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<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?
<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:_________