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[x ] I’ll trade your story for what I’ve got so far. Secrets shared are friendships made.

You recite your vision, your shattered and reassembled memories that were jolted to the surface. You spare no detail in describing the beginning of your desires from killing ants and insects, and your gradual progression up the food chain until you were feeding off other humans, and finally the destruction your soul was subjected to at the hands of the professor, whose name and features are but a blur, but their words and actions remain.

Throughout the tale, Reisen reacts first with some mild shock, then a sort of understanding frown, before finally smiling as you describe how you were torn apart and reassembled.

“And that’s how the old Wu Zhenguo died.” You finish, “Probably for the better.”

Reisen’s ear twitches as she re-examines you with the lenses, “Looks consistent, your chest cavity is indeed partially destroyed. But, how?” She asks as she pokes you in the chest, obviously not feeling the hole, “What sort of entity with this amount of power will bother to disguise as a commoner and target a virtual nobody?”

You shrug, “I have some ideas, retired Greek gods being the first and foremost given the river invocations, but I’ll worry about that when I ask Conner about any strange professors we might remember if I can sneak back to the village. You know what? It might actually be him, now that I think about it. But it’s your turn, my dear rabbit.”

You flinch as Reisen, without a word, reaches out and caresses your neck...for a moment. Your eyes then lock with hers, and then your senses are no longer your own.

Foreign brain waves invade your own, a peculiar insanity.

====

It was your second year in the Lunar Capital

It was your fourth to last day in the Lunar Capital.

Your new master is cruel. Fair by her own words, perhaps, but mostly cruel.

The claim to the Watatsukis, whose scolding now feels more welcoming than ever for you, for a tithe of rabbits was intended to checkup on the health and discipline of your kind. Indeed, for most of the rabbit soldiers, life in the Capital was parades and boredom.

While your average Lunarian is perfectly content with rabbits being rabbits, the higher ranks, such as the Palace courtiers or officials like your new master, are not so.

Soldiers are not just to guard, but also to clean. So she says. Your sector must be spotless, and so much of your day is spent going over the small corner of the tower you are stationed in with a small brush. You must be respectful and salute every Lunarian you come across, which is difficult as many come and go through the facility all day.

She claims she was a disciple of Omoikane herself, who left the Capital a long time ago. You do not really believe her. The Watatsukis would have told you. But she does seem smart.

Also, your shifts are 12 hours long each. It is no way for a rabbit to live, and your mind and body quickly fade into a porridge-like state. Despite the length, you still have no idea what the project this facility is performing, or what the facility was for, in the first place.

Still, as you climb in your cot in the small maintenance closet set aside as your quarters, you still have some thoughts lingering. Recently, you often hear frightened whispers and angry indictments regarding humans landing on the other side of the Moon. The other rabbits have been drilling more than parading, and you feel that, somehow, the Bagua Research Station is actually working more during after hours, judging by what your brain can pick up.

Your brain feels many things it was not supposed to. Lady Yorihime said it was because you are special, a rarity. What it does feel, and what it sends through your eyes, makes many of the other rabbits avoid you.

Come to think of it, where are the other rabbits in this building recently? You only passed by two or three on the patrol route today.

You quietly dress and creep out the door, your rifle in hand. The building is quiet, but you can sense the machinery working beneath the shining, cold walls of grown wood and crystal, the magical signals, a haze of growing data.

You trace the steps taken by the sages, deeper and deeper into the heart of the facility. Whispers became mumblings, then shouts.

It’s too insulated to hear as you approach the areas that are strictly off limits to rabbits. However, as you strain your ears, the sound waves seem to sharpen and recombine into recognizable voices.

“A disgrace, you are!” This voice is your new master’s, you recognize. “Are the stakes and honor not worthy of your petty phobias?”

“Phobias? What you are doing is the uttermost of depravity and impurity!” Another somewhat familiar...a male Lunarian...one of the apprentices, you figure, “How dare you claim this to be your tribute to Omoikane! No. Lord Tsukuyomi must know of this madness you have wrought!”

“You will not!”

“I will and I must! This is disgusting! You---HURK”

His voice is abruptly cut off by a shrill gurgle. A wet, scraping sound is heard. Did he just have an accident cleaning lab equipment? Was your master negligent in cleaning her lab that he slipped?

They’ll probably be calling for some help soon if that poor apprentice accidentally fell in the tub. You quickly run over, past the ajar lab doors that normally rabbits are forbidden from entering by barrier.

The lights are oddly dim in here, the candles muffled by thick paper. The wooden flooring gives way to sterile, metallic feeling tiles.

“Foolish apprentice...foolish. The impure are at our gates and you do something like this. If word gets out, our whole Capital is doomed, you know?”

You slip through an open pair of heavy looking wooden doors, covered with sigils. A scorching, faintly divine, fire is burning in the middle of a dark amphitheatre-like room, heating a truly massive cauldron-like crucible. Your master is tending to the furnace with unwavering focus, adding some dark ingredients in and stirring the pot. Something smells odd in this room, some unpleasant lab odor.

“Without you it will be harder, but this project must not fail. Lord Tsukuyomi decreed so. We must succeed regardless of how much effort it takes to remake this Hourai Elixir.”

Of course! The Hourai Elixir! That must be what they were working on! No wonder there was so much secrecy. You spot the fallen assistant lying on the floor near the furnace, making only weak movements, and surreptitiously move over to help.

You trip over something in the darkness.

“Why, we cannot fail even if we need to steal the scales from the Great Dragons themselves. We need results, Tieguai! Only the results! In this project, only the results are remembered! So, why are you so reluctant to simply extract the last ingredient we need, the simplest of them all...”

Something cold and wet touches your hands as you catch your fall. Adjusting the waves with your eyes, you see that, oh no! A lot of your fellow rabbits are sleeping here, like, hundreds! They must have been very tired to sleep right here in the lab! You probably just woke one up!

“...The hearts of those still tainted by the impurity of life.”

Wait.

You look at your hands. They are red. You look back down at your comrades. They are not breathing. Neat, surgical holes have been cut in each on of their chests. Their empty chests devoid of ribs or organs.

The smell was blood.

“Life is what gives the Hourai Elixir such potency, Tieguai, something Omoikane lied to us about. Only with the impurity of life, can we extend the effects of the Immortal Peaches into eternity, and resist the contrasting impurity of death. In our Pure Land, of course, it matters not.”

You then notice that their eyes are still moving. Each one, cold and lifeless, staring towards you. Purified of life and denied death, unable to move. Trapped in their own flesh with no way out. Even in their state of limbo, you can feel the inert coldness through the moon rabbits’ inherent ESP network, as atrophied as theirs are.

“If only we could grow these hearts, we would not need to trouble ourselves with this harvesting. Alas, life is only gathered through life, and---Who’s there!”

You realize all too late that, in your numb shock, you had dropped your rifle on the floor.

“...No...” Tieguai struggles as he lifts his head, a garish red stain on his elaborate robes, “Flee...little rabbit!”

Your legs falter, and you collapse on a living corpse as you struggle to get away, even as your...master...closes in swiftly with surgical knife drawn. You will end up just like those around you. You are just...a rabbit...an ingredient in the end. You should just turn the rifle on yourself, maybe you can avoid this fate...

“Oh, it is you.” She sneers as she steps over your gun, ”Hmph. Those Watatsukis were not lying when they said you were a specimen. Irksome troublemaker.”

Huh?

The sisters…

You must report back! You cannot die here!

An errant wave leaps unbidden down your spine, and into your fingertips. Invisible to sight, but not to feel.

In a swift motion you stand up, and release the wave from your right hand straight at your incoming tormentor. A rapid pulse, a gamma ray bullet fueled by a new, unfamiliar feeling: anger.

Ionizing radiation is not enough to kill a Lunarian, not even close. But a large dose of radiation poisoning and cell death, straight in the cerebral cortex, is not a pleasant experience regardless of your status. When you recovered from the shot that drained all feeling from your right arm, panting and wheezing through burning eyes, you find your target drooling and limp on the floor.

A thunderous crashing sound causes you to wince, and you see that the furnace had cracked and toppled over, its contents spilled onto the floor. Tieguai stands, staring dumbly at the glowing, molten divine fluid flowing through the tiles, a hint of divine magic on an iron crutch he’s holding.

“You got her?” The man sighs and heaves through his shrinking sucking wound. “Run, this woman, Yin-Tongzi. She has Omoikane’s secrets. She will be up soon, or one of her clones will be decanted. I am going to send a message for Tsukuyomi, if that coward cares, then I shall be reporting home...Flee, do not worry about me...I would not...trust the Lunarians...if I were you...”
The man then keels over, dead. His body begins crumbling into dust as you discern an infrared presence making its way out the door.

You do not think. As soon as he died, you did as he told and ran, motivated by the fact that your master...he called her Yin-Tongzi, but the other Lunarians called her Ginji...your master’s body had began to twitch.

You ran out of the building and onto the city streets. You than ran out of the streets and out of the city altogether. Your legs burn and you want nothing more than to sob and weep at what you saw. You cannot.

You must report back...

=====

A distinct coldness on your chest jerks you awake, your head still dizzy from the foreign memories. That was...pretty bad. Is the Hourai Elixir people? Were the Lunarians...or at least that researcher, that depraved?

“Reisen?”

You are then aware of the thing pressing against you. Looking down, you see Reisen leaning against you, sleeping against your tear-stained torn shirt with her ears drooped. She had been crying on you the whole time, until it looked like she finally tired out and fell asleep.

How did that happen? If anything the memory was supposed to affect you more. You gently push the rabbit off of you and settle her onto her futon, careful to make sure that she’s positioned in a shock recovery position. That wasn’t even the end of the story. You heard the middle part where she met the American astronauts before, but you can sense, in her memory, that a huge chunk is still untold.

You jump a little as somebody knocks on the door, rather frantically. Getting up, you open it just a bit.

A sandy-haired, noble face peers at you. “Wu...Ming...” she grits out.

“W-What did I do? Lady Watatsuki?” You nervously reply. How would she react? Was she listening to you somehow?

“She latched on as soon as the adrenaline shot woke her up. Can you get your dragon off of me?” She grunts as she slides the door all the way, revealing Awyrgan clinging onto her right boot with arms and teeth. “Before I decide to disintegrate her, that is.”

“Awyri...please do not eat our allies.” You order as she half-heartedly try to pull her off.

“Princess...” The dragon mumbles through an occupied mouth. At least she didn’t go into her full size. “Capture. Eat. Princess.”

“Princesses are for ransom, not for eating. It’s more profitable that way. Also, no eating this one. She can actually kill you.” You thank the heavens that she picked a hard target first. God knows what will happen if she somehow gets near somebody like Sukuna, or when this is over, when she goes to a country with an existent monarchy. You can picture the headlines already: “Royal Baby Devoured by Iron Monstrosity! Britain in Panic!”

With some more reasons and a little elbow grease...and Hew, you wrangle the rather stoned-looking Awyrgan off of Toyohime, who throws her a disgusted look before turning back to you. “You, human, what were you doing in Reisen’s room?”

“Princess…” You look straight at her eyes, ”What happened to her back in 1969?”

Her hard expression melts into surprise, then genuine concern. “She told YOU? How?”

“We had a swap. You know, I tell her my repressed traumatic past. She tells me her repressed traumatic past. To be specific, she beamed part of her’s into my brain before passing out.”

Toyohime sighs and adjusts her hat, which allows you to see that in her non-fan hand she’s holding a plush tiger and a raggedy looking pillow, “It is not for me to tell. My dear Reisen has decided to confide in you, for better or for worse, and it will be her decision alone to finish her story to you. But I can tell you this: The problem was not resolved. The informant was correct about his assumptions. It’s why I am looking to change leadership for the Moon.”

“Wait, so are you saying that...that was accepted? How much do you know?”

“Not enough.” Toyohime murmurs as she checks over Reisen and carefully sets the tiger next to her. “Being reassigned to the Near Side of the moon, even as the grandmother of the first Japanese emperor, does no improvement to one’s political influence. By the way, Ming.” She turns to you, “I shall be taking over Reisen from here, Eirin wants you and...that thing in her lab.”


“Gotcha. Awyri,” You pull on the still somewhat hypnotized dragon, “Let’s move. Also, wait so you were a crocodile? Who abandoned---”

The Lunarian, turning red, shuts the door in your face before you can finish the question.
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Eirin did not say anything when you and Awyrgan arrived at her doctor’s office. She merely gestured for you two to follow...down a corridor that you realize is longer than the length of the entire complex.

Awyrgan said she recovered quickly after eating all of the munitions weapons left over, to your relief. You tell her of what you did in Reisen’s room. She nods, but you don’t feel that she truly understands.

The corridors begin warping, as if stretched by some eldritch force. False doors replace true ones.

Apparently Nashira’s fine. Awyrgan says. Your’s and Mokou’s purely physical mangling of that little girl just warranted some rejuvenation tank treatment. Kaguya and Tewi are currently talking to Castor, and he is apparently willing to trust them as part of your organization.

Deep, deep you go into the further reaches of Eientei, where the passages twist and turn in ways that do not follow physical constraints, with hallways looping back onto each other but never intersecting.

You pass by hydroponic facilities breeding species of queer looking flora, some of whom turn their flowers to stare at you as you walk near them.

Over a catwalk, you gaze upon a large room, filled to the brim with opaque canister pods, each the size of a human being. Looking up and down, you steady yourself on the handrails as you recognize with a mixture of wonder and horror at the size of the cavern, which seems to stretch on indefinitely in all directions. How many of these canisters are there? Thousands? Millions?

The hallway continues, endlessly. The wood starts breaking down, the paper windows distort, and then break apart entirely, leaving you holding your breath as the visage of a star-filled sky is what lies behind them...with the Earth below.

“We are above Heaven now.” Eirin announces as the walls disappear entirely, leaving you walking on just an open wooden floor. Awyrgan responds to this by letting out a little cheerful roar and picking you up, using the newfound freedom to fly in a place where the stars are just a little closer.

“This must be where the Imperishable Night incident ended...one route...I think.” You observe as you take in the visage of the Earth beneath, the island of Japan clearly defined against the ocean, a sight that you would have never been able to see otherwise. “Are we still within the Border?”

“We are, even I cannot breach it under the Savior’s current lock. But we are at the highest point possible, though this location does not exist in physicality...it’s too complicated for your education, really.” The path opens onto a dais, on which sits piles and piles of ashen debris among what looks to be an old-fashioned metalforge. Hundreds of swords, arrowheads and other weaponry sit twisted and broken within them, and upon viewing them you view an odd kinship with the ruined metal, sensing some sort of similar purpose.

And on the forge, still hot on the coals...not coals...those appear to be the smoldering entrails of some enormous creature, is a single straight sword. Not even a medieval model, this one resembles a bronze-age weapon, and is in fact made of the greenish metal upon closer inspection. Oddly, it also has two blades, separated down the middle as if somebody turned the typical groove into a gap. Eirin carefully removes it from the forge with a meter-long tongs and sets it down into a bucket of water.

“The answer I have found is this. A replica and amalgamation of every deicide weapon that is reasonably copied.” Eirin explains as she uses the tongs to gesture, “The sword itself is a copy of the Ame-No-Ohabari, the sword used by Izanagi to slay his son, Kagutsuchi. While the outside is a thin layer of bronze, the inside is steel, with carbon sourced solely from mistletoe, a dart of which ended the life of the Scandinavian Baldr. The fuel for the forge are the entrails of the monstrous Ophiotaurus, which are deicidal. Cloning ten anencephalic copies of the hybrid beast took an irritatingly large amount of resources.”

“So...” You ask as Awyrgan sniffs at the weapon, “We win?”

Eirin folds her arms and sighs, “There are several major issues. One is that I am still unclear as to the nature of these heroes save for their divine powers, so its effectiveness is still up for debate until field testing is performed. Two is that---Put that down, please, Awyrgan.” She backs off, her brows raised in concern as the dragon picks up the weapon and swings it around experimentally. “It is a highly cursed object, enough that even somebody as strong as me, one known varyingly by the names of Omoikane and Taishang Laojun, will be reduced to a crippled invalid if I hold it or become scratched by it, whereupon I will be forced to swallow a cyanide pill again. The weapon is also incredibly fragile, since mine simple-minded brother decided that his second sword should be ‘More Artistic’ when Orochi swallowed the first one. I still cannot believe he succeeded in decapitating something with it, even a god! Hence, somebody capable of wielding it is hard to find, but I suspect that one of you may be capable.”

“The anti-divine is of your domain, my friend.” Awyrgan say as she hands the sword over to you. You gingerly raise one finger up to the blade, and seeing that it somehow has dissipated all of the forge’s heat already, accept the handle from your dragon’s claws.

“Is...is the blade spot welded?” You incredulously remark at the cheap construction, as you check the weapon over.

“It is something I hammered together in the last couple hours. The hasty construction does help with the anti-divinity projection due to thematic contrast, as a more properly made sword would likely be considered heroic.” Eirin does not seem happy about this at all, “It will break, but judging by what princess-eater can do, you can just weld it back together and it will still retain its property...wait...” Her eyes narrow as she suddenly reaches out towards the weapon, “Are you feeling anything, Ming?”

“No, it’s just a crude bronze sword, that’s all. Even my gravity hammer had more of a magical tinge to it.”

“Tis that truthful? Even within mine wicked, villainous grasp, I can sense the curse flowing through this tool.”

“I got nuthin’. If you were expecting some sort of super anti-divine power-up coming from giving me this thing, I’m sorry. ” You sigh as you don’t get a response from the sword.

Eirin shakes her head, “Perhaps I expected too much, but no matter. I shall have Iwakasa field test this weapon tomorrow then. In the meantime...Awyrgan, eat it. This is a reproducible article, not a true legendary blade.”

“Tis a trivial, simple construct one indeed, why doth thee...hold...how doth thee know of mine ability?” The dragon’s eyes narrow.

“Your genetic makeup made it obvious when I looked you over. Unlike Ming who is genetically 100% pure human, you, my dear metal construct,” Eirin punctuates this line by jabbing at the dragon’s head, “Possesses the metallic DNA of several species of dragon inside of you. The most prominent of which is the famous Welsh Red Herald, but the Germanic Lindwurm also makes up a large portion.”

She’s primarily derived from the Welsh legend? That perhaps explains why she’s not quite as violent and bloodthirsty as you’d expect an actual dragon to be.

“However,” Eirin continues, tracing her finger along Awyrgan’s throat and abdomen, “You digestive system and your oddball inner furnace and a circulatory system more akin to a nano-foundry are of a non-European and non-draconic origin...a specimen that no one save for a Lunarian like myself should have access to, as it has been extinct for five thousand years. I speak of course, of the Mesopotamian primordial monstrosity: Tiamat. An entity that only melded to draconic DNA due to recent shifts in the world’s perception of the dead goddess.”

Awyrgan tilts her head, her face a mixture of confusion and glee “What tis the purpose of this information? Is mine acclaim to royalty affirmed with the blood of a god in mine veins?”

“No, Tiamat was never worshipped, and even if she was, her worshippers left no legacy. You are a monster, not a god. What it really means is that your creators saw fit to focus your core energies to be constructive rather than destructive. A Mother of Monsters, or to be less romantic, a logistical engine. Namely, this is why if you would receive a written profile in Akyuu’s writings, your ability will be listed as ‘Rapid Manufactory’.”

“Ah, disappointing.” Awyrgan sighs as she takes the sword and begins chomping into it, not even bothering to switch appearances, which is spoiled by the fact that she’s still talking clearly out of one side of her mouth. “If only mine title would have such proof, lest the ignorant doubt my nobility.”

“Hey,” You pat her on the back, “You’ve killed at least a couple who have legitimate claims and ate them, if their armor means anything. That means you are more of a noble than them now. Lady Awyri.”

That’s definitely not the case, but you’re pretty sure dragons don’t know or care about the intricacies of human aristocracy. Awyrgan in particular definitely does not care, and swells up with delight as she breathes out a chunk of molten metal before reshaping it with her bare claws and rapidly cooling it with a burst of cold air, reforming the eaten blade in a manner of seconds. “My thanks to thee, dear friend. As a proper lady of the realm...”

Huh, she really has only a faint idea of how chivalry worked.

“I granteth thee this sword, and a title of minor nobility...”

“I need to keep a copy.” Eirin interjects.

Awyrgan fabricates another one and holds it out for Eirin to carefully extract it with the tongs. “As I was...”

“Geez, don’t get all formal on me. I hate that. Besides, milady, for someone of shield status like me, wouldn’t armor be more appropriate?”

“What sort of feeble milquetoast of a mortal noble doth thou take me for?” She taps you on the shoulder twice with the blade, before twirling it and handing it to you handle first. “Tis only a manner of shedding a minor quantity of scales and fitting it to thy frame. When thou doffs thy skeleton, I shall grant thee what thou seeketh.”

You look past her and see Eirin yawning and uncorking a flask. “Thank you, dear friend. Hey, uh, Lady Yagokoro, art thou...dammit...is there something else you wanted to say?”

“I need to go and outfit everyone else except for Toyohime.” The doctor mutters as she rubs her eyes, “If I do everything correctly, which includes allowing the dragon to absorb a godslaying tool, it’s a bygone conclusion that we are going to win this silly Earthling war.”

“And how are you so sure?”

“Clairvoyance....some clairvoyance.” She chugs the potion, opens her coat and reveals a set of blue metal flasks under it. “Specifically, a derivative of my Hourai Elixir that exchanges its permanency for a complete purge of the impurity of death and the removal of oneself from the flow of time, allowing for brief, clear glimpses into the immediate future and some blurrier visions about further times due to quantum uncertainty. Also, not really possible to die, but in a more premonition based way than regeneration. Still, it looked like we won.”

“Wait...” You freeze as you process this information, “That’s cheating!”

“Yep. I call it the Ultramarine Orb Potion. In development of course. I was going to distribute it to the primary incident resolvers, as well as anyone else willing, in case things go even more south than they already have. Side effects, he, ha ha. WHAHAHA.” The sudden peal of laughter catches you off-guard, “Heh, side effects on Lunarians like me are fairly minimal due to our lack of impurity, but I wouldn’t even try a small sample on Udongein.”

She notices your curious gaze, “Even so, you wish to try it, do you not?”

“..So, what side effects?”

“Anything from minor toothaches, compulsive laughter and headaches to systematic organ failure and necrosis in the brain. At least, ” Eirin chuckles as she shakes the flask, “Those are the symptoms from my personal testing. Come to think of it...you did demonstrate substantial resistances to drugs in the past, so perhaps you would be luckier in this regard.”

Seeing the doctor temptingly hold out the cheat code in a bottle, you wonder, should you...

“My friend...”

“Hmm?”

“Mine constitution is of a superior, noble quality compared to thine fragile flesh. Mayhaps mine gullet shall be a more suitable vessel for this elixir?”

[ ] Drink the Prototype Ultramarine Orb Potion
[ ] Have Awyrgan try it first
[ ] Do not drink the Prototype Ultramarine Orb Potion
[X] Drink the Prototype Ultramarine Orb Potion
MOAR INSIGHT

Damn I love this story, see you next month.
[x] Do not drink the Prototype Ultramarine Orb Potion

Ahahahahahah, fuck no. Holes in brains or necrosis of brain, it's the same thing even if we're some kind of mummy. It could make us more dead on the outside and it's over once that happens.

Would it be possible to ask Eirin for advice on what to do with the we're-a-zombie situation? Without having to drink a potion, if at all possible.
"...complete purge of the impurity of death"

If death is impurity, then as a walking corpse, he becomes... impurity incarnate?

Drinking this seems laughably bad. But god I want to see what happens if he does.

My smart ass answer to Eirin would be, "You drink it and tell me if I drink it or not."

[x] "You tell me, since you already know."
>>31300
He's right next to Eirin, his skull could spontaneously explode I bet she would be able to fix him without even leaving a scar.
[x] Do not drink the Prototype Ultramarine Orb Potion

Walking corpse + death removal =
>>31303
He already went through that treatment it had no effect.
>>29767
[x] Drink the Prohibited User OPeration

We should use all the knowledge we can if we're gonna be an effective shield.

Victory is good but we gotta aim for a complete victory-one with all touhoes we like intact.
[X] Do not drink the Prototype Ultramarine Orb Potion

Apparently the canon version can be used by humans and maybe youkai, but is lethal to gods. It seems like a bad idea for our protagonist and having Awyri try it is right out.
Locking votes in 2 days
>>31307
You only ever update once a month, so what's the point?
>>31308
So I can decide when to stop procrastinating, duh.
>>31309
Do it now for a free encouragement ticket, valid until 99/99/9999~
We need one more vote to drink it or a touhou will die

That's how these precognition things usually pan out anyway.
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[x] Do not drink the Prototype Ultramarine Orb Potion

You turn down the proffered cheat code. The potential drawbacks outweigh the benefits, and you don’t have a Hourai Elixir to fall back on.

“Funny, I thought you of all people would jump on the opportunity.” Eirin says, a trace of disappointment lingering in her voice. “Well then. That concludes the purpose of this appointment.”

Awkward silence. You look around at the stars around you, the moon in the distance, and the blue planet beneath you while Eirin picks up a scrappy looking spearhead from the junk pile and begins carefully hammering away at it.

“So...uh, how do we get down? Do we walk down that hallway again?”

“Just jump. The Princess’s stretching of time and space does not hinder basic Euclidean geometry.”

“Right on cue, my friend!” Awyrgan excitedly pipes up, “I hath been holding a new enhancement for thy pitiful fleshy form! Tis the wings of that foul knight thee shorn off. I devoured the mechanisms and reproduced it for thine exoskeleton!”

“I said call me Ming, you...whoa...”

What Awyrgan is holding out in front of you is something that looks like H.R Giger’s wet dream. The bits of the knight’s noble wings, blue and gold, are choked and subsumed by tendrils and layers of gray steel into a twisted parody. A sort of cuirass, one that resembles Awyrgan’s own armored scales, lines the front.

She eagerly straps it onto you, tearing off the ruined remnants of your armor in the process. The inside, to your relief, is lined with a soft and pliable leather. Softer than any other sort of leather you had touched.

“This is awesome, Awyri! What is it made out of?”

“Why I am glad you asked, my vassal!” She proudly exclaims, her face gleaming in a smug satisfaction, “The outer plates are improved replica of mine scales, a matrix of newly imbibed moonsilver and iridium from the lunarian weaponry I consumed as compensation for mine troubles, offered by the head rabbit.”

You hear Eirin audibly groan and mutter “Tewi...”, though she does not protest further or turn aside her attention from her work.

“The middle is formed of a sandwich of hard steel, impregnated with bone fragments, designed to deny magic and provide structural support, backed with a soft foam-layer formed of tanned skin scraps, remnants fools who stood against us to better protect against blunt impacts.”

You cringe at the last part, and try to nudge the insulating layer away from you. It won’t, Awyrgan had made it quite thick, and it easily expands and contracts as you move around in it to fit you snuggly within the cuirass. It feels oddly like hands grabbing onto your skin.

You give up. At least it’s quite comfortable.

“Now, open thy wings.” She orders as she stretches out the mechanical skeleton of the flying device, “Thou no longer need mine wings to achieve simple flight.”

Nodding, you send the spirits into the wings. One on the left, one on the right, one to coordinate between them as a dumb messenger. With the parts stabilized on a solid frame this time, it becomes rather easy to extend your consciousness into the wings, using the suborned spirits as a makeshift magical conduit.

The wings flare to life, exuding a faint trail of the soft pink color in contrast to the golden shine of the knights. Allowing Awyrgan to take hold of your hand, you carefully lift off and float around a bit. They prove easy to handle as you spin and do a small somersault, much easier than holding them manually. Though you suspect that Meiling’s dormant possession is having an effect on your mastery of flight.

“Oh, Ming, could you go check on the defectors? I think the knight’s sister has awoken by now and everyone is occupied, as the princess and the assassin are preparing dinner in lieu of Udongein.” Eirin asks as you hover past the railing. “The recovery room is labeled on your Module.”

“Gotcha, boss. See ya later. Now, Awyri, together?”

“Of course!” She grins, and spreads her wings.

You somersault backwards, and face down, as if off a diving board, and plummet with your stolen wings. An air shield comes up in front, seemingly projected by the wings themselves as a necessary secondary function. You see the large dragon to your side tumble through the air, likely intentionally as she is happily exuding plasma around her, turning her descent into a fiery comet. Looking back, your wings trail the noxious pink for quite a ways, making you a similar companion.

The way down seems odd. Eientei’s space distortions probably narrow the vertical space through a corridor or something, because you see no structures above or alongside you, and below you appears to be a neverending forest that covers all of Japan. Is it a microcosm like Miko’s Senkei? Likely.

The travel path, regardless of how much you swivel and turn, never seems to change, as you are always just grazing Awyrgan’s fire trail.

It’s also shorter than you imagined. Eientei’s courtyard looms close quite quickly, and you panic and brake hard at the realization, the G-Force briefly blacking you out as you slow down.

When you come to again, you are lying face down in soft, mat-like vegetation. Eientei’s unique sort of outdoor flooring that resembles a mass of vines that just so happen to weave together into natural tatami. Looking up, you see nothing but a dark night sky. What a strange dimensional distortion.

Smelling something burning, you look to your side and see that Awyrgan incinerated the patch she landed on, while she herself is rolling around to put the fire out.

“I fear I hath committed an error.” She grumbles through dragon-sized teeth as she tries to get as much of the fire gone as possible. “Too much merriment.”

“You didn’t absorb a fire extinguisher beforehand?”

“Negatory. Tis an error in judgment.”

After she puts the fire out and shifts down sizewise into the less building-wrecking humanoid size, the two of you head for the recovery room. It isn’t as quiet as before, with many rabbits heading towards the dining hall. Most of them wisely avoid the barely human girl who watches them with a predator’s interest.

“Hold up.” You whisper and stop Awyrgan as you reach the door. “Lemme eavesdrop a bit before we do anything.”

“Do you not trust them, my friend?”

You throw her a strange look, “Of course not, when did I trust anybody?”

“Hmph. Tis unnecessary. We should simply interrogate the lot directly if needed.”

Sadly, your repertoire of lifespan and evil spirit fueled preset powers have no way of eavesdropping elegantly, as a few experiments with the conjoined spirits proves fruitless. Resigned, you hold your ear up to the door as usual.

“Nashira, how are you feeling? It’s me, Castor.” The paladin says, still discernible behind the relatively thin wood. The door here is less insulating than Reisen’s room’s.

“Bro-Brother?” Nashira’s voice comes out, shy and gentle. You kind of expected it from the little sister archetype, but on the other hand she fucked up Awyrgan nice and well. “I feel fine...Where are we?”

“We’ve been captured by the enemy. Shira, the Null Fiend defeated our team and dragged us in.”

“Oh...NO!” The gentle voice turns into more of a blubbering, “Deimos...Is Deimos okay? I hope I didn’t cause his...Wait, brother, did you say Null Fiend?”

“Yes?” Castor sounds confused, “The man with the warhammer, that was the Null Fiend. Were you unable to tell?”

“That was the Null Fiend? But he is...I believed he was at most merely a disciple or spawn of that monster! A duped one for sure, as he was a healer for that foul dragon, and surely something as foul as the Null Fiend cannot heal! Also, would he not have consumed us for our lifespan immediately?”

You notice that Awyrgan is leaning against the opposite wall, arms crossed, wings folded, and eyes closed, probably to look cool and regal. Her tail, however, has extended towards the door, with some odd metal wires protruding into the door’s crevices, at the tip...is that an internal microphone? A laptop’s internal microphone.

You sigh as you remember one of your earliest encounters with her. It’s your laptop’s internal microphone, or at least a replica based off of such.

“Now Nashira, regardless of what he is, they have brought us in alive, but has taken our weapons and armor. We ought to dwell somewhat on a next course of action...”

“No, Cas, we cannot dwell. If the Null Fiend is near, even this early in the past, we must escape and report back.” You hear Castor trying to say something, but is shouted over, “We know that the Dragon is weak, and a decisive strike can at least take out that monstrosity. You are the faster one of us two, Cas, I shall use my remaining power to create a distraction, and...”
“Nashira...they could be listening to us...”

“Yes, but do they know when? I think not. If we act spontaneously, I could secure you passage out---”

“And leave you behind?”

“I shall incinerate myself if I need to, brother! I cannot allow them to continue with their corrupt campaign! Not after what they did to us...not after that I was trapped under that beam, while mom and dad screamed...and screamed...burnt alive...” Her impassioned voice breaks down into sobbing.

“What.” You cannot help but let out some shock. “The. Fuck.”

“..WHO’S THERE?”

Awyrgan’s eyes snap open, and four machine guns, the same model as the ones the Saviors wielded against you, spring out from her back, held aloft spindly arms of gunmetal. You react slower, just slow enough that when the door flies open, you eat a flying divine fist directly in the face.

Doesn’t hurt too much though, especially since your Hunter Module was down. Nashira yelps as she shakes her hand in pain, much to your amusement.

“The Null Fiend and the Dragon.” You grin. Awyrgan does not open her mouth, but leans forward and stares at the girl with a hungry gaze while retracting the weapons. She obviously does not see a threat for whatever reason.

She’s a good deal shorter than you, though not to the extent of Flandre or even Mystia. Albino characteristics just like Castor, who is standing behind her with a sheepish look. Somehow they achieved the white-hair and red eyes without losing skin tone, odd. Somehow managing to wear long hair in a military organization, you notice several chunks of her hair still missing, likely thanks to you and Mokou.

You note with some apprehension that she looks no older than 16.

“LIAR!” Another fist flies towards you, but you easily catch it, the divine energies dissipating on touch, “You are but a deluded pawn of that monstrosity!” She snarls, her red eyes focused in anger not on you, but at Awyrgan. “Where is he hiding! That fiend! Tell him that if he does not show up that I will blow myself and you, his accursed mount, to--OW!”

“Mount? MOUNT!” Awyrgan shouts back, anger visible on her human-ish face, as she retracts her tail from a stinging lash on Nashira’s side, “Who art thou daring to call one such as I, the most noble and terrible of monsters, a mere mount! Tis the height of folly and arrogance!”

Nashira holds her side, hurt, but her expression changes swiftly from anger to confusion as she quietly asks, “Foul Dragon...you can speak?”

“Tis a surprise for thee? You had taken me for a simple beast of burden?” Awyrgan huffs and stands back, putting a clawed hand over her collar in an unusually dainty gesture. “Thou art addressing a dragon, the highest beings in thy legends and tales.”

Nashira moves her head up and down at the dragon, her face growing visibly more confused by the second. From the elaborate armored dress, to the copied Ame-No-Ohabari that she is proudly wearing at her side, to the streaks of gold gilding her wings.

“You look like a knight. A high ranking one, perhaps even a Companion. Are you mocking us!?” Her voice raises to a shout again.

“I have no need of mimicking scum like thee, whom no more qualify for thy lofty monikers as the grime on my scales. Tell me, knave, what sort of sordid fool would antagonize one that had proven to be capable of massacring thy kindred, and may choose to do so even after thou expended enough effort to undo the past? Or, alternatively, would choose not to do so with sufficient tribute?”

“You know,” You interject, “How can you accuse us of things we have not done? More importantly, how do you know that your time travel have not already Butterfly Effect-ed your bloodline? Or how does anything that happen here affect your timeline if the multiverse theory holds?”

“Polaris had answered that issue through their research.” Castor explains as he slowly tries to physically get a grip on his sister, “The universe does not follow the multiverse theory, it’s a single river, one whose infinite possibilities collapse onto each other into one timeline that can only be significantly altered by large events in a roughly equivalent exchange. The butterfly that flutters its wings in the Arctic Federation will not cause anything but a single light breeze in the Caribbeans, but a billion could cause a small storm. It’s why we’re doing this at all.”

“Cast, why are you telling them this? The slave of the Null Fiend has no use for this information.”

“Nashi, if they know more of what we do and why, maybe we won’t have to fight.” He answers, strangely hopeful.



You wave your hands and roll your eyes, “I understand that. But Nashira, honestly I feel really attacked right now. As far as I know I serve nobody officially but Omoikane and the Tengu, and the latter...questionably. This Null Fiend must be a really sneaky guy if I’ve been his or her disciple the whole time without knowing.”

You say this sarcastically. But there is a nagging doubt in the back of your mind that the angry Savior could be right. Who was giving you the cards? You doubt it’s Conner, even if he killed and remade you back in school, he is far more dramatic and bombastic than that.

Even so, judging by how Castor described the Null Fiend and the Dragon, you are sure nobody else can be the Null Fiend. Who else did Awyrgan term a friend anyway? If anything, nobody else SHOULD be called the Null Fiend. Unless you died.

“Look, Nashira Pyrus. I’ll cut you a deal, you stay out of the conflict, and we won’t kill Deimos.” You see Castor frown and let out an irritated snort at that, “Got it? You surrender, and the scary Null Fiend and vicious Dragon will abstain from tearing your boyfriend limb to limb before enslaving his soul to my whim.”

“Deimos is far stronger than that!” Nashira protests, even as her brown skin visibly pales and tears well up in her eyes, “He...he wouldn’t lose to the likes of you!”

Something plops to the floor, and you jump back in disgust. A half-burnt human arm, still with scraps of armor attached to it.

Awyrgan coughs, wiping the steaming saliva from the regurgitation away from her mouth. “That Deimos, fought in an adequate manner, I suppose.” She kicks the arm over, revealing some sort of glowing barcode tattooed on the shoulder. “I refrained from digesting this piece as it seemed to contain information. Tis the arm of thy lover, yes?”

Castor makes another irritated snort, and backs away slightly from the severed body part.

Nashira kneels, eyes wide and hollow, “That’s...that’s his personal sigil. Villains...you are all...”

“Yep, villain, bad guy, dark lord. Worst of the bunch really. So, as I’ve said before, if you want your boyfriend alive.” You lean in towards the stunned girl’s ears and whisper, “Don’t. Fuck. With. Us. Understand? Just stay in Eientei and drink tea.”

You slap your hand down on her shoulder, as you see a faint, fading outline of a golden bow being formed in her hand. She lurches upright, and opens her mouth in a silent scream as you negate the divine energies with a Hew. “We only hunt heroes. If your family stays out of the conflict, we’ll guarantee their safety as well when the time comes. Though, judging by the way you mentioned Deimos more than them, you might have sidelined them into a Freudian motive, haven’t you?”

“That’s enough, Null Fiend.” Castor says as he pushes your arm off while pulling Nashira back, some genuine concern and anger in his voice. “Are you just here to bully Nashi, or do you have anything Doctor Yagokoro told you to do?”

“Uh, you guys need anything?” You jerk back from your villain impression, surprised at his reaction, “Eirin just wanted us to check up on you guys. You know, making sure everything’s going well in recovery. No hemorrhages, infections, or leaking information to the enemy.”

“Null Fiend, are you capable of saying anything without a backhanded remark?”

“...No. Yes. Maybe. Probably not.”

“Mmph. Mayhaps my friend is not suited for positive conversation. That is part of his eccentricities.” Awyrgan states matter-of-factly, “So tell me, O’ fervant knight of archery, what sort of beast appeal to you the most?”

Nashira blinks, once again confused, “A...a bear.”

“Mmhmm.” Awyrgan closes her eyes, and parts of her clothing break off into scales. Her fingertips exude tiny streams of plasma cutting, welding, and machining the metal into different parts, and then just as quickly she assembles it together. Before you know it, she’s holding up a small bronze statuette of Nashira’s favorite omnivore, one which is roaring and fidgeting.

Roaring and fidgeting as well as any contemporary windup toy, anyway, but that only took ten seconds.

“Consider this a gesture of goodwill and trust.” She says as she plops the toy into the girl’s hands.

“Thank...you? Foul...dragon...do you have a real name?”

“Tis Awyrgan, First born and queen of all western dragonkin.”

You watch her perform a small curtsy, even lifting the corners of her scale skirt. You wonder if Eirin had shadily drugged her somehow while she was unconscious. Tanks don’t do curtsies. DRAGONS don’t do curtsies.

Yet there it is.

“What.” Is all you can say as you leave the room, Castor palming you a small translucent cube while Nashira’s distracted with the toy bear.

“Honestly, my friend. Thy hollow nature is not conducive to your relations with normal lessers.” Awyrgan points out with no small amount of smug as she floats in front of you, “Thou truly cannot speak anything truly positive, can thee?”

You shake your head, “I can, but sarcasm is much easier.”

“Tis thy nature, hollow, silent, and unfeeling. The only ones who saw thy true self and were willing to remain close are those with damaged souls and warped hearts.”

“The insane? The mad?” Wait, you see the validity in that phrase as Awyrgan locks her hungry, burning eyes with yours, smiling. Kagerou and Konoroz were right to be suspicious and hostile. A broken mother of a nue. A deserter traumatized through horror. A mad rainbow serpent with a chip against the heavens. A mechanical horror with aspirations of dominion and nobility. A deranged protagonist with a sadistic streak a mile wide, literally…

“Hey Ming! Hey Awyrgan” Sanae cheerfully greets you from the other end of the hallway. “Lady Toyohime and Iwakasa have finished cooking dinner, and say, what did you get from them?”

“This. Castor held up his end of the deal for keeping his sister alive and safe.” You squeeze the cube and toss it up. A large holographic screen is projected in mid-air, and a copious volume of text. “Information on the capabilities of the Savior companions, and Rigel himself.”

Sanae scans through the data with you. She reacts with some relief on the capabilities of the common soldiery, and some grimness on the paladins, who have divine abilities equivalent to some of the stronger youkai. The Companions elicit a groan, as they are moreorless equivalent to her, with vast amounts of divine energies plus special abilities. Castor’s omnipotent weapon mastery and attraction is already powerful, while Nashira’s bullshit divine archery threatened to immediately turn Awyrgan into scrap metal last time.

She stops at the last entry. Rigel.

“You have got to be kidding me.” She exclaims, “NON-MAGICAL clairvoyant abilities, and the power to personally take control of land and subjects?”

“Castor says that we should see it in the form of writhing golden light that sanctifies the land and bolsters combatants. It”

Sanae taps her temple, “Grr...hmm...So when I cracked open one of those large statue-like robots they had parked near the Yakumo residence, and saw tentacles of light from inside of it, that was his ability? No wonder they defy physics even moreso than Hisoutensoku!”
“You mean a warbeast?” You ask, confused, “I never saw golden light coming out of them, just red pulsating masses of something organic. Similar to something that tried to eat Kaguya and succeeded in assimilating Mokou until we beat her, it seems like it could enthrall even somebody like a Hourai immortal so...oh...”

You and Sanae stare at each other, mutual realization and horror dawning on your faces.

Awyrgan, listening the whole time, takes a few glances at Rigel’s entry and says, “I see just red mass too. Mayhaps it be that only those of mortal or goodly mind see it as gold? Ah, now I recall a sight from four days ago, when I was still in mine incubator and had frightened thee, my friend when thou took a seat on my rear. Twas a red tendril spurring the dessicated corpse of an outsider to twitch. Finding it unnatural, I erased it with mine cannon, only to see the red tendril retreat back into the soul. I thought it some odd youkai at first, but now...”

Your mind figuratively retreats four threads all the way back to your first day, and you hear Sanae stifle a small scream as she realizes what Awyrgan’s statement implies.

Rigel’s ability is to take control of everything.

What a Lovecraftian ability. But the man was clearly on the side of humanity against the monsters, so what does that mean?

[ ] Head back to Youkai Mountain and inform them, if safely possible
- [ ] Others need to know; We need to go to __________ as well. (write-in, multiple)
[ ] Stay here, not worth the risk
Well, fuck.

[x] Stay here, not worth the risk.

Let's run this by the Eientei crew before we go blasting off like Team Rocket.
[x] Head back to Youkai Mountain and inform them, if safely possible
-[x] Rush there immediately

Tentacles of Mind Control + Hakurei Ochiba's bullshit powers = THINGS ARE REALLY, GENUINELY FUCKED
[X] Head back to Youkai Mountain and inform them, if safely possible
- [X] Others need to know; We need to meet Toyohime and go to the Garden of the Sun as well.

If Rigel is having a mind-blowing tentacle play session at the Moryia shrine, the Tengu would probably like to know.

I'm adding Yuuka because she may be the oldest hag he knows of aside from Eirin, if the Lux Pacifica is some sort lovecraftian elder god supporting a takeover under the shiny guise of a holy war, perhaps she knows what sort of power is backing the Saviours. Also he kind of left her passed out in the dust last thread.
[X] Head back to Youkai Mountain and inform them, if safely possible
- [X] Others need to know; We need to meet Toyohime and go to the Garden of the Sun as well.

The saviours being horrors in disguise makes too much sense. It'd explain the future's Yukari's behavior: She has no reason to subjugate mankind. So maybe she didn't and it was made up by Lux Pacifica as a decent casus belli.
dead story
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[x] Head back to Youkai Mountain and inform them, if safely possible
- [X] Others need to know; We need to meet Toyohime and go to the Garden of the Sun as well

“It’s only been five days...what the fuck.” You wonder aloud.

“Days are longer in Gensokyo, you know. Mostly due to it hosting a shard of Heaven. An hour in here is like two out there. Lot more happens, and the pace of life is slower.” Sanae yawns as she stumbles into the sizeable Eientei kitchen. “Oi, Lady Toyohime, we have something for you!”

“I trust this is important? Miss Kochiya?” In a flash, Toyohime had stepped from her position in front of the hearth to you, fanning herself with her particle disintegrator of a fan. “Combat data, is that it?”

Sanae weakly smiles, a faintly triumphant glint in her eyes as she opens up the data, “Feast thy eyes upon the enemy’s ploys! ”
“Huh,” Toyohime furls her brow at the projected information, before giving a sort of disappointed moan, “Lady Yagakoro was correct again. My inferences about the current arch-enemy’s capabilities were slightly off. I had assumed it would be something related to dominion, but none so complete in scope.”

“So, in powerlevel terms, how screwed are we?”

“Worse than...Junko.”

You frown at the unfamiliar name, “Who’s Junko?”

“Some horrid fox-based monstrosity of a Divine Spirit that sieges the Lunar Capitol every decade.” Toyohime’s voice drops, and a tinge of fright comes in, “She rams her head against the Capitol gates, terrorizes the rabbits, and uses my sister and I as anger management punching bags. On the moon. It is something nobody on Earth could accomplish.”

“Gee! Something even somebody as strong as you is frightened of, must be final boss material.” You nervously chuckle at the statement from one who trounced Yukari without too much trouble. “But you’re saying that Rigel is even worse than her?”

“In insidiousness, yes. We do not have an accurate reading of his magical reserves, however, while we do know that Junko can leave substantial cracks on the very walls constructed by Lord Tsukuyomi and Lady Amaterasu. If Rigel has such power, on par with a primordial god, then coupled with the capability to claim absolute dominion over all things in a similar manner to the Abrahamic Consensus, then we may be facing a serious threat beyond anything we have faced in thousands of years.”

Toyohime folds her fan, and shakes her head, “I do not say that lightly. I will inform Lady Yagokoro and we shall prepare for the worst, as should all the mortals of Gensokyo. It is not a stretch to imagine that he might go for the Moon next, perhaps...” Audible gulping is heard as her face flusters, a concerning cornerstone on how much the information is causing the prideful Watatsuki to behave out of character, “He might even ally with Junko in the process...oh no.”

Sanae raises a finger, “Any strategies?”

“I would say that Eientei should continue with development, as my expertise, Kaguya’s talent, my knowledge, Lady Yagokoro’s intellect ought to invent something capable of negating the threat. What Lunarians really do when something like this approaches though...is flee to somewhere unreachable.”

She gazes up at the moon in the sky, its light free to pass through the overtaken Barrier unlike everything else.

“Warn everyone else in this land. We must stop Rigel here, or at least, exhaust every resource before he looks to the stars.”

==========

“Well that was depressing.”

“Chill out Ming.” Sanae tries to assure, a trembling tone in her voice. “We are protagonists. We---”

“You. You are a protagonist. I’m just a NPC.” You sigh, watching the stars in the night sky pass by for any potential hostiles.

“Alright Mr. Necromancy-imbued, Mind-altering, Hero-slaying, Dragon Tamer. Whatever you say.” Sanae says as she rolls her eyes.

“Seeing as thou art a friend of a friend, I would graciously suggest that thy retract the comment about taming. Nay such a base beast am I that has need of such crude techniques to function socially.” The dragon rumbles below the both of you, her voice vibrating through her scales.

While you can fly now. Awyrgan is still the fastest in your group. That convo atop her back lasted you the whole way to the former Garden of the Sun, which is about forty seconds.

“Also Sanae, you know that’s a death flag. You know what happens to outsider protagonists...wait, nevermind.” You backspace verbally as Sanae gives you a weird look, “The point is, protagonists or heroes, have lots of people standing next to them. Given my status, that area is also a blast radius that people get hurt by. Speaking of which...”

Awyrgan spirals down, cutting speed with her wings the whole way. A whole mess of dead vegetation and dust is blown up and off to the side by the resulting wind as she lands in the middle of what once was the Garden of the Sun.

“Lady Kazami?” Awyrgan bellows out.

The dirt in front of you stirs. Roots burst through the soil, and through the hole emerges a shabby, long-haired, pants-wearing figure. It takes you a few moments to register that person as Yuuka, garbed in her PC-98 era outfit. Likely due to the fact that her previous clothes were blown apart.

“Yes? What do you want?” Yuuka mumbles with her face off to the side, as if embarrassed or afraid. Is this the same person you fought with earlier today?

“Um,” Apparently Awyrgan’s taken aback as well, “We came into the possession of some secrets of our hated foes. As a major presence in the Grassroots Youkai Network, mayhaps thou has use of such intelligence?”

“...Sure.” The wilted youkai sighs, accepting the datacube and perusing the information as they come up in the list. “I shall have the flowers whisper this revelation to the four corners of Gensokyo...you know, assuming they would still listen.”

“I...I’m sorry.” You quickly apologize, still somewhat fearful of the flower youkai.

“Alas, the one called Ming,” She shakes her head, “It is not through choice that you are a terrible human. But it is my choice in being too weak. Please, just don’t be here while the land heals.”

“Alright, got it. What about the enemy though?”

“Go be terrible around them, please.”

========

“Well that was depressing.”

“Go eat a sock, Ming. I liked the Garden of the Sun.” Sanae groans, “Why didn’t you tell me that you nuked the place?”

“I didn’t! Oh hey.” You notice something odd as the Mountain looms closer. “Was there always a large barrier around it?”

Awyrgan pulls up as it becomes apparent that there is a dome of shimmering golden...tendrils...of light surrounding the Youkai Mountain. You pull out Initiative and take some pot shots at it, and then a single Hew-empowered shot. The normal rounds bounce off in sizzling trails of plasma, while the Hew shot tears a small hole that quickly reforms.

“Shit. This sort of divine energy is stronger than usual. Can you ask if this your patrons’ doing, Sanae?”

“What, no!” She replies indignantly. “Does this look like a barrier of wind or of earth? Something so gaudy can only be done by either the Hakurei or from what I can tell, the enemy! And I can’t sense them right now, and it’s probably a bad idea to attempt contact.”

“You fought against Reimu right? Any idea how to dispel this? I don’t want it collapsing in on us like a falling ceiling trap.”

“Ugh.” Sanae removes a charm from her belt satchel, writes a fortune on it with saliva, and throws it at the barrier. A splotch of blackness manifests on it, lingering but insignificant.

“Traditional curses work.” She looks on with disappointment. “But this thing is massive. I don’t have enough curses to get through even if I tell fortunes for the rest of the year!”

“Curses?” Awyrgan suddenly pipes up as she descends onto the ground, ejecting both of you off in the process. “Tis, ironically, good fortune that I, the noble dragon Awyrgan, hath what we need in this trying time!”

“You mean...oh...” You understand as you see her spit out a copy of the Ame-no-Ohabari, making Sanae yelp and jump back on instinct. “How many of those can you make?”

“I still hath the metal consumed from that black-white witch’s junkheap and borrowed from our nemesis. Now, stand back, for I shall perform a spellcard attack!”

“Wait do you even know what a spellcard is?” Sanae questions, before stepping back as Awyrgan arches up her back, and hot plasma begins running between her scales.

“Replica Curse:...” Awyrgan’s eyes cry tears of plasma as she braces her form against the ground. Then, her back suddenly bloats and expands out into a larger, heavier existence. Bulging and incongruent with the rest of her form, it looks somewhat like a series of vehicle-mounted missile pods.

“...Ryu-no-Ohabari!” You see a steady flow of bronze sword blades emerging from her scales, flung en masse into the air. Streaks of heated air light up the night sky like a meteor shower as the Ohabari replicas are sent crashing into the barrier as a barrage, blackening it with their concentrated curses as they shatter and explode. The barrier noticeably shrinks and become irregular, as if rusting and buckling under its own weight.

“Couldn’t you just throw them normally?” Sanae shouts with her hands over her ears, “You don’t need to launch them that hard!”

“Technically, this is danmaku, right?” You add.

“Tis more entertaining in this manner, I assure thee! Now, tis time for mine final blow!” With a joyful roar, the railgun retracts and Awyrgan charges forward, slamming into the barrier.

A sickening crunch is heard. Her neck kind of snaps and twists backwards at a 180 degree angle, and she flops onto the ground. The barrier remains unmoved.

“Easy girl. Overconfidence is a quick and obvious killer.” You weakly laugh as the dragon’s long neck snaps back to a regular position while the remaining sword blades disintegrate into their components, dragged back into the evershifting mess of metal that make up her internals.

“Tis thy turn, dear friend.” She grumbles.

“I’m kind of tired, Awyri, can you---OW” Awyrgan, impatient, had curled her tail around you and shoved you straight into the barrier, rubbing your face against the blackened surface. “Pwease stwap.” You muffle out.

Sanae shakes her head. She leaps over to the barrier, and incants, “By the authority of the Sky, and the strength of the Earth. Purify this blackened guardian. Lay it to rest.”

Streaks of divine energy rush up into the curses, grains of rice against the blackness. Sanae raises her gohei, hovering a bit above ground as a noticeable wind builds around her, “Miracle: ‘Divine Wind of the Kouen Era’ ”

A sudden violent gust bends tree tops and shifts stones, as the barrier crumbles into a flurry of leaves, carried off into the distance by the wind. Awyrgan snarls and furls her wings.

Your skin itches in dissonance. You don’t feel any wind save for a light breeze.

“Ha, cursed barriers may as well be made of paper. That barely took any effort. Come on guys. I want to go home...” Sanae yawns, and then immediately falls flat on her face.

You walk over and check with dismay. She’s fast asleep, quite comfortably judging by the look on her face as she snores away on the grass.

“Fack.” You hoist the shrine maiden onto your shoulders and climb back onto Awyrgan. “Alright, Awyri, let’s head for the Temple.”

“Affirmative, going in.”

Awyrgan takes off, and flies forwards, climbing altitude sharply. You pass the Kappa Village, and sail up the waterfall like a speedboat on a river. As you approach you constantly check the Hunter’s Module, and note with some relief that there are no hostile marks on the HUD. There are however, many, many marks in the Tengu Village plaza. Is there another meeting?

“Awyri, can you go small and carry Sanae? We should try to avoid raising a fuss there.”

A sort of gelatinous, liquid feeling shifts beneath you, before disappearing and allowing you to freefall for several meters before the artificial dragon wings kick in. Awyrgan pulls up alongside you, humanoid, with Sanae slung over her shoulder like a sack of potatoes. “Joining the fun, art thee?”

“You know I can’t leave things well alone, mine friend.” You answer.

The dragon awkwardly smiles, and the two of you dive down into a darkened section of the village, and trek over to the plaza on foot.

As you get closer, you pick up sounds of loud fighting and spell casts coming from the plaza. You double check and oddly, there are no hostile marks. Are they danmaku sparring? In such a time?

“Love Sign: MASTER---SPARK!”

“Dragon Sign: Optical Dream!”

You get into the plaza just in time to see a massive energy beam narrowly miss an immature Eastern dragon and impacting a shield conjured of a flurry of bandages. Marisa Kirisame barely finishes firing before dodging sideways as Kasen Ibaraki launches the fabric out as a clawed hand, attempting to grasp the witch.

The black-white then dodges low, but the dragon flies after her with unerring grace, snapping at her all the way. Marisa nimbly dodges the attacks while skating along the ground on her broom, throwing up bolts of stars and bottles of nebulous dust at the offending creature and the not-a-oni.

Kasen snarls and recalls her dragon in a puff of smoke, before abruptly shifting to the left. Before Marisa can react, a massive eagle the size of a rhinoceros shoots out of the shadows at her, forcing a sharp turn left and up into the air...straight into an incoming grasping cursed arm. She does not reverse direction in time to avoid the hand wrapping around her and slamming her into the ground.

“Done.” Kasen coughs out, the bandages reshifting back into a normal arm.

“Oi Oi!” She clamors, “It’s not over yet!”

“We agreed. Best two out of three rounds. Isn’t that right? Mr. Ochiba?”

The outsider, who had been watching the fight, steps down from the stage, scratching his head. You notice that there are quite a few non-tengu in the crowd, including some familiar faces: Shou, Patchouli, Futo. Heck, seems like every group in Gensokyo sent somebody here!

Except, you note with a sudden chill down your spine, the Human Village.

“Miss Ibaraki...how long are you going to keep this up? Why not allow Lady Hakurei to speak for herself?”

“As long as it takes until Reimu is safe.” The hermit complains. “You think I would reveal the lynchpin of this world while those terrorists calling themselves ‘heroes’ are running free while the Sages are away?”

“He has a point, Kasen.” Marisa lifts her face off from the ground, bruised but not really harmed too much, “All we have to go on is that the Hakurei Shrine disappeared yesterday, and you claim to be the only one who knows what’s going on. No hard feelings, but you’re not exactly the most trustworthy of people.”

Something’s not right. You smell something odd in the air. Something hidden and dangerous.

Kasen sighs, “You bought into that, Marisa? Reimu’s life would be in danger if I revealed anything. Please, do not interfere.”

“Miss Ibaraki!” Ochiba firmly states, looking straight into Kasen’s eyes, “The more we delay a meeting, the more innocent lives will be lost! The enemy cannot be defeated conventionally, so until the Sages return, we need every bit of leverage we can get! Reimu...I need Reimu’s help if we are to survive.”

Awyrgan sets down Sanae onto a stone table, nudges close to you and whispers, “Tis irritating to hear the speech of that one with the two swords, and his blood smelt of nobility. Shall I make him into a burnt delicacy?”

“No, you can’t eat him yet.” You whisper back, “I got a bad feeling about the consequences.”

“I represent her. Any and all requests will be made through me.” Kasen responds, “Until they leave, or I die.”

“Miss Ibaraki, that is a rash thing to say! You’ve seen what they’ve done to the tengu, and until we can better prepare ourselves, there’s no telling what the Saviors can do!”

“Tis a lie, Ming.”

“I know.” You make one last scan with the Hunter’s Module. Nothing. “Give me some of your life, and let’s go. I think something more than Ochiba’s usual BS is afoot.”

Hewing off Awyri’s lifespan with one hand, you raise your other hand and cry out in a loud and sing-song tone, “I know at least something they can do! Be delicious!”

“Hmph, tis more appropriate for mine boast.”

“Oh shush.”

The crowd turns, Ochiba and Kasen stop talking and look over to you.
“They die easy. Roasted, dried, and salted. So many corpses in the field. So much expensive armor turned to scrap metal. So many knights...how did they taste, Awyri?”

“Sweeter than virgin maidens, but mildly less flavorful than plainer humanfolk.” She echoes your sing-song voice, while an Ohabari slowly grows out of her left hand. “Tis possible to dine on their flesh for months on end, with no fatigue in appetite.”

Ochiba visibly winces at your statements as he raises a katana at you, “You...who are you two?”

“Wow, you forgotten about me already? It’s been only one day! I am Wu Ming, professional asshole and nosy outsider. This is Awyrgan, professional eater and legally recognizable Touhou.” You curtly introduce the two of you into the gathering. Awyrgan probably would be answering but she appears more interested in stoically posing with a two-handed Ohabari planted into the ground, in the regal manner of a knight errant. “Or as some of you may like to term...the Null Fiend and the Dragon.”

The air freezes up. The crowd gathered noticeably backs up like the Red Sea, and Marisa, observant, ejects from the plaza and onto a nearby rooftop. In the din, you see Ochiba mouth, “You don’t look the same!”

Something whistles through the air before you notice, and Awyrgan dramatically moves forward to intercept. The Ohabari hits air, and you suddenly notice a sword in your throat.

“Called it.” You mutter, before going back to your mocking tone. “Oh no.” You groan, as the sword dissipates back into divine energy. “Mister Rigel, why are you attacking non-combatants? Awyri and I just trying to get back to my bedroom so we can sleep twice in the same place for once.”

Some more whistles, but this time Awyrgan simply ejects several copies of the blade into the air, deflecting the divine projectiles in airbursts of cursed miasma.

“Rigel, stop!” Ochiba shouts.

“Yeah, guess that wasn’t believable. But still, I so…yawn...so wish we could be civil about this, Mr. Rigel, but if you are going to keep doing this, then I’m afraid that I am going to tell my higher-ups to...degrade treatment of the prisoners.”

“Cease thy civility friend.” Awyrgan angrily breaks her silence. “False knights! Foul imitations of an illusionary chivalry. If thou art true of heart and unwavering faith, show thyself instead of flinging treacherous blades from the shadows!”

A resounding silence. Awyrgan huffs, and slams her claws down, breaking her humanoid form in the process and letting out a resounding roar through her horse-sized jaws. Damn, you observe in realization at her sheer size compared to the crowd, she increased size by an order of magnitude in just one Gensokyean day to something larger than an A-10 Warthog. “Art thee so cowardly, so faint of heart that thy face will not show?”

“Yeah, seriously, I haven’t even seen your face yet.” You lie along with your dragon, “Are you going to hide behind your Companions while they die and suffer for your cause? Are you going to let us burn them, eat them, and crucify them while you do nothing?”

It’s Kasen’s turn to speak up this time, a trembling tone in her voice as she gestures to the...damn, that area near Mayohiga is still smoldering? “Wu Ming...you did all of that?”

“Not all of it. You can thank Sanae for the other annihilated platoon.” You chuckle, gesturing to the sleeping shrine maiden on the table past the crowd. “But seriously. Rigel, you might want to come out. We have two captives in the Null Fiend’s base, you know, the same Null Fiend you mistook me for. He’s not going to be happy if you don’t. Nice try mercy killing them, though.”

Ochiba visibly pales, “He talked about those prisoners. What did you do to the Pyrus siblings? You...”

“What? The usual. Chains, the rack, you know, usual newcomer treatment.” You lie, “Maybe a little bit of vivisection. We might get started on interrogation soon though. So, Rigel...show thyself. We need to talk.”

A slight cough from the side, and you see a shabby looking fellow in a hooded cloak emerge from the crowd. In a single motion, he tears the cloth from its body in a blinding flash of light, making your Hunter Module dim everything else.

“You wished to see me, foul Fiend!?” The baritone voice from your eavesdropping earlier returns with a vengeance as he shouts at you, his face contorted with righteous fury. “Here I am!”

Here he is, the final boss.

Gold and platinum, that’s the impression you get from Rigel. A billowing, flowing cloak, thick, ornate (but with a mundane, relatable flair), and a worn out, middle aged face with braided red hair and a full beard that still oozes with the charm and looks of a younger person, one much more detailed than the holographic representation Castor showed you.

There’s something inherently comfortable about it, much like Big Brother’s visage in 1984 as you use an unflattering metaphor, that ironically makes you feel reassured as you swing around Initiative into a fighting stance. Despite the general bulkiness of the armor, he also feels oddly in place among the native denizens of Gensokyo that haven’t fled the area yet, likely due to the somewhat feminine sculpting.

“Finally, the person who’s been throwing swords at us.” You state confidentiality, even as his threat level fills up your HUD. “Awyrgan, deliver your terms, if you please.”

“Ah, catharsis. Listen, knave.” The dragon snarls, leaning her head close to Rigel, within bite range. “Leave. This. Land. Lest more of thy men are rendered into fodder, or worse.”

Ochiba’s shouting something in the background about no lethal violence at a peace talk or something, but nobody’s listening to him.

To your surprise, Rigel’s face suddenly shifts into a hearty smile, “Oh? Why don’t you tell the Violet Tyrant to leave our land then? Her pet demons in Clear Sky are pillaging countries and murdering innocent people in the Outside World as we speak!”

“INNOCENT? WHY I---” You lash out with your fishing line just in time to restrain Sanae from running at the enemy general. Damn, when did she wake up? “Let me go! Ming! This bastard needs to be exterminated!”

The smile disappears, “You corrupted an innocent bystander with your foul mist?”

You respond blankly, “What.”

“Sword of Truth!” More blinding light...light? A closer look reveals something...tendril-ish, exploding from his hand as a radiant blade comes into existence. “Fragarach! Reveal the deceit this monster wrought!”

Fragarach? Does this guy have Gate of Babylon or some shit?

“Fragarach? That Irish blade? Do you have like Gate of Babylon or some ridiculous power?!” Sanae shouts.

He holds it up, blade first, to Sanae, who coughs violently, as if something caught in her throat. “Tell me, what did the Null Fiend and the Dragon do to you?”

“Oh, them? I barely know Ming that well. He’s a terrible person, but competent at being a hero. Awyrgan gave me rides, and really should try on more maid dresses rather than that edgy metallic….”

“Tsk, the corruption runs too deep for even Fragarach to break through the lies. Very well!” He stabs the sword into the ground, leaving it standing hilt first, which is rather impressive as the plaza is paved, and conjures up what looks like a massive section of tree bark and a stylus, before making a massive show of writing. “By the authority of the Lux. By the hope of humanity. Reveal the true form of all those present!”

Glowing runes form beneath your feet as he writes, far faster than any spell you’ve seen a Gensokyean cast. The runes are also much more different than the rococo, cursive script used in Gensokyo’s magic, being far more angular and block-ish, like an alphabet. You swear you’ve seen them somewhere before, as the runes explode, engulfing everyone present with divine energy.

You feel it strip against you like a receding ocean wave, all too harsh and painful. You mutter Hew, and a cold sinking feeling sets in when you see that, much like your earliest use of the spell, nothing happens.

As the runes fade, you look around and, to your disappointment, don’t see significant differences in everyone. As stated by Keine’s book and Mishaguji, the forms taken by the denizens here are not illusions, but adaptations. Shou, watching from a balcony, had turned into her tiger form, not that she’s noticed, and Futo has become translucent, with a spinning dish visible inside of her. Okay, those are some pretty massive changes, but the tengu seemed to stay the same.

Oh, and atop Kasen’s head are a pair of massive horns, straight and pointy, where the “hair buns” used to be. You take the opportunity to point and laugh at her, until you notice that nobody else is looking at her.

Everyone’s looking at you, in fact.

You pull your arm back. It is shriveled, dead, the flesh within having long since mummified and bore through by decomposer organisms. And yet it moves and feels, even the areas that bare the signs of severe blunt injury and third-degree burns.

You lower Initiative and look at your own reflection, a gaunt, dry, eyeless ghoul stares back at you, with no nose and two large gaping holes where your eyes were. Despite the mummification, you still see maggots crawling through the gaps in the skin. Strangely large
maggots tinged with either pinkish or rainbow-colored auras.

Pulling your hand beneath Awyrgan’s cuirass, you feel your chest. It lies still even as you continue to breathe in and out. No lung movement, nor heartbeat. Not even when you reach into the autopsy cut that leads directly into your chest cavity.

============
Mayohiga

The deserted house briefly comes alive with the sound of an enchanted typewriter.

The sheet of paper is only imprinted with a single line of text before being ejected.

“Outsider #1126: Confirmed cessation of life. Method: Smoke inhalation. Context: Unknown.”

============

“Great job with the smoke and mirrors. Rigel.” You laugh as the you shows off your desiccated form to the public. “Are you saying that a fucking zombie killed your elite troops?”

While everyone is staring at you, he is staring at Sanae and ignoring you, who has not changed at all. “Sanae Kochiya, Goddess of the Wind...you really believe that I need to die?”

“Yes.” She replies coldly and firmly.

“Whoa, whoa whoa, hey.” Ochiba finally interjects after standing in shock since Rigel steps in, his normally confident, heroic tone somewhat wavering. “Don’t just jump to absolutes like that.”

“If there is any time for absolutes, you foolish outsider, now is the time.”

“Also, Rigel! Why do you feel the need to antagonize the Null Fiend so?”

Rigel ignores that question initially as he scribbles on the tree bark. You candidly answer for him, “Probably because the Fiend killed his friends or something in that future timeline. You know, small things like that.”

“Tsk. You really are the same no matter when you are, foul wretch. Hakurei Ochiba, you have mistaken my intentions. Everything living in this world is valuable, and should be treated with dignity and care. These two,” He gestures at you and Awyrgan and suddenly raises his voice, into a booming thunderous condemnation, “As you can see, are not living!”

You feel something press up against you, as Awyrgan manifests several more Ohabaris out of her flesh. Sanae leans in to your earhole, and whispers, her tone somewhat odd, “Zombie-Ming, I finally can feel my gods.”

“You mind calling Kanako over then?”

“No, Ming. I feel their presence IN him.” Sanae says as she points at the gesticulating Rigel. “I...I fear he ate them.”

“And I will never negotiate with them! By the mandate of the Lux. By the will of all that is good. Return these monsters to the grave where---!”

And at this moment, all three of the interloping outsiders scream out and act.

“SIR RIGEL! STOP THIS AT ONCE!”

“WAIT WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME EARLIER!”

“I WAS DAZED!”

Think fast.

[ ] Blast the writing bark out of his hands
[ ] “MEILING, HELP!”
[ ] “Styx...styx...where all rivers flow...”


====

A/N: really busy with school and work at once, sorry for slowness
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[x] “MEILING, HELP!”
I'm pretty sure this is the only time Junko has been mentioned in a story. nice.
[X] “MEILING, HELP!”

We're faced with a pretty shitty situation where we are in full view of some pretty big bigwigs of Gensokyo.

voting to blast the writing out of his hands is technically the fastest, but it probably isn't a good idea for the fact that it would cement the idea that we're the bad guys.

chanting whatever the 3rd option is seems like a wildcard option. But the time it'd take I assume would put us in danger.

Shouting for Meiling is a mix between time and authenticity. If she can make it in time. We'd have a "hopefully" another influential character on our side to convince the rest.

At least that's what I think is going on.
[X] “MEILING, HELP!”
>Hakurei Ochiba, you have mistaken my intentions. Everything living in this world is valuable, and should be treated with dignity and care.
>“No, Ming. I feel their presence IN him.” Sanae says as she points at the gesticulating Rigel. “I...I fear he ate them.”
lol

>By the mandate of the Lux. By the will of all that is good. Return these monsters to the grave where---!
Is this guy trying to cast Turn Undead ? There's no way something like that is going to be effective.
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[x] Blast the writing bark out of his hands
-[x] Return the God's you killed you piece of shit!

He ate my favorite touhou!
>Sanae is savvy enough to have played F/HA
That's ridiculous.

[x] “MEILING, HELP!”
[x] “Styx and stones.”
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Mumbai, India
Current time: 12:00AM

Under the dark awnings of an abandoned train station in the outskirts of the city, amidst the pitter-patter of heavy rain, two groups meet.

One is a short, gray-haired woman dressed in discreet black clothing, flanked by a dozen burly men in suits, as still as statues.

The other, a single blond woman in a fanciful white dress with a purple tabard, holding a parasol despite the weather, alongside a wheelchair-bound man with balding white hair.

“I might ask why you find the need to travel here personally.” The tall blonde asks as she examines the trunk the shorter one is towing. “These are dangerous times.”

The old woman chuckles, “Hardly dangerous. And it would not do for the prized swords of yore, of so much import that the public still believes of their fantastical nature despite hidden right under their feet in the Tower of London, to be delivered in such an impersonal manner.”

“As expected. But I dare say.” The blonde leans close and grins, revealing her rows of sharp teeth and prompting the guards to break out their pistols and take aim. “You are more concerned of how the recipient of the weapons is behaving, correct? Primrose?”

“Ah, would you not worry about how your scions are doing? Violet dear? You would say so too, correct, wizened engineer?” Primrose smiles, and looks at the man. The man stirs, and mutters something in German with an irritated tone.

“Please, do not trouble this old fellow. At least, try to help his mind stay intact until he can witness his creation’s true potential.” Violet says, annoyed, as she opens the trunk, revealing a rack of swords, lavishly bejeweled and carved, but all rusted and worn-looking.

“So. Hunks of old metal?” She sighs.

“One of these hunks of old metal, ohoho.” Primrose chuckles as she kneels down and fingers them. “Arondight...Courtain...Galatine...Caladbolg...Excalibur, ohoho,” She pauses as she lays a hand on the least rusty of them, “A weapon fit for an English king, and only wieldable by one.”

Violet sighs, “It wouldn’t be of help. Unless an old queen like you would wish to rush into combat.”

“No, not against our current foe, and not in the hands of our dearest scion, that monster of Wales, terror of Germania, and demon of the Levant. But this one.” She pulls out the most ornate, and yet the most impractical looking of the lot.”This is what will help.”

“And this is…?”

“The accursed ceremonial blade: Clarent.”

============

[X] “MEILING, HELP!”

“---they should have remained!”

A spiraling crack of rainbow light spreads from your body and intercepts the runes as they form. The golden runes push forward, only to appear to buckle under their own weight and collapse. Rigel frowns and puts away the tree bark.

“It appears I cannot justify this law in the face of even minor dissent. No matter. Even if I must turn my back to justice and take up arms as a vigilante.” He raises his head, a sword forming in his hand as he speaks. “Take the accursed dragon’s head. Reforged Gram!”

“Like hell you will!” As the rainbow crystals recede, you see Sanae leap forth and up above the paladin, her arms outstretched and projecting a series of divine light-sheathed water projectiles around her fists. “Sea of Opening: Moses’s Mirac--”

“Stay out of this, Sanae Kochiya! ” Rigel roars, “Sacred Onbashira of Yasaka!”

“Wha--” Sanae hesitates just a little too much, enough for the logs to thrust out of the ground and surround her like a massive tepee as she stumbles back earthward. Another shout from Rigel, and a series of iron rings materialize around the logs and shrink, locking the structure into a cage.

“Rigel!”

“You too, Hakurei Ochiba.” The outsider is stopped in his rush forward by a log sprouting out in front of him. You see that they are in fact growing all around the plaza, forming a towering fence that encloses just Rigel, Kasen, and your group. “I do not wish to engage any more innocents and redeemables in this fight. LIKE SO!” Abruptly. He swings his left arm out, and punches a cannon shell out of the air and into the sky where it detonates harmlessly. “Predictable.”

“Tsk. What a conceited individual.” Awyrgan complains, retracting the 155mm. “Must he really self-aggrandize to that extent?”

“You’re one to talk. By the way, cover me, you probably don’t want to be anywhere near a dragon-slaying blade.”

“You are going to charge forth posing as the main threat, hollow vessel, while the dragon rains fire from the back.” Rigel calls out, somewhat annoyed. “It’s a base tactic that I’ve seen a thousand times.”

“Hey, if it killed so many of your friends like you claim, then I’m not going to fix what isn’t broken. Hew Sign...hmm...” You wetten your burnt, shriveled lips as you think up a cool spell card name on the spot, ”Ah…’Dissection Barrier!’”

No pink light emerges from your body now. Glowing maggots and worms do, boring themselves out of your mummified skin and into the shield generator. A pink, writhing graviton barrier is projected, squirming and writhing as it grows large enough to cover both you and Awyrgan’s crouching form.

The true form of that iron card spell, eh? You wonder with perverted curiosity at what the cards themselves would have looked like without the hilariously powerful glamour that ‘professor’ put on you.

“Predictable”, Rigel scoffs as he tosses aside Gram, and pulls out a polearm instead,“Odin’s Unerring Spear: Gungnir!”

====

A couple of miles away, Remilia Scarlet staggers and grabs onto a table as the weapon she was leaning on vanishes.

====

You leap in front of Awyrgan, blocking the tossed spear with your shield. Even as its divine construction breaks apart in your infused graviton shield, you find yourself forced back, the draconic-infused exoskeleton unable to even hold ground against the raw power exerted against you, allowing it to push you back all the way to the edge of the plaza and slamming you against a wall.

No matter. You pull yourself back up and immediately charge back, firing your sidearm while continuously taunting him. “All you’ve got? Even the spear of a chief god not enough?”

“Hmph, the weapons of the wicked...” He deftly steps back to dodge a series of slashing strikes from a fuming dragon girl, dual-wielding the Ohabaris like they are claws...actually, they are growing out of her humanoid knuckles in a grotesque Wolverine-esque pattern. “Divine Shield: Aegis!”


========

A couple of miles away. Remilia Scarlet squints her eyes in confusion at the spear that reappeared in her hand.

========

Zeus’s shield blackens as the fragile bronze blades shatter themselves on its Olympian forged construction. Depleted of swords, Awyrgan roars, rears back into her monstrous form, and lets loose with a gout of plasma on Rigel, followed by a barrage of bullets from concealed guns under her scales. He raises the shield, projecting a glowing barrier that blocks the entire series of attacks as it slowly fades away into the aether.

“...Are not easily obtained, as they are destroyed long before they can damage civilization. Unlike you and your defiled tools. The likes of you, concentrated beings of evil, know not of love, or of hope. Fortunately...Juuchi Yosamu! Wretched Sword of Blood!”

A black-colored katana appears in his hand. Off in the sidelines, you notice that Ochiba is checking an empty scabbard. Stepping forth in a flash, he makes a diagonal cut at you, which you duck away from.

A spray of foul-smelling, lukewarm blood splashes on your face. You look down and see that your throat has been cut, despite the blade missing you by over a meter. Rainbow colored rocks scab over the “mortal” wound almost immediately (can you even ‘die’ normally at this point from human-tier wounds?), sealing it, but giving a peculiar numbness.

“Using cursed weapons against my spawn. Clever.” Meiling taunts through your mouth, “Not clever enough though.”

You feel your flesh and bones being stretched to their limit as the rainbow strings puppeting your body rears you up into a fighting stance. “Discord Sign: ‘Rainbow Schism’ ”

Slamming your foot into the ground, shattering your bones before putting them back together with crystalline fractures. A massive wave of sharp rainbow crystals spreads forth, forcing Awyrgan to leap back and Rigel to...ignore it completely. The crystals break off his armor like nothing.

You now notice something that, judging by their fearful expressions, Kasen and the others have already figured out. Rigel hasn’t taken any damage during this fight, not even minor scratches or dents on his shining armor. Even dragonfire and anti-divine rounds have failed to trouble this hero.

“An evil spirit possessing a corpse...familiar.” Rigel grunts as a hammer slowly materializes into his right hand, a similar one to the ones Castor threw at you. “And a minor god of calamity, eh? Appropriate. Let’s see if you can face this one! Purge the evil spirits with thy lightning! Mjolnir!”

“Castor Pyrus is fond of that weapon, wasn’t he?” You loudly ask as Awyrgan slithers in front of you, deflecting the thrown weapon with yet another cursed blade.

“Aye!” Rigel heartedly replies, some of his earlier mirth returning as the battle drags on. “Now if you would just let the Pyruses go...” The returning hammer catches Awyrgan off guard, knocking her on the head and flooring the dragon with the impact. Before you can react, a frightening crackling sound booms from heaven, and a bolt of lightning strikes her as she tries to push herself up. From a cloudless night sky. Somehow.

Hovering a safe distance away from the fight, a particular celestial oarfish reddens with jealousy as she feels her hair and fins stand on end at the energy dispensed.

“Awyri!” You scramble over to her head, “Are you okay?”

“Tis...nothing...” She grits out. “What...what sort of devilry art thou employing to summon so much weaponry of yore, red-haired tyrant?”

“The Lux has seen to grant me the power of Dominion, foul dragon. Which means.” He declares to the observing Gensokyeans as he cycles through multiple weapons in his hands, “I can borrow anything of mankind’s virtues as needed to deal with the threat at hand. Weapons, magic, even lesser gods” He smiles apologetically at a seething Sanae, “...must answer my call.”

“Aha!” You see Marisa slide down the curved roof to yell, a somewhat more smug than usual expression on her face, “Sanae, Ming, you dumb tank, I got him.”

“Hmm?” Sanae stops pounding on the barrier, “What do you mean, Marisa?”

“Kourin collects lots of rare items and tools that float in, an’ he collects lore on everything he doesn’t. Norse items are hard to find all the way here in Japan, but he told me about the famous ones before and how to spot them. Mjolnir, the one Mr. Rigel just used, is a blessed short-handled hammer that always returns to its user. Kinda like your gohei, Sanae.”

“Oh! You are a knowledgeable one, Miss Kirisame!” Rigel laughs, “Indeed, it is one of my most favorite tools, as the wise Lux saw fit to grant me dominion over.”

“You’re lying.” Marisa says, the smug grin growing wider, “If the Lux blessed you with dominion over the world, that tool is not something that was part of the gift. For you forgot, perhaps from overuse, that Mjolnir does NOT have the power to summon lightning.”

“But it does?” You ask, “I mean, even modern depictions...”

“No, Ming, Marisa’s right.” Sanae interrupts, cold realization dawning on her face, “The comic book version of Mjolnir is not the original. It never had any power but sure-hit and returning, along with its usual divine abilities to banish evil spirits.”

Rigel shakes his head and crosses his arms as Sanae turns to him, “Red hair, full beard, angular runes...you’re not just some randomly chosen human champion, Rigel, or should I say...Thor!”

In front of your eyes, the golden armor on “Rigel” sloughs away, no more than a gilded facade. Thick animal furs and bits of chainmail take its place, and not nearly to the extent that the fake armor implied. Most of the previous volume is instead filled up with muscle mass more appropriate for a Renaissance statue than a regular man.

Muscle mass that cursed bullets and blades are bouncing off of, not to mention high calibur magic.

Also he’s wearing a black t-shirt underneath with something you can’t read. Judging by the lettering and design though, it looks like Swedish, and probably metal band merch. Kind of gives his getup a more modern flair.

“Tsk,” Thor chuckles as he removes the knight-esque helmet and shakes his long, braided hair loose “it was always Father that was more skilled at disguising. Perhaps a bridal veil would have served my purpose better.”

“Shouldn’t Gotterdammerung have killed you by now?” Meiling asks through your mouth as you watch him appear to grow another two feet in stature. “I’m not seeing a lot of you Norse folk around since the Christians got to you.”

“Why are you under the impression that Ragnarok had finished, O’ lesser kin of Jormungandr?” He questions as he drops the hammer onto the ground, causing you to wince as you see the ground crater. “Aye, the Roman wolf in sheep’s clothing have burnt our lands and invaded our homes in the name of their Christ. But even it, at least, loved humanity.”

“You know. I don’t get your point. What exactly is Clear Sky doing that makes you so angry about it, Thor?” You rub your milky eyes as you ask, exhaustion taking its toll. “If anything, everything’s going along pretty well here, and from what I can tell they’re making strides to even eliminate the ethical dilemma of human flesh. People are dying to live here, you doddering god. Can you look at the world and say that what Gensokyo stands for is worse?”

“Yes. It is worse.” He replies without a bit of hesitation, a noticeably thick Nordic accent creeping into his previously immaculate Japanese, “Regardless of how gray the future may be. Regardless of the flaws, the wars, the cruelty that humans may exhibit...it’s all preferable to a world where they are extinct.”

A deafening wave of silence falls upon the plaza at his proclamation as all those present, including you, are taken aback. Extinction of humanity?

“And I am supposed to believe that our society, which depends on humans for faith and fear, is supposed to advocate for their extinction?” Aya pipes up from her aerial vantage point, having been one of the few tengu brave or foolish enough to stick around after Thor started throwing lethal magic around.

“You fools. Don’t you see?” Thor shouts, clouds gathering in the sky as his volume rises, “What do you think this garden is, but a testbed for a world without humanity? Look at the so-called ‘Human’ Village, do they actually resemble any people you see outside your garden, you accursed winged fiend?”

“Weird colored hair. Sharper teeth. Enhanced speed and magical potential. Oh my god, Thor.” You clasp a hand to your mouth in mocking terror, “They’re turning into anime characters! Clearly a fate worse than death.”

He ignores your comment and continues talking to Aya, “There are no humans left in this garden. No human will allow others of their kind to be devoured by monsters with such passivity. No human will stand idle as giants and monsters pervert the world to their design. It is dead within these walls, and the Violet Tyrant, your...Yukari, seeks to render the entire planet to her will in this way, a savage, monstrous place where the flame of humanity, of community, of fellowship...are snuffed out.”

“So, literally no different than the current world by your words? OH SHI--” You are interrupted by Thor’s hammer closing in on your face in a swing, crackling with lightning and backed up by mountain shattering strength. You just barely manage to dodge and drift off the shockwave and are only thrown back all the way across the plaza.

“Disgusting fiend.” He snarls in sudden anger and, to your horror, grabs the half-conscious Awyrgan by the neck with one hand, and with physics-defying strength (and weight distribution) he swings her around once and hurls the thirty metric ton dragon at you. Rainbow strings tug on your muscles, threatening to tear them apart, as you strain the exoskeleton in the effort to clear the distance. Ripped up stone tiles and broken tables ricochet off of her path as Awyrgan painfully slams into the ground, half-sunken. “If you are to speak, make a valid point, not another one of your inane ramblings.”

“How am I wrong?” You complain, wiping stale blood from your face as you run to heal your friend, the result of a stray fragment of rock hitting you in an exposed area, “Am I supposed to believe that modern humanity--a heady stew of pointless violence, meaningless ideology, and unsustainable pollution, is a culture worth conserving?”

“You cannot name one thing in humanity you think is worth keeping?”

“Look Thor. If there is anything good in humanity, youkai...or whatever you call the non-human folk...they have it too. Because let’s be fucking honest here, youkai are the result of human imagination, so they can’t stray too far off from the base material. So what if we all become hybrids or whatnot? There’s nothing lost.”

“Hmph, you sound like the Violet Tyrant herself, who stated that...”

========

“...Humanity has remained in a degenerate state for millenia. Which is why I must act.” The tall blonde states in a rather matter-of-fact way.

“Now that’s a harsh statement to make, dear.” Primrose chuckles as the train from nowhere pulls up in the station. “Surely our progress from dirt to concrete has some meaning? Yukari Yakumo?”

“It would, your majesty, if they truly improved themselves beyond their tools. Dozens of millenia ago, humans beat each other to death with rocks over food and mates. Now, they do the same with guns.” Yukari sullenly states as the train stops completely and opens its doors. She enters first, with the old woman and her silent entourage following behind. “In the English language, why is it that the word ‘utopia’ carries the double-meaning of ‘ideal’ and ‘impossible’? Why are only negative facts referred to as ‘facts of life’? Despite living in a world with infinite possibilities, why do human will always choose the nastiest, most brutish and shortest way to solve problems?”

“Because that is the way the world runs...without your witchery, of course.” Primrose says,, finding a comfortable seat in a booth. “The question you are implying, is why humans cannot overcome that?”

“The answer is that humans dare not think of a better state. The pragmatic always triumphs over the naive, and the scheme over the dream. ”

“And the alternative you are offering to solve this obstacle?”

“Restructure it all, destroy the idols, the poisonous ideals and institutions that plagued humanity for its entire history. Allow magic, mystery, monsters to roam wild once more, without the ignorance that coated human eyes during that time. Allow nature to share the burden of civilization and industry, so life can prosper without want. For satisfaction to replace ambition, faith, envy...”

“All things that drove humanity’s growth.”

“And all things that leads to its suffering.” Yukari smiles, “Lives will only improve, the only thing that truly changes, is who’s calling the shots, and for 99% of people...is it really any different?”

========

“...and thus a complacent humanity will be cast down into the shadows. Sidelined, irrelevant until they are bred into an amorphous mass with the monsters of the world. The entity known as humanity will disappear with nary a whimper. Forever.”

“Once again, ‘Wow, how terrible!” You snark as you surreptitiously heal Awyrgan with your non-gesticulating hand, ”A species of hairless apes got improved to be slightly less shitty!’ Is there any loss not predated on sentimental bullshit?”

“You all hear that? The Null Fiend states that there is no value to human essence. That it’s just a weakness to be thrown away. That the struggles, accomplishments, and culture of mankind is just trash...”

“It is.”

You feel a powerful hand clasp around your mouth, “Ming. Shut up.” It’s Kasen who speaks up this time, in a cold whisper, “Stop making this situation worse than it already is.”

“Ha...Ha ha ha, Oh Miss Ibaraki, you have no idea. So...Mr. Hakurei, are you still convinced that you are on the right side?”

The outsider unsheathes his (reobtained) swords, “I am responsible for the safety of Gensokyo. As long as I’m alive, I can’t go against that law. However,” He adds as he looks straight at you, “I kind of see why Reimu would not extend this protection to outsiders.”

Thor grimaces, “You mean...”

“If these demons die, would you leave? Yukari is not inside Gensokyo. If you defeat her, then mankind will live on, right?”

“You misunderstand the Violet Tyrant. She is not a human, or even a monster. She is a wicked, unrelenting force of corruption that infests the world not just through magic, but through the veins of society! Even if she is somehow killed, the monster will revive, fulfilling her goals through her organizations and intrigues, of which the very heart of it is Gensokyo....”

======

“...And you are not worried about yourself? These seem like awfully determined enemies, what if I was a Manchurian candidate, hmm?”

A dismissive harumph, “You underestimate my abilities, your majesty. I am not so easily ruined if my body is destroyed. Frankly, no youkai is. You will find that my ideas, my essence, are a bit more stubborn than most.”

“Ideas?”

The train begins to move, and the rain-soaked exterior of Mumbai disappears into darkness. The train is moving in a hazy dimension now, one of distant, peering eyes and a roiling, lurid purpleness.

“Knowledge. Or rather, the ideals of knowledge. The wonderment, enrapturement, and joy that comes from the realizations of the impossible. The discovery and control of boundaries between the real and fantasy, to be specific...a process that is activating as we speak, perhaps pre-maturely, but necessary...”

The void briefly parts, revealing a burning village. Soldiers bearing Myanmar insignia are fleeing from the scene, as a massive snake with the torso of a human emerges from amidst the houses, bullets bouncing off its scaly hide.

“For as civilization spread, the old myths that brought darkness upon human souls must fade, and rest in the few niches of true nature.”

The village and naga fades, and now they are passing through a large Chinese city. People wearing rainbow sashes and wielding torches are marching upon police precincts and government facilities...including the very officers and officials supposed to be manning them. Some of them are sprouting fangs and scales.

“But when after a long slumber, they shall emerge, no longer cloaked in the darkness of ignorance, but heralding a new dawn.”

The train slows down as it enters into a cavernous underground staging area. The Violet steps out, followed by the Queen. Some of the soldiers idly about recognizes the new arrival, and snap into rigid salutes almost by instinct.

“I see you’ve taken advantage of our former troops as well.” The Queen mutters as she returns the salutes.

“They merely saw the knowledge, the light of a new future.”

One of the Queen’s bodyguards yelps and levels his gun at the spider drone that crept up behind him, lowering it when he notices the half-dead, half-living thing nuzzling his leg with its head. Out of one of the adjacent storage bays, a Typhoon fighter jet crawls out on its wings and landing gear, snarling and snapping its nose open and shut at the hunks of meat some warriors are tossing at it. The Queen notes that the label on above the bay entrance reads “Bronze Wing Prototype Roosts”.

“A queer future, I say.”

“Indeed, but it is a better world, one which sprung from mine creation, the Garden...”

======

“...a wellspring to fuel her misbegotten nightmare of a future!”

Ochiba shakes his head, and levels a blade to both sides, “Both of you pose a threat to this land, and to my cousin. I can’t let you do this.”

“Tsk. Maybe I thought wrong of you.” You remark.

He ignores you.

Thor dispels his hammer, and retrieves the parchment again. “That can be arranged, but first you do agree that these demons must be expunged?”

“No doubt.”

“OCHIBA YOU TRAITOROUS---”

“No, Sanae. He’s right. About me, at least.” You set aside your shield and open your arms, “Come at me, ignore the others. I am the one you want, right Thor?”

A smile forms on the god’s face. In a flash of lightning, he rushes up before you can react, and hurls you and Awyrgan high into the sky, one with each hand. The air rushes past in a deafening roar you as the shock prevents you from air braking with your artificial wings. By the time you can react, you and Awyrgan have already reached the height where Youkai Mountain is but a patch of light in the distance.

“Then don’t take it back when I go all out, Hakurei!” Thor’s voice booms as the thunder in the skies, “Enduring Stockpile: B61!”

Down below amongst the spectators, Reiuji Utsuho feels a sudden pain in her chest. As a result, she doesn’t really notice everyone else moving away, in a justified mass panic, from the area, until the plaza is completely vacated.

======
All the way across the world, a series of blaring alarms send a particular missile silo’s occupants into a panicked frenzy. “Broken Arrow! Broken Arrow!”
======

You can barely see the bomb moving towards you, hurled by the might of a Norse Aesir. You can however, notice the massive threat blob that almost dwarfs Thor’s own doing so. Closing your eyes, you activate the shield and grab ahold of the now-shrunken dragon, hoping for the best.

The nuke detonates in a brief flash of light, then...nothing.

“Hmm?” You see the bomb sailing past you, cracked but not destroyed, its surface covered by a mess of talismans and seals. A green blob, almost as large as Rigel’s own, enters the immediate area.

A soft wind heralds the arrival of the red and white butterfly. Her form is dangling with torn ropes, broken fabric seals, and a defeated-looking Mima. With a brief wave of her arm, layers upon layers of barriers form around the warhead, until it resembles a bubble wrap of faintly glowing divine magic.”

Which explodes in a blinding flash of light and an earth-shaking sound, causing your visor to shutdown briefly and for Awyrgan to roar and squirm in discomfort. When the HUD flickers back to life, you see that everything is mostly intact...save for the massive crater in the Tengu Village plaza that’s emitting a ton of radioactive smoke.

“I missed.” Reimu...that’s not Reimu’s voice, but it’s coming out of her mouth. A rumbling, emotionless tone, “Recalibrating.”

“And so the true opponent has arrived.” Thor shouts, “Good, let’s end this quickly before any more needless suffering should occur.”

“Incident mastermind, seen. I shall start sealing him. Thank you for your prior generosity, Wu Ming.”

“Huh?”

“Thor! Son of Odin!” Reimu cries out as she flies straight down, dodging deftly pass a hail of divine arrows and gunfire as you follow her from a safe horizontal distance away, Awyrgan in tow. “You are a trespasser on these lands. Leave!”

Mima limply falls off of Reimu as the shrine maiden turns into a furious comet. Sending out your Fishing Line, you swiftly reel her out of the barrage that Thor is sending up.

“Thanks….oh, it’s you.” She weakly murmurs upon reaching the ground. The former plaza is all but deserted, with all previous spectators having fucked off when the nuclear warhead that’s not called Utsuho showed up. Sanae has broken free and is collapsed near a burnt building. Marisa is still hovering around, though more out of shock and concern than curiosity. Kasen is standing right on the edge of the hole, unconcerned of the radiation.

You crack open the Eientei medikit and apply one of the yellow patches.

In the middle of the crater is a glowing nimbus of divine energy. Gohei and hammer struggle towards each other, each blocked by a katana.

“Stop this! My cousin...”

“I’m not your cousin, idiot!” Reimu’s normal voice pops back for a second, before returning to the previous rumbling one, “ ‘Hakurei’ Ochiba, if you do not stand out of my way, you will be eliminated just like this invading god.”

“My boy, are you really going to defend this embodiment of human extinction?”

“Both of you! Quiet!” He shouts in sudden anger and slashes, sending both of the opponents back. “Neither of you know what’s true! Or what’s right thing to do?”

“And you do, you false relative? Tell us then.”

“Come on boy. Share your thoughts.”
File 154461014712.jpg - (2.99MB, 1370x1872, __hakurei_reimu_touhou_drawn_by_kan_aaaaari35__3dc.jpg) [iqdb]
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“You both...just...stop fighting! Reimu! Why can’t you listen to his legitimate grievances on Yukari’s plots! Thor! Why can’t have started off by not attacking this land!”

“Legitimate? Ha. Invaders have no legitimacy.”

“Oh, trust me boy, we tried.”

“Grrr...” Ochiba draws up in a battle stance, “I understand now why the old man told me to come in Gensokyo’s time of need. Neither the enemy nor defender are right. Stand down! Both of you! I shall confront Yukari myself to get the truth and resolve this conflict!”

“Never.” Is the mutual reply.

Watching the three participants square off, you can’t help but feel like the finale is coming.

“Releasing her probably would have saved a few lives, you know.” You comment.

“You fool, this is why we wanted to keep her sealed until the incident is over!” Mima groans as she props herself up with her staff, “The reason for the spellcard system, the pact between native humans and youkai, even the consensual self-modification of the sapient youkai...all of this was to placate the Barrier.”

“Explain?” You ask, surprised.

“The Hakurei Barrier isn’t just a magical barrier, fool. No barrier can actively convert disbelief and forgotten things into a power source. That requires a living entity to even process active absences. Short answer? It’s alive, and the Hakurei lineage is its immune system.”

“We thought it was a great idea at the time.” Kasen monotonically mutters as she limps towards you, a chunk of wood stuck in her thigh from the directed nuke blast,half of her left horn broken off, and her phantom arm completely absent. “Having one of the strongest families of miko serve as the linchpin for the Barrier. Us sages were supposed to intercept larger threats that could cause the Barrier to...start a fever, and steadily feed the shrine maidens dangerous, but handily solvable, incidents to strengthen them. What you’re seeing now is what happens when we fail to intercept.”

“The Barrier took control of her?”

“Elaboration: The will of the Barrier is fully possessing her and unleashing its full power, to the detriment of her long-term integrity. You know what happens when magic users push themselves too far, right? The body of Hakurei Reimu will be consumed in under a day under such exertion...”

“Welp. Time to stop this.” Before either Mima or Kasen can react, you move forward, shield raised and hammer raised, “If there’s anything I’m good for, it’s stopping divine bullshit from hurting other---”

“By the mandate of the Lux. By the dying dreams of a subjugated mankind. I sentence all war criminals to exile, henceforth, from this land….Ahem.” Thor cuts off his own words to rattle off the declaration and grins as he throws you an oppressive stink eye, “Our duels should not be interfered with, this perfectly justified decree should suffice.”

“YOU FUCK---” You were unable to finish your insult as an intangible force, irresistible by gravity or appeal, sweeps you off your feet and flings you, once again, into the night sky.

Consciousness fades swiftly as the G-force reaches beyond even Awyrgan’s turning levels, even as Meiling frantically stabs your brain with her scales. The last thing you see is your big friendly dragon tumbling after you.


[END PART 1]

The sudden smell of smog and trash shocks you back to reality.

“Owww...” You get off from your butt on the floor and look around. Everything is gray. The bricks of the wall you are facing is gray. The trash cans beside you are gray. The cat scurrying away from you is gray.

You blink, and a little color comes back in to your vision. They’re not actually gray, but they are really desaturated. The air is harsh and stale, and your nostrils inflame slightly at the noxious smell. Your head throbs painfully, as if something forgotten is resurging with a vengeance.

“What...just happened?” Sanae groans as she climbs out from a stack of cardboard junk, her gohai held up and outwards like a knife as she cautiously scans the surroundings. “What dimension did he trap us in?”

The sound of a car horn blaring somewhere further to your right takes your attention away. Locking eyes with Sanae in revelation, you remove your phone from your inner breast pocket, cracked but still intact from all the misadventures you had this week. Powering it on for the first time in four days, you groan as it picks up a signal, and the map app showing your location as somewhere in the southern region of Tokyo, Japan.

You silently pass the phone to Sanae, whose eyes noticeably dim as she looks over the information. Experimentally, she tries to inscribe a five-point star on the alley wall, only for the divine magic to fizzle out by the fourth stroke.

“Oh no.” She sighs.

“Oh no is right. We’re at least eleven hours away from the Yatsugatake Mountain Range by car...Awyri!” You call out as you look around the area for the dragon, “I hope she didn’t run off and eat a bunch of salarymen...ah, there she is. Wait, no!”

“Hmm?” The dragon perks up as she removes her face from the window of the jewelry store to look at you running out of the alleyway. “Ah, thou art clear of mind now. Can thee explain what sort of treasure vault is this, which hath no bars nor guards, but only a thin wall of glass to defend from interlopers?”

“Damn it, you’re going to attract lots of...huh.” You see that her draconic features have noticeably regressed. Her wings, normally expansive even in humanoid form, are a pair of stubs more suitable for a moe anime character than a killing machine. Her tails is likewise unobtrusive, barely peeking beneath her long metal skirt. In fact, with a bit more poof to her outfit, there’s no way to tell her apart from a regular human. Apart from the eyes, and the teeth...okay, she’s still incredibly inhuman, but not quite as obvious as before.

“...Forget it, we’ll be fine.”

“Oh...all of you got sent here too?” A dreary voice groans out to you from a hoodie wearing bum sitting on the street corner. You walk over to see a pair of red wulfen eyes staring back at you.

“Hey Momiji. What’s with that get up?”

“I had enchanted my usual clothes just in case I get thrown out into the Outside World again.” She says as the hoodie flickers slightly in the streetlight, revealing the wolf ears hidden beneath, “I’m NOT getting called a cosplayer.”

“I’m going to need to hear that full story later. Now....”

“Ming...”

“What?”

Sanae pauses, then breaks down laughing, “Ha ha, you really are a corpse, aren’t you? Nothing can faze you, can it? Not even facing down a living primordial god of the Norse and being sent back to the Outside World?”

“I’ll have you know. I never planned on staying. I was going to vacation for a week and leave with personal photos and maybe a few magic tricks learned.” You answer matter-of-factly, “Frankly, I don’t care for all of this power fantasy bullshit. As I’ve said to everyone else, I just want to enjoy my puerile dream of visiting a video game fairyland in peace.”

“Do you?” Momiji asks, tone deadened, “We are all quite sure at this point that you are not a normal young human. Or, at least, a living one.”

You check your reflection in the window. The glamour stripping is slowly fading, with patches of living skin “growing” over the dead flesh from top to bottom. Stripping off a chunk of your torn clothes, you wrap it around your non-existent nose and mouth to avoid attention. You still don’t feel a heartbeat save for the faint movements on the odd tumorous growths. Your head throbs, even more painfully this time. Reisen’s hypnosis had loosened something, unlocking...something...

“Have I really changed though?” You sigh, leaning your face against the glass window, “Perhaps you’re right, Momiji. I’m picking fights with gods and playing fast and loose with decency. But really, you guys knew what I did as soon as I came in, right?”

“You saved some children from a pack of despicable outsiders! A heroic act!” Sanae says, confused.

“I told Aya and Momi this already.” You answer as you glance at the tengu, who shakes her head in response, “I’m an opportunist. I see a target. I see a justification. I do terrible things to the target. I was a bit short on cash so I basically murdered and robbed them. It was okay though, since they were terrible people. You would know, Momiji.”

“I really, really wouldn’t have.” She shudders, “But what’s the point in going after the Saviors? You had no stake in the conflict.”

You shrug, “It started off pointlessly. One of them maimed Keine...probably would have killed her with a more direct hit...Village looks for the offender a week later after some more incidents involving the free labor and the Russians...Eientei, including me, find their scout. I brutally murder one of the scouts, which, I remind you, attacked me first. They retaliate by assaulting me and Awyri, gunning down some random war criminals in their zeal. I may have got some. They assault the SDM while I was there...I may have got some, but Flandre butchered several and I took credit...”

“Oh, Flandre did that?”

“Yeah. You think I could actually slaughter them before Awyri hatched? I heal Momiji...actually. Huh. I didn’t have any reason to continue staying in Gensokyo. A normal person would have left already especially with the enemy force specifically trying to kill them. Eientei’s paying me, I guess, but not nearly enough to risk life and limb. Ah...I was having fun, wasn’t I.”

“Fun?” Sanae asks, “Sure, spell card duels may be adrenaline rushing and fun, but certainly not the fights with blood and lost lives! I did what I had to with those evil people, but I would hesitate to call it...enjoyment.”

Momiji avoids her gaze. You take a breath, outside air filling your lungs...and old memories, unlocked with lunar insanity, flooding your mind.

“So...why did you really...”

[x] “But that’s the fun part, Sanae! To hold power over somebody else, to laugh at their powerlessness in your hands. To rip away the sky above their heads, the wind in their faces, forever. To destroy the life of a living being while watching them writhe in agony, is such a decadent, succulent act, like smashing a priceless vase, or burning a pile of money, it is truly more enjoyable than sex, or meals, or...I mean...”

You cough, “I...I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me.”

[x] Hi, this is Wu.

[x] “Ah, Sanae Kochiya, the fandom’s favorite bicycle and eternal school girl. Perfect for a knife to the throat and dismembered throughout Gensokyo, or Tokyo. Probably Tokyo, you’ve probably been missing for a few years so nobody would miss you.”

“Guoguo? Guoguo!” Meiling cries out through your mouth as the Sanae looks on in surprised horror and disgust, “What in the nine springs are you saying?”

[x] “And you, Inubashiri Momiji. So proud and haughty despite being rendered into an almost just as sexualized meme. You shall be beautiful, decapitated and mounted on a public monument for all the fans to gawk at.”

“The FUCK?” Comes the uncharacteristically crude response from the enraged white wolf, drawing a sword to your neck and succeeding in drawing very suspicious looks from the few other people on the street. Realizing the mistake, she quickly dismisses the weapon, turning the suspicious looks into confusion.

You try suppressing the thoughts, but how can you, when it’s yourself?

[x] “And for the dragons...ah, both of you, my lovely ancestor and my steed...shall be impaled as your fates usually dictate. Atop a tower, with me posing as the heroic knight...”

Your face collides with the pavement, leaving cracks in the concrete as the meaty parts turn into gore. Partially from the rainbow strings tugging my body downwards and partially from Awyrgan right hooking you.

“So, you can probably tell why I’m just repeating the spiel about vacationing and minding my own business.” You grimly state as you clamber back up, pink mist reconstituting the masquerade of a human face. “I thought I masked myself completely, but coming back outside...is a bad influence. Really, really sorry about that. Should have told you guys earlier after Thor confirmed mine and Reisen’s suspicions.”

Glaring daggers at you with the others, Momiji coldly asks, “What?”

“Wu Zhenguo...the body and soul which I’m using...is not a good person. To say the least.”

“So what are you then? A foreign spirit?”

“Less than that. I can call it a split personality, but it really isn’t one. More of a hasty facsimile of a personality some god threw together in a hurry with no actual motivation or desires. Probably has something to do with the River Styx.” You nervously scratch your neck, “Also, to answer your first question, the real reason why Wu Zhenguo prepared to enter Gensokyo for years ahead was not for vacation…Wu just wanted to expand his kill record with some exotic samples.”

Sanae sighs and pinches her nose in exhaustion, “You’re not the first wannabe serial killer we got flown in.”

“He’s not even the first serial killer I piloted,” Meiling adds on, words out of your mouth.

“Probably not, but I was probably the first one who planned on gassing the victims with chemicals in their sleep. Why did you think that a vacationer would be packing a smuggled gun, in Japan no less, and goddamn chemical weapons into Gensokyo? Self-defense? I was planning on getting the trust of some of the more naive youkai, like Kyouko, getting familiar enough to hang around...then sealing up the doors and flooding the room with my chemicals while they’re snoring in their futons. Wu Zhenguo wouldn’t care about getting caught after it, after all, he killed something way more precious to the world than an average outside world human.”

“I’ll give that you’re a more creative and suicidal one, but even then, not much of a novelty.”

“Probably true.” You agree. “Also, just to convince you to not stay thy hand if I break. You know those outsiders I killed? Yeah, I just remembered, those weren’t random strangers to me, exactly….”

*******
“So there’s this place, this hidden world?”

“Yes, yes there is.” You impatiently explain to the leering louts while scratching an itch around your neck valve. “Barely any contact of the outside world, and the photos leaked speak for themselves.”

You show them the pictures from the Sumireko leaks. Wolf whistles and nervous laughter are the response. You really don’t want to deal with them, but Gerald’s dad is an Army officer stationed there, and if you wanted to get guns over, you’d have to smuggle it that way.

“Nice. But uh...aren’t they dangerous?” The greasy-haired Japanese transfer, Kazuto mentions.

“They can still get drunk and stuff, so roofies will work quite well. Tell you what.” You clear your throat. “We split up after going into Japan, and enter separately. If any of us nabs one, we’ll spike that chick and fuck her brains out together, eh?”

You neglect to mention that you meant that phrase literally. These four retards probably didn’t come up with anything better, and just agree with the usual combination of self-aggrandizing yelps and antisocial giggles.

“Great idea man. We should, like have a signal too when we’re gonna act. Like,” Gerald imitates pushing a gun up from his coat, “Like, with a real piece, but it’s like, symbolic of my dick!”

You do not mention that you merely plan on tastefully murdering the victims rather than engaging in crude intercourse.

The other three look at him strangely, and you wonder how this moron got into even a mid-tier establishment like World University. Probably a legacy admission. Still, he’s the most outwardly handsome of their little clique, so they don’t go against his stupid idea.

“Good, amirite? Imma go get our supplies ready and booze up dad to ship it for us, we leave next June for Gen...so...kan tail! Man, Zhenguo, you’re an awesome guy.”

They have a lot of...supplies. Mostly since that brown-haired Anderson in their group is like a professional pervert, with blackmail and everything just to fuel his underwear theft campaign...with a side of gaslighting.

You make a mental note to dispose of them too if they succeed in actually drugging a Touhou. You just need their supplies, after all.

*******

“It’s like every time you say something new, a bit more of me becomes disappointed.” Sanae grits out.

Momiji looks as if actively regretting her prior decisions, moreso than before, anyway, “By every god watching over us, what the hell is wrong with you?”

“None. A touch of madness, mayhaps. But the current state of my friend has proven loyal.” The even-toned, draconic voice states from behind you.

“Awyri? You...you’re defending me?”

“Why of course?” She replies, “Thy gluttony for killing is a mere quirk of a lowly mortal. Even in thy undead state, thy physical capabilities...” Awyrgan casually grabs you by the shoulder and hoists you upwards, “...Are the same. He merely poses a threat to those of heroic, goodly disposition. To our lives, he is mainly harmless.”

Sanae moves as if to speak, then thinks better of it as some salt flies off her clothes.

“I am not...”

“What I mean, my friend, tis a fact that thou art barely worth killing. Should we be forced to resort to unsavory measures, it falls upon mine hand to end thy miserable existence. Mine and mine only.” A puff of smoke exhales from her nose as she turns to Momiji and Sanae, “You others...understand?”

“Yes ma’am, we will stay away from your property.” Sanae sarcastically mumbles out, “Technically shouldn’t both Momiji and Meiling have that right more?”

“No no no,” The wolf hurriedly denies, “His status and position are purely ceremonial. By the law, I cannot actually order him to do anything...”

“MOMIJI YOU WHAT?”

“...without use of the blood sigil. I don’t have LEGAL authority over you...but I can still order you to if you give consent. Clan ties.”

“I’m sure you never regretted that decision, eh?”

Momiji’s ears droop, and she looks away. You notice now the brownish-red splotches on her sleeves.

Police sirens sound off amidst the noises of the city. Momiji groans, and dismisses her sword into the aether, with noticeably more effort than an Ethereal Sheath in Gensokyo.

“We ought to move.” She orders without answering your question, “We don’t know if Tokyo police have been compromised by the Saviors.”

“I say we should...”

“On account of recent developments, I think you should stay out of this decision making process, Guo-guo. Oh, and you’re free to kill him if you want, Awyri. Grandma here grants you that right.” Meiling interrupts through your own mouth.

“Alright, geez.”

{ } Find a decent hotel and rest until sunrise
{ } Find an obscure hotel and rest until sunrise
{ } Try to find Yukari’s Outside World assets: Clear Sky

{ } Find a way back to Yatsugatake National Park, quietly
{ } Find a way back to Yatsugatake National Park, as fast as possible

======

[ ] Call mom
{X} Try to find Yukari’s Outside World assets: Clear Sky

>Thor
huh, didn't see that one coming
{X} Try to find Yukari’s Outside World assets: Clear Sky

>Yukari has to kill most of the world trying to remove degenerate Powers That Be
>all pureblood humans extinct, only youkai half-breeds remain
>everyone that's left has to live in fear and awe of youkai for the rest of their existence

Thor literally did nothing wrong.
{X} Try to find Yukari’s Outside World assets: Clear Sky

>>31486
Except failing, despite contributing to the body count.
And being a god. One of those supernatural creatures that were said to be fucking around a lot, which was used by dynasties all over the world to claim divine ancestry. And they most likely had it in this setting.
Remember when Meiling said her descendants numbered in the millions ? Surely everyone in northern Europe descend either from him or one of his fellow. So much for mankind's purity.

Plus the nature of the Lux backing him up is still unclear. I bet he's working for Cthulhu.
[x] Find a way back to Yatsugatake National Park, as fast as possible

======

[X] Call mom


Turning into a hybrid is a small price to pay for a better world
>>31487
You can't equate having one REALLY distant divine ancestor maybe a thousand years ago and being half or quarter youkai since birth.
>>31489
I can't so I don't.
You're implying Thor stopped having sex since the Iron Age, despite him being still around and kicking with a warband of heroes, the most likely sort of characters to be demi-gods or something close. I wouldn't be surprised if the elites among the saviours were all not-so-distant family.
You're also implying Yukari will force everyone to interbreed with youkai to replace humanity within a generation or two, which is just stupid for so many reasons.
Thor considered the Human Village to be the prototype for Yukari's future plan, according to the stolen soul analyser the average villager is 10% youkai. The only halfsies are Keine and Rinnosuke.
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{X} Try to find Yukari’s Outside World assets: Clear Sky
[x] Call mom.

While the others are waiting for the cab, you make an excuse to stroll off back into the alley. Turning on your phone, you press your most used contact.

There was no ringing. Your mother immediately picked up. “GUOGUO! IS THAT YOU? ARE YOU ALRIGHT?”

“Geez mom, you’re so loud. I’m fine.” You lie, turning down the call volume with a desiccated finger.

“Get on the next plane back this instant! I don’t care how much the ticket is, we’ll pay for it! Japan is too dangerous now!”

“I know. I know…mom…” You sigh, “I don’t really know how to tell you this, but I’m not coming back.”

“WHAT ARE YOU SAYING? ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?”

“I’m saying that because I’ve been in the danger first hand, really. Killed a bunch of people.”

“DON’T JOKE LIKE THAT! You can’t keep saying that like you did at home! Who knows who’s listening right now!?”

You don’t reply, but instead send her a picture you took earlier of yourself, a selfie with your gun. You then send her a couple pictures of the corpses you created during today’s lunch break, your face clearly in frame.

“I wasn’t joking mom. These are the ‘terrorist’ knights you saw on the news. I was there when they attacked. I…I found a weapon and some…friends. We killed some of them, they weren’t that smart. I can’t come back with them still around anyway. The sky’s not safe.”

“YOU WHAT? STOP LYING TO LOOK COOL!”

Your short temper with your parents flares up again,

[x] “FUCKING LOOK. I swear to god. You keep thinking I’m kidding when I said I killed people. I really, really wasn’t. I’m probably not going to make it so listen: Remember that dead street urchin that soured the trip when we visited granddad four years ago? Remember how you thought it was weird that he drowned like that? Remember how I was gone for a while during dinner?”

“…”, You hear naught but heavy breathing so, you continue.

“You guys kept saying I was always doing badly, always doing worse than my brother. Well let me tell you, you’re absolutely correct. Wu Zhenguo is an absolute, worthless piece of human garbage that never should have been born. Technically, this isn’t Wu Zhenguo talking to you right now, it’s something like what’s left of his miserable conscience. You know what I’m going to do, I’m going to die and…HEY!”

You futilely grasp at your phone after Meiling plucks it out of your grasp and begins apologizing to your mom with it. “Hi, this is Meiling. I’m sorry, Wu Zhenguo is currently delirious after he ran out of the...”

“Give it...” You snarl as you swipe for the device.

Meiling, holding the phone away, leans in and whispers, “Don’t talk like that to your parents.” before going back to talking on the phone, “Oh, no no no, it’s no trouble after all. He helped me find out that our families were related...Yes, back during the....Very...”

You futilely try to make another grab for small object from the taijiquan master, who easily sidesteps your clumsy movements. You make another attempt, and fall flat on your face into a puddle.

You then realize that Meiling had nicked your first-aid kit, and had injected several syringes worth of sedative into your pressure points. Even with the slow bloodflow of a walking corpse, this much sedation is enough to KO you almost...instantly…

“My friend, unconscious?”

“He’s been up for almost 20 hours by now, in almost constant combat.” Meiling answers the worried Iron Wing’s concerns as she hauls Ming back out. “Let him sleep.”

With her offhand, she tosses the first-aid kit to Momiji and gives a glance at Sanae, who is napping on the wolf’s shoulder.

=======

The Clear Sky branch office in Tokyo is a public location accessible via any map. Even in the current state of emergency, it was not too much effort to call for a taxi via Ming’s phone app.

Both Ming and Sanae are fast asleep when an unoccupied taxi arrived. For the others, this is probably for the better. Meiling made extra sure of it, at least she hopes so. Those Eientei tranquilizers in Ming’s issued kit are supposed to last for some time.

Her descendant, this descendant, can’t fulfill his purpose without a good night’s rest, after all, and neither he nor Sanae’s abilities should be allowed to manifest in the middle of Downtown Tokyo. Plus, Ming was being awfully rude. She’s not going to tell Momiji or Awyrgan that he didn’t really pass out from exhaustion.

“I didn’t know there was a convention running here!” The taxi driver laughs as the non-humans load the humans in first. “That’s the best Sanae cosplay I’ve seen in years! And that Meiling one ain’t bad either!”

“Not convention...It’s just a costume party.” Momiji anxiously smiles as she takes up seating in the front, shoving the dragon into the back with the sleepers, “Take us to this location, thank you.”

“Ah, and the one on the right side...is that a Dark Souls...what’s that dragon girl’s name...that tall one with the scythe. But like, the opposite color. You look great too.”

“...Yes, tis..tis my intent. I appreciate thy praise,” The dragon rumbles back.

“Also, nice, uh contacts you got there. Didn’t know that you can get slit pupil models.”

“Contacts? ”

The driver nervously coughs and turns back around as some smoke comes out of the girl’s nostrils. Meeting Momiji’s red eyes, he gulps, shakes his head, and begins actively avoiding eye contact.

=====

The Clear Sky office is just one of many unassuming storefronts in Tokyo’s Ginza shopping area. Currently closed, no less, with no light nor soul within as Momiji checks the door. Awyrgan steps out carrying the humans under her arms and as soon as she’s out, the taxi quickly speeds off into the distance, crashing an unfortunate trash can over in the process.

As soon as the wolf captain places her face against the glass panels of the door, it opens and the interior lights up, and a familiar, yet alien face speaks out.

Privyet!

“How, you guys?” Momiji sputters at the hulking figure greeting her at the door.

“That bastard Thor specified war criminals. That includes us.” Captain Lazarov, still recognizable despite having shed a human visage, says as he gestures for her to enter with a bark-textured hand. “Good thing for my men, really. And for you too. Lady Yakumo has kindly tasked us with securing low-profile redeployment for all of you when I called her.”

Momiji notes that out of the oversized squad of Russians that were previously squatting at Youkai Mountain, only four are inside the lobby of the shipping office, including Lazarov.

“So the rest of your men are…?”

“Waiting for a plane ride back to Russia to report to command. And hopefully, out of the line of danger from earth-shaping explosions for a while.”

“Lucky them.” The Chinese dragon grumbles as she comes in, her (probably soon to be disowned) descendent hoist over her shoulders like a sack of potatoes, followed by the Western dragon carrying the sleeping green shrine maiden. “Oh, hey there Captain, should have figured out that you were a leshy earlier.”

“What, was it obvious that my identity was fraudulent?” The forest spirit that had posed as a bubbly middle-aged, over-performing, Spetsnaz commander, who chain-smoked through numerous packs a day, laughs as he lights up another cigarette, “Not enough for my men, apparently.”

“Fuck you too, kapitan.” Konoroz groans as he tries to sleep on the couch. “‘Fake id’ my ass.”

“That was actually fake though. The NKVD was never too fond of my kind. FSB isn’t either, and I really would rather not have done this if this one...” He extends a wooden claw point and pokes Sanae in the cheek, “Had not forced me to call the nearby trees to shelter my squad from her miracle.”

The squad’s medic hurries in from the back door, his Eientei nanosuit covered in grease. He gives an exhausted salute before saying “Job’s done. Chopper’s fueled, spoofed and ready to go.”

“You guys got a helicopter?” Momiji asks.

“I rewired one parked on the Mitsubishi Heavy Industry building.” Spring sheepishly replies as he cleans himself with the office kitchen sink. “It’s part of my previous profession before both the MVD and the mob started hunting me down for it. Speaking of which, Lieutenant Konoroz, I’m staying in Japan after we finish this mission.”

“Not like I could stop you or anything. I can’t stop any of you, really. Lazarov is self explanatory, you have been stealing cars while I was learning to read, and Vlad can shoot the head off a pigeon a mile away.” Konoroz complains, turning over on the couch. “I don’t know why I even bothered staying.”

“I don’t know, why are you staying? The kapitan and I are going AWOL following completion, and Vlad is staying because he’d rather die than go a hot mission without a collection of severed trophies.

Momiji comments out of the corner of her mouth, “I can see where the war crime part comes in.”

“Gentlemen, gentlemen, let us worry about existential questions at a later time.” The leshy says, “So let us see if all of our guests have arrived, Lady Hong, Captain Inubashiri, Lady Kochiya, that one with the fake name, and...” His eyes drift over to the steel-haired girl snacking on the paperclips on the receptionist desk, “...Lady...Awyr...gan, correct?”

“Tis mine name. Why?”

Lazarov shakes a cigarette at her, “Nothing, just a language oddity I recalled. it’s Welsh for either ‘Sky Song’, or ‘Sky Taker/Haver’, the former of which can describe dragons in modern fiction and the latter of which describes depictions in antiquity and likely your reality. I heard you came from a German creator, though. Quite odd.”

“Mine creator’s naming tastes are beyond mine divinations. I know naught of his name even, only that he was a Berliner.”

“Berlin was a fine city….back in 1200. Tsk.”

“A leshy like you only appreciates cities if they’re small settlements huddled beneath the shadow of a forest.” Meiling remarks as she steals one of Lazarov’s cigarettes, “Those aren’t as fun to flood. Now, are we going to the helicopter or what?”

“Vlad’s still getting food. We’re all hungry here. Ah...” Lazarov says as the front door flies open and a pale soldier barges in with bags of groceries and take out food. “Vlad! What took you so long?”

“I SHOULD HAVE TAKEN A RADIO. CYKA BLYAT!” Vlad cries out as he tosses bags to everyone present and dashes for the backdoor, “We need to run! I saw one of the knights in a trenchcoat tailing me as I came back!”

====

There were still plenty of people on the streets of Tokyo at 2:00 AM, even with the curfew going on from the state of emergency. As such, practically everyone noticed the group of weirdly dressed men and women outrunning the street traffic as they bounded over cartops and awnings. Most of them were not too recognizable in their current outfit, except…

“MOMIZI!”

“Is that a parkouring Momiji cosplayer? She’s so cool!”

“I love you Momiji!”

The wolf tries her best to ignore the comments, but grows exasperated, “Really,” She complains to Lazarov, who’s grappling across building walls beside her with the fluidity of a growing vine. “Even with the jacket?”

“Your ears are showing. Loose hoodies don’t deal well with air resistance.” The leshy nonchalantly replies.

“If you were worried about it, you should just have possessed another body!” Ming...not Ming, Meiling puppeteering Ming’s body comments from her other side with her own voice. Momiji harumphs, annoyed that the ones who didn’t prepare an outfit for the Outside World ended up being the ones not recognized.

Sanae didn’t have an outfit either, but she’s still sedated and wrapped up tightly in a sleeping bag bound by dragon scales, and carried by said dragon down Tokyo’s sidewalks. Flanked by the human Russians who aren’t too familiar with such casual aerial movement, they function as an unintentional plow through the pedestrians. The angry (for Japan, anyway) shouting coming after them isn’t just from that, however. Awyrgan had been grabbing whatever caught her eye from open storefronts and street stalls, making Konoroz expel a steady stream of curses as he has to tactically deposit cash for each one of her victims as he sprints past. He gives up trying to estimate the cost after the first few and just threw a wad of yen at anyone shouting.

“Mitsubishi building is just ten blocks ahead, we got...” Blaring sirens interrupt Vlad’s speech, “Oh suka, it’s the Tokyo cops! They’re...”

“Six blocks in the front.” Momiji cuts him off as she gives a cursory glance to the front “More closing in. Lets go to the rooftops.”

“How does that help us? We’ll be stuck!” Vlad exclaims as he leaps over a car to a third story window sill. He then slaps himself in the head.

The gang picks the closest skyscraper, a banking establishment, and rush in, ignoring the protests of the security guards and receptionists that they vault over as they run to the elevator.

As the doors close, Konoroz collapses onto his ass, and the rest lean onto whatever they could hold.

“Low profile, eh?” He snarks.

“Low profile enough for a hot evac, lieutenant. The JSDF wouldn’t be coming for us, at least. Didn’t think that the police had been compromised.”

“Are you sure they’re not just doing their job?”

“I saw knights in their ranks. Armor and all.” Momiji answers, shaking her head. “They’re everywhere.”

“What a shame.” Spring says, popping open a pack of M&Ms while Vlad offers everyone the bucket of chicken he was carrying, “I was hoping that we could get a leave of absence in Tokyo for at least one night. Go party, you know?”

“You’re still on-duty, soldier. No going AWOL until we ensure a stable observation post in Gensokyo like the one the Chinese have.” Lazarov says as he pulls out yet another cigarette. Meiling slaps it out of the leshy’s hands before he could light it up inside the elevator.

“Yeah, yeah. Hey, you uh...Awyrgan? You’ve been quiet this whole time. Hey!” Spring recoils in pain as Awyrgan whips her tail around his leg, enough to make an impact through the nanoscale armor.

“Thou shalt address mine name with the title of Lady, villein.” She chastises while holding a inward tilted claw up to her collar, in imitation of the motions she saw the ladies of Gensokyo do while she spied on them as a tank.

“Alright, your majesty, how do you feel about this whole affair? I mean, I get that you enjoy it, but unlike everyone else here, you don’t really have a duty or stake in this. Even Wu Ming fights because he is a hardcore Touhou fan, right?”

“Yep, ” Meiling lies, giving a plaintive gesture with Ming’s arms, “That’s why he’s here, what a dumb kid.”

“To answer thy inquiry, peasant. Dragon and nobles live to consume wealth. And the armor of our enemies alone.” Her reptilian eyes dilate into what can be called a happy gaze, “Are worthy hoards.”

The elevator dings, and the door opens, Lazarov sprays outwards in a hail of roots to ensure the absence of any hidden dangers, before retracting into his more humanoid appearance and gesturing that all is clear. Everyone then resumes sprinting towards the objective.



“Hey Vlad, you probably could have gotten here faster if you ditched the convenience store food.” Momiji says, pulling out a chicken leg from her bag while still sprinting, “Not that I’m complaining.”

“What kind of spetsnaz do you take me for? There is no difference between running bare or with forty pounds.” Vlad scoffs, the Eientei nanosuit easily allowing him to keep up with an Outside World debuffed youkai. “Any hostiles up ahead?”

“At this height?” Momiji leaps across the gap between the buildings, sinks her claws into the masonry on the side of the next, and propels herself upwards onto the roof of the next one to get a better look, “Two suborned Keishicho patrol cars coming from the 3 o’clock, about two klicks out. Hostile helicopter’s coming in from our direct rear, six klicks, and I’m seeing more aircraft and cars mobilizing in stations all around us, with what looks to be Savior knight presences on the stations to our 10, about fifty klicks away.”

“We gotta trust you on this one, Captain.” Konoroz shouts as he tosses out a grappling hook to follow, “Even these Lunar visors can’t go that far.”

“Even with the Outside smog, I can still see as far as 200 to 250 ri even at night.” She explains, with quite a bit of pride, before the sound of a door slamming open cuts her off.

“Now, what...armed hostiles!” She calls out as she sees a number of figures coming out of the roof access to her right, and fires off several weak bolts of danmaku to light the targets up.

Momiji hesitates for a moment, seeing the frightened faces of the GAM volunteers dressed in naught more than light armor and holding just conventional small arms rather than the 50 caliber monstrosities the regulars do. About half of them appear to be shaking at the prospect.

“Do not fear, evil cannot prevail against our righteousness!” The knight leading them booms as a shimmering aura surrounds them, blocking the hail of pulse rounds that the Russians fired on reaction. Momiji leaps back, deftly fending off the blessed rounds with experienced shield movements as Meiling follows her onto the higher rooftop in Ming’s unconscious form, using the exoskeleton to propel the sack of dead flesh forward.

The graviton shield blossoms with beautiful rainbow light, forming a crystalline wall that swallows up every incoming projectile with its own superior divine potential while blinding the attackers. The knight shouts a command as he regains sight, and his troops hurl out a barrage of grenades over the crystalline shield…

...Only to have them all snatched out of the air by a spiritual jaw.

“Wolf Sign: Rabies Bite...” Momiji whispers from her position in the air, before flinging her shield at the knight in fluid coordination with a snap from the jaws.

The shield bounces off and ricochets in an arc, bouncing back to her arm. Momiji’s toss did little but mildly disrupt the divine barrier with the shield’s herobane properties. After all, what good is a divine barrier if it can’t withstand the assault of such wicked youkai?

It can’t, however, withstand the slow, dodgeable blades that hurled towards it. If they had seen them, they could have simply moved out of the way. The wolf had distracted the prey just enough that the Ohabaris were free to impact the barrier, blackening it and cracking it even with the absence of Awyrgan’s more magically-intensive mechanisms. The bronze pieces break off, scratching cloth and exposed skin where it may find.

The pulse fire that resumed soon afterwards was not so kind.

Lunar pulse rifles were designed to be clean weapons, allowing even untrained citizens to thoroughly sterilize any impurity that snuck onto the moon. There’s no messy gore or blood from the steady stream of bolts, as the impact areas are instantly vaporized and cauterized. For the tough monstrosities they were intended for, it can be considered an unintentional benefit.

Regular humans, however, are turned into grotesque swiss cheese as the pulse rounds disintegrate parts of their body into clean, sterile, plate sized holes. The spetsnaz were merciful, and actively went for head height shots in violation of training, but in concordance with their integrated targeting systems.

It’s funny how, in the absence of a skull, a jawbone can remain attached to the neck if the joints are fused by intense heat.

“You can’t save them all....you can’t save any of them.” Ming murmurs out of the corner of his mouth. Drunken sleep talk. Nobody heard him, not even Meiling, who was busy finishing off the pulse-burned knight with a ki-stomp (breaking Ming’s bones once again) and a swing from her descendant’s warhammer. The ones behind her simply leap over the corpses as they continue hopping and grappling their way to the Mitsubishi building.

Soon, the helipad is in sight, along with its attendant prize: A Sikorsky S-76 transport helicopter, notably with some external panels dangling loose, the doors ajar, the control wires exposed, and the helipad staff bound, gagged, and knocked out next to the roof entrance.

Lazarov looks at the hijacked panel with disbelief as Spring happily inserts himself into the pilot seat. “Why is the radio on the copilot’s seat?”

“It was in the way! Kapitan!” Spring answers with a shit-eating grin as he tugs on some sparking wires, and the engine starts up. As the rotors whirl, the helicopter slowly lifts off and departs the building, albeit while making several highly concerning mechanical sounds in protest at the spetsnaz’s intrusion.

Momiji got on last, carefully making sure she’s next to the door entrance, so as to maintain a maximum field of view. Her precautions bore fruit, as she spots several incoming aircraft from the west as the helicopter flies out of Shinjuku and past Chofu.

“Fighter jets coming towards us from the Southeast” She warns.

“Friend or foe?”

“Let’s hope: Friend. If not, prepare the parachute systems on your suits if you have any.”

Several tense moments pass as the jets fly past Momiji’s vision range and into the helicopter’s radar range. To her relief, the radio comes alive before she sees any missiles being fired.

She’s only seen fighter jets once in-person, when she got booted Outside the first time, but she still knows that their danmaku comes in the flavor of trail-spewing explosive missiles from the games her temporary associate then had.
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“You civvies just pick the worst time to fly, eh?” The open-frequency radio crackles with a collected, almost cold African-American voice as the fighters streak by overhead, “Mitsubishi M1089. This is First Lieutenant Anthony Palmer of the USAF Sorcerer Squadron, there are reports of Savior terrorists flying planes over Tokyo. We are imposing a no-fly zone. Please comply. Over.”

Lazarov takes the radio, “Negative, sir. It is unsafe. They have ground forces raiding Mitsubishi headquarters as we speak, and I have reason to believe that they are after the high-value targets that my security team are in possession of. Over.”

Momiji suddenly perks up. There’s something coming in at just the edge of smog, a large light, with multiple smaller lights growing larger. She curses herself for not seeing them sooner.

“That bad eh? The JSDF must be slacking off even now. Redirect your flight towards Yokuta Airbase then. We will...”

“CAPTAIN!” Momiji pushes Lazarov aside as she shouts into the radio, “There are nine missiles heading towards us from your three! 150 kilometers out!”

“Who’s that girl, an executive?” (I sounded that feminine? Momiji wonders to herself. Usually they can’t tell from the first line), “Look, honey, first of all, those blips on the radar are not missiles, they are us. Secondly, if there were missiles, we would have seen them by now. Thirdly, you should probably let the professionals handle this, we’re closing the frequency now, Over--BREAK-BREAK, JUKE RIGHT! NOW!”

30 seconds, that’s all it took for the BVRAAMs to slam into the fighter formation. Most of them hit the flares that Sorcerer squadron threw out, but one of them managed to get past and almost land a direct hit on one of them.

Sorcerer 2 jerked away just in time, but not enough to save his thrusters.

“Oh shit. Oh shit.” A cacophony of angry American noises is heard over the comms that Palmer very much did not get to close. “Sorcerer 2 is going down! He’s not ejecting!”

“I’m stalling out...seat’s stuck!” Curses the pilot which is likely the unfortunate Sorcerer 2. “Gotta make a controlled descent...fuck, this city is too dense!”

“Just land, pilot. Land anywhere!” Palmer cries out, some emotion coming into his voice, “Get into the Bay!

“FROM TACHIKAWA? Well then...been nice knowing all of you. I’ll try and crash into that park down here, probably got a chance. Daniel Knowles, over and out.”

“NO, damn it, you’re going in a vertical descent! Sorcerer 2. Sorcerer 2!”

Ming’s body shifts as Meiling slides out of his mouth. Shaking herself clean of his sins, she leans out and takes a look at the trail of fire and smoke in the night sky. Rainclouds are coming in force, blocking out the stars.

“And how are you going to do this?” Momiji asks, already sensing what the China girl is going to do. “You already know the Outside World’s not flight capable.”

“For faithless youkai, maybe, but luckily for that pilot...” Meiling smirks as she leaps out of the chopper.

A flash of lightning and a peal of thunder strikes as a writing rainbow monstrosity, a twisted model of a serpent with heads on two ends, rises up, streaking towards the crashing jet in a trail of rainbows and a booming voice. “My children in China are doing their part to keep me afloat with their faith. Even here, a single sortie should be within my capacity!”


===

“Chairman Zhao. I have some concerns.”

“Just say it.” Zhao Ni-Tian says as he munches on an apple, “We’re not the CCCP, speaking up won’t get you killed.”

“...Isn’t this a bit too much?” The officer worriedly asks as he gestures at the glass tank. The corpses of drowned Party members are clearly visible, drifting around as much as the weighted rainbow-colored ropes would allow them to.

“No point in making a sacrifice if it’s not public. The Hong demands faith, and while sacrifices are not quite civilized, I was going to have to kill them anyway.” He turns around, to redirect his voice to the gathering crowds in Tiananmen Square, come to gawk in shock and horror at the spectacle he put up.

“This is what tyrants are reduced to! ” The former Chief of State Security cries out, using an intentionally exaggerated voice that made him sound just unhinged enough to be genuine.

The crowd stirs, rapt forced attention. Fearful sheep, thought Ni-Tian. “See they are no more than flesh, just like you and me! Leaders and exalted are NOT worth more. Their bodies are not more divine! Their words are not more thunderous! In the eyes of the Hong, all your faith is equal! No matter if you’re a laofu or a beggar, when the Hong comes, you will all have the right to achieve just as much as any other Chinese...”

”...Because most of you would be gone when that ideal comes to be”. Is what he does not add. Good thing too, since small, genuine cheers can be heard coming from the audience. Mostly young disenfranchised types.



===

Daniel Knowles, pilot of Sorcerer 2, was in hell.

Or at least, he thought he was. Multiple times in a row. First his ejection had malfunctioned, dooming him to a fatal crash. Then the plane snapped in half, turning the infinitesimal chance of survival into zero.

And then a massive monster appeared out of nowhere and swallowed him whole. Cockpit and all.

This time he’s really in hell. He thought.

The kaleidoscope of sights and sounds before him is nothing short of a vision from the bowels of Lucifer, which he’s pretty sure is the one which consumed him. Fires and chaos. Men, women and children alike drowning, screaming, and clawing at the air. Blood-soaked battlefields with screaming soldiers, lost in their rages and habits as they hack each other to pieces. A mountain of corpses consuming itself endlessly.

And then, nothing but ashes. Every single one of the dead had crumbled, no more than dust. He is lying on an ashen plain, with soft rain coming down from a clear sky. A thick rainbow lies around the sun. The plains rise into a house. The house into a town. The town into a city. The city into a metropolis. The metropolis grows into a country.

A shining country. A country of light and productive conflict. He sees people fighting and dying still, but with a smile on their lips. He sees them getting back up, stronger and purer.

He sees the strongest taking charge, directing the country. The country moves elegantly and beautifully, even as the strongest is usurped by another strongest. Only the last one he saw linger for some time on the throne, and he could see a rainbow curl around him.

The last one looked awfully like that one wall scroll he saw in that cafe in Mongolia.




The monster spits him out, letting him roll off gently onto the skyscraper roof on its tongue. Daniel lifts his head to see the serpent twisting and turning in the air after his comrades still in the air. Was it an enemy? It did just save him after all.

And it looks like it deposited the remnants of his jet before him, somehow. Daniel stumbles upwards, shaken but ultimately uninjured, and walks over to the smashed cockpit. Maybe the...ah, the backup radio is still functional.

====

“150 klicks! At that range only a ground SAM could have hit us!” Palmer shouts in despair as he helplessly watches Knowles crash, “3 and 4, head west! 5 and 6! Head east, we need to...whoa.”

As a squadron lead. Palmer was trained to expect many things. A massive rainbow serpent gobbling up his second was not one of them.

Still, he reacted fast enough to scream and turn the jet around, trying to line up a shot on the new hostile that just took up half his radar space. The serpent effortless evades him as it drops off the torn plane parts jet like mere toys on top of a building, twisting and turning midair in ways that pilots can only dream about.

Palmer shoots off too far, and was about to try and turn around for a second try when the squadron radio buzzes, “Come in! Sorcerer 1...It’s Sorcerer 2. I’m alive and on the high rise to your 4. That thing is probably some form of friendly. Over.”

“You...Copy.” He looks out as he passes over the skyscraper and catches a glimpse of Knowles waving his jacket on the rooftop, aside his destroyed plane. “Holy...What...Sorcerer team! The bogey is not hostile. Marked neutral on FoF! Over.” He then switches to the open frequency, “Come in. Rainbow serpent thingy. Requesting Flight ID. Over.”

No response. Palmer mentally kicks himself. Of course it doesn’t have a radio! It’s a massive flying serpent!

“Sorcerer 3 to Sorcerer 1.” His team members return to their professional tone as they spread out into an interlocking support formation, ”Enemies in radar range, Detecting...twenty. Twenty ‘X-22’ terrorist jets. 12 o’clock. Detecting...flares out. Second round of BVRAAMs incoming. Over.”

“Sorcerer 7 to Sorcerer 1. Rainbow entity is heading towards the approaching bandits. And, uh, Sorcerer 1, you might want to look up.”

Palmer glances above the cockpit, and is greeted by a pair of fiery, curious eyes staring back above a toothy maw. A massive Western dragon, straight out of the fairy tales he was familiar with, was flying just thirty meters above him, close enough that the radar did not register it as a separate entity and somehow silent enough that he did not notice. He doesn’t panic this time, merely stating in his numbed tone on the radio, “Come in. Gray dragon thingy or its actual. If you have a radio. Do you copy?”

To his surprise, there’s actually a response. A bestial tone rumbles through the radio, somewhat oddly muffled and with quality more appropriate for WWII-era models, “Thou art...fighter aeroplanes? Americans?”

“Yes...this is Sorcerer Squadron of the USAF. Please ID yourself.” Palmer pauses, then adds on “And your, handler...I guess? Over.”

“Callsign, Iron Wing.” The fighter captain freezes. That was a name he overheard just once, and he was sure that it is miles above his pay-grade.

“Birthplace: Germany. Current ‘Lord’: Clear Sky International and Callsign Primrose.”

“A shipping company? I mean...nevermind that!” Palmer can see the bandits on radar closing in on them in a semicircle. “I assume you’re with that other monster. So you’re fighting with us? Over.”

“Aye, human. Consider me an ally for now...” Awyrgan replies curtly, before remembering something Ming said yesterday: As a dragon, she ought to say something cool in addition.

And it’d better be something completable soon. The Outside air is sparse with magic and faith, and she cannot maintain this form for longer than ten minutes.

( ) “...I wonder, doth the enemy pilots augment the taste of a jet fighter? Into the fray!”
( ) “...Conventional missiles? Pathetic snowflakes against mine hide. Let us serpents show thee frail humans what armor means!”
( ) “...Tis of vital importance to secure that artificial dragonfly. Shield them from harm, and I shall annihilate thy foes mineself.

====

“Low profile, eh?” Vlad says as he watches the two dragons sail above Tokyo, clearly visible to its millions of residents.

“Just shut up.” Lazarov groans.

====
(X) “...Conventional missiles? Pathetic snowflakes against mine hide. Let us serpents show thee frail humans what armor means!”
That's one way to draw their attention away, I guess.
(X) “...Conventional missiles? Pathetic snowflakes against mine hide. Let us serpents show thee frail humans what armor means!”

At least we still have some agency with the side characters.
(X) “...Conventional missiles? Pathetic snowflakes against mine hide. Let us serpents show thee frail humans what armor means!”

Yeah, this seems fine.
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(x) “...Conventional missiles? Pathetic snowflakes against mine hide. Let us serpents show thee frail humans what armor means!”

Palmer sees the dragon ignite itself in a wreath of white-hot flames as it rushes towards the enemy positions. Its radar signature is as large as three bombers stacked next to each other. Looking to his radar, he can already see clusters of incoming missiles flying towards the dragon and the serpent, mostly the dragon.

“Sorcerer 1 to Sorcerer team, merge and follow the monsters. They are friendlies. Hold.”

“Roger. Waiting.”

As a pilot, Palmer is very good at putting aside distractions in his head, such as the shock from giant monsters sharing a sky with him, or F-22 copies somehow launching autonomous missiles with the range of an AIM-54. He takes a deep breath, and increases the throttle.

“Shoot down any bandits you see, the dragons will soak up their BVRAAMS. Over.”

The missiles launched by the Saviors’ X-22s are advanced, indeed. The range of an BVRAAM with the tracking of the latest Sidewinder models. It was not the best their engineers could piece together from their future blueprints---none of those that came worked in the production field, or so they claim---as they had to adapt it for their available pool of pilots. Young and eager to save the world, they were, but professional fighter pilots they were not.

So, the multipurpose capabilities were stripped down, but they were still very effective against the thin armor of conventional aircraft. Unfortunately, the HE fragmentation warheads do diddly squat against fliers with armor comparable to warships, and the relatively steady formation of planes, expecting to sweep the airspace of Tokyo with relative ease, breaks apart immediately as they see the radar contacts continuing for them even after confirmed hits on twenty missiles.

Also, just as unfortunately, those fliers don’t care about collisions at Mach 1, either.

The rainbow serpent slams into a X-22, tearing it apart in a brilliant iridescent explosion that also tore its pilot into tiny pieces. Its other head swings out, spraying anything in gun range with multicolored crystal shards and bolts of lightning. Several of the X-22s curve towards it to try and and obtain a missile lock, only to find that the massive serpent has been blotted out by an even larger radar signature.

Through somewhat hazy memories, the dragon remembers the sight of massive aircraft dropping thin foils of metal over her as they rained destruction. Obviously, it was some sort of heraldry, declaring their presence to the world as the modern knights of the sky and attracting attention to their work. Awyrgan seeks to do better, and so, at the cost of dropping her speed below Mach 1, she proudly displays lurid crimson metallic flags that trail around and behind her like an extreme form of aerial advertising.

“FIRING MISSILES. NOW.” She roars out as she catches onto the trail of an evading X-22. “Tis time...”

“Black Dragon - Fox Two! Fox Two! Evade!” Palmer screams into the radio as he frantically airbrakes to avoid the avalanche of tiny missiles disgorged from the dragon’s back. They look like infrared missiles, at least.

Flares rain down from both enemy and friendly planes as they begin to take evasive manuevers against the missiles, while Awyrgan continues to draw fire with her massive signature as Meiling dives back from her dive, becoming a lethal rainbow across the sky.

It’s all a manner of attrition, Palmer reflects as he directs his squadron to tail and fire upon the X-22s that fell into their effective range. While the missiles the Saviors use have excellent tracking, performing loops in midair with the agility of a hawk, it doesn’t matter as the dragon simply cannot be targeted meaningfully, and the pilots themselves are not skilled enough to actually close in with cannon fire, especially with the missiles that the dragon vomits out on a regular basis.

Sure, the proximity fuses on the missiles allow them to detonate within a typical aircraft’s kill distance, but the dragon just ignores the blasts and shrapnel completely as it lazily pursues X-22s at its leisure, though careful to maintain a flight path close to the helicopter so that it enshrouded it with its own signatures, warding off any missile that tries to lock on.

From the pilot’s seat, Spring nearly pisses himself three times as missiles approach far too close to comfort, only to detonate as the dragon flies by.

The serpent, apparently devoid of radio, continue to exploit this by ramming the defenseless bandits at the speed of lightning, sending them crashing out of the skies...and into the densely packed city of Tokyo below. Palmer cringes as he glances one of the wreckages slam down onto a temple torii. At least with the curfew, it’s unlikely the relatively small aircraft can do much damage to buildings.

“Sorcerer 1, this is Yokota Airbase, what the hell is going on up there? Over.”

Palmer finishes a high-G braking turn, catching a X-22 by surprise and shredding it with his cannons, blowing it apart, before recovering from the maneuver enough to respond, “Uh, Sorcerer 1 to command, we are experiencing some supernatural intervention. The largest signatures are hostile to our enemies. Over...I mean...correction,” The pilot looks away as he sees the dragon catch an incoming fighter that did try to close and and pry open its cockpit, “I think they are eating our enemies too. Over.”

“Sorcerer 1, radio those guys to get out. Over”

“Roger that command, but I don’t think that dragon will listen. Over.”

“Damn it Bedivere,” A different voice, one that Palmer recognizes as the Pentagon Chief of Staff suddenly cuts in, “Get those Clear Sky bogies out of the air! The Hunter has changed course and will reach the AO in under one minute!”

“I told you not to use that callsign, Sir--wait, the...Hunter?”, Palmer frantically calls out his squadmates to retreat before sounding off on the open comms, “Sorcerer 1 to all listening aircraft. LAND IF YOU WANT TO LIVE!”

Naturally, Awyrgan ignored him. After all, none of the X-22’s missiles, despite their future-level technology, have even scratched her. They’re just fodder, and none of them have had fired anything close to Thor or even that archer girl’s power.

And after all, she is the shield, like Ming. It wouldn’t do for the shield to come down before the others.

As usual, it was Momiji who first spots the flash of white coming from the west, and knocks over Lazarov to scream over the radio, “Unknown fighter approaching! A fast one!”

A few seconds later, it was Yokuta command screaming it over the open comms.

The beasts in the air barely had enough time to turn their heads before a massive sonic boom split the sky. It has arrived. And then left.

A streak of light, a boom of thunder, and a rapidly fading radar signature is all that the unknown fighter left as evidence of its passing.

At least, that’s until Momiji noticed Awyrgan lurching, two gigantic glowing lances embedded in her flank. As others take notice and confused chatter begins over open comms, a strange buzzing sound silences all of them and a single voice, clear and androgynous, sounds out over all channels:

“Arcturus 1, Broodmother kill confirmed.”

And then silence. The even more confused chatter starts turning into panic as the dragon’s wings involuntarily flatten and she begins falling down towards the city. The fighter jet wreckages, well fragmented, result in relatively minor impacts on the buildings below, but a massive dragon with the weight of a bomber?

As such, the serpent did not hesitate as she rammed into the dragon, shattering both herself and her target in a spectacular rainbow explosion that shattered the glass of buildings in a one kilometer radius. Metallic and rainbow scales and body parts together fly off, disintegrating into aether.

Those on the helicopter look on, horrified, until a grunt is heard from below. Meiling emerges, clambering onto the landing rails, carrying an unconscious Awyrgan under her arm. Everyone on the helicopter cheers until Meiling climbs all the way up, and they fall silent.

Meiling was carrying half of an Awyrgan.

“Whatever those divine lances were, it struck her in her core.” Meiling says in a flat tone as she deposits the upper torso of the inanimate dragon girl onto the helicopter floor, her severed midsection and limbs pooling ichor and oil from their smoldering divine caps, with wires and metallic parts dangling out where the internal organs would be on a normal creature.

“Foolish lizard, she shouldn’t have drawn so much attention to herself, a minor god like me could have taken those hits and survived.”

“Forget that! Wake Ming!” Momiji screams as the Russians can only look on in shock.

===

You groggily awake to the sound of rotor blades and a pungent, mechanical odor. The tranquilizer blurs your eyes, and you can’t really make out anything.

“Hey,” You hear Meiling say, “Your girlfriend’s dead, fix her.”

“We...broke up...a while ago...” You blink, vision clearing, and you see the bisected corpse before you, “And that’s not my girl...”

You blink again. That girl is not your girlfriend indeed. She is...oh no

Oh no oh no oh no not again oh no oh no

[x] HEW

Meiling was in you before you realized, lending her brittle feeling strength, one which you recognize as the last shreds of faith she had in her. The pink mist flows out like a torrent from your hands.

[x] HEW

Your left arm glows ever brighter with the energy, until it seems to crackle, and the whole limb just sort of sloughs off, into a heap of dust and rot. There is no pain, or, at least, you can’t feel it any more.

[x] FLAMES OF PHLEGETHON, BURNING THROUGH EARTH. WITH HEAT AND LIFE, HEW AND RENEW.

You tumble forward, your right leg rotted away now from the overchanneling. She’s not bleeding anymore.

She’s still not moving. Or breathing. Or being alive.

No. No. No. NO. NO. NO.

You can’t let this happen. You’re the medic. You must...

[x] STYX, STYX WHERE ALL RIVERS FLOW--

“NO!”

[x] FUCK OFF!

”YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE DOING!”

[x] OH I KNOW. I JUST DON’T CARE YOU SHITTY FRAGMENT OF A GOD.

STYX, STYX. WHERE ALL RIVERS FLOW, WHERE ALL CONTRACTS LIE. WHERE THE GODS ARE BLIND AND THE WORLD’S RULE DIES. SEAL OUR FATES, LOCK OUR LIVES. FREEZE OUR EXISTENCE TOGETHER, AT THE THRESHOLD OF OBLIVION.

UNTIL WHEN WE MAY BE FREE.

.



…..

You sigh in relief as you see Awyrgan’s eyelids flutter, and slowly attempt to struggle upwards on her regenerating stumps.

“Hey, Awyri, you okay?”

“I’m fine. Just help me get up, please.”

===

Yukari raises an eyebrow as she checks her phone’s resident status shikigami. “That’s odd, Iron Wing’s vital signs ceased for a few minutes, but came back, and now it’s actively reporting ‘Unknown system corruption 1...no, 2%’ ”

The queen sighs, “Will it last until we get new generations.”

“Oh we’ve already got several samples on standby, don’t worry about that too much.” Yukari mutters, “I’ll call the transport to see what’s happening.”

===

Momiji wished she’d stopped him. She wished she hadn’t frozen up when she realized that Ming was going to do his...specialty again.

She wished she knew he was going even further.

Vlad and Konoroz are retching off the side of the helicopter, and Meiling is not responding from her position inside Ming. Spring had figured out not to look back or take off his earphones, and Lazarov has gone catatonic after seeing it.

Momiji didn’t know what really to do, so she just laughed, a nervous, brief chuckle to try to calm herself down. It’s not like anything really changed, right?

It’s not. It’s just what you’d expected. Ming’s a great healer, and despite having some limbs fall off he’s still smiling and talking with the dragon, who’s regenerating quite well, just like she claimed she could. That’s what she’s seeing.

She definitely did not seeing a horrifying amalgamation of flesh and metal, two mutilated corpses simultaneously melding into one and budding off, leaking copious amounts of poisonous river water off of the helicopter, which thankfully had departed Tokyo and is flying over the countryside.

She is definitely not seeing a rotten human head calmly conversing with a dragon head right next to it, sharing the same torso. She’s definitely hallucinating them split off, Awyrgan standing hunched her humanoid pose, her limbs regrowing into twisted sinews of scar tissue and burned flesh. And of course there are no corpses detaching from what was Ming’s torso, shortly before being torn apart and reassimilated for raw materials...so many corpses in ragged robes.

She can’t see it, all she can see is a crippled Ming complaining and weakly punching Awyrgan in the face as she gets up and stretches, ignoring her friend’s aggression.

She does not see the dragon’s blank gray eyes, devoid of flame and life. She does not hear the dragon’s empty, decaying monotone devoid of her old voice. She does not smell Awyrgan’s new scent of machine oil mixed with pungent rot.

She opens her collar and looks down. She does not see the wounds in her heart and lungs, festering with living scar tissue, healthy. She does not hear the mass weeping in its own pain.

That’s all that happened during the past ten minutes. Momiji is shaken out of her stupor by Lazarov’s phone ringing from his unmoving hands, and she shakily picks it up, hearing the voice of Yukari Yakumo.

“Finally. Lazarov, hey! Captain Lazarov, you there?”

“...This is Guard-Captain Inubashiri...”

“Momiji? Why do you have his phone, did something go wrong?”

( ) Nothing is wrong.
( ) Everything went wrong.
(x) Nothing is wrong.
(x) Everything went wrong.

Can't speak sense in this kind of situation.
(X) Everything went wrong.
Reimu is burning herself out from overdrive as we speak.
(x) Everything went wrong.

Goodbye good dragon. You fulfilled your duty until the very end.
(x) Nothing is wrong.
(x) Everything went wrong.

I like this duality real well here.
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(x) Nothing is wrong.
(x) Everything went wrong.

“Captain Inubashiri. Details. Please.”

“The outsider known as Wu Ming did some...seriously fucked up shit,” Momiji breaks and allows her learned English lingo from her old employer to leak in, “Project Iron Wing is KIA and is currently…compromised by him. Confirmed presence of a second Thor-level Savior leader: Arcturus. Everything went wrong.”

She coughs, choking in half-imagined stench.

“Evac for relevant persons is on point and on time. All involved are operational. Nothing is wrong. Except, of course, for...”
====

“Something wrong?” The Queen of England asks the Reigning Sage of Gensokyo, whose face darkens noticeably as she listens to the frantic report in the phone.

“You might want to hold off on the knighting ceremony, your majesty. Curse it. Of course something like that had to happen...Ran! Put the old fellow back on ice.” Yukari shouts to her shikigami through a gap, all the way across the camp, “He’s not going to be happy about what his work turned into.”

====

“So...um, you gonna go, boss?” Ahmed worriedly asks the kitsune cringing at the sudden loud voice coming through a gap.

“Oh, I’m going to go,” Ran seethes, “I’ll go when I need to, when her mistake shows up. Master Yukari seems to have forgotten that I told her from the beginning that she should have personally escorted them, or at least sent a prototype squadron.”

“Would she not forcibly chastise you as she usually does?” Kokoro comments from the neighboring tent, gesturing a makeup brush with one hand and restraining a squirming Sylla in another.

“I really do not care. There’s a lesson that needs to be taught.”

=====
Time: 0600 hours
Data: July 1, 20XX
Location: Skies above Yatsugatake Mountains, Nagano, Japan
Threat Level: 11

The radio buzzes alive, awakening you from your dozing. You shuffle off of Awyrgan’s corpse’s shoulder, and lean over to hear.

“Come in, Lord Inubashiri, this is Wolf Guard Captain Tadakuni. You are approaching the Nagano free-fire zone. We’ve marked a landing spot for you. Over.”

“Affirmative. Over.” You hear Momiji reply, exhaustion in her voice.

The helicopter begins its descent, coated by Awyrgan’s thin layers of sight-blocking plasma as well as loose tendrils of her own form.

Ahead of you, the dawn light illuminates the treetops with a golden light, along with the craters, smoking wreckages...You squint and see that large splotches of ground have been stained a rusty red for some reason. Sounds of gunfire, explosions, and stranger sounds can be heard as you approach the canopy, but no missiles came in.

Likely out of fear, or simple lack of stealth detection.

You spray the awakening antidote from your medikit onto Sanae, and attempt to do the same with your ancestor who is splayed out on the helicopter floor, but Meiling does not respond at all. She’s breathing, but regardless of how much you kick her, the lazy excuse for a rainbow serpent would not arise.

Oh well.

The helicopter touches down, and a line of white wolf infantry take a knee as Momiji hops off onto the grassy clearing. They hesitate when they see the Inubashiri shield strapped on your graviton barrier as you stumble out, Awyrgan’s scaled enhancements to your exoskeleton taking the place of your missing leg.

“My lord, Is he...”

Momiji gives the troops a blank stare, and moves as if to say something, then reluctantly nods her head.

The Russians pile out of the cockpit after you, each of them exchanging salutes with the tengu and avoiding eye contact with you or Awyrgan, who followed closely behind. Sanae came out last, yawning and stretching...and sort of confused.

“We’re here already? What did I miss?”

“Many things...” Lazarov says quietly.

“Everyone out?”

“All except for Meiling, who’s exhausted from the aerial battle.” Momiji takes note of the troops’ conditions. “What’s the next step?”

“The Hakurei Shrine is currently secured. Lady Yakumo and Matarajin are working on opening a backdoor, but just half an hour ago an unknown fighter that the US forces termed ‘The Hunter’ flew in and blew apart several layers of wards and positions, letting many Savior forces filter in. Outlying forces like us have been running longer patrols to keep up integrity, and we’re fighting constant skirmishes.” Tadakuni then gestures at the ofuda and glyphs on the trees surrounding the immediate location. “We’ve been able to set up a warded position here without notice, but I guarantee that such secrecy is no longer the case once you’ve landed.

“Wait, who’s ‘Matarajin’...”

{(x)}HUNT. I need to craft...to compleat...my friend. Please.

“We’ll lead the way then.” You offer, “If there’s anything Awyri and I are good at, it’s not dying. What?”

Everyone but the tengu soldiers and Sanae looks away from you.

Momiji bites her lip, “Sure. Take the lead, Draken Cataphract. Hopefully, this will be your last sortie. For your sake.

“I’ll go too!” The shrine maiden pipes up, “It’s my...”

“...You stay with us.” Lazarov quietly orders as he pulls Sanae back, “As far as we know, a silver bullet to the head can kill you outside of Gensokyo’s influence.”

Awyrgan stretches and shifts. Smaller mass than last time, but still an obvious target Pretty hard to miss a massive rotting dracolich cyborg glowing with leaking purple heat. Weird, she usually says something boastful before doing this. In fact, she shouldn’t be this silent.

“Awyri?”

“Yes, you need something Ming?”

She usually also talked in a different, Shakespearean way. Not anymore. Not after she died imitating you. Probably she decided to listen to your complaints.

“Nevermind.”

Odd.

Awyrgan scarcely stepped fifty meters out of the barrier when gunfire and rocket motors come alive from the surrounding treeline, still somewhat dark in the dawnlight. Shots and explosions hammer against her hide, but despite their silvery holy light, are not getting through her scales. After all, such measures were designed to counter living or dead things. She is neither now.

You take a moment to into account the surroundings while the others hang back, away from the attractive target. “Jesus, that’s a ton of threat blobs...holy,” You hastily throw up your shield and recoil as a missile detonates just meters away from you. “Are those small warbeasts?” you mutter as you spot large threat blobs amongst the smaller ones in the distance.

Judging by their locations, they’re well entrenched behind ridges and content to simply unleash volley after volley of missiles at the snarling dragon, who roars and attempts to charge forth, but cannot from the sheer amount of firepower pushing her back. Her newly recovered frame does not seem to hold up well.

Awyrgan attempts to take off, but yet more missiles knock her off balance and out of the air. You attempt to use your Stop to aid her, but as you attempt to cast the ingrained spell, the energies simply fizzle, without even a forceful feedback like what you experienced upon your first attempt at magic.

Maybe it only works within Gensokyo. You think as a sudden wave of nausea comes over you. Collapsing, you lean forward and vomit onto the ground. A slurry of river water and what looks like tumors come out.

“There he is, the Null Fiend!” You hear somebody shout from your blind spot, right before a multitude of bullets tear into your side, knocking you sideways. The dragon scales and moonsilver hold, but much like your companion, the enemy is compensating for your heavy armor and half-living composition by pinning you down with ceaseless fire.

“Inubashiri! Protect my men! Walking into an ambush and falling apart...disappointing!I expected better of a monstrosity like you!

Abruptly, the earth shakes, and you manage to struggle up as a colossal formation of tree roots spring up to shield you from the bullets, at least for a while. Lazarov skates up his own roots like a grinding rail, firing his Lunarian pulse rifle with one hand and spewing out more plant matter with the other as they are torn apart by the silver bullets.

You crawl up. Some of the rounds made it through but you don’t feel much different. Just in time, you see the leshy roll off the wall of roots as a flamethrower torches the whole thing.

Throwing up the shield, you step forth to cover the faux-Spetsnaz and return fire with your sidearm into the smoke of the burning roots. As soon as he dives away into a nearby thicket and disappears, you sprint over to the struggling zombie dragon, activating Patchouli’s amulet barrier in the process and ignoring the tremors from the missiles hitting her, and begin healing.

The mists do not come out as a steady stream, but more of a sputtering fountain, little bits of lifespan diffusing into Awyrgan’s skin. The pain in your head returns with a throbbing vengeance, and you see your remaining arm catching aflame. Cursing, you cease the spell early.

My friend...please...stop hurting us...both...

Apparently that was just enough to jump start her defenses though, as streaks of plasma arc out from her form amidst a mighty roar, acting as flares to disorient and detonate the incoming missiles. She then turns and charges, smashing through Lazarov’s burning barrier in the process all while unleashing a flurry of flames and machine gun fire. Each shot ruptures yet more of her rotting form, further disrupting her draconic figure into a heaping eldritch mess.

The ambushing knights didn’t stand much of a chance as the searing plasma burnt away their replicated Lunarian camouflage. Foolishly, they decide to stand and fight, raising their guns and lances at the dragon closing in.

Awyrgan doesn’t even flinch as she throws herself into the silver-tipped weapons. A few swipes and stomps, and the knights are swiftly reduced to crumpled heaps on the ground before they can recover from the shock of their blessed lances lodging inside the dragon, and doing nothing.

You notice with some confusion that despite her ferocity...

“She’s not eating them...” Lazarov mutters as he pulls himself up. “Wait, what is she...”

“Tiamat’s Blessing: Breath of Life” [x] “Tiamat’s Hunleff: Styx Compleation.” Awyrgan incants as she vomits a slurry of river water and mechanical lizards from her internals and exhales some sort of pink fog, onto the wounded Saviors. ”Forsake life, forsake death. Strong like Achilles. Slave like helots.”

Did she steal and replicate your healing capabilities? You feel even more worthless than usual as you watch your friend give first aid to the enemy.

Slowly, struggling, the enemy soldiers stand back up Their bodies twisted and missing parts replaced by oily mechanics and cancerous grey flesh. “You..healed us? ””PLEASE, ANY OF YOU! KILL US!”

Once again, you notice Momiji and the Russians covering their ears and looking away. Why? Sanae and the other tengu soldiers do not, but the shrine maiden seems disturbed for some reason as she cautiously approaches, unarmored as she is.

“Don’t even try to reach for a weapon, and stay still.””Unless you wish to be free, then run back to your comrades, they can save you.“

To your surprise, Awyrgan made no attempt to stop the soldiers as they ran immediately after regaining balance, in direct violation of her orders. You raise your gun, but she nails you with a tail swipe.

“Awyri, what the fuck are you doing?” You sputter out, your face full of mud.

She ignores you, remaining silent as she stares off into the woods, ignoring the occasional potshot that plinks off her hide. You attempt to give chase, but Awyrgan coils her tail around you, preventing movement.

About five minutes later, she suddenly stirs and rears up, knocking you onto the ground. “Dragon’s Trap: Sacrificial Implosion.” [x]Stopcall Metelcreftt: Warping Wail

Explosions sound off in the woods ahead, and you see, through your Hunter module, massive threat blobs appearing and disappearing in the blink of an eye. Something inside of you screams with a dozen voices, and then falls silent.

“...Awyrgan, again, what the fuck?”

“Coast is clear. There should be no more opposition.” She roars, a wet, strangling sound, signaling the others hiding behind the wards to move on.

As you jog past the previous ambush positions, you see naught but broken corpses and the wrecked remains of truck-sized warbeasts.

Well, more like the opposite of broken...most of them are actually quite alive and well, if catatonic. They are, however, restrained by their comrades, stretched out into grotesque Junji Ito-esque webs of bone, flesh and rusty metal that pin the soldiers down like boars in a net trap. Those ones are, luckily for them, quite brain-dead now. Still nominally alive, though, if with too many spindly limbs sprouting from their torsos.

Easier than killing them, really. Their armor is tough but their minds are weak. Such a body net works wonders.

“My frien--Ming...”

“Hmm?”

“Did I follow your orders correctly? I...had to improvise.”

“I didn’t give you any orders you damn overpowered dragon. Stop stealing my spells.”

Thou art...truly ignorant...of mine state? You didn’t? Must’ve been hearing things then.”

Behind you, unnoticed, is the sound of your allies losing their dinners. In Vlad and Konoroz’s case, it’s just the vodka they downed earlier after witnessing your act in the chopper.Sanae doesn't see it though, and is loudly expression confusion at the sudden vomiting.

Apparently that was all of the thin quantity of Saviors that managed to infiltrate in, as it was only thirty minutes more of silent walking that you’ve reached the overgrown path leading to the Hakurei Shrine.

Craters dot the area, and here and there you can see ruined equipment, vehicles and such dotting the previously pristine landscape.

At the foot of the shrine now sits several bunkers...Albanian bunkers specifically as some of their signage indicates, and appear to have been displaced along with a large chunk of the ground they were attached to into Japan.

“Ey!” A soldier waves from behind one of them with a rather peculiar flare...wait, she’s casting a spell, “We’ve been expecting you lot! We were going to check out the noise you made but we’re a little thin. The main force and all of upper management’s already gone into the absolute one-way breach.”

You look up. Where the front doors of the shrine were once sealed shut, is now a yawning black void of vague definition...that stretches all the way up to the sky like a loathsome pillar.

“And those Saviors ambushing us didn’t follow you in?” Momiji asks as she signals back, her projected danmaku forming the leaf crest of Inubashiri.

“There were ambushers? A ton of them assaulted us shortly after the ‘Hunter’ bombarded us and we assumed that was the last of their forces here. Took out our comms too. But I’m pretty sure we got them all...at a cost. Eh, I work at a crematorium, I’m used to handling dead people I knew.”

And now you can see the Clear Sky-marked body bags loaded up in a couple of train cars lying behind the bunkers. Next to it, a somewhat larger and bulkier pile of corpses are haphazardly covered over with tarps.

“Wait...” Momiji narrows her eyes as she inspects the young woman’s figure from at least thirty meters away, “You’re not a mercenary.”

“Nope! Just a local fan of bullet shooting girls in frilly dresses. Lol. Ooh! You’re the actual Momiji and not another white wolf, right?...ooh...are you...” She turns bright red as the tengu leaps over and physically inspects her.

“A commoner?” Momiji wonders as she holds the makeshift soldier’s face by the chin, who judging by her expression is achieving some sort of physical fangasm. “Is Yukari really just grabbing random fans off the street now?”

“Y...yes, something about us being a great source of faith for Matarajin...can I get a picture with you? I already got one with the other captains and I really want one with the...”

“Sure why not.” Momiji barely manages the hint of a smile as the soldier gleefully pulls her in for a selfie while the other Clear Sky members in the bunkers snicker, “Tadakuni, didn’t Yukari report something along the lines of 20,000 enemies moving into Gensokyo?”

“Yes, Guard-Captain, they had alternate entry points. Our objective for Hakurei Shrine was to secure our breach into the enemy-held barrier as it was already far too late to deny their’s. We were effectively facing against their rear guard, and most of them were no more experienced than Sakura over here…and far less vicious.”

“Still, holding rear-guard with...civilians!”

“Um, actually she did most of the work.” Sakura points at a figure that you’ve just now noticed is sitting on the top step of the shrine, head in hands. “We kind of just covered for her while her telekinesis took care of everything. As tough as the knights were, thrown boulders still crushed them to pulp.”

Momiji scans the figure without moving, “Who...wait. Bowler hat...funny cape...school girl. Hey, you’re the one that caused the Occult Balls incident! Sumireko Usami!”

No response.

“That girl ain’t right, Guard-Captain.” The sergeant for the irregulars comes out from the bunker, obviously somewhat out of it as the half-empty bottle in his hand shows. “She was just fine killing them left and right during the battle, but fell apart as soon as she cooled down and saw the corpses...Ey! Shriveled looking guy, green shrine maiden, whatcha doing? She’s dangerous!”

If nothing else. Sumireko’s notes were what inspired you to breach the border in the first place. The least you could do is check up on her, you’re still sort of a doctor, after all.

Please...do not...

Ignoring the small pebbles half-heartedly flung at you by the psychic, you approach the shell-shocked girl, “Sumireko?”

“Yes...that’s my pseudonym...who are you…?”

“Just some fellow outsiders,” Sanae says as she follows you up, subtly invoking some sort of divine magic in her back hand. “I didn’t really get to know you in Gensokyo…...”

“Mind tricks on an esper?” Sumireko replies in a deadened monotone as the shrine maiden yelps, her spell fizzling with a small explosion, “At least you tried....Sanae, was it?”

“Huh?!”

“You’re a high school girl too. Have you...killed before?”

“I actually should be in college now, and a couple dozens and counting, why?”

“...Was it disgusting?”

“Now what sort of a question is that? Of course death is impure...”

“...Come to think of it” You interject, “You do seem awfully cavalier after commiting your first human kills, Sanae.”

Sanae smugly puffs up her chest, “No different than a serious youkai extermination.”

“Are you sure they...died, Sanae?” Sumireko has begun rocking back and forth.

“I kind of turned them to salt, so yes.”

“People die when they are killed, you know.” You cannot help but add on.

The rocking stops, “Everyone from Gensokyo turned out fine when I shot my 3D printed gun at them...or slammed down telephone poles on them, you know. “I assumed the same for fighting outside, but...real death is...so much...viscera...blood...shit...organs...”

Out of curiosity, you turn the black light mode on for your Hunter Module. Indeed, other than the corpses recovered, there appears to be many others spread around the area, often times in the form of thin smears. None are really recoverable without a bucket. Ew.

“But...I needed to keep fighting. I realized, those were real bullets. I kept going even after I retched at their remains. Automatically. I did this...I turned these living people into garbage.”

You kind of understand her reactions now, especially if you consider Urban Legend in Limbo to be a somewhat accurate depiction in regards to the effects her attacks have on people. Her glazed, hollow eyes are pretty typical of a high schooler who experienced actual warfare beyond the intentionally sanitized combat inside of Gensokyo.

“Sumireko, it’s okay. You didn’t...”

“I volunteered, I know what you’re going to say. This was my choice. I just don’t know if I...should live with it...”

Sanae backs off as Sumireko’s revolver slowly levitates upwards. “Ming...” She whispers, “Do something...”

“Why always me? Weren’t you a high school girl too? Come to think of it, weren’t you a little too relaxed over killing that many people?”

“They were enemies! Evil ones worse than any youkai I know! Also I was kind of out of it at the time...”

Sanae falls silent as the telekinetic revolver points towards you “I can hear you, you know.” Sumireko monotones, “Who are you, anyway? Ming? I did not meet you in Gensokyo, or many men in general.”

Pick your next words carefully. While the gun is aimed at you, the shaken nature of her control over it, the look in her eyes, and the things she said...the only person she would be shooting soon is herself.

And with her abilities, she wouldn’t even have to turn the gun.

Also, shouldn’t Awyrgan be intervening about now? You look back and the dragon girl is just standing there motionless.

{ }...My friend...senses...fading...
[ ] Try to convince Sumireko that she did what was necessary.
{ }...Cannot...feel...I...am...burning...
[ ] Just Mist and drug her for now. It’s Yukari’s job to get her a qualified therapist.
{ }...Corruption...at 40%...rising...failure to repair...result in irrevocable EXPANSION of function
[ ] Does Hew’s healing work on mental trauma? It probably doesn’t hurt to try if you frame it the right way.
What's up with the stricken options ?
Do we get to pick how Awyrgan is dying ?
>>31531
We don't.

[x] Try to convince Sumireko that she did what was necessary.

The less harmful (and effective!) option of them all.
>>31531
>What's up with the stricken options?

Denial (noun) - psychology : a defense mechanism in which confrontation with a personal problem or with reality is avoided by denying the existence of the problem or reality.

Also a hamfisted attempt to illustrate information that clarifies the setting and also not break the second-person limited perspective.
>>31534
Alright then, having those lines interspaced between options made me wonder if it wasn't some sort of subconscious pick of sort. I shouldn't overthink things I guess.

[X] Just Mist and drug her for now. It’s Yukari’s job to get her a qualified therapist.

I feel like asking Ming to morally justify any sort of murder right now is going to turn out horribly wrong even if it worked. Let someone else deal with this.
[x] Try to convince Sumireko that she did what was necessary.

She cancelled out Sanae's spell and I assume she could just repel the mist particles with her crazy level of telekinesis at the moment.

Ming has seen the terrible shit they're doing and the threat that they pose and I don't really think trying to hew is a great idea here (mostly concerned about what happens if he somehow... corrupts... sumireko somehow with his energy?).
File 156283425021.jpg - (164.66KB, 850x1107, __yakumo_ran_koumajou_densetsu_2_and_etc_drawn_by_.jpg) [iqdb]
31544
60-hour weeks suck.

===

[x] Try to convince Sumireko that she did what was necessary.
{x}Yes...Please...Do not...exert thyself...

See, the problem is that you, a person with a very, very “odd” view on the value of human life, is trying to convince a previously ordinary Japanese teenager that a bit of gore and splatter is perfectly normal.

As expected, you fail horribly, and Sanae forcibly muffles your mouth shut before Sumireko could become even more traumatized as you reel over a severed enemy’s head with your fishing line and begin pantomiming with it in an attempt to prove a point.

*BLAM*

Oh right, the revolver. You look down and see that Sumireko had blasted a nice hole in your chest with an ESP accelerated bullet, right through the dragon scales.

“Eh, I’m already mostly dead, you can shoot me more if you want to unwind. I probably won’t die.” You casually say, pushing Sanae off, as Sumireko freezes in the middle of another trigger pull to look at the stale blood and rot coming out of your slowly mending wound.

“You’re a zombie?” Sumireko exclaims as she leaps back and grabs the gun with her actual hands, leveling it at you.

“Close enough. It’s more like I’m still held together by technology and regenerative magic. Which is the point I’m trying to make. Change...any change, requires sacrifice, whether of yourself, or of others.” You voice grows cold, “Just be glad that those that did die are some foolish zealots rather than yourself or anyone you cared about, and consider that those you do care about will die if you do not sacrifice those you do not.”

“M...Mokou is immortal!” Sumireko replies, in a sort of strained joking tone.

“They did worse to her. I had to painfully purify her in that form. Immortality, in the hands of this enemy, means eternal torment.” You lean in just close enough to be uncomfortable, “You would not want Mokou to be stuck as one of those red warbeasts...consumed by the Saviors’ eldritch backer.”

“I...” Sumireko lowers the gun, her eyes glossy and her lips trembling.

“So for her sake...for everyone else’s sake that you care about...keeping doing what you did. If you think it is too much, just blame me for it and shoot me all you want. Blame Wu Zhenguo, the wicked Chinese interloper, for causing all of this horror and suffering. You did nothing wrong.”

======

Hungry crows circle the skies.

Groans of the walking sick fill the streets.

Cries of the hungry poor radiate throughout the desecrated temples.

Weeping from those abandoned to die alone.

Murmuring questions of the dead souls, gathered unseen on the streets of Athens, asking why this had to happen.

Silence from the god who had no answer.


======

“Didn’t you say you were not going to take blame?” Momiji darkly mutters.

“There’s a difference between taking responsibility for an act and taking responsibility for bad feelings. Namely, I don’t care about the latter.”

Sanae isn’t speaking to you.

And once again, you cross back into Gensokyo. Sumireko did not follow yet. She has to decide for herself.

You emerge cleanly, without falling onto your face, atop the stairs leading to the Hakurei Shrine.

Gensokyo is almost unrecognizable.

In a single night, the landscape now bears a close resemblance to Mordor. Large chunks of landscape are blackened and smoldering, and the trees that did not suffer the fate of burning look to be blown apart, at least in the area around the shrine. The Human Village is just a crater now, though by annihilation or Keine you’re not sure, and further down in the valley you can make out the explosions and smoke typical of modern warfare.

Every minute or so, the sky erupts in a series of dazzling, thunderous explosions miles wide in radii. None are flying save for the avatars of the three sides of the conflict: a streak of ball lightning, a gold-black seraph, and a red-white butterfly, to which, the pulsating shockwaves have no effect. Furthermore, a strange aurora borealis is covering the sky, despite it being in the morning and nowhere near the poles.

And, of course, is the snow. For some reason the whole place is engulfed in a snowstorm in the middle of summer, complete with the thunder from the aerial explosions and the lightning from what you presume to be Thor’s assaults.

Below, flashes of light, clouds of smoke, the distinct buzzing of high density spellcraft, and the piercing noise of conventional weaponry are what adorns the valley below, overcoming the howling of wind and snow.

“Terrible, isn’t it?”

A blond figure in a white and purple dress, flanked by another blonde with a similar, blue-themed dress with nine very fluffy tails, stands below the torii at the edge of the shrine’s boundary behind you.

“Nice to see you again, honorable Spetsnaz. Glad to see you safe, Sanae, and I don’t believe we have met yet, Ming and...Awyrgan, was it?” She gives an irritatingly cute smile and extends her hand, “I am Yukari Yakumo, a Sage of this Garden.”

[x] Extend arm

Without much thinking, you reach out past her offered hand and sock Yukari square in the face.

“YOU ALMOST KILLED ME WITH THAT FAKE SWORD PRANK YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE!” You scream, memories of suffocating under that warbeast-corrupted Kaguya still fresh in your mind.

“My my, I did not realize death was a concern to you. Apologies. Rinnosuke was supposed to have disposed of that years ago.” Yukari ignores your fist planted in her face as she says it in a decidingly unapologetic tone as she bows down through your arm, a gap consuming it along the way. It feels empty, but somewhat warm. “And for our dear Iron Wing...Awyrgan...”

Yukari stops talking as she opens up several Eyes of Laplace on the decaying dragon girl, who stares back with misty eyes and a rotten mockery of a polite smile.

“Performance at desired perimeters,” The dragon mechanically states.

The Sage holds up a hand to her mouth, involuntarily, as Ran whispers into her ear with a concerned, and somewhat smug, frown.

“Very good.” Yukari says as Ran withdraws, “And, Sanae, are you...”

“I know the whole story, Yukari.” The other shrine maiden says with a dismissive wave, “Now, do you have a plan to fix this incident that you technically started, or are we going to wait until Thor fully digests my gods and Reimu is burned up?”

“The lass is right, Lady Yakumo,” Lazarov concurs, “My men are eager to complete the mission, please give us orders.”

“I will need to equip you all first, particularly you, Sanae. Awyri, clean yourself off, thoroughly. Ming, Ran will debrief you on some things only you should know.”

“What?” You ask in surprise as the nine-tailed fox grabs you by the arm and drags you into the woods by the shrine.

The two of you go in quite deep, past the tents and makeshift workshops set up around the shrine. You spot Rikako and Conner working on a new tank, and you try to greet them, but the wind drowned out your voice before Ran pulled you out of range.

Ran does not stop until the two of you are way clear of earshot of any other living being, next to a deserted, snowy clearing.

“A private pre-mission debrief, for me?” You remark, “I really appreciate it.”

“With all of the chaos you caused, killing swathes of their troops and even taking out members of their original time-displaced elite, it would be irresponsible not to.” Ran says as she lets you go and leans onto a tree, her tails forming an impromptu cushion. “So...a quick rundown on the current situation: Through analysis of the enemy’s communications and their hidden writings, we have determined that the so-called ‘Lux Pacifica’ is a manifestation of an entity, likely alien in origin, with power far beyond any entity we have known on Earth or the Moon, and that had been instrumental in shaping human civilization as we know it.”

“So...God? Cthulhu?”

“Hard to say. Only the Seven know truly what it is. However, I have performed metatextual analysis on the raw data with my mind, and determined that the entity has some discernible traits. It prefers to manifest in the Pacific Ocean like its name hints. It is non-existent for all intents and purposes in our current time and devoid of obvious references in mythology. And it is strongly associated with the qualities of order, knowledge, understanding, to the extent that a regressive convergence of its intentions reveals the intent to have the whole world rendered into a ‘civilized’ state, with every single grain of sand, every blade of grass, behaving in a predictable manner according to human observation.”

“What.”

Ran sighs, “By reading their data VERY carefully, I figured out that they want to destroy all fantasy.”

And now it suddenly makes sense why you saw so many of those Anti-Mysticism nutters on the plane to Japan…

“But, isn’t it a paradox? Would its own intervention not qualify as a violation of that? They’re using what’s basically JRPG heroes as generals!”

“Precisely, which is why I have hypothesized that it is an entity that acts primarily on reaction, and only when it needs to, during to a transition of the world’s state into the opposite of its goals. Or perhaps it sensed the emergence of a hostile entity of similar strength to itself.”

“Well we don’t have anything nearly that powerful,” You stop as Ran stares at you like an idiot and tilts her head upwards at the Dragonball-tier battle happening overhead beyond your reach, “...Right, we do. So apparently the Hakurei Border counts as an entity capable of overcoming folks like Amasterasu?”

“Yes. Unfortunately for us, utilizing the Border in an offensive manner comes at the cost of wiping out all life bound to it. Even its basic self-defense system cannot really function without eating a shrine maiden every time.”

Your blood runs cold, “You mean, Reimu was...”

“You did not think that an entity such as the Border cannot regenerate its white blood cells? By my count, and assuming my memory is intact, we are on the ninth iteration. None of them have died from old age, and seven fell before spell card rules became standard. Last one was burnt out by a particularly overpowered outsider.”

Ran notices you not responding, and continues, “Don’t worry too much, however. It’s mostly the same Reimu. The Border Preserving Fantasy is, ironically, not creative enough to generate new souls.”

A distant memory pops into your head, “Quick question, did you also stick a geas or something on her that whenever anybody asks about her birthdate, it locks her up?”

“Geas, perception filter AND amnesiacs. All fused into a single ritual cast during the creation of the Border,” Ran proudly lists off, “One of my more enduring handiworks if I may say so. It also keeps Lady Yukari busy when we need to cycle.”

“Wait, then how the hell is there a Hakurei bloodline? ZUN stated that there were previous maidens.”

“Same entity, different body, different name. I’ve tuned the amnesiac effect to spread virally, enough that few today recall even what the previous one looked like. Even I do not.”

“B-but that Ochiba guy claims to be her distant cousin! And Keine affirmed it!”

“And Keine is absolutely correct. Ochiba is in fact a distant cousin of her. Of course, that is because the recursive reincarnation is retroactively filtered to become a normal descendant chain with mysteriously vanishing parents, and naturally that illusion will latch on to existent but distant Hakurei relatives in the Outside World. Which is enough to elevate him above the average empowered Outsider.”

“So...where do the new bodies come from?”

Ran leans in even closer, enough that her innate fox-like features become uncomfortable to you, “Empty bodies of children are something that this cold, uncaring planet produces in excess. You would know, wouldn’t you, one who is possessed by death?

“That sounds...unnecessarily sinister.”

“It means we’re not harming any innocents.” Ran says, looking away into the middle of the clearing. “I am telling you this because you are an outsider, and the recordings we have of your behavior, made primarily by your steelborn companion, indicates that you are the only one who can stomach my next order.”

“Not, you know, the Spetsnaz?”

“Believe it or not, they actually have enough humanity to not do it. Particularly Lazarov. Now, toss some of your anti-divinity magic over there..”

The Hunter’s Module shows naught but grass and snow, but your weak, sputtering Hew blast crackles in the area, and something akin to a glass dome shatters.

You step back. In front of you are eight gravestones, each bearing the same name.

“They’re all...Reimu?” You mutter to yourself.

Ran hands you a large, rusty shovel, “Excavate them, and recover the bones within. You seem to have an unlimited capacity for impurity, so defiling the graves of mikos should be harmless.”

“Uhh...okay.”

The dirt flies outward in large clods, easily giving way beneath your exoskeleton enhanced strength. The graves were rather shallow, which was likely irrelevant given their concealed nature.

The bones came out quite easily, being largely intact and somehow stuck together. You expected shattered pieces, but the sheer amount of...warping they display. “Are these human bones?” You wonder as you pick up a skull that looks like it was stretched out by some force into something more resembling an insect.

“No. The Border does things to its vessel that are simply not survivable over a day.”

“Jesus...” You remove the last of the pieces and put them into a sort of cairn. “Now what do you want me to do with this?”

“You can reanimate the dead, correct? I need you to make them ‘alive’, preferably without a soul.”

“Whoa, whoa whoa.” You raise your hands forward and back off, “Last time I did that I heavily damaged souls by dragging them back from the Higan. Momiji was MAD.”

“Then don’t do that? People said that your abilities revolved around manipulating life force and dead souls, so a possessed golem should be within your expertise. The very reason I’m not handling this personally, or ask Seiga Kaku to do it is because I do not want to drag Reimu into one of them, just the Border.”

You process her logic, “Oh, so you’re trying to ground the connection by sending it into a previously recognized vessel…saving Reimu! I mean, the living one.”

“Correct. And I need your help because I highly doubt any one else...”

A scuffle from a nearby bush catches your attention. After some grumbling, a rather irritated red-headed cat girl creeps out,“Miss Yakumo, I cannot believe that you would consider this outsider first before me!”

Ran blinks, and her face flushes up with anger, “KOMEIJI KOISHI! I THOUGHT I TOLD YOU TO ENSURE NOBODY FOLLOWED US.”

“Aww...but Orin is family!” A previously unassuming tree stretches her arms out, her wizened grey hair overlapping a youthful face of pure innocence. “I’m super-duper sure she isn’t an enemy!”

Koishi...she looks very, very familiar. Almost as if you’ve seen her somewhere during this week. Oddly enough, as she turns to look at you with a big smile on her face, you don’t feel very threatened like you do with most other youkai. After all, you don’t have much to read.

“I...you know what? You are correct, Miss Komeiji.” Ran’s face reverts immediately back to a stoic expression before you can react. “Apologies, Miss Kaenbyou, would you like to offer your opinion and services on our course of action.”

“First, you!” Orin gets right up in your face before you can reach. “What have you been doing with evil spirits?”

“I dunno, the same as what you’ve been doing?” You were itching to ask Orin about the overlap in your abilities, but never got a chance to. “It’s basically...OW!”

Your forehead aches after Orin flicks you with the force of a kasha behind it, “I, do not wipe souls into blank slates or forcibly enslave them. All of my friends here,” Orin says as several dozen skull-faced will-o-the-wisps hover around her, “Are here of their own free will.”

“Really.”

“Yes. Really. You take me for an amateur like you? Hmph.”

“Kids. Look,” Ran cuts in, “I brought Ming here specifically because we need wiped souls to create effigies out of these corpses. The Border only recognizes comparatively clean slates as legitimate vessels.”

“Wait, are you trying to duplicate more Reimus out of her own dead bodies?”

“No you fool. We’re trying to ground the Border’s connection. Master Yukari has grown quite fond of our Reimu, and would like for this one to live an actual life.”

“Oh, well...shit.” You turn to Orin, “I’m going to have to blank some of your friends, sorry.”

“Miss Yakumo!” The kasha angrily protests, as Koishi looks on while chewing at the ends of her heart...string...thingy. “Surely you would not allow such a desecration to occur!”

“If anyone is to sacrifice themselves to save our shrine maiden, then it might as well be the evil souls who have already died and are pending assignment in Avici. In any case, Rin Kaenbyou, I suggest you choose the most sinful ones, or I will simply have Ming pull them out randomly.” Ran’s face darkens, “We don’t have the luxury to wait. Choose now.”

“You” Orin cowers as the nine-tailed kitsune stares her down, with her master’s sister not quite comprehending what the exchange is entailing, “...Alright...fine...I...”

Hundreds of flaming skull-faces fly by her, and she picks out eight of them that were not flying in formation, “These are the most unrepentant ones, but...completely deleting their personality?”

“I’ll...try to cull the minimum.” You half-heartedly reassure her as you drag the isolated spirits in with a “Call”, before setting them further aflame with a Hew cast. Smoky memories and feelings draft in your direction, rapidly fading into nonsensical fragments.

The gears grind away all that is unnecessary until they are but dust.

You stop as soon as the skullfaces disappear, and the remaining spirits stop moving, their flames frozen as if time has stopped. Without needing to talk, you shepherd them one by one into the mound of dead bones that you’ve stacked them into.

Much like the possessed mounds of flesh you half-hearted created earlier from dead warbeasts, the mound of dead Reimus just kind of wobbles and slurches, like a video game slime.

“Damn amateur. ” Orin curses as she shoves you aside, taking center-stage and beginning what looks like a dance instructor’s routine, “Two to the clavicle, one to the skull, move around, keep up space. Left side, right side, split off to two...”

You watch with amazement as the mound splits apart neatly and systematically into assembled skeletons, and then as the wraiths coat over their possessed frames, forming ghostly outlines that vaguely resemble shrine maidens, even down to their individual clothing styles.

You grimly note that one of them kind of looks like Reimu’s PC-98 outfit.

“There, you have your effigies.” Orin snarls, “I hope it was worth erasing a collective 20,000 years of karma.”

“For these souls, it may not be so bad.” Ran replies while ordering the apparitions with hand gestures, which are dutifully followed. “Komeiji Koishi, how are their internals?”

“Feels bland, and hard. Kind of flabby.” The satori replied while cocking her head from one side to another. “Very bland, actually.”

“Good.” She raises a hand, and the apparitions are suddenly engulfed in violet light, bloating and swelling. Above you, the entire sky dims, just enough to be noticeable.
“Whaa...”

Ran clasps her hands, smiles, and bows, “Uncountable thanks to the two of you. We have bought Hakurei Reimu another eight hours of existence.”

=====

“I swear animal-eared women hate me or something.” You angrily mutter as Orin is screaming alternatively at you, Ran, Koishi, and the world in general as the four of you walk back towards the shrine, the unholy effigies in tow.

“...AND NONE OF YOU CONSIDERED THAT MAYBE IT ISN’T WORTH DESTROYING THOUSANDS OF LIFETIMES JUST FOR EIGHT. HOURS?!” The kasha yells, her pupils literally burning in fury. Ran’s ignoring her with Zen-like calmness, Koishi actually...where the fuck is Koishi…? So Orin’s basically trying to elicit some reaction out of you, who is getting more and more visibly irritated by the moment.

“I don’t care. I don’t care. I don’t care.” You mutter in repetition. “I...gah!”


[ ] God fucking damn it Orin you come up with a better way.
[ ] I really do not care about any of this. I don’t even care if I stripped a million lifetimes worth.
[ ] You’re dealing with a Touhou fan here, Orin. I’d do the same for you without hesitation.
[X] I really do not care about any of this. I don’t even care if I stripped a million lifetimes worth.
What is an evil spirit? A miserable pile of sins!
Rather than not caring I could see the original Ming being thrilled by it, bleaching dark souls white would be a huge step up from his hobby as a "street cleaner".
[X] I really do not care about any of this. I don’t even care if I stripped a million lifetimes worth.

It's alive!
[x] God fucking damn it Orin you come up with a better way.

I'm fresh out of ideas myself
[x] God fucking damn it Orin you come up with a better way.

Response 1 is more like the Ming that we've been piloting, Response 2 seems like outsider Ming.

I can accept the second response framed with the additional thought of "It was worth the cost, and I don't care if I would've had to pay more to do it, I still would again." But I don't think that's the angle that it's taking.
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[x] God fucking damn it Orin, I don’t know a better way and I don’t care.

“...Because even as we speak, thousands of lifetimes on this planet end with absolutely no purpose and no significance. A couple thousand, even a hundred thousand worth of pointless, redundant experiences easily replaced? A low price, if you ask me.”

“ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING TO YOURSELF?”

“Why you shouting? I’m right! They’re just karma and soulstuff.”

Rin looks at you with more disbelief than anger, “They’re people. Humans, like you.”

“Exactly, they’re humans. And as a famous human author once said: ’Man is matter. Set fire to him and he'll burn. Bury him and he'll rot, like other kinds of garbage. The spirit gone, man is garbage.’ He of course, had no idea about the format of a soul nor of magic, but the statement is true nonetheless for the spirit as well.”

“You---that’s not what that means---That has no bearing on the value of a spirit! He’s saying the exact opposite!”

“Orin, Orin. There’s 7 billion human souls in the world,” You say while giving her a friendly pat on the back, eliciting some awkward squirming, “And that’s not counting those still stuck in death. We are cheap, expendable, replaceable. Now, supernaturals like you, Ran, Reimu. How many are left? By simple economic math you can tell that the experiences of a dead human, especially a wicked one, is worth but the tiniest sliver of a precious supernatural life---the sources of the fantasy we seek to preserve.”

“You are wrong. You’re not even correct.” Rin responds as she shrugs your hand off, unaffected by your diatribe and speak in a clear, firm tone, which catches you somewhat off-guard. “As somebody centuries older than you and as one of those supernaturals you claim to protect, do you even know where youkai come from?”

“Yeah! Lord Mishaguji told me about that! They came from dead souls too! So what then? We’re all made of the same materials as plants and yet I doubt anyone will say that a head of cabbage is worth nearly as much as a person.”

“Wu Zhen-Guo, you tofu-for-brains.” The kasha hisses as she tugs on your cheek, causing you to give off ungentlemanly yips of pain from the vise-like grip, “The value of the dead is how many valued them at the time of death. You would know this if you actually spoke with them and studied PROPER necromancy instead of stripping them clean as soon as you get your grubby spells on them. Youkai, like me, generally coalesce around truly forsaken souls that have no value or meaning to give them one. You are objectively wrong.”

“Well...I thought that I’m right.” You whine back. Somewhere behind you, you catch the faintest subconscious hint of a giggle.

“No, you are not. And I thought that you didn’t believe in yourself at all. Hence why you keep leaning on the shield role despite having a family in the outside world.”

“That and most of the edgy shit I say was just a way to keep people from being attached to me and putting both at undue risk! And it’s not like my family cared about me other than for your typical outside world Asian parent shit to brag about on WeChat.”

Ran leaves you two to argue, disappearing off down another path.

“I don’t know your family, but I know you have gotten many people here to value you...”

“...I didn’t ask for it.”

“...And I know you value many people here, you are a fan, aren’t you?”

“--In an impersonal way, like a fan--”

“So you can, with complete honesty, say that you don’t have anybody here that valued you and you valued right back, personally.”

“I…Yes, I do.” You mumble.

“Hmm?”

“I mean, But no...not anymore.

“Speak up.”

“No, no I don’t. Never had, never will. That’s the most reasonable course of action here. Outsiders plus relationships plus Gensokyeans equals BAD END.”

“Hmph, well I can see what perspective your incorrect assumptions are coming from, given how you yourself is close to a valueless soul. I recommend that you work to ameliorate it before I cart away your corpse. Goodbye.” The lot of you have arrived back at the Hakurei Shrine, and Orin moves to split off. “Oh, and one more thing, Wu Zhen-Guo, you might want to fix your collar. It’s tilted.”

“Close to valueless? More like completely...” As you move to readjust your misaligned jacket, something dawns on you, “...Wait, I never told you my real name.”

“You didn’t. Somebody who’s propping up your soul’s value did. Remember my job? To talk with the deceased?”

Before you can answer, Orin’s slipped away between a group of raggedy-looking armed outsiders and disappeared. You have the feeling that she wanted to get the last word in like the others but more importantly she genuinely did not like you very much.

“What is she talking about? Did she speak with the outsiders I murdered? They don’t know my real name. But it does explain why they’re so weak if she’s right.” You mutter, looking at her last known position to you and not looking or paying attention to your front.

“OW! Oh...Hi Awyri, didn’t see you there.” You say to the house-sized dragon.

The dragon doesn’t respond. Rubbing your nose, you look over her back legs to see her staring at an iPad that Sanae’s holding...is that Monster Hunter gameplay?

“So you see? Since you already got the hang of ramming you should try to use the propulsion on the ground as well! In fact, you should do better since you’re much more tanky and adaptive while still having effective jet engines!”

Awyrgan looks at the virtual dragon’s movements with puzzlement, “...Why should I do that when I can simply rain blades and missiles from range?” She asks as she flares out a wing to show Sanae a manufactured missile rack of Ohabaris. “Leaping into the air, accelerating and performing a suicidal dive is a wasteful and dangerous manuever. Not that...it would matter anymore...hard...to...maintain...personality...or...thoughts

“Because they won’t be expecting it! Like one moment they think you’re slow on the ground, and the next moment you’re bowling into them!” Sanae excitedly replies while simulating the motion with her hands. “Only Okuu was foolhardy enough to try it, but it’s super effective!”

“Inefficient, and my defense mostly focus on interception, not deflection…oh, Ming, are you done?”

“...Yes. I was debriefed. What are you waiting for?”

You see Sanae pretend not to notice you as she strolls over to Awyrgan’s other side.

“SHE wanted to have you present for this ceremony.”

“Which woman and what ceremony? I’ve literally never heard of one coming up.”

“A knighting ceremony.” The front of the shrine door opens, and an old woman dressed in contemporary clothes comes out, followed by a dozen hard-looking men in suits, all caucasian. You don’t recall seeing old women in Gensokyo outside of the Village before...is this another Sage?

Wait no, you’ve seen her on TV before. That dress jacket, that hat, that matching umbrella. That’s the fucking Queen of the UK, in the real world…the Outside World. What the hell is she doing in Gensokyo?

“Callsign Primrose.” Awyrgan whispers, before kneeling down on her back legs.

“Iron Wing.” The old monarch responds with a slight bow, before taking note of you, “We see your friend has shown up. Finally.”

“Wait, you’re the one in overall command of Awyrgan, not Yukari....Your Majesty? Is that how the address works?” You ask without really thinking about it.

“Indeed. The Lady of Gensokyo may have started the project, but Iron Wing’s base materials, and her fossilized source, were that of Wales, Germany, and Sumeria, thus We are the sole reigning monarch that holds the right remaining. Enough that even our corgis could hold authority over her,” The Queen talks as she gently brushes her wrinkled hand over the dragon’s horns, who dares not even stir, while looking at you, ”Hmmph, a Chinese...no, an American as well? I would have preferred you to be of British or Sumerian stock for compatibility, but I suppose at least you’re not German.”

You feel like a farm animal being inspected for disease as the queen stares you down. It feels surreal, to see a famous figure firmly rooted in the Outside World looking at you, more than the Gensokyeans, “That’s kind of racist. And I thought you liked Germany?”

“I do, but they are the one contributor to Iron Wing’s bloodline that I lack authority over. In that regard, I prefer to have either my own or a defunct civilization as the originator of the squire. A third-party such as China is adequate, I suppose.”

You blink, “Squire?”

“Every knight needs a squire to attend to their needs of maintenance. Especially right after they become one.” One of her bodyguards kneels before her and presents a black wooden case. The Queen opens the case, and retrieves an incredibly ornate, bejeweled viking-era sword of unusually long size. While she handled it, a bit of the blade barely touches her bare wrist, and in defiance of physics the long blunted weapon produces a bleeding scratch.

“Oooh...smarts. Are we ready?” The Queen says and her voice stiffens, her gaze unwavering despite the cut while one of her guards rushes. “As the Sovereign of Great Britain, and thy rightful liege, We order you, a black-hearted dragon of our Isles, to accept these following oaths, as you take up the arms of Sir Mordred of the Round Table.”

You see Sanae glowing in excitement as she mouths, “Mordred?” while watching the proceeding.

No wonder. With the Ame-no-Ohabari and Clarent, Awyrgan has access to two of the weaknesses of Future Thor, a god king. Not to mention that having an emblem of ancient Briton would probably give her a bonus against vikings in general.

“As God wills it.” Awyrgan responds as she shifts down to her humanoid form, enough so that the Queen can actually reach her shoulder.

“Do you swear to always stand in protection of Britannia and her people?”

“I had.”

“Do you swear to strike down the enemies of our country, wherever and whomever they may be?”

“I have.”

“Do you promise to follow the virtues of the traitor knight, but not his faults?”

“I will.”

The queen taps Clarent on both of the dragon’s shoulders, smacks her on the back of the head, and bestows it to the dragon. You don’t say anything, taken too much by the suddenness of this surreal ritual.

“Accept this kingslayer blade and stand, Sir Mordred. From this day forth you are a Knight of Britain, and neither chain nor strike will be needed to remind you of your position, bound by blood and genes as you already are, Awyrgan. Now wield the blade, cement your title, and stand...”

Without hesitation, Awyrgan devours the blade and the Queen backs off, surrounded by her bodyguards. In just a few seconds she coughs it back up again,. Standing up, the dragon manifests her full form, and flares open her holed, decaying wings, revealing the Ryu-No-Ohabaris primed beneath her scales, ready to fire...now with a distinctly European pattern mixed in.

“Assimilation of Clarent’s patterns complete. Thematic compleation with Ame-No-Ohabari. Authority Destruction at maximum potential. Clarent itself remains pristine.”

“Now, apologies on a brief ceremony, Sir Mordred.” The Queen says as she slowly collapses, limp and hoisted by her bodyguards. “But the sheer amount of anti-divinity and royalty you now exude is quite detrimental to my health as a monarch, and this knighting has taken much of Britain’s waning power as well. We shall however provide you with your new squadron members in a jiffy.”

“I understand, my queen.”

“Good, now go forth, and annihilate the heathens. Leave none alive. And you, boy.” The Queen turns to you, her voice shifting into the friendlier tone you hear on TV, “We have no authority over you as neither China nor America still fall under the Crown, so I may only request that our Iron Wing, who has bestowed so much trust in you, will be in the hands of a squire of good character, as I have no doubt in your capabilities, as Lady Yakumo had informed me.”

“Good character is pushing it a bit, your majesty, but you can trust me to protect her until the last bit of my body crumbles to dust.”

In the end. Your designated position in the story was squire. Appropriate.
The Queen and her entourage retreat into the shrine to rest, leaving just you, Sanae and Awyrgan standing next to the shrine pond. The giant shell in the middle of the water is probably Genji, now that you take a good look at it.

The Hunter’s Module flickers on just how alive it is.

“So, Mordred, eh?” Sanae comments as she pats the dragon’s now noticeably shinier scales. Even you can sort of feel the divine glow of her new nationalistic knighthood.

Awyrgan shifts to human and experimentally slashes at the air with her new sword. “Clarent’s patterns are worthwhile, but it itself is a poor battlefield weapon that cannot be replicated, if I were to be honest. But its innate Briton magic should make up for its physical shortcomings.”

“It’s not like you actually know how to swordfight, just swing it at kingly or divine things with your strength and you’ll crush them even if you using the wrong side.” You snark.

“Or shoot a beam from it! Like the Clarent in Apocrypha!” Sanae excitedly adds on. “You can do it with your plasma abilities, right?”

“Wait, Mordred is in Fate/Apocrypha?” You ask non-native-speakerly.

“Yes? It’s been a thing since last year!” Incredulousness overwhelms Sanae’s new aversion to you, apparently. “I can only read stuff Outside when visiting mom or if Rinnosuke stocks it and even I know that!”

“I don’t read or follow light novels until they’re translated since my Japanese isn’t that good.”

Before Sanae can make fun of you for not being a native, Awyrgan cuts short your off-topic discussion, “Beams from swords are incredibly inefficient and only of use in danmaku battles. No, I must think of a better way to use this.”

Across the camp, Toyosatomimi no Miko loudly coughs in the middle of her preparations for no reason at all.

“Like…?” You ask.

“Tis...hard...with...a decaying mind I...suppose I could...render it into a harpoon, perhaps?” The dragon squints with frustration at the sword, “Curses, I am a fabricator, not an inventor.”

“If you stick on an handle you can get a lance for Ming over here to use alongside his riflehammer. Ooh! And you can attach some rocket engines at the end so he can get some speed in the air for a charge attack! Or...” Sanae eagerly prattles off idea after idea to the bewildered dragon, and you step back, determining that she’s probably giving enough inspiration for two people.

Huh, why isn’t anybody else approaching her? For such an important sounding project, Iron Wing appears to be practically ignored by the bustling activity in the camp after the knighting, and you spy several soldiers approaching her curiously only to be herded away by their superiors in hushed tones. Because risk of infection is quite real, and only one person here lacks enough common sense to not care.

“Hey, child.” A voice calls to you from behind the shrine walls.
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You look around. Neither Sanae nor Awyri seems to have heard anything.

“Come in. Yukari told me to talk to you.”

That’s not the Queen’s voice. Nor anybody you’ve heard before. Going by the pacing and tone, it is very similar to Yukari, Kanako, and the like. It’s probably Yukari fucking with you.

You step forward and open the shrine’s side door. Just an empty kitchen with no sign of the voice, while sounds of the Queen and her entourage can be only be faintly heard from the opposite end.

“Because I exist behind backdoors, ufufu.” A suspiciously Sage-like laugh is heard from behind the shrine’s other door. Sighing, you open the rear entrance, “Damn it Yukari, not...”

Inside this room, several times the size of the shrine exterior, sits an entirely unrecognizable figure in grandiose yellow robes and seated in a wheelchair, attended by two younger looking women who are dressed like they are Life and Bomb pickups in the games with funny shoe-looking heads. Their “version” of the shrine interior is vastly different from the side door, with all the thin paper walls removed and the tatami torn up and replaced with a sort of vast earthen ritual area of Buddhist influence, with tons of incense, candles, and sculptures arranged in esoteric patterns.

The unrecognizable figure is blond, but definitely not Yukari.

“Who and what are you people?”

The two attendants look to speak, but the yellow-robed one silenced them. “You must be that corrupted Outsider, the dragon rider?”

“Frankly that makes me sound way too cool, but yes. Wu...Ming, at your service.”

“Okina Matara, or Matara-jin as my remnant worshippers Outside may know me as. God of back-doors, parts of the earth other gods don’t like, stars, minor problems, the downtrodden castes, the disabled...in general, the small and underlooked parts of existence. Oh, also a Sage of Gensokyo.” Okina puts quite a bit of emphasis on the last part.

“Matarajin? Darn, I think my grandma has a statue of you in our old house’s shrine...wait, why haven’t you been in the games or the manga?”

Okina’s smile droops into a sulking frown, “The Artist said that I was too boring for the games since I didn’t do anything visible for a few decades. Expect me in...two, three years? That man needs to work faster.”

“I don’t think the fans can handle incoming characters at that rate. Honestly. So what are you up to now?”

Okina points up, where a hole has been torn in the roof and a pillar of incense smoke is practically shooting upwards towards the snowy sky like an airy laser beam. “Slowing Asgard from overlaying itself and dooming us all.”

“Slowing? Overlaying?”

“Remember that blueprint you helped Youkai Mountain recover?” Okina’s two assistants bring out the item with unnerving coordination and silence. The blueprint, the one Aya had shown of an “Ultimate Weapon”, remains just as inscrutable.

“Uhh...”

“It is not a blueprint.” Okina inscribes some sort of door on the back of the paper, and abruptly the myriad lines become colored into something coherent, “It is a map of Asgard, his Asgard, located two centuries in the future, along with a mechanism to overlay it onto Gensokyo, starting at Heaven. Once that is accomplished, Thor will gain complete control of the whole stack protected by the Barrier: Heaven, Gensokyo, Japan’s portion of Hell, all subordinate otherworlds and Senkai, as the Lux’s ability to proliferate combines with his status as the sole surviving Aesir of his time and his newfound power of dominion.”

“What...”

“I’m still mostly a forgotten god, and Asgard is manifesting with the strength of an entire pantheon behind it, somehow. Even if I borrow the strength of Gensokyo’s surviving native gods, unabsorbed by Thor’s dominion, I can only delay them until someone stops it for good.”

You just now notice that the sculptures around the ritual area are awfully realistic. And then you start recognizing some familiar hairstyles and hats among them. Hina’s bow, the Aki sisters’ leaf dresses, along with a bunch of unfamiliar but recognizably Touhou figures.


“What if we stop this ‘overlay’...”

“Then Thor will lose the justification he’s using to fuel his powers. Yukari’s sent familiars and eyes all across the areas we can reach, and still found no evidence of the primordial god-like entity known as the Lux, and to make matters even more queer, the vast majority of the Savior personnel are a mix of atheists and Western Abrahamics, meaning that there’s no source of faith for an Nordic god like him. And he can’t possibly be siphoning the pitiful faith from the Thor in our timeline, who is currently blissfully passed out at a concert afterparty in Norway. If you meet Hecate, thank her for spiking his drink.”

=====

Hecatia looks briefly up from her phone at the bar to see an angry woman beat and drag away a white-haired, bearded, suspiciously otherwise young man away from the group of girls that he was attempting to woo with lightning “magic tricks” and tossing him out into the snow.

She checks to her side to ensure that the red-haired giant of a god was still sound asleep over the counter. Hypnos was reliable as usual, unlike his twin. Thor will not be waking up for a while even given his massive drinking capacity. After all, poison was a weakness of his.

Dionysus’s establishments were always well received around Europe. Shame that the other disposed Olympians keep “patronizing” the place without paying and complain about the Christians and Muslims. They really should learn to adapt to new times like she did and find an alternative source of faith for the new age. Or from the New Age, as Hecatia has.

Far more concerning matters were on her mind however. Aside from the massive phantasmal battle occuring on Japan right now, an entity resembling Thanatos had re-emerged within the chaos, never exactly at the focus but always involved, having allied with one of Clear Sky’s newest war machines.

The reports filtering in from her contacts in Clear Sky make less and less sense the further they go on.

Why is a war machine partially born of Tiamat, a goddess of life, aligning herself with him?

Why is Thanatos willingly possessing the body of a nascent serial killer, when he was never an authority over violent death and hated his job? Did the Chinese do something irrevocable to his soul when they reincarnated him in the late 19th century? Hecatia would demand answers from those involved but most of those that could answer are either still catatonic or have erased their own memories.

And more chillingly, why is Thanatos actually performing medical magic beyond the illusions he usually used as part of his disguise, and does he know what he is actually doing?

Her phone rings, and a brief check confirms that her associate has already arrived. Hecatia gets up and leaves through the doorway, disappearing into another word.

She has a meeting in Hell.

=====

You notice a discrepancy, “Don’t we have more than enough firepower within the Border to annihilate that thing?”

Okina shakes her head, “Divine airburst shells are being fired from the Saviors’ main facility in the western ruins on a regular basis. The shells lock out anybody, except for those three fighting above it, from reaching over 2000 meters.”

“Why?”

“As long it is live, we cannot do anything to help the Hakurei lynchpin since the only empowered outsider alive who can breach it is currently up there. Side note:” Okina’s face drops, “I am most definitely going to have a word with Yukari on our treatment of empowered outsiders in the future, as our cullings have squandered a potential asset that would have been useful here. Everybody from Gensokyo, and many Outsider warriors, are pushing towards it right now, but without the ability to exploit our common flight advantage and the fact that blessed ammunition shreds through human just as well as it burns youkai, we’ve been stalemating.”

You hold up a finger, “Let me guess, ‘We’re all counting on you’ to make the breach.”

“Your dragon, to be specific. I trust that you will relay these words to her, and allow her to lead the way onto the battlefield.”

“And you or Yukari couldn’t have told her yourself?”

A long, somewhat uncomfortable silence ensues as Okina slowly becomes visibly frustrated, until you finally notice that her assistants have been fumbling around behind you for sometime while she was talking.

“We wanted you to perform your duties as Iron Wing’s squire, even in your condition.” She finally replies.


“I can perform my duties atop her back, as I always did? What are you talking about?”

“Wu Ming, you are missing an arm, a leg, and the status of a living being. How can you keep fighting? What do you have left?”

“My other limbs and my fat stores, I guess.” You reply as you joking pull on your stomach flab, and fail due to them having been consumed for fuel a long time ago. “As long as I can stay strapped on, I can heal, and as long as she’s killing, I can regenerate. Besides, I do not think Awyri trusts anyone else enough.”

“And what if things go wrong?” Okina says, her voice more sad than angry despite her frustration, “I had installed backdoors to my domain of life energy on the backs of everybody involved, enough so that I can do no more but sit here and maintain the ritual to ward off Asgard...except for you...the one who we are relying on to be our primary assault weapon’s support, because I cannot establish such a connection to you.”

“So you are the Gaia equivalent for Gensokyo?”

“Was, am, and will be. Unfortunately, I cannot help those who are both a possessed corpse and spiritually deadened in a way that makes Lady Saigyouji seem like a beacon of life.”

“Yuyuko’s pretty lively for a ghost in the games...I never got to meet her yet though.”

“Look.” Okina waves away her assistants. “Cutting to my main point. I can’t help you. And I want to have a connected human up there with iron Wing, since they benefit the most from a life infusion and can resolve issues when the unexpected happens.”

“Help Sanae then.” You start getting annoyed with the new goddess repeating herself, “And have her tag along. Awyri’s used to her.”

“I was already going to do that…Please...just don’t go up there with her any more. Despite Yukari’s acceptance of you as her companion, none of us Sages know exactly what you are doing with her...your corruption. Let Sanae take your position for this one.

“Alright, if you don’t have anything else to inform, I’ll go tell Sanae to come over. Awyrgan’s probably going to need to take off soon.”

Okina stares at you strangely, as if you’ve just said a non-sequitur. “Are you even listening? Yukari’s not too concerned because she’s a terrible monstrosity and the British Queen is too old to notice, but everyone else can vaguely sense what you did even if they can’t see or choose to ignore their common sense. If you go, no sane person is going to go far to help out of concern of the safety of their souls if I can’t install a backdoor on you as a safety measure.”

“Going. Stop staring at me please.”

”Are you ignoring me or just denying what you’ve done? Don’t you care about Iron Wing? About Awyrgan? Are you doing this because you know you can do to me what you did to the Chinese gods a century ago? THANATOS?”

“Bye Okina.”

You close the shrine doors and mutter “What a weird god.” to yourself. Walking on back, you tell Sanae about the weird god and ask her to pay a visit.

“Matara-jin? She’s a Sage?” Sanae asks, befuddled, “Even the tengu do not mention her, wow, she must be really unpopular.”

“Well, she wants to give you life insurance or something before going into the field, so go pay her a visit. Oi, Awyri!” You wave over to the dragon, who’s still tinkering with Clarent, having fashioned some sort of speargun around it.

While Yukari is standing there, waiting for you with the unchanging smug grin. “Ready?”

“Your fellow Sage was acting weird.”

“Don’t mind Okina too much. She always overthinks things. After all, she of all gods should understand that even if you ruin this Iron Wing, we could always just make another. The specimen dies, the project lives on.

“Didn’t catch that, what did you just say?”

“Nevermind that. Iron Wing, are you prepared?”

“Aye...” She replies as she slots the Clarent-gun into her body. “I art...ready.”

The improvised “runway” is actually a series of train tracks fused together into a long ramp. You see multiple fighter jets around it. Eurofighter Typhoons, specifically, one of the few modern fighter aircrafts that Britain can claim primary creation over, seemingly parked at random around the ramp in violation of most aviation laws.

You are taken aback, however, when the lower ends of their nose distends into open, toothy maws, and begins crawling towards Awyrgan on their (clawed, warped) flight gear. Electronically distorted snarling can be heard from them as the “jets” distend off bits of their exterior hull, revealing that the internal mechanisms of the Typhoons have been assimilated with the metallic fiber patterns you saw inside Awyrgan’s wounds.

Unfazed, even as you instinctively take a few steps back to seek cover behind her leg, Awyrgan merely stretches her head forward, and roars her own distorted, roar more reminiscent of a death screech than a proudful boast.

The Typhoons cringe at the noise, and meekly scamper back while making some sort of whimpering sound, or at least that’s what you think it is through all the electronic distortion.

“Bronze Wings.” Yukari says as she comes up behind you, followed by a group of fighter pilots dressed in a weird combination of the typical jumpsuit + helmet with the assorted fancy decorations of a British dress uniform over the top. “The data that Iron Wing’s incubation process imparted to the United Kingdom was enough for their military to attempt splicing her metallic DNA and Tiamat forge onto their extent native aircraft. Improvised, simple-minded brutes nowhere near a real dragon, and awfully hard to control, but these are the toughest fliers we can spare, as oni are terribly vulnerable to their base holy weaponry.”

“And they only respond well to the influence of Saint George,” The Queen interjects over the radio, “Unfortunately, most knighthoods of Saint George’s name are devoted to civilians with no military or flying experience and even across the pond it was reserved for groundbound officers. These brave men you see taming the pseudodragons are the Military Knights of the Order of the Garter, the sole source of qualified dragon riders. They’re not young men anymore, so treat them nicely, would you dear?”

“Yeah, your Majesty, I’ve noticed.” You respond, grimly noting that some of the pilots are using exoskeletons of kappa-ish design and even canes as they approach and calm down the Bronze Wing Typhoons. “Though really, even I must ask why you’re going as far as to commit the lives of your own pensioner knights to this conflict of dubious political and moral value.”

“Oh no, they are all volunteers. Most of them do not have long to live and wish to go out on dragonback. In fact, the Chapter Captain said that one of them was just a civilian Bachelor Knight in similar circumstances who got along with the Bronze Wings.”

You look closely, and take note of one somewhat familiar-looking individual who’s calmly stroking his own Bronze Wing’s cockpit while examining Awyrgan with a small smile, “Is it the gentleman that’s carrying his own forged sword?”

“Was it him? Explains why he canceled that convention meeting. Ah, enough talk, I shall allow your co-captain to take over from here.”

“Wait, co-captain?” You glance over at Yukari’s wide grinning face in a panic, “Your Majesty, you cannot be trusting some Chinese-American zombie with like a week of informal experience to be taking command...over anything! Last time I tried that somebody almost died!”

Almost? Did you really believe that you saved her? Saved them?

The Queen’s Voice cuts out, and a gruff, elderly voice cuts in, “Colonel Joshua Bristow, RAF, reporting in. Commanding what Headquarters Air Command termed Merlin Squadron, but I’m going to be calling it Wizard Squadron because Merlin was a shite wizard who failed the kingdom. We will be supporting Mordred and dictating tactics, but Iron Wing must take the lead. You, Wu Ming, can just follow orders. Over”

“Happy to obey, but I’ll forget your name soon since you’re not a Touhou.” You reactively snark back at the man who’s using the radio despite standing just 30 feet away from you. He simply shakes his head.

Yet another different voice cuts in this time, a familiar one this time, “Hey, Ming. It’s been a long time.”

“Hey Miss Toramaru.” You’d recognize that tiger’s voice from anywhere. She’s pretty scary.

“Call me General Bishamonten, like the old days...though Yukari’s insisting on calling me ‘Executive Officer’. I am your command and control system for this operation, Awyrgan and Wu Ming. Awyrgan, can you report? You have been awfully silent.”

“I’m...I’m fine.”

Something feels off. “Awyri? Is there anything wrong?”

“No…I am running on borrowed time...just fine. Merely some air time to clear the mind is needed.”

“You have to take off in a three minute window anyway, so get ready. Our forces are being pushed back on all fronts, and a good, heavy diversion is essential. I’m in the field right now so I’ll have Wizard 1 handle your immediate tactics.”

You climb up and take your seat on her back. Your fishing line once again extends and attaches to Awyrgan’s nape, fusing with her scales as if it were a part of her.

No longer are restraints needed to secure your position on her though, as the dragon scale armor merges with her hide into a seamless whole that keeps you locked on yet free in movement.

Wait, how did that happen. Don’t lie, you know how

“Hew link online.” You whisper and cast, allowing the maggots to entwine around the makeshift tether. It doesn’t fail this time, likely since you’re inside Gensokyo again. Awyrgan snarls and arches her head back as the gentle blue wisps of plasma wafting from her pores become the pink light of gaseous lifespan.

“It tickles. At best.

“Good, that means it’s working. As long as I have energy, I will make sure you won’t die.”

“Oha...ha...very...humorous...Looks like we are ready.” The dragon clears her throat with a crackling sound, indicating that the radio she ate came to life, “Callsign Mordred, Dragon Knight of Wales, ready to deploy on your word, high marshal. Human Squire attachment stable and operational. Awaiting decision, sire.”

“Affirmative. Commence Operation Jormungandr. Ser Mordred, you are clear to take flight and engage hostiles at will. Our troops will rally and redeploy based on your choice of deployment, as your capabilities are best judged by your own at this time. Strategy will be determined at run-time.“

“Wizard Squadron will cover you in this regard.” Bristow chimes in, “Our Bronze Wings are not as durable as you and none of us mere humans have the same powers as your squire. But the point of attack is under your honorable choice.”

Mine choice? Our choice....My friend...your choice...Consider the open frequency and telepathic broadcasts, and let us decide.”

[{ }] Break the Ice and Silence the Thunder - Those aerial-denial systems and their ground base must be silenced first before we move on to the big guy. Charge their lines!
-[{ }] “Is anyone listening? Morichika here with a crashed witch at these coordinates...”
-[{ }] “Hold the garden! Rally around my blade and spirit! Yuuka! Don’t...”
-[{ }] “Repeat: Scarlet Devil Mansion under UV Ray Emitter suppression. Our young mistresses cannot aid...”
-[{ }] “Eientei’s willing to join the fight. But we’ll need a distraction to not reveal our location.”

[{ }] Ride the Rainbow and Quench the Lightning - We’re definitely durable enough to get past the aerial bombardment and should stand a better chance with our innate counter towards Thor’s divine bullshittery. Destroy his body and we’ll figure out the rest later.

[{ }] Ride the Rainbow and Snuff Out the Starlight - His Asgard is dependent on an energy supply independent of Thor himself. Ride past the bombardment and destroy his core while the Hakureis distract him.

[{ }]Corruption at 60%. Thanatos...you and I...let us fly...we shall drown...in the depths of the Styx...together...
[x] Break the Ice and Silence the Thunder - Those aerial-denial systems and their ground base must be silenced first before we move on to the big guy. Charge their lines!
-[x] “Eientei’s willing to join the fight. But we’ll need a distraction to not reveal our location.”

It's the endgame. He's going to die alone, hated, and screaming pitfully, as we predicted. But, unfortunately, he's going to take Iron Wing with him.

I'm guessing those last options are all the messages we received and to which we decide to respond.

>Merlin was a shit wizard that failed the kingdom

Merlin bully is okay.

>Iron Wing is Mordred now

FATHERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR
[{X}] Break the Ice and Silence the Thunder - Those aerial-denial systems and their ground base must be silenced first before we move on to the big guy. Charge their lines!
-[{X}] “Hold the garden! Rally around my blade and spirit! Yuuka! Don’t...”

In a time of options, it sounds like they're actively trying to attack this location, which means it's an active threat while the others are passive threats and contained. If we can attack here and then intercept elsewhere (it giving enough of a distraction to allow Eientei to smack the UV Ray Emitters) then it would open up options all around.

Kinda just want to give Shou as many pieces to work with as possible to make a workable strategy.
[{X}] Break the Ice and Silence the Thunder - Those aerial-denial systems and their ground base must be silenced first before we move on to the big guy. Charge their lines!
-[{X}] “Hold the garden! Rally around my blade and spirit! Yuuka! Don’t...”

Sounds like a plan.
[{X}] Break the Ice and Silence the Thunder - Those aerial-denial systems and their ground base must be silenced first before we move on to the big guy. Charge their lines!
-[{X}] “Hold the garden! Rally around my blade and spirit! Yuuka! Don’t...”

If we go for a decisive battle now, we'll lose. This seems to be the most likely option that would help us win.
File 157355008388.jpg - (175.63KB, 850x510, __original_drawn_by_braindrill__sample-db3856e562a.jpg) [iqdb]
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[{x}] Break the Ice and Silence the Thunder - Those aerial-denial systems and their ground base must be silenced first before we move on to the big guy. Charge their lines!
-[{x}] “Hold the garden! Rally around my blade and spirit! Yuuka! Don’t...”

“We will be moving towards the Garden of the Sun. Bishamonten! Over.” You talk into the radio while Awyrgan warms up her thrusters. To your side, you see the Bronze Wings close their hatches and crawl over to the makeshift launching rails on their wingtips and flight gear, warped and repurposed with living metallic sinew.

“Roger that. Airspace is clear. Altitude restrictions enforced by enemy in effect. All planes under 2000 meters will be struck by airburst fire. Mordred Squadron, you are cleared for take off.”

The plasma shield engages, and Awyrgan flies upwards, aloft on beating wings and thrusters of gas. The Bronze Wings latch on and accelerate off of the rails, sending themselves skyward at g-forces that really should be lethal.

And then you are off, flying at cruising speeds towards the southeast, towards that garden that you drained of life.

Awyrgan’s plasma vents melt away the Scandinavian blizzard as the smaller Bronze Wings reverently take up position behind her in a V-formation. You note that this presents a rather tempting profile for Savior fire, but that does also mean they’re not shooting at your squisher allies on the ground while you present a threat.

“Turning on the open channel, Mordred. You might want to hear this.” Shou says over the radio, a hint of glee in her voice.

Mismatched bits of chatter from both sides of the conflict filter through the open comms, which was a steady stream of mutual insults and disinformation that gradually turn to awe as your formation sweeps over the battlefield in a low flight: “Iron Wing is finally being deployed? Awesome!” “It’s huge, Dai! Not even Hisoutensoku was that big!” “How are they deploying fighter jets with our Vijaya arrows covering the sky?” “It’s the Dragon! Take cover and instruct our celestial beasts to focus fire on it!”

As the Savior who forgot to switch off the open frequency does so, your Hunter Module picks up a smattering of red dots heading towards you from multiple locations on the ground. Missiles.

“Here comes the snow.” One of the Bronze Wing retiree pilots chatter over the open comms.
As you breach the blizzard enough to see the vague color of the ground, the Bronze Wings diving in front of you into unpredictable patterns while spewing flares, you were getting ready to shield up when you feel a sharp prick in your neck.

“Eh?” You look over and see a metallic lizard darting away. “Awyri, are your automatons...”

“They art performing correctly. Do not worry.”

======
“Hello?”

Thanatos, lost in his old memories, suddenly became aware of an entirely new presence in his mindscape.

A very big, and more importantly, very old presence.

Seawater laps at his heels.


======

Her old faux-Shakespearean tone is coming back. Ugh.

“Wizard Squadron, break off and head for your newly marked objective near the Geyser Center. Iron Wing, they can’t hurt you as much with your squire’s aid, attract and tank the hits.” Shou instructs.

“Affirmative,” Awyrgan opens up her rear scales, and disgorges reams of thin metallic foil, garishly drawn and colored into heraldic banners.

“Wait how will I protect her?” You ask, suddenly panicking as the missiles come closer, drawn to Awyrgan’s bloated radar signature, “I don’t have that much lifespan stored up.”

“Just keep killing. Mordred, there’s a firing position right below you that’s pressuring our forces at the Garden. Take it out and replenish your squire.”

The dragon abruptly shifts into a sudden dive, slamming face-first into multiple SAM explosions along the way, causing you to gasp in pain as your link automatically Hew her scarred head back together.

“Are you trying to get killed with that trajectory? At least try to avoid the missiles!” You yell as Awyrgan levels out, half of her face still torn off.

“It...does not hurt.”

“It clearly does! Your inner structures are showing!”

“Tis but a flesh wound.” Awyrgan really doesn’t seem to be affected much as she collapses her wings into locked hardpoints, before sprouting an array of autocannons on them and opening fire, spraying the entrenched firing position before her with a hailstorm of explosive shells.

She continues flying closer to the firing position, just skimming the treetops, ignoring the answering barrage of flak and missile fire that the Savior defenders are desperately trying to throw back, including its attending warbeast that stands noble and upright, roaring like a lion as it projects a massive divine shield, ready to meet the dragon head-on.

You now note that the warbeasts resemble goats more than the lions they sound like despite its noises.

“Another divine barrier...not Aegis this time, Ming...my friend?”

You could barely keep conscious from the strain that the attacks she’s tanking are putting on you, “Ugh...what?”

“Ready thyself.”

“What….WHA-” Stagnant blood rushes to your head as the dragon flickers out of her larger form, breaking the link, and you instinctively engage your own flight system, leaving you trailing her as your stolen wings cannot compete against the massive jet turbines that are what her wings have seemingly fused into, just like…that Valstrax dragon, was it?

“Fucking Sanae and her video games...where is that girl anyway?” You mutter as you watch Awyrgan fly at an angle towards the warbeast, aiming for the cusp of the shield’s edge.

“Decapitation Sword of Filicide - Ame-no-Ohabari!” The dragon’s roar overcomes even the sound of cannon fire as she launches a cavalcade of blades at the shield. The divine barrier blackens and weakens, but does not shatter. “My friend! Shatter it!”

Oh right! Your anti-divinity! As Awyrgan spins out of the way, her smaller humanoid form evading the dense streams of AA fire with relative ease, you level Initiative and mutter your incantation, loading a maggot into the chamber along with the tungsten bolt. “Dissection Bullet: Hewing Phlegethon.”

While nowhere near the raw power of Sanae’s miracles, the target is also far weaker than the barrier Thor put up around the mountain. The bullet impacts, and the corrupted shield shatters as if it were mere glass.

“Impaling Sword of Patricide! Clarent!” Without braking in the slightest, Awyrgan crashes into the divine beast’s head like a lance, using the British sword as the tip, with enough velocity to send the goat reeling backwards and a chunk of its armor breaking and crumpling.

Not very impressive. Maybe it works better against kings like Thor himself rather than his minions. Still, being able to sustain that sort of impact is fairly impressive considering it’s otherwise a Britonnic-era sword.

Shifting back into her bulkier form as she latches on to the beast, Awyrgan lets loose a roaring gout of flame into the goat’s vulnerable insides, causing flesh to burn and cook off right on top of her. But only for a little bit, as the goat’s shield flickers back on without warning and projects its own divine flame, causing Awyrgan to snarl and back off.

“Thank you, Mordred.” Shou chimes in through the radio, “You’ve gotten closer to that model of warbeast than any of our troops so far, as even Yukari was unable to warp past those barriers. Target analysis complete. Magical signature is an 80% match for our timeline’s Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr - Thor’s immortal chariot goats.”

As you watch, you see that the broken flesh on the goat is knitting itself back together, in the same manner as the warbeast-consumed Kaguya and Mokou. The stony armor, however, stays broken.

“So...why were they trying to possess our immortals again?” You gasp as you raise the shield, blocking the renewed cavalcade of enemy fire. Shrapnel from the flak rounds and missiles make it over the shield occasionally and onto your armor, but are not immediately concerning as much as the drain on your reserves.

You can feel your remaining arm begin to crumble.

“Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr are immortal, but they cannot magically regenerate their own bones and similar hard organs. Absorbing a source of Hourai Elixir will patch up that weakness, as Thor’s dominion only extends to the products of Earth, not the moon. With Asgard overlaying onto Gensokyo, however, these...clones?...are healing their own flesh faster than your weaponry can harm it.”

“And that shield? Thor’s not projecting his own, right?”

“Remaining 20% is uncertain, but bears resemblances to Maahes of the Egyptian pantheon, whose signature is found in an almost 100% proportion on the earlier warbeasts. Kemetics in our ranks have reported that prayers to Maahes have been getting cold over the past month, indicating that Thor had, early on, assimilated the relatively lesser god of war, protection...and consumption of the defeated.”

“So they’re hybridizing myths into tools of war, just like Clear Sky...GAAH!” Your remaining hand disintegrates as a particularly large missile strikes the shield dead center, causing you to lose the grip on Initiative and letting it dangle uselessly on its strap. Awyrgan so far hasn’t been troubled by hits as your large glowing barrier is attracting most of the fire compared to her relatively small humanoid form, but she can’t shatter the enemy shield by herself. “Shou! I’m actually going to die again if this keeps up!”

“Wizard Squadron returning with secondary objective. Encirclement of Geyser Center breached.” A barrage of rockets from the sky suppresses the Savior position, silencing their fire briefly, but not enough to do any apparent damage judging by your Hunter’s Module. The pseudodragons dip briefly to follow up their barrage with some cannon fire, but pull up and zoom off as soon as the goat turns its attention towards them and lets loose a barrage of SAMs.

Something lands on your back, and your face is smacked with what looks and feels like a black feather duster.

“Aya? What are you...” You turn around to see someone who is most definitely not Aya. Too tall, to begin with.

“Hey yo! Ming? Was that your name? You were pretty cool fighting Thor as a human!” The long-haired girl smelling of brimstone happily greets you while easily lifting you up with one hand and her own massive set of wings, using you as a sort of gunshield as she props her control rod over your shoulder, “Reiuji Utsuho, in position!”

“On time. Ming, drain as much as you need from her. Yatagerasu can take it. Commencing attack sequence in ten seconds.” Shou suddenly raises her voice, “DON’T THINK, JUST DO IT! NOW!”

“Hew.” You lock Utsuho’s hand with the crook of your arm and drain, eliciting a small yelp from the crow. The dust reforms into bone and sinew, not perfectly, but enough for your to grasp and operate your rifle. “Sorry.”

“That little bit of energy you borrow is nothing compared to the sun!”

Abruptly, without any sort of signaling, you see Awyrgan shift, unleash a barrage of Ohabaris at the titan, eat a missile to the face in response, and crash into the ground. A single second later, Shou screams in your ear: “FIRE! CRACK IT AGAIN!”

On reflex, you raise the gun, aim, and shoot. A second later, your Hunter’s Module shuts down and your ears are filled with static-sounding ringing. The sting of radiation and heat on your deadened nerves and the remaining afterimage after you raise the goggles indicates that a radioactive plasma bolt has sailed right after your shot.

The blades impact the shield simultaneously as your anti-divinity bullet, breaking it again. In their wake follows Utsuho’s shot hammering the crack in the armor, piercing the titan straight through with raw nuclear power and effectively scoring an operational kill. Shou’s calculation allowed for no gap to react to the sequence.

Even so, it begins regenerating, but the new growths immediately ignite with nuclear flame and incinerate to ash. The goat can only mournfully attempt to feebly retaliate with a few random missile launches before ceasing all motion.

“Break off physical contact. The Squire is toxic to gods like Yatagerasu.” Shou orders.

Utsuho only reluctantly obeys and shoves you off, allowing you to reactivate your own wings, “Aw...he smells of an exotic, tasty corpse.”

“Th-Thanks?”

Awyrgan’s already busy flying over the now vulnerable firebase and breathing fire all over the Savior infantry who were supporting the Tanngrisnir instance…except, that’s not fire. You look closely with the Hunter’s Module and note that it’s some sort of black water mixed in with tiny metallic lizards, similar to the kind she has in herself.

Flying closer, you see the victims who didn’t get away frozen to the ground, the oil somehow coalescing into dark ice that covers them up to their mouths. No sound or movement can be heard or seen from the suits of armor, but the faint signatures on your module tells you that they’re still alive...no, dead...nope...alive again.

You remove the goggles and smack them a few times, are they broken?

“Uh, Awyri? Were you always able to do that? Like, summon up ice to immobilize them. I thought you were a fire dragon.” You cautiously ask as the dragon wordlessly lands next to you and begins devouring the immobilized, tearing the ice out of the ground and chomping through them like popsicles. Huge intakes of lifeforce surge through you as the victims are digested by her internal furnace.

Shocked, you look and shudder at the sight of the Hew link from your hand to her side. You did not cast a link. “Did you actually steal my Hew spell?”

“Negatory...to all your questions, my...squire. I art thou and thou art mine.”

“Uh...what?” You back off as the dragon turns towards you, “That’s coming on a little hard and sudden! We’re murder buddies, and I’m not exactly willing to commit to a relationship, especially not on...this.” You gesture at the (living?) corpses in the warm, black ice. It smells like seawater for some reason.

The dragon does her best impression of a frown, before shifting down to use her humanoid form to emote more effectively. “I...was being literal.”

“Recharged?” Shou cuts in with orders, “Mount up and fly out, several more positions are marked on your HUD.”

Without hinting, Awyrgan crouches and grabs you, hoisting you into a piggy back position before shifting and taking to the skies, and before you know it you are again skimming the sky on dragonback.

“Wizard Squadron, lead the way and fly defensively, drop chaff, avoid drawing fire. Utsuho, use Mordred as a shield and provide fire support. All forces in Sector Carmellia, advance towards Primary Objective.”

As you fly up, you zoom in with your goggles on the approaching allied forces emerging from their entrenchments in the cornfields and rice paddies (Hmm, they must have been defending the area around the Human Village). You see an eclectic mixture of typical mercenaries carrying strangely modified conventional weaponry stride alongside obvious nonhumans in fur and fang, some not even bothering asserting an upright stance. At their forefront leads a short figure wielding chains and a massive cannon twice her own size, all while merrily drinking from a gourd.

“Oi! Mordred! Thanks for the cover,” A clearly drunk and suspiciously underage sounding voice calls out in your radio, without bothering to send an id-hash over the electronics. “I would’ve smashed that stupid thing to bits myself but those divine energies really do numbers on us oni, and the trains can’t withstand the explosions.”

Following the Suika-led infantry are actual, rail-bound trains. Civilian cars, mostly, but you can see WWII-era armored sections among them too. The locomotive at the front, however, is visually an antique steam model but which spews colorful, luminescent smoke while laying down its own tracks in front via extradimensional gaps.

“Damn.” Now you know why Yukari had a train obsession in her fighting game spellcards. Quite soon, these forces are lost in the white blizzard as Awyrgan flies ahead, towards the deeper enemy positions.

“Be advised, reinforcements inbound. Kochiya, get on the dragon.”

“Eh? You put on the goggles again, but just manage to miss catching Sanae doing a flying barrel roll over you and settling in right behind Utsuho. “Oh, hey, you’re back.”

“Secondary shielder in position, Shou.” Sanae proudly proclaims, “We won’t be going down any time soon!”

If only Reimu was available or Yukari would willingly come to add their aid. What was that Youkai Sage doing anyway? She’s not doing commander duty, at least.

“Greetings, warriors!” A differently, familiar voice pops up on the radio this time, “Through mine divinations of the soil, the dwelling places of our foe’s shrines hath become laid bare to our eyes in the upper heavens. I shall...Miss Nightbug, how doth one operate this mystical scroll...tis not mystical? Oh...Ah, I have revealed them to you as well. Set them ablaze!”

Futo’s provided waypoints light your HUD up with...wait, how were they interfacing with Lunarian tech? Probably Yukari did it or something. Anyways, you and presumably everyone with the gear can see the location and relative distance of the warbeasts.

“Looks like we’re stuck on escort duty men.” Wizard 1 chatters over the comms, “So much for being a tactician in the field with a literal god of war.”


===
Thanatos drew his sword and flew against the beast.

And was immediately struck down.

He wonders why he even bothered.
===


Once again, you breach the blizzard, and the HUD indicates that the Tanngrisnir battalion is within engagement range. They look smaller than the last one.

“Sequence attack, GO! Kill one and fly to the next as fast as you can!”

Lining up your rifle shot with the first one, you brace as Awyrgan collapses her wings and enters a spiral dive against the target, spewing out flurries of Ohabaris all the while you punctuate them with Hew shots while maintaining your dissection barrier, flush with lifeforce. Confident in your shielding and the rhythm of action that Shou is pounding in your ears, Utsuho stands up and extends her arm as the dive nears the ground, her control rod glowing as bright as a sun while additional vents and acceleration rails sprout out of the main cannon, capacitating nuclear energy to an extraordinary extent.

“Wait it could do that?” You wonder aloud. “I thought that was just in fanart!”

“Harnessing the natural magnetic fields of my reactor to accelerate the superdense particles generated is trivial through the generation of addition guidance beams and protonic beacons...hmm...what’s this ‘fanart’ you speak of?” Utsuho, transitioning from a rapid stream of dry tech speak to her usual carefree tone in a single sentence, blinks blankly at your question.

“FIRE.”

You let out a final Hew shot and look away. A miniature sun singes your side shoots out after it. Again, the shield comes up just too late, and the Tanngrisnir eats the sun blast straight onto its armor.

Unlike the previous instance. This one had no breach in its armor...to its detriment. With its divine shields down. There was nothing preventing the heat transfer from a sun straight into its internals, expanding them tenfold in a microsecond and causing a massive explosion of flesh and stone. You cover your eyes as it looked like a bright red star sprouted on the battlefield.

As Awyrgan passes over the wreckage, casually spitting out a few fireballs at the Saviors still remaining in their entrenchments, you catch sight of multiple other Tannigrisnir turning towards you, and unloading a Macross-tier barrage.

Barrier comes up as usual, and you easily absorb the hits this time, with two sources of vast magical energy at your reserve. Many of the projectiles fly wildly off target even before they get near Awyrgan. Looking back, you see Sanae conjuring up her own barrier of divine wind to aid you.

Truly, this is what a flying battleship is like.

As the second goat goes up in a cloud of radioactive smoke, you suddenly notice golden projectiles joining the others. “Mordred reporting enemy Companion presence.”

“No impact on mission progress, continue the pressure.” Shou responds.

They must have learned from Nashira’s success, since instead of engaging you in melee they are entrenched alongside the Savior volunteer troops and unleashing volley after volley of divine spears and arrows at you.

Which doesn’t really help this time as the dual shielders easily eats up the projectiles that the dragon knight does not weave through, before retaliating in quills of cursed swords, followed by swarms of nuclear hellfire.

You’re just playing a Touhou stage now. Except you have shields for days. And if you die in game you die in real life.

Awyrgan circles the position, allowing you and Utsuho to shoot at the position with greater precision while contributing her own plasma bolts and Ohabaris to the mix. Their attended warbeast crumbles and falls from the saturation fire without Shou needing to order a sequence attack, and you note with a grim smirk on your face that the golden projectiles are gradually decreasing in density.

“More Tanngrisnir inbound.” Shou informs, “Judging from intercepted comms they’re breaking off from the Garden. Mission proceeding as expected.”

Doing one final swooping run over the target, Awyrgan ices the enemies, who no longer had any divine abilities to fall back on, and dives down to consume the unfortunates frozen near the surface.

“Hey! Toss me one!” Utsuho complains as the dragon crunches through the armored corpses...wait, no they’re definitely still alive...like rice crackers. Awyrgan does not oblige.

Your HUD lights up with even more objectives, surrounding you. Fifteen Tanngrisnir are moving towards you at a gallop. Even with Companion support, what could they do? With the flurry of curses and what’s effectively countermagic Mordred can spew out, they could only hope that Awyrgan runs out of stamina before they run out of warm bodies.

A loud burst of static through the comms interrupts your thoughts. Shou’s trying to say something, but you cannot hear it. You HUD is scrambled.

“Eh?” You take it off just to be blinded by a flash of white light.

The open comms crackle to life, with only one voice instead of the usual chatter, “Both sides of this war, be advised, MOLY has been deployed against the dragon, vacate the area.”

As the light cleared away, you see the charging beasts and their attendants pause, and slowly back off.

“Plasma sheath...failing. Weapons systems locked up...I am sorry my friends.” Awyrgan reports as she looks back with her...skull? You don’t see the scales nor eyes on her face, just metallic bone and strips of rotting material.

You blink, and then you rub your eyes with your burnt fingers. Your glamour’s off. But then...you look down and see that the rest of Awyrgan’s body is in a similarly decayed state.

“What? Awyri...what is...Sanae, Utsuho, you’re seeing this, right?”

No reply, they're both still quite dazed and blinded from lack of goggles.

"Awyri, are you okay? What the hell happened?"

“My friend, tis no issue....it was...an emergency...I am grateful...Do not apologize...”

"Apologize, what are you talking about?" You frantically ask.

The mechanized voice interrupts again over the open comms, “Both sides of this war, be advised, Arcturus inbound in five. You had a good run, but this story ends here.”

A moment of hesitation, and then Awyrgan immediately dives down, spewing out what’s left of her own heated scales as chaff.

“Four.”

In the corner of your HUD, you can see an absolutely massive threat blob approaching, one that should be outside the Hakurei Border physically.

“Three.”

Shou’s shouting something in your ear, but this time you cannot hear it over Awyrgan’s panicked roars.

“Two.”

In spite of all that effort, Arcturus is easily catching up to the dragon going at near Mach 4 in an erratic pattern.

“One”

A silver flash streaks across the sky in your field of vision, and something slams hard into Awyrgan’s side, sending her spinning in mid-air. Immediately detaching yourself, you see, floating in the air, a knight...no, an angel, of pure platinum.

Sanae and Utsuho recover their vision just in time to see this new menace.

Almost the exact opposite of Thor, this entity is inhumanly thin and elegant compared to the Norse god’s bulk. All shiny, expensive metal and no capes, tassels or any decoration but for a few jewels inlaid on its torso. Outwardly, it holds naught but a simple sword and shield, but you sense that it’s concealing much more inside its body. Especially considering how it’s practically oozing divine energy.

“Missed me? Dragon?” It taunts while looking at Awyrgan, in the same monotonic machine tone as the one on the comms, before turning to you. “Before I slay you, Null Fiend, I give you and your friends three free shots. Handicap.”

Without waiting, the raven moves first, “Seven Stars "Septentrion"!” Utsuho shouts as she launches herself off the reeling and disoriented dragon and launches a burst of large roaring, blinding suns at the angel.

Who bats them aside with its shield like nothing.

“What the hell?” You shout, as Sanae likewise detaches and throws out a barrage of curses. The angel doesn’t react, simply allowing the ofuda to stick and spread the blackness all over its body.

“Ming! Crack this statue!” She shouts.

You load a maggot and fire. It blocks...and that’s it.

It wasn’t scratched. It wasn’t disabled. You don’t even feel a lifeforce surge from the Hew cast. As if gloating, Arcturus shrugs and detaches its right arm to clear off the ofuba, revealing no flesh, but just wires and mechanisms.

This is an automaton, and one not using ANY divine enhancements.

But how...how does it...

“That’s three.” Arcturus hunches and charges straight at you, dipping down at the last moment and...tossing the sword at you? It’s fast, but the kinetic energy is low enough that you just parry it.

And then, Arcturus is gone, vanishing in the blink of an eye. Right as Awyrgan recovers and charges back over, catching all three of you onto her back.

“Nope. Too slow.” A sudden surge of pain courses through your neck, and you see a blackened, cursed axe ricochet off of Awyrgan’s scales with a splash of blood and bounce back into Arcturus’s hand while it flies away at the same speed it came in.

“Sorry...Arcturus 1. Confirmed kill on Null Fiend.” It chatters over the comms, pauses, and then adds on, “Do not expect any more out of me, Rigel.”

You are just about to make a quip about how not killable you are when you suddenly realize that your vocal cords are gone and not regenerating.

Then you remember, as the world in your eyes suddenly makes a 180 degree flip, that Meiling is passed out back at the helicopter in the Outside World, and not possessing you right now enough to triage mortal wounds. You’re just a regular old undead human now.

“No hard feelings, dragon. And the rest of you, don’t expect to see me again. I shall have no further hand in this war.” Are its last lines as Arcturus disappears completely from radar.

And thus, nothing here would save you from outright decapitation from a cursed weapon. Which kills zombies, after all. Especially semi-living ones.

Heh. Getting unceremoniously decapitated by an axe is an appropriate way to go, especially as the last thing you see before everything fades to black is Sanae’s frozen, shocked face as your head lands in her lap.

“At least it was a final boss that got me”. You think.

And then, you don’t think...

You don’t..

Not…



...

BAD END

======
“What I was going to say, mine dearest squire, is that do not apologize for your failure. As I have not failed on my act. Perhaps I should be apologizing...but a dragon does not apologize.”

[As if I will] Return to Title
{X} Return to Character Selection
[let you go] Quit Game
{My friend} Continue


Girls are preparing warmly




CHARACTER SELECT

{Thou held onto a false hope of thine continued control? Humorous.} Wu Zhenguo
{ } Hakurei Reimu
{ } Kirisame Marisa
{x} Kochiya Sanae
{ } Konpaku Youmu
{ } Izayoi Sakuya
{ } Shameimaru Aya
{ } Reisen Udongein Inaba

======
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Shortly after Arcturus disappeared, the enemy troops on the ground renewed their attack.

The air is again filled with a dense saturation of glittering death. Missiles and cannon fire from the ground Tanngrisnir are pumped out in steady volleys while the surviving Companions on the ground pelt at Awyrgan with their own projectiles. You quickly toss Ming’s severed head back over, not quite sure what to do with it.

You scream again when his corpse reaches up and snatches his own head out of the air, replacing it on his shoulders. It moves jerkingly, like an unskilled marionette show, and as he turns around, you see several metallic tendrils impaled through him, pumping...seawater?

You look down and see that the tendrils are extending from between Awyrgan’s scales.

“Awyrgan!” You shout at the dragon, “What are you doing?”

No reply.

Wait, wasn’t he a zombie already? Couldn’t he have done this for himself? Didn’t he do this before?

No, even as you see his neck heal, releasing a pungent odor of salt in the process and dislodging the tendrils, you notice something different. Gone is the awkward, uncanny disguise of his glamour, or the burnt pallor of his true undead nature. You watch the young man remove his hood and goggles to shake his hair loose and crack his healed neck joint, and you see something he never had in his eyes before.

The glow of life.

“Wu...Ming?”

He gives a little smile at you, even as a small piece of shrapnel flies past and scraps his cheek, letting out a trickle of healthy, crimson blood. “Aye, tis I. Squire Ming of the Commonwealth.”

You glare, unconvinced at the archaic English and a tone of voice that isn’t dead inside, “You’re not Ming. Awyrgan, what are you doing to your buddy?”

No reply from the dragon, “Ming” shuffles and widens his smile, in an unfamiliar way as this one isn't creepy. “I art...I am just Wu Zhenguo. I do not die when my head is cut off because I am a zombie. Ha ha, kind of humorous, do you not think?”

Even with the puppeted nature, he somehow emits the aura of a genuinely good person in his close-eyed, gentle smile. Even his hair, untrimmed since Eientei grew it out in their healing vat, is flowing freely in the blizzard in an almost heroic manner.

It is disturbing.

“Now, let us continue our mission.” He looks up, spotting the second wave of inbound projectiles from the airborne Savior Companions. “Lady Reiuji...would thee kindly offer thine hand?”

“Unyu...okay?” The raven is just as confused as you are as she extends her left hand over. Ming takes hold of it with the grace of a refined gentleman, and turns back towards the enemy. You see now that he is carrying Clarent in his other hand, and is channeling through it.

“HOLD ON TIGHT! I SHALL SHIELD YOU FROM THE STORM!” He suddenly roars in an inhumanly deep tone and raises the shield generator. You see from the glow traveling through his held hand and sense from the divine emanations that he’s drawing upon Utsuho’s nuclear powers...directly? He’s not converting it to his own circuits?

“Solar Sign - Memory of Prydwen!” The graviton field blossoms out in the shape of a noble cross, spreading across the dragon and gradually covering an entire section of sky. You see his already ravaged skin begin melting into radioactive sludge, channeling energy at a far more efficient ratio than merely overloading them as Hew circuits.

“Human! What are you doing?” Utsuho cries out, attempting to let go of the link but failing. The man doesn’t seem to feel even a modicum of pain anymore, even as his body is fusing to his armor in the radiation.

“Mine melting flesh, mine burning soul shall make the shield stronger than ever before!” Ming cries out, his face contorted in uncharacteristically serious passion and his eyes glowing with plasma as his volume grows even louder. The shield continues growing and growing, until it reaches the size of the netherworld gate.

“Come, thy knaves and scoundrels of the Hammer! Break thy weapons upon the anvil of humanity’s truth! We are all but selfish, prideful apes! Our beliefs are meaningless! Our lives are worthless! Our desires are mere fancies! Recognize this, and submit to the hollow, hypocritical world thy hopes rest upon...Tiamat Reinforcement: Primordial Devolution! ”

The barrier writhes, hostile and primal as the cross distorts into a more profane, ancient sigil. The sensors on the anti-air missiles fail as they near, and their engines soon follow, falling out of the sky in arcs just short of the dragon they were targeting, their mechanisms corroded with salt water and ice. Likewise, the arrows and spears of the Savior Companions lose their power, turning into mere sharp metal that glances off harmlessly against dragonscale.

As Ming’s remaining skin and flesh trickles out of his armor in warm, rotten-smelling gore, it reveals glowing metallic fibers beneath them, pulsating with nuclear energy. He doesn’t seem to mind it as he radios Wizard Squadron to back off, right before he shoves his shield arm forward.

The barrier heaves as the Bronze Wings fly around it, and then is expelled forward. It crosses the battlefield like a tidal wave, smashing into enemy and allied positions alike in the crossfire.

And every human achievement beyond the Neolithic Age became humbled.

Divine shields flicker and turn off, overwhelmed by Tiamat’s conception, and the enchanted weapons on both sides lose their luster. Guns fail, explosives fizzle, and even simple metal blades gain a sheen of rust over them. Artifacts of more complicated construction simply fall apart, with naught even a dramatic explosion to glorify them. Even youkai soldiers trip and stumble over their own weight, a sudden fatigue from the magical drain.

Recovering from the awe, you sweep your gohei and cast a barrier of wind on reaction, and laugh as that one still works. The shield didn’t have a backwards hitbox!

You are then knocked flat onto the dragon’s back as Utsuho, who was half-hovering in front of you (the default stance of Gensokyeans maintaining position on unstable ground), falls onto you, out cold. Her Yatagerasu Eye is not glowing. Did “Ming”’s cast drain her entire capacity?

You now notice that Awyrgan is merely hovering and not performing any other action, and has her eyes closed, listening closely, you could faintly hear the dragon murmuring mechanically on repeat, “Resist the corruption, resist the corruption...maintain...integrity...counteroffensive...Resist the corruption, resist the corruption...maintain...integrity...counteroffensive”


======
Over the ashes of a dead man’s mind, a monster looms over its broken victim, its waters overrunning the landscape and turning it abyssal.

Tiamat’s form is an unsightly, imposing presence, covering up the full extent of the mental landscape. A primordial blend of a great serpent and various other creatures that defined the Mesopotamian ecology, it is horrifying to look at, and yet any viewer would find it hard pressed to not see some part of themselves represented in the monster.

“You thought, with thy feeble human conception of death, could enthrall a fragment of a god borne before genesis?” She snarls, words formed through a mouth of lizard, bird and fish alike.

The figure stirs, despite having its body melted down to the bone by the corrosive ideas of a world without man. It grasps its sword with bony fingers, but is unable to raise it.

“Having a human shell get close and befriend my incarnation. Despicable, even for thee, Thanatos.” Tiamat says as she leans over until her snout is just inches away from the lesser god’s face.

“That...was not my intention.” Comes the reply, murmured through a hollow throat. “I am sorry.”
======


“Mordred! Can you hear me? What you did there was amazing, Mordred! Open comms are lit up like a festival!” Shou shouts in joy over the radio, “Listen!”

> GENFOR: “Sector Sunflower no longer receiving fire! Draw your blades and charge!”

> OPFOR: “They’re all jammed! We only have our blades!”

> GENFOR: “That barrier...what sort of magic is that? In all my years I have never seen anything like it!”

> OPFOR: “Even my binoculars aren’t working anymore! Damn that accursed dragon!”

> GENFOR: “Heh, time to put those bayonet drills to work, jarheads!”

> OPFOR: “Fall back! Get that equipment up and running! Pronto!”

“Mordred? Mordred! Are you there?”

Gently putting Utsuho down into a secure position, and watching Awyrgan’s scales configure themselves into a sort of body holster, you see “Ming” hold up his radio. “Unit of Sir Mordred here. Continue to engage?”

“Engage, run them down!”

“Affirmative.” “Ming” replies as Awyrgan stirs and moves, cruising across the sky unmolested as there are no more anti-air fire coming out, with the battle below having descended into exclusively melee combat with guns and spells alike disabled. “Milady, Awyrgan, thy glorious flames are too dangerous for our own forces, we must descend and engage...”

Unable to take this farce any longer, you fly over to the puppet and seize him by the collar. “Ming” offers no resistance as he gives a painfully genuine apologetic smile at you, “Lady Kochiya? Doth thou possess some quarrel with mine?”

“Awyrgan, ” You snarl, “Is possessing Ming’s corpse really that funny to you?”

“Oh, please. Lady Kochiya. Refer to me not with mine vulgar false name of prior, which I had conjured out of a paranoid fancy.” His metal fingers gently disengage your grasp with ease, neutralizing what godly power you had applied, “I am Thanatos, squire of Syr Awyrgan, kin of Clan Inubashiri.”

“Thanatos?”

“Mine true identity and name,” The...man? Proudly proclaims with a raised hand of skeletal metal and with the fleshy skin on his face replacing itself with a primal-looking metal texture “Which no longer need to be suppressed in this battle for this realm of gods, this Olympus of the East. Ah, Lady Kochiya, I beg of you now to take our spent brethren Yatagerasu to a secure locale, as my lord and I must enter battle again shortly.”

“...Of course”, He’s too polite. Too nice. You don’t really want to be near him anyway.

As you hoist the raven over your shoulders and fly down, you see Thanatos run down the neck of the dragon, raise his warhammer over his head, and jump without engaging his wings.

He’s also too cool to be the guy you knew.

====

{x} Return to character select
{x} Konpaku Youmu

“I am a samurai.” You repeat the oath to yourself as you raise your blade, “My life and my blade are only to serve Lady Saigyouji.”

You made that up. Yuyuko never asked you to swear a kishomon or considered you a samurai yet. But she definitely should.

Another silvery knight raises a spear towards you and charges, clumsily and without any semblance of a proper form. Without effort, you bat aside the shaft with Roukanken, and trace upwards on it to slice into his rusted gauntlets.

No need for a finishing coup-de-grace. The knight falls over and screams, clutching at their mutilated hand. You cannot tell what sort of human they are with their helmet muffled, just that they are human. Not that you’re much better right now, with that strange spell that fell over the battlefield having annihilated any technique you had that draws upon mystical energy. It’s rather hard to even maintain your composure, hence the oath repetition.

Still, Grandpa Youki’s insistence on your fundamentals being the majority of practice has paid off, and thanks to Roukanken’s youkai forging, it has suffered less from the spell than the other warriors in your band, and much less than the enemy reliant on their futuristic technology.

You jump back as a massive mace slams into the ground before you. Looking up, you see a woman with long aqua hair and crazed eyes taking swings at you from within a suit of tarnished golden armor. A paladin, as Shou had informed you. This one has actually trained in the martial arts, and despite her looks is using measured strokes and footwork to take advantage of your lighter weapon and smaller build.

Parries don’t work, you try it once and immediately receive a mace in the gut for your trouble that sends you reeling and choking. That clunky-looking western weapon is deceptively fast, and even deprived of its divine energies and polish is still a perfectly lethal device.

You spit out a glob of blood, and focus. Your spirit half materializes into a harmless but real-looking doppelganger, and shadow your movements as you lunge forth against the foe in a single draw attack with no hesitation.

You are then promptly knocked backwards as something falls from the sky and crashes into the space between you at terminal velocity. Landing on your feet, you raise your Roukanken into a block in anticipation of an unknown threat emerging from the dust.

Sounds of metal hammering metal emerge from within, before the limp form of the paladin comes flying out, and on reaction you sidestep and perform a reflecting slash, batting her aside while knocking you even further back. Limp, she’s either out cold or dead.

Her attacker emerges from the dust, a blur of metal and rags, and rush towards an ongoing melee, where Clear Sky human mercenaries are fighting the enemy silver knights with rusty blades and rifle clubs in a tight formation. They realize too late as the thing shoulder checks into the knights without any attempt to mitigate its own damage and begins swinging wildly, its own technologically enhanced warhammer not affected by the devolution spell.

You rush in to help, jumping over a screaming Savior that got propelled your way. The thing is hard to tell visually, but getting in closer reveals that underneath its tattered armor and mechanical attachments resembles a famished human, coated in metal while constantly dripping seawater. Some sort of drowned youkai like Murasa? Gensokyo has no sea so you are unfamiliar with the types that dwell in there.

And then you recognize the singed Eientei armband still clinging on its arm and its voice, yelling in heavily Chinese-accented English and Japanese as it plows through the enemy lines.

“Wu...Ming?”

It turns, and notices you. “Ah, greetings, Lady Konpaku.” It shouts in reply, “A pleasure to meet a fellow knight on the battlefield! I sincerely apologize for my shameful un-chivalric behavior towards thee last week, and I shall prepare the appropriate penance once we have finished.”

It’s not using it’s shield much, nor is it talking like that annoying outsider you briefly spoke with once last week. As it speaks, it winds up as a team of enemy riflemen charge in with their bayonets, meeting their bellowing onslaught with a feinted swing, followed by tackling the frontmost member and breaking the bayonet on its own skin.

This was enough to force the Saviors to recognize that there is somebody with functioning magic/tech on the other side, and their golden-armored leaders immediately begin ordering troops to disengage from the rest.

“Thy knaves! Deluded by a false corruption of a god!” It yells over the din of battle in a shrill electronic voice as it hurls the stunned man back towards his comrades, forcing them to scatter. “Thy mischiefs have been suspended, thy crafts have been shattered!” Gesturing first at the crippled warbeasts in the back, unable to even move, then at the cowering enemies before it, it changes to a calmer tone, “I highly advise laying down thy arms.”

“Don’t listen to his lies! We still have reinforcements!” A gold-trimmed paladin yells.

He falls silent as Thanatos draws near, even though the dead-alive thing’s hammer was sheathed. “Aspiring hero, a noble cause you may pursue, but the assumptions behind that nobility are a shattered pillar.” It draws uncomfortably close to the man, who does not move, as if frozen, “Allow me to present my side of the debate, as Socrates would have.”

You can only stare in horror as the thing grasps its own chest, grunting and gasping, and abruptly ripping it in half.

Out came rotting organs, liquefied flesh and foul blood, landing on the dead flowers.

Thanatos casually digs out the parts of himself that did not immediately fall out of the cavity, until all that remains on his insides are a gleaming metallic endoskeleton holding up the facade of a human figure.

“Men, like you and me, are matter. Drop us out of a window, and we fall. Set fire to us, and we burn. Bury us,” It gestures at its decaying remains, “and we rot, like garbage. Without spirit, without meaning. Ripeness was all.”

Whatever the boy was, he is no longer a living being or even a corpse, but some sort of horrid machine with the a parody of his organic skin stretched over it.

“But fear not! For I bring wondrous news!” You look up at the sound of large wingbeats approaching, and see the dragon Awyrgan landing on the battlefield, shifting into her knightess form along the way and settling daintily alongside Thanatos. “For milady had decided to extend her grace towards you all, and offered thy misguided souls salvation: Lay down thy arms, and she shall fill thy veins with the blessed waters of the Abzu and Styx like she has with me. Eternity is within thine grasps.

Silence. Confused murmurs among the Clear Sky ranks. Irritated ones among the Saviors. “As if we shall allow ourselves to be corrupted like you, god of death!” The Companion snorts.

“Refuse?” The dragon unsheathes her ornate sword, revealing it to be dripping wet with water, “Sadly, we cannot guarantee the gift’s reception in that case. Milady and I shall attempt our best, however, as that is what thy noble knights deserve.”

A brief pause as both sides comprehended the mechanism of their “gift”, then the air is filled with the noise of shouting, screaming and frantic footsteps as everyone pulls away at full speed, ignoring their former enemies in an effort to simply get away from the implied fate. The Clear Sky mercs are doing so out of instinct, and stop on the other side of the hill to huddle and observe, but the Saviors, upon hearing some very loud shouts from their Companion in English (a language you are unfamiliar with), do not stop until they have disappeared into the treeline and out of the combat zone.

Four, more foolhardy gold-trimmed Savior knights, in apparent defiance of orders, charges Thanatos and Awyrgan with their swords. They clash in apparent equality for a few moments, before being pinned down with various conjured restraints by the monsters. Awyrgan walks over to each of them, and stabs each on in the heart.

“Styx, styx, a blazing sacrifice where where all life ends...” You hear the dragon finally speak, her words manifesting in flame before her, “Abzu, abzu, a splendid union from where all life began. Exert thine influence, deny them both. Infuse these worthy, make them eternal.”

The pained moaning of the knights turn into harsh, wretched screams as metal sprouts out of their sword wounds, tearing through their flesh. The screams soon take on a hollow, electrical screech as the progress makes their way up to their throats.

And that was what it took to shake you out of your confused stupor, and rush in. “200 Yojana in a Flash!” You yell, even if you were not using the technique fully. Roukanken slices through the armor and the corrupting metal with ease, and sends a victimized knight’s head flying straight off. Follow up strikes, performed at the speed of thought, kills off the other three with similarly precise swings.

You swear one of the heads murmured “Thank you...” as it sailed past.

You end your attack with a leap backwards, sheathing your sword with your hand gripped tight on the hilt, ready to initiate a lethal slash against the two if necessary.

Instead, Thanatos merely shrugs and lowers his head, while Awyrgan plants Clarent into the ground before stepping towards you. “Lady Konpaku.” She speaks, a deep, echoing tone in her reptilian voice. “Doth this conversion offend thee in some way?”

“Stay back!” You shout.

“As one knight to another, I humbly request a civilized conversation to be had between us. I am certain that you fear us performing compleation on thee and thy kin. That is false, my gifts are by choice to friends, but not to foes, who warrant just retribution.”

“Oh, so you know that it’s not a good thing!” You yell back, not leaving the iaijutsu stance. “Spare your pretense of bushido, what sort of gift turns people into...” You tilt your head at Thanatos, “...THAT thing?”

“Yoooumuuuu!” Somebody shouts at you from behind. Both you and Awyrgan turn to see a green-haired shrine maiden run over the hill, with the tired plant youkai you fought alongside in tow. “What’s going...oh”

===

{x} Return to character select
{x} Kochiya Sanae

“Awyrgan. Be honest, what did you say and do?” You ask, coldly. “The Clear Sky mercs were clearly not happy about it. You know...OUR SIDE?”

The surviving Clear Sky troops were more than happy to ditch the position and take Utsuho back to camp with them, leaving just the five of you in the Garden of the Sun.

The dragon had shifted back into her larger form, and is lazily curled up on the grass with Thanatos (who had thankfully closed his chest cavity) busy cleaning her scales in silence. “My squire said that...”

“Awyrgan, you know very well that he’s your magical slave. Like Seiga and Yoshika.”

“Tis still the same person you knew, merely scrubbed of his undeath and undesirable qualities for a squire.” Awyrgan calmly replies, ”Such as rudeness, acerbic tone, and serial killing tendencies.”

“Serial killing tendencies?” Youmu exclaims. You merely sigh while Yuuka mutters “I knew it.”

“If that’s the case, why don’t both of you talk at the same time to prove it? Clearly you’re not experienced in possessing remote bodies like gods are, and can only manage one at a time.”

“Thou art mistaken in that regard. I could release Thanatos from my thrall, but he had attempted to do the same to me initially, so this is merely just admonishment.”

“And those enemies?”

“Similarly, but as punishment. A much lesser nature than what he would do by himself if he were to become creative...again. I merely alter their bodies to become that fitting my vision, there is no lasting harm after death. A justified act. Unlike their presence here.”

“Not being as bad as Ming is a low bar, Awyrgan...” Eh? She isn’t exactly acting the same way as before either, you realize. Ming was concerned with justifying his own acts to his own twisted definitions, but Awyrgan certainly was not. What did Styx do?


===

“...I’m just a control fragment, ma’am. I cannot do much other than moderate my host’s more extreme appetites before, and serve as your node now.” Thanatos calmly answers through his fleshless mouth, even with the monster’s maw tightly around the rest of his body. “The real Thanatos is elsewhere, the boy is just a vessel for his old heart, me.”

“A fragment dares to possess one such as I?” Tiamat growls, pulling the lesser god ever deeper into the breathable sea that has drowned the landscape.

“I would give you the answer earlier if you were more polite, but in truth, I was never in control since my creation.” They sink to the bottom, where most of the burnt house had been dissolved.

A single, rusty iron locker lies untouched, concealed under the foundation of the former house the entire time, until the day the man stepped into a land of gods again.

“What say, my goddess, do you wish to know now that the mortality of the boy is irrelevant?”

“Curiosity is not one of my vices, but do proceed.”

With a stab of his broken blade into the gaps, Thanatos prys open the secrets, sealed away for a century and engraved on his very form.

===


Without warning. Thanatos suddenly collapses from his standing position in a fit of coughing and spasming.

You back off, not knowing how to help somebody who’s clearly mostly ridden of flesh and is physically too sharp to touch in some places. “Uh...Grace Sign: Rains of Rejuvenation?” Nope, splashing him with that didn’t work. You turn to Awyrgan, but she hasn’t even appeared to notice her friend...puppet’s activity.

Maybe a curse spell then? You are just about to cast one when Thanatos suddenly stops and falls still, before a large slice of metal on his chest, a blackened one with one of his inscribed spells on, cracks off and unfurls into a large sheet of iron foil.

On one side are inscribed the esoteric techniques that somehow manage to activate necromancy-aligned powers in him.

On the reverse side is a written report in plain, modern, if kanji-heavy, Japanese. As you pick up the foil to read it, you notice that the creases on it folds perfectly into what would look to be a spellcard-sized object.

======
Hellish Report 1 of 5: Phlegethon, the Divinity Hewing Flames
Year of Jiaqing 35 (Kansei 6) (1795 AD)

We have come to the conclusion that the demands the Your Heavenly Majesty are putting upon us are best met by the heart given to us a few centuries ago by some desperate Greek magi, as we were unable to secure the cooperation of the troublesome Monkey King, who found our project abhorrent, or Lord Izanagi, who was unreachable as usual. Your demand of a deicidal tool immune to anything an upstart celestial can perform is quite tricky. While such items and creatures are not unheard of, those that succeed on multiple instances are very few and those reusable even less.

While Greece itself did not have such reliable godkillers, a footnote in its history notes an interaction between their dormant goddess Styx and the river Phlegethon, where the former courted the latter and was incinerated to an extent that her presence became entirely limited to the afterlife. The heart, previously that of a Hades residing lesser death god, Thanatos, has the capability to manipulate these rivers as a necessary secondary function for his duties. Thus by implanting this heart into a vessel composed of “long-term” lost souls that...[WRITING SCRATCHED OUT]

[WRITING SCRATCHED OUT]

[WRITING SCRATCHED OUT]

...we can use this effect to repeated impose a form of conceptual death on divinity and hope.

Functionality: Tested on several formative divine spirits, Phlegethon’s flames, which we contained in an integrated organic spell package coded with the word “Hew”, functions by simultaneously performing a conventional life drain, akin to our kishin, and a peculiar effect that somehow hews away the emotional connections between the victim and anybody related, which deprives faith in a slow but unpreventable manner. The victim will not only die, but also become unloved and forgotten immediately, in accordance with your wishes.

More research is needed on this effect to determine its exact mechanism. In the meantime, the subject will be stationed within the ranks of kishin, as support for their duties. Of some concern: kasha that occasionally delivers souls down here despise it, for unknown reasons.

As an ending note, I do wish to ask: Why does Your Heavenly Majesty require a celestial killer? Your primary domain of the Middle Kingdom is quite stable and prosperous right now, and a heavenly schism, as the Western barbarians frequently experience, is of no concern to the stable and harmonious celestial bureaucracy of our East Asian sphere. And why are you insisting that we keep this unknown to those outside your immediate court?

Honorably from Japan

Lord Shikieiki Yamaxanadu
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======

{x} Return to character select:~~~~~~

“Garden is secure. Savior position destabilizing. I don’t think their greenhorn volunteers deal well with such losses. We’ll be facing less reinforcements now. Mordred, determine and proceed to your next objective. Squire is not responding, confirm status?”

Awyrgan idly sits on the hill of snow and dead flowers, watching as Suika’s fresh troops move into the positions, relieving the exhausted and recently terrified defenders of the Garden of the Sun. She turns back at her friend and watches as Yuuka and Youmu attempt to revive him while Sanae is reading a part of him that broke off, “Frozen. Still functional. Let us proceed, Bishamonten.”

“Requesting…” Shou hesitates, “Report on your integrity?”

“Knightly suppression functional, but corruption increases despite its chivalric discipline, as Norman Britain is far from the Britannic Welsh of mine ancestor. The success of our quest is unaffected, regardless. 65% and holding, but not stable.”

“Mordred, I take it you have no concern to your eventual...fate? For if this unknown effect comes to fruition?”

“None. If that comes to pass, then like the my name sake at Camlann, I shall fulfill my fate here, and bring an end to a paragon of humanity with mine own life. That is the way of a noble knight and savage dragon alike.”

In the distance off to the north, a bright glow against the snowy backdrop marks the locale of their accursed UV projector deployed against the mansion of devils.

To the east, a faint trail of love-colored smoke marks a crash site of Kirisame characteristics.

{ } “The false sun of the Saviors must be quenched. The young Scarlet lady and her eyes of destruction are needed to breach their tyrannical fortress.”
{ } “I borrowed much metal from that witch, let us at least secure some semblance of an existence for her and her contraptions.”
{ } “Enough is done. Let us commit to storming the castle, kidnapping the princess---I mean, silencing the Viljaya.”

===
===
===
[x] ...

You’re standing at the banks of a turgid, unmoving river.You are wearing naught but the light white kimono of mourning.

Something is clearly wrong. You never wear traditional Asian clothing if you could help it.

Around you grow a seeming endless field of red spider lilies covering the shoreline, like lurid bloodstains on the yellow soil. You bend over to pick one up, and it goes straight through your fingers.

That’s odd, you were sure you were corporeal. That’s all you were sure of. Everything else is pretty fuzzy in your mind.

In the misty distance, you can make out a boat and its lone ferryman coming your way.

[ ] Run
[ ] Wait
[ ] Swim
[x] Wait

At last redemption?

The last year has been nothing but fuck ups for him. I understand the hero's journey must have an abyss to crawl out of, but it's too much. At this point, why root for the MC? Why care about how things move forward if nothing but misery awaits?
{X} “The false sun of the Saviors must be quenched. The young Scarlet lady and her eyes of destruction are needed to breach their tyrannical fortress.”
[X] Wait
Can't outrun a shinigami that really wants you on the other side. Let's find out if that's the case here.
>[ ] Run
Cowtowed by the distance-ignoring Shinigami
>[ ] Swim
Fuck over ourselves completely
>[ ] Wait
Gamble on a tiny bit of hope that Awyrgan will pull us out with that resurrection ritual we attempted on the tengu earlier; MANLY YAMA STAREDOWN scene otherwise.

{x} “The false sun of the Saviors must be quenched. The young Scarlet lady and her eyes of destruction are needed to breach their tyrannical fortress.”
[x] Wait
{x} “The false sun of the Saviors must be quenched. The young Scarlet lady and her eyes of destruction are needed to breach their tyrannical fortress.”
[x] Wait

oh shit oh fuck
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[x] “The false sun of the Saviors must be quenched. The young Scarlet lady and her eyes of destruction are needed to breach their tyrannical fortress.”



Location: Clear Sky Command Bunker, Beneath the Hakurei Shrine

Time: 12 hours until collapse of current Hakurei Iteration



Bishamonten doesn’t usually support multiple heads, but with the amount of faith you are channeling right now, through the entire Clear Sky Corporation, you can support twenty. You have to support twenty. Every single one of them is processing a different combat zone and barking out commands for separate divisions through the Kappa-made Command Kaleidoscope. Mononobe no Futo is running her divinations on the floor below you with Nazrin’s help, and spits out new enemy positions in a steady stream of data.

The two of you haven’t had any respite this day. Once the sounds of war spread from Youkai Mountain and woke everyone up, and Yukari made her reappearance with entire divisions of her own Outside World soldiers and war machines, you knew just how serious this situation is if the masquerade between the two worlds just got torn down in such a way.

An aide deposits a cauldron of tea and a pile of vegetarian roasts on your side, which two of your heads consume without breaking their eyes from their screens.

You cannot afford to be sentimental. You ignore the fact that the ever-growing casualty list is including people you knew. You ignore the fact that Myouren Temple is in the danger zone of an a artillery strike you just ordered. You ignore the fact that some folks have been resorting to blatantly immoral techniques to claw an advantage.

“Bronze Wings, regroup and escort Mordred. Division Lotus, begin assault on SDM from the approach paths I have marked on your maps. Tengu Group Sumiko, avoid that hill! Companion archery has been confirmed in the zone. Second wave of trains ETA twenty minutes...”

====



Location: West End of the Misty Lake, Gensokyo



Divine emanations and air pressure from the Vijaya shells above merely glance off Awyrgan’s plasma sheath even as she skims the sky right at their danger altitude. Her subsumed companion’s abilities augmenting and shoring up the already impressive defense of the dragon.

Awyrgan had stopped pretended that he is anything but a puppet. Thanatos moves like a turret, inhumanly twisting and turning to shoot down and block the missiles that make it past the dragon’s countermeasures. It would be funny if it wasn’t so deep in the uncanny valley.

You simply stay quiet and channel Divine Wind Barrier. The stench of primordial waters from the shell that was once Ming is all the reason you need to avoid provoking Awyrgan, who is apparently some sort of Evangelion-tier entity. Oh right, she actually is using a fragment of Tiamat to fuel her creation engine, and apparently her current preferred spell repertoire seeing her incessant incantation of what sounds vaguely like an unknown Near East language.

The Bronze Wings buzz about the airspace, snarling and lashing out at the incoming attacks that they are capable of intercepting. Through the comms, you can hear the old men attending to these beasts groan and gasp at the toll of the effort, but no complaints, none at all. Ecstatical laughs are heard through the struggle, and one of them is even composing a poem through the strain: “In a garden east, past a wall of dreams...hmm...Where dragons fly, in the octarine gleams...”

Through the blizzard, you can see the device illuminating the Scarlet Devil Mansion on the other side of the lake. A massive monolith, projecting a massive beam of light that can be seen through the snow. You then realize that it is only visible because the energy is substantial enough to actually burn through the snow, and that the visible light is just the scattering from the intense UV it is emitting.

Opposing it is a substantial magical barrier of mist covering the mansion, layered seven times and each with a different magic.

“Entering SDM Engagement Domain. Commencing Operation D....Watch out! Enemy density high, and the UV Projector can defend itself with its rays!”

“Enemy density irrelevant.” The dragon replies back. “Requesting location of allied positions. Begin saturation bombardment of non-marked areas in one minute.”

“Saturation bombardment? Your specifications lack the facilities for that, and Utsuho has been spent. What are you...’?”

Awyrgan suddenly lurches, and dives straight for the lake, ignoring your loud screams of protest. She skims the frozen surface, shattering the ice with her maw held open, ingesting water until she completely crossed the length of the lake, and flies up again.

“Locations marked. Mordred, can you at least tell me what you are doing?”

Flying over the Savior positions, drawing fire all the while, Awyrgan begins exuding a thick metallic slime from her underbelly and wings, that fall like large droplets of syrup onto the enemy positions below.

“Abzu, abzu, the primordial sea...release our scions...set them free...”

====



Location: West end of the Misty Lake, ground theatre of operations

Time: 12 hours until collapse of current Hakurei Iteration



As most of the participants expected, the Clear Sky strike group was unable to penetrate the Savior defense line on foot. Pinned down by constant suppressive fire from their massive fortress, they pulled back to behind some hills in the forest.

“Kokoro,” Sylla complains, “I told you already, it doesn’t work on these enemies. They’ve got some sort of mindshield on.”

Ignoring her scion, Kokoro continues with the cast, exposed as she was on that rock...“Blank Faced Dance: Heart of...GAH!”...right before her entire arm, attached to the shoulder, is blown off by a silver round.

“And just because you are willing to and can replace your masks in Gensokyo doesn’t mean you can just Ship of Theseus yourself to victory, sir!” Sylla grumbles as a youkai medic rushes over with a dose of adrenaline.

“Your bullets are not performing very well either.” Kokoro snaps back as she discards a broken mask of disposable clay from her sleeves, and sprouts a new arm. “And what are the trains going to do when they arrive? Are they any more proof against their charged shots?”

The wrecked BMP-2 in front of them, toppled onto its side from the sheer force of some of the Savior sabot rounds (Ran and Shou speculated them to be railguns beyond modern technological capabilities), lies as the testimony for her account. Luckily, there were no passengers. Unluckily, it wasn’t self-driving, and the driver and gunner are slumped over in their positions, motionless and cold.

“Yukari should get something out. Ahmed, you see anyone peeking out?” Sylla calls to his spotter, who was surveying the enemy position with a magically suspended periscope.

“Nope...nothing...wait a second.” The Iraqi twitches the contraption, expanding the disk of water that served as the lens. “One of their divine shields are flickering, maybe you can get a Hate shot off?”

“Suppressing fire over here’s stopped.” One of the tengu officers shouts from the other end of the hillside. “Something’s going on.”

A large shadow blotting out the snow makes everyone look up at the dragon passing overhead briefly, before it flips and passes back over the Savior positions, dispensing large droplets of liquid over them.

“...Is that thing literally shitting on the enemy?” Ahmed remarks.

The suppression over their position ceases also, and Sylla pokes his SV-98’s scope out over the top of the hill. Multiple divine shields are flickering now, and zooming in further reveals that the Saviors within are engaged in close-quarters combat against an entity moving too fast to be clearly seen at this distance.

Then, a divine shield goes completely offline, and Sylla notes with some trepidation that there is nobody behind it, despite it having fired at the Clear Sky contingent for quite a while.

The radio crackles to life, “Group Sumiko.” Shou calls out, “Advance to the next waypoint on your map and eliminate all resistance. Mordred is suppressing your immediate threats.”

“Eh? Affirmative. Cover me!” Not entirely confident in the god of war’s orders, Sylla shoulders his rifle, his hybrid status contributing the strength to do so, and goes first over the top as the one statistically least likely to die from oncoming fire due to the same hybrid status.

Running towards the boulder, Sylla struggles to do so through the increasingly thick snowfall, and resorts to rolling through the last couple of meters. The suppressive fire from his allies behind him seems to have worked, and he wasn’t shot at.

At all. There’s sound of railgun and convention fire coming from the other side, but no shots are coming anywhere near Sylla’s direction.

“That’s odd...I hate it when it’s odd.” He mutters as he spits out some of his leaking emotions.

“See anything there, menreiki?” A tengu soldier asks, referring him by his adopted species.

“I...” Another divine shield installation flickers, and Sylla immediately switches over to the sniper rifle for its scope, having neglected to pick up any binoculars. “No, nothing, it’s like they’re just gone...huh?”

From the first empty position, a massive horned golden snake suddenly shoots out of the snow, and stares straight at Sylla who lets out a very unmanly shriek of terror.

“Novel Signature spotted. Database match. Confirmed entity as a replica of Musmahhu, Exalted Serpent of the Babylonian region.”

“If it’s a new signature, how is it in the database?” Sylla shouts at Shou over the radio, “Is it friendly or not?”

“It’s a spawn of Tiamat, of course it’s on our side. Just don’t get near it, it’s 60% poisonous heavy metal by mass.”

“Right, our dragon friend up there is part-Tiamat...” Sylla watches as the dragon makes another bombing pass, dropping slime that forms into monsters as they hit the ground. As with the dragon herself, the enemy’s holy weapons do little against such anti-divine constructs.

But...wasn’t it the so-called Null-Fiend that provided that measure? Surely he wasn’t integrated into the creation engine.

The beasts and the Saviors are entangled in melee, enough that Sylla doesn’t have a good opening for potshots even if they are completely suppressed for all intents and purposes. The snake, for instance, is swinging around a torn steel beam with its...arms?

Sylla continues forward, crawling in the snow while the rest of the soldiers follow some distance behind. He sees clearly that the monsters...the ones that survive anyway, slowly getting into a bipedal stance even as they fight and die against the knights.

“Gensokyification...it’s that dramatic?”

“Negatory, unstable constructs simply react much faster. They have no souls, and thus are patterning themselves off their progenitor.” A new voice comes through the comms.

“Uh, who is this?” Sylla grumbles as he taps at his comms in reflex. Clear Sky is really lenient on their comms policy for some reason.

“Patchouli Knowledge, mage of the Scarlet Devil Mansion. We have been waiting for your assistance in repelling these invaders.”

Sylla looks over, across the lake at the massive barrier fending off the sunlight weapon, “So, I suppose some additional artillery support is out of the question?”

“Not until that infernal contraption they are bombarding us with is taken out. Our mistresses are not one for tanning, if you know what I mean.”

Sylla stares upwards at the ultraviolet projector, a monolith that dwarfs almost everything else man-made in this Meiji-era sealed garden. Even if Awyrgan is dropping waves of Babylonian monsters against the outer defenses, how are they going to topple that thing? Especially if their gunners decide to turn the ultraviolet beam against the Clear Sky ground forces. Vampire or not, that much energy is going to roast anything it comes into contact with alive.

A sudden screech catches his attention. He looks and sees the golden snake from earlier convulse and spasm, before collapsing and disintegrating into watery slime. The other monsters from the first wave that survived thus far follow in its fate, right as Awyrgan swings back around to replace them with another bombing pass.

They only lived for a minute.

“Proceed with the mission, Group Sumiko. You can’t rely on Mordred for everything.” Shou cuts back in, “We need you to clear out the mundane anti-air defenses so Mordred only has to deal with the ultraviolet weaponry. Engage in small groups to make the best use of the diversion she had provided you with.”

“Roger.” Sylla removes his own mask, and sends it floating outwards. An attractive feature glowing with hate, it nonetheless attracts no fire.

“Kokoro, Seija, let’s take point.”

“Got it.”

“No. Screw you.”

Sylla chuckles at the amanojaku’s usual behavior and snaps open the rear end of his rifle, revealing the leaf speartip concealed within. No longer a stock SV-98, Ran had seen fit to modify it to sustain regular melee combat. A true gunblade, albeit not a very aesthetic one.

Breathing in, and seeing his two compatriots move in behind him, Sylla begins his sprint, following the golden serpent towards the retreating enemies and their positions. Leaping into an emplacement, he point blank blasts a surviving Savior before they could react and jams his blade into the internals of the AA gun. With a grunt, he rips out the electronics within, disabling the installment for good.

He notes that the wires and parts torn out resemble nothing like what he’s worked with before in the Kenyan Army or the UN Peacekeepers. Or even Clear Sky, for that matter.

A machine gun ahead of him roars, sending bullets wheezing past, causing him to duck behind the sandbags. Are they actually firing at him rather than the Tiamat-spawned monstrosities? How disciplined. Sylla thinks as he spits out a glob of hatred into his rifle’s chamber.

Aiming it straight upwards, he pulls the trigger. The glob shoots out, spins in the air for a few moments, before leaning forwards and accelerating towards the enemy.

“Hate begets hate.” He mutters, as the machine gun falls silent, its wielder paralyzed with emotion by the black blob that had glued to her heart.

Sylla vaults over the sandbags, signals the others to advance with his free hand, and continues forwards.

To his left, Seija is pushing forward at a reckless pace for a youkai, suppressing enemies with her machine gun and any incoming attacks that she reverses towards their owners, cackling with glee as she does so.

To the right, his sire has deployed an entire array of masks around her, disorienting any gunners aiming her way with a schizophrenic kaleidoscope of emotions befitting of an elder menreiki, though as usual, Kokoro isn’t using any weapon but for her naginata.

And finally at himself, through the eyes of the Mask of Hatred fused to his soul and floating behind him. What was once a backline lieutenant now a frontline warrior, dripping with caustic emotions.

He roars against the blizzard, and charges forth, stepping through the slurry of disintegrating corpses left by Awyrgan’s spawn and following right behind them...

...Before swiftly jumping back to his original position as the monsters to his front are pulverized by explosions. Sylla sighs and pulls out his radio, watching Seija screaming in agony while crawling back towards him on stumps, her legs caught in the artillery blasts.


Despite being youkai, they were still infantry. In the modern world that is currently seeping into Gensokyo, that means they need air support. He reaches out with his gun to pull the injured amanojaku back while shouting into his radio.

====



Location: West end of the Misty Lake, aerial theatre of operations

Time: 12 hours until collapse of current Hakurei Iteration



“Reporting steady progress.” You call out into the radio while Awyrgan busies herself with the bombardment, switching between plasma-filled scale bombs and her short-lived Tiamat spawn, “Enemy ground forces cannot sustain our output for much longer, but we can sustain theirs.”

You glance backwards, at Kazami Yuuka who is maintaining structural flower beds on the holes and craters of Awyrgan’s hide. Even after completely absorbing Ming and enshrouded by your Divine Winds, her regeneration is still struggling to catch up with the ever increasing density of anti-air fire being thrown at her.

“The flowers flourish just like in rich soil.” Yuuka remarks in her depressed tone as the armored flowers grow and disintegrate in the cycle of ablative armor, “Must be the Tiamat inside of her.”

Reinforced by magic, the plants do in fact dampen the holy auras of the Savior’s weaponry, allowing the now context-free bullets to glance harmlessly off of the dragon.

“Hey, Mordred, you reading me?” A strangely silky male African voice comes in through the radio. Some muffled screaming can be heard in the background, which is oddly satisfying to you for some reason you can’t quite tell.

“Affirmative.”

“Manager Adin Sylla of Division Lotus. Your carpet bombardment’s good at suppressing their outer positions, but we’re still taking extreme amounts of direct artillery fire.”

Awyrgan dives down, and makes a sweeping pass over the innermost positions around the tower. To your surprise, the tower itself retaliates, with muzzle flashes and spellcasts visible on the obelisk’s side through the snow.

“The tower itself has gunports on the walls! It serves as a flak tower!” You yell into the radio while shifting your wind barriers to the fore. Recognizing this as well, Awyrgan sheathes herself in plasma and charges at the walls, breathing out a thick gout of star-stuff before jumping back with a barrage of cursed blades, and finishes with a 155mm shot right as you gasp and lose focus at the sheer amount of projectiles intercepted by your barrier, and dives down in an evasive pattern,

And...nothing. The guns and their operators had retreated behind retracting covers before the dragon can reach them, and though the attack left marks, it was not anywhere close to a breach.

Shou’s commands ring out again, “Division Lotus! Use your deployable cover devices and stay there! All units! Enemy UV Projector has been confirmed via Mordred’s sample to be a sapling of Yggdrasil! No known external vulnerability!”

“Thor really is throwing the entire Nordic mythos at us, isn’t he?” Yuuka remarks as she notes the woody look of the material exposed by Awyrgan’s damage. “What a waste, if I had a seed of Yggdrasil, the Garden of the Sun could have covered the sky.”

“That would be awesome!” You excitedly yell, even as you struggle to reweave your winds, “Like Gensokyo is really missing the skyscraper sized tree every fantasy landscape needs. We are currently way too close to a normal Japanese countryside right now.”

“Mordred unit.” The radio jerks you back into the current situation. “The ultraviolet lens should still be vulnerable. Follow the B plan and assault the top.”

“Affirmative.” Strange, Awyrgan has been mostly ignoring you and Yuuka and simply following orders. Is that being professional? You weren’t really actually involved in an actual military, even compared to the puppet to your front.

Dodging the firing angles of the heavier anti-air weaponry, and with Yuuka and Thanatos blasting any enemy aircraft slipping past the Bronze Wings, Awyrgan succeeds in flying all the way to the top through a complex path.

The beam of light is dangerously close now, but thankfully it has not moved from suppressing the Scarlet Devil Mansion. Its mechanism seems to be a giant white crystal of clearly magical nature, though supported by a mass of machinery around its base.

“Huh?” You notice something, or rather, the lack of something. The constant sound of enemy gunfire has ceased up here, despite the UV Projector’s origin being clearly exposed. No turrets? Nothing?

And then you catch sight of the golden glint near the lens. The wind stops blowing, just briefly, for a shouted sentence to ring out.

“Invocation of Dominion: Replica of Camlann!”
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The dragon freezes as the spell washes over her, and flies straight for the roof area around the Projector. “Awyrgan! That’s too reckless!” You yell out, before yelling more incoherent words as stone pillars shoot out from the tower, aiming to knock the riders off of the dragon. Which obviously includes you.

You dodge them on instinct (the attacks seem oddly familiar to you).Yuuka facetanks them without much issue and manages to stay on, while Thanatos does not succeed in doing either, instead ending up dangled under the dragon via the wires and tubes inserted into his body.

You wince as Awyrgan lands without consideration for her puppet, sending Thanatos plowing into the ground in a spine-cracking position. Frayed wire and broken steel bars visible, the puppet nonetheless still gets back up, silent. The comm link in your ear hisses with soft static. You’re being jammed.

“Awyrgan!” You land and shout, as the dragon simply stands still on the rooftop, “What are you doing?”

“Her role.” A new voice proclaims.

Behind the machinery, a knight emerges. No helmet, a tattered cape, and a handsome, chiseled face below a flowing mane of pale blue hair. He’s pretty cute, you have to admit. Better looking than the vast majority of outsiders that tried to get a date with you.

In his hand, a shining silver lance, embellished with jewels and engraved with delicate Britannic runes. Runes of the same appearance as the sword, Clarent, that Awyrgan is wielding with her maw right now. His other arm, gripping a shield, appears to be a prosthetic limb of platinum.

Didn’t Awyrgan tell you that she bit off the arm of a knight called Deimos?

“Thor foresaw your association and alliance with Britain, foul dragon.” The knight says as he raises the lance. “Good thing for us, we have the exact answer to your mantling of Mordred’s name.”

The snowfall shifts, and you are briefly blinded by the flurry of white in your eye. When you can see again, you gasp.

You are no longer on the tower.

In front of you is a field of the dead. Armored corpses of chainmail cover the field along their horses and weapons, and the few spots of grass visible are glistening with crimson. Above, the dusk sky holds a sickly looking sun. You are quite glad to be wearing boots instead of your casual open-toed shoes as you carefully step over the bodies to where Yuuka is standing.

“Dog roses and cornflowers.” Yuuka comments, bending over to look at the bloodstained vegetation, “This place is, or is a facsimile of, Britain.”

You look over to the knight and the dragon. Thanatos is slumped over near Awyrgan, a puppet with his strings cut, and Awyrgan is noticeably not opening fire at the knight for some reason.

“By the power of dominion vested upon me by the Protector of Mankind. I, Sir Deimos, playing the role of King Arthur granted via Rhongomiant, command thee, Mordred, to complete our last duel at Camlann, honorably.”

Awyrgan does not even make the slightest sign of resistance as she dutifully shifts down to her humanoid form and draws the sword. None of her modern weapons or the Ohabaris. Just Clarent.

“The power of dominion sounds about as vague and unfair as Yukari’s power to control borders.” You frustratedly grumble to Yuuka, “Dream bubble world, absolute mind control...”

You angrily fling several charms at him, only to see them pass right through.

“The other knights at Camlann merely stood and watched the duel, too spent to do anything else.” Awyrgan mumbles, as if sleeptalking.

“...Straight up physical nullification barrier. ”

Deimos flashes a handsome smile as he waves at you, “Your intervention will not work here, misguided ones. The power of dominion allows us blessed by the Lux to take control of the world and set it back onto the correct path. We are only humble servants of the will of mankind in the end, but as long as we act within that Divine Will, nothing can stop it.”

He’s not lying. You cannot even approach the duel, being stopped ten meters away by an invisible wall. You try to dispel the barrier, but find no hint of magic.

Somehow, the whole thing is rendered without an explicit spell.

You and Yuuka can only watch as Deimos easily overpowers Awyrgan with a rapid series of lance strikes, while she can only feebly defend herself with unpracticed sword moves from the severe handicap of having to be Mordred, the human.

“I don’t think Arthur did this well in the original version.” You comment, each blow and stab onto Awyrgan’s hide making you tense up. Arthur and Mordred both died at the conclusion of the duel, so if Deimos is truthful that the power of dominion draws directly from the world’s zeitgeist, then…

You scream, and Yuuka clasps her mouth in shock, as Deimos bats Clarent wide aside, and impales Awyrgan straight through her chest with Rhongomiant, skewering her straight through with the spear tip emerging well past her back, like in the painting.

Not entirely dead, she raises Clarent to strike a blow on Deimos’s head, in the pose of the famous painting Le Morte, when the landscape abruptly vanishes. You fall forward onto your hands as the invisible barrier disintegrates.

“Bane of Dragons: Ascalon!”

You look up just in time to see Deimos swiftly revealing a second weapon beneath his cape and stabbing Awyrgan through the neck. Awyrgan’s Clarent strikes a stone pillar which erupted from the ground in front of Deimos, and bounces her weakened arm away.

The dragon girl stumbles backwards, Clarent dropping from limp fingers. She shifts back to her full draconic form, and tries to breathe fire, but only manages to gurgle up blood and oil. She tries to deploy an array of cannon, but something in her internal structure crackles, and the weapons explode.

Awyrgan thrashes a few more times, and before you can help her, some larger explosions erupt inside of her, and she collapses, unmoving.

“WHAT THE HELL?” You angrily shout as you and Yuuka rush over to the fallen dragon, “HOW’S THAT A RE-ENACTMENT OF CAMLANN?”

“A re-enactment cut off seconds before the end, is still a re-enactment.” Deimos plainly states as he wipes Awyrgan’s blood off of Ascalon, clearly viewing neither you nor Yuuka as a threat. “All within the lawful and moral will of mankind, as short-sighted as it can be sometimes.”

“You know VERY WELL that’s not the case. How?!”

“Hey, I am not the one supporting the extinction of mankind, Sanae Kochiya.” He replies as he points the sword at you, “Simply cutting humanity’s attention span on a reproduced scene pales in comparison to what you lot are doing to the world as we speak.”

You check for any signs of life on the dragon, and find none. Yuuka’s eye twitches as she confirms this fact herself, “This idiot dragon you just killed was a fine gatekeeper for my garden, knight.” She quietly states with dripping venom, “I expect some compensation for this.”

“Your idle threats are of no value to a hero of mankind, youkai.” Deimos says as Yuuka grasps for her parasol, “Why not just ask your Tyrant to grow you a new one? Arcturus apparently killed a copy in Tokyo, so it’s a replaceable article.”

You are filled with a sudden sense of confusion at that statement, and apparently even Yuuka was taken aback at such a Ming-like statement coming from the other side. “Are...living beings just fungible to you?”

“Beasts and monsters are not people, and that is quite rich coming from the likes of you.” Deimos says, rewriting your question in his chuckled answer, “A man-eater, complaining that I do not understand the value of life.”

“Humans do generally have a callous disregard for the lives of those not themselves.” Yuuka replies, her free hand glimmering with the faint colorful traces of a readied spell.

“And how did Nashira Pyrus even get to like you, Deimos? She loves animals, well, large carnivores.” You insincerely ask, recalling your interactions with the prisoner at Eientei. Her, Castor, and Thor were what you’d expect Companions to act like. This guy is...more of an actual religious knight than the caped heroes the other ones behave like.

“Nashira?” Deimos’s eyes narrow, and his perfect composure shows a crack, “What sort of information did you torture out of her that led to you knowing about me and her?”

“Torture? You actually believed the bullshit Ming spewed out when he was somewhat more alive?” You say, kicking his corpse that’s lying on the ground. “We would never do that!”

“So she did not follow my orders to not reveal any information, regardless of their seeming irrelevance. Pity. Her brother must have misled her again.” Deimos sighs. “Since you already know, I shall answer you. Castor may be a decent fighter, but he does not understand the will of humanity, that mankind needs order to prosper, and that his sister is not exempt from being part of that order. Nashira herself understands it, and submits to me as such.”

“Explain?” You don’t like his implications here.

“The Pyruses were accepted by the Lux for their fury and conviction. Excellent attributes for a simple warrior, but ill-suited for us Companions who are also leaders and exemplars for humanity. Castor resents me for this, but it is truth that Nashira cannot be anything beyond her current rank, and is suited as a dedicated assistant to a more competent Companion.”

“ ‘Cannot be’? What sort of wording...”

“One of the greatest crimes of the Violet Tyrant was the destruction of the social order in the country the Pyruses and I came from with their war and propaganda. A beautiful nation not yet present in your history, but the components are here: India, Persia, and Arabia, which our homeland blended the best traits of to create a true utopia, one where every...human had a perfect place to fit in society.”

Yuuka merely rolls her eyes at his intentional exclusion of her kind, and you get uncomfortable at the implications of his culture, “Isn’t that a caste system?”

“It is. Tis the only way to reach true happiness as a human. After all, how can people feel safe when their position in society is constantly under threat? How can morality and order be upheld without knowing WHO to listen to? You Japanese should know this better than most other people of this era. From birth every citizen of my kingdom had their role...”

“...A ‘kingdom’ made of those countries?...How...” From what you remember from social studies, those areas are very different in culture, and do not share a common origin in history.

“Agreements, solidarity.” He dismisses your question, “The important factor is that we agreed that everyone should know their future, and that or Devan Kingdom did to amazing effect, until you lot ruined everything.”

“Obligatory: What if there were people that did not want to be stuck in their role?” You quietly ask.

“If they don’t, they will be taught. Unnatural aberrations exist like in all societies, and corrective measures will be taken.”

“You used these “measures” against Nashira, didn’t you.” You glare, pure hate on your voice rather than general malice.

“Using them against? I used them for her sake! Even so, she was too unstable, only fit to be a subordinate enlisted. Never an officer. Such is the problem with lower caste folk trying above their station. If she STILL divulged information afterwards, I might have to continue the neural reconditioning...”

Out of sheer disgust, you do not wait for him to finish his sentence. “ESOTERICA: NINE KILLING SLABS.” You scream out, not even bothering with the pretense of danmaku as you channel your own faith into lethal chunks of falling mana. Deimos’s aura briefly holds them in place, before breaking.

“Holy attack? No...a tinge of the divine?” Deimos jumps away, leveling his shield, “I see, you still command the faith of the misled here.”

“Oh no, that’s not it.” You taunt, the normally chromatic spells around you tempered with a glint of gold, “That’s the zeitgeist of this era rejecting your motivations. Your Null-Fiend tier motivations.”

“You dare compare me to--Very well, if you will not listen to reason, then my weapons shall do the talking.” He stomps the ground, and a ring of stone pillars springs up around him. “Kochiya Sanae, how can you fight when even your goddesses have been convinced and converted to our side?!”

“You mean Thor consumed them and gave you their essence.” You shout back as you invoke another wave of slabs. No wonder you recognize those moves. You realize as you keep down the wrenching sense of horror at Suwako’s domain being used against you. Even if you are a protagonist, you can’t---

“TOO SLOW, SANAE!” Yuuka shouts, grabbing you out of the away of a flung pillar from Deimos, “Focus! We’re fighting for our lives here! Alternative Double Spark!”

“Wait you actually did---FWOOM” Yuuka cuts off your question with two blinding blasts of magical energy, curving around to strike Deimos in the center.

The ground shakes, and hands of concrete and roots emerge, striking at you and Yuuka. Retaliating with ofuda strikes while doing your best to fly out of their reach, you feel an ever growing sense of pain every time you blow one of them to pieces. Specifically, the part of you linked with Suwako.

This cannot hold.

“How can you critique any society when yours is formed on the corpses of humans!” Deimos shouts as he flies straight at you.

“The corpses of which are obtained with the consent of the Outside World! Thor might only be against Gensokyo, but you’re against half of the world here. Divine energy is a popularity contest, after all! Yuuka!”

You blast off a blinding morning star right at his face as Yuuka...buds into two? The second Yuuka that sort of split off of her isn’t really an illusion, but it isn’t really alive either. She could do that?

“Nature Sign…” Both Yuukas turn into balls of light, which proceed to ram into Deimos repeatedly, sending the paladin reeling, giving her time to turn back and prepare another spell, “Gaia’s Cleansing.”

The Yuukas fires off two sparks directly into each other, catching Deimos in the middle. The spells feed off of each other, their impact radius growing in size until it blossoms an energy ball the size of an apartment building. One of them turns hazy as the beams taper off, and vanishes into a puff of pollen as the ball detonates, knocking you back with the air pressure and almost sending you flying into the danger altitude.

Suddenly, a piercing migraine rings through your skull, and to your distress, remains there. You lose control over flight and only barely manage to land onto the tower, prone and clutching at your head as you feel it being torn asunder from the inside.

“Kochiya!” Yuuka yells out, uncharacteristic concern in her voice. She lands over to you and tries to pull you up, “I can still sense him around. What are you doing?”

“S-Suwako. Lady Suwako, she...”

“Willing put her life on the line for humanity,” A wet impalement sound, and you turn to see Yuuka’s face frozen in shock, staring down at the large Ame-no-Ohabari that had just made its way through her ribcage and out of her front. Final Fantasy 7 style.

Come to think of it, Yuuka is a flower girl too...WHAT ARE YOU THINKING RIGHT NOW?!

Deimos’s armor is scorched bright, but he himself does not appear to have sustained more than a few superficial injuries, “Rigel was correct. I was wrong. BOTH of you are capable of holy attacks. Tsk. This cursed blade from the dragon should deal with you...fragment of Konohanasakuya.”

Konohanasakuya? Iwanaga’s sister. Right, she did leave a massive impact on Yatsugatake, so was Yuuka a reflection of some sort?

“Yuuka?” You mutter weakly, “You...”

“It’s...nothing...” The flower youkai grits her teeth and stands up, in defiance of the sword still embedded inside of her. “So what? You...expect a simple cursed blade to...GUH!”

Deimos met Yuuka’s parasol swing with a parry and a slash from Ascalon, cutting her torso open further and sending her sprawling back. “No, but without the stolen divinity within you, you are no more than a wayward flower nymph, derelict of her simple duties to attend the gardens of Devan nobility.”

Yuuka can only hoarsely scream jumbled curses through a bloody mouth as Deimos arrogantly turns his back on her broken body, which can no longer maintain enough coherency to cast spells. You try to shout a blessing, but the pain in your head blocks out the attempt. Suwako is hurting too much.

Is this...game over? Running up against a cheap super boss?

“Unfortunately I cannot grant you mercy with just that blade. A true holy weapon is necessary for evil of your caliber, Kazami.”

No, you are Sanae Kochiya! A goddess of miracles! Even if you can’t conjure a true invocation right now, you can still pray. Pray that a spark of your power that had diffused in this land through your lands will awaken.

“Only Rhongomiant will suffice, I’m afraid. Ascalon is only for dragons.” Deimos says, rather matter-of-factly.

You ignore his gloating. You reach out with your pained, fevered whispers on the wind, asking for anyone, anything, to catch them.

“Your evil ends here. Consider this judgment for all the innocent humans you killed, Kazami.”

Something catches the whisper, and swallows it whole.
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Deimos then pulls back on Rhongomiant, only to find that the lance is not budging. He pulls again. Same result.

Suddenly, a hollow voice radiates out from the innards of the slain beast, horrible and slurred, like the murky depths of a unknown ocean, “Tis tragic, I am sorry. Another one of thy champions hath claimed mine life already.”

The more Deimos tugs, the more the corpse seems to suck it in. A burst of foul water from the beast’s innards forces him to let go, and he stares in horror as the dragon rolls back upright, and looks at him with sickly green eyes.

The dragon softly hisses as its body flows and reforms like water into the visage of the humanoid knightess form, now emaciated beyond recognition, with Rhongomiant firmly held in one hand and Clarent in the other.

“The Enuma Elish tells of mine demise, but tis also a tale of mine triumph. For while mine living state was a mere progenitor of gods and monsters of whose time has long past, mine corpse formed the heavens and the earth, and the blood of mine eviscerated son, Kingu, formed the first humans of Sumeria, the first civilization...”

Deimos yells and swings Ascalon down on her head, splitting it in twain. She doesn’t react, much to his horror as the two halves of her mouth continue talking while slowly reforming.

“And the access to Kingu’s blood, sprung anew in the vessels of mine squire, mixed in with the waters of the corpse of Styx...allow me to exert authority over humanity as well as the forces you work for.”

“Water of life, water of death.” Ming...Thanatos’s corpse chants as it shuffles upright in eerie, marionette movements. “Halves of humanity, the tools of the gods.”

A single slash from Ascalon carves the puppet in twain. His torso lands on its hands, and it begins crawling forward like a zombie movie. A further slash from a now frantic Deimos cleaves the metallic thing in half vertically.

“Can you not see what you are standing against, noble knight?” A sickening crunch, and Deimos looks down with horror to see a foul, ichor-dripping Clarent lodged in his gut, as if his divine plating wasn’t even there. He looks up at Awyrgan’s inhuman face, who despite her obviously undead feature, is sporting a peaceful smile, even as she pushes the sword all the way through, pinning his sizeable frame against a mass of machinery and shattering his chestpiece.

“You! A mere sword cannot...” Deimos then notices that the wound is not bleeding, instead, it is spreading some sort of dark, silvery metallic corruption around it. The same color as the ichor from the sword.

A hoarse scream escapes his throat, one not of pain, but of confused terror. Golden light erupts from the wound, bleeding divinity. A familiar figure materializes outward amidst the light that falls down and rolls on the ground, her hat falling off and blowing away in the blizzard.

“Lady Suwako!” You cry out as you grab and cradle your ancestor goddess’s small figure. She’s alive. Not physically breathing, but you can hear her faint spiritual gasps in your mind nonetheless. The pain from before subsides as you hold her close.

“Humans, and by extension, all life, exist to kill and consume. The grass on the ground feasts upon mine corpse, the earth. A cow tears up the grass and eats it. Then you slaughter the cow for a steak.” Awyrgan...no...her internal Tiamat fragment piloting the shell speaks, “And the so-called gods you worship, reap the faith that exists from the killing and from your meal, even disregarding those whom crave active sacrifice.”

She gently strokes Thanatos’s unmoving metallic mask of a face. “He was a human, an organism, a human soul distilled and polished down to its most basic instincts: killing. Killing for the sake of killing. Only held in check by a artificial jail warden of Styx.”

You watch Deimos struggle against the sword, and failing that, attempt to tear the spreading metallic corruption from his own skin. No success on that either.

“All the better for me to turn his body into a functional Kingu, and through him, the tools mine patricidal children have wrought shall be brought to heel, returning to the mother sea.”

A chill runs down your spine. “AWYRGAN!” You scream, “Did you follow and protect Ming the whole time just because you wanted his blood and inherent magic? So you can affix your Tiamat origin to his one of Thanatos?”

“Lady Sanae, I am a dragon at heart.” She replies, her deathly tone even and matter-of-factly, “If he was merely a hollow killer, piloted by the echoes of past victims in his head, I would not have given such a wretch the time of day. The possessing fragment of a god within him, as he said himself, was what gave him any worth at all as a component of mine hoard.”

Deimos’s screams grow ever more faint, and his movements increasingly robotic and jerky. Clarent slides back out of his stomach, clattering on the ground with no blood on its pristine blade. He feebly grasps it, and with a final surge of heroic strength moves the sword against his own neck.

It clatters against the metallic corruption, and bounces off.

The corruption spreads past his face and skull, sinking into the skin and imbuing it with an artificial sheen. Then, with jerky, unfamiliar movements, Deimos stands back up, the hole in his stomach knitting itself back together with strands of steel. His expression is calm and serene, almost joyful.

“I am compleated. Milady.” He speaks, his tone now the same faintly luminous, metallic one as Thanatos’s. “So this is what life can become. I was so blind. The castes and nobility were misguided to the truth: every human could be perfect.”

Awyrgan raises a hand, and the Companion immediately falls into a reverent genuflection as she orders, “Depart from here, and be a better boyfriend for Nashira. Don’t show your face to me again.”

Everyone, including Thanatos, who had just pushed the two halves of his head back together and stood up, is taken aback by her strange order. Deimos...or what used to be Deimos anyway, lowers his head, “As you command, so it shall be done, milady Tiamat.” He says, before sprouting a pair of rotten feathery wings, dripping with corrupted water, from his back, and flying off.

The dragoness turns back towards the projector, which is still active. “I suppose we could just disable the lens, but what a waste of a good weapon if we do so. Miss Kazami, you know why they chose to use a Yggdrasil seed for this tower rather than blessed metal?”

The flower youkai shows no sign of fear or concern at the transformation, just curiosity, “I suppose, my dear garden annoyance, that given your normal ability to influence machinery, they used organic construction to negate the issue. Same with their warbeasts. You probably should have asked the man you just dismissed.”

“I am just trying to embellish myself in proclaiming that organic defenses are no longer a barrier to my gift of perfection. This tower shall be the first testbed.” She shifts to the full dragon form and flies around the top, “Looks like this will take a while. Thanatos, you are hereby granted the title of Mordred now, while I compleat this structure and all of its inhabitants. And take care of our allies.”

====

====

====

Tiamat’s pressure leaves you, as you watch her physical vessel...your lady...fly up to the top of the projector and begin exhaling a steady stream of Styx-blended nanobots downwards, seeping through the vents and into the organic building. The massive ultraviolet lens groans, and turns away from the Scarlet Devil Mansion, to harass its former owners with its sunlight.

The divine shielding on the tower falls apart, likely due to its maintenance team becoming compleated, and Yuuka immediately began regenerating herself with the Yggdrasil material, the roots and branches sprouting out and melding into her.

You are in control again, you think to yourself as you pick up Clarent from the ground. The Saviors have been expecting you and her to always be together. So splitting up is likely to be a good tactic. You would ask Shou, but an entity such as the two of you are a novel artifact, not something a traditional war god would have experience with.

“Lady Kochiya. Lady Kazami.” You say as you politely bow at Sanae and Yuuka, “I shall be acting as Mordred while my master is occupied. Iron Wing has delegated command to me. General Bishamonten, can you confirm?”

“...Ming?” Shou exclaims in surprise over the radio, “I thought...okay. Confirmed transferrence of knighthood. Objective complete, by the way.”

Sanae complains without moving her attention from the unconscious Suwako, “Great. An undead serial killer robot, just the perfect person to put our trust into.”

“As I said before, I am Thanatos, Lady Kochiya, not the identity this body belonged to. I am just an intelligent control module still marked as living thanks to the scrubbed souls of the shell’s victims. I am sorry for not being able to curb his excesses in that regard.”

Yuuka grabs ahold of your shoulder and looks you over, “Hmph, I sense no living cells in your form. And yet,” she moves a hand over Clarent’s faintly glowing hilt, “The sword still seems to recognize you. A lich.”

You sigh, “That’s a fair, if ugly way of describing my being, but yes. The vengeful spirits that haunted Ming throughout his life became consumed by my abilities when I was transplanted into his corpse. The people are gone, though the animals seem to not mind the scrubbing as much.”

You mutter a Call, drawing inwards instead of outwards, and the ethereal form of a fox appears around your arm, surveying the surroundings with eyes of ghostfire. “With the host soul gone, their scraps of memory and thoughts are what maintains the semblance of life I still function off of, since we’re undead, not true AI.”

“Wait!” Sanae shouts, a realization crossing her mind, “If you’re running off of the remnant souls you stole, then Awyrgan is burning...”

“Oh, she’ll live for way longer than me.” You say with a weak smile, “Even counting my combat kills, I only have a dozen or so souls, but Awyrgan...well, the Tiamat backup control module anyway, she will be able to draw the souls of those that refuse her gifts, and feed off of the worship of those that do. Theoretically, I could’ve persisted for another decade if I simply did nothing and laid low outside. But now...” The fox soul catches ablaze, “My duty supercedes that desire. I shall make do with what I can get and what she bestows.”

Wizard Squadron reports in, having been blissfully unaware of what happened or is happening given the cutoff in comms. Good thing too, as screams of terror are now coming out from inside the tower. Your lady’s fusion of Tiamat’s shard with the modern concept of industrial production is truly a horrific force. But just like the Industrial Revolution, it is a necessary one.

“Wizard 1, AOO is secure. We found a friend loitering in the airspace. Patching her through.”

“Ming...” Nue Houjuu’s voice comes through the comms, “You bastard. You were dead this whole time?”

“Oh hey, Lady Minamoto no Tsurugi.” Nue makes a sort of wet strangling sound as you forgot to forget that particular piece of information. “...Sorry, you can kill me for that mistake.”

Several arrows whistle through the air and embed themselves firmly in your chest cavity, followed by a hurled trident. You collapse, gurgling up river water.

Nue lands with her foot firmly planted on, then through your skull. She seems unamused as your smushed face weaves itself back together and forms a smile.

“S’up.”

“Every time I see you, you gain another title...Mordred. Ugh.” She shakes her head, “Hijiri’s busy evacuating villagers outside of Savior territory, but strangely, she says that I’m better suited to the frontlines. Wonder what got into her to actually promote one of her disciples, even me, to go kill while letting Mamizou help out there.”

“She doesn’t want you scaring the children.” The elder tanuki calls over the radio, “Unlike my fuzzy servants.”

“I’m not the same Ming you talked with before, Nue.” You say, “He did a shoddy job fixing you up anyway. If you fell uncomfortable around me, feel free to go somewhere else and...”

“Shut up and lead. Thanatos.” Sanae suddenly interrupts, handing Suwako over to Yuuka, who is rather confused at being given an unconscious entity due to her reputation, “You’re not going to be pretending to not be the main character here any more.”

“I’m not.” You point upwards, “All three of them: Thor, Ochiba, Reimu, are up there.”

“With no one to see or care as long as they are cut off by the Vijaya. Thanatos, listen, you are now the leader of the squadron which had just taken out two major objectives through brute force. You are the incident resolver now as far as everyone watching us right now is concerned. Regardless if you’re truly your own person or not, you...” She emphasizes her point by jabbing her gohei at your chest, “Are the protagonist most fit for handling an outside war. Stop denying your status.”

“But Sanae, you are the main character, a canon one!” You protest.

“I’m a high school girl and a shrine maiden. You are an undead mechanical monstrosity piloted by two dead gods and have adapted immunity to nearly everything the Saviors can throw at you. Now, which one of us here,” Sanae shouts as she pushes you around, to a grand panoramic view off the tower, at the unfolding war raging on beneath the sealed sky, at the ugly spectacle of a fairyland forced into brutal industrial conflict. “Is better fitted to lead inside THIS mess in the Gensokyean way?!”

“There’s a Gensokyean way?”

“Flying in a random direction and beating up everyone who looks at you funny until the incident is over.” Is the identical reply from all three natives.

“Or in this case, killing all of them.” Yuuka adds on.

You stare at then, then giggle, chuckle, and finally break out into full-blown laughter, amplified into a metallic screech against the howling blizzard. “Very well then. Miss Houjuu, all of you guys, I shall promise that I will do better than my previous host.”

The radio crackles. The battlescape is shifting.

[ ] “Margatroid here, cancelling SOS. Beginning push towards Youkai Mountain Ruins. Kirisame is...fine. Definitely fi......Rinnosuke Morichika speaking. Margatroid’s radio just exploded. Be wary of the love-colored comet. Requesting assistance securing the advance.”

[ ] “This is Remilia Scarlet, my sister is now blowing a path through their pitiful defenses. Any mortal forces should follow if they know what’s good...no, Flan! That’s the…...Court Mage Patchouli Knowledge here, requesting assistance in stabilizing experimental environment.”

[ ] “AYO! THE MAGNIFICENT TENSHI HERE WITH THE WORLD FAMOUS MEN IN BLA...Get off the radio...This is Captain Matthew Ferguson here with the CIA-Clear Sky Joint Strike Force. We’ve got the weather manipulation device -HAARP- set up, requesting assistance with defending it on activation.”
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“Is it just me or is the comms policy here really bad? Everyone’s on a public frequency with no procedure. Over.” Bristow complains on the radio to his fellow drake pilots and partially his own Bronze Wing (he named it Puff).

“Wizard 1! ” Shou cuts in without warning, proving his point, “Patching in some information to your compendium. They’re reconstructed data from Thanatos’s shed parts...Over.”

“THANK YOU for finally...Err...I mean. Roger. Over.”

Bristow pats the drake’s exposed nerves and allows it to settle into a semi-evasive holding pattern. He pulls up the tablet and glances over the information.

“Commander Toramaru, are you saying you scanned a whole letter from his corpse parts? Over.”

“Oddly enough, yes. We’re not sure why his limbs were encoded with this through arcane cryptography, but it seems to illustrate his abilities. Sort of. We know he’s not a kishin, and currently Higan is cut off from our comms to confirm. Over.”

====

Hellish Report 2 of 5: Cocytus, the Freezing Dark

Year of Jiaqing 42 (1802 AD)

The four organic spells implanted have proven well in our trials for the new Kishin. Disguised as a wandering ronin, it successfully held off an attack on a village by rogue oni, and proved capable of healing their victims rapidly afterwards. We apologize for lacking the conditions for testing against its intended targets. As such, the completed product, named Thanatos out of respect for its heart’s donor, will be moved to your domain, China, great Jade Emperor, for field testing and deployment.

Once again, I must ask: What is your intention with such a weapon? Forgive us for not understanding the ways of Confucius and Laozi as well as we do those of the Buddha, but what source of heresy can arise in your country that are also fueled by the divine? Christians? Surely those foreigners need not the intervention of heaven itself to be driven out, nor do they pose a threat.

And it is not just I who holds such concerns. The other Yama have been talking, and fear that such a creation could be treacherous in nature, even with the nature of its soul. Perhaps one that will rival the Monkey King’s rampage, given how capable it can be.

Mechanism:

Cocytus is a frozen river capable of holding immaterial souls in suspension. Experimentation with samples produced by Thanatos have proven that such an act can be finely manipulated to shut off designated areas from physical and magical interference by selectively disposing observational sources from souls.

The westerners have a saying: “If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” The answer, of course, is no, upon the surgical blindspotting of all sources, the physical nature of a situation cannot evaluate or change. Such a manner of stasis is well-known to western magicians, but to implement it without an initial application of a physical obscurant is something new, pioneered by this subject.

====

"Between life and death, lies perfection."

Meanwhile, on the ground below.

Sylla stands on guard as Savior personnel emerge from the tower. No weapons. Screaming in terror. Collapsing and spasming. Shou says to just let them go, as they pose no threat in this state.

He looks up to see the black sludge spreading downwards, and reminds himself that it’s supposed to be on his side.

Around when Awyrgan’s Tiamat juice reaches two-thirds of the way down, the stream of runners cease. Then, other things begin emerging from the gates. And really, things are the best way he could categorize them.

Sylla sucks on his fear and dumps as much emotion into his mask as possible. He looks over to his progenitor for encouragement, but even Kokoro is trembling at the sight, wearing a mask that’s very much not one of confidence. How else are you supposed to react to frames of spindly metal, wearing a stretched facade of tar-colored skin and meat?

Fortunately, Awyrgan is merciful enough to not force the Clear Sky troops to interact with their newest recruits. Unfortunately, Sylla can still feel their emotions with his mask.

The abominations shamble, wordlessly. Their emotions turgid and stiff, without change. As if their minds are frozen. One looks over to him, its lower jaw replaced with metallic mandibles, which is enough to force Sylla to take a step back just out of instinct.

Sylla then screams, out loud, as the abomination turns around and reveals a face on its back, one that tends to the aiming of a light cannon mounted there. He looks around to see the other soldiers. Some are screaming like him, others seem to have lapsed into standing catatonia.

Kokoro is actually showing visible fear on her real face. “A..Adin. You’re f...feeling them too?”

“Y..yeah. Not as horrible as...that..though. Why do machines still...emote.”

She trembles, then says, “Dig deeper.”

Sylla sucks in a deep breath, and focuses his mind. Blocking the horrific appearance out of his mind, he dives into the unmoving sea of the abomination’s emotions, a queer, but not entirely unpleasant set, considering the thing’s appearance.

Until he reaches past the surface thoughts, and hits a solid core of sheer, unbridled fear and terror that jolts him right back out, severing the empathic link. “Kokoro, the people! They...”

“They’re still alive.”

====
[x] Wait

The boat clears the mists, and at the oar is a redheaded woman in an puffy dress, decorated by coins. A name tingles in what little consciousness you have remaining: Komachi.

“Komachi?” You mutter, exhaling outwards in a ghostly whisper. The woman simply stares at you, and motions for you to board the boat. She does not ask for a toll.

You feel around your robes, and reveal a single gold coin. You recognize this gold coin. You tossed it to your friend, remember? When did she give it back?

The woman ignores it, even after you board the boat.

The boat turns around and moves, even though she’s not rowing. The riverbank fades, and you catch sight of hundreds, if not thousands of other souls waiting at its shores. However, you are the sole passenger for this voyage. Special treatment?

The other side of the river does not come into view.

“Technically,” Komachi suddenly breaks the silence, “I’m not sure if I should even be bringing you across. Wu Zhen-Guo is not dead.”

“...Eh?”

“Your body. It is still alive...technically, and there is still a healthy soul piloting it without possession, despite its heavily contaminated nature. You...the part here right now...have simply been kicked out of it when it died the second time. But your whole is still amongst the living.”

Thunder and lightning sounds in the distance, and some more memories resurface. “War...is this land not at war? Right now?”

“The shinigami are not concerned with the conflict of mortals, just the violations of laws regarding life and death. Besides,” Komachi points at the shore, “I am helping out.”

You look at the shore. A teeming mass of ghosts, in both ragged mercenary outfits and broken knight regalia, stare back at you with hollow eyes. You look across, and see many more similar boats ferrying them across.

“This is your job, true, but...” You wrack the strands of your leftover memories, “We are winning, right?”

Komachi remains silent for a few moments, before reluctantly replying, “Clear Sky entered Gensokyo with three thousand human soldiers, supported by youkai who signed on to Yukari’s contracts. By the end, their numbers will be the same.”

“...?”

“You worked for Eientei. You must have seen the rows of pods Lady Yagokoro maintains in its extradimensional depths. Clear Sky is a phantasmal corporation, and Yakumo has dealings with everyone...including Eientei...and Higan.”

=====



Location: Eientei, 14th expansion segment laboratory

Time: 12 hours until collapse of current Hakurei Iteration



“Hmm.” Yukari remarks as the human stumbles out of the stasis chamber, naked and confused. “You could have used a better model than baseline humanity, Eirin.”

“More deviations from baseline would result in even worse soul desynchronizations than we’re getting.” The doctor responds, exhaustion in her voice and her face. “Cloning isn’t as easy as the humans imagine, even for a genius like me.”

“I suppose asking for enhancements while already using unpurified souls is too much, yes.” Yukari remarks as she drops a towel to the confused human from an overhead gap. “But mental stability isn’t that important for my needs.”

“You do not get berserkers from soul desynchronization, you get gibbering zombies.” Eirin says, annoyed, “I still have headcam footage from my former employee, now a part of your Mordred, from where he demonstrated exactly why it’s such a hindrance to breaching the border of life and death...not that you had any reason to care until now.”

“Yuyuko was a success, thank you very much. And if I could repeat the process with everyone under contract, I will. Hey!” She steps over to the human who had cleaned the goo from his eyes and is now staring and muttering at his hands, “Michael Okoro. Sales Division team member!”

The human looks up at her, panic in his eyes, “My name! That’s my name! But...but this isn’t my body! These aren’t my hands! Lady Yakumo! I feel like my nerves are scrambled…Fok, am I going to die? Didn’t I die?”

Yukari sighs, “Mr. Okoro, your contract said twenty years of employment, and unlike less successful companies, we do not see death in combat as a termination clause and would go through Hell, literally, to get you back in action.”

“I died? I...DIED!? I don’t belong here!” The man continues, his disconnect and confusion only worsening as he comprehends his situation.

“We are in active operations as per clause 35-E. Finish this operation and we can then talk about severance. Armory is to the right.”

Eirin watches as the man stumbles past, still afflicted but unnaturally obedient. “You do know that my data oracles prophecize a 98% suicide rate past one month, correct?”

The sage shrugs and opens a gap, stepping in, “As I said, severance. Now, I trust you have the rehabilitation process under control for these soldiers, Omoikane, as I will be heading out to assist your agents in breaking through the Savior’s rear guard near the bamboo forest.”

Eirin looks up, at the elaborate enchantment systems she set up for just this purpose, and lets out a weak laugh, “You ought to do more than just trust me, Lurker at the Threshold.”

=====

“So what do I do now?” You ask. Your arms move, unbidden.

“Wait until we finish the trip to the other side. Then we’ll have Eiki see what needs to be done for your situation…”

With a single fluid motion, Komachi swings her scythe around, neatly severing your hands before you could grasp around her neck. “I’ll be keeping these as long as you’re on my boat.” She says, as if it’s a routine thing, while pocketing them. “If you bite I will be taking your head custody as well.”

You stare dumbly at your stumps.

“You really have not changed, lost soul. No matter how often you cross the river....”

She bends backwards, staring into your eyes.

“...All you do is kill.”
[X] “AYO! THE MAGNIFICENT TENSHI HERE WITH THE WORLD FAMOUS MEN IN BLA...Get off the radio...This is Captain Matthew Ferguson here with the CIA-Clear Sky Joint Strike Force. We’ve got the weather manipulation device -HAARP- set up, requesting assistance with defending it on activation.”
Massive, obvious target means more action.

>“Technically,” Komachi suddenly breaks the silence, “I’m not sure if I should even be bringing you across. Wu Zhen-Guo is not dead.”
>“You really have not changed, lost soul. No matter how often you cross the river....”
>“...All you do is kill.”
Ah yes, we are going to hell.
[x] “AYO! THE MAGNIFICENT TENSHI HERE WITH THE WORLD FAMOUS MEN IN BLA...Get off the radio...This is Captain Matthew Ferguson here with the CIA-Clear Sky Joint Strike Force. We’ve got the weather manipulation device -HAARP- set up, requesting assistance with defending it on activation.”

I can only imagine how bad it will be if it starts raining river water.
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