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File 145079516633.jpg - (131.98KB , 850x1185 , Dem tails.jpg ) [iqdb]
30152 No. 30152
Alas, it had all come to this. I really, really should have seen it coming.

With a trembling hand, I took a beautiful silver pocket-watch out of my overcoat and slid it across the table. The man opposite me hummed in pleasure, picking it up and examining it with a casual laziness. And as the hollow feeling grew in the pit of my stomach, I grit my teeth and braced myself. The bartender, sensing something in the air perhaps, looked over; but he returned to cleaning his mugs after seeing nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing but two men, having a late night drink with one another.

Sadly enough, I was one of those men. And I would be the one on the receiving end of what was to come next.

Would I be vaporized on the spot? No, despite their influence, even they wouldn’t do something that flashy. Better to make it to like I choked on a pill or something. Or suffered from a heart attack… but I shouldn’t let my imagination get the better of me. More realistically a limb perhaps, as a sort of payment or warning. “Steal from us and get fucked!” has always been their modus operandi, though not necessarily said in such a crude manner. But a trail of broken bones told the tale of their retribution, and that was from those who had submitted quickly.

Those that didn’t weren’t heard from at all.

I nervously watched as the man turned the timepiece over in his hands, smiling all the while. He finally laughed in approval and took off his hat, balancing the pocket-watch on his head. And with a wink and a slight shake of his hat, the watch disappeared.

“Voila,” he said with a grin. “Magic.”

I damn near pissed myself, there and then.

“And the fact that you managed to get your hands on it was mighty magical as well, if I don’t say so myself,” he continued, lighting a cigarette. “We had our best experts lay seals on it. The safe around it was at least five hundred years old, and to the best of our knowledge hasn’t been broken since it was enchanted. And you know the best part?”

He flicked a piece of paper out of his briefcase and placed it on the table. Clearing his throat, he read, “Quoting the felon in question, the man said that the attempt was not premediated and was merely done because he was ‘in the area’.” He smiled that smile again. “You really are something, you know that?”

Well. What the fuck was I supposed to say to that? That I thought it was an incredible stroke of luck to sense something magical that was guarded only by seals, and nothing else? Seals and barriers, I could handle. Guards on the other hand…

After several long seconds of collecting myself, I summoned the strength to speak. “S-so, everything is satisfactory then?”

The, “Can I go now?” was implied but not spoken.

Silence set in. In the distance, a dog howled mournfully. I shivered.

“No. Of course not.” The man leaned in, steepling his fingers. “You know our reputation, else you wouldn’t be here. And you know that to maintain this reputation, certain… sacrifices must be made.” He waggled his eyebrows at me. “And unfortunately, not by us.”

The little hope I had was instantly dashed by the cold, hard rocks of reality. So, what was it going to be? My right arm? One of my eyes? Or maybe—

“Your payment will be in the form of your testicles.”

Jesus fucking Christ.

The man laughed. “Oh sonny, I know that look. ‘Oh no, I might need those someday! What if I get a lady friend?’ But worry not!” He adjusted his hat and looked at me straight in the eyes. “When I’m done with your face, even that will be a non-issue.”

I could feel myself melting into my chair. I didn’t even know whether to run or not. I had no idea how capable the man was, but seeing as I still couldn’t remember what his face looked like after thirty minutes of conversation, there was a high chance that he had some potent magic in store. And I on the other hand, could just manage to light a candle. Barely.

“However!” he exclaimed with a flourish of a hand. “At the risk of sounding rather cliché, we do need people of your talents. One job for us, one debt repaid. And what do you know? After the job, you could even continue working for us! A ‘procurement specialist’, as it were.”

I looked back into his eyes and saw no humor there, despite his tone. His lips curved into a facsimile of a smile. It was the smile of a fisherman seeing a fish flop uselessly on the ground. It was a smile of a cat with its paws on a mouse.

“So. Interested?”

Dear god in heaven, I haven’t been so interested in something my entire life.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

And so here I was, in the boonies of Japan. Staring into a pond that I was preparing to plunge into.

Breaking into Gensokyo wasn’t as hard as most say, really. Youkai did it all the time, and if my information was correct, you could move entire buildings there if you had enough power. What was hard, however, was getting there under the radar. Doubly so if you were human. And to circumvent that, one had to play by the barrier’s rules.

The moment I broke the surface of the water, I would be crossing a “border”. With some subtle manipulation, I could synchronize that “border” with the Great Hakurei Border, and hopefully end up inside the largest body of water inside Gensokyo, the Misty Lake.

I had read up on my destination. A few of Akyu’s books had made it outside the border, and though a bit outdated the information should be serviceable. I knew what sort of trouble I was getting into.

“One single hair off the tail of Ran Yakumo,” the man had said, spreading his hands.

I only hope that I wasn’t going to regret this.


So before I take the plunge, I should,

[ ] Wear modern clothes. Might as well play the clueless outsider, will probably be able to ask more questions that way. And get away with more suspicious activity.
[ ] Wear my prepared set of ye olde Japanese civilian clothes. If my previous jobs had told me anything, I should always try my best to blend in.

And also,

[ ] I should enter during the day. Better visibility, and less chance of creepy things getting the drop on me.
[ ] Enter during nighttime. If I make it to shore unnoticed, no one would see the strange circumstances in which I appeared.

It's been a long while since I last wrote, and I hope this is up to standards. That said, any questions or comments?
Expand all images
>> No. 30154
You have my attention, anon. I'll keep an eye on this story. Best of luck!

[x] Wear modern clothes. Might as well play the clueless outsider, will probably be able to ask more questions that way. And get away with more suspicious activity.

Even if we're good at pretending to be a native, someone is bound to catch us sooner or later. Best if we come clean about our origins from the start.

[x] I should enter during the day. Better visibility, and less chance of creepy things getting the drop on me.

And since we're not hiding our foreigner origins, there's no reason why we should lie about our method of entrance either. After all, many other people accidentally stumbled upon Gensokyo without trying, so why wouldn't we?
>> No. 30155
[x] Wear modern clothes. Might as well play the clueless outsider, will probably be able to ask more questions that way. And get away with more suspicious activity.
[x] I should enter during the day. Better visibility, and less chance of creepy things getting the drop on me.

Outsiders are expected to arrive now and then, and trying to hide that you are one is just asking for certain reporters to think you're even more worth spying on.
>> No. 30156
[X] Wear modern clothes. Might as well play the clueless outsider, will probably be able to ask more questions that way. And get away with more suspicious activity.
[X] I should enter during the day. Better visibility, and less chance of creepy things getting the drop on me.
>> No. 30157
[x] Outsider
[x] Day

Working as an indentured servant to someone powerful is starting to sound more promising than working as a thief for a mafia mage guild.

I wonder if Youmu or Ran are in any need of human servants? Unless he has some special skill, I doubt it.

Fighting is suicide unless trained by capable people who have no reason to do so and performing the task directly can only lead to new and worst jobs until we die.
>> No. 30158
[X] Wear modern clothes. Might as well play the clueless outsider, will probably be able to ask more questions that way. And get away with more suspicious activity.
[X] I should enter during the day. Better visibility, and less chance of creepy things getting the drop on me.

This is going to be a good challenge, and I like it.
>> No. 30160
[x] Wear modern clothes. Might as well play the clueless outsider, will probably be able to ask more questions that way. And get away with more suspicious activity.
[x] I should enter during the day. Better visibility, and less chance of creepy things getting the drop on me.
Certain people (Yukari, possibly Reimu) will be aware of us regardless.
>> No. 30161
[X] Wear my prepared set of ye olde Japanese civilian clothes. If my previous jobs had told me anything, I should always try my best to blend in.

[x] I should enter during the day. Better visibility, and less chance of creepy things getting the drop on me.
>> No. 30162
[x] Wear my prepared set of ye olde Japanese civilian clothes. If my previous jobs had told me anything, I should always try my best to blend in.

[x] I should enter during the day. Better visibility, and less chance of creepy things getting the drop on me.
>> No. 30164
File 145089480781.jpg - (552.76KB , 757x999 , Dat ice.jpg ) [iqdb]
30164
[X] Wear modern clothes. Might as well play the clueless outsider, will probably be able to ask more questions that way. And get away with more suspicious activity.
[X] I should enter during the day. Better visibility, and less chance of creepy things getting the drop on me.


The sun was high in the sky, and shining ripples shimmered on the surface of the water. The forest around me was wreathed in the quiet hum of life, with the rise and fall of faint birdsong, and soft rustles in the undergrowth. There was a rusty hoe lying by some trees, a ways off from across the pond. Some farmer had come here perhaps, to harvest bamboo shoots in the early mornings. And now, I was leaving all this behind.

I took a deep breath. And without any fancy dives or twirls, I jumped into the pond…

…and immediately spat out all the remaining breath in my lungs.

My mind had prepared me for a warm pond in the height of summer heat. Instead I felt the icy cold of Misty Lake around me, deadly cold despite the weather. I spluttered and gasped as I broke the surface, treading water best as I was able. True to its name, I realized that I could see absolutely jack-shit. All my surroundings were covered in a thick, milky fog that obscured my vision no matter where I looked. It was like staring into the pages of a blank book. Or, less poetically and more realistically, like submerging your face in a chowder gone bad.

Huh. I have to admit, despite all my plans and gimmicks, that I did not account for this. I was now smack dang in the middle of a lake with no idea to where I should swim. But I forced myself not to panic, continuing to keep myself afloat with clean, strong stokes with my arms and legs. The Misty Lake wasn’t all that large. Despite my slim build, I could still swim a fair distance. I was confident that I could manage to land myself somewhere on the shore, sometime within a couple of hours.

However, that could land me anywhere. The Scarlet Devil Mansion, maybe, or even the Forest of Magic. Even being on the opposite end to where I needed to be would prove to be a massive pain.

And so with the icy water starting to cramp my muscles, I chose the obvious solution. I started shouting for help.

“Help! HELP! I’m drowning!” I screamed at the top of my lungs. “Help! Somebody, anybody! Help!”

Almost immediately, I heard a buzzing noise, like the whirr of a mosquito magnified past a thousand. Two diminutive figures emerged from the mist, with young children with insectoid wings on their backs. Seeing them almost made me forget myself; in the modern age, it was so, so easy to think that only humans had mastery over the world. But seeing these… beings keep themselves aloft with no apparent effort at all laughed at the technology we wielded so arrogantly, never mind the cantrips of diluted magic we managed to hoard jealously throughout the centuries. Outside the barrier, even the best magicians could barely levitate for a few hours. These things could probably do it their entire lives if need be, and the fact that—.

But seeing their expressions instantly broke me out of my philosophical monologue. Those did not look like the faces of sweet, altruistic children, no sirree.

“Oh?” the one on the right trilled, a mischievous grin on its face. “A human!”

“A human?” the left one asked in mock wonder. “Wonder what the boss will think of this?”

“Maybe freeze him like a frog?”

“A frog? Scandalous! But… maybe in a silly pose, then?”

“Oh, how naughty! But now that you said that…”

“…we’ll have something to laugh at all summer!”

They started cackling. Not childish laughing, but a full on villainous cackle that would do an evil witch proud.

And so, with a sinking feeling in my heart, I redoubled my efforts.

“HELP! HELP! FARIES! FAE! HELP!”

Oh woe is me, I thought miserably as I started swimming as fast as I could towards a random direction. If it were two weeks ago, I wouldn’t have made this kind of gaff. I would have had backup plans out the wazoo, with contingencies at every step. I would have had plans upon plans lined up and tacked neatly to my “business wall” back home. I would have… I don’t know, arrived in a fucking submarine. But the pocket-watch business had thrown me off my game, and now I was reaping the rewards for not paying enough attention.

A bold of bright, red magical power whizzed past my head, nearly singeing my hair. I could hear the two fairies giggling above me as they flew effortlessly through the sky.

“HELP! HELP! I can’t—“

And now again, it was the sound that alerted me first. Unlike the soft buzz of the fairy’s wings, this came like a drumbeat through the air, like the air had suddenly gained a pulse. A deep, deep thrum, as if there was lightning far away.

Then I felt it, little pinches of static prickling my skin. Power. Immense power. Enough power to turn the entire organization of people I had wronged inside out. Or to put them over one knee and smack their buttocks red.

And then, I finally saw it.

With a blast of wind, the heavy mist was cleaved apart as if it was nothing more than a nuisance, the gust of air creating massive waves on the surface of the lake. A corridor of clear sky devoid of fog marked the person’s passage of flight, and I could only watch in wonder as the two fairies were batted out of the sky, shrieking, and twin splashes sounded from where they fell into the water.

The Hakurei was here.

A massive cloud of fairies started gathering at the edge of the horizon, and I hurriedly squinted my eyes to look more closely. They seemed to be led by a larger, blue haired ice fairy, who proceeded to get into a shouting match with the Hakurei miko. A one-sided one, from what it turns out. The miko only spoke in quiet, lazy sentences, which only served to infuriate the fairies more and more. A few fairies, the braver (or more foolish ones) got too close, and were immediately smacked down into the lake, one falling rather comically in an odd sort of twirl before hitting the shore (I was that close to the shore? Dammit!).

A few more terse words were exchanged. And finally, with a war cry, the blue-haired fairy charged, with the rest following alongside her. Battles was about to be joined.

Or not. The miko seemed not at all interested, as she appeared to be heading away from the grand melee, right at—oh.

With a strong yank at the scruff at my neck, I felt myself rising rapidly into the air, going into a series of loops and twirls that would make an entire Blue Angel squadron weep in joy. I could feel blasts of magic all around us, and even the occasional icicle, but none of them touched us. Amidst the chaotic flurry of color and energy, I was the unwilling participant of a marvelous dance. My rescuer was leading the entire horde on, relying on her speed and maneuverability to keep ahead; but one kept dogging her determinedly, sticking to her like glue. In between my protesting stomach and my dizziness, I could see brief flashes of her every time we took a dive, or spiraled through the air.

Until finally, with a surprised squeak and a drawn out yell of dismay, I heard the leader of the fairies plop into the churning waters below. The rest scattered like leaves in a hurricane. And in an instant, all seemed normal again.

Whump. I was deposited none too gently on the shore, shivering from head to toe. Then a thick cloth enveloped me, and started rubbing me down.

“Lucky outsider,” she chided, sounding for all the world like a teacher emptying the piss from a young boy’s shoe. “You are fortunate that my rice stocks were going low. Very fortunate.” She rubbed extra hard for emphasis. “Welcome to Gensokyo, by the way.”

Someone was drying me up, rubbing me gently with what could pass as a towel. It felt so nostalgic, that for a moment, I forgot about my job. Then my mood soured.

Yes. My job.

“W-where am I?” I stuttered, ignoring the black feeling in my gut. “I don’t understand! There were people flying, and—”

“Shhh. You’re alright now.” She removed the cloth, and by god she was young, younger than me by any indication. She looked rather awkward, as if she didn’t exactly know how to handle me. “Look, I—urgh, I’m not good with this. I—well, I…”

She bit her lip. I watched her warily, with a frantic, scared expression plastered on my face. Like a mask.

Then she sighed and dug into her clothes, producing a small pouch. She picked out a few coins and shoved them into my palm.

“Follow this road, and you’ll arrive at a village. Get yourself something warm to eat, and, uh… ask for Keine. Kamishirasawa Keine. She’ll do a much better job at explaining all this. You got all that?”

I nodded mutely. She nodded as well, seemingly satisfied.

“Good. Hope that good luck of yours keeps up. Come see me sometime, maybe drop off a donation.” She winked. “Goodbye!”

Then she was off, as fast as she had come. In the opposite direction of the village.

Without rice.

I pocketed the coins, and trudged glumly down the road.


Now, then…

[ ] Go see Keine. If I play up the outsider angle, I may be able to tease a bit more information about the Yakumos. Their home, their habits, their schedules…

[ ] Go into a tea house, or a drinking establishment and try to wheedle information from the patrons. It would probably be a lot vaguer, but I would rouse less suspicion and remain under the radar.

Ayy update.
I was sorta surprised (and pleased) by the number of voters. After all, I did start this story in part because a lot of the boards seemed to be slowing down in a major way. Thanks for the support guys.
>> No. 30165
[X] Go into a tea house, or a drinking establishment and try to wheedle information from the patrons. It would probably be a lot vaguer, but I would rouse less suspicion and remain under the radar.
>> No. 30166
[x] Go see Keine. If I play up the outsider angle, I may be able to tease a bit more information about the Yakumos. Their home, their habits, their schedules…

Let's keep doing what they expect us to do for the time being. Although nagging Keine about the Yakumos this early on might make her suspicious of us.
>> No. 30167
[X] Go see Keine. Not to pump her about the Yakumos, but just to keep Reimu from wondering why you ignored her instructions.

then

[x] Go into a tea house, or a drinking establishment and try to wheedle information from the patrons. It would probably be a lot vaguer, but I would rouse less suspicion and remain under the radar.
>> No. 30168
[x] Keine Kamishirasawa

No need to not draw attention. Getting a single hair from someone, even a high level kitsune, is a harmless act, not a crime.
>> No. 30169
[X] Go see Keine. If I play up the outsider angle, I may be able to tease a bit more information about the Yakumos. Their home, their habits, their schedules…

Once we find Ran, let be polite and ask her kindly before trying anything stupid. Who knows, it might work.
>> No. 30170
[x] Go see Keine. If I play up the outsider angle, I may be able to tease a bit more information about the Yakumos. Their home, their habits, their schedules…

Every board is as fast as the people writing on it are.
>> No. 30171
[X] Go see Keine. If I play up the outsider angle, I may be able to tease a bit more information about the Yakumos. Their home, their habits, their schedules…
>> No. 30172
[ ] Go see Keine. If I play up the outsider angle, I may be able to tease a bit more information about the Yakumos. Their home, their habits, their schedules…
>> No. 30173
[X] Go into a tea house, or a drinking establishment and try to wheedle information from the patrons. It would probably be a lot vaguer, but I would rouse less suspicion and remain under the radar.

It's been a long time since I've read a new story. You've caught my interest with this one.
>> No. 30177
[X] Go see Keine. Not to pump her about the Yakumos, but just

We're playing the part of the clueless outsider after all
>> No. 30178
File 14511183125.jpg - (199.78KB , 850x1190 , Beautiful picture of a hat.jpg ) [iqdb]
30178
And so with heavy steps, I dragged myself to the gates of the Human Village. Two guards were leaning casually on the wooden walls, smoking and chatting with one another. When they saw me, they blinked, and then proceeded to snicker in unison. I must have looked pretty horrible, the very image of a clueless, unfortunate guest that had no idea what he had gotten into. Like someone that had bitten off more than he could chew, and was still in the process of learning exactly how much that was. And to be entirely frank? That description would not be all that far off.

They shouldered their spears and sauntered over to me, going over my mangled clothing with a critical eye. “Outsider, huh?” The tall one asked. He nodded at me, his eyes twinkling under his wide-brimmed hat. “Well, don’t you look like you’ve been through hell.”

I tried my best to look bewildered. It wasn’t hard. “That’s what that girl in red said I was. I mean—I was—where am I? What in the world is—”

The guard raised an eyebrow. “Wow, ‘lil Reimu actually got to you herself. Blimey, that’s an experience that most don’t get to have. Don’t know whether that’s a good thing…”

“…or a bad thing,” finished the slightly shorter one. He dropped his cigarette and stamped his boot on it. “Don’t worry though, you actually made it this far. That’s more than most can say.”

“But I still don’t understand!” I protested loudly. Just enough to be realistic, and touching the edge of being grating. “Can’t you all just give me a straight answer?”

“Well kid, I’m afraid that there isn’t a straight answer,” said the tall guard, chuckling. “Now listen here. Walk down the main street for a bit, and round fifty steps to your right you’ll see the school houses. Big wooden sign, can’t miss it. The classes are done for the day, so just go right through. Miss Keine will explain it all.”

I nodded hesitantly and made my way through the gates, with the well-wishes of the guards behind me. And from the entrance, I took in the sights.

In some ways, the village surprised me; there were vendors and merchants, restaurants and shops, and it was a bustling center of commerce that had far more activity than I originally thought it would have. I could see buildings large and small, with people milling about with their daily lives. But on the other hand, it was definitely no city. It could barely be called a proper town, in terms of the outside world. However, the size was a still acceptable, and it meant that I could still fade into the crowd and become one of its many faceless travelers. With that thought in mind, I collected my thoughts and stuck to the main street, sightseeing as I went. And after a few minutes inside the village, I found my destination: a large wooden sign. And beneath it, the school grounds.

The school house was elegantly made, with a properly tiled roof and a large yard beside it. A group of children, the oldest among them no older than eight or nine, were playing in the shade. Their school bags were piled haphazardly at the base of the tree, and I fought to contain a chuckle at the memories that they brought me. Then I quickly caught myself.

Focus. I was on a job, not on vacation. I took a deep breath, and slid open the door.

There was a hat—I mean, a woman in the hallway, wiping the walls meticulously with a wet ha—cloth. I meant cloth. Oh gods in heaven save me, her hat was like a black hole of attention in which not an ounce of thought could escape. It was ridiculously ornate, like someone had decided to build a house on her head, but at the same time mysteriously… endearing. As was the large, happy smile she was wearing on her face when she turned to face me. She was a tall, statuesque woman with a subtle aura of power, and in that instant I knew that I had found who I was looking for.

“Good day!” she called out, brushing the dust from her blue dress. “Judging from your clothes, you are an outsider, yes?”

I returned an uneasy grin of my own. “That’s what they keep calling me, yes. I’m still not sure what it means though. My name is…

(Taking write-ins for a fake name here. A nickname could work, or something preferably Japanese. We are performing an infiltration, after all.)

And you must be Miss Keine…?”

“Indeed!” she bowed at me and motioned for me to follow her. “I know that all of this may seem very strange to you, but before anything else, I want you to know something first.”

“And that would be…?”

She turned around, gently grasped me by the shoulders and looked me in the eyes. “You are safe now. You hear me? No matter the things that happened before you came here, you are safe now. Remember that.” She opened a door and walked into what seemed to be a small classroom, outfitted with blackboard and chalk. “Some of the things that I will tell you now may seem a tad strange. Some of it might even be a little bit scary. But as you are hearing these things, when you are feeling frightened and afraid, always remember that you. Are. Safe.” She then pushed me down gently into a small wooden chair.

“I am safe.” I repeated obediently.

“At least, when you are in this room with me.” She beamed, and picked up a piece of chalk. “Alright! Ready?”

I fought the urge to take out a notebook. It was all too surreal an experience, being treated like a student again. “Ready as I can be.”

“Good. Now then…”

Her lesson on the history of Gensokyo was incredibly comprehensive. She drew out the theoretical dimensions of the Great Hakurei Border. She went into great detail on the founding figures, both youkai and human. She listed out the entire family tree of the Hakurei, pausing here and there to talk about particularly important members. She knew the years and dates like the back of her hand, and could often recount events in minute detail.

But it was not dull at all, and I was completely and utterly entranced. Her descriptions of historical figures painted bright, colorful personalities in my mind, and her retelling of key moments in the past left me hanging onto her every word. She knew the parts of history to skim over, and the portions to elaborate on. She was a brilliant orator, and from what I could see an excellent educator.

She was a person who loved to teach. Someone who not only wanted to teach history, but teach it right. The fact that new outsiders were directed to her wasn’t only because she was the best person for the job, but because she was perhaps the only one that wanted to do it over and over again. She thrived in it.

It was all I could do to keep myself from applauding when she finished.

“So!” she said, straightening her hat. “Any questions?”

Right, the job, the job. I had work to do.

I furrowed my brow. “So, you’re saying that there is no way to leave? At all?”

She shook her head. “Sadly, barring extraordinary circumstances, no. But don’t be worried! Evidence has shown that all those that cross into Gensokyo have, in one way or another, a sort of… ‘wanderlust’ that bring them here. An affinity to the strange, the arcane. One cannot enter the land of fantasy without first fantasizing about it first.” She ruffled my hair and smiled gently. “It’ll be like returning to a home that you never knew.”

For an instant, I could feel my resolve weakening. To lay bare my past to this woman. To come clean, and find a way to hide away from my pursuers. To stay here, in this wonderland where people breathed in magic as easily as they did air. I could start clean again, and I could—

…become a thief again. Because that’s all my powers were ever going to be good for, and the only way I would ever used them. The heat in my heart cooled, and I dragged my derailed thoughts back on track. Besides, hiding in Gensokyo would never work. People have tried stranger places and failed, all the same. Time to get to work.

“But I can’t— couldn’t I find someone? Like the Yakumo you mentioned? They have a way out, right? Didn’t they design parts of the barrier in the first place?” I asked as I rubbed my palms together, every inch the nervous outsider. “They should be able to help me leave.”

“Technically, yes,” said Keine. “I have heard rumors. But the head of their family does not use her power for such purposes. It runs contrary to their entire philosophy, and if you’ve been paying more attention…” she smacked the back of my hand lightly as she said this, “a small, steady influx of outsiders is part of their overall plan.”

“But that still means that—I don’t know, that I could try reasoning with them? I still have so much outside! I have a son—” Ha ha ha. A son. I am such a joker. “—and a family. You aren’t telling me that I can’t see them ever again?”

I let the false emotions flow freely from me, trying to fully feel every gram of the bullshit I was calling my past. I had a baby son, who had grabbed onto my finger not two minutes from when he was born. And a beautiful wife, who by now would be wondering where her husband had gone. My two parents, all too fond of awful jokes. Uncle Wu, who had the oddest habits…

And thus it was so that when the school teacher looked into my eyes, that was the “truth” she found.

Keine sighed, and for the first time since my arrival, seemed slightly troubled. “That’s… odd. And very saddening. Many of those that enter here are either wanderers by nature, or were ostracized by their fellow companions. That is often why they sought to escape into fantasy in the first place. If what you say is true, then the fact that you came here is very, very worrying.”

Errp, hope I didn’t blow my cover. But as they say, there was nowhere to go but forwards from here. I cleared my throat and continued on. “So there must be some sort of misunderstanding then. Could I meet Yukari, by any chance? Or maybe Ran? It—it doesn’t have to work, really. They could ignore me, or spit on me, but I just want to make sure that I’ve tried everything. Please. My family deserves that much.”

She grimaced and paced a little at the front of the classroom, her restless steps carrying her in a small circle. “I don’t like admitting this, but I’m afraid it will be hard to get in contact. They have become extremely reclusive over these past few months, and I honestly do not know why. I used to chat with Ran on her rare trips to the human marketplace, but it has been a long time since I’ve seen either of the master-servant pair. Something must have happened.”

Well that’s a pile of bad luck on my already shitty week. If they’ve been facing problems of their own, then any attempt on my end would seem all the more dangerous in their eyes. “Surely someone has been sent to check on them?” I said, mentally running a list through my options.

“No. If Yukari has encountered something that could silence her immediately, then we are all doomed regardless.” Keine stopped in her steps and laughed wryly. “She is canny and powerful, and her remarkable age is a testament to her ability to succeed against adversity. If she was having problems, believe me when I say that her struggle would shake the very foundations of Gensokyo itself.”

Stealing from her servant sounded like such fun. Truly, I was the master of bad decisions and questionable judgement. “Then where does she live?” I pleaded. “Someone must know something!”

“Unfortunately, no one knows that either,” answered Keine. “It was theorized that it was somewhere within Mayohiga, but that theory has long since been debunked. The truth? No one knows. That’s why she commands such respect in Gensokyo, you understand. Yukari is extremely good at ferreting out secrets from others while keeping her own.”

Troublesome, I mused. Very, very troublesome. “If that is so, then why did people say Mayohiga was their home in the first place?”

“Well…” Keine tapped her chin, deep in thought. “It was partially because it’s a… hmm. How do I put this? A ‘crossroads’ of sorts. It’s right on the edge of the barrier, and visitors from all over come and go as they lose their way in the mountains. It leads everywhere, and yet it leads nowhere. Thus, it would probably make a good home for them, since they see themselves as guardians of—. Oh!” Her eyes lit up, and she smacked her fist into her palm. “And their familiar, Chen, used to use that place to tame cats. So it stood to reason that it would have had to been fairly close to their home. It is rather distant from anywhere else, after all.”

I mulled this over in mind before finally speaking. “Then why was this theory debunked?”

She crossed her arms. “Well, the undisputable fact of the matter is that Mayohiga is abandoned. People still get lost, you know. And every time they venture inside the village, there is no one there. No signs of life. Just dusty bowls and pots for those that are interested to take away. And well… cats. Heavens know how they get their food there.”

“But there must be some other information!”

A conflicted expression passed over Keine’s face, and she patted my arm with a look of pity. “I’m sorry things had to turn out this way. If it were up to me, none of this would have ever come to pass.” She looked out the open window, where the sun was slowly sinking beyond the horizon. Had so much time passed already? The children were long gone.

She sighed again, and through it I could feel her heavy heart. “But the truth is that despite their sense of duty, the Yakumo rarely care about the lives of average humans. They come and go as they wish, beholden to no one but themselves. But have hope.” She grasped my hand in hers and stroked it softly. “If you and your family were meant to be together, then you will be reunited. Believe in that.”

I sniffed and grasped back in return. She smiled and stood up, leading me back to the door of the school house.

“Good. I will try to find a solution as well. In the meantime though, you must be exhausted. There is a communal boarding house at the end of the main street that offers a week’s worth of food and board for outsiders. You can stay there, before you find somewhere more permanent to settle.”

“That sounds wonderful.” I bowed to Keine, and filled the expression on my face with extreme gratitude. “I’ll never forget what you’ve done for me.”

She just shook her head and laughed. “Don’t be, dear. What I do is never enough. Oh, and I nearly forgot!” She took out a small wooden tile that was richly decorated in carvings. In the center was the characters “one thousand and twenty four”, written in stunning calligraphy. She handed it to me, and I turned it over in my hands, examining every side of it carefully. It was truly a beautiful little thing. And like most beautiful little things, I probably didn’t deserve it.

“This has been a tradition, ever since we’ve received our first visitor from the outside. A bit tongue-in-cheek, perhaps… but that does not change the fact that you are one of us now.” She adjusted my collar and smiled. “Welcome to Gensokyo.”



So the day has nearly ended, and I have received my mixed bag of successes and frustrations. Should I now:

[ ] Hit up a drinking establishment. By this time the crowds should be the rowdiest, and the most willing to talk.
[ ] Listen to the nice teacher. My eyelids are growing heavy, and I should probably go get a proper meal and some rest.
>> No. 30179
[X] Listen to the nice teacher. My eyelids are growing heavy, and I should probably go get a proper meal and some rest.

Rushing isn't going to find any extra information, it's more likely to lead to overlooking something. If we consistently tell people the same story we fed Keine most of them won't find our other questions too suspicious. Fortunately, Satori has no reason to want to visit the village, leaving Miko the one most likely to doubt us.
>> No. 30180
[x] Time to dtink some information
>> No. 30181
[X] Hit up a drinking establishment. By this time the crowds should be the rowdiest, and the most willing to talk.
>> No. 30182
[X] Listen to the nice teacher. My eyelids are growing heavy, and I should probably go get a proper meal and some rest.
>> No. 30183
[x] Hit up a drinking establishment. By this time the crowds should be the rowdiest, and the most willing to talk.
>> No. 30184
File 14512401665.jpg - (201.94KB , 850x1325 , Raan.jpg ) [iqdb]
30184
Time waits for no man, and the sooner I get out of here the better. Let’s get cracking.

But first things first. Long experience has taught me that most people are uncomfortable talking around someone clearly “not from these parts”, and as such, I needed to remedy the matter. As an outsider I was an unknown factor, and they would step very carefully around me. Following that train of logic led to a clear conclusion: I needed to drop my identity for at least one single night. I had enough Asian blood in me to look like a local, and now what I needed was the clothing.

After directions given to me by a helpful passersby, I found a rundown store and picked up a set of second-hand clothes from a grumpy looking owner. That suited me just fine; in my experience, the sullen ones usually kept their mouths shut. I kept the coins Reimu gave me, and placed them inside my pouch where the lockpicks were. I’d find a chance to toss them back into her donation box if I had the time. The rest however I spent freely, as I was hiding an impressive amount of currency on my person in all the nooks and crannies that one could imagine. I may have been a careless jackass who almost drowned in the Misty Lake, but preparing local coinage? That was fucking basic. I also picked up a set of gloves, and a wide brimmed sugegasa. Good for the added protection from the sun, and excellent for hiding my face from prying eyes. Sharp and snappy.

Thus satisfied, I wandered the streets till I found the largest, rowdiest establishment I could find, elbowed in casually, and settled down in the corner with a drink in hand. It was a blessed relief after an entire day of walking, and I closed my eyes as I felt the ebb and flow of conversation wash over my ears.

Most of the discussions were pretty useless, though admittedly interesting. Increased tolls and searches by Tengu patrols. A larger amount of kappa sightings by fishermen, and even an occasion when a particularly brave kappa came in close to ask some questions. I couldn’t hear the details though, as the fishermen started to huddle together, whispering among themselves. Fairies were gathering around in ever greater numbers, which was strange as they tended to stick to groups of two to three. Keine was also rubbing my neck, whispering sweet nothings into my ear and—shit, I was dozing off. I rubbed my eyes and forced myself to sit up straight. Focus. Focus. Foooohhh-cusssss. My attention flitted between the numerous people, drinking in their words while I sipped at my alcohol.

“—not sure if going near Myouren temple is safe anymore, lots of youkai there are clearly not going for the sermons. I think that—”

“Stop going to the lamprey stand! No matter how cute the girl is, she’s a youkai, and one of these days I’m afraid that I’ll never hear from you again. Listen to me and—”

“Oh, she looked nasty, really beat up. It was so bad that Eirin had to spend most of the day tending to her. Poor Tatsuki had to wait in the hallway until his turn, and even then it was Reisen who took care of his leg. He was the only one that got up close you know, and he swore he saw that one of her tails were sheared clean off. But you know how he is with these things—”

Wait what? My eyes snapped open wide, and I frantically tried to find the group that had spoken, scanning the tables under the brim of my hat. But round ten men or so had broken into drunken song, with many more joining in, and soon I could hear nothing but tired, tone deaf men trying to carry a tune. I tried in vain to search some more, but in the end, I knew it didn’t matter. I had lost them, and I sank back into my chair with a frown on my face.

Was my luck that bad? Was the wounded person they were talking about the one and only Yakumo Ran? Plenty of other Youkai had more than one tail, true, but to warrant Eirin’s undivided attention? Was it just some feral youkai who scored a lucky hit? Were there other groups carrying out plots of their own? Who the fuck would be stupid enough to carry out fights without danmaku, anyway? Who the heck would want to screw over the Yakumo, for that matter? And above all, what the fuck was going on?

I drove my knuckles into my temples, trying to keep myself awake as my mind spun with possibilities. The best case scenario would be that they were talking about someone else, some unfortunate nekomata or something similar. But from the tone of the man’s voice, he seemed to talking about someone that everyone should have known about. Someone famous.

“Oh, she looked nasty.” The tone had seemed… sad? No, more like he was collecting his memories in order to tell a good story. So it had happened a long time ago? No, news about this would definitely have spread, and Keine would have caught wind of it— goddangit, this was getting me nowhere. I grit my teeth. This job was seeming dodgier by every minute that passed. I took a deep breath, and continued to listen. I just needed to be patient, and I would probably hear that man again.

Discussions buzzed about me like bees, drinks flowed like honey. I kept the grapevine close to my ear, listening to rumors, gossip, tall tales. Some man was sneaking out from his home on a regular basis to conduct adultery. A newly opened dango stand was all the craze with the young people. At least ten youkai lived in the Hakurei shrine. Whispers of hate could awaken slumbering fiends.

Just be patient, I reminded myself. Just be patient…


I blinked blearily, shading my eyes from the bright light. Was that the sun…?

Someone poked my back, prompting me to turn around. A potbellied, grizzled man with a broom grunted at me and pointed at a scrawled sign on the wall saying, “Overnight, extra.” He held out a hand, palm turned upwards.

Blegh. I tossed him a coin and stumbled onto the street. It was midmorning already, and the sun was shining merrily in the sky. It actually managed to lighten my dark mood somewhat, despite my body being sore all over. Being draped over a small wooden table all night would do that to you. I stretched a bit, and pondered my options.

Now I could face this brand new day, and tackle the beast I was tasked with head on.

[ ] Mayohiga is one of the leads I have right now, and with a horse I could make it there fairly quickly. It might not be the Yakumo residence itself, but I have a hunch that my target might not be too far off. And piercing seals and barriers is my specialty.

[ ] Eientei is also an option. The dense foliage would make for slow progress however, and asking around for specific information on their patients would be fairly awkward. Still though, I might find some evidence of worth.

>tfw searching for "blood" and "Yakumo Ran" gives me twenty pages of Ran in various stages of nosebleeding. In retrospect I should have seen that coming.
>> No. 30185
[X] Mayohiga is one of the leads I have right now, and with a horse I could make it there fairly quickly. It might not be the Yakumo residence itself, but I have a hunch that my target might not be too far off. And piercing seals and barriers is my specialty.

The Eientei link is too dubious - it might possibly be Ran, it happened an unknown length of time ago, and they're unlikely to cooperate with patient information anyway.
>> No. 30186
[x] Eientei is also an option. The dense foliage would make for slow progress however, and asking around for specific information on their patients would be fairly awkward. Still though, I might find some evidence of worth.

If there's any residue, Eirin probably kept it... time for some investigation.
>> No. 30187
[x] Mayohiga is one of the leads I have right now, and with a horse I could make it there fairly quickly. It might not be the Yakumo residence itself, but I have a hunch that my target might not be too far off. And piercing seals and barriers is my specialty.
>> No. 30188
[X]Mayohiga
>> No. 30189
[x] Mayohiga is one of the leads I have right now, and with a horse I could make it there fairly quickly. It might not be the Yakumo residence itself, but I have a hunch that my target might not be too far off. And piercing seals and barriers is my specialty.

Going to Eientei means having to traverse the Bamboo Forest of the Lost, a feat quite difficult for a "normal" human without a guide or any means to ignore the magic that makes people get lost.
>> No. 30190
[X] Mayohiga is one of the leads I have right now, and with a horse I could make it there fairly quickly. It might not be the Yakumo residence itself, but I have a hunch that my target might not be too far off. And piercing seals and barriers is my specialty.
>> No. 30191
[x] Mayohiga is one of the leads I have right now, and with a horse I could make it there fairly quickly. It might not be the Yakumo residence itself, but I have a hunch that my target might not be too far off. And piercing seals and barriers is my specialty.
>> No. 30192
[x] Mayohiga is one of the leads I have right now, and with a horse I could make it there fairly quickly. It might not be the Yakumo residence itself, but I have a hunch that my target might not be too far off. And piercing seals and barriers is my specialty.
>> No. 30193
[x] Mayohiga is one of the leads I have right now, and with a horse I could make it there fairly quickly. It might not be the Yakumo residence itself, but I have a hunch that my target might not be too far off. And piercing seals and barriers is my specialty.
>> No. 30194
File 145140897720.jpg - (67.19KB , 768x480 , Forest path.jpg ) [iqdb]
30194
I yawned and stretched my muscles, hearing a satisfying crack somewhere down my spine. Mayohiga was a ways off, and time waits for no man. Today’s weather was as pleasant as the Japanese summers could allow, perfect for a bit of traveling. Whistling a cheery tune, I made my way to the richer areas of the Human village where I was sure I could find a noble steed.

However, I was sorely disappointed. For most part, the wealthy didn’t need to venture out of town much, and those that did had the ability to fly. The animals I did see were small and weak compared to the veritable giants bred in the outside world. I was no expert, having only worked with horses for half a year on a job, but even I could see that the stock was lacking in Gensokyo. With some reluctance I decided to buy a shabby looking mare from an open air stall, the beast too old to be of much use doing farm work or pulling carts, but still fit for a bit of riding. It was a bargain price, and she was a sweet, sweet girl.

“So, where ye headin’ to?” asked the old, gapped toothed merchant as he saddled the horse.

“Hakurei Shrine, of course,” I replied rather offhandedly. “The miko saved me once, and a favor deserves another in turn. I’m visiting her.”

The merchant frowned. “Ye sure? Could be kinda dangerous. I’ve heard youkai hunt those roads. Real nasty ones, too.”

Well, even if I was actually heading off in a completely different direction, the man did have a point. I had been doing some thinking on the matter, and the truth was that I probably didn’t have the magical chops to travel anywhere I liked without trouble, unlike say Keine or Reimu. A fairy or some minor youkai would probably be fine, but a big one? That would spell out a whole lot of bad news. I had some countermeasures, but if there were alternatives…

“And you have a suggestion?” I asked, eyebrow raised. The merchant grinned.

“The mikos of the two shrines sometimes come ta town and sell their charms.” He waved me to a corner of the stall, and hefted out a box with a grunt of effort. “Lotta people think these are useless compared to a firm grasp of danmaku, but you don’t get to my age without appreciating the classics.” He opened the latches and gave me a look inside. It was filled to the brim with cloth charms, paper charms, wooden charms, themed in red and green respectively on each half of the box.

“Always buy a few when they visit. Keeps in their good graces, and they sometimes’ll nose around my wares. Maybe even buy something too!” he said, laughing. I picked up a green one, subtly poking through it with my magic.

I was a somewhat peculiar case, as magicians go. Usually, a normal human had to reach a certain level of power to even know they were magically-talented. It manifested, you see: sometimes they found that they had an affinity towards birds, or could… well, make the flames in the fireplace curl or something. You had to have a “stick” over a certain length to be able to whack someone effectively, after all. And to follow up on that metaphor, those that had middling-sized sticks would have great control, those with great big pillars would stumble around trying to heft them properly (once they had the strength and expertise to do so though, they became monsters), and the people with the tiny ones wouldn’t notice they had it at all.

No, this isn’t a joke on penile length. Because if it was, this monologue would get tragic very fast.

See, I have an extremely… small stick. But strangely enough, I was able to become aware of my talent, and eventually come to control it. I have far greater control than most mages in fact, because I have so little to work with and lose control over. And because of this, I had no need to focus or concentrate for what others called “intricate work”, and could do delicate things that mages usually attempted only after decades of experience. Do minute, on the fly adjustments to a rapidly churning spell? I could do that. Zero in on tiny fluctuations in hastily done enchantments? I could locate the problem in seconds. Fiddle with stationary barriers until they lay in pieces at my feet? Well… you see where I’m going with this.

Sadly, with no oomph behind my oh-so-soft-and-mild magicks, for most part I might as well be trying to cut down trees with a toothpick. I was useful to have around, but could never be able to stand on my own two feet. Even the most basic spells were beyond my ability to power. But this sort of thing? I rubbed the fabric of the charm gently. I did this sort of thing better than anyone.

My senses dove into the charm. The enchantments were definitely divine in nature, and reminded me of a girl doing her hair, with all the careful braiding and patterns. Or like a woman doing her makeup, biting her lower lip as she did the finishing touches, and finally going to work with a satisfied look on her face. All ready and fresh for a new day. It was something carefully made with hard work and love, and definitely not a mass-produced, throwaway project.

But beyond that it was fairly basic. It protected against harm of a non-human origin and bad luck in general, but nothing more unusual than that. It was still an exceptional piece of work, all things considered, and the price was fair. I hummed, hawed and picked up a red one that was presumably made by Reimu.

What disappointed me immediately was how lackadaisical the enchantments were put together on this one. It was slap-dash and amateurish, and clearly had been done on the side while she was multitasking. When she was waiting for water to boil, or maybe while she was eating. A far cry from the force of nature that I had encountered in the Misty Lake—

Woah. Wooooaaaah.

This generated a field of deterrence for all hostile youkai in the area, roughly one kilometer in diameter. Amazing. I dug deeper, feverously curious. And this wasn’t psychological in nature either, as the youkai in question wouldn’t even notice they were being nudged! It was like Reimu was writing an irrefutable commandment into reality, relying on her link to the Hakurei Barrier as base. Youkai had to have a considerable supernatural presence to have any chance of counteracting it, and upon meeting such a creature the charm would drop its efforts entirely as not to alarm it. All this power, all this subtle reality bending bullshit, all sealed haphazardly into a paper slip just barely big enough to cover my palm.

I held the charm at arm’s length, stricken in awe.

“…I’ll take one of both, please,” I whispered.

The merchant grinned toothily. “Thanks very much fer yer patronage.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

I never picked my occupation due to the comfort it offered. Still, going for a ride with a sore body was probably one of the most uncomfortable things one could do. Getting the old girl to go at anything above a trot would have been inhumane, so she walked most of the way, with me bouncing and wincing with every step. As a result, it was nearly sundown when I finally felt something in the air.

Well, I say felt. To my miniscule magical strength, the difference in atmosphere felt almost smothering. I probed the barrier carefully, and smiled at what I found.

The barrier here was something powerful and strange in all the right ways. It signified the entrance to Mayohiga, which I was indeed searching for. However it would never let me in unless I had a certain criteria filled.

That is, being completely and utterly lost.

These old-fashioned places had a great riddle like quality to them that I didn’t think many in the modern age knew how to appreciate. Some people bemoaned how spirits were disappearing from sacred circles, and places like Mount Olympus no longer held gods. How the legends and myths were obviously some large scam. What they didn’t know was how important “directions” actually were.

Let me make an example, then.

Say in the years before written word, in a land untouched by hands of man, a pilgrim wandered. Starving and dying of thirst, he found himself on the top of a hill; and there, he found three nymphs that nursed him back to health. And as the people heard of this tale they too started to seek the nymphs, remembering to retrace the roaming steps of the pilgrim, and knowing of course to fast before their journey.

Then one day, someone goes there directly and sees nothing. He cries foul, the story is discredited, and the myth becomes naught but a myth.

Directions are more than dotted lines on maps, and are often very specific. And now these directions were now telling me very specifically to get lost. I grabbed my bags and jumped down from my horse gingerly, rubbing by slightly bruised rump. But the remaining light in the sky was rapidly fading, and it was getting close to nighttime.

I should…
[ ] Go in, now. It’s easier to get lost in the dark anyway, and I’ll be able to take shelter in Mayohiga to figure out my next step.
[ ] I did buy two fancy charms for protection. Better to rest up tonight and find a way in after daybreak. Sides, I’ll need sunlight to be able to examine the place thoroughly.

Don't worry, we'll be getting to FUN TIME soon enough!
>> No. 30195
[x] Go in, now. It’s easier to get lost in the dark anyway, and I’ll be able to take shelter in Mayohiga to figure out my next step.
>> No. 30196
[x] Go in, now. It’s easier to get lost in the dark anyway, and I’ll be able to take shelter in Mayohiga to figure out my next step.

We must accelerate towards the plot at a considerable speed.
>> No. 30197
[x] Go in, now. It’s easier to get lost in the dark anyway, and I’ll be able to take shelter in Mayohiga to figure out my next step.
>> No. 30198
[X] Go in, now. It’s easier to get lost in the dark anyway, and I’ll be able to take shelter in Mayohiga to figure out my next step.
>> No. 30199
[x] Go in, now. It’s easier to get lost in the dark anyway, and I’ll be able to take shelter in Mayohiga to figure out my next step.
>> No. 30200
[X] Go in, now. It’s easier to get lost in the dark anyway, and I’ll be able to take shelter in Mayohiga to figure out my next step.

FUN!
>> No. 30201
[x] I did buy two fancy charms for protection. Better to rest up tonight and find a way in after daybreak. Sides, I’ll need sunlight to be able to examine the place thoroughly.
>> No. 30210
File 145167840048.png - (653.78KB , 685x518 , Empty.png ) [iqdb]
30210
I hefted a large coil of rope out of my pack and tied my horse to a nearby branch. A bit cruel perhaps, on the off chance that I got killed and never got to untie her, but in situations like this? It was every man for himself. The fact of the matter was that I needed a reliable escape vehicle if I ever managed to succeed.

The horse looked at me mournfully, chewing on the last carrot I gave her. God, I swear that these animals are far smarter than most men give them credit for.

“I’ll be back,” I said aloud, to no one in particular. Then I clapped my hands twice, took a deep breath, and started walking in a random direction.

It took a bit of time for my innate sense of direction to die a strangled death, but when it did, it did so completely. In the fading light I could only make out the faintest shadows, leaving me totally blind. Every so often a branch would whisk me across the face, and I would stiffen up completely before heaving a sigh of relief. Soon I was stumbling in the undergrowth, arms outstretched ahead of me as I bumbled around in the darkness.

-hurk-

I tripped over a branch and, arms flailing, buried my face into a tree trunk. I tasted blood on my lips, though thankfully none of my teeth seemed to be knocked loose. Jerking myself backwards, I rubbed the bark off my face as best as I could.

“Son of a—” I fumed. Truly, the image of an elegant master thief. I snorted and shuffled a bit to the side, towards the direction where I thought I had left my horse.

Then everything unfolded.

To my mind and magical senses, I had rounded a bend where there was none to be rounded. That I had come across an abandoned village that had always been there, but that I had always missed. The image, the feeling, layered itself onto every memory, every instance in the past that I had gotten lost before.

That time when I was five, in a shopping center.

That time in school, where I had underestimated the size of the campus.

That time when I was driving like a madman, frantically trying to shake off pursuers in an unfamiliar part of town.

It was like every single time I had gotten lost… this is where I came to. I pictured myself driving like a daredevil between these wood-and-paper houses, and horrifyingly, the memory made sense to me. Like I had actually— No, no! I shook my head angrily. This was just mind tricks. A barrier-thematic-crossroad-feeling-thaumaturgical thingimajig… that made me feel that way. This was just a village in mystical Japan-land, not an all-encompassing land of the lost. It was somewhere that I had found, not gotten lost into.

I walked cautiously onto the main road, looking at all the buildings around me with a wary eye. The village was built similarly to Gensokyo, but like Keine had said, it was completely abandoned. No signs of activity could be seen or felt. The houses sat sullen, completely silent. Devoid of life. Of anything.

But still the feeling persisted, setting my teeth on edge. Eerily, it didn’t feel like I had found Mayohiga… but rather, it had come around and somehow found me. Like it had always been there, in the background. Waiting, year upon year, for people to lose their way.

I growled and kicked a wooden wall in frustration. It gave an incredibly satisfying whump, but no dust trickled down from the eaves of the house. Almost like it had been cleaned periodically. And yet, my mind was continually screaming at me that this place was without a doubt abandoned—

A flare, like a pulse of blue St. Elmo’s fire—

The lamps lit themselves in blue flame, lanterns carried by shadowy, laughing figures strolling down the street. Store fronts were open, empty spaces hawking their wares. Restaurants were packed to the brim with nothing. Pale light shone out through the paper windows, and the shrieks of laughing children and their outlines could be seen dancing and chasing each other while their parents watched contently as they smiled, their open mouths and eyes leaving no shadows—

And then, like a wisp of windblown smoke, all that was gone. Nothing had happened.

No, something had happened! I had seen it!

Nothing. Had. Happened.

Like an automaton, I walked jerkily down the street, examining the empty buildings. They were empty before, they are empty now, and they would always be empty. I walked to a storefront, browsing the stock while an empty space explained to me their uses. I turned to him, trying to ask for a price, but nothing answered. I frowned, scratching my chin.

How odd.

How could I see in the dark, anyway?

Pale flame flickered at the back of my mind, and I froze. The empty houses beckoned to me.

I ran. I have never run so fast in my life. I pushed roughly through the vacant crowds, leaving loud voices cursing silently in my wake. The bright streets were shrouded completely in darkness, and it made my head spin with an awful, sick fear. I stumbled, falling flat onto the ground and a concerned blank helped me up, asking what was wrong. I stood in the middle of the main street, arm outstretched, with nothing in front of me.

The village was empty.

I screamed, a terrible, rattling sound, and I dove through the barrier. The first I could find, the first I could sense.

No fancy tricks. No synchronization, like how I did when I entered Gensokyo. No work-arounds, like how I had entered Mayohiga.

I ripped my way through with my little pinprick of power, and threw myself bodily into the other side.

My head swam. My breath cooled. My heart calmed.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

Though my body hadn’t moved physically, I knew I had succeeded. The buzzing at the back of my head had stopped. The odd feeling of emptiness had disappeared. I had survived… whatever that was. The Village of the Lost was behind me now, and there was no god that walked in heaven or hell that could make me return.

I stood up shakily, brushing the dirt off of my knees with trembling hands. And when I looked up, I saw a manor.

… after that ordeal, I wasn’t so sure if Lady Luck had her eye on me at all. But the strange mishmash of both eastern and western architectural styles certainly looked promising.

…now for my next step:

[ ] My entrance through the barrier was the equivalent of a Hollywood chase scene, culminating in me driving a Lamborghini through a skyscraper window. Better lie low outside the manor and let whoever’s here tire themselves out searching for me.

[ ] Or continuing with that metaphor, I could put the pedal to the metal and drive the Lamborghini straight on. They’ll probably start by searching the grounds and the courtyard, so I could hopefully sneak my way in through the chaos and get inside the manor itself. I’ll find the goods and get out as fast as I can.

[ ] A compromise of sorts. The manor is big, and chances are there are lots of unused rooms. I’ll sneak in, hole up somewhere dark and wait for it all to blow over before making a move.

[ ] Regroup and get the fuck out. Whatever I saw in Mayohiga may have been a seasonal thing, or some fluke. It was probably perfectly harmless, for all I know. But Mister Smiling Mafia Man can take my bollocks before I’m willing to go through that again.



Happy New Year guys! Any questions so far?
>> No. 30211
>>30210
[x] My entrance through the barrier was the equivalent of a Hollywood chase scene, culminating in me driving a Lamborghini through a skyscraper window. Better lie low outside the manor and let whoever’s here tire themselves out searching for me.
>> No. 30212
[X] A compromise of sorts. The manor is big, and chances are there are lots of unused rooms. I’ll sneak in, hole up somewhere dark and wait for it all to blow over before making a move.
>> No. 30214
[x] Or continuing with that metaphor, I could put the pedal to the metal and drive the Lamborghini straight on. They’ll probably start by searching the grounds and the courtyard, so I could hopefully sneak my way in through the chaos and get inside the manor itself. I’ll find the goods and get out as fast as I can.

Why is he so convinced that it was all fake?

I mean, it looks like a defensive barrier or ghosts possessing people out of anger but... what if it WAS his past.
>> No. 30215
[x] Or continuing with that metaphor, I could put the pedal to the metal and drive the Lamborghini straight on. They’ll probably start by searching the grounds and the courtyard, so I could hopefully sneak my way in through the chaos and get inside the manor itself. I’ll find the goods and get out as fast as I can.

Once you've gone loud, it's time to go fast.
>> No. 30216
[X] My entrance through the barrier was the equivalent of a Hollywood chase scene, culminating in me driving a Lamborghini through a skyscraper window. Better lie low outside the manor and let whoever’s here tire themselves out searching for me.
>> No. 30217
[x] Or continuing with that metaphor, I could put the pedal to the metal and drive the Lamborghini straight on. They’ll probably start by searching the grounds and the courtyard, so I could hopefully sneak my way in through the chaos and get inside the manor itself. I’ll find the goods and get out as fast as I can.
>> No. 30221
File 14520231908.jpg - (50.19KB , 850x581 , Grin.jpg ) [iqdb]
30221
Anyone that had taken a basic “Barriers 101” class could have felt that, what with all the ungraceful spellwork I’d just performed. I scrambled to my feet and ran, as quietly as I could, to a small side door on the outer wall.

Or at least, I thought it was an outer wall. The architecture in this place was quite frankly bonkers, and it threw my sense out of whack. The wall itself was fairly normal, the Japanese sort with a sloped roof so you could take shelter underneath it. In a normal household, there would probably be a quaint traditional garden inside it, complete with a small Koi pond. But over the wall, I could see western church spires, Chinese imperial roof designs, and even a crenelated tower. Just how large was this place, anyway?

Ignoring the bad feeling in my gut, I nudged open the side door slowly and crept inside. As nearly no time had passed in between my barrier jumps, it was still fairly dark; but hey, there was light shining from the windows. Activity! That was promising. I swept my eyes over the estate, taking in the unkempt garden, the odd combination of multi-cultural buildings, the points of entry—

Then, the door—the main door, that is—was blown off its damn hinges.

I flinched as a piece of wooden shrapnel barely missed my ear, shattering into splinters on the cobblestone path. Time seemed to slow. Fear gave me speed. The dread steeled my nerves. I swore, ran, leapt and went in a tumble, shards of destroyed masonry flying before my eyes. My world became a confusing swirl of brown and green.

Then with (hopefully) nary a sound, I slipped into a small pond and submerged myself. All the small fish scattered immediately, but I could still barely see in the deep green murk. This was water that hadn’t seen the attention of a groundskeeper in months.

Then a voice rang out, clear and piercing, across the entire yard.

“I am NOT in the mood for this!”

Oh, that voice. So silky. So smooth. So, so undoubtedly feminine. And it was so, so unfortunate that it was filled with enough murderous intent to curdle milk.

I lifted my sodden head out of the surface a tiny bit, trying to sneak a glance. Gah, still blocked by shrubbery. I could see the door frame from here, though it was more accurate to say I could see what was left of it. It was an odd design choice, but the main door had been attached to the crenelated tower. The stone brick on the frame was chipped and charred, and flakes of it were still raining down on the garden.

There was a ringing sound, and I blinked in surprise. Then it repeated itself.

With a small sigh of the long suffering, the woman stopped in her steps. There was a rustling noise, and then a click.

“Yes, Lady Yukari, I felt it—No, only one signature this time, and it—no, you needn’t worry, I’m fine, it’s been weeks—please don’t.” There was another rustling noise. “I promise I’ll take care of this one. Personally.”

I fought the near irresistible urge to giggle. Oh, was I in for a world of hurt.

The footsteps started again, so I hurriedly took a deep breath and lowered my head into the stinking water.

Suddenly there was a burst of magic, and I winced from my proximity to it. It was like a miniature sun to my candle’s flame. It swiftly gathered itself, forming into a spell matrix that was geared towards one use and one alone.

Tracking.

Thousands of fiber thin tendrils spread across the yard in a silent explosion, invisible to the naked eye. They were constructs that occupied a place between matter and magic, and as such could ignore many of the rules of either. I could feel them going through walls, through windows… concentrating all my skills, I gently batted aside a few that were heading in my direction, so that they missed me by a hair’s breadth. I breathed a sigh of relief. But it was far from over.

I stayed like that for a while. Immersed in cold water, sneaking in breaths between the minutes that ticked by. Whoever it was (but my money was on Ran) had been walking around the garden methodically, giving the entire yard an even distribution of her tendrils. My mind was in overdrive, searching frantically for any that I may have missed that could be closing in. It took a very, very delicate touch to divert them, even for me. Too hard, Ran would notice and shove her claws down my spine. Too soft, and you couldn’t turn them away at all.

Hooray for Mr. Magical Master Thief. I brushed away some pond ooze that was getting too close to my nose.

“I know you’re there,” she finally commented. Christ, I could listen to that voice all week. I had the niggling feeling that it purposefully hit all the right buttons the listener had, like some built-in youkai trait. I stayed silent, and underneath the water.

She cleared her throat, and took a deep breath. The sounds were awfully close for comfort, and so were her footsteps.

“If you come out now, maybe we could talk this over. Discuss things. Tell me all about your friends outside,” she continued. Through the murky water, I saw a tail swish by the surface. It was so extremely close, I could just grab it and… no, bad idea. I could get my hands on a hair, but I wouldn’t be leaving with my life. Wait, my friends?

She coughed, and whispered, “I said the same thing to seven others, you know. All within this very month, and all in this courtyard. None of them replied. And guess how many survived? How many returned to the outside?” With her so close, I could hear the dragging of one of her feet. Like she had a limp. “How many did you hear of?”

There was another pause.

“If the others had survived or succeeded, they wouldn’t have sent you, would they?”

I could feel my heartbeat speeding up, hammering in my chest. She was getting to me, whether I liked it or not. Even if I had a thousand of me, I still didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of casting the spell she was managing, and she had been doing so for a good half an hour. If she found me, it would be over. Ever hear about devils torturing human souls for eternity? With the magic she wielded, that was all entirely possible. A few bubbles escaped from my mouth at the thought. Well, I had already capitulated once, to my employers of now. No harm in doing so again—

Then through a gap between trees, I saw her face.

It was a patchwork of bandages. Underneath that, it was beautiful; soft golden hair, pink kissable lips, sculpted cheekbones. But the white bands wrapped around her head were extensive, almost comically so. One eye was completely covered, but I could see the other.

And that image would burn itself into my deepest memories.

It radiated rage, fury and bloodlust on an intensity that would put murderous maniacs to shame. It touched upon the nameless, indescribable fear that one felt as a child, like the blurry nightmares that drove children screaming and begging to wake up. It wasn’t the fear of death, or the fear of failure, or pain. The “fear” was an entity by itself, beholden to nothing else. It came first, and the babbled “reasons” came afterwards, by men who tried futilely to explain it.

She turned around, and I drew in a rattling gasp, released from the mesmerizing spell. I could see a few lines of blood that were seeping through her clothes, as if her exertion had torn some of her old wounds open. One of her tails were bandaged, too. I sunk back into the water, all thoughts of surrendering gone from my head.

The rumors I had heard were true. She had been attacked, and whatever got her had gotten her good. But she had gotten them back, hard. And now? She was coming for me. Whatever sort of anger that was behind that eye now had me in its sights. I felt pinned, like a bug on display. Useless, hopeless.

She was moving away, going to another part of the garden. Time to beat feet. I climbed out of the pond, shivering in the cold night air. And slinking from shadow to shadow, I made it inside the ruined door.

Peering through the hallways was like looking through a kaleidoscope. I discarded my wet, waterlogged shirt and walked quietly between the rooms, glancing into each in turn. There were ones with western style tea sets, and four-poster beds. There were ones with tatami floors, and furniture piled into the corners. Opium beds. Tartan chairs.

I gently diverted a tendril, and sent it in an opposite way. Focus, focus.

There was no rhyme nor reason to these rooms, as they seemed to be placed completely arbitrarily. Where was Ran’s room? With tails like hers, she had to leave stray hairs. I just needed one. One, one, one, I chanted under my breath. Then I would be gone from this business that was way above my paygrade.

One, one, one,

A room full of toys. An indoor swimming pool. A Japanese study, with deep claw marks on the sliding door. A room with a model railway track—

Wait. I went back and gave the study a closer look.

It was very tidy and well organized, forming a strong contrast with the chaos outside. A holder full of pens, another filled with pencils, and one that hung several well-kept calligraphy brushes. Scrolls and books on this end of the room, while a futon was folded neatly at that corner. Seems like whoever used this room had a habit of sleeping in the office, as it were. And I had just the inkling of who that was.

Shaking from the excitement and adrenaline, I picked up the futon and shook it, hard. Nothing. I went over to the desk, and aside from a notebook full of mathematical equations, it was empty and spotlessly clean. I rustled through the pages hoping to find stray hairs, but nothing fell out. I dropped to the ground and examined the floor. Nothing.

Damn it!

I went over to the drawers. There had got to be a spare set of clothes here somewhere. As tidy as this room looked, it was definitely lived in. Everything bore signs of use. I went through a few, but all I could find were stacks of notebooks. Oh, this one had several hand-crafted paper charms. I touched one, and it zapped my finger. Ouch. Sucking on the wounded digit, I went through a few more, but they all seemed to hold jars of catnip. And then—

Aha! Clothes! And uh, unmentionables! A fierce grin lit up my face. I had hit the motherlode. If there wasn’t any of her hair here, I would eat my—

“Well, well. What do we have here?”

In the doorway, I heard the sound of a limp. Of feet dragging feet. Something really nice in my mind told me that if I never turned my head, then what was coming would never happen.

As nice as it was though, it was clearly lying.



I am now wet, half-naked, and rifling through a lady’s drawer with a manic grin. I shall:

[ ] PANIC

[ ] GENUFLECT

[ ] GET IN A SUCKER PUNCH, SHE’S WOUNDED ALREADY!

[ ] DIPLOMACY OPTION (Come clean)

[ ] DIPLOMACY OPTION (Lie a bit)

[ ] DIPLOMACY OPTION (Lie my ass off)

[ ] RUN FOR THE HILLS

[ ] WRITE IN

Sorry for the lengthy absence. But I did promise FUN, and it has begun.

Speaking of which, since no undercover names have been volunteered for our (dubiously) stalwart protagonist, I shall select a generic one for him myself. Next time.
>> No. 30222
[X] DIPLOMACY OPTION (Come clean)
I don't think it will be possible to fight off or run from Ran even if she is injured.
>> No. 30223
[X] DIPLOMACY OPTION (Come clean)

We certainly can't defeat her, and I don't think we can even outrun her, slowed as she is by injury. I don't understand why she isn't completely healed, though, people don't usually get let out of Eientei until they are.
>> No. 30224
[X] WRITE IN
-[X] "I'm a secret admire. I couldn't hold myself back anymore." (Lie)

Is what I really wanna vote for, but that will probably give us a negative chance of escaping alive.

Fuck it, I'm going with it anyway.
>> No. 30225
[x] DIPLOMACY OPTION (Lie a bit)

Being honest would be too easy.
>> No. 30226
[x] DIPLOMACY OPTION (Lie a bit)
Scoundrel!
>> No. 30227
File 145203489040.png - (1.03MB , 1250x1425 , 1288049114772.png ) [iqdb]
30227
[X] GENUFLECT

It was total humiliation to be genuflecting before the woman who had, metaphorically, raped my escape plan and scooped out my best friend's eyes (not really, didn't even know those guys)
But I didn't want to die. While there's life, there's hope for fluffy tail. That precious wish is irreplaceable.
>> No. 30229
[ ] DIPLOMACY OPTION (Lie a bit)

I want to see what kind of lie he'll make up.
>> No. 30231
[X] RUN FOR THE HILLS
>> No. 30232
[X] DIPLOMACY OPTION (Come clean)
>> No. 30233
[x] DIPLOMACY OPTION (Come clean)
>> No. 30234
[X] DIPLOMACY OPTION (Come clean)
>> No. 30237
[ ] DIPLOMACY OPTION (Lie a bit)
>> No. 30238
Votes closed, [come clean] wins!
Will update eventually
>> No. 30239
File 145245386661.jpg - (160.45KB , 850x574 , Ran.jpg ) [iqdb]
30239
My senses went into an odd sort of numb hyperawareness. I could feel my tongue resting in my mouth, the beads of sweat collecting on my brow, and the way the mats felt beneath my feet. I could see in slow, horrible clarity as a dainty hand was placed on the door frame, and the rest of Ran Yakumo came into view. Her figure was tall, majestic, breathtaking; I could see every individual hair as her tails fanned out behind her, creating a screen from which there would be no escape.

Her expression was neutral. Impassive. Her uncovered eye swept the room, and then fixed itself on my state of undress.

I licked my lips and slowly raised my hands, placing them at the back of my head.

“I can… explain,” I said. Or rather, I heard myself say. My mouth was moving, but I felt everything as if through a trance.

She remained motionless, a silent sentinel blocking my way to freedom. My mark, and my bane. I swallowed.

“Before we s-start,” I said, forcing a trembling grin onto my face. “Could I get a guarantee that m-my total capitulation will save, uh… save my life?”

There was a slight pause. Then I saw her shake her head slowly. Once. Her eye remained fixed on me all the way through, and it glittered in the dim light.

Oh dear.

“Well, c-can’t lose anything now,” I whispered, laughing nervously. It sounded like a sound made by someone who only knew faintly of the idea of “mirth”, and was attempting to recreate it with horrendous results. Fitting in this particular case, I noted grimly.

“You’d be surprised to know what a man can lose,” she replied, her expression kept carefully blank. “Who are you? Why are you rifling through my drawers?”

Ran Yakumo. She felt like a mountain before me, all magical power and nothing to scratch her with. And to top that off, she was a kitsune as well, mythical creatures that spanned cultures and centuries. They did lies and tricks by the billions, and there was no way in hell I was going to slip anything big by her. I was hanging on a thread of her mercy, and even that was immensely frayed to start with.

It was time to go with all the truth I could muster. And like bursting from a rusty valve, I felt it pouring forth.

“I’m an outsider. I stole something I shouldn’t have. I got myself in trouble,” I blurted. The words came in a rush. “Someone wanted me to steal, only thing I’m good at. He wants a hair, I have to steal one or he’ll have my balls crushed in a vice and my head placed in a grinder. Or something. I didn’t ask. I really—”

“Stop,” she interrupted. I immediately shut my mouth. “Why a hair?” she asked.

“Begging your pardon miss, I have absolutely no idea.” I responded shakily. “You have to believe me when I say that asking questions was entirely above my paygrade.”

Ran raised an eyebrow. Or tried to, anyway; the mass of bandages on her face got in the way. After a while, she eventually settled with crossing her arms. I struggled to hold back a hysterical giggle. It was perhaps a good idea to not laugh at the mauled form of my probably-to-be murderer.

“So you say,” she said mildly. “And yet with all that, you were the one chosen to steal from this household. More famous names have tried, and all have ultimately failed. Did your employer make any mention of the seven that came before you?” For a single second, her eye flickered to the blood on her clothes. But it happened so fast that I was half certain I had imagined it.

“No,” I said quickly. “I was under the impression that I was going after a fresh mark, if you’d excuse my phrasing.”

Her lips curled in disdain. “Pathetic. Seems like you were little more than a disposable pawn. And once again, you wish to placate the people you steal from with shameless kotowing and petty words.” She sniffed and her tails rustled, and it was like watching an entire plain of golden wheat sway in the wind. “So what will you offer me? The riches you have pillaged in the past? Your life?” Her face suddenly turned eerie. “Or your future firstborn child, mayhaps?”

Anger and fear flared up in my heart, but I quenched it with cold, hard logic. I was a survivor. My priority first and foremost, was always my life. Principles were worth nothing when clenched in stiff, unmoving hands. Ideals were worthless without the eyes to see them come to fruition. If it meant kneeling to this (literal) bitch, then so be it. More was at stake here than my pride. But crying and warbling at her feet like some pathetic worm was not going to make her spare me. I needed to switch tracks, fast.

I spread my arms wide, casually but cautiously. Ran made no move to defend herself, for even she could tell that I was so far away from her weight class as to barely register on the scales. I stood my stance, tried to look as regal as I could in my soggy pants, and started to talk.

“I live the way I do, Miss Yakumo, and I have my reasons to keep on living. The seven that came before me clearly had their own agenda, and though you might not believe me I never meant you any harm.”

She snarled, and the sound reverberated through the manor, stirring up dust in its wake. “My injuries matter little,” she hissed. “What angers me is the insolence, the arrogance of you humans to dare attack our household.” Her teeth were razor sharp now, glinting in the lamplight. “Mages have tried when their might was great, and I have laid them low like the insects that they were. And now, I--”

She started coughing, and I stood awkwardly in place, not sure whether to go help her or not. And worst of all, from her tone I now gleaned the source of her anger: her wounded pride. One of my predecessors had managed to land a lucky hit, and the rest had been coming for the manor like insolent flies. Having someone like me get this far was probably the last straw.

And from the look in her eye, she understood that I knew too. What little of her cheeks I could see reddened slightly, and her “righteous anger” shifted a few degrees over to “petulant indignation”. I cleared my throat hurriedly and pretended not to notice.

“… As I was saying, I am a pacifist at heart. I only took this job because it promised no harm to anyone, Miss Yakumo.”

“You are planning something,” she responded haughtily, recovering her composure somewhat. “You wish to give me something in trade.”

I nodded, looking far more confident than I felt. “Anything I can offer is yours. There is clearly more to this story than meets the eye, and it is my hope that you can trust me enough to get to the bottom of this together. What say you?”

“I say that—” she paused in her words, her eyes growing hazy. “I say that you—”

And without any warning, and with barely a sound, she crumpled to the floor. Just like that.


Now is the time where decisions are made. I should:

[ ] Lady Luck has blessed me once more with unbelievable fortune. Pluck a hair and scram.

[ ] Fuck this, fuck that, fuck you and fuck me. I’m getting the hell out of here and no one is going to stop me now.

[ ] Care for her as best as I am able. The whole “pacifist” line was not entirely true, but not entirely false, either. This could be serious, and I wouldn’t want to be the reason for her condition to go out of hand.

[ ] Write in.
>> No. 30240
[X] Fuck this, fuck that, fuck you and fuck me. I’m getting the hell out of here and no one is going to stop me now.
Operation: Fuck Everything
>> No. 30241
[X] Care for her as best as I am able. The whole “pacifist” line was not entirely true, but not entirely false, either. This could be serious, and I wouldn’t want to be the reason for her condition to go out of hand.
Feels like the obvious choice here.

Other than that, she could be faking it to test our words. If we take a hair and run away, we can probably expect a magic dagger in the back or something like that.
>> No. 30242
[X] Care for her as best as I am able. The whole “pacifist” line was not entirely true, but not entirely false, either. This could be serious, and I wouldn’t want to be the reason for her condition to go out of hand.
This'll probably backfire somehow, but wth.
>> No. 30243
[X] Care for her as best as I am able. The whole “pacifist” line was not entirely true, but not entirely false, either. This could be serious, and I wouldn’t want to be the reason for her condition to go out of hand.
>> No. 30244
[x] Care for her as best as I am able. The whole “pacifist” line was not entirely true, but not entirely false, either. This could be serious, and I wouldn’t want to be the reason for her condition to go out of hand.

Though just once I kinga want to try being the bad guy.
>> No. 30245
[X] Care for her as best as I am able. The whole “pacifist” line was not entirely true, but not entirely false, either. This could be serious, and I wouldn’t want to be the reason for her condition to go out of hand.

Who's to say that Yukari won't just come when he runs away to kill him.
>> No. 30246
[x] Care for her as best as I am able. The whole “pacifist” line was not entirely true, but not entirely false, either. This could be serious, and I wouldn’t want to be the reason for her condition to go out of hand.

Killing someone by inaction is still murder, believe it or not.
>> No. 30247
[X] Care for her as best as I am able. The whole “pacifist” line was not entirely true, but not entirely false, either. This could be serious, and I wouldn’t want to be the reason for her condition to go out of hand.

Plucking a hair and running would be a great idea, if we hadn't told Ran the truth. Still, I'm happy to be a nice fella.
>> No. 30248
[X] Care for her as best as I am able. The whole “pacifist” line was not entirely true, but not entirely false, either. This could be serious, and I wouldn’t want to be the reason for her condition to go out of hand.
-[X] Besides, leaveing now, plucked hair or not, might be terrible for me in the long run. There's still Miss Yakumo's employer to think about.
>> No. 30249
[X] Care for her as best as I am able. The whole “pacifist” line was not entirely true, but not entirely false, either. This could be serious, and I wouldn’t want to be the reason for her condition to go out of hand.
>> No. 30251
[x] Care for her as best as I am able. The whole “pacifist” line was not entirely true, but not entirely false, either. This could be serious, and I wouldn’t want to be the reason for her condition to go out of hand.
>> No. 30252
[ ] Care for her as best as I am able. The whole “pacifist” line was not entirely true, but not entirely false, either. This could be serious, and I wouldn’t want to be the reason for her condition to go out of hand.
>> No. 30253
[x] Care for her as best as I am able. The whole “pacifist” line was not entirely true, but not entirely false, either. This could be serious, and I wouldn’t want to be the reason for her condition to go out of hand.
>> No. 30264
File 145271163150.jpg - (80.49KB , 415x1200 , Ran.jpg ) [iqdb]
30264
My first thought was to pull out one of her hairs, and hightail it out of there as fast as I could.

That was my second thought as well.

It would be the end of all this. I wouldn’t have harmed Ran directly, and I would have completed the job successfully with little to no consequence. After all, I never touched anything else in the Yakumo household, and nor did I ever raise a hand against any of its occupants. Busy people like them wouldn’t go off chasing people like me. Simply put? I wouldn’t be worth their time.

I sighed, and walked over to the prone, unmoving body of Yakumo Ran. Anything I can offer is yours. I did say that, didn’t I? And despite all the shit I’ve pulled and all the trickery I’ve gotten away with in the past, when I said that to her, I was telling the truth. The truth as it was influenced by the fear of death and utter destruction, yes, but the truth nevertheless. I said to her that I’d give whatever help I could give, and it would leave a bad taste in my mouth to go back on a promise straight after I made it.

And well, afterwards I could probably bargain for a tail hair. Hopefully. Or something like that.

I bent down and hefted her up bridal style, grunting slightly. Holy heck, she was heavy. Those tails had mass, and they were somewhat unwieldy with their owner completely out of commission. I started gathering them into my arms, and then…

What could the words of man even do to describe the exquisite softness I felt? If I were a poet, then that single moment of feeling would have netted me a lifetime of inspiration, allowing me to write sonnet after sonnet after sonnet. If I were a scholar, then my remaining days would be spent in feverous study, trying to recapture the smoothness I had experienced and that singular point in my life of absolute joy. Songs could be written. Scientific inquiries would be made. For a blissful, blurry moment, I understood (probably) why my employers wanted her hair. For what man would not want a small piece of this heaven?

I stood there, gaping like an idiot, before collecting myself. Gingerly, I walked slowly over to the futon in the room, and laid Ran carefully down onto it.

“Have fun?”

Oh shi—

Ran looked up at me with a rather sardonic smile. “Well, I can’t say that I’ve ever gotten that reaction before.”

I blinked. “You’re okay?” I asked, stunned.

“Please. If I had begun feeling even slightly lightheaded in front of a known enemy, he would be choking on his own intestines before I hit the floor.” She sniffed and settled into a more comfortable position, her tails splaying all around her body.

“…It was a test? You were acting?”

“Yes.” She lifted up her hand and slid a finger slowly along my neck. I could feel my blood pumping under her nail. “What’s your name?” she asked, calmly.

My mind went back to the name that I fed Keine, back in the village. It was a generic, disposable and easily forgettable name, and it’ll do for now. “R-Ren, miss. Yamazaki Ren. I—”

The finger paused. “Liar,” she whispered, pulling away from me. “Well, no matter. Now, fourth shelf from the left, and second drawer counting from the top. Open it up.”

I followed her instructions dumbly and peered inside.

“Get one of the glass bottles on the left hand side,” she continued. “Next, go to that corner of the room and fish the kettle of the box. After that, the tea leaves are…”

As I bustled around gathering a myriad number of herbs and small household appliances, Ran watched lazily from her corner of the room. She wrapped the blanket around her like a shawl, and pushed herself into an upright position while leaning against the wall. Bottles, spoons, boxes and an old looking thermo pot… I followed her orders to the letter, and it was like she had a precise database of whatever she had in her room at any given location. Thinking was not needed—I merely needed to follow.

After a bit of time, I finished brewing the pot of tea and placed it in front of her on a tray. Its heady aroma filled the room, and while it smelled rather like medicine, the scent was not unpleasant either.

“So this is what it feels like,” she said with a sigh as I poured tea into her cup. “Usually it’s me doing all this. Waking her up, getting her meals ready, patrolling the border…” She sipped contently. “There was a part of me that bound Chen for this very reason, you know. Wanting to be served as a master for a change. But as sweet as that child is, she’s still a cat, and you know what they say about cats and their masters.”

She shot me a shrewd gaze. “And that, my dear gentleman on the roof beam, was the reason for catnip stash you found. Understand?”

I nodded. What more could I say?

She chuckled and leaned backwards. “Oh, it worked at first. But she’s too smart now for that to work anymore, and she used to be utterly useless under a catnip trance.” She pushed her cup back onto the tray, and I quickly refilled it. “Ironically enough, she’s now trying to gather cat-followers with my stash. And she’s finding it absolutely hopeless, just as I have before her.”

Her breaths were coming easier now, and they were becoming less shallow. I wasn’t surprised—I had seen “Eientei” written on several of the packets I used. But how did she get so terribly wounded in the first place?

A glimmer of light passed through the window slits, marking the beginning of a new day, and the end to an eventful night. In the dim lighting, Ran caught me eyeing her bandages and groaned quietly.

“A careless mistake, if that’s what you want to ask,” she said, touching her side lightly. “It’s been barely a decade, but… well, one’s body gets used to danmaku battles. You start getting used to fair and declared encounters, and stop peering behind bushes before you go to the bathroom. I lost a bit of my edge—only a bit, mind you—and paid the price.”

“But how? I cannot even begin to imagine…”

“I’m not telling.” She drained the last of her tea and wiped her mouth elegantly with a napkin. “Suffice to say, it was an extraordinarily nasty and long lasting curse. I suspect they even kidnapped townspeople from the human village to fuel it. Those mages thought me dead when they finished, and it was a good thing they didn’t do anything worse while I was unconscious. Otherwise three of the bodies buried in the yard would be replaced with mine.”

She stood up, wrapped in her blanket, and shuffled over to the desk. “But enough of that, shall we? We’re here to discuss business. The fact of that matter is that you—” she pointed at me, “—have been caught breaking into our household. With my act of letting you live, you owe me many, many favors.”

I raised my hand. “How ‘many’ are we exactly talking about here?”

She grinned, showing a lot of teeth. Teeth that seemed to alternate between normal and razor-sharp every time I blinked. “As many as I say so, of course,” she said cheerily. She pulled several notebooks out of the shelves and stacked them together. “Of course, you are going to tell me all you know about your employers. But after that, I want you to perform a task for me; call it the start of your reparation, if you will.”

“Now listen closely,” she began…

[ ] I won’t lie, I’m not in the best of shape. My usual duties are running me ragged, and my Master is away on business of her own. I need a temporary assistant, and I think you would fill the bill quite nicely from what I’ve seen so far.

[ ] I also need something delivered to the Scarlet Devil Mansion. And if you are going to ask why I don’t want to go in person… well, let’s just say that the mistress of the household will not be happy with what we’re giving her. I already get yelled by one overbearing lady in my life, and I certainly don’t need another.

[ ] Alternatively, if you are feeling particularly adventurous: we need to bug Toyosatomimi no Miko’s mausoleum. And let me get this straight, right here: if you fail and get caught, I will put you through things that will make you wish that you died tonight.
>> No. 30265
[x] I also need something delivered to the Scarlet Devil Mansion. And if you are going to ask why I don’t want to go in person… well, let’s just say that the mistress of the household will not be happy with what we’re giving her. I already get yelled by one overbearing lady in my life, and I certainly don’t need another.
>> No. 30266
[X] Alternatively, if you are feeling particularly adventurous: we need to bug Toyosatomimi no Miko’s mausoleum. And let me get this straight, right here: if you fail and get caught, I will put you through things that will make you wish that you died tonight.

Mission Impossible: Spooky Buddhist Ghosts
>> No. 30267
[ ] Alternatively, if you are feeling particularly adventurous: we need to bug Toyosatomimi no Miko’s mausoleum. And let me get this straight, right here: if you fail and get caught, I will put you through things that will make you wish that you died tonight.
>> No. 30268
[X] I won’t lie, I’m not in the best of shape. My usual duties are running me ragged, and my Master is away on business of her own. I need a temporary assistant, and I think you would fill the bill quite nicely from what I’ve seen so far.
>> No. 30269
[X] Alternatively, if you are feeling particularly adventurous: we need to bug Toyosatomimi no Miko’s mausoleum. And let me get this straight, right here: if you fail and get caught, I will put you through things that will make you wish that you died tonight.

Our thief likes making poorly thought-out decisions, so bugging them should come only naturally. The only person worth worrying about who might catch him would be Seiga, and she might not even mention it depending on her mood. Not to mention succeeding with this task would make Ran look more favorably on the MC.
>> No. 30270
File 145273719147.jpg - (680.09KB , 1430x1000 , wheredidshewentanyway.jpg ) [iqdb]
30270
[X] I won’t lie, I’m not in the best of shape. My usual duties are running me ragged, and my Master is away on business of her own. I need a temporary assistant, and I think you would fill the bill quite nicely from what I’ve seen so far.

Time for Ran to be the one with an assistant at her beck and call. Every fox has its day!
>> No. 30271
[x] I won’t lie, I’m not in the best of shape. My usual duties are running me ragged, and my Master is away on business of her own. I need a temporary assistant, and I think you would fill the bill quite nicely from what I’ve seen so far.

Enough Ran stories that don't actually have Ran in them already.
>> No. 30272
>>30271
But don't we alreafy have Another Excursion?
>> No. 30273
>>30271
We're pretty much indebted to her for life already, I don't think there's any danger of not seeing her (for good or ill).
>> No. 30274
>>30272
Has she even appeared outside of the chat?
>> No. 30275
>>30274
She has appeared in the side stories, if I recall correctly.
>> No. 30276
[X] I won’t lie, I’m not in the best of shape. My usual duties are running me ragged, and my Master is away on business of her own. I need a temporary assistant, and I think you would fill the bill quite nicely from what I’ve seen so far.
>> No. 30277
>>30272

That's the joke. It's not even a Ran-centric story and it still has more fluffy tail than >>/shrine/38357.
>> No. 30278
[X] I won’t lie, I’m not in the best of shape. My usual duties are running me ragged, and my Master is away on business of her own. I need a temporary assistant, and I think you would fill the bill quite nicely from what I’ve seen so far.
>> No. 30279
File 145311752939.jpg - (252.72KB , 768x1024 , Raaan.jpg ) [iqdb]
30279
I had the feeling that I was somewhat out of my depth here. In the outside world where I’d worked, magic users possessing a skill level like Ran’s were incredibly rare, and I usually wasn’t rash enough to cross their path. But in Gensokyo? You had talented spellcasters a dime a dozen. A thief could be breaking down the door to a rundown shack and then be faced with a fireball, shot directly from the hands of ‘ol man Yamada. Caution was to be advised, even more so than usual.

“You want to help me with my work?” asked Ran, surprised. “I had thought a person such as you would have jumped at the chance to infiltrate another home.”

I smiled awkwardly. “I haven’t had any good runs lately, to tell the truth. And I think I’ve made the mistake of, err… underestimating the natives.”

Ran chuckled, and said, “Ah, that has proved true to many newcomers.” She smoothed the wrinkles out of her tabard, and stood up with a grimace. “Come on then, we’ve no time to waste.”

“I— wait!” I said as I followed out of the room. “Now? You’re saying we go out right now?”

“Maintaining the barrier is a full time job, Mr. Thief,” she said as she strolled down the hallway. “Just because certain people kept me from getting my rest doesn’t mean I don’t have to do it.”

Ran stepped out the manor through the ruined doorway, with me following at her tail. She made a small gesture and the scraps of the heavy wooden door rose sluggishly into the air, fitting themselves into their previous positions. Pieces untangled themselves from the undergrowth, slotting themselves into the frame like so many puzzle pieces.

In the morning light, I managed to find my sodden shirt and wormed myself into it. I also picked up my hat, which had fallen off my head during the kerfuffle last night.

“May I ask how you got here?” asked Ran, rapping the door gently with her knuckles. It sounded as solid as the day as it was made.

“Err, through Mayohiga, if that’s what you’re asking.” I dusted off the sugegasa as best as I could and put it back on my head. “Why do you ask?”

Ran made a sound of surprise. “At night? That’s… quite dangerous. As a junction between so many different realms, strange things happen there once the sun goes down.”

I snorted. “Tell me about it. The only time I’ve experienced illusions that fierce was that time I broke into a Mayan tomb.”

“Really now?” She looked back at me, clearly interested. “Was it a defense mechanism set by the builders?”

“Well, no,” I said, frowning slightly. “I was working in a group and one of my so-called ‘teammates’ poisoned me with some kind of alchemical substance. He got the rest of the team too, and we all spent a day and a half lying on the floor of the pyramid, hallucinating. The guy escaped with the treasure and was never heard from again.”

Ran winced. “That sort of thing… happen often?”

We walked out into the yard, and I noted that the manor looked even more bizarre under sunlight. Almost… Lovecraftian, in a way. “More than I’d like.” I said, scratching a scar at my side absentmindedly. “The thing about magic users—the powerful ones, anyhow—is that they always have something up their sleeve. And if they’ve prepared well enough, there is quite literally no way you can counter it when they finally stab you in the back.”

“Are they not worried about retaliation?”

“If they’ve made their move, they’re either powerful and prepared, or crazy enough to not care. Kind of leads to the reason why I mostly work alone these days, to be honest. I don’t have the chops to— Oh!” I turned around to Ran. “I need to fetch my horse. It’s right outside Mayohiga, and I—”

“A horse? Why would you ever need a horse?” Ran finished her final touches on the doorway and looked at me skeptically. “You can fly, right?”

For a moment, I felt like a schoolboy about to tell his mother about his failing grade. “N-no, I can’t. I mean, well, it’s not like I…”

With a disbelieving stare, she gazed into my eyes. Then her own widened as she realized that yes, I was telling the truth.

Oh boy, Ran’s expression was hilarious, and it made me feel much better about my lack of magical abilities. It combined disbelief and horror, mixed with the terrible, sinking feeling of ineptitude. She looked completely aghast, and I couldn’t say that I could blame her; the world was a harsh, harsh place, and now she had to live with the fact that she let the magical equivalent of Forrest Gump raid her home.

Forever.

“You can’t fly? But how? You countered my best searching spell! I had to transform back into a fox to catch your scent, and I haven’t done that in decades!” Something peculiar crossed over her face, like she had let loose something she wasn’t supposed to have said. “N-never mind that. Look, let’s just get to your horse, and you better pray to your gods that I don’t regret this decision,” she growled, stomping off. And faster than you could blink, she was gone.

Sighing to myself, I followed after her. I toed the line between barriers, and nudged my way through.

Not being pursued by invisible not-entirely-there townsfolk made by work considerably smoother, and I emerged cleanly in Mayohiga with nary a ripple on the spell matrix. The village looked much less creepy in the day, and the ruined doors and windows gave out a sense of untidiness, rather than the disquiet I had felt before.

Then I took a deep breath and followed her trail, diving through another barrier, this time leading directly to Gensokyo. The warm flow of the border washed over me, and with a gentle push of my power, I found myself in a familiar patch of forest. The sounds of birdsong and cicadas met my ears, and I took in a deep, long breath.

Ran gave me a queer look, straightening herself up from the tree she was leaning against. “That was much faster than I expected. And it was much smoother too, so much as to be almost unnoticeable… just what happened last night?” she asked.

“I panicked,” I said shortly, not willing to say much more. Ran rolled her eyes.

“Of course.” She strode over to me and placed her hands on her hips. “I really do not know what to make of you, Mr. Yamazaki. At some points, you seem to be one of the best spellcasters I’ve ever met. Then at some points, you seem to have all the ability of a rustic hedge wizard.”

“I’m a bit of both, I think,” I quipped. “So, what now?”

Ran turned to my horse, which was right beside her, and held out her hand. The mare nuzzled it happily. “Horseback is far too slow to travel efficiently in Gensokyo. We’ll be setting her free to go back to the village, and then we’ll be going at my speed.” She untied the rope, and patted the animal gently on the rump. The horse stared at us quizzically, before turning and trotting off into the distance.

My stomach dropped into my shoes. “Flying?” I asked, with trepidation.

“Again, too slow.” A wicked glint appeared in her eye. “We’ll be traveling by gaps.”

“…Gaps? You can’t possibly mean—”

She shoved me in the chest. Hard. I teetered on my feet, arms flailing, and dropped backwards into inky nothingness.

It was like being sucked through a straw. Through the layers of a book. While wearing a balloon outfit. Nothing in my experience could come close to what was happening to me, and my mind delightfully supplied nonsensical images to supplement that. My senses gradually dulled, sputtered and died, and I was faced with an overwhelming darkness, with the feeling that I was being constantly watched—

And then I was out the other end, thrown onto the grass, gasping and choking. Ran landed gracefully a few feet away from me, apparently none the worse for wear.

“While it is true that I do not have the same level of control as Master Yukari, my status as her shikigami allows me some loopholes that I can exploit. As of course, you have just experienced.” Her tails swayed, shining golden in the sunlight. She looked all too pleased with herself as she watched me pick myself off the ground.

“Are you seriously going to pick on me like this the entire time I’m in your employ?” I groaned, wiping a few blades of grass off my pants.

“I learned from the best,” she proclaimed archly. “Don’t worry, I won’t be too unreasonable.”

“Ha!

“Oh, come now. You brought this upon yourself.” She leaned closer to me, and gave me a slightly more serious look. “I am no fool, Mr. Thief. For all your promises, you still seek to take that single hair from me, just as I intend to squeeze you for what value you are worth. Let us lay down the terms. You will tell me about your employers, you will aid me in my tasks… and in the end, I will give you what you’ve earned. A hair is of no concern to me, anyhow.” Her tails rustled, as if in emphasis.

“And when will this ‘in the end’ of yours come to pass?” I asked, surveying my surroundings. The air was foggy and cold, which probably meant that we were on a mountain. Somewhere.

“When my wounds are healed and I am able to strangle your employers, of course,” she replied matter-of-factly, turning to face a particularly foggy patch of sky.

“… This happens after I turn in my hair, right?”

She flashed me a grin. “Afraid of being caught in the fallout? Sure. If you prove yourself trustworthy. Now that is settled… what do you feel in front of you?” she asked me, arms before her and hidden in her sleeves.

I closed my eyes. “…A threadbare patchwork quilt that has seen better days?”

“Rude,” she tutted, pulling on my ear. Ow. “But you are right. I have only been able to perform rushed repair jobs on this particular part of the barrier ever since the influx of unwanted guests. So listen up, and follow my lead.”

And so, we went to work. Maintaining the border with Ran was an enlightening experience. I had only ever participated in the “dismantling” part of things, and so it was extremely interesting to come at the problems from the other end. Ran too, seemed pleasantly surprised at some of the advice I gave her, but she wrote most of those suggestions off on the basis of “it’ll introduce complications on the whole”. Which was fair.

You know what the whole process reminded me of? Knitting. Or organizing cables, complete with “Can you see this wire I’m jiggling?” moments from Ran as I was squeezed under the metaphorical desk, trying to feel my way in the dark. After we were done fixing one area, Ran gapped us quickly to the next, and it all began again. We passed by rivers, plains, mountain passes… it was a time consuming, thankless task, and so we passed the time by chatting.

I told her all I knew about the organization that had become my employer. She had heard of them too, in her infrequent brushes with the magical societies outside, but like me she did not know much aside from their fearsome reputation. We talked about the jobs I’ve completed, from the accomplishments to the failures. I told her about my string of successes in the middle east, and the time I hid in the basement of a Korean hermit for an entire week while trying to rob him.

“—seriously now? You actually did that?”

“I’m a thief, not a liar. Oh, and the power is growing a tad thin over here—”

On her end, she told me about the incidents in Gensokyo. I had read up about them before, but hearing the story first hand from someone who had seen it happen? That was something altogether different. She was always more or less aware of the incidents before they even occured, but resolving them was never part of her job description. Cleaning up was. And as overworked as she was, the barrier only grew increasingly more ragged with every year that passed.

“—they took their entire shrine through the barrier. An entire shrine! I had to go for a month without sleep after that one.”

“Ooh, sounds rough. Can you send in a bit of— thank you.”

We worked, we talked, and time flew. After a good six hours of toiling, Ran finally halted and called for a stop. It was already noon, and the sun hung high in the sky.

“You are surprisingly competent when it comes to this, aren’t you?” she said with a wry smile. “It’s no wonder why you chose your particular profession.”

I laughed despite myself. “Story of my miserable life. So, do we find somewhere to have lunch, or is that not in your schedule?”

Ran tapped her chin pensively. “Well…”

[ ] It’s been a long time since I’ve had the chance to visit the human village, and they have good restaurants. Especially the ones that sell fr— why are you looking at me like that?

[ ] Alternatively, we could take a leaf out of the shrine maiden’s book… and bum a meal off the vampire. If we go give her the package now, she is almost obligated to provide lunch for us. At least something good will come of that meeting…

[ ] Or we could go home and cook. That’s always nice.
>> No. 30280
[ ] Alternatively, we could take a leaf out of the shrine maiden’s book… and bum a meal off the vampire. If we go give her the package now, she is almost obligated to provide lunch for us. At least something good will come of that meeting…

Two birds in one stone.
>> No. 30281
[X] Alternatively, we could take a leaf out of the shrine maiden’s book… and bum a meal off the vampire. If we go give her the package now, she is almost obligated to provide lunch for us. At least something good will come of that meeting…
>> No. 30282
[x] Alternatively, we could take a leaf out of the shrine maiden’s book… and bum a meal off the vampire. If we go give her the package now, she is almost obligated to provide lunch for us. At least something good will come of that meeting…
>> No. 30283
[X] It’s been a long time since I’ve had the chance to visit the human village, and they have good restaurants. Especially the ones that sell fr— why are you looking at me like that?
>> No. 30284
[X] Alternatively, we could take a leaf out of the shrine maiden’s book… and bum a meal off the vampire. If we go give her the package now, she is almost obligated to provide lunch for us. At least something good will come of that meeting…
>> No. 30285
[x] Alternatively, we could take a leaf out of the shrine maiden’s book… and bum a meal off the vampire. If we go give her the package now, she is almost obligated to provide lunch for us. At least something good will come of that meeting…
>> No. 30286
[x] Village Tofu
>> No. 30287
[x] Alternatively, we could take a leaf out of the shrine maiden’s book… and bum a meal off the vampire. If we go give her the package now, she is almost obligated to provide lunch for us. At least something good will come of that meeting…
>> No. 30288
[X] It’s been a long time since I’ve had the chance to visit the human village, and they have good restaurants. Especially the ones that sell fr— why are you looking at me like that?
>> No. 30289
[x] It’s been a long time since I’ve had the chance to visit the human village, and they have good restaurants. Especially the ones that sell fr—

FRIED

TOFU
>> No. 30290
[X] It’s been a long time since I’ve had the chance to visit the human village, and they have good restaurants. Especially the ones that sell fr— why are you looking at me like that?
>> No. 30291
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30291
“I’m a bit curious about the vampires, myself,” I remarked, recalling what I had read about them in the past. “So, what exactly is it you have to deliver?”

Ran sighed. “Things from the outside world, mostly. My master and I are the only ones with unlimited access to the outside, and the Scarlets have been sending shopping requests to our household ever since they’ve learned that.”

Realization dawned on me. “And since your master can’t be bothered…”

“It falls to me,” said Ran. “Normally I wouldn’t give them the time of day, but Yukari is very particular about managing relations. Makes it much easier for her to get helpers when she has shenanigans planned.”

She fished a cloth package out of her sleeves and cradled it in her arms. “Ready?” she asked, preparing a gap in front of us.

“As I’ll ever be,” I replied. With a deep breath, I jumped in.

Half a day of traveling by space-time fuckery had strengthened my tolerance somewhat, so when I reached the other end I managed to land on my feet. Ran landed beside me, and in front of us stood the Scarlet Devil Mansion, in all its crimson splendor. It actually wasn’t a bad-looking mansion, and with its transitional blend of gothic and Norman building styles it looked suitably imposing. The walls were also high and thick, the windows few in number; perfect for keeping out folk like me.

Ran however, seemed to think differently.

“Still tasteless as ever,” she tutted. “The blinding red sears my eyes every time I visit.”

“…says the one living in a house made with a tumble dryer,” I muttered. Ran turned her head slightly, showing me a slightly steely glint in her eyes.

“It’s what gives it character,” retorted Ran rather acidly. “Now follow behind me, and make sure to keep yourself conspicuous. If I’m lucky, Remilia will be interested enough in you as to not chew me out.”

“Why would she chew you out?” I asked, walking along the cobblestone path to the gates.

“You’ll see eventually. Meiling!”

“Hey!” There was a woman dressed in green standing by the gate, and she raised her hand in greeting. “Haven’t seen you in a while Ran, anything happen?”

“Nothing much,” replied Ran, with a small wave in return. I suddenly realized Ran’s bandages had all but disappeared under a hefty layer of illusions, in merely a blink of an eye. “Been running errands mostly. Is the mistress in?” she asked.

“Yes. She’s been staying up late recently. Or staying up early, I guess…” Meiling laughed nervously as she opened the wrought-iron gates for us. “So er, who’s the guy?”

“Oh? Oh dear, I’m terribly sorry,” said Ran contritely. “This is Mr. Yamazaki, and he’s my new assistant.”

“Pleased to meet you,” I said, bowing low, careful to keep my expression polite.

Meiling however, did not move. Nor did she remove her gaze from me. Her turquoise blue eyes bored into my own, and as I watched her red hair flutter in the wind a tiny bit of fear wedged itself into my heart.

Then the smile returned to her face. “Pleased to me you too, Mr. Yamazaki,” she said. “As a helpful reminder, please do not take anything from the mansion grounds. Welcome to Scarlet Devil Mansion.”

We had to walk a fair bit into the garden before my legs stopped shaking. Ran on the other hand, couldn’t stop snickering to herself.

“I don’t understand,” I muttered. “It’s not like I actively advertise what I do. It’s not like I wear a darned sign around my neck. How the hell did she know?”

“You do know that it’s her job to pick out undesirables,” Ran pointed out with a grin. “And besides, even I could tell something was up when you first saw the mansion— you appreciated it a bit too much. Come on now, the head maid should be waiting for us inside.”

“I can’t help it! This entire mansion smells of money!”

Red flowers were in bloom all around us, their petals soft and succulent. Fairy maids bustled among the hedges, squealing in delight as they played games with each other. Some of them stopped and stared at us, but thankfully none of them played any mischief, and the most they did was call us rude names. Ran seemed to be a known guest, if not one that visited frequently.

A slim figure stood by the large double-doors of the mansion proper. I already knew her through research, and by reputation: the head maid of the Scarlet Devil Mansion, Izayoi Sakuya. The time-manipulator. Armed, dangerous, and definitely bad news if I ever wanted to raid the place—

“Don’t even think about it.” Ran thwacked me on the back of my head. “Hello, Sakuya. How is work treating you?”

The maid smiled, her lips curving upwards mysteriously. “Better than ever. What happened to you, Ran? You usually come earlier than this.”

Ran matched her smile with a sly one of her own. “Ah, you know my master. Wheels within wheels, with plots and schemes and conspiracies galore.”

“Is that so?” Sakuya opened the door, and we filed in.

“That is so,” said Ran with a smirk. The two laughed, as if sharing some private joke. In the meantime, I examined my surroundings.

The interior was spectacular as well, but Ran was right—the red did get obnoxious after a while. Even the candles were emitting reddish light as they hung from the walls. It gave the impression that the mansion was alive, in some deep, imperceptible way. Still didn’t chase away my money boner though… if anything, it stroked it further. A certain amount of bad taste almost guaranteed the possession of valuable, unnecessary things… things that I could slip easily into my pocket and still make a fortune with.

“Well then,” began the maid, looking at her pocket watch. “I’d hate to keep such a busy guest; however, my mistress will be partaking in her midmorning meal soon, and I do believe that she will be all too pleased to have you with her. Would you give us that honor?”

“We’d be delighted to,” Ran replied, her expression becoming all too foxlike. Sakuya nodded, and started to lead us down a series of hallways. A twinge of unease hit me a hundred steps in, and after a few tense seconds, I realized what was wrong. The space and size of the mansion was completely different to what I had observed from the outside, and the contradiction was sending my internal compass into overdrive.

“Lady Remilia has decided to take her meal in the library today.” The maid opened a door, and another wave of minor irritation surged through me. According to my calculations, this should have brought us straight out into the garden again, and not into— heeyy that is a lot of books.

Bookshelves, like so many monoliths, towered above us in haphazard rows. They stretched so far above me that their tops were lost in the murky darkness, and the winding corridors they formed seemed so long as to be endless. And the books! I’ve visited the libraries of many magicians as an unwanted guest, but this one’s sheer amount put them all to shame. Tomes on familiars, on dead languages, on runes… walking between the shelves was like venturing through an abandoned city.

My fingers began to twitch.

Soon we came to a “clearing” between the shelves and the numerous stacks of books. And there I finally saw our gracious host, bat wings and all.

Remilia looked young, balancing on that delicate age when a girl starts to bloom. I wonder if it was a conscious decision by her progenitor, to flash-freeze that very instant into eternity. She certainly wasn’t lifeless however, as she was trying very animatedly to convince the other occupant of the table to join her in a discussion before she noticed us.

“Ah Sakuya, guests?” she asked eagerly, leaning forwards in her chair. Her legs dangled, barely scraping the ground.

“Indeed. I took the liberty of inviting them to our midmorning meal, mistress.” The maid’s eyes flickered over to me, and I noted to myself that it was the first time she actually met my gaze directly. Prior to that, it was as if I was part of the background. Nonexistent.

“Yes, very good. Make that lunch for three then, and something light for Patchouli.” The vampire waved her arm dismissively, and gestured for us to sit down. “The mansion is always welcome to visits from friends. Beneficial friends, especially so. Why, I was just urging Patchy here to take in more stocks of outside books—”

“And I of course, refused her,” said Patchouli dryly. The magician was sitting in a fluffy armchair, and my intuition told me that she had probably been in it for days. “My library, though expansive, has one goal first and foremost: the pursuit of magic. Fiction—”

“We are based in fiction, Patchy!” crowed Remilia. “Denying our very origins? I thought better of you!”

“An entire lecture wouldn’t suffice to explain how wrong you are with that single statement.” Patchouli picked up her spoon—huh, we all had food in front of us now—and stirred the soup with something approaching annoyance. “You enjoy fiction because you like the entertainment, Remilia. Stop finding excuses.”

“Ah, speaking of which!” Remilia nodded at Ran and gave her a wide smile, showing off her fangs. “Our agreement?”

Ran took the package out of her sleeve and slid it across the table. “All that I could get my hands on.”

“All that you…? Wait.” Remilia opened the package calmly, and started going over the contents. I had a hard time maintaining my poker face. In there were several volumes of manga, two well-known novels aimed towards young teens, and one history textbook. After looking them over one last time, she raised her head with a frown.

“Where’s the sixth volume?”

Ran shifted in her seat uneasily, apparently understanding what Remilia was talking about. “Well, the writer… isn’t finished with it yet. He’s—”

“He’s almost dead, that’s what he is,” growled Remilia, slamming a book on the table. “You know as well as I that humans have lifespans like gnats, and this one is already old! If I had powers like yours, I’d head straight out the border and turn him, right this instant!”

“Remilia, be reasonable,” said Ran warily. “Thralls never make for good writers.”

“As long as he can put a conclusion to his convoluted mess of a series, then I don’t care!”

I grimaced to myself and tuned out their argument, which was exhibiting all the signs of gaining steam. The worries of the nobility were truly alien to me. I picked up a fork and—

No. They couldn’t have.

A wineglass, filled to the brim with dark, red liquid. Pasta, which would have looked extraordinarily appetizing if it did not have sauce the exact same color as the… wine.

I looked up. Remilia was looking at me with a smirk on her face. Patchouli was glancing at me from the top of her book, and Ran was struggling to keep a neutral expression.


Well. What do I do?


[ ] Call their bluff. Eat it, and enjoy it. Bet on the fact that it isn’t what I think it may be.

[ ] Nope the hell out. There are lines even a thief won’t cross.

[ ] Confront them. I am the only human in the room, and that means I have pride to uphold.
>> No. 30292
[X] Call their bluff. Eat it, and enjoy it. Bet on the fact that it isn’t what I think it may be.

Won't be made a fool of! At least not for the Xth time!
>> No. 30293
[X] Call their bluff. Eat it, and enjoy it. Bet on the fact that it isn’t what I think it may be
What a nice host.
>> No. 30294
[x] Call their bluff. Eat it, and enjoy it. Bet on the fact that it isn’t what I think it may be.
[x] Unless it actually tastes metallic, because that would just be unappetizing.
>> No. 30295
[X] Call their bluff. Eat it, and enjoy it. Bet on the fact that it isn’t what I think it may be.
>> No. 30296
[X] Nope the hell out. There are lines even a thief won’t cross.
>> No. 30297
[x] Call their bluff. Eat it, and enjoy it. Bet on the fact that it isn’t what I think it may be.

Yes, miss French cuisine likes to serve bodies as an afternoon snack, fuck them.
>> No. 30298
[x] Facepalm. I really should have seen this coming.

Welcome to life as a human in Gensoukyou. At least we know what we signed up for.
>> No. 30299
[x] Call their bluff. Eat it, and enjoy it. Bet on the fact that it isn’t what I think it may be.
>> No. 30300
[x] Call their bluff. Eat it, and enjoy it. Bet on the fact that it isn’t what I think it may be.
[x] Unless it actually tastes metallic, because that would just be unappetizing.

I don't really think it is, because the smell would be obvious even to a normal human on something warm like pasta.
>> No. 30301
[X] Facepalm. I really should have seen this coming.
>> No. 30302
[x] Call their bluff. Eat it, and enjoy it. Bet on the fact that it isn’t what I think it may be.
>> No. 30303
[x] Call their bluff. Eat it, and enjoy it. Bet on the fact that it isn’t what I think it may be.

Well, when in Rome...
>> No. 30304
[x] Call their bluff. Eat it, and enjoy it. Bet on the fact that it isn’t what I think it may be.
>> No. 30305
[x] Call their bluff. Eat it, and enjoy it.

Doesn't really matter whether it's human or not. Only problem is risk of disease.
>> No. 30306
>>30305
I can't imagine Remilia would drink/store diseased blood, even if she can't catch diseases, it would probably taste like shit.

Though drinking human blood in a large quantity will give you a nasty stomach ache because of all the iron.
>> No. 30307
File 145382402323.jpg - (1.62MB , 1920x1080 , 53551724_p0.jpg ) [iqdb]
30307
Steeling myself, I brought some pasta to my mouth and bit down, staring at my host with all the passive-aggressiveness I could muster.

No coppery tang? That was good news. I continued to chew cautiously, letting the sauce spread across my tongue. If I wasn’t eating in a vampire’s mansion, I would have never have suspected anything— it was, for all intents and purposes, a very beautifully cooked meal. The seasoning was right, the texture was sublime, and all in all the dishes were clearly made by someone who knew what they were doing. I stabbed a small sliver of meat on my fork and examined it distrustfully. Remilia continued to look at me with her crimson eyes, the slightest hint of a smile on her face.

“Pardon my manners! In my delight at seeing Miss Yakumo again, I seemed to have forgotten all about our other esteemed guest.” The vampire lifted up the wine glass in front of her by the stem and took a small sip. “The fact of the matter, Mr. Yamazaki, is that we simply don’t know each other very well. Why don’t we make some small talk? Ease away some… tension?”

“How do you know my name?” I asked, sneaking a glance towards Ran; however, her entire focus was on her food, eating it slowly and methodically. I was almost certain she was ignoring on purpose.

Remilia giggled, and her wings fluttered as she did so. “Oh, I know much more than that. Your past? Your future? All are laid bare in the threads of fate. I can see the life you have lead as clearly as the weave-work on my dress. How do you like the food?”

I stiffened slightly. “What is it made of?”

“A most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food,” she said, in a sing-song voice. “Whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled. My dear Mr. Yamazaki, does it even matter if it is what you think it is?”

“It does. Principles and morals exist for a reason,” I replied, shoving in another mouthful. “They may be nonsensical sometimes, but speed bumps on the slippery slope are hardly unwelcome. Considering the alternatives, of course”

I stared into her eyes, chewing doggedly. Remilia was right, in a way— what I was eating didn’t matter to me anymore. The hoity-toity vampire was rubbing me in all the wrong ways, and hell would freeze before she got a chance to one-up me. I would eat what I was offered with a smile, and no monsters or youkai would be able to pressure me to do otherwise.

“Remilia…” Ran started to say, in an exasperated tone of voice.

The vampire burst out in laughter, and I could see Patchouli rolling her eyes as she continued to stir her soup. A few fairies tittered behind the bookshelves, but they quickly backed away after a glare from Ran.

“It isn’t ‘long pork’, Mr. Thief, and the ‘blood’ is fake as well. Eat all you like,” Ran said tiredly. Remilia only laughed louder, before finally stopping to have a bite of her own meal. She chewed elegantly, swallowed, and then cleared her throat.

“My apologies Ran, but you know my whimsies. I have to seek my entertainment where I can. Why, it’s been months since anything exciting has happened, and I already feel so dreadfully bored.” Remilia rested her chin on her hand, and idly swirled the liquid in her glass. “I know you’re older than me, both in mind and age. How do you handle this awful tedium… this ennui?”

Ran quirked her lips wryly. “You could come work for my master, if you wish.”

“Ran my dear, I said I was bored, not masochistic,” said Remilia. Then her gaze swiveled over to me, a small twinkle dancing in her eye. “But I digress. Mr. Yamazaki, you are a person most curious! Despite having a profession without pride, you are still prideful enough to view my light mischief as a challenge. Your oddness is a delight to me.”

“Thieves do have pride, Lady Remilia,” I said defensively. “Our skills are what we live for.”

“The same ironic pride one takes in a particularly well-formed feces, I trust?” Remilia leaned closer, a mocking expression clear on her face. The little bitch.“The same sad and parasitic skillset that lead you to this—”

“That is where you are wrong, Remilia!”

We all turned our heads upwards (except Patchouli. She sank further into her chair) towards the voice. High up above us, silhouetted by the window behind her, was the small but animated figure of a girl with a pointed hat and a broom. With a dramatic wave of her hand, she leapt downwards, and a name flipped itself to the top of my memory.

Kirisame Marisa. Witch, incident resolver, and all around Ordinary Magician.

“A thief has pride in her skills! She has pride in her acquired treasures! But most importantly…” She struck a pose on her flying broomstick, her blond hair trailing behind her like a banner, a wide smile on her face. “She has PRIDE in being able to ruin your entire day!”

“Marisa,” said Patchouli quietly. Her knuckles were white from gripping her book. “You are a fool, wanting to fight both Remi and I at the same time. Have you finally taken leave of your senses?”

The black-and-white witch waggled her finger. “Come on Patchouli, I’m not stupid. You hear that?”

“Hear what? I—”

The floor of the library trembled. Patchouli froze stock still. Remilia, who had seemed to have been enjoying the spectacle, scowled.

“…You went to see my sister again,” said Remilia, letting her face fall into her hands.

“Yup!” confirmed Marisa happily. “I can’t believe you haven’t told her anything about the last three incidents. She was so, so excited when she heard about the upside-down castle, you know?”

“Of all the things you could have done—”

“Remilia!” shouted Patchouli, struggling to get out of her armchair. “Go see to your sister, Sakuya is probably there already. I’ll deal with Marisa, and meet—”

The floor trembled again, even more violently this time. I probed downwards gently with my senses, and met face first with a steel wall’s worth of ultra-strength barriers, each layer stronger than the last. I had felt a hint of them when I came in, but I had thought it to be some kind of a defensive measure, or was placed to prevent the floor caving from the weight of the bookshelves. Turns out they were used to… seal Remilia’s sister under the library?

Multi-colored stars began to fly through the air. Beams of light swept through the library, drawing scorch marks on the walls. I gently put my fork down onto the table.

“Time to go,” Ran whispered as she took my hand, pulling me up from my chair brusquely. And with a single gap, we were gone, tumbling head over heels through the void of time and space. I held my breath as my chest constricted, wheezing—

— and we popped out somewhere on the shores of the Misty Lake, Ran miraculously still managing to emerge right side up while I fell headfirst into the loamy dirt. Seventh time today! A tinny voice in my head announced, but I ignored it, pushing myself up from the ground. After I tidied up a bit, we sat together by the lake side and watched the fairies play.

“I don’t quite understand why Remilia thinks her life is boring,” I muttered. Ran made a small noise of amusement and patted my head.

“It’s because Marisa appears every other week. It’s almost routine, at this point.” She stretched and yawned, flopping down onto the grass. “Well… despite all that excitement, we did a pretty good amount of work on the border. Our progress is going well enough that I think we can be allowed a bit of breathing space.”

“Breathing space?” I asked, watching a fairy do a series of twirling spins in the air. Impressive.

“A break, basically. I say I’ve deserved it. And so have you, for putting up with Remilia’s drivel for so long. So what say you?”

“I’m up for it, I guess... Wait. What does this break entail, exactly?” I asked suspiciously.

“Good, you’re learning,” Ran said cheerfully. “I’ve got several possible plans laid out…”

[ ] I need to pay the lazy shrine maiden a social visit. Yukari has asked me to keep an eye on her, and this time is as good as any.

[ ] I can drop you in the human village, and I will come pick you up tomorrow morning. You can do whatever you want in the meantime.

[ ] I haven’t seen Chen in a while, and it’s always a bad idea to leave that girl unsupervised for too long. Want to help me find her?

---
Sorry for the update delay, I had to make some decisions and streamlining on how the plot plays out.
>> No. 30308
[X] I need to pay the lazy shrine maiden a social visit. Yukari has asked me to keep an eye on her, and this time is as good as any.

This should be interesting.
>> No. 30309
File 145383648311.jpg - (58.40KB , 591x672 , reimuface.jpg ) [iqdb]
30309
[X] I need to pay the lazy shrine maiden a social visit. Yukari has asked me to keep an eye on her, and this time is as good as any.
Time to donate!
>> No. 30310
[x] I haven’t seen Chen in a while, and it’s always a bad idea to leave that girl unsupervised for too long. Want to help me find her?

Might as well meet the rest of the family.
>> No. 30311
[X] I need to pay the lazy shrine maiden a social visit. Yukari has asked me to keep an eye on her, and this time is as good as any.
>> No. 30312
[X] I need to pay the lazy shrine maiden a social visit. Yukari has asked me to keep an eye on her, and this time is as good as any.
>> No. 30313
[x] Lazy shrine maiden

Ffs don't let this guy in the village.
>> No. 30314
[X] I need to pay the lazy shrine maiden a social visit. Yukari has asked me to keep an eye on her, and this time is as good as any.
>> No. 30315
[X] I need to pay the lazy shrine maiden a social visit. Yukari has asked me to keep an eye on her, and this time is as good as any.

Don't want a disappointed Keine.
>> No. 30316
[X] I need to pay the lazy shrine maiden a social visit. Yukari has asked me to keep an eye on her, and this time is as good as any.
>> No. 30327
[x] I need to pay the lazy shrine maiden a social visit. Yukari has asked me to keep an eye on her, and this time is as good as any.

We should avoid being alone in the village, they almost certainly have agents there and I really doubt things are turning out as they planned. Also, I want to see how Ran explains how we ended up working for her.
>> No. 30331
Live, please!
>> No. 30332
it keeps happening
>> No. 30333
>>30332
Did you expect anything different?
>> No. 30334
>>30333
Sorry guys, I should have it in (hopefully) a day or too. I've been going on an interview spree and my schedules are fucked.
>> No. 30335
>>30334
Es no problemo

Hiatuses are a THP tradition
>> No. 30336
File 14565996861.jpg - (290.15KB , 850x1020 , Raan.jpg ) [iqdb]
30336
Come to think of it, I still owed Reimu some money. A part of me was slightly miffed that I couldn’t let that miniscule amount of debt go unpaid, but my conscience had a habit of acting up at the weirdest of times. And the girl did save me, after all, so it was only good manners to settle things as they should be.

I cleared my throat, and picked myself off the ground.

“Visiting Reimu sounds like a good idea to me. I’ve got some business with her, anyway.”

Ran glanced at me with an odd look on her face. “You… you do realize that she’s as poor as a—as a… as something that’s extremely poor, right? You wouldn’t be able to steal a shabby nickel from her on a good day, and she would still beat your face in for the audacity to try.”

“Hey,” I said, slightly offended. “I consider myself to have better character than that. And I’m also someone with an actual sense of self-preservation.”

“I would beg to differ, on the basis of what I know about you. But then again you are still alive, so who am I to talk?”

She opened a gap, and I stepped through it— all of this was becoming comfortably routine to me, as odd as it seemed in retrospect. We travelled through a gap at a semi-comfortable speed, and I managed to stumble out the other end with something approaching dignity. Once I’d recovered my bearings, I looked in front of me and saw a flight of stone stairs, stretching upwards and upwards beyond what the eye could see.

My fox-tailed companion closed the gap behind her, and heaved a long, weary sigh as she took in the mountain, the row of torii, and the stairs before her. “Damn. This part is the absolute worst.”

I glanced over at her uncomprehendingly. “… and what do you mean by that?”

She sighed again, and it was the sort of a sigh that reaches down to the very core of what makes up a person. I’ve seen them many times. Hell, I’ve done them once or twice myself.

“Due to previous offenses—namely, the actions of my master—the Yakumo family are banned from opening gaps directly on the shrine grounds. And flying directly in is… well, heavily discouraged. So we are going up the old fashioned way.”

I looked at the intimidating height of the mountain, and thought of the shrine perched on the very top. “Walking? You can’t be serious.”

“The stairs are no joke, my dear thief. And Reimu wonders why villagers don’t visit her shrine…” muttered Ran, starting her way up the stone steps. I followed after her, heart sinking as I thought of the long trek upwards.

“You have it easy. Isn’t your youkai endurance more than enough for this sort of thing?” I retorted.

“Picking up one thousand grains of sand with chopsticks isn’t my idea of fun, Mr. Thief,” she replied testily. “You, at the very least, have fatigue to take your mind off this thankless task.”

Wind blew through the trees as we climbed, bringing with it the heady smell of summer; the fresh, earthy aroma of the foliage around us, the scent of dusty roads, and clear rivers burbling away under the sun. The smells of growing crops. Enjoying the experience was hard however, as each step up the mountain drove a dull spike of pain into my chest. I wasn’t out of shape, but Jesus these stairs were just vindictive. And cruel. Ran fared noticeably better, but even she seemed a bit—

“AIEEEEEEEEE—OooooFF—oof— Ow— damn that— OW— shit—DAMN th— OW!”

Ran and I looked at each other, as the unfamiliar voice grew increasingly louder and louder with each pain filled shout. Oddly enough though, the voice seemed to be taking pleasure in the punishment—it held a strange sort of relish, like the triumphant smile a student wears when he finally gives the teacher a middle finger. It was coming from above the stairs, and at the corner of my eye I saw Ran’s face sour immediately after she (presumably) recognized who it was.

“Ow—OW—Aieeee!”

A red, white and black blur appeared in my field of view, bouncing down the steps as it went, and I barely jumped out of the way before the figure hit Ran head on. Ran stumbled back a few steps, but managed to regain her footing, grunting as she braced herself against the momentum of—well, whoever it was that just decided to take the express way down the mountain steps.

The person flopped down onto the ground, and a wide, wide grin was on her face. The girl looked distinctive, even in a realm where having a colorful personality was criteria for basic membership. She looked to be around fifteen years old, and she wore a white dress that was decorated with red and black arrows at the hem. A shock of red hair stood out prominently in her inky black locks. She was either a relatively new arrival, or someone not all important, as I didn’t remember seeing her in Akyuu’s books.

“Seija,” Ran grumbled. “You know that Reimu doesn’t like you in the shrine.”

The girl’s grin widened. “And that’s exactly why I went there.”

Seija, or so the girl was called, stood up and stretched, ignoring the bruises that dotted her limbs. With a tap of her feet she started floating beside us.

“You know, I almost enjoyed my trip down. Plenty of frustration and anger in that shrine maiden’s kick, and it made me feel reeaal appreciated. Good view on the way, too.”

Ran opened her mouth to say something, but quickly snapped it shut. She started walking upwards again, studiously trying to ignore the floating girl. I walked in step behind her, and Seija followed us, whizzing this way and that.

“Who’s the guy? You finally find the balls to bag a man, Ran?” Seija winked at me, and I felt myself shiver. Young girl or not, she leaked an innate charisma and temptation that was… truth be told, quite distracting. It spoke to me in her every action, her every expression. Her defiant nature was not a “phase”; in her spirit, it burned hotter than the fiercest flame. She was like every adrenaline rush after a successful job, and every time I felt the wicked satisfaction of besting my “betters”—

Ran placed a hand on my shoulder and pulled me behind her. “Leave him out of this, Seija. Don’t pull your influence on him.”

Seija giggled and feigned a yawn, turning over in the air lazily above us. “Oh, that one? He needs no work from me, darling. If you had a tenth of his guts, you wouldn’t be in the sorry state you’re in today.”

Ran’s gaze grew flinty. “We’ve been through this. My servitude gives me purpose, Seija, something that I’m afraid you conspicuously lack.”

“Lack in purpose!? Ran, listen to yourself!” The girl erupted into peals of obnoxious laughter, and Ran’s expression grew all the more stony. She wiped away her tears, and wheezed, “Ha! I thought I heard it all, Ran, but you surprise me once again! An amanojaku, lacking in purpose? I, who led Gensokyo on the greatest manhunt of the damn millennia, lacking in purpose? Of all the brainwashed tripe—”

“Following your base nature is not purpose!” shouted Ran hotly. I flinched, stopping in my climb. “You are nothing but a common youkai, bound to the very sins that birthed it—”

“—unlike you, who buries the nature away in cringe-worthy vassalage—”

“I made a choice!” snapped Ran. “In believing in something, something that is worth more than you or I!”

Silence fell. Then Seija chuckled, and shook her head slowly.

“See that?” the amanojaku pointed down the mountain, through the trees, at a red blot sitting beside the lake. “That’s the Scarlet Devil Mansion. Lead by a spoiled kid who hasn’t even seen the turn of a millennia.” She pirouetted in the air, and in her motions I could see a shadow of the graceful yet bratty movements of Remilia Scarlet. “And yet when she talks, people listen. The important attend her balls. The powerful seek to influence her. A number of youkai, not insignificant, wish for servitude beneath her rule. But you?”

Ran seethed, but did not speak. I glanced at her face nervously, and found that her illusion had worn off; I now looked at the same face, the same wounds, and the same simmering rage I saw that fateful night in the garden.

“In you, people see the machinations of your master. They see only the cat’s-paw of an unknowable, mysterious force. When they look at your face, they do not see the person or thoughts behind them… instead, they hear the clinking and clanking of gears, the echoes of plots that Yakumo Yukari have set into motion. They see a pawn moved forwards, Ran. And do they worry about the fate of the pawn? How would they, when they only see the chess master who moved the piece?”

I opened my mouth, not knowing what I wanted to say. Should I break up the fight? Tell Ran to cool down, or tell Seija to shut the fuck up? But another glance from the amanojaku—this time clearly laced with power—sent me reeling, and my mouth closed slowly on its own. My mind spun with adrenaline, and a sick curiosity towards what would happen next pulsed sluggishly in my mind.

“I am above you, Seija,” ground out Ran. “Take your drivel elsewhere, to the small-fry who actually listen.”

The wind blew again. And instead of the scents of summer, I fancied that I could smell the slightest tint of gunpowder in Ran’s words.

“You are above me, Ran. Was that ever in doubt?” Seija floated closer, until she was scant inches away from Ran’s face. “You could have the men of the world dancing in your hand, lapping up each and every of your words. They could treat you like the goddess you are. You could have this fellow here,” she said, pointing at me, “as a submissive rentboy at your beck and call. You could have harems of women that would dwarf those of sultans. Remilia? She would be nothing before your might and charisma. How many have wished to fight alongside the fabled nine-tails, Ran? And how many have dropped the notion, once they’ve seen the trophy piece you have become?”

The roaring anger on Ran’s face froze over like ice, and her face stilled. The illusions came back, and so did her composure. She continued to walk upwards, coolly, as if nothing had happened.

Seija though, clearly had other ideas. She smirked, came in near. And then she said,

“Did you know, Ran… that even Chen has more friends than you do?”

Ran lunged. Seija dived out of the way, cackling merrily… before a tail swept up behind her, enveloped her, and tossed her down the mountain.

“AIIEEEEE—OW—You—OW—damn fox—Oow—AIIIEEE—”

Ran watched the amanojaku’s descent down the steps, expression unreadable. She breathed in deeply, and continued to walk upwards.



Well. The atmosphere is growing awkward, fast. I have to think of something to say.
I should:
[ ] Espouse the virtues of loyalty. No matter the culture, loyalty has always been a quality worthy of heroes, and Ran is certainly not in short supply. Yukari must be proud of her.

[ ] Remind Ran that her choice is bound to no one. She makes her decisions in life, and though others can try to influence that, her choices are ultimately hers and hers alone. In short? Fuck Seija and what she thinks.

[ ] Tentatively agree with Seija. Ran is clearly a big shot youkai. She could be doing things much greater than what is essentially middle-management. Heck, I chose being a thief exactly for similar reasons.

[ ] Engage Ran in small talk. Try to get her to talk about her issues, and how she feels about her master.

[ ] Keep my trap shut. Ran can cool down on her own, and nothing a human “who hasn’t seen the turn of a single century” could say something that would actually make her listen.

[ ] Write in.


Hey, I’m back. I’ve finished up a lot of things in my life, landed a job, and also finished Xcom 2.

So uh… sorry to keep you guys waiting, and I hope it doesn’t happen again.
>> No. 30337
[x] Engage Ran in small talk. Try to get her to talk about her issues, and how she feels about her master.


welcome back writefag
>> No. 30338
[X] Engage Ran in small talk. Try to get her to talk about her issues, and how she feels about her master.
-[X] ...So. What kinds of offences did the Yakumo family do to have Reimu force you to take the stairs?
>> No. 30339
[x] Engage Ran in small talk. Try to get her to talk about her issues, and how she feels about her master.
>> No. 30340
[X] Engage Ran in small talk. Try to get her to talk about her issues, and how she feels about her master.
-[X] ...So. What kinds of offences did the Yakumo family do to have Reimu force you to take the stairs?
>> No. 30341
[X] Engage Ran in small talk. Try to get her to talk about her issues, and how she feels about her master.
-[X] ...So. What kinds of offences did the Yakumo family do to have Reimu force you to take the stairs?


I like the way you've portrayed Seija
>> No. 30342
[ ] Keep my trap shut. Ran can cool down on her own, and nothing a human “who hasn’t seen the turn of a single century” could say something that would actually make her listen.
>> No. 30343
[X] Engage Ran in small talk.

XCOM's Commander is so anime.
>> No. 30344
[x] Remind Ran that her choice is bound to no one. She makes her decisions in life, and though others can try to influence that, her choices are ultimately hers and hers alone. In short? Fuck Seija and what she thinks.

Don't be scared.
>> No. 30345
File 145665665299.jpg - (68.27KB , 500x500 , image.jpg ) [iqdb]
30345
>>30344
[X] Voting against this.

Ran lashed out for a reason, not to mention Seija just delivered the most savage roast I've ever seen on this site.
>> No. 30346
[x] Keep my trap shut. Ran can cool down on her own, and nothing a human “who hasn’t seen the turn of a single century” could say something that would actually make her listen.

That was a nice take on Seija.
>> No. 30347
[X] Espouse the virtues of loyalty. No matter the culture, loyalty has always been a quality worthy of heroes, and Ran is certainly not in short supply. Yukari must be proud of her.
>> No. 30348
>>30344
>Vote against this.

Those are frowned upon or downright ignored here. And for good reason.

If you don't want that vote to win, vote for something else
>> No. 30357
[x] Servitude is a choice. And, as with all choices, it is only as good as bad the alternative is in comparison. I choose it over death. What was your alternative?
>> No. 30358
[x] Servitude is a choice. And, as with all choices, it is only as good as bad the alternative is in comparison. I choose it over death. What was your alternative?
>> No. 30359
[x] Engage Ran in small talk. Try to get her to talk about her issues, and how she feels about her master.

>>30357
>>30358
That question might be out of line. What if she had a lousy reason and regrets her choice? With how much Seija's heckling bothers her, it makes me think she's not completely sure she's on the right path. She's arguing to convince herself.
>> No. 30360
>>30359
If she's unsure, that question is all the more important.
>> No. 30362
[X] Engage Ran in small talk. Try to get her to talk about her issues, and how she feels about her master.
-[X] ...So. What kinds of offences did the Yakumo family do to have Reimu force you to take the stairs?

Seems the best option
>> No. 30364
File 145728332217.jpg - (212.42KB , 850x798 , AllpowerfulRaymoo.jpg ) [iqdb]
30364
Ran was trying to feign nonchalance, but from her posture alone I could see that her body was wound up so tightly it looked almost painful. Her nails had lengthened themselves into uncomfortably sharp, claw-like protrusions, and even the hairs on her tail were set into bristling layer of fur. Seija, whoever she was, clearly got under her skin in ways that I didn’t think possible. Heck, last time it took a midnight break-in from me to get her to fly into rage like this, but Seija? With just a few words she set Ran off like a firecracker.

“You, uh… you alright?” I asked, tentatively.

Ran heaved a slow sigh, and from my viewpoint behind her it was like watching air leak out from a battered tire.

“Yes, Mr. Thief, I’m… fine. Let’s just— let’s just keep walking.”

And so we did. The stone steps served as a silent witness to the awkward atmosphere, and each step I made just seemed to make me more and more uneasy. I replayed the rather one-sided conversation over in my mind, going through all the words, and the expressions that they both had on their faces. Seija’s taunting grin. Ran’s infuriated exasperation, then anger.

“So…” I began. “What did your master do to get your family banned from using gaps? On the shrine grounds, anyway.”

“Well that certainly is a story to tell, short as it is.” Ran chuckled, though it sounded rather strained. “A few months back, when Reimu was bathing, master opened one end of her gaps—a large one, at that—right in front of the shrine maiden’s face. The other end was connected to the bottom of the Misty Lake. This happened… sometime midwinter.”

I winced. “Any specific reason she did this?”

Ran shrugged. “None, unless you include ‘Reimu’s taking too much time bathing and not enough chatting with me’. Seriously, Lady Yukari could stand to be just a bit more—”

She stopped herself, and bit her lip.

“You don’t have to talk about her if you don’t want to,” I ventured hesitantly.

Ran looked at me with the oddest look on her face, like she couldn’t understand what my notions were. The tiredness and fatigue from her injuries, as well as from her lack of rest showed on her face for a single second, before vanishing quickly behind a mask of mild apathy. It was the face of someone hardening their own resolve.

Again.

“What is the meaning of a human life, Mr. Thief?” she asked, almost as if talking about the weather. Her steps were deliberate and measured, her shoes making no sound as she walked.

I was caught flatfooted by the abrupt change in topic. “What?” I asked, confused.

“Exactly. For all we know? There is none. Nothing, no end goal to reach or purpose to strive for. Survival? Propagation of the species? Those are biological imperatives, bound to the group and not to the individual. A man can cast himself off a building, and he will not have gone against any known rule of the universe.”

“I… guess so? But what does this have to do with—”

“Then is it satisfaction in life, and the fulfillment of the enjoyment it provides? Those too, are not a man’s prime purpose. Many people turn their heads against such things, seeking instead a muddled existence, or one that is unknowingly devoted to their own suffering,” she continued on, adjusting her sleeves. “And how about religion? Justice? They are important constructs, but were created for man, and not the other way around. But you know something?”

“…no?”

“Because of all this, among so many things in the world we live in, humans are truly free. They can choose whichever they wish to place their efforts in, whether it be bettering themselves, bettering the species, or lazing about in a fishing boat at three o’clock in the afternoon. They have choice, making their restraint all the more admirable; and they can choose to destroy, making their efforts to build all the more laudable. Even those that suffer from their choices were the ones that made them, once upon a time. But above all, they can fling themselves into whatever they wish, and taste all that life has to offer with wild, reckless abandon. That is something extraordinarily beautiful, don’t you think?”

I thought of the decisions I’ve made in my life. My career. My mistakes.

“And your point being…?” I said slowly.

“Youkai have none of that,” she responded, voice brittle. “We are bound to our myths, and our entire existence surrounds them. We can even gradually change without our own knowledge—you should see the wild changes some western dragons have undergone this past millennia, in size and intelligence alone—and everything we do is designed to further our myth, one way or another. It is a base, ignoble life to live; from the point that Yakumo Ran came into being as a kitsune, my path was sealed. I was to become a trickster, a cheat, and a seducer of men. And so I did.”

“But you aren’t a—”

“It’s true. Before I met Lady Yukari, that’s all I was.” She glanced up, and following her gaze I discovered that we were nearing the end of our climb. “She was different. She had goals, a dream, something greater in mind, something that was above the petty amalgamation of vices we are. Yukari was something different from all the youkai that I had met before, striving for something beyond what she was; and she gave me purpose. For that, I am forever grateful. And the trivial problems I face while serving her mean nothing to me.”

She smiled, and I could see her usual liveliness return to her face. I smiled back at her, trying to not let my uncertainty show on my face. Then, a voice drifted over to us just as we reached the top.

“—still though, I’m really sorry. I know that she likes to follow me around, and that means I led her here.”

A grunt. “Sukuna, cut it. She deserved that kick, and I was already running late in dishing it out.” This voice was Reimu’s, flippant and lazy. “You could have joined in though, instead of hanging back. Beating up Seija is practically a Gensokyo pastime at this point.”

“Ah well. I mean, I still…” Hesitance. “It’s what she does, so I can’t really… hit her, if you understand. I don’t dislike her.”

We passed through the tori, stepping directly onto the shrine grounds. I saw Reimu’s distinctive color scheme from a ways off, and beside her was a childlike figure in red. And a bowl on her head, of all things.

“Look Sukuna, if she does what she does, which is pissing me off— then I’ll do what I do, which is kicking her down mountains. There are no conflicts here. And don’t tell me that you couldn’t see from her face that she was begging for a spanking. You of all people should know—oh, hey Ran.”

“Reimu. Shinmyoumaru Sukuna,” said Ran, bowing to them both in turn. “Keeping well?”

“Well enough,” said Reimu. Then her eyes narrowed. “Who’s that—wait, haven’t I seen you before?”

“Yamazaki Ren, at your service,” I replied immediately, going into a deep bow. “I am here to express my gratitude. You saved me from certain death, Miss Hakurei.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Ran’s eyebrows disappear into her hairline. To be expected, really, as I have never told her about my first day here.

Reimu peered at me suspiciously. Then she crossed her arms and said, “Huh. Judging from the company you keep though, I’ll say that you’ve more or less crossed the barrier intentionally. Am I correct?”

Woah, scary sharp. “More or less.” I admitted, putting my hands up in front of me. “But as you can see, I’m not here to do anything problematic (I heard Ran snort quietly behind me at this point), and you did save me that day. As all friends of mine can attest, I never let my debts go unpaid! And therefore…”

Reimu’s breath caught in her throat. “Therefore…?”

“It’s only fair that I give you recompense. Especially since I did take some money from you that day, accidental as it may have been.” I walked over to the donation box, took out my pouch, and started dropping large, heavy coins in, one by one. The shrine maiden followed each one with her eyes, unblinkingly. “It’s only fair, after all.”

“It’s only fair,” repeated Reimu, dazedly looking on as coins dropped one after another into her painfully empty donation box. “It’s… only fair.”

Behind her, I saw Ran and Sukuna both roll their eyes in exasperation. But I ignored them. Doing this was oddly cathartic, almost like feeding a pet. A pet who was trying desperately not to grab the can from you, and was trying to wait patiently while you spooned out the food slowly into the bowl on the floor. It gave me a flowing sense of superiority, as I watched Gensokyo’s protector watching me like a—

Wow, I’m a hopeless asshole aren’t I?

I hurriedly threw in a couple more coins and bowed again, and Reimu returned the gesture, still slightly stunned. Ran coughed.

“So Reimu, anything happen lately? Anything we can do to help?” she asked.

The shrine maiden shook her head, clearing her mind of the money-induced cobwebs. “Well, nothing big. Sanae came by yesterday to tell me about a spider-golem or something prowling around Youkai Mountain, but that can’t be anything that the tengu can’t handle. They’ve got the place locked down tight.”

“That they do,” acknowledged Ran. “Even my master’s influence has limits there. But I didn’t come here to talk business. How are you doing lately? Eating well?”

“Er, truthfully… no. But I will. In a bit.” Reimu snuck a glance over to her donation box, now filled with a decent number of coins. “Tell your master to stop worrying about me. It’s strange for the shrine maiden to be doted on by youkai.”

“Speaking of Yukari,” cut in Sukuna, “she up to anything recently? I always feel nervous when she’s away for too long, and it’s been a while since I last saw her. Feels like she’s planning something again.”

Ran twitched. “I haven’t seen Master in some time, truthfully speaking. So I can only say—”

“Reimu!”

The voice came from above, and in a flash, its owner landed on the shrine grounds, braking only at the last moment. She hopped a few steps to break up her momentum, and hurried over to Reimu’s side. She was a young girl, around Reimu’s age and dressed similarly as well, but did not carry her maturity. She looked almost outside-worldish even, with her bright green hair and her hair ornaments.

“Sanae?” said Reimu, eyebrow raised.

Oh… yes, I recalled this one from Akyu’s books. The other shrine maiden from a rivalling faction, but from what I have heard they cooperated often and were friends of a sort. What was she doing here, all of a sudden?

“I’m sorry, I wanted to deal with this myself, but…” Sanae kneaded her hands worriedly, over and over again. “This is bigger than me. Far bigger. Reimu, the youkai can’t see the rover!”

I felt Ran stiffen up by my side.

“Rover? Sanae, you aren’t making sense. What’s a rover?” asked Reimu, putting her hands on her hips.

“It’s a— well, it’s a— urgh, it’s that spider thing that I told you about! It’s eating up the mountainside, and the tengu don’t even acknowledge that it exists! Reisen contacted me earlier, and wanted me to get you. She’s getting Marisa, and wants us to meet up at the foot of Youkai Mountain.”

I could feel the air around us change with each word that came out of Sanae’s mouth. Sukuna looked apprehensive. Ran was biting her bottom lip so hard it was drawing blood. There was a distant, quiet rustling in the trees, the wind, the ground. Distantly, I could hear the eager cries of hundreds of fairies, excited and ready for mischief. Something had riled them up. Something was happening.

But Reimu?

She stood at ease, almost ethereal in her mannerisms. She walked over to the porch, and picked up her purification rod. It dangled loosely in her hand. She swung it a few times, testing its weight and flexibility.

“I’ll meet you there, then,” she said, distantly.

Then she floated up… and flew away. Not too fast, nor too slow. Like she had all the time in the world.

Sanae quickly followed her, sprinting and hopping into the air, speeding after the red blur in the sky. Sukuna called out as they left, saying that she would take care of the shrine in their absence. Ran dragged me to the side, her fingers digging painfully into my arm. Her eyes were wild, nervous. She grasped me by my shoulders, and looked at me, face to face.

“This is an incident. An incident has happened, and Lady Yukari is nowhere to be seen.”


[ ] I usually know about incidents days in advance. Sometimes even weeks. Lady Yukari always, always fills me in. But she’s not here, we need to know more, and two sets of eyes are better than one. We have to tail Reimu and the others. The incident resolvers must reach their destination, no matter what happens. That is the rule.

[ ] Or, we could help the incident resolvers as they go. We need not fight their battles, but diverting a few fairy flocks would put them in a much better condition to fight the instigators. Once they reach their destination, it will be resolved; but they must, must reach it!

[ ] Alternatively… if that rover is any indication, this incident is almost one hundred percent Lunarian in origin. That means a gap in the barrier, or a portal to the Lunar Palace. We should go strengthen the portal, to let the resolvers cross; or alternatively seal it, to block off reinforcements.

[ ] Lunarians mean that the Eientei is involved. We need answers. And we are going to get them.

I cannot emphasize this enough, Mr. Thief. With Lady Yukari gone, we are the custodians now, and making sure this incident runs smoothly is our responsibility. Where do you think we can be of most use?
>> No. 30365
[x] I usually know about incidents days in advance. Sometimes even weeks. Lady Yukari always, always fills me in. But she’s not here, we need to know more, and two sets of eyes are better than one. We have to tail Reimu and the others. The incident resolvers must reach their destination, no matter what happens. That is the rule.
>> No. 30366
[X] Alternatively… if that rover is any indication, this incident is almost one hundred percent Lunarian in origin. That means a gap in the barrier, or a portal to the Lunar Palace. We should go strengthen the portal, to let the resolvers cross; or alternatively seal it, to block off reinforcements.
>> No. 30367
[X] Alternatively… if that rover is any indication, this incident is almost one hundred percent Lunarian in origin. That means a gap in the barrier, or a portal to the Lunar Palace. We should go strengthen the portal, to let the resolvers cross; or alternatively seal it, to block off reinforcements.

Well since they spent a while tinkering with the barrier already, this should be doable.
>> No. 30368
[x] Alternatively… if that rover is any indication, this incident is almost one hundred percent Lunarian in origin. That means a gap in the barrier, or a portal to the Lunar Palace. We should go strengthen the portal, to let the resolvers cross; or alternatively seal it, to block off reinforcements.

lunarian scum
>> No. 30369
[x] Alternatively… if that rover is any indication, this incident is almost one hundred percent Lunarian in origin. That means a gap in the barrier, or a portal to the Lunar Palace. We should go strengthen the portal, to let the resolvers cross; or alternatively seal it, to block off reinforcements.
>> No. 30370
[x] Alternatively… if that rover is any indication, this incident is almost one hundred percent Lunarian in origin. That means a gap in the barrier, or a portal to the Lunar Palace. We should go strengthen the portal, to let the resolvers cross; or alternatively seal it, to block off reinforcements.

Fukken Xenos. Also, I'd bet this is no ordinary rover.
>> No. 30371
[x] Alternatively… if that rover is any indication, this incident is almost one hundred percent Lunarian in origin. That means a gap in the barrier, or a portal to the Lunar Palace. We should go strengthen the portal, to let the resolvers cross; or alternatively seal it, to block off reinforcements.

The resolvers can deal with almost anything, but only us can screw the incitator's plan by ignoring the obvious threat and going deeper.
>> No. 30372
[x] Alternatively… if that rover is any indication, this incident is almost one hundred percent Lunarian in origin. That means a gap in the barrier, or a portal to the Lunar Palace. We should go strengthen the portal, to let the resolvers cross; or alternatively seal it, to block off reinforcements.

If we're REALLY lucky, Ran'll let us steal some Lunarian stuff. THEN we can say we stole the moon.
>> No. 30373
[X] Alternatively… if that rover is any indication, this incident is almost one hundred percent Lunarian in origin. That means a gap in the barrier, or a portal to the Lunar Palace. We should go strengthen the portal, to let the resolvers cross; or alternatively seal it, to block off reinforcements.
>> No. 30375
[X] Alternatively… if that rover is any indication, this incident is almost one hundred percent Lunarian in origin. That means a gap in the barrier, or a portal to the Lunar Palace. We should go strengthen the portal, to let the resolvers cross; or alternatively seal it, to block off reinforcements.

Let's ditch Ran and skiddadle to the moon.
>> No. 30376
[X] Alternatively… if that rover is any indication, this incident is almost one hundred percent Lunarian in origin. That means a gap in the barrier, or a portal to the Lunar Palace. We should go strengthen the portal, to let the resolvers cross; or alternatively seal it, to block off reinforcements.

Borders are the only thing we are good at.
>> No. 30397
File 145987607058.jpg - (1.89MB , 2109x1456 , 92eee4b22adc20cee4fff02768286dde.jpg ) [iqdb]
30397
My thoughts stalled for a moment, with Ran’s hands clenched around my shoulders, and her eyes wide and worried. Her nerves were obvious and immediately palpable. Was it her master’s absence? Or were incidents really that big of a deal?

“Barriers!” I blurted. She blinked, and I hastily added, “I mean, I’ll be honest here and say that I am not at all confident in anything that doesn’t involve a barrier. So I’ll pick that, as a more personal choice.”

“So that’s your choice? Final decision?” Ran asked, looking at me closely. She started to calm down gradually, her breathing easing into a more regular rhythm.

“Yeah, I would say so. Definitely.”

A fraction of a second passed, both of us looking into each other’s eyes, trying to find out what the other was thinking. I became uncomfortably aware of her soft features, and the way that they were all too close to my face. The way that strands of her hair would brush slightly against my neck. Her anxiousness added a hint of added vulnerability to the mix, an almost… pleasant surprise from the sly, cocksure woman I have come to know.

I swallowed.

Kings had bled countries dry for faces as fair as hers. Glorified housekeeper or no, it wouldn’t be wise to forget that she was technically an Asian succubus.

“Then our decisions are aligned. I concur with your thinking.” Her grin reappeared slowly, along with her self-assured confidence. With an almost strange… naturalness to it all, the nervous air that had surrounded her lifted itself, like it had never been. “We will follow by air—I don’t wish to destabilize the Great Barrier at so crucial a juncture. You up for a little bit of flying?”

I smiled wanly at her. “I don’t have much of a choice, do I?”

She shook her head with mock-sadness. “Alas, that luxury is denied to you. Don’t fret, I’ll be gentle. Stick out your arm.”

I stared at her outstretched hand. Then to her face. Then back to her hand again.

“You… aren’t going to pull something funny, are you?” I asked suspiciously.

She rolled her eyes and sighed. “Any other day? Yes, but now is not the time. Are you coming or not?”

Steeling myself, I grasped her hand, feeling her slim digits curl around mine. The magic started almost instantly— I felt myself growing lighter and lighter, and before I knew it I was floating, hanging weightlessly in the air. It was nothing like my previous experience with Reimu, a mess of twirls and whirls led by an uncaring pilot. Even as we rose rapidly into the sky, I felt astonishingly safe. The grip around my right hand, my lifeline, was strong and firm.

With a small smile from Ran, we started accelerating. The trees underneath us blurred into a mishmash of vibrant green colors as we sped above the treetops, leaves rustling in our wake. Buoyed by the warm summer wind, we flew northwards towards Youkai Mountain. Sanae was still a distant speck in the sky, but one that was rapidly drawing closer as we continued to fly. Already I could see the path of “carnage” left by Reimu’s cohorts; fairies laying in heaps on the ground, youkai running for cover in the undergrowth. The people in the human village would probably be—

“Dammit!” hissed Ran.

She swerved sharply to the right, as did I alongside her. Multicolored spheres whizzed by us at incredible speeds, courtesy of a few fairies who had managed to escape Reimu’s notice. With a flutter of her wide sleeves, Ran responded with a ray of light that scythed across the sky in a vicious arc, scattering the ragtag band of survivors. The remainder, after a brief shouting match amongst each other, quickly fell into pursuit.

“Is it always this hectic?!” I yelled over the wind. Ran snickered in affirmation.

“During incidents? This is par for the course!” she shouted back.

“And this kind of thing happens over two times a yea—AHHHH!”

Another barrage came from behind us, a bullet coming close enough to singe some hairs off the top of my head. Grinning fiercely, Ran started to corkscrew through the air at a breakneck speed, swinging left and right while tracing a swift, jagged path through the sky. The world spun dizzyingly, and I screamed in surprise and fright.

“—on purpose! You’re doing this on purpose! I thought you said you wouldn’t try any of that today!” I spluttered, my accusation weak and shrill in the howling wind.

“I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t resist! It’s been so long since I had an actual danmaku battle!” she laughed and pulled me into her chest, doing a small twirl in the air to evade yet more projectiles. “Heavens, I’ve almost forgotten how fun it is!”

She swiftly started to ramp up her speed, going from the one hundred or so mile speed we originally started at to straight out WWII fighterplane. We ducked and weaved, juked and lunged, and soon, our pursuers were far behind us, mere specks of color in an endless blue sky. Still chuckling, she took me into a gut-lurching dive before pulling up at the last moment, letting us descend more or less unscathed onto the ground.

This time, it only took a few seconds of dry heaving to make my transition to a semi-functional human being. I opened my mouth to speak; but with a sharp gesture, Ran motioned for me to keep quiet, and she began to slowly weave a spell.

“We’re not too far off from where Reimu and the others are meeting. One kilometer, give or take, and I took care not to let us be seen. It’s not wise to influence incidents unless you’re part of it.” With a flick of her hands, the spell came into form and she shot me a glance. “Now be a good boy and link up to this, won’t you?”

“Wha—”

“No questions, if you please. Tight schedule.”

I swallowed my queasiness and touched her spellwork hesitantly with my mind, and realized what it was: some sort of audio-enhancing, hearing-improving, distance reducing… thing. Expertly crafted, as were all spells she made. I felt my way through the spell matrix and let it into my body, shivering as it invaded my senses.

A voice appeared at instantly at my ears.

“—ya know, I’m not quite sure whether to trust that master of yours, Reisen, but I’ll listen. This time, at least.” This voice was… I bit my finger, searching through my mind… Marisa. Yeah, Marisa.

“My master insisted on the potion, and the mere fact that she’s intervening means that this is no laughing matter,” someone replied crossly. Reisen, presumably. “I’d had to get through quite a few rabbits just to get here, which means that other Lunarians may be close behind. We should—”

“So it is Lunarians, after all,” I whispered. Ran nodded in affirmation, her face going ever so slightly pale.

“Please, I don’t think—”

“There isn’t any need for argument,” Reimu’s voice cut in, drowning out Sanae’s protests. “The potion’s not dangerous, and the effects are fairly straightforward. And if we waste any more time, the passage will probably close. We need to move fast.”

Ran muffled the spell and frowned. “Passage? I did feel a bit fraying in the barrier before we got here, but a full-fledged passageway?”

I closed my eyes, and felt out, searching the surroundings with my magic.

“Sorry,” I said after around half a minute, blinking blearily in the bright summer sun. “I don’t have the strength to sense anything accurately beyond touching distance. That said, I do feel something a bit off around the 2 o’clock direction…”

“Then I’ll try,” she said thoughtfully. Ran closed her own eyes as well, and within seconds a complicated-looking smile appeared on her face, twisting her lips into a wry grin. “Perceptive as always, but a bit off. It’s round 1 o’clock. That said, this is way, way worse than I previously thought. Of all the times that Master Yukari—”

“Ran, I know you love your master, but lemme stop you there before you go into another panic attack,” I cut in, ignoring the irritated look on her face. “What is it? And how are they doing it?”

“It’s…” She made some vague, frustrated gestures in midair. “It’s some sort of inter-plane that is acting as a passage, created through the manipulation of dreams and fantasy. It’s large, it’s stable, and a goddamn army can march through at any moment. It’s exactly the sort of thing that Master Yukar—”

“Please Ran, focus. Anything else?”

Ran sighed, tails rustling. “It’s… steadily growing larger. Its area of influence within Gensokyo is already significant. Soon, the entirety of Gensokyo will be under its effects, and Lunar forces could deploy anywhere inside the Great Barrier.” She turned around and stared into the distance, where Reimu and her friends were still conversing among themselves in increasingly loud voices. Wincing, I cut off the spell completely.

Then an idea occurred to me, the thought sparking in my mind like a thunderbolt. My right eyelid started to twitch. My hands, usually so restless and uneasy, settled comfortably onto the familiar tools in my pockets.

The familiar feeling of adrenaline coursed through my body, and I shivered in excitement.

Keeping my voice carefully calm, I asked, “So… this goes both ways, doesn’t it? Starting from this location, soon anyone with half a bit of barrier knowledge would be able to go through. I cou—I mean, Reimu, could easily be able to sense this and open her way towards the Lunar Palace, with her friends following behind her. Presumably.”

“…presumably,” Ran agreed reluctantly, but I could see her ears twitching erratically under her double-pointed hat. “However, she’s been defeated by Lunarians before. There is no guarantee—”

“Well that’s nothing we can help with, is it? We’ve done all we can. At this point, all we have to do is verify the stability of the plane, make sure it’s safe for them to go through, and wait for the good news.” I clapped my hands together, as if it were a done deal.

I tried to read Ran’s face. Uncertainty. Indecision. Conflicting emotions flashed across her face, reminding me that this was the first ever incident that she was overseeing alone.

“I—well, you do have a point.” She bit her lower lip, and raised her arm. “I think that I’ll be able to open a gap right where we are. Then we’ll be able to plan for a next step, at the very least.”

A yawning gulf appeared in the space before us, and within it I could see a dull blue plane, glowing with shimmers of light. A bright red grid pulsated within, the barebones structure of the spellwork displayed for all to see. Bold, yet cunningly crafted. The creator was master of this realm, and whoever it was reveled in that very fact. Ran leaned her head in and began to examine it, murmuring to herself as she worked. I ignored her and set about with my own investigations.

Distance meant little within pocket dream-planes like this, linked as they were to the occupant’s state of mind. Anyone that has tried to “run away” in a dream can easily attest to the uselessness of the action. And therefore, those that actively pursued things in a dream would often end up right where they were, as if they had not traveled a single step. Luckily enough though, this logic could similarly be reversed. With a clear destination, quick work on the barriers, as well as a diversion to prevent the master of this plane from stopping me and hanging me by my balls, I could theoretically—theoretically—make a quick hop to the other side without much time spent. The Lunar City, the holy grail to many a treasure hunter, would be in my reach.

“They’re in,” Ran announced suddenly, and I saw that her entire upper body was leaning through the gap. “I can feel Reimu and the others. The four of them have passed into the Kaian passageway.”

And what better diversion on god’s given earth than an angry shrine maiden?

Ran was turning around. Time to make a decision.

I will…

[ ] Cut out this risky nonsense. Days without actually working or planning for a job have clearly driving me bonkers. The Lunar City is rarely robbed, and for good reason.

[ ] Shoulder Ran aside and jump through. This opportunity appearing before me is akin to the planets aligning and twenty comet flybys happening on the same day. It would be the heist of the century, and it would be my hands that accomplished it.

[ ] Alternatively… grab Ran, and jump through. Time for her to experience something that she’d missing for so many years: frantic, fast-paced improvisation at the seat of ones pants. In other words? FUN.
>> No. 30398
[X] Alternatively… grab Ran, and jump through. Time for her to experience something that she’d missing for so many years: frantic, fast-paced improvisation at the seat of ones pants. In other words? FUN.

!!━━━(゚∀゚)━━━!!
>> No. 30399
[X] Alternatively… grab Ran, and jump through. Time for her to experience something that she’d missing for so many years: frantic, fast-paced improvisation at the seat of ones pants. In other words? FUN.

If she had so much fun with a danmaku battle of all things, imagine what could she do here? Hell, imagine what WE can accomplish here.
Fluffy tails playable character hype!
>> No. 30400
[X] Shoulder Ran aside and jump through. This opportunity appearing before me is akin to the planets aligning and twenty comet flybys happening on the same day. It would be the heist of the century, and it would be my hands that accomplished it.

Risk Level: Deathwish. Totally worth it
>> No. 30401
[X] Alternatively… grab Ran, and jump through. Time for her to experience something that she’d missing for so many years: frantic, fast-paced improvisation at the seat of one's pants. In other words? FUN.

This is the worst idea and I'm all for it. Just like a real player character!
>> No. 30402
[X] Cut out this risky nonsense. Days without actually working or planning for a job have clearly driving me bonkers. The Lunar City is rarely robbed, and for good reason.
>> No. 30403
[X] Alternatively… grab Ran, and jump through. Time for her to experience something that she’d missing for so many years: frantic, fast-paced improvisation at the seat of one's pants. In other words? FUN.

Who wouldn't vote for fun?
>> No. 30404
[X] Alternatively… grab Ran, and jump through. Time for her to experience something that she’d missing for so many years: frantic, fast-paced improvisation at the seat of one's pants. In other words? FUN.

Readers are always suckers for the struck-out options. Here's hoping that Ran won't actually tear us to pieces before she calms down.
>> No. 30405
[X] FUN option.

This isn't going to be Dwarf Fortress-type fun, is it?
>> No. 30406
[X] Alternatively… grab Ran, and jump through. Time for her to experience something that she’d missing for so many years: frantic, fast-paced improvisation at the seat of one's pants. In other words? FUN.


FUN
U
N
>> No. 30407
>>30397
[X] Alternatively… grab Ran, and jump through. Time for her to experience something that she’d missing for so many years: frantic, fast-paced improvisation at the seat of ones pants. In other words? FUN.

Heists are done better in co-op mode!
>> No. 30408
[X] Alternatively… grab Ran, and jump through. Time for her to experience something that she’d missing for so many years: frantic, fast-paced improvisation at the seat of ones pants. In other words? FUN.
>> No. 30409
[X] Alternatively… grab Ran, and jump through. Time for her to experience something that she’d missing for so many years: frantic, fast-paced improvisation at the seat of ones pants. In other words? FUN.

C'mon Ran! After all, we gotta be on the side the portal was opened on to open and close it. Besides, we don't want any aliens from the Moon down here!
>> No. 30410
File 146038774721.png - (891.46KB , 1058x705 , Toofar.png ) [iqdb]
30410
[X] Alternatively… grab Ran, and jump through. Time for her to experience something that she’d missing for so many years: frantic, fast-paced improvisation at the seat of ones pants. In other words? FUN.

This is an absolutely horrible idea that we should totally do.
>> No. 30411
[X] Cut out this risky nonsense. Days without actually working or planning for a job have clearly driving me bonkers. The Lunar City is rarely robbed, and for good reason.

No fun allowed.
>> No. 30412
>>30411
How DARE you rain on our parade!
We WILL be pulling Ran into this and striking a crucial blow for the Yakumo Clan!

Where a hundred or so youkai failed, the Lunarians will be upstaged by one man and a kitsune!
>> No. 30413
>>30412
Hundred? I'm pretty sure it was more like a thousand.
>> No. 30414
>>30413
Clearly this means that this magically deficient human and his actually strong kitsune friend partner have a high chance of success.
>> No. 30415
File 146052279877.jpg - (32.80KB , 346x347 , 145206020016.jpg ) [iqdb]
30415
>>30413
To be fair, the Lunarians want the character to win and reach their leader, so they can be directed to the capital and the hell fairies that invaded it. They're not going to go all out.
>> No. 30416
[X] Alternatively… grab Ran, and jump through. Time for her to experience something that she’d missing for so many years: frantic, fast-paced improvisation at the seat of ones pants. In other words? FUN.

Ambitious. I wonder how it'll turn out?
>> No. 30417
[X] Alternatively… grab Ran, and jump through. Time for her to experience something that she’d missing for so many years: frantic, fast-paced improvisation at the seat of ones pants. In other words? FUN.

I thoroughly expect FUN to happen. Don't disappoint.
>> No. 30443
File 146212901139.jpg - (233.62KB , 600x800 , b129f5a05ac4f135547d324286cbb4ab.jpg ) [iqdb]
30443
I broke into a silent run. And leapt.

“Well, I guess that means—AHHHHH!!!”

For all her supernatural reflexes, I clearly caught her off guard. In an instant, my right arm was around her waist, my feet were in the air, and a manic grin was plastered on my face. A cold shudder went over me as we passed through the barrier, and then we were falling, falling…

We tumbled through the blue nothingness, with only the harsh wind blowing upwards to mark our rapid descent. Ran was starting to collect her wits, struggling against me, yelling something inaudible in the din. I closed my eyes and ignored her. Distantly, I could feel the annoyance of the realm’s master spike through my mind, but fortunately enough she was very, very distracted.

I grinned to myself. It seems I owed Reimu and the others several drinks.

“I swear to all the gods there are, if you don’t cease this foolishness—”

“Hold on!” I shouted back, closing my eyes in preparation of the spell. I reached across the dimension, and affixed an image in my mind: that of a pale, glorious city, that sprawling utopia where Chang’e still dwelled, the place that served as the sacred ground for so many eastern legends and folktales. I could feel it just at the boundaries of this dreamscape, on the corners of this in-between. I needed to vision myself there, walking the streets, looking upwards and admiring the curved rooftops, talking to moon rabbits…

“I swear, I will rip your neck out on the count of three! If you don’t—” Ran shrieked, scrabbling to get a solid grip on my arm. The wind took the rest of her words away from me.

Correction to my previous statement: vision both of us there. I seared the image I had created into my mind, steadily adding details like an artist adds finishing touches to a painting. The dream realm started to shake around us, fizzling, growing unstable as I molded it clumsily. Blue, endless blue. We weren’t falling anymore. Or were we? Did we change direction? I couldn’t tell, the wind in my face not helping in the slightest. Ran wasn’t screaming anymore, just holding onto my arm for dear life. Just where were we—

And then, I woke with a start. On a wooden bench, as if I’d just dozed off there accidently on a cozy afternoon. Mist, pale white, obscured the world around us, hiding all but our immediate surroundings from view. The roads were stone paved, and the buildings were largely built with wood. From what I could tell, it all looked distinctly Asian, intersected with modern steel and concrete; but one could never really know with these magical realms, as close to fantasy as they were. But the important thing was that we made it!

I pumped my fist in the air. My surroundings answered my enthusiasm with eerie silence.

Beside me, still clinging to my arm, was Ran. She stirred, arching her back as she stretched before blearily blinking into wakefulness. Then almost comically her eyes snapped open, and before I knew it she had me by my lapels.

“What. The fuck. Have you done?” She hissed, shaking me with every word she uttered.

“Language! Ran, please, if civility—urrk! Let go of my ear!”

She leaned in close to me, and I could see in her eyes that letting go of me was exactly the last thing she would do. I gulped. But just as she was about to lay into me with another barrage of angry words, I was saved.

By Marisa, of all people.

Her whoop of joy was distant, but loud and clear in the eerie silence. Space time ripped a hole in itself and the four companions sped out of the rift, the mist scattering before their magical might even as white wisps drew eddies in their wake. Even as far away as we were, we could see them clearing a route through the sky, like… well, honestly I wouldn’t know what to compare them to. They looked nothing like anything I had seen before, and were so, so divorced from the reality that I knew. The closest I could come to were jetplanes, flying in formation; but even the thrum of engines couldn’t quite capture the immense pulses of magic I could feel.

Ran had spun away to look at them the instant they appeared. And now, she was slowly turning around to look at me.

“You didn’t,” she said, in a horrified whisper.

Oh, this was fantastic.

I bowed, performing an overelaborate hand motion as I bent down, smiling grandly all the while. “Welcome to ze ‘unar City, mademoiselle. Iz this your furst time here, hmmm?”

“S-stop it! We have to go back!” her hand reached for my lapels again, but this time I was prepared, and quickly jumped backwards. However, her other arm lashed out and soon had me by my collar. “We’re not supposed to be here! If the Lunarians find out—”

I managed to free a hand and pointed to the sky, where Reimu’s flight path was still very visible. “Oh, they have plenty else to worry about. We’re just here to do some window shopping. It’d be a pity if we didn’t at least try, hmm?”

Ran released me roughly, growling all the while, and stomped back to the bench. She sat down with a weighty thud, and started kneading her temples.

I patted her back smugly. “Feel a bit better for letting me get as far as I did, back when we first met? I am amazing, after all.”

“Shut up,” she retorted, but even I could tell that there was no heart behind the rebuke. Ran traced her hands over a nearby pillar, still in stupefied disbelief. “I—we shouldn’t. This can’t be. My master and I, we planned for what, years? To get a couple of ghosts into this city and steal something of value. We used proxies in front of proxies to be used as proxies, and Lady Yukari, with all her pride, even knelt before a foe—she kept secrets from me, too! And even after all that…”

I knew bringing her was the right answer. Doing downright dangerous stuff turned dull after a while, with no one as an audience to appreciate my skill. A warm fuzzy feeling rose in my chest and spread all through my body, and I smiled, feeling the content joy of my genius being recognized. A first, to be honest.

“It’s been a while since someone stroked my ego that well. However, we really need to go.” I held out my hand and pulled Ran to her feet. “Now, for the actual tricksy part, which is finding something valuable to bring home. Any ideas?”

“Nothing in particular comes to mind... No! Wait, I can’t do this with you!”

I tugged on her hand as I lead her through the streets, which were oddly empty of life. “Honestly Ran, I think it’s a bit late to be getting second thoughts about this.”

“Second thoughts? You have the gall to say—I never supported this foolish act in the first place!”

“Wait.” My ears picked up something around the corner, and I quickly I placed a finger on her lips, silencing the rest of her words. “Someone’s coming.”

With a bit of prodding, I managed to position the mildly protesting Ran behind a stone wall, while I myself slipped quietly behind a pillar. Soon several girls with rabbit ears came into view, dressed in fancy blazers and dress shirts. Their shiny leather shoes clicked against the cobbles as they hurried along, and I noticed that they were all clutching large piles of scrolls in their arms. One girl, interestingly enough, had a singed ear, while another was missing a piece of her skirt.

Huh. And they had all come running from the direction that Reimu and the others were flying towards. It seemed like the rabbits had been unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of a miko light show.

“Hurry!” the one in the lead shouted. “The fairies will get the rest if you lazy furballs don’t get a move one! Keep your legs going, move!”

Or rather, they had been attacked by fairies…? What were fairies doing in the Lunar Capital? Come to think of it, what actually is that major incident that Reimu came up here to solve, anyway? As the confused thoughts flashed through my mind, Ran and I stayed quietly still in our respective hiding places, until the group finally hustled past. I shot her a questioning look. She glared back.

“And you expect me to know what is going on, Mr. Leap Before I Look?” she said crossly, folding her arms across her chest.

I stepped out from behind my pillar, starting to feel slightly irritated. “Look Ran, what we’ve been given here is the opportunity of the millennia. Don’t even try to tell me that you aren’t thinking of—”

“G-guys! Guys! Wait for meeee! I’m so tir—huh?”

I swore, and quickly turned my head towards the voice. Just a few steps away stood a single rabbit girl, frozen in her tracks, and as our eyes met I could see her fear and uncertainty. With a sinking feeling, I realized that she was probably a straggler from the group that had just passed us by. Aaaand I just had to be out in the open at this very moment. Amateur mistake!

But it wasn’t the first time I had to contend with witnesses. This could still be easily salvaged. I will…

[ ] Remember the basics of CQC. Though not an expert, I’ve done some training on ways to immobilize and put people out of action (tools of the trade, as it were). Rabbit girls were extremely low on the youkai ladder, and as their physical skills were basically on par with humans, I just have to move in fast.

[ ] Try to talk myself out of this mess. I’ll judge her reaction and spin my story accordingly. I’m lucky she’s a civilian—if she were a guard or in the military, bullshitting her would be much harder.

[ ] Ran’s body seems to be coiling up like a spring. I think she’s planning something, and if she is… well, it’s all hers.
>> No. 30446
[X] Remember the basics of CQC. Though not an expert, I’ve done some training on ways to immobilize and put people out of action (tools of the trade, as it were). Rabbit girls were extremely low on the youkai ladder, and as their physical skills were basically on par with humans, I just have to move in fast.
>> No. 30447
[X] Try to talk myself out of this mess. I’ll judge her reaction and spin my story accordingly. I’m lucky she’s a civilian—if she were a guard or in the military, bullshitting her would be much harder.
- [X] "You looking for your friends? They went thatta' way."
- [x] Don't let her get a word in edgewise.
- [X] All else fails, knock her out.
>> No. 30448
[X] Wombo Combo! Charge at the girl and toss her to Ran. This can't possibly go wrong!

If your not taking write-ins, just use the one below.

[X]>>30447
>> No. 30449
>>30448
Actually, scratch that. Just use the second one.
>> No. 30452
[x] Try to talk myself out of this mess. I’ll judge her reaction and spin my story accordingly. I’m lucky she’s a civilian—if she were a guard or in the military, bullshitting her would be much harder.
>> No. 30454
[X] Remember the basics of CQC. Though not an expert, I’ve done some training on ways to immobilize and put people out of action (tools of the trade, as it were). Rabbit girls were extremely low on the youkai ladder, and as their physical skills were basically on par with humans, I just have to move in fast.
>> No. 30455
[x] Try to talk myself out of this mess. I’ll judge her reaction and spin my story accordingly. I’m lucky she’s a civilian—if she were a guard or in the military, bullshitting her would be much harder.
-[x] Where are the fairies?

Don't worry lads, the cavalary is here!
>> No. 30456
[X] Talk

Diplomacy ho!
>> No. 30458
[x] Try to talk myself out of this mess. I’ll judge her reaction and spin my story accordingly.
-[x] Where are the fairies?
>> No. 30460
>>30448
>> No. 30461
>>30448
Write ins are fine, as long as they don't go beyond what the MC can do.

And uhh... I fucked up this post here >>30460, sorry.
>> No. 30463
>>30461
On a completely unrelated note, I really like the way you've been writing Ran. I don't know if it's just because I haven't seen her too often on touhou-project, or if I'm just entirely too used to her CHEEEEEEENNN fanon. Whatever the case, I'm really liking this one.
>> No. 30464
I gotta say, this has been a charming little story. I like your protagonist, your Gensokyo, and your take on Ran.

Don't stop! I almost regret being caught up, but now I get vote and participate.

[X] Try to talk myself out of this mess. I’ll judge her reaction and spin my story accordingly. I’m lucky she’s a civilian—if she were a guard or in the military, bullshitting her would be much harder.

Our guy seems like a master bull-shitter.
Close combat is not advised and letting Ran take a piece of this girl is too cruel.

Mix truth and spin it like meister.
>> No. 30465
>>30464
I wonder if his bullshit roll will be high enough to land us a lunar bunny party member.
>> No. 30466
>>30465
That's a neat thought actually. Convincing the moon bunny to join our party would be really awesome. Do moon bunnies swoon for suave earth guys? Could be worth finding out.
>> No. 30467
>>30465
I'm with you. Let's offer to help move their stuff while Ran sees to the destruction of the fairies.

(the Lunarians could use some big dogs or something.)
>> No. 30468
File 146248901212.jpg - (10.88KB , 176x286 , download (1).jpg ) [iqdb]
30468
>>30466
>Do moon bunnies swoon for suave earth guys?
Only in trashy lunar romance novels.
>> No. 30471
[x] Try to talk myself out of this mess. I’ll judge her reaction and spin my story accordingly. I’m lucky she’s a civilian—if she were a guard or in the military, bullshitting her would be much harder.

Goodness, has she already forgotten about her old friends Earth Guy and Kitsune Girl? She'll have to make it up to us.
>> No. 30472
>>30468
Then we have a good chance. I wonder if the beefy American astronaut coming to the moon to spirit away a bunny is a common fantasy?

In the only THP landing story, the nuclear - armed astronauts comforted the scared bunnies almost immediately-and they were supposed to be in a colonization mission.
>> No. 30473
>>30472

Now you've gotten me interested, could I have the name of that?
>> No. 30474
>>30473
Unfortunately, it is only a short story told by Reisen in "Another Incursion" (she managed to leave the moon thanks to the same humans, by the way)
On the bright side, it is one of the best stories on the site, so now you have an excuse to read it.
>> No. 30475
>>30474
Ah. I've read it once. Didn't appeal to me all that much.
>> No. 30476
File 14629331755.jpg - (49.57KB , 472x472 , 1412551841537-1.jpg ) [iqdb]
30476
>>30475
Same thing happened with me, you should give it another shot, if you can, it changes a lot in the latter threads.

This isn't the place though, so if you have any other questions, check the recommendation thread!


Writefag updates where? We need more Ran
>> No. 30477
File 146307666178.jpg - (80.61KB , 700x739 , trickster after all.jpg ) [iqdb]
30477
>>30476
writefag updates here


Lights. Camera. Action. I looked into her eyes, and filled my face with heart wrenching concern.

“Sky above!” I said in a horrified stage whisper, motioning to her charred blazer. “What in the world happened to you? Are you okay?”

The rabbit girl blinked, took two small steps backwards, and I took the opportunity to take a good look at her in full. The first thing I noticed were her eyes; wide, blue, and frightened, framed by soft locks of silvery blue hair. She was pretty in a tiny sort of way, with her small frame, floppy ears and soft features painting a delightful picture.

Yet, in what was practically deliberate contrast, she wore plain, thick rimmed glasses, and a haircut so middle-of-the-road as to be almost unnoticeable. Her blazer was two sizes larger than she was, and her shirt was loose and wrinkly. A complete lack of any type jewelry completed the image.

So… smart enough to know that she was attractive, yet shy enough as to dislike the fact, and actively try to hide it. Not a type that I saw often, but not one that I haven’t had experience with either. Usually you couldn’t come in too strong with people like her, but they tended to be quite suggestable if you knocked them off their tempo. My next words came without thinking.

“Those miko do this?” I muttered, rubbing my chin. “No, they can’t have… unless it was the fairies. Those fairies do this to you? They must have, the giggling little…” I turned around to look at Ran, subtly diverting away the bulk of my attention away from the rabbit. I felt, rather than saw, her breath of relief.

“See? We should have come far, far sooner,” I continued remorsefully, throwing the weight of my false regrets on Ran. “We came here to help, and instead you insisted that—”

“My worries were justified, and you know it,” rebuked Ran, catching on quick to my ploys, as she always did. She heaved a sigh, and placed a hand on my shoulder. “But rest assured, we will end this once and for all. I swear it.”

I placed my hand above hers. “As do I.”

We shared a silent look between us, full of resolve and unsaid promises, of bonds of friendship and marvelous battle. It was all well and good… though I noticed that under all the masterful acting, Ran’s gaze still seemed rather sour. But the willingness to play nice for the time being was good enough for me, and I snuck a glance over to our sole audience member, who seemed to be frozen in place.

I stifled a small giggle. Admittedly, we were laying it a bit thick near the end, but strong first impressions were important; even ones that certain people would consider a wee bit corny.

“B-but! You’re filt— I mean, earthlings! You two are earthlings!” squeaked the rabbit, pointing at us with a trembling finger. Two actually, one from each hand. “You’re not allowed—the rulebook said, that earthlings aren’t allowed— you can’t be here to help!”

“Did the rulebook say anything about rampaging fairies, by any chance?” I flicked a bit of dust off my shirt, trying to look every inch the unconventional, courageous and dashing hero. “I didn’t travel over 370 thousand kilometers just to be told what I can’t do. How many fairies were there, Flopsy?”

“Were they strong? What magic were they using?” Ran asked, pressing our advantage forwards. “What was their elemental affinity?”

I flashed the disconcerted rabbit girl another smile. “Heck, anything you know would help us at this point. Were any of ‘em as cute as you?”

The effect was immediate, as I expected. A furious blush enveloped her cheeks, and Ran and I looked on as she drew herself up to her full 4-and-a-half foot height, hands curled into indignant fists.

“I’m not cute!” protested the girl hotly. “And my name is NOT Flopsy! And you t-two earthlings better behave, or I’ll—I’ll call Lady Watatsuki, and she’ll—”

Her words were interrupted by a shrill cries of glee, and all of our gazes were drawn up, and towards the distance.

On the far edge of the horizon, I spied a massive cloud of fairies soaring high in the air, thicker than actual rainclouds that I’ve seen on earth. Dimly, I could hear the din of a danmaku battle, and I nodded to myself in giddy satisfaction. Reimu, Sanae, Reisen and Marisa: absolute madwomen, they actually were trying to force their way through that wringer. Drinks, owed them, etc.

As for us though? Weigh anchor and blare the horns, for it was time to board the HMS Bullshit.

“Actually, it would be fucking great if you could manage to get hold of Lady Watatsuki,” I followed up smoothly. “She did ask for us personally, after all, and it’s a chilly day in hell when she swallows her pride enough to contact us. Where is she?”

Flopsy jumped, going ramrod straight. “Y-you know Lady Watatsuki?” she whispered, in a mixture of awe and disbelief. “B-but—but—”

“Yorihime?” Ran took over without missing a beat, the sly girl. “She doesn’t like us all that much, but we’re on a first name basis. She your direct superior? Are you her assistant?”

The rabbit girl seemed to shrink into herself. “N-no, not exactly. I mean, I met her once, and she smiled and said that I showed promise… a-and she gives my administrator d-direct orders, which means that I can! I can, uh…” her words dried up slowly into meaningless mumbles. “I can… drop in a word, and…”

“Oh, shush. Don’t be like that.” I patted her back fondly, and she jumped slightly at the physical contact. I ignored that, and continued.

“We all know that she’s an important person, and frankly it’s amazing that we had the chance to know her. And you know something? I think she’ll be very proud that you stood up on your lonesome against a pair of strangers. Don’t you think?”

I could see her battered, frightened and strained psyche grasp onto my words like a lifeline. “You… you really think so?” she said, hopefully.

Oh Christ, this was a bit too easy. So easy, it was almost textbook. I shoved my guilty conscience to the back of my mind and smiled.

“Do I look like someone who would lie?” I said, gesturing to myself.

Behind me, Ran stifled a hysterical giggle, unable to help herself. Thankfully though our mark didn’t notice her outbreak. Flopsy just looked tiredly content now, as if all the shitty things she’d suffered through today finally had meaning.

I cleared my throat. “Now, listen to me closely…

[ ] … these fairies are after something precious, Flopsy. I’ve seen them before, and I know those little kleptomaniacs like the back of my hand. If we don’t rush to ste—to protect what they’re after, they may steal some of the Lunar Cities greatest treasures! Could you lead us to the treasuries to stop them?”

[ ]… these fairies are definitely up to no good, Flopsy. Find somewhere to hole up, and we’ll look around and find out what’s going on. If we manage to meet up with Lady Watatsuki, we’ll drop in a good word for you, okay?”

[ ]… these fairies are definitely up to no good, Flopsy, so stick close to us. Show us around the place, we’ll get to the bottom of this yet.

[ ]… Aha, you have been fooled! For I am actually Master Thief, Ren von Yamazaki! Once again, my silver tongue has charmed yet another fair maiden! But do not fret my dear, for you too can partake in our adventures…”

[ ] Knock her out. She’s an easy target now.


Glad to see you guys liking Ran, it warms my cold and shriveled writefag heart.
>> No. 30478
>>30477
>[X]… Aha, you have been fooled! For I am actually Master Thief, Ren von Yamazaki! Once again, my silver tongue has charmed yet another fair maiden! But do not fret my dear, for you too can partake in our adventures…”

What do you do when you're flight plan suddenly includes one afraid and shy bunny girl? Have FUN, of course.
>> No. 30479
[X] Knock her out. She’s an easy target now.

Do it, she is off-guard.
>> No. 30480
[X]… these fairies are definitely up to no good, Flopsy, so stick close to us. Show us around the place, we’ll get to the bottom of this yet.

adorable rabbit get
>> No. 30481
>Shy, adorable, and tiny bunny girl

Now you're just trying to inflict heart failure.

>The bit about being a master thief.

That option seriously calls to me, but I think I'll sit and think on it a bit first.
>> No. 30482
[x]… these fairies are definitely up to no good, Flopsy, so stick close to us. Show us around the place, we’ll get to the bottom of this yet.
>> No. 30483
[x]… these fairies are definitely up to no good, Flopsy, so stick close to us. Show us around the place, we’ll get to the bottom of this yet.
[x] I am actually Master Thief, Ren von Yamazaki! Once again, my silver tongue has charmed yet another fair maiden! But do not fret my dear, for you too can partake in our adventures…
-[x]… for we shall steal the source of their power!
--[x] Wait, what was your name again?
>> No. 30484
[x] Those fairies are up to no good, stirring up trouble in our neighborhood. We can take a little fight but you seem scared, better move with your friends to bel ai- to somewhere safe.

It will be hard to do our stuff with her in the way, even if she's so cute
>> No. 30485
[x]… these fairies are definitely up to no good, Flopsy, so stick close to us. Show us around the place, we’ll get to the bottom of this yet.
-[x] Wait, what was your name again?

I wouldn't tink revealing our profession this early on would be productive towards acquiring the bun-bun. We have to wait until later for maximum fun.
>> No. 30491
[X]… these fairies are definitely up to no good, Flopsy. Find somewhere to hole up, and we’ll look around and find out what’s going on. If we manage to meet up with Lady Watatsuki, we’ll drop in a good word for you, okay?”
>> No. 30493
File 146359445375.jpg - (136.99KB , 800x1309 , Strangerdanger.jpg ) [iqdb]
30493
“These fairies are definitely up to no good, Flopsy, so stick close to us. Show us around the place, we’ll get to the bottom of this yet!”

Ran looked at me like I’d gone mad. So did Flopsy for a second or two, before she gradually started warming to the idea. Her floppy ears rose in the air on their own accord, quivering slightly, before settling back to their original positions at the sides of her head.

Uncertainty coloring her voice, she asked hopefully, “Does this—will this mean that Lady Watatsuki will—”.

“Flopsy,” I admonished gently, cutting her off. “If the only thing you think about is impressing the Lady, you wouldn’t get anywhere in anything. Does Lady Watatsuki want a worthless toady, dogging her every step? Trying to do the things that she wants people to do, saying the things that she wants to hear?”

Flopsy considered my words quietly. “…no.”

I nodded. Course, I knew nothing about the Lady who was the topic of our conversation, but bullshitting came naturally to me after years of practice.

“Exactly. She wants a woman of action, a girl who knows the right thing to do and isn’t afraid of going through a bit of risk to get it done. Are you willing to play your part in saving the Lunar City, Flopsy?”

I was getting to her, I could feel it. She was trembling, head down, hands clenched into fists. After a day—or maybe more, I didn’t know—of increasing pressure, brushes with danger that were completely alien to her on this pristine realm, and being ordered around by superiors who perhaps had little idea what they were even doing… she was near breaking point. She had to seize control over her life again, even if it meant jumping headfirst into a clusterfuck. A little justification from me was all that it needed, to tip the scales just a bit over the edge…

She raised her head, eyes filled with determined fire.

“I’ll do it,” she breathed. “I can do this.”

“Atta girl,” I said, clapping. “Now, where do you think we should go next? What do you think they’re up to?”

Flopsy bit her lip, and scuffed her foot on the ground. Ran hovered over my shoulder, listening intently for her next words.

“I… well, they’re n-not here for our books and scrolls, that’s for certain. The things can’t even burn anyway, the old men are just afraid they’ll get dirty. Stupid, crusty…” she muttered under her breath. “To be honest, I’m not sure. But the only person that the higher-ups have all been whispering about is Chang’e, so she has to important somehow. And most— well, all of the chaos has been happening around the palace where she lives, so…”

She shrugged, an uncertain expression on her face. “Really though, the only reason I know what I do is because I have, uh… b-better ears than most. I mean, better than most of the rabbit girls, really. Kind of.” She blushed.

Aw, how endearing. I chuckled and turned around, looking for— wait, where had Ran gone?

“Awwaaahhaahh!” Flopsy yelped. I whirled around, and what I saw next nearly made my goddamn jaw drop from my skull.

Without me noticing Ran had somehow made it right next to the bunny, and was now stroking her ears one at a time with the look of someone who clearly knew what she was doing. With soft, clean rubs, she scratched them, fingered them, doing all sorts of innocent things that at the same time seemed strangely inappropriate. Flopsy could only squirm and squeal under her expert ministrations. I could only stand in stunned silence as this impromptu massage-grooming went on in front of me, uninterrupted by my unabashed gawking.

“You’re right, you know. You do have absolutely exceptional ears.” Ran finished off a particularly careful stroke with a flourish of her fingers. “Fuzzy. Pliable. Soft, in all the right places. Why, I’m quickly becoming a fan.”

“Nonono! You can’t! Not what I—not what I meant!” Flopsy squeaked, as Ran’s fingers scratched her scalp tenderly. “I meant—I meant, I hear thingssss…” her words trailed off into a quiet moan, her knees nearly buckling underneath her. Ran, pleased with the results, started to put in even more effort. She started blowing softly onto Flopsy’s left ear, eliciting another yelp.

Jeez, this was brutal. It was like watching a bear maul a puppy for all its one-sidedness. Still though, we had places to be. I reluctantly cleared my throat, and though it took a bit of time to register the two eventually stopped and looked at me.

“Those are some mighty good skills there, Ran. Have some prior experience on the receiving end?” I asked, with a raised eyebrow.

A pause.

“… I have no idea what you are talking about.” Ran’s cheeks turned slightly pink, but she caught the hint and released her quarry. Flopsy quickly stumbled out of range, sullenly holding her ears close to her head like earmuffs. And-- oh wow, was she pouting?

Ran gave me a lazy glance. Exquisite, is she not? it seemed to say.

I shot her an unamused glance in return. Ran, you basically molested her. Stop it.

Flopsy sniffled and rubbed her ears, looking for all the world a poor, forlorn rabbit. That she was rubbing them—unconsciously, even— the way Ran had done previously only made the image the ever more… cute? Heartrending? Adorable? The language of man had not yet imagined a word to describe situations like this. We both stared at her, then quickly turned our eyes back to each other.

Ran crossed her arms, her face set into a sly smile. No, and go fornicate thyself, ‘Ren Yamazaki’. You brought me up here for your ‘fun’. It’s only fair that I have some myself.

As screwed as that logic was, I couldn’t think of a better way to make a rebuttal with what was basically ‘eye language’. So I gave her one final testy look before turning to our new companion. Who was still pouting.

I snorted and said, “Well, that was certainly something. You okay?”

“…yes.” She scooted closer to me away from Ran, who only shrugged good naturedly in response.

I awkwardly stood there for a moment, unsure of what to do. Should I hug her? Comfort her? Wave off Ran’s rabbit petting as nothing more than a prank? Ran seemed to take joy in my indecision, looking on as I floundered about. Finally, like the upstanding citizen I was, I decided to bypass the issue entirely.

“…well, the area near Chang’e’s palace seems a reasonable place to start our search. Could you lead the way for us? This plan is all up to you, after all.”

“Yes.” Her mind seemed to clear a bit at my open flattery, and she pushed her glasses up shakily, setting them on the bridge of her nose. “Yes, I can. Follow me.”

Flopsy settled into a fast pace, her loafers clicking against the cobblestones. But as a fast gait for her was merely a pleasant stroll for us, what with our difference in height, following her was a piece of cake. Directions were meaningless in the mist, and I quickly lost track of where we were going, only dimly aware that we were heading somewhere towards the mass of fairies we caught a glimpse of earlier. And as we walked, slowly, smugly, Ran sort of… drifted next to me and placed her mouth right by my ear.

“She bats for both teams, you know,” she whispered.

I nearly tripped over my goddamn feet in response, and a small stumble from the bunny in front of us let me know that I wasn’t the only one who heard that. Good ears indeed. From Ran’s expression, she also knew we were being overheard. She just simply stopped caring either way.

“And what does that have to do with anything?” I hissed back. I caught a wild glint in Ran’s eye unlike anything I’ve seen before, and she chuckled.

“Admit it, you had a flash of an image in your mind there. Something very, very lewd.”

“No, I did not—”

“Liar. Anyhow, she’s been eyeing me—and to a lesser extent, you—for most of the time since we’ve met. She’s just very good at hiding it.” Flopsy was almost running at this point, trying desperately not to overhear the conversation behind her. “Something to consider. You’ve had your own goals in coming up here, and you know what? I might have just found mine. If you stay out of my way, I’ll stay out of yours.”

I swallowed. Ran smirked, leaning closer. Her breath tickled my neck.

“Think of it as… me keeping her busy, as you do your job,” she murmured, her voice lilting and soft. Flopsy was far in the distance now, practically sprinting. “But if you ever find it in yourself to join us…”

I looked into her eyes. A strange light was dancing there, eerie and unnatural. I thought back to meeting with Seija, and how the amanojaku had almost the same look in her eyes as well. I thought back to the conversation I had with Ran as we walked up the stone steps.

What do I say…

[ ] “Ran, snap out of it. You think Yukari would want you acting like this? You do remember that there’s still an incident to resolve, right?”

[ ] “That sounds like a swell idea. While you’re cuddling with fluffy-buns, I’ll go through Chang’e’s jewelry cabinet and nick her earrings.”

[ ] “That’s the best idea you’ve ever had. And I want to sign up.”

[ ] “No no no no no. No. You can’t tell me something like this at a time like this in a situation at this. My mind is so full of fuck that it can barely function anymore, so bench that idea until I can decide further. Now keep quiet and start running, we’re losing the bunny.”

[ ] Write in.


Three updates, and the name of the bunny still hasn't been revealed. I blame the story for taking turns that even I honestly wasn't expecting.
>> No. 30495
Oho. Some kitsune instinct resurfacing ? Well, anyways,

[X] “That sounds like a swell idea. While you’re cuddling with fluffy-buns, I’ll go through Chang’e’s jewelry cabinet and nick her earrings.”

Because bunny molestation is almost as good as theft.

>>30493
Anon is unpredictable.
>> No. 30496
[X] “That’s the best idea you’ve ever had. And I want to sign up.”

Jewels, scrolls, these are ephemeral things, things that can be lost or stolen back. The real master thief steals concepts, things that can't be picked up - the illusion of security, for example, by breaking into a so-called impenetrable safe like we did in the prologue. With the lunarian obsession with purity, the best way to give them the middle finger would be to steal their servant's purity, right under their nose - or better yet, get her to steal it for us, if you catch my drift.

Or, if you like, we can steal her precious thing.

If this isn't Reisen II I'll be surprised.
>> No. 30497
[x] That's the best idea ever

Her Kitsune instincts are surfacing... And I can't see how that's a bad thing. Wasn't the idea of all of this to let her blow some steam? Didn't she said that solving the incident was up to them?

I mean, if we help it'd be fine, screwing up canon and sending Chang'e to their followers in Eientei would be really nice, but we are under no obligations. To be strictly fair, this is almost a vacation.
>> No. 30498
[X] “That sounds like a swell idea. While you’re cuddling with fluffy-buns, I’ll go through Chang’e’s jewelry cabinet and nick her earrings.”
>> No. 30499
We should take into consideration that Ran has turned, or at least is attempting to turn, against her base nature as a youkai. At the moment, it's pretty clear that she's not thinking straight, and is acting on instincts that she'd rather keep buried. I highly doubt she'd feel happy about this afterword, even if "letting loose" once did feel somewhat cathartic. And since this whole shindig was our idea, I expect we'd take the lion's share of the blame for this one. So, from both a practical and emotional standpoint, I don't think allowing her to go forward with this is a good idea.

[ ] “Ran, snap out of it. You think Yukari would want you acting like this? You do remember that there’s still an incident to resolve, right?”
>> No. 30500
>>30499
Same anon here. I doubt we'd get screwed over too badly with whichever option we take; this is just my opinion on the matter.
>> No. 30502
[x] “That’s the best idea you’ve ever had. And I want to sign up.”

On the one hand, foxes are tricksters, and even if she's not messing with us she said she was proud of suppressing her instincts earlier. On the other hand, we're already breaking the rules and it's important to maintain a healthy balance of work and relaxation and it sounds like she might have been working too hard recently!

And on the gripping (and most important) hand, touch fluffy tail.
>> No. 30503
[X] “That’s the best idea you’ve ever had. And I want to sign up.”

I feel like she's just setting us up for a troll. I mean, I'm still game on the off chance it isn't but yeah.
>> No. 30504
[x] “That’s the best idea you’ve ever had. And I want to sign up.”
[x] “But Ran, please snap out of this. You think Yukari would want you acting like this? You do remember that there’s still an incident to resolve, right?”
[x] "We can have a little fun later~"
>> No. 30505
>>30499 here.

Consider that vote null, and instead count it towards >>30504
>> No. 30506
>>30504
this
>> No. 30507
[x] “That’s the best idea you’ve ever had. And I want to sign up.”
[x] “But Ran, please snap out of this. You think Yukari would want you acting like this? You do remember that there’s still an incident to resolve, right?”
[x] "We can have a little fun later~"
>> No. 30508
[X] “That sounds like a swell idea. While you’re cuddling with fluffy-buns, I’ll go through Chang’e’s jewelry cabinet and nick her earrings.”

Eyes on the prize
>> No. 30509
[x] “That’s the best idea you’ve ever had. And I want to sign up.”
[x] “But Ran, please snap out of this. You think Yukari would want you acting like this? You do remember that there’s still an incident to resolve, right?”
[x] "We can have a little fun later~"
>> No. 30510
[x] “That’s the best idea you’ve ever had. And I want to sign up.”
[x] “But Ran, please snap out of this. You think Yukari would want you acting like this? You do remember that there’s still an incident to resolve, right?”
[x] "We can have a little fun later~"
>> No. 30511
Uh, you guys know that Ran doesn't solve incidents, right? Not that she needs to, in this case, with 4 girls running around
>> No. 30558
[x] “That’s the best idea you’ve ever had. And I want to sign up.”
[x] “But Ran, please snap out of this. You think Yukari would want you acting like this? You do remember that there’s still an incident to resolve, right?”
[x] "We can have a little fun later~"
>> No. 30571
[x] “That’s the best idea you’ve ever had. And I want to sign up.”
[x] “But Ran, please snap out of this. You think Yukari would want you acting like this? You do remember that there’s still an incident to resolve, right?”
[x] "We can have a little fun later~"
>> No. 30721
File 146783222783.png - (2.70MB , 1319x1866 , __yakumo_ran_touhou_drawn_by_hidebo__5c4b095defa32.png ) [iqdb]
30721
I swallowed. Hard.

“T-that’s the best idea you’ve ever had,” I said, looking her straight in the eyes. My gaze held steady, though inwardly I was sweating bullets. “And I’d like to sign up, if you’d be so kind.”

Her eyes half-widened in surprise, and I fancied that I could see some of that eerie glow around her pupils flicker out— but slightly, just ever so slightly, like candlelight under a silent breeze. I leaned in and grabbed her shoulders, feeling her clothes bunch under my fingers. Her breaths evened out. Slowed.

“Ran, please snap out of it,” I said, as quietly and as calmly as I could. “You think Yukari would want you acting like this? You do remember that there’s still an incident to resolve, right?”

“I… I—you said so yourself, that it wasn’t—isn’t—our business,” she mumbled blearily, as if waking up from deep sleep. “Reimu’s business. Reimu’ll take care of it. She always does.”

I could hear voices nearby, possibly from just a few streets away. Well dammit, we had company now and dilly-dallying would only prove detrimental to the health of us both. Need to make this fast. Convince her.

“That’s only because you have been around to act as support, to push things around. C’mon, you’ve told me all about these things while we were working. How you goaded Sanae into taunting Reimu way back when? How the hot springs managed to ‘coincidentally’ erupt at the back of shrine? Or that entire business with the Lunar Palace rocket plan?”

“I did? Did I?”

“Yes Ran. Snap out of it, please.”

“I— I— yes. Yes.” She took a deep breath of air, almost like a gasp, and I could see that her eyes were starting to clear. “I did. We— I have a goal. I need to see it through, if possible.”

“If possible,” I repeated after her. “Yes, if possible. Nothing concrete, nothing set in stone. But it’s a good thing when you stick to your tasks, right? When you’re doing your duty?”

That word did it. At the mere mention of “duty”, Ran straightened up. Her tails fanned out, the two ears in her hat poked up into vigilance, and the eerie flicker was immediately throttled in her pupils. Most telling however, was her expression: gone were the innocent, come-hither eyes combined with all the coquettishness of an experienced courtesan. In its place stood a most fascinating look: one that was embarrassed, angry, frustrated and filled with conflicting emotions all directed towards different directions-- but mainly, towards herself.

So intense was her expression that I released her shoulders on instinct, as if my hands were shocked, or bitten. Something made me avert my eyes as well; it just seemed… wrong to look at her when she was in a state like this.

And thus we stood, silently. Uncomfortably.

“I never know what to make of you, Mr. Thief,” said Ran finally said, brushing some non-existent dust off her sleeves. “At some times, you are an amoral little shit— a rogue with little regard for principles or law. And at some others, what passes for a conscience claws itself out of the bowels of your psyche, pushing you to aid others when most normal man would not. Just what is it that drives you, beyond riches and your own satisfaction?”

I felt my temper flare, and my gaze snapped back to meet hers.

“Now that’s a bit out of line,” I retorted, feeling slightly hurt. “I just stopped you from making a grand, drunk-out-of-your-mind, hey-let’s-diddle-the-first-cute-thing-we-see mistake, and this is the appreciation I get? An insult, a jab, and you questioning my motives?”

Ran sighed, and I could just see the guilt fill her weary features before she covered her face with her hands. “I— I apologize. I’m very sorry, and you’re right, that was foul, inexcusable and uncalled for. I shouldn’t have said that. The thought should never have crossed my mind.” With a few stumbling steps, she seated herself on a nearby bench. “I’m just— I’m just tired. And more than a little confused.”

She looked a miserable wreck, battered and dejected. Well now, it was my turn to feel uneasy.

“No harm done,” I said, forcing a bit of levity into my voice. “I did pay attention to your lengthy sermon on the way to the shrine after all, and I thought it would be in bad form to not help out.”

The barest hint of a smile curled the edge of her lips. “Strange that a man so obsessed with plundering the Lunar treasuries would be the one to remind me,” she murmured, with some of her usual snark. “Nevertheless, I’m grateful for your assistance. That could have gone… badly.”

“Or wonderfully,” I quipped back, cracking a small grin. “If you’re actually in a right state of mind, I wouldn’t mind joining in a bit of fun. That bunny is a bit cute.”

Ran laughed lightly. “Very. And I might just hold you to that offer someday. But speaking of which…” she grabbed my arm, and we started flying— not so fast as to alert anyone nearby, but fast enough so that the cobblestones became a blur beneath us. “You were right, she runs surprisingly fast when embarrassed. But not to worry, that can easily be—ah, there she is.”

We stopped in mid-air, hovering in the breeze. With a squint, I saw Flopsy leaning against a pillar, legs quaking as five fairies flew overhead in macabre dance. It was like a very small swarm of glowing, multi-colored bees. As we looked on, the rabbit girl screamed in fear as one of the fairies swooped over her, and I thought I could see blue flames emanating from a small torch that was--.

Blue flames? I shook my head, trying the clear my thoughts.

Ran said something. I heard her, but part of my mind refused to listen. The blue flames expanded in my vision, filling it like a minature sun.

My mind buzzed. For the nth time in so many days, I could barely, just barely— feel my thoughts and emotions being shaped and molded by forces I had no lick of control over. And unlike the other occasions, this time it was pulling me into a field that was rather unfamiliar to the usually fatalistic and pessimistic person that was myself.

Righteous fury.

I had no idea, no memory of when my feet touched the ground. My heavy steps echoed through the empty courtyard, and I could feel each impact pound in my skull like the war drums of an angry god. I picked up a hefty stick— probably a broom or something, maybe a gardening implement, I don't remember— weighed it in my hands, roared... and swung it like a baseball bat.

To my pleasure, the feedback was meaty, intense, and unbelievably satisfying. I caught a low flying fairy by the back of her thigh, and sent her ass over tea kettle straight into the side of a building. And I laughed and laughed, and oddly enough the fairy joined me in my mirth as well, and we both giggled and chortled and I couldn't breathe--

Then she got up and crashed directly into my midsection, and before I knew it I was flying through shoji screens and furniture, my body skidding painfully against the wooden floor until it finally came to a halt. I had somehow been knocked inside the house by clearly unfairylike strength. But my adrenaline and rage kept my mind distant from such matters. The fairy was now on the far side of the room, obviously enjoying the situation. My stick! My thoughts cried out hungrily. Where was my stick?

My mind went back to my graceless tumble through the wooden and paper doors. Fuck. I must have dropped it. I fumbled about my body, trying to find something—anything, really—to whack that little shit out of the air again.

And by stroke of luck, my hands just managed to brush over Sanae's amulet, hidden in the depths of my coat.

It was like a fresh breath of air. My mind cleared its red haze, and all of a sudden I could finally think of ideas or words that exceeded a single syllable. I grasped the green piece of fabric like a lifeline, felt it pulse as it struggled against... whatever the fairy was doing, what mind-washing bullshit that all youkai seemed to be packing these days. I made a mental note to wear the amulet on my neck in the future, or somewhere closer to my skin.

The fairy frowned cutely.

"Awww," she whined, her lips drawing up in a pout. "That's not fun at all!"

Looking towards the outside, I could see chaotic flashes of light and the sounds of close quarters combat. Ran seemed to be entertaining the other four fairies, and unfortunately that meant that I had to look after myself for a while.

I sighed.

"Would it help if I said that playtime was over?" I squeezed out. The bruises and other injuries I had earned in my stint as a human cannon ball were starting to make their presence felt. I glanced around the room, trying to find a way out; but all I could see was broken furniture and the shattered remains of numerous glass cases. It seemed as this was some sort of... display hall, before the fairies had gone to town on it.

"Nope!" came the cheery reply. The wings on the fairy fluttered. She was about to start round 2, and it was likely going to be extremely painful. On my end, at least.

Christ, and I didn't even have a stick. Or anything really, anything to fend her off with. Unless... I closed my eyes for a fraction of a second, searching out with my magic. Multiple blips lit up on my radar, and my hopes lifted.

The fairies may have trashed the display room, but they hadn't made away with its magical contents.

[ ] In a pile of debris to my left, I could see what seemed to be a steel stake, or some sort of chisel. I could use it as a close quarters weapon to fend the fairy off until help (meaning Ran, of course) arrived.

[ ] A nondescript staff was propped against the remains of a nightstand. I would then have a longer, better stick... and the fairy would learn to fear it once more.

[ ] I could see a small drum lying in a damaged display case, and though it would be fairly useless in a conventional fight I could feel its powerful magic directly below the surface.



Sorry for the delay, I suck cocks. I have to admit that my usual writing is usually planned in advance, and this on-the-edge-of-your-seat thing is throwing me off my rhythm. It's hard to start writing when I don't even know my destination.

At the start of this, I thought I was going to be a bus driver, taking anons on adventures to where they wanted to go.

Only now do I realize that the steering wheel does nothing. Time to strap in, I guess.
>> No. 30723
[X] In a pile of debris to my left, I could see what seemed to be a steel stake, or some sort of chisel. I could use it as a close quarters weapon to fend the fairy off until help (meaning Ran, of course) arrived.

I don't quite know if Gensokyo's fairies have problems with cold iron but it's worth a shot.
>> No. 30724
[X] A nondescript staff was propped against the remains of a nightstand. I would then have a longer, better stick... and the fairy would learn to fear it once more.
>> No. 30725
[X] I could see a small drum lying in a damaged display case, and though it would be fairly useless in a conventional fight I could feel its powerful magic directly below the surface.

Time to teach this fairy a lesson.
>> No. 30726
[x] I could see a small drum lying in a damaged display case, and though it would be fairly useless in a conventional fight I could feel its powerful magic directly below the surface.

why not
>> No. 30727
[x] I could see a small drum lying in a damaged display case, and though it would be fairly useless in a conventional fight I could feel its powerful magic directly below the surface.

Sounds like it might be fun!
>> No. 30730
[x] I could see a small drum lying in a damaged display case, and though it would be fairly useless in a conventional fight I could feel its powerful magic directly below the surface.

DRUMS OF WAR.
>> No. 30731
[x] I could see a small drum lying in a damaged display case, and though it would be fairly useless in a conventional fight I could feel its powerful magic directly below the surface.

It IS his specialty
>> No. 30732
[X] I could see a small drum lying in a damaged display case, and though it would be fairly useless in a conventional fight I could feel its powerful magic directly below the surface.
>> No. 30733
[X] A nondescript staff was propped against the remains of a nightstand. I would then have a longer, better stick... and the fairy would learn to fear it once more.
>> No. 30734
[x] I could see a small drum lying in a damaged display case, and though it would be fairly useless in a conventional fight I could feel its powerful magic directly below the surface.

Good to see this one back.
>> No. 30737
[X] A nondescript staff was propped against the remains of a nightstand. I would then have a longer, better stick... and the fairy would learn to fear it once more.
-[x] Impromptu Sign ~ Woah, I can use danmaku too!
>> No. 30753
[x] I could see a small drum lying in a damaged display case, and though it would be fairly useless in a conventional fight I could feel its powerful magic directly below the surface.
>> No. 30762
A bit awkward, but please allow me a few days to process the new canon about Ran and fit it into the narrative. Wait warmly, this shouldn't take too long.
>> No. 30763
What new canon?
>> No. 30766
The Ran we interact with is not the original Ran, it's a program that Yukari wrote that runs on Ran's hardware. This is the word of Zun about shikigamis now. Of course, since he also said earlier that a creature who has become a shikigami could change their mind and lose the programming(and the extra power) at any point, presumably the original Ran is still there in the background.
>> No. 30768
>>30766
Does this new canon really change anything though? We don't know how long Ran has been in that body. She could've been put in when the kitsune body was just created for all we know.
>> No. 30799
So is this updating at all?
>> No. 30887
While I hope this isn't dead, I'll say that it's been a fun ride so far.
>> No. 30974
Link to new thread for people who only look at their watched threads, like me.

>>30961
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