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File 148322887410.png - (801.34KB, 1500x1500, __usami_renko_touhou_drawn_by_nanahi_toshi__9a77af.png) [iqdb]
30951No. 30951
==========
Mt. Takao, Hachioji - 29th of March 15:19
==========

“Scrap that, Renko.” I tell her, pocketing my phone. “You’re gonna come with me to a job.”

She raises her head from the ground. “A job?” She asks, perplexed.

“Yes. I do work.” I tell her. “I can’t spend all day everyday working this majestic body.”

She rolls her eyes in response, apparently not finding my sarcasm fun. “I mean, what do you do for work?”

“I fix holes in a giant invisible wall, essentially.” I tell her. “Then I also take care of the monsters that made that hole by forcing them back through it.” Which is oversimplifying it grossly.

She sits up. “And how am I supposed to help?”

“Who said anything about helping?” I ask. “You’ll be there to observe.”

“Oh thank god.” She lets out a relieved sigh. “I was afraid you’d ask me to fight it.”

“The whole point of this training, is to increase your chance for survival.” I tell her. “Sending you out like that would be sending you to die.”

“Yeah.” She scratches her neck. “I wouldn’t be too eager to throw my life away just yet.”

And yet you insist on training with me.


==========
Odake Spring, Hinohara - 16:41
Renko Breach scene. Small puddle under a waterfall.
==========

Odake spring used to be a popular tourist spot back when people still cared about nature, or at the very least, the small waterfall just before the actual spring. The mouth itself is located in a small area half encircled by a decently sized cliff. With the spring in the middle, filling out a puddle before flowing down the stream, this place creates a rather tranquil atmosphere.

“And done.” I stand back up and brush my hand off in my shirt.

Renko looks over my shoulder. “Done? That’s it?” She asks.

“For the preparation, at least.” I tell her. “All that’s left to do is wait.”

She takes a look around at the talismans I’ve placed. Some under the water, others up high on the cliffs and then a few more on the ground surrounding the puddle.

“So what do all these do?” She asks. “Unless, of course, I’m going to blow myself up just by knowing that.”

“Spiritual energy doesn’t blow up.” I correct her. “I mean sure, if I were to release everything I have at once, I might be able to make a small crater in some dirt, but I’m an anomaly in that regard.”

“But didn’t you say I’d blow myself up if I tried using magic?” She asks.

“I was talking about mana, then. Mana and spiritual energy are two completely different sources of magic.” I explain. “Once we start working on your magic, I’ll explain it in more detail.”

“So what do they do?” She asks again, nodding at the talisman in front of us.

“Well, the knives I’ve placed around create the outline for the barrier, while securing it and making it more stable. The spell for the barrier was placed alongside it, so all I have to do is activate it.” I explain to her. “And just so you’re prepared, once the barrier is erected, don’t forget your name. Remember who you are. If you don’t, your memory will be erased and you’ll be dragged backed into their world.”

“That,” She places her hand on her temple before running it through her hair, “that sounds strangely familiar.”

“It should.” I tell her. “I told you the same thing when we first met. Which reminds me, I ought to get Doc to give you back your memories.”

“Wait, you stole my memories?” She exclaims.

“No, we sealed them away to prevent you from finding your way back to the world of magic.” I tell her. “That’s why it hurts to remember. Although now that you’ve found your way back regardless, that seal is useless.”

“Who gave you the right-”

Her complaint is cut short by a loud crack behind us.

I immediately shove Renko away and raise the barrier.

“Remember your name, Renko!” I yell as I quickly spin around and prepare to activate my talismans.

The air itself shatters and out falls a youkai who lands in the middle of the spring.

Wasting no time, I quickly activate the first set of talismans. The water’s surface begins to quickly freeze over, covering the entire spring in ice and trapping the youkai from the waist down.

It’s not likely to stop it, but it’ll hinder it enough to buy some extra time.

Wait. Is that a tengu? To think one would let himself get carried over by the border.

Not happy about being encased in ice, he displays his overwhelming strength by breaking free using only raw power.

Well, considering I’m dealing with a tengu, I can’t say that was entirely unexpected.

Though to my surprise, he doesn’t charge at me like I’d expect. Instead he staggers for a bit, gripping his head like it’d blow off if he didn’t.

“Make it stop!” He screams.

I quickly make eye contact with Renko. With a simple gesture I tell her to run to the opposite end of the barrier from me.

Keeping her out of his view for now would be the best course of action. I have a fairly good idea of his mental state.

Being dragged across the barrier like that exerts a great amount of strain on the mind. In most cases, the mind switches completely to instinct to rest a bit, which is what causes the violent behavior. Other times the mind simply shuts down and they go unconscious. It’s rare, however, that they can remain on the border between sanity and instinct.

I think this is a case of the last one. If so, I could either be lucky enough to not have to fight, or unlucky enough that he fades into instinct. And considering the fact he can resist it so much, I’m not too keen on fighting him.

Preferably I’ll be able to knock him unconscious and wait the time out.

I activate the second set of talismans located up high on the rocks. The air inside the barrier begins to heat up drastically, causing the ice to melt almost as fast as it froze.

A layer of mist forms and grows thicker as the heat meets the cold.

Seizing the opportunity, I dash into the center of the mist, towards the crow.

A sharp fist breaks through the wall of mist, heading straight for my face.

I throw myself out of the way, dodging it as it grazes my cheek.

Shit. He’s a trained combatant? No way he’d be able to throw a punch so accurately otherwise.

I swiftly create some distance between us.

Think. I need to knock him out. Sneak attack? One hit? Painless?

Scooping up a couple of pebbles, I dash back into the wall of mist.

With all my might, I throw both of them at once and immediately grab a fist-sized rock.

As I hear the pebbles hitting him, I leap at him.

With all the force behind me, I crash into his chest, knees first and hammer the rock into his temple on our way down.

And just like that, everything goes silent. Only my own heavy breathing can still be heard, though the beating in my ears overshadows it.

I throw the rock away to examine the now unconscious tengu. I don’t favor attacking, much less with something so crude as a rock, but it was the most effective method I could think of.

It’s going to leave a bruise, and most likely a serious headache, though his skull seems to be intact.

“It’s done, Renko. You can come out.” I yell out to her.

I get off his chest and stand up.

This mist really did get a lot thicker than I anticipated. Maybe it’s because I activated the second set of charms too early? At least I can still salvage the last set of talismans. I’d have used them to freeze over the mist and make the air even colder than before.

“We’re in the middle, Renko.” I yell out again.

Still no response?

Wait. Don’t tell me-

Just as the thought crosses my mind, the breach begins to close.

It starts pulling at me with an unnatural force, forcing me on the ground to stay in place.

The unconscious tengu flies past me and disappears back to the other side of the breach. Only a few seconds later have the breach also claimed all the mist, clearing up the area before closing.

“Renko!” I yell out.

She’s not here.
Expand all images
>>No. 30952
Okay, so maybe "Exorcist" is not one of the jobs where we should implement the "Bring your kid to work" day
>>No. 30979
File 14865804071.png - (2.46MB, 1600x1200, 411cbe726c901ca883cd9991e47ed0f2.png) [iqdb]
30979
==========
Odake Spring, Hinohara - 16:59
==========

“Renko!” I storm through the water.

She’s gone. She’s really gone.

“Fucking idiot!” I scream out as I strike the stone wall.

Think fast. What should I do? She’s been sucked into Gensokyo. Should I attempt to pull her back by force? No, the barrier would resist, and she could get seriously hurt. Should I pursue? But I’d have to get back to the shrine first. Once inside I’d have to track her. She could be anywhere.

“Fuck!” I punch the wall again.

Wait a second. What’s this?

I pick up a white ribbon from the ground.

This is the one Renko wore her ponytail in.

That’s it.

Wasting no time, I dash straight through the spring, towards my bag. Unzipping one of the side pockets, I pull out my grimoire.

It immediately responds to my thoughts and flies open, flicking page through page until it reaches two blanks.

I place the ribbon in the book, and the pages start filling themselves out, forming the spell on its own.

Since she’s been wearing this ribbon, it should be imbued with enough of her spiritual energy to serve as a medium to track her. And if luck is on my side, it’ll also be imbued with enough mana to open a one-way gate to follow her tracks.

The grimoire shuts itself tight, signaling the completion of the spell.

Without any other warning, the ground beneath me disappears along with the surroundings.


==========
???
==========

God dammit, that hurt.

I peel myself off the ground and sit up.

My body aches, clearly telling me it’s hurt, though it doesn’t appear to anything more than some bruises. Now, where am I?

I take a quick look around, and the first thing that springs to my attention is a short trail in the ground, leading up to my crash site. Next would be the fact I ran through a couple of flowerbeds, which is unfortunate.

Looking past my crash, I notice a rather big western looking mansion, colored in a dark shade of crimson.

The Scarlet Devil Mansion?

I take another look around.

No. This is a hill, not an island. That mansion is in the middle of a lake, this one clearly isn’t. Was there another western mansion in Gensokyo? There should be one at the sunflower hill, but I don’t see any sunflowers around here, and I really hope I’m right on this, 'cause Kazami is not someone I want to fight.

But all that aside, I don’t see any trails that could lead to Renko. I could try asking whoever is in the mansion, but considering it’s already twilight, I doubt they’ll answer the door but it’s still worth a try.

And just as I’m considering knocking, the front door swings open. A long haired blonde woman steps out. She quickly spots me, and without closing the door behind her, she approaches.

“Seems like quite the mess you’ve made here.” She says with a snarky tone as soon as she’s within reasonable earshot. There’s some clear annoyance behind her golden eyes, even if her expression manages to hide that fact almost perfectly.

“Sorry about that.” I tell her as I stand up. “Didn’t have much control on my way down.”

She looks up at me, studying my face for a second before changing topic. “You’re not from around here, are you?”

“What gave it away?” I ask rhetorically.

“Well for one thing, your eyes.” She answers. “Amber eyes are unique to a select few of Lady Shinki’s creations and a handful of outsiders.” She folds her arms and put on a confident smile. “And since you can’t be the former, as I’ve never seen you before, you have to be the latter.”

Amber eyes? Well I did just use magic, so naturally the enchantment on my eyes would vanish.

“That aside,” I change the topic this time, “I’m looking for a brown haired girl, about this high.” I hold up my hand. “Have you seen her?”

“As a matter of fact, yes. She arrived just a few minutes ago.” The woman takes off the rag covering her hair, and stores it in her apron’s pocket. “Follow me, if you’d be so inclined.”

The inside of the manor looks almost exactly like I expected. Checkered marble floor, a paler red than the outside walls as wallpaper. The only thing missing is, the unnecessarily large chandelier hanging in front of the staircase. How useful are those anyway? How much light does a chandelier even give off? Or are they just there to flaunt your ego in the face of every visitor?

Anyway, she leads me up the stairs to the second floor, which looks the same as the first, except it has a wooden floor covered entirely by a largely orangey or coral colored carpet. The pattern on the carpet is abstract, to put it lightly. It manages to give off the illusion that it doesn’t repeat as well. Either that or someone went all out making it.

“Through this door.” My guide opens a set of double doors. “This will be a bit of a shortcut. I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to get back to gardening soon.”

“That’s fine by me.” I assure her.

She closes the door behind us and leads the way through the room.

The room we’re skipping through appears to be a miniature gallery. There’s a few that catches my attention on our way through.

One of them depicts a small village in what seems like an everyday scenario. The view of the village is from up high looking down, allowing the viewer to see the village in its entirety. The people of the village are, from the distance in the image, nothing more than small unidentifiable shadows, yet the artist managed to make them feel alive and moving.

Another shows a small child skating across an icy lake. There’s nothing remarkable about the child as they have their backs turned to the viewer. The painting feels more like it’s trying to catch the scene as a whole. It’s color scheme is what makes it stand out, as it’s almost entirely white a blue.

The last one is a family portrait, or what looks like one anyway. A woman with long silvery hair and a scarlet dress sits in a chair, with a young blonde girl in her lap, in a blue dress. Next to them on the opposite side of the image, stands a blonde maid clad in red. The painting stands out in the sense that it’s the only one where that maid appears.

After exiting the room, my guide takes me just a short distance down another hall before stopping in front of a large set of doors. She knocks loudly on the wooden door, making it echo in the otherwise tranquil hallway.

“Lady Shinki. It appears another outsider has showed up.” She calls out, without waiting for an answer.

“Another one?” A female voice from the other side responds. “Let them inside.”

Following the instruction, the maid pulls open the door.

Immediately I sense a familiar presence flooding out of the door, stronger than I’ve ever felt before. A sense of divinity that would make kami pale in comparison.

Fighting my innate instinct to escape this overwhelming presence, I step through the door.

The room itself gives off a relaxed office like feeling. There’s a desk in the back with the window, and a small table in the middle of the room with two couches at either end of it.

In one of which sits the source of this staggering power. A woman clad in a red robe and long pearly hair, some of which is tied in a ponytail on her side.

In the other couch sits the brunette I came for, safe and sound, though with an understandable look of confusion plastered all over her face.

There’s a part of me that really wants to slug her one while yelling ‘what did I tell you,’ but if she doesn’t remember how she got here, then that would just be useless violence and not teach her anything.

“I’ve come to get you, Renko.” I tell her instead.

“Do I know you?” She predictably responds.

“Yes, in a way.” I tell her. Saying we’re strangers would be a lie, but saying we know each other is equally false at this point.

“And who do I have the pleasure of meeting?” The other woman in the room asks.

“Pardon me, I just panicked slightly when I found out she was gone.” I explain. “My name is Ryuko. I’m a priest of the Hakurei Shrine.”

“Hakurei?” She mulls. “It’s been ages since I last heard that name.” She stands up and gives me a slight bow. “My name is Shinki. I’m the goddess and creator of this world, Makai.”

A goddess? That would explain this pressure. But ‘Makai’ and ‘Shinki’ both ring a bell. Not quite sure why, though.

“It’s an honor to meet you.” I tell her.

“No need to be formal.” She waves off my gesture. “More importantly, you're here to rescue your girlfriend, right?”

“She’s not my girlfriend.” I correct her.

“You aren’t?” She looks to a small crystal ball seated on the table. “Oh, I get it.”

“Then if you don’t mind, I’ll be taking her.” I ignore her little comment and get back on track. I glance over at Renko as I say it.

The girl is so much, how do I put it, smaller than usual. Not in her actual size, of course, but more like she’s become extremely timid. She’s even only said one thing since I entered. I’ve only seen her a handful of times, but every one of those times, she had a fire burning in her eyes as she carried herself with respect.

“Before you go.” The goddess stops me. “Would you be interested in getting her memories back?”

“I’m listening.” I tell her.

“Hm? Oh, no no, I’m not trying to strike a deal.” She dismisses the idea flustered, after reading my face. “I just wanted to know what I should do with them.”

“Well, ideally I’d like to get them back, but I had already resigned the idea that it would be possible.” I tell her.

“In that case.” The tiny goddess hands me the crystal ball. “I happened to pick them up just before she arrived. Since I didn’t know what to do with them, I stored them in there.”

I take a look at the ball, but all I see is clouds. My, a stunning imagination Renko has.

“Can’t you just give them back to her?” I ask.

“Sadly, that’s beyond my power.” She admits. “Gods aren’t omnipotent like most would like to believe.”

“I’m aware.” I tell her. “What if I knew someone who could implant them again?” I ask her. “How would we extract them from this ball them?”

“You know someone like that?” Her eyes widen a bit.

“I don’t know if he actually can implant them,” I admit, “but he would have the best chance out of everyone I know.”

“In that case I can just go with you and take them out when needed.” She suggests.

“Can you do that?” I ask. “I mean, as in just leave on a whim?”

“Of course I can. It’s not like the world will end just because I take a short break.” She waves off my concern like it’s nothing. “Besides, I can’t just abandon a cute little girl like this if I know I can help. I may be a demon goddess, but I’m not heartless.”

“If you’re sure, then I’ll be indebted to you for helping us.” I bow to her.

“It’s nothing to be so thankful over.” She once again dismisses my gesture. “I’ll just need to know where it is, and I can take us there instantly.”

“I can tell you where it is, but-”

“There’s no need.” She interrupts me. “If you’ll allow me to look through your memories, then I can take us directly there.”

“I’m okay with that as long as you don’t go digging through random memories.” I tell her.

“What? Got a naughty secret?” She covers her mouth in a childish gesture to hide her smirking laugh. Needless to say, it fails.

“Not a naughty one, no. Just a little private one.” I tell her, playing along.

“Oh my. Then I’ll make sure to stay out of that one.” She stands up and walks over to me. “This is going to sting slightly.” She says as she holds my head in her hands.

As she said, I feel a sting pierce up through my skull. The pain, however, quickly subsides as my mind becomes occupied with searching for memories.

A strange feeling of nostalgia washes over me as images of the shrine surfaces. Countless images of the time I’ve spent in the backyard honing my skills. Countless more images on the time I’ve spent in Doc’s office recovering after breaking my limit too hard. Memories about how we always had to fix the roof during rainy seasons because we forgot to do it earlier. Memories of helping with the construction of new buildings as new youkai moved in with us.

Even though it’s only been a few hours, I find myself missing the shrine more than I have been before.

“Alright I have it.” The goddess confirms. “It’ll just take a second to open a gate there.”

“Thanks.” I rub my jaw. The pain is gone, but it’s left a tingling sensation echoing through my head.

“Are you ready to get back home?” I extend my hand to my apprentice.

“I don’t know.” She answers. “I’m not really sure about anything right now.”

“It’ll be alright. Trust me.”

“Alright you two, the gate is ready.” Shinki informs us.

After a moment of hesitation, Renko finally takes my hand and I pull her up.

The gate Shinki created is a misty cloud with a handful of colors towards the middle. Far from impressive to look at, but going through it feels entirely different than traversing any other portal I’ve tried. Mainly in the fact I don’t feel anything at all; it’s completely seamless.

“This seems like a cozy little place.” The goddess comments.

“It is, though it gets cold in winter.” I respond. “We get snow here almost every winter.”

I knock on the door to Doc’s building as I call out to him.

“Kid?” It barely takes a second before he responds, and only just a few more after that before the door flies open. “Where the hell have you been?”

“I told you I was going out to train that girl, this morning.” I tell him.

“That was weeks ago!” He runs both hands through his hair. “At least answer your phone, would you?”

“But I left this morning.” I insist. “Just a few hours ago.”

“What are you talking about?” He asks back, looking equally as confused as I feel right now.

“Time flows differently in Makai.” The goddess joins our conversation. “A few minutes there could be hours here. Sometimes more, sometimes less.”

Doc looks past me. “Sorry, didn’t see you. Anyway,” he looks back at me, “Go to Tokyo this instant. We found an unusually large breach that’s about to open.”

“Tokyo? It’ll take five hours to reach Tokyo from here.”

“Then get moving. You can’t waste any time.”

Fuck. Today just isn’t my day.

I pull out the crystal sphere and drop it in Doc’s hand. “I’ll have to ask you to implant the memories from inside this into the young girl.” I tell him.

The fox glances at Renko before answering. “That’s one hell of a request you just made.”

“I know.” I tell him. “And I also know you’re the only one who might have a chance to actually do it.”

“I would have tried, even without the flatter.” He gives me his usual confident smirk. “Now get moving, kid. Time is of the essence.”

“Right. Shinki will explain the situation in greater detail.” I tell him before bolting off.


==========
In the heart of Tokyo, Tokyo Prefecture - 19th of April 18:30
==========

It’s at times like this where I’m really glad I’m as massive as I am. The crowd, as they scream and flee as fast as their legs will carry them, they naturally avoids me as I run against the flow.

Though I don’t get to enjoy that privilege for long, as the youkai they’re all running from storms around the corner, barely slowing down enough to make the turn before making a beeline straight for me, ignoring the citizens between us completely.

For once, even my unique spiritual energy becomes useful.

As I charge it, I channel a spell down through my leg, and in the split second it’s on the ground I activate it.

An azure pillar rises from the ground, hitting the giant wolf-like beast in jaw with enough force to knock it into its hind legs.

- Weight - Feather -

I enchant my body, allowing myself to leap through the air, closing the distance to the beast in the blink of an eye.

- Weight - Iron -

- Strength -

I quickly cast two new enchantments, overwriting the previous one.

With the added weight, I crash into the beast’s throat knocking it on it’s back.

Not wasting a second, I pull out a talisman and with the added power of the enchantments, I ram my hand through its throat.

“With the power bestowed to me, I purge you.” I pull out my hand, leaving the talisman behind. “Begone.”

The beast starts shining beneath my feet, right before it turns to mist and vanishes.

I'd like to leave it a prayer before I charge ahead, to let it's soul rest, but I don't have time to stop.

As I arrive at the scene, I notice a small group of 7 standing next to the big hole in reality. Seems like they’re the Watchers of the surrounding areas. This is more serious than I imagined, if they’re all here.

As I get close, the redheaded mage from Kanagawa notices me. She interrupts their conversation to inform them of my presence.

“If he’s here, then I’d say we can confirm what this is.” The only middle aged woman of the group speaks up. Oh great, little Miss Sunshine is back.

“Yeah. That thing is from the Barrier.” I confirm. “What’s the status so far?” I ask.

“A couple dozen youkai passed about twenty minutes ago. We’ve disposed of the strongest already, to prevent mass slaughter.” The swordsman from Tochigi informs me.

“We’ve confirmed twelve deaths already.” The monk from Ibaraki follows up.

Shit. So many already? No, twelve deaths with over a dozen youkai is a small number, but it’s still too many.

“This is your field.” The redhead reminds me. “What are we supposed to do?”

What do we do?

What do I do?

I need to seal up this breach. I need to take care of the youkai who made it here. And I need to prevent further civilian casualties.


What’s our top priority?
-[] The safety of the civilians. Casualties are inevitable but we should minimize them.
-[] The youkai. The sooner we get rid of them, the better.
-[] The breach. Who knows what’ll happen if that doesn’t get fixed fast.


In retrospect, opening this thread with a no-vote update might not have been the best idea, but oh well.
Also, slight delay because of scheduling problems with my proofer. Votes still open for a week like usual.
>>No. 30980
[x] The breach. Who knows what’ll happen if that doesn’t get fixed fast.

That is our strong point after all.
>>No. 30981
-[X] The safety of the civilians. Casualties are inevitable but we should minimize them.
>>No. 30982
File 148664399798.png - (803.45KB, 909x1056, suddenly.png) [iqdb]
30982
[x] The breach. Who knows what’ll happen if that doesn’t get fixed fast.

Now that was unexpected. Will we be seeing more of pic related?
>>No. 30983
[X] The breach. Who knows what’ll happen if that doesn’t get fixed fast.
>>No. 30984
-[X] The safety of the civilians. Casualties are inevitable but we should minimize them.

cool dudes save everyone

besides, we need a cool story to seduce reimu when we get back across the border
>>No. 30985
[X] The breach. Who knows what’ll happen if that doesn’t get fixed fast.

Fixing it before it becomes unfixable seems like the best priority.
>>No. 30986
Fixing the breach, it is.

>>30982
Depends on how well you behave. Shinki doesn't like bad boys.
Though she already has a lover, so don't get your hopes up.

>>30984
It's gonna be a little harder to seduce the miko with this story, but that doesn't mean you still can't try.
>>No. 30987
>>30986

That's not why I asked, so good. The less waifu shit the better.
>>No. 30988
>>30986
the real secret is that I don't care about successfully seducing the miko, I just want to see her reaction
>>No. 30999
File 148908558740.png - (601.05KB, 700x600, ba6c835c4c95c41b3b016bd5e1c6c829.png) [iqdb]
30999
I had worked to get the update out this weekend, forgetting that my proofer was going to PAX, so I'm going to have to delay the update.
Thank you for your patience.
>>No. 31004
File 149005236766.jpg - (1.24MB, 1003x1416, Shafting.jpg) [iqdb]
31004
==========
In the heart of Tokyo, Tokyo Prefecture - 19th of April 18:43
==========

“Take out the youkai. I don’t care how, but don’t let another civilian die.” I order them. “I’ll stay behind and fix this breach. We’ll rendezvous at the usual meeting spot.”

“So you’re going to shove the dirty work onto us?” Little Miss Sunshine decides to complain.

“If you can create a barrier strong enough to contain an inter-dimensional rift of this size, then by all means, be my guest.” I hold out my arm, showing off the massive breach that’s growing by the second. “No? In that case stop complaining and start moving your ass, granny.”

The Korean woman glares daggers at me, but ultimately doesn’t say anything and instead follow the rest who has already sat out.

I hate that woman, I really do. Paladin my ass. She’s just a virtue-signaling hypocrite. If it wasn’t because of her actual skills, I wouldn’t tolerate her for even a second.

Anyway, better get started on this barrier. I only have one type of barrier that can contain this.

I let my jacket drop from my shoulders and onto the ground before I unwrap the bandages on my arm with my teeth.

God, I really hate doing this.

Refusing to hesitate, I bite into my arm with as much force as I can muster, until the all too familiar taste of iron fill my mouth. I then drag my teeth up along the arm, ripping open the wound even more and letting the blood gush out.

It only takes a moment for it to cover my hand completely, but I wait a couple of seconds more to let it pool up at my feet.

I hold up my hand flat in front of me as I start my chant.

I envision the base form of the barrier surrounding the breach. The eight corners shooting up from the ground, enclosing the breach in a crystal-like shape, forming the skeleton, with hundreds upon hundreds of small threads weaving in between each other as they climb up the pillars, forming a honeycomb pattern, which each gets filled with a glassy surface.

Beneath me, the pool of blood I made, has formed a magic circle, too complex to be described in a single sentence. I pour as much of my spiritual energy into the circle as it’ll take at once.

As I finish my chant, the bloody circle beneath my feet disappears and only moments later do crimson pillars shoot out of the ground surrounding the breach as the barrier takes shape.

In mere seconds the crimson has barrier been erected completely.

If you consider the fact that not even five humans from around the world can even make this type of barrier, you’d think I’d be more proud of creating it, but honestly, this one isn’t one of my better works. The structure is simply but study, and I gave it enough power to last enough time for the breach to get fixed, so it’ll work. But it was brute forced.

It lacks any and all of the delicate traits that make up a proper barrier, such as structural reuse, to increase the energy efficiency, or a bi-weave pattern feeding into itself, increasing the power without additional energy costs.

This time, I’ll swallow my pride and accept it as it is. It’ll work after all, and that’s the most important thing right now.

I take a look at my arm. The bleeding has stopped, and the wound is already healing. It’s at times like this where I have to question my own humanity. After all, a wound like this would have killed any other human if not treated quickly. But I’m just left with a serious, though not lethal case of anemia.

I send out a large pulse of energy to try and get a rough idea of how far away the youkai are. I can’t move quickly with only this much blood, so I wouldn’t be able to catch up if they’re too far away.

And while the image I get of the city is very fuzzy, I can say for certain that they are indeed too far away. I’ll be better off if I move to the rendezvous point.

==========

“Don’t you dare blame this on me.”

I grab the paladin by her collar and pin her to the wall behind her. The other guys immediately grab ahold of me to restrain me.

“Who else could it be?” She glares down at me. “You’re the only one here who has even the smallest amount of control over that thing.”

“I swear to god, I’m getting fed up with your constant shit.” I force myself forward despite the guys trying to hold me back. I switch my grip from her collar to her throat.

“Konoha. No!” Haruhi, the half-kappa, yells out, though with his head buried in my stomachs as he tries to force me back, it comes out mostly muffled.

“Let her go.” Akane commands. Her words are accompanied by the distinct click of her mana pistol. Uncomfortably close to the back of my head, no less. “We can’t afford to lose both of you right now, so don’t force me to pull the trigger.”

“Tsk.” I release my grip on her and she falls to the ground.

Why the hell would she even suggest I opened the breach? For what? More power? Certainly, there’s a lot of things I want, but nothing that even comes close to warrant killing someone, especially not children. She’s fucking insane.

“Forget about it.” The monk from Ibaraki speaks up. “That’s in the past. Instead let’s focus on what’s ahead. For starters, what are we supposed to do now? Thanks to this incident, way too many people became aware of the existence of magic.”

“It’d be for the best if we just prepare for the worst possible outcome.” The redheaded girl suggests. “We can only hope from there.”

“Perhaps I can help with that.” A voice echoes over the roof, a voice I recognize immediately. And sure enough, only moments later do an enormous amount of energy start flooding the area.

All of the guys immediately tense up as the sage makes her appearance.

“Yukari? What are you doing here?” I ask.

“That one should be obvious.” She comments.

And she’s right. Obviously she’s here because of the breach. This one was simply too big for her to ignore.

This blood loss is really getting to me. It’s hard to think straight.

The sage gets out of her gap and walk down an invisible flight of stairs so she’s on the same level as the rest of us.

“It’ll be a problem for Gensokyo if the supernatural became the normal out here. For that reason, I offer to take care of the problem.” She taps the tip of her parasol on the ground. “However, I’m going to need compensation for the youkai that were killed. I’ll settle for a handful of humans.”

None of the other Watchers move. They’re either seemingly stunned by her presence, to which I can’t blame them, or considering her offer.

For people who have never considered youkai to be real, even in a stray throwaway thought, suddenly being thrown into a world of magic would, in theory, generate a large amount of fear and faith at the same time, as their fundamental worldview is shattered. Assuming that to be true, a number of youkai would be born within weeks, easily replacing the ones we were forced to dispose of. It would indeed be the most effective way.

“No way in hell I can accept that!” The swordsman from Tochigi prefecture yells out.

Imbuing his hand with magic, he attempts a quick-draw as he steps in past the other guys.

Almost without thinking, I raise a barrier between him and the sage, causing his sword to stop as it cuts part way through.

“Attacking her means declaring war on the Hakurei Shrine.” I inform him. “We’ll ignore it this time, but if you, or anyone else, feel like trying, then I have some pent up aggression to vent.”

“Are you just going to let her take away innocent people?” He asks.

“Yes, I am.” I confirm. “It’s the most effective way to recover the youkai that were killed. There are of course more effective solutions, but they tend to involve a lot of bloodshed.”

“Indeed. I can even promise them the same safety all the humans in Gensokyo have.” Yukari chips in.

“And why aren’t any of you saying anything? Are you all just going to stand by and let it happen?” He asks the rest the of group.

“I hate to agree with the burly girl,” the paladin points her thumb at me, “but I’m with him on this one. If magic becomes common knowledge, it’ll be turned into a weapon, which will most likely spark a new war. This way saves the most people.”

“I agree. It might not be Japan that starts it, but there are plenty of war mongers in power that would abuse magic for their own benefit.” The monk adds his opinion.

“Seems we’re in agreement, then.” Yukari speaks up again. “Only people who already knew of magic will remember this incident. Everyone else will think of it as nothing more than a ‘what if’ scenario. Furthermore, I’ll erase all the evidence.” She informs us.

The spellsword just clicks his tongue and accepts the outcome.

I’d like to have avoided this whole incident all together, but sadly this is par for the course.

“Now then, ‘Konoha,’” she looks back at me, “if you would like to come with me so we can finish our business.” She opens a gap behind her and invites me inside.


==========
Hakurei Shrine - 19:03
==========

I pull my head back out of the chilled water.

The best course of action right now would be to eat a lot of meat and go to bed. Even with my natural healing, it wouldn’t get me back to hundred percent, but it’d take me far enough to not make my low blood an issue. But I can’t do that since The Great Sage of Gensokyo is here, and I still have to check up on Renko. So, some cold water is the next best thing to keep me going for at least a few more minutes.

I shake my head to get the worst of the water off and run a hand through my hair to get it out of my face. “Sorry you had to see that.” I apologize to the sage.

She shakes her head. “Don’t worry about it. Even hemokinesis users would feel lightheaded after creating a barrier like that.” She assuages me. “Though I doubt even a few of them could even succeed in creating one.”

“To be honest, that’s the third time I’ve ever tried it.” I lean against the chozubachi. “I rarely need that much power. Not to mention the side effects; strong urges to vomit, every part of my body feels weak and I get tired. I can barely see straight ahead, and when I somehow manages to, all these dark spots cloud my vision. I absolutely hate it.”

“Understandable.” The sage takes a seat on the edge of the big stone bowl. “Still, that doesn’t undermine the feat itself.”

“I appreciate the praise.” I look her in the eyes. For a second I forget what I was going to say, as I notice the unusual effect in her eyes. The very edges of her iris have a gold lining, while the center of it has a slightly swirly lavender shade. “But as I said, I’m feeling like shit right now, pardon my french, so if we could get to the point.”

“Of course. I don’t want to overstay my welcome.” She agrees. “I’ve come to offer you a place under my wing, once again.”

“I don’t know, actually.” I tell her. “I still have work to do out here. You saw what happened when I went away for just a few weeks.”

“Mm.” The blonde sage hums in agreement. “We already planned for you to be let back out here whenever you felt it was needed, in regards to your physical training. Seems like we’ll just have to go out here a little more often.”

“And how often can I return?” I ask her.

“Depends.” She gives me the short answer before elaborating on it. “Of course you’ll be let out once there’s a job to be done, after which you can determine when you’ll come back again, within reasonable time of course. Beyond that, you just have to ask. I can’t let you out too often, though, as that would strain my power.”

“I see.” I rest my head on my hand as I do some quick estimate regarding Renko’s training. I’m sure Yukari already knows, but I’d like to avoid the topic just to be sure. “Once every other week should be good for me. That’s including the times I need to go do my job.” I tell her.

She folds her arms loosely at her stomach, leaving her parasol somehow standing on it’s own. “That much is easy enough. Anything else you would consider a hindrance or inconvenience?”

“Not that I can think of, at least.” I answer. “Though, I have to wonder why you’re willing to train me.”

“Oh there are lots of reasons.” She perks up slightly. “Mainly because your the closest thing to a Hakurei on this side of the barrier, so as the Gensokyo Sage of course I’d be interested in helping you reach your potential.” The youkai explains. “But that said, I’m also curious as to just how far your potential goes. Your underlying principles have some flaws that hinder you, yet despite that you’ve reached your current level.”

I thought I’d already reached my full potential. I can’t change any of my physical aspects without compensating with another. And the only type of magic I can use is spiritual based techniques, by which no other human can rival me in.

How much further can I go? How much further do I want to go? My end goal is simply to be useful to the shrine any way I can. But the people around my level are few and far between. If I improve, there will only be less who can fight me at my best. Yet, as a warrior, that should be my ideal, to be undefeatable.

Maybe I’m thinking about this too much? I want to be useful to the shrine. That’s the end all be all. I made my mind up on that long ago, and I don’t intend to falter now.

But still, this offer sounds too good. I honestly don’t know a lot of things about not. Not concrete anyway. Mentor always held her in high regard, but she’s also been on the receiving end of some quite disturbing rumors.

[] Accept her offer
[] Reject her offer


And just in case you’re concerned, no, you will not immediately get whisked away if you accept. There’s still the matter of Renko to take care of first.
>>No. 31005
Wait, what? This is his ceiling?

Don't take me wrong: he's strong for a MC. But almost all of his missions went off course and some, like this one, were solved exclusively due to luck. It is obvious he needs to exceed his limits to be, ah, useful to the shrine.

[x] Accept

As for Renko: teaching her a few basic steps and then have her practice them for two weeks sounds good; specially if she invests some of that time on physical training.
>>No. 31006
[X] Reject her offer
>>No. 31007
[X] Reject her offer
- [X] For now. Right now your mind is deluded with blood loss, give it a better once over when you aren't getting ready to vomit or seeing stars.
>>No. 31008
>>31005
>This is his ceiling?

Short answer: No.

I can't explain it without spoiling stuff, or info dumping outside the story. Neither of which I'd want to do.

But essentially, she's talking about his magic. On a physical level, Ryuko hasn't shown his ceiling yet. But on a magic level, Ryuko has limited himself barriers and enchantments. And while it means he's on a very high level with those two schools, means he's ignored a lot of other spells, which he already fulfill the 'stats' for (for lack of a better word) and just need some training to get used to.
>>No. 31009
[X] Accept her offer

While she is not exactly trustworthy, he could certainly improve with her help.
>>No. 31010
[X] Accept her offer

I don't see a good enough reason to say no
>>No. 31011
Calling it for accepting the offer.
Welcome to the Yakumo family.
>>No. 31021
File 149483275839.jpg - (484.00KB, 600x839, Something something metaphor for my stuggles or so.jpg) [iqdb]
31021
I've decided to delay this update until the next month (aiming for first Sunday of every month.)
In short, my proofer has been getting busy since early this year, and this time he won't be available until this weekend.
The update itself has been ready since 5th, so instead of waiting any longer, we figured it was best to delay it until next month where he hopefully should have time, while I can continue to work on the story instead of keeping it in limbo while I wait.

Thank you for your patience.
>>No. 31033
File 149718975595.jpg - (325.96KB, 904x1200, cabf447b515be2a359c4d32cc91c4d28.jpg) [iqdb]
31033
==========
Hakurei Shrine - 19th of April, 19:15
==========

One of the many skills that I have acquired throughout all these years of brutal training, is to let my instincts do the thinking whenever my mind can’t keep up. And right now, when my mind has all but succumb to the enticing grasp of sleep, my guts have started to voice their opinion, and it’s telling me to accept her offer. I can’t tell if it’s my instinct as a warrior telling me to stand at the top, or my simple instinct to be as useful as I can to the shrine.

Not that that’s such a bad idea. I mean, if I stand as unbeatable, the shrine is bound to prosper. Or become a target by those seeking to take my spot at the top, if they can even find this place. It’s rather well hidden, everything considered.

“Then let’s see just how far I can go.” I tell her. “Show me the way to the top.”

The sage closes her eyes and smiles.

Doc, too, has taught me a lot of things throughout the years. Aside from introducing me to magic in the first place, he also passed on the knowledge every fox needs to know. Now, I don’t have the natural charisma a fox does, but I am equally able to read people.

Why is this relevant? Because right now the sage has one of the most genuine smiles I’ve ever seen. So far she’s just been wearing that formal smile you can expect of nobles. But this one is different, even if she still carries herself with that mighty attitude.

“I knew you’d make the right choice.” She says. “First we’ll have to correct the flaws in your current methods. But before that, you have something you still need to do, don’t you?” She asks giving me a knowing smirk. “I’ll come back the day after tomorrow and pick you up. Be ready around midday.”

“Of course.” I respond.

She gives me a final smiling nod before one of her signature gaps swallows her up.

Right then, Renko.

With a quick stride I reach Doc’s office and let the door swing open.

And that’s when I see something I could never even imagine.

Doc lies with his arms and legs tugged underneath him, as he gets a lap pillow from Renko. His eyes are locked on me as I enter, and it only takes a second before his face turns red.

Renko on the other hand is calmly stroking his hair, or was until I came, at which point she lifts her head.

“Ryuko? You’re back?” She asks.

“No, I’m on a plane on my way to Greece.” A stupid question considering I just walked through the door. “But since you know me, I assume your memories are back.”

“Yeah, although the two people you left me with are gone.” She says.

Right. With her memory back, she’s bound by logic again. She won’t be able to see the supernatural anymore without aid. And even if I keep forgetting it, Doc will look like a normal fox to anyone not able to see spiritual power.

I’m actually debating telling her that that’s Doc, though I don’t imagine she’d react well to knowing she’s been stroking an old man’s hair for who knows how long.

“So no one has told you.” I note. “Renko, what date is it today?”

She quickly glance up before looking back down, muttering “Oh, right.” and fishing out her phone from her breast pocket.

All color quickly vanishes from her face as her eyes widen. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.” She exclaims, each harder than the previous. “My attendance record is going to crash.”

“That’s what you’re worried about?” I ask her. “What about your family? Or that foreign friend of yours?”

“I’m living alone in Tokyo, so family is no problem. And Mary will understand if I just explain it to her.” She explains to me. “But do you have any idea how expensive an education is today? How can I face my family if I fail because of bad attendance? Fuck, this is going to take a lot of extra classes to fix.”

She’s about to storm past me but I grab her shoulder to stop her.

“Before you leave, let me tell you this. This shrine’s location is a secret. You’re not allowed to tell anyone of it’s location, or even it’s existence. I will hunt you down if you do.” I tighten my grip on her shoulder to make sure the message gets through. “You’re not free to come here as you please. In fact, unless you’re invited, you’ll not be welcome here, so don’t bother returning. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yeah.” She nods firmly. “I understand.”

“Good. Now second off,” I let go of her, “if you go down those stairs you’ll see a small empty village. Follow the main road until you see asphalt. Turn right and follow the road and you’ll reach the closest station.”

She looks out the open door, then back at me. “Thanks.” She says before running out of the door. “Hey, Mary.” I hear her on the phone just before she gets too far away.

“And so she’s gone.” The old fox walks up next to me.

“Did Shinki leave already?” I ask him.

“Didn’t think you were into older women.” He says, letting a smug smile onto his face.

“Didn’t think you were into such young women.” I retort with the same level of smugness.

“Touché.” He lets out a chuckle. “But yeah, she left soon after we completed the memory transfer. We did have a quick chat, though, and that goddess is an interesting character, from what I gathered.”

“Yeah.” I agree. “Actually wanted to continue talking to her. But considering how much time passed here in the short while we were there, I can understand why she wouldn’t want to stay for too long.”

“Mm. Now, get inside the back room.” He commands. “We’re going to treat that wound. It stinks.”


==========
Yakumo Residence - 21st of April, 13:06
==========

I barely manage to dodge her attack, getting away with her claws grazing my cheek.

The fox quickly takes advantage of my stagger and sweeps my knee, forcing me on my back.

Predicting her next move, I slam my hand in the ground, placing my spell before kicking my feet in the air and getting out of the way.

The spell activates and a cylindrical barrier shoots out of the ground, knocking her back and creates some breathing room for me.

“Seems like I was right.” The sage comments from the sideline.

I told her I wanted to get started immediately, to avoid any kind of rust settling, and she threw me straight into a spar with Ran. And to be honest, I’m not sure I can beat her, even without restrictions imposed on me. The sage herself has just been meticulously observing our fight from the sideline.

The fox charges at me and with deadly precision strikes out for my chest.

I spin on my heel, dodging the attack but she quickly follows through with another attack, plunging her claws in just under my ribs, avoiding anything vital.

Given her size, she can easily sneak past my defense, by using my own body to escape my sight.

Not being allowed to lay a finger on her really makes attacking difficult. All I have is barriers, but they’re not suited for offense.

I draw a quick wall between us, forcing her to pull out to avoid getting cut by the barrier. But to my surprise, she instead rides it up, bypassing the wall entirely.

She jumps off it, charging down at me.

That type of attack being easy to handle, I dodge backwards and immediately create a small barrier trapping her.

The fox flicks her wrist and a spell tagged dagger flies out into her hand, with which she proceeds to stab the barrier, breaking it apart before sheathing the dagger back into her sleeve.

Now, I have a few things up my sleeves as well, but I’ve never been able to do that. What’s even holding it in place in there?

“Have you figured it out yet?” The sage asks.

“I have a hunch.” I yell back, spinning around on my heels dodging Ran’s calculated strikes. “But I don’t think it’s what you’re talking about.”

Seizing the moment of distraction, the vixen moves in faster than I can react and deliver a palm-strike to my chin, with the force only a youkai could do, lifting me off the ground.

Immediately following up on that move, she strikes me down with her elbow, forcing me on the ground once more.

And she stops.

“That’s it for today.” The sage stops our spar.

“That’s it?” I sit. “I can easily go on. I’m not that frail.”

“Our goal here isn’t to test your upper level, but to raise your bottom level.” She asserts. “And our first step in doing so is to get you to understand your own shortcomings.”

“Right. Sorry.” I apologize to her. I got carried away. It’s been awhile since I’ve spared with a youkai I can actually hit. Because lord knows Coach is an impenetrable wall of dodge.

“For now, meditate on that hunch of yours and see where it leads you.” She turns around so her back faces us. “I’ll trust you to take care of him, Ran.”

“Of course.” she responds vigorously, completely unfazed by our spar. “Are you alright?” She offers me a hand to get up.

“I’ve had worse.” I take her hand and let her pull me up.

“Let me see.” She asks.

Without waiting for a reply, she lifts up my shirt, exposing the wound. I can feel her trace a finger across it as she examines it.

“We should sanitize this, just to be safe.” She says, pulling my shirt back down. “Come with me inside, if you would.”

“But the scar tissue has already formed. Isn’t it too late to sanitize it?” I ask, following her inside the living room.

“I’d just like to be on the safe side. Now, please take off your shirt and sit down.” She says before leaving the room.

I comply and take my seat, letting my arm rest on the table.

As I wait for Ran to come back, I let my eyes wander across the room.

I easily memorized the rooms and the layout of the building when I first came here, which is actually a surprisingly simply design. The center of the grounds is the garden, which the building is forming a, what would you call it, a square half circle. Like all but one side of the garden is covered by the house.

The house itself is pretty linear from there, with the bedrooms in one end and the living area in the other end, with basic facilities such as the toilet and the bath in between.

The living room where I’m currently situated shares the room with the kitchen, separated only by half a wall. It’s a somewhat strange sight as all the furniture is modern and western looking, while the architecture itself is traditional, down all the way to the floor mats. And while they’re pleasant to walk on, they don’t blend well with the table and chairs, which I can only really describe as standard, as there’s nothing really outstanding about them.

The door into the hallway swings open, breaking my line of thought, and Ran enters with what looks like a first aid kit.

Then without saying anything, she prepares a rag with a liquid that smells strongly like alcohol.

“Are you ready?” She asks.

“Yeah.” It’s obvious what she intends to do.

I brace myself and she applied the rag to my wound. I inhale hard, trying to choke any expression of pain, as the alcohol burns and stings at what I thought was already a scar.

“See? I told you it was a good idea.” She removes the rag again.

I hold my hand over the scar, instinctively trying to subdue the pain. “Strange. It ought to have healed already.”

“Would disinfection extend the time it takes?” The fox asks, putting the remaining articles back into the box, seeing as we wouldn’t need them anymore.

“I imagine it would, thought I can’t say I’ve ever tested it.” I answer.

“In that case, this might be why.” She shows me the hand she stabbed me with.

And it’s only now I notice she’s coated her nails with a polish. It’s of a similar golden color like her eyes, but the tone is more in line with her fair skin, so it doesn’t stand out too much. Despite that, it’s easy to see the polish having been roughed up a bit across her nails. Most likely left some traces inside me.

“Maybe. That might be it.” I’m not certain. Frankly, I’ve never tried to measure the time it takes to heal, I just tend to go by how bad my body claims it to be. Something like this, which was practically painless, wouldn’t stay more than a few minutes, an hour at worst. “By the way, would you mind helping me get my shirt back on?”

She raise an eyebrow and look at me for a second before answering. “I won’t really mind, but if you don’t mind me asking, why?”

Instead of answering, I just lift up my numb limb and let it drop on the table with a flat ‘duck.’

“Oh.” She says, eyes darting around me, looking for anything besides my arm to look at. “I didn’t realize that was why you carried it like that.”

“You weren’t told?” I ask her.

“No, I haven’t heard anything about your,” she trails off for a second, “about your disability.” she says reluctantly.

“It’s temporary. Soon it’ll be back to normal.” I assure her. “But if you weren’t told this, then what were you told?”

“Not much, actually.” She admits. “When I visited your shrine earlier this year, it was the first time I learned anything of you, beyond just your name.” She closes the first aid box. “That, and then lady Yukari ensured me this was how you would best learn. And speaking of that; sorry I let myself get a little carried away back there.”

“Don’t worry about it.” I assure her. “I told you, I’ve had worse.”

“That’s not very assuring you know.” The vixen gives me what can roughly be summarized as a sad smile. “Come, let’s get your shirt on.”

After getting my shirt back on, I thank her for our spar and excuse myself to my room. Well, the room I’ve been assigned as I stay here.

The bedroom is entirely of traditional design, the same way it is back at the shrine, so at least it’ll feel somewhat familiar to sleep here. With the partly western design, I almost expected her to have those raised beds used in houses nowadays.

Doing as I was told, I pull out a block of paper and recreate the spar on paper, using my own little set of symbols and lines. Once drawn I fill in the thoughts I had at the time as well as my thoughts on the fight now that I’ve had time to look back on it.

It’s been awhile since I last used this method of self reflection. Coach was usually able to direct me towards the answer without making it obvious. I actually think the last time I used it, was when I was developing Spell Break. Since it’s an original of mine, none of the guys back home could teach me how to do it.

After having filled out about a dozen pages I deem it finished and start reading it back from the start. And then I read it once more. And once more after that, until I can see the fight play back in front of me in vivid details.

Now I can start analyzing the fight properly.


==========
Yakumo Residence - 22nd of April, 08:16
==========

“Young Hakurei. Are you awake?”

A loud knocking breaks me out of sleep. It takes a second for my senses to adjust to the sudden awakening.

Oh, Ran. “Yeah, more or less.” Probably less, actually.

“Breakfast will be ready soon.” I see her silhouette through the door, bending over to pick something up from in front of the door. “You shouldn’t skip meals. It’s bad for your health.”

Before I can even get a chance to process what she said, she’s walked away.

Although now that she mentions it, I did forget to eat dinner yesterday. I became too engrossed in working.

I run my hand through my hair, brushing back the strands of hair that came loose from the ribbon.

The floor is covered in papers, all filled out with notes, theories and ideas. I’d like to give it all another read over just to refresh everything, but I should probably go clean myself up first.

==========
Yakumo Residence - 10:21
==========

“Did you manage to figure out what your flaw is?” The sage asks. “Or was that night of work wasted?”

“I figured out a few things.” I tell her. “That I’m too reliant on a select few type of barriers. And that as a result ,my efficiency with other types are down, lower performance with a higher cost and casting time.”

“Those are the symptoms, not the problem itself.” She closes her eyes and goes silent for about a minute. “Ryuko. What exactly is spiritual energy?”

Where did that question come from? “Well, normally I’d answer that question as, the waste energy produced by the soul.” I answer her. “But since you’re the one asking, I doubt that’s the answer you’re looking for.”

“The waste energy of a soul.” She repeats me. “That’s an interesting way to put it.”

“Well, spiritual energy is produced by the soul. And the energy we can normally access is energy not needed by the soul to function. So it’s a waste production.” I explain my reasoning. “But to actually answer your question.”

“Spiritual energy is a force created by the soul, staying on a different plane of existence.” I continue. “Using catalysts such as spell circles we’re able to control it. Whether it’s making it manifest on the physical plane, or temporarily alter the properties of living matter.”

“Correct. Spiritual power is essentially your will altering the physical world.” She summaries. “And once you’ve come to understand what exactly that means, being able to manipulate it at your leisure will become child’s play.”

To demonstrate her point, she holds out her hand.

It barely takes a second before her spiritual energy gathers in her palm, condensing to the point where it becomes visible to the naked eye, and eventually takes the shape of a parasol, similar to the one she’s leaning against.

From there it folds open on its own, and she starts using it like she would her own. Although it doesn’t provide any shade due to its transparent nature.

Being able to create objects using pure spiritual energy is no easy task. It’s one of the highest level techniques I know of, though not one I can use. Yet she’s able to do it without invoking magic of any sort. No circle, no incantation, nothing. The more I learn about Yukari, the bigger the gap between us appears to be.

“So, do you think you understand?” As she puts her hand back on her parasol, the pole vanishes like hot air.

“Evidently, I don’t, otherwise we wouldn’t be here right now.” I answer her.

“I see.” She lets out a sigh. “The only option left is to spell it out for you, which I know you’d rather avoid me doing. But you’re a smart young man, so I’m sure you’ll be able to figure it out, if you just put your mind to it.”

“I probably can.” I answer, a bit reluctantly. I can’t answer with much confidence. “I just don’t have much of a clue on where to start.” I explain. “You told me to analyze my fight, and I did, coming up with what amounted to nothing. If you ask me to go study again, I can already tell you I’ll come out empty handed.”

“I see.” She closes her eyes and falls silent for another minute. “Practice using spiritual techniques without the use of spell circles. No,” she quickly corrects herself, “do it without using any spell casting system at all.”

“But,” I cut myself off. I was about to call it impossible, even though I just saw her do it herself. When she conjured that parasol, she didn’t invoke any form of magic, nothing that I could trace anyway. “Where do I start?”

“Where you’re most comfortable; with barriers.” She answers. “Think about all the ones you have at your disposal. Are there any you can use without invoking a casting system? If not, then find the easiest one to cast and find a way to do it without a system.”

A barrier without invoking a casting system?

“Feel free to use Ran for practicing, if you feel the need.” She adds. “And should you need to get in touch with me, just tell her and she’ll let me know at the earliest opportunity.”

“I got it.” I tell her.

She nods and starts walking back into the house, leaving me to my own business.

Now then. The simplest barrier I can do is activated by drawing a line through the air, at which point the same line will appear on the ground emitting a light straight up, preventing anything from passing through it.

It doesn’t require a catalyst like majority of spells. Or maybe the hand gesture serves as the catalyst? It would for certain if this was mana, but it’s generally uncharacteristic of spiritual power to function like that.

The gesture is simply making a finger gun with both the index and middle finger while holding the thumb on the ring finger. From there you just focus your energy into the tip of your fingers and draw the line.

It’s very simple, but very draining too. Not that that really poses as a negative in my case, because of my practically unlimited spiritual energy. That really was the only good thing I got out of that one incident.

But anyway, teaching myself how to use this barrier again from the beginning might be the best way to start understanding what Yukari said.


==========
Yakumo Residence - 29th of April, 18:20
==========

“I take it you still haven’t figured it out.” The sage has approached me from behind.

“I don’t think so.” I answer her. “I’ve managed to optimize some of the most basic spells, reducing the casting time and cost by approximately ten percent, though.”

“Hmm.” She mulls over my words for a second. “I’m going to have to think of a different way to try and show you, then.” She straightens her posture again. “And while I do that, it’s time for work.”

“A new breach?” I stand up and face her.

“It’s in the Kochi prefecture.” She informs me. “Do you want me to just take you straight there?”

Right, that’s an option now. “I would actually prefer to go there myself.” I tell her. “To take the time to clear my head. So if you could just drop me off at the bottom of the stairs to the shrine, that would be great.”

“Oh? Are you sure?” She asks.

“Yeah.” I nod.


==========
Kochi Prefecture, Higashiyama Forest - 30th of April, 02:03
==========

As reality reassembles itself around me, it marks another job successfully completed.

Thanks to Yukari’s early warning, I was able to arrive with plenty of time to spare, time which I used to fortify the barrier and set up preparations to optimize my defense. I even had time to counteract that annoying identity interference effect, so I didn’t have to divide my attention like usual.

I only got some scratches on my arm, but I’ll blame that on the unusual way he used the wind element. It’s rare you see anyone actually use it to cut, despite how theoretically easy it is to make it sharp. Regardless, they’re magic induced wounds, so they didn’t manage to cut deep thanks to my resistance. They’ll heal in no time.

“Ryuko?” A familiar voice rings out from behind.

“Oh look, it’s the tiny professor.” I remark after seeing the redheaded girl, followed by her assistant.

“Hey, I’m not that tiny.” She overacts a pout.

“Everyone is tiny to me.” I pick up my bag and walk up to meet her. “Anyway, what are you doing all the way out here? And this late, at that.”

“I could ask you the same question.” She tries to change the subject.

Her blonde friend walks past us without saying a word, bringing their equipment with her. They don’t carry that big box this time.

“Just disposing of a body.” I jest. “Gotta get rid of the evidence after all.”

She lets out a choked laugh. “It would be pretty hard to find it out here. No, but seriously.”

“Just an odd-job I picked up because I was in the area.” I tell her. “I'm supposed to patrol the forest for a few hours.” I lie. “So, what are you doing out here? Don't you have a class or something to teach tomorrow?”

“How did you know I'm a teacher?” She asks, sounding genuinely confused.

“Well, your friend keeps calling you professor, and can use rooms at a university.” I tell her. “So what does a professor do at a university, besides teaching?”

“Oh, good point, actually.” She admits. “But no, I don’t have any classes on Saturdays.”

“I see.” Since she keeps dancing around the question, I think it’d be safe to say it’s their research. I mean, it was pretty obvious from the start, considering the time and location, and their equipment.

“Hey, prof. You might want to take a look at this.” The blonde assistant calls out. “I’m getting an increased reading over here.”

“Oooh.” The redhead immediately perks up, betraying the faint bags under her eyes. “I’ll be right-”

A bright flash with a loud crack cuts her sentence short and blinds us.

I instinctively focus all my attention on my spiritual energy to survey the source.

That’s- The youkai I just drove back still managed to force his way through?

[] Fight. No time to lose, I have to keep the girls safe.
-[] Use magic.
-[] Rely on physical attacks only.
[] Take the girls and flee.
-[Optional] Call the local Watcher for help.

5 weeks later than intended, it's finally here. Enjoy.
>>No. 31034
[X] Fight. No time to lose, I have to keep the girls safe.
-[X] Rely on physical attacks only.

Time to lay the smack down.
>>No. 31035
[X] Fight. No time to lose, I have to keep the girls safe.
-[X] Use magic.

Murphy's Law is a bitch, ain't it?
I don't see much point in restricting ourself when there are civilians in immediate danger.
Just have to hope the memory wipe will stick this time, but I doubt it.
>>No. 31036
[x] Fight. No time to lose, I have to keep the girls safe.
-[x] Rely on physical attacks only.
>>No. 31037
File 149729673668.jpg - (133.83KB, 890x1277, Could you really bring yourself to erase her.jpg) [iqdb]
31037
>>31035
Yeah, I should probably have explained how the memory wipe actually works, but it either must have slipped my mind, or it must have been impossible to include without breaking the flow of the scene.

Calling it a memory wipe is actually wrong, as it seals off memories instead of erasing them.
Doing so avoids the typical empty feeling of "Something is missing." that erased memories leave, which in turn allows for a more seamless integration back into society and away from magic.
However, as seen with Renko and Mary, it's not flawless. In fact, the biggest flaw of this method, is that all related memories must either be faded or sealed as well, to avoid them of reminding the subject of the event that's been wiped.
In their case, neither you nor Doc knew of, or remembered every encounter they'd had with you, leaving a memory where you had a strong presence, which is what kept trying to get them the remember the event you sealed off, which lead to the pain they were experiencing.

If you were to use it on Yumemi, you'd effectively have to erase all memories of you and magic to make sure she doesn't remember this one incident. Considering how much of her life she's spent on magic, you'd practically be erasing her entire memory.

TL;DR: You're not going to wipe their memories, so don't rely on it.

And while I'm at it. Is there anything else you'd like me to explain?
>>No. 31040
Keeping our magic a secret for now
>>No. 31074
File 150278550364.jpg - (353.66KB, 660x850, __okazaki_yumemi_touhou_and_touhou_pc_98_drawn_by_.jpg) [iqdb]
31074
Quickly before the story.
>>31033
>“Ryuko?” A familiar voice rings out from behind.
As of yet, Yumemi hasn’t been told your real name, but know you under your alias Konoha. Somehow this mistake managed to slip past both me and my proofer. I apologize for that.


==========
Kochi Prefecture, Higashiyama Forest - 30th of April, 02:07
==========

Moving entirely on instinct, I close the distance between the youkai and myself.

When the blonde girl is within reach, I yank her back, away from the youkai.

In the time it takes me to make that move, the youkai has managed to stagger on his legs, looking up at us.

“You!” He yells out as he locks eyes with me.

Not in the mood for talk, he takes an off-balance swing at me. Easy to read an avoid, but inhumanly fast.

This is exactly why I hate lesser vampires.

I duck in under his straight, striking his chest, sending him staggering back.

They lack refined intellect of higher vampires, so they act almost entirely on instinct. There’s almost never any reasoning with them.

I take a step back, avoiding his claws.

Honestly, the only good thing that’s ever come out of dealing with siphon type youkai in general, is my heightened sensitivity to them. Just being near them kicks my body into overdrive, sharpening my senses to rival theirs.

He tries to strike at me again, but this time I seize my opportunity.

I tackle him, pushing him back as far as I can before he regains his foothold.

He grabs a firm hold of my shoulders. “Why do you insist on getting in my way?”

“Because you’ll die out here. If not from faith depletion, then from being hunted down.” I reply, keeping my voice down to avoid the girls overhearing any of this. “Plus, breaking through the barrier like that damages it, and guess who has to fix it after you.”

I finish off my answer by sinking a knee into his stomach.

He sinks down, gripping to me for support, though only for a moment before he recovers enough to retaliate.

Locking his grip around my waist, he proves his strength by forcing me back, attempting to lift me off the ground as he does.

“Yumi, wait a second.” The tiny blonde calls out.

“No time. Konoha, get away from there!” The professor warns.

She’s pointing her hand at us, with her phone clutched close to her chest.

I wrap my arm around his waist and let my knees give out.

The sudden change of center causes him to push himself above me, to which I aid by throwing him upwards with all the strength I can muster from this awkward position.

While he doesn’t go airborne, still clinging to me he hangs, for just a second, straight above me.

If not for my heightened senses, I wouldn’t have noticed the small line of fire, darting straight from the professor’s finger to the vampire, before he bursts into flames.

With a new focus, he lets go of me, allowing me to get away and get on my feet.

I know I’d have killed him regardless, as I wouldn’t have been able to take him to a place where I could force him back without breaking a hole in the barrier myself. But burning to death is just inhumane.

And judging by how she’s trembling, Yumemi doesn’t like it either, she’s just worse at hiding it than me. At least I hope that’s it, and not that I’ve become impassive to death.

“Yumi!” Her assistant suddenly yells out. “What the hell are you thinking? Pulling that out in front of him.”

“He already knows.” The professor argues back. “I was forced to show him last month.”

“Last month? When did you have time to show him?” She asks, sounding more upset.

“I took him with me to the forest.” She states. “I had him carry the collector since it’d be faster.”

Chiyuri clenches her fists, but quickly calm herself down again. “So what else haven’t you told me? Have you already explained the subject of our research? Maybe you’ve even gone as far as started to date?”

Talk about salt. But they do seem close, so I can see where she’s coming from.

“No!” The redhead quickly denies. “No, we’re not. But,” she immediately tries to change the subject, “we both know that he knows, so why bother hiding it?”

“We don’t know, which is why I’m against making a move.” The small one argues.

Seems like I’ve become invisible. I could probably make my escape right now and they wouldn’t notice.

“Then let’s ask him directly.” The professor turns to me. “Konoha, do you know about magic?”


[] Yes
[] Who doesn’t know what magic is? (play dumb)
[] No


And now for some after update shit. First, I apologize for the long delay. All of last month was because I’d fucked up. This month my proofer has just been too busy to show up or even say that he can’t show up, so I wouldn’t announce a delay only for him to show up 3 minutes later. Which is why I posted this update, even if it’s not “finished” by our usual standard, since I can't make it worth the wait any longer.

Second off, I’ve been accepted into the academy I’ve applied for, so I’m going to get more busy than usual the next few years. For you, that means that if I have to maintain this level of pseudo quality, the time between updates will only get longer.
To fight that, I can always stop trying to put as much effort into the “quality” and instead focus on quantity, making shorter, shallower updates but updating faster (hopefully) but also more sporadically. It’ll also mean getting the updates proofed will be a luxury and not the standard (since I can’t imagine finding a proofer that would do half of the things my current ones does)

I’m fine with either, so I figured it’d be the best option to ask your guys’ opinions.
>>No. 31075
[X] Yes

Congratulations on getting accepted.
>>No. 31076
[x] Yes

Time to stop their experiments for good.

[x] Even longer waits for the same quality

It's not like I exactly expect these updates. They just happen.

Also congrats!
>>No. 31079
[x] Yes

Serious time.

[x] Quality over quantity.

Honestly the attention to detail is the main highlight of this story for me, and I don't mind waiting for it. But dear god, find a less busy proofer. Or just a second proofer. I'd offer to help myself if I wasn't even more unreliable.
>>No. 31080
[Yes] X

Because why not.
>>No. 31094
Time to confront them, it seems.

>>31079
>But dear god, find a less busy proofer. Or just a second proofer.
I've thought about it, but ultimately I think my current proofer has spoiled me too much, in terms of what he does for me and the story, and I doubt I can find another proofer willing do do even half of it.
>>No. 31101
File 150579724587.jpg - (277.20KB, 1213x936, I don't have a relevent picture so have this.jpg) [iqdb]
31101
==========
Kochi Prefecture, Higashiyama Forest - 30th of April, 02:20
==========

“Yeah, I know.” I answer honestly.

“See, what did I tell-” Chiyuri stops herself once she registers what I said.

“I knew it!” Yumemi exclaims as she throws her arms in the air. “I just knew you would be aware of magic. Just think how much faster we can proceed with one more person.” She reaches out for my free hand, but I retract it.

“I’m afraid not.” I tell her. “The world of magic isn’t a place where people like you two belong. In all honesty, it’d be optimal if you withdrew from this world immediately.” I let out an exaggerated sigh. “But we all know that’s not going to happen.”

“‘We?’ So, there’s more than just you?” The professor asks with newfound interest. “Then why don’t any of you just come out and prove magic exists?”

“Because history has shown time and time again what happens when humans find something with even the slightest ability to hurt other humans.” I tell her. “Or do I need to remind you of nuclear power? Gun powder? Metal?”

“That was then. This is now.” The professor argues. “Today we’re closer to world peace than ever before in recorded human history.”

“So, we should give every single human the equivalent of a nuclear bomb, because of world peace?” I ask. “Sure, with the threat of that being used on you, you’d be less likely to use it on anyone else. But how long do you think the tension that’d create would last? How long until terrorists start using it?”

“But that’s only because we don’t know anything about it.” She continues to argue. “Surely if we knew anything about magic, we’d learn how to counter it.”

“Yumemi. I’m incapable of casting magic like you’d think. But that’s given me the freedom to study it entirely from the point of theory. I’m what you could call an anti-mage. I have a wide knowledge on magics in general, a clear understand of how they work, and the tools to dispel almost any spell.” I tell her truthfully. “Trust me, when I say it’s no easy task to get to where I am, and that when you do, you realize how unfit humanity really is to handle this arcane science.”

“But-” She stomps her foot down.

“No ‘but’s.” I cut her off. “Look at how far you’ve made it with magic so far. Now look at how far I’ve made it. Now try to imagine what a worldwide society of mages could accomplish over the span of several millennia. Do you really think you know something that none of us ever considered?”

“But I-” She’s clenched her hands.

“Let me ask you,” I cut her off again, “won’t you trust me when I ask you to abandon magic entirely? From someone who grew up with it, it’s nothing like the fairy tale we’d all want it to be.”

“I can’t!” The professor exclaims fast, forcing her voice in before I can cut her off again. “We can’t.” I can almost see her trembling. If not for my sixth sense, I wouldn’t have noticed.

She glances over at Chiyuri, who’s been watching me with quite a stern look.

“Then let me put it this way.” I shift my weight. “If you continue to research magic, then I’ll become your enemy.”

She flinches. “But why?” She cries out.

“Because, you don’t belong in the world of magic.” I answer her. “If you continue to force your way in here with the intent to publish your findings, someone will take notice. And unlike me, I doubt they’d try to talk you out of it, and I doubt they’d care enough to at the very least make your permanent expulsion painless.” I walk past her and pick up my bag. “Now I’ve tried to talk to you, and if it didn’t work this time, I’ll have to use force. So, treat this as my one and only warning.”

She looks at me, almost pleadingly but before long she resigns herself and just looks down, not saying another word.

Seeing as she’s done arguing with me, I take my leave.


==========
Hakurei Shrine, Gensokyo - 10th of May, 10:22
==========

A cold shiver runs down my spine as Yukari’s gap closes behind me. It’s still a strangely unnatural feeling to pass through them. Strangely similar to what it felt like to get a sense of the fourth dimension imposed on me with magic, or fifth maybe, if you count the fourth dimension as time.

“I don’t have time, Yukari, so just go home right now.” Reimu yells out from inside the shrine.

“Well then, guess I’ll just head home then.” I respond mimicking Yukari’s passively playful tone.

I hear her starting to move around inside, as the footsteps approach the main entrance. She pops out from behind the open door and stares for half a second before she manages to remember me.

“Ryuko?” the shrine maiden starts floating to approach me, not being bothered to put on shoes and not willing to dirty her socks. “What are you doing here? Got another love letter for your girlfriend?”

I stifle a laugh. “I wish. But I’m not here on vacation.” I tell her. “Yukari told me I’d be useful here soon and gave me this old twenty yen coin.”

“Twenty yen!” She poor shrine maiden exclaims, though her excitement quickly dies down once she sees the coin. “I don’t think that’s worth twenty yen, to be honest.”

“Maybe not in Gensokyo’s economy, but on the outside that’s exactly what it’s worth.” I pocket the coin again.

“How broken is the economy in the outside world?” She asks.

“Not really broken. Since things cost a lot of money, people earn a lot of money too.” I explain. “Over time that amount just kept growing until the government finally managed to get it under control.”

“Strange.” she comments.

“To boil it down, it’s about how rare money is. The more coins there are, the less valuable they are. Since we have a lot in the outside world, twenty yen is pocket change.” I explain, though truth to be told, I’m not that big on economics myself. Never needed to be.

“Yet here it’s a small fortune most beginning merchants aim for. Twenty yen, that is.” She adds. “Anyway, I was planning on going out soon. It’s a hassle, but I can’t leave all the investigation to Kasen.”

“Investigation? About that strange aura?” I ask.

“Yeah.” She lifts off the ground again. “Got nothing to go on but my guts, though.”

“Nothing new there?”

“You get used to it.” She chuckles. “Feel free to make yourself at home, just leave the food alone.”

“Not gonna take me with you?” I ask, half-jokingly.

“To be honest, you’d just slow me down.” She states. “I can’t lift you and flying is so much faster.”

“Then don’t let me hold you back.” I raise my hand in a still wave, to which she just nods and flies off.

Now then.


[] Go see my ‘girlfriend’
[] Try to find Kasen
[] Get comfortable at the shrine.


Somewhat good news. Thanks to shitty bus schedules, I get extra time after school where I can do nothing but wait. Plan to use that for writing whenever I don't have any fun homework. And my proofer's schedule cleared up again. So I should be able to get back to a monthly schedule. Maybe more, but don't count on it.
>>No. 31102
> update
> more imminent (maybe)

Hooray!

But, uh, I could use a little refresher here... who was the 'girlfriend'? Akyuu? And what's this about a 'strange aura'? ULiL? I don't remember it being mentioned and CTRL-F isn't helping...
>>No. 31103
>>31102
Yeah Akyuu. His "love letters" are probably him sending her notes about his shrine and the people in it, like he promised.

[X] Go see my ‘girlfriend’

Also, hooray for terrible bus schedules
>>No. 31104
>>31102
Yes it's Akyuu. That's Reimu poking at you for spending the last festival in Gensokyo with Akyuu, which was essentially a date, let's be honest.
And the wiki translates it as "occult aura" instead of strange aura. Though it's meant to be the earliest point of the incident, so her knowledge about things is limited. [spoiler]Also, Kudos for figuring out it was ULiL. What was the tell?[/spoiler]
>>No. 31105
> Also, Kudos for figuring out it was ULiL. What was the tell?

It's the only game Kasen is in.

Little more context next time please; we shouldn't have to guess or use meta-knowledge to figure out what our own character is talking about.

[x] Go see my ‘girlfriend’.

Much as I'd like to see more undercover oni, it sounds like she's going to be busy.
>>No. 31106
>>31105
Actually, you weren't supposed to have figured it out yet. Well, "supposed," might not be right since I did lay out a hint, namely the time and date.
ULiL was released May 10th 2015.
This story started Jan 1st 2015, and this update takes place on May 10th.
Though I figured no one was paying attention to the dates since they haven't been of much relevance yet.
>>No. 31107
[X] Go see my ‘girlfriend’
>>No. 31109
Calling the votes (one day late) for Akyuu.

>>31105
Now that I'm less busy and have had more time to formulate a response, I'd like to reply to you again.

If there's something I want you to know, that without I'd feel you didn't have enough information to make an informed decision, obviously excluding votes where that's the whole point, then I tend to go that extra mile to make sure you have that information, whether it's delaying that exact vote or finding a way to shoehorn in that information while trying to make it feel natural.

Then there's the information that you don't need to make an informed decision. Small things that might be nice to know. Things like the fact this is the start of ULiL. You don't need to know yet as it'll become apparent soon. That's why the biggest hint I gave was the date, though I'd long since figured people stopped paying attention to it. Another hint I gave, though a fair bit more abstract, is the coin. Saying any more than that is spoilers.

Perhaps the best example I can use from this story is Yukari. She has a single sentence in the stuff that's already posted, in which she reveals her biggest plot point. Do you need to know that plot point yet? No. But it's there, and when it's time to reveal it, I'll make sure to throw plenty of hints.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll go write some of my shitty Slice of Life scenes that are as flat as my characters.
>>No. 31110
>>31109

Just to be clear, I don't have a problem with you not saying it's ULiL. I got caught off-guard that you had the protagonist talk about a recent event that hadn't been mentioned in the text before.

If you'd made Reimu bring up the subject instead, for example, it wouldn't have been so jarring, because I would have (correctly) assumed it was just something we didn't know about yet, instead of something that - because you update slightly faster than the average glacier and I have a memory slightly shorter than the average goldfish - I'd simply forgotten about, and wouldn't have wasted the next twenty minutes CTRL-Fing for something that didn't exist.

Sage for autism.

> shitty Slice of Life scenes that are as flat as my characters

You are so far away from "shitty" and "flat" that I can't see you from here.

>>No. 31119
File 150756129731.jpg - (660.11KB, 1000x1000, Fancy Akyuu.jpg) [iqdb]
31119
==========
Hakurei Shrine, Gensokyo - 10th of May, 10:29
==========

Well, seeing as Reimu doesn’t want me involved at the moment, it’d be rude to get in the way of her investigation. Maybe I should pay Akyuu another visit. It’s been a while since we had the chance to talk.

I quickly wonder if I should just leave the shrine like this. Knowing my shitty luck, it’ll probably get destroyed and I’ll be blamed for it. Though I ultimately dismiss the thought and start making my way towards the village. Even though you can see it in its entirety from up here, it’s still quite a walk down there. It's much worse getting back up here.


==========
Human Village, Market district, 12:02
==========

I only briefly got to wander the village last time I was here, but if my internal map is right, this should be a more direct way to Akyuu’s mansion.

Judging by the stalls here, it’s safe to assume this is the farmers market. It's stocked with fresh milk, eggs and harvested goods, though most of those are leftovers from last fall since they’re still growing this year’s crop. At least that’s what it looks like to me, but agriculture has never been of much interest to me.

What is of interest to me, however, is a familiar little face. A young, blue haired girl in plain white clothes. She keeps glancing around, looking for something, it seems.

With her back turned to me, I make my way up next to her and crouch to get on her level.

“Looking for something?” I ask.

She immediately tenses up and I can almost swear her hair stands up on end as well.

“I- uh- that’s-” She struggles to find words but is forced to stop trying as she bites her tongue. “Ow.” is all she mutters for a while before she remembers that I asked her a question. “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.”

“You don’t remember me?” I ask. I could have easily forgotten her face, but I’m certain it’s her spiritual energy. Unlike normal kids, hers seems to be in stasis, if only moving ever so slightly.

She keeps staring at my face for what feels like an eternity where neither of us is says anything, before her face lights up.

“You’re Akyuu’s big friend!” She exclaims. She immediately corrects her posture and gives me an overenthusiastic bow. “Sorry. I forgot.”

“Don’t worry about it.” I tell her. “So, what are you doing out here?”

“That’s- um- Shopping.” she holds up her small basket which only has a small bottle of honey in it. “Akyuu, I mean Lady Akyuu has sent me shopping.”

“Really? And how is that going?” I ask.

“Not so good.” She makes a cute little frown. “I can’t find the rest of the list.”

“May I see the list?” I ask her, holding out my hand.

She nods and hands it to me.

Rice and jam.

That’s it. Looks like Akyuu’s handwriting as well, which I’ve learned by heart given how many times I’ve read the Gensokyo Chronicles. Rice has been written using kanji, so that might be what trips her up.

“You know what it says, right?” I ask her.

She points to the kanji. “I know that means food, but I don’t know what kind of food.”

“It means rice.” I hand her the note back. “You can buy it pretty much anywhere here. Just walk up to one of merchants and ask nicely.”

“Mm.” She nods enthusiastically and runs off.

She’s a lot more expressive than I thought.

And she’s returned, with a small bag of rice in hand.

“I got it.” She declares, showing it off to me before putting it in her small basket.

“Great, anything else you need?” I ask, standing back up.

She shakes her head. “No.”

“Then let’s get you home, shall we?” I ask.

“Mm.” She nods firmly before running ahead.

With her bursting with energy, it takes no time to make the walk back to the mansion.

“Auri.” I call for her attention. “Can I get you to tell Akyuu that I’m here?” I ask her. “She’s not expecting me today, but I’d like to talk to her if she has the time.”

“Um, if she’s not expecting you, I can’t let you in.” She informs me. “But I’ll ask. Will you please wait here?”

As I agree to wait, she runs through the gate.

A good couple of minutes pass before the little blue head peeks out from inside the gate again.

“Lady Akyuu says she has time for your visit.” She informs me.

Going through her practiced routine, she leads me to the same room where I first met Akyuu, where she leaves me alone.

As another few minutes pass the young chronicler makes her entry.

“I wasn’t expecting you.” She says, taking a seat at the low table.

“Because we never announced I would be coming.” Following her example, I take a seat opposite her. “And I doubt you, of all people, would forget an appointment.”

A small smile breaks her serious expression, though it disappears as she starts talking again. “As much as I appreciate your visit, I’m afraid your timing is quite bad.” She rests her head on her hand.

“Is it because of all the strange new youkai appearing?” I ask.

I catch her off guard, judging by how she perks up. “How did you know? Have you met them?” she immediately asks.

“A voice from the bottom of the aether told me. I think.” I make a gesture, underlying my own lack of knowledge. “Either that or I’m finally starting to develop that famous Hakurei intuition, though that’s not very likely.”

“Are you serious?” The chronicler sits completely upright now. “Do you know anything about any of them? We’ve gathered that they’re all new arrivals from the outside world, but that’s all we have for now.”

“Urban legends.” I state. “Of the youkai that remain of the outside world, urban legends are the only ones not recorded already in Gensokyo Chronicles. And if a new type of youkai made a sudden move to migrate to Gensokyo, we would have taken notice.”

“Urban legends.” She repeats. “What’s this Urban place like?” She asks, leaning in over the table.

“It isn't a place, not in the way you’re thinking about it, anyway.” I inform her. “Urban is a single word that describes ‘in a city.’ Cities being settlements of equal or greater size than the human village.”

“So urban legends are legends passed on inside cities?” The young lady asks intrigued.

“That’s how they got their name, anyway. However, recently the term urban legend came to refer to modern myths.” I explain. “The legends of yukionna, for example, would be old myths, while something like ‘the school’s seven mysteries’ would be an urban legend. A school's seven mysteries, by the way, is exactly as it sounds. Seven mysterious occurrences, typically linked to each other. What those mysteries are exactly, typically varies from school to school.”

“Modern youkai?” She asks.

“More or less.” I lean back, supporting myself on my arm.

The chronicler settles down in her seat again. She folds her hands and lets her head rest on them by her forehead.

“Interesting.” She mumbles. “Very interesting, but also very concerning.”

“Indeed.” I agree. “However, almost all urban legends have a weakness: some way to escape them. Typically because including that, it seems like someone managed to live through the experience and tell the tale, rather than just some made-up tale.”

“And you believe these are the kinds of youkai that are appearing?” She looks up from her hands and into my eyes.

“If I had to make a guess, then yes, that’s what I’d say.” I answer her. “However, I’m lacking enough information to be certain. Could be anything from foxes and tanuki taking on shapes from the outside, to foreign monsters. It’s a low chance, but still too big to be rolled out.”

I notice her hand tense up just briefly. “And now that you know this, what do you plan to do?” She asks.

“I’ll have to get to work.” I answer. “Gensokyo may be Reimu’s territory, but managing the passage across the barrier is mine. Even though I’d rather not make a move here in Gensokyo without Reimu’s permission first.”

“Makes sense, but what are you going to do?” She asks again.

“Track down these urban legends, identify them and assess them, then possibly force them back out with force.” I explain to her. “Why do you ask?”

“I can’t really justify it, since I’m supposed to just record the history,” she fidgets slightly, “but I would like to come along. This might be the only chance I get to see what the youkai from the outside world really look like.”

“In all honesty, I’m against it.” I tell her. “But if you know what you’re getting yourself into, I won’t try to stop you.”

“I know. And I still want to go.” She says firmly.

Without another word, I slide across the floor to my bag, fishing out a small red sack, a thin wooden slab and my basic writing equipment.

Continuing without saying a word, I start jotting down words on the wood, marking out the foundation for a higher level enchantment.

The chronicler has been peeking over the table, trying to get a good look at what I’m writing, though the nature of this kind of enchantment makes it hard to decipher if you don’t know how they’re written.

Single sentences are written in reverse order, however no two characters are allowed to be directly adjacent, meaning you have to jump to seemingly random spots to write. There’s no greater purpose for this. It’s just the method I use when I need to write enchanted charms in front of people, since it maintains a mystique aura, which is needed for the charm to work. Normally, only the people writing these gets to see what’s actually written, so it has that aura from the start. Of course, that means if you open it up afterwards to look, the enchantment is broken and lost.

As I’ve finished writing on both sides of this slab of wood, I put it into the bag, and tie it closed the best I can with these big fingers.

Lastly, to activate the enchanted charm, I let my spiritual energy flow into it. Once I feel it emit a small wave I stop.

“Carry this close to your heart.” I tell Akyuu, handing over the charm to her. “In case I can’t keep you safe, this will be able to save your life. Though it’ll only work a few times before breaking, so if the need be, use it to run away.”

She holds it in her hand, examining it carefully. “I didn’t think you could make these, to be completely honest.” She says. “I took you for more of a, how can I put it, specialist?”

“Because I am.” I answer. “I specialize in combat through and through. But I’m still a priest first and foremost.”

She tightens her grip around the charm as a warm smile makes itself known. “Mm.” Is all she says as she nods.


Now then. Better get to work. My only real lead so far is that both Reimu and Kasen are investigating something. Though if it’s even related to these urban legends, I don’t know. Which effectively gives me zero leads.

Where should I start looking?
[] Write in
[] Look for Kasen on Youkai Mountain
- [] Elsewhere
[] Look for Reimu
- [] Where

Because it was recommended to me, I'd like to discourage metagaming this. Not that I can nor will stop you if you do. Just imagine yourself in his position. What would be the first thing you'd do?

>>31110
Makes sense. I'll try to keep that in mind for later. Also, I realize my last post might have come off as a tad arrogant. That wasn't my intention, I just wanted to get my thoughts through as clear and coherent as possible
>>No. 31120
[X] Look for Kasen on Youkai Mountain

If we're not meta gaming I think finding Kasen would be his best option.
>>No. 31121
[] Warn Eientei about the incoming Lunarian invasion.

I'm of the firm belief that a writer should roll with the punches in what regards to write ins. Even illogical ones.

But that only applied to the old times: when updates were fast, short and the 'plot' was loose at best.
I'm just an old lion, looking for a place to die.

[x] Look for information about recent incidents.
-[x] Closest authority figure should be Kamishirasawa
>>No. 31122
Well if I were looking for urban legends, I'd start at the source:

[x] Find out what relevant rumours are going around the Human Village.
>>No. 31129
File 150991268123.png - (865.05KB, 900x1200, teacher.png) [iqdb]
31129
==========
Human Village, Hieda residence - 13:02
==========

I need information. No two ways about it. I barely know enough to comfortably pick a fight with them. That’s if I can even find them in the first place. Unlike Reimu, I don’t have divine intuition to guide me.

“Where are we going first?” My companion breaks the silence, seeing as I’ve been quiet for a while.

“To Kamishirasawa.” I reply. “With as little information I have, I’m basically powerless. She’s not just an authority, she’s in a position where she would be able to pick up on rumors.”

I pack my writing equipment back in my bag and get up.

“I believe she’s working at this time of the day.” She replies. “I’m not sure if she’ll be able to see us.”

She follows suit, taking the lead as we walk towards the front of her mansion.

“And I doubt she’d turn down an official request from the local chronicler.” I reply.

“I don’t like throwing around my own authority without purpose.” She states.

“She’s our best option at getting anything like a lead to begin with.” I explain. “If she can’t help us, we’ll have to walk around and ask as many random people as possible and hope we get something useful. Besides, you don’t have to use your authority. It’s not like I can force you to.”

“And I just hope I won’t have to.” She adds, with slightly more weight to her words than before. “Especially not against Keine.”

She holds the door open for me as I duck through the entrance.

“The school is right this way.” She says, running slightly ahead, though it doesn’t take more than a few steps to catch up. “It’ll be faster if we make it to the center first, so we can use the main roads.”

“Why is the village structured like this, by the way?” I ask.

“The main roads?” She asks back. “That’s because they allow for more travel across the village.”

“Not the streets.” I clarify. “I mean the districts. It makes sense to have the ‘important’ people in close to the heart of the village. But having a main road run right through it doesn’t seem like the best idea.”

“That’s actually because they’d rather be as far away from the plebeians as possible.” She explains “No offense, of course.”

I stifle another laugh. “I’m more offended that you’d think I’d be offended by that.”

She smiles in response before continuing. “I’m sure you’ve noticed that the farmers tend to stay at the edge of the village, close to the fields they tend. Most other cheap labor stays out there with them, providing them with the tools and resources they need, matching price with quality.”

“That much makes sense. I doubt many of them would have the time to travel to the center just to place an order for a new scythe. It’d be far better if they could get one near their homes, especially if cheaper.” I comment. “But still, to have the busiest road run straight through the living quarters of the rich people. It’d make for great locations for expensive shops, but living there would just get tiring from all the noise.”

“Open shops in the center?” She asks.

“Yeah. Right at the crossroad where the most people would walk through.” I explain. “With more people seeing your store, there’d be more sales. Not guaranteed, of course.”

“Is that how they do it in the outside world?” She asks.

“That, and advertising.” I confirm. “But then again, with over one hundred million people across the entire country, they’d need as much exposure as possible to reach even a fraction of those.”

“What’s a million?” She asks.

“What’s the highest number you know?” I ask back.

“That would be a thousand, I’d say.” The chronicler answers. “Excluding all the repeating numbers in the thousands.”

“Right, then try to imagine one thousand, one thousand times. That’s a million.” I explain.

She continues walking for a second before coming to a sudden halt. “Wait. How many did you say?”

“Over one hundred million people. About one hundred and twenty-five last I checked, if you want a slightly more accurate number.”

She doesn’t move, but just stands there, eyes wide with disbelief and what looks like fear. Her face betraying any kind of secrecy she might have had.

“That’s amazing.” She utters. “And scary.”

“Bonus fact. The human population of the entire earth passed seven billion years ago.” I tell her as I walk past her. “A billion is one thousand millions, by the way.”

“Wait. Stop.” She runs up in front of me. “How can you feed so many people out there when we have trouble supporting less than a thousand?”

“The short answer is science.” I prompt her to start walking again. “But it’s also thanks to science that youkai have trouble living on the outside anymore. Urban legends are fleeting, and the traditional youkai can only live in hot-spots created and maintained by humans like me. Or if they’re to find an uninhabited natural hot-spot, such as the Hakurei Shrine. Although it’s only able to support as many youkai as it can because it’s the strongest connection to Gensokyo.”

“So we can’t use outside world science to help us?” She asks.

“You can, if you’re willing to slowly kill off every youkai in Gensokyo, ridding this world of its purpose and once again unite it with the outside world.” Though that’s just the hypothesis of what’s going to happen. “You’d be far better off if you went about using magic as a means to help you expand.”

“And we’ve hit the human limit in that regard.” She admits a bit defeated. “The only way to expand our magical potential is to become youkai. But that would violate the basic law of Gensokyo.”

Indeed. Mages rarely remain human for long without purpose.

Humans have a limit to the magic they can use. Typically, it’s because of our low capacity relatively to youkai, though it can also be because of limitations in our mind, preventing us from grasping basic ideas that advanced magic relies upon.

To overcome this limit, humans who have achieved the title of mage attempt to alter their bodies to become more magically adept. About one fifth survive the attempt and formally become mages as we know them.

Although technically, all magicians are different species. Each mage alters their own body using their own methods and with their own result in mind. As a result, it’s impossible for two magicians to procreate, statistically speaking. Even lower chances when it comes to humans. As such, mages are effectively considered sterile, and this is also the main reason most humans wait on making that leap. Which is ironic because the younger they are, the more likely it is they’ll survive the transformation.

The surprising sight of the open plaza quickly drags me back into reality.

We’ve reached the center. A big open plaza with people and wagons moving about at their own pace in seemingly chaotic patterns, yet somehow no one is getting hurt.

“Impressive for our little corner of the world?” My companion asks.

“A lot bigger than I expected.” I admit.

While they don’t have any stores open here, along the walls of every noble’s house is a thick line of merchants sitting on their own blankets selling a myriad of things, though a closer look, it’s mostly consumables it seems.

A large promiment stone sculpture stands at the center of the busy streets.

Its shape resembles that of a dragon, posed into a twisted form of the number eight. Both the head and the tail are at the bottom of the loop, just above eye-height of an adult male. It doesn’t show any signs of erosion if the details of the scales are anything to go by. Subtle lineworks that would disappear in just a few years of rain.

Honestly, if I didn’t know it was just an oversized barometer made by the kappa, I could almost be convinced that it was a real dragon turned stone. That’s how alive it looks, even from all the way over here.

“Are you done looking, or do you need a minute more?” She breaks my thoughts once more.

“I’m good.” I start following her again, as she took a few steps in the direction we need to go before asking me.

“It is an impressive statue, right?” She almost brags about it. “You already know the feature was made by the kappa, right? But did you know it was actually sculpted by a human?”

“I imagine that would have taken a lot of time and care.” I admit. “One mistake and the illusion of life would be gone.”

“Mm. It’s one of our proudest achievements since Gensokyo was established.” She states. “Though most people don’t know the kappa helped with it, so they pray to the dragon for good weather. And for the most part, I’d say it works.”

“That’s because gods are created by the human heart.” I explain. “If you start worshiping something as a god, you will in fact create a new god. Dragons are different though, in that they’re above even the gods we know of, far beyond our reach. In essence, you could say they’re true gods, while our kami are just glorified spirits.”

“Interesting perspective, coming from a priest.” She gives me a smug smile.

“I’d share more, but the more you know the less amazing gods are.” I tell her. “For example, once you know how they work, you can completely prevent them from interacting with you in any way.”

“Then stop talking. You’re only making me more curious.”

I let out a snicker in response.

It really doesn’t take long for the school to be in view. Located around the border between the noble’s district and the commoner’s. Not that there’s an actual border, but rather a gradual distinction in the housing and shops.

“How many half youkai work at this school?” I ask.

“Only Keine.” She answers without much thought. “Why?”

“Then it seems like class is in session.”

Like I’ve said, I can use my spiritual energy as another sense, allowing me to observe a limited space with it. And given how few things naturally block spiritual energy, it allows me to ‘see’ through things like walls.

I’m still too far away to be able to see anything in there clearly, but what I can tell already is that there’s a lot of individual spiritual energies gathered there. And although it’s faint, one end emits an inhuman energy, which is likely our teacher.

“How long do you think it’ll take?” She asks. “For you to get a lead out of her, I mean.”

“Ten minutes tops.” I reply. “Assuming she even knows anything worthwhile. If she doesn’t then it’ll just be a second.”

We’ve reached the front door. It’s a small school, really. Two, maybe three rooms total and only one of them seem in use at the moment.

“Wait here then.” She says before knocking on the door.

“Yes? Come in.” The teacher commands from inside.

My companion opens the door and peeks inside. “I’m sorry to bother you when you’re busy, but I have someone who’d like to meet you.” She explains. “It’s not exactly urgent, but the sooner the better.”

Through the wall, I sense the teacher putting down her book and turn towards the wall, presumably a blackboard. Depicting texture on a flat surface is beyond what I can see using spiritual energy, but she’s writing, that much I can see.

“While I’m gone, try to solve as many of these as you can.” She says, pointing to the blackboard. With that said, she makes her way out of the room to us and close the door behind her. “So, what can I do for you today, Akyuu?”

“My friend here has some questions he’d like to have answered.” She says gesturing at me.

She first looks at me with a glance, but the rest of her quickly follows suit as she turns to face me.

“You’re the one who wrecked the village a couple months ago?” She asks more than states that, though it clearly isn’t a question. “I believe this is our first formal introduction.”

“I’m Hakurei Ryuko. And yes, that was me.” I introduce myself. “And no, this is our second time meeting since then. At the festival just a few days after, we met again.”

“We did? You’ll have to excuse me then. I had a few too many drinks so the whole night is a bit blurry. Regardless, I’m Kamishirasawa Keine.” She introduces herself. “But please, call me Keine. It’s a little easier on the tongue.”

“Of course.” I nod. “And I know you’re busy, so I’ll just get straight to the point. New youkai have been appearing, and I’m looking for information. Anything will do, even just small rumors.”

“Is this an incident?” She asks, staring me straight in the eyes.

“I believe so. Reimu is already doing some investigation, from what I’ve seen.” I answer. “However, I’m, not trying to solve the incident, but rather deal with these new youkai which may be a side effect of the incident.”

“Strange new youkai, you say?” She ponders a bit. “I can’t say I’ve heard of anything, I’m afraid.”

So even she hasn’t heard anything. Seems like I’ll have to rely on chance and just ask around.

“Though,” she continues, “can you read?”

“Of course.” I answer.

“Then would you mind waiting for a moment?” She asks. And without waiting for an answer, she goes back inside the classroom. “I’d like all of you to stop what you’re doing and get out a piece of blank paper. On that, you’ll write as many rumors as you can think of, but only recent ones. When you’re done, pass them up front.”

Well that’s a method I wouldn’t have thought of.

“Just so you know, she can’t use her ability to help us.” Akyuu says. “Her power revolves around history. And by the time this incident becomes history, it’ll be long done.”

“I figured as much.” I reply. “Although you’re really vague when you described her power in the Chronicles.”

“That was at her request.” She explains. “The less people know about how her power works, the fewer there are who would want to confront her.”

“Alright. Thanks. Now please go back to these problems.” Keine speaks loudly from inside her class. And in just a few seconds she’s joined us outside the school again. “This is the best I can do right now. I hope it helps.” She says, handing me the papers.

“So do I. Thanks for your time.” I thank her and signal to Akyuu I have what we came for.

Back outside, we find a place nearby to take a seat and examine our new lead.

Or we try to anyway. This handwriting is nothing more the scribbles. With a little guessing and what little context we have, we do manage to decipher a few.

“You know, I’m curious.” I start. “Isn’t it normal for people in Gensokyo to be able to read and write?”

This one talks about that bullhead legend. The story that’s so scary, hearing it will kill you. Even though the fact that people know about the story proves it can’t be real. If it was so scary that anyone who heard it would die, then no one would even know of it.

“Well, of course we have a lot of people who can read and write.” Akyuu states. “But we also have a lot of people who can’t afford the schooling, or even need to learn it. Why?”

“Back outside, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a job that doesn’t require you to know how to read and write to some extent.” I explain. “So we teach everyone how to read and write at an early age.”

“How can kids learn to read?” She stops her examination of the papers I’ve passed over and looks up at me. “It takes all I have to even teach Airi.”

Celestials came looking for a dragon in the village? Now that’s one I have to see to believe. They should look at Kasen’s place if they’re looking for them. Though why are they even in the first place?

“It’s a bit of science, so take it with a grain of salt, but kids learn much faster than adults if you portray the information as important.” I explain. “But humans aren’t fully developed when they are born, obviously. But that also means we lack a lot of basic instincts. Because of that, we instead learn by watching the people around us and gauge what skills are important. Skills like speech and walking. Just show her how useful writing can be while putting her in situations where she’ll need it, and she’ll pick up on it more easily.”

“Huh.” She goes silent for a minute, staring into nothing. “I’d really love to be able to see the outside world sometime.” She mutters almost absentmindedly.

“If I ever get the time, I might take you with me back out.” I reply. “Wait, found one.”

Woman. Wearing a strange mask. Asks about her appearance. Attacks the person regardless of the answer.

Kuchisake-onna. The slit-mouthed woman. Technically a traditional youkai, though she disappeared before Gensokyo was established so she’s not here. Now that her rumor has resurfaced, she’s become an urban legend.

Her known traits are her mask, a surgical one in modern times and a simple cloth on traditionally, a pair of scissors and a slit mouth.

Masks aren’t that common in Gensokyo. Her modern legend mentions a surgical mask, likely because they’re a common way to prevent spreading diseases today. In her traditional legend, though, she’s depicted as wearing either a piece of cloth as a mask, a scarf or hiding her face with a fan. All of which are common enough in Gensokyo.

In the modern legend, her weapon of choice is a scissor. Again, not something common to Gensokyo. Though her original legend doesn’t mention what kind of weapon, only that she slashes her victims, which suggests a bladed weapon. Again, not exactly hard to come by in Gensokyo.

The slit mouth, though. That’s the one thing about her appearance that’s stayed consistent. Should be easy to spot with my spiritual sight, even if she’s hiding it.

Weaknesses would be answering with a vague or confusing answer, excusing yourself because you’re busy, and throwing candy at her as a distraction to run away without her following you.

Neither legends say anything about the time of her attacks. In the original she follows her victim home and kills them the same night. And if students are rich kids, then I doubt they’d leave the village if they don’t have to.

So covering her face, wielding a bladed weapon, slit mouth, inside the village and active all hours of the day. Still not narrow enough to actively hunt her down, but it’s a start.

That said, the village is reasonably big, so where should I even start looking for her?


[ ] Write in
[ ] Look on the less populated streets
[ ] Look in the outskirts of the village

[Optional] Buy candy, just to be safe


=====
Another mistake seems to have passed me and my proofer. I got Airi’s name wrong last update. I wrote it as Auri. Think it was a simple typo that I didn’t double check.

>>31121
So I'm a bit late to replying to this, I know. Got caught up in my fun homework, and by the time I returned it'd already been too long, so it'd be better to wait until the update to reply.

Basically, a friend recommended that I put that in to prevent you from meta-gaming so you'd be at location X, Y or Z just to let your waufi get some screen time. It honestly didn't cross my mind until then, so I threw that in haphazardly, which in retrospect was even worse than leaving it out. It was meant to keep you on track and focus on the incident.

Meta-gaming like warning Eientei I don't care about; is what I'd like to say, but that actually sounds like an awesome idea. Granted, I'll have to pull a bullshit excuse out of my ass as to why you'd even know that in the first place. But if enough people vote on that, then enough people won't mind a bullshit excuse.

Hope that cleared it up a little more.
>>No. 31130
[x] Look in the outskirts of the village

Less populated means less possible witnesses for us and less possible victims for the youkai. Outskirts means poor folk that are less likely to be missed, sad as it is to say.

Or, well, that's how I read it anyway.
>>No. 31132
>>31129
That's a good attitude. I doubt you'll have to wrroy about that though, not many people are willing to vote seemingly illogical choices since many writers forbid them outright.

[x] Look on the less populated streets
-[x] Buy candy, just to be safe
>>No. 31133
[x] Look on the less populated streets
-[x] Buy candy, just to be safe
>>No. 31134
[x] Look on the less populated streets
-[x] Buy candy, just to be safe

I get the feeling that she's one of those kind of youkai who only appears to people who are going somewhere alone, so the less populated streets make more sense to me.
I mean, stories like that usually starts with "[someone] walking home, alone, late at night when..."
>>No. 31135
Going to the desolate areas with some candy it is.

I've also been thinking about the Eientei idea. With everything I've sat up so far, I can provide a decent reason to go to Eientei with the knowledge that they at least have something to do with it.

It's really just going to depend on two things.
1. You're willingness to abandon your promise to Akyuu
2. You figuring out what the old 20 yen coin is for

The first I'm going to treat as a vote. which will be open until the next time I call the votes (so about a century give or take)
[] Go to Eientei
[] Don't go to Eientei

The second, as long as one of you figures it out I'll accept it. I'll try to make it a little more clear what it's for in the next update, since everything about it might be too vague to make a guess on.
>>No. 31144
[X] Don't go to Eientei

Keep going as we were.

As for the 20 yen coin... No idea. To make a wish? That coin died along with the Meiji era.
>>No. 31148
Been waiting as long as possible to say this, but the next update will be slightly delayed.

Short version, since no one cares about the long version.
Have a school project. My current team is very enthusiastic. Been working on the project every waking moment for the last week.

The only promise I can make is that it'll be out before Christmas, though I'd like to get two more out before new year
>>No. 31149
File 151297170034.jpg - (2.26MB, 1821x2580, __hata_no_kokoro_touhou_drawn_by_himajin_no_izu__a.jpg) [iqdb]
31149
==========
Human Village, Hieda residence - 14:23
==========

“Don’t keep me waiting.” My little chronicler speaks up. “What did you find?”

“Kuchisake-onna.” I reply, folding up the papers and storing them in my bag. “A woman who cheated on her husband, and as a result got her face mutilated. She’s now become a youkai that aims to do the same to other people’s faces.”

“Cheat?” She asks.

“Sorry, modern expression for it. To be an unfaithful lover and see other people behind their back.”

She puts on a tiny frown. “Geeze. She deserved it then.” Seeing as I’ve started walking, she runs up next to me again.

“I disagree with that.” I tell her. “Unless you yourself enact or threaten with violence, directly and indirectly, you don’t deserve to experience any yourself.” I explain. “Granted, she did kind of have it coming.”

“You just say that because you haven’t been ‘cheated’ on yet.” She argues, raising her index finger like she’s making an actual point. “It’s happened to me at least three times, and I can promise you it’s not a nice feeling.”

“Three times?” I almost have to stop to make sure, but continue walking.

“Yeah. Though in my previous lives, of course.” She hurriedly adds one. “This body is still virgin.”

“That was a little more information than I needed, Akyuu.” I admit.

“What? Don’t guys usually like maidens?” She asks.

“I don’t actually care.” I admit. “Between training, working and fighting to the death, I don’t really have much extra time to think about girls.”

Much less because the main condition I have to a relationship, would be that they’d have to accept the fact I can die at any moment without warning. That’s the world I live in, after all. Even if they won’t live in the same world as me, they’d have to accept the consequences I’ll face.

“Really?” She asks, though doesn’t sound too surprised. “Then I guess that means you-”

“Yeah, I’m gonna have to cut you off there.” I stop her. “While I’m glad you trust me enough already to talk about this, I’d personally rather not.” I try to change the topic. “Besides, no matter what, revenge just isn’t worth it.”

She falls silent for a second before asking. “Is that from experience?”

“Yeah.” I answer. “And while I still believe she deserved it, there was no satisfaction afterwards. Just a big hole left by all the anger that had piled up.”

“You don’t strike me as the type to get revenge?” She comments.

“Because I’m not.” I reply. “That was a one thing thing. Never tried to get revenge since. It’s just not worth it.”

“Mind if I ask what happened?” She cautiously asks.

“I do, yeah.” I turn down her request. “It’s not something I like to think about, so you’ll have to excuse me.”

With that said, I start walking again, and after a second the chronicler catches up. She doesn’t pursue that topic any further though.

“We’re heading to the outskirts.” I start another topic instead. “Urban legends like this tend to start with people walking around outside alone. The fewer people around, the better.”

“But you’re not alone.” She points out. “How will you find her?”

“I’ll let her come to me.” I shrug off her question. “Since your spiritual power is at the average for humans, you might not be able to feel it, but I have enough spiritual power to compare to even a youkai sage. Not quite enough to rival one, though.”

“Wouldn’t she just hide, in that case?” She asks. “If she can feel how much power you have, wouldn’t she just avoid you?”

“Probably.” I answer. “But once she’s on the move, she’ll be easy to track down. And if she stays put, it’ll just be a question about time. There’s also the chance that she’s prideful and comes out to challenge me, which a handful of youkai would. “

==========

“Say, am I pretty?” She points to her cheeks, covered by a modern surgical mask.

“See. I told you we would find her.” I gesture towards the small menreiki.

“But she’s a normal youkai.” Akyuu argues. “She was involved in a recent incident.”

“Hey. Am I pretty?” The little youkai leans in, making sure she’s being seen.

“Sure, that girl is a traditional youkai.” I agree. “But she’s most definitely cloaked in an urban legend.”

The difference in their signature is just too great to mistake. And even though the menreiki’s own energy is still clear as day, kuchisake’s is like a dense see-through curtain wrapped around. Clearly visible, but hiding nothing.

The little youkai stomps on the ground. “If you’re going to ignore me, then I’m just going to attack.” She declares, striking an overly angry pose.

“You might want to take a few steps back, Akyuu.” I warn her.

This girl, Kokoro, was only recently added to the notable figures in Gensokyo, so I’m still missing a lot of data about her. Honestly, a little too much for me to feel comfortable facing off against her.

Said youkai swings out her hand in front of her and a glowing blue spear materializes in it.

With weapon in hand, she charges at me, feet not touching the ground.

Readying the weapon with one hand, she prepares a strike with the full force of her charge behind her.

Pivoting on my front, I easily avoid the attack and watch her fly by.

She slams on the brakes and blindly swing her weapon back at me.

With three quick steps, I’ve moved out of her range.

Judging by her moves, she’s obviously not a fighter. Anyone with experience can easily predict her next moves.

She pulls back her spear, sliding her grip up the shaft so she can wield it two handed again.

Just as she grips it with both hands, she starts thrusting, aiming the blade towards my stomach. Each stab is executed quickly, with multiple thrusts per second.

Yet they still remain too easy to predict and avoid. The slight bit of wavering it takes to dodge as she continues to push ahead is remarkably dull.

As she prepares for a big strike, I interrupt her by placing my foot on her chest and shoving her back.

I’m not fond of kicking kids. And even though I know she’s not one, and would in fact be able to endure one of my kicks, it’d still feel wrong.

“Why aren’t you attacking?” She stands firm and points the spear at me, holding it in an outstretched arm.

I make a show out of shrugging and shaking my head. “I’m just not motivated to fight weaklings.” I taunt her. “I’m more interested in fighting your partner, so why don’t you bring her out? I’ll even take on both of you.”

“My partner?” She cocks her head.

So she doesn’t realize it herself? “Then I guess I really have to drag her out by force.”

Not giving her a chance to respond, I charge ahead.

She tries to counter my charge by aiming her spear at my head, though a quick sidestep easily dodges that.

I quickly focus my spiritual energy before delivering a backhanded liver blow.

The strike itself isn’t all that powerful, I mean it’s a backhanded hit after all. But rather, forcing my own spiritual power into her like this will hurt, both her and her partner.

She winces and recoils from the hit, giving me plenty room to withdraw to a safe distance beyond her range.

For but a moment, a shadowy figure forms behind her.

So it does work. I was doubting if I’d actually be able to attack Kuchisake directly like this.

She doesn’t take the hit kindly and comes at me, now swinging her spear in a wide arc.

Seems like that really hurt her. Youkai are primarily spiritual in nature, so of course that’d hurt her more than a normal punch. Though I didn’t think it’d be that bad. I was holding back after all.

Seeing an opportunity, I dive in between her swings and get up really close and personal.

“Martial Sign [One Inch Punch].” I declare, giving her a fair warning before delivering another spiritual strike, this time to her chest.

She manages to not fall back over, but instead goes down on her knees, clutching her chest with one hand.

Once again, I retreat back to a safe distance.

This is actually a rather disappointing fight. She has no experience in actual combat despite wielding her spear quite nicely. She’s even more frail than me, compared to the youkai I usually fight.

She stands back up, taking a single deep breath.

With the speed only a youkai could achieve, she flies straight at me.

“[Dance of the Empty-Hearted Masks: Noh of Darkness]!”

She takes one of the masks floating around her, and before I can react, forces it on my face.

The world goes dark. Completely. None of my senses work.

Then a sharp image flashes through my mind, a motionless state of my surroundings.

I’ve been cut, deeply. Though everything remains motionless, the trail of blood following the blade of the spear speaks volumes.

Another sharp image flash my mind, depicting a similar state.

Yet I can’t feel anything. Can’t do anything. Nothing but helplessly watch as she strikes.

Until finally my senses return. The pain of every cut makes itself known instantly, forcing me on my knees.


A faint yet clear ‘clink’ sound from behind drags me out of my thoughts. Like a small piece of metal falling on stone.

The hell just happened?


[ ] Dodge!
[ ] Charge
>>No. 31150
[x] Dodge!

I haven't played HM or ULiL, but not charging at something we can't see seems prudent.
>>No. 31151
[x] Charge

We're focused on endurance, so let's use that to make an attack she can't possibly predict.
>>No. 31162
It's a tie. Dodge reached the tie first, meaning it wins.
>>No. 31170
File 151476481580.jpg - (233.25KB, 931x1076, Cute little fighter.jpg) [iqdb]
31170
==========
Human Village, The Outskirts - 10th of Planting Month 15:11
==========

Before I realize what just happened, I’ve already dashed past my opponent, confusing her for long enough to create a lot of distance between us.

As I feel relatively safe, my first instinct is to grab my guts to feel out the wound.

There’s nothing.

I start tapping every other area of my chest where she cut me.

Nothing.

The hell just happened?

“You may run, but none can hide from Kuchisake.” She points her glaive at me, holding it out with one hand.

My body doesn’t report any damage. Nothing physical, nor anything magical. Seriously, what the hell just happened.

“I didn’t plan on running.” I put on my usual bravado. “Though I guess it’s about time I stop playing around.”

The mask she held in her other hand vanishes in a blue flash, and she instead grabs her polearm with both hands again.

No, but seriously, it’s time I stop playing around. I think I’ve gauged her abilities enough, and if she comes at me with attacks like that again, then I don’t know how long I’d last.

I assume a wider stance, shifting my defense away from my front.

She doesn’t take the bait, and instead takes up a stance of her own.

She’s been goaded into staying in place. This is why newbie fighters are boring. They’re too easy once you get serious.

Taking this opportunity, I start casting spells through my feet, setting up frameworks for barriers across the battlefield.

Once done, I assume a forward focused stance again.

“Thanks for waiting for me, Menreiki.” I yell. “Now, let us draw this to a close.”

Without giving her a chance to retort, I ignite the first spell.

A line of light shoots out from underneath my foot and shoots across the ground towards my opponent.

As it approaches her, it splits up into six, forking out over a wide area.

“You won’t get me that easily.” She jumps back, letting the lights pass beneath her.

The menreiki comes to a sudden halt, though, as her back hits a new wall, blocking her off from the rest of the road.

Likewise, I’ve raised the same kind of barrier behind me, trapping us in here.

“I wasn’t aiming at you.” I taunt.

Without further delay, I charge at her.

She takes a quick look behind her before assuming her stance again; low, with a firm grip on the rear of her glaive, with the front hand only holding it in place.

She flips her polearm around, and with a firm step in, swings it from the right.

She slides her front foot a little further ahead, securing her stance a little better.

I prepare another spell.

As I get close, she flips around her glaive so the blade is behind her.

I activate my spell, creating a column right next to her spear, preventing her from swinging it.

“What the-” She looks back at her weapon.

With nothing to stop me, I let the full force of my weight collide with her tiny frame, knocking her back into the wall.

She kicks off the wall, aiming straight for me. With her arms crossed, she swings them open, cutting away with her fans.

As she falls to the ground, her spear vanishes.

I take a few quick steps back.

The menreiki quickly picks herself up from the ground again. She flicks both her wrists, causing two fans, to appear.

“Didn't your mother ever teach you how to treat a lady?” She asks.

“Ladies? Of course. But sadly, there aren’t any ladies here, only a little child.”

The mask next to her head swaps out with one of those that fly around her. The red oni mask, to be precise.

I hold back a smirk as I wave her over, inviting her to attack me.

She takes me up on the offer by first jumping back to the wall, where she kicks off, flying straight at me.

“I don’t think so.” I raise another wall between us.

With no time to stop, she manages to flip herself around to avoid a headfirst collision.

Seizing the chance, I dissolve the barrier between us.

Using swift footwork, I shove my leg in underneath her center, wrap my arm around her chest, and in a single push, throw her over my leg down onto the ground.

Following up, I charge my fist with spiritual energy again and strike down at her stomach.

She lets out a most unladylike sound, which I can best describe as “ge-hurg” before she lies flat on the ground.

Targeting the guts means targeting her stamina directly. With that gone, regardless how much she wants to stand, she’ll be unable to.

And it seems like it worked. She’s not moving, aside from her chest showing she’s still breathing.

I crouch down and grab her chin, allowing me to move around her head and examine her a little closer.

Her eyes, blank though not empty, stay focused on me regardless of the angle I turn her face.

“That was playing dirty.” she comments.

With a finger on each cheek, I push in, giving her a fishmouth. Just because, really.

“That was a standard take down technique.” I tell her. “I’m simply a better fighter. That’s all.”

I let go of her and stand back up.

As I’m about to dispel the barriers when the menreiki starts glowing with a cold purple light.

The light concentrates itself directly above her, where it starts taking the form of a sphere.

Then, without warning it flies at me, burrowing into my chest.

“The hell?” I ask aloud.

It doesn’t hurt. On the contrary, it’s as if an exhilarating feeling of newfound power starts welling up inside me.

What a dangerously addicting feeling.

Kuchisake’s aura has vanished from the menreiki. Seems like I failed.

I snap my finger and the walls I’ve erected all shatter and disappear.

“Akyuu.” I call out to my little partner.

“Yie- Yeah.” Her voice cracks. “I’m still here.”

“I’m afraid I failed on this one.” I walk over to her. “It’s the first time I’m even trying something like this, so that’s to be expected. We’ll just have to find another one and try again.”

“What do you mean?” Her brow frowns. “I saw it. The urban legend that is. A crazy looking woman with long wild hair. She was fighting a fox too.”

A fox? That she’d be able to see Kuchisake in my barrier’s reflection is one thing, but where did this fox come from?

I reach for the old coin in my pocket, but to my surprise, it’s not there.

Looking back over our battleground, I can’t immediately see where it’d be.

And once again, I hear a faint ’clink’ behind me. Which, upon looking, turns out to be the old coin.

Exactly what is this coin, Yukari?

“I don’t know if you saw what happened after the fight,” I stuff the coin back in my pocket, “but it’s something I’ll need to talk with Reimu about.” Or Kasen, for that matter, since she’s also investigating this incident. “So that’s gonna change our plans slightly.”

“I don’t particularly mind.” She shakes her head. “But is she going be alright? That youkai.”

“The menreiki?” I ask. “Yeah, she’ll just need a minute to recover.”

“So she can get away before the guards show up.” She lets out a sigh. “Unlike most humans here, I have nothing against youkai as long as they behave. And even in cases like hers, she doesn’t deserve a punishment.”

“Agreed. Once they start killing humans, though, that’s where I draw the line.” I tell her.

But with that behind us, I should probably go find either Reimu or Kasen. Problem is, I have no idea where they might be.

Alternatively, I could loosen all restraints on my spiritual power, letting all the excess flow out. It’d make me a beacon to everything capable of sensing energy, which includes both girls. But it also includes who knows what else, which could also decide to show up and pick a fight.


[ ] Search for Reimu
[ ] Search for Kasen
[ ] Become a beacon
[Write in]


Since last update was shit, and did nothing to actually hint at what the coin was used to, I'm including this next week until I call the votes, in the meta vote on whether to go confront the lunarians or follow the ULiL story. It should of course be noted that this isn't gonna be a sharp turn if you go for the lunarians. I'll simply change the flow of upcoming events to lead you in that direction, if you so choose.

And a happy new year, while we're at it.
>>No. 31171
[x] Search for Kasen

Never enough pink hermit.
>>No. 31172
[x] Kasen

With how good these fight scenes are, cutting them short feels like a crime. No shortcuts.

Also, you update on the weirdest days, you know that?
Per example, the first update of this thread was exactly a year ago.
>>No. 31173
>>31172
That's intentional. For the last four years, I've always posted on new years, as close to 00:00 as possible site time.

>>29716
>>30202 only time I've been off, and only by an hour
>>OP
>>Last Update

Started because the story itself starts on new years, I decided to post the first update there as well. Been keeping it up just because.

That said, 37 updates in 4 years is a little sad.
>>No. 31174
[x] Search for Reimu

Better idea of what's going on.
>>No. 31176
Gonna look for Kasen, and we'll ignore the moonies.
>>No. 31177
File 15177740522.jpg - (432.77KB, 600x800, 55562190_p0.jpg) [iqdb]
31177
==========
Human Village, The Outskirts - 10th of Planting Month 15:17
==========

“Kasen.” I say after a brief moment of consideration.

“Kasen?” Akyuu asks. “The One-Armed Hermit? What does she have to do with this?”

“When I arrived in Gensokyo, I talked with Reimu who was still at the shrine.” I explain, looking in the direction of the shrine. “According to her, Kasen had been working on this incident for a while already, while Reimu was just getting started.”

“So we’re going to ask the hermit for help?” She continues to ask.

“No. She’s working on the incident. I’m not.” I tell her. “We’ll trade information and hope it helps both of us.”

“I see.” She starts stroking her chin. “How are we gonna find her? She lives on Youkai Mountain, but we can’t reach her house without her guidance.”

“I doubt she’s home right now.” I tell her. “She’s likely somewhere in the city, following a lead we know nothing about.” I turn my gaze north, towards Youkai Mountain. “Our best option for finding her would without a doubt be to just wait for her, but who knows how long that’ll take.”

“I’d not be entirely opposed to that.” She remarks. “If you hadn’t already figured that out.”

“I’m not dense, Akyuu. I just prioritize work.” I explain. “But alternatively, instead of going outside the village to wait for her, we could look around for her.”

“We would be unlikely to find her like that.” Akyuu comments. “We’d have more luck getting Grey out looking.”

“Grey?” I ask.

She looks confused for a second. “Oh right, I never told you his name. Grey is the name of that old man that chased us a while back. He’s sort of a bodyguard for me, even though my life is already being protected by all five Youkai Sages.”

Grey. Obviously an alias, but not like I can judge him on that front.

“He’s going to refuse, though.” She continues. “He’s very reluctant about leaving me alone whenever I leave home.”

“I’ll scrap that as an option, then.” I take another brief moment to consider our options. “Waiting really is the best option.”

“So where should we wait? Out north?” She asks.

“That’ll be where we’re most likely to catch her.” I reply. “And we may not even see her, if she doesn’t go back today.”

She ignores my later remark and starts leading us up to the northern exit.

Since she doesn’t start any conversation, I figure now might be a good time to read up on urban legends. Kuchisake was a special case since she was an old youkai that’d been revived recently. Since I rarely deal with urban legends, I generally don’t bother memorizing them.

I pull out my grimoire from inside my shirt. A motion which seems to catch the chronicler’s attention.

“What do you have there?” She asks, trying to take a peek inside.

“An encyclopedia of sorts.” I flip the book around to let her see. “It’s been imbued with magic though. Which, among other things, prevents anyone but me from reading it.”

“So it’s a grimoire?” She asks.

“Yeah, although a weak one.” I answer. “Any experienced magician would be able to break it easily.”

“Really, then what’s the point?”

“To prevent people like you from reading it.” I tell her bluntly. “This book automatically records everything I learn. Which includes information that’s better kept under wraps.”

“Such as?” She inquires. “If I’m even allowed to know that much.”

“An example would be information regarding the Special Containment procedures. SCP for short.” I tell her. “Gensokyo is a land where youkai, the fears of the heart, live. Even if SCP is fiction, should anyone from Gensokyo learn about it, they’ll undoubtedly become real.”

“Oh. Do I even dare ask what that is, then?” She asks anyway.

“It’s like the scroll of the Night Parade of a Hundred Demons.” I tell her. “But instead of youkai, it’s western monsters. And instead of a hundred, it four thousand. Last I checked, anyway. And that’s all the detail I can go into without getting risky.”

“That, what are we gonna do if they show up here?” She clenches her hands slightly.

“They aren’t. The SCPs are fictitious through and through.” I declare. “But here in Gensokyo, if people learned about them and started to fear them, then they would appear, and at that point even I would be powerless.”

“So if they aren’t real, why are they so dangerous?” She comes to a halt, only continuing when she sees I’m not stopping for her.

“Do you know what the essence of a youkai?” I ask her. She just shakes her head in response. “That’s surprising, actually. I’d thought that you of all people would know that.”

“It’s a little more complex than this, but a youkai’s essence can be summed up as belief, fear and desire.” I state. “Let’s say you have a bad knee. Not because you hurt yourself, but it just started hurting one day. If I can then convince you that it’s the act of a youkai living inside your knee, then that’ll become truth. If I then extract the youkai, the pain will go away too. Now here’s the thing; that youkai only existed because you believed in it, because you were afraid of the pain it’d cause you, and because you’d desire to shove the blame on something easy and get rid of it.”

She goes silent, opting to look ahead as she processes the information I just gave her. It takes a while before she speaks up again.

“Isn’t that how kami works?” She asks.

“This might sound ludicrous coming from a priest, but kami are youkai too.” I explain. “The term youkai refers to much more than just monsters. Like for example, the Scarlet Mist incident. The mist itself would be categorized as a youkai, since it’s an unexplained phenomenon. Or it was, until we learned it was caused by a youkai, though that doesn’t change its status as a supernatural event, meaning it’s still considered a youkai, despite not being ‘alive’ if you will.”

“That makes kami, a supernatural being, a youkai too.” I continue. “Granted, that’s the top level of the definition, which generalize things so much it’s basically useless. Yet despite that, the difference between them is virtually nonexistent.

“You may believe youkai are born from the fear of the human heart, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But it’s the same for kami. Why would you pray to the god of harvest if you weren’t afraid of starving? Why pray to the god of riches if you weren’t afraid of becoming poor? The difference is simply what kind of fear you have. Youkai feed on your immediate fear for survival; the fear that you might be killed on your way home. While kami feed on the long term fear that ‘something bad might happen’.

“Of course I need to mention that this is my interpretation of the facts as I know them.” I add. “Gods aren’t likely to admit they live off your fear, because they also need your loyalty, while youkai aren’t likely to admit they need your desire because that would lessen your fear.”

“That’s crazy.” Is all she says in response.

Granted, I had a few years to figure that out on my own, slowly, and it still came as an eye opening realization. I can’t imagine what it’d be like after, what, three hundred years or how many she’s actually been alive for.

I don’t say anything after that. Instead I just allow her to process it as we walk in silence. It’s not until we reach the north gate that I decide to break the silence.

“You’re still holding up?” I ask her.

“Yeah. I got over the shock a while ago.” She responds. “Now I’m not going through all my data to reevaluate it.”

“Just remember to consider what information you can release to the public. Youkai feed on fear, and the unknown is the biggest source of fear.” I explain. “If too much about youkai are known and understood, people will stop being afraid, which would starve the youkai here.”

“That much I know.” She reassures me, picking up her posture again. “You’ve read the full version of The Gensokyo Chronicles, so you know just how much information I keep under wraps. That’s the reason no one but me can access the Hieda archive, by the way.” She adds on proudly.

“What an interesting story.” A woman clad in all pink descends from the sky in front of us. “I’d like to hear more about that.”

“Ah. Kasen.” Akyuu greets her. “We were just looking for you.”

God, that stench. The only thing I know that stinks this much would be those thieving tanuki. Despite being so vastly inferior to foxes, they’re still known for their transformations. And yet they try to fool us with this sloppy mess of a transformation.

“I heard you two were looking for me, so I rushed out here.” The fake hermit informs us.

“Really?” I play along. “If you knew, then we could have avoided this long trek, since I’m sure you had to go out of your way.”

“It’s nothing to worry about.” She dismisses my fake concern with a wave of her hand. “I had just finished up on my end too.”

Oh? What’s this? She’s sending a decent killing intent my way. I can almost feel a shiver on my spine.

I just shrug it off. “While I have, Kasen. I’ve been thinking about your offer.” I change the topic. “Circumstances have changed slightly, and I might be able to take you up on it.”

“Sadly, that offer has expired.” She dismisses my comment again.

“But didn’t you say that you’d love to do your part?” I return the favor by releasing my own killing intent, without breaking face.

Might have overdone it slightly, though, as Akyuu seems to have noticed it too.

The fake hermit lets out a deep sigh. “I knew you’d be trouble, fox boy.”

“I’d have been a little friendlier if you didn’t try to trick us, raccoon.” I reply.

“What?” Akyuu injects.

“Ah, right.” The tanuki remembers that Akyuu is here. She dispels her transformation, blowing up a cloud of dust, like all tanuki do. A sure tell sign of bad transformations.

Her new form is that of an older woman, with hazel hair hidden underneath an oversized leaf. The small round glasses gives her an air closer to that of a middle aged woman. Her clothes are of a similar color theme to her hair, though brighter. Futatsuiwa. She match the description. Interestingly enough, her spiritual power resembles a four dimensional sphere, though not perfectly spherical. It’s rare to see people who’ve developed a high dimensional spirit like that.

“Now. You’ve already done a number on my patience.” I inform her. “So be straight.”

The tanuki snickers in response. “Gotcha. Truth to be told, I’d like to be quick too.” She leans back, resting against her tail. “Those orbs of yours. Give me. Like that pink friend of yours, I’m looking into this incident myself.”

“You’re talking about that ball that came out of the Menreiki?” I ask.

“Yeah, that one. And you’re own.” She rocks slightly on her tail.

Mine? I know I have Kokoro’s, because it came to me against my will. Do I have one of my own?

Should I even trust her? Kasen I trust, I’d be happy to help her, but a tanuki, that’s a different story.

[ ] Let the old lady have my balls
[ ] Keep my balls for myself
>>No. 31178
[X] Keep my balls for myself

...Ha.
>>No. 31179
[x] Keep my balls for myself
They're fine where they are.
>>No. 31180
[x] Keep my balls for myself

She's under the effect of the occult balls already?
>>No. 31181
Man, he sure hates Tanuki. It's almost as if he was raised by foxes or something.
>>No. 31182
[x] Keep my balls for myself

Sorry, we're rather attached to them.

...that was awful and I feel awful for posting it.
>>No. 31190
Tanukis loving balls. Talk about a cliche.
>>No. 31191
[X] Keep my balls for myself

Yeah, she's not getting our balls that easily.
>>No. 31193
File 151841850981.jpg - (239.25KB, 626x1652, Mokou's balls.jpg) [iqdb]
31193
Saving our balls for Akyuu's sake, got it.

>>31190
That actually didn't occur to me, to be honest. It really was just for a cheap laugh, because I found this image again
>>No. 31194
File 152040324263.jpg - (130.58KB, 500x483, Dealing with this shit.jpg) [iqdb]
31194
==========
Outside the Human Village, North District - 15:31
==========

I shrug her off with a smile. “I’m rather attached to my balls, you see.”

Her brow furrows. “That’s something we can quickly fix.” She folds her arms. “Though I’d rather avoid wasting effort on small fry.”

“So we’re in agreement. If you walk away, I get to keep these orbs, and you don’t waste any effort.” I state. “It’s a win-win situation, so just start waddling or whatever you tanuki do.”

She sighs. “Listen, kid.” she crosses her legs, sitting entirely on her tail. “These urban legends are clearly from the outside world. And we can both agree that I have more experience with the outside world than you do. So I’m more qualified to look into it.”

“I agree. Though there’s one problem, there.” I tell her. “And that’s the fact I’m not looking into why these urban legends are here. I’m just dealing with them on an individual basis.”

“So, what do you need the occult orbs for?” The tanuki asks. “If you’re not going to use them, why not just hand them over?”

“Two reasons.” I hold up my fingers. “First is that these orbs may help me do my job better.” Though the surge of power they give me might have side effects. “And second. I would like to say it’s because I can’t trust a tanuki, for reasons obvious to everyone but a tanuki. But really, it’s just because I don’t like you.”

“You won’t trust honorable and harmless tanuki, but are willing to put your faith into the lying, thieving foxes?” She asks. “Such a peculiar young man.”

“Inari.” I rest my working arm on my disabled one. “That’s one god favoring foxes. Now name a god that favors tanuki.”

Instead of responding she just lets out another deep sigh. “Alright, fox boy, let’s try a different method. Name your price.”

“My price?”

“Yeah. Lets trade.” She reaffirms. “You obviously aren’t going to hand them over, so let’s trade. What do you want?”

[Write in] Name your price
[ ] Still not handing over my balls


A tad short, but [insert excuse 1] and [insert excuse 2] kinda kept me from writing.
Jokes aside, while I have been busy, I also tried something in this update that was beyond my current skills.
>>No. 31195
[X] Still not handing over my balls

Oh no you don't. We're not getting jewed into giving up our balls!
>>No. 31196
[ ] Still not handing over my balls

You ain't getting nothin' from us!
>>No. 31197
The coin Yukari gives us 'clics' on every urban legend found or on every urban legend captured?

If the objetive is to analyze them, we could trade. If we could trust her that is. But we don't

[x] An orb for another orb, that's the only price. And no tricks.

He doesn't know that gathering them all is important, so I guess this could be a reasonable mistake on his part?
>>No. 31198
>>31197
While you have information about a lot of urban legends, all the information you know about this incident is what's happened so far. So no, you haven't heard he rumor that something will happen if you gather "all" seven orbs

And the coin is your link to an urban legend of your own. The effect of which you saw in Kokoro's fight
>>No. 31199
> And we can both agree that I have more experience with the outside world than you do.

Someone hasn't done her research.

[x] Still not handing over my balls.
>>No. 31200
[x] Still not handing over my balls.
>>No. 31212
Yeah, who'd trust a dirty tanuki anyway. She can keep her balls, and we'll keep ours.
>>No. 31217
>>31212
Honestly even the fact that we have an option to give her all feels kind of OC. Guess he likes to keep his options open... Not bad
>>No. 31228
File 152135566053.png - (391.32KB, 640x720, Pretending to have any talent.png) [iqdb]
31228
>>31217
Compliment taken.

And yes. Though my lack of skill makes it hard to properly show, Ryuko is a person who likes to consider all his options before making decisions. The fact you got a vote on this, was because Ryuko did consider it. Though with the outcome, it'd be more accurate to say you entertained the thought rather than considered it.
>>No. 31236
File 152265555373.jpg - (149.63KB, 1280x1024, __futatsuiwa_mamizou_touhou_drawn_by_watchi__f6869.jpg) [iqdb]
31236
==========
Outside the Human Village, North District - 15:34
==========

“Not interested.” I shake my head.

“That’s too bad really.” She flips her smoking pipe over to drop the sod. “I’d have liked to avoid force.”

“Step back a bit, Akyuu.” I instruct her without taking my eyes off the tanuki. “We’ll need some room to dance.”

“I’ll head back to the village gates, then” She says, turning around. “Just to be on the safe side.”

I doubt any youkai would attack Akyuu, seeing as that would piss off some quite powerful individuals, but better safe than sorry. Especially since I’m not sure if I can even beat this old lady.

Maybe it’d be for the best if I go full turtle mode, though that wouldn’t get my engine going. Plus, I doubt I can pull it off with only one arm.

Having allowed the time for Akyuu to get out of range, the old racoon takes her stance and prepares to fight.

In a swift motion assisted by pivoting, I pull off my shirt and throw it to the side. It lands on the ground with a heavy ‘thunk.’

“Weighted clothes?” She inquires, glancing at the discarded article. “That’s quite a cliché.”

“Because of modern fiction, people have forgotten how to use tools like that.” I reply.

Using weighted clothes wrong could damage the body, but when used right, it can become a temporary passive stimulus to help maintain muscle.

In my case, I use weighted clothes to artificially increase my mass. This allows me to trade agility for power, seeing as most of my attacks utilize my weight as a force multiplier.

Discarding my weighted shirt means my upper body can move at top speed. While keeping my weighted pants will help my feet stay grounded. Exactly as I need.

I lower my center and take on a wide stance, with my soles dug firmly into the ground. I then extend my arm out far in front of me while keeping it bent.

Ultimate Defense [Absolute Territory]” I declare.

The pinnacle of my defensive martial arts. By focusing all my attention to my domain, that is everything within my immediate reach, I gain complete awareness of everything close to me while lowering my reaction time even further.

“That’s a fancy name. Let’s see if it lives up to it.” She flies straight at me, hovering less than an inch over the ground.

As she gets within range, she swings backhanded at me, using the same hand she holds the pipe with.

As it enters my domain, I twist my hand around to the outside of her wrist where I can direct her attack up and out of my domain.

She follows through the motion and comes back around with high kick, which I again repel out of my domain.

“That’s not a bad little trick you got there, fox boy.” She quickly pulls back a bit. “It would indeed be quite hard to penetrate.”

“I’d like to take the compliment. “I reply, reaffirming my stance. “But unless it comes from another warrior, it’s just a fact.”

She has power, that much I’ll acknowledge. Even just redirecting her attacks hurt, and they don’t even graze me. But she lacks the refined movements of a fighter. Wasting energy, making big moves, shaky precision.

I should be able to deal with her if it stays like this. And though she may be a tanuki, she’s not stupid. She’ll mix up her attacks for sure.

In just a few quick strides, she builds up speed and launch herself at me. At the peak of her jump, she transforms into a stone statue, headed straight for me.

Shit.

I break my stance and throw myself on my back.

As she comes flying at me, I meet her stony body with my feet, directing her over me before giving her a good kick, sending her flying further past me.

With her now gone, I jump back up from the ground to resume my stance.

“Not so fast!” She exclaims from behind me.

She lands on one foot and without a break, she jumps straight up, leaving behind her oversized shoe.

The shoe then transforms into a Shinto gate, with the center having a weird distortion.

A horde of youkai emerge from the distortion. The group includes several types of youkai, such as the eternally starving Gaki, the eel princess Ounagi, small Yamajijii carrying wooden spears, the tsukumogami lantern Chouchin, the net cutting lobster Amikiri, burning WaNyudo wheels, a giant man-eating monkey Hihi and a vengeful Koukotsu skeleton. All of which have the iconic tanuki tail. And all of which are charging right at me.

Well fuck me sideways.

I bite deep into my thumb to draw a lot of blood.

Blood Sign [Duboundary]

I jab my finger into the ground, activating my spell.

As the empty feeling of blood being forcefully drained wash over me, the spell encircles me, carving out the barrier parameters and boundaries before a set of flaming red walls cage me in.

Even as the horde of transformed racoons crash into my barrier with all their might, it neither budges nor cracks.

The tanuki not knocked down by the impact continue past me without even looking or caring for their fallen kin.

With the barrier erected, I pull my fingers out of the ground and take a seat inside my safe space.

“Well then.” I call out to my old opponent. “Seems like you’ve lost this one.”

“We’ll see.” The shinto gate disappears, and she floats down to her shoe. “Hemomancy can’t be sustained for long.”

“It’s a modified variant of my own creation.” I brag. “Makes use of my enormous pool of spiritual energy. And something of this size consumes less energy than I recover.”

Technically true. Maintaining them like this is easy. But all damage they sustain must be repaired using my power, so a continuous assault would break it eventually.

“So unless I break it, I’ve lost.” She states. “Leave it to you foxes to be so cowardly.”

“My goal with this fight is simply to not hand over these orbs.” I state. “I don’t care about yours, so I have nothing to win, but something to lose.” I stick my thumb in my mouth, to clean the wounds before they’re closed up by scar tissue.

“You’re really not keen on handing them over?” She leans against her tail again.

“Told you so already. I’m not handing them over to a tanuki. Much less one that tried to trick them from me.” I state again. “If you want them that badly, get Kasen or Reimu to come and get them. I trust both of them a fair bit more than you.”

“Do you even know what they are?” She asks.

“No clue.” I do my one-armed shrug. “Like I also told you. My overall goal is to deal with the urban legends. Whatever else is going on is none of my business.”

“So you don’t even know the rumor?” She asks, though I just gave her an answer to that question. “Since you got an urban legend of your own, I assumed you would be hunting down these orbs as well.” she folds her arms.

My urban legend? As in like the Menreiki or am I just big and scary enough to get my own urban legend. I wouldn’t doubt either.

“Good news is that I’m not looking into the rumor.” I tell her. “Bad news is that I might consider it now. If only to just spite you.”

“Honesty is a virtue, I see.” She taps her finger against her arm. “My last resort would have been to answer some questions, an orb for an answer.” She shrugs. “But it’s pretty clear you wouldn’t agree.”

“Seems like I finally got through.” I lean back against the wall of my barrier. “So how about you just quit attacking already.”

“Yeah.” She gives the barrier a slight tab, causing the surface to ripple. “I wouldn’t be able to break this without breaking the spell card rules.” She takes a whiff of her pipe as she walks past me. “I’d be better off getting some other orbs in the meantime. Should probably be able to take them from the hermit, since she’s not a cowardly fox.”

I let out a sigh and release my barrier.

I’d hoped to wait here for Kasen to pass by, since we’re between the village and her house. But seems like I’ll have to change my plans yet again. I now have a few questions that need answers.

Behind me!

I quickly shift my weight to my front foot and pivot around.

The only thing I manage to see is the tanuki’s wooden pipe coming straight at me.

=====

As I open my eyes again, I find myself looking at a familiar wall.

Lowering my arms back down, I take a look around. No tanuki around. In fact, I’m not even outside. I appear to be standing in the middle of a single room shrine, if the wall decorations are anything to go by.

Though the strangest thing here is my arm. Mainly the fact I can move it, despite the fact it’s supposed to be paralyzed.

Maybe it’s because of my aching head, but it also looks like there’s a slight trailing effect on it, whenever I move my arm around. There’s nothing on my right arm, though.

“Seems like we’ll be parting ways now.” A sudden voice from outside speaks up. Feminine, adult woman, if I had to guess.

I slide open the only door to the room.

The landscape unfolding before me is that of a familiar scenery. Flat rocky ground that stretches for roughly a hundred meters before the edge. The horizon, if it can even be called that, is a clear blue sky you’d see on a summer midday.

And sure enough, the black and red blurred figure is still here. Though this time there’s a figure next to it, also blurred. Primary color is white, with added strokes of golden brown.

The new white blur speaks up. Though all I hear is noiseless static.

“He can’t hear us yet.” The red one explains. “Should be able to next time you two meet.”

There’s some more static noise from the yellowish blur before it disappears.

“Now then. Let’s get you out of here.” The blurred woman walks up the stairs to me. “You still have some work to do before you fall asleep, right?” She grabs a hold of my left arm. “I’ve finished with this one too, so you should be able to use it again.”

=====

The first thing that comes to me, is the fact I’m lying on my back, on what feels like dirt. The second thing is the feeling of a nail drilled to far into my temple that it comes out the other side.

Though my body doesn’t report any serious damage to my skull, so I doubt that’s what’s happening.

I swing my legs up and kick into the air, jumping back on my feet. My balance is slightly off, but it’s within expectations.

“Already on your feet again?” The tanuki asks. “Then let me just make sure we’re clear. That attack was within the rules, in the subsection about duels.” She states, not taking her eyes of the two orbs in her hands.

“Calling me cowardly, then attacking me from behind.” I fold my arms. “And I even gave you the benefit of the doubt, but of course a simple racoon like yourself would resort to such underhanded methods.”

“I’d apologize, but there’d be no point in lying.” She states. “Besides, my guts tell me this incident is bigger than we think, so I’m not letting an emotional kid handle it.”

“Now you can call me a lot of things, and most would probably be true, but emotional is not one of them.” I argue.

“Yeah, if you say so.” She brushes off the comment entirely. “Though now that I’ve taken these, the least I can do is give you a hint.” She spins around on her tail. “The hermit isn’t likely to return to her house for the rest of the day. She’s busy collecting these things too.”

“Ryuko!” Akyuu calls out from behind.

“Seems like the lovebird is here.” The tanuki lets out a single snicker. “‘Bout time I leave too. Stay healthy, kid.” She closes her hand, causing the orbs to disappear, and takes to the sky.

“Are you alright?” The little chronicler comes running.

“Yeah, though I’m feeling slightly off balance.” I tell her.

Taking a hit to the temple, aside from losing consciousness, tends to affect the legs more than balance.

“Ryuko.” She calls for my attention. “Your arm.”

“My arm?” I hold out my hands to see what’s wrong.

My arms. Both of them. They both move.

I can feel a big grin crawling on my face. Normally, I’d suppress it, but right now I don’t care. I have my arm back. I can finally work at one hundred percent again.

Taking a quick test run, I point it towards the trees, and a small wall extends out from me, reaching more than two dozen meters out.

Now spells will be a breeze again.

But even more. This means Hakurei is done settling in. I can now officially call myself a Hakurei.

Enough celebration. Back to work.

“So I’ve lost that strange orb, as well as my own.” I restore my posture. “We should still inform Kasen and Reimu if we run into them, but now that I don’t have anything to give them, there’s no reason to actively look for them.”

“No?” She grabs her chin. “So after a duel, these orbs go to the winner? You got Hata’s after she lost, and Futatsuiwa got yours after you lost.”

“Seems like a rule for a game.” I comment. “But that at least makes it predictable.”

“So what do we do now?” She asks.

Good question.

The only lead we have is still just the rumors. Though now that I’m outside the village, I’m picking up more traces of urban youkai.

There’s one in the mountains, inside tengu territory. One deep in the bamboos off to the side. Then there’s one in the sky too, but unless I learn to sprout wings, I doubt I’ll be able to reach that one.

Furthermore, there’s a presence inside the woods just next to us. And though I’m certain it’s not an urban legend, I can’t pinpoint any more information without getting closer.

[] Go to Youkai Mountain
[] Go to the Bamboo Forest of the Lost
[] Investigate the presence in the forest
>>No. 31237
Not many writers can make me hate a character for a well-defined, in-universe reason, rather than just making them obnoxious. Well done.

Anyway, heck with the urban youkai, everyone else has them covered already. Let's go see what the suspicious one is.

[x] Investigate the presence in the forest.
>>No. 31239
[] Investigate the presence in the forest

With our defeat to the Tanuki we are so far behind as to be effectively out of the occult balls incident. At least we can investigate something else.
>>No. 31240
[x] Investigate the presence in the forest

Sorry but isn’t Ryuko’s spellcard being impenetrable unless Mamizou breaks the rule is.. breaking the rule too? Him being unable to be attacked and all that? Unless Mamizou’s just bullshitting and it can really be broken by continuous assault with attacks allowed by the rule, which now that I think about it is the most likely.
>>No. 31241
>>31240
>Sorry but isn’t Ryuko’s spellcard being impenetrable unless Mamizou breaks the rule is.. breaking the rule too?

After going over the spell card rules again just to be sure, no, I don't think so, but I'm willing to change my mind fi you can argue for it.

That said, I've modified the rules slightly to suit my version of Gensokyo a little better. Which include separating them into two sections, melee duels (the fighting games) and magical duels (danmaku.)

The essence of the melee rules 4, which are relevant to this fight, can be summed up in two points:
1. Every attack must by avoidable
2. No attack may inflict serious injury*
*Does not apply after combat, if safety or survival was waged on the duel

Using a shield like that doesn't break the rules, on the grounds that it doesn't ensure Mamizou's lose the same way an unavoidable attack would. It does however, ensure that she can't win and would force the duel into a draw.

>Unless Mamizou’s just bullshitting and it can really be broken by continuous assault
Just know that Mamizou isn't stupid. She's far older than you'd think.
>>No. 31242
>>31241
I forgot to mention, I’m just comparing it to Reimu’s Last Word with her also being undamageable but through different means, her being intangible, was given a time limit by Marisa to make it fair, although Reimu’s spellcard is more extreme compared to Ryuko’s considering she can still attack even while intangible, it’s justified in her case I guess.

>Draw
Now that you mentioned the possibility of a draw, I’m curious what would’ve happened.

Sorry if I’m being annoying.
>>No. 31243
>>31242
Draws act entirely like you'd expect. Neither party wins nor loses, thus no one wins or loses anything waged on the duel. In this sense, it favors humans who duel to save their lives, since they would win as long as they don't lose. ( I know that's a "People die when they're killed" level of obvious without context) Which is another difference between the canon rules and mine; youkai are allowed to kill humans if they win in a fair game. The reverse is also true, though not a lot of humans realize this.

>Reimu's Last Word
As you mentioned, she's able to attack. If she didn't have a time limit, she'd be able to go intangible at the start of a duel and continue to attack, making it completely impossible to defeat her. If she only went intangible and didn't attack, it wouldn't go against the rules. Though that would go against the spirit of the rules, which is fairness.

>Sorry if I’m being annoying.
I think about this story all day everyday, despite my attempts not to. Having anyone show any interest in it can easily become the highlight of my day.
I also try to answer all the questions I get, though I have information I refuse to share. The rule of thumb being "If Ryuko knows it, I'll answer freely." Other than that, it comes down to the situation, like if I wasn't able to display some information clearly enough. Information I won't share would be things like Yukari's big secret. Although I've already hidden the biggest hint I can give for that one.
>>No. 31244
[X] Go to Youkai Mountain
We might have more look fighting in the land of fragile speedsters.
>>No. 31245
Forest it is
>>No. 31258
File 152563541859.png - (1.52MB, 1000x956, Cocky bastard.png) [iqdb]
31258
==========
Outside the Human Village, North District - 15:55
==========

I turn to Akyuu. “I know we’re supposed to hunt urban legends, but there’s something I’d like to look into really quick, if you don’t mind.”

“You’re the expert.” She gestures. “I’m just along to observe some modern youkai.”

“This isn’t really a youkai, per se.” I start walking towards the woods, motioning her to stay behind me. “It’s just something that feels off.”

She shrugs it off and doesn’t say anything else.

The woods are barely a stone's-throw away, with my pace, and it doesn’t take long before whatever it is, comes into earshot.

“-nature like you would be able to put up a more entertaining fight.”

Female voice. Young, more so than Akyuu, though she sounds mature for her age.

A young-looking girl. She wears what looks like an azure hakama, though the legs are a fair bit thinner. Her plain white sleeveless shirt is thick enough to not turn see through despite the sweat that’s built up. Her long blue hair is tied neatly in a ponytail. Despite how she’s obviously moved around, her hair appears to remain silky, suggesting she takes extra care of it.

The thing that catches my attention, or rather what seemed to catch it in the first place, the flaming red blade at her waist. It emits a strange sense of allure, that makes me want to try and hold it, just to see how it feels to wield.

“We’re sorry.”
“We won’t do it again.”
“We promise.”

Right next to her, three small fairies are trembling with their backs against a tree.

A prank gone wrong?

“You think an apology is enough?” Blue girl folds her arms. “Insulting me like this would net you a severe punishment. But since I’m in a good mood, if you grovel, I might just forgive you.”

That goes a little past scolding.

I motion Akyuu to stop and continue making my way up to the apparent celestial.

She seems to catch me from the corner of her eye as she turns to face me. “Whatever it is, I’m busy, so wait a bit-”

I slug her square in the face, sending her flying back.

It takes a second for her to register what just happened, but once she does, she sits right up. “What in the actual hell are you doing?”

“Sorry,” I wrap my other hand around my fist, “you just looked so eager to pick a fight, I thought I’d give you a more challenging opponent.”

“Now you’ve done it.” She stands up. “Do you even know who I am?”

“Hinanawi Tenshi.” I state. “A little celestial brat born with a silver spoon up her ass.”

She clenches her teeth. “How daft would you have to be to attack me, knowing who I am.”

A quick glance back reveals the fairies have disappeared, though their spiritual signature hasn’t moved an inch.

“How spoiled would you have to be to throw around your unearned prestige to try and intimidate someone you know nothing about?” Not a snappy comeback, but I don’t care enough to try harder. “Hakurei Ryuko, faithful servant of Hakurei.”

“Hakurei? So you’re just a simple priest for a weak little god?” She laughs once. “Though it would be more fun to bully you.”

“Go ahead and try.” I fold my arms.

Though I do hate people who abuse their power to pick on those weaker than themselves, it’s rarely any of my business to get mixed up with them. But when it involves children, I draw the line and retaliate. Even if fairies are immortal forces of nature, everything about them are like human children, so I can’t overlook it with a good conscience.

Plus this will prove a nice exercise to get back into the habit of using my other arm again, though that’s just a bonus.

The brat makes a dash for me, circling around slightly from the right.

As she gets close, she grounds her inner foot and lets her outer foot continue into an upward roundhouse kick.

I quickly move my elbow down to meet her angle and direct her kick up above me. And I add an extra little push at the top to throw her off balance.

For a brief moment, her eyes widen as she expects a follow up attack. However, I don’t and let her fall backwards before regaining her footing.

She doesn’t rest, though, and immediately strikes back at me.

Swatting away her fist, I counter by planting my own fist in her stomach.

The sudden shock forces her onto her knees.

I plant my foot in her stomach and shove her back, using only enough force to move her small frame.

She’s stronger than the Menreiki, but this girl hasn’t had any combat training by the looks of it. Rather it seems like she’s instinctively brawling, and she’s not even that good at it. Real brawlers can take martial artists on equal footing.

“Come on. This isn’t fair. At this rate I’ll have to stop using my hands, just to give you a chance.” I taunt her. “With how you were bullying those fairies, I thought you at least could make me sweat.”

“Take that ego and shove it up your ass, would you?” The celestial climbs back on her feet without issue.

“How unladylike.” I put on a snobby accent. “But oh well, that’s only to be expected from lowly humans made celestial because of their connections.”

“You fuck!” She yells out as she launches herself at me, forfeiting all defense.

I respond with a swift spin kick to her liver, knocking her off my path.

“This is ego backed by confidence and skill, by the way.” I inform her, to further rub it in.

She once again pulls herself off the ground and gets on her feet, without much trouble.

And I have to admit, that’s impressive.

The liver is like a water balloon; if you squeeze one place, it will expand somewhere else to compensate. And that tiny flap peeking out from under the cover of the ribs, if that’s hit then the other end will expand, triggering a reaction from the core nerve system.

It won’t just hurt like all hell, but it’ll force your veins to expand, lowering your blood pressure. The heart being unable to adjust to such a sudden change, the body will collapse, to make sure the brain has enough blood, which will effectively ground you until your body has stabilized itself again.

And that’s not factoring in how easy it is to damage the liver. All it takes is a punch of five meters per second to fracture the liver, which is fragile considering the average human can punch at six meters per second.

Celestials, of course, should be more durable than that, but even if the liver isn’t damaged, she should still stay grounded for at least a minute, with the amount of force I put into that kick.

“It’ll take more than that to hurt me.” She brags. “But I guess that’s all there is to be expected from a simple human.”

“So I can get even rougher?” I spread out my arms. “Wonderful. There’s something I’ve always wished to try, but never found anyone who’d survive it.”

“Are you looking down on me?” She quickly closes the distance between us.

This time she tries a front kick to my abdomen.

I shoot my foot forward, so her kick goes behind me.

Before she has a chance to plant her foot, though, I slide my leg back, getting in her way and forcing her off center.

With a soft push, I send her back to the ground.

“What would give you that idea?” I shrug, though do nothing to hide my smirk. “Now get up so I can play a little more.”

She gets back up into a crouching position, to catch her breath before going straight into a run towards me.

I feint a jab, masking another liver-blow.

Taking the hit without defense, she bends over, clutching her stomach.

I follow up with a jumping knee to her head. Twisting around in midair, I swing my other foot around for a sideways dropkick.

Even though the last kick is softened by the fact I have no ground to stand firm on, it’s still a kick to the head, so most people can’t take it. But with how much vitality this girl has, she shouldn’t have too much trouble taking it.

“You know,” I pop my knuckles, “I really should punish you for insulting me like this. But I’m in a good mood right now, so if you just grovel and beg for forgiveness, I might just let you go with a warning.”

The celestial looks up at me. Her glare alone is enough to tell me I pushed the right button.

She spits out some blood. “Fuck off, freak.”

“Well then, since you want it rough.” I shift my stance to face her square, preparing my arms by my sides. “Martial Sign: Tower.”

“Like that’s going to work.” She once again stubbornly runs toward me.

Just before she gets within striking distance, she halts and jumps backwards.

She glances down at her legs before looking back at me.

Trying once more, this time she circles around to approach me from my side.

I drag my foot, making a quick turn so she’s once again right in front of me.

And once again, she leaps away.

“What did you do to me?” She yells out. “What does that spell card do?”

“Tower is just the name of the stance.” I inform her. “Your inability to attack is your own shortcoming.”

Not entirely true. The purpose of this stance is to increase intimidation by appearing tall and immovable. After having beaten her so one-sidedly, her body now refuses to let her close to me.

Psychology can be such a great weapon.

Despite my words, she makes for another dash towards me.

This time however, when she gets close enough, she leaps forward, forcing herself to get close.

She grabs the sword by her waist and pulls it up above her head, preparing for a power strike.

Seeing it come, I step in through her attack zone, getting too close for her to strike.

I’m not able to prepare a proper attack in time, so I instead continue moving, tackling her mid jump, knocking her sword out of her hand and letting it continue its path past me.

Wait. Past me? Akyuu.

I throw the celestial and dash backwards before I’ve even started turning towards Akyuu.

The heavenly blade has already covered more distance than I could hope to.

In a last-ditch effort to dodge the incoming sword, Akyuu falls back, though she’s too late.

The blade doesn’t hit her, though.

A spherical barrier surrounding Akyuu has blocked it, though it managed to pierce the surface.

My protective charm. Oh thank Hakurei, I’d forgotten all about it.

The blade falls to the ground, as the shield disappears. The only sound coming from Akyuu is the choked remains of a scream.

Tenshi, not wanting to pass on this opportunity, jumps me from behind.

Sensing this, I counter with a swift kick, up into her stomach, stopping her midair and dropping her to her knees.

Not playing around with her anymore, I follow up with another kick to her temple, finally knocking her down for the count.

“Akyuu.” I run over to her. “Akyuu, how are you feeling? You aren’t hurt?”

“I, I don’t know.” She stutters. “I need a moment to collect myself again.”

“You even dare turn your back to me.” The celestial speaks up again. “I’ve had it up to hear with you.”

I turn around, just in time to see something fly at my face. I throw myself back to dodge-

It hits my cheek, bouncing up while cutting open all the flesh in its path.

Fucking hell this shit hurt.

Unable to suppress the scream of pain, I embrace it and turn it into a roar, letting out a sound I don’t think I’ll ever be able to replicate.

“Akyuu!” I lower my stance significantly. “Run for the village! Don’t look back!”

“What?”

“Now!” I snap at her.

Without another moment of delay, I run the other way into the woods.

My eye is bust. Even the pain is gone. My spiritual power is unmanaged. That rock hit too hard, and I can’t control my power. My consciousness keeps flickering. No telling how long I’ll be able to hold on.

Fuck. With just one lucky rock, she’s managed to effectively blind me, and seal my spiritual powers.

And she stood up after that beating like it was nothing. There’s no way I can defeat her with martial arts alone.

Escape.

That’s my only option.

I need to make sure this wound is closed, and try to stabilize my spiritual energy. But with her hot on my tail, that’s borderline impossible.

Below me. Shadow. Not mine. Hers?

Without thinking, I kick off the ground, throwing out a blind kick.

In the brief moment I get to look up, I manage to see her clearly. In this single instance, my mind clears up completely. I can see a hint of satisfaction. Finally getting me on the defensive.

The next moment, my kick lands, blocking her jump strike by sending her back into the air.

At this point, I realize I’m upside down with no aerial control, so the kick probably wasn’t such a good idea.

Thankfully this helpful tree makes me stop by being in my way, taking the full force of my weight as I hit it back first.

The collision sends a jolt up my spine, stunning me, though nothing seems to break.

“Done running?” She asks. “Then it’s time to pay the price for insulting me.”

“I wouldn’t move, if I were you.” An unknown voice steps in.

If my spiritual power wasn’t broken, I’d be able to identify this new woman.

“First he stands in my way, now you too?” The celestial complains, the smug playfulness all gone from her voice.

“I came out to investigate that roar, since I don’t like dangerous youkai around my house.” She says calmly. “But I guess I’ll take care of you first.”

“Take care of me?” She sounds insulted. “You don’t even know what’s going on.”

“I feel more inclined to believe a half-dead human than a problem child known to cause incidents, so do excuse me.” She replies. Her mood being difficult to gauge as her voice remains stoic. “Now, will you get out of my forest willingly, or do I have to use force?”

The feeling in my legs is starting to return.

“Celestial!” A male voice yells out. “Cease your unauthorized assault this instant, or I will open fire!”

“Ryuko!” Another new girl yells out.

That voice. Kotohime?

It’d be so much easier if my mind wasn’t so clouded.

“Another one?” Tenshi yells out.

“Let me see your wound.” The police woman states. She’s apparently made her way over here without me noticing. “This is a nasty one. We need to get you to a doctor before this becomes necrotic.”

“I repeat! Stand down, Celestial!” The man, presumably Kotohime’s boss, yells out again.

“Stop ordering me around, you lowly human!” Tenshi yells back.

Kotohime starts wrapping a bandage over my wound. The bleeding as long since stopped, so it must be to keep it from getting infected, or just to hide it.

“Tenshi!” Another new woman joins us, this one sounding older than the two others.

“Iku? What are you doing here?” Tenshi asks.

“Coming to get you, of course.” She snaps. “Have you forgotten why we came down to earth in the first place. We don’t have time for you to run off and start another incident. Not this time.”

“Not you too, Iku.” She complains.

“Tenshi!” She snaps once again. “We’re going home. Now.”

The celestial just clicks her tongue but says nothing more.

With the atmosphere growing lighter, I assume the two celestials have left.

“Kotohime, start moving.” Her boss instructs her. “We need to get him to the village.”

“Got it.” She affirms. “Can you walk?”

“Yeah, I think so.” I answer, getting on my feet. My legs are shaky, but nothing I’m not used to dealing with. Nevertheless, the tiny guards woman opts to act as my support.

“Thank you for stalling her, Miss.” Kotohime’s boss talks to the unknown woman.

“You’re welcome.” She says. “Though I had the situation under control, it’s human nature to protect your own, right?”

“More or less.” He agrees. “It’s about familiarity.”

“I see. Though I have to insist on escorting you out of the forest.” She says. “There appears to be a feral youkai running amok.”

“We’d appreciate that, Miss.” The boss thanks her.

“Witch.” She woman corrects him. “Just call me Witch. That’s what the rest in the human village does.”

“In that case, we’ll depend on you, Witch.” the boss says once more.

“Witch.” I speak up. I think I have an idea who it is, but I can’t say for certain. “My mind’s a mess, so I’m not sure how this will come out, but, thank you.”

There’s a brief moment of silence before she replies. “You’re welcome.”

I feel my legs give in under me, as my mind shuts down.
>>No. 31259
Rock 1
Hakurei 0
>>No. 31270
==========
Outside the Human Village - 11th of Planting Month 01:12
==========

By god, I can be a genius sometimes.

I’m low on blood. My eye has been removed. And my spiritual power is disrupted to the point of complete obsolescence.

Yet I get the absolute genius idea of leaving the village. In the middle of the night no less.

It’s so genius in fact, that I don’t even know why I did it.

Alternatively, I might just be the biggest fucking idiot, which is the much more likely option.

I mean for fucks sake, I didn’t just get defeated by a rock, now I’m also acting like a dying animal. It’s pitiful.

And I have too much pride to turn around now.

Honestly, the only defense I have for walking out of the village, is the fact my guts tell me to move. I have no idea where they’re taking me, but I have yet to be killed because of a gut feeling, which is more than I can say for my genius ideas.

The good thing about this situation, is that it reminds me of how over reliant I’ve become of my spiritual power as a way of observing the world. The whole reason we trained up all my senses was to be able to navigate in case I lost any critical senses, like sight. But instead of sight, I became reliant on spiritual power instead. Just another stroke of my pure genius, I guess.

My train of thought is broken, as I sense someone, or something staring at me.

Out of pure instinct, I spin around, facing the direction I felt the stare. I scan the horizon for a second until I find it.

Atop a hill against the clear night sky, I see a silhouette. The best description I can find, would be a ten petal flower head. The sole thing bringing it to life, though, are the two golden eyes staring at me.

I don’t sense any hostility from it, whatever it is, so I chose to ignore it and continue on, to whatever destination awaits me.

It’s surprisingly hard to tell distance with just one eye. Typically, when you try to see how much difference it makes, you do it in an environment you’re familiar with, like your home, so you naturally know the distance, more so since you just found it before you closed one eye.

But walking around out here with only one eye, it really highlights the lack of depth perception. Luckily this is just temporarily. I still have Doc’s seal, so I can make a full recovery, even from death, just once. And once the seven days have passed, I can go back outside to get it fixed.

Which makes me feel somewhat bad, since Akyuu actually got me an eyepatch. I’m sure she knows it’s a little harder than this to kill me, and even harder to inflict permanent damage on me.

Through the cover of the darkness, my apparent destination comes into view; a forest, brimming with mana to the point where I can feel it tickling my skin. It’s the same forest where I got rocked.

Logically, this is suicide. In my current condition, going into a youkai infested forest without any real reason is just moronic. Especially because this is where I got injured. I doubt I’ll get even a light case PTSD, but I can’t say I’m entirely unaffected either.

Still, my guts tell me to keep going, so against my better judgment, I trudge on.

I glance back before crossing the tree line, to see if that thing is still watching me, but I don’t see anything behind me.

Not too long after, I reach the place where I was defeated. I don’t remember what this exact spot looks like, nor can I see it all that well in this darkness. But I’m sure this is the place.

Yet I still have the urge to move on. This isn’t my destination.

Frankly, I’m not sure how much I’ve walked. It’s hard to see, and everything I can see looks exactly alike. I can only really follow my gut feeling at this point.

One thing that stands out to me, though, is that no youkai has made itself known to me. I’ve caught glimpses of a few from the edge of my vision, but none of them have dared getting close, nor have I sensed any malice from them. If the night sparrows were singing, I could understand, but I don’t hear any.

Still, I’m taking care to keep my footing, just to stay safe. If the loss of my eye has taught me anything, it’s to not lower my guard. Which is a lesson I’m soon going to forget, again, so I might as well use it now.

Regardless of if I’m being stalked or not, I reach a small clearing, no bigger than ten meters in diameter. My guts are telling me this is the place, this is what I’ve been walking to get to.

I turn back around to the road I’ve been walking and give it a formal deep bow. “Thank you for seeing me off.” I doubt I’m really being stalked, but better be safe.

With that done, it’s probably best I get to figuring out why I’m here.

The first thing that stands out is the incredible amount of mana, not to mention the purity of it.

If I had some gold, I’m sure I could charge it in a matter of minutes here. I’d probably even be able to cast some spells, if I could channel this mana properly. Though with the size of my mana pool, I’ve never really had the chance to practice much.

I’d have to convert my magic circuit back to mana too, to make use of it, which isn’t worth it, since I use spiritual energy.

Wait, that’s it. I can use this mana to repair my circuit. I can regain my spiritual powers in just a few hours with this, instead of waiting the weeks it’d take for it to naturally recover.

My body probably picked up on the high mana concentration yesterday, without me noticing. That’s why my guts told me to go back here.

I take seat at the center of the clearing and prepare myself for meditation.

Deep steady breath. Release my grip on my energy and let it run free. Open myself up. And then just relax and let the mana flow through me.

==========
“Now lookie here. He’s back yet again.” The blurred woman greets me.

To my surprise, I can actually understand her.

“What’s this? Have I finally gone through?” She stands up and steps down from the shrine’s porch. “Respond if you can hear me.”

I try to respond, but I find that I make no sound.

“Fantastic.” She throws her arms in the air as she walks back to the sit at the shrine. “It’s taken several months, but I finally adjusted it properly.”

She could hear me? But I didn’t say anything.

“With you here, time moves too fast to allow me to explain everything. Let me start with the two important things.” She spreads out her arms. “This world exists inside your soul. And this,” she points to herself, “is a fragment of the Hakurei goddess, which has taken residence here, in accordance with the initiation ritual.”

She’s Hakurei?

“Wasn’t that clear? I live in a shrine inside your soul. That should have been the giveaway any of the previous times you came here.”

I didn’t know this was my soul. Thought it was just dreams.

“Doesn’t really matter. Now you know.” She shrugs it off. “Anyway, before we run out of time, I’d like to apologize for doing such a poor job with the ritual. I took far too long before I could give you your arm back, and I failed to even give you any of the trademark Hakurei abilities. Admittedly, there were some factors with unexpected consequences.”

Factors?

“Well, for one thing, I had to try and match your spiritual power, and do you have any idea how hard that is. Secondly of is,” she trails off. “Actually, forget that second point. I just remembered I promised your mom to not tell you.”

What?

“Oh look, we’re conveniently out of time.” She fakes looking at a watch. “Remember to tell your mom I said hi next time you meet her.”
==========

What the hell was all that about? I mean, I’m glad I finally got the chance to meet Hakurei, but then she drops bombs like that and just kicks me out before I can even get a chance to ask her about any of it.

I mean, of course I know I have a mom. I didn’t just blink into existence. The fact I’ve never seen her, just made me accept the shrine village as my family instead. They’re all youkai, but at least they have my back.

And this other reason. Like hell I can just forget.

I’m about to stand up, as I feel something in my lap.

A cat. Ashy fur with black tiger stripes. The tail is split just off the base. A nekomata.

Why is a youkai sleeping in my lap?

I run a finger down the spine of it, to which it responds by waking up. The first thing it does is look up at me. Then it stretches and walks off.

I have questions. About Hakurei, myself and that youkai. None of which I’m likely to get answered.

Anyway. It’s the twilight of dawn, so I’ve slept longer than usual.

I give my body a flex to get a feel for the state of my muscles. A little sore from yesterday, but no damage. I should probably skip on my workout today then.

Instead, I follow my ears to a stream of water running nearby.

Afterwards I should probably look for something to eat, if I plan on staying here any longer.

Looking at my reflection, it seems the mana channeling has disrupted the spell masking my eye color, since it’s taken its natural color of bright golden, instead of it’s usual masked azure.

And it’s slit.

What the actual fuck is going on.

I lift the eyepatch to examine the other eye. It’s still missing. Thankfully that’s not more fucked up than I expected.

Don’t tell me that second reason is me turning into a youkai. I mean, few humans even know I exist, and I’m sure I appear like a monster to those that do. I was raised by and live with youkai, so remaining entirely unaffected would be a miracle.

My train of thought is broken by the sound of a small piece of metal bouncing off rock.

I look back to see a small coin. The same one Yukari gave me.

But wasn’t that bound to my urban legend? Why is it still acting up? The incident is still ongoing?

As a priest of Hakurei, it’s part of my job to patrol the border. These urban legends have crossed without permission and should be kicked out.

But something is happening to me. And I think I have the best chance of figuring out what if I stay here.

[] Go back to the village
[] Stay here


Short, but I felt there had to be a break after the last update's end. Also wrote this in between exams and new vidya
>>No. 31271
[X] Stay here

Reimu is a big girl and can handle things without us for a day or so.
>>No. 31272
[x] Stay here

Cheeeeeeen! She was here for a reason. Besides the obvious one.
>>No. 31273
[X] Stay here

Let's get this sorted out now.
>>No. 31274
[x] Stay here.

Heck with work, we're in no condition to be doing it anyway. Our glorious victory against Tenshi proved that.
>>No. 31275
We didn't lose again Tenshi, we lost against a common rock.


What, you think you could have done better against The Rock, not even Yukari at full power could stand a chance!
>>No. 31276
File 152891508238.jpg - (169.10KB, 800x2140, Cheneko.jpg) [iqdb]
31276
A little late, but exams were about.

>>31272
Cat-Chen is typically depicted with brownish fur instead of white with black stripes. Sometimes she's even seen as a black cat, despite having brown hair.
So no, that's not Chen. But it is there for a reason.

And a general question for you guys.
Being frank, does it feel like I'm railroading more than I should when it comes to the votes?
The reasoning behind that question, is that I predicted the vote to stay would win, right from the planning phase. And while I did try to look for other good stopping points with a more balanced vote (in the sense that all options feel equally viable and different) I couldn't find one that didn't have me making this decision for you. And since this is a choice that alters the flow of the story, I try to avoid those myself.
I didn't predict staying would win unanimously though, which is why I'm worrying I might be railroading it too much.
>>No. 31277
>>31276

There wasn't a compelling enough reason to go elsewhere compared to staying, honestly. And you're dangling a strong carrot of lore, so that makes it a bigger reason to stick around.

At that point you go, "What would be happening in other areas that would make this decision not be the only real one?" There's no immediate reason to counter the waiting game here, so it won't happen.
>>No. 31278
>>31277
I hadn't thought about that. I see the story from a different perspective, after all, as the author. Makes sense, though, and I'll try to keep it in mind moving forward.
>>No. 31279
File 153055919762.jpg - (492.56KB, 1446x2045, Versatile Fox.jpg) [iqdb]
31279
==========
Heart of the Forest, Forest of Magic - 06:12
==========

No. Figuring out what the hell is wrong with me takes top priority. These eyes, or eye, it happened last time I came to Gensokyo too. Reimu remarked on it, though it went away again just as quickly.

Well, test one.

Without restraint, I bite down into my arm, making sure to draw blood. I let my teeth sit there for a second until I’ve gathered enough blood to get a good taste of it.

Ignoring the taste of copper, a second, very faint trace of citrus sticks out. Mandarin, if I’m not mistaken.

Definitely mana. My level is usually too low to be detected like this, so the fact I can taste my own mana means I have a surplus supply. With my low capacity, it can only travel through my bloodstream as a temporary storage.

While channeling the mana here, I must have refined some and stored it.

That’s the first thing different about me.

Second is my missing eye, but that seemingly has nothing to do with it. Unless I’m doomed to always have one major malfunction in my body. All year it’s been my arm, now my eye. Coincidence, I’m sure. It’s not too rare to get something vital in this line of business.

Third is that goddess in my head, Hakurei. She was finally able to reconnect my arm yesterday. She’s been there a while, though. And nothing like this was mentioned back at the ritual. Can’t rule her out as a possibility, though.

Fourth is the fact I’m in Gensokyo. Not really a change on my end, but this change to my eyes has only happened in Gensokyo. Normally they just turn yellow for a few minutes before the magic kicks back in.

If I assume Gensokyo has something to do with it, then I have to pinpoint the difference between this pocket dimension and the real world. The obvious thing is the fact this place is filled with Faith, to the point where even I can pick some up for Hakurei. Another difference is the general concentration of mana, which is much higher than in the outside world.

Mana.

Speaking of mana, I’m resistant to mana based spells. Wounds induced by metal heal at a normal human rate. Considering metal has a general mana negating property, it also hooks up to this net.

That’s why my gut dragged me back here. The Forest of Magic has more mana than anywhere else in Gensokyo, and I’m standing at the heart of it; Gensokyo’s epicenter of mana.

But what am I supposed to do? I can’t cast spells because of my low capacity. Should I just infuse and disperse as much mana as I can?

The body can generally run on raw mana for whatever it needs it for at the moment. Infusing it and storing it can up the efficiency, but requires constant attention. But that’s the only real thing I can think of.

I take seat in the grass patch.

It’s been awhile since I’ve done dedicated meditation. Let’s see if I remember which gestures would be appropriate here.

Rin - Pyo - Kai

I fold my hands accordingly.

Visually, I imagine a great gate opening, allowing a wild gust of wind to pass through.

At the same time, I feel my body heating up, as it starts processing mana.

I start focusing only on those two feelings; the sense of my body, and the image of the wind.

==========
12th of Planting Month 05:40
==========

I drop one of the hares on the ground, freeing up a hand to take out the one I’ve had to carry by mouth. I place the two I’m still carrying a little more careful, so as to not get dirt on their wounds.

I did consider just eating these raw, since there’s never been a problem doing that, but I think I’d be better off roasting them, so it’s easier for my body to digest the meat, wasting less energy. Had to move to the river, though, since the green is too thick to safely start a bonfire.

It doesn’t take long to light the fire. I just have to wait for it to really get going, then wait for the embers.

Somewhat surprised that survival training actually paid off. I mean, the village is within walking distance, so it’s not really survival. Aside from being a fun break from the usual training, I never thought I’d actually use it, given how close society always seem to be.

I take off the eye-patch, take a deep breath, then dip my face into the stream and just start drinking.

Lifting my head back out, I take another second for the water to drip out of the empty socket.

I’m not sure if it’s even a good idea to expose the open eye socket to water like this. Though I’m keeping the wound in the back where they cut the connection clear of the water. Actually.

Though the light is dim, I manage to see inside the empty socket in the water’s reflection. And it appears that they surgically cut out the eye. Since it was cut with metal, it’s not going to close up any time soon. For better or worse; I’m not sure which is easier for Doc to heal. Not like my natural healing can regrow limbs or organs, so for the time being, it doesn’t really make a difference.

The other eye is still a slit. No, rather it’s quite open for a slit. Maybe that’s why I can see so well in the dark.

And something else stands out. Over my shoulder, the skin looks different. I can clearly see there’s a difference in shade, but it’s too dark to see the color.

So I reach over with my hand to feel it out, and almost immediately withdraw my hand from pure surprise.

That wasn’t skin.

The surprise over, I once again place my hand over my shoulder, running my fingers across this strange texture.

Hard, somewhat smooth, like treated leather. No, harder. Scales? Too small for that?

I twist my body, so my back becomes more visible in the reflection.

No, that’s most definitely scales. The tips of my hair have also changed shade. Normally, it’s obsidian black, but the tips have changed to some brighter color. Not white, though a pale color.

Something is definitely happening. If I continue like this, I’m going to have a breakthrough in no time.

I cut my own smile short. Even my teeth have changed. These are carnivore teeth. The front ones are still relatively normal, though their tips have reduced enough to notice.

If not for the scales, I might have been convinced I was possessed by a byakko. But as if my luck would allow me to gain such powers. I’m sure I’d be able to keep it under control, especially with Hakurei’s help.

But alas, it’s something else fucking me up right now. And whether it was infusing mana or just waiting, it seems to have worked.

“I wasn’t expecting guests.” I say out loud. “So you’ll have to excuse me for not preparing more food.”

I dust off and stand to face the newcomer.

“Don’t mind me.” The sage just dismisses my offer. “Ran is preparing plenty of breakfast. Isn’t that right, Ran?”

“It should be ready in about ten minutes, Lady Yukari.” The kitsune walks out from behind the sage. She gives me a polite bow as a greeting.

“Instead, I’m here for you, Ryuko.” She creates a gap right behind her on which she sits on. “I have a pretty good idea of what you’re doing, and I have to cut it short.”

“What?” I exclaim. “But I’m so close to a breakthrough. Just a little more and I’ll finally know what’s up with my body.”

“And that’s exactly why I need you to stop.” She shifts her legs. “It’s still too early for you to know.”

“You know you’re only making me want to know even more badly, right?” I ask rhetorically.

Her lack of response tells me all I need to know. So I just put my eye-patch back on.

“Ran, if you please.” The old sage flies back a bit, creating some distance between us.

Our last match ended in my defeat, and that was just sparring.

I hunch over, taking on the peekaboo stance.

“You really want to go through with it?” Ran asks, still standing casually. “It would be so much easier if you didn’t.”

“Sorry, but I need to know this.” I shift my weight from my heels to my toes. “If there’s even a chance of me winning, it’s worth taking right now.”

“I see.” She pulls her hands out of her sleeves, revealing her exposed claws. “Then please don’t hold a grudge.”

With little warning, she throws her hand out at me, trying to claw at me.

I throw out a quick jab, countering and stopping her move.

My reach is longer than hers, I should use that to keep her at a distance. If she gets past my range though, I’ll be at a disadvantage.

“Aggressive, aren’t you?” She comments.

“Yeah, I can’t start slow against you.” After all, I lost my eye because I start slow.

“Meanwhile I have to hold back. It wouldn’t be good if I accidentally got you killed.” She says with a trained stoic expression.

Yeah, I have to try and better my odds more before I attempt to take her on for real. And I might just have an idea.

I tense up my body, masking a feint behind another feint.

I need to get into the water stream. But Ran is likely to see that coming, so I feign a dash towards her, which I then mask by feigned to go to the water.

She’s clearly noticed something is up, as her eyes dart over me, scanning every muscle she can perceive.

The moment I make my move, however, she jumps me.

I barely manage to roll out of the way.

Not taking any chances, the moment my feet get back on the ground, I leap with what little momentum I have.

Surprisingly, I land in the river stream like planned. And I’m waist deep, hindering my movement, but it should work.

Shikigami and water don’t mix. If the binding mark gets wet, it’ll have to be reapplied before the power bonus takes effect again. Paper shikigami don’t like water, either, for obvious reasons. So I should be safe from Ran, until she figures out how to approach me.

And she flies.

I keep forgetting that’s a thing. Barely anyone in the outside world can fly without augmented wings of some kind, and even fewer actually use it.

I’m in trouble.

Though to my surprise, she doesn’t attack. Instead she takes a firm grasp of my wrist and just throw me back on shore.

“Ran.” Yukari calls out to her familiar.

They exchange looks for a second while I get back on my feet.

“As you wish.” Ran responds by retracting her claws.

The fox locks eyes with me, and in the blink of an eye she’s closed the gap between us, striking my solar plexus with an open palm.

Gritting through the pain, I hammer my hands together, hoping she’s between them.

Sadly, she saw it coming and ducked, following up her attack with and upwards palm strike.

I manage to twist myself enough to avoid getting hit by her follow-up.

Taking advantage of the twist, I throw a short punch and manage to land it in her stomach.

She doesn’t even react.

Instead, she just grab a firm hold of me and headbutts my chest, knocking the wind out of me.

There’s a strange feeling brewing inside of me. It’s slightly distracting.

Again, ignoring the pain of my depleted lungs, I grab her back and knee her with as much power as I can muster.

She still ignores my attack but and just throws me at the ground with her overwhelming strength.

That feeling again. It’s stronger, but I can’t quite tell what it is yet.

I jump back up, managing to put a little distance between us.

“I know you’re a youkai, but seriously.” I complain. “Can’t you at least react when I hit you? Just budging a little would be appreciated.”

She looks surprised by remark, before doing a quick examination of her own body. “Seems like I forgot to add a sense of pain on this one. Oh well.” She strikes her stance again.

“Why would you shut down your sense of pain? It’s essential!” I complain.

Most people think pain is bad. Those few that don’t are either masochists or have actually bothered to think about what pain is. You need pain. It’s the only way for your body to tell you when something is wrong. Shutting it down is ignoring the plight of your body, and if you do that, what’s to stop it from simply ignoring you and just give up?

She doesn’t reply. Instead, she just clenches her hands into fists.

With a quick step, she’s moved into range and hammers home a one-two combo, followed by a straight to my chin.

I manage to stand my ground, but I’m entirely off balance.

It’s that feeling again. I think I know what it is.

[ ] A sense of being grounded, stubbornly standing unmoving
[ ] A sense of formlessness, like a stream twisting through the land
[ ] A sense of force, growing stronger as my emotions burn
[ ] A sense of freedom, untethered from the world I walk
[ ] A sense of a growing void in my mind, complete tranquility


And that's the last hint you'll get as to what you are.

Also, am I the only active author on this board again? My story hasn't been pushed down since I called the votes. I hope that's not the case, since there are still many waifus to woo on this board.
>>No. 31280
>Last hint

Fuck

>Last author

It seems so. Sad.
>>No. 31281
>eyes turn to slits when in combat, now they keep being that way
>scales out of nowhere
>name written as Dragon Child
>has unexplained connections to Youkai in the outside world, of all things
>not a Hakurei by birth

Relation to serpents or dragons. Could be a Half-Dragon, for all we know.

[x] A sense of a growing void in my mind, complete tranquility
>>No. 31282
Everything about Ryuko stinks dragon, even his name, but I'm not sure what the vote is actually for. So I'll just go

[x] A sense of formlessness, like a stream twisting through the land

for the dragon = river thing, unless someone has a better explanation.

> Also, am I the only active author on this board again?

Rifle's still around, I think... he's just slower than you are right now. Which is kind of depressing.

Uh, no offence intended.
>>No. 31283
>>31282
He's at the same pace, doing updates once a month. Looking forward to one from this month.
>>No. 31284
>>31282

Chiming in with a, "Really don't understand the vote" comment here as well. Is this supposed to be deciding a path of progression?

It feels like we were supposed to come to possible conclusions about what our underlying nature is, which dragon makes sense and is fine, but the split path of five choices here doesn't really hit me with what their significance is supposed to be.

Gonna go with

[x] A sense of freedom, untethered from the world I walk

for the heck of it.
>>No. 31285
File 153081861822.gif - (548.53KB, 1200x800, All of my rage.gif) [iqdb]
31285
>>31284
>>31282

To be honest, this was one of those things I decided on 5 years ago when the story was still being drawn up, and it became such a fundamental part that I never thought to question it again later.

This is a genuine use of the spoiler tags. You have been warned.
In case you saw the spoiler text and just moused over it, I'll warn you again. This is a genuine use of the spoiler tags.


First off, yes, you have draconic traits. The extend of which I don't wish to disclose yet.
Back then, I strung together the idea that Asian dragons (not to be confused with the Dragon God in touhou lore) could control the five elements (godai) Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Void. (The Chinese variant of the elements is the more well known. Fire, Water, Earth, Wood and Metal, which I connected to the Kirin instead. Currently still hold that connection; research in progress)
Trying to trace my research from back then, to and establish that connection again has proven fruitless.

The purpose of this vote is to establish your natural element, the one you'd have the highest affinity for. You'll also learn the others in time, but with less affinity.

The fact I even have to post this means I've failed as a writer. Even if dragons aren't know to be able to use the elements, I could have drawn the connection myself and made it canon for the story. And all I had to do was question something fundamental about the story. Yet I failed at doing so.


And here's the also-spoiler-but-less-so version: You're gonna become a [insert element] bender and stop the Fire Nation once and for all.

And again. I consider this my failure. It took me this long to respond because I had to make sure of my research.
>>No. 31286
>>31284

Same anon here, testing my willpower save to stay spoilerless.

I don't like the word failure here since I certainly don't consider the story as one, since writing a quest is always a non-stop learning experience.

I do hope that the way decisions were reacted to up to this point in the story may pre-weight this specific decision path in ways we may not necessarily know or understand, since if it's been integral from the beginning in some manner then our "nature" so to speak should've manifested itself already on lower levels.

Looking forward to see where things go regardless.
>>No. 31287
>>31286
I call it a failure because I constantly try to improve everything about my writing style, to bring it just a little closer to my ideal. Mistakes like this is like falling several steps back because it highlights things I've been neglecting.

The only thing I can do it learn from it and start moving again.
>>No. 31288
[X] A sense of being grounded, stubbornly standing unmoving

>[ ] A sense of freedom, untethered from the world I walk
Sounds like what Reimu does, so I think going for the opposite would be thematically appropriate, plus it seems to fit our fighting style.
>>No. 31289
[x] A sense of freedom, untethered from the world I walk
He's already a defensive juggernaut, so a Earth Dragon makes sense, but I'd love to see him fly around the world he loves so much.

Also, versatility yo.
>>No. 31290
[II] A sense of freedom, untethered from the world I walk
[I] A sense of being grounded, stubbornly standing unmoving
[I] A sense of formlessness, like a stream twisting through the land
[I] A sense of a growing void in my mind, complete tranquility
[0] A sense of force, growing stronger as my emotions burn

Not what I expected, being biased and all, but this should be fun.
>>No. 31291
>>31290
You expected an earth dragon, didn't you?
>>No. 31292
>>31285
> I consider this my failure

>>31282 here. Haven't looked at the spoilers (took all of my willpower not to) but I now feel dense for not realizing it was an elemental choice.

Doubly so since I know the five elements you're referring to. I was just reading Fallout Gensoukyou and everything!

Triply so since I was away so long I missed the chance to change my vote.

I will now perform the ritual of shame of my people.
>>No. 31312
It might be a little early to call this, but I think the next update will be slightly delayed. Some problems arose with the new apartment
I had to rent and I've had to deal with that as a priority, otherwise I'd have no internet to shitpost with.
It's been sorted now, and I'm writing, but just in case it's delayed.
>>No. 31313
File 153346802521.jpg - (73.87KB, 500x375, Don't view until Chen.jpg) [iqdb]
31313
==========
12th of Planting Month 05:58
==========

I dismiss the feeling. I can’t afford to lose focus. Ran beat me without effort in a spar. In a real fight, I wouldn’t even be able to notice that she’d attacked me before it was too late.

With some swift footwork, I quickly back off, creating distance between us.

Obviously not willing to allow me to set the terms of the engagement, the fox follows in pursuit, maintaining a constant distance just outside my range.

With a tree coming up behind me, I dance around it, keeping my back against. As I’ve reached the other side, I kick off and start dashing.

If I can’t create any distance backing off, then I’ll just have to run.

It’s strange. My body feels lighter. Not in the same way as when I drop my weighted clothes and just lose the extra weight. Rather, it feels like there’s no resistance on my body. I’m still grounded by gravity, but I feel nothing dragging me down. I’m moving forward fast, yet I don’t feel the air brush off my body.

I feel like any restraints on my movements have been lifted. Like I can move however I want.

Weaving through the forest is a breeze. And now that I think about it, the fact I must weave even though the trees aren’t that dense probably means I’m moving fast, although it doesn’t feel like it.

“Yukari!” The fox calls out from behind me.

“I can see.” The sage responds. “Pin him down and I’ll take care of it.”

Pin me down? Why can’t they just let me figure this out? I’m so close to a revelation I can practically taste it.

“Chen! Now!” My pursuer calls out.

“Huzzah!” A young girl jumps out in front of me, arms stretched out ahead. A couple of cats follow her movement, including a familiar ashen one.

Without much effort, I manage to dive underneath her and her catpanions, bringing myself so close to the ground I can smell the dirt, yet I somehow don’t lose any speed before getting back up.

“What?” Is all I hear her say behind me.

“Caught you.”
“Caught you.”

I hear Ran yell right before she jumps on my back, crashing me into the ground.

With the force of a youkai, she flips me around and pins me down.

There’s two of her.

I’m sure I didn’t hit my head that hard, but there’s two of her, each holding down one side, making it impossible to move at all.

“I know it can be hard to trust me,” the sage walks into view again, “but that’s all I can really ask of you. I do what I believe is best in the long term.”

One of her gaps open just above my chest, a small one barely the width of my fist.

Yukari then proceeds to jab her parasol into the gap.

Oh god. This feels weird. She’s reached into my mana pool. I’ve had my energy forcefully drained, but this strangely painful intrusion can’t compare to anything I’ve felt before.

As she starts to drag her parasol out, it’s as if she draws my breath out along with it. I start to lose feeling in my feet, then my hands, slowly creeping further up as she continues to drag it out.

Then as the tip comes into sight, it becomes apparent something is attached to it. A small ball of light, with threads reaching back into the gap.

She continues to pull until the threads snap, and the next thing I know I’ve lost all feeling, unable to make my body respond in any capacity.

“Despite the small amount, it’s surprisingly pure.” She comments. “You’d have made a great mage.” She lifts the ball of mana up and lets it disperse into the forest.

“Lady Yukari.” One of the Rans speak up.

“The traits haven’t disappeared.” The other one continues, pulling down my collar to show.

“We were a little too late, then.” Yukari sighs. “At least we managed to reset the advancement.” She opens a large gap behind her. “If you’d be so kind as to take him to his room. It’ll take a while for him to recover the mana.”

One of the Rans lifts me up and sling me over her shoulder like a sack of potatoes.

Not a single muscle in my body responds. I’m completely paralyzed.


==========
13th of Planting Month 08:09
==========

“Are you sure you should be moving about already?” After having observed me for a minute, Ran finally speaks up.

“I’m good.” I respond without stopping my exercise. Though calling it exercise might be a slight exaggeration, since it’s just a series of movements designed to stretch my body continuously. My mana has passed the safe threshold again, so I’m in the clear, but I’d like to make sure everything’s okay before I go wild again.

“I see. That’s good.”

She doesn’t say anything beyond that. She just remains sitting on the porch, watching me, shifting around every so often.

Nothing seems wrong with my muscles. Now to check my spiritual power.

I take a wide stance, feet planted firmly in the ground. I stretch one hand up and the other down, moving them in wide circles going opposite direction until they meet in front of my core.

Releasing every valve on my energy, I allow it to flow freely.

Even though I can’t sense my own spiritual power, I can feel all excess power ooze out of me.

I then start to eject some, increasing the rate at which it flows out of my body. While increasing the rate, I keep track of as much power as I can, both of my giant reserve and the expelled energy.

“You aren’t mad, are you?” The fox asks. “About yesterday, I mean.”

Without letting up, I glance over my shoulder before answering. “Last time I got mad, I almost threw a woman off a building.”

“That’s,” She trails off. “I’m not sure how to respond to that.”

“What I'm trying to say is that I don’t really get mad easily, Ran. But when I’m finally pushed to that limit, I get angry.” I explain. “You might also like to know that I don’t get passive aggressive. That kinda shit accomplishes nothing. Instead, I prefer to confront whoever I have a problem with. Get it sorted out as early as possible.”

“I see.” She replies, once again stopping the conversation.

And stop.

I shut all my valves at once, measuring the rate at which my reserve fills back up.

Nothing abnormal here. Aside from my inhuman level of spiritual energy, that is.

“This would be a good example, Ran.” I continue the conversation. “You clearly have something on your mind, yet you refuse to bring it up.”

“It’s just,” She trails off again.

“Be frank. Be direct.” I tell her.

“It just doesn’t feel proper.” She blurts out. “I know it was the best thing to do, but we, I, still assaulted you.”

“And you wanna make it up to me?” I finish her sentence. I’ve seen this pattern before. Not exactly hard to predict.

“Please allow me.” Keeping her hands on her thighs, she bows her head.

“That’s it?” I ask. “That trick you used back in the forest, where you split in two. Teach me.”

“Split in two?” She looks back up. “You mean the paper shikigami.”

Shikigami? That’s right. Ran is a master of shikigami. Somehow that slipped my mind.

“Paper shikigami are easy to create.” The fox continues. “Controlling them will take some time getting used to, though. Next time you’re free, come find me and I’ll get you started.”

“Will do.” I confirm.

“I see you’re up and about.” A gap opens up behind Ran and out steps Gensokyo’s sage.

“No thanks to you.” I reply.

The sage lets out a sigh. “So we’re going to start the day like this?” She leans against her parasol. “I can’t tell you why I had to do it, all I can ask you is to trust me.”

“What? Is it because I’m a dragon? Or partly anyway.” I ask.

Yukari’s eyes widen. She glances down at Ran who looks up at her, equally confused. The fox just shakes her head.

“Ran didn’t tell me.” I explain. “In retrospect, the signs were obvious. The eyes, the scales, my magic resistance. Heck, youkai are notorious for their uncreative names, so that should have been a dead giveaway.”

The sage taps her index finger on her parasol a few times. “So you’ve figured that much out already.” She states. “Yes, you are half dragon. If I hadn’t stopped you yesterday, you would most likely have transformed into one. And we’re not sure if your body can handle it at this point.”

Half dragon. That raises a lot of other questions. Questions for later, that is.

“So if you stopped my transformation, why are my scales still here?” I ask.

“Because your body has started its first transformation.” She explains. “This first one is unique since you have to fully transform before you can resume your human form.”

That sounds like an arbitrary rule. Then again, I have no info on the early life of youkai with innate shape shifting, such as the Royal Werewolves.

“So my progression is fueled by mana?” I ask.

Since she drained my mana to stop it, it would make the most sense. Gensokyo also has a lot more ambient mana compared to the outside, which could explain why my “transformation” never triggered in the outside world.

“Correct.” The sage nods. “To be specific, it’s your mana overflow that fuels it.”

“That would have been my next question.” I inform her. “Since my mana pool is so shallow, what would have happened if it was bigger.”

“Well considering the overflow lies entirely in the magic circuit, the size of your pool wouldn’t make a difference.” She grabs her chin, pondering a bit. “If anything, I would have to say your actual size would speed up the process, since your circuit can hold more, allowing for a bigger overflow.”

The magic circuit. A network of thread-like veins wrapped around the blood vessels. The purpose of which is to transfer magical energy more efficiently than the blood vessels can do on their own. With some effort, these circuits can be converted from the standard mana transfer to working with spiritual energy or qi.

Normally, when a pool fills up, all excess energy is expelled. Occasionally, however, some of that energy is stored in the circuit temporarily. Taking in external energy also requires it to be stored in the circuit before it can be processed. So essentially, storing energy in the circuit is what we refer to as overflow. It’s an entirely natural and well understood phenomenon in the magic community.

Since I initiated a mana overflow back in the forest, I had mana flowing throughout my entire body. That just brings up another question.

“Why does mana trigger the transformation?” I ask. “As far as I know, dragons are immune to magic, but susceptible to metal.”

Yukari holds out her hand and a gap appears above it. A couple of small metallic balls drop into her hands from the gap. One of them is gold, another silver, and the last might be copper.

“Most weapons used to slay dragons contains at least one of these metals.” She says. “Some of them have the metal mixed into the blade itself, while other have been adorned with them.”

“The mana dispersion property of noble metals.” I note.

That would imply that dragons are mana-based beings. It also explains the magic immunity.

“Isn’t my shallow mana pool going to become a hindrance then?” I ask. “With regard to my apparent dragon heritance, I mean.”

She drops the ball into a new gap. “From what I’ve gathered, no.” She states. “And even if that should be the case, we have plenty of gold to compensate.”

Noble metals all have a different dispersion rate. Gold has a dispersion rate at half of its absorption rate, making it a sort of mana storage. Mages use it as an emergency backup, while people like me can use it to cast spells despite our lacking mana.

I look up, mentally running through my list of questions. “So you took me here to monitor my transformation, more so than to help me train?” I ask.

She gives Ran a dismissive wave, to which the fox responds by disappearing into a white dust cloud, leaving behind a small slip of paper.

So that was a shikigami?

“No.” She softly answers. “I brought you here for another reason. I don’t believe the time is right to tell you, however, so do bear with me for a while longer, my child.” With that said, she puts on a prideful smile. “But that does not mean I don’t intend to train you. My promise to take you to the top still stands.”

It’s stupid. I know it shouldn’t, but that managed to tickle my fancy.

“I’d like another day to make sure my mana is back before I can resume our training.” I tell her.

“That works out perfectly then.” Her expression is back to the usual charismatic smirk. “Reimu has been having more trouble with this incident than usual. Ibaraki, the mountain hermit, and Futatsuiwa, the tanuki, have come up with a plan to take matters into their own hands.”

“And you would like me to help out?” I assume.

“I would like this incident solved as quickly and peacefully as possible.” She states. “And since they are waiting for a rift in the barrier to open, your help could ease the whole thing.”

Indeed. Managing those rifts is my primary job, after all. But with Reimu there, there’s no pressing reason for me to go.

That also reminds me. I should probably go see Akyuu soon. After all, I just disappeared on her for two days after an injury like that. I would like that to take higher priority than it probably should be. Though, I don’t think she’ll go anywhere, so she should be easy to find when I have the time.

I could also take leave for the outside world again and get Doc to fix my eye. Maybe he can do something about my transformation too. Whether that’s helping it along or reverting it. I mean, he’s skilled enough to revive me without using necromancy, so he should be able to do something.

[ ] Go foil some raccoon plans Go help Reimu
[ ] I owe it to Akyuu to let her know I’m okay
[ ] Getting Doc to double check my health is a priority
[ ] Actually, forget it. My body is ready to resume training


Somehow managed to get it done on time, and without cutting anything.

>>31291
Expected water, actually. Hoping for void. Wind is gonna be fun, though.

Also, I'd like to announce a small retcon, regarding the magic system. Back early on, I made it known that magic flows better without fabric, or the likes, in the way. While I did try to make it fit into these new systems, it just won't work with how I've designed things. None of you probably remember that line, but I'd rather be open about it.
>>No. 31314
[x] Getting Doc to double check my health is a priority
>>No. 31315
So no naked dragon? I'm somewhat relieved.

[x] Go foil some raccoon plans and, incidentally, help Reimu

I like that he's direct about the things he dislikes.

>You'd have made a great mage

Can't he be both a mage and a dragon?
>>No. 31316
>>31315
"Mage" refers to mana users. You have a mana pool the size of the average human, making it virtually impossible to cast spells. Spell Break is the one exception because it was designed by you to get around that issue.

You're more of a Spiritualist, using spiritual energy for your spells. Which allow you to use spells Mages can't, and vise versa.

Of the three (qi being the third) mana is the most versatile, while spiritual energy and qi are more specialized.

>No naked dragon
Yet. Maybe. Who knows.
>>No. 31317
[x] Getting Doc to double check my health is a priority.

Still annoyed at Yukari's "punish first, answer questions later" attitude, so I'd like a second opinion. Even if it turns out to be "don't fuck with rocks".

Also, whoa, that's quite the magibabble dump. You've put a lot of thought into this. Getting a decidedly Nasuverse vibe here...
>>No. 31318
[X] I owe it to Akyuu to let her know I’m okay
>>No. 31328
Going for a pro's opinion on the checkup.

>>31317
>magibabble
You haven't seen the tip of the iceberg yet. That's just a summery of how magic flows. Soon I've sat up all the pieces to actually start explaining it properly over time, something which have been delayed for too long
>>No. 31329
File 153469577069.jpg - (299.41KB, 1400x1012, __maribel_hearn_and_usami_renko_touhou_drawn_by_e_.jpg) [iqdb]
31329
Bet you weren't expecting an update. Because I sure as hell wasn't expect to finish it this early.


==========
13th of Planting Month 08:59
==========

“I’m not really in a state to help out, though.” I tell the sage. “It’s not every day I get a critical amount of mana drained from my body, so I can’t say for sure I’m back in top shape.”

“I made sure to leave you with enough mana, so as to not be a problem.” She replies proudly. “If there was any danger, it would already have happened.”

“Yeah, no.” I dismiss her. “I trust my mentor enough to believe in his trust of you, although draining my mana does put a strain on that.” I tell her honestly. “But you're not the authority when it comes to making the call on my overall health, especially not when you’re the cause of the concern.”

She closes her eyes and looks down. “I see. That’s disappointing but I won’t force anything.” She looks back up at me, all hints of emotion completely washed off her expression. “What do you intend to do instead then? Rest for another day?”

“Actually, I want to return to the outside shrine for a quick visit.” I tell her. “I’d like for Doc to double check my condition.”

“Do you still have the necklace?” She asks me.

I pull the small wooden tablet out from under my shirt. “Still wearing it.”

She walks up in front of me, pressing her hand against the necklace.

I can feel the magic flow from her palm, though only a little goes past the charm.

Without warning, she gives me a slight shove, forcing me to take a couple steps back.

As I look back up at her, I see she’s gone. And so is her house. Instead, I see the familiar scene of the old shrine.

I don’t get the chance to take in the view, though, as my phone starts to vibrate like crazy.

Pulling it out, the screen lights up with notifications that just keep scrolling. All of them are missed calls, from Renko no less.

According to the call history, she first tried yesterday around 23:15. Then again a minute later. And another minute. And another. They started to slow down around 2, taking breaks of up to fifteen minutes.

I don’t get to the top before I get another incoming call.

“I’m here.” I answer.

“Help!” I barely get to finish before she yells out from the other side. “West of Dokura falls.”

Dokura falls? That’s our territory according to the Watchers. It’s a stone’s throw away.

“I’ll be there immediately.” I reply. And hang up.

Without wasting another second, I turn around and dash, jumping down the first flight of stairs into the village.

On my way through the village, I spot Doc sitting under a tree, with a can in hand, trying to ignore Yukiko, the village’s yukionna. For the brief moment he’s within view, we manage to lock eyes.

No time to stop, though. Renko sounded too distressed to wait.


==========
13th of May 09:20
Dokura Falls, Mie Prefecture
==========

This most certainly wasn’t here the last time I checked.

In the short span I’ve been in Gensokyo, someone saw fit to erect an old crumbling western mansion inside a minor illusion barrier.

Questions. Why would someone build a mansion in such a way as to make it appear old and crumbling? Why a western design? Was it moved here? If so, why not build a new one instead?

Questions for later.

The surrounding barrier had no security on it, allowing anyone to pass through, making its only purpose to hide this crumbling mansion from a distance. That said, the wall surrounding the mansion's grounds has another type of barrier. From the quick examination I’ve done, it seems like a one-way trap, allowing things in but not out.

What’s more concerning is the fact something is walking around in there. And whatever it is, it’s not alive. It’s not emitting any spiritual energy.

Renko, from the second floor of the mansion, seems to have spotted me, by the frantic wave.

How should I go about telling her?

Keeping eye contact, I gesture in the direction of whatever that dead thing is, then cross my arms in a big X.

She looks in the same direction, then back at me. Without making any gesture back, she dives out of view from the window.

Well then, time to gather some intel before I spring this trap.

I pick up a sizable stone from the ground and chuck it inside the barrier, hitting the wall on the other side where that thing is.

No reaction. It stays still.

I pick up another stone and infuse it with my spiritual power, before throwing it the same way as the last stone.

It reacted. No big movements, though.

Picking up a third, I throw it across the garden away from both of us.

No reaction.

I then throw another stone, this one also charged with spiritual power.

And again, it reacts. Instead of just looking, though, now it walks to where I threw the stone.

So it reacts to spiritual energy rather than sound.

I try flaring up my own power, but it doesn’t react.

And it doesn’t seem to care about things outside the inner barrier, either. Both of the girls have a small spiritual footprint, so they should be safe given the distance between them and it.

Aside from the barrier, that’s as much information as I can get from out here.

I walk through the barrier, ignoring the uncomfortable feeling of stepping through a one-way barrier.

Immediately that thing perks up and looks at me.

It’s a hooded figure, carrying around what’s either a broken shovel or an axe. The robe doesn’t cover its feet. Revealing that it’s both barefoot, and has seams running all around one of its ankles.

The figure grasps the shovel with both hands and runs at me, readying the makeshift weapon over it’s head.

I throw myself to the side, dodging its strike.

The sudden motion caused the hood to fall back, revealing its face. Or to be precise, the lack thereof. This thing has no face. The entire perimeter of where the face should be is outlined by a deep scar.

Nopperabou? No. They have a solid spiritual signature as a youkai. And more importantly, they never kill. They’ll scare the living shit out of you for fun, but they’ll never actually kill you.

This thing doesn’t have any spiritual power at all. Neither mana nor qi.

What in the actual fuck is this? Why does it look so human?

It pulls the spade up from the earth and turns toward me again. It starts rattling its head, causing an unusual grunt.

Even necromantic beings give off some form of energy.

Faceless takes a wide swing at me, forcing me to take another step back to exit its range.

I immediately step back in and hammer my fist into its liver.

The force causes him to move to the side, but no other reactions, no sign of pain.

I skip back a few steps, hurrying out of its range again.

Its humanoid appearance makes me think it has a skeletal structure similar to humans. The way it moves supports this idea. The problem, however, is that my spiritual power can’t penetrate its skin, so I can’t confirm it. That said, having a black void against the spiritually saturated background makes it far easier to track.

It jams the tip of its shovel into the ground.

The earth under my feet starts to crack. A cold blue light shines from the openings.

I jump back another good couple of steps to get out of the range of those cracks.

Then the light itself blows up into the air and disperses.

I didn’t detect any magic. No mana, no spiritual energy. I ask again; what in the actual fuck is this thing?

While its shovel is still in the ground, I charge in jumping, delivering a roundhouse kick to its neck with all the force I can muster.

It staggers backwards, its head at an angle, clearly showing I broke something.

And it cracks its neck back in place like nothing happened.

This thing isn’t going to go down from physical attacks, at least not blunt strikes like mine.

I reach for my talismans.

Which are in my bag. At Yukari’s place. Because I didn’t get the chance to fetch it. The only thing I still have are the silver knives, sheathed in my sarashi. They aren’t suited for cutting, but I should be able to use them for a ritual. The problem is, after I’ve filled them, I have to get them ready before they’ve dispersed too much of the energy. Normally, you’d do that last, but I don’t have that luxury right now.

I have eight knives tugged away. To banish him, I’d need at least three in the ground. Oh wait, shit, that’s right. I still have the Sumimaru’s trademark barrier. This is the exact moment I bought those lessons for. I can’t cast it barehanded like them, so I’ll need five reference points, or knives in this case.

It’s slow and easy to move around, so setting the boundary will be easy. Planting the final knife in its chest on the other hand, will be difficult. I don’t even know if I can pierce the skin with a knife. Though, it did feel fleshy enough to make it worth the gamble.

Seemingly tired of waiting, Faceless swings its shovel back around over its head, hammering it into the ground.

Cracks similar to the last ones appear again, this time shining with a black-green light.

Once again, I jump back.

This time, the magic is different. Rather than just exploding, a cylinder like object breaks through the cracks, immediately twisting towards me.

Before I can land, the thing hits my chest, pushing me to the ground and solidifies, taking on a bony texture like that of an exoskeleton.

This is bad. This is very bad.

I still have Doc’s seal. I could activate my limit breaker, then forcefully activate the seal to negate the side effects. Will it be enough, though? Will it be worth it? Do I have other options?

“Leave him alone, you freak!” Renko comes running out from the building, carrying a piece of rubble.

She chugs it at the beast, hitting it square in the face.

It lets out a hollow “Ungh” sound despite its lack of a mouth.

The bone holding me down softens up.

“Renko! What the hell are you doing?” I hear her foreign friend yell from inside the building.

“He came to help us!” The brunette yells back. “I can’t just watch as he gets killed because of us!”

The monster doesn’t take kindly to getting hit in the face with a rock, which is understandable, and starts chasing the girl, leaving its spade behind.

The bone softens some more.

I start pushing back against the bone with all my strength.

The blonde girl tackles her friend to the ground, saving her from the monster’s first strike.

They quickly get on their feet again and run.

The brunette runs towards the gates, picking up and tossing another rock.

The blonde, on the other hand, runs towards me and quickly gets her hands underneath the bone, trying to help me lift it.

I’m not complaining about the help, but she’s not helping. In which case, I just need to push harder.

And as if on cue, the bone shatters, freeing me.

I immediately start running towards Renko.

The monster has already made it to her.

It grabs her by the throat, lifting her up against the wall.

Kicking wildly and clawing at its wrist, Renko struggles, too preoccupied to see me coming.

As her kicking gets weaker, she reaches out for the monster instead.

Mana?

Before I realize it, there’s a hole going through the head of the monster. There’s also an intense pain spreading from my chest that makes it borderline impossible to breathe.

I fall to my knees, trying to regain my breath.

Was that magic? Did Renko just use magic?

“Renko. Are you okay?” Her friend runs past me.

“Somehow.” She takes a moment to cough. “Didn’t think we’d get through the night.”

“That’s why I told you we shouldn't come here.” Her friend argues.

“Ah. Ryuko.” She staggers on her legs and walks over, while I’m still regaining my breath. “Thank you. Really. I’m even more in your debt.”

She extends her hand to me.

Instead of taking it, I force myself to stand before grabbing her hand.

Like I thought, the magic circuit was clearly just used.

I inject a small bit of my own mana to probe at her reserves.

She stifles a moan.

I glance up at her.

A huge blush has spread from ear to ear. Probably embarrassed she let the moan escape. Not that I actually care.

“Sorry, should probably have warned you.” I say to her. “Injected mana feels warm. It shouldn’t last too long.”

“No, I was just surprised.” She admits. “It just felt strange. A bit pleasant, maybe.”

I redo the probe uninterrupted.

The capacity is clearly above average, but with that one spell alone, she’s dangerously low.

Must have been Magic Missile. A concentration of raw mana launched using even more mana. Whatever it can accomplish, other spells can do better at a lesser cost. It’s just the most instinctive spell to cast since it doesn’t require any special formula. That said, she managed to cast a spell.

“Renko. Whatever you just did, never do it again.” I tell her.

“I did that?” She asks, looking back at the re-dead corpse. “I thought you did it.”

I don’t reply to that, and instead start to inject more of my mana into her circuit. I can spare some of mine, and it should be enough to get her out of the danger zone. She’ll have to process it first, though, but it should still be quicker than recovering it on her own.

Or I was going to, but there’s an all too familiar ripple from the very edge of my senses.

My spiritual power starts to flare up against my will as my body begins producing and refining energy to the limit of its abilities.

Neither of them can see spiritual power like me, but it’s clear they’ve both noticed the pressure it gives off.

“Renko.” I do my best to remain calm. “I want you two to hide.”

There’s only one type of youkai that can trigger this response from me. And of the few that are in Japan right now, only one fits this exact subtype I’m detecting.

“What do you, ah ow ow.”

I tighten my grip to silence her.

“I’m serious, Renko.” I scan the area where I feel this presence coming from. “I’m not going to repeat myself again. Hide. And don’t come out until I give the clear. No. Matter. What.”

As I let go, she and her friend run back towards the building without a word.

“So it seems you’re done with them.” A dark mist hastily collects itself over a rose-bed, taking on a humanoid shape. “I despise needing to use innocent people like that, but you’re surprisingly hard to find despite being a beacon.”

“Maybe it’s because I don’t want to be found, by the likes of you.” I reply.

The shadow vanishes, revealing the figure underneath. A man, around his forties, above average build, pale white skin and the iconic fangs exposed by his professional smile.

A strigoi, a Romanian monster. Major type, undead, minor type, vampire. Normally strigoi are easy to deal with because of their similarity to zombies, but occasionally a guy like this pops up. Mages that died under the conditions to become a strigoi. Casually referred to as High Vampires, they most closely resemble the modern depiction of vampires.

“And after all the effort I put into luring you out.” He lets out an obnoxiously fake sigh. “I can guess you don’t want to reminisce about old times, then.”

“Do you mean like the last time you assaulted the shrine, trying to kill me?” I ask. “Or are you talking about the few times we met while Kaya deceived me?”

“Sarcasm doesn't suit you, kid.” He walks forward. “Submit to me peacefully, and I’ll make sure you die quick and painless. A deal far better than what you deserve, considering what you did to my daughter.”

“Kaya spent two weeks trying to kill me.” I keep faking my bravado. “Only those who are ready to die are allowed to kill. Therefore, I stand by my statement that I was justified in killing her.”

“So you want to do this the hard way.” He readies his cane. From experience, I know there’s a blade hidden in there.

The head of the cane explodes, to the surprise of both of us.

Mana.

“That’s far enough, rot-brain.”

The strigoi clenches both his teeth and the grip on his cane. “You filthy animal.”

To my surprise, Doc stands by the gate, pointing two fingers at the walking corpse.

“You know the pain of losing your child, and that’s driven you to hunt down her killer.” He states. “Now imagine what I would do, should you so much as touch my son.”

“Damn animal.” He turns around. “This isn’t over, kid. The moment your guard dog lets his guard down, I’ll strike again.”

With that said, he vanishes into a shadow mist and disperses, taking the entire building with it.

A few moments pass by before my spiritual power calms down, signaling that he is indeed gone.

“Can’t that old fuck just leave you alone already?” The fox asks as he walks up. “It’s been five years already.”

“You really saved me there, Doc.” I let out a sigh of relief.

“Forget it.” He pulls out a smoke, ignites his thumb and uses it to light it. “Odd place for a booty call, though. Not that I’m judging.”

“Even though you came to peep?” I retort. “Saw you with Yukiko earlier.”

“Don’t remind me.” He grunts.

“Renko! Blondie!” I call out.

They both stand up. They tried to hide in the grass, since it is tall, but it doesn’t really work without the house there.

“We’re going to the shrine.” Docs states. “Gotta make sure those gals are alright.”

I motion for them to follow us. Neither says anything on the way back.


==========
Hakurei Shrine - 10:02
==========

Renko has an aptitude for magic.

That’s not exactly rare, since the magic world is filled with humans like that. Though it’s rare for humans to just suddenly develop an ability like that. It’d be safer to assume she comes from a magus family. But then why hasn’t she studied? It’s unheard of for a magus family to not train their kids.

In either case, she’s a blank slate as a mage.

I’m an anti-mage. The opponents I specialize in fighting are mages. This came about because I lack the ability to cast spells myself, so I could study a wider array of theories, leading me to understand more spells as a way to be prepared against them.

I’ve agreed to train Renko to defend her friend against youkai. But if I took her as my apprentice, the possibilities of where I could take her would be endless. With my knowledge, I could lead her down the path of any mage she might want to become. I could specialize her in magic that would benefit the shrine like my barrier crafting.

The problem, however, is that I would have to drag her deep into my world to do it. To drag a common citizen into the world of magic, to expose them to a world where everyone is capable of launching the equivalent of a localized nuke at any time.

I still don’t believe neither she, nor her friend, belongs in the world of magic, and it would be cruel to drag them so deep into it without a gradual progression. I would rather just keep shoving them out of this world.

But still. With the amount of time I have left, she might be the only successor I’ll get to train myself. If I keep waiting for the perfect candidate to show up, I’ll die without leaving anything behind, and the shrine will have to find another successor on their own.

I’m almost certain she’ll say yes. Renko hungers for the power to protect her friend, for the knowledge to walk forward and grasp her goal, whatever that may be. Both are things I can give her.

But is it the right thing? If she accepts, there will be no going back. Not for her, nor for me.

[ ] Extend my apprenticeship to Renko
[ ] Withhold my apprenticeship from Renko


And just to be clear, this is not a route lock
>>No. 31330
[x] Extend my apprenticeship to Renko
>>No. 31331
[x] Extend my apprenticeship to Renko
>>No. 31332
[x] Extend my apprenticeship to Renko

This smells like a bad idea. But we're already training her, she's already up to her eyeballs in this shit and she's already proven she's not going to butt out. Either she'll blow herself up or someone less scrupulous will take an interest in her.

As for Merry, she's screwed in every scenario I can think of, but at least this way she has someone trying to protect her.
>>No. 31333
[x] Extend my apprenticeship to Renko

She's already too far in, the only hope here is that we can get Doc to get some input and keep an eye on her as well if needed.

Also, since our resident annoyance also saw that the girls were used as bait, leaving them out to be abducted and used again is probably just a bad idea outright.
>>No. 31334
[x] Extend my apprenticeship to Renko

Like they said, she used magic on her own and her lineage has powerful magic on it (See: Sumireko) Leaving her alone will be for the worst.
>>No. 31335
File 153504728131.png - (119.87KB, 800x608, Unrelated.png) [iqdb]
31335
Quick little question. Have you thought about why I made you make this choice, instead of just picking the obvious answer and continuing?
>>No. 31336
>>31335
Because genki grill + world of magic where people stand on the edge of life and death don't usually mix and it was still possible to get them to get out of this, not to mention that we will have way less time outside. This path, however, leads to more character development and potential suffering, so it's for the best.
>>No. 31337
>>31335

Well, she doesn't know that magic is real despite whom her ancestor was so maybe Sumireko decided that her family should not follow her footsteps?
>>No. 31338
>>31336
>This path, however, leads to more [...] potential suffering, so it's for the best.

>>31337
I can't answer questions Ryuko wouldn't already know the answer to outside of the story.

But that said, interesting insight, although it seems I didn't manage to get my question across properly.
What I'm asking is if you have considered why I'm having you make this decision at all? Instead of making it myself and continuing writing until the usual deadline.
It's not important, I'm just curious.
>>No. 31339
>>31338
Short answer: it's going to go catastrophically wrong and you want to be able to say "THIS IS WHAT YOU VOTED FOR ANON!"

Long answer: it's going to have consequences that will affect the story from now on. Like, more Renko, Ryuko's attention being split, Yukari not approving, not being able to take on someone else later... the list goes on. You put it to a vote because you wanted to make sure that's what we want to read.

And since you're asking this question: because you want to know if we've figured out something important to the plot yet. I suspect we haven't, since the vote so far has been unanimous.

On that note, I need to go re-read the story to refresh my memory of the stuff that happened last ice age thread.
>>No. 31340
>>31333 here

>>31338

Honestly, my answer to this is "No."

If you're saying we won't be able to pick a different apprentice later, or we might find someone more appropriate... ok?

But at the moment it literally looks like you're saying, "Either keep an eye on them after having pretty much exposed them to a direct danger, or leave them alone and have them be exposed to a direct danger either way".

Because honestly I'd rather she get training in the outside world from someone else that can keep her grounded, unless we're planning on taking her into Gensokyo (which seems like a bad idea).

Was there supposed to be a phantom third choice write-in option?

Like, I don't terribly see the need to apprentice Renko here ourselves as long as she's getting proper training from someone and not being left alone. But the only underlying thing I can see here shouted at me is basically seems like it's either "keep an eye on them versus leave them to die once we turn our backs".
>>No. 31341
>>31339
>Short answer
You're technically correct. Which is the best kind of correct.

>And since you're asking this question
Off the mark. Though that assumption is why I try to limit my replies, since that simple act in itself draws attention to theories, which I'd rather be hands-off about until I'm asked a question.
This question has nothing to do with plot, or trying to sway the vote. I expected it to be this one-sided, though maybe one tide pisser for a good laugh. After all, Renko becoming your apprentice was part of the plan all along. Rather, I'm curious whether you've thought about this vote from Renko's perspective. That and trying to gauge how engaged you readers are
>>No. 31342
Honestly the best thing Renko could do in my eyes is having the independence to say "No" to his offer. I just don't know if she would have the... willpower(?) self-preservation instincts(?) foresight(?) to do so.
>>No. 31343
>>31341
>I'm curious whether you've thought about this vote from Renko's perspective

I have not, but I find little motive to do so. She wanted this, she insisted. She doesn't want to feel weak and she knows that she won't be able to wrestle Maribel out of this world and she won't leave her alone so there's really only one option. That's why I think she'll pursue power, one way or another.

She isn't wise enough to pursue power in the 'right' way, much less not pursue power at all and accept being helpless sometimes.
>>No. 31345
>>31341
> After all, Renko becoming your apprentice was part of the plan all along.

Choo choo motherfuckers.

> Rather, I'm curious whether you've thought about this vote from Renko's perspective.

Well why didn't you say so before? No, I haven't, aside from considering how it may affect her, as I explained in my vote. I don't know enough about her personality to make that kind of call, beyond what Ryuko already commented on in the narration ("I’m almost certain she’ll say yes.").

That's also exactly what I meant when I said "something important to the plot". I should have written "stuff you haven't told us directly". I am bad at word.
>>No. 31346
>>31345
>I am bad at word

You and me both. I've never been good at "public" conversations, even if they are online. Which is why I had to step away from THP for a day to collect myself as to not destroy what little I've tried to build up over the last few years. This was a good reminder to just keep my trap shut and write.

What I've said the other day is neither strictly true nor false, and explaining it would require me to spoil even more. What I can say however, is Renko will be fine, even if you don't teach her to control her magic, and when I said it taking Renko as an apprentice was part of the plan, I meant it as that was the basis I started from when developing your relationship to her. Though the last 5 years, that has evolved to allow for much more, though never letting up on the apprentice idea.
If you genuinely think it's better for Renko to not get involved any further in the world of magic, then don't offer her the chance.

I'll extend the voting period slightly in case some of you want to change your decision.
>>No. 31348
File 153885584233.jpg - (588.24KB, 819x558, Fluff squared.jpg) [iqdb]
31348
==========
Hakurei Shrine - 10:04
==========

“Didn’t tell me you’d be back.” The old crow comments as he sits down next to me.

“It was an in-the-moment decision.” I admit. “I just needed some distance from Yukari to calm down.”

“Your training not going well?” He opens a canned beer he brought with him. “Or is it related to that eye of yours?”

“No. This eye is my own fuckup.” I lean back against a support beam. “I just hate Yukari’s way of doing things. She never tells me anything, yet expects me to just know.”

“But you’re a smart kid. Maybe she just has high expectations of you?” He takes a sip of his beer.

“Doesn’t change the fact I hate how she does things.”

“So what exactly didn’t she tell you?” He asks.

“Well, apparently I’m half dragon. I’m not so mad she didn’t tell me about that, to be honest. But as I was starting the transformation on my own, unknowingly, she decided to not tell me and instead stop it by force.” I take a deep breath, calming myself down again. “If she’d just explained it, I’d have stopped and gone along with her.”

“So you finally learned about that.” He puts the can down next to him. “And I assume you have some questions you want answered?”

I look him in the eyes for a second.

“No. I can trust you guys enough to know you had a reason for not telling me. Yukari hasn’t earned that trust yet.”

“Oh. Then don’t mind if I do.” He pulls out another can of beer.

“You old drunk.”

He looks me straight in the eyes and pulls out yet another one from who knows where. “As if this watered up stuff could ever make me drunk.” He chuckles at his own joke before taking a swig. “That’s the one thing I miss about living with the Tengu. We even used to be able to get some alcohol from the Oni.”

“If I ever go to Youkai Mountain, I’ll see if I can bring some with me.” I tell him, though I’m not sure I’ll ever have a reason to go there.

“How kind.” He comments. “If you should ever get into trouble with them, for any reason, just invoke my name. It should still hold some power.”

“I’ve been meaning to ask for a long time now, but how come you left the other Tengu?” I ask.

He waves his hand dismissingly. “Long boring story. Short version; I fucked up and had to leave.”

“So even the great Kohane can fuck up?” I feign surprise.

He chuckles. “Yeah, that was my wakeup call. I’m not invincible.” He puts down his second empty can. “My turn. What happened with your eye?”

“I’d just gotten my left arm back. Feeling confident, I decided to test it against a celestial. Turns out they can endure quite the heavy hits, by the way. By the end, a rock they threw hit me right under the eye, cutting up this area.” I measure out the scar with my fingers.

“Hmm.” He closes his eyes and thinks for a few seconds. “Let me guess, you weren’t taking them seriously? Thinking they couldn’t land a hit, you got complacent and bored?”

“More or less.” I admit.

“After all the years I’ve helped you grow as a fighter, you still haven’t managed to overcome that little flaw of yours.” He says. “Since I might not get many more chances to help you grow, want me to just be direct about it?”

“I obviously haven’t been able to figure it out on my own yet, so let’s hear it.”

“You love fighting.” He states. “For a warrior, that’s both a blessing and a curse. When you get fired up, you can draw out your full potential. You can fight with a smile on your face, ignoring any and all damage you might have sustained as you continue to push for victory, because it’s fun.” He says smiling. “But that requires us to get fired up. And not a lot of opponents can do that. They’re either too weak to be worth our effort, or so strong we know we can’t beat them to begin with. The trick is to learn to enjoy every fight. Every battle is an experience you’ll only ever get once, after all.”

It’s true I love fighting. But it’s been so long since I last had a good match that I can’t seem to recall it.

“Kid!” I hear Doc call out. “Your turn.”

“Time to go.” I stand up.

“Before that.” He remains sitting. “Just know that regardless of what happens, this place will always be your home. Come visit once in a while.”

“I’ll try my best, Coach.”

I walk back to the front of the shrine where Doc’s office is situated and catch the girls just as they leave the building. Each of them seem to be carrying a filled glass of some transparent liquid. They both make eye contact with me as we pass each other, but none of us says a word.

Doc doesn’t say anything either, though we’ve gone through this process so many times words really aren’t necessary more. Which I should probably take as a sign to get my ass in gear.

Walking into the back room, I go through the usual procedure as I wait for him; stripping down and taking seat in the chair.

“Just get on the bed, and put your left arm on the support.” He instructs me from the other room. “I’m not gonna bother with the little details today.”

“How were the girls?” I ask, moving as I’m told.

“Brown one has a very slight case of malnutrition, far within the safe parameters. I suspect it’s from her diet. The blonde one swings a little to the opposite side. Her muscle mass is lower than average, though her total weight is perfectly average. They were both exhausted, having been awake all night, so I gave them some watered down energy drinks, which should keep them awake until they get home. Beyond that, I found nothing.”

So that ancient fucker really didn’t do anything to them. That’s a relief. I’d honestly expected him to go after my associates if they were weaker than me. That’s what I would have done if our roles were reversed. I killed his daughter, so it’d make sense for him to go after people close to me to make me feel the same sense of loss. Then again, I never really got to know him. I only met him once while Kaya was alive after all.

Doc walks into the room, carrying a small glass with him. Which holds an eye in it? He places it on the table next to the bed.

Without saying anything, he starts examining my arm, probing into it with his mana.

“Interesting.” He breaks the silence. “After months, you’d expect the muscles to have grown weaker. But from the looks of it, the stimulation has been copied over from your right arm.”

“So that’s why it felt so great from the start.” I comment. “Right when I got it back, it felt as it’d never been paralyzed.”

“I see. Well, there’s nothing wrong with it, so the rest is on you.” He states. “Now then, could you open your eye?”

I do as I’m told, though I dislike the feeling.

Doc grabs around my head and stares into the empty socket. His golden irises start shining as he’s examining me, pulling on my head to turn it from time to time.

“Gensokyo is a couple hundred years behind us, in terms of technology, right?” He asks. “I have to commend whoever removed your eye. It’s a fine job they’ve done. Though it seems they didn’t know about your weakness to metal, going by the fact the internal scar hasn’t healed yet.”

“I may be confident to the point of arrogance, but I won’t go around broadcasting my weakness to the world.” I tell him.

“While your advanced regeneration can push back the limit of what’s considered lethal to you, it can only repair, not rebuild.” He starts. “Left alone, your eye won’t regrow. And since the removal was done using metallic tools, I’ll have to burn more of your life force to fix it.”

“And I’m guessing you’re not going to?” I ask.

“Depends. Do you actually need it?” He asks back. “Against my better judgment, I will fix it if you actually need it, but I would rather wait if I’m to be honest.”

“Considering I use my spiritual power as my primary means of observation, I can easily make do with one eye.” I tell him.

“As I thought.” He picks up the eye glass. “Until we’re ready to properly restore your eye, you’ll have to use this prosthetic.” He gives the fake eye a squeeze. “It’ll prevent your body from filling the socket and help your eyelids function properly. Plus it’ll look a little less intense than the eye-patch.”

“The scar will still stand out, though.” I comment.

“It’s been healing nicely. It’ll be gone in no time.” He assures me. “Now, try to resist the urge to blink while I insert this.”

I nod as much as I can while lying down.

Using magic, he shrinks the eye enough to get it through my socket. As it’s being inserted, I lose track of it. I can’t see inside my own body with spiritual power, after all. The dry, slightly cold feeling assures me it’s been grown to its proper size, filling in nicely.

“This might be uncomfortable.” He says before he starts rotating the fake eye around. “Good. Now try blinking.”

It really feels strange. The dry feeling is mostly gone, and the eye has started to match my body temperature. It’s still going to take some time getting used to this feeling, though.

“Blinking seems fine. Size is good.” He places his thumb at the top of my nose bridge, with two fingers on the side of my head, next to my eye.

I feel a jolt running through my face, as he casts a spell.

“Focus on my finger.” He says raising an index finger above me.

It’s a typical focus test. Moving the finger around, I track it with my eyes, or eye in this case.

“Alright, seems to work fine.” He says. “I connected the glass eye to the muscles with a mana link. It’ll move around like the real one would. Last thing is the color. Can’t have you walk around with a grey eye after all.”

All he does for that is just touching the eye directly. I feel nothing as he does this.

“Good. Now take a look in the mirror, if you would.” He gestures me to go ahead.

Maintaining eye contact with my handsome reflection, I move my head around to get a look at the eye, and it tracks my reflection perfectly. The color he chose is the same deep blue used to mask my natural golden eyes. The only problem is that currently the illusion is gone and I look heterochromatic, like some sort of fanfiction child. It should only be a couple minutes before the illusion restores itself and it looks normal again. The only other thing being the scar, which doesn’t look too bad, though that too will be gone in a couple more days.

“You never cease to amaze me, Doc.” I comment.

“Either that’s a compliment, or a remark on how little you think of my skills.” He takes a sip of his coffee, hiding his smirk.

I sit down on the bed again. “While we’re still on that topic. How much life do I have left?” I ask.

“I can’t say for certain.” He puts the cup down. “I would have to do an in-depth analysis to figure out the exact numbers. I’d wager on ten years at best, though.”

“Ten more years?” I ask. “Think that’ll change if I complete my transformation into a dragon?”

“Yeah, I figured you’d learned about that, with your back and all.” He gestures towards me. “Considering your life force amounted to the average human’s, and the fact most dragons outlive even youkai sages, I’d say there’s a good chance you’d be able to extend your own life.”

“And in your opinion, how likely is it I can complete a transformation into a dragon?” I ask.

“Honestly, I have no clue. You’re the first dragon hybrid I’ve met, after all.” He admits. “You’re in your prime, though, so unless there are other criteria, I’d say you have the best chance for success now.”

“I see.” Something to bring up with Yukari.

“Obviously, I’ll do what I can to help you in that regard.” He comments. “You humans have such short lifespans, it’s over before it even begins. Yours being even shorter.”

With that comment, he leaves the room.

After getting dressed again, I leave the office and make my way to the shrine’s front steps where the girls have situated themselves.

“Renko. We gotta talk.” I state.

She lifts her head to look at me, but lies back down. “Too tired for a lecture.” She complains.

“You have a talent for magic, Renko.” I crouch. “If you become my successor, I’ll pass on everything I know and help you drag out your full potential.”

She doesn’t answer. Instead she just stares into the sky.

“If I become your successor, I’ll have to commit to your world?” She asks.

“Wait. Renko. You can’t!” Her blonde friend voices her opinion. “You shouldn’t trust him.”

“That’s right, Renko.” I ignore her friend. “If you choose to accept, you’ll formally enter the world of magic. There’ll be no turning back, no way to return to being a normal human.”

“And what exactly would you expect me to do, as I study under you?” She asks.

“You can’t be serious, Renko.” Blondie stands up.

“Once you’ve completed the initial training, so we can expect you to handle a youkai in combat, you’ll be tasked with locating and repairing holes in a large barrier.” I tell her.

“A barrier?” She sits up. “For what reason?”

“I can’t tell you.” I answer.

“I decline.” She states, lying back down. “We have our own goal, and I would be forced to give it up, if I joined you.”

“A shame.” I stand up. “But that’s that. Any other questions you have before I kick you out of my home?”

“Is he, that haughty pale guy, going to come after us again?” Renko asks.

“I don’t know.” I answer. “If he thinks I’ll come save you again, he might.”

“I see. Let’s head home, Mary.” The tomboy gets up. “I’m getting tired again already.”

I think the outburst earlier drained Blondie for energy. She hasn’t spoken since, and her movement has gotten sluggish.

“Yeah, let’s.” Blondie lazily pushes herself off the wall. “Just don’t listen to him, alright?”

“Don’t worry, I won’t.” She looks back at me just before the two of them start descending the stairs. As she does, she pulls out her phone, just enough to make sure I can see it, while still keeping it hidden from her friend.

She’s telling me to expect a call? Should probably have told her I’m going back to Gensokyo later today, if I’ve read Yukari right. Or maybe she’s telling me to call her soon. Assuming she’s sticking to the small muscle training plan I’ve given her, she should soon be ready to begin for real. I’ll call her then, no sooner.

And my phone rings.

To my surprise, it’s not Renko who got very impatient, but a rather ballsy professor.

I answer the call. “Speak.”

Yumemi doesn’t say anything for a few seconds. “I wanna talk. In person.” She states.


==========
Mokuyama, Kyoto - 13:16
==========

As I ascend along the mountain path, I emit a constant stream of spiritual energy, meticulously keeping an eye on everything in my surroundings.

So far I haven’t sensed any other people. I haven’t found any traps, nor do I sense any processed mana.

Seems like she’s kept her word.

She stands up from the tree stump and walks down the path to greet me as I approach.

I stop once there’s approximately ten meters between us. Even uphill, that’s a small distance I can cover in an instant, in case things takes a turn for the worse.

“Ryuko,” she starts.

“Stop.” I cut her off. “First I’d like to say, the only reason I’m here is because I appreciate the balls it’d take to contact me after our last encounter. The situation hasn’t change, so keep that in mind.”

“I know.” She states.” And I’ve come to make a deal. I know that’s something you people do.”

I sigh. “You know, internally we refer to these deals as the Devil’s Contract.” I explain. “We’ll give you what you ask, if you can provide something equal in return. Not negotiable.”

“I had a feeling that was the case.”

“Oh really? In that case, what is it you want?” I hold my arms.

“Knowledge.” She states firmly. “I want to know everything there is to know about magic.”

And this is the point where I demand she become my successor in return, or what? It honestly seems too convenient for Renko to reject me only for another opportunity to jump up immediately afterwards. Too bad I don’t trust her enough to impart my responsibilities with her.

“I’m afraid that’s impossible.” I tell her. “I’m only a human after all, not some genie.”

She clenches her fists.

“Magic is not like you think it is.” I continue. “Magic and science are two sides of the same coin. While science is a process of discovery through observation, magic is the process of discovery through action. The goal of discovering the truth about everything is the same for both, though their methods differ.” I explain to her. “That little bit was a freebie.”

“Then, what do you know about? What knowledge can you teach me?” She asks.

“So, you’re asking me to teach you everything I know? To pass on two decades of accumulated experience?” I ask her. “What do you imagine the price for that is?”

“The fact you’re asking, means it’s more than I can pay.” She clicks her tongue. “And I finally thought we’d gotten a lead.”

“To clarify the price. It’d take roughly ten to fifteen years to properly pass on all my knowledge. After that, you’d have to give me twenty years of your life.” I tell her. “You’d be sixty years old by the time you’ve fulfilled your end.”

“Is that a form of marriage proposal?” She raises an eyebrow.

“Slavery.” I correct her. “Enforced by a magical contract no less, meaning if either of us broke our side of the deal, we’d die.”

“Yeah, there’s no way I could agree to that.” With her head hanging, she walks back to her tree stump.

“So tell me, why do you want magic so bad?” I ask her.

“Because science has failed me.” She says. “With the current level of technology, there’s no way I can go back. And I don’t have the equipment to prove the theories necessary to advance science. My only other option is to kickstart the discovery of magic or accept my fate.”

“Yeah, I followed none of that.” Though I have an idea, but it’s too farfetched.

“I need magic if I want to return home.” She states. “But I can’t cast spells. It’s the same for Chiyuri, since she came with me here.”

Yeah, now there’s no way I can make her my successor. She doesn’t just want to make magic public knowledge, she wants to leave. Entrusting her with the Great Hakurei Barrier is out of the question. Which is too bad, because she has potential. She technically already qualifies for the title of Mage.

“My stance hasn’t changed.” I tell her. “I refuse to knowingly disclose magic to the public, even by proxy.”

“I know. And I doubt that will change any time soon.” She says. “That’s why, I had hoped you’d help me. So I wouldn’t need to make magic public, because it’s still too soon.”

“To be honest, I don’t want you to become part of the world of magic. It’s far from pleasant.” I tell her.

“That’s the impression I’ve gotten.” She leans over, resting herself on her knees. “Which means I’m stuck, unless we have a breakthrough.”

My guts are telling me she’s purposefully trying to guilt trip me. But at the same time, there’s nothing about her body language that suggests she’s lying.

Helping her might be hypocritical of me, since I’ve denied Renko time and time again. But at the same time, Yumemi is already firmly aware of magic, considering she’s made her own spells.

“Assuming I were to agree to teach you about magic, what would you be able to offer me in return?” I ask.

She looks up at me. “If it’s about slavery, then I’d rather not.”

“No, that’s the price for buying everything I know about magic as a whole.” I correct her. “If I were to teach you the basics of magic, enough so that you would be able to start learning on your own. What would you give me in return for that?” I kneel in front of her, so we’re on eye level.

“I,” she trails off, “I don’t know what you want.”

“Part of I what want, is an unbreakable promise that you won’t pass on my teachings to the public, either directly or indirectly. Of course, you may share it with your friend, but you’ll be responsible for how she handles the knowledge.” I stand back up. “Second, I want a full copy of all your current research into magic.”

“Is that all?” She asks. “That should be easy enough.”

“No.” I cut her joy short. Out of all the things I know you have, that’s all I want. But it’s not a fair trade. Therefor, what more can you offer me to make this worth my time and effort?”

“Uhh.” She raises her eyebrows, which then turns to a frown. She covers her mouth as she closes her eyes, humming to herself. There’s a sigh and she moves her hand to her forehead. Then she crosses her arms and leans back, before finally sitting back upright. “I have nothing. All my money goes to my research, so I have nothing to spare. I doubt I have a skill you could put to use. If I have anything to offer, it’d have to be my body.”

“I’d rather not take that deal.” I state. “Either way, this was a hypothetical question. I will think about it, though. So until I’ve made up my mind, try to think of something worthwhile for compensation.”

“Wait. What do you mean not worthwhile?” She jumps up. “I’ll have you know I’m a prize.”

“Seems you got your energy back.” I ignore her comment, which warrants a faint blush from her. “Then I’ll take my leave for today. I’ll be unavailable in the days to come, so I’ll contact you whenever I have the time.”


==========
16th of Planting Month, 12:20
Yakumo House, Gensokyo’s Border
==========

She strikes my chin from below, forcing me to stagger backwards.

Taking advantage of the situation, Ran strikes me in the chest, knocking me to the ground, yet again.

“That makes twelve.” The fox clone relaxes her stance.” Are you sure you don’t need a break? I could bring something to drink.”

“I felt like I was on the verge of figuring something out, but I think I lost it.” I kick my legs into the air, jumping back up on my feet. “I felt like I could match your moves a bit. I even managed to land a solid blow.”

“Only once, though.” She stuffs her hands into her sleeves. “But it’s going to take more than that to destroy this shikigami.”

“But of course. You’re in a different league than me entirely.” I admit. “So I appreciate you sparring with me, even though you have other things to attend to.”

It’s amazing, really. Ran apparently has seventeen shikigami running around constantly, each of them doing their own thing. Since she’s directly controlling them, it means she’s barley giving this one five percent, and she still has to hold back to fight me fairly.

Another one of Ran’s shikigami walk out of the door with a tray in hand, closing the door behind her with her tails.

“This should do the trick.” Ran number two holds out the tray.

Going by the scent, it’s citrus flavored water. Going by the taste, it’s lemon. It’s a bland taste, everything considered, but refreshing nonetheless.

“It’s rather amazing I never noticed there was more than one of you.” I put the glass back on the tray. “Given my ability to track spiritual energy and all.”

Both of them emit a sizable about of spiritual energy, completely identical to each other. Nothing like the level Yukari is emitting, but enough to stand out from the sage’s fog of energy.

“Aside from my main body, there’s normally only one shikigami in this house.” Ran number one looks towards the house. “And since my room is physically disconnected from the house, it makes sense you can’t sense it from here.”

I follow her gaze, sending a wave of energy through the house giving it another look. Which turns up empty.

So I haven’t sensed the real Ran yet? Not that that would surprise me, after all. Foxes are the masters of deception and trickery. Something so simple as hiding her main body so people like me can’t find it should be child’s play to her.

“Let me change the topic.” Ran number one motions me back towards the house. “Isn’t it about time you get back to Yukari’s training?”

“That’s right.” Ran number two steps aside, making room for me. “It’s been a few days since you’ve come back, and you haven’t even spoken to her yet.”

“It feels like an uphill battle to study under her.” Taking her up on the offer, I take a seat on the walkway. “It’s like we keep talking past each other.”

“You’ve only ever had one teacher, right?” The first Ran asks. “It might just take a bit of time before you two adjust to each other.”

“Though I admit Yukari can be a handful at times.” Ran the Second adds. “I’ve known her for centuries, and she still keeps me in the dark about a lot of things.”

“So I just have to trust her.” I finish off her point. “I get that much, but she hasn’t exactly proven trustworthy in my opinion.”

Number One cocks her head slightly. “Well, that’s fair. She can definitely be a handful.” Ran number one agrees. “And it’s not like I can ask you to trust her, or me for that matter.”

“She is trying, though.” Number Two raises her index finger. “She has been spending a lot of late nights, going over her old progress. Not that she wants you to know, though.”

“Anyway.”” Number one quickly adds. “All I’ll ask of you, is that you give her a chance.”

“That’s essentially the same as asking me to trust her, though.” I argue. “Of course, if I were to back out now, it’d just prove how weak my resolve to become stronger actually is. It’ll only get rougher from here on anyway.”

Her ears flick, visibly through her hat. “Great. So with that settled, what’s your plan now? Wanting to spar all day again?”

[ ] It’s about time I get started with Yukari again
[ ] I’m long overdo on letting Akyuu know I’m alright
[ ] Sparing doesn’t seem like a bad idea. I might be able to figure that something out.
- [ ] It felt like I knew what she was going to do ahead of time
- [ ] It felt like my movement could keep up with my reaction for a while
[ ] Ran still owes me some lessons on Shikigami
>>No. 31349
[x] It’s about time I get started with Yukari again


All options are really good, but let's prioritize.
>>No. 31350
[x] It’s about time I get started with Yukari again
>>No. 31351
[X] It’s about time I get started with Yukari again
>>No. 31358
> prioritize

Sure thing.

[x] I’m long overdue on letting Akyuu know I’m alright.
>>No. 31360
[x] I’m long overdo on letting Akyuu know I’m alright

It's mean to keep her in the dark and this isn't some RPG.
>>No. 31361
>>31358
>overdue
Huh? My proofer is usually pretty anal about small mistakes like that. Yet it got past both of us.

Regardless, it's time to get back to playing with the elderly
>>No. 31362
Alright, so everything has been taken care of, regarding the update, except actually writing it. I'll try to get it out before this month is over, then take the next month off from this story to try my hands on the November Challenge.

I mean, I only need to work 30 times faster, so it should be easy.
That said, I'm likely going to take half of December off from writing to recover, but I'll be sure to get the usual New Year update out on time
>>No. 31388
File 154127034872.jpg - (54.17KB, 666x1021, Apron.jpg) [iqdb]
31388
==========
16th of Planting Month, 12:25
Yakumo House, Gensokyo’s Border
==========

“As fun as it sounds to spar for another whole day, I think it’s about time I got back to Yukari.” I tell her. “After all, I came here to train under her.”

The fox closes her eyes and hums to herself a bit. “Lady Yukari should be in her study right about now.”

“Thank you.” I give her a small polite bow. “I’ll be sure to get back to you once I have some more free time. Learning to use shikigami would be incredibly useful.”

“Paper shikigami are tools.” The other Ran adds in. “Use them right and they’ll be helpful. But use them wrong and they’ll only get in the way.”

“For example,” The first Ran holds up a finger. “By deploying multiple shikigami, I have the ability to be in several places at the same time. And while each shikigami is weaker than my main body, they’re more than capable of doing the tasks I need them to do.”

“Figured.” I shrug. “Even a weak copy of yours need to hold back to come down to my level.”

“There’s nothing to be ashamed of, Ryuko.” She smiles widely. “I’m old enough to soon lose my ninth tail again. No normal human would be able to spar with me, even with my power fragmented like this.”

“Most people aren’t dragons either.” I comment as I walk over to the faucet.

I turn it on and take seat right underneath the water stream, just to get the worst sweat off me.

I can almost hear the heat leaving my body, as I let the cold water soak me completely.

Typically, I have talismans attached to my back which help me regulate my body’s heat. I’ve had to take them off seeing as they were getting unstable after a lot of use. And I don’t make these in bulk like most other talismans.

Having cooled off again, I turn off the faucet and stand back up.

Water - Repel

I focus the enchantment into the palms of my hands, and as it’s completed, I yank my hands down to my sides. For a lack of a better description, the water explodes off me and my clothes, flying out in every direction, leaving me completely dry again.

When Yumemi talks about the benefits of magic, I think it’s small things like this she imagines. Because it’s moments like this I’m glad I’ve learned enchantments.

When people think of enchantments, they typically think of granting a sword an elemental attribute or a piece of clothing some amplifying properties. Both of those do fall under enchanting, since they alter the properties of something, but they lack the imagination to truly use this school of magic.

Of course, the use of enchanting, like any magic, the way you use it depends on the catalyst chosen. In my case, I use words as a catalyst for enchanting. This means there are things I can do which other catalysts can’t, such as masking my enchantments with different languages or even inventing my own language to use. But it also restricts me in several ways, like being unable to create advanced enchantments. I’m restricted to three words, where single words create powerful but often unpredictable effects, while chained words have a more controlled though weaker effect.

The effects of the words depends on the caster’s understanding of the word. Like the word, “Weight” on its own would increase the weight of the targeted object, but with additional words the enchantment can be modified to lighten the weight, both relatively and absolutely.

Of course it’s not that simple, or anyone could master it. Most enchantments depend on the target as well, and how the caster relates the word to the target. This can be a strength of using words as a catalyst, since it allows for some complexity despite the initial lack thereof, but if this aspect is not understood, it can be quite problematic to use single words.

Take “Purge” for example. “To get rid of the undesirable. To clean impurities.” If I were to use that on a glass of water, it would become everyday tap water, by removing anything that would change that, though it can’t add anything to the water. Using Purge on a rock would effectively just clean it, remove moss dirt and bird shit.

Using Purge on living beings is remarkably safe despite how powerful the word is. It removes all foreign substances and objects from inside the body. Which include poisons like alcohol, parasites and implanted objects like screws and stitches, in case you’d had a surgery.

Now, the enchantment I used, “Water, Repel.” Being only two words, it’s a powerful enchantment which temporarily repels water from the surface of my skin. The base word “Repel” is placed as the second word in the chain. This is only allowed because the first word isn’t a property or action of some sort, and this has the effect of weakening the enchantment below the two word chain to a three word chain, while turning the first word into a target modifier. It would have been possible to add a third word, weakening the spell to a four word chain, which has virtually no effect.

And while I’ve been monologuing about things I clearly know and have no real reason to go over again, I’ve made my way to Yukari’s study.

I knock on the door.

“Come in, Ryuko.” She replies almost immediately.

As I slide open the door, she folds in a scroll she’d been reading, from the looks of it.

“I’ve confirmed it with Ran.” I state. “My body has recovered fully, with the exception of my eye.”

Storing the scroll in the cabinet behind her, she stands up. “Then let us get started.” She says, mildly enthusiastically. “Follow me outside.”

“So, where are we going to pick up?” I ask her.

“Little old Junya told me you learn best when you learn on your own.” She answers. “So I tried to just push you in the right direction, but otherwise leave you to yourself.”

“Which really only works if I have more of an idea where I’m going.” I reply. “Without knowing where to even start, I ended up going nowhere.”

The sage looks back up at me. “Wrong.” She states, looking back ahead to where she’s going. “You actually ended up going backwards, from where I wanted you to go. Which is entirely my fault.”

She slides open the door outside, revealing a scenery entirely different than the grounds the house is built on.In fact, stepping outside and looking back at the house reveals nothing but a door by its lonesome self.

The location itself is a flat mountain top. I can see the human village off in the distance, but it’s far, far away.

“This here,” she draws a line in the dirt with her parasol, “is one of Gensokyo’s entrances to heaven. I’m sure you can feel it, right?”

“Yeah, this place is charged with spiritual energy, beyond what even Inari’s shrine can manage.” And she’s one of the more visited shrines too, because of the unique entrance. “You’re not asking me to go to heaven, right?”

“No.” She shakes her head. “Without the Yama’s pass, you’d walk endlessly towards heaven without getting any closer, yet still get further away from earth.” She steps over to my side of the line she drew. “I’m going to have you rediscover the nature of spiritual energy, of this higher dimensional power we can tap into.”

Without warning she grabs my collar and with inhuman force, drags me towards her before letting go.

“What the hell?” I protest. “Warn me before you do stuff like that.”

“Take a look behind you, if you would.” Yukari instructs calmly.

Behind me? There’s nothing behind- is that me? Or my body, rather.

I look at my hands.

Transparent. Jade. Liquid. Embers.

My hands, no my entire current body is made from this, these burning watery embers.

“What’s going on, Yukari?” I turn back around to face her.

“I’ve extracted a large portion of your spiritual energy and linked it directly to your consciousness.” She states, as she walks through me to my physical body. My god, that’s a strange feeling. “The energy you’re attached to right now will slowly disperse, naturally. Once it’s all gone, you’ll wake up back in your own body.”

I take another look at my hands.

So this is what my spiritual power looks like? Burning green water? Normally, you can’t see your own spiritual power, since it’d cause an effect similar to light pollution, making you unable to detect anything but yourself.

“Until you can create a barrier, no matter how small, or until your spiritual power runs out, you’ll be staying on this mountain.” My body disappears into Yukari’s gap. “With your power, that could take a few days. Until then, we’ll be keeping your body safe.”

“Wait. You’re doing it again.” I stop her just before she steps into her gap herself. “Where am I even supposed to start this training?”

“Start by trying to create a barrier.” She states. “Then ponder the results. Consider why I took you here of all places. Then try to get a feel for spiritual energy again.”

With that said, she disappears, closing the gap behind her.

I swear, if this is how we’re going to keep training, then I’ll be better off going back to the shrine. At least she gave me a hint this time.

Anyway. Since she implied creating a barrier would be tougher in this state, I should do it properly instead to taking all the shortcuts I’ve learned.

I straighten out my stance, standing tall as I start spooling up my spiritual energy.

And to my surprise, I can actually see it moving inside of my immaterial body, bubbling up as it moves around.

I clap my hands together, pressing each finger against its opposite as I spread them out as far as I can before I fold them into each other. With my hands intertwined, I press my thumbs against each other and channel my spiritual energy into the space between my palms.

“Curabitur, bibendum, eu.” I chant.

It’s a foreign chant, obviously. This one is the easiest barrier in my entire arsenal, creating a simple flat surface exactly one meter ahead of me, centered and angled relative to my hips. The simplicity comes at the cost of strength, though. It’ll be enough to stop the average human, but anyone worth their salt can break it.

Yet nothing happens.

I felt the spiritual energy leave me like usual, yet nothing happened.

Just as I pull my hands apart again, a sphere falls out from in between them, dispersing before it hits the ground.

What?

I repeat the spell and the same thing happens again.

This has never happened before.

I do it again, this time pushing the ball up before it has a chance to fall, though it disperses regardless as soon as I’ve completed the spell.


==========
Mountain top, Gensokyo - 16:18
==========

Are you fucking serious?

I march to the other end of the small plateau, running both hands through my hair.

How can it be so fucking simple?

“Fuck!” I yell out and start stomping back to the other end again.

I’m missing something. I gotta be. I need to be.

I hold out both my hands, imagining a perfect square filling the space between them. As I start to pour spiritual energy into it, the cube appears.

It worked. Fuck.

I throw the cube on the ground, shattering it.

Thirteen years. It’s taken me thirteen years to master barrier crafting, to understand the underlying formulae, why they’re used and how to mix and match to get the desired result.

And all of that can be ignored just by imagining it.

I kick a rock with all the anger in my nonexistent body, only to pass through the small stone.

Just thinking about all the possibilities I’ll have with this fills me with as much excitement as frustration. And I have no idea how to describe this feeling which only makes it worse.

But why the hell does it work? It’s never been this easy when I had a body. Is it because I’m a spiritual being right now, or a pseudo spiritual being at least. I’m still attached to my body.

Does it have anything to do with this place? Yukari did say it was special. One of the entries to heaven, a place brimming with spiritual energy.

The relation to heaven doesn’t matter, since Yukari can do this too wherever. Is it the spiritual power? If so, why could she do it back at her place even though I couldn’t?


==========
22:54
==========

I’m exhausted. Yet I’m not tired.

This body doesn’t feel exhaustion the same way my physical body does. Rather, I can feel I just need a break, a good few hours to just relax. The problem is, there’s nothing else to do up here, so I get bored out of my mind as soon as I try to stop thinking about anything.

Normally, when I need a break from thinking, I just work out, lets me go on auto-pilot. If I could at least start a fire, I’d have something to distract me visually. All I have is the clear night sky. And as beautiful as it is, it never changes so there’s nothing new to spot.

==========
05:37
==========

So I’m starting to notice patterns with what I can and can’t do with spiritual power by just imagining it.

Pattern one. There’s literally no shape I can’t create, as long as I have enough spiritual energy to form it. I can even determine the density of objects, which will obviously impact how solid they are.

Pattern two. Animating these objects requires focus. If I focus on an existing object, presumably one I’ve created, I can alter its shape. The problem arises from the fact it takes the shape that dominates my mind. So to animate it, I have to imagine every step of the animation from shape A to shape B. Skipping back and forth in my thoughts causes the shape to skip back and forth too, making it unstable and breaks.

Pattern three. All these objects have a relative anchor point, which seem to default to my primary hand, though it can be changed easily. The shapes aren’t bound to this point by default either, but is another things that can be changed relatively easily. Using this point, I don’t need to actually touch the shape to create or manipulate it.

==========
12:12
==========

I might have gotten little carried away when experimenting, but I can create and maintain about twenty of these shapes at once, if I keep them all simple. I need them all within my field of view, otherwise I’ll lose track of it, because each of them require their own image, meaning I have to multitask to do this.

==========
20:51
==========

Enchantments works too. Though this requires the dual casting skill I picked up a few years back.

Since I usually have to use a formula to create barriers, weaving enchantments into them usually meant adding a few variables into the mix. But if I do it like this, I have to cast the enchantment on the energy itself, which was a challenge by itself, but oddly interesting.

I haven’t been able to casts enchantments like this either. Those require a catalyst regardless.

==========
02:42
==========

Something’s off about the barriers created like this. I tried recreating a tried and true barrier type using this spiritual shaping skill, and something seems very off about it.

Actually, it looks like a brute-forced version of the barrier, which is unlike the weaving required to shape it using the spell.

==========
03:36
==========

So that’s it. I still have to weave the barrier to make it work. I just have to do it manually while keeping the barrier as a whole in mind.

Seems unreasonably hard. It’d require an inhuman level on concentration and memory to keep track of this level of detail.

To try and visualize it, imagine a rope. In order to make a rope, you have to wrap a bunch of thin threads together. Then wrap those threads together. And then those, and so on until you have a nice and thick rope. A lengthy piece of work that produces a solid result.

But then we have machines that can do the same exact thing, but quicker, of better, since they can weave the threads in a more entwined manner, allowing them to use each other for more strength while being thinner.

It’s the same difference there’s between using this shaping skill and using standardized spells.

Sure, an inherent flaw of the spells is the need for an underlying structure, dictating it’s pattern and giving it a sense of uniform and reusability. I mean, that’s not a bad thing, but it means you need to generalize a way to calculate all of that on the fly before you can create it as a spell.

Shaping is far less restrictive, since you can shape it anyway you want. The problem arises from the fact that you need certain aspects for the barrier to be stable. Creating that manually takes more time, though it’s something that will get easier with practice, as you can generalize that part of it. Of course, doing that means you restrict yourself on the type of barrier based on the foundation, but more so is that you start moving back to the spell based creation instead of the shaping.

Combining the two is an obvious choice too, which doesn’t seem unreasonable after a bit of practice.

Though that line of thinking has gotten me curious.

==========
09:02
==========

Took some trial and error, but I somehow managed to anchor the shape to the earth, making it stationary in the air. I mean, that in itself was easy, since I can just anchor it to something obvious.

No, the hard part came afterwards as I started to play with the restrictions of this.

Anchoring the shape to something means that whatever force is exerted on the shape is transferred to the anchor. Meaning, if I anchor a barrier to myself, I’ll be able to walk around with it, but all force the barrier will experience, such as incoming attacks or thrown objects, will be transferred to me. In theory, of course; I don’t have a body to test it on currently.

But that will mean I can have my body remain unharmed through my barrier, though I won’t be able to stop anything with more force or mass than my own body. The same thing applies to all anchors. If I use a tree, then the barrier’s location will only be locked as firmly as that tree’s resistance to outside force.

The shape itself also has a limited resistance, meaning if the force is too great for the shape but not the anchor, then the shape will break. Factoring this in when creating the shape should allow for a great shield, maybe even a great weapon despite the fact spiritualism is generally reserved for support in terms of combat. That will just make it a surprise attack the first time I use it. After that, the word will have spread and people will be on guard for it.

Can I layer shapes anchored to the same object? If that’s the case, then I might be able to use Newton’s second and third law to my advantage by progressively chipping of velocity with a bunch of weak shapes.

That might not work as well as I hoped, on second thought. Maybe if it’s possible to anchor a shape to multiple objects at once?

==========
11:55
==========

Short answer; yes and yes.

It is in fact possible to layer shapes onto the same anchor. How that impacts the overall force resistance is still undetermined.

It is also possible to anchor a single shape to multiple objects. How that impacts the force resistance has yet to be theorized.

I mean, obviously, with multiple anchors, the overall force will be distributed across all anchors, meaning the resistance of each anchor will come into play. But how the distribution happens, as in how much force each anchor has to cancel out and what happens should one break, is still unknown.

It’s going to be a pain to remember all these questions for Yukari, and I’m frankly having too much fun experimenting and playing around with this skill to really remember them since I just move on to the next question I have right at that moment.


==========

The next thing I know, I’m staring into the ceiling of the room Yukari lets me use.

I sit up, only to realize how stiff my body’s become and how much it hurts to move before I ultimately just fall back onto my bed.

It’s a western style bed too. Yukari has a surprising taste in decoration, mixing both new and old designs from both the east and the west. My room has been designed to look like a modern single room apartment, without the toilet and the stove, of course. The door, strangely enough, is an eastern sliding door, as opposed to a western style swing door like modern apartments. And then there’s the back wall, which leads directly outside. It mixes the western style of the adjacent walls into the open Japanese style via finely carved wood patterns that progressively get more open the further back they go.

The furniture is all western, though. A wide makeshift table, which is really just a wooden tabletop placed on two small dressers. It’s all made from the same type of dark wood, so it blends nicely.

The door slides open, drawing me out of my thoughts.

It’s Ran. She’s carrying a big bowl of water. Her sleeves rolled up to her shoulders.

“You’re awake already?” She asks, walking in and placing the bowl on the table. “We first expected you to wake up tomorrow.”

“I might have gone a little overboard.” I admit, trying to sit up again. “What did you do to my body to make it this stiff?”

“You’ve lied there for two days straight.” Ran explains. “Anyone would get stiff after that long of doing nothing.”

Right. I’m not used to being motionless. Especially not under these circumstances. I mean it’s not like I spent the last couple of days doing nothing. I just did it without my body.

“So, did you learn anything?” She wrings up a piece of cloth she took from the water.

“I might have discovered something amazing.” I tell her. “Once I get my body started again, I’ll see try to see if I can replicate it.”

She presses the cloth against my forehead- and my god it’s freezing cold.

I flinch back out of reflex, but Ran follows the motion, keeping the cloth pressed against my face.

“Careful.” She instructs me as she pulls me back up sitting. “You’re burning hot. You’ve been so since yesterday.”

I grab my own nape, and sure enough, it’s hot. More so than it normally should be.

“Ran, in my bag, wherever it is right now, there should be a bundle of spell tags like the ones taped to my back.” I tell her. “If you could bring it here and help me swap out the ones I have with new ones from the bundle, I believe it should fix it.”

“If that’s all, then it should barely take a minute.” She says, removing the cloth to dip it in the water again. “Might I ask what they’re for, these tags?”

“They help regulate my internal body heat.” I explain. “This is likely a sign that the cold ones have expired.”

Though it’s odd I didn’t notice it myself. Maybe because it happened while I had my out-of-body experience? In that case it should have hit me like a brick when I woke up. It’s hard to say how the body actually works sometimes, since it seems to have a life on it’s own.

Another Ran walks into the room, carrying a plate. “I’m afraid I couldn’t prepare anything warm to eat on such a short notice.” She says, putting the plate down next to the bowl. “I imagine you would be hungry, since you haven’t had anything to eat since the other day.” She wipes her hands in her apron. “I’ll prepare a little more for you for tonight. Meanwhile, be sure to drink.”

A third Ran enters the room, twirling the book of spell tags from my back around her finger. “I took the liberty of glancing over the spells you have prepared.” She notes, flipping through the many tags before stopping on one. “These are the ones you mentioned, right? They appear to have something to do with temperature from what I could glance.”

“I will go fetch something to drink.” Apron Ran declares as she leaves the room.

“Yeah, those are the ones, Ran.” I answer her. “You’ll find the other set ten pages ahead. I need you to pull off the ones I have on me currently and replace them with one of the same type, alternating between them.”

“Alright.” The Ran holding the book rips out the tags from the collection. “Turn around, if you would.”

I shuffle around the on the bed, turning my back against the two of them.

Without warning, she just rips one of them off.

“This definitely looks worn out.” One of them comments. They have the exact same voice, so I can’t tell the difference. “How often do you change these?”

“Four to six times a year.” I reply. “Given how much spiritual energy I can pour into them, they last quite long.”

She tapes one to my back, rubbing it to make sure it sticks properly.

“From what I can read, they consume quite a lot of power.” She comments. “A normal human would suffer spiritual depletion within minutes.”

“The amount of energy I produce easily surpasses that of most youkai.” I state. “Yukari is one of the first youkai I’ve met to actually surpass me.”

“Too bad spiritual energy isn’t as viable as mana.” She chuckles to herself. “If you had half as much mana, I’m not even sure I would be able to match you.”

“Yeah. Sadly, I had an unfortunate encounter that meant I either had to expand my spiritual energy pool at an alarming rate, or die.” I tell her. “This sadly prevented any further growth in both my mana pool and ki pool.”

She rips another one off, and plasters a new one right back on. “I’m sad to hear that.”

“Nothing you could have done about it.” I assure her. “Just a dumb little kid being dumb. I’m just glad I survived.”

“Is it okay to ask about this, or?” She trails off, leaving the rest of the question remain implied.

“I’d rather not talk about the event itself, to be honest. Too unpleasant to remember.” I tell her. “I can say it wasn’t the event itself that caused my spirit pool to expand. The event forced my production to go through the roof. Afterwards, it just wouldn’t stop, which then forced my pool to expand. I was bedridden for days as my body tried to adapt and compensate.”

“I sometimes forget how fragile you humans can be.” She replaces another tag. “Most I meet are like you. In the sense that they stand above the rest of humanity as combatants. You know, people who can take a punch or two before going down.”

“So far I’m at two punches.” I brag. “I can take two serious hits from most youkai before I go down. If it were someone like you, on the other hand, I probably wouldn’t die after one punch, but I certainly wouldn’t be able to fight.”

“Then it’s simple. Don’t get hit at all.” She declares in an equally playful tone as mine. “Problem solved.”

“I’d be the world’s best fighter if I could avoid taking a single hit from anyone.” I argue. “And while I’m certainly great, I’m not quite that good.”

She chuckles as she rips another one off. This one with a little more force than the previous ones, almost causing me to flinch. She applies a cold talisman, causing any pain there might have been to fade away quickly.

“I think that was the broken one.” I note. “The new one seems a lot colder than the previous one. In a few minutes I should have cooled off to my normal body temperature again.”

“Sounds fantastic.” She says as she rips off another. “After this there are just three more to go.”

“There’s only eight?” I ask.

“Should there be more?” She stops her motion to ask.

“No. The current amount is the right number.” I assure her. “It’s just that I keep remembering the number I miscounted instead of the number I corrected it to, so I keep confusing myself.”

She replaces another tag. “I see. That’s not something I’m familiar with myself, but I can understand the concept.”

“Considering how many shikigami you work at once, that’s rather impressive.” I tell her.

“Maybe.” She replaces another tag. “Though I’ve worked like this for centuries, so it’s not exactly something new to me.”

With nothing left to say, I let her replace the last one without interruption.

“I brought the water.” Apron Ran comes back. “It took a little time to freeze the ice properly.”

I shuffle back around on my bed, so I face them.

“Where’s the last one of you?” I ask, glancing over the room. There were three Rans just a minute ago, but now there’s only two.

“We merged.” The Ran that’s been here the whole time says. “I took the remaining energy from her to extend the remaining time of this shikigami.”

I take the sizeable cup from Apron Ran and down it. Didn’t realize how thirsty I was. Guess it’s going to take another moment for my body to wake up completely again. Sitting around here is not going to help in that matter.


[ ] Find Yukari
- [ ] I need to get back to that training to test some more things
- [ ] Have her confirm the fruits of my training
[ ] I want to try this skill while in my physical body
[ ] Request a spar with Ran, to get my body moving again

Next update is likely first coming at new years. In case you care, my challenge entry is >>/shrine/41087
>>No. 31391
[x] I want to try this skill while in my physical body
[X] Confirm with Yukari the results

Uh, I guess she was right: he is the type to learn better by herself
>>No. 31392
[x] Request a spar with Ran, to get my body moving again

Better wake up fully before we go doing anything silly.
>>No. 31406
[x] Request a spar with Ran, to get my body moving again.
>>No. 31479
With Nanowrimo over, I can finally call this vote.

Having spent the month working on a different story, and as a result not being able to think about this one at all, has allowed me to come back after a fresh breath of air. Reading back the last couple of updates, I notice several small things that, if improved should help improve the feeling of the updates.
Though, Ran's seeming blandness is by design. My proofer has pointed that out several times, so I'm aware. Once I get the next sub-quest going, hat should change.

>>31391
You've never had a moment like that? You just learned how to do something new within one of your favorite hobbies, followed by you playing around with the limits of that new thing, trying to see exactly what you can and can't do?
Because that's all it was, or was meant to be anyway. He learned the new skill and then just played around with the limits.
>>No. 31491
File 154630083112.jpg - (919.73KB, 800x903, Working girl.jpg) [iqdb]
31491
Before the update. Short version is that I'm going to have to do some course correction, which in turn means I'll have to overturn the last vote. Long version is just gonna explain how this related to Nanowrimo and my nebulous desire to write better and faster by trying to shift the focus.
----------


“Let’s fight.” I propose, having finished the cup.

“I’m sorry?” The fox stops what she’s doing to look at me.

“I’ve been lying in bed for the past few days.” I’d explain. “I’ll like to make sure I’ve adjusted to my body again.”

“I believe there are better ways of determining that.” She raises the jug of water, silently asking if I need a refill. I shake my head.

“I know. But in case you haven’t noticed, I rather like fighting.” I admit as I stand up from the bed.

“I’m afraid I’ll have to decline your challenge.” The shikigami states. “Lady Yukari gave me strict orders to inform her when you woke up. She’s on her way as we speak.”

Being able to use shikigami like that seems very handy. Being able to be in two places at once, that is.

Oh, and speaking of the devil, look who’s entered the room.

“Welcome back to the physical world.” The sage greets me, closing the door behind her. “So, were you able to create a barrier?” She gets straight to the point, taking a seat on one of her gaps.

“I did. In a couple of hours, actually.” I run a hand through my hair, suppressing the simultaneous wave of anger and excitement I felt when I figured it out. “And I frankly can’t believe how easy it was.”

“A matter of hours?” She raises an eyebrow. “What exactly did you do?”

“For a lack of a better term, I was able to create shapes simply by imagining them.” I explain, looking down at my hands as I let a surge of energy run through them, recalling the sensation of creating the shapes. “Although, I’m not sure if what I made are actual barriers.”

The sage looks over at the fox, who in return shakes her head.

“I don’t think you realize how far ahead you skipped.” She corrects her posture, recovering from the mild surprise. “I had expected you to only learn how to channel your energy like that.”

“Can this skill be used in the physical world?” I ask. One of the many questions I have. Though, if I can use this skill without needing to astral project like that, then I should be able to learn the answers for the rest on my own.

“Is it possible?” She repeats, gesturing to the door behind me leading directly outside. “Why not try to find out for yourself.”

“I take it there are no drawbacks, if you’ll just let me do it?” I walk past Ran who’s holding the door open for me.

“None you aren’t already aware of.” The sage answers, riding her gap with me outside. “Spiritual depletion might be the only thing, but I can’t imagine that’s something you will have to worry about.”

She’s right about that. Reimu’s Fantasy Heaven was the first time in a long while where I even felt my spiritual pool drained.

Recalling the feeling I had while I was out of body, I try to let my energy flow out. I feel it leaving me, though nothing is happening.

“It doesn’t come out, right?” The sage walks up next to me, laying a hand on my shoulder. “This is why spells were invented.” She holds out her hand in the same fashion I do, letting her hand get covered in her own misty lime spiritual energy. “Spells are like training wheels. They’re supposed to teach you how to draw out your energy while in your body.”

Training wheels? I guess that’s one way to look at them. Wait a second.

I clench my hand, recycling the energy I had focused out there before directing a fresh batch of energy to my hand.

The difference is the processing. In order to create a barrier, I usually process spiritual energy in my core first, charging up, if you will.

I point two fingers out and swipe them through the air, drawing a straight line. Like expected, a wall rises from the ground, matching the line I traced.

Isn’t this the same I’ve been doing the last few days? But I’ve been able to create these for years. Though they’re closer to being divine walls than barriers, since these were originally taught to humans by the kami, or to be precise, the kami’s shikigami. But maybe.

Instead of focusing on a wall, I channel the same energy into my palm, imagining a sphere.

And it appears. A ball of deep jade grows from my palm.

“See? It’s easy.” The sage comment, giving my shoulder a pat. “However, I will have to admit you’re learning this a little too fast.”

“I don’t know if I’m learning too fast.” I admit, crushing the sphere and letting the energy scatter. “I just try to keep an open mind when I’m told something new.”

“No, you’re making excellent progress.” She sits back down on her gap. “What I meant was that, I wasn’t prepared for you to learn it this quickly.” She shrugs, giving me a self-assured smug smile. Presumably proud she managed to hit the nail on the head with this teaching method. “I’m afraid I’ll have to spend some more time thinking about how to progress your training. In the meantime, I forbid you from casting any spells unless you absolutely must. Try to get used to just using your raw spiritual energy.”

It’ll take some time to knock off the habit of casting spells, but that’s the best way to master something you’ve been taught. Repeat it at nauseum until even your unconscious body can go through the motions on its own.

“Is that all?” I ask, looking back down at her.

“For the time being, yes.” She nods. “Feel free to take this off, though I can’t put you outside the barrier this time.”

“Yeah, I had a feeling.” I admit. I need to rely on a pendant to correctly travel across the barrier on my own, then wait a week before I can go back. Yukari can do that by herself, bypassing the time limit. I can’t imagine that’s an easy task.

“Then I’ll be off.” She declares, floating backwards on her gap, back into the house without breaking eye contact before Ran closes the door.

What an unnecessary bit of drama.

“If you want to go down into Gensokyo,” Ran speaks up, now that her master has left, “then you can follow the road out in front of the house. However, just be aware that it’s a one-way road. You will have to ask one of us for help to come back.” She bows as she informs me, going back to be all formal. A shame, because I do like her better when she shows even a little personality.

“Thank you.” I return the favor my assuming a monotone voice. “But before I leave, could you fetch my bag for me? Since you know where it is.”

“Certainly.” She bows again. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

True to her word, exactly one minute later, another copy shows up with my bag in hand. Fishing through the contents, I pick out my weighted clothes. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve gotten too used to wearing them, but I’m feeling uncomfortably light right now. I don’t feel like taking a proper bath right now either, so some deodorant will have to do for now.

After that, I go through the usual set of preparations, slapping my set of trump-card talismans around my arms, before wrapping them up in bandages serving as bracers and a thicker layer of skin. I make sure the silver knifes are tucked away under my clothes. With that done, I make for the village, leaving the Yakumo household behind for the time being. Ran, being the proud servant that she is, stands by the entrance seeing me off until the house in no longer in view.

==========

“Hey! Ryuko!” I hear someone call out to me as I’m making my way to the human village. Facing the voice, I notice a dirty little redhead waving at me. And I mean that literally, the little woman is covered in dirt.

“Kotohime?” I ask. She’s too far away for me to identify her spiritual energy, and I’ve never actually been good with faces. Her ridiculously long hair does make her easier to identify, though I’m not one to talk about strange hair, since mine is quite long as well.

The little guardswoman waves me over, encouraging me to just walk through the farms. The other workers pause to look as I walk by. Either to see who she’s yelling to, or to gawk at the man with the eyepatch. I just ignore them like I always do and make my way past them over to the redhead.

“Let me guess.” I start off, before she has a chance to say anything. “You got demoted.”

“No.” She states completely monotone, feigning being insulted before dropping the façade and letting her carefree smile appear again. “No, I was just wondering how you were doing. You just sort of disappeared.”

That’s right, Kotohime came to my rescue after I lost to that rock. It was her, her boss and Akyuu if I remember correctly. Then there was another girl with a voice I didn’t recognize.

“Back in peak condition.” I brag. “I mean, aside from the loss of my eye.”

“Was the damage really that bad?” Her smile disappears. “Sorry. If only we had been a little quicker.”

“No. It was gone before I ran into the forest.” I assure her. I mean, if I’d been killed, I would just have revived good as new. And even if I survived, my eye would have recovered within a few days.

“Is this that boyfriend you’ve talked about, Hime?” An elderly, though not old man joins out conversation.

“No, gramps, this is a friend I met while training in the dojo.” The little guard brushes off the question. “You’re thinking about my boss. You know, blonde and stoic. And he’s not my boyfriend, yet.” She leans against her spade. “Ah, that’s right. Ryuko, these are my grandparents.” She gestures at the woman who continues to work in the background.

“Hakurei Ryuko. Priest.” I introduce myself with a polite bow.

“I see, I see.” The old man nods. “Despite how she might act, little Hime is a kind girl. Even though she’s always busy, she comes to help us in her spare time.”

“Gramps.” The redhead protests in vein.

“I know she’s a handful, but please continue to support her.” The old man continues. “She doesn’t have a lot of friends.”

“Gramps.” She protests louder.

“Of course.” I agree.

I don’t really know Kotohime, since we have barely gotten the chance to talk, let alone develop a friendship. I did, however, get a good feel for her personality when we spared back then, and I think we’d be able to get along, since we share similar risks in our line of work. Mainly the fact we can die at a moment’s notice.

The little guard shoots me a glance before realizing I’m just being polite in my answer.

“Oh yeah. If you’ve recovered as much as you say you have, do you think you could do me a favor?” The guard asks. “Only if you have the time, of course.”

“I don’t have any pressing plans for today.” Though I planned on seeing Akyuu, since I still owe her to let her know I’m alright.”

She tabs the spade’s handle with her finger, thinking over her options. “Sorry, gramps, but I have to take care of this.” She lifts her spade up and stabs it back into the ground, making sure it can stand on its own.

“It’s alright.” The old man nods. “Sounds like you haven’t seen your boyfriend here in a while.”

“Again, gramps, wrong person.” She runs past me, back towards the road. I start following her at my own pace.

“Seems like a nice man. He should think about getting a real job.” I hear the old man talk faintly talk to himself as he goes back to work.

“So, what was it you wanted?” I ask as I catch up to the little guard.

“Hmm.” She hums, thinking about how best to explain it. “Let’s just say it’s a favor that’ll have to go under the table.”

The little goodie-two-shoe deals with shady business as well. That’s a surprise.

“There’s a place just inside the walls where we can get something to eat in private.” She points out. “It’ll be my treat, this time.”

I assume she eats at this place regularly, since she walks us to the café, or whatever you want to call it, without any hesitation in her step. Well, that and the fact the staff seem to know her as they simply gesture us onward without even asking any questions.

The little guard takes us to a back room, secluded from the rest of the store. We sit there for a minute before a waitress brings two plates of takoyaki. As soon as she’s left, Kotohime starts speaking again.

“Sorry about that wait.” She says, picking up one of her skewers. “It’s just that this is best kept off record.”

“And you trust I’ll keep it like that?” I ask her, picking up a stick of my own to give it a taste. It’s spicy. Not burning hot, but like more like a mild curry, just without the curry taste.

“You don’t exactly look like the type who’d be against bending the rules once in a while.” She takes a bite out of her skewer. “No offense.” She adds.

“None taken.”

“Anyway, let me get to the point.” She puts down the stick and leans in over the table. “The short version is that there’s an underground group that tricks people into debt they can’t pay, then force them to fight each other for entertainment.” She takes a bite from another skewer.

“Don’t you have an entire guard force to deal with that?” I ask. “I may be able to kick your ass, but that doesn’t mean I can take on an entire crime syndicate.” Not quite true. I mean, if there are skilled martial artists, then it’s going to be a bad time. But fighting aside, taking on a structured organization to effectively take out its ability to function is beyond me.

“That’s exactly the thing.” She points her half-eaten skewer at me. “The guard force is divided into departments, you can recognize us by the color of our uniform by the way. We wear crimson.” She adds. “But anyway, the department that’s responsible for taking care of these guys hasn’t moved. And they’ve known about this for long enough to allow enough information to slip out that even we can pick up their trail.”

“While there’s a part of me that won’t mind becoming an enemy of the human village, that would greatly hinder my work.” I explain. “So, I’ll have to pass on taking down corrupt bureaucrats as well.”

“Then it’s a good thing I’m not going to ask you to either.” The redhead picks up her final skewer. “We have already planned the whole thing. We would like you to distract the big guys while we work our magic.”

“Distract? How?” I start eating one of my skewers.

“Dunno, don’t care.” She reaches over and takes my last piece of food. “As long as you don’t kill anyone, my boss will be able to cover for you. The small guys are just debt slaves, after all. They’re the people we’re trying to save.”

Sounds doable, at the very least. I can think of a few ways to cause distractions, though it’s not my forte, so it’s going to be rough, but not impossible. But I had planned to go see Akyuu. I mean, I do owe her to at least know I’m alright.

[] “I’ll have to pass.”
[] “You can count on me.”


4 years into this mess, as of today. Happy New Year to whomever it may concern.
>>No. 31492
[x] "You can count on me."
>>No. 31493
[x] “You can count on me.”

fuck it, what's the worst that can happen?
>>No. 31495
[x] “You can count on me.”

An excellent way to practice spells. Not being able to kill them is a good handicap to keep it interesting too.

Happy new year btw
>>No. 31496
“Sure, why not.” I lean back into the chair. “This could be fun, for a change of pace.”

“Sweet. I knew I could count on you.” She takes my last skewer, having now claimed five of the six given to us. “We will launch our strike in roughly 90 minutes, if everything goes according to schedule.” She places the now empty stick across the four others, making it look like a western tally mark. “As long as you get in there before then and work your magic, then everything should run smoothly.”

“Other than cause a distraction and not allow anyone to leave, is there anything else I’ll need to know?” I inquire.

“The location.” She states, pulling out a small notepad from her chest pocket. “The village isn’t small, so there are too many places to look.” She jots down the address, rips off the page and hands it to me. “We’ve placed a barrel with a red lid next to the entrance.” She explains. “Color coding barrels is standard practice for business, so we make use of it too.”

“Red barrel. Got it.” I scan over the note, memorizing the address before tucking it away behind my belt. I pull out my phone to check the time; 16:45. One and a half hour until they start. “I expect you’ll be paying for the meal.” I state.

“Obviously.” The redhead grins. “Even if I didn’t eat all the food, I would have. That’s the least I can do when asking you for a favor like this.”

“If I had actually gotten a chance to taste it, I wouldn’t have minded paying my share.” I tell her.

“Gotta be faster, then.” She just argues back. “But then I guess we’ll meet again in a few hours.”

==========

The place seems to be located on the other end of the village, out in the peasants’ ring. The walk did take a while, but I still have plenty of time before they launch their surprise attack.

As I approach the address written on the note, I spot the barrel with the red lid. It’s placed at the wrong address, however, sitting next to the neighbor of the address I was given.

I take a seat outside one of the food stalls nearby and place a small order. My guts are telling me something is wrong. I doubt Kotohime would have given me the wrong address, and I doubt she’d have misplaced that barrel. I may be paranoid, but this is exactly the kind of small mistakes that can cost lives.

And this is exactly why I’m glad for my annoying huge pool of spiritual energy, as it allows me to poke around inside the buildings without leaving this spot. Being I’m the size of an Oni, compared to everyone around me, the only form of “stealth” I have is to just appear as if I belong where I am, since I can’t exactly hide.

I don’t sense anything from inside the house. Nothing in the one where the barrel is, either. Maybe they’re underground? Checking that is outside my reach, so I’ll have to get closer.

I look at time on my phone; 17:50. Less than half an hour until they begin.

If they’re in there, it should be easy to contain them until the two of them show up. But I’m starting to suspect they aren’t in there. In theory, it’s possible they’re concealing their spiritual energy, though that would require a natural element which can’t be moved. So I doubt that’s the case.

Luckily, there aren’t many people on this street. Most of them are working in the fields, with only a few remaining. Once I’m sure no one is looking, I drop the money for my meal and quickly make my way across the street. I don’t sense anything underneath, aside from the fact that there is a big empty space.

I try the door, which turns out to be unlocked, allowing me to enter the building seemingly unnoticed. The interior is devoid of any indication of life. No furniture, tools or utilities of any kind. There is, however, an obvious trapdoor in the floor.

I make my way over to the panel and open it. I can sense the floor not too far down, though there is no ladder. More interestingly, however, is the note hammered onto the bottom of the panel. “Too late” it reads, in crude letters.

They’re gone. The gang has packed up and left, being cocky enough to leave behind a note, showing they were aware they had been found. If Kotohime has given me the correct address, then that’s the only explanation I can think of.

I examine the wooden note. Depending on how recent they moved out, I might be able to use this to track them down. But I need to tell Kotohime that the bandits left, as soon as possible. But I don’t know where she is. If I’m lucky, they might still be at their headquarters, preparing to strike, but if they aren’t then they’ll be completely off my radar. But sitting here and waiting could buy the gang too much time.

[] Wait here for the two of them to show up
[] Go to their HQ to inform them
[] Start tracking the gang down on my own
>>No. 31497
[X] Start tracking the gang down on my own

This is pretty weird... Well, let's just move on and see if we can just catch 'em
>>No. 31498
[X] Start tracking the gang down on my own

Onward! To P L O T!
>>No. 31499
[x] Go to their HQ to inform them
>>No. 31505
[x] Go to their HQ to inform them
>>No. 31506
[x] Start tracking the gang down on my own
>>No. 31507
Shit. This has turned into a difficult situation before it even started. My best option is to disregard Kotohime and pursue them on my own.

I flip the wooden note over in my hand.

Yeah. Tracking them is my only option, less they’d get away. I didn’t bring my bag, so I’ll have to make do with what I have. Luckily, there’s a thick layer of dirt coating the floor.

I find an undisturbed area and sketch out a small circle with my finger, adding as much detail as I can, given the lack of finesse available to me. I place the wooden slate in the circle and pour my energy into it, triggering the spell.

On cue, the slight bit of spiritual energy stored inside it is ejected straight up, allowing me a clear chance to examine it before it dissipates. The titian energy carries a faint smell of citrus.

That’s a rather unusual spiritual energy. Should be easy to isolate, even in public.

I bite into my pinky, just enough to draw blood, and press it against the blank side of the wooden slate. I add another layer to the circle, changing the spell it uses. As I activate it, the blood mark disappears and in its stead, a small compass appears, which immediately snaps towards me.

That should be able to lead those two towards me.

I wipe away the circle and place the wood chip in front of the trapdoor.

This is most likely going to come and bite me in the ass later. I mean, I’m leaving behind something that literally points towards me.

As stealthily as a giant can be, I walk out the front door of the hideout. To my surprise, I spot a youkai sitting on the roof of the house just opposite to this one. Even though it’s outside my range, I can recognize a fox when I see one. This one however, has an unusual dusky fur, with only the tips of its ears, paws and tails being white.

The little trickster keeps eyeing me, even though I stare right back into its grassy eyes. At least it does for a second before casually standing up and walks away.

Curious. What’s a black fox doing in Gensokyo? I know they’re rare, but they shouldn’t be rare enough to go to Gensokyo. Maybe the myth of them bringing good fortune has qualified them?

Anyway, I’ll think about that later, if I remember. For now, I’ve got some scum to track down.

==========

“Hey.” I greet the bunch as I poke my head through the now destroyed door. “I think your guys’ lookout could use some help.” I hold the unconscious men up for the rest to see. “I might have accidentally knocked them out cold.”

The whole room just stares in silence. Though it might be disbelief. I mean what sane person would attack two people, then kick down the door to a cabin and announce they’ve just attacked two people. Surely, you’d have to be a special kind of crazy to think that’s a good idea.

“Attack, you fuckers!” A guy in the back yells out over the crowd. “Don’t just stand there.”

I throw one of the bodies at the group before they get a chance to move, then I throw the other through the group towards the voice in the back.

Giving my new skill a test drive, I create a wall across the door frame, blocking anyone from entering or leaving.

Now, you might call this excessive, showing off and completely unnecessary. And I’d respond with yes, yes and no. Psychology is half the battle. I’m excessive and showing off because it instills an image into them. The bigger, scarier and stronger I appear to them, the less likely they are to want to fight me.

One of them breaks free from their trance and charges at me, screaming from the top of his lungs as he swings a makeshift club at my body.

I steel myself and prepare for the impact.

As the wooden stick hits my stomach, it snaps in half, sending one end flying against the wall behind me, while the man desperately clings to the remaining handle.

I fight to endure the pain, refusing to let it show at all.

The young man looks up at me, realizing his attack didn’t have the desired effect, and smiles nervously.

I place my hand on his shoulder, holding him in place. “My turn.” I drive my fist into his guts, forcing his stomach to go in reverse.

To be honest, I’m rather annoyed he vomited on my clothes, since I only have one weighted set, but then again, what did I expect. These guys are supposed to just be your average Joe.

Regardless, the intimidation has worked. No one else moves.

“Take care of him, would you?” I shove the guy back towards the crowd. “Now then.” I hold out both my hands in front of me and motion them to stand aside and make a path.

And to my honest surprise, they comply. A path down the middle opens, revealing the brains of this whole thing.

Visually, there’s nothing noteworthy about her, other than the fact it’s a woman with streaked hair. As soon as the crow stops blocking her spiritual energy, however, is when she gets interesting.

Her power carries a faint hint of divinity, the same kind a kami would have. Typically, you only see this with the direct descendants of the gods, going down only few generations. Hers, on the other hand, is corrupted beyond recognition. It’s impossible to track her heavenly origin. She reeks of youkai, however, Oni to be specifically. Which now that I notice, would explain her small horns neatly hidden by her hair.

I have never encountered a mix like this before. How do I even categorize it? As a fallen Oni god? I may be too eager to fight sometimes, but if that’s what she is, then she’d be the last thing I’d ever want to fight.

“Finished gawking?” She asks, exposing her carnivorous teeth in an uncanny grin. “We’re a little busy here, you see. So, if you’re done, would you kindly go fuck yourself?”

[] Fuck it. Strike first.
[] Strike up a conversation.
- [] Usual interrogation stuff. Who? Why? What? Etc.
- [] Keep her busy by bullshitting like my life depends on it.
>>No. 31508
[X] Strike up a conversation.
- [X] Keep her busy by bullshitting like my life depends on it
>>No. 31509
[x] Strike up a conversation.
- [x] Usual interrogation stuff. Who? Why? What? Etc.

Did we bite off more than we can chew? Anyway, let's keep her talking for now.
>>No. 31510
Seija, is that you?

[X] Strike up a conversation.
- [] Keep her busy by bullshitting like my life depends on it.
>>No. 31514
Calling it on bullshitting.

>>31509
Just another day

>>31510
ʇou ǝsɹnoɔ ɟO
>>No. 31515
File 155034427257.jpg - (599.48KB, 1200x1800, Downsie.jpg) [iqdb]
31515
I make a scene of looking around over the crowd of broken village men.

“To be honest, I’m disappointed.” I ignore her indirect order to get out. “I heard this was supposed to be an underground fighting ring. I came hoping to fight someone challenging, for once.”

“That’s why you decided to launch an assault against us? ‘Cause of a little boredom?” The youkai girl asks, resting her head in her palm.

“No. That was self-defense. Excessive force? Sure. But self-defense.” I sit down, right in the middle of the room. “Now, how about you bring out someone with an actual spine, so I can have some fun.”

“Like I said, kid. Fuck off.” She states bluntly. “There are plenty of martial sports in the village for you to play around with.”

“You think weaklings like that can excite me?” I ask. “Have you ever fought an opponent that was just a little stronger than you, in a fight to the death, yet manage to come out the victor?”

The she-devil raises her brow. I’ve caught her attention.

I continue. “The level of excitement you get from fighting someone like that, at the very edge of life itself is unparalleled by anything else. And the high you get on after winning is something beyond this world.” I clench both my fists. “Do you really think you can experience something like that inside the village, with all the rules on sparring and safety practices? Underground fighting rings are the only places where I can hope for a chance to fight like that again.”

That’s largely true, though. Finding someone you can go all out against is an amazing feeling. Being able to actually win will send you on a dopamine rush you can’t even dream of.

She starts to snicker, barely keeping it below actual laughter. “That so? Well, I got bad news for you, kid. This isn’t some underground fighting ring, so you won’t find that precious opponent here.” She readjusts herself so both her naked feet are on the ground. “But if you stick around, I might just be able to give you the fight of your life.”

The collective mood for the room drops as she talks. Seems like the people here really don’t want to be here. Guess Kotohime was right about that.

“Now we’re talking.” I cross my arms. “What’s that plan? Who do I get to fight?”

“The whole human village.” She grins. “These chumps are the downtrodden, the oppressed. They’re unable to express their desires, much like you, because the strong have decided they shouldn’t be allowed.” She jumps to her feet. “Obviously I can’t go mouth off the entire plan to a newcomer, so you’ll just have to trust me. Just sit tight and wait, and soon you’ll be able to fight whoever and however.”

This is bigger than I thought, much bigger.

Could it be this is why the guards never made their move? They knew it was more than just illegal fighting. Are they ignoring it, or waiting for the right moment to strike? Are we perhaps interfering in their plan?

Maybe the guards are in on the plan too, which is why they’re turning a blind eye to it. Although that wouldn’t make much sense, since this is a problem of power, it seems. Those who have power typically don’t want to lose it.

[] Shut it down, now.
[] Integrate and investigate.


>>/gensokyo/15746
Once a month is the minimum standard I aim for. Median is 3 per month, for the time being. Didn't announce it, cause then the universe would make it impossible for me to keep.
>>No. 31516
[x] Shut it down, now.

It's gonna be a hard fight, but the other plan doesn't really seem plausible.
I mean, why would someone go with a nebulous plan made up by some stranger when they could simply fight that stranger for that thrill they're looking for? Seija isn't dumb, so she'll probably realize that.
>>No. 31517
Given the way she's talking, I can only assume Seija plans to reverse the relationship between humans and Youkai. This would also explain why most of the guards are willing to turn a blind eye to what's been going on.

[X] Play along, but start by asking why you shouldn't just fight the mastermind right then and there. Seems a lot easier than some big scheme, doesn't it?
>>No. 31518
>>31516

Here. Change my vote for

>>31517

It seems like a good compromise.
>>No. 31519
Alright, calling it.
This incident is going to be fun to write, by the looks of things.

And a little clarification to the "median is 3 per month" from last post. That'd be my total story updates, since I'm writing on Tales of Half a Ghost again
>>No. 31525
File 155257175246.jpg - (562.76KB, 1536x2048, __kijin_seija_touhou_drawn_by_efukei__3b206e1c51eb.jpg) [iqdb]
31525
==========
18th of Planting Month, 19:36
Shack outside the Village
==========

“Alright.” I tap my finger against my arm. “Just one question, then.” I continue to push. “Who am I going to fight?”

“Like I said. The whole village.” She reiterates. “Once the chaos starts, pick whoever you think will put up a good fight and do your thing.” The youkai walks past me, towards the sealed door. “I might ask you to take care of some small fries in the meantime. Like now.” She places a hand on my barrier just as she says it, making it spin upside down which gives her a moment to step outside before the room is resealed.

“Get down! Now!”

Instinctively responding to my gut feeling, my knees give out beneath me and let me fall straight down.

A thundering clash sounds just before everything goes silent.

Even with the adrenaline kicking in, I barely see the tiny object flying past where my head was. In fact, that’s all the info I manage to pick up before it’s gone.

I look to the door and my barrier has been blown apart, with the remaining fragments dissolving.

As soon as I hit the floor, I roll over and get on my feet, out of sight from the door frame.

I can hear someone speak from outside, though the sound is muffled by the loud ringing in my ears. Judging by their spiritual energy, it’s Kotohime and her boss. The former being right next to the door, while the latter stands in open view a few meters away.

Time to move fast.

I dash up to the wall next to the door frame, then as fast as I can, I reach out through the opening and grab the little martial artist with an iron grip. In one motion, I drag her through the door and pin her against the wall.

“Sorry, but there’s no time to explain. Trust me and take these guys away.” I tell her, trying my best not to yell, despite the fact I can’t even hear my own voice.

[“Sorry, I can’t hear you. Could you speak a little louder?”] Her voice is still drowned out by the ringing, though now that I can see her, I can read her lips.

To be honest, I never thought this skill would be useful outside of fighting spellcasters. The only reason I even learned it was to get the upper hand on people that’d mastered silent chanting, by being able to know what spell is coming without hearing it.

But shit, that means I can’t talk to her. There’s not enough time to write up a letter either. Wait. My grimoire. It records everything I know and only displays the information I want it to show. Will it work over distance, though?

Letting go of her, I reach inside my shirt and fish out the small book. Flipping open the first page, I see the letters appear, spelling out quick instructions.
“Pretend like you beat me.”
“Take away these people.”
“Continue reading once I’m gone.”

Satisfied with that, I hand her my grimoire and wait a whole second for her to read it over before running at the rear wall, throwing myself against it with enough force to break through.

Rolling to a stop, I let out a long-range pulse of spiritual energy, searching for the little she-devil, but it seems like she’s long gone. I still have to act my part, though, for all I know she could be watching.

I raise a barrier behind me, unintentionally blocking another one of those small things. That is, I don’t see the little thing, but the sound combined with the fact the barrier is down again immediately tells me all I need to know.

I swing my other hand up, raising another barrier, which stays up this time. Using that as cover, I bolt away.

==========

“Quick feet you got there.” The streaked devil makes her appearance. “Didn’t think someone your size could be that agile.”

“One of the many tricks up my sleeve.” I respond, having caught my breath again.

“You seem more and more promising.” She walks up to me, placing her hand on my shoulder, only to immediately pull back like I just shocked her.

“Oh yeah, I should probably tell you. This arm,” I hold out my left arm, “houses a kami. Youkai like yourself probably shouldn’t touch it carelessly.” I bluff. No one has reacted like that until now.

Her grin grows as I explain it. “Say, kid, you wouldn’t happen to be the Giant of the Human Village, by any chance?”

“That’s the first time I’ve heard that name, so I’ll assume not.” I stand up and dust myself off. “Not really sure if it matters anyway.”

“No. Those chumps just talked about some big guy that showed up one day.” She points over her shoulder with her thumb, back towards the village. “But you’re right, that doesn’t matter.” She spins around so she can look out over the village in the distance. “We just lost our numbers.” She states. “And this plan requires some canon-fodder, so you might have to wait a little longer still.”

“Yeah, I’m gonna need to know a little more about the plan, if I’m gonna stick around.” I state, matter-of-factly.

“And I told you to wait.” She snaps back.

I grab her neck with my left hand, and judging by the shock, it seems it still hurts her. “What’s to stop me from fighting you instead?” I turn her around. “You won’t be the first youkai I take down.”

The slight hint of annoyance she wore disappears with a snicker. “You really got balls kid. You know I’m a youkai and still dare challenge me.” She grabs my hand, and the next I know, I’m lying on my back looking up at her.

She lets go of my collar, which I didn’t even notice her grabbing. “The thing about schemes is that they rely on more than brute strength. In order to pull this off, we need to hit the village in several locations at once. Moreover, I need more power. I can only unleash the chaos we both want once all the pieces are in place.” She leans down to me. “So can it, and just do as I say.”

That’s as far as I can push her on information, it seems. Any more and it’ll turn into an actual fight, which I’m not confident I can win. Seems like I’ll have to act like the bad guy for some time, to keep getting information. I’ll just have to hope that Kotohime understood what I tried to tell her.

“Yeah, I got it.” I push myself off the ground. “I don’t take orders, however. Just suggestions.”

“Then I suggest you do as I say, if you want to fight.” She doesn’t look back and instead just starts walking. “Now, for starters. Follow up, we gotta regroup.”


-----
Sorry for the delay. My proofer and I kinda misaligned our schedules. I'll get working on the next update right away
>>No. 31526
File 155586881835.jpg - (149.34KB, 850x1193, wannabe angel.jpg) [iqdb]
31526
==========
22nd of Planting Month, 13:16
Hideout
==========

The tiny she-devil sees fit to kick me in the back to demand my attention. She’s not using much force, but she’s still a youkai.

“Wake up, human.” She demands, taking the chance to stand tall over me with her arms crossed.

“I told you, I’m not sleeping.” I tell her without moving. “I’m meditating.”

“I know, and that holy aura is pissing me off.” She walks in front of me, seeing as I’m not turning to face her. “But now I have a reason for you to stop annoying me.” She bends down and firmly grabs my chin, forcing me to look her in the eyes. “I need you to go wreak havoc. Get as much attention as possible, for as long as possible. I’m still gonna need you for the second half of my plan, so don’t fuck it up.”

“In the village, I assume?” I stand up, once again towering over her, though she still refuses to let go of my face.

“No, on the bloody moon, you fucking fairy.” She scoffs.

“Yeah I get it.” I shove my hands into my pockets. “Are you going to be hanging off my chin all day, however? Cause, I’m gonna have to change my strategy if that’s the case.”

“Of course not. That would defeat the whole purpose of making you the distraction.” She finally let’s go. “I need to be able to move freely. Whenever something happens inside the village, everyone but the guards stay inside. That will be perfect to move around unnoticed.”

“Right. Do you have any preference, or can I just go nuts?” I ask her, rubbing my chin. Again, it wasn’t a strong hold, but it still hurts.

I already have some plans on how to kick up a fight. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep it isolated.

“As many as possible for as long as possible.” She repeats. “That’s all I care about.” She walks past me towards the small cave’s exit. “If some of them happen to die, then so be it. Just try not to rocket past my notoriety. I have a reputation to keep up, after all.”

==========

Attracting attention isn’t going to be hard. I doubt I need to go over why I stand out like a sore thumb here in the village, even without an eye-patch, though that does make a few more heads turn. To look away, that is, because what in the gods great name could happen if they locked eyes with a one-eyed Oni.

Now, I just have to hope I run into Keine, since I think she’d be the easiest to explain the situation to. Convincing her to duke it out with me in the middle of the village is gonna be harder, however. I doubt she’ll like the idea of raising hell inside the walls, but I need the guards’ attention as well.

“Thank you for your time.” I hear a familiar voice cut through the ambient chatter of the village. It’s familiar, though I can’t seem to put a face on it. It’s of a mature woman, judging by the tone.

“Why are we wasting our time like this?” Another voice asks, coming from the same direction. This one I most certainly recognize. “It’s obvious no one has seen it. And what are the chances it’ll just come to us?” My scar aches, just hearing her speak again.

Change of plans. I’ll have an easy excuse to engage with her.

“Its last known location was here in the human village a few days back.” The older voice explains. “Until we find another clue, we will have to be thorough. It’s one of our duties as celestials of Gensokyo.”

“You’ve already said that. But do you really think it’ll make any difference?”

I spot them. The small blue celestial and her guardian. She’s wearing different clothes, a long blue skirt with a tight floral print and a plain white shirt with puffy sleeves. She’s wearing a bow as a choker, which seems mildly unsafe.

The older woman with her would be Nagae Iku, if I’m correct. She lacks both the celestial ribbon and her trademark frilly dress. Instead she’s wearing a thick shirt with the same style of frills and a scarf. Unlike the little brat, she seems far more dressed for the weather.

“Hey.” I place my hand on the bratty angel’s shoulder.

“Yes?” She snaps at me, before even turning around.

Before she gets to face me, however, I hammer my forehead against hers, knocking her on the ground.

All the chatter in the area stops and complete silence falls on the scene.

Like I expected, she quickly picks herself back up, and oh boy if looks could kill. “What the actual fuck is your problem?”

“That’s payback for my eye.” I declare.

She stares me in the eye for a second before it dawns on her. “One eye wasn’t enough?” She smirks as she reaches for her sword hilt, hanging by her belt.

“Tenshi, we don’t have time for this.” Iku grabs the angel by her wrist. “And you. Whatever you’re trying to pull, knock it off before you get hurt.” She warns me.

I take a step back, grazing the flaming sword.

The little wannabe angel had grabbed it with her other hand and proceeded to draw the blade in a more traditional way, despite the fact it extends entirely from the hilt.

“Tenshi!” The electric angel snaps, barely missing her chance to keep a firm grasp of the young troublemaker.

“It’s a waste of time to look through the city, so you real celestials can do it if you want.” Having pulled herself free, she jumps forward a few steps to properly engage with me as I pull back further. “Meanwhile, I can teach this asshole to not mess with me again.”

“Are you going to start with that again?” Iku asks, only to find herself completely ignored.

“Non-Perception [Sword of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception].” The blue celestial declares her spell card.

“Misdirection [Shadow Step].” I declare my counter.

Bending forward and placing all my weight onto my front foot, I prepare to launch myself backwards, away from her blade. I make sure to lean slightly to the side, to hint my direction. Moments before she starts her swing, I break eye contact, looking the complete opposite way I’ve been leaning.

Rather than jumping or dodging, I let myself fall underneath her blade and roll behind her as she cuts down an afterimage.

“Shadow Step” is one of the skills that sits at the pinnacle of my abilities as a fighter. The essence of the move is to feed your opponent as much contradictorily information as possible; to overload their ability to predict your movements. This creates a bunch of blind spots as they attempt to predict everything you feed them, which in turn makes it easy to simply vanish from their sight.

By now the people that’s been watching realize this isn’t going to end peacefully, and they make the sensible choice to run for their lives, calling for the guards.

Since neither of us declared a duel, the spell barrier won’t protect them or the surroundings. So, I’d say they’re being reasonable, despite the culture of watching these fights on a regular basis.

I place my foot on her backside and give her a firm shove forward. “Where the hell were you aiming?”

She staggers but doesn’t fall. She immediately turns and glares daggers.

I start shuffling my feet, getting some footwork done and increase my short-range movement speed.

With that, I start to circle her. The distance between us means I won’t have any chance to enter her blind spot, but I’m just trying to get into a good position to drag this out.

She doesn’t seem to want to give me the chance, however, as she charges at me, thrusting her sword at me.

She telegraphed the move from a mile away, so I can’t really say I dodge it as much as I stepped aside.

While pulling her sword back, she makes a dash in, reaching for my collar with her free hand.

I take another couple of steps back, going outside her range again.

She clicks her tongue and quickly gets back into her stance.

Yeah, I can make this work.

I give her a condescending smirk and relax my stance. And by relax, I mean letting it go completely.

“Why you!” The angel lunges at me.

Clearly showing what she intends to do, dodging her is as easy as it gets.

I reach in past her attack before she has a chance to pull back and grab her by the collar of her dress. I pull her in close. “The old woman is coming. Keep moving if you want to keep fighting.”

With that said, I throw myself backwards, still holding her tightly, and as I land on the ground, I kick her upwards, sending her flying further down the road.

Oh look, there come the guards. One of which the angel collides with, ass first. That wasn’t my intention, though I have a feeling that guy won’t mind.

I immediately get on my legs and charge after her.

“Stop!” The front-most guard commands me, holding up his hand. Practicing the equivalent of trigger discipline for polearms, he’s pointing the head of his gaudy trident towards the ground.

Perfect.

I don’t slow down as I approach the line of guards. Instead, I proceed to stomp on the trident, just below the head, breaking it off. Continuing my motion without letting up, I grab the pole and yank it from the stunned commander before pushing him aside.

I’ve been taught how to wield the simple weapon archetypes, though I’ve never been taught how to actually use them. Nevertheless, I’m now armed with more range than just my arms.

A long sharp whistle sounds from behind me, which is quickly followed by several more.

I turn around only to see the entire line of guards blowing into a blooming rose colored bamboo flute. Within seconds, the exact same sound rings out from across the village, coming from several directions at once.

Guess that means I’ve earned their attention. I’m going to be in so much trouble once this is over.

“Get off me.” The blue angel shoves a couple guards aside, who appear to have tried restraining her. Without hesitation, she continues her assault towards me.

Giving my new skill a try, I surround the pole with a thin barrier, and move to block her strike.

The pole is cleanly separated into two smaller poles.

Guess that didn’t work.

The swordswoman grabs her blade with both hands and strikes down.

Moving purely on instinct, I move my arm in between us, and with all the power I can muster, knock her hands off to the side; parrying her attack.

If nothing else, the shock of the move stuns her as she loses her posture, leaving her wide open for a hard counter.

She clenches her teeth and braces for impact, but I take the opportunity to draw back a couple of steps.

The angel staggers backwards, barely catching herself as she apparently didn’t expect me to pass such an opportunity.

Was it a trap? Too bad, lil’ missy, but I’m here to cause a scene, not to enact revenge.

I give her a shrug before sliding further backwards, creating more distance. I can almost hear a vein pop as she tenses her whole body in pursuit.

She engages in a full-on dash, dragging her sword along with her.

Before I have a chance to react, she plants her boot square in my stomach, sending me flying with the force from her dash.

There’s enough force in her kick to make me thankful I haven’t eaten yet, because it would all come back up now anyway.

Through some miracle, I manage to stay upright and land on my feet again. A little less lucky is that I crashed with another bunch of guards.

“Fight me already, you coward!” The celestial yells out, pointing her sword at me. “Quit running away and grow some balls!”

“Make me!” I yell back.

I hold out my hands and create a barrier between us. More for show than anything, though. I then kick off the barrier to leap over the guards, who seem too stunned to grasp what’s going on, and continue drawing away from the angry angel.

“Out of my way!” With her one-track mind, she barrels through both the barrier and the line of guards, continuing her pursuit.

Yeah, this is working. I’ve riled her up enough to where she won’t give up easily. We’ve alerted the guards, to the point where there’s an active pursuit. This should give Seija plenty of time to set up her plan.

Wait, shit, she’s already closed in. Celestials are fast.

I throw myself to the side, dodging her strike. She seems to have predicted this, however, as she follows up with a spin and a kick, launching me through a wall.

The crash happened too fast for me to pick up any reliable information. The first thing I notice again, is that I’m buried under a pile of books, and that my back hurts like shit. No real damage, though.

I think I sense Akyuu on the other side of this pile. Along with two others, both human females.

“How’s that?” The celestial declares. “Still think you can ignore me?”

“What do you think you’re doing?” One of the women snaps at the angel.

My arms are too spread to be able to muster enough strength to move this pile quickly. So instead, to escape this pile, I build up energy in my core to blow away the books.

“Butt out, cow. This is between me and him.” She points her blade at me.

I release the energy, blowing the pile away, and as soon as I can move, I jump to my feet.

Without a second of hesitation, I charge past the blue woman and make my way to Tenshi.

I grab her thin waist and just barely lift her off the ground, before throwing her back down with the full force of my charge.

Wait, wasn’t that Keine? I was a little too preoccupied with getting out of there before Akyuu spotted me, so I didn’t notice. I was looking for her in the beginning, but now it could turn this whole thing sour. I might be able to turn this around, if I can get luck on my side.

I once again draw back and create some distance between me and the angel.

“What’s going on?” The teacher steps out of the building’s new doorless entrance. “You.” She looks over at me, though I ignore her. “That’s the second time you’re causing trouble already.”

“I said, butt out of this.” The little celestial jumps on her feet. “He’s mine.”

There’s a lot about that little brat I dislike, but her tenacity is admirable.

She charges at me again. This time, she drags her sword through the stone path. As she swings it up, several large rocks come flying out of the ground with it.

I quickly cast a spell to create a barrier between them and me.

Keine joins our fight by storming over and restraining the celestial’s hand, preventing her from using her sword.

On cue, another wave of the guard force shows up. This time, they seem to have brought someone important, probably their boss.

“Keine?” One of the girls from inside the shop asks. Going by her voice, I’m convinced it’s Akyuu.

“Stay back!” She shouts without turning around.

“Surround them!” The guardsman waves his hand at our group.

I’m gonna nope right out of this.

I start backing off again, which Tenshi apparently catches from the corner of her vision, as she immediately snaps to look me in the eyes.

“You’re not getting away!” She yells out.

The swordswoman tries to pursue me, but she is held back by the wereyoukai. “Not so fast.”

“Don’t try to stop me.” The swordswoman demands, pulling her arm away with the superior strength of a celestial.

With that, the angel reengages her pursuit, with the teacher following right behind.

I dig my soles into the stone path and grind to a halt. I drag my hands down into my sides where I clench them hard and prepare to counterattack.

At least that’s what I imagine my tiny pursuer sees as she once more braces for impact, being unable to react any other way.

As she gets within my range, I crash my skull into hers with enough force to knock her on the ground, which wasn’t too hard since she was way off balance. But she continues her forward motion, now sliding on her back, passing through my legs. Meanwhile I attempt to recover as quickly as possible, since that headbutt caused my consciousness to flicker.

Don’t do headbutts. It hurts like hell, and I think I might have a minor concussion.

I create a wall between me and the rapidly approaching teacher. It’s not gonna stop her, in fact I doubt she’ll notice it. Instead, I jump up and kick off the wall to jump even higher into the air.

Throwing my hand up, I use my new skill to create a box in the air and hope to Hakurei it can hold my weight, as I pull myself up.

Since I’m not crashing into the ground, it seems to work. I didn’t think this would work, to be honest. I might be able to exploit this little trick even more. Infinite wall-jumping where I just create the surfaces I need. It’s gonna kill my legs, though it could be useful in a pinch or for fun.

Quick overview. Keine is directly below me. Tenshi is down, though she’s gonna get back up any second now. The guards are here and attempting to surround us. More are approaching, judging by the flags I see moving across the other streets.

My goal was to cause chaos and draw attention towards myself. I’d say I’ve succeeded. Though I guess I was never told for how long I’d have to hold their attention.

“What’s going on?” The village guardian yells up at me.

“I got bored.” I declare, casually dismissing her urgency. “Or at least that’s what I want to say, but sadly I’m compelled to speak the truth.” I create another wider barrier to my side which I step onto, so I no longer stand directly above her. “Even here in Gensokyo, you humans are starting to forget the terror of youkai, so I saw fit to remind you.”

“Ryuko? What are you doing?” Akyuu peeks out from inside the ruined bookstore.

I ignore her and keep my eyes locked on the teacher.

“You saw fit? But you’re a human too!” She argues.

“You’re talking about this body, right?” I hit my own chest. “Yeah, I’ve borrowed his form since it seemed useful. But now there’s no use in masking my power anymore.”

I start masking my spiritual energy to match what you’d normally see on a youkai, while also releasing my valves, allowing all my excess spiritual energy to flow out freely.

Most people can, on an instinctive level, read spiritual energy. The change in both my signature and amount would effectively light me up like a Christmas tree.

From the information I have about the people gathered here, none of them should be able to read deep enough into spiritual energy to tell for sure that I’m masking my signature. So, to them, it should feel like I really am a youkai. Then again, there are unknown factors here that might be able to call my bluff.

“Convinced now?” I ask the guardian.

“What have you done with him?” She takes up a combat wide stance. Her eyes start to shine faintly like sapphires in the sun.

“Trying to read my history?” I ask her. “Sorry, but every youkai knows about you, traitor.” Folding my arms, I look down on her. “Why do you think I didn’t run away? This isn’t just some foxlike shapeshifting. Right now, my “history” is his history.”

The blue guardian just clicks her tongue as her eyes lose their shine.

I notice a small ripple at the edge of my mind and look in the direction it came from.

There it is again, that small black fox. It’s sitting on the roof of a house a couple streets over, doing nothing but looking at me. Last time it ran away when I noticed it, but now it just sits there.

It’s out of my range, but I can tell it’s not Ran. Their signatures are like night and day.

“What. Have you done. With him.” She asks again, firmly punctuating herself.

“I have claimed his body for myself, taking everything of his for myself.” I overact the clenching of my fist, adding excess drama to the statement. “At least that’s what I’d like to say, but that would be a lie. And I can’t lie while borrowing a form.” I relax and go back to a casual posture. “Last I saw him; he was bleeding out somewhere in the forest. But that was a few days ago. He’s not dead, though, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to continue using his form.”

“Then why did you attack me?” The celestial sits up. She’s apparently taken the time to cool off.

“I saw you two fight earlier. Based on how that ended, I figured I could use you to create a scene.” I extend my arms wide. “And look at this. Half the guards have shown up. The filthy traitor is here. And all the civilians are staying inside in fear.”

In one swell motion, the celestial gets off the ground and lunges at me, swinging her sword before she would reach me with it.

Instinctively, I jump backwards, reaching even higher than I should be able to.

Reaching the top of my unexpected arch, I create a new barrier underneath me, so I can stand once more.

The celestial clicks her tongue. “I’ve lost all my steam.” She points her sword at me. “I thought something was off about how you fought. If all you can do is run away, then you won’t hold a candle to him.” She sheathes her sword and turns around. “I’m leaving. Beating some copycat won’t be fun at all.” Having said that, she takes off, flying out of the village.

[] Guess I’ll take that as my cue to leave.
[] A fight with Keine should keep the guards distracted.
- [Lie] Inform her that if this body dies, then so does the “real” Ryuko.
[] Kidnapping a human would cause a lot of chaos.
- [] Akyuu.
- [] That other girl from the bookstore.


One too many distractions while writing this update. With my exams coming up, I might have to slow down a lot, at least for the next 3 to 4 weeks.
>>No. 31527
[x] Kidnapping a human would cause a lot of chaos.
-[x] Akyuu.

She deserves to know the truth, although she probably knows part of it already. Besides, a scene AND a date at the same time is just efficiency.
>>No. 31538
[x] Kidnapping a human would cause a lot of chaos.
-[x] Akyuu.
>>No. 31539
Didn't expect everything to come to a full stop, but now that my exams are over, I can resume writing.
Calling it for Akyuu
>>No. 31540
File 156259100035.jpg - (105.49KB, 800x684, a0136d08f76128b9622441e82cfc604a.jpg) [iqdb]
31540
==========
22nd of Planting Month, 13:50
Human Village
==========

“Eldest daughter, wait up.” The celestial's handmaid finally catches up. She glances up at me, not saying anything before taking off, following the celestial in her retreat.

The village guardian ascends into my view, arms held out as if she’s trying to block my path. “We have you surrounded. Just surrender.”

I glance around and sure enough, even more guards have shown up. Pretty sure I see Kotohime down there too. She’s easy to spot with her long flaming hair, after all.

“So it would seem.” I comment. “Though this is closer to being a game of ‘the floor is lava’ than being surrounded. After all, I’m in the air, and I don’t see anyone but you up here with me.”

“Just come along nicely.” She repeats.

I reach into my pocket, which seem to put the guardian on edge as she summons a small shield to hide behind. No, a mirror?

I pull out a bundle of talismans. I rarely use these, but I always keep them at hand, just in case. Flipping through them, I pull one out at random, or at least that’s how I make it seem. The edges each have a unique texture, based on their purpose.

I hold it out, so she can see the talisman before I throw it straight up. A second later, it explodes, just out of reach from the two of us.

“Do I really need to say anything?” I ask her. I’m bluffing my ass off. It’s not that I’m unwilling to throw explosives into a crowd of people, it’s just that the circumstances must make that the best option. Needless to say, this isn’t the best option, but it’s a worthy bluff.

“You wouldn’t.” She states.

“For the sake of chaos, yes, I would.” I reassure her.

I send out a pulse of energy, searching through the crowd for the little chronicler. Found her. She’s outside, too.

“Better think fast!” I yell out, swinging the bundle of paper so hard the talismans fly out and scatter. For good measure, I swing it the other way too, scattering even more. None of them are activated, however, so they’re just pieces of paper.

“You!” She shouts at me before directing her attention to the crowd. “Get away! Now!”

I quickly find the fiery little woman in the crowd who stares back at me. I shake my head, hoping she’ll get the message. After all, she’s the only one here that knows the truth.

“Oh yeah, before I leave.” I point towards Akyuu, who hasn’t moved yet, and create a barrier beneath her. With a swipe of my finger, I send her flying upwards. Judging by her continued yelp, that wasn’t something she expected.

With my other hand, I create a path over to her and quickly make my way over to her, catching her as she comes back down.

Using the chaos, I make my getaway, carrying the little chronicler close to my chest to keep her secure.

I feel Keine’s sharp gaze lock onto my back for a second before she goes back to the crowd.

“Let go of me.” The little chronicler hits my arm in protest.

I ignore her and keep running, changing up my form so I skip rather than run.

“I said let go of me.” She hits me again. “Do you even know what will happen if I get spirited away?”

“Look down.” I tell her. “Think you can walk away from a fall like that unharmed? Especially with a frail body like yours.”

“Do you know the crime you’re committing?” She threatens.

“The Child of Are is protected by the 5 youkai sages. Violation is met with permanent extermination.” I recite. “I’m aware.”

“And you still dare to take me?”

“As long as you don’t thrash around, I can guarantee your safety.” I assure her.

She stops moving. Admittedly, a stupid move considering your chance of survival when kidnapped drops by fifty percent when you arrive at the destination. Nevertheless, I’m glad she trusts me enough for now, since for all she knows, I’m not Ryuko.

I feel a wet drip on my face, quickly followed by another. Rain? But the sky is clear. The weather is not right for a sun shower either.

Slowing down a bit, I look back, only to see nothing. An empty field stretching as far as the eye can see. I know I’m fast, but this is ridiculous. I should have barely cleared the outer wall for the village

An illusion. The density of mana in the air is higher than it should be. It’s probably that fox.

I come to a halt and lower myself so Akyuu can get down.

“Are you not afraid I’m going to run away?” She asks, taking a few steps away to create some space.

“Where would you run?” I spread out my arms, gesturing to the empty landscape surrounding us. “Besides, I’m fairly certain I can run faster than you.”

“So? You’ve kidnapped me. What’s next?” The little chronicler folds her arms.

“Now?” I create a pair of small barriers as makeshift seats. “Now I’m gonna swallow my pride and apologize.” I sit down, gesturing for her to take a seat as well. “Right after I got injured,” I tap my eyepatch, “I ran away. I don’t understand why, myself, so I can’t explain it.”

Her expression loosens and the slight frown she’d put on disappears.

“Short version.” I continue. “Yukari, who’s opted to teach me, decided that it was a good time to start training. I was actually on my way in to see you yesterday, when this whole incident started.”

“Ryuko.” She states.

“Yeah?”

“Come down here for a second.” She beckons me.

I lean forward so we’re closer to the same height.

Without a shred of hesitation, she slaps me across the face.

It doesn’t hurt, I’ve had much worse, but the message got through.

“Do you know why you deserved that?” She starts rubbing the palm that hit me.

“Yeah.”

“I know we’ve barely had any time to get to know each other, but just being left like that hurts.” She finally takes her seat. “Despite how I look, I’m quite old. I’ve long since learned to recognize personality types. I don’t know you, but I know your type. I trust you, Ryuko. And I would like it if you could trust me.”

“What’s with the sudden heart-to-heart?” I ask her. “For all you know, I’m just some terrifying youkai pretending to be this guy.”

“No. You show too many small signs to be a copy.” She says. “Remember, I can’t forget anything, even if I wanted to.”

I let out a chuckle. “And here I was gonna say how flattered I am for you remembering so much, apparently.” I sigh. “If you want some trust, then let me tell you that I’m helping a branch of the guards with a youkai. I’m currently undercover to gain her trust. That stunt back there,” I point back to where the village should be, “that was solely to gain her trust. No one, except maybe Hinanawi got hurt.”

“Then why kidnap me?” She asks. “Like I said, I’m protected by the youkai sages. Kidnapping me would jeopardize you and by extension them.”

“If nothing else, I owed you an explanation after I just disappeared like that.” I explain. “If you hadn’t seen me today, I’d probably just have gone back.”

“This is actually a big relief.” She leans back, supporting herself with her arms. “I actually feared Miss Hinanawi had come back to get revenge.”

“I’m pretty sure that’d have been the end of me, if she had.” I remark.

Someone’s here. A youkai, kitsune, a powerful one at that, though I don’t sense any hostility.

“Kuro.” Akyuu stands up.

I look at the newcomer and it turns out to be that same fox from earlier. Black fur with white paws and a white tipped tail. It only has two tails though, which is strange seeing as the power it emits rivals that of a nine-tailed fox.

“Is this your first time meeting her?” Akyuu asks. “That’s Kuro, the other guardian of the village. Though unlike Keine, people treat her nicely, thanks to her black fur.”

Black furred foxes are rumored to bring good luck. They’re generally treated like lesser gods, rather than the youkai they are.

“So that’s why she’s been keeping an eye on me.” I stand up. “I’m guessing you created this sun shower as well?” It doesn’t answer. Instead it just keeps looking up at me. “Well, since you’re here, could you take Akyuu back to the village? That should be enough to cover my tracks.”

The little fox flicks its tail, looking at Akyuu who walks over to the furry little creature.

“Oh, and Akyuu.” I stop them before they leave this little sun shower. “I most likely won’t be able to go back into the village.”

“Wait. Why?” She turns back to face me.

“Back there, I proclaimed myself as a shapeshifting youkai in an attempt to cover my own ass.” I explain. “In retrospect, I probably just banished myself since they have no way of knowing if I am who I claim to be anymore.”

She furrows her brow for second, losing herself in thought before answering. “Yeah. Yeah, I guess that would be true.” Her eyes dart over the ground, looking for something to focus on as she thinks. Finally, she looks me in the eyes. “You’re still going to be in Gensokyo, right?”

“I may have to leave once in a while to do my job.” I explain. “But yeah, I think Gensokyo is where I’ll be living while I train.”

“Right.” She puts on a confident smile. “Then we’ll see each other again, I promise.” She turns to the furry little guardian. “Let’s go, I’m ready.”

I stay and watch as they leave, taking the rain with them. Once outside the illusion spell I see them disappear in front of me as the village appears in the background.


==========
22nd of Planting Month, 17:05
Hideout
==========

“I don’t know what you did, but it worked.” The demoness declares as soon as she walks into the cave. “Things went flawlessly.”

“What did you do?” I ask.

“You’re gonna hear any minute now.” She says with the biggest grin I’ve ever seen.

She looks towards the village, prompting me to watch with her. So I get up and walk over to the entrance and follow her gaze to the village.

10 seconds pass.

20 seconds pass.

40 seconds pass.

80 seconds pass.

And that’s when it happens. I see it before I hear it. A big cloud of fire erupts from the village, quickly dying down into pure black smoke. Then the sound hits.

And explosion. She planted explosives in the village.

[] That’s it. She crossed the line. Attack her.
[] Calm myself. Now is not the time to attack.


Been delayed for too long, and any explanation would just come off as an excuse.
>>No. 31541
[x] That’s it. She crossed the line. Attack her.
I'm impulsive.
>>No. 31542
[x] Calm myself. Now is not the time to attack.
-[x] Now's the time to see what happened, who's hurt and how you can help under the guise of 'enjoying the show'
>>No. 31543
[x] Calm myself. Now is not the time to attack.
>>No. 31549
Calling it for wait and see
>>No. 31550
File 156554949899.png - (567.23KB, 900x837, __kijin_seija_touhou_drawn_by_tyouseki__92b83374db.png) [iqdb]
31550
==========
22nd of Planting Month, 17:08
Hideout
==========

She blew up the village.

She actually blew up the village.

Just how many people did she kill? How many people did I kill?

I clench my hand hard, digging the nails into my palm, using the pain to forcefully keep me grounded.

The little she-devil admires the result of her handywork with a satisfied grin plastered on her face. She looks up at me, expectantly.

I swear, I can’t describe how much willpower it takes to not punch her face in, but I somehow manage to keep my usual stoic expression. Or would that be a lack of expression?

“So?” She asks.

“So what?”

“Aren’t you going to say anything.” She folds her hands behind her back while looking at me with that annoying grin.

“What’s there to say?” I shrug. “If anything, I should tell you to watch your back, because the youkai aren’t going to just let that attack slide. You’re attacking their livestock after all.”

“You don’t think I know that already?” She rolls her eyes. “I don’t care who hates me or how many times I’ll get exterminated.” She turns to face me. “Though, I’m more impressed that you’d call your fellow humans for livestock.”

“I consider myself a realist. Hoping for the best but expecting the worst.” I explain. “Youkai can’t survive in the outside world, that’s why they keep coming here. So obviously Gensokyo was made for the youkai, not the humans. We’re here only to keep feeding the youkai, so how is that different from livestock?”

Her grin grows into a wide smirk. “I knew I’d like you, kid. You’re just the right amount of insane.” She folds her arms, snickering to herself as she walks past me into the cave. “If you keep that up, then the next should be no problem.”

“By the way.” I call out to her. “I’m only following this plan for a chance to fight someone worthy. But why is it that you’re doing this?”

She looks back, raising an eyebrow. “Didn’t I already mention this? Or maybe that was before you showed up.” She keeps walking further inside. “Just like how you humans want to have order in the world, we Amanojaku want to tear it down and bring natural chaos back into the world.” She looks back, grinning again. “So, you could say that I just want to watch the world burn.”

A tad cliché, but a lot of youkai are simple in nature.

With the devil gone, I take another look at the village. Just how many people died in that explosion? If the village wasn’t angry at me before, then this is most certainly going to make me an enemy.

At least it looks like it’s going to rain any second now, which should help with the fire. Which is strange since it was barely cloudy earlier. Though I suppose there are youkai willing and able to help.

I turn around to walk back into the cave with her, only to find myself staring into an eye. A rather big one, surrounded by an uncountable amount, dotting the background of the void like stars in the night sky.

Sensing a new presence, I turn back around where I come face-to-face with Yukari.

Before saying anything, she slaps me, hard. “Do you know why I’m angry?” She asks. She continues before I even have a chance to say anything. “I gave you some free rein while I prepare your next lessons, so that you could practice in your own environment.” She starts pacing to the side. “And then the next thing I know, you’re engaging in terrorism.”

She opens a gap behind her, showing the village. They’ve managed to contain the fire by demolishing buildings in its path.

“You know I have to punish you for this, right?” She pinches the bridge of her nose. “Even I have to follow the rules of Gensokyo.” She paces back past me. “What in heaven’s name made you think that was a good idea? Do you hate Gensokyo?”

“Hit me.” I demand.

The sage stops pacing to look me in the eyes.

“Here.” I lift my face, exposing my chin for her. “Do it harder than before. I don’t care if I lose a few teeth.”

“What are you”

“Now.” I interrupt her.

She raises her hand, hesitating for a second before hitting me again, this time with enough force to almost knock me off my feet.

I can feel my bones creak in ways they shouldn’t, though nothing seems to break.

She takes hold of her own hand, massaging the palm to numb the pain. “Are you ready to explain yourself now?”

“Yeah. Thanks.” I touch my cheek, which is now screaming in pain. “The pain is gonna help keep me grounded.” I stand upright again. “That was Seija, an Amanojaku. Had I known she’d blow up the village, I’d never have gone along with her.”

“Are you trying to shift the blame?” She looks up into my eyes, looking for any hints of lying.

I’m a pretty good actor when it comes down to it, so I don’t think she’d find any. Not that I’d lie here. I never expected people to die, much less so many.

“No, I’ll take the whole blame if it comes to that. I fucked up big time after all.” I reassure her. “Interacting with a type of youkai I have no knowledge about is beyond dangerous; almost certain death.”

“Then what were you doing with her?” She takes a step in, getting right up in my face.

“I was helping out some village guards with busting an underground fighting ring.” I explain. “Next thing I know, the village is blown up.”

Her glare loses some of its edge as she takes a step back again. She seems lost in thought for a second before speaking up.

“I can’t stop your punishment. It’s going to come regardless, even if I’m not the one doing it.” The sage explains. “But I can pull some strings to delay it.”

“Isn’t that just going to put you at more risk?” I ask. “I can take a beating, if that’s what’s waiting.” I hit my chest. “I even got an extra life to spare.”

“I would rather avoid that if possible.” She turns around, opening a new gap to who-knows-where. “Besides, there are a lot of youkai that would like another word with Seija after the stunt she pulled recently.”

Stunt? So, this isn’t her first antic? Most youkai tend to only make a big scene once, get defeated and then keep quiet for a few years.

“What should I do?” I ask her. I can’t just continue going along with terrorism.

“Continue to keep an eye on her.” She looks over her shoulder. “Your spiritual energy is like a beacon. So long as you stay by her side, I’ll know exactly where she is.”

Just as suddenly as she appeared, she’s gone, leaving me standing outside the cave again.

I have a hard time figuring out how she thinks. Though I guess that’s why she’s a sage. Still, it would be remarkably easier to talk to her if I had any idea what she wants.

Either way, there’s no use dwelling on it.


==========
25th of Planting Month, 11:04
Hideout
==========

“I told you they would be coming.” I throw the defeated monster on the ground with the rest.

“Had I known you were this capable, I’d have moved the plans along faster.” The she-devil comments.

Since early this morning, several lesser youkai have found their way to us. Needlessly to say, none of them were particularly happy to see us. Luckily, I’m back at a hundred percent after getting my arm back. Seems Hinanawi was just too much for me to handle.

“We might even have been able to avoid these guys.” She continues.

“I think it’s time to swap hideouts.” I look back at her. “It’s only a matter of time before the smarter ones come after us.”

“That’s what I’m betting on.” She waves her hand dismissively. “That little show the other day has been a nice influx of strength. At this rate I’ll be back to full power by the end of the day.”

“So, what?” I walk back to her. “You plan on kiting youkai here until I meet my match?”

“No, that’d be daft.” She states without a hint of emotion. “If you’re gone, I’ll have to do all the boring stuff myself.”

“Then if you would be so kind as to enlighten me.” I give her an overly polite bow to drive home the sarcasm.

“Next we’re going to strike against the tanuki.” She holds up her index finger. “With the humans in a temporary state of chaos, the tanuki are bound to try and make a move, to further establish themselves.” She explains. “They’re seizing the opportunity, despite the fact they aren’t ready. That means they need to overextend themselves, which will weaken them enough for us to strike at.”

“But it’s already been a few days. Wouldn’t they already have begun?” I ask.

“You’re not much of a strategist, are you?” She folds her arms and leans against the wall. “There is such a thing as acting too fast, you know. The Tanuki are gonna take some risks when seize the opportunity, but they’re not so stupid as to jump headfirst into the fire.”

I dunno about that last one. I’ve seen them do some stupid things for short term benefit, only for it to fail. And I may or may not have played a part in making them fail.

“So, when are we striking?” I ask.

“Tonight.” She pulls out a piece of folded paper from her nonexistent cleavage. “Get over here, would you.” She demands, as she unfolds the mapper, revealing a map over the village. “They typically hang around here,” she circles the middle ring, “because rumors spread the best here. There are too few posh imbeciles in the center for rumors to spread effectively, and the outer ring is filled with the people at the bottom, who are too busy trying to survive to spread rumors.”

She looks up at me, assessing whether I’m following her or not.

“Since the plebeians were the most affected by our attack, that’s where the tanuki wants to spread.” She continues to explain. “But the area attacked is too panicked to influence right now, so they’re likely to try and expand into the surrounding areas just north and south. That’s where we’ll strike.”

The north side of the village face the great Youkai Mountain. The river running through the village also springs from the mountain. The south, on the other hand, is close to the lake and the forest of magic.

Looking at the map, the main residential area is to the south. The area we attacked was food storage. Up north seems more like the area for carpenters, smiths and the like, people who work with their hands.

“We’ll be splitting up to cover the most ground.” The she-devil says. “And since you’ve done better than I expected, I’ll let you pick where you want to go first.”

“How kind of you.” I state with a monotone. “One question, though. When you say strike, what exactly is it you expect me to do? Just go in and cause more chaos?”

“Not this time.” She shakes her head. “Though with the reputation you earned last time, it’s bound to happen regardless. No, I want you to target the tanuki this time. Just do whatever you can to take them out of the picture.”

“And there’s not gonna be some surprise explosions after we’re done?” I ask.

“It wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you.” She hands me the map. “But no. I want to cause chaos. Killing just comes with the territory.”

So, this time we’re just beating up some tanuki. A tad crude, but I can’t say I’m entirely opposed to it. I’m not so sure about the splitting up part, since Yukari did tell me to stay close to Seija.


[] Take the northern area
[] Take the southern area
[Write in] Stick together
- [] Give me a good excuse to stick together


Very delayed. [Insert generic excuse here]. So I hope you understand.
Joke aside, I was busy with a little bit of everything. Sorry about that.
>>No. 31551
[x] Stick together
-[x] "You underestimate the response this will have. They will hunt you down sooner rather than later and I'm not going to miss on that action. You're not getting out of my sight"
>>No. 31552
Calling it
>>No. 31559
File 156933895748.jpg - (312.76KB, 800x600, __kijin_seija_touhou_drawn_by_shikushiku_amamori_w.jpg) [iqdb]
31559
==========
25th of Planting Month, 11:04
Hideout
==========

I keep studying the map, trying to figure out the difference between north and south. Aside from the surrounding youkai, I can’t really pinpoint anything. And while we are hated by the entirety of Gensokyo right now, I doubt they’ll just attack the village to get rid of us, the collateral damage would be too great.

Giving up on finding any difference, I fold up the map and hand it back to her.

Yukari gave me clear instructions, so it’s no use dwelling on minor details like that.

“I think it’s better if we stick together, actually.” I tell her.

She takes the maps and stuffs it back down her nonexistent cleavage. “Are you getting cold feet?” She grins.

“Quite the opposite.” I pocket my hands. “I don’t know what you think of me, but let me assure you, I know how big a response our little stunt is going to get.” I nod in the direction of the village. “They’re gonna come storming after you any minute now, and there’s no way in hell I’m going to miss out on that brawl.”

“Even at the cost of the plan?” She asks, walking past me as she starts her trip towards the village.

“Have you forgotten? I’m here for the fights.” I remind her. “I really couldn’t care less about chaos or oppression or whatever you claim to fight for.” I start following her.

“Yeah I figured that much already.” She shrugs. “You’d be in the top one percent of the humans in the village, if you worked on integrating. Though you’d need to work on your personality too.”

“Yeah, that’s not going to happen.” I deny flat out. “I’m a loner through and through.”

“Obviously.” She tilts her head back, looking at me as she continues to walk. “People climbing to the top have to be loners.” She points upwards. “It’s lonely at the top, after all.”

“Finally, someone who gets it.” I chime in.

Though I tend to keep to myself, because my line of work has a high mortality rate, and it’s very likely that I’ll just disappear one day. Not a lot of people are prepared for that, so the less people I associate with, the fewer people I need explain this to.

“Been meaning to ask you,” The little she-devil speak up, “where did you learn to fight?”

“Largely self-taught.” I answer her. “Though I picked up a lot by watching other people and doing my best to copy.” I can’t exactly tell her about Coach or the outside shrine.

“Alright, now tell me where you learned to fight?” She asks again, not bothering to look back. “You didn’t grow up in the village, that much is obvious.” She states. “Which settlement did you come from?”

“Settlement?”

“Well yeah, or whatever you guys call it.” She shrugs. “The small, barely populated villages of human settlement outside the village.” She spins around and walks backwards, allowing her to look at me while still making progress towards the village. “Getting news from them is all but impossible, so you have to have come from one of them.”

There are other human settlements in Gensokyo? That’s news to me.

“Like I said. I’m self-taught.” I tell her again. “Watch how a few different people practice, copy them, then get into a couple fights where you get your ass kicked. Repeat that until you don’t get your ass kicked anymore.”

She lets out a chuckle. “So, you even brute-forced your own skills to where they are?” She spins back around. “The more I know about you, the stupider you seem. Frankly, it’s a miracle you’re still alive and kicking, not to mention how far you’ve come, if that’s how you’ve gone about growing.”

“I’m choosing to take that as a compliment.”

She laughs, a hearty genuine laugh.


==========
Outskirts of the Human Village, South - 12:19
==========

“Since you insist on sticking together, we’ll be changing plans.” She breaks the silence. “Rather than a pincer attack like I explained earlier, we’ll be going straight into their base.” She points straight ahead.

“The plan was to take advantage of them being spread thin.” I remind her. “Their base would be where they’re the most organized, wouldn’t it?”

“The last plan was to spread them thin. This is to draw them all together.” She makes a fist with one hand and then squeeze it with her other hand. “This will, if even for a moment, create a power vacuum for other factions to pounce at. It’s bound to cause a paradigm shift.”

“Sounds a lot riskier.” I comment.

“It is, but there’s not much more payoff.” The she-devil shrugs. “At least you’re gonna get a fight like you want.”

As we get close to the village, Seija undoes the scarf-like ribbon she has tied around her collar. With a quick whip, she folds it out to its true size, allowing her to tie it around her head, hiding her horns from view.

Doesn’t really do much to hide her aura, though most people won’t be able to notice that to begin with.

To my surprise, no one seems to react to us walking into the village. At least not more than a strange glance as a giant and a small girl walking together would get. But I’m used to that. What I mean is that no one seems to realize we were the ones that caused the explosion the other day.

“That reminds me.” She speaks up again. “Paw.” She holds out her hand.

I just give her a strange look, and she repeats command. “Paw.”

As I still don’t do anything, she decides to grab my wrist. “Like this.”

I then feel the world spin as the scenery in front of me shifts. She swapped places with me.

That’s when I catch a red blur from the corner of my vision, with barely enough time to register it before it crashes into me.

The pain immediately shoots up my spine, as if every nerve between my stomach and head explode all at once.

The next thing I know, I’m on the ground, clutching what feels like a broken rib. Scratch that, it’s broken for sure.

Before I have a chance to recover, the scene if flooded with lights as several spell cards are activated at the same time.

My spirit is still too wavy to tell anything apart and my ears are ringing too loud, so I have no idea what’s even going on, beyond the powerful release of magic that’s iconic from spell cards.

As I try to lift my head to see what’s going on, I feel someone grabbing my collar and start dragging me away from the scene, albeit slowly.

Kotohime, that cute little redhead.

Shit, I’m definitely hurt if I’m using words like cute.

“Why the hell are you so heavy?” She wheezes.

“Weighted clothes.” I answer, turning my head to look at the flashing lights of danmaku. “Give me a minute, strip me naked or suck it up.” I state her options, admittedly a little aggressively.

Reimu, Marisa and Sanae. More are present, but those three are ganging up on Seija.

“Sorry, but as much as I like muscle, you’re not the first guy I want to see naked.” She retorts as blunt as a club.

With little regard for my wellbeing, she summons extra strength from who knows where and swings me around a corner, giving me cover from the one-sided duel.

“My ribs.” Is all I manage to wheeze out through the pain.

No matter how high your pain tolerance gets, you never get used to it. Especially not a liver-blow strong enough to break ribs.

I clutch my side at the thought, only to discover it’s unusually warm. No, it’s hot.

Long explanation short; my accelerated healing causes my injuries to heat up relative to how fast they heal. The worse the injury, the faster it heals.

Something this hot, is near fatal. If I didn’t know better, I’d say my liver exploded from the impact. At worst it’s ruptured.

“Cloth.” I demand. “Knife.”

“Are you injured?” She asks, quickly adding, “Aside from your ribs.” after taking another look at me.

“Yeah, now give me before it’s too late.” I hurry her.

She reaches inside her kimono, pulls out a folded white piece of cloth and hands it to me.

I fold it once more before biting into it, hard. I place my hands as close to each end of the broken rib as I can. Throwing any hesitation I might have aside, I push the bone fragment back into place, or as close as I can get it.

“Knife.” I mumble through the cloth.

The redhead, all pale from the display, quickly gathers herself and throws me her spare dagger.

Unlike normal injuries, those inflicted by metal of any kind heal at a more human rate, so I gotta be careful with this.

Again, throwing any hesitation I might have aside, I push the tip of the dagger in.

It doesn’t reach too deep before I pull it out again. And sure enough, just as I thought, a faint trail of steam is leaving the wound. If nothing else, it’s proof that something got destroyed in there.

I pull my shirt down and tighten my belt to put pressure on the wound and help it close.

“Are you insane?” The redheaded officer asks. “How can you just casually do that?”

Despite my legs protesting, still recovering from the massive energy drain of my liver getting pummeled, I stand up.

“If you want to have any chance against a youkai that’s trying to kill you, this is a bare minimum.” I tell her, holding out her dagger for her.

“I know.” She sheathes it back inside her belt. “But I deal in homicide, normally. After lunatics like you have run wild.”

There’s a hint of a smile as she says it, though she largely maintains a professionally stoic look.

“Lunatic? You haven’t seen lunacy yet.” I smirk, forcing my legs to stop shaking with pure force of will. “Let me show you the kind of lunacy only idiots like me are capable of.”

“I swear, if you go out there again.”

Well, now that she has dared me to do it, I have to. Though I was planning to go out and give Seija a piece of my mind already.

“Right.” I agree with her. “Unfraternally for you, and my health, I like to finish my business personally.”

With that said, I grab the corner of the building we’re hiding behind and pull myself into a running start.

What meets me is a literal wall of danmaku shooting in every direction. No wonder Mentor’s fans call this bullet hell.

I steel myself and dive into the sea of light, resolving to take every bullet that comes my way.

“Oi!” The black witch yells out as she spots me.

“Wait what?” The green one follows suit.

I feel a quick glare from Reimu, but only for a moment before her focus returns to the she-devil.

“Seija!” I scream out, through the hissing of the magic bullets.

She turns to face me, only to leave herself exposed to a hook with all the force of my weight behind it.

Despite her strength, her small frame is unable to stand the force and she’s sent flying.

“Barrier [The Home Where One Lays to Rest]!” The shrine maiden declares a spellcard, raising a wall to prevent the oni from escaping. Or in this case, getting thrown out. “[Persuasion Needle]!” she immediately follows up, hurling an uncountable number of needles that’d but even the scarlet maid’s infinite pockets to shame.

The she-devil, regaining her composure, kicks off the barrier to avoid the needles, opting to dive back into the seas of light with me.

“You sure recover quick, don’t ya.” She remarks, dancing around me to avoid the bullets.

My body keeps screaming in pain, begging to me start dodging some of these bullets.

“You bet.” I ignore its plea, fighting the urge to flinch as every bullet lands, and instead grab the little oni. “And I don’t forgive easily either.”

With an iron grip on her collar, I swing her around, clearing the bullets in my immediate surroundings, to which she only grits her teeth and grunts.

“Marisa!” I call out. “She’s immobile.”

The witch glances over at Reimu, who’s busy maintaining the complex pattern of unavoidable bullets.

“Don’t blame me, okay!” She yells back. “Love Sign!”

A genuine look of panic spreads on the little devil’s face. She looks me straight in the eyes. “You’re insane.”

“I thought that was pretty clear.” I reply.

“[Master Spark]!” The witch finishes her spell, and her laser once again finds its way towards me.

Ignoring the bullets, Seija grabs both my arms and starts trying to force them apart with the strength of a youkai. Not being immediately successful, she instead opts to kick me in the face with no warning, forcing me to drop her.

She scurries away under the cage of bullets, just in time to avoid the spell hitting us. Or just me, in this case.

I stagger but remain on my legs, much to their protest.

“Fuck!” I scream out at the blast ends. At least I’m clear of bullets for a few seconds.

“Frog Sign [Willy Toad]” The other shrine maiden declares her spell and clears the arena of all bullets, revealing the location of the little she-devil.

“Great Barrier [Hakurei Danmaku Barrier]!”
“Magic Space [Astreoid Belt]!”

The duo declares their spells in unison to quickly establish a prison to keep Seija trapped.

Two sets of barriers appear in the area; one surrounding us and one surrounding the duo. As the witch’s stars reach the inner barrier, they disappear only to reappear in the outer barrier, flying in the opposite direction. The seizure inducing colors of the stars mask the small ofuda scattered around.

God, I wish I’d been born as a true Hakurei. Being able to pull off stuff like this would make my job so much easier.

“Barrier [Isolated World].” I cast one of my own barriers, encapsulating myself in a small two-meter sphere.

The moment I get a break, my body once again informs me that it’s seriously hurt, by shooting the pain throughout every muscle.

“Just a little more, partner. We’re going to end it with this next trick. I can feel it.” I whisper to myself.

I take a deep breath, filling my lungs with as much air as I can endure.

“Reimu!” I yell out.

Without another word I dismantle my barrier and make a mad dash towards the oni, storming through yet more bullets.

She sees me coming, obviously since I yelled, but I’m too fast for her to dodge.

I tackle her to the ground, pinning her with the full weight of both me and my weighted clothes. Though they’re more like rags at this point. I’ll need them repaired.

“Martial Skill. Limiter Break.” I don’t need to declare this skill to activate it, but it’s common courtesy at the very least.

The spell tags I’ve hidden on my limbs starts heating up as they activate.

Limit Break is a little trick I’ve learned that does exactly as the name suggest. It removes all safety limiters and for a short time, allows you to use your full strength. Of course, those limiters are in place for a reason, so ignoring them is going to have a serious backlash.

With this newfound strength, I wrap myself around the small oni, restraining her movements with sheer force.

“Sealing Sign [Hakurei Sacred Grounds].” Reimu, following my lead lets up her barrier to cast a new spell.

The ground beneath us lights up with the familiar taijitu pattern of black and white, and the effect is felt instantly.

Just like when I was hit by her Fantasy Heaven, this spell targets spiritual energy itself.

And youkai are purely spiritual beings.

This spell is going to kill Seija. Or at least this body. Without additional steps, she can be reborn like all youkai.

“I’ll admit.” The devil speaks up. “I underestimated you.”

“That’s a bad habit you get as you grow stronger.” I reply. “I do it too often myself as well.”

“Had I known you’d be this durable, I’d have tried harder to win you over.” She sighs. “Of course, that stupid god you’re carrying around would have been a pain to deal with, but if not for her, I’d have you do my bidding in an evening.”

“So, you knew I was just pretending?”

“Duh. Your lie was so easy to see through that I can only compare it to a child with a face covered in chocolate, claiming they didn’t eat any.” She laughs. “A child like you can’t hide anything from me. I live by the cloak and dagger after all. Lying is my bread and butter.”

“So, you also know you’re going to die?”

“For now.” She answers without hesitation. “But don’t think you’re the first to you have done me in. I’ll be back again sooner or later.” She snickers. “Even if you get rid of me for good, another one is gonna pop up and take my place, just like I did. Chaos is an eternal truth. That means I’m an eternal truth. I’ll always be here, no matter what form I may take.”

“You’re taking this surprisingly well.” I comment.

“Like I said, you guys aren’t the first to kill me.” She states again. By now her struggling has died down too. “Though, I gotta say you guys are among the worst.”

She starts feeling less solid in my tight grip.

“To be honest, I thought you’d be madder.” I admit.

“Angry? Why?” She asks. “I already told you. I’m the embodiment of chaos. I’m supposed to be hated. That hatred is what keeps me going.” She explains. “Of course, once you’ve died a few times, it stops being as upsetting as you might imagine.”

To be honest, the fact she’s not even fazed is pissing me off. Knowing that she’ll revive and giving up when she’s lost, I can respect that. But the victory feels empty when she just goes like this. Especially after she blew up the village.

Before I can reply, she pops. Just like a bubble, she disappears, leaving behind traces of her spiritual energy that quickly vanish, thanks to Reimu’s seal.

And just like that, she’s gone. No drama. No drawn-out tear-filled redemption. No revenge. Just gone.

Reimu’s barrier dispels and the pressure is lifted, allowing me to breathe freely again, as the talismans dry out. Though I think they ran out a while ago and I just didn’t notice since Seija didn’t fight back.

Oh god, my own reserves are nearly depleted, and I got enough to match a youkai sage. That’s a straight up lethal spell she got there. I want it.

“You okay, big guy?” Reimu is the first to make her way to me.

“My liver got destroyed. Ribs are broken. Every fiber in my body is screaming in pain and fatigue. And to top it off, you nearly depleted all my remaining power with that spell.” I give her the short version. “So, everything considered, yeah, I’m okay. Could be worse.”

She holds out her hand, offering to help me off the ground.

“I swear, you’re actually insane.” The redhead comes out from hiding. “What made you think that was a good idea?”

“I never said it was a good idea.” I correct her, staggering onto my legs. “But if I didn’t do anything, I’d lose my chance to pay her back for the last few days.”

“But you’ve still left quite a mess that needs to be cleaned up.” A newcomer joins the conversation.

“We finally got rid of her, Yukari.” Reimu protests. “Can’t you at least give us a few minutes to relax before pestering us?”

The sage gives me a quick look over, taking in my sad condition.

“I’m not here to pester you, as you put it.” She clarifies. “You can take your time cleaning up after yourself. I’m just here to clean up after myself, getting it done now so I can get back to some more important business.”

“I, er, we,” the redhead stammers before finding her tongue. “We don’t normally allow youkai in the village, miss sage. And I’m afraid you are no exception.”

“Don’t worry, little lady.” The sage smiles politely. “Like I said, I’m just here to clean up, then I’ll leave.”

With that said, she taps her parasol on the ground, causing it to echo strangely loud.

“Hakurei Ryuko is hereby under the protection of the Yakumo household.” Her authoritative appears loud and clear, echoing just like her parasol, as if it comes from inside my mind. “Any attempts at harming him is a declaration of war.”

Despite my depleted spiritual reserves, I manage to pick up movement towards the very edge of my range, a notable amount a youkai seems to disappear out of my range.

The sage takes a deep breath. “Now then, let us get you to safety, Ryuko. This won’t hold back the other sages. For long, and you’ve gained a big target on your back.”

“Yeah.” I answer simply.

One of her gaps appear beneath me, sending my body into freefall into her weird little dimension.
>>No. 31560
I guess it's goodbye to Gensokyo. Damn
>>No. 31561
>>31560
For the time being, anyway.
>>No. 31562
The update that was slated for this month is being rolled into NaNoWriMo and will likely first come out late November, along with what's hopefully a wall of content.
I'm aiming for the 30k words goal instead of the daily update, simply because my exams won't make time for anything else this year. I do intend to go past the 30k requirement to justify tagging on a small update, in case that would have tickled your pickle the wrong way.
>>No. 31589
File 157511463950.png - (2.72MB, 1549x2100, __usami_renko_touhou_drawn_by_s_syogo__c666f533346.png) [iqdb]
31589
“Why can’t you just take a break from work like a normal kid would?” Doc asks as he pokes and prods at my arm. “Is it so boring to just sit down and relax once in a while?”

“That was my plan, actually. To just go and have a chat with the chronicler.” I correct him. “A friend just asked for a favor, which ended up spiraling out of control.”

He pauses for a second to look up at me. “Friend?”

“Friendly acquaintance to be more precise.”

“Oh, and here I thought you’d finally started to become a little social.” He goes back to examining my arm.

“Oh, the irony.”

He sighs, doing an overexaggerated eye-roll. “I’m not a good role model, okay? Addicted to caffeine and secluded to my office. I know.” He starts pouring his mana into my arm, doing a deep examination. “But once you’ve raised a kid with way too much energy, try and see how well you fare.”

“Yeah, about that.” I quickly go through the various ways to say this. “I’ve been meaning to say; thank you, for the last twenty years.”

The flow of mana stops.

“I’m not complaining.” He corrects himself.

“I know. But you’ve raised me, a stranger’s child.” I explain. “It’s just, thank you.”

He runs a hand through his hair, taking a deep breath to set his own thoughts in order. “There’s nothing wrong with the arm. Seems like everything is as it’s supposed to be.” He changes the topic. “Go lie on the bed, face down.”

Knowing what he wants to do, I strip off my tank-top and go lie on the bed.

“Honestly, I didn’t want to come here at first.” He starts talking again. “The only reason we met was because Inari ordered me to help out the Hakurei shrine.” He traces my spine with a finger. “But coming here has been the best time in my life.

“Going from being a lifelong bachelor to a parent is quite a leap. But I think it’s something everyone should experience. Becoming a parent, that is. It just changes you.” His hand stops and hovers over my lower back. “That’s why I keep getting so mad when you come back all ragged, by the way.”

“I know. Your healing has a price.” I agree. “But it’s not like I want to get hit. Getting hit hurts. There’s no way around that. But if all my opponents are too low skill to even hit me, then there’s no fun in the fight.”

“I don’t think you really understand, to be honest. You only have so much life force to burn on healing.” He removes his hand again. “If you retired today, I might just be able to make the remaining life force last you into your thirties. But if you continue at this pace, I’ll barely give you two full years.”

“I know. I’m on borrowed time, I know.” I repeat

“But you still won’t do me the favor of retiring.” He states more than asks.

“No. I owe my everything to this shrine. I’m the only one of us who can freely move outside the sanctuary zones.” Those zones being locations with enough concentrated spiritual power to feed several youkai. “So even if I’m the weakest here, it makes the most sense for me to be the field worker.”

“I get that, but,” he’s cut off by the sound of the front door opening.

“I noticed the lights where on, so I decided to drop by.” A feminine voice announces.

The snow-woman peeks in through the door to the backroom, seeing the two of us here.

“Yukiko. Hi.” I greet her without getting up. “Would you mind knocking next time?”

“Ryuko? How long have you been back?” She leans against the door frame. “I thought you’d left to study with Yakumo.”

“A lot of stuff happened, now I’ll be back here for a few days.” I answer.

“As you can see, we’re a little busy.” Doc interrupts us. “If it’s important, please get it out, otherwise I’d prefer if you could wait outside.”

“Sure thing.” She agrees instantly. “I don’t want to interrupt now that little Ryu is home again.” She pushes herself out from the frame again. “I’ll be waiting outside for when you have time, Akame.”

“Don’t wait too long. This might take a bit.” Doc replies, turning back to me.

Once we hear the outer door shut again, Doc snaps his finger, triggering a spell. A faint pulse is emitted from him, expanding out to all the walls in the room where it lingers for a second before fading.

“Gotta keep this room sterile.” He says. There’s a reason I don’t use it outside of work.”

“So, the lifelong bachelor has started flirting with women?” I flash him a sarcastic smile.

“Face down.” He states, holding out his hand again. “And no. Her relationship to me is as one-sided as it has always been.”

“Even though I’ve seen you together?”

“Like I said, it’s one-sided. She just doesn’t take no for an answer, annoying as it is.” He taps my shoulder blade. “Can you feel this?”

“No.” Strangely enough. I can follow what he’s doing thanks to my spiritual sense, but I couldn’t feel that.

“Alright then.” He leans back into his chair, giving me room to sit up again. “I think it’s time I admitted something to you.” He folds his hands, staying silent for a minute, thinking about his words. “We have been lying to you.” He says after a bit. “A lie by omission, but a lie nonetheless. You see, we’ve all known you were part dragon since the day you came here.”

I stop halfway through the motion of sitting up as I register what the old fox just said. After taking a deep breath and collecting myself again, I sit up proper and face him.

Doc stays silent for a while longer, looking into my eyes without breaking away for even a moment.

“You aren’t angry?” He breaks the silence. “Well, it wouldn’t be like you to get angry at moments like this, but it’s still a little surprising.”

“No, I would have been furious right now, if not because I trust you, the whole village, with my life.” I state, resting myself against my knees. “I can’t imagine a reason for keeping this a secret, though, so more than anything, I’m confused. Perplexed, rather.”

“Because it’s never been done before.” He admits. “You’re a human-dragon hybrid. There are no known records of that having been tried before.”

Which makes sense if you know even the first thing about east Asian dragons. They are the closest thing to Gods over here, since Kami are just super charged youkai that have been tamed and made benevolent by shrine attendants. That’s over-simplifying it a great deal, though, and it’s a tad more complicated than that. But dragons have always stood as the pinnacle of the pecking order, where even youkai show their respect to them. They’re not exactly easy to approach, much less to mate with and get a human hybrid.

“To be specific,” he continues after chugging a mouthful of coffee, “you’re artificially created. At least that’s how,” he trails off for a moment before continuing, “at least that’s how your mother explained it when she delivered you here.”

Mother? Yeah, guess it makes sense I would have one of those too.

“Artificially created?” I ask.

“Magic.” He answers. “Honestly, I’m not too sure of how they managed to do it, even after all these years of examining you. It’s nothing short of a miracle.”

“And this was kept a secret, because?”

“By request of your mother.” He answers. “Since you’re a unique existence right now, no one could know how your body, or your soul for that matter, would react to a sudden surge of power.” He leans forward. “Honestly, after your spiritual power spiked like it did, things only got more complicated. Because with so much energy around the soul, adding anything more might have destroyed it. After that we really couldn’t introduce you to this new side of yourself like we wanted to.”

I lean back against the wall, crossing my arms and closing my eyes, trying to focus on processing this information.

“My mother.” I speak up. “Who was she?”

“I can’t tell you.” His answer is stiff and robotic. “She asked us to keep your draconic side a secret until you were ready. But she was very strict when she said we weren’t allowed to tell you who she is.”

‘Is.’ So she’s alive. Not that it matters, though. Aside from a biological connection, there’s nothing binding me to her.

There’s a lot of information here I need to take in. I’ll get nowhere if I just sit around and think all day, so it might be better to just keep it in the back of my head and process it on my own time, properly.

“Now,” he speaks up again. “The reason I mention this, is because your draconic aspects are starting to build up. And at this point, I can only delay it, not stop it.”

The old fox kicks off from the bed and rolls his chair back to the other end of the room where he stops before a small drawer. After fishing around for something, he pulls out a beige-colored sack. With the item in hand, he rolls his way back over to me.

“Let me show you want I mean.” He opens the sack, revealing a bunch of sand.

Responding to a silent spell he casts, the sand starts floating out of the sack, forming two flat surfaces that harden before turning perfectly clear and creating a reflection, ending up as two mirrors.

Using his magic, he positions them so they reflect off each other and allow me to visually see my own back.

There’s a large patch of white scales covering most of my upper back, with the skin directly surrounding it having an unusual green tint.

“From what I can see, there’s more mana in your system than what your pool should be able to handle.” He explains. “I believe it’s stimulating this latent side of you and causing an aggressive reaction.” He leans back in his chair. “From what I can see, though, your body is responding well to this. At least as well as you’d expect, everything considered.”

“What does it mean that this latent side is waking up?” I ask, trying to trace these scales with my spiritual sense.

“Dunno.” He finished his mug and places it on the table next to us. “I just believe it’s caused by an excess supply of energy in your system. Whether it’s mana, spiritual energy or qi shouldn’t matter. We can slow it down by extracting your excess mana right now, then have you wear silver accessories to disperse your supply before it builds up again.”

“But?” I urge him to go on.

“Given how your body and soul are responding to this change, I think now is the right time to let the effects play out. Well, not now exactly. Give it some time and think about it. Best case scenario, you unlock your draconic aspect and everything it entails. But in the worst-case scenario, your soul is destroyed, and I can’t do anything to save you.”

“That’s a pretty big gradient.” I point out.

“It is.” He agrees, pulling the mirrors towards him. “And I’m not too thrilled about suggesting it either, since I don’t want to be responsible for your death, if the worst should happen. But at the very least, I owe you some honesty, for having lied for so many years.” The mirrors disintegrate back into grit and funnel into the sack. “On the other side, you would likely gain the lifespan of a dragon, allowing you to live many more years to come. Which is something I would prefer, though it’s not my choice to make.”

“Yeah, I’m going to need time to think that over.” I agree. “That’s a lot of information to think about.”

“There’s no rush, so take your time thinking it through thoroughly.” He places a hand on my shoulder. “But make sure to remember that I, we, will support whichever decision you make.”

“I know.” Jumping off the bed, I start getting dressed again. “By the way, do we have any charged mana?”

“Should have about three in the shed.” He makes his way out of the room, locating his coffee maker. “Why, if I might ask?”

“Like I said, I’m stuck out here for the next few days before Yukari can take me back to Gensokyo.” I explain. “So, I plan on spending that time taking care of some unfinished business.”

==========
Mt. Takao, Hachioji – 26th of May, 19:20
==========

“I can’t.” The brunette pants. “I can’t go on anymore.”

“Is this as far as your conviction can take you, Renko?” I yell out. “Do you think some youkai is gonna care that you’re out of breath? If you stop running, you’re dead. It’s that simple.”

She crosses the starting point once again. She’s improved. Not much, but the muscle is starting to build.

“You’re only allowed to stop when your legs give out.” I yell out as she makes her way around me one more time.

Of course, I haven’t told her that the ground is softer this time, more like sand. Having a space like this where reality can be altered slightly really comes in handy. Would have saved us hours from digging up the back of the shrine.

And that’s when she stops. Or rather, she’s unable to lift her legs to continue running and ends up tripping over. Exhausted as she is, she doesn’t even try to get back up, but just lies there gasping for air.

“And you’re dead.” I shove my hands into my pockets and walk over to her. Using my foot, I flip her over so she’s lying on her back. “So, are you satisfied with that, Renko? Are you ready to give up and go home?”

“N” She tries to talk, but nothing more than a chocked groan comes out. Instead she just shakes her head.

“Good.” I fish out a bottle of water from my pockets and place it next to her. “Your mind holds incredible power over your body, Renko. The moment you give up, your body gives up.”

She nods.

“Drink.” I instruct her. “Enjoy your break while it lasts. While your body is resting, let’s give your mind something to work with.”

“Before that.” She interrupts me, putting the now empty bottle aside. I swear she just inhaled that water. “When you finally called me again, I thought--”

“That we were going to talk about taking you in as a disciple?” I finish her question. The disappointment when I told her to come in her training clothes was clear, even over the phone. “Yeah, I’m retracting that invitation. Honestly, it was irresponsible to even suggest it.”

“But I want to learn.” She argues, looking at her hands. “I mean, you saw what I did right? That’s not something a normal person could do.”

“Magic Missile. It used to be a beginner level spell a couple of decades ago.” I explain. “It’s so simple even you, without any training, could use it. The downside is that it costs too much mana for any practical application.” Taking advantage of the magic in this space, I create a seat for myself. “And just to be clear. I only extended my invitation due to a lapse in judgement. Finding someone with potential like yourself, which hasn’t been trained in any form of magic yet, is a rarity.” I explain. “The idea of being able to mold a mage just got me too excited.”

“I’m rare?” She asks.

“Somewhat. Someone in your lineage used to have spellcasting ability, but for some reason stopped passing on the knowledge.” I explain. “At least, that’s the best explanation I have based on what I know.”

“Isn’t that all the more reason to teach me?” She hits the ground with both hands at once. “To restore my lineage? Aren’t mages rare? Wouldn’t it be better to have more of us around?”

“Sure, more mages would be better, because it would lessen the burden on all of us.” I agree. “But when you hand a personal nuke to someone, you have to be sure they will use it responsibly. Because that’s the power a capable mage holds.”

You can see the realization hitting her as her expression changes.

Referring to magic as a literal nuke is exaggerating, though. It’ll take a school of mages to pull off something on that level of pure destruction. But what’s to stop a summoner from opening a rift to another world they can’t close again? Or a necromancer from raising an army of undead? Or what about a geomancer from setting up a mana array large enough to cause a disaster level earthquake? And let’s not forget that hemomancy is a thing, despite being a taboo.

“Let me give you a quick introductory course, however.” I lean forward. “Just like how there’s noble gasses, so are there noble metals. These have special properties related to mana. Like silver.”

“Silver? Like silver bullets against werewolves? Or like the old silver mirrors not reflecting vampires?” She asks, perking up at the chance to show her knowledge.

“Exactly. Though the vampire thing is a tad more complicated, noble metals have two properties.” I hold up a finder. “First is their ability to suck out mana from their surroundings.” I raise a second finger. “Second is their ability to deactivate mana. Activated mana is some that has been processed and can be used for spells. Deactivated is the natural state it exists in outside of the body.”

I reach down inside my bag and pull out a ball of solid gold, dropping it on the ground in front of me with a heavy thunk.

“Every type of these metals has a unique combination of strength on these two properties.” I continue. “Silver has a higher dispersion rate than absorption, both of which are among the highest we’ve found. This makes it an effective weapon against anything relying on mana, such as mages.” I point to the sphere to draw her attention back down to it. “Gold on the other hand, has a negligible dispersion rate, but is capable of absorbing it quite rapidly, which makes them excellent mana batteries.”

“But gold is expensive? How is a college student supposed to earn enough to buy gold?” She asks. “Moreover, how much is that?”

“Ten kilos. And I’m not telling you because I’m expecting you to go out and buy anything.” I place my foot over the sphere, opening my magic circuit to tap into it. “But it just so happens I don’t have much, if any mana to spare on spells, so gold is the only way for me to cast any real spells.”

She looks back up at me, puzzled, though going by the expression, she’s thinking before asking, trying to figure out the answer to her question.

“I can guess what you’re about to ask, so let me save you the time. No, I haven’t cast any magic around you. What you saw was spiritual energy.” I explain to her, creating a perfect cube just to demonstrate it for her. “And that’s the second lesson I wanted to pass on. Depending on who you ask, there are either four or five types of magic. Mana, Spirit, Qi, Chakra and True Magic.

“Qi and Chakra both draw from the same pool of energy, so there are people arguing they’re the same, but their applications directly contradict each other.” I continue. “The short version is that Qi modifies the body internally, while Chakra can modify the world around you.

“Spiritual energy, what I specialize in using, thanks to my inhumanly large pool, is also referred to as Soul Energy because it has a similar signature and can in some capacity replace life force. It’s all about interacting with another plane of existence where the spirits reside, and with effort, it’s possible to create objects there and move them into our plane, like that box.” I point to the cube sitting on the ground.

“Mana is the most versatile of the bunch, which is why it’s the ubiquitous image of magic in the eyes of the public. Mana is about enforcing your will on nature, allowing you to control the elements. On paper, that’s all there is to it, but the sheer amount of ways it can be applied allows for a great deal of diversity.

“And lastly there’s True Magic. And let me assure you, if actual mages capable of casting spells you’ve only ever read about in novels call something ‘true magic’ then it’s truly something unknown.” I shrug. “Even after millennia of trying to understand it, we as a community still can’t find any rhyme or reason as to who can use it, why or what the limits of this magic is. All we know is that there are beings, humans and animals alike, capable of using it.

“True Magic specifically is worth talking about, because to an extent, normal humans are capable of casting this type of magic without even knowing. These come in the form of curses.” I start drawing from the golden sphere. “And Renko, I’d like to demonstrate just how dangerous it is for you to join the world of magic.” I stand up. “Stand.”

Without complaint she stands up. Though it looks like her legs really don’t want to. “What?” She asks, looking down at herself.

“Jump” I command. To which she follows, only to fall back down on her back, lacking any strength to remain standing. “Do you see what’s happening?”

“That’s a curse?” She asks.

“One form of a curse.” I explain. “Do you know the concept of a true name?”

“Wait.” It dawns on her. “I’ve never seen this before. How can your average person do this?”

“I didn’t say they could do this exact curse.” I correct her. “But this one is common knowledge among the magic community. Curses in general are common. It’s the one thing everyone has access to on some level. Has made it a lot easier to study.” Also, the fact I’m getting a boost from mana, not available to the average joe.

“Names are powerful, Renko. They’re both a gift and a curse. They can be a great source of power, if whoever gave you the name had power, but it’s also a curse because you’re forever bound to that person. And if you let your real name slip, then people like me can abuse it to hold power over you, like I’m doing right now.” I pick up the orb.

“Then I guess Ryuko is not your real name.” She states. “Knowing about curses, I can’t see you just giving away your real name.”

“Bingo. In fact, I don’t know my true name. One less person to let it slip out.” I throw the ball in the air and catch it with my other hand. “So not only are you weaker than anyone else in the world of magic right now, but your biggest weakness is clearly exposed. Do you still insist on forcing your way into my world?”

“Yeah.” She sits up. “Like I said, I have my reasons.”

“And do I need to use this compelling argument to get you to talk?” I spin the golden ball in my palm. “Or would you rather talk of your own free will? Because either way, you’re gonna talk.”

“If you’re going to force me anyway.” She crosses her legs to sit comfortably. “Everyone in my family, on my dad’s side anyway, has small but unnatural skills.” She points to her eye. “For example, I can tell the exact time and place by looking into the night sky. It’s not especially useful, but it’s definitely not normal.”

“And you want to know why?” I ask.

“Well, yes, but that’s not the reason.” She corrects me. “It’s Mary, actually. She has an unusual ability too, which I still don’t understand. At first, we just explored the limits of these skills, but with every trip we made, we just had more and more questions.” She looks up at me. “If nothing else, I owe her some answers to those questions. Because it’s my fault we stuck our noses into the whole thing in the first place.”

“So, it’s basically two overgrown kids poking a beehive to see what will happen.” I summarize. “I had assumed you’d at least have a good reason.”

“It might not be a good reason to you but try to see it from our perspective.” She stands up. “You’ve grown up with all this magic stuff all around you. You’re used to it. But to us, it’s a whole new world opening. It’s like the first time you’re allowed to venture outside on your own and explore.”

“Like I said. Two kids poking a bee hive.” I throw the gold ball back to where my stuff is lying. “Let me show you something, Renko.” I remove my eyepatch. “Take a guess. How did I get a glass eye?”

“I get it. It’s dangerous.” She argues. “But getting these answers is more important to us.”

“So, you’re willing to abandon your families to get some answers?” I ask. “Because if you’re not ready to die, you’re not ready for the world of magic.”

She doesn’t answer. If anything, she looks angry that I brought up her mortality. But frankly, that’s the risk you’re taking with getting involved in magic. Gensokyo might be different, since it’s more normal there, but out here, it’s the wild west.

I extend my spiritual energy into the surroundings, changing the environment entirely. Trees start sprouting densely, forming a forest.

“Behind you.” I nod.

The brunette turns around, then looks down to see what caught her eye. Even with her back turned towards me, I can see the color drain from her.

I’ve recreated the scene where I lost my eyes. What she just saw was my sorry excuse of a half dead corpse.

“What happened?” She finally asks.

“This happened.” I point to my glass eye. “Now I got lucky. Someone was there to save me.”

Never mind the fact I still had my extra life at the time, and that I brought it upon myself, thanks to my tendency for overconfidence.

“Now, Renko. I won’t be there to save you, to come to your rescue or to solve any problem you might have. You can’t rely on me. Are you still willing to risk your life to get your answers?” I ask her.

“Yeah.” She answers firmly, though unable to take her eyes of the half-dead image of me lying there. To be honest, though, that was a lot of blood. “We had already resolved ourselves before you showed up.”

“I see.” I release my hold on the environment, allowing it to turn back into its normal state. “Then I’m not going to stop you. But like I said, don’t rely on me. All favors from here on out are gonna cost you, just like everyone else.”

“That’s what I expected.” She admits.

“Though, if you don’t mind, I would like to try something.” I put my eyepatch back on, so I don’t have to carry it. “Come here for a second.”

“What are you going to do?” She approaches me.

“I wanna take a look at your ability.” I extend me hand. “Your eye might start to itch at worst.”

“Sure.” She agrees, cautiously.

“Then excuse me.”

I place my hand right next to her face, keeping the fingers close to the eye. I wordlessly activate Spell Break and it starts dumping information directly into my mind, examining anything resembling mana.

And she’s right. There does seem to be an ability sitting around in her system. It’s related to the moon rather than the night, though. Sadly, that’s all the information I can glance without doing a more intrusive search.

“Gold suits you more.” The brunette speaks up.

Having seen what I wanted, I pull away.

“Sorry if it’s a little out of nowhere.” She rubs her eye. “I just didn’t have anywhere else to look, so it kinda stood out to me.”

“My eye?” I bring my hand up to it. “Gold is my natural eye color, it just stands out too much, so we mask it.”

“Why? It’s rarer to see people with blue eyes than some other strange color, today.” She says. “Mary has purple eyes, for example, and mine have a red tint. They’re mostly brown, though.”

“Yeah, but aside from me, how many people have you seen with golden eyes?” I argue. “Compare that to how many blue eyes you’ve seen.”

“Yeah, guess you have a point there.”

“But that aside.” I shove my hands back into my pockets. “Seems like you have enough energy to keep running.”

“Oh no.” She slumps over.

“Get running, Silverbird.” I shoo her on her way.

“Silverbird?”

“Empidornis. My favorite bird.” I explain.” If you insist on moving into the world of magic, then you better start hiding your name. Until you come up with a better name, that’s what I’ll call you.”

“Got it.” She nods.

“Now get running. But save enough energy to stretch out afterwards.”
>>No. 31590
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31590
==========
Kyoto – 29th of May, 11:56
==========

Why did I let her talk me into this?

I mean, sure, it’s not like I have anything better to do. I’m just waiting for Yukari to be able to pull me back to Gensokyo so we can continue my training. But there’s still better things to do than mess around with college girls.

“But can’t you just walk away?” No, fictional voice in my head, I can’t. I’m a man of my word, no matter how small the promise may be. I said I’d be here, so here I am. As much as I don’t want to.

Maybe Doc is right. I do need a break, if I start talking to myself like that.

“Hey. Did you wait long?” The brunette waves me down.

“Yeah, but I came early.”

“The post-lecture stuff was dragging on, so since I’m late you’re supposed to answer ‘no’ you know.” She starts leading the way.

“I know.” But I don’t care. “So, what was it you wanted?”

“Later.” She dismisses my question. “We need Mary for that anyway.”

“Alright then.” I shrug it off. “Another question then. What are you studying?”

She looks up at me for a second. “A masters in Grand Unified Physics with a minor in mathematics.”

“Math I can understand, but Unified Physics?”

“You know how there are multiple areas of physics as a science, right?” The student asks. “From astrophysics to particle physics and everything in between. Unified Physics aims to take a broad look at reality to observe how each area affects each other. In layman’s terms.”

“And what’s the practical application of that?”

“Depends on where you take the degree.” She answers. “While not many people may need a physicist specifically, the skillset we learn can be applied in many ways. Though, I’m aiming for JAXA myself.”

“JAXA? That’s the national space agency, isn’t it?” I’ll admit, I’m not that hooked into society.

“They also work with space, yeah. But it’s an aerospace agency, so it’s more about atmospheric exploration.” She points out. “That said, I would love to become an astrophysicist.”

“I see.”

“What about you?” She asks. “I do realize that you probably haven’t gotten an education, but you have something you want to achieve, right?”

“I’ve already achieved it.” I shrug off the question. “I serve the goddess at my shrine however I can. That’s all I want to do.”

“I’ve always considered myself an atheist, to be honest.” She states. “Even though I knew magic was real, the idea of a god, or gods just never really clicked with me. You know?”

“I’m gonna shoot this topic down right here.” I stop her. “You don’t even realize the can of worms you’re about to open. Even we don’t know what G is.”

“If you say that, you’re just going to make me more curious.” She flashes me a knowing smile.

“Like I said. We don’t know.” I reiterate. “We just know that the beings we used to consider gods don’t fit the description anymore.”

The community has managed to boil it down to two possibilities, though. Either the idea of God exists in the 0th dimension, or it’s a being existing at the highest dimension possible. The former of these can’t exactly be tested, since it’s impossible to enter the 0th dimension. But ascending to higher ones is being done regularly. No one has managed to find the highest dimension yet. The further they delve, the more they find.

Personally, I-m in the camp of God being in the 0th dimension, because that’s a place where neither time or space exists, a place where matter is an impossibility. The 0th dimension is a place there only pure information can exist. If God is supposed to be anything, then it makes sense that it’s nothing more than the law governing that information.

Obviously, that means Kami aren’t gods either. They’re just extraordinarily strong spirits. That’s not really news, though, since anyone that’s worked with a Kami can tell you that the main duty you have is managing the Kami’s mitama, or souls. Suppress one to let another flourish and reap the benefits, then change depending on what you need without invoking the anger of the Kami.

“We’re here.” The brunette declares.

“An apartment-complex?” I ask, looking over the building.

“Yeah. I live here.” She unlocks the ground door. “We’ll wait for Mary here.”

She leads me up several flights of stairs before reaching her floor.

Her apartment is bigger than what I’d think a student would be able to afford, but not entirely unreasonable.

From a quick pulse, her apartment effectively spans two rooms. The living room, doubling up as a kitchen an entrance. The second room is only separated by a thin wall and seems to be where her bed and bathroom are.

The main room is decorated fairly densely. The table is pressed up against the window, littered with papers and open books. One wall is lined by a big shelf overflowing with books, to the point where they’re just stacked on the floor around it. There’s a hobbyist’s telescope sitting folded up in the corner. There are a couple of world maps on the walls, with pins in different locations. There’s also a star map on the wall. The distortion to make the spherical shape we see, fit onto a flat plane is clear, given the large black areas.

“Sorry for the mess. Mary usually doesn’t mind, so I don’t reorganize everything too often.” She hangs her hat on a wall mount. “It’s still going to be a while before she can come, so make yourself comfortable.”

“Right.”

I make my way to the bookshelf and give her collection a quick once over.

Imagining Higher Dimensions.
The Duality of Wave Particles.
Intermediate Electrical Engineering, Understanding the Theory.
The Unusual Star System of Sol, Our Home.
The Theory of Ammonia Based Life.
Designing A Working Alcubierre Drive, The Guide to Travel Faster Than Light.
Tales from European Folklore.
The Classic Witch and Her Demon, A Breakdown.
Exploring the Origin of The Wendigo, Native American Mythology.
Missing 4-1-1: Off The Grid
Exploring the Tactics Used in the Warring States of China Era.
Our Closest Neighbor.
The Theory of Applying Theory to Practice, A Practical Breakdown.

“That’s quite a diverse collection.” I note. And I’ve only been reading a fraction of the titles she has here.

I pull out a book that seems to be about Slavic Paganism in its early days.

“Oh? Yeah. I tend to find myself reading whatever when I get bored.” She sits down by the table, moving some of her stuff to the side. “I’ve picked up a number of books as a result.”

I swap out the book with another one from the collection, The Power of Prediction and Patterns.

Oh, I know this one. Not the book, but the topic. The human brain has evolved to be especially good at finding patterns, too good in fact as it finds patterns where there aren’t any. As a result of finding these patterns, it can predict outside environments with notable accuracy. But if the prediction is wrong, the mind needs a complete stop and reassessment of what it’s trying to predict before it starts again. The best example I’ve heard is a Fly. Tracking it with your eyes, it tends to disappear every so often, because it moved in a way you didn’t expect.

“From science to mythology to psychology.” I put the book back.

“The psychology stuff is Mary’s, actually. I just borrowed them to save some money.” She rests her head in her hand.

I take a look at the stuff lying on the table.

The Science of Fire.
Elements, Nature’s Math.
The Physical Form of Energy.
The Fifth State of Matter.
Storing Matter on a Computer, The Science of Converting Matter to Information.

The loose sheets of paper, however, is what really catches my attention. They’re spells. Or fragments of spells, at least. Well, I say that, but it’s more like they’re the underlying principles used in mana allocation for spells. But they’re all scattered, like pieces of a puzzle.

“What are you working there?” I sit down across from here to get a look.

“Just brainstorming some ideas.” She starts collecting the papers to organize them. “Mostly just ideas of what would happen if theoretical forces interacted.”

Does she know it’s magic? Is she about to break through like Yumemi?

“More importantly. What was it you said about gods, earlier?” She changes the topic.

“Like I said, it’s a can of worms I’m not gonna open up.” I reject her again. “But to frame it differently. Between God being an idea, a founding principle existing in the 0th dimension, versus the idea of God being a higher dimensional being, which would you say is more likely?”

“Now that’s a fun question.” She leans in over the table. “So, you guys dabble in philosophy as well?”

“First off, yes, we do, some of us anyway. Second off, that’s not a philosophical question, neither by definition nor intent. That’s the core question we have about the nature of God. Is it a being or a founding principle of reality?”

“Well, most would say God is a being.”

“Most people are wrong. Whether it’s the Christian God or one of the old Greek or Indian ones, doesn’t matter. At best, they’re only higher dimensional beings.” I explain. “That’s why I’m asking what you think, and not what people think.”

“If most religions are wrong, then I’d have to go with the former. That God is an idea.”

“But if God is just an idea, then what caused the universe?” I tap the table when I ask the question. “We don’t define God as an omnipotent being, but as the creator of everything. Whether that something is a being existing outside our universe, or fundamental rules of reality that remain constant regardless of the circumstances is the core of the debate.”

“Ah, I see.” She turns so she can lean against the wall. “That changes the question. Like, have you guys confirmed that there is something outside our universe?”

“Yes, and so have you.” I explain. “Makai, the world you accidentally got sucked into, in fact exists outside our universe. And there are many more like it.”

“Interesting.” She loosens her tie a little. “But in that case, there should be multiple gods. The one that created our universe, and then one for all the other universes.” She concludes. “Plus, if the only way to exist outside a universe is to exist in another, then it should be possible to trace it back to an original universe. But then who created that?”

“You see why I didn’t want to open this can of worms?” I ask her. “The deeper you dig, the more questions there are, even if you never find a single answer.”

“No, this is the stuff I love.” She flashes me a smile. “Tackling reality with only logic. That’s the core of being a physicist after all.”

“Alright. My turn.” I lean in over the table. “You mentioned your family having special skills. Tell me more.”

“Well, we’ve never really talked about it, to be honest, so it’s mostly from what I’ve observed.” She admits. “My dad, for example, seems to always know where everything and everyone is. Not just that he keeps track of everything, but in the sense that if we lose something, he always knows where it is, for example.”

Clairvoyance? Maybe a subtype.

“My brother, on the other hand, has the ability to tell when people aren’t telling the truth.” She continues. “Not just lying, either, but if there’s something you’re not saying he’ll know.”

Mind reading? Though I doubt it. Only the satori youkai is born with that power, and gaining it takes years of effort, far surpassing the human lifespan, though it’s possible. Sounds more like a branch of clairaudience.

If that’s true, her family might have intrinsically high perception.

“Sorry I’m late, Ren.” The door swings open. “Things dragged out and,” the blonde newcomer stops when she sees me. “What’s he doing here?” She glares daggers at me.

“Right. So now that Mary is here, I can tell you.” Renko pats the table. “Take a seat. So, anyway. You know that thing you did with me eye the other day. I want you to do the same with Mary.”

“I would like to say I haven’t consented to anything yet.” Blondie interjects. “What are you talking about?”

“Renko has told me about her special ability, so I used one of mine to examine it.” I explain. “But like I said, Renko. I’m done with doing favors.”

“I know, but this isn’t a favor.” She points to her eye. “You got information when you examined this, right? In that case you should get some valuable information from Mary as well. And all you have to do is share it with us.”

“I’d like to repeat that I still haven’t consented.” The foreigner sits down next to her friend. “Not to mention, I don’t like this idea. I still don’t trust him, Renko.”

“As you should.” I agree. “Why can’t you be more like her, Renko? It would make my job a lot easier.”

“He’s not that bad, Mary.” The brunette tries to argue. “Don’t trust him. Trust me.”

“On that matter, why do you trust him, Renko?” She stares me down again. “How do you even keep running into him?”

Little Silverbird looks over at me, but I opt to remain silent and instead just rest my head in my palm. Unless I have to, I’m not gonna spill the beans that I’m training her. Renko is the one that wants to keep it a secret, so whoever she tells is none of my business. If she wants to keep it a secret, then who am I to ruin it.

“Think about it.” Blondie continues. “The only other time we’ve met him has been when there are monsters around. Not to mention we only got in trouble because that one asshole holds a grudge against him.”

“But he saved us. Both times.” Renko raises her hands in defense. “I know he’s intimidating but give him a chance.”

“Renko. He died. We both saw it happen.” Blondie points at me. “But he’s still sitting there, like it never happened. How can you expect me to trust someone like that?”

“She has a point, you know?” I chip in. “Having died as many times as I have, it definitely isn’t normal. Very suspicious.”

“You’re not helping.” Birdie hushes at me.

“I’m not trying to.” I shrug. “I’ve told you how many times now? Cutting contact with me is your best option.”

“Thank you.” Blondie huffs back into her seat and crosses her arms. “At least that’s one thing we can agree on.”

“Come on, Mary.” She begs. “This could be a huge step forward.”

“We’re making great progress on our own.” Blondie argues back. “We don’t need sketchy shortcuts.”

“Well.” I stand up. “If that was all, I’ll take my leave. I got better things to do than watch to collage girls bicker.”

“Wait.” Renko begs. “Come on, Mary. Trust me.” She’s practically clinging to her friend by now. “I’ll let you pick our next destination without complaints, if you do.”

“Is it really that important to you?” Blondie asks.

“Of course, it is.” Renko sits back up straight. “We might get one step closer to figuring out your power.”

“Then I guess I have no choice.” She finally admits defeat. “Then, if you’d please examine me.”

“I decline.” I state flat out.

“What?” Birdie protests. “After all that, you don’t want to?”

“Like I said Renko. I’m done with favors.” I cross my arms. “The price you’re offering simply isn’t worth the effort.”

“Then what do you want?” She almost begs. “I don’t know what price you’d look for.”

“Don’t do that.” I sit back down. “As you as you throw the ball into my court, I can dictate the price. If you want to negotiate, you must never allow the other party full rein over the price. You’ll only get yourself burned that way.”

“What if I use my ability on you?” Blondie chimes in. “I don’t know how much Renko has told you, but I can see borders.”

“And how exactly will that benefit me?” I rest both arms on the table.

“It might tell you something about yourself.” She suggests, covering up one of her eyes. “Like there’s a clean border around your left arm.”

“Oh that.” I look at it. “That’s because we’ve embedded a fraction of a goddess in it.” I explain. “Technically, it’s not my arm anymore.”

Her hand drops back down. “You did what?”

“Embedded a fraction of my goddess inside my arm.” I repeat. “It’s part of ritual to strengthen my connection to her.”

“I’m changing my mind, Renko. I don’t trust him.” She turns to her friend.

“Don’t worry. No spirit was harmed in the process.” I assure her, fully knowing that it’s not going to work.

“You’re not helping.” Renko scolds me.

I know.

“Are we done?” I ask.

“Yes.”
“No.”

They answer.

“I’m telling you, Renko, I’m not doing it.”

“But you just said you would.”

“And I’m changing my mind.”

Maybe I should help out? I am curious about her ability, but I’d rather not indulge Renko. It’d just incentivize her to keep going.

I snap my finger and a pale jade wall appears between them.

“Is that proof enough that I’m not just some lunatic?” I ask Mary. As I put down my hand again, the wall disappears. “I’m a priest, you see. Meaning I work with Kami. And I can assure you they’re just as real as the monsters you’ve run into, because they’re essentially the same thing.”

Blondie falls silent. There are no more snappy replies from her. It’s clear to see that she’s thinking, despite her trying to hide it.

“Okay.” She says. “I will allow it.”

“Alright, come here.” I extend my hand. “I need physical contact.”

She winces at the idea but relents anyway.

“It’s going to itch a little but try to bear with it.” I instruct her.

Placing my hand on her cheek like I did with Renko, I silently activate Spell Break and allow the information to flow-

Life

A sharp shock runs through my arm, forcing me to retract it.

“Fuck.” Is all I manage to say to vent this pain.

My hand down past the wrist is numb, completely devoid of feeling. Ah, no, there it comes, in the form of static noise.

“What happened?” Blondie asks, apparently unfazed by the shock.

“I don’t know.” I massage the palm of my hand, trying to get the feeling back. “I need a second to process what just happened.”

The two girls look at each other, then to me expectantly.

Was that a seal? No, that’s the wrong word. It was more like something designed to keep things out than to keep things in. A lock, perhaps. But why? And the keyword, Life. It’s definitely a spell beyond my capabilities. Whoever put it there is likely a grandmaster wizard, if not a sage.

“Fuck, that hurt.” Now I kinda wish I couldn’t feel my hand, because it’s starting to hurt really badly. “I couldn’t get a good look. You have a lock spell that keeps outsiders from peeking inside. A powerful one at that. Do you know of any wizards?”

“No, not that I know of.” She folds her arms, more to wrap herself than to rest them.

I decide to focus on my arm for a second to try and figure out what’s hurting so much. And to my surprise, it’s warm, the same way it’d heat up when my healing factor kicks in. This is a big wound, apparently. Going by the nerves I can still feel, it feels as if the flesh itself was shredded. But there’s no blood building up anywhere.

“Guess that just added more questions for you two?” I ask them. “Either case, there’s a powerful spell keeping things out. So, I can’t even examine her.”

The two of them exchange a quick glance.

“Your, um, eye.” Renko speaks up, pointing to her own.

“I know, it turns yellow when I use magic.” I explain.

“No. It's your pupil.” Blondie states. “It's slit.”

Again? Last time it happened was in Gensokyo. Based on what Yukari told me later, it’s probably a sign that I have too much mana in my system, since that seems to promote my draconic aspects. But where did it come from? Mary?

I examine my arm again.

Yeah, it seems to match up. The magic circuits in my arm was overloaded and self-destructed. So, my healing factor can fix those too? Given my low mana pool, it hasn’t exactly happened before, but the symptoms match.

“That really is a scary seal you have, missy.” I state.

“Don’t just change subject. That eye is hella scary.” Renko protests.

“It is?” I pull my eyepatch from my glass eye over my working eye. “Better?” Now I just can’t see anything visually anymore, but I rarely use my sight in the first place, so it doesn’t really matter.

“Aren’t you blind on that eye?” She asks.

“He is?” Mary looks at her friend, then back to me. “Guess that explains the scar.”

“I am.” I confirm. “Covering this eye makes me blind.”

“So, you can’t see anything?” Mary asks. Probably confused as to how or why I’m still following their gaze when they look away.

“Oh, I can see. Just not with my eyes.” I cross my arms. “Just try me.”

Wordlessly, blondie holds up seven fingers.

“Four on one hand, three on the other.” I state.

“What about this?” Renko asks, hiding her clenched fist behind her friend’s back.

“Zero. No fingers raised.”

I notice a smile making its way onto Renko’s face. The way a child gets when they get a new toy. Mary on the other hand seems to not react much.

“How does it work?” Birdie asks excitedly. “No, what does it look like when you see? Is it sound?”

“It looks like wireframing.” I answer. “It works sorta like a sonar. I emit a feint pulse using the same energy I use to make these barriers.” I create a sphere between my hands. “And then just read whatever it interacts with.”

“How do you do it?” Renko asks.

“That’s my secret.” I answer. “I refuse to teach civilians magic.”

“Makes sense.” Mary agrees. “I disagree with monopolizing information, but I can see why it’s necessary.”

“Finally. Someone that’s not going to beg me.” I rest my head in my hand. “You won’t believe how often people ask to be taught magic after learning it’s real.”

“I can imagine. It sounds useful.” She glances away. “Wait. It’s already this late?” The blonde girl pulls out her phone to confirm the time. “Sorry, Renko, but I have to go. I swapped a shift at work today.”

“What? Why didn’t you tell me?” The brunette protests. “I’d have gotten a shift too. Or at least shown up to hang out.”

“You didn’t give me the chance to.” Blondie hurries over to her jacket to get dressed. “You just called me, told me to come here and hung up before I could even get a word in.”

And she’s out the door.

“Guess that’s my cue to leave too.” I stand up. “You’re gonna follow her, right?”

“I guess.” Renko stands up too. “Sorry if this really wasn’t worth your time. But it really did help us.”

“If it wasted my time, I would have left.” Though I mostly spend my time here unwinding, which really isn’t too bad once in a while, though I do want to get back to work.
>>No. 31591
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31591
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Hakurei Shrine – 30th of May, 14:31
==========

“I’m back.” I hear a certain bird yell out as he steps through the shrine gate.

Seems Coach is back.

I readjust my clothes, so my left arm is lying out the center instead of going through the sleeve. That’s how I kept it when it was numb, and he hasn’t seen that it works again yet.

“Where have you been?” I walk around the shrine to greet him.

“Ryu. You’re back already?” He holds out his open hand, inviting me into a hug, which I don’t really get a say in accepting as he pulls my head down into his shoulder, giving it a tight squeeze. “Were you too rowdy for Yukari to handle?”

“Yep. Ended up causing some trouble, so I’ve been grounded outside of Gensokyo while she tries to fix it.”

He chuckles. “It’s probably a bad sign that I’m not surprised, but it’s not like you’ve never caused us trouble either.” He pulls out a bottle from the bag he’s carrying. “Picked up a local brand of sake while I was out. A souvenir for myself, if you will. I know you’re not big on drinking, but if you wanna share it, I’d be down.”

“Sorry, I still don’t like drinking.” I shake my head. “Instead, why not a sparring match? I’ve been itching to show you something.”

“Oh? Well since you’re asking so nicely, who am I to say no?” He walks up the stairs to the living area of the shrine. “I just gotta drop this off first, then I’ll be right out with you.”

I make my way around the shrine again to our sparring area. The back of the shrine has been converted through numerous iterations of training designs, to follow suit with my needs changing. The one thing that’s stayed constant is the ring. Soft but firm soil, no grass, with a clearly defined edge. Even when you get thrown on your ass, it doesn’t hurt as bad, though you tend to get dirty very fast.

“Alright, I’m ready.” The old crow comes walking out. He’s changed into his usual lazy attire. “How badly do you want your ass kicked?”

“It’ll be enough if you’re on the defensive today.” I drop my shoes and gloves. “But I’m going to come at you seriously.”

“That doesn’t sound fair?” He whines as he makes his way over to me. “How will you win if I’m allowed to move?”

“You’ll see.” I roll my shoulder, causing it to give a good crack as I feel my body heating up and getting to move.

“Usual rules, then?” He follows suit before getting into the ring. “If I fall down or step outside, I lose.”

“Right. Ready?” I ask.

He nods, taking a secure stance.

To kick things off, I spin and jump, delivering a flying kick with all my weight and momentum behind it.

Obviously, he sees it coming and grabs my ankle, throwing it up, causing me to turn upside down.

I quickly shoot my hand down, grounding myself to regain some control.

I drag my legs down with me, grabbing a fistful of dirt before I lunge back up.

With my good hand, I throw the dirt towards his head, intending to blind him. Though needless to say, he sees it coming and ducks under the cloud.

That’s when I thrust my other hand out, striking at his chin with my palm.

He sees it coming, but doesn’t react in time and I make contact, pushing him back with enough force that he staggers.

He quickly takes a step back, stabilizing his stance instantly.

“Fuck yeah!” I pump my hands. “Fifteen years. It’s taken fifteen years, but I finally landed a clean hit.”

“Now you’ve done it.” He grins.

“The element of surprise.” I take a step backwards. “One of the first things you taught me.”

He crouches, widening his stance. “I’m pretty sure I also taught you to not poke a sleeping lion.”

“I don’t care. I finally landed a hit.” I take another step backwards.

Not giving me a chance to escape, he lunges at me, tackling me to the ground.

With movement so smooth I’m not even sure how he does it, he locks down my legs and keeps them locked by placing his foot on them.

He places his hands on my ribs and, oh fuck, I’m too tense.

“Stop it.” I protest.

“Nope.” He starts a relentless assault on my defenseless sides.

“Stop. No, stop it. Stop it.” I cry out through my forced laughter.

I can’t even do anything. I can’t lift my arms because of the reflex, and my legs are locked down. God, I hate it when he does this.

He stops, allowing me to catch my breath.

“Why do you humans grow up so fast?” He asks. “It’s been ages since I last put you in your place like this, but it feels like it was yesterday.”

“Why the soft talk all the sudden?” I ask.

“Well, just looking at how much you’ve progressed since we started.” He explains. “It just made me nostalgic.”

I give him a tap, letting him know he can move now.

“You know humans have a special trait, right?” He asks. “Your ability to grow far exceeds even youkai. And we’re malleable by the power of suggestion.”

“I did not know that.” I sit up, now that he’s moved.

“It would take a youkai at least three times as long to grow as much as you have, as a fighter.” He dusts himself off. “And that’s not because you have some talent for fighting either. Which you don’t have, I might add. It’s effort alone that’s taken you this far.”

“But I’m part dragon.” I argue.

“So, the old fox has told you?” He sits down in the ring in front of me.

“It was actually Yukari, but Doc confirmed it for me.” I cross my legs to sit comfortably.

“She did?” He scratches his five-o-clock shadow. “Did she tell you anything else?”

“Nothing worth mentioning.” I shake my head.

“I see. Tell her I said hi, when she comes to pick you up again.” He stands up again. “Not that we know each other all that well. But she’ll know what I mean if you tell her I told you to tell her that she should hurry up.”

“Should I know what that means?” I stand up with him.

“Not yet, no.” He pockets his hands. “But trust her. Or at least trust us to trust her. She might not act like it, but she has your best interest in mind.”

“Yeah, but it’s hard to trust her when she doesn’t tell me anything.” I argue.

“Like how we keep secrets from you?” He argues back. “The whole dragon thing, I mean.”

“That’s different.” I shake my head. “I know you guys. We’ve spent years together.”

“You know us? I wonder about that.” He turns around and starts walking back to the shrine. “Old man Tenma is in Gensokyo, right? If you get the chance to talk to him, tell him I sent my regards. Though, that might change your perception of me.”

“Why?”

“Now it wouldn’t be fun if I just told you, would it?” He takes a seat on the shrine’s porch. “Though, if I know that old man, he’ll likely contact you soon anyway.”

“Again. Why?” I take a seat next to him.

“Well, there’s a popular belief that tengu ninjas are a thing. And they are.” He shrugs. “But you should know ninjas are nothing like the myths.”

“Of course.” I swing my legs up on the porch. “Before I skyrocketed, we were practicing ninjutsu after all. Then we learned that stealth really wasn’t going to be my strong suit and switched to styles more suited for my big body.”

“Spies and assassins. Though a well-trained ninja can hold their own in a fight if they need to.” He reiterates. “But back to my point. The tengu have a well-oiled information network. They will pick up on just about everything. Including your little secret about being a dragon. That old man will likely try to recruit you, to further establish his dominance.”

“And you want me to reject the offer?” I enquire.

“Do whatever you want, kid.” He just gives me a smile. “You only get one life, so do what will make you happy.”

“Technically, reincarnation is confirmed.” I point out.

“Right. But take this from someone who has lived long enough to see reincarnation in action.” He looks at the ground. “The You that you are now and the You that you’ll be after reincarnation will have nothing in common beyond your soul. It’s effectively two different people.”

“I see.” I take a deep breath. “I think I’ve changed my mind on the alcohol. I think I’d like to share a cup or two.”

“Oh?”

“Like you said. I only got one life.” I repeat. “Who knows if we’ll get a chance to share a drink again later?”

“Don’t say ominous things like that. You’re a resilient little fucker, it’s not gonna be easy for you to die.” He chuckles and gets up to go get the bottle.


==========
Osaka Prefecture – 2nd of June, 21:41
==========

It’s not even been two weeks, but it feels somewhat nostalgic to be back in the field. Maybe I’d just gotten so used to it, that when Yukari showed up the days seemed to slow down.

I check the clock on my phone. It’s about time for the rift to open. The seals are in place, I got my knives at the ready and a couple spell tags up my sleeve. Should be easier now that I have my arm back for this.

“I’m getting a reading from over there.”

Oh no. I recognize that voice.

I turn to face her.

The little redhead slows down as she spots me standing right in her path.

“Um. Hi.” She gives me a meek greeting.

Her blonde assistant quickly follows, coming into view as well.

“Get out of here.” I turn back to face the rift area.

“No, listen. Can’t we just talk this through, Konoha?” The professor begs.

“What’s there to talk about?” I don’t bother turning around. “You want to publish magic. That goes against the fundamental principle of mage craft.”

“Now listen here.” The little sailor stomps over to me. “You-”

She’s cut off by the loud shattering of reality as the rift opens.

Yumemi is not here. Her assistant is. And so is the youkai of the week.

“Girl.” I speak up. “Whatever you do, don’t forget your name.”

“Don’t tell me what to do.” She snaps back.

Whatever. I’ve warned her. If they want to explore magic, then let them see what happens when things go wrong.

I focus my attention on the youkai, a cat, bakeneko to be exact, ashen fur.

“I thought you were supposed to be gone.” It states.

Much like the other cats that have been coming through, this one seems to have been able to maintain its wits.

“So, did I. But things turned out differently.” I relax my stance. “I don’t suppose I could convince you to turn back?”

“I’m afraid not, Mister.” It shrugs. “I got business on your side. I’ve been told to force my way through if I have to.”

“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t cross using these rifts.” I tell it. “It damages the barrier by causing unnecessary strain.”

“Oh, we know.” It jumps up on the nearby rock to sit. “Who do you think is maintaining the barrier from the other side?”

Wait. Isn’t that what Reimu is doing?

“You only have to deal with all the cases we can’t handle in time.” It continues. “So, we know all about how damaging it is to the barrier. We also know when it’s the safest to cross over like this.”

“Why don’t you cross over legitimately instead, then?” I ask.

Honestly, I’m just glad I can avoid fighting this time. As fun as it is, it’s better to avoid.

“Secrecy.” It states, giving its tail a flick. “The only reason I can tell you is because you won’t make a difference. But more importantly, what about that human that came with you?”

I look over my shoulder to see the sailor fainted on the ground.

She forgot her name.

“Later.” The cat bids me farewell.

With that, there’s another shattering sound as the rift closes, kicking me back into my reality.

Once back I see the youkai escaping in the other direction.

“Konoha!” The professor yells out. “What happened? Where’s Chiyuri?”

“Gone.” I state.

Does this count as a defeat? I let the youkai get away after coming through. I mean I can’t just accept what it said as truth, even if it was sane enough to hold a conversation.

“What do you mean gone? What happened to her?” She moves around to my front.

“I mean she’s gone.” I glance over the talismans I placed to contain the rift. They all seem to be spent, so that was that. “You two wanted magic right? Well, there’s what happens when you’re not careful.”

“Look at me.” The short girl demands. “Look me in the eyes and tell me where she is.”

“I don’t know.” I sigh. “That rift exists between dimensions, so she could be in any of the ones connected to ours.”

“You have to help me find her.” She grabs my shirt.

“Why?”

“What do you mean, ‘why’?”

“What I means is,” I pull her hands off me, “Normal people getting caught up in this can follow simple instructions to save their lives. If they fail, I’ll do what I can to save them. The one time I brought someone with me, I had to go and rescue them. But you two? You refuse to heed any of the warnings I’ve given you, and now that the consequences have come, you beg me to help you, despite that’s the only thing I’ve been doing so far?”

“No. You don’t understand.” She grabs me again.

“I don’t understand what?” I look down at her.

“We just want to go home. To our world.”

Wait. What?

“Hold up. Back up a bit.” I push her away slightly. “What was that?”

“We wanna go home.” She repeats. “But I can’t leave without Chiyuri.”

“Are you two from another world?” I ask, more specifically.

“Yes and no. It’s a parallel world. Magic was discovered there ages ago, which is what allowed us to come here in the first place.” Her grip gets tighter. “So please, help me save Chiyuri. I swear on my life we won’t make magic common knowledge. That was just our cover story.”

I run my hand through my hair, taking a deep breath.

Why do I always get the hard choices?

“You’re going to owe me a lot of answers after this.” I state, pushing her away again.

Her face brightens up. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

Now I’ve done it. Better get to work and get it over with.

I reach into my bag and pull out my book of premade talismans. Flipping through it, I find the section with tracking talismans and pull out one.

Infusing it with power, I activate it, searching for the remains of the little sailor’s energy.

Finding it, I latch onto it while flipping through the book to find another set of talismans. Pulling out those and infusing them with power, I get ready to activate the spell.

“Grab onto me.” I tell her. “And whatever you do, don’t let go.”

“Okay.” Without asking any questions, she latches onto me.


==========
Unknown
==========

With that, the air instantly feels different. It feels far more saturated. It’s hard to explain how exactly.

“You can let go.” I instruct her.

“Already?” She releases her grip. “That seemed almost too easy.”

“Because that was a one-way ticket here.” I explain, putting away the booklet. “I tracked and followed her spiritual signature. To get back, I need someone on the other side to latch on to.”

“I see. That’s different from how we did it.” She dusts herself off. “We exploited a loophole in the spacetime fabric that appears around lightspeed.”

“Fascinating. But now’s not the time.” I stop her and direct her to look around. “Your friend isn’t here, so we better get moving. Or do I need to remind you that we’re in a foreign place without food and water? Time is of the essence here.”

The professor looks around, taking in the view surrounding us.

There’s thick flora everywhere and the ground is covered in deep crimson grass. The water is thick and white, so I doubt it’s safe to drink for us.

“You’re right. Let’s hurry. Where to first?”

I emit a long-range pulse to search the immediate area for any traces of her.

“Her range starts over there.” I point deeper into the flora. “And it seems to have moved upstream. Though too far in from the river to where she’d reasonably be able to see it.”

“Someone took her?” She asks.

“That or she started wandering.” I explain. “Which reminds me. I should probably tell you there’s a good chance she’s lost her memories too. Unfortunate side effect of the rifts. It can be countered by maintaining a good sense of self.”

“She what? Could you mention that sooner?” She starts hurriedly walking upstream. “How do we fix it?”

“I have no idea.” I admit, following her. “The only time I’ve gotten it fixed was when a kind goddess, in the most literal sense of the word, caught the memories and handed them back to the person.”

“Goddess? There’s a goddess here too?” She asks. “Think she’d be willing to help out again?”

“This is another world, Yumemi.” I step her talking. “I have no idea who or what lives here.”

She pauses for a second to look at me, then continues to walk.

It doesn’t take us long to reach the exit of the forest, entering an open space next to what looks like a cliffside, except the edge is a perfect 90 degree turn.

We both spot the still unconscious girl up ahead, surrounded by these weird creatures.

I’m honestly at a loss of how to describe them. They’re humanoid, but all six of their limbs are thin and their second set of arms are shorter. Their skin, if you can even call it that has a dark tree bark like texture. All four eyes have a glowing blue tint and appears to blink out of sync. And the sound they make. It’s like nuts rattling in a wooden bowl.

There’s about a dozen of them here. Two of which are attending Yumemi’s friend. 3 of them are sitting in what I can best describe as makeshift tents. The remaining wo have turned to look at us.

“Chiyuri!” The professor exclaims.

I grab her by the collar to prevent her from running into this group of alien beings.

The creature closest to us starts creaking like wood.

God they’re strange. How are we even supposed to communicate with them? At least Makai had someone speaking our language. These are barely humanoid. Then again, I guess we look equally strange to them.

I reach out my hand and point at the girl in white.

Pointing is a human thing, so I doubt it works, but I have to try it at least.

The closest one just looks at my hand, then back to me.

Guess that didn’t work. Well then. “Stay back. I’m going in.” I tell the redhead.

I start marching forward.

The three in the tents stand up and the two closest to us part allowing me through.

They all start creaking at the same time, causing the two tending to Chiyuri to finally look up and move back from the body upon seeing me approach.

They’re sapient, so that’s something.

Having free access to the unconscious girl, I emit a pulse of energy to get a read of her body, checking for any anomalies, and thankfully I don’t seem to find any. She’s breathing, she has a regular heartbeat, no broken bones, no internal injuries.

That’s also when I notice these creatures don’t have a signature. They’re not creating their own spiritual energy, as if they’re inanimate objects. They have some, sure, but it’s environmental.

“Is she okay?” The professor asks.

“I think so.” I’m not sure to be honest. I can’t see a reason she’s asleep. There’s no excessive activity in her body, nor is her energy level low enough to warrant sleep.

One of the creatures approaches us and goes down on all six. It looks at me and starts creaking again, slower this time. It places one of its hands over her stomach.

Her stomach? I hover my hand over it and prods a little deeper in my search for anomalies. Oh.

“Yumemi.” I call out. “You’re not gonna like this, but her soul is gone.”

“Her what?” She runs past the creatures up to her friend. “Didn’t you say it was only her memories?”

“That’s what I was told.” I explain. “This is the second time someone hasn’t been able to follow instructions, so I only know what I’ve been told.”

“Can’t you do anything?” She begs.

“Like what?” I ask.

No, the hell am I asking? I’m a priest. Channeling spirits is in the job description.

“Give me room, I got an idea.” I instruct the professor. “Clear out these guys as well.”

I always keep a small flask of weak alcohol in my bag, in case I need to channel a Kami. It doesn’t matter how weak it is, drinking brings you closer to the gods, so it’s on my list of essential tools.

The professor, barely taller than these creatures, spreads out her arms wide and slowly moves towards these creatures, causing them to back off.

Meanwhile, I thug the flask of watered-down sake.

I let my focus drift entirely to Chiyuri, allowing the world around me to disappear.

She’s alive, which means she’s still connected to her soul. All I have to do is trace that connection and I’ll find her. Beckoning to come to me will be another task entirely.

Tuning myself, I zero out all spiritual energy to focus on her soul. A single thread escapes her unconscious body.

Being careful, I move my own spirit energy out to grab her the string that bind her to her body.

Upon touching it, I instantly know where she is, though it’s not a position that can be described in only three dimensions.

I take a deep breath and empty my mind, inviting her in by creating a space.

==========

“Welcome back, kid.” The blurred figure greets me. “Though I guess now is not the time.”

So, it’s possible for me to visit her at will?

“Yeah.” She answers my thought. “Drop by later, if you want a chat. But for now, we have a girl to save.”

Right.

Responding to my invitation, the soul of the girl drops from the sky.

Can she hear me talking like Hakurei?

“I doubt it, kid.” She answers. “You and I have a special connection. Normally you can’t even talk in here.”

I see. Guess she won’t be able to talk then.

“Something you want to ask her in private?” The goddess asks, already knowing the answer.

No, but I’d like to make sure she has all her memories.

“I see.” She states.

The goddess walks over to Yumemi’s friend, or rather the space between them seems to shrink.

“Little Miss.” She calls for her attention, causing the girl’s soul to turn around.

“I know you can hear me.” Hakurei states. “But I can’t hear you. I need to ask you something before we can continue, so just nod or shake your head. Got it?”

The visiting soul nods.

“Good. Do you know who you are?”

It nods.

“Do you know that guy?” She points back to me.

It waits a moment, then nods again.

“Do you hate his guts?”

It eagerly nods.

Ouch. But I kinda worked for it, so I can’t complain.

“Seems like everything is in order, kid.” The goddess turns back to face me. “All that’s left is to direct her back to her own body.”

Easier said than done.

“No, it’s easy. It’s a matter of will.” She explains. “Since both of you want her to return, it should be smooth. Otherwise, you just have to outwill her.”

==========

I take a deep breath, feeling the pain of my starved lungs desperately trying to get air back into my system.

Wait, I stopped breathing?

“What happened?” The little sailor groans. She looks at me for a second and immediately scowls.

“I know. My face is the last thing I’d want to see when I wake up too.” I joke.

“Chiyuri!” The Yumemi jumps into a hug. “Thank God you’re safe.”

The creatures, picking up on the success starts, rattling? That nut sound again, but louder.

“What are these?” The assistant asks.

“Later.” I answer. “Our next goal is to get home.”

“We have to thank these guys?” The professor protests.

“We can’t even talk with them.” I point stand up. “How do you want to thank them?”

“A gift?” She asks.

“You have something you think they can use? Because I don’t.” I point out.

“No.” She admits. “All I have on me is my phone.”

I sigh. “Can you walk?” I ask the friend.

She nods. “Yeah. A little tired, but I can manage.”

“Start walking.” I instruct them. “Just in case they take this as an insult, I want you two out of harm’s way.”

“Why are you-” Chiyuri starts asking but gets cut off by the professor.

“Just do as he says for now, Chi.” She helps her up and the two of them starts walking.

I reach inside my shirt with both hands, pulling out a pair of silver knives. I place them on the ground and move backwards.

They don’t appear to react negatively, so I take that as a good sign.

“Alright, get ready.” I tell them, pulling out my booklet of spell tags.

“I know you don’t want to, Chi, but grab onto him and hold on tight.” Yumemi instructs her friend.

Again, the girl scowls but follows the lead of her friend.

I repeat the spell from earlier, but this time tracking a spirit I’m intimately familiar with.
>>No. 31592
==========
Hakurei Shrine – 2nd of June, 23:23
==========

With a flash the three of us appears back at my home.

“And we’re safe.” I announce.

Both girls let go of me.

“We’re back?” The professor looks down at herself, making sure she’s not missing some body part. “We’re back.”

“What happened?” Chiyuri asks.

Before getting a chance to answer the question, the tiny redhead lunges at me, hanging herself off my neck. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” She repeats. “I swear I could kiss you. No, actually.” Again, without giving me a chance to react, she plants her lips on my cheek.

“Okay.” I peel her off. “Even I have a personal space.” I put her down.

“I really can’t thank you enough, Konoha.” She exclaims.

“Yeah. But you still owe me some answers, so let’s talk about debt afterwards. Before that, though.” I turn to the assistant. “You asked what happened. I told you to remember your name. When entering a rift like that, maintaining a sense of self is vital to getting back to where you’re supposed to be.” I explain. “You ignored my warning and ended up in a place where you didn’t belong because you forgot where you do belong.”

“So that’s what happened?” She rubs her temple. “I just have another question, if you don’t mind.”

“Shoot.” I’m gonna get a lot of answers myself, so I can answer a few questions.

“That woman. Who was she?”

“So, you remember?” I ask her, to which she nods. “She’s the God I worship. Why?”

“Well, it’s just she looked a lot like you.” She answers.

Really? So, she could even see her clearly? Yet I can’t? That’s just bullshit.

“Also.” She continues. “Thank you. For rescuing me.”

“Don’t thank me.” I point at the redhead. “Thank her for spilling the beans. Otherwise I wouldn’t have helped.”

“Sorry, Chi. I got desperate when you disappeared.” The professor folds her hands. “I ended up telling him the truth.”

“You,” The assistant sighs. “This is why I get to keep all the secrets, you know?”

“Alright. Where do you two come from?” I ask them, changing the subject.

“A parallel world.” Yumemi answers. “Magic was discovered four hundred years ago and has repeatably held up to the modernizing standard of science until it became a field of study of its own.”

“We wanted to explore the multiverse theory by traveling to other worlds and taking proof back home with us.” Chiyuri continues the explanation. “But we didn’t foresee a world without magic like this. So, we’ve been trying to reinvent it according to the standard of our world.”

“So, you’re not going to publish your findings?” I ask them. “While I’m personally against that, there are people that’ll go as far as targeting your lives, if they catch wind of what you’re doing.”

“No.” Yumemi answers, cutting of her assistant. “Like I promised, we’ll keep everything we know a secret.”

“I see.” Chiyuri adds. “Alright, we’ll keep it a secret.”

That’s mainly what I wanted to hear. If they’re not going to reveal the whole magic world, then there’s no reason to maintain hostility towards them.

“Good.” I let out a sigh. “Then, perhaps its best if we start over. Forgetting the hostility and all that.” I extend my hand. “People call me Ryuko.”

The professor looks at my hand, then at me. “Ryuko? What about Konoha?”

“One of my many fake names.” I explain. “It’s a precautionary measure for mages in our world.”

She grabs my hand. “Then I’ll call you Ryuko from now on, Konoha.”

“Back to the questioning.” I get back on topic. “How does magic in your world work? Are you using the same underlying principle as us?”

“Yeah, the laws of magic are constants, just like the laws of physics.” She explains. “Change some variable to match the circumstances and the equations line up as they should.”

“Here.” The sailor hands me her phone. “We’ve standardized magic to applications that can run through phones.”

“How does it get mana?” I ask, taking the phone to examine the app she’s opened.

“You know the properties of noble metals?” The sailor asks, to which I nod. “Gold. After we achieved near light speed, space travel became easy and the resources of our solar system became available to us.” She explains. “The price of gold plummeted, so it became common use in both computers and magic.”

So, electricity can run along mana? I did not know that.

I activate Spell Break on the phone to see if I get anything out. And to my actual surprise, I do.

“You weren’t kidding when you said you’d managed to standardize spells.” I note.

That’s a downright beautiful use of abstractions and variables. Prewriting large chunks of the spells that repeat across the spells. Treating actual parts of the spells as variables. There’s a clear architecture here. If I had to compare it to anything, it’d be software code.

“You can read it?” Yumemi gives me a puzzled look.

“Spell Break.” I explain, showing off the glowing circle on my wrist. “It allows me to reverse engineer and change spells on the fly.”

“No, I meant are you able to actually read the spell?” She clarifies. “That’s a low-level spell, in the sense that it’s as close to raw as we have.”

“Wait, you have compilers for spells?” I look up from the phone.

“You don’t?” The professor returns my puzzled look.

“So, it’s basically computer programming.” I conclude. “You guys have managed to turn something so dynamic into programming.”

I’m honestly amazed and saddened at the same time. The beauty of a custom spell is lost on them. Sure, on a massive scale, this is easier, but there’s no character to the spells anymore. That’s part of what defines a mage, since everyone is taught differently.

“No, I, well I mean yes, it’s basically code.” The professor stumbles over her words. “But you can read it?” She asks again.

“Read and write.” I tell her. Though just looking at this spell system has probably advanced my technique, if I can turn it into practice.

“That’s amazing.” The sailor comments. “You know how many years you need to study to be able to work with raw spells?”

“That’s amazing? This is amazing.” I hold out her phone in front of her. “I didn’t even know you could do half of this.”

Chiyuri is smiling? She’s gone from hating my guts to smiling when I’m around in less than two hours.

“Why don’t you take it for a spin?” Yumemi suggests. “It should have enough charge to spare?”

“Yeah, though I don’t have any special spells installed.” The assistant answers.

“How does it work?” I ask.

“Just open the app.” Chiyuri answers. “They’re required to use an interface to be installed, unless you jailbreak the phone.”

Let’s see what spells she has.

Volume Control
Universal Cleaner
Pathfinder
Night vision
Graviton Light

Night vision seems like the best option out of those, so I click it, which opens a simple ON/OFF switch.

Clicking it, I feel the spell surge through my magic circuit heading straight for my eyes. The world gradually lights up without overwhelming my sense of sight. I’ve always had great night vision, even without my spiritual pulse, but this makes everything as clear as day.

So, if I wanted to add night vision to the spell’s architecture, I could insert it into the array frame in its barebones state, and it’d hook up to the spell through the entry parameter.

“Is that normal.” Yumemi asks.

“No, I don’t have any spells that changes you visually.” The assistant crosses her arms.

“Oh. Right, my eye.” I turn off the night vision again. “Sorry about that, it’s a natural reaction I have.”

“A natural reaction?” The professor asks. “That wasn’t a human eye.”

It went that far? Guess it makes sense. I did just pump mana through my body, targeting my eyes, or eye rather.

Like last time, I pull the eyepatch over the functioning eye, leaving my fake eye exposed, since it has my ‘normal’ color.

“You’re not gonna explain it?” The little redhead urges me on.

“That’s how my eyes are naturally.” I explain, handing the little sailor back her phone. “There’s an illusion spell on it to make it look normal, which breaks when I use spells.”

I guess it’s technically true. Given my apparent draconic heritage, it is a natural state of my eyes.

The professor crosses her arms as well, looking up at me for a few seconds before answering. “I see.”

“It’s already past midnight.” The assistant points out. “I think we should leave.”

“Already?” Her partner asks. “I guess you’re right.”

“Head down the stairs, follow the path straight through the village, then go to the foot of the mountain.” I point back towards the shrine’s gate. “But I don’t think there’s any trains running this late.”

“We know.” Yumemi silently thanks me for the directions. “But we’ll have no problem getting home, once we’re on the street.”

“Try to stay out of trouble.” I tell them. “I’ll be going in a few days, and I don’t know when I’ll be available to help you out again.” I look at Chiyuri. “If anything like today happens again, I won’t be able to help. So be careful.”

“We’ve stayed out of trouble so far.” She says. “I think we can handle ourselves.”

“Except, today you two were headed for a rift, not knowing what it would do.” I point out. “Like I said. Do what you want but be careful.”

“Yeah, we got it.” Yumemi answer of her friend’s behalf. “We’ll be careful from now on.”


==========
Hakurei Shrine – 3rd of June, 10:46
==========

“You know,” Doc makes an entrance, “it’s courtesy to bring your girlfriend inside when it’s late at night.”

I look up at him for a second before returning to my work. “Neither of them is my girlfriend.”

“You sure?”

“Mhm.”

“Then it’s probably just me that’s old fashioned,” He puts on a cranky voice, “Back in my dad, girls only kissed boys they liked.”

“You saw?”

“I watched the whole encounter.” He takes a sip of his mug. “But what do I know? I’m a nine-hundred-year-old virgin.”

“You know you can fix that very easily, right.” I go back to drawing my spell circle. “Just ask Yukiko to help.”

“Yeah, I’m gonna pass on that.” He takes another sip. “So those girls. How is their magic different, exactly?”

“In short, their magic has been iterated through and refined so many times it’s become abstract.” I stand up. “Sort of like this.” I motion to the circle I just finished.

“And that is?”

“Take it for a spin and see. It’ll be obvious once you activate it.” I stand back.

The old fox shrugs and steps into the circle, channeling mana into it to trigger it. As he fills it, it starts to glow and the layer of runes spin, going into their predefined configuration.

“Oh. I see how it works.”

Taking control of the circle, Doc rotates the runes to define a new configuration. Once it clicks, a ball of fire appears in his free hand.

“You were right. This is amazing.” He notes.

He reconfigures it again, this time causing cold mist to emit from his hand. Based on the runes, it’s ice magic.

“It really is a shame you can’t use magic.” He clenches his hand, shutting off the circle. “You’re a natural.”

“That’s only because I had to compensate.” I shrug. “If I could use magic, I’d have specialized in a single field like everyone else.”

“Maybe.” He takes another sip of his drink. “There’s no way of knowing now.”

“Though I do agree. If I could use magic, I’d have earned the title of mage long ago.”

“Honestly, at this point I doubt there’s much left I can teach you.” He sits down on the porch. “You got all the basics that I can think of, and anything advanced just comes down to creative use of the basics.”

“I mean, that’s true for just about every skill imaginable.” I wipe away the skill circle. “Even in combat. Boxing is an amazing example of that, actually.” I take a seat next to him. “A martial sport about punching. So naturally, it’s perfected the art of throwing a punch. Jab, Straight, Hook and Upper Cut. Every type of punch can be categorized in one of those.” I count them on my fingers. “More advanced punches or styles like the Hitman style, ads a flick to the wrist of the jab, which makes it feel sharper. But it’s still just a jab.”

“That’s one way to look at it.” He notes.
>>No. 31593
==========
Sado Island, Northern mountains – 7th of June, 23:01
==========

I flip around midair, softening the landing by using my feet instead of my head.

The crimson demon gives an annoyed grunt at the fact I’m still standing.

“That’s not going to work, Hakurei!” My temporary partner shouts from his safe hideout.

“Then get your ass down here and help me!” I shout back. “How do you expect me to take on an Oni by myself?”

To be fair, it’s a young one, so I do stand a chance, but the odds clearly aren’t in my favor. It helps that it only has one horn too.

I charge back in, stopping just outside his range as he takes a swing at me.

Why did they have to start a rumor of an Oni? Can’t these islanders be satisfied with the youkai they already have?

I curl up my fist, preparing for a corkscrew punch. Focusing my entire spiritual energy on him, allowing me to perceive his body in and out.

He takes another wide swing at me, which is easily dodged.

Not what I’m waiting for. Stay sharp.

Not missing the opening, however, I hammer into his solar plexus with my other hand.

I’m glad Oni share a lot of physical traits with humans. Makes them easier to fight with martial arts.

The demon growls and strikes directly at me.

Perfect.

I do my best to sync up with his heartbeat as I dodge under his strike and burrow my corkscrew punch in his chest.

It stands there for a second before grabbing me with its already outstretched arm, lifts me up and throws me into the ground.

Fuck! It didn’t work.

I roll out of the way, mostly as an instinctive reaction.

“I think I have an idea!” My partner shouts out again. “But I need you to hold him down for a few seconds!”

“Are you trying to get me killed?” I jump back, creating distance between us, but it’s having none of it and follows straight after me.

“Just do it. I don’t care how.”

How the hell am I supposed to hold back an Oni? They’re literal monsters when it comes to strength. I have the limit break talismans, but if that doesn’t work, I’m dead.

Fuck it, I still have an extra life.

“You owe me big time for this, you hear?” I shout back.

Letting the energy flow into my talismans, I feel my flesh and blood starting to burn as the limit of my muscles are forcefully removed.

I dig my feet into the ground to kick off and head straight ahead for the Oni.

It tries to hit me again, but this time I can stop it with force and surprise.

I place my hands on the inside of his elbow and push back, preventing him from moving his arms forward.

[Immoveable]

I cast a reckless enchantment on myself, causing everything in my body to stop moving, using my spiritual energy as a backing force to counter any outside force.

“Just like that!” My partner shouts.

I count the seconds where I’m frozen like this. Or at least what feels like seconds. My normal perception of time is skewed thanks to my ability to process information, but like this, with my body at an unnatural peak, it feels as if it stands still entirely.

I think I counted seven seconds when my partner’s spell goes off, causing the Oni to grow a thick skin of crystal that quickly covers its whole body.

It panics and tries to free itself from my iron grip, but the enchantment keeps me firmly in place.

Within seconds, it’s entirely engulfed in a crystal that grows thicker and harder, keeping it trapped.

The enchantment wears off along with my spell tags, draining my body of all its strength instantly.

With both my arms glued to the Oni, there’s not much I can do.

“We got it.” My partner yells out from their safe hideout. “I will be right over to free you.”

“Great. I won’t move meanwhile.”

Not that I would even if my hands weren’t stuck. Breaking my limit like that causes my muscles to shut down afterwards. The only reason I’m not collapsing is the shear willpower to not snap both my arms in half.

“I’m here.” They announce, jumping down right next to me. “Hang on for a second.”

They place their hand on the crystal and the areas just around my hand starts to melt, allowing me to pull them out.

“Whoa, there.” They catch me as my legs give out. “You really weren’t kidding.”

“I told you.”

They help me back to a tree where I can sit down and recover my strength.

Pulling down the hood of their brown cloak, they reveal a feminine face with long ears.

“I’m still having a hard time getting used to Japanese monsters.” She says. “What did you call this one again? An Oni?”

“Yeah. Physically, it’s the strongest type of youkai. Probably the oldest race as well.” I tell her. “This one was a child, though. Not even two years, I’d wager.”

“Geez. I’d have trouble if we didn’t take care of it now.” The elfish girl sits down opposite to me.

“If you don’t mind, why did you come to Japan again?” I ask her. “It’s rare for apparitions to move regions.”

“Felt like a change of scenery.” She answers. “Imagined I’d be put in charge of a region, though.”

“That’s how we do it here.” I stretch my arms as the feeling starts to return to them. “If you can use magic, you’re responsible for the area you reside in.”

“That’s such a strange system.” She looks back at the crystalized demon to make sure the spell is working. “What happens if someone starts causing trouble? How do you hold them responsible?”

“We hunt them down and make sure they can’t’ cause trouble again.” I stretch my legs. “That means the occasional killing. Most people don’t want to cause trouble, and most of those that do are held back by the threat of the entire community coming down on them in a nationwide manhunt.”

“You mean you don’t just imprison them?” There’s a sudden look of concern on her face.

“I don’t know what system you’re used to, but here that wouldn’t work.” I stand back up to feel how my legs are coming along. “We’re all strangers here. Sure, we know each other, but it’s mostly on a surface level. Acquaintances, if you will.”

“Scary.” She comments. “What if someone dies? Who fills their role?”

“The area is divided up and merged with the surrounding areas.” I explain. “It’s more like territories than actual areas. Voids are filled on their own, and overlaps are handled by the people responsible for those areas.”

“Then what about you? Aren’t you responsible for Nara? What are you doing all the way up here?” She asks.

“Technically, my shrine is responsible for Nara. I’m a wanderer, since I need to travel the country often.” Seems like I’ve recovered enough to move around again. “That means I do work all over the country as well, but that I can’t be expected to be in any one location.”

“So, what are you doing all the way up here?” She repeats her question, standing up with me.

“I came to maintain something my shrine uses.” I explain. “But it seems like I’ll have to investigate an Oni as well.”

“Ah, right.” She fishes out some crystals from her belt bag. “These are for the extra trouble.”

Crystals like these are used to store prepared spells. Mages use create them using a form of geomancy. They’re not especially valuable, but they’re unique.

“Thanks.” I pocket them. “Now for our deal.” I change the topic.

“Yeah, I got it.” She waves it off. “I know you guys take your deals very seriously. I’ll be sure to have prepared some of our books by the time you finish your business.”

“Perfect.” I extend my hand for a shake, to which she responds in in kind.

Getting a stance to study the elven language should help further my understanding of their magic. Not only will I be better prepared to counter it, I might be able to appropriate some of it for my own.

“Remember to dispose of that guy.” I remind her. “Oni are incredibly resilient, so I doubt he’s dead.”

“Wait. Isn’t it then dangerous for you to just leave me?” She’s back to looking nervous.

“Very.” I give her should a reassuring pat. “That’s why you should do it now.”

“Oh.” She slumps dejected. “Etcké.”

Now, my elven is very rusty since I never use it, but I’m pretty sure that’s a cussword.

I grab my bag and proceed to walk towards my actual reason for coming out to this island.

==========

It’s only a short walk away, but I find the location exactly where I was told it would be. An anchor supporting Gensokyo’s barrier.

This one is connected to a stone lantern sitting next to a smoothed stone wall with a shrine carved into the wall.

The site really isn’t maintained too well. Though it’s so far out of the way that it doesn’t really surprise me. Better get to it, then.

I pull out a plastic bag stuffed with small folded moist towels, take one of them and start wiping off the moss of the lantern. Starting from the top, I gradually make my way down, making sure to clean out the inside of the crown and carefully taking care of the crevices.

Approaching the bottom, however, I notice a peculiar design where the foot seems to extend outwards again; not in in the way where it gets wide towards the very bottom to stay balanced, but as it slowly starts to widen towards the very bottom. It shouldn’t be able to stay balanced like this if its foot is that thin.

Tracing the curve with my finger, I wipe away the slight dirt layer revealing that it connects to the ground. Or rather, it seems as if the lantern was also cut out from the wall. The ground underneath the dirt is smooth too.

How far out does it extend?

Using my boots, I scrape off the dirt layer outwards away from the wall until I reach a sudden drop into a far deeper dirt layer.

That’s about three meters in diameter. Must have taken a lot of dedication to carve out this place.

Going back to the lantern, I clear up the ground immediately around it before getting to scrape away the worst of the dirt layer and opt to take off the remaining with a fresh towel or two.

Getting that out of the way alone has improved the look of the shrine, but it also highlights how bad the remaining part needs to be cleaned up.

Picking out another towel, I get to work on the wall, starting with the shrine, cleaning out the inside thoroughly before moving outside. There’s a lot of fine details inside that’s quite difficult to reach with my build.

Wrapping up on the cleaning duty, I take a step back and admire the shrine, looking closer to its former glory.

The smoothed stone has an almost glittery look to it in the moonlight.

Throwing the used towel over to the rest of the bunch, I fish out a candle and a lighter.

Placing the candle in the lantern, I light it up and make sure the wind doesn’t blow it out.

Once the candle is burning safely, I shift my attention to the shrine itself.

Knowing I’d come deal with a shrine this time, I prepared small offering as a token gesture; a set of 3 dumplings which I place inside the shrine along with a small portion of my spiritual energy. Whichever Kami lives here is sure to at least appreciate the thought.

With the basics taken care of, I sit down in the middle of the carved stone floor and focus, trying to locate the anchor itself.

The medium, which binds this part of Gensokyo is located beneath the ground, under the shrine. From a quick examination, there’s nothing wrong with it, though it’s showing signs of wear and tear.

I let my spiritual energy flow down into the anchor, allowing it to soak up as much as it can, seeing as I contain an inhuman amount that I can’t use anyway.

While I can’t fix the seal, I can mend the damage for the time being, allowing it to remain intact until Ran or Yukari can get their hands on it.

And that’s mainly what I came to do. Fix the anchor before it breaks. Taking care of the shrine was a given, though, since the least we can do is respect the Kami that lives here.

I offer a final prayer before packing up.

==========

It’s another short walk back to the temporary base of the foreign apparition.

“Did you remember to dispose of the Oni?” I ask.

“Oh, you’re back?” She looks over her shoulder. “Yeah. I figured the easiest thing was to break it into pieces. It seemed to disappear after that.”

That’s, how do I put it lightly, brutal.

“So, do you have my books?” I ask, leaning against the makeshift doorframe.

“Right here.” She lifts a stack of books and waddles over to the door. “Once again, thank you for your help. You saved my hide.”

“I just happened to be in the area.” I take hold of the stack. “Just be careful moving forward.”

“Will do.” She gives me a two-finger salute.


==========
Inner world – 9th of June, 12:59
==========

“So, you’re back?” The goddess walks down from her shrine.

I mainly wanted to see if I could come back in here on purpose.

“And you can. Congrats on that.” The blurred figure crosses her arms.

Since I’m here, I would like to ask, how come Chiyuri was able to see you?

She looks at the sky, mulling over the answer. “At this point,” she starts, “it’s because I’m keeping my identity a secret from you.” She shrugs. “If memory serves me right, then you should get the chance to see me in person soon.”

See you in person?

“That reminds me.” She gestures towards the edge of my imaginary cliff. “There’s another resident in here you haven’t greeted yet.”

Another resident? But this is my soul.

I make my way over to the edge and look down.

With white scales and a jade green mane, there it lies, a dragon. At least five meters, though it’s curled up and appears to be sleeping.

That’s me?

“Technically, yes.” Hakurei walks up to my side. “But as you can see, it’s not yet a part of you.”

Because I haven’t embraced it yet?

“Bingo, kid. Since no one has told you yet, I figure I might as well break the news to you.” She turns her whole body to face me. “Once you do embrace it, I’ll be forced to relieve you of my service.”

Wait. Why?

“Dragons sit at the top of the pecking order. Even if you’re only half dragon, you’ll outrank me so far it’d be outrageous for you to continue working in my service.” She glances down at the sleeping creature. Which is a shame, because despite everything, you’re doing a hell of a job carrying the whole load yourself. You know the burden used to be split amongst all the active shrine attendants. Each had to pull but a fraction of what you’ve managed.”

I know I’m overworking myself. But I’m the only one capable at the shrine right now. The youkai can’t leave the safe zones for too long at a time.

“That’s why I’m thankful.” She reiterates. “I was sure the bloodline would end with this generation. Not because Reimu won’t have children, but because without a counterbalance on the outside, the barrier becomes too unstable.” She lifts her left arm. “The fact you took me on has allowed you to act as a counterbalance tied to the outside world. That alone is stabilizing the barrier again.”

But once I accept this dragon, I’ll no longer be able to act as a counterbalance?

“Oh no, of course you will.” She gives my arm a pat. “We’re tied together until one of us dies for good. That was the deal, after all.”

She leaves me to look at this other half of mine as she walks back to her shrine.

“The thing is.” She continues after sitting down. “Yukari wants you to take on the role of protecting Gensokyo.”

Isn’t that Reimu’s job?

“Yes and no. Reimu maintains order. She’s like the arbiter of Gensokyo in that sense.” The goddess explains. “But the dragon is supposed to protect the safety of that little world from threats too great for them to handle. Thing is, the last dragon died thirty something years ago to protect Gensokyo from the Lunar War.”

The Lunar War. If I remember right, Yukari instigated it, for some reason. Earth was beaten back quite badly too.

“The lunarians shot down one of earth’s lunar probes, taking it as a sign of aggression.” The goddess lies down. “Yukari took to the offense to keep the fight on the moon, fearing the final death of her most important person. Needless to say, they lost. That’s where your predecessor chose to keep the invasion at bay, saving not just Gensokyo but the surface of earth as well. At the cost of their life, that is.”

No, I’m strong, but I’m not that strong. The lunarians can overshadow even Oni in terms of strength.

“There is a reason that dragons stand above even us Kami.” She points out without following up with an explanation.

“Also,” she continues on a different topic instead, “Don’t let Yukari know I told you that. She’s gonna be pissed, and as fun as that would be to watch, it’s counterproductive.”

What if I don’t want to embrace this power? What if I would like to continue serving under you?

“Then do it.” She shrugs. “Yukari just has to find another dragon to keep her creation safe.”

The goddess starts floating, allowing herself to hang upside down in the air, though seemingly without letting gravity affect her hair.

“Let me share another secret with you.” She holds out a finger. “You know we Kami can exist everywhere at the same time, right?”

Yeah?

“That’s a myth. There are restrictions. Such as we can only move to where our believers exist and stay there for as long as they continue to believe in us.” She claps her hands. “But here’s the kicker. We can exist any time as well, as long as we fall within that same restriction.”

Huh? Wait, that’s, that means.

“You’re getting it. I can move freely across time as well as space, as long as I have believers where I’m going.” She flips around, still sitting midair. “I can move to the beginning of the Hakurei clan all the way to when my last believer dies.” She floats closer to me. “But despite that, we can’t change anything. The future I can travel to is based on the actions I would take with that knowledge. I could tell you exactly when and how you’d die, but it wouldn’t change anything, because that future would be based on you knowing it.”

So, it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy?

“Not quite, but same idea.” She corrects me. “And the next question you’re going to ask is why I’m telling you this.” To which she shrugs again. “I already know which of the options you’ll chose.”

And let me guess, you’re not going to tell me?

“Nope. Because then it’s no longer your choice.” She places a hand on her chest. “Whether you want to spend the next ten years serving under me or to abandon the shrine and spend the next few centuries protecting Gensokyo. It’s your choice, and I want it to stay that way.”

That’s a precarious situation you’re placing me in.

“No, it’s pretty securely decided already. You just don’t know it yet.”

The shrine or Gensokyo? That’s gonna be a question to think about then. Honestly, not one I expected.

“I know. It’s a life changing choice.” She nods in the direction of the sleeping dragon. “Literally, since accepting that guy will change you.”

Yeah, I need to think about this some more.

“Sure. I get it.” She lands back on her shrine. “So, lets change topic to something easier to process.” She sits down on the steps again. “And that’s the fact you can easily enter this space now. That means you should be able to rely on me more now. I can’t give you the trademark Hakurei intuition, but I can act as a proxy. In general, I should be visible to you if you need my help for anything. Granted, I won’t be physical.”

I mean, I should still have been able to rely on you prior to that. I’m not good at becoming a vessel but allowing you to act through me. That takes preparation, though.

“Yeah, but with this, I can help you without possessing you.” She clarifies. “Just let me help whenever you feel yourself in a bind. After all, that was my end of our deal.”

I’ll try to remember it.


==========
Tokyo – 11th of June, 16:55
==========

“So, what was it you wanted to talk about?” The young necromancer greets me.

“It’s about the favor you owe me.” I pull out the stones I got from the elf. “I would like to cash it in.”

“These are,” He picks up a stone and examines it. “These are high quality stones. Who made them?”

“I’m gonna keep that information for myself.” I state.

“Suit yourself.” He shrugs in response, placing the stone on the table between us. “What spell do you want them charged with?”

“Which ones can you do with these stones?” I put the remaining dozen on the table.

“Depends.” He does a quick evaluation of the bunch. “Combining these into one, I should be able to store a spell big enough to reanimate a corpse for fifteen minutes.”

“Then, you’ll be able to charge them all with a lightning spell?” I ask.

“Lightning? Sure.” The child mage pops his knuckles. “Any special properties, or should they just call down thunder from the heavens?”

“I want the activated stones to shoot lightning between themselves.” I explain. “So, if three of them are activated, they’ll form a triangle. But if four is activated, they’ll form a square and a cross, if they’re all close enough that is.”

“An electric net.” He taps his chin, pondering the spell. “Should be doable. But I’ll need some materials back at my base.”

“Then there’s not much reason for us to keep hanging around here.” I state, pulling out my card to pay.

Cafes like these allow you to pay in your booth. You get a receipt to scan on the way out. The machine can even split the bill and give each person their own receipt.

“Not so fast.” He stops me. “I’ll admit I don’t know you, but I did spend time learning about spiritual energy from you.” He picks up the stones. “So, I can say with some certainty that you’ve changed. What’s happened?”

“Changed? How?” I enquire.

“It’s hard to put words on, but it’s like you’ve lost some edge.” He explains. “It used to be scary to just try and talk to you because of,” he trails off for a second, searching for the word, “because of some underlying hostility that wasn’t aimed at anyone in particular.”

I can’t help but raise an eyebrow.

“Like here.” He points out. “If I’d brought up a topic like this before, you’d have shut down the topic instantly.”

“I see where you’re getting at.” I place my card over the machine, paying the tab. “But what exactly is your point?”

“You’re not getting soft, are you?” He asks. “You’re the one that taught me; soft people are the first to die in this world. We may not be friends, but I’d rather not see you dying anytime soon.”

I wonder about that? I have been going out of my way to help when it’s not even my problem, lately.

“Who can say.” I answer. “Though, I might just up and disappear in the near future. That’s still up in the air, though.”

“Yeah, but at least you won’t be dead.” He stands up. “If you were that easy to kill, then I’d have to doubt what you taught me about survival.”

“You’d better do that anyway.” I stand up to follow him out, since I have the receipt. “The world is evolving, and you need to adapt.”

“That much I know.” He reassures me. “Just making sure you haven’t forgotten.”

----------

“Here they are.” The necromancer hands me a small cloth bag with the stones in it. “What are you going to use them for anyway?”

“A more punishing form of caltrops.” I answer, putting the back inside my jacket.

“Isn’t that a bit extreme?” He asks. “These can kill, you know?”

“If I’m running away from something, whatever it is, it won’t die from just lightning.” I state. “I’m too stubborn to give up otherwise.”

“If you say so.” The child shrugs. “But with this we’re even.”

“Yeah. We’re even.” I agree.


==========
Hakurei Shrine, Outside World – 12th of June, 10:13
==========

“Do you have any idea about how much trouble you caused?” The sage pinches the bridge of her nose. “What in heaven’s name compelled you?”

“I acted as I judged to be the best course of action to apprehending Seija.” I stand firm.

“How many lives do you think you ruined?” She pokes my chest. “Do you have any idea how many people died?”

“How many would have been saved if I didn’t act?” I swat her hand away. “How many more lives would have been lost if I didn’t act?”

“That doesn’t matter.” She remains as stubborn as me. “You chose to act, therefore you’re responsible, regardless of what we think.” She clenches her hands, quelling another burst of anger. “Three hundred and forty-five. That’s how many people died as a result of that explosion. Two hundred of them suffered for days afterwards before dying from the pain.”

Shit. May they rest in peace.

Despite the news, I remain unflinching. “I stand by my actions.”

The sage sighs. “Then let me put it into perspective. You became the number one enemy of youkai with that stunt of yours.” She gives my chest another sharp poke. “Almost the entire of Gensokyo wanted you dead. You can’t even begin to imagine what it took to get them to back off.”

“I stand by my actions.” I repeat.

The sage remains silent, glaring at me while maintaining her mightier-than-you attitude.

“You are not to leave the premises once we get back.” She demands. “It’ll still take some time to clean up after you, and until then, you are to remain at the house and train by yourself.”

With the snap of her fingers, a gap opens up above us.

“Have I made myself clear?” She asks, not taking her sharp eyes off mine.

“Yes, ma’am.” I answer with resolution.

The gap lowers around us, removing us from this world to enter Gensokyo.
>>No. 31594
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31594
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Yakumo Residence, Border – 12th of Water Month, 10:17
==========

“Like I said.” The sage turns around the moment we’re through the gap. “Stay here. Under no circumstances are you to leave.”

“Yes, ma’am.” I repeat.

With that, the sage disappears into another gap.

That essentially means I have time to kill.

“Welcome back, young Hakurei.” Ran greets me from the door.

“Ran. Hi.” I greet her back.

“Like you have probably been told, I have been instructed to not let you leave the residence.” The fox informs me with her usual monotone demeanor.

“Yeah, I think that’s been established by now. But don’t worry, I have no intention of leaving.” I assure her. “That said, you’ve offered to teach me how to make and use Shikigami, remember? Is now a good time?”

“Right now?” She asks. “I still have some chores to take care of, but I should be available within a few hours.”

“I see.” I had hoped to take the chance to move around some, since I’ve been doing nothing but study for the past few days. Brushing up on my elvish alone took some time.

“If you’re looking for something to do, how about helping me out?” The fox suggests. “That way I can finish faster, and we can get to working with Shikigami sooner.”

“Sounds good. What do you need?”

“We’re doing spring cleaning. To vent out after a long winter.” She informs me. “For starters, you can wipe the floor. The supplies are in the closest by the living room.”

“Alright.” I nod. “I’ll be starting with the outside.”

The fox holds open the door, inviting me inside.

Before anything else, I walk to my designated room to drop off my stuff, including my extra layers of clothes; just a pair of baggy pants and a tank-top.

I go grab the stuff I need from the closest, a bucket and a rag. I put a bit of soap into the bucket before leaving again, so I don’t have to take it with me.

The kitchen is luckily a modern design, so it has a working sink I can use to fill the bucket with.

With the supplies in hand, I walk outside down to the end of the front porch. I fold out the legs of my pants to the pad my knees and get to scrubbing.

----------

“Right there.” I point up to the ceiling.

“You’re right. There is a moldy spot.” Ran confirms. “Luckily it doesn’t seem to be too bad yet.”

“But it’s on a supporting beam.” I inform her. “We should deal with it as soon as possible.”

“Yeah.” She rubs her chin, thinking out the situation. “I think the ventilation for the washroom is leaky. It passes right by here.”

“You think?” I look at the fox, then back to the moldy spot. “Let me check.”

I create a platform under my feet to raise me up closer to the beam. Pressing a hand against it, I use my spiritual energy to look through to the other side.

There is indeed piping, and I believe I see a gap on a joint. No broken parts, though.

“Seems like a joint has come loose.” I inform her. “Might be the result of expanding and contracting, if this pipe was used to carry steam.”

“Where do you say the leak is?” She looks up at me.

I scan the inside once more.

“Second joint from the bend by the wall.” I state.

“Alright. Thanks for pointing this out.” She gives me a polite bow and walks off.

Well, back to cleaning, then.

----------

I pop my shoulders to get the stiffness out. That takes care of the floor, the dishes and the bath.

“You work efficiently.” The fox compliments me, as she passes by with a basket of freshly cleaned clothes.

“I’ve done stuff like this for as long as I can remember.” I reply. “I hate doing nothing, so I just put myself to work to do something.”

“Have you considered you might be a workaholic?” She asks from the other room. “You need to take breaks once in a while.”

“But that’s the beauty of it. I take turns resting my body and mind.” I explain. “Working my body, I stop thinking and just rest the mind, and vice versa.”

“That’s not rest.” She argues.

It’s enough rest for me.

“Change of topic, if you don’t mind.” I speak out. “Don’t you have a Shikigami of your own?”

“Chen? Yeah, what about her?” The fox peeks out from the room she’s in.

“Just wondering, why don’t you have her help you out with chores?”

“I’m not actually backed up on chores or anything like that.” She goes back to her work. “We’re just speeding up for your sake today.”

“Where is she, even?” I ask. “I don’t think I’ve seen her once since I’ve come here.”

“That’s because she isn’t here.” Ran states. “She’s working as my link into the information network of the cats. So, she’s out there in the field quite a lot.”

“There’s a proverb about that, I believe.” I walk over to the door where she’s in, so we don’t have to yell. “But I can’t remember it off the top of my head.”

“News can travel halfway across the earth in a day by cats.” She folds together a bra. “Or something along those lines. I don’t know it myself, but I know of it.”

“Yeah, that one.” I snap my finger. “Funny thing is, it’s true as long as you believe it’s true.”

“The power of suggestion.” She finishes folding up clothes and moves on to the next room. “I’m well aware of it.”

Of course, she would be. She’s a created youkai after all.

She comes back out into the hallway, having left the basket in the room.

“Alright, should we get to it?” She pops her knuckles.

“Yeah, let’s go.” I nod.

“Follow me outside then.” She leads the way out one of the many doors left open to vent out the place. “You are aware that there are two types of Shikigami, are you not?”

“The contracted and the controlled.” I recite. “The difference is that the contracted have a will of their own while the controlled extend the will of the master.”

“Correct.” The fox turns around. “I’m a contracted Shikigami to Lady Yukari. But the me you are talking to,” she places a hand on her chest, “is a controlled Shikigami. I have several copies of this form walking around, so I can work more efficiently.”

I believe she’s already told me that. But it just goes to show she’s a master of her craft. My spiritual energy allows me to see other people’s, it’s something everyone can do with practice. When I look at her, I can’t tell she’s a Shikigami. The only thing that might give it away is that her energy pool is lower than it should be for a nine-tailed fox, but beyond that, it gives off the signs of being alive.

“Should the time come where I need a contracted Shikigami, I will be happy to teach how to form and maintain such a contract.” She folds her arms into her sleeves. “But for now, you should learn how to make and control your own Shikigami first.” She pulls out a handful of paper cutouts shaped like simple humanoids. “The first thing to know is the medium we use to create these Shikigami. Paper.”

“Because it’s pronounced Kami.” I finish her lesson. “Thanks to the name, paper has a connection to spirits and serves as excellent mediums for spirits.”

Paper is the spiritual equivalent of what gold is to mana. It’s why all our talismans are primarily made out of paper, because it’s so easy to infuse with only marginal drawbacks. It’s the same reason paintings can be used to seal up youkai of any kind, as long as the total power of the youkai does not exceed the capacity of the medium.

“Exactly.” She hands me her collection of paper children. “These are blank slates I keep on me in case I need to replace a lost Shikigami.” She tells me. “What allows these to serve as a medium is their shape, since that’s what will become the baseline of the Shikigami’s shape. Using one of your talismans would only allow rectangular shapes.”

I examine one of the papers she’s given me, but aside from the shape I don’t see or sense anything different about them. No runes, no magic.

“First, infuse them with your own energy.” The fox instructs me, seeing my confusion. “All the while you need to keep a clear image of the shape you want in mind. Start easy. Simple and round shapes. It doesn’t have to look human.”

Simple shapes. What’s the simplest humanoid shape I can think of? Probably those men made out of dough. They’re small, round and simple.

With that shape in my mind, I start channeling my energy into the paper in my hand.

Within seconds, the paper bursts into a green flame and disappears.

“Too much energy.” Ran explains, immediately knowing what went wrong. “Let it funnel in at a slower rate.”

“Slower.” I repeat. “I’ll try.”

I pick up a new piece and try again, focusing on going slower.

This one, too, bursts into flames.

“You’re still going too fast.” She says. “Do it like when you infuse your talismans.”

“I do it faster when I create those.” I tell her.

She gives me a skeptical look. “Alright, let’s try this.” She walks over next to me and grab a firm hold of my wrist. “Try and focus your energy as slowly as you can into your palm.”

It’s been ages since I’ve done this, but it’s a great way to benchmark spiritual power.

I turn my palm up and start burning the power already stored in there to ignite a soul fire.

A soul fire is nothing more than a visual display of your own energy. It allows people who can’t normally see it to get a visual. Experienced users of the spiritual arts can determine others’ strength based on this flame. While it looks like a flame, it isn’t. It doesn’t emit any heat or even light. It just exists.

As the energy in my hand is being burned up, I start to funnel more out there as slowly as I can.

“You’re going too fast.” Ran informs me.

“This is as slow as I can go.”

She lets go of my wrist and I quench the fire. “Let me see your talismans, for a second.”

Seeing no reason to deny her, I unwrap the bandages I keep on my arm.

Aside from concealing my trump card, the Limit Break talismans, they serve mainly as light bracers to help reduce incoming damage.

She quickly scans the spell tags on my arm.

“First off, these are dangerous.” She holds up my arm in front of me. “Second off, what material are these made from? It’s not normal paper.”

“It is normal paper, created in the village up by my shrine.” I tell her.

“That means, youkai paper.” She concludes. “That won’t do for Shikigami.” She shakes her head. “You need to be able to lower your output more.”

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I have an inhumanly large amount of energy.”

“Of course, I’ve noticed.” She wraps the bandage back around my arm. “It’s almost impossible to sense anything when you’re around. It’s just like Lady Yukari.”

Yeah, Yukari definitely has energy to spare. Just looking at it is, it’s a pillar that rises sky-high and leaves a thick mist of excess energy on the ground. Honestly, it’s scary to think I might look like that too.

“Then you should realize how difficult it is to control the output.”

“No. If Lady Yukari can do it, so can you.” Ran states. “It’s just a matter of practice.”

“I’ve never needed to control the strength of my output before.” I admit. “I don’t even know how to start.”

“Try and imagine a smaller funnel when you move your energy.” The Shikigami suggests.

“I’ve tried that. The output just gets more intense and out of control.”

To demonstrate, I ignite a new soul fire which immediately grows wild as I try narrow my funnel.

“Keep it burning.” Ran instructs me. “And try to get it under control while lowering the output.”

“How?” I look at her.

“Figure it out.” She folds her hands into her sleeves again. “You know how your magic circuit works better than I do, so I can’t help you.”

The first thing I do is widen my funnel again to get the soul fire under control again.

The magic circuit is a network running along the body’s blood veins, facilitating the transfer of mana throughout the body. Though people like me have worked to convert the circuit to suit spiritual energy instead. In general, it supports all known forms of magical energy except Ki, which runs in the blood itself, it just tends to focus on mana.

My only real idea is to try and close off some of the connections in my arm, but I doubt that’s a practical solution.

I take a deep breath and clear my mind.

All I gotta do is lower the output. Don’t think; just do.

The flame starts to flare up again as the intensity grows.

I stop but maintain the current rate.

“Wait.” The flame dies as I lose focus. “I think I have an idea.”

Ran just tilts her head ever so slightly, observing.

I take a seat on the dirt, crossing my legs.

It’s easier to control the flow of my energy when I’m meditating. That’s how I managed to absorb more mana than I could contain before. I should be able to use that to control my output as well.

Repeating the same hand signs that I typically use to meditate with, I end with all my fingers touching, creating a space between my palms where I ignite the soul fire once more. Feeling my energy starting to flow internally, I let my focus fall exclusively to the flame.

I once again lower the input to the flame, causing it to blaze up like predicted. I maintain this rate of flow but now try to increase the flow in my other arm that act as an intake in this circular pattern.

To my surprise, it works. By forcing some of the energy to move through rather than into the soul fire, it doesn’t get burned.

Next, I try to direct some of the energy in my hand outwards away from the soul fire. This again seems to have the desired effect of controlling the amount of energy that’s funneled into the spell.

This should be able to serve as an alternative if I can’t lower my output properly.

I feel a hand on my shoulder, temporarily disrupting my concentration, but I quickly restore it and continue to ignore it.

“You’re doing fine.” Ran says. “But try to lower the energy instead of discarding it.”

----------

“It’s working.” The fox informs me. “You’re making steady progress. Keep it up.”

I don’t know how long I’ve been sitting here, but I have managed to lower my steady output a small amount. I somewhat regret never having learnt to properly control my output. But given how much energy I have, I’ve never been at risk of running out. Except maybe that one time Reimu decided to bomb me with her Fantasy Heaven.

“There’s still a while before you can lower your output enough.” Ran speaks up. “But it seems it can offset it slightly.” She gives my shoulder a pat to draw me out of my meditation. “Let’s proceed with the training. You can practice your output on your own.”

“Yeah, let’s.” I agree.

“Refining your control should allow you to better use your barriers as well.” She takes a few steps back. “But that is outside of my area of expertise, so take it with a grain of salt.”

“No, it makes sense.” I assure her. “I’ve been able to brute force most of my spells because of my sheer amount of spiritual energy. I’ve neglected the more delicate side as a result.”

“As long as you realize it.” She hands me another paper child. “Keep the shape in mind. Discard the excess energy and charge it.” She repeats her instructions.

I hold out the paper medium in my hand. Keeping the image of a simple clay-like doll in mind, I start my dispersing all the energy in my hand before slowly funneling some into the piece of paper.

“Good. Slow and steady.” Ran cheers me on. “You can’t do it too slow, only too fast.”

“It’s getting close to the limit.” I announce.

“Throw it, with the image of it transforming into the shape you have in your mind.” Ran instructs me.

Following instructions, I throw the paper towards the ground where it bursts into flames. But rather than disappearing, it grows quickly, taking the shape of a small clay doll.

It instantly disappears as I lose focus and returns to its paper form where it proceeds to burn.

What just happened? It felt as if I saw myself from outside my own body. No, it felt like I was outside my own body. But at the same time, I wasn’t.

“The first time is a shock, isn’t it?” Ran asks me, showing a small smile. “Lady Yukari did say you learn fast, but actually seeing it. You humans are impressive.”

“What happened?” I ask.

“The master and a controlled Shikigami share the same mind.” She explains. “Afterall you’re in full control of the doll.”

So, I was in two places at once? That’s what it feels like?

“It takes a bit of getting used to.” She pulls out another paper child. “It’s a strange feeling in the beginning, but once you know it’s coming, it’s easier to stay focused.”

I take the paper child and go for another try at creating a Shikigami.

Knowing the sensation is coming, I brace for it when the doll takes shape.

The same exact feeling washes over me again, the feeling that I’m not in my body but at the same time I am. My vision feels blurry as both my own eye and the doll’s send information back to my mind.

This one too vanishes after a second of standing there.

“Remember, if you’re getting a headache, you should stop.” Ran advices me. “If you’re not used to handling that much information, it can overwhelm your mind and tire you out faster.”

“I’m guessing there’s not a trick to it?” I conclude.

“Practice.” She states. “You just need to keep creating them until you can maintain them and handle the extra information they send to you.” She pulls out another paper child. “Once you can maintain them, it’s time to start making them move. That’s the hard part of this, I might add.”

“How am I supposed to move them?” I take the paper child and try again.

“The same way you would move your own body.” She states as if it was obvious. She’s silent for a second as she thinks. “You know how one of your eyes are dominant? So, you primarily see through that and add details with the other eye?”

“I’m aware of the theory, but I can’t say I’ve ever played with the idea.” I admit.

“It’s the same idea with Shikigami.” She continues her explanation. “Once you get used to it, you can differentiate between your senses and its senses. And that feeling is what you will use to differentiate which body you move.”

“So, it really is an extension of the master?” I ask.

“Just like I already said.” She repeats herself. “A controlled Shikigami shares a mind with the master.”

“I see the training is going well.” Yukari walks through the door, followed by another Ran.

“He’s making steady progress.” The fox besides me states. “At this rate it’ll only take a few days before he gets the hang of it.”

“It walked.” The fox besides Yukari states, seeing my Shikigami take a step before falling over.

This is a strange feeling that’s gonna take a while to get used to, but I think I understand how it works.

“Just how fast are you learning, Ryuko?” The sage asks.

“Not as fast as you think.” I admit. “It’s mostly appropriating knowledge I already have and experimenting.” Wait a second. “Ran, could one of you get my bag?”

“Right away.” The fox standing by Yukari walks back inside.

Yukari gives me a skeptical look but doesn’t say anything.

Ran comes back with my bag, and I pull out my small flask of barely-alcohol and chug it.

Hakurei. I’m assuming you can hear me even without entering my inner world. I want you to try and take control of this Shikigami.

This time, rather than keeping a shape in my mind, I try to keep the idea of Hakurei herself, since I don’t know what she looks like.

Once charged I throw the medium and it bursts into flames changing its shape until it’s a copy of me.

“You called, kid?” She flashes me a confident smile.

Why do I look so punchable when I smile like that?

The fox by my side drops the stack of papers she has been holding.

“What did you do?” Yukari asks, being the first to recover from the stunned silence.

“Surely you haven’t forgotten about me, old hag?” Hakurei crosses her arms.

I’m still getting the information from this Shikigami, but it’s far more manageable. Like I need to focus to experience it, but it’s still registering.

A light clicks inside the sage’s mind as she realizes who she’s talking to.

She lets out a chuckle. “I see. That’s an interesting application you thought of.”

“Yeah.” Hakurei agrees. “This wasn’t what I had in mind when I told you to just call on me for help.” She shrugs. “But I’m not complaining. Been ages since I had the chance to walk around.”

It seems Ran has figured it out too.

“It’s working better than I expected.” I note aloud. “I’m still getting the experience of controlling it, but it doesn’t take any effort from my end.”

“Mine neither.” Hakurei chips in. It’s definitely strange hearing my own voice. “Aside from the fact I can’t laze around in your mind anymore.” She adds.

“Once I get the hang of this, I’ll work on doing it solo.” I think aloud. “Then comes working on multiple Shikigami at once.”

Without a word, Yukari turns around and walks inside, prompting the fox by her side to follow her.

My Shikigami disappears as the effect of the alcohol wears off. What little effect it had anyway. Maybe I should try stronger stuff for longer lasting effect?

“Maybe I should just teach you how to contract a Shikigami now as well.” This Ran states, sounding just a bit dejected. “Since there’s not much else I can teach you about Shikigami.”

“No, I think it’s too early.” I state. “I’d like to focus on getting a grasp of using a controlled Shikigami first. Besides, I’d probably forget it if you taught me now.”

“I have a feeling you wouldn’t forget.” She recovers to her usual stoic demeanor. “But as you wish, we’ll wait.”

“I mean, who knows when, if ever, I’ll get a contracted Shikigami.” I explain. “By that time, I’d have long forgotten. It’s not like it’s a spell that’s used often anyway.”

“Right.” She folds her hands into her sleeves again. “Anyway, it’s about time for dinner, so let us head inside.”
>>No. 31595
==========
Yakumo Residence, Border – 15th of Water Month, 06:54
==========

That’s strange.

I sit up straight to concentrate.

A pair of strong spiritual energy sources just appeared inside the house. Not as in they approached, they just blinked in. No, these two exceed the term ‘strong,’ they’re are straight up powerful. And one of them is a human too. Ran is out there too, and she dwarfs in comparison, so it’d be proper to compare both of them to Yukari.

Letting curiosity get the better of me, I close the book I’ve been reading and make my way out to the living room where the three of them are.

“You’re lucky Yukari is asleep even at this hour.” Ran says, unusually relaxed compared to her normal stoic demeanor. “She’d throw a fit for every cut you have.”

I see the fox’s head appear behind a topless bruised man, as she tightens the bandages.

“Sorry to ask you this out of the blue, Ran.” He says.

I can’t see the other person that’s supposed to be here, even though I can clearly sense them still.

“Don’t worry about it. That’s what family is for.” A warm smile appears on the fox’s face. She spots me standing in the doorframe and she immediately returns to her usual stoic expression.

The man notices and looks over his shoulder.

His bright blue eyes immediately stand out for some reason, even though they appear perfectly normal. Generally short hair, though with the hair at the back tied together.

“So, you’re the kid Yukari has been blabbering on about?” He gives me a quick look over. “The name is Heiki.” He states. “I’d like to shake your hand, but I’m a little tied up right now.”

He seems human, and he’s definitely one of the two people I can sense. But the other one is nowhere to be seen. In fact, I can swear their position overlaps entirely with this guy.

“Ryuko.” I state my name. “And don’t worry. I’m not big on formalities.”

“Great to hear.” He grins. “I like being casual myself. Feel free to call me uncle.” Upon saying that he winces slightly and looks back at Ran. “Too tight.”

There’s a bit of a silence as they stare at each other.

“So, like I said.” He turns back to me. “Feel free to call me uncle. That’s how I see myself relative to the Hakurei clan anyway.”

“I’m gonna stick with Heiki.” I close the door behind me and enter the room fully.

“Fair enough.” He shrugs and shakes his head.

“Ran. Where is the other guest?” I ask her.

“That’s,” She starts answering, but the guest cuts her off.

“Right here.” Heiki states.

His spiritual energy flares up and a different energy escapes his only to engulf and replace it.

This new signature matches the other one I’ve been sensing.

Notably, his eyes have changed to a dark crimson.

“Huh.” I manage to say after a minute of processing what just happened. “Two souls. That’s rare.”

“I expected more of a reaction to be honest.” He slumps over, exaggerating his disappointment. “That’s the best part of revealing this little secret.”

“You’re not the first person I’ve seen with two souls.” I admit, taking a seat by the table. “But you are the first to have both a human and a youkai soul.”

He looks back at Ran. “She really wasn’t kidding.”

“His ability to learn is both awe-inspiring and scary.” Ran admits. “But it’s worth acknowledging.”

“I can hear you, you know.” I tell them.

“Oh, we know.” He assures me, turning around now that he’s all patched up. “But that also makes me curious. Do you know who I am?”

“Can’t say I do.” I shake my head.

“Well, my sister, back all those years ago when she was alive, was one of the founding members of the Hakurei clan.” He brags. “So that should give you a reason to care.”

Founding member of the Hakurei? A half youkai?

“Now that raises questions.” I lean on the table. “You have my attention.”

He shimmies over to the table, gleeful to have an audience.

Ran takes the chance to leave the two of us alone.

“I can already guess you don’t really care about me, so let me just skip that part and go straight to my sister.” He says with a big grin. “Like you said, I’m half youkai, and so was my sister. Unlike me, however, she was more human than youkai, so she didn’t get to live nearly as long as I would have liked.

“Together with her husband, they formed the Hakurei clan. Except they didn’t make that choice, it just happened later, after they both had died, but they laid the groundwork.” He takes a seat at the table with me. “Since I have a long life, obvious by the fact I’m still here, I stayed and watched over the next few generations of my sister’s family, until they forgot my relation to them. At that point, they started worshipping me as a God and a guardian spirit, since all the adults have known me their entire life and yet I never aged.

“It was around that time I figured I should leave. I may be a youkai, but I’m still human. I was never meant to become a God, and I didn’t want to for that matter.” He shrugs. “So, when I returned a couple of generations later, I discovered they had started to worship a goddess in my stead. But,” he holds up a finger, “here’s the kicker. The goddess they worship rotates. The current head priestess, when she dies, a ritual would be performed to allow her to take on the role of Kami and send the previous Kami on to the next world.”

“So, in short, the Hakurei clan is made up of human youkai hybrids and the current goddess used to be a human?” I summarize.

“If you want to remove all the details, yes, that about sums it up.” He agrees.

Reimu is part youkai. Can’t say I saw that coming. But it would go some of the way to explaining her absurd power. And more so than that, Hakurei used to be a shrine maiden herself. And Reimu is going to replace her someday.

My gaze naturally falls towards my arm as I consider what that means for Hakurei. Specifically, her relation to me. I can only imagine one reason for her to hide her identity from me, but it seems so very unlikely.

“So,” he continues, “since you’ve opted to become a Hakurei, that would make us family, although very distant relatives.”

“I guess.” I shrug. “I tend to have a different view on family, since all I’ve known is my adopted family. The cliff notes version is that you chose your family.”

“Yeah, since I lost my own, that’s generally my opinion as well. Granted, I don’t really think much about it, though.” He shrugs back. “Anyway, since we’re celebrating this little family reunion, how about a gift from an elder?”

“I don’t like accepting gifts from strangers.” I state.

“But I think you’d be able to make use of mine, though.” He holds up his hand and a knife sprouts from his palm. Not just the blade, but the guard and handle as well. “Part of my ability allows me to craft and store things inside my body, including weapons.” He flips the knife around and hand me the handle. “Take a look.”

I take the weapon in hand and I immediately feel it. This weapon is alive; an awoken Tsukumogami. It naturally falls into place in my hand, giving me a secure grip. The blade itself is single-edged with a guard that runs out along the blade, doubling up as a way to catch an opponent’s blade.

“Interesting. Very interesting.” I let my finger run along the spine of the blade. “But sadly, I’m a fist fighter. Relying on a weapon is not my style. Plus, in the outside world, it’s illegal to carry weaponry, and I’m plenty suspicious as it already is, so the last thing I need is to get stopped by the law carrying a weapon.”

He lets out a chuckle. “Makes sense. Though from what I hear, you seem to like excessive trouble.”

“Quite the opposite.” I assure him. “I just insert myself into trouble to end it as fast as possible.”

“Sure.” He dismisses my correction with a wave. “How about this then. Give me your hands?” He holds out his hand, beckoning me to place mine into his.

Gotta admit, I don’t get a bad vibe from him, but I don’t exactly like him either. Ran seems to trust him, so he must be a friend of the Yakumos, if nothing else.

I reluctantly reach out to place my hands in his and he grabs my forearms instead. Folding my arms over each other, he drags his hands back towards him, leaving a red glow on me. By the time he finishes, the glow has faded to reveal a pair of wrist guards.

Just like the knife, these have the same feeling of an awoken Tsukumogami inside them; a single spirit residing in each. The style of them is perhaps best described as classic; black plates with a crimson rim layered back down my arms. The backs of my hands are covered by another plate, attached only to the glove. Speaking of the glove, it’s made of a thick fabric, durable but flexible. It doesn’t cover my fingers, just like my normal gloves, but they do have a slight padding on the knuckles.

“These should be up your alley.” He comments. “Protects your arms without getting in the way.”

I’ll admit, they fit nicely. Aside from the visual style, they’d be practical. Hides my talismans too, and even comes with adjustable tightness, so they can server as bracers.

“I’m still not sure I should accept gifts from strangers.” I tell him.

“Then don’t take them for my sake.” He grabs hold of the guards. “Do it for them. They have already taken a liking to you.”

“But I just got them.” I protest.

“And Tsukumogami have a special connection to their owners.” He argues back. “Of course, I can’t force you to accept them if you don’t want them.”

“I guess there isn’t any harm in taking them.” I relent. I quite like them too, appearance aside. I prefer a more modern look, but how would modern armored wrist guards even look?

“Then they’re yours.” He declares, letting go of my hands. “Take good care of them and they’ll never let you down.”

“What exactly happened to you, Heiki?” Yukari makes an entrance, still only in casual wear, though not a sloppy appearance.

“Took a trip to the moon and back.” He declares, pointing to the sky.

“Again? No, don’t answer that.” She sighs. “It’s too early. But could you not. I don’t want another war.”

“She wouldn’t.” He dismisses her concern. “She’s too prideful, and at this point it’s personal.”

“Yeah, but could you not?” She persists.

“Then who is gonna put her in her place?” He retorts, keeping his playful tone.

Yukari decides she doesn’t want to play along anymore and instead walks over to me, giving me a light tap on the head to get my attention. “You’re still grounded, by the way.” She doesn’t wait for an answer and instead just opens a gap. “I would love to stay and chat, but I have urgent work to take care of.”

“Yeah I get it.” He waves her off. “I plan on sticking around anyway. It’s spring season anyway.”

“Oh yeah.” The sage exclaims, just remembering what season it is. “If you need anything, just ask Ran. There’s always one around the house.” With that, she leaves.

“What’s that about going to the moon?” I ask.

“That’s related to my power.” His eyes change back to their bright blue hue. “Unlike my other half, I have the ability, much like you, to act as a vessel for gods. And I might have just maybe signed a little of my life away for eternity in a contract with a goddess.” He states with a surprising yet predictable level of uncertain certainty.

“That explained nothing.” I conclude.

“And it made me sound like the villain.” A new voice speaks out.

A golden light appears to escape from his back, taking the shape of a young woman. White messy hair reaching past her feet, circular orange tattoos making her body glow with a yellow sheen.

“You know I’m just jesting, Amy.” The human downplays his joke.

Amy? Ami. Wait.

I slam my hands on the table, propelling myself up in shock. “You’re a vessel for the sun god?” That’s insane.

“Yup.” He answers nonchalantly. “And my trip to the moon was to annoy the vessel of the moon god.” He shakes his head. “But those lunarians are annoyingly tough to deal with.”

I knew he was powerful, but that’s beyond insane. Whatever boost he gets from hosting Amaterasu herself would destroy any normal human’s body. That’s why we only ever act as a proxy for the gods. It’s far safer.

“And you’re the host of a rather peculiar god yourself.” He points to my arm.

“Yeah.” I grab my arm. “She’s nowhere near as powerful as Amaterasu herself.”

“So?” He rests his head in his hand, with the goddess resting herself on him. “A vessel is a vessel. It’s just a matter of how much power to channel.”

No, you’re still a container carrying around all that power, even if you don’t channel it. Unless I got it all wrong. Because if you channel their power, then how is that different than letting them possess us? Hakurei, unlike most other Kami, can’t have her strength measured easily, because the ability she grants is more of a static action that just does its thing.

“There’s much I still don’t know, then.” I sit back down.

“In that case, rely on her some more.” He states. “Every Kami is unique with their own quirks. Get used to how she works.”

“Yeah, she told me the same thing.”

“Then listen to her.” He points at me. “She has every reason to want you to draw out your full power now that you’re her vessel.”

“I guess.”


==========
Yakumo Residence, Border – 17th of Water Month, 08:23
==========

I throw the paper at the ground, creating new Shikigami with Hakurei.

“Morning.” She greets me.

Her appearance seems to match whatever mine currently is. Last time we wore a set identical to my usual attire. This time she’s wearing the same black tank-top and baggy pants I wear under my normal clothes. Would probably be more appealing if she didn’t also copy my body.

“Are you ready?” I ask her.

“Yeah.” She starts stretching. “And I see you came prepared as well.” She states, glancing at the larger bottle of alcohol I’ve opened this time.

Stronger alcohol should have a longer lasting effect, which means she should be able to remain for longer stretches of time. In theory at least.

I put up my arms in an outstretched cross-guard. “Come at me.”

Since I can gain experience on controlling a Shikigami through Hakurei, by sparring with her, I can get acclimated faster.

Not needing another prompt, the goddess makes a dash in past my defense, eager to land a heavy body blow.

I tighten my defense and block her with my elbow.

She follows up with a high kick, which I block with my shoulder.

The kick did manage to push me around, though I keep my feet firmly on the ground.

“How’s it feeling?” I ask.

“Not quite the same as when I was alive, but it’s not half bad.” She replies.

I’ll take that as a compliment.

We resume the one-sided test drive where she continues to push me around while I do what I can to defend.

She feints a low sweeping kick, turning it into a high kick, before feinting it into a drop kick.

In an attempt to dodge, I take a step back, causing the kick to knock me back even further.

“Wait!” The goddess shouts, quickly reaching out for me.

Before she can grab me, however, her body vanishes, turning into jade green flame.

I put my foot down to regain my balance, but for some reason it doesn’t connect to the ground when it should.

In the split second I get to look back, I see we’ve moved all the way to the edge of the mansion’s grounds, to the hill the surrounds it.

Unable to recover from the momentum, I opt to brace myself for the fall instead.
>>No. 31596
File 15751155396.jpg - (43.02KB, 628x624, Hakurei.jpg) [iqdb]
31596
==========
Hakurei Shrine, Gensokyo – 17th of Water Month, 08:54
==========

I hit the ground with a hard thud, somehow surviving falling down the hill without breaking anything.

Doesn’t mean I’m fine though. Everything is hurting.

I look up to see where I’ve landed.

The prominent building that looks like Reimu’s shrine instantly gives away the answer, though. So, Yukari’s mansion is uphill from Reimu’s place? Even though the shrine is on a mountain.

What’s not so explainable, however, is the number of people present. Especially since none of them are youkai nor do they look like villagers coming for worship.

“Are you okay?” the closest man asks me, dropping the bag he was holding to come over to me.

“I think so.” I take the hand he’s offering to get back up. “Nothing’s broken, at least.”

“That’s, uh, that’s good to hear.” He stutters for a second as it dawns on him how big I am. “What are you doing all the way out here?”

“Sparred with a partner, when I fell down a hill.” I look over the rest of the group. Aside from a few that’s chosen to marvel at my height, the rest has gone back to doing whatever they were doing before.

“You come from the outside?” He gives me a quick look over.

Instead of answering his question, I extend me hand for a shake. “Hakurei Ryuko. I’m a priest at the outside shrine. What’s going on here?”

“An outside priest?” He asks. As a light flicks on in his mind, he turns around. “Reimu! Get Reimu out here now!”

“She went out a few minutes ago.” One of the young women near the shrine gate answers.

“Then go get her!” He shouts at her before turning back to me. “It’s a pleasure finally being able to meet one of you again.” He shakes me hand with both of his. “We thought for sure the outside branch had died off. But to see you’re still doing well is a blessing.”

“What’s going on?” I repeat my question. “Who are all these people?”

He looks puzzled up at me for a hot second. “We’re the Hakurei clan living inside the barrier.” He proudly states. “I thought you could tell from the context.”

But Reimu is the last Hakurei. There’s no hint of him lying. Has there been an incident to increase the followers of Hakurei?

“So, where’s the outsider?” A familiar voice calls out across the shrine’s front yard.

We make eye contact.

The first thing to pop into my mind, is that that’s not Reimu. I mean for one she’s about as big as me and even from here I can tell her body is scarred beyond reason.

“It’s you?” She asks, walking over here in long quick strides. “Alright, let’s get you sent back to the outside world.” She folds up her wide sleeves, which instantly fall back as if nothing happened.

“Wait, Reimu.” The guy protests. “This guy is from the outside shrine.”

“The outside branch is dead.” She states coldly.

I recognize that voice.

“I’m afraid they are.” I agree with the woman. “But there’s an effort made to keep the shrine going regardless.” I place a hand on my chest. “I’m the first to take on the Hakurei name out there in ages.” Not to mention the only one.

She gives me a quick look over as well. “Walk with me.” She orders.

Since I don’t think I have a real choice in the matter, I opt to follow her.

We barely start descending the stairs to the shrine before she speaks up again. “Alright, what’s going on here?”

“I fell down a hill and ended up here.” I answer.

“Alright, listen big guy.” She turns to me and continues to walk backwards down the stairs. “It’s easy for us to tell when people lie. So, I’d appreciate it if you would stop withholding information.”

I glance back up the stairs. “I was at Yukari’s place, where I was supposed to finish my training.” I explain. “Things happened, and I ended up falling into Gensokyo from the border.”

“Yukari.” She turns around again. “Of course, that old hag would have something to do with it.”

“Not this time.” I object. “She wasn’t present this time. In fact, I think it’s only going to anger her even further when she finds out where I am.”

We reach the bottom of the stairs, and the path is clearly more defined than it normally is. More used.

“I know Gensokyo uses a different base year for the calendar.” I change the topic. “What year is it?”

“We just entered the 60th year.” She answers. “We’re heading into the village.”

Yeah 60. The barrier was erected in 1885 as it aligned with the Sexagenary Cycle, which was also when they reset their calendar year. Translating that means today is 1945.

Either this is a very elaborate prank involving a lot of people, or I’ve traveled back in time. And frankly, I find time travel to be the easier of those two to believe. People are too stupid to coordinate something like this. Besides, it’s more than possible to traverse into different worlds entirely, even I can do it to a limited degree, so I can’t rule out time travel. Not to mention, there are several spells that can manipulate time in various ways. As well as the maid at the Scarlet Mansion, who seem to have time under her control.

So, how did it happen? The obvious answer would be when I fell down the hill, but that only explains when, not how. Rather, since Gensokyo is a pocket dimension, it’s not perfectly connected to the outside world, even if it is anchored, so there are plenty of gaps. Since Yukari lives on the border itself, it’s likely that it’s sitting right next to one of those gaps. Assuming I fell into one of them, it wouldn’t be too farfetched that I fell through time.

Here’s the million-dollar question, though. Why did it happen now? I’ve crossed the border numerous times already, but this has never happened. Would that mean if I try to go back now, I’d end up in the past outside as well?

“You stopped.” The shrine maiden states.

“Sorry, I got lost in thought.” I hurry up and follow after her again.

She raises an eyebrow. “Anyway. If we need to wait for Yukari to get you back, then we might as well put you to work.”

“Sure. Who knows how long it’ll take before she notices, anyway?” I comment.

“It might also be a little late to ask, but how do you do in a fight?” She asks. “I might need some backup for where we’re going.”

“Fighting youkai is my specialty.” I state. “Though I’ve never fought alongside someone before.”

“Oh, it’s easy. Don’t get in my way.” She shrugs. “Besides, I only want you to act as backup, if it’s needed. I prefer to fight alone.”

“What kind of youkai are you going to deal with, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“No clue. I was just told it’s been making advances on the village.” She explains. “Several livestock have been killed already, and at this rate, we’ll run out for the next winter.”

----------

Yeah, she did not need any backup. The rumors of how powerful the shrine was in its prime seem to be true, if she’s anything to judge by. Yeah, sure, this guy wasn’t all that strong, but to be able to overpower a youkai through raw skill, strength and form.

“I doubt he’ll harass the village again anytime soon.” She dusts off her hands.

“I doubt he’ll walk again anytime soon.” I am genuinely worried about him, because legs are not supposed to bend like that.

“Good, then he won’t be able to harass the village.” She walks past me.

Maybe it’s because I was raised by youkai, but I feel the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. If you’re gonna go this far, the least you can do is kill it, so it doesn’t suffer.

But this tragedy aside, I’m certain I know who this is. A nameless predecessor to the Hakurei shrine back in my time, generally referred to as Sendai, meaning Previous or Former. Though her name wasn’t recorded, her exploits were. Sadly, her time leading the Hakurei also became the last recorded generation.

“Reimu.” I call out to her. “Let’s fight.”

I can’t miss this chance. To fight the woman that’s been my goal. She’s long dead in my time, so I’d never thought I’d get the chance to match against her.

She turns around and lifts an eyebrow. “What, are you feeling sorry for it?” She asks. “It shouldn’t have bothered the village, if it didn’t want to get pummeled.”

“No, well yes. I mean look at it.” I gesture to the poor creature. “But that’s not why I want to fight. It’s because I think you can give me the exciting match I’ve been looking for.”

She turns around to face me properly. “You do realize the reputation I have, right?”

“I do.” An absolute monster. With all options for magic gone, she opted to specialize in physical combat, mastering it beyond any previously recorded Hakurei.

“And you still want to fight?” She asks.

“That is why I want to fight.” I assure her.

“I don’t mind, but I don’t want to hear a single complain from you.” She takes her stance, keeping a fist by her side and an arm outstretched.

“I didn’t plan on it.” I state as I start do small jumps in place, striking an out-boxing stance.

Without warning, the shrine maiden vanishes before my eyes, in an incredible dash of speed, closing the distance between us instantly.

The next thing I know, her fist has connected with my jaw, causing me to look straight up into the sun against my will.

I dig my heels into the ground and return the favor by delivering a blow to her exposed ribs.

It takes a second, but she staggers back a step.

“What the fuck was that?” She asks. “How did you do that?”

“Liver blow.” I give my own ribs a pat. “There’s a small piece of the liver sticking out under the ribs. Hitting that hurts beyond reason.”

What actually happens is that the liver is like a balloon. If you contract one end, then the other is going to swell. It just so happens that the other end from that little flap is sitting right next to the nerve highway. Causing that bit to expand triggers a response by the body to expand all blood veins, lowering blood pressure, which in turn makes the body think it’s low on blood and tries to force the head on the ground to keep it filled with blood. In short, it triggers fainting.

And I’m not the least bit surprised she could remain standing despite not expecting it.

“God, that stings.” She takes another few steps back, getting out of my range.

“Too bad I don’t have my weighted clothes.” I shrug. “Or I might have been able to knock you down with that one blow.”

“Big talk for someone who didn’t react to my approach.” She smirks.

“I’ll admit, that surprised me.” But now I’m fired up and ready to go. “My turn.”

With that said, I dash forward, diving deep with my fists clutched close to my chest.

The moment I get within range, I leap, thrusting my knee up aiming for a clean hit.

She leans back, dodging my attack and instead wrap her arms around my leg, throwing herself backwards, forcing me down with her.

I hit the ground rolling and quickly get back on my feet.

As soon as she’s back on her feet, I charge her again, going for a tackle.

Unable to stop me in time, I push her up while I’m pushing her back, allowing me to throw her off balance and onto the ground.

I don’t waste time and wind up for a hard punch, but I’m stopped by a sharp hit to my temple.

Taking her chance, she grabs me and flips our position, by throwing me onto the ground as hard as she can from her lying position. Instead of attacking, she chooses to back off, allowing me to get back up on my feet.

“That’s an interesting style of fighting.” She compliments me. “Where did you learn it?”

“The style is self-taught.” I answer. “But the moves themselves were passed down by a master martial artist.”

“What was the stance you used at first?” She asks, starting to jump, mimicking my footwork. “Something like this?”

“Boxing. Specifically, out-boxing where footwork and quick movements are vital.” I answer. “The attacks are a jab, a quick punch with your front fist, a straight, a powerful hit with your back hand, a hook, coming from an angle, and an uppercut.” I explain, showing the general motion for each of the four types. “It’s a simple form of fighting, but it’s mastered the art of punching.”

She mimics the motions once or twice each, observing herself as she does. “I think I got it.”

“Then here’s a quick overview of how you defend in this style.” I show her the back of my hand. “You’ll block most attacks with your hand, though you can use the elbow and shoulder as well. For a stronger block,” I turn my wrists out and cross them in front of my chest, “you use a cross block.”

“I’ll never need to block. I just have to out punch you.” She declares with a smirk. “Now,” she hits her fists together, “let me try this.”

Giving her what she wishes for, I dash in close to her. Keeping my stance low, I throw a wide hook, which she immediately blocks

I refuse to give her a chance to fight back, however and force my body to turn the motion back around so I can deliver another hook from the other side. Followed by another. And another. And another. Each one blocked by a guard that gradually weakens until it’s blown away.

That’s when I aim my next hook higher, connecting my fist with her face and forcing her on the ground with sheer power.

I back off, giving her room to breathe and get back on her legs, but she just lies there for a few seconds before she chuckling to herself.

“I see.” She pushes herself off the ground. “That’s why you told me to defend, you little bastard.”

“Boxing is a martial sport, you know, not a martial art.” I tell her. “That means there are rules. Like, if you can’t stand up ten seconds after you’ve been knocked down, you lose.”

“Yeah, yeah.” She dismisses me as she stands back up. “Let’s get back to it.”

This time she rushes me, immediately throwing a flurry of punches at me, forcing me to turtle up and tighten my defense.

Not having the patience to break my defense like I broke hers, she leans over and throws a huge uppercut up between my hands, forcing them apart.

She instantly goes for another punch.

I quickly pull my hand back to my side and throw a counter, hitting her in the liver again, which stops her motion and she pulls back a step.

Quickly recovering herself, she throws another punch.

I dodge, letting it graze my cheek as I throw a counter, hitting her square on the cheek instead.

Not taking that lying down, she pays me back by throwing a wide hook to my temple before I can pull away, causing me to stagger.

She seizes the opportunity and steps in to start another flurry, but I counter her advance by sharply reminding her that her ribs are exposed.

The pain clearly written across her grinning face, she powers through and buries her fist in my stomach, lifting me off the ground ever so slightly.

As soon as my feet are on the ground, I throw another punch, landing a clean hit on her otherwise pretty face.

She returns the favor, not allowing me to put up a guard first.

Which I in turn throw back at her, seeing as she hasn’t raised her guard.

Finally, she lands a punch directly between my eyes, forcing me back a step.

Intending to take advantage of that she steps in, but I refuse to allow her and block her advance by sending her chin flying upwards.

She staggers back a few steps.

“You’re better than I thought.” She huffs. “To be able to keep up with me this far, even if it’s only sparring.”

“Can you imagine if we fought seriously?” I take the chance to catch my breath too. Getting hit is exhausting. “One of us would die for sure.”

“Yeah, it’d be a real waste to kill you.” Her grin gets even bigger. “How about a wager?”

“What do you have in mind?”

“Loser has to do what the winner says.” She states. “I’ve just found myself a new toy, and I’m not about to let you get away.”

“Then you have to win first.” I take my stance.

“I’ve already won.” She takes her stance as well. “You just haven’t realized it yet.”

“Then get your ass over here and show me.” I can’t help but let a smirk creep onto my face.

I knew it would be fun to fight her.


==========
Outskirts, Human Village – 17th of Water Month, 22:46
==========

It’s amazing.

This is exactly what I’ve been looking for.

I’m just about out of gas, and from the looks of it, she doesn’t have much left in the tank either.

I’ve managed to stand as her equal for hours now. I’ve proven I can do it. If I can just knock her down one more time, then she won’t be able to get back up. I can win this. I can defeat my idol in a fair match.

I tighten my defense.

I might be able to pull off one or two punches with enough power to knock her down. But after that I’m, done.

She’s cautious of me, staying hidden behind her own guard.

No doubt, she knows I only have one more punch in me. But she’s out of options too.

She breaks this final stalemate, mimicking the move I started off with, preparing the circular motion.

Too bad for her I know how to stop that move before it gets going.

I dash forward, knocking her out of the rhythm she’s building with my shoulder.

Now is my chance.

I throw a wide hook from a low angle, putting every bit of strength I can muster into it.

And it connects.

I did it. I’ve won.

A sharp pain shooting through my body quickly protests that notion, as I feel my liver almost exploding.

She didn’t. That was spot on. Her first try and she landed it spot on.

Gritting her teeth to pull through the pain, she steps in, delivering a blow straight to my face, knocking my off balance.

She continues to step in with a low stance.

Aren’t you forgetting something, Reimu? I have two hands.

With my other hand already in position, I throw it upwards with my last remaining strength.

I got her. I’ve finally surpassed her.

She sways her head, barely dodging my blow.

Not wasting any time, she hammers her hand into my liver again, following up with an uppercut sending me flying backwards on the ground.

She stands there, for a second, desperately trying to catch her breath before losing her stance. “Like I said. I won.”

“Yeah, I give.” I wave my hand. “I’m done.”

She extends a hand to me. “It has been a while since I’ve had fun like this.”

“Yeah, nothing quite like getting your ass handed to you.” I take her hand and she helps me back up.

“I wouldn’t know anything about that.” She states with a smirk firmly plastered on her face.

The funny thing about having a recovery like mine, is that it doesn’t even hurt anymore. Doesn’t mean I’m not fatigued like hell, though.

“So,” I shrugs, “guess I gotta do as you say now.”

She tries to sit down next to a tree, though I’d describe it more like falling on her ass. “Nah.” She says. “I’m too exhausted for what I’d planned. Didn’t think you’d actually put up this good of a fight.”

I take a seat next to her, sitting down just as gracefully. “Good. I’m all out of energy too.” I let out an exaggerated sigh of relief. “What was it you had in mind, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“A rematch in the sheets.” She answers without hesitation.

“That’s, uh, flattering.” I scratch my nose. “But we just met each other. Isn’t that too hasty?”

She lets out a chuckle. “Maybe. No, is clearly too hasty.” She agrees. “But mom always said I should act fast if there’s something I want.”

“Again, I’m flattered, but we just met each other.” I repeat.

She lets herself fall to the ground so she can look up at the starry night sky. “I can gauge people’s personalities based on how they fight.” She explains. “I know you a lot better than you might think. I also know you have the skill.”

Yeah. It probably comes as a result of specializing exclusively in combat. Since that’s your whole worldview, it’s probably easier to judge people when they play into that worldview.

“Besides,” she continues, “Yukari is gonna take you back tomorrow. I can feel it. So, I thought I might as well enjoy it while it lasts.”

“That’s the Hakurei intuition speaking?”

“No, it’s nowhere near that strong.” She shakes her head. “It’s more like a strong gut feeling, really. What’s the word for it? Premonition?”

“Based on what I’ve heard, it’s closer to precognition. But it’s basically the same thing.” I shrug. “I can’t experience it myself, so I won’t actually know.”

“Since neither of us have the energy, could I ask you for something else instead?” She asks, without taking her eyes off the stars.

“I made a promise, and I’ll stick to it.” I declare.

“Then,” she takes a short break, “could I ask you to call me Mei?”

“Mei? Sure, I wouldn’t mind.” I lie down myself.

I can’t see it directly, but she’s smiling.

“Do you mind if I ask why, though?”

She lifts her head to look at me before going back to relaxing. “Guess that tradition died out in the outside shrine.” She concludes. “Reimu is a name that acts more like a title. Whenever a shrine maiden succeeds the position as head, they adopt the name.” She explains. “Mei was my original name.”

“I see. At least it’s unisex, unlike mine.”

“Yeah, I was wondering about that. It’s a pretty girly name for someone like you.”

“I was effectively raised by youkai.” I admit. “They have a different sense of names than humans. Their intention was to name me Dragon Child. That’s how it’s written anyway.” And it makes a whole lot more sense now that I know I’m an actual dragon.

“Makes sense.” She says.

==========
Hakurei Shrine, Gensokyo – 18th of Water Month, 07:12
==========

“Reimu.” One of the shrine maidens greet us as we ascend the stairs. “Where were you yesterday?”

“There was a little more to this incident than a simple beatdown could solve.” She states. There’s no hint of the gentle smile from yesterday.

“We were almost getting worried.” The shrine maiden states.

“I wouldn’t be in charge if I couldn’t handle something so small as this.” Mei states.

“Of course.” The shrine maiden looks at me, probably noticing how exhausted I am.

It’s been a long while since I burned all my energy like that.

Either way, she decides to leave us alone after that and goes back to sweeping the front path.

Out of nowhere, Mei grabs my collar and throws me to the ground before I get to even react.

Just as I’m about to push myself up, I sense a large surge of mana fly past me, leaving a hot trail behind it.

I roll over to see what happened, only to be greeted by the burning trail of a fire spell.

“Fuck!” Mei clicks her tongue. “Everyone on station! They’ve attacked!”

I send a quick pulse down the stairs to see what’s going on.

An army. One youkai after the other, ascending the stairs quickly.

“What’s going on?” I quickly get back on my feet.

“None of your business.” The head priestess snaps at me. “Besides, it’s time you head back to your own time.”

“My own,”

“I’m not stupid.” She turns around and grabs my collar. “It’s been fun, and I wish we could have met under different circumstances.”

With that, she lifts me so I can’t resist and throws me back, flying past a familiar sage on my way into one of her gaps.

Said gap closes immediately before I even get a chance to recover.

“Yukari!”

“No.” She cuts me off. “I’m not your Yukari. I do not know you and you do not know me.” She states without turning around. “It was hard tracking down your origin, but I can finally send you back.”

“Help them.” I demand. “They’re going to die.”

The sage takes a deep breath. “No.”

Not letting me answer, she opens a gap beneath me, causing me to fall.


==========
Yakumo Residence, Border – 18th of Water Month, 07:18
==========

“Five minutes.” The old sage pinches the bridge of her nose. “Could you stay put for five minutes?”

“Why didn’t you save them?” I push her back and hold her against the wall of her own house.

She barely reacts beyond looking even more pissed off.

“Do you even know what would have happened if I had helped?” Yukari asks. “Have you considered that I might, maybe, just maybe, have an inkling of reason behind my actions.” She grabs my wrist with enough pressure to force me to let her down. “Until like you, I don’t act based on emotions. I am not allowed that privilege.”

“Then tell me. Why would you allow the entire Hakurei clan to go extinct?”

“They brought it upon themselves.” She states completely void of emotion. “I am not allowed to act as I please. If I had acted then, many more youkai would have joined the fight.” She spreads her arm. “Several species would have gone extinct. The human village would get involved. The barrier would have broken down.” She folds her arms in front of her. “I made the choice that needed to be made and remained uninvolved.”

“Fuck!” I create a cylinder and kick it as hard as I can, shattering it.

“I’ve explained myself.” She states. “Now it is your turn. Why can you not stay put for five minutes? Why is it whenever I turn my back to you, you find yourself in impossible situations?”

“If I knew I would avoid them.” I state. “It’s not like I want to get mixed up in things that are far above me.”

“Yet you do anyway.” She grabs my shoulder and forces me to turn to face her. “Your necklace. Where is it?”

“Necklace?” I feel around on my chest. The necklace Doc gave me when I first traveled to Gensokyo; it’s gone. “I don’t know.”

“So that’s what happened.” She holds out her other hand and a new necklace drops from one of her gaps. “I’m not in the mood to explain why.” She states, handing me the necklace. “But Gensokyo today is in year one thirty. Compare that with the year of the outside world and you’ll figure it out.”

Year one hundred and thirty? That’s twenty fifteen. But it’s twenty seventy-five on the outside.

“I’m from the future?” I ask her. “How? No, I know how. Why?”

“Your house arrest is lifted.” She starts walking away. “For both our sanities, I recommend you leave for today and calm down.”

“I asked, why the hell would you pull me from the future?” I demand an answer.

Instead of answering me, she swallows me with a gap, sending me to the foot of the Hakurei shrine.

“That, that fucking witch!” I again release my anger, aiming this frustrated feeling towards an innocent tree, which sadly stops living after encountering my fist.

God, I’m mad. And it just makes me madder that I know she’s right. I really should go calm down.

[] Take a trip to the village
- [] See how Akyuu is faring
- [] Look for Kotohime to make sure things are cleared up
[] Maybe I should stay clear of the village for now
- [] Go say hi to Reimu
- [] Tenma would want to contact me soon. How about I make the first move
>>No. 31597
[X] Maybe I should stay clear of the village for now
- [X] Go say hi to Reimu

Village is a bad choice, for now
>>No. 31599
i am from Italy hello. Can you help me translate? /rardor
>>No. 31600
GODDAMNIT YUKARI!

> “Nah.” She says. “I’m too exhausted for what I’d planned.

Oh? Did she mean what I think she meant?

>A rematch in the sheets

Ah, yes. The classic Hakurei subtletly.

I loved this update. The advantcement of his craft, some resolution with teenager group 1 (with interest mechanics) some answers and more questions about teenager group 2... but the meeting with The Ancestor was the best thing by far. I wish he could have stayed and fucked them over, even at the cost of the present.

I hope she didn't die because she was too exahusted. And if she did, I hope he never realizes it.


[x] Maybe I should stay clear of the village for now
- [x] Go say hi to Reimu

Going to the village sounds like a terrible idea. Also, I wonder if her real name is Reimu...
>>No. 31601
[X] Take a trip to the village
- [X] Look for Kotohime to make sure things are cleared up

Holy updates, Batman! What a wall!

Loved the time travel part. That was unexpected.
>>No. 31602
>>31599
Sadly, I don't speak Italian, so I can't help you. You might have better luck if you ask on the /blue/ board or visit IRC/Discord (there's a link on the front page. At the top under the Chat tab)

>>31600
>The classic Hakurei subtlety
Why beat around the bush when you know exactly what you want? Opportunities don't come to you, you create them yourself.

>I hope he never realizes it
Now that you've said it...

>>31601
Here's a fun little detail you might have missed.
Renko and Mary lives in the "near future." But the ULiL incident happened during this story. I haven't seen other writers play with that, so it's no surprise no one picked up on it.
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