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File 142007055659.jpg - (1.69MB , 1920x1415 , 945e133266d04332c91edb32911906dc.jpg ) [iqdb]
29716 No. 29716
=====
Inari Shrine, Kyoto – Dec 31, 23:54
=====


I stuff my phone away again after checking the clock one last time. The breach is predicted to happen shortly after midnight, so I still have a few minutes. I’m already done preparing for a change, so there’s not much else for me to do other than relax and wait.

I’m ready for whatever it decides to throw at me today.

It’s New Year’s Eve with only a few minutes remaining in the year. Off in the distance I can hear the cheer of people as they enjoy their festival. Their laughter as they play at the booths with their friends and/or companion. A few cries of frustration can be heard as they lose at a game only to try again until they either get it, run out of money, or decide it isn’t worth it.

I’m a little ways off the beaten path between the shrine and the festival. From here I can see each and every person passing through the tunnel of tori. Of course they might see me as well, but it’d be a little harder as I’m concealed by the shadows of the trees and the illumination from the path blocks their view this far into the darkness.

I’ve placed myself in a small patch of trees away from the path to the shrine. It’s part of a small groove of willows which surrounds the shrine grounds. The area where I’m working tonight isn’t too dense; in fact I’m in a pretty open area.

So I can just sit here and browse people. Watch them as they walk past with a smile that says they don’t have a single care in the world. Truly, this is my favorite way to pass time. To see their joy filled expressions is the best kind of pay for my work, because that means I’m doing it right.

By now there’s a steady stream of people going from the festival to the shrine to get a good view of the fireworks. Families, friends, lovers, you name it. All of them happily ignorant of the danger I’m about to face. Exactly the way I want it.

I’m dragged out of my thoughts by the collective shout from the shrine. It appears they’ve begun the countdown already.

I ready my stance and conjure up the formula I’m going to use, and maintain a perfect image of it frozen in my mind.

Six

Five

Four

Three

Two

One

With a loud cheer a rocket is sent flying high in the sky before disappearing. Less than a second later it explodes with a myriad of colors.

However, that’s not what I’m looking at. No, I’m more interested in the cracks that just appeared in the air. I know how it sounds, but there’s no better way to describe it. It’s like a cracked window, but without the frame, just floating in the air.

And that’s my cue.

I raise my hand to activate the spell I’ve prepared. A barrier immediately surrounds the area and seals it off from the outside, confining me with whatever's going to cross the breach this time.

And just like that, the air shatters. A familiar sensation rushes over me as I’m pulled from the world I know, a hollow and lonely feeling aching throughout my body. A feeling of abandonment, as if the world itself is denying my existence.

But I’m not alone. With me is a youkai with a strong desire to leave the sacred land; an ice-based youkai in the shape of a big porcupine. How fitting of an opponent. Here I am at Inari’s shrine in the middle of winter fighting a blue hiwatari.

Without wasting any time it lowers its body, connecting each of its tails by the tip. The air itself starts to freeze, turning into a sharp crystal made of clear ice. The moment it finishes shaping it, the tails burst apart violently, launching the ice at me with deadly precision.

I turn slightly, letting it pass by. The cold air that trails after it brushes against me, sending shivers down my spine. As it crashes into one of the trees it leaves a fine mist of ice crystals floating in the air. The area where the ice hit has been left with a hole, covered by a thick layer of ice.

That’s bad news. There’s no telling what it’ll do if it hit me. I just have to avoid getting hit then, but that’s easier said than done.

The temperature drops a few degrees as a faint mist starts to surround the beast. The mist collects itself on the spikes, turning each of them into ice similar to the one fired at me. It bristles momentarily before launching a flurry of ice spikes at me through the air

I bring my hand up in front of me forming a basic seal. As I whisper a prayer, I focus my spiritual power to the tip of my fingers. I draw a line through the air with them, leaves behind a glowing trail which immediately spreads, creating a radiant wall of light.

A fine dust of crystals form as the shards of ice crash against my shield. But strong as it may be, it’s not impenetrable, as proven by the shards that manage to make their way through. If I could use my left hand I would be able to stop those as well, but alas, I can’t.

Cold air brushes my neck as a shard flies by. A moment later, I realize what just happened as a biting cold sensation spreads through my body. Distracted, I let another shard slip by, cutting into my shoulder. I flinch in pain as I lose concentration and drop the barrier entirely. A few more shards tear past my thigh, forcing me to the ground.
Seeing my weakened stage, it stops the barrage and begins to cautiously make its way towards me. The wounds made by the crystals have frozen over with a thin layer of ice. It’s going to slow my movement a nudge, but it won’t keep me from fighting. Compared to what I’m used to, this bare registers as a flesh wound.

I quickly bring up my hand and bite into it until the taste of metal fill my mouth. I clench my hand before slamming it on the ground. A dim green circle lights up from underneath the snow before a trail shoots along the ground towards the youkai.

As the trail approaches the icy beast, it splits into two, encircling and trapping it. The faint jolt passing through my arm signifies the completion of the preparations, and I initiate the spell. I start pouring in spiritual power while mentally reciting the formula.

As quick as it came, the light disappears. In its place a wall of jade-colored fire appears, surrounding the beast.

I can’t help but smirk as I stagger to my feet. It was a rough start, but I have more than a few cards up my sleeve. Just because I have next to no mana doesn’t mean I can’t use spells of my own.

The beast looks afraid of the fire surrounding it, furiously swinging its body in hopes of finding a small opening.

A familiar noise drags both our attention towards a rift in the larger barrier I created, one that quickly grows and spreads throughout its entirety. Quickly looking back at the beast, I see that it’s covered in cracks similar to those of the rifts. The repair is done. We’re being sent back. I won.

In a last stand, the icy youkai ignores the flames and charges head first. By reflex I assume a defensive stance. It leaps, and just as it’s about to hit me, it shatters. Along with it, the barrier collapses and everything fades to black.

After a moment, the surroundings fade back in. The pressure of rejection lightens, allowing me to relax again.

I let out a sigh and collect my thoughts again. Checking my phone reveals that nearly half an hour has past. To me it felt like nothing more than two minutes at most. Well, the barrier behaves weirdly, so it’s not really surprising. This just means that I spent yet another New Year’s battling it out.

The good news is that this was the last breach for now, so I can return home again. Bad news is that Doc is going to tear me a new one for getting injured by a small fry.

“I think it came from over here.”

“Are you sure you didn’t just imagine it? I didn’t hear anything.”

“I’m sure I heard something from over here somewhere.”



Shit. Don’t tell me they heard the barrier. No, that’d be impossible. Calm down. It probably wasn’t me they heard. If I just stay here they’ll pass by. You can’t see this place from the main road after all.

But of course fate is out to prove me wrong. Two girls catch sight of me. Both freeze for a moment, trying to understand the sight before them. Given my state, I guess it really isn’t that strange.

“Holy shit, are you alright? What happened?” The red haired girl runs up to me.

The blonde girl with twin tails follows right behind. She doesn’t say anything though, just keeps her distance as she eyes me carefully.

“It doesn’t concern you.” I turn away from her, scouting for my bag. It’s still near the rock I rested on before the fight; seems like it didn’t get dragged in this time.

“Professor, I don’t think we should get involved with him. I have a bad feeling,” her blonde friend speaks her mind.

“What are you talking about, Chiyuri? You should always help someone when you see them in trouble,” the ‘professor’ says. Though, to me she doesn’t look like much of a professor. Maybe it’s because of her young appearance, or maybe the fact her yukata doesn’t exactly scream ‘esteemed person’.

“But-”

“You should listen to your friend.” I cut her off before she gets to correct this ‘professor’. “You shouldn’t get involved, so just leave and forget you saw anything.” Just as I start making my way over to my bag, my legs decide to remind me of the wounds I earned by giving in and forcing me down.

“See, you can’t even walk by yourself.” She places her hands on her hips, taking a pose of confidence. “You should just accept the help of two pretty girls when they offer it.”

What kind of reason is that? Just accept the help of someone because they’re pretty? That just sounds like an excuse a back-alley brothel would use to reel in foreigners. Could it be she’s trying to rob me? The only valuables I carry would be a debit card and phone, both easily replaceable.

This girl is not about to give up, despite her friend’s clear protests. The way I see it I have two options: waste energy trying to convince her to leave me be, or go along with her and disappear when she’s not looking.

I let out a sigh as I once again stagger to my feet, hearing the obvious protest my by legs. “Sure, I’ll play along for now. Just tell me one thing. Why?”

“Why?” She shoots a quick glance over her right shoulder before she turns to face me. “Let’s call it the kindness of my heart. It is New Year’s after all. We should spread joy wherever we can.”

Yep, going along would be the right choice. With an answer like that I know she wouldn’t have given up easily.


=====
"Professor’s" apartment – 00:40
=====


“There, as good as new.” She says as she packs up her first aid kit and leaves, leaving me alone with her blonde friend.

I let my hand run over the band aid. It’s been a long time since I last had one of these stuck on me. It’s never been deemed necessary. Well it still isn’t, she’s just over reacting a bit.

“Is she always like that?” The girl nearly flinches at my sudden question.

“What’s it to you,” she snaps back.

“Alright, alright, sorry I asked.” I raise my hand to calm her, which seems to work as she just sinks into the chair she’s using.

Now that I actually take a look, this room is decorated more like a house than an apartment. I’d expect it to be more compact, but it’s quite spacious here. It makes me think of a western style, although I’ve never seen one in person.

“How long are you going to stay?” She doesn’t bother to look at me as she asks.

Returning the favor from before I answer with a “What’s it to you?”

She locks her eyes on me. “The fact you’re staying at my friend’s home. The fact I don’t trust you. The fact I want you gone as soon as possible.” If I didn’t plan on leaving as soon as possible anyway, I might have felt slightly insulted by that.

“Fair enough, I guess.” I shrug. “I’ll leave as soon as I can feel every inch of my legs again.”

“You seem to be able to walk fine as is, why delay any longer?”

“If I tried to leave now, your friend would likely come through the door and ‘convince’ me to stay.” I rest my head on my healthy hand. “Even if I’d already made it out of the door, she’d come and get me.”

The blue eyed girl sits up straight, giving me her full attention. “And how can you be so sure of that?”

“I’m quite good at reading people, you see.” I let a smirk crawl onto my face “Like for instance, I sense quite the hatred coming from you, and aimed at me."

“Oh really?” She smirks back at me. “What makes you say that?”

The red haired girl walks back into the room and stands behind her friend. “Now, now, Chiyuri, don’t be so harsh on him.” She’s changed her clothes to something more relaxed; grey baggy pants and a black t-shirt with some English nonsense written on it. It gives off a kind of makeshift pajamas feeling, if I’m to be honest.

‘Chiyuri’ stands up in protest. “But Yumemi, he-“

“-has done nothing wrong.” She cuts off her friend.

For a few moments she just stands there staring at the red haired girl. “Well, fine. I’m going to sleep then,” she says before marching off to another room.

“I hope she wasn’t too harsh on you.” She takes the seat that’s now been freed up.

“I’ve been treated worse before.” I tell her. “But to change the topic, I still haven’t heard your name.”

“Ah, sorry, it seems I got too caught up in the moment. My name is Okazaki Yumemi but feel free to call me Yumemi, I don’t really care for the formalities.” She gives me a friendly smile. “She’s Kitashirakawa Chiyuri.”

“That’s Kitashirakawa for you, you got that?” The small girl yells from her room. “Kita-shira-kawa.”

“I thought you were sleeping.” I reply.

“I am,” her yell is followed by a solid ‘thud’ sound before falling silent.

Yumemi just lets out a sigh, to which I follow suit. “Anyway, the two of you may call me Konoha.”

“It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.” She gives me another smile. “Anyway, you should probably get some rest. I hope you’re okay with using the couch.”

“You’re probably right.” I lean back into said couch. “Traveling home will take most of the day tomorrow.”

“Traveling? Oh no, I’m going to take you to the hospital tomorrow.” She picks up on my confused gaze and continues. “It’s, um, well, your arm.” She scratches her cheek as she tries to avoid looking directly at it. Quite obviously so, in fact.

“Oh, that. Don’t worry about it.” I drag my left arm out from the shirt. “It’s been like this for a few months already. It’s nothing new.”

“I- I see. That’s, um, good?” She hurriedly waves her hands in front of her. “No, I mean that’s fine. If you say it is fine, then I’ll trust you.”

Without anything left to say, I just sit there waiting for her to continue. Although it appears she’s run out of things to say as well. After a few seconds she opts to go get a blanket for me before heading to the same room as Kitashirakawa.

I close my eyes and rest.


=====
Okazaki’s apartment, Kyoto – Jan 1, 04:45
=====


While I didn’t get to rest for more than a couple of hours, my legs have healed enough for me to walk without a problem. The lesser wounds like the one on my cheek are almost completely gone already.

The two girls are sound asleep in the next room. I didn’t even need to bother with checking as their snoring told me more than I needed to know.

Right, so I would hate to just leave them like this, considering the kindness they showed me. Or what the red-haired girl, Yumemi I think it was, showed me. If I leave a note telling them I’ll be back to repay them, I’ll at least feel a little better.

With a quick scan of the room I find some paper laying the table. Some of them are filled with text; others are filled with scribbles and calculations.
Though, the way it’s arranged strikes me as odd. Perhaps it’s just because they’re personal notes of some kind, but even so they should be organized in some form. I mean a bit of text written in a circle with a little doodle in between every so often doesn’t seem like the best way to make notes. The doodles are neat, though, I’ll give them that; simple yet elegant. They kind of remind me of runes; runes which are used in spell circles.

I look over the notes again.

It’s a stupid idea, but there’s no harm in trying. If I look at this as if it was a spell, then I’d connect these points here, they look awfully alike. The lines match up with a smaller circle in the middle of the ring of text. That’s a coincidence, surely. A thinner line seems to run on a skewed axis through the inner circle; it stops shortly before it reaches the text. If I draw a circle there, I should draw one on the other side of the text with the same distance.

A generic fire ignition spell; a rather simple one at that. Although the construction was weird. Normally you’d start with a circle to use as a base then add on from that, that’s common sense even if you don’t know anything about magic. And these marks were placed too accurate. I refuse to accept that as a coincidence. So why? Are they picking it apart? That’d make sense. If they started with the entire structure, and then dismantled it piece by piece it’s likely they’d end up with something that’d resemble what I see here on paper.

And I guess they used that as the blue print for this other spell circle; although I somehow doubt it is one. It’s different. The runes have been replaced by another language, foreign with roman letters. The overall shape looks more edgy as well. There’s something written in the corner of the paper, it’s been boxed in so it looks like a note or a memo.

During our escalated visit to Gensokyo in search of valid subjects for experiment ##### we were forced to field test the spell. It proved a success, although the cost of the spell increased during the fight, compared to the resources used in the lab. It’d be easier if we could tap into this ‘mana’ that’s always mentioned, but alas. We’ll need to look into a cheaper fuel for the magic in the near future, my salary won’t cut it at this rate.

Fuck. These girls aren’t normal.

They don’t just know of magic; they have developed a new type of magic. Although it's amazing, and perhaps even a little scary, it would have been something I'd have ignored, if not for what they said about Gensokyo. By the looks of it, they’ve been there. I’m not sure if they attacked, or was attacked, but I do know that they fought.

I’m coming back here, that’s for sure. These girls are now my business. But for now I should return home. I have other things to take care of.


=====
Hakurei Shrine – Jan 1, 20:35
=====


It took most of the day, but I made it back to the shrine in one piece. Quite a feat considering the entire mountain has been covered in snow since I left. I’ll need to get sweeping again soon; doesn’t seem like anyone else bothered to do it when I was gone. But not now; right now I should go see Doc and get my wounds looked at.

I slide open the door to the shrine’s main room and am immediately greeted by a new face; a female youkai fox with a golden coat and matching eyes. By the number of tails, it’s safe to assume she’s old.

I greet her with a polite bow. “I apologize for my appearance, I just came back. I’ll be able to attend to you shortly, so please make yourself at home while you wait.”

“No, no, there’s no need. The head priest is just looking into some things right now.” She pats the kotatsu a few times. “Won’t you join me for some conversation? I think it could take a while before he returns.”

I really should go see Doc. But it’s not like my wounds will get any worse because of a few minutes of conversation.

I place my bag beside the door before taking a seat. “Of course, Miss…”

“Yakumo,” she tells me, “Yakumo Ran. It’s written as Eight Clouds, and Ran is written with the same character as the color indigo. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance young Hakurei.” She gives me a small bow over the table.

“The pleasure is all mine.” I lean back into my chair. “It appears you already know my name, so let me introduce myself on by first name. I’m called Ryuko, spelled with characters for Dragon and Child.”

“Such a fierce name,” she comments with a slight smile in the eye. “Anyway, can I assume you’re the only one working here; besides the head priest of course?”

“Technically speaking yes; I’m the only other priest of this shrine. However we also have two others living here to help us do our job properly.”

“I see.” She nods. “I can imagine how much work there must be for you folks. So what about the head priest? He doesn’t look the kind for this type of work; how’s he holding up?”

“Jun? Well, he has different work than I do.” I rest my head in my hand. “I’m not really sure of exactly what it is he’s doing, but whatever it is, it’s keeping him busy,” I lie. I know plenty about his work; I’m just not sure how much I’m allowed to talk about.

“I see, I see.” She nods again. “Then perhaps you can tell me what it is you’re-” her ears twitch. “Looks like that won’t be necessary. The head priest is on his way back it seems.” She gives me another bow. “Thank you for talking with me, although it was only for a brief time.”

“You’re very welcome, Miss Yakumo.” I return her bow. “I hope that whatever matter you came here for will be resolved easily.” I wish her luck as I close the door to the room.

The clinic is right next to the shrine so it’s just a short walk away. On the way I notice one of the local villagers exit the building. She notices me approaching and waves with a huge smile on.

“It doesn’t look like you’re quite done yet, Akame. Someone else is on their way,” she yells through the door. “It’s good to see you back in one piece, kid, but I gotta go.” She pats my shoulder as she moves past me.

With a sigh another person steps out of the door. He gives my body a quick look over before just turning around and walks back in. I follow suit and just take a seat at my usual spot.

“Do I want to know why you’re all tattered?” he simply asks as he prepares a syringe.

“A three tailed nekomata managed to out speed my predictions; it took the seal by the way, so we’ll have to replace it.”

“If it took the seal, the healing effect should have lasted the rest of the fight,” he comments, “you must have faced some more.”

“I encountered a frost hiwatari. It overwhelmed my defense with quantity.” I pull up my sleeve so he can clean the area where the needle is going.

“Hiwatari are generally considered weak. You shouldn’t have much trouble with them.” He injects the medicine and I lie down.

It takes a moment before it takes effect. I feel my muscles tense up as it spreads up through my arm and out through the rest of my body. After a few seconds all energy leaves me and a feeling of exhaustion flows over me.

“I still can’t use my left arm.” I tell him as the immediate effect wears off. “I have trained to use each arm equally efficient, but it just feels unnatural to not be able to use my left at all.”

He holds his hands over my torso and a dim blue light begins to shine from my flesh. “Still can’t use it? It’s been three months already; Jun said it wouldn’t be more than a month.” As the wounds start to close he moves his hands over other areas. “And at that point it would be counterproductive to cancel the ritual.” He lifts his hands as the last wound is closed. “There, that should do the trick.”

“Thanks, Doc.”

He doesn’t give me a chance to get up as he pins me down by my shoulders. “Don’t thank me,” he says as he crashes his hard skull into mine. His strong grip prevents me from recoiling even slightly. “Now, let me repeat myself once again. Do not rely on my magic to heal you.” He releases me before he continues.

“I’ve told you countless times already; if you rely on my healing, you’ll eventually reach a point where I can’t do anything for you anymore. I know how it must be to be the only human around for miles, but you still have to remember that you are only human. You have limitations, even if you have pushed them quite far, they’re still there. I can only heal you as long as your body can regenerate. Once it says stop, that’s it, that’s my limit.”

I remain silent.

“I’ll go talk to Jun about your arm.” He gets up and walks over to the door where he stops. “Kohane and I are both against you leaving with that arm. You’re just not fit to fight without it,” he says without turning around, “The only reason we let you go is because you’re the only one who can wander Japan freely; Not like us youkai.” He stands there for a few more seconds before adding, “Rest here until you feel like you can move again, then go straight to bed. Tomorrow will resume as normal.” Then he leaves.

I just lay back and rest.


=====
January 12th
=====


The day that followed proceeded as normally, just as Doc said it would. I woke up and went through my morning workout. Afterwards I took care for the chores that’d been negated while I was gone such as general cleaning as well as going to the village to get fresh supplies again. The rest of the day went by with me practicing the art of fighting.

The only noteworthy thing was my talk with Jun regarding my arm. He said it was simply going to take some time. While he said that he knew it was about time, he wouldn’t tell me when it was. And as his disciple I chose to accept that; he knows best, after all.

It took only took about a week and a half before we detected new activity which requiring our attention. I was sent out to take care of it once again.

[] There’s been some unusual activity regarding the border’s anchor on Tokyo.
[] An abandoned shrine between Osaka and Kyoto is showing signs of opening a breach soon.
[] There’s been a recurring breach at Tohno cemetery, and it’s acting up again.
206 posts omitted. Last 50 shown. Expand all images
>> No. 30671
[X] Find a stall with a game
-[X] Goldfish Scooping
>> No. 30672
[X] Find a stall with a game
-[X] Shooting Gallery
>> No. 30673
[x] Go. To the fire

Obviously, the best way to end the dste
>> No. 30674
[X] Go to the fire
>> No. 30675
[X] Go to the fire
>> No. 30676
[] Go to the fire
>> No. 30677
[x] Find a stall with a game
-[x] High Striker game

One last, hopeless attempt.
>> No. 30678
[x] Go to the fire
>> No. 30679
[x] Find a stall with a game
-[x] High Striker game
>> No. 30702
Going to the fire it is.
>> No. 30765
Short version:
The update is on the way. I just want to polish it up nicely.

Slightly longer version:
I had planned for it to be out, not yesterday but the Sunday before that. I got distracted by games.
Then I had it planned for yesterday, and it got done. But I wasn't satisfied with it.

So I'm not gonna promise anything, but I'll do what I can to get it out this Sunday.
>> No. 30790
File 147100711745.jpg - (359.50KB , 1000x1074 , Why did I bother renaming these.jpg ) [iqdb]
30790
==========
Human Village - 1st of Sprouting Month 19:39
Gensokyo Day 5
==========

While we were distracted by the game, people seem to have begun flowing towards the outskirts. Taking it as a sign for the fire to start soon, we join the crowd.

The crew preparing the fire are still working, so it seems we arrived with time to spare.

“What about over there?” Akyuu points to a small hill resting against the village wall. “I don’t think anyone will disrupt us there.”

Taking a closer look at the hill as we get closer, it looks to be artificially made. Though that’s based on the fact it’s well rounded and that there’s no other hills around. Granted it is farmland, and I could just be over thinking things again.

“I think it’ll get cold this far from the fire.” I note. “Sure you want to sit here?”

“Yeah. It’s worth it to just get a bit away from the crowd.” She brushes away the snow, clearing a patch to sit on.

I take off my jacket and throw it around Akyuu’s shoulders.

“Won’t you get cold?” She asks, tugging it in close to her.

“I’m used to the cold.” I reply. “If it’s just this much, I’ll be fine.”

“Because of your job?” She asks. To which I respond with a nod. “It must be tough.”

“It is. I wouldn’t wish for anyone else to do it.” I say. “And as long as I continue, no one else will have to.”

“Is it really that bad?” She asks.

“To put it into perspective, I can say with certainty that every part of my body has at one point or another been completely destroyed.”

“That doesn’t sound pleasant.” She comments.

“Yeah, it’s not.” I answer. “But on the bright side, it has also given me the chance to see Gensokyo, and to meet you as well.”

She responds to my words with a smile. A faint and simple one, but genuine.

It seems a lot of people have the same idea we had, as the crowd has spread out quite a bit. Small groups at that, mostly consisting of two to five people, ranging from what looks like couples to friends to families.

“What exactly is this festival about?” I ask.

“You don’t know?”

“No one has told me anything, I’m afraid.” I reply.

“In that case, allow me to enlighten you. Tonight we’re basically celebrating that the sun will begin to stay in the sky for longer again.” She explains. “Likewise, we have a festival in the beginning of fall where we show our thanks to the sun, in hopes that it’ll come again next year.”

“I see. I don’t believe I’ve seen this before.” I note.

“I’m not surprised, actually. We began this tradition shortly after the creation of the Great Hakurei Barrier.” She continues to explain. “The first winter was unusually long. It was impossible to grow any crops and we had to kill a lot of our prepared livestock just to make it through.” She gets a rather doleful expression. “At first we blamed the Hakurei clan, since it started when the Great Barrier was erected. We began praying out of desperation, and to our surprise, it worked. We’ve been doing it annually since.”

“Interesting. Very interesting indeed.” I ponder for a bit as I process her words. “It sounds kind of similar to something I’ve heard they do in the west. Although that’s more related to the two solstices.”

“Solstice?” She brings a hand to her mouth as she thinks. Her thumb slowly tracing her lower lip. “I guess that makes sense.”

Our conversation comes to a halt as the crew working on the fire has just signaled for the ignition of the wood.

It barely takes a minute for the branches within the structure to spread the fire wide enough to engulf the dry wood.

Within a few more minutes, the fire has caught on, lighting up the fields just in time for the sun to set behind the mountains.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Akyuu tug the jacket a bit. Is it getting too cold for her?

To her surprise, I place a hand on her back.

“Ryuko?”

“Just a second.” I say.

I’ve placed a few enchantments in my clothes as dormant, to make them easy to use when needed. The one I’m activating causes the jacket to emit heat, a few degrees below the body’s temperature.

“There. That should do it. How does it feel?”

She takes a moment to examine the jacket, while the effect is kicking in.

“Warm, actually.” She chuckles a bit. “You sure are handy to have around, you know.”

“I do my best.” I answer.

She leans up against me, sharing the warmth she feels with me. It’s oddly comforting actually. I can’t remember the last time I got cozy with someone else.

But it just brings a question to mind.

“I’ve been wondering.” I begin. “Why exactly did you decide to take me for a date?”

“Why? Could it be you’re not satisfied?” She asks. “You’re on a date with the smartest and most beautiful girl in the village, and you're not satisfied?” She dramatizes some fake crying.

“Far from it, actually.” I play along. “I’d almost forgotten what it feels like to have fun.” She readjusts herself so she can get a better view of me. “The problem is that I’m going to leave in a few days, and for all we know I might never come back again. We both know this, so why waste a festival like this on me?”

“From that point of view, I can imagine it would be hard to understand.” She sits up. “Would you be satisfied if I told you, that it’s just because I find you interesting?”

“If that’s all you’ll say, then I won’t pry.”

She goes back to leaning against me. “You probably don’t know this, but I don’t have a lot of time left.”

“As part of the reincarnation process, the child of Are has a shortened life span.” I tell her. “I’m aware. But judging from the lifespan of your previous lives, you have a lot of time left.”

“Mm. But this is something different.” She says. “In order to maintain the status of nobility, the Hieda household marries off the eldest daughter. In this case, me. But since I’m the child of Are, rather than being married into another family, they’ll marry into the Hieda clan.”

“And you’re okay with that?” I ask.

“As the child of Are and the coming head of the Hieda clan, I have duties. With my short life, I have to continue the lineage so I can continue to observe and record the history of Gensokyo throughout time. And a duty to maintain the noble status of the household to ensure I can carry out my job effectively.”

“I didn’t ask about your duty.” I tell her.

“Yeah. I’m okay with it.” She answers. “I convinced my dad to let me do what I want until it’s time to take over as the head. So I’m just enjoying my freedom while it lasts.”

“I see.” I guess arranged marriage is still a thing here in Gensokyo.

“But that doesn’t answer your question, now does it.” She looks up at me. “I told you, I’ve gotten a lot of reports about you. And in all honesty, it’s really just that I’m interested in you. I’ve come to know what you are, but I want to know who you are.”

“I’m afraid I’m just a boring guy.” I tell her with a smile. “All I do is fight.”

“Boring or exciting, it’s just a matter of perspective.” She retorts.

Indeed it is.

I let myself fall back into the snow. Akyuu, not ready for the sudden drop follows along helplessly.

Despite her short moment of surprise, she doesn’t seem to mind the change all that much.

“The sky feels so different so different here in Gensokyo.” I think aloud.

“Does it?” She asks. “But it’s the same sky right?”

“Yeah. But this just feels,” I pause looking for the right word, “complete.”


==========
Hakurei Shrine, Outside - 5th of March 20:17
==========

The world assembles itself in front of me once more as I exit Gensokyo.

I stretch my back, popping a few joint. Crossing the border takes a surprisingly toll on the body. Maybe I didn’t feel it last time because it was still early?

Well there’s an unusual sight.

Coach lies in front of the shrine, snoring. The numerous empty bottles, reeking of alcohol tell me all I need to know.

“Seriously, old man?” I drop my jacket on him, giving him a makeshift blanket. “Despite what you think, you’re not invincible. Even you can get sick.”

Now I should go see Doc. Whenever I return from outside the shrine, or after training, I’m to get a check up from Doc. This is to make sure I remain in peak health.

I knock on the door. Almost immediately after, a loud crash sounds from the other side of the door.

“Fucking hell.” I hear Doc swear.

After a few seconds the door swings open, revealing a fox with clear bags under his eyes. “Shit.” He runs his hand through his hair. “I completely forgot you were coming home today.”

“Been a long week?” I ask, stepping inside the less than clean office.

“Yukiko has been on my tails since the day you went away.” He lifts up his chair from the floor before walking over to the sink. “She can’t take no for an answer. Go on in, I’ll be there in a minute.” He sticks his head under the sink and turns on the water.

Yukiko is a snow woman who lives in the village with us. Since she’s a snow woman, she’s rather fond of physical contact. She’s a kind woman, don’t get me wrong, but she has a bit of a problem when it comes to personal boundaries. That’s one of the great things about being human; she sees me as a child, so she often leaves me alone.

Stepping into the back room, I follow the routine and strip down to my underwear.

This room, compared to the previous, is like stepping into another building entirely. Everything in here is neatly organized and clean. The room has even been coated with a layer of magic that kills off germs and removes dirt.

Doc follows me into the room soon after. He pulls out an office chair from under the desk and sits down in front of me.

“Alright then. Let's start off with your explanation, if you’d be so inclined.”

“I failed to make contact with Reimu when I came to Gensokyo.” I explain. “She assaulted me later, assuming I had broken through the border.” I hold up my arm. “These wounds are from her needles. I defended the best I could against them.”

He holds out his hand, to which I place my arm in. “Enchanted iron.” He concludes after examining the wounds. “Anything else?”

“I also took three heave fire spell to the back.” I say, turning around.

“I hope for your sake that looks worse than it is.” He carefully runs his hand across my back. “Burns and lesser nerve damage. Already healing amazingly well. Anything else?”

“Yeah.” I turn back around again. “Lastly, for a brief moment while in Gensokyo, I got the feeling back in my left arm.”

His tired expression perks up for a moment. “Have you felt anything since?”

“No, nothing.” Answer.

“Hopefully that means you’ll get your arm back soon.” He pulls out a small rolling chair from underneath the bed. “Sit.”

I take the seat and Doc immediately gets to work.

-----

“That should be it.” He says, pulling away from my back.

“Actually, there’s one more thing.” I tell him. “While in Gensokyo, someone noted that while I was fighting, one of my eyes had changed. Not just the color, but the shape of the pupil as well.”

He spins me around so I’m facing him. “Am I human?” He asks, keeping his golden eyes locked on me. “That’s what you’re thinking right?”

“I can’t help but doubt it.”

“You want to doubt it.” He states. “You are the only human here, so of course you’d want to be a youkai like the rest of us. That’s how we work as animals.” He moves his hands onto my shoulders. “But trust me when I say that you are not a youkai.”

“I guess.”

Satisfied with the answer, I get dressed and take my leave. He seems tired so I’d rather not take much more of his time.

As I enter my room, I throw my clothes off to the side.

I’ll deal with that tomorrow. For now I just want to get some sleep in my own bed.

Before that, though, I pull out my phone, plug it in the charger and turn it on.

The life time of these things is a joke. Last like two days max.

A message? From one of the guys on Tokyo, it seems.


==========
Mt. Takao, Hachioji - 6th of March 18:49
==========

This mountain has a great view that can only be appreciated in the winter. As soon as spring comes around, the leaves start blocking the view, but while they’re still naked you really get to see a beautiful side of Japan.

I take my eyes off the scenery to address the approaching kid. “So, why did you call me out here?”

“I have a job for you.” He answers. “Or rather, a favor to ask.”

There are a few areas that have more than one Watcher. Tokyo is one of those few, although it only has two people, making it the one with the least of those few.

“Even though you already owe me?” I ask.

“I know. I’m still looking for a proper payment.” He reassures me. “But this is something more than I can handle on my own.” He explains.

“Let’s hear it then.”

“Well, I got this idea to summon phantoms to help keep watch over the area. To make things easier, you know. The problem though, was that the first phantom I summoned was too strong and broke free.” He avoids eye contact as he explains it to me, opting to fiddle his thumbs instead.

“A necromancer who can’t even control a single soul.”

“Yeah, it’s a bit embarrassing. So I was hoping to hire you to get rid of it for me.”

“Come over here for a moment.” I wave him over.

He reluctantly closes the distance. Once he stands directly in front of me, I knock on his forehead, just hard enough to make it hurt.

He winces, covering his head to dull the pain.

“I wasn’t joking when I told you to get in shape, you know.” I scold him. “A strong spirit needs a strong body to thrive.”

“I know. I know.” He looks up at from from underneath his hands. “I just haven’t had the time.”

I sigh in response. The same old excuse.

“I wonder if teaching you was the right thing to do.” I tell him. “Anyway, you just want the phantom gone, right? Or is there something specific you want me to do?” I ask.

He rubs the spot where I hit him for a bit before standing up straight again.

“Just gone. It’s too strong for me to handle so there would be no need to capture it.” He admits.

“Last question.” I push myself up from the fence. “Where’s miss sunshine?”

“She’s out of the country.” He answers, scratching his ear. “Had some business to take care of in South Korea.”

Good. I’d rather not deal with her preaching again.

“I see. I should be able to get it done tonight, depending on where it is.” I tell him. “Though I’ll be expecting a big favor in return.”

“Of course. I always keep my promises.” He boats with confidence. “Even if it takes a long time to do so.”

“So? Where is it?” I ask.

“At Doryodo Ruins.” He answers.

“Of course it’d be a place like that.”


==========
Doryodo Ruins, Otukayama Park - 6th of March 19:07
==========

This place certainly lives up to its reputation.

All that remains of the old temple is the spiritual energy it gathered, which is quite a bit. There’s not enough left for youkai to maintain a physical form, but enough to where they can affect the world to some degree.

Considering this is a non-maintained area, it sounds pretty incredible. But given the site’s history it’s not all that surprising.

After the temple had been abandoned for who knows how long, two murders took place on the same spot, with a ten year difference. Neither of which was solved, so no one knows why they were killed. After they demolished the ruins, all that remains is the foundation.

Rumor has it that you can hear the cries of the victims at night, and that you can feel an overwhelming sadness coming from eyes that continue to watch you.

While I do not hear anything, nor do I feel particularly sad, I do however feel an otherworldly gaze glued to my back.

I run my hand through the dirt.

No doubt about it. This is where they died. The spiritual energy here has a signature, though no longer anything resembling human.

I write the word ‘Peace’ on the ground.

“May your soul find rest.” I offer a quick prayer before standing up.

Now then, it’s probably better I address my guests before seeking out the phantom.

“Taking a walk in a haunted park at night makes you look rather suspicious; wouldn’t you say?” I raise my voice to make sure they hear it. “Of course, hiding only makes it worse.” I spin around and face the tree they’re hiding behind.

Silence.

There’s no wind here tonight, making the naked trees motionless and looking dead.

After a moment of silence, one of them decides to peek out from behind the tree. The moment our eyes meet she retreats back behind the tree.

It takes another few seconds before she realizes it’s too late, at which point he boldly steps out from her hiding.

She appears to be a woman close to my own age. She wears a long brown coat and a black hat with a ribbon on it. Going for a detective look?

With surprising determination, she marches straight at me.

Her friend quickly leaps out from behind the tree and grab her hand. “Renko. Wait.”

“What did you do to us?” She yells at me.

That’s a rather intense energy she’s releasing.

“Now that’s a little rude, don’t you think?” I shrug it off. “Accusing people just like that.”

“Don’t play dumb.” She bites back. “I know you were there that night.”

We’ve met before? I know her spiritual energy feels familiar, but I’ve seen so many it really isn’t that strange.

“There are three hundred and sixty-five nights a year.” I point out. “If you’re going to accuse me of something, the least you could do is be a bit more specific.”

“I don’t know.” She holds a hand against her head. “I can’t remember. But whenever I try, your face shows up.”

“Renko. Stop, please.” Her blond friends asks. “It hurts to remember.”

“But I feel like I’m so close to figuring it out.” ‘Renko’ argues.

I think I remember them. They were the civilians that got in the way during the fight with the golem. Which means Doc altered their memories to forget about the incident. I doubt he messed up, he’s too diligent. So why?

Before I realize it, instinct takes over and I plunge backwards, narrowly escaping the phantom as it flies over me.

Without wasting a second, I flip back around as soon as I land and drive my fingers into the ground.

Forcing as much energy into the ground as I can I quickly create an improvised barrier, sealing the four of us inside.

Ignoring my arm screaming in pain, I send out a pulse of energy to locate the phantom.

“Are you two alright?” I quickly glance back at the girls. Both of them have fallen on their asses from the shock.

“What was that?” The brunette exclaims.

“A ghost.” The foreigner follows up.

Nothing? I didn’t find it?

“We need to get you two out.”

“I knew it!” The brunette exclaims again. “You were the one!”

“Now isn’t the time-”

I’m cut short by the phantom as it drives through my chest.

I instinctively reach for my heart as a pulse of pain surges through my chest.

It’s soft. Unnaturally soft.

I pull out in my shirt to check, and the stench of rot escaping tells me all I need to know.

The fucker is intelligent.

Another surge of pain pulse through my chest.

This is bad. I don’t know how much longer my rotting heart can keep up. I need to get them out, now.

“Are you-” the blond woman is about to say something, but I cut her off.

“Run!” I stomp with a foot, initiating a spell circle. Raising my hand, I create a tunnel using my barrier.

Just as I’ve finished, it strikes through me once more. I feel my heart collapse, unable to endure the pressure anymore.

Why can’t I sense it?

Why haven’t they run yet?

It’s getting hard to think. My body screams at me. It hurts. It fucking hurts.

“Fucking run!” I scream with all the power I can muster.

Exhausted without fresh blood, my legs finally give in to exhaustion.

I swear I’ll destroy that thing.
>> No. 30791
File 147100718887.jpg - (242.45KB , 1000x1400 , Nobody will notice anyway.jpg ) [iqdb]
30791
“Fucking run!” He roars at us.

Mary grabs my arm and starts dragging me with all the force she can muster, through the tunnel he made for us.

“Wait. What about-”

“Forget about him! He’s nothing but trouble!” She yells in between her ragged breath. “I don’t want to die! I don’t want you to die!”

The blue wall outlining our path dissolves.

Is he- No don’t think about it.

I hit my foot against something causing me to trip and face plant in the ground.

“Renko?” She turns around, just in time to avoid the ghost jolting past.

She falls over clutching her shoulder.

“Mary!”

The ghost makes a sharp turn, heading straight for us again.

Why is this happening? We were just- We were just looking into borders.

I raise my hands to shield myself.

“Blood sign: Hellbound Chains”

That voice.

I open my eyes again.

Hanging inches from my face is the ghost. Its immaterial body pierced by crimson chains, emerging from the ground.

I quickly crawl backwards.

The giant pulls out a knife stuck in his palm using his teeth.

He waves his hand around a bit, and a blue box appears around the ghost.

“Go to hell.” He says.

The box then instantly shrinks until it disappears completely.

“Didn’t- Didn’t you-”

“If I was that easy to kill, I wouldn't last a day.” He answers, wiping his hand on his shirt. “More importantly, your friend.”

Mary!

I quickly crawl over to her.

She’s passed out, still clutching her shoulder.

“Pick her up.” The giant commands. “We’re going to take her to a hospital.”

“Why are you so calm.” The words come out harsher than intended.

“Because panicking will only backfire.” He answers. “Now pick her up for me, would you?”

==========

The lobby of the hospital is dead silent. The receptionist left not too long ago, the halls are completely empty and the only people around are the little miss and myself.

It’s been a few minutes since they took in her blond friend.

The little lady has been sitting with her head buried in her hands since.

There’s nothing more I can do for these two. Sealing their memories once didn’t work, so there’s no point in trying twice.

I get up from my seat and make my way to the door, stopping only to give her a final piece of advice.

“From here on out, it’s best if you two stop seeking out the occult. You might not get this lucky the next time.”

“Why?” She hammers her fists on her legs. “Why couldn’t I do anything?”

Yeah, no, I’m not going to deal with that.

I take my leave, though I don’t make it far before she bursts out from the building after me.

“Hey, wait up!” She calls out to me.

Oh no. I know where this is going.

“Please.” She bows deeply. “Teach me how to protect Mary.”

“No.” I answer immediately.

“Why?” She yells. “You saw the thing back there. There’s no way I can handle it right now.”

“Then don’t.” I tell her calmly. “You don’t belong in this world, forget this ever happened and you’ll be fine.”

“That’s not for you to decide.” She swings her arm in front of her defiantly.

I grab her by the collar and pull her in close.

“I'll be damned if I’m going to leave the decision to some ignorant girl who's too emotional to realize she's playing with fire.” I yell.

She clenches her teeth and glares up right back at me, fire burning in her eyes.

This girl has guts, I'll give her that.

I throw her back a bit as I let go.

“This world is a curse. Once you're in, not even death can save you. Trying to enter with a half-assed resolve like yours is just begging to get killed.”

“Fuck!” She let’s out her anger by kicking the trashcan, not realizing it’s bolted to the ground. She spends the next few seconds jumping around on one foot, holding the other in her hands.

“Now that we’ve come to an understanding, I’ll be taking my leave.” I say, having regained my calm.

She clutches her tie. “We can’t quit.” She yells. “We just can’t quit, okay.”

She looks at her hands before clenching them.

“All I want is the power to protect Mary. Is that too much to ask for?”

I’d really rather not get her or her friend involved in the world of magic. But by the sounds of it, they’ll do it anyway. I can’t teach her how to protect anyone, only how to survive.


[] Leave her be.
[] Teach her.
>> No. 30792
[X] Teach her.

Stupid, bullheaded brats are going to get themselves killed (along with us) at this rate.
>> No. 30793
[X] Teach her.
>> No. 30794
[x] Leave her be.
>> No. 30795
It's either she keeps her course and dies or keeps her course and survives. There's no changing her.

[x] Teach her
>> No. 30796
[X] Teach her.
>> No. 30798
>>30792
Oh we're going to die, alright.

Anyway, today should be when I call the votes as it's been a week. But I'm going to postpone that until Monday, because I like to stay in habit.
Not that I'm expecting more votes.

Oh, and since I forgot to mention it when I posted the story, because everything got messed up (and I prefer to keep my non-story posts to a minimum.) Just know that I'm giving you the option, because it is an option.
>> No. 30859
==========
Outside Hospital, Hachioji - 6th of March 19:58
==========

“And what exactly would you be willing to pay for those powers?” I ask.

She turns to face me. “Why the sudden change in heart?”

“If I walk away, you’ll disregard everything I’ve said and walk to your death.” I tell her. “But with my guidance, you’ll have a fighting chance to at least save your friend.”

“So you’ll make me stronger?” She asks.

“Depends.” I answer. “If you can make it worth my time.”

“What do you want?”

“Beginner’s mistake.” I state. “I’ll overlook it this time. Never let someone else decide your price for you. That will only end badly in our world.”

“But I have no idea what you want.” She complains. “How am I supposed to bargain when I have nothing to offer?”

“How about this then?” I pocket my hand. “Once your training has started, I can demand one thing from you. Regardless of what it may be, you’ll have to comply.”

“What about-”

“Anything.” I cut her off. “Whether it’s handing over an item, taking a life or offering your own, you will comply. That’s my price.”

She clenches her fists even harder for a moment before relaxing her body completely.

“If that’s what it takes, then I’ll accept.” She exclaims.

“I see.” I respond. “Then come to the ruins again at noon two weeks from now. We’ll spend all day outside, so come prepared for that. Wear loose clothes, preferably pants instead of that skirt.” I tell her. “Oh, and we’ll ride the train, so bring your own money for that as well.”

“Got it.” She nods.

Understanding that there’s no more to be said for now, the girl turns around and runs back inside.

It’s about time for me to head back as well. I’d prefer making it before the last train runs.

I don’t make it past the first corner before I’m stopped by my previous student.

“I now appreciate how easy it was to convince you to teach me.” He notes. “At least I didn’t have as hard a time as she did.”

“With a rather well founded understanding of basic elemental magic and a unique ability to eat souls,” I recall his skills, “I’d say you were already established in our world. It’d be impossible to shove you out again.”

“True.” He replies. “So, should I view her as a rival, or can I trust to still get your affection, ‘Teacher’?”

He gives me this smug-ass smile.

Not too long after he came to Japan, we ran into each other. He’d already caught wind of my skills and asked to become my apprentice, to teach him what I knew about spiritual powers. Since, as I said earlier, he was already part of our hidden world of magic, I had little reason to refuse. While he had problems wrapping his head around the theories, he was great at putting them into practice. In barely a years time, he decided that he’s learned what he needed and called off our relationship to avoid making his debt to me bigger than it already was.

“Yeah, you’re going to have to try harder from now on.” I play along. “But it’d help if you keep these two a secret for now. I may have agreed, but I’d still rather keep her out of this.”

“Strike a favor off the list and I’ll go out of my way to hide them.” He offers.

“Deal.” I agree without haggling.

Keeping those two a secret will raise the value of their info, should they make it into our world. Limiting the knowledge from spreading beforehand is an investment for him. He’d have done so whether I asked him to or not, but with this I have his hands tied as to when he can release the information.

Having finished his business here, he nods me off as he takes his leave.


==========
Behind the Hakurei Shrine - 7th of March 09:55
==========

Coach slowly paces around me, making sure I keep my posture. “So she’s basically another student?” He asks, glancing at the stopwatch.

“Basically.” I answer somewhat absentmindedly.

Normally we’d start off the month by stress testing my body to find out which areas could use some attention. However, the phantom yesterday managed to kill me. While Doc’s spell saved me once again, the side effect still lingers, meaning stressing the body will cause direct harm.

The spell in question is designed to activate whenever my body reaches a critical state where death is imminent. Once activated, it’ll restore my body back to the stage it’s supposed to be at. In other words, it resets my body according to how it was when the spell was placed. The main side effect results in my muscles being too soft and will break under increased pressure.

Another side effect is that my hair grows out to it’s maximum length. It’s more of an annoyance than anything else. After god knows how many times, we eventually just stopped cutting it. And surprisingly, it turned out to be useful as hair conducts mana better than blood vessels, which in turns allows to some creative use of hair.

“Focus.” He reminds me.

I quickly restore my posture and regain balance.

Because we can we can’t stress my body, we’re focusing on sharpening balance. Something we’ve kept to a minimum to make it easy to go back to having two functional arms again.

This particular exercise has me do a split while I sit atop a couple of poles, as I try to balance a cup of steaming water on each of my joints.

“So, what’s your plan with her?” He asks again.

“To begin with, getting her into shape will be the top priority.” I answer. “Maybe drilling some basic techniques into muscle memory.”

“So you are serious about training her? You could just not show up.” He clicks a button on the stopwatch. “Done.”

In response to his word, I flip myself around, letting the cups fall to the ground while still hanging myself. I reorient myself and drop down as well.

“A deal is a deal.” I answer.

I’m not above lying for convenience. Lying is like a second nature to me, to be honest. It’s necessary whenever a civilian accidentally stumbles into our world, or to restrict the flow of information within our world. One of the many reasons I’m glad for having been raised by Doc.

“As long as it won’t get in the way of your own training, then I won’t have any complaints.” He picks up the cups while I stretch my legs . “I can’t do much for her, but feel free to ask for advice on her behalf.”

“If she manages to reach a point where I’m not sure what to do, then I think it’d be worth bringing her here.” I note.

“That’s true. Anyway, any more than this, and Akame will have my head.” he he says, referring to Doc. “So we’ll have to call it quits for today.”

Doc isn’t a fighter like me or Coach, but he can be damn scary when he wants to.

Like usual, I bow deeply. “Thank you for your guidance.”

He returns my bow, acknowledging my appreciation.

That means the rest of the day is off schedule. Now would be the perfect time to take care of some preparations.

I make my way to my room and change out of my sweaty gi and into a clean set. They’re easy to put on and comfortable, so I have a few sets lying around. I grab a sheet of paper off my desk before going out again.

Heading down the shrine’s stairs I reach the village.

Gensokyo was originally created because faith in the supernatural was waining, so creating a space that could produce enough faith to sustain itself was a genius idea, and a lot of youkai moved to Gensokyo soon after it was created.

Back here on the outside though, faith continued to disappear. As a result, the youkai that remained out here banded together into small areas, securing small locations where faith would continue to flow. This village is one such place because it’s located so close to the main gate to Gensokyo.

While this does give youkai a few places to call home, it sadly imposes a limit on them as well. They can’t leave these areas for any extended period of time, or they’ll risk death. As the sole human in this village, my strongest point is the ability to come and go at will.

The youkai living in these places tend to be more friendly than what you’d imagine from youkai. Here they no longer need to instill fear into the hearts of humans to survive, so they’ve opened up a bit more. At least that’s how it is in this village. Even though I’m the only human who ever comes here, but that’s beside the point.

I stop in front of the house of our resident smith. The front door is open but I decide to knock anyway.

It doesn’t take more than a few seconds before the owner of the house peeks out from another room.

“Little Ryu.” He almost sings.

This guy is, well, imagine a dwarf from western fantasy, then scale him up all around until he’s the same height as a human. That’s basically what he looks like, complete with the old school pilot goggles. He’s covered in flux from head to toe, with the exception of his bright beard.

He wipes his hands clean in a rag he carries in the front pocket of his overalls, before inviting me into a hug which I gladly accept.

“It’s good to see you back safe and sound.” He notes. “You ought to drop by more often, you know.”

“And it’s good to see you too, Satou.” I tell him. “But sadly I’ve been quite busy these last few months.”

The smith lets out a jolly laugh. “That you have. So young yet so diligent.” He invites me inside. “So to what do I owe the pleasure? I don’t take it you just came to say hi. Did you finally decide to accept my masterpiece of mass destruction? Can’t blame you, she’s a beauty.”

“Not this time either. Maybe when you make a weapon of mass destruction, but with less destruction.” I joke. “No, I’m actually here because I’d like you to make something for me, if you don’t mind.”

“Sure. Not like orders come in much this time of the year.” He says. “So what can I get you?”

“Nails, actually.” I pull out the piece of paper I brought with me. “With this design engraved on the sides. I’ll need about two dozen of them.”

The over-sized dwarf examines the paper for a moment. “These runes are used for exorcism, right?” He asks.

“Mm.” I confirm. “There’s a haunted spot I want to take care of. This should let it go smoothly.”

“So that’s it.” He rolls up the paper. “I can have them ready by the day after tomorrow.”

“Thank you.”

“It’s nothing.” He brushes me off. “But anyway, now that you’re here, why not stay for a talk? I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to.”

==========
Doryodo Ruins, Otukayama Park - 21st of March 12:13
==========

I plant the final nail in the ground and take a few steps back.

With the nails set up, the spell activates. Each nail draws a line to the one next to it, forming a complete circle. Immediately afterwards, they draw a line to the opposite side, running parallel with the lines besides them. And at the last step, the points where the lines cross each other join together by creating a few smaller circles, until every square has been turned into a triangle.

The circle blinks sharply once, turning all the hard edges into curves before fading away.

I have to admit it still feels magical. It’s not often I get to use these self activating rituals. Watching them form and perform from outside really is different.

“Is that the kind of stuff I’ll learn?”

My newly appointed pupil makes her appearance.

“As if.” I reply. “This is leagues above your level.”

“But you didn’t do anything.” She argues.

“And it’s because of that I know it’s out of your league.” I stand up and face her. “Looks like you’re ready, so let’s get moving.”

Seems like she followed my advice. She’s wearing a dark gray set of sweatpants with a set of white stripes running down the outside of the leg. Her shirt follows the same color pattern, but presents the white through a shallow V going from her shoulder to the top of her chest. The red running shoes, though adding color, does nothing to change the completely generic look of her outfit.

She even arranged her hair to be more fit, by moving her single long bang back with a set of plain hairpins. I don’t understand why she left one bang that long. Some fashion fad? Regardless, the rest of her hair is being tied back by a low hanging ponytail.

“So, where are we going?” She asks as she starts walking by my side.

“Mount Takao.” I answer. “We’ll need a place devoid of people.”

“But that’s a popular tourist spot.” She argues. “And why do we need to get away from people?”

“I struck a deal with Naigubu to borrow some of his space for a while.” I answer. “As for why we keep it a secret, take a look at gun powder, rockets and nuclear energy for just a few examples.”

“Oh.” She realizes my point. “Didn’t think of that. Makes sense.”

She makes no further attempt at conversation for the rest of the walk. I don’t have anything to say to her yet, so I keep shut as well.

==========
Mt. Takao, Hachioji - 21st of March 12:41
==========

“Alright. We’re here.” I drop my bag at the edge of the clearing.

“Here?” She drops down, resting against a tree. “But there’s nothing here.” She’s visibly breathing harder than normal, though she tries to suppress it.

Seems like she doesn’t have much stamina.

“That’s exactly why we’re here.” I tell her.

Naigubu prepared this area for us. He burrowed some specially crafted crystal in the area which will help us.

“So, what’s first?” She asks. “You say magic is out of my league, so where do I start?”

“First? First I’m going to have to commend your parents on raising you.” I tell her. “Following a clearly suspicious man into the middle of nowhere on the promise of magic. Truly the smart thing to do.”

Her expression changes as she realizes my point.

She immediately tries to get on her feet, but before she even has the chance to, I’ve closed the distance between us.

I grab her by the collar and throw her into the center of the clearing.

“Always suspect everyone.” I tell her. “Though that’s more of a personal rule than a lesson.”

“What are you going to do?” She glares at me with fire as she gets on her feet again.

“Train you.” I tell her. “I’m a man of my word. It’s just important for you to realize our relationship. You can’t trust me.”

She relaxes a bit, though still not dropping her guard. Not that it matters, it’s full of holes anyway.

“For now, I want you to attack me.” I tell her. “Don’t worry, I won’t fight back.”

She raises an eyebrow. “Alright then. Here I come.” She charges ahead with her fist raised high.

And she hits me.

With no force to speak of, she punches me in the chest. Not an ounce of malice, anger or even determination can be felt from her. Nothing even closely resembling a killing intent, or even just a fighting spirit for that matter.

This is going to be a long road.

“I was going to hold off on my criticism until we were done, but this needs mentioning.” I grab her wrist and present her own fist to her. “See this? This fist is the only thing you got right.”

“Well excuse me for not being a hulk.” She complains.

“I was going to try and gauge your physical abilities with a little spar, but I can already tell how weak you are.” I pinch the bridge of my nose as I think this through. “Are you sure you want this?”

“Absolutely.” She answers without hesitation.

Just had to make sure.

I stomp on the ground, sending what little mana I have out to the crystals. They respond by enveloping the two of us in a thick mist.

As the mist clears again, our surroundings have been changed. The trees are gone and the mountain leveled, leaving a flat grassland behind for as far as the eye can see.

“Welcome to my world.” I say as I spread my arms. “Thanks to Naigubu, we can train here uninterrupted.”

She looks around, scanning the place curiously.

“Who exactly is Naigubu?” She asks. “This is amazing.”

“You don’t know?” I scratch my head. “I thought it was common knowledge that there lived a daitengu on this mountain. That’s why there’s a temple and all.”

“That rings a bell, but I can’t say I knew it.” She admits.

“Either way, without any physical abilities, we’ll have to focus on technique.” I get the conversation back on topic. “Which means we’ll start from the bottom. Today we’ll focus on drilling the art of falling into your body.”

“Falling? I thought you were going to at least teach me how to fight.” She complains.

“Attack me.” I command again.

She raises an eyebrow but doesn’t question it, instead charging at me again. This time with her hands held out in front of her.

All it takes is a swift move and she’s been thrown on the ground.

She lies there for a second desperately trying to gasp for air between her coughs.

“If you knew how to fall, that wouldn’t have hurt.” I tell her as she gets up again. “In combat, getting your opponent on the floor gives you a huge advantage, so avoiding getting on the floor yourself is the most basic form of defense. Aside from running away, that is.”

“I get it.” She wipes her mouth. “Stupid question.”

“Try getting down on one knee.” I direct the conversation back to the topic, ignoring her comment.

==========

I’ve been drilling these simple techniques into her four hours now. Once she began to understand how to roll forward from a kneeling position, we began working on direction. After that we introduced various positions. Teaching her how to reduce the force of impact and how to focus the force into one spot came soon after.

In short, she’s been doing nothing but rolling around in the dirt for hours.

Yet she’s already too exhausted to even stand up now.

This really is going to be a long road. Though in the plus side, continuing to drill techniques like this into her will force her muscles to adapt, slowly raising her physical abilities until I can work with them.

“I think it’s better to call it quits for today.” I tell her.

“You, you think?” She manage to ask in between her ragged breathing. “What’s the time?”

Since this world is artificially created, the sky stays lit regardless of what time it is. A way to compensate the lack of a sun.

“About seven, I believe.” I answer.

“Seven?” She pulls her own phone out to check. “But we’ve been here for like half a day.”

“Six hours.” I correct her. “One of the features of this space is to slow your perception of time. Helps you get in more practice in less time.”

She runs her hand through her hair. “That’d be really useful back at uni. Make it a hell of a lot easier to meet the deadlines.”

“Magic isn’t meant for something so trivial.” I’m about to give her a small lecture, but she’s saved as my phone rings.

I don’t recognize this number. Someone new joined our ranks and got a hold of my number? Poor soul.

I answer the phone. “I’m here. Speak.”

Um, is this Konoha?” A familiar voice asks from the other end.

Konoha? Konoha. That sounds familiar. I think that was the name I was using around new year. Wait a second.

“Yumemi?” I ask.

So it is you.” She lets out a sigh of relief. “I wasn’t sure since this is the first time I tried calling the number you gave me.

“What can I do for you?” I ask.

Well, I was actually hoping I could get your help with-

Wait, you’re not calling that guy, right?” I hear another voice cut her off from the background. Sounds like the little sailor, somewhat honored she remembers me.

No, I was just thinking-” She tries to argue, but is cut off early once again.

I told you to just ignore him.

But-” She tries to argue back.

Give me the phone.

Wait, Chiyuri-” I hear something heavy fall in the background.

Give me the phone.” She demands again.

No. Chiyuri. Get off me. I’m trying to-

-click-

I take a look at the phone. They hung up.

Yeah, she didn’t really like me. Sensible little girl, though, I’ll give her that.

I’m about to enter the number into my contacts list as I get a text from her.

>Sorry about that
>I’ll call again when she’s not around

I’ll wait.’ I respond. I’m done with my pupil for today anyway. All that’s left to do is go back home and take care of the evening chores.

“How are you feeling?” I ask the little miss sitting behind me.

“It hurts all over.” She complains. “But at least I can still move.”

“Good. Means you’ve been active.” I tell her as I pull my own number up on my phone. “Write this down. After you’ve gone through a whole day without your muscles hurting, I want you to send me a text on this number.”

She pulls out her own phone again and starts typing in the number. “I take it we’re not going to meet regularly then.”

“Not yet. First we’ll need to build your body for a bit.” I tell her. “But we’ll need to be careful not to over train you, since you’re just getting started. Which is why I’m serious when I tell you to wait until it doesn’t hurt anymore.”

“I get it.” She states. “You know best, so I’ll follow your directions.”

“Good.” I pocket my phone now that she’s done. “In that case, eat something heavy on protein for dinner tonight and wash it down with milk.”

“Yeah.” She nods, showing she understand the instructions.

Using the mana I’ve recovered over the last few hours, I send out a new signal, telling the crystals to stop.

Unlike before, the surroundings silently fade away, revealing the scenery we left behind.

“Then I’ll be seeing you, Miss.” I tell her as I go pick up my bag.

“Usami.” She corrects me. “Usami Renko.”

“Hakurei Ryuko.” I respond. “And just as a final lesson for today. Don’t give away your name so willingly. Names are needed in order to use some dangerous spells, so keeping your real name hidden will help keep you safe.” I warn her.

She rubs her forehead as she mulls something over. “I’ll be sure to remember that.” She responds.

“Right, then I’ll be seeing you, Renko.” I tell her as I leave.


==========
At a university, Kyoto - 23rd of march 10:15
==========

So this is where Yumemi studies? I’ll have to admit she looks a bit younger than most of the people walking around on campus.

The campus itself doesn’t seem like anything special. It’s just as annoyingly big as every other school. The gate at the entrance, for example, is tall and wide enough to be able to fit at least six trucks parked side by side. Hanging above the entrance is the university’s logo, and above that a digitally rendered analog clock.

Immediately beyond the wall is a big open area that ends with the main entrance for the building. Halfway on the path to it from here, they’ve placed a fountain. On each side of the path, they alternate between a tree and a bench.

And of course, as I make the walk from one end to the other, everyone’s attention is focused on the giant. If my height didn’t give me such an advantage in battle, I’d be cursing it a lot more.

The receptionist, or whatever you call the people working at information spots like this, is a slender woman. Judging by the unnaturally bright color, it seems her hair is dyed. Further backed by the darker streaks appearing closer to the roots.

“Excuse me.” I call for her attention.

She looks up from her screen and almost jump in her chair as she lays eye on me.

“What- What can I do- do for you?” She stutters.

“I’m looking for a Okazaki Yumemi..” I tell her as I skim over the texts she sent me. “She should be at room 422.”

“That’s, uh, the fourth floor.” She answers, pointing to the stairs. “You should see a map once you reach it.”

I politely thank her and move on.

The halls on the top floor, which turns out to be the fourth, are empty. I pick up the occasional murmur from within some rooms, but nothing near the level of life on the floors below.

Following the map’s directions I quickly find the room I’m looking for. Judging by the schedule hanging beside the door it should be empty right now and I don’t hear much talking from the other side at all.

I push open the door slightly and take a peek inside. No one is there, so I open the door completely.

“Yumemi?” I ask out loud.

Immediately I hear a thump from behind one of the desks followed by a handful of soft curse words.

The little redhead pops up behind the counter, rubbing the top of her head. As soon as she sees me, her entire face lights up in a bright big smile.

“Konoha!” She exclaims. “You’re early.”

“It just happened the trains I was taking lined up.” I tell her. “So, what is it you need me to do?”

“Actually, I need help moving this thing.” She says as she taps a machine next to her. “Though it looks like your arm still hasn’t healed.”

“It’s actually starting to show signs of recovering.” I tell her. “But either way, taking care of something that size should be easy enough.”

“Ah. Wait here, I’ll go get a trolly.” She says before darting out of the room.

A trolly? Isn’t that one of those railed trains in the west? Maybe this university is more loaded than I thought. It’s probably a tool that’d help me lift this thing. Though I’d be able to do it without, whatever a trolly is.

A take a seat at a table.

This room looks a lot like what I’d imagine a robotics workshop to look like, but with less robots. Scattered around across all the tables are everything between small motors and gears to those green computer boards and wires.

My imagination is a bit lacking when it comes to concepts I’m unfamiliar with, it seems.

About the only thing in here I know anything about is the algebra scribbled on the notes on the table. They look pretty familiar to a spell, actually- Wait.

I quickly spread the notes out so they’re all in full view.

This is a spell. Well, it’s a framework for a simple fire based spell to be specific. The same I saw back at her apartment, the one that doesn’t require any of the known energy sources.

Last time we got close to the topic of magic, she got defensive and we began to raise our voices. Though it looks like she’s forgiven me for that, I doubt she’d let me study these if I asked.

And while I’m proud of my sharp memory, there’s no way I can memorize all of this in just a few minutes.

This place is a mess. Maybe, just maybe I’d be able to get away with just taking them. No, it wouldn’t work. Something about her is too sharp. She’d notice, and she’d figure out who in a heartbeat.


[] Leave the notes be. I’ll get a better chance later
[] ‘Borrow’ the notes
- [] Take just a few notes
[] Try to memorize as much as possible for now


Shit, its' already this late? I swear I'm gradually losing my sense of time.
>> No. 30860
[X] Try to memorize as much as possible for now
>> No. 30861
Does Ryuko's phone have a camera?

Would Ryuko even know if his phone had a camera?
>> No. 30862
[X] Leave the notes be. I’ll get a better chance later.
>> No. 30863
>>30861
>Does Ryuko's phone have a camera?
Yes. For the sake of simplicity, just assume it's a standard android smartphone.

>Would Ryuko even know if his phone had a camera?
Does he know? Yes. Has he ever used it? Never. Not intentionally anyway.

I totally didn't forget about the camera, or anything
>> No. 30864
>>30861

[x] Use the phone in my camera to take pictures
[x] If my phone doesn't have a camera or I don't know what a camera, phone or pictures are, try to memorize as much as possible for now.
>> No. 30865
[x] Use the phone's camera.

I'm all for the simplest solution.
>> No. 30866
[x] Leave the notes be. I’ll get a better chance later.

My money's on Yumemi catching us if we take the time to photgraph or memorize them, and I'd like to hear what she's willing to tell us first.
>> No. 30867
[x] Leave the notes be. I’ll get a better chance later

I feel the camera idea might not work out too well for a mix of reasons, that and holding off now might have a bigger pay off later.
>> No. 30868
[x] Use the phone in my camera to take pictures
[x] If my phone doesn't have a camera or I don't know what a camera, phone or pictures are, try to memorize as much as possible for now.

Always try the easy way first if it wouldn't stop you trying again later.
>> No. 30869
[x] Leave the notes be. I’ll get a better chance later.
>> No. 30882
>>30864
>>30868
Since the option to use the camera is valid, I'll assume it nulls the second vote in these two.

On that assumption, Memorizing has only 1 vote. Using the phone has 3 votes. And leaving them be has 4 votes.
So I'll call it for Leaving Them Be, which is a bit surprising tbh.

Hopefully I'll remember to waste an entire week on fuck all again this time.
>> No. 30926
File 147991662839.png - (2.29MB , 2000x1100 , 7f49fece459ef51b150c05537af11eae.png ) [iqdb]
30926
==========
At a university, Kyoto - 23rd of March 10:15
==========

I should probably leave the notes be. While this place looks like a mess with everything scattered around like this, I can’t help but feel like it’s an organized mess. Either way, I’ll get another chance as long as I stay in contact with the little professor.

Instead I decided to get up and take a closer look at the machine. Though to be honest, there’s not much to really be told. It’s a rectangular cube with beveled edges. There are several panels on the sides of it, though I wouldn’t have the faintest clue about what they’d be for even if I took a look underneath. The most noteworthy feature, though, is the fact it’s suspended slightly above the ground. Each corner has a spring attached to it, which connects it to a simple wire frame. My best guess is for shock resistance, though the reason escapes me.

Though, it does look an awful lot like the machine she used last time to extract spiritual energy from the surrounding area. In fact, the only difference is that this one doesn’t have any cables attached to it.

The door to the lab swings open again, revealing the backside of the little redhead.

How does she have time for a braid like that?

“Alright, I got it.” She exclaims cheerfully as she drags in her ‘trolly.’ “Now we just need to load her up.”

“Oh,” I snap my finger, “you meant a saggy wagon. I almost expected one of those street trains they have in the west.” I tell her.

“A saggy wagon?” She asks.

“A wagon for sacks.” I tell her. “At least that’s what we call it back home.” Or used to anyway. I’m the physically weakest member of the shrine, and even I don’t need to use it.

She looks down at the wagon for a second, then back to me. “You know, I don’t actually know what this thing is called.” She admits. “I’ve just always called it a trolly.”

“The name isn’t important. Anyway, if that’s all you need moved,” I ask, pointing back at the machine, “then I don’t need the wagon. I can easily lift it on my own.”

“Are you sure?” She asks. “Even with the train, it’s a bit of a walk.”

“I’ll be fine.” I tell her.

She looks at me with a hint of doubt written on her face, but she just shrugs it off. “Alright, but then I don’t want to hear any complaints.” She rolls the wagon off to the side.

“Of course.” I grab the machine by the frame and swing it up on my shoulder.

It’s actually lighter than I expected it to be, though the size does make handling it slightly awkward.

“Let’s get going then.” She says, holding the door for me.

She locks up the lab and starts leading me downstairs.

“By the way. Can I ask what this is for, or is it part of your secret research?” I ask.

“Sorry, I’m afraid that’s secret.” She answers.

“I thought as much.” I tell her. That pretty much confirms it for me. This is the same machine as last time, or at least the same type of machine. “So I take it you can’t tell me why it smells like strawberry either?”

“It does?” She asks.

“So it isn’t intentional?” I ask back.

“No, though I think I know why.” She says, brushing a lock of hair behind her ear. “I’ve been all over that thing for days now, so it wouldn’t be too far fetched to think my perfume has rubbed off on it.”

“Strawberry perfume?” Now that she mentions it, she does smell like strawberries, though it’s a rather faint scent, like it’s a day or two old. “I guess there are people like that too.”

She jumps down a few steps to the platform where the stairs make a turn.

“And what exactly is that supposed to mean?” She pouts, placing her hands on her hips.

“Nothing in particular.” I answer.

“I’ll have you know, nothing beats the sweet scent of strawberries.” She almost brags. “Not to mention the sweet juiciness you can savor from just a single bite.”

“There really are people like that.” I repeat.

“Like what?” She asks. “What do you mean?”

“Like I said, nothing in particular.” I answer.

“That’s not ‘nothing in particular’ at all.” She persists.

I just walk past her without answering. She responds by ‘punching’ me in the back, though I’d barely call it a love tab. She drops the subject though and resumes walking by my side.


==========
Takusan, Kyoto - 23rd of March 11:29
==========

“Just a little more.” The little redhead calls to me from the corner up ahead.

Ever since we left the city, she hasn’t been standing still for even a second. Her level of spunk could honestly be compared to that of a child. Though last I heard, scientists are supposed to have that level of curiosity and excitement about their work.

Maybe it’s because I’ve already been all over Japan several times over, but I stopped being excited about traveling the country a long time ago. Now, the most exciting part about my job are the chances to fight. And I’m not talking about those defensive fights either, but rather the ones where I get a chance to go all out, though sadly they rarely come along anymore.

That said, most of the places I go to are occult hot-spots and places which are designated anchors to the Gensokyo Barrier. So the place she has dragged me is one I haven’t seen before.

It’s a quiet little place, just outside the small village of Takusan, just a few miles away from Kyoto.

“What are you thinking about?” She interrupts my thoughts. “You’ve been quiet this whole time.”

“I was just thinking of how full of energy and excitement you are.” I answer “Reminds me of a child, actually.”

“I’m not a child.” She pouts. “I’ll have you know I turn twenty later this year.”

“So you’ll finally be allowed to drink.” I poke fun at her. “Congrats on that, then.”

“Do you want me to punch you?” She asks, playfully mad.

“That’s probably a bad idea. Can’t have you breaking your hand, now can we?” I make sure to give her a smirk.

She’s not so stupid as to actually try punching me. From even just a glance, it’s clear that I’m packed. Now I wouldn’t hit her, of course, not without a good reason at least. But as any fighter can tell you, punching a tense muscle is like punching a brick.

“Anyway,” she changes the topic, “here is a good place to put it down.”

“Alright then.” I say as I place it. “Then I take it I won’t be needed until it’s time to go home?”

“Mhm.” She cracks her knuckles and boots up the machine. “It can take up to half an hour, though, so just take the time to rest, if you want.”

I take her up on that offer and set myself down, resting against one of the trees where I can get a good view of this whole scene.

Right in front of us stands a cliff, a good few meters tall, spanning far off on either end. At its base lies what I can best describe as a pond, though I’m sure that’s not what it’s called, as there’s a river going through it.

Surrounding us is mostly tall trees, still naked from the winter though a few of them are starting to bud new leaves already. I imagine that during the summer, this place would look almost magical when all the threes have turned green again and the sun shines just right.

And magical is the keyword there. There’s a serious amount of mana floating around the air here. More so than I’ve found naturally other places.

I’m sure the Watcher of this area is aware of this place, in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if he purposefully helped create this place as a natural resort for youkai.

At least that’s what I hope it is. Otherwise this stare I’ve felt might be coming from a less friendly source. I don’t sense any hostility coming from it, though the stare remains sharp.

Just to be sure, I focus to expand my range to sense spiritual energy. It’s not much bigger, but it’s better than doing nothing.

And I find something. A youkai, creeping slowly towards our location, from the top of the cliff.

I make sure to keep my focus on it, tracking its position carefully.

Before long, the presence has made its way to the edge of the cliff, looking down on us. It's a fox. I can’t see it, not with my naked eye anyway, as it’s masking it’s appearance with magic. But I can recognize the spiritual signature of a kitsune any day.

This one is weak, still only has two tails. Or maybe it’d be more correct to say it already has two tails. The magic emitting from its body is wild and barely controllable, yet somehow it’s managing to use it.

It is also aware that I know it’s there. The fact it maintains eye contact with me is more than enough proof. Perhaps it’s intelligent? In most cases, a fox which just grew its second tail tends to be feral for quite some time afterwards, but there are exceptions.

Maintaining eye contact, I start mimicking words to it, to tell it that we’ll leave it alone if it leaves us alone. But before I even get the chance I find the air knocked out of me, by an all too familiar feeling of emptiness washing over me as my spiritual energy starts being forcefully drained.

The machine. It’s begin.

Forced to drop it’s camouflage, the fox yelps in pain from the sudden drain.

“What the?” The professor turns around.

Ignoring me, the fox heads straight towards the source of this wave, leaping over the small pond on it’s way.

Not wasting any time, I make a dash for it and tackle it out of the air.

Ignoring the violent flailing, I spin around on my heel, throwing it back, into the water.

But before it even reaches the water, it’s knocked into the cliff side by a fiery explosion.

It silently falls into the water, disappearing beneath the water. After a few seconds without anything happening, I feel it’s presence disappear.

But more importantly. That was a fireball, no doubt about it.

“Yumemi.” I call out.

The small professor is clutching her phone in her hand, to the point where I’m half afraid it’s going to break. Her other hand hangs loosely in front of her, like she just pitched the ball of her life.

She looks at her hand, which is still smoking slightly from the magic. She then looks up at me. “Oops.” She utters as she takes in the situation.

I never imagined she’d actually use her magic in front of me. Not this early, anyway.

You can clearly see the thoughts race across her face as she desperately tries to think of an explanation. “Um, this is, uh.” She flinches as she puts her hand to her chin, presumably because it’s still hot.

I close my eyes and take a deep breath. “I didn’t see anything.” I tell her as I turn around. “All I know is that there was a fox.”

Another few seconds of silence before she says, “Thank you.”

I really hope you’re not going to misuse that power, Yumemi. But if it comes down to it, I’ll personally see to it to take away your magic.


==========
Hakurei Shrine –23rd of March 20:20
==========

I’ve barely entered the village before I feel a new spiritual energy at the edge of my senses. Though something is strange about this one.

After years of near constant training, my mastery of my own spiritual energy has granted me several abilities. The most noteworthy of which is my ability to observe the world by sensing the energy around me. However this ability has its limits, such as the range. Anything beyond ten meters will lose it’s identity. Another fifteen meters and I’d be able to tell that ‘something’ is there at best. Another fifteen meters and it’s completely beyond my range.

Which is why this spiritual energy I’m picking up is strange. It should be beyond the range at which I can identify it, yet I can see it clearly. It looks like a thick dark mist crawling along the ground, radiating power, lots of power. I would almost say someone is purposefully releasing this much energy for the sake of appearing impressive, but it feels too natural for that, as if it’s the excess energy overflowing.

And as much of a chill as it gives me, I sense no malice coming from it at all. Rather, the youkai who owns this spiritual energy can sense my presence and it’s beckoning me to come.

Assuming the worst case scenario, Doc, Coach and Mentor are all down, in which case I won’t stand a chance. I have several talismans scattered around the shrine which would help with a quick escape.

Assuming the best, this youkai simply has enough power to overshadow the presence of my teachers. And I really hope that’s the case.

I’ve made my way to the front yard of the shrine grounds. A quick glance around reveals that all the talismans I placed are all still there and in working order. They’re hidden, though easy to spot if you know what to look for.

Taking a second to brace myself for whatever may be on the other side of the door, I slide it open.

What awaits me, however, isn’t what I expected in the slightest. A woman with long, slightly curved, blond hair who looks to be around her late twenties to early thirties sits at the opposite side of the table.

“Ryuko.” She greets me by my given name. Placing her cup on the table she gestures towards the cushion in front of me. “Please, take a seat if you’d be so kind.”

Using my power I attempt a quick scan of the shrine, however her energy is masking the entire building, making it impossible to sense anyone but her.

Her violet eyes don’t break away from me, but instead seem to analyze me the same way I attempt to read her.

I throw my bag into the corner and take the seat.

“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Ryuko.” She says, folding her hands across the table. “I’m the Great Sage of Gensokyo, Yakumo Yukari.” She introduces herself. “But please, just call me Yukari.”

“I thought the Yakumo fox was the sage.” I admit. “But seeing you in person, I can’t really doubt your words.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere, my child.” She jokes. “Ran is my shikigami. She takes care of all my small business. And judging by her report from when she last visited here, I believe it’s about time.”

“Time for what?” I ask. “Mentor doesn’t tell me much of the big picture.”

“Because you refuse to ask or because he refuses to answer?” She asks. “Though knowing him, I think I already know the answer.” She takes another sip from her cup before continuing. “I came here today to take you with me, Ryuko.”

“Why?” I feel my hand clench against my will.

“To complete your training, of course.” A smirk crawls onto her face. “Who could teach you to be a Hakurei better than the one who taught the first generations after the border was created?”

I can’t exactly argue with that. I’ve used my spell break to study the barrier on my own, and I’ve gotten to the point where I can create weaker replicas on a smaller scale, but there are still too many factors that elude me.

“I see. And I don’t suppose I have a choice, do I?” I ask.

“Of course you have a choice.” She responds. “It wouldn’t be very fun if I just forced you to come with me. Not to mention it’d be hard to teach you if you’re unwilling to learn.” She rests her head on her hands. “But of course I trust you to make the right decision.”

I take a few seconds to mull it over. On one hand it’s my duty to complete my training, so I can perform at my best. But on the other hand, by going I’d be neglecting my duties here. Not to mention my teachers who practically raised me.

“It’s a big decision.” Is the conclusion I’ve come to. “I’ll need more time to properly think it over.”

“I suppose so.” The sage lets out a sigh. “People tend to grow fond of places they’ve spent even just twenty years.” She looks me in the eyes with a smile. “That is one of the things I envy about humans.”

“Which is why we continue to wish for longer life; to continue to cling to waning memories.” I build on her sentence. “But regardless of the reason, I still need more time to think it over.”

“Of course, of course.” She nods, happily. “I’ll be back again soon, and I’m looking forward to your answer.” The sage says as she stands up.

The doors behind her fling open, and instead of the hallway that’s supposed to be there, only a void remains. A feeling of emptiness slowly seeps into the room as the void itself becomes more visible, revealing the thousands upon thousands of eyes all staring towards the opening.

Yukari boldly steps through it, disregarding the feeling completely.

As suddenly as the doors have flung open, the slide shut again, and the feeling of the void disappears and her overwhelming spiritual energy slowly follows.

I take my limp arm and look at it’s wrist.

Underneath these bandages lies my proof of being a Hakurei; a taijitu. Honestly, to this day I question if I’m even worthy of having received it, maybe that’s why I still haven’t gotten my arm back? Yet, not only has Mentor kept teaching me for all these years, the Gensokyo Sage herself came and acknowledged my position. Maybe I’m just worrying over nothing?


[] A shadow, sitting in front of a small one room shrine
[] A shadow, roaming the clouds surround the peak


So, this one got delayed more than I care to admit. Again. No excuse though, I got distracted and kept delaying it until I forgot how much time had passed.
>> No. 30927
I think he's worried ov r nothing but long held doubts won't go away that easily. I think that he'll believe in his worthiness only when he surpasses a challenge that he himself can't deny the difficulty of.

[x] A shadow, sitting in front of a small one room shrine

Classic.
>> No. 30928
[X] A shadow, sitting in front of a small one room shrine

Eh, no worries about the late update.
>> No. 30929
[X] A shadow, sitting in front of a small one room shrine
>> No. 30930
[x] A shadow, roaming the clouds surround the peak

Moriya vs Hakurei?
>> No. 30931
[x] A shadow, sitting in front of a small one room shrine.
>> No. 30932
[X] A shadow, sitting in front of a small one room shrine
>> No. 30933
[X] A shadow, sitting in front of a small one room shrine
>> No. 30935
Calling it for:
[x] A shadow, sitting in front of a small one room shrine

>>30928
The reason I'm worried about the deadline, is that without it I'd spend months on an update this size, trying to get everything perfect. Then I'd realize one week after it's been posted that I could have done it differently in a better way.
Fun fact, the opening post was in development for a year, rewritten from scratch over 10 times.
>> No. 30943
File 148202171484.jpg - (80.72KB , 714x866 , cf30e4c61b5566118f1ea66a81e2bf5e.jpg ) [iqdb]
30943
==========
??? - ???
==========

I find myself standing on a flat mountain top, staring into the empty horizon.

Taking a look around reveals nothing but the barren ground beneath my feet. It only goes so far before cutting off. Not even the horizon holds anything worthwhile, nothing but the empty sky for as far as the eye can see.

As I scan my surroundings, a strange feeling starts to well up from within. A feeling like I ought to know this place, that I’ve been here before and often at that. Yet I don’t recognize this place. Not that there’s much here at all to even remember, but the lack of anything to remember is a feature in itself which stands out enough to be remembered, one would think.

A sudden gust of wind from behind breaks my line of thought, as it forces my hair into my field of view.

I turn around to let the wind help brush my hair back, but as I do I’m met by the sight of a structure that previously wasn't there; a small shrine only big enough to fit the main room of worship.

The most surprising feature, though, is the person sitting at the top of the stairs. At least I think it’s a person.

Something is clearly not right though. I can see the person sitting in front of me as clear as day, I know I can. Yet at the same time, my mind refuses to accept that someone is sitting there. It’s as if it’s trying to filter out the person, blurring them out until all I can make out for sure are the colors red and black.

The person starts speaking to me, but that too is filtered out by my stubborn mind completely, leaving only a low ambient ringing behind to hear.

It doesn’t take long for the person to notice and they stop talking, instead they get up and go back to the shrine’s entrance. They utter a single word before shutting the door behind them, one which manages to stick with me.

“Soon”


==========
Mt. Takao, Hachioji - 29th of March 10:46
==========

“I was starting to think you’d ditched me.” The little brunette pockets her old pocket watch.

“Yeah, that’s my bad.” I tell her. “I dislocated my shoulder during training, so I had to get it fixed before going out.”

Renko, my new pupil, finally contacted me again. We scheduled to meet up on the mountain where we last trained, to continue. The recovery of her muscles seems to have gone slower than I expected. She didn't get any injuries last time, so she most likely didn't follow my order to rest.

Without making her wait any longer, I activate the crystals burrowed here, erecting the barrier which isolates us from the outside world.

“Now then.” I get her attention. “Are you ready to roll around in the dirt for another few hours, or would you rather move along?”

She grimaces at the thought before responding. “I’ve been thinking, and I can certainly see the importance of learning how to fall properly.” She clenches her hands for a second but relaxes them quickly again. “But at this rate, I won’t be able to do anything, should Mary and I get attacked again.”

“I’ll only go as fast as you can, Renko.” I tell her. “For example, if I told you to do the same training I do, your body would break before you’d see any benefit from the training.” I explain. “However, if you insist on hurrying, I’ll be glad to teach you some spells. I will not, however, take any responsibility for when you blow yourself up.”

She lets her eyes fall on the ground. “So should I just get started practicing?” She asks.

“Not quite.” I tell her. “It’ll be ineffective if we only focus on one thing at a time. So today we’ll be drilling some techniques into you.”

She nods, but remains silent.

“Our first priority is to build some muscle on you, otherwise it’ll be impossible to even hope of standing against a monster.” I explain to her. “But since it’s a process which takes some time, you’ll be training aikido for the time being.”

Aikido, the art of pacifying your opponent without causing them any harm. The style mainly focuses on redirecting your opponent’s force away from you, and sometimes to take it over and use it against them. It was one of the first forms of combat I learned as well, and remained the core of my defensive style for years until I found another style which fit my strong build better.

“Is there anything I can do to speed up the process?” She asks. “Like training on my own, or dieting?”

“Well, for starters, you can drop the instant noodles and soda.” I tell her. “Start eating balanced meals instead.”

“The food chart?” She asks.“Just that?”

“For now, yeah, just that.” I confirm. “I recommend starting the day with fruit and milk. Make sure you have a sizeable lunch, and try to keep your dinner light. If you need some quick energy throughout the day, eat some bananas. They're easy to digest so they'll give you a quick boost.” I lecture her. “As for training, start by simply doing some daily radio cardio as warmup, then go for a run around your area. As soon as you're done with that, eat. Maybe that will be a good time for dinner. Either way, you'll need it to help rebuild your muscles.”

I draw a circle around me, as I explain all this to her.

“And of course, try not to hurt yourself. Doing so will only slow you down in the long run.”

She closes her eyes and silently recite the list I just gave her. “Got it.”

“Alright.” I finish up my simple little spell circle. “Since I’m missing an arm, and am too big for you to reasonably throw around, I’m going to have you partner up with this toy instead.”

The circle starts glowing, and the earth within it begins to collect itself in one spot where it starts to build itself up into a humanoid shape.

“I’ll be remote controlling this doll.” I tell her, as I pat the golem on its shoulder. “It should be a lot easier for you, especially since we’re just going for technique right now.”

It’ll be especially easy, since it has next to no weight. I would love to be able to create golems like this, but I simply don’t have the mana for it. So instead, I used the properties of this space to create an illusion.

“To start with, we’ll take it slow.” I tell her as I tap the chest of the earth doll. “Reach out to it, like you’re trying to grab it by the collar, slowly.”

“By the collar?” She asks.

“Imagine it has one.” I tell her. “Or would it help if I gave it my jacket?”

“No it’s fine.” She raises her hands and lowers her body slightly, taking a typical stance for grappling.

In turn, I have the golem take its stance; left foot out front with its hands raised just slightly.

She carefully reaches out for its neck. The golem in turn grabs her wrist, and swiftly spin around, placing itself beneath her, in a perfect position to throw her over its shoulder.

“And, freeze.” I tell the brunette. “Where is your center of balance right now?”

“My center of balance?” She makes a small frown as she tries to feel around for it.

“I’d be willing to guess, it’s the same place where our little friend’s center is.” I tell her. “If you want to throw someone, you have to lay claim to their center first, otherwise you’ll have to exert force of your own.” I explain. “The easiest way to do this, is to force your own center into your opponent’s. From there, the forward momentum they have when charging you, will do most of the work. All you have to do is guide it. Try again, like you really mean it, but be prepared to fall.”

“Alright, I think I got it.” She says as she pulls away and prepare to go again.

This time it happens in a flash. Less than a second after she started to charge, she’s been flung through the air and lies flat on the ground, gasping for air.

“You gotta fall right. Remember to use your hand.” I tell her. “Now, get up, and do it again. Try to feel what’s happening.”

“Yes.” She gasps.


==========
Mt. Takao, Hachioji - 29th of March 15:15
==========

“Get up.” I order.

“I can’t.” She manages to say in between her gasps for air.

“That’s because you’re doing it wrong.” I tell her.

“I know.” She says.

“Don’t use your own energy. Use your opponents.” I say.

“I know.” She raises her voice.

“You’ll get nowhere if you keep hurrying like that.” I say.

“I know already!” She yells out. “I know, alright.”

“Then why do you continue to hurry?” I ask.

“Because I want power as fast as possible.” She admits. “I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help but try to hurry.” She hammers her fist into the ground next to her.

Can’t you just give up already? You’re not cut out to be in this world, so stop trying to force your way into it. All you’ll accomplish is signing your own death sentence.

I let out a sigh and disperse the small barrier.

“That’s enough for today.” I declare. “Go home and rest.”

“But,” She sits up to argue.

“No buts.” I tell her.

She sits there for a second before dropping back on the ground in a mixture of exhaustion and defeat.

As I walk over to get my bag and leave, I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket.

A text from Doc, it seems. From about fifteen minutes ago. There’s no reception on the inside of barrier like this, so it’s no wonder I only receive the message now.

I quickly skim through the text.

A breach here in Kyoto? How lucky, I’m already here. That should give me plenty of time to prepare, now that I don’t have to factor in travel time.

Actually, this could prove to be a good lesson for Renko. To teach her the vast difference between humans and monsters. Though, I can’t guarantee her safety completely.


[ ] Take her with me. It’ll be a good lesson for her
[ ] Don’t take her with me. She’s already at her limit for today


Small update to finish off the thread. Only took me two years to reach this point. God, I'm slow.
>> No. 30944
[x] Take her with me. It’ll be a good lesson for her.

Taking her along when she's already exhausted should help hammer home how hopeless her situation is. Or help her grow a spine; either one is good.

Assuming she doesn't get killed, of course.

> God, I'm slow.

At least you're constistent, and not flip-flopping between daily updates and months of hiatus.
>> No. 30945
[X] Don’t take her with me. She’s already at her limit for today

Better safe than sorry.

I can't understand the significance of the shadow sitting in front of the small shrine scene. Maybe if I wait a bit and think about it it'll become clear. Anyone have any ideas what it could mean? As for the person the only one I can think of is Reimu's mom since she's a shrine maiden commonly depicted wearing red and black, but she also has white sleeves like Reimu so that's a bit of a stretch.
>> No. 30946
[X] Take her with me. It’ll be a good lesson for her

Pfft, she's going to get herself killed regardless of what we do, so we might as well ensure she learns something.
>> No. 30947
[X] Don’t take her with me. She’s already at her limit for today

I feel like bringing her along would be more likely to lead to accidents than improvements.
>> No. 30948
[X] Take her with me. It’ll be a good lesson for her
>> No. 30949
>>30945
>I can't understand the significance of the shadow sitting in front of the small shrine scene.

I've spent the last 4 days trying to think of a way to respond to that in a way where I won't spoil anything. However, I've come to believe that's impossible, I'm afraid.

What I can tell you, however, is that it's part of a best-of-five vote. I can't tell you what for though.
>>30019
>>30202
These are the two previous updates with a small segment dedicated to this best-of-five.

A part of me thinks that saying even just this much is spoiling, even though all I'm doing is saving you the trouble of looking for those two posts yourself.
>> No. 30950
>>30949
Oh I wasn't asking for an explanation. Just doing some speculation.
>> No. 30955
[X] Don’t take her with me. She’s already at her limit for today.

If she was fresh/the next day I'd say differently. As it is now, I suspect he might have a hard enough time just watching himself.
>> No. 31016
>>30951

Link to new thread, for those browsing the archives.
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