has a fully functional missile silo? And you didn't think to tell me this?"
"Eientei has many things I would not tell you, kiddo." The smug tone creeps back into Reisen's voice, "And it's not a silo, we just hooked up some of the Model 1690 Defense Rockets up to a targeting relay and a couple of manual ignitors. Not a very elegant setup, but its simple and gets the job done."
You have no idea what she is talking about, but you nod in affirmation anyway.
"I ran into Miss Hakurei and Mima suppressing the mutated Princess after both you and Miss Imaizumi decided to begin digging into it. I made the mistake of calling down the missile strike before asking either of them if somebody was inside, since I did not consider the prospect that A NON-REGENERATING HUMAN would even consider digging into such a thing."
"Mima told me to do it, and I am very bad at saying no."
"You had a broken arm!"
"I wasn't digging, Miss Imaizumi was. I was just the one who set the explosive amulets."
"Still!" A flash of what could have been exasperated concern runs through Reisen's cold red eyes, "You're a human! Miss Imaizumi is powerful enough that she could survive being entombed within the creature for quite some time. But you! You would have died in seconds had you not nearly blown yourself up to open a passage."
You shrug, "Well I'm alive now, so I guess none of that matters any more."
"Except for the fact that the exoskeleton we LOANED you is damaged beyond repair."
You gulp. Damage to your body is fine. Damage to your stuff can be repaired. Damage to other people's stuff...
"So, uh, how much do I owe?"
"In currency? 200 million yen..."
You crash into a support beam as you black out again for a second.
"If this was anywhere but Eientei, of course. You are quite lucky that the exoskeleton is quite simple to reproduce and manufacture with Lunar technology. For now, Master Yagokoro is only docking half of your pay for that day, in the hopes that maybe next time you would not be so reckless."
"THANK GOD-I mean, that is a very generous gesture. I am extremely sorry for the..."
"Oh save the meaningless pleasantries," Reisen says as she gazes at you with a brief burst of long waves, silencing you. "If master was not so pre-occupied with tending to the princess right now, you would have the opportunity to apologize to her. But as that is not the case, all she cares for is that you get back up and working as soon as possible. As you can see, I've reattached your arm and treated the burns, of which there is an awful lot of. Good news is that the bandages anaesthetize, and the regenerative lotion should be able to grow back the dead skin."
You look under your robe again. Your stomach does seem to be a little slimmer under those white strips of cloth.
Reisen stops in front of a double door and opens it just a crack, while gesturing at you to back away. She then begins shouting at the occupants of the room as incoherent screaming rings out.
"...Shhh! Quiet!...No he's not here to eat you...Calm down!...No, Saki, get out from under the table right now!..."
As you wait for Reisen to finish dealing with the rabbits, you abruptly notice soft footsteps right behind you. Turning around by instinct, you see nothing. Reisen, still shouting, does not appear to notice.
"...Get away from that chair!...Put it down...No, he's not an experiment...Yes he smells like one, but..."
The rafters emit a creaking sound, but just as you turn your head up something tackles you to the ground with twice the force of a normal human your size. You then yelp as something digs deep into your still sore left shoulder, making it involuntarily shudder as it draws blood.
"That was for leaving me behind, you bastard!" Kagerou bellows into your ear. "Just one of your bombs! One! You couldn't have just tossed ONE of your bombs at me?"
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" The loup-gerou's bite is surprisingly agonizing, as your eyes are tearing up despite your above-average pain tolerance, "I'm a human! Humans panic whenever they think they're about to die! And we die a lot more easily than you youkai!"
"Ugh," she gets up and props you against the wall, training her dark red eyes directly at yours, "I thought you were supposed to be a hero or something, according to the shrine maiden, one above the grade of the average outsider..."
"Others said that, not me, sorry to disappoint you." You wonder if this is a part of the bad karma you got for your little murdering spree, "I just always show up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and do whatever is beneficial for my self-interest. Nothing heroic in it."
One of Kagerou's wolf ears stands up as she raises one eyebrow, "You mean, all of the rescues, the duels for honor, the..."
"You challenged Miss Mononobe of Senkai to a duel because she thought you were one of the rabble-rousers trying to seek refuge in the village, no?"
"She challenged me! She started it! Not me!" You suddenly realized exactly why everyone in Gensokyo is much friendlier than you expected during your stay here. Word spreads fast, and not exactly in a manner which promotes accuracy. In this case, the faulty information concerning the activities you were more or less roped into by your "friends" or stumbled upon serve to give you a very good reputation. A good reputation you cannot live up to, unfortunately.
"Would you two shut up!"
The command from Reisen is followed immediately by a burst of long waves, throwing your thoughts into disorder and slowing the retrieval process. Both you and Kagerou fall silent.
"I'M NOT SURE THIS IS 'FUN', MISS INDIGO!" Sylla cries out as he scrambles behind the wall of a schoolhouse, right as a hail of AK-47 fire opens up on his position.
"You were the one who insisted on remaining a military leader, lieutenant." The woman he only knows as Indigo casually replies in a sing-song voice as she bobs and weaves from cover to cover, ignoring the hail of bullets sweeping at her while taking snap shots with her SIG P226 pistol. "Just accept the situation and learn to have some fun. Look! Kill shot!"
She makes an abrupt turn and fires the gun straight forward, hitting a janjaweed militant attempting to flank her position. Sylla winces a little as he sees the man clutch his throat and fall over, twitching and gurgling before finally stopping as the blood loss induces a loss of consciousness.
"Delta team, hurry up, we can't distract them forever. Over." She idly talks into her earpiece.
"Roger that. One of our cars broke down, but we should be at Point Three in about four minutes. Over."
"Roger. Over and out."
Sylla secretly wishes that he hadn't turned the day-to-day affairs of the camp over to the Red Cross coordinator, who actually was supposed to handle said affairs while Sylla was only supposed to worry about security. But as the supply line for the sector was cut off and the janjaweed started actively raiding, the lieutenant was forced to declare martial law over the camp and take control.
Now that the supplies are once again flowing securely (Sylla is still not quite sure how the makeshift train station they hurriedly set up was connected), he is once again free to perform his duty as a commander of the UN Peacekeeping Forces.
It is a duty which does not normally include direct assaults on a belligerent party, in fact, the duty guidelines actively discourage that sort of thing. His new duty as a Director of Clear Sky International, however, demands that he follow the orders given by his superiors in the company, or perhaps organization, as Indigo has been intentionally vague as to the legal status of their group.
In retrospect, Sylla thinks, maybe trying to lessen the workload wasn't such a bright idea after all.
"Bravo team, Roma pack," Indigo continues talking into her earpiece, "Advance upon scouted positions. Sweep and clear any building you encounter. Secure the mosque immediately. Over."
"Negative sir, enemy has detonated multiple explosive charges and smoke grenades around this area. Dust cloud preventing visibility, wait-five for response. Over."
"Roger that, over."
Sylla peeks over the wall and fires his FN FAL at the militants who poked their heads out to try and see if their comrade was still alive. The militants immediately retaliates by slinging fire his way, and he scrambles further away as he notices the bullets taking chunks off of the dried mud bricks used in the wall's construction.
He glances over at the girl quietly sitting behind an overturned car with her glaive sitting across her lap, seemingly ignorant of the fighting going on. Sylla has not heard her talk once ever since she showed up, not even to the refugees who crowd around her in the camp out of curiosity or when some of the braver young men go as far as to try to speak to her. Indigo tells him that the girl's call sign is "Faceless", and that's all he needs to know.
"Hotel Team, Tabako pack, report status. Over."
"Three casualties sustained, outer perimeter breached and we are en route to Objective Five. Enemy is chaining civilians to their vehicles to dissuade heavy fire. Employing close range assault tactics. Over."
"Casualties? And any journalists? Over."
"Recoverable. We caught a western-looking fellow with a camera. He is currently neutralized. Over"
"Good, continue assault into center of village, I want the western and southern sides cleared in ten. Over."
They do not appear to be a dedicated PMC. While the individual soldiers, even the ones Sylla are sure are some sort of monster in human skin, conduct and perform like professionals, their attitude in combat situations is cavalier at best and occasionally worryingly enthusiastic. The radio messages, even those not originating from Indigo, are done with a tone more appropriate for a teenager planning a party with his friends rather than combatants in a life-or-death struggle. Even taking into account their seemingly supernatural capabilities and near-futuristic technology, it is not normal for people to casually refer to being shot at or killing other people with such unnerving light-heartedness.
Which, coupled with his earlier observation, makes him suspect that this girl was indeed bred from a young age to be a remorseless, efficient killer, to become part of a new generation of fighters in a company which apparently treats war like a spot of fun. Even if she is a cannibal like the others, there is no way she became this way without having a twisted, hellish life.
A familiar tink snaps him out of his thoughts and makes him scramble for cover as a grenade arcs around the wall. He dives behind the car where the strange girl is hiding, and clamps his hands over his ears as the grenade detonates. The rebound of the shockwave jars his teeth as he braces against the explosion.
Faceless did not react to the explosion at all; she remains in the seated position with a gas mask tilted to the side of her face, casually honing her blade with a steel rod. Sylla peeks over the car, and sees that Indigo did not appear to have even noticed the explosion, as she continues her deadly dance among the dust.
"Director Sylla, it would be nice if you can help me out here." Indigo calls back.
"On it." Sylla reluctantly gets out of cover and fires his rifle on full auto at the distant shapes, "You said that we would have back up! We have three people! Three! They sent a platoon just for us! Do we even have that many in total?"
"Oh don't worry so much about it, Director, here, I'll show you. Faceless, they're bringing out an RPG, get on them."
The girl gives a small sigh and looks out over the car as Sylla ducks back down to reload. She reaches into her pack and removes two masks, one of a red-faced demon and another of an old woman in mourning. Well, that's what Sylla believes they are anyway.
She holds them in front of her head, aiming them at the militant emerging from behind a rooftop with a rocket launcher, and mutters something that Sylla does not hear. A flash of light erupts from them, and she puts them back down, while the militant, who was previously trying to draw a bead with his weapon, freezes.
Gunfire suddenly stops, and Sylla hears angry indistinct shouting from the enemy side as they attempt to discern what their comrade is doing. The rocket toting militant slowly stands up, allowing the rocket launcher to dangle on one hand. Seven tense seconds pass before he abruptly lets out a loud wail, a cry which drowned out the screaming and of such a volume that Sylla is not quite sure if it is human or not. Still wailing, he pulls the trigger, sending the rocket flying down into the midst his own comrades, while he himself is caught in the fiery back blast of the rocket launcher.
The dust caused by the explosion prevents Sylla from seeing any more. Not that he was paying attention, as he is still attempting to digest exactly what just happened.
"What in hell was that? What did you just do?" He shouts at Faceless, who carefully replaces the masks into the knapsack before slinging it back across her shoulder.
Sylla instinctively backs up a few steps as Faceless turns towards him, her countenance lacking even the slightest trace of emotion, and begin speaking in a normal, matter-of-fact tone, albeit with a heavy accent and a choppiness indicative of recent learners, "I forced the man to meet his feelings. Every sealed off sadness in his life, every bit of pent-up hatred against his peers. He was not strong enough, and the emotions broke him."
"So you say you drove him insane and caused him to blow him and his friends to pieces just by..." Sylla struggles to spell out his thoughts, "...just by...pointing those masks at him?"
Faceless shrugs, "I...Perhaps some other time would be better for talking..."
"Sylla, Faceless, put on your masks and move in." Indigo interrupts through the comms, "Now."
"But Miss Indigo, we lack vision on potential targets, how are we going to..." Sylla stops asking as he sees Faceless leaps over the car with her glaive in hand, charging towards the dust cloud.
"Fix your bayonet and prep your sidearm, Director. It is about time you receive a close demonstration of our company's...unique approach to problem solving."
Most of Sylla's experience in infantry-level combat involves shooting at targets you barely see and hugging cover. Close quarters combat was almost a last resort. Still, Sylla grits his teeth and pulls out his Browning Hi-Power pistol and pulls down his gas mask.
He doubts disobeying Indigo's order here would grant a higher chance of survival anyway.
Indigo walks in after Faceless, and Sylla follows closely behind, maintaining as much distance between them as possible without losing visibility. Sylla grabs a windowsill as he trips on something. Looking down, he quickly averts his gaze as vomit rises in his throat--his left boot had gotten caught in the exposed intestines of a dead militant.
They emerge from the dust cloud, encountering no living militants, much to Sylla's relief, and emerge through an alley onto the head of an empty street. Gunshots and other combat sounds could be heard from the north and west, but none of the combat is currently in sight.
"Sylla, cover that doorway." Indigo gestures at the house across from them on the street, "Faceless, get ready to go in and clear on my command."
Indigo removes a packet of cigars from her vest pocket and lights it, taking a puff. Sylla was just about to ask her what she was doing when she tosses the cigar into the middle of the street and makes an odd gesture at it. The thin wisp of smoke emitting from the cigar suddenly blooms into a thick cloud, obstructing any potential observers from seeing what's going on.
"Move in and clear, now."
The lavender haired girl runs over and takes up position beside the doorway. She reaches over and pushes on the door handle, and Sylla hears an unnatural "crack" before the door creeps open. She then disappears in with her weapon drawn, with Indigo going in close behind.
As Sylla follows the other two in, he notices that the door was locked. Faceless had simply torn the lock out of the wood.
"What the hell are these people?" He mutters under his breath, suspecting that his earlier assumptions may be a tad bit incorrect.
Turning on his under-mounted (duct-taped) flashlight, he sighs at the drawn curtains over the window and moves into a position where he has an unobstructed line of fire into any doorways. Gunfire begins sounding from outside, and the sound of the bullet impacts suggest that some of the janjaweed are firing indiscriminately into the smoke.
"Check the right and left rooms." Indigo orders. "I'll check the one in the front."
Sylla takes cover against the wall next to the doorway of the room on his side and swings the flashlight in. It is a bedroom, with a rather filthy mattress lying in the middle surrounded by scattered clothes and other articles of everyday life.
"Clear on the left."
Two tense seconds past, "Clear on the right." says Faceless, after prodding a few errant plastic bins with her glaive.
"Clear on the front...it's the stairwell." Indigo mutters through the comm. "Stack up; we're clearing the second floor."
Sylla stays behind on the bottom floor, aiming straight up at the doorway as the other two leap up the stairs. The lieutenant blinks as he realizes that they literally ignored the stairs and just jumped up and flipped over the two-and-a-half meter obstacle, before shrugging it off as another aspect of their eccentric nature.
As Faceless clears the railing, she suddenly turns and points her glaive towards the darkened room off to the side, tilts her head, and moves on.
"Civilians, two adults and a child." Indigo reports as she peers into the room, "They're unarmed."
Sylla cautiously climbs up the stairs and swings his flashlight over to inside the room, causing a shriek of fear to erupt. The light reveals the civilians, huddled together in a corner, the mother and father trying their best to shield their little girl from what they perceive to be imminent bullets.
"Don't worry about them, Sylla, they have no cameras. We'll handle them after we finish this mission." Indigo remarks as Faceless calls out "All clear. Found the ladder to the roof."
"Alright, Sylla, you first."
The lieutenant nervously coughs, "Uh, I thought we were clearing from door to door. Yes?"
"We are, but going through the front door is a bit silly now, isn't it?"
Sylla pulls himself up through the hatch opening and peeks around the rooftop. It is empty, and the closest neighboring rooftop is a good ten meters away, beyond what people could jump.
Humans, at least.
"According to the observer teams, there are two machine gun nests stationed at the crossroads near the end of this street. They are positioned in a way that can and will be fired down this street if we approach conventionally. So naturally the more painless way to approach this puzzle would be to..."
"...use the rooftops." Sylla finishes Indigo's sentence, watching her run a hand over his FN FAL. "And you want me to go on overwatch."
"Precisely," The strange woman lets out a small giggle, "Now you are thinking like a Clear Sky employee. Stay on the roof and shoot anybody who pops up, we're going to clear them. Faceless, you take the left side, I'll take the right."
"Affirmative." replies Faceless in the usual toneless voice, and descends back down the stairs.
"Wait, you're clearing them separately? Alone?"
Indigo holsters her pistol and unsheathes two long daggers which were strapped on her back, examining them against the small bit of light leaking through the curtains. "Tell me, Director, do you think the enemy could win in close quarters combat with either of us?"
Sylla nods, "Gotcha."
He watches Indigo flip up onto the roof and leap across to the other building, with Faceless trailing behind on the other side only a few moments later as they jump from rooftop to rooftop until they disappear from Sylla's line of sight. The militants did not appear to have noticed them, as they are too occupied with the smoke screen in front of them -- which to be fair is making gunfire-like crackling noises -- to be looking above themselves.
Besides, how would they know? Sylla thinks to himself as he carefully crawls under the cover of the low wall ringing the roof of this building. Normal humans cannot hop across buildings like a Hollywood action hero.
He peeks over the wall. Along the other side of the street are more mud-bricks houses with small windows and closed curtains. Most houses in Sudan possess a courtyard, but these do not, likely due to their relatively close positions and the compensation of an open yard in the back. He sees some gun barrels protruding from behind curtains, but none enough to give him a clear shot.
Sylla was just about to decide on a doorway to focus his aim at when he hears an explosion from far down the street, followed by confused shouting. A man wielding an AK-47 leans out of a doorway, attempting to assess what's going on.
Without really thinking, Sylla obeys the voice in the comms and pulls the trigger, sending a rifle bullet into the man's head. Only a second later did he realize his mistake and hastily ducks back down under the wall as the concealed militants open fire...
...at the smoke screen.
That is when Sylla notices that his gun's noise sounded strange, as if it was firing from a different location. He peeks over the wall again and takes another snapshot at an exposed militant, and hears the gunshot coming from a position behind the smokescreen.
He fires again, and this time Sylla sees that a rather large muzzle flash, unrealistic for this caliber and lighting, showing from within the smoke.
The lieutenant ducks back down and examines his gun. A little piece of paper stuck to the muzzle catches his eye as something not previously present. It is covered with odd shapes and runes, and unless he thinks his eyes are deceiving him, the paper is glowing.
Likely some sort of new western technology, he thinks.
"Keep firing. We need you to keep them occupied."
While Sylla may not be a soldier distinguished for his courage or leadership skills, his marksmanship was the one attribute which he never found lacking. Emboldened by the diversion mechanism, Sylla concentrates his attention on another militant, this one carelessly letting his head show out of a window as he fires his gun at the smoke.
He pulls the trigger, and watches as a pink mist erupts from the back of the man's head.
Sylla's eyes react to a moving target in his sight picture, but find it gone before his vision could focus on it. It seems to dart through the side window of the house, and emerge out the other side.
He does, however, notice the reflected sunlight gleaming off of a blade there.
Sylla picks another target and fires, just barely grazing the man's arm as the militant ducks back behind cover. They seem to believe that the muzzle flash they are seeing through the smoke is a vehicle, and are individually taking steps to mitigate the threat, such as beginning to blind-fire their assault rifles into the smoke from behind and throwing grenades en masse. The dust kicked up by the explosions does force Sylla to pause his attack though.
Just a pause, since their tactics do not work against a marksman laying down fire from a flanking position. Sylla changes out a magazine and fires again, dropping a militant running across the street.
He keeps this up for another minute, scoring three more kills in the progress. He was about to track another one when his comm link crackles, "You can stop now. Look to your right."
Indigo's face pops out of the window on the neighboring building and winks, before leaping out of the window and grabbing onto the low wall of the rooftop, flipping over it with ease.
"All clear for this sector, we can move on now." She cheerfully reports, waving a hand signal at Faceless who is standing on the opposite rooftop.
"So, should I go through that building, or..."
"Sure, you can walk down the street too."
That's when Sylla notices that the dagger Indigo is gripping in her non-free hand is absolutely dripping in blood. At this point though, he doesn't even flinch when the woman casually begins to lick the blade clean.
"I said ALL clear, Director. Delta team's ETA is one minute, so you can hitch a ride on their technicals if you want to."
Indigo leaps down from the roof onto the ground, and Sylla descends back down the ladder.
It is still rather dark in the residence, but at least the looming threat of an enemy leaping out from the darkness is gone.
"Please, sir?" A male voice calls.
Sylla turns to the voice, his flashlight showing that the three civilians who were huddled up in the corner of the room had unwound into a more practical position and had shuffled the metal bed in the room to provide cover.
"You will be evacuated if necessary as soon as we finish our mission here." Sylla begins to recite the standard spiel, "Do not go outside..."
"No, sir. They...they took our son."
He sighs, "We will do everything we can as UN Peacekeeping..."
"No, just twenty minutes ago, they took him and the neighbors' boys," The father of the household begins to explain, "I think they were being taken to the village center. I do not know what they are doing, but please, don't let him get hurt!"
"Twenty minutes? That's...I'll make absolutely sure of that sir. Thank you for your cooperation." He accepts the photo of the missing child from the father's trembling hand, and walks down to rejoin his "squad" on the street.
FILLER! Part twoRifle!AK47hf008c2014/08/17 (Sun) 09:00No. 29558▼
A trail of dust drifts down the road as Delta team arrives with the company's heavy armor. Relatively speaking, anyway. Five out of the six vehicles are various models of pickup trucks scavenged from what he assumed were prior battles, upgraded with armored cabins on the truck beds to provide additional protection for the operators inside, all of which appear to have been welded together from broken vehicle hulls. A single BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle leads the formation, rotating its turret at any potential targets which require a shot from its 73mm cannon.
"Delta team reporting in, ma'am." crackles the comms link, "What is the next step? Over."
"Proceed along mission guidelines. Over."
Sylla follows behind Indigo as the convoy moves towards the intersection. The street was indeed clear, as nothing moved save for a few civilians who ran across the street with their hands up. Dead militants can be seen hanging off of windowsills or collapsed in front of doorways, some with Sylla's bullets in them, others with their heads missing.
There are two sets of sandbags at the corners of the intersection, both housing a DshK machine gun on a tripod. On the side Indigo cleared, the corpses of the militants manning it are lacerated surgically in the throat, chest, and other vital areas. On the side Faceless cleared, it looks like a sawmill accident with the arbitrarily cut body parts and organs scattered around. Once again, Sylla has to fight to suppress the urge to vomit.
The vehicles proceed down the street with little incident. Occasionally a militant would pop out of cover to try to run towards the center of the town or attempt to take a few shots from the rear before promptly being blown apart by a torrent of heavy machine gun fire.
It almost wasn't fair, thought Sylla. Against supernatural beings and hardened professional soldiers, the janjaweed can really do no more than act as a speed bump.
Distant sounds of explosions and weapon discharges are growing closer as they approach the center of the village. The convoy stops as the street takes an abrupt bend, shown on the map to be one of the entrances to the village square.
"We are nearing Objective A, Commander Indigo, should we hold position and wait for the other teams? Over."
"Affirmative. Sylla, would you mind scouting out the objective?"
Careful to maintain no direct line of sight to the square as he moves, Sylla creeps down the street and enters a deserted store. Crawling underneath the northern windows, he peeks up with his binoculars.
The militants have drawn a thick line of defense around the village mosque, a large whitewashed brick building which towers over the rest of the village and has a far more elaborate design. Around the steps are sandbags and barbed wire, some of whom have the black barrel of a DshK or M2 Browning poking over it. Disturbingly though, unlike the militants they saw before, these look like a different level of troops -- wearing Western combat vests and webbing, toting PKM machine guns and RPG-7s in addition to their assault rifles and actually using hand signals to communicate. And unless his eyes are malfunctioning, there are glints of light on the windows of the minarets -- rifle scopes.
"They've got a pretty tight perimeter, and the hostiles here look like they are trained by the northern government. There are snipers on the towers and anti-armor on the ground. Are we going to wait for the other teams, Indigo?"
"Western approach is in position already; they are facing the more fortified side. Faceless, we need a distraction."
Sylla watches the girl run up next to his position of cover...and jump out the window, right into the square, with no cover. Expecting an avalanche of fire to be tossed in this direction, he dives for cover behind a safe, only to notice that there is no sound coming from the square. No gunshots, explosions, nothing.
Just a loud, thick buzzing sound.
He peeks over the window, and ducks back down as his eyes hold a glimpse of pure terror. The logical part of his brain tells him that it is just Faceless standing there with a mask floating around her, held aloft by some unknown mechanism while radiating a strange dark light, but the base animal part, specifically, the amygdala, is flooding the rest of his mind with a primal, overwhelming fear response, as if the view of the strange girl is actually a beast's maw centimeters away from his exposed throat.
"Faceless! That's way too...ugh...All teams, attack now!"
The buzzing stops, replaced by the revving of engines and explosions. Sylla runs back across the doorway and after the technicals as they enter the square shooting amidst a thick smoke cloud. The BMP-2 drives straight into the position, firing its main gun at any heavy weapon it could see as it drives over the sandbags. The western teams emerge from their side of the square only a few seconds later, the rifle-wielding humans and the more close combat equipped "humans" shout as one as they use the BMP-1's breach to charge in, shooting and stabbing at whatever militants they can see who are still holding a weapon.
Like the previous engagements, this was more butchery than warfare. Sylla didn't even fire a shot at the few militants who did choose to stand and fight, as he never got the chance to. The "battle" lasted no more than a minute before the Clear Sky operatives are already lining the survivors, most of them still reeling from Faceless's spell, against the walls to be tied and bagged, and stacking up along the entrances to the mosque itself.
Speaking of Faceless...
"That was...astonishing. Faceless, how did you--" he stops as he notices the girl leaning on her polearm, gasping for air and struggling to stand. Running over, he manages to catch her before she collapses onto the ground. Her eyes are tightly closed and her skin is pale and slick with sweat, all symptoms of shock.
The woman runs over, and takes the unconscious girl from Sylla's arms. "Delta team! Get a technical and a blanket over here!"
"Don't we need to get a medic over?" Sylla whispers, "I mean..."
"She's fine," Indigo cuts him off, "The medics are busy making sure nobody got hurt and that most of the prisoners don't die from their wounds. Faceless just...over-exerted herself, so to speak."
"What was that anyway?" Sylla asks as the pickup truck comes over, "What she did now and back there with the rocket launcher? She said she manipulated his emotions to drive him insane instantly, but how? Is this some prototype technology? Witchcraft?"
Indigo shrugs as she passes Faceless over to the soldiers in the pickup truck, who proceed to set her comfortably on the front seat with a blanket. "You could call it witchcraft, sorcery, or magic. Though, to be fair, there is nothing truly magical about this magic once you understand it. For now though," She turns her head towards the mosque, “We still have our mission."
Sylla decides against asking further questions for now, "Right, so are we joining in the breach and clear?"
"Not join, no, I believe a good commander always leads by example. You could stay out if you wish to though, Sylla, your job is done."
Otherwise a neutral statement, the peculiar inflections she used make it a subtle mockery and challenge which can't help but arouse Sylla's pride, as little as it is...
"I'm finishing the mission, all of the mission," Sylla flatly states, "I'll cover you."
"Very well then, director."
Sylla follows Indigo as she jogs over to the main entrance of the mosque and takes up position beside the soldiers already there.
"Bravo team. Detonate the charge."
The explosion blows the door clear open, and Indigo goes in, followed by Sylla and the other soldiers. They find themselves in an entrance hall, decorated with Arabic calligraphy and furniture typical of such establishments, but otherwise empty save for a similar door in the front.
"Stack up. All units, make sure nobody leaves through the windows or doors. If a prisoner tries to escape, shoot him. We cannot permit this commander to escape."
"The heck?" Sylla mutters under his breath, "All this and you don't even know the guy's name?"
"It's Abdel Ibrahim Hakim," Indigo calls over, "But don't bother. Such a low creature like him does not deserve a name. Breach and clear again, on me."
"Door's not locked ma'am!" The soldier responsible for setting the charge shouts. "It may be a trap!"
Indigo seems to ponder this for a moment, before responding, "Open the door then, they may have decided to surrender."
The soldier quietly pulls open the wooden door, letting out a loud groan from the hinges. Indigo peeks her head in, and abruptly freezes.
"Drop your weapons. Now. Or I pull." Comes the voice from within the door, speaking in oddly good English. Sylla picks up a distinctly northern accent from it, more so than the militants they have engaged so far.
"Ma'am? What does he have?"
The lights flickers on, and Sylla, being the next in position, peeks over, and feel his stomach wrench in panic as he realizes what is in there.
Normally prayer halls in a small town such as this one have a veil or thin wall to divide the male and female prayer sections. The wooden separators here, however, have been either nailed to the windows to cut off line of sight or used in the makeshift pen which dominates most of the floor area. Inside huddles a large group of civvies, most of whom look to have been beaten in some way, all tied together to prevent them from moving.
All of the one hundred or so hostages taken here look to be younger than twelve years old, most of whom are crying their eyes out, making Sylla suddenly remember what the civilian back in the dark house told him. He does not bother to try to pick out the boy in the picture, in any case, he is more concerned about the wires strung across the top of the pen, the detonation cords hanging off of them, and the various improvised explosive devices at the ends of those cords, positioned to kill every last one of the civilians trapped in there.
Those cords appear to all trail towards the podium, upon which stand twenty or so of the "elite" fighters they encountered outside of the mosque, and a single man, dressed in a more elaborate outfit than the others as well as a distinct cap and sunglasses, holding a revolver with one hand and on the other, a small black object, something he cannot see clearly from this distance.
But he can see it is where all the detonation cords twined themselves into.
"I said, drop your weapons! Are you ghabis too stupid to understand that?"
"Do what he says, now." Indigo mutters into the comms with an urgent tone.
"But ma'am, we've got snipers trained on his position now the lights are on, they can take him out before he..."
"It's a dead man's switch, killing him will set it off. Ugh, Kokoro you fool, we could have used you right about now." for the first time, Indigo sounds like she was not entirely in control, "I should have known he would--"
Indigo tosses her pistol on the floor, and Sylla, hearing the clatters behind him, follow suit.
"Now, tell your lackeys to back out of the building and not return, and to get a truck ready. Unless, of course, you wish to see all of the village's next generation disappear in a fine red mist."
Sylla can't help but notice that Hakim announces his threats with disturbing relish in the matter. The hostages react to the statement by shouting pleads at Indigo, who is now fully in view of the doorway.
"Bravo team, Roma pack, fall back. Prepare a truck."
"Ma'am you cannot be serious," One of Roma pack's operatives speak up "Are these humans really worth that much---"
"DO NOT DISOBEY ME! TACHI!" She screams with sudden anger, nearly shoving the operative over as she leers at him. "DO IT, NOW!"
With their confusion and disappointment written over their faces, the soldiers depart back out of the doorway. Sylla turns to leave.
"You! Wearing the red beret! You stay!"
Sylla puts his hands up, "Alright."
Hakim motions for his troops to lower their weapons, and steps forward.
"We agreed to your demands, commander,now what do you want?" Indigo snarls at him.
"Why, of course, to see the face of the charrira who tore through so many of my men in this area. I was curious as to what sort of commander could do so much damage with so little troops in so little time." Hakim gives a derisive laugh, "And for it to be a woman! A woman! I thought they were insane!"
"Was that supposed to be praise?"
"You may think of it that way, yes. I may have misjudged your company's capabilities, seeing how easily a few children are able to stop you, however, you do not expect us to leave just like that right? On an old truck with a few 'modifications' put in."
"You want a plane, Hakim?" Indigo's words are cracking up slightly at this point, likely from trying to keep her anger down to a minimum. "I can order...a plane."
"No, no, a truck would be fine. It's you that's the problem."
Sylla screams a warning when the gunshot hit Indigo, blowing out a huge chunk of blood and gore as the fifty caliber round tears a cantaloupe-sized hole in her body and sending her reeling backwards, the other militants raise their guns and fire, shredding even more chunks off of her until Sylla had to avert his eyes at the bloody mess Indigo was being turned into.
They keep firing, even as Indigo, despite her supernatural nature, manages to keep standing. Only when her right leg is blown off by another fifty caliber does she finally fall, and struggle to crawl before stopping as a bullets goes straight through her head.
A soft plunk, and footsteps. Sylla looks again, and sees the commander emptying his clip into what's left of the lieutenant's boss.
"You, hellspawn, you have no place in this world." Hekim quips as he kicks her corpse, "Though, it looks like there is still maternal instincts in a demon like you, a weakness. Now, you, Kenyan," Hekim reloads his revolver, "You will tell those outside that it was an error, and that this she-demon is still alive."
Sylla, still reeling from the abrupt turn of events, vaguely nods, and puts his comm link to his mouth as he turns away. "All units, do not respond to gunfire. It was a simple mistake, both of us are still fine."
"Indeed." A familiar female voice chimes in, "We are quite well here."
A sudden scream of pain and gurgle from his side prompts him to look. Hekim is still standing there, except his arms are no longer holding the gun or the detonator. It would be silly for them to do so, as he is staring dumbly at his arms lying on the ground in front of him, with the rounded tip of the humerus still intact, suggesting it had been pulled clean out by the frightening creature behind him.
Sylla glances at the ground, and sees that the corpse is gone. He looks up, and the creature is grasping another militant's head, lifting him kicking and yelling before squelching his cranium like a child would a strawberry. The creature is wearing Indigo's clothes, yes, but looks almost nothing like her, or any human for that matter, supernatural or not. Its hands are claws the size of dinner plates, and its eyes are a twisted inferno of madness beyond even the hungriest wolf, as it appears to glow red in the rather dim light. Its jaws bear large fangs that drip scarlet as it tears into the bodies of the militants frantically trying to hide from it. On its back are nine tails, tails of a fox, except longer and whose swaying motions in the air allows Sylla to keep up with the beast's ballet of death.
It is literally raining gore, as the monster drags the janjaweed snipers out of their concealed positions and tears them apart, sending body parts flying across the prayer hall. The child hostages in the pen have fallen silent; many of them have passed out, as a matter of fact.
The urge to vomit comes up again, but this time when he turns around, he sees the upper half of a man staring blankly at him with dead eyes. With no way to escape, Sylla finally retches, emptying his stomach.
At least the vomit will be unnoticeable with all the blood painting the walls and floors of this prayer building.
It takes a while before both loud movement and screaming die out, and all Sylla could hear is the soft pit-pat of footsteps as the monster walks back towards the front of the room, at the still living Hekim.
"You have a smart brain, commander, ambushing me like that." The beast chortles, licking its claws as it grabs the maimed Hekim to face her, "It's a shame it's wasted on scum like you."
"WH-WHAT ARE YOU?!" Hekim shouts out half-coherently, delirious from blood loss, "WHAT ARE--"
"Hell spawn, that's what I am." She kicks up his own revolver and twirls it around a claw, "Say hi to Satan for me, would you?"
A final gunshot, and the commander falls backwards, dead.
"Disgusting. I hope I didn't get any of his blood on me. Sylla, go cut the ropes on those the hostages, and then see if you can remove those explosives. I cut the cord already."
Even as she talks, Sylla notices her claws flickering, reverting back to normal hands. Her eyes also turn back, though he can't quite tell what changed except for the color. Those tails though, they still remain.
And just now, just now does Sylla catch that on her head are two triangular furry ears, things he had mistaken for tufts of hair.
"Bravo team, Roma pack, move in, area's clear but we need to get these hostages out."
280620XX, 0930 Hours Kutum, Sudan
It takes some time before they figure out how to drag the unconscious kids out without hurting them, and eventually they had to wait for the support team to come in with stretchers. The bombs were deemed too risky to disarm and were detonated with a blanket on top. It tore up the carpeting on the floor, but after all the blood's that soaked through, Sylla reckons that they would have to change it out anyway.
A field hospital's set up outside, as the hostages, prisoners, and a few unfortunate operatives are being looked over by the support teams. The other teams have apparently found some Al-Jazeera journalists who stayed in the village during the occupation, who are currently being detained inside another tent while their cameras and other recording devices are being systematically erased. Indigo had changed out of her gore covered gear and is walking around, occasionally stopping to give an order. Faceless is still sleeping off her exhaustion in the car, sound as a cat in a rug.
Outside of the village, a greasy black smoke rises in the distance as Clear Sky "disposes" of the bodies. The commander's body is not on the pyre though, Indigo had ordered for his to be tarred and shoved in a cardboard box. Which Sylla cannot help but notice looks suspiciously like a mail package.
"Well, looks there's no point in withholding from you what everyone else in this company knows already." Indigo cheerfully states as Sylla finishes supervising the collection of weapons and comes over to the camp.
"That you, Faceless, and a third of the troops are demons from hell?"
"If by demons you mean monsters and by hell you mean a fairly nice secluded place in the east, then yes, we are. I wouldn't take that idiot's word if I were you though," she tosses a bloody wallet at Sylla, who opens it to find several documents and passports containing Hekim's name with the seal of the USA emblazoned on top, "He's a rogue CIA agent, a native, but trained in America. Sent here to keep the situation from damaging US interests, he decided to use his influence to get militants from the janjaweed, taking advantage of the lack of media attention to plunder the area for the little wealth it has left. We are getting a handsome payment from Uncle Sam for getting rid of their embarrassment."
"Huh, and I thought it was from the goodness of your heart." Sylla replies sardonically as he tosses the evidence back.
"That too, he was a blight upon the world that used children to shield himself, and I would have done this regardless."
Sylla notices her wrapping her tails around herself as she sits, "Aren't you going to magic those away? Or hide them? I mean, nobody's going to listen to those kids, but the other villagers might blabber to a reporter."
"I cannot hide them," she sighs, "They are never hidden; most humans simply choose to block them out. Children are naive and believing, and therefore can see and feel them, adults, on the other hand, are more critical and thoughtful, and are unable to. You of course, saw them under a special circumstance."
"That does not make any sense whatsoever."
"Neither does these tails."
"And that transformation you did back in the building..."
"Was that a transformation?" She asks, holding out her arm to offer a box of cigarettes to him, "Or were you just choosing to see me differently?"
For an instant, the Sylla sees the wicked claw gripping the box, still matted with blood, and winces. Just as quickly, it turns back in front of his eyes.
"I--I have no idea. You know what? Indigo? I don't care." He takes a seat on the crate beside her and grabs a cigarette, "I don't care what you are, what Faceless is, or what the hell this company is supposed to be. Demons? Monsters? Does it matter as long as we get paid?" He digs for his lighter, only to find that it is missing. "Can you give me a light, Indigo?"
The woman smiles and leans over to light the cigarette--with a small wisp of flame dancing from her index finger. Sylla briefly lets the cigarette slide out in surprise, before catching it and accepts the light.
"Are you really all about the money, Director?"
Sylla breaths out a puff of smoke, "I joined the military because I was a good shot, and that was basically it. Before I may have had a few childish dreams about justice or liberation for the world, but now I just hope to be paid enough to take care of my family."
"Hmm," Indigo seems disappointed, "You are still twenty-seven though, you still have quite a lot of time to find value in this job. Or perhaps another one."
"Maybe, maybe not." Sylla lies down on the crates, leaning his head against a comfortable surface, "As I said before, I do not really care. Maybe you can convince me...just what do you work for anyway, Indigo? What's your purpose?"
"Mine?" The surface under Sylla's head shifts, and he only just realizes that he was using one of Indigo's tails as a pillow. "Simple. I work for a better world for my child to grow up in. A more peaceful, harmonious one, to be specific, one without hunger or war."
"That's an awfully grand goal, Indigo...wait." Sylla bolts up, "You're a mother?"
The woman, no, the fox, shrugs, "In a matter of speaking, yes."
Running his hand over his face, Sylla decides, once again, to not think about how a creature like her can raise a child, "That's..that's cool. I mean, ugh..."
He takes a look up at the late morning sun and closes his eyes. "I guess I do have one reason to stay in this job."
"Eh?" A corner of Indigo's headscarf perks up, "You do?"
Sylla lies back down on her tail, "Fluffier pillows."
If the monster we fought earlier was merely a mutated Kaguya, then doesn't that raise the possibility that Mokou might've undergone the same procedure? After all, the last time any friendly faces saw her was after Keine got attacked.
>>28437 >Saromi scratches his head, "Well, for starters, she is not very stable in the head, but that would not be too much of an impediment. The largest problem is that we cannot FIND her. Last time we saw Miss Fujiwara was at the Myouren Temple, where Miss Kamishirasawa was stated right after the incident due to its proximity. She said something about 'finding the scum who are responsible and ramming a bamboo stick through their eye sockets' and left. We haven't seen her since."
Given this, it may raise the possiblity that Keine was attacked partially to lure Mokou out.
Also, we used willy-pete and protective charms to dig Kaguya's body out - but if the blob was merely an extension of the body, monsterfied Mokou might be immune to that strategy. (Not to mention they might be able to repurpose the charms Mokou already wears.)
On top of this, Kaguya depends on her items for danmaku, since 'Urban Lunarians' might not have fought much. (Also, she might not have been able to use to Eternity Manipulation while affected so.) In contrast, I can kinda see Mokou might be able to have herself constantly on fire in that state.
DL;DR We might have to deal with a fire spewing version of the same monster, and we will not be able to use our WP grenades to dig her out.
Time: 9:30 AM Date: June 28, 20XX Location: Eientei Living Quarters, Dining room Threat Level: 1
"You bit me, so that makes it even." You slur through a mouth full of noodles.
"Nuh-uh, you left me to die, I'm pretty sure that's much more serious." The werewolf responds, not looking up from her own bowl. "Besides, you taste like a week-old carcass that's been left in the sun."
You look around the table. There were about twenty or so rabbits enjoying their breakfast here, but as soon as you entered they quickly grabbed their bowls and evacuated, taking great care to avoid your notice and taking slightly less care to avoid Kagerou's.
"Hey, Miss Udongein? Why are the rabbits so scared of me?"
"You barged into the kitchen shouting 'Food!' with a crazy look in your eye, of course they would be scared. Earth rabbits are timid little things."
Reisen's rapping her fingers on her own empty bowl with a bored expression on her face. Every time you look at her eyes, your stomach clenches and your muscles tense, resulting in you finishing up your noodles extremely fast, even considering your usual generous appetite. You only pausing eating every once in a while to trade a barb with Kagerou.
"Done? Alright. Miss Imaizumi, wait here for now as I send a couple of rabbits to grab your belongings. Ming, you're coming with me."
Kagerou gives a half-hearted nod, her averted eyes negating any unintentional honesty her response may have leaked, and plops her face onto the table. She doesn't even react as Reisen half-leads, half-drags you out of the dining room.
"Your wounds are healed, your stomach is filled, so it's time to get back to work."
"Why not? You want to take another nap? You've had a rejuvenation session and eleven hours of sleep. That's more than enough."
"We stuck you in a vat filled with nanobots and stem cells cloned from yourself. It patches up everything. Though to be fair," she gives a sly grin, "I'm not exactly sure how it works either."
With the rustic furnishings of this place, it is easy to forget that the paper walls contain technology more advanced than anything those on Earth could dream of.
"So you're going to need a new suit, some better gear and some training on how to use them. After you are done you are to make your way back to the Village clinic and relieve Tewi, whom I am sure had already pocketed a good percent of the profits for herself already. You should not be required to perform any gathering tasks today."
The storage shed, unlike the meticulously kept living quarters, is as dusty as any non-magical attic. The thin wooden boxes and metal shelves which take up most of the space, however, are not anywhere close to the average space-under-the-rafters. For one, instead of old toys and dusty paintings, they contain various amounts of what you can best describe as equipment. One of the boxes is filled to the brim with arrows, while another contains a single lonely wrench. You stop in your steps for a few moments to gawk at a lunar rover, one with the distinctive extended satellite dish which you easily recognize as part of the moon landings, sitting by itself in a shadowy corner.
"We were thinking about returning this to the Americans, but Miss Yakumo never quite cared enough to be a middleman for this dead as of yet, so its still lying around here gathering dust. Anyway..." Reisen speaks as she counts off the spaces on a shelf. "...Thirty-five...thirty-six...Aha! Here we go!"
She pulls off a leather bag and unbuttons the straps holding it shut. From inside, she takes out a bulky looking suit, one of much heavier appearance than the jumpsuit and frame you wore earlier. While the early one resembled an ordinary padded jacket and pants, similar to motorcyclist wear, this one is obviously armor, with an obvious breastplate and thicker guards around the shins and elbows.
"This is a modified Model 1925 Gardening Suit. Possesses the same strength enhancing qualities as the courier suit you had earlier except with better protection and an internal fusion battery. Designed for the safety of the gardeners who tend the vast and elaborate forests and yards of the Lunar Capital."
"Fusion battery?" You stare at the small black attachment on the backside of the suit about the size of a Hershey's chocolate bar. "That's a fusion battery?"
"It lasts for five years under regular use, after that we have to replace it and jump-start it again. But yes, its a fusion battery. It draws in hydrogen from the atmosphere as fuel. How?" she shrugs, "Ask master."
"Also, unlike the other one, it's relatively thick, so the battery is partially dedicated to running the cooling tubes inside the suit in addition to the servos and motors. It also has enough energy left to power three modules on the suit."
"Modules?" You ask.
"Attachments, two on each arm and one on the back. I picked the two least lethal options that also happen to increase your survival rate for your arm. Here, put it on and try it out."
The suit fits fairly well, and within the fabric you can feel rigid parts turning as you move your limbs. On your left hand a black bracer of sorts has been attached, while the right side has a coil of line wrapped around the wrist area made of a strange, smooth material that feels like dense silk. Behind the coil is a simple reflex sight with an inscribed crosshair.
"The module installed on your left sleeve is a shield. Press the button on the top side of your arm to activate it."
You press the white button, and immediately the bracer jettisons four spindles outwards, and a faint humming begins emitting as a blue glow forms in the space between the spindles, which is about the area of a riot shield.
"Well, obviously we aren't going to have you lug around a full sized tower shield now, are we?" She scoffs, "It will block most small arms fire and works similarly in spellcard duels. Here, why don't you test it out? Raise it."
She grabs a rubber ball off of a shelf and chucks it at you just as you raise your arm to cover your face. The energy shield briefly flashes, and the ball bounces off, flying with almost equal force away from you.
"Keep it raised." Reisen orders as she removes a slingshot from the shelves. You close your eyes as she draws back the band and releases it. A soft plunk, and you hear the stone bullet bounce around the ground.
"It works. Hmm, I was wondering how well it held up after being in here for so long." she mutters.
"How the hell does this thing work anyway?" You ask, cautiously tapping the shield against the corner of a shelf. An equally soft force pushes back on your arm.
"Modified graviton generator. It works by accelerating the gravitons along the spindles and having their spin modified through a Lunar-developed magical process, this forms a planar gravity field in the direction the shield is facing along the space formed between the spindles. It only actually repels when something is in the space though. You can also use it to bash a door or knock somebody over the head in a pinch."
You stare blankly, "Okay. So, it's a forcefield?"
"I guess you can call it that."
"So why the blue glow and the flash?"
"Oh, the glow just there to tell you if it's turned on or not. The flash of light is what happens when the gravitons cause the photons in the area to suddenly condense before it repels them."
"Huh." You lightly brush the surface of the field with your finger, and feel the repulsion effect getting stronger the more you push, making it unable for you to push past the forcefield, "So what does the thing on my right arm do?"
"Step outside, this module is a little more complicated."
You follow her out the door into a small clearing, where several straw target dummies have been set up. Above, you see that several poles have been speared into the taller stalks on the side of the clearing, at about ten meters off the ground.
"The module on your right hand is a modified Lunar fishing rod combined with a motorized reel." Reisen explains, "When you activate it by either pushing the button on the top or, by setting the trigger on the bottom, to shoot at a flick of your arm, it will fly out and latch on to the first solid surface it touches, adhering to the surface on a molecular scale over a wide area. A second trigger or flick will disengage that property, allowing it to disattach."
You examine the strange object, and see that the trigger on the bottom side is actually a second button connected to a series of wires which run down your arm. It seems that this module is far more integrated to the exoskeleton than the other one.
"So, does it damage the surface during the attachment process?"
"No, the binds go in between molecules, meaning it will not disrupt any intramolecular bonds...normally. It is recommended to not have it stuck on your body, since it may have some adverse effects ranging from rashes to skin cancer. Oh, and the small lever on the reel determines whether it is pulling in, giving slack or holding in position."
So it's a grappling hook. A nice one too. About time you obtain a reliable method of vertical movement, though exactly how useful it would be is still questionable.
"Now," Reisen removes a blank spellcard from her shirt pocket and raises it, and you immediately feel the distinct fuzzy sensation of a dueling barrier being formed around the area. "Try it out. Use the fishing line to reach that pole on the trunk to your left."
Carefully aligning the crosshair with the pole she indicated, you push the button, and the reel spins, and a bright line, gleaming in the sun, shoots out with the speed of an arrow, and as the weighted tip of the line collides with the pole, you see many more lines spread out from it, entangling a good chunk of the pole.
You adjust the lever forward, and let out a surprised yell as the reel begins rapidly spinning the other way, pulling you up to the pole in a single second.
It is a good thing that the reel mechanism is attached to the exoskeleton, or else your arm would have likely dislocated.
"Now climb on the pole. The boots have been augmented with a similar adhesive device that amplifies friction when the reel is active, so you can balance on the pole with little issue."
You struggle a bit, but manage to pull yourself on top of the thick pole, "Got it." You reply as you stand up, finding her observation correct as it feels like something is actively pulling your feet onto the wood.
"Good, now jump down, the exoskeleton's springs and fluid insulation mechanisms should prevent any injury as long as you land on your feet."
You look down, and gulp as you see the ground being at an uncomfortable distance away.
"If you want, you can just reattach the line and reel the other way. It's slower, but most of our former employees found it easier on their psyche."
Discretion being the better part of valor, you decide to go down the slow way.
"I suggest you practice with it when you have the time," Reisen says as you hit the ground stumbling, "Knowing how to use it properly and quickly can save your life, considering you cannot fly."
"As for the third module, Master told me to let you choose. Hold on." she runs back in the storage room and emerge back pulling another crate, "Let's see, what do we have here..."
[ ] Jump module - Adding a power conduit to the leg springs allow you to jump up to five times as high as what an Olympic athlete can, giving you even more mobility. [ ] Stone Bowl Module - A full body version of your arm shield. when activated it will protect your entire body from physical impacts up to an artillery shell, but drains its capacitor fast and takes a while to recharge. [ ] Hunter's Module - Advanced sensor suite calibrated to detect magical resonance in the environment. Has a set of goggles with integrated heads up display. Can detect medium and larger living organisms and magical concentrations up to a 100 meters radius sphere around the module and up to 300 meters in a narrow cone in front. [ ] Night Cloak module - Extremely thin layers of magically controlled plasma along with sheath your body, redirecting most wave lengths around you. Makes you invisible on radar and very hard to see with the naked eye, although heat vision will still detect you. Can be activated indefinitely but will be disrupted upon use of the other modules or with projectiles. [ ] Amasterasu bow module - A true Lunarian weapon and a by-product of Eirin's archery obsession, the amasterasu bow, or sun bow is actually a laser projector, with an overly complex firing mechanism consisting of drawing back a hologram bowstring. The physical part of the weapon is the size of a smartphone, but when turned on resembles an actual yumi, faintly glowing of course. The arrows fired are actually a quick laser pulse, and as such suffers no drop-off with the trade off of making it extremely obvious where you are shooting from. The sun bow comes with a refraction sight. The laser pulses deal approximately as much damage as a .308 rifle bullet. [ ] Leave it empty - Leaving the module slot empty allows the fusion battery to consistently devote more power to the exoskeleton and the other two modules, making them stronger.
"Choose quickly, I want you to go help Tewi at the clinic before 10:30." She urges as you pick over the strange devices in the box.
"Why 10:30?" You ask.
"Because I said so. And because leaving her alone for too long is never a good idea."
MORE UNECESSARY STUFF!Rifle!AK47hf008c2014/10/19 (Sun) 05:35No. 29571▼
THIS LIST IS TO ONLY BE CONSULTED IN A THEORETICAL CONTEXT
Clear Sky Paranormal Asset Tactical Combat Capability Chart - Outside World by Yakumo Ran
Note: All comparisons are within the scope of sustained combat over a two minute period against a ground target of conventional nature with a mix of soft and hard targets with identical conditions on both sides. Setting is outside Gensokyo. Ranking is based on impact on the tactical situation, not damage. Ranking assumes optimal scenario with appropriate channeling apparatus
1 - Equivalent of green human soldier, JSDF standards 2 - Equivalent of veteran human soldier, USMC standard 3 - Equivalent of human special forces veteran, British SAS Standard 4 - Equivalent of human fireteam, USMC standard 5 - Equivalent of human infantry squad, USMC standard 6 - Equivalent of M1A2 Main Battle Tank, US Army Standard 7 - Equivalent of Mil Mi-24D Gunship, Russian Armed Forces Standard 8 - Equivalent of A-10 Thunderbolt Ground Attack Aircraft, single run. 9 - Equivalent of Tomahawk Cruise Missile strike, 450kg payload 10 - Equivalent of Medium Artillery Battery, US Army Standard 10.5- Equivalent of Ticonderoga-Class cruiser, US Navy 11 - Equivalent of Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, US Navy 12+ - Equivalent or above of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, US Navy ? - Uncertain
List - By Region and Affiliations
Generic Baseline - 2.2 Note: This is an average youkai with no combat viable powers or a veteran village soldier. They may be 1 or 2 in marksmanship but are far more useful in close quarters, where they are anywhere from 3 to 4. Unlisted individuals are assumed to be part of this category Youkai with natural flight capabilities receive a rank increase of one.
Famous youkai are generally ranked 4 unless stated otherwise on this list.
Hakurei Reimu - 5 Note: Defense capabilities are 12+ when given enough time to channel its abilities
Kirisame Marisa - 6
Mima - 7 Note: Very little known about her capabilities due to hibernation
Suika Ibuki - ? Note: Preliminary testing as shown great effectiveness in producing concealment. Further testing required.
Hata no Kokoro - 6 Note: Best used in social control
Konpaku Youmu - 1-8 Note: Effectively zero effectiveness at range. Can cleave through Chobham armor with ease during demonstration.
Saigyouji Yuyuko - 4-? Note: Its unique powers render it much more useful in roles where the removal of a key but hard to reach element can impact the situation on a theatre-wide level.
Scarlet Devil Mansion
Patchouli Knowledge - 0-10 Note - Unfit for direct combat. With appropriate materials it can lay down sustained magical fire appropriate to the rank. Will become disabled with as much as a single punch, however.
Sakuya Izayoi - ? Note - Very specialized powers. Almost useless against hard targets in conventional situations. Recommend for spec ops duties only.
Remilia Scarlet - 5
Flandre Scarlet - 5-12+ Note - Potentially Uncontrollable, use with extreme caution and with absolute necessity when no other options are present. Maximum current observed capability matched that of a 14 kt TNT nuclear warhead.
Hong Meiling - 4-? Note - While initially determined to be not much better than baseline, recent intel suggests that it may be capable of projecting force equivalent to a B83 nuclear bomb once it reaches full potential. Also can impact scenarios on a theatre level when operating in Eastern Asia.
Eientei Note - Their use of Lunar equipment may result in a variable rating increase.
Tewi Inaba - 3 Note - Much more useful in a squad than by its lonesome
Eirin Yagakoro - 5 Note - Extremely effective medic and engineer, can impact much more in those roles up to 12+
Kaguya Houraisan - 5 Note - Defense capability of 12+
Kappa Village Note - Their use of Kappa technology may result in a variable rating increase.
Every Kappa, ever. - 0.5-1.5 + Note - Take away a kappa's technology and an unarmed human could beat them one-on-one Their technology is unpredictable.
Tengu warrior - 3-3.5 Note: Wolf tengu are stronger in combat, but the crow tengu can fly in the Outside World.
Captain Inubashiri - 7 Note: Can eliminate targets from 1000 kilos away
Lord Tenma - ? Note: Really need more info
Kanako Yasaka - 7 Note: Best used in aerial operations
Suwako Moriya - 9 Note: Best used against bunkers and hardened structures
Sanae Kochiya - 5 Note: Best used in logistics due to its abilities
Ibara Kasen - ? Note: We actually know surprisingly little about her capabilities. Research pending.
Oni - 3
Hoshigami Yuugi - 5-? Note: Preliminary testing suggests that her power is best used in concert with other magical forces.
Komeiji Satori - 1.5 Note: Interrogations will now be instantaneous and yield perfect results. Can change entire wars if used correctly.
Reiuji Utsuho - 10+ Note: Collateral damage will be guaranteed upon deployment
Komeiji Koishi - 12+ Note: CAN AND WILL WIN WARS. If properly used, can assassinate or brainwash any target anywhere on Earth. Maybe in space too. Her ability to become invisible to the subconscious DOES NOT appear to diminish outside the Border. Further testing pending.
Village and the Temples
Fujiwara no Mokou - 6 Note: Again, defense rating of 12+ due to immortality
Unzan - 7 Note: Does not appear to diminish when outside Border
Toramaru Shou - 10+ Note: During simulation testing and observations, subject is capable of strategizing, predicting, and winning any and every combat scenario in seconds. If assigned to a commanding position, it will essentially guarantee victory in that scope.
Hijiri Byakuren - 5
Kaku Seiga - 2-4 Note: Far more useful in urban and cave fighting due to her ability.
Monosobe no Futo - 10+ Note: Its ability can detect enemy positions hundreds of kilometers away just by dancing around with a sword grants it this rating.
Toyosatomimi no Miko - 3 Note: Best used as a commander or in civilian relations. Morale and PR problems will disappear.
Houjuu Nue - 5
Futasuiwa Mamizou - 6 Note: Can fill up a platoon with its summoned minion
Kijin Sejia - 4 Note: Best used in inciting rebellions
Kazami Yuuka - 7 Note: Best used in a logistical position.
Alice Margatroid - 5 Note: Best used in an engineering position, though the dolls effectively can act as an entire fireteam by themselves.
Yakumo Ran - 6 Note: Best used in a commanding position
Yakumo Yukari - 12+ Note: This rating is definitely not done under coercion. It is completely unbiased, fair, and scientific.
Higan and Heaven regions have not been properly consulted or observed
============================================ <Spice> why are they all girls <~Blue> Why are you all boys. Also, Tenma's a male. <Spice> point, nice drawing you included of purple too
That is assuming she can project the same amount of power Outside of the Border. Such a ritual, while trivial within Gensokyo, would be far harder with the low concentration of magic in the Outside World as she would need to expend more energy to make up for the difference. It is far more efficient to use a bomb.
The real reason she is 12+ is because of the infrastructure she already created as well as the potential for abusing the abstract aspects of her power.
[x] Hunter's Module - Advanced sensor suite calibrated to detect magical resonance in the environment. Has a set of goggles with integrated heads up display. Can detect medium and larger living organisms and magical concentrations up to a 100 meters radius sphere around the module and up to 300 meters in a narrow cone in front.
"As an added bonus, this module will help you shoot better with the way the HUD works with the exoskeleton," Reisen explains as she installs the hood onto the suit, "Though you really should not have to if you follow what I told you earlier."
"You're talking like I actively try to find trouble, Miss Udongein."
After retrieving your backpack and the only weapon you had survive the rocket strike: the shotgun, you step outside of the Eientei compound and come upon a bored Kagerou sitting on the front steps of the building, a red knapsack slung over her shoulder.
"Are you ready yet?" She asks, exasperated.
"Why? You need a human to protect you on your way home?"
"I'm fine, but I do not believe you can navigate the Bamboo Forest by yourself. Besides, I needed to do some shopping at the village anyway. Nice armor, by the way, maybe this time you'll have the guts to not scramble away like a little puppy."
You were just about to come up with another retort when you see somebody coming around the bend in the path. A man, dressed in a shabby looking robe and with his long, dirty looking black hair tied back in a ponytail. His belt looks odd, and upon closer inspection you notice that it is actually a chain whip, a weapon you have not seen outside of martial arts performances. He also carries a sword, likely a katana, on his back. His face is wrinkled, though he does not look older than thirty years, and his only description you could give outside of looking unkempt would be "tired".
"An Outsider?" You mutter at Kagerou.
"No, he doesn't smell like one." She sniffs the air, "But he does not smell like one from here either."
The man walks closer up to the two of you. Taking note at first of your armor, his eyes then fall on the armband marked with Eirin's sigil.
"Excuse me," he asks, "Do you happen to know if Miss Yagokoro is in?"
"Yes, she is busy right now though. I'm sure if you go inside Miss Udongein could help you. I am just an employee for the village clinic, I do not---"
The front door swings open, "Ming!" Reisen yells as she emerges with a sack over her shoulder, "I found some smoke grenades, oil bombs and a spare medikit that you can...oh. I'm sorry." She quickly drops the bag and formally bows to the man, "Welcome to Eientei, how can we help you?"
"Ah, Miss Udongein." The man bows back, "I was wondering if you could let Miss Yagokoro know..."
"Master is busy right now, I'm sorry, could you come back later?"
"Ah, in that case, could you send her a message? Tell her that 'The cuckoo alone sings all the white night'."
Reisen does not respond for a few seconds as she stands there staring at the man. Then she starts coughing, which transitions quickly into a loud uproarious laughter, a laughter which causes her to lean against the doorway as she clutches her stomach. You do note that this laughter sounds more like one of relief than humor.
"Oh, for how long, for just how long...Come inside, we wouldn't want to keep her waiting now." She ushers him into Eientei and closes the door, leaving the sack outside.
"Miss Udongein? What was that all about?" You call into the building.
The door opens just a crack, "He's just an old friend, do not worry about it. Take the equipment here if you want and get to the clinic, please." It then slams shut, and you can hear a bar being set into place.
"A Lunarian? That man was a Lunarian?" You ask the werewolf, drawing the closest conclusion you can think of.
"Definitely not," Kagerou shakes her head, "I can tell, Lunarians and moon rabbits smell very differently from us. This man does not. His scent is a little familiar though, but I cannot quite tell from where or whom."
Having no other way to tell, you decide to trust Kagerou on this one. And seeing how there is nothing else to do here, you pick up the sack and begin walking back to the village with the werewolf.
Time: 10:05 Date: June 28, 20XX Location: Human Village outskirts Threat Level: 1
Passing back through the bamboo forest, nothing much happens. You think you saw fairies emerge from the undergrowth and from around bamboo trunks to gawk at you, but when you turn to get a better look they slink back into cover. The chattering and giggling from those spots give away their presence though.
"Annoying little things," Kagerou comments as she leads you on, "Not even good for a meal."
"And how did you know this?"
"Tried biting one alive once. It tasted like bamboo."
Emerging from the forest with no incident. It was just as the two of you get past the field where Nitori's robot crashed yesterday that something unusual comes up.
The Russian soldiers you were drinking with, including your recent acquaintance Konoroz are standing guard outside a large tent set up next to the now cooled wreckage, apparently using a section of the destroyed mecha as a camp perimeter. Strangely, they do not appear to be securing a perimeter, as they only seem to be dissuading any onlookers from entering the tent itself. Screams can be heard from within the tent, screams which are abruptly silenced in minute-long intervals before resuming again.
"Preevyet!" Konoroz spots you and calls out, "You two have a minute?"
You look at Kagerou, who gives a "sure why not" shrug.
"So what's going on here, you guys need surgery work or something?" You say as as approach, "I may be able to help."
"If it was surgery we would have Spring do it. Nope, it's something else." he motions the two of you to the front of the tent and opens the flap. "Be quiet."
The interior of the tent is fairly well-lit, with the thin fabric letting sunlight seep through. Your eyes wander immediately to the far end as you hear another scream coming from it.
A person, tied to a chair, is screaming bloody murder. You can see that he is half-naked, and has a bag tied over his head. A particularly large and bald soldier is currently beating him with a wooden club, taking care to not damage any vital areas. Lazarov, the rather jovial officer you talked with on your first night, is standing in front of the prisoner with a grim expression, the cigarette in his mouth tilted to the corner.
"I'll ask again: Who or what are you working for?" he asks as the bald soldier stops the beating.
The man remains silent.
Lazarov steps over, removes the cigarette from his mouth and sticks it onto the man's neck, provoking a very loud, shrill shriek that had Kagerou hiss in pain and pull down her ears.
"You can make this stop this any time. You just have to answer: Who or what are you working for?" Lazarov shouts.
The man remains silent save for labored breathing coming through the bag.
"So, was this the armored man Marisa told you about?" You mutter.
"Indeed, it took five hours to track him down and capture him though." Konoroz gestures at a pile of objects in corner of the tent, "Bastard had some strange armor that turned him invisible. Figures."
You realize that the pile in the corner is actually the pieces of what appeared to be a bomb disposal suit, but distinguishes itself with a military-style helmet and some odd mechanical components which run inside the pieces.
"Yeah, can't get it to work though. Maybe its electronically imprinted. The bastard won't talk, any how." Konoroz leads the two of you back out of the tent.
"And why are you torturing him?" Kagerou speaks up, irritated.
"He was the yob tried to kill us with that KSVK over there," Konoroz points at the large anti-materiel rifle sitting against a rock outside. "There's no way in hell that some random lunatic got a gun like that plus what is apparently classified technology judging by the armor, especially considering how the American group had a similar encounter. Only hint we got was that when we captured him he called us 'servants of the devil' and 'traitors'."
"None!" Konoroz throws up his hands, "He won't talk! I've worked with fanatics in Chechnya before, and this one is just like them. They take weeks, even months to break, and we simply cannot do that right now. He knows we won't kill him, so he's just not talking. Maybe he figures that his buddies are going to save him soon, and judging by their equipment I wouldn't exactly be happy to fight them."
"So what do you want me to do?"
"Spring said you had some chemicals on you. Do you mind lending some capsaicin or whatever? I'll offer some ammo or other supplies as compensation."
"Sorry man, I lost most of my stock when a monster attacked me last night."
"Well," Konoroz threw up his hands, "We still need to pry his mouth open somehow before his buddies set a nuke off or something. If you do not have any chemicals, maybe you have ideas? Anything? We've been grilling this idiot for four hours and all we know is that A: He speaks Japanese B: He's a fanatic, likely religious, and C: He does not know anything about Gensokyo."
"Wait what?" Kagerou pipes up, "But you captured him here in Gensokyo, right?"
"Yeah! But he's never identified a youkai, or even know what this place is called. He said his superiors ordered him here to 'purge the enemy', and he apparently just started shooting at the most military thing he saw and ran blindly off without direction when he was injured. That's all he told us. No origin, no names, nothing useful."
"Huh. Interesting." You take a few moments to think, pacing around the front of the tent, before coming up with a few ideas.
You still need to do your regular job, so there's only time to try one.
[ ] Maybe he'll crack if you poke at some of his nerves with a knife. [ ] Try some filthy American interrogation methods [ ] There's still some chemicals left, and the Eientei medikit might have something [ ] There's a rather underhanded yet effective and clean way, but you'll probably have to split the reward with Kagerou if you pick this one.
Report on Clear Sky Unit Structure, by embedded SIS Agent Winters.
Clear Sky, uniquely apart from other PMC corporations, possess categorization for its employees beyond the simple team and team leader designations. Despite being ostensibly a Japanese company, Clear Sky is registered in Switzerland and uses Western-style titles as euphemisms for their categories.
Clear Sky Trainee (Associate) - Fresh recruits from the civilian population. These Clear Sky workers are the lowest level of worker in the wetwork field of Clear Sky. They generally stay in the camps and other facilities for training and non-combat duties. Armed with no more than a handgun or a shotgun for self-defense, they are nonetheless equipped with a crude variant of their so-called Mk1 distortion field so they could stay alive if things go sour. ID: Civilian Outdoors wear appropriate to the environment. Occasionally webbing. Armband with Clear Sky logo for identification. Weapons: Various antiquated handguns, pump-action shotguns, and bolt-action rifles. Only issued in hot zones.
Clear Sky Support Personnel (Staff Member) - The backbone of their military branch, support personnel make up about 60% of their forces in the field. They include the personnel who are still working towards becoming a combat operative and civilian contractors who work in non-combat roles. They are responsible for logistics, transportation, civilian relations, police work and other tasks that keep Clear Sky running. They are generally equipped with the same equipment as trainees, though most of the time with better armament. ID: Camouflaged clothing in rural areas. Modified business casual clothing in urban areas. Weapons: Occasional submachine guns, most common are Skorpion and H&K MP7 models. Various handguns.
Clear Sky Operative (Sales Team member) - Personnel who possess enough training to begin acting in the field. Youkai are automatically placed within this category unless specified otherwise. Wearing mismatched gear bought, scavenged and looted by Clear Sky and wearing balaclavas to obscure their identity, the Operative is the most common soldier one would encounter in a Clear Sky operation. The human soldiers arm themselves with assault rifles, light machine guns, and battle rifles, while the youkai prefer melee weaponry backed up with large-calibre firearms. Their primary threat lies in the Mk II and III variants of the Kappa distortion field which renders them incredibly difficult to hit via bullets, and their cutting edge nano- tubular underclothing they wear provides immense protection against shrapnel. ID: Difficult to identify due to their non-standard dress. Most wear some form of face covering and all wear armbands with the Clear Sky icon. Weapons: Assault rifles, most common are AK-74 (chambered for 7.62x39), M16A2, and QBZ-97 models. Light machine guns, most commonly the RPK. Various models of battle rifles. Youkai operatives can be identified via their melee weapon use (commonly large knives, machetes and axes) and generally wield large-calibre handguns and combat shotguns (Saiga-12 appears to be most common) - Equivalent uses: Riflemen, Designated marksmen, automatic riflemen, heavy weapons teams, vehicle and emplacement crew,
Clear Sky Senior Operative (Sales Team leader, Manager) - Senior Operatives generally fill the role of officers in the Clear Sky chain of command. They have the experience to coordinate, lead and execute squad tactics on par with Royal Marine officers. Generally equipped and dressed identically to their juniors, the Senior Operative carries one additional piece of equipment--a sophisticated laser device the size of a handgun, which can be used to designate coordinates and mark targets in the manner of a conventional range-finder or overcharged to produce a beam that is capable of searing a target up to thirty meters away with hot plasma. ID: Both youkai and human operatives can be senior operatives. The only way to ID them is by their possession of their "Pointers". Senior Operatives can be anywhere from a sergeant to a major equivalent in the Clear Sky hierarchy. - Equivalent uses: NCOs, COs, M.P.
Clear Sky Heavy Operative (Urban Delivery Agent) - Deployed mainly in urban areas, the Heavy Operative is generally a Senior Operative of some sort who chooses to lead the assault in areas where demolishing buildings is not feasible. Wearing a full body suit of Type IV armor, reinforced with additional ablative armour plates and topped up with a heavier distortion field powered by a backpack battery. These men are effectively impervious to small-arms fire and hand grenades. The majority of Heavy Operatives are youkai due to their superior strength and durability and the fact that the role does not require much in the way of accuracy. They commonly wield automatic shotguns and light machine guns, and all carry a fire axe for breaching and gruesome intimidation. - Equivalent uses: I swear they got this idea from a movie or video game. There is no equivalent for this in any conventional military.
Clear Sky Infiltrator (Customer Service Agent) - Operatives who are skilled in the art of subtlety, observation and stealth, often demonstrated by them skipping duties and not being caught until Chief Operations Officer Indigo catches them. They swap out their distortion field for optical camouflage and an enhanced sensor suite. Generally sent in for observation and spying duties, infiltrators also carry out sabotage and assassination jobs, and may be behind a number of unsolved cases we are investigating. Clear Sky frequently our poaches Nepalese recruits for this role as well as Elite Operatives. - Equivalent uses: Recon, Sniper teams, Light Infantry, Commandos
Clear Sky Combat Engineer (Engineering Support Specialist) - Technically Support Personnel, these Operatives are dressed in full combat gear and equipped with assault rifles. What differentiates them visually is the large backpack they carry into combat. It contains an eccentric device called an "extended arm", which is a mechanical device composed of a seemingly unsupported flexible metal tube with a claw on the end, reminiscent of Doctor Octopus's device from the Spider-man comic series. They use it as a third arm, accessing hard to reach places and handling dangerous items. It can exert enough force to crush a watermelon. Other than that, a Combat Engineer is no differently armed than a standard operative.
Clear Sky Elite Operative (Key Sales Manager) - Elite Operatives are an entirely different level than the other military operators in Clear Sky. Frequently recruited from the "cream-of- the-crop" in militaries and the rare youkai who can shoot as well as a human, the elite operative differs from the lower tier operators in that they almost entirely lack a parallel to any unit in a conventional military. Aside from the standard distortion field, these troopers wear a proprietory suit of body armor which uses a full-body variant of the thick nano-tubular vest provided to normal operatives, combined with a rigid "full-plate" implementation of armored plates, where the plating is strapped outside of the clothing rather than inserted inside. This grants them a rather anachronistic resemblance to the iconic knights of medieval times, granting them the in-company moniker of "Black Knights". These soldiers all carry a mechanized anchor to ascend vertical surfaces and a Kappa rocket launcher, capable of direct fire up to two hundred meters and guided indirect fire up to a mile, with a seemingly physically impossible ammunition capacity considering their small size. This alone allows lone Elite Operatives to decimate armor columns at a safe range, bombarding vehicles and concentrated infantry with guided munitions from behind hills and buildings. For small arms they generally field the G36 assault rifle, supplemented with a large amount of other weapons, mostly experimental models that are not on the market, such as the Daewoo K11 and the Chinese ZH-05. In addition to Pointers, Elite Operatives also carry a Kappa bubble emitter, a seemingly childish device which is used as a form of cover on demand as the large anomalous bubbles produced are two meters in diameter and can block most forms of conventional fire until it pops. Elite Operatives are occasionally fielded with squads of regular operatives to provide heavy support, but are generally fielded as their own squads. Elite operative squads are generally used to assault "hard" targets and heavy enemy concentrations, where their rockets and heavy defense allows them to decimate entire tank battalions and tear up entrenched positions before the vehicles and conventional operators come in to sweep and clear. Currently, they are rare and are only seen in Myanmar. - Equivalent uses: Anti-armor teams, artillery battery, armored column.
Clear Sky Special Operative (referred to with C-suite titles) - These designate certain unique individuals with anomalous abilities beyond the typical youkai. They are directly under the control of the COO and CEO.
Note: While the "regular" youkai operatives have a roughly even gender distribution, the more powerful ones tend to have a very heavy female representation
Chief Visionary Officer Luciana Corazon - Callsign "Faceless", better known by her real name as "Hata no Kokoro". Identified by the Japanese naginata polearm she uses as her sole weapon. Easily one of the physically strongest youkai operatives, having seen her stop a car by bracing herself and jamming the polearm into the engine block. Extremely dangerous in melee combat, even moreso than the other youkai operatives, this operative can manifest a vast array of mind-altering capabilities, including the ability to incite a peaceful protest into a riot within minutes, paralyze a squad of enemy troops, and cower entire battalions with nothing more than a ritual dance performed with her masks on.
Chief Operations Officer Mae Indigo - Callsign "Indigo", better known by her "real" name as "Yakumo Ran". Difficult to identify, as she usually dresses like a normal operative and lacks any unique weaponry. Accurate and skilled with both firearms and blades, she prefers to lead from the front so as to use her anomalous abilities to their full extent. Her specialty is transforming the battlefield into a Kafkaesque nightmare for the enemy, with mobile smoke screens that project fake gunshot effects, illusionary soldiers that charge a position, setting it to be flanked by another squad of decoys, which finally sets up the enemy position to be eradicated as operatives emerge from behind their own ranks. Her abilities can even affect radar and infrared sensors, making it so that nothing on the battlefield can be truly perceived until the last two enemies die from each other's guns.
Chief Executive Officer Cirri Violet - Callsign unknown, little information avaPOSDJOIJWgf80WQEwhfduWHFESHOWENfoeiduefh
Winters reflexively flinches forward as he hears a soft giggle by his ear. He then freezes in shock as hands from behind him gently grab hold of his own and remove them from the keyboard, while a third hand saves the document.
Recovering his nerves, he bites hard on the fake molar in the back of his mouth, only to hiss in pain as the bite hits only flesh.
"Looking for this?" The semi-familiar voice of a young woman whispers into his ear, while a hand dangles the porcelain tooth in front of him. Winters attempts to grab it, but his arms are immobilized by the strange hands.
"I was wondering why the British SIS did not offer an open visit with us. Turns out they already had an observer in our organization."
"You won't get anything out of me." Winters snarls, futilely trying to break free of the hands, which are surprisingly strong considering how thin and frail they look.
"Now why in the world would I do that?" The hands turn Winters around, bringing him face-to-face with CEO Violet, a face he had only previously seen in videos and teleconference screens. He gulps as he sees that the extra hands holding him are not attached other people, but originate instead from what appears to be black rifts in the air surrounding the woman. The sole bright spot he could see in this situation is that she does not look angry, but amused.
"What do you mean?"
"For starters, I have access to the MI6 information archives, and anything purged from those archives could be bought. If you sent that document, your handler Agent Lombardy and his superior Director Raleigh would have processed it and archived it, is that not correct?"
"How could you possibly know..."
Violet removes a paper fan from her suit and begins slowly fanning as a gesture of complacency, "Raleigh himself told me, after prying his lips loose with a rather paltry bribe and a few bottles of whiskey. Lombardy was a better man, however, he kept his mouth shut."
"I knew that bloody git Raleigh was unreliable!" Winters curses. From the beginning he had felt this operation was wonky with the questionable leadership involved, and now he has the proof. "Now he goes and drags the entire operation down--"
"Anyway," Violet cuts him off, "I've decided to not care about such an action, considering the information here is not proprietory. Since you are a SIS agent, I'm transferring you to the Information Services Division in Burma. Keep writing and sending, we're a company, not a country, and the trade secrets we do have are unwritten."
Winters remains in his desk, blankly staring at Violet's lightly smiling face as the hands release him and retract back into their respective voids. "What, so you are just going to let me..."
"Here, let me finish this document for you."
Chief Executive Cirri Violet - Callsign "Purple", better known by the name of "Yakumo Yukari". Responsible for the "anomalous" creation and maintenance of Clear Sky's train network that permits it to essentially ignore transportation issues. Does not usually participate in the field. Powers are vaguely defined, even by her own admission, but are generally concerned with boundaries of some sort. Has not yet demonstrated an application of her powers in combat, in real life at least.
"Also, 'Winters', I highly suggest you play the games listed in the Orientation Manual. They are somewhat inaccurate, but give a decent amount of information on the higher level officers."
[x] There's a rather underhanded yet effective and clean way, but you'll probably have to split the reward with Kagerou if you pick this one.
Kagerou, after staring at you for several seconds in disbelief, replies, "That is a very, very questionable idea."
"Come on," you encourage her, "They'll cover your shopping expenses if this works, and besides, you're a youkai!"
"Not just a youkai." She scoffs, her ears jutting forward, "A werewolf can easily stand a sea of bullets and arrows and regenerate as soon as it's over, assuming they're not silver."
"They are lead and steel core." Konoroz chimes in, "We are not rich enough to afford silver."
"So, are you in?"
"It's just...are you sure?" She peeks into the tent, "He's a fanatic. Would he even care?"
"Depends, maybe he's a sociopath, maybe not." Konoroz answers, "It's a toss-up, but judging by what we did back in 1985 with Hezbollah, this type of motivation could be useful. Captain Lazarov! We need you over here! There may be a better way."
"Do you have anything Lieutenant...Hello Mr. Wu and…Oh, Miss...Imaizumi, is it?" The officer gives a quick bow as he exits the tent, "I greatly appreciate your presence, but I doubt terrifying him as a werewolf would do anything after what we put him through."
"No, kapitan, the boy's the one who has an idea."
Keeping a low voice, you whisper the details of your half-baked plan to the Russian spetsnaz officer.
"I see," Lazarov raises a finger after pondering it for a while, "I know where you got this from, but since the subject does not have a relationship with her here...it's questionable. Well it is better than beating him. Fanatics like this one can withstand physical pain, but mental anguish is harder, and emotional suffering can break through what sticks and stones could not. More likely than not he has a conventional sense of morality. Did Miss Imaizumi consent?"
"I'm fine with it," she remarks as she puts on her hood, "I am a bit curious as to what he is doing here, myself."
The four of you, along with the other spetsnaz operators, take a few more minutes to work out the routines and prep the dress costumes. Konoroz tosses you a helmet and a jacket so you look like one of the other soldiers, and Kagerou changes into a set of burlap shirt and pants that the Russians kept around as prisoner wear, along with a headscarf to cover up both her lupine ears and the fact that she has no human ears.
"Along the shoulder and thighs, please." she mutters as you whack at her with Lazarov's club, making sure to strike the areas with the most concentrated capillaries in human anatomy. "Those parts of me heal faster."
After making sure everyone looks as they should, the four of you take up positions near the front of the tent. You notice that Konoroz appears rather nervous, constantly balling his palms and looking from side to side. He reminds you of a newbie actor in his first play, and in a sense, he is one.
Lazarov goes in first, the rest of you leaning against the flap to listen as closely as possible to what is being done inside.
"So, you decided not to talk. Is that correct?"
"You'll never get anything, you bastards!" cones the snarled response.
"Very well, bring the girl in."
On the count of three, Kagerou jumps into the tent as if she's been thrown, landing on her face as her hands had been tied behind her back. You and Konoroz enter, pointing handguns at her as she cowers and weeps on the ground. Lazarov whisks the hood off of the interrogatee, revealing the face of a young man of European look seemingly in his twenties. You note that, like you and unlike the soldiers, he looks of soft urban living, though it's not obvious with the caked blood on his face and matted blond hair.
Remembering the thugs you murdered from two days ago, you remind yourself that most outsiders look like this.
"W-what are you doing?" The man asks after taking a moment to adjust his eyes to the light, "Who is she? What are you doing to her?!"
"Just a local villager." Lazarov replies, "Now, are you going to talk?"
The man remains silent.
Lazarov waves his hand. Noting Kagerou's ear movement under the scarf which gives the signal to proceed, you kick her in the stomach, eliciting a cry of pain. Konoroz follows suit, beating her already carefully bruised form with his gun.
"What are you doing? Stop it!" The man cries.
"Then talk." Lazarov flatly states.
A few moments pass as you continue to wail on the werewolf. The man looks as though he is about to talk, but closes his mouth at the last moment. Lazarov, noticing this, waves his hand again.
You unsheathe your knife, and slowly slide the blade across her midsection, inducing an even louder cry of pain from Kagerou and increased panting. It is not hard to keep the knife from cutting any deeper than necessary to draw blood, as her skin and flesh is easily as tough as boiled leather.
"Stop it! Now!"
"You can stop it at any time you want," Lazarov takes out another cigarette and takes a slow, drawn-out puff on it, performing an act of villainous calm amidst the screams and begging of the supposed innocent civilian. Even so, you can see his other fist tense up in discomfort. "All you have to do is cooperate."
Seeing how the man still remains silent after your mutilation, Lazarov drags the chair over next to Kagerou before kicking it down sideways, and Konoroz shoulders his assault rifle. Pointing it at the ground near Kagerou. He opens fire right next to the man's face, kicking up clouds of hot dust to choke both the actor and the interrogatee.
"There is no doubt that this is painful," Lazarov says as the man chokingly screams profanities through the dust, "but rest assured. Lieutenant Konoroz is a trained professional, and he won't harm her. Unless he...misses."
On cue, Lazarov makes a motion to shove at Konoroz, who tilts his rifle to fire exactly into Kagerou's thigh. A respectable spurt of blood comes out as she elevates her volume of pity noise appropriately.
"Konoroz! That's going on your record! Why, you could have killed her!" The assault rifle barrel hovers over Kagerou's chest, "Forgive him. He's a little twitchy." Lazarov facetiously notes, "Who knows when he would miss next."
It takes the click of the magazine reloading to finally make the man break, "STOP SHOOTING STOP SHOOTING! I'll talk...I'll...talk. Just leave her alone!"
"I hate playing the damsel." Kagerou grumbles as you bandage her wounds and dig out the bullet, not even flinching even though she refused anaesthesia. "Youkai are supposed to be monsters, not victims."
This little ploy could have fallen flat if the man noticed that Kagerou’s eyes are most definitely not human. The common trend you’ve noticed in the youkai you’ve met is that their eyes are the first to give away their nature. Even though Kagerou is technically only a half-breed, though of purebred descendent, her red eyes are very much lupine, with the small pupils and the peculiar slant.
"You make an excellent victim, however." You reply as you scrub the caked blood from her skin. "You don't die as easily."
"What the fuck is wrong with you?" Konoroz, after spending the last five minutes leaning against a nearby tree and watching you silently, "You're supposed to be just an American college student, yet apparently you kill three people on your first day here, inject yourself with combat drugs and now you plan and execute an interrogation through torturing a civilian!"
"Hey! The civilian cooperated and wasn't really hurt! And those three fuckers had it coming!" You retort.
"You sound and act way too similarly to the psycho civie agents who have too much time on their hands and easy access to prisoners." The soldier narrows his eyes, "Those are the kinds of people that take apart animals for fun."
"Whatever you say, lieutenant. I'm just a bio-med student on vacation in an exotic area of the world. I do whatever is necessary to keep myself alive and what I believe is the right thing in a situation." You say as you remove another bandage from the pot of boiling water and dry it off. You know he's right, there is likely something wrong with you. The importance is that you do not allow the wrongness to affect you negatively, as far as you know. “I have never taken apart an innocent animal for fun.”
============================= The steam obscures all from vision, but you still smell them, still hear them, still taste them.
The axe-head finds its way into another skull, spilling blood and grey-matter in all directions.
The shell crumples. The axe severs the neck, just to be sure.
You taste the axe. It is metallic and salty and sweet.
Oh so sweet. The axe goes down again, feasting on more sinew and bone.
"Ow! Damn it Ming!"
"Oh shit! I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" You hastily apologize as you undo a botched bandage. "I drifted off for a moment there."
Kagerou hisses, flattening her ears back in irritation, "Aren't you studying to be a doctor?"
"Researcher, not doctor. Doubt I could stomach the burden and duties of doctor." You speak with a sigh, "I wish people would stop assuming things."
The flap of the tent opens. Lazarov emerges, a disappointed expression on his face. "He talked, but did not say much more."
"At least we know where they are coming from and what ublyudoks they are working for, right?" Konoroz inquires.
Lazarov spits out the still whole cigarette in his mouth, before sighing and explaining, "The subject says he was hired by GAM, The Global Anti-Mysticists..."
"The fuck?" Konoroz cocks an eyebrow, "The GAM? You mean the impoverished group of fundies who could barely afford their recent trip to Japan? And he expects us to believe that?"
"I beat him a few more times to make sure," The captain responds, "But he would not say anything else. He claims that him and several other agents, all apparently Americans, were recruited at the GAM branch office in Chicago, USA. They were provided with a plane ticket to Japan and some money for expenses. Once they arrived at the airport they were led into a reserved hotel in Fukuoka and given gear and supplies by personnel of various nationalities wearing the GAM cap. The briefing they were given states that they are to observe and scout out what the briefing claims to be a 'secret retreat for heathen leaders' where they discuss ways to 'promote the corruption of mysticism and paganism in the world'. Specifically, they were told to use their weapons in self-defense, but not 'exclusively'. His insertion was via a covered truck with several others, and he claims that the trip took about three or four hours, and he dozed off during the trip, and did not see anything between the hotel parking lot and his insertion point near the Youkai Mountain foothills."
"Didn't the GAM only plan protests in Toyko and Kyoto?" You ask, recalling the news report you watched the day before you breached the Border.
"Yeah, that's the strange part. I doubt he would lie about something like this, but it does raise some questions. More concerning is that he claims that there were more trucks behind his, and that they too were filled with agents like him."
"So let me get this straight, kapitan, we've got at least a dozen or more militants heavily armed with futuristic technology roaming around Gensokyo, and possibly even more?" Konoroz exclaims, "Did our observation trip just turn into a warzone deployment?"
"Slow down there lieutenant, I'll need to radio command about this, and hopefully also inform Lady Yakumo. If the intel is accurate then the conflict may be beyond our scope." He shakes the ashes of his cigarette onto the ground, staring downwards, "Regular militants we can deal with, but their armor pose a threat which our equipment cannot currently completely nullify...Konoroz, get Vlad and transfer this prisoner to the village's custody! Tell them everything. Spring, go inform the American-led camp of the threat."
"Roger sir, but...fucking GAM?" The medic curses as he begins jogging over to the Village. "Last time the database was updated they barely had more than 10 million dollars total in their accounts!"
"I doubt its GAM, but as of right now we have no further information to work on. Maybe Miss Kamishirasawa can figure out a few more ways to crack this guy. As for you, Miss Kagerou," he turns to the both of you and removes a, "Seeing as you did the highest amount of...work in this skit, I would say that you deserve the majority of the reward: would 30000 yen be enough?"
"Bien sur, Captain Lazarov," she answers as she accepts the bills, "Thank you."
Lazarov then turns towards you, "Now, Mr. Wu, as for your share of the reward..."
[ ] 4 RGO Fragmentation Grenades [ ] 10000 yen [ ] 1 kg of Semtex