This is a little a little idea that's been festering within me for a while. I'm posting a teaser of sorts to see what anon thinks. I may then continue it as a proper story, if enough people show interest. If not, it's a mere vignette, suddenly appearing, and quickly forgotten...
I quickened my pace in order to keep up with her. The loud crunching sound of leaves and the snapping of twigs intensified. My side bag weighed heavily, feeling like a sack of lead.
Did she plan to simply run away? That wasn't very fair.
I wasn't going to give up that easily, though. Even though I had been walking for the better part of the day, I still had enough stamina to meet any challenge she threw at me. And even if I didn't, I was sure that sheer determination on my part would be enough to keep up with her. I hadn't gotten into this without being prepared.
I grinned. My mouth was dry and my throat ached – both proof of my determination.
“That's extraordinarily disturbing.” She quipped from up ahead. It was the first set of words she had directed at me since leaving. I widened my grin further on the realization that she was stealing glances at me in between brisk steps.
“Careful there. I wouldn't want you to trip because of me.” I joked. “I learned my first-aid from working with animal corpses.” “That's alright. I can handle myself.” She looked ahead, her words barely reaching my ears. “I've been doing this for more time than you can imagine.” “That's not what the others say. They say that you've been barely doing this for a year or so.” I told her what the villagers had told me. They, at least, hadn't been aware of her until last year or the year before last. That said, they were hardly the most credible source. They practically still believed that life originated spontaneously.
She didn't reply. That suited me fine. There probably wasn't that much left anyways.
After a half an hour more of effort and perspiration, we reached a stop. I had successfully kept up with her.
“So, what do I get?” I smiled at her, trying to hide all signs of fatigue from my face. “Nothing.” “Nothing?” I feigned a hurt look. “I basically ran through the woods, following you for the better part of three hours, for nothing? I mean, this little meadow here is nice and all, but there's plenty of others like it closer to home.”
She stood on a small stone near the steam, turning about to face me. There was a look of mild irritation on her face – a look that was accentuated by a stubborn lock of light-colored hair stuck to her moist cheek. She furrowed her brow and tried to unsuccessfully remove the offending strand from her face. Unable to, she sighed. “You're a real annoying character, aren't you?”
“I aim to please.” I performed an elaborate bow, smiling with all of the wicked signs of sarcasm. “So you say. Jeez, when Keine told me that you wanted to see me, I thought that you were just curious or something – figures that I would get stuck with someone like this.” “That hurts. I came all this way to get to know you better.” “You came for something alright. Most people wouldn't bother to make an effort like yours.” “Your praise humbles me.” I tried to play it cool, trying my best to suppress my nervousness. We would both benefit if she didn't know about the nation of butterflies expanding in my stomach. “And you're right. I did come here for something. I came to know more about you and what you do. I have to admit that I didn't expect you to spend most of the day running around.” “Well, I had things to do.” She smiled. “That old woman looked quite ill – she can now get proper help at Eientei.” “So you do that sort of thing regularly?” I had trouble following the precession all the way to that hidden mansion. Too much brush, not enough path. “Often enough. There's a lot that goes on there.” “Well, that's interesting. But I don't really care about what goes on there.” It wasn't entirely true. My calling bound me to be interested in the undocumented. One day I might go there myself. But I acted like I was being blunt. If I calculated correctly, my comments would not offend her. Quite the opposite. “Now that's refreshing.” She laughed, jumping off the stone with a sudden movement. Her trousers ballooned up slightly thanks to the air. “Someone who legitimately doesn't give a damn about those lunarians.” “Hey, like I said, I'm interested in you.” I made a mental note titled 'lunarians' and filed it away in my archive. Some day I might follow up on that. “It's hardly the proper way to get to know someone, you know. Stalking and chasing. People might mistake you for a freak.” “Let them think what they want. It's not very often that I find something this interesting.”
She sighed again, moving slowly towards one end of the meadow. I followed her, keeping a few steps behind.
“So this is what it's come down to? I'm some sort of spectacle for people like you?” “People like me? I have no idea what you're talking about.” “Whatever.” She starts to fuss around with one of the charms in her hair. I had my doubts if maybe I wasn't coming on too strong. It was just that, I wasn't sure I knew any other way. “How do you know Keine? Did she put you up to this. That woman worries too much about things she shouldn't.” “Keine is a colleague of mine – of sorts.” And she had promised to introduce me to 'a colorful character' in return for an owed meal. I naturally accepted, valuing information over food. If she had offered it was because it was the better deal. “Of sorts?” Even though I couldn't see her face, I could tell that she wore a sour expression. “Don't tell me that you and her-” “Oh no, nothing of the sort.” I laughed. It was a pathetic, self-pitying laugh, but she didn't have to know. “We just share a common tie.” “Being really annoying sometimes?”
It was my turn to sigh. Interesting – yes. She definitely was. But that wasn't all. It wasn't the time to analyze her too thoroughly though. I slung my side bag from my shoulder and opened it. I removed the fair-sized black journal and handed it to her. “Here. This is it.”
“What?” She seemed confused by the journal's contents. She stopped walking in order to better digest the writings within. Not that there were only writings. There were also plenty of illustrations, all of which I had drawn my self. “I don't understand what this is.” “Quite simple.” I tried to spare the condescension, but it was hard for it to not come out sounding that way, “That is a tome of knowledge. An encyclopedia of amazement. A veritable reference book of the divine. And I am its chronicler.” “So you write about...” She flipped through the pages, “pond scum and draw pictures of animals and call it a day?” “Did you never go to school?” I sighed theatrically. “Those aren't mere pictures of animals, they're complete sketches and diagrams. And that pond scum happens to be a unique and interesting variety of fascinating life.” “Sure, whatever.” She handed the book back to me casually. “I get it, you're weird.” “I'm not weird. I just believe that for everything there's a design and purpose, and it's up to me to chronicle it.” “Great, really. I'm happy for you.” I could tell that I was boring her.
We stopped in front of a small stream, and stared into the clear pristine water.
“Don't you see that this is more than just a stream? It's water and rocks and all sorts of life mixed together into a wonderful tapestry. Finding out more about it and what makes it function is a natural thing to do.” “And that's why you're the first person that I've ever heard about that does this, right?” “Don't be snide. My field might not be popular now...” In fact, I really was the only person who did this sort of thing. The closest thing to me was Keine, and she was just a teacher with a penchant for history. I enjoyed discussing things with her, but there surely was only so much to talk to her about. Oh, that reminded me, I had to ask her about that small kind of crab that the villagers took from the lake...
I remembered that I was in mid sentence, “Oh sorry. I got lost in my thoughts. But as I was saying, I am a pioneer. People will eventually look back and see that I was right. So there's absolutely nothing wrong with what I'm doing.”
“Right, right.” She jumped over the stream. “So what is it that you want with me?” “Well, isn't it obvious?” I followed suit by jumping to the other bank. The contents of my bag rattled. “Painfully enough, no.” “That's a bit worrisome. Keine assured me that you would know.” “I'm sure she did. It's probably her idea of a practical joke.” “Regardless.” I remained unflappable. “I can tell you want I want.” “That would be nice.” “I want you to be you.” “Come again?” She looked at me like I was playing a joke on her. “Keine assured me that you led an interesting life. That you were a wise and knowledgeable hermit. And I want to categorize the things that you encounter. Go around doing your day to day things, and I shall follow gladly.” “...you've got to be kidding me.” “I am not. My journal has plenty of blank sheets waiting to be filled with wondrous content.” “You've got the wrong person.” “That cannot be the case.” I voiced my opinion theatrically (again), “I can feel it in my essence – in my very bones, that your existence is one of interest and relevance to my own. If I follow, I shall have more than enough to chronicle.”
She sighed even more abjectly than before, sitting down on a nearby patch of grass. She sat in silence, in my eyes meditating, for a long interval of time.
“You're serious, aren't you?” “Indeed.” “Well, if you're going to follow me, I've got a couple of rules you have to follow.” “Sounds fair.” I was excited at the prospect of seeing the unknown. I took out my journal and prepared to scribble down her conditions.”
“Very well. First of all; you have to listen to what I say at all times. If you don't follow my instructions, I can't be held responsible for what happens to you.” “Of course.” I nodded eagerly. “Secondly, I get to choose where to go. Unless I ask for your input. Is that understood? I don't want you interrupting my routine.” “Yes.” “Good. Then thirdly, I want you to leave me alone when I tell you to leave me alone. I don't want to be babysitting you all day long.” “That's fair.” I smiled at her. “Is that all?” “For now. I might add some rules later.”
“Very well then.” I waited until she stood up and extended my hand. “A pleasure to be working with you, Miss Mokou.” “Yeah, yeah. Just Mokou is fine.” She clamped my hand strongly, giving me a strong handshake. “I'm looking forward to this.” “...the things I do for friendship.” She let go of my hand with a goofy smile on her face. It was the first time I had seen her smile sincerely.
“You won't regret this.” “I already am.” She kept on smiling. “But let's go – follow me. If you truly believe the world to be so big and wonderful then prepared to be amazed while with me.”
>>16988 >>16997 >>16995 Wow, talk about interpreting a line wrong and then going wild. I guess I'm to blame for sloppy writing though if so many of you thought that way. The main character here is the polar opposite of a creationist. He's a naturalist.
Gensokyo is an isolated bubble stuck in the late 19th century full of supernatural beings and creatures. It's difficult to embrace mid-19th century ideas about science and logic when surrounded by all that. But yet, here we are, and the protagonist is that embodiment of scientific spirit of rationality and progress. Well, when not acting like an excited child at an all-you-can-eat candy buffet.
I think I will continue this now, given the positive feedback. Although I have to update other things first before I get round to writing this.
I lowered my pen and raised my gaze from the journal. “I'm not obsessing. I'm simply trying to get as much work done as possible before it gets too dark.”
“Do it tomorrow.” Mokou pointed up at the sky. “Day's long gone. In case you haven't noticed, it's night now. Dark as a cave.” “Oh, there's a fire?” I hadn't noticed the campfire burning a short distance away. That would explain the horrendous illumination I was getting. “I started it about ten minutes after you sat down.” She was irritable. Couldn't see why though, I had followed her rules to the letter. “Sorry about that.” I didn't want to sour her too much, so I played it off like it was my fault somehow. “But I guess I lost myself in my work. We did see a lot today, and I'll forget things if I put them off until later.” “But you drew all those pictures. Making me wait for heaven knows how long while you sketched some shrub or a fungus.” “Yes, yes.” Her skills as a guide were commendable. She showed me all sorts of flora and fauna over the last few days. But her patience (or lack of thereof) was something of a bore. I found it best to simply avoid conflict. “I am deeply sorry for taking that long, but cataloging things is an important task. The whole point of this is allowing me to write down all the observations I can come up with.” “Is that so?” She shrugged.
She was sitting on the opposite side of the fire. The flames looked strangely reflected on her light hair, giving her a somewhat of an unearthly glow. Well, in between the dirt and grime that covered her (and undoubtedly me), at least. Evidently, being this dirty was a slight discomfort to me – I was used to freshly pressed clothes and clean sheets. But I bore the burden easily enough; It wasn't every day that I got to see this much. She didn't seem to mind much either, which I guess was fortuitous.
“...so, dinner is ready.” I only caught the last part of her sentence. Apparently I had gotten sidetracked into thinking about other things yet again. “Ah, I see.” “Come here and I'll give you your share.”
I got up and walked on over to her. She held in her hand a metal tin with a spoon, and scooped up some rice from the rustic iron box that was placed in the campfire. I thanked her and started to eat.
There wasn't much to say at this point in the evening. It was right about here that I started feeling the full day's burden weighing down heavily. I knew that soon after dinner I would be sleepy, letting out muted yawns at first, tired and aching bones following, and finally the urge to sleep would dominate and I would be forced to lay down and rest. Mokou didn't seem to be as weighed down by all the activity as I was, and apparently slept much later than I did. It wasn't very polite to ask what she did, so I never did.
Tonight was no exception. As soon as I had finished eating, I felt the crushing weight of a tired body.
“Hey, Pro- um you...” “Yes?” I leaned against a rock and tried to sustain a conversation. I was slightly amused that this girl was still unable to address me by my favored title, professor. Sure, it was a grand title, one that I wasn't sure that I deserved really, but it had a certain something that made it alluring. Come to think about it, even the villagers shied away from calling me that. “We're going back to the village tomorrow, we're running out of food.” “And it's not because you're tired of running around?” I woke myself up. Research was in jeopardy here. “With you? Never.” Oh Mokou, your occasional sarcasm never failed to impress. “Although I must admit that a hot bath and a proper meal would go a long way.” “Very well, you're the boss. Just keep in mind that I want to come back some other time then.”
She sighed. Too bad for her, I wasn't going to let a chance of a lifetime slip away just like that.
“The stars sure are lovely tonight.” I was looking up at the sky. It was a clear night. “Stars? Oh. It's like that every day.” “Not true.” With my face wrapped in shadow, I smirked. “Even though they look static, they are changing. Old stars die, new ones are born, it's a heavenly theater that plays on all the time until we're both long gone from the world.” It wasn't my expertise, but I had at times observed the stars with the best equipment I could find. Most villagers didn't believe me when I told them about what really went on up there. Despite her faults, Mokou was a good listener, and she listened to what I had to say about things like these. She was unusually quiet though. “Something on your mind?” “No. Not really. I just made the mistake of thinking about what you said.” “The stars?” I worked past her derogatory remark. I realized that she didn't have a better way of expressing what she meant other than that. “If not them, their successors will reign in the night sky for all eternity. Which probably is much longer than any of us could imagine.”
“Well, it certainly is a nice evening, I have to say.” I pulled over my sleeping sack and let out a soft yawn. “The night sky unraveled so marvelously before us, the camp fire cutting into me with its soothingly warm heat, and the soft melody playing in the background.”
Mokou stood up suddenly. Did I upset her? I sat up in confusion, but she signaled me to stay put.
“Something is not right here. Stay quiet and don't move no matter the circumstances.” She quietly passed on her orders. I watched as she scanned the perimeter.
Having agreed to follow her rules, I did as she asked with no hesitation. I glanced around, trying to find whatever it was that she was looking for.
“So it's you.” Mokou spoke casually to some unseen party, taking several steps away from the fire and towards the treeline. “Aha, it's you.” A tuned voice fired back evenly.
I couldn't hear very well what they started to talk about. All I knew was that my gut was telling me that this was interesting to me. I picked up my journal and a charcoal pencil and sleuthed my way closer. There were definitely two people there. Even in the dim night I recognized Mokou's light hair and bright trousers. The other person was a mystery.
She was short in stature and I couldn't make out her face. What I did see were two darkened protrusions from her back coming to the side. Was this a youkai? Having been born and raised in Gensokyo, I was no stranger to the term. And indeed, many a villager swore to having been harassed, tricked, or had someone eaten by a youkai. The typical tall tales. I hadn't ever seen one.
“If you don't leave, I'll turn ya into grilled chicken.” Mokou sounded deadly serious. It couldn't be a youkai if she was talking to it, could it? They were supposed to be feral beasts. And if it wasn't, then it disproved those silly stories of baby-snatching and human-eating. After all, no rational being would do something as barbaric as that to another being of like intellect. “You're no fun. Just tell me why you're here. If you want I'll sing for you~” “I'd rather fall down a well.”
I tried to draw the scene before me, but I could hardly make any details out at this distance. This would not do. Especially if this was as important as I figured it to be.
 Approach them and introduce yourself  Crawl closer in order to be able to draw  Slink back to bed
The less stupid option. Introducing yourself goes obviously against what Mokou just told you. There will be time to do that later, but for now, we should at least be discreet when breaking our agreements.
This is that canon Mokou attitude I was looking for so long. Being very reticent but being a good listener, not socializing, and not having that tsundere-ish or too-tomboyish attitude. This is very close to the original from Imperishable Night, I like it. Please, do go on.
Even with my moving closer, drawing was quite difficult. I crawled in closer, keeping my head down, for what felt like an infinite distance. I could hear them much better now; Mokou's unexcited voice and the other subject's pleasant timbre.
“How about some lamprey then? You look like you might be hungry.” I tried my best to make out the other person's features. I started drawing lines, rough borders of her figure. This wasn't cutting it at all. “No. Now please leave us alone.” “Oho~ us?”The figure moved around quickly before stopping some distance in front of me. “Do you mean to say that you're not alone?” I could see some of its figures clearly now; the campfire illuminated the scene somewhat.
Judging by the voice and the way it dress, it was female. I made a note in the dark while trying to draw a better illustration. I could clearly see something that looked like wings – but were far to small proportional to her mass to be functional. An interesting creature to be sure. I could not see the exact shape of her ears, but I could tell they weren't human. Yet she was bipedal and spoke. And wore clothes as well. I allowed a smirk to form on my face. This was definitely some sort of humanoid, but I would abstain from declaring it something as vague as a 'youkai' just yet.
“There's no one at your camp, you know.” She spoke some more. Mokou approached her again, moving with no haste. “Maybe a youkai got 'im.” “Perhaps you're suffering from night-blindness then.” “Ehh? Is that a joke? Only silly humans like you suffer from night blindness~”
She started to sing a mellow tune. She didn't get very far into it.
“That's enough. Leave, or I'll remove you.” Mokou stood in front of her again. “Okay, ok, fine.” The other girl sounded upset. “Have fun with your someone and don't stray too far. Humans are quite tasty. Oh, and if you do find yourself blind, follow the light, I could always use more customers.”
I watched as the girl started to levitate and fly off into the dark forest beyond. In her wake, a cheery melody now came from a distance.
“Didn't I tell you to stay still?” Mokou spoke in my direction. “Yes – sorry, but I felt the need to take a better look at whatever that was.” “Maybe next time, I should leave the two of you alone. At least one of you would enjoy it.” “I appreciate your protection and knowledge in these matters.” I got up and brushed myself off. I tried to further my observations by complimenting them with her knowledge.
I had forgotten all about sleep and weariness. This was really exciting for me, and I felt a sort of rush. I knew that whatever it was that I saw, it had been a sight that most villagers did not ever get to see. It was my duty to catalog this encounter faithfully. I sat by the fire now, badgering Mokou for a better explanation.
“Fine, fine. I see that you won't leave me alone until I tell you about her.” I started scribbling in my journal as she explained. “There's not much to say about her. Her name is Mystia and she's a youkai. A night sparrow.” A night sparrow? There was cautioning in the village about encounters with one. “If you know how to handle her, she's mostly harmless. But if you were traveling alone she could probably kill you if you're not careful.” “How?” “That singing of hers. It confuses people, causes night-blindness, makes them get lost.” That was consistent with the warnings in the village. “Someone lost is easy prey to a predator.” “How do I defend myself from something like that?” “Travel in pairs.” She leans back on her sleeping bag. “Alternatively, if you're alone, hope you're lucky and she's not hungry. She owns a cart. Sells some sort of fish. Capricious little brat I suppose.”
I made further notes based on her expertise. Keine was right, this girl was very interesting indeed. Even after she claimed to be too tired to talk and I went to bed, all I could think about was the exciting new knowledge I had acquired these past few days.
The next day I was dropped off in the village.
“Go see Keine.” Was her somewhat gruff way of saying goodbye. I went home and took an inordinately long bath first, taking the journal with me in order to better organize my thoughts.
I made sure to dress as properly as possible, I liked making a good impression on people.
It was only when I arrived at the schoolhouse that I realized my mistake – in my excitement I had forgotten that she would still be teaching. Cursing my foolishness, I sat on a small fence opposite the schoolhouse and began to sketch the scene.
By the time I had finished, classes were over, and schoolchildren hurried on home. I waited until the schoolteacher came out, and casually hailed her with a nod of my head.
“Good afternoon.” She spoke to me. “Good afternoon to you too.” “I see that you're back. How did it go?” “Quite well, actually. That Mokou is really something.” “Isn't she?” She smiled. “I knew you'd find her interesting.” “She's so interesting that I find myself obsessing over her actually. There's a lot that she knows.”
We started to walk together towards the center out of inertia.
“I'm sure that she feels honored to be the subject of your fascination.” “It didn't seem that way. But it's alright, there's wisdom in valuing silence.” “Sounds to me like you've become almost smitten with her, professor” “Hardly.” I smiled politely. The girl was fascinating, but I valued her mind rather than anything else. Huh, maybe in that sense she was correct. Still, I had no time for thinking about that sort of thing... “Professor, would you like to join me for something to eat? I haven't had lunch yet.” “Oh sure thing, by chance I haven't eaten anything either.”
She offered to cook me a meal, but I would have none of it. It would be impractical to go to her home. Besides the fact, I felt obliged to thank her for the wonderful contact. A restaurant it would be.
“By the way, it's alright if you don't call me professor. It wouldn't be right for a colleague to be so formal, Miss Keine.” “In that case, drop the 'Miss' there as well. Keine is more than enough.” It was rather informal of her, but I didn't mind. Social conventions were just a thing of convenience anyways. “Alright Keine, please feel free to call me by my given name as well.” “I will...”
>>17093 Are you talking about the real Linnaeus? His real, Swedish name was Carl Linnaeus, but the Latinized form of it was "Carolus Linnaeus", and that was the name he used when he published his works in Latin.
Anon had meant 'Linnaeus'. It may not be his first name, but then again, it's common to refer to people by their last name in Japan. On the other hand, it could be a middle name preferred over his first name. I don't know whether he's a native or not (though being an outsider as a youth may make his endless wonder more believable), but a native could have picked up the name in a book from the Outside and taken it as his own.
“...Linnaeus.” She stressed every syllable. It sounded odd. “Ah, that's not right.” I corrected her. “Sorry. But I thought that it was the way you'd prefer me to address you.” She recoiled with some bashfulness. It tried to make it look like I didn't notice and kept walking on. “It is a lovely name, I won't disagree.” I smiled, trying to look composed and steady. We had made it to the restaurant. I took off my hat, leaving it on a rack at the entrance. “Still, I insist, if you make me call you by your given name, you should call me by mine.” I picked a table in the corner of the place, somewhere where we could be afforded some privacy. I'd prefer something like a booth, but this place had nothing of the sort. “After you.”
We sat at the table.
“So?” I smiled, waiting on her to actually say it. “It's hard to say. Sorry.” “That's alright.” I shrugged. “I won't force you. Whenever you're ready, feel free.”
I didn't know what the issue here was, but I didn't really mind either way very much. I showed her another polite smile, something which she apparently found comforting. I found the situation somewhat ironic; normally it would be her that would be demonstrating so many polite and non-threatening smiles – the energetic children in her charge often had to be defused by acts of kindness.
“It'll be my treat.” I proclaimed after our orders were taken. “I couldn't allow that.” She protested. “Last time it was your treat.” “And you repaid me already for that.” I reminded her of the great contact she had given me. She protested some more, attempting to at least shoulder half of the cost, but I would hear none of it. It was the least I could do for someone who had brought me so much joy as of late.
We went over my notes during lunch. I showed her the observations and illustrations that I had made over the past few day in between bites of food. I hadn't realized just how much I had written in so little time, and therefore took a really long time to show it all to her.
She didn't seem to mind, though – far from it, she encouraged me to explain in detail and made relevant observations when needed. I was a bit surprised at the depth of her knowledge and tactful comments, to be honest. I knew she had a thing for history (as I seemed to have a thing for this), but I didn't exactly know of all the overlap that occurred. It was a pleasant surprise, and added up to being a stimulating conversation.
“And then there's this.” I showed her some illustrations I made towards the end. “That looks familiar.” She looked at my (admittedly) crude sketch. “We encountered her on our last night. She came to our camp.” I found myself justifying the poor quality of the drawing, “It was dark and I drew that from a concealed position.” “I see.” She had just about finished her food, slowly finishing up the remains at a leisurely pace. “Did you have any trouble?” “Trouble? Of what sort?” “Then you probably didn't. I'm relieved.” Seeing how I must have had a confused look, she explained, “I'm sure that you're aware that you encountered a Youkai.” I nodded. “Then consider yourself lucky that nothing happened.” “Nothing happened? Come now, you can't be suggesting that I was in any sort of danger...” “Not when with Mokou. But youkai are merciless.” “She was a little girl; Looked in no way intimidating.” I referred to my notes. “Sure, I was then told about all these supposed hazards, but given the dry reception that I was given up till then I assumed I was simply getting my chain yanked.” Mokou's warnings did come off as far-fetched. “You of all people should know that just taking things at face value is dangerous.” “That may be true, but it didn't feel like there was any threat then.” I scratched the bridge of my nose, thinking. “Well, regardless of what my feelings are, I think that I need to observe more before making conclusions.” “I'm glad that Mokou was with you.” She looked sincere. “She's good at dealing with this sort of thing.” “She does have that aura about her. Although at first glance I wouldn't have detected it.”
Keine steers the conversation. While our plates were being withdrawn, she asked me a series of questions.
“Was it tiresome spending that much time with her?” “Not at all. Time flew by quickly.” I told her the truth. I didn't even notice Mokou most of the time, honestly, being caught up in my notes. “That's good. I thought that you might have maybe suffered from compatibility problems.” “Nothing of the sort.” I replied confidently. “I haven't talked to her yet, but it's a surprise that you got on so well.” She overestimated the situation, but I didn't correct her. I didn't know what to correct her with. I had talked to my guide only a handful of times it seemed. My conversations with her were usually to the point. I only learned the bare minimum about her during the evenings before drifting off to sleep.
I must have gotten caught up in recollecting the details of our conversations. Keine looked at me inquisitively.
“Sorry, I didn't get that. I let my mind wander accidentally.” “That's alright.” She smiled politely. It was a generic response. “What were you saying then?” “I was asking you something. What your overall impressions of Mokou were. She's my friend and I worry about her at times. I'd like to know how she appeared to you.”
I thought about my answer.
 “She's a spirited girl, with plenty of pluck and moxie.”  “A reserved and quiet individual”  “...I was paying more attention to the plants and wildlife than her, sorry.”
~ Shameless plug here: I write DEFT in /shrine/, so if you haven't read it I encourage you to. Sorry, won't bring it up again.
Not gonna argue against it as this can be true as well. I think more are focusing on her action, moving around and not being shy to express her thoughts when it actually calls for it in her mind. Other then that she really doesn't say much.
[x] “She's a spirited girl, with plenty of pluck and moxie.”
“I'd have to say...” I let my voice trail in an active of reflective modesty. I was aware that the schoolteacher was hinging on my every word and so, naturally, I tried to make myself sound more humble. “My impression of her was that she's a spirited girl,” I waved my hand around, as if the circular motion of my wrist signified vigor, “with plenty of pluck and moxie.”
Moxie. Excellent word choice. It was my carefully calculated manner of speaking that made me seem refined and dependable. It was something I was proud of being aware of.
“Sounds like you enjoy that sort of thing.” Keine observed, doing a good job at hiding any tells of what she really thought. “It is a mixed bag.” “Oh?” She seemed genuinely surprised. I chose my words carefully. “A strong spirit and drive are good qualities in a guide, but it may make interpersonal relationships dogged and tiresome to maintain. I don't know the girl that well, but I would say that she likely has a tendency to be bullheaded. “ “Yes, she can be that way.” Keine concedes nodding in agreement – all the while recalling some private memory that made an almost unnoticeable smile form on her lips. “I certainly wouldn't mind spending more time with her. There's plenty that I feel that I should see here, I opened up a whole new world that was hidden away from me.” “Ah that's nice then.” “But?” There had to be one here. She smiled. She had expected me to ask. “There's one important detail that you're overlooking.” “Surely it's not this nonsense about youkai again? I can handle myself just fine.” I missed the mark. Her smile told me as much. I felt myself curiously peeved at myself for messing up. I thought out things momentarily before adding, “This is obviously something that you know about her that I don't. What drawback is there for me to conduct research with her?”
Two cups of tea were brought to top off our meals. Keine waited until I had taken my cup to start talking.
“Has it not occurred to you that she may not want to go around in the wilderness with you while you do your research?” “It had not.” I smiled bitterly. I was too excited about my recent trip and discoveries that I completely forgot to factor that possibility in. Still, I wasn't one to lose the initiative, “Are you saying that that's going to be the case?” “I'm not saying exactly that.” She drank from her cup, making her movements seem as calculated and deliberate as mine often were. “I haven't spoken with her yet, I couldn't possibly know what she thinks.” “But you brought up the point. Meaning that you at least suspect it to be the case. And with your relationship being older and firmer than my own acquaintance with her, I'm inclined to believe that your assessment is more likely to be true.”
I was feeling a bit depressed. I hid it, of course – sipping from my cup thoughtlessly, but the nagging feeling that my first expedition would be my last expedition had a horrendous effect on my morale. Just when I had found something interesting and worth pursuing... I had lost my only link into that world.
No doubt I would have to mount my own expedition. It would cost me a pretty penny getting all of the equipment as well as weeks of route preparation and scouting. It wasn't something that I was suited to. It was going to be difficult.
“In any case, don't worry about it too much.” Keine's consolation cut right through my mental budget estimate and got my attention. “There's no guarantee she'll refuse, and even if she does, there are other ways to go about this.” “Such as?” “I'm afraid I can't tell you yet.” She smiled enigmatically. I almost wanted to smile as well, there certainly was an interesting side to this woman after all. “It would ruin the surprise.” “Very well then. I won't complain. I'm happy as long as I get another chance.”
I settled the bill, letting Keine keep her shroud of secrecy for now. I was feeling impatient but my instinct told me to trust her with this matter.
I sat in my home, charts and blank pieces of papers sprawled all over my desk like some sort of blemished canvas. The frustrated work of a man with a new obsession. It would be a difficult few days. Maybe even weeks. An expedition didn't depend on just me. I would await the word from my intermediary. I hoped that my trust in the schoolteacher wasn't misplaced.
Luckily I didn't have that much free time to brood over the subject. My other duties kept me busy.
People looked to me to settle disputes amongst other things. It was a draining job, one not officially granted to me, but rather it stemmed from the respect the villagers had for my father. And his father. And so forth really. It didn't hurt to keep up appearances, so I just went along with whatever they asked of me. Then there was the budgeting I helped the village council with. I got recompense from the latter in the form of small sums of money, enough to keep my other interests well-funded.
And well, the former got me gratitude and respect. Something which translated into prestige – not that I necessarily wanted any, but it would be foolish not to see how it might help me. Oh, and sometimes into free meals given to me by grateful housewives and free vegetables given to me by farmers. In between duties, I took time off in the nearby wilderness, taking time to sketch and write notes down like I usually did. I even got the rare chance to sketch a nesting duck and her young.
It was only a little over a week later that I finally trapped myself with my thinking. I was caught up planning the next expedition. It would be something of a long-haul I felt. With four possibilities as I saw it. I didn't want to veer away from what I had explored thus far just yet, so I weighed and revised options with that taken into account. I tapped my finger against my desk, thinking. I got up to get another candle from my stock, seeing that the one lit had almost completely transformed itself into a tiny pile of wax.
Lighting my new candle and placing it on the holder, I realized something – and crossed the alternative out from my list with a swift stroke of my pen. That would never work, I had realized.
I deflected the urge to choose right then and instead started to think about another important factor. Despite Keine's assurances to trust her, I felt that it couldn't hurt to smooth things along. I slept, thinking that I would cement my triumph the next day.
I got dressed, made sure that I had no previous engagements and set out at a decent hour.
 Find and appeal your case to that girl directly  Consolidate Keine's trust instead (while subtly probing the status of the affair)
[x] Consolidate Keine's trust instead (while subtly probing the status of the affair)
The advantage of taking things at my own pace is multifaceted. Not only is the advantage evident through how I am given time to think things through and reflect, but also in how my nerves are affected. I'm calmer and steadier. It feels like I can work my talents as I please. It feels good, not being rushed.
In the time it took me to reflect on my disposition I had arrived at my destination. The schoolhouse was normally a hub of noise and activity – with children running about playing games. Not today. I had miscalculated slightly. I froze in front of the main gate, thinking.
A disadvantage of getting too caught up on a fixed idea is just this. The tendency to overlook what should be obvious things. I'd forgotten that it was a day off for the school and thus no one would be around. I tugged at my hat, jerking it down to cover some of my face. It was a subconscious act, one that I did when caught in a situation like this.
I realized that I had to now go to Keine's home. Hopefully she would be in. I didn't know much about her schedule besides the hours she spends at school. I popped my hat back on properly and got a move on.
A feeling of apprehension washed over me momentarily. It was disconcerting, but it subsided as I walked to her home. I knew where all the characters of importance lived in this town, It was because of what I did, really. I soon found myself knocking on her door, waiting for a reply.
Luckily there was one. “Yes?” The door opened, revealing the cheerful woman within. “Oh hello there, didn't expect to see you.” “Sorry if I'm disturbing you. I wanted to talk to you for a while, is it alright if I come in?” I felt relief. “Feel free.” She smiles, “I'll go make a spot of tea for us.”
I was ushered in, and I took off my hat as was proper. She led me to a small room full with several chairs, a desk, and a bookshelf. Her study, presumably. I sat in a chair while she went away, returning a little over ten minutes later, carrying a small tray with tea and snacks. “Please help yourself.”
“Thank you.” I did what needed to be done. Namely, the usual social rites and pleasantries that guests often do. It was something I would rather do without, but I was aware that being on her good side was important. Every little bit helped. “So what brings you here today?” She finally changed subjects. “You said that you wanted to talk to me about something?” She offers an insightful comment, showing that she maybe saw right through you despite your best efforts, “I take it that you're anxious about any future expeditions?” “Well, of course I am.” I let myself sound disarmed. “At this stage I'm not even sure that they will occur at all. Sorry to sound pessimistic, I have faith in you, but I can tell my guide isn't that willing.”
She sighs. “You would probably be right in being a bit worried. But things are going to work out one way or another. You have my word on that.” She stops to think, looking like she's trying to make a decision. She tries to hide it by drinking a bit of tea, but the worry is written all over her face. “I'll guarantee you that your expedition will be able to get started by this time next week.” “I see.” I wasn't too sure what she was going to do, but she looked quite resolute now. It inspired confidence in me, I'll admit. But I could tell that things weren't particularly easy for her. “I suppose I should get to organizing things then. Or is there any way I can help you?”
“I can handle this, don't worry.” She smiles again. “You'll have your guide next week, no matter what. So don't overthink this.” 'Like you always do', she probably meant to say but was too polite to say it. “I trust you.” My role here was to foment her goodwill. Not to pester her about details “Right then. I'm glad. Any idea where your expedition would be headed then?” “Naturally.” I shared with her my plans. “I've several options open, and I've yet to decide on which would be best. But the choices have been narrowed down.” “That's good to hear. May I know what those alternatives are?”
I pulled out several notes I had with me, containing my plans in the rough. “The first candidate would be returning to the general area I was before. I might have missed something there. And I'd be lying if I said I wasn't fascinated by that creature and wanted to study her some more.” She nodded, understanding that I meant that Mystia character. “Perhaps even capturing and restraining her for a little while.” The look she gave me made me think that she didn't find it the best of ideas, but she didn't raise a vocal objection.
“Another possibility would be to explore that mansion I hear oh so often that's in there somewhere. A remote location like that would be something of a beacon for these 'youkai' I suspect.” “There wouldn't be much in the way of youkai there, I fear, but you would probably enjoy it anyways.” “Hm?” I raised an eyebrow. I wasn't sure what she meant, but she followed up with an even more mysterious shrug so I was forced to continue my dissertation. “Well, the third option is in the opposite direction. I thought of maybe going by the lake and cataloging any of these beings that may reside over there. It doesn't seem very risky to me and is still close to the village.”
“Do you have any preferences?” “I'm not sure.” I admitted honestly. “I've been thinking about it, and each option is enticing in its own right.” “Perhaps you could tell me what you were leaning towards? It'll help me help you mount your expedition.” She asks, and I figured that it's probably an argument she'll use with her friend for my sake. “Well, let me think about it momentarily.”
“Sure.” She smiled, looking at me with amusement flaring up unabashedly in her eyes. I couldn't resist. “Is something the matter?” I asked her, letting myself be led by her. “I'm just a bit amused.” “Is that so?” Anyone could tell. “Pray tell, why would that be?” “It is because you act like you haven't made your mind when you obviously have.” “Oh?” I smiled, letting myself become amused by her claim. “What makes you believe that I've made my decision already?” “There's several small things that give it away. You're not as hard to read as you might realize.” She said that with the most natural and unassuming tone I could imagine her making. Being as polite as before, she added, “I hope you won't take offense at my comment. I didn't mean to insult you, I find it endearing to be honest.” “No offense taken.” I replied still smiling. 'Endearing'? That was an odd way to characterize me, but I suppose that I'm just as whimsical when it comes to classifying people.
“Well then, I suppose that further delay is unnecessary. I'll go back. Register the area with vigorous thoroughness, and plan another encounter.” I told her about the decision I had made. I had given it considerable thought, and already had plans for capturing that specimen for further observation. “Your thoroughness is a quality that anyone can plainly see from how you plan your affairs.” She said the oddest of things while nodding to herself. “Your obsession with that youkai might be dangerous, so I caution you to make sure that your plan really is foolproof.” “Not going to dissuade me then?' “At this stage that would be a waste of my breath.”
I was glad that she understood that about me. She was a fascinating subject herself, full of wisdom and surprise, and I often wondered why she would consign herself to merely being a schoolteacher. It wasn't a question I couldn't readily answer, but I was sure that there was more to it than I had figured out.
“Don't worry.” I didn't let myself drift off and get lost into thought, that was an annoying habit possessed by a distressing kind of person, “I'm sure that my plan will be able to contain the specimen for as long as I need. And if all else fails, intellect and reason are enough to find a way out of it.” “You'll find that reason with an upset youkai is a deadly and short exercise in futility.” “That may be, but I'd still try it as the situation dictated. And well, I'd have my guide present, would I not? She seemed to deal with them well enough.” That girl was definitely not going to let anything happen to me, despite her unwillingness to spend time with me. It wasn't just intuition, I knew that she had a strong sense of responsibility to her fellow man. “I pray that it doesn't come to that. All I'm saying is that you should try not to antagonize things more powerful than you.” “Duly noted.” I joked, “Despite looks I am capable of taking care of myself. I am versed in self-defense. It's not just about books and journals with me.” “Looks can be deceiving – I know.”
She offered her insight into things.
“Listen, I may not personally know everyone in Gensokyo, but I do know quite a bit about some of the things you're interested in. Don't be afraid to ask me for help. Look at me as a resource, someone who will gladly help you.” “That's a kind offer.” “If I can't help you, I know people who can. Fellow scholars and curators of knowledge. As well as access to those who have tools that may help you more directly.” “Thank you, I appreciate it. Sorry for inconveniencing you.” “It's only fair that you get a decent chance at doing what you like.”
Hers was a sensible take on things. I found myself agreeing with and finding that her company was more agreeable than I had originally thought. What's more, she continued to talk to me for a while after that, detailing just how exactly some of these resources of hers may help me. A few solid hours, and several cups of tea, had passed before I realized it - so caught up was I in hearing about some of these other personalities.
...I really had no idea that there was a shrine and shrine maiden so close to the village.
I spoke to her some more, debating whether or not to leave and polish up my plans for the expedition. The teacher had told me that whatever I did needed to be perfect, and I had every intention of making it perfect.
 Return home for planning  Talk to Keine some more (specify topic)
I thanked her for all her help. I spent more time in her home than I had planned. Nonetheless, the experience was a positive one, and I learned a great deal about what I was dealing with. An idle fancy had me wondering about some more personal affairs – but I held my tongue as was proper. No need to open the way for misinterpretation. Nor seem like I'm simply using her for information. It wouldn't be proper.
She saw me off with a smile, I reciprocated and thanked her yet again before finally leaving.
“Expect things to go forward as planned.” She assured, “Be sure to be ready, you'll have your guide.”
I had the absolute confidence that she was telling the truth. Feeling optimistic, perhaps more than I should have been, I stopped by the local tavern for a stein of beer. Normally this isn't something that I would do when planning something delicate; This was a direct effect of the meeting with the schoolteacher. The cool drink refreshed me, relaxed me, and made me realize just how wound up I had allowed myself to get.
It wasn't logical.
Excusable, perhaps. I had to admit that I was excited. Having a clear objective and means of accomplishing it were making me more excited by the hour. I'm sure that if I explained how I felt to some other soul present in the tavern it would confuse them – the average villager would not understand what was so exciting about sketching, writing, and cataloging.
I returned home, feeling buoyant. I allowed myself a bit of rest before further refining my plans. I drew several possible routes, keeping in mind the information that I had about my specimen. Maximizing encounter potential was paramount. As was getting actual data.
I drew up three alternative plans for that purpose. They reflected three different ways of obtaining data and, by extension, different types of data. They each had their risks, but they had their benefits as well. The nature of the data potentially obtained by each method varied significantly in usefulness, I felt.
I thought about which was best...
 Stalking and observing from afar  Trapping and containing the Youkai  Doping and examining it
[X] Rethink your plans carefully now that you are less stressed.
First I think its probably not a good idea to try to capture a wild youkai who will have no qualms about eating us.
Second of all, as a researcher we've already said we have catalogued most of what was there, why would we go to the same place twice? Its a squandered opportunity since we may not have a guide again for trip three, especially if she finds it boring.
That said, I think as an academic I think we should check out the forest of magic. There are rumors of strange magic mushrooms and witches and youkai there too.
Hey dear writefag! dear anon! i have a question for you all. Do you think there is, realistically, any way for our beloved protagonist to deal with a Youkai? Do you think maybe we're heading straight for bad-endtion? Or, on the contrary, maybe careful use of our wits may enable us to approach Mystia, or any other creature, in relative safety, provided we hit the right buttons? It seems to me that there's been a slight warning as to the dangers of Gensokyo, but maybe, say, proper research might give us clues as to how to deal with some of the better known Youkai living around. Say, maybe if we offered to buy fish, Mystia wouldn't be so inclined to maul us to death? Maybe im being silly or naive? I don't know, thats why i ask you, i want to see you claw at each other for this.
While the other two options would provide far more detailed observations, especially regarding appearance and physiology, they're critically lacking in a key area: behavioral analysis. Even if we could determine a youkai's abilities purely through physical examination, it tells us almost nothing about when or how or to what ends said abilities are used.
Observing from afar will allow us to at least make a cursory study of the subject's physiology, while providing us with far more valuable data regarding their daily routine, temperament, fight or flight response, and awareness of surroundings (in the form of whether or not we're noticed). Aside from being valuable to our protagonist in and of itself, this information can also be used to more effectively capture the subject, should we choose to go that route later on, or perhaps even present a different avenue for study, such as if the subject is amicable and willing to volunteer his/her time for a more in-depth examination. inb4 IYKWIM
No, this hasn't been completely abandoned. I, at the very least, have this one thing I started a while ago and only tried to finish now to post. There is a slight retcon here and there will be other small ones if things carry on. Unlike my other writing attempts this story most definitely will not be continued if there isn't enough interest. Not a threat, just a disclaimer. It divides my attention and as much as it might be dear to me there's no point in carrying on if things are stale. This attempt begins gently and patiently from my end. How it ends, we'll see. -- My mind was blank.
Somehow, in my excitement, I had lost track of all time. It was the damnedest thing and made me feel a little helpless. Perhaps helpless wasn’t the best way to put it. There was something disconcerting about thinking so hard that day became night and then day again, to be sure, but this wasn’t quite that. It was more like I realized all at once what I had missed out by being so absorbed in intellectual affairs.
Things like biscuits going state from neglect didn’t bother me, but losing a small bottle of milk to scum and other minute fiends wasn’t exactly desirable. Being wasteful didn’t suit me I thought. It didn’t suit anyone in this village. At most during the few great celebrations of the year a drop of sake or two would be lost to the ground than to a receptive throat and belly.
I was obsessing again.
Couldn’t help it. It must have been because I was so hungry. It was wondrous that I hadn’t collapsed. During my ever-meticulous and fussy planning I had only been interrupted one or twice. A concerned neighbor every time. Not for my benefit. I recalled fresh food. After helping I had been fed. I shook my head, dispelling more useless thoughts from my mind.
The biscuits were alright when toasted. And I took the time to flip through my journal as energy returned to me. I needed to pack my gear. Most of it was already snuggled into the proper compartments. My field kit is something I like to have ready. The immaculate state in which I maintained it was a sharp contrast to the chaos of my home. Piles of journals and reference books were just the tip of the iceberg. Some specimens I had suspended in preservative-filled jars were lost forever in the catacombs that were my shelves. Cleaning was too much effort, it distracted too much from my usual research and activity.
“I’ll be gone tomorrow for some time.” I told the pair of glass eyes that stared at me. Of course I didn’t expect a reply. Inanimate objects can’t speak. Even if they were once alive. “I’ll trust you to keep watch over the homestead while I’m gone.”
Abe said nothing, his thin and black lips remained immobile. I pet his great big head, felt hairs thin from age, and sighed. He was part of the reason I tried to keep people from coming into my study. Few were the number of people that understood what purpose a centenarian stuffed beast like this had. I wasn’t about to get rid of inheritance, especially not what was probably the catalyst for my interest in discovery. So the beast stayed.
I often speculated that if he could speak he would judge me and my eccentric ways harshly. After all, he was once a proud hunter of the wilds. Reading would be completely alien to him. I had several tomes that were leather-bound and worn from frequent study and reference and, though I had committed most of the content to memory, it felt reassuring to read the familiar words and stare at the diagrams for hours on end. In particular it was enjoyable to browse the great big book that never left the top of the pile on my desk. Even the immobile and unthinking Abe could probably realize its importance to me. It was a book that not only widened my horizons immensely and gave method to my aspirations but also one from which I had borrowed an identity from. That in itself should speak volumes. Sometimes, late at night, I thought about how remarkable it was that something like that could have come into my life. It had been chance, certainly, but chance that defied geographical and cultural boundaries. The most obvious conclusion that it was someone from beyond, from the outside, that once possessed the book. Still... it wasn’t the most satisfying of answers and I often allowed myself to fantasize about the most esoteric and far-fetched alternatives.
I realized that once again I had blanked out in my excitement. I was going to set out and had to get ready before going out. I changed into a comfortable pair of trousers apt for the field and donned my favorite hat. I entrusted Abe with my home and left, carrying my pack like an eager child. The early morning mist stimulated me, making me feel alive and well.
I reached the agreed rendezvous spot and determined the time. It was still early, likely earlier than what my guide expected. I waited patiently, taking time to sketch the nearby trees as they stood half-hidden by the mist and its fickle moving tendrils. There was no practical benefit in doing that than keeping myself entertained. I had long since cataloged every tree and plant in this general area. Named some of the trees in town too. I figured that anything as old and mighty as the trees offering their refreshing shade in the plaza merited dignified names.
“Oh, you’re already here.”
“I like to be early to my appointments just in case.” I turned around. The person I was expecting wasn’t there.
“Well, shall we then?” She smiled uneasily, knowing that I understood what was going on but likely not sure how I was going to take it. She looked physically burdened as well, carrying a large rucksack which seemed to be chock-full of things. It was like when deciding what to take she chose to bring something for every conceivable eventuality. It made my own modest field kit and carrying bag look outright minuscule.
“I thought you said that I would have my guide, Mi- uh, Keine,” At the least her clothes were appropriate - she had swapped her usual clothes for something more functional and that would not jump out as readily in foliage. At the risk of being too judgmental, I even thought that they were a slight bit manly, like something I would expect from her friend. The trousers were a plain color by comparison, “I don’t suppose that you decided to tag along and we’re to meet up somewhere else?”
“That won’t be the case,” She continued to smile unsteadily, “You have a guide in me. I may not seem like it but I am sure that I can take you around just as easily.”
“I’ll entrust myself to your care then.” I pushed all doubts from my mind. This would be the best I would get and there was no use backing out now. The was, however, one thing I had to ask as a formality - to make certain, “Do you really wish to be my guide. I’ll harbor no ill will if you’d rather not go through all the trouble. I’ll figure something out myself or reschedule.”
“I’m certain. A change of pace will be nice. There’s nothing I need to do urgently in the village,” I thought about her role in the village, it was important even if most people didn’t realize it. Being a person of moral standing she had her responsibilities even outside her work. I was sure she realized it too, “It won’t be the end of the world if I’m gone for a while.”
There was nothing else to say. We fell in together and began to walk away from the village. At one point, I offered to help her carry some of her things but she refused. I didn’t know if it was pride or something like that that kept her from letting me help but eventually it looked like she got used to walking around with the weight so I didn’t bother to ask again. I wished that I could draw while walking so as to sketch her like that. There was something noble about her hardiness that reminded me of my former guide.
We reached familiar territory sometime before noon. I had insisted on stopping several times during the walk to draw a curious assortment of birds that occasionally perched on nearby trees. The rough sketches in my journal were evidence for that but, in reality, I also felt like a few breaks would help out my guide. She may have demonstrated fortitude and determination but it wasn’t easy to get rid of the image of the gentle schoolmarm who was only tough when the children needed a little discipline. It wasn’t my place to bring that sort of thing up so all I could do was be helpful in my own way.
“We should find a spot where we can leave most of our gear,” I suggested. There was no need to be overburdened when we would be essentially hunting. “If it’s anything like last time, we’ll only find who we’re looking for by evening. In the meanwhile I’d like to look around the area for anything unusual.”
Somehow the mood changed drastically within the next hour or so.
Before I had realized it, the scientific expedition had changed into something else altogether. A single half-finished illustration was all the work I had done in my journal. Keine was looking at it, praising my knack for perspective. We sat on a large cloth she produced from her things and she shared with me some food. It was a picnic. While it was nice to take it easy and exchange compliments about drawings and food respectively it felt somewhat less than ideal. I felt like sighing but I knew it would only get a concerned and inquisitive glance from her soft and kind eyes. She seemed to enjoy herself, smiling at every turn.
“You really are skilled. I wish I could draw as well as you can.” Even though she was staring at the illustration of a rather unattractive larva, it was if as if she were staring at a masterfully done landscape. It made me swell with pride, but also made me feel uneasy. There was something about someone whom I respected praising me that- there was more to it than that and I knew it. Thought I was reluctant to admit it, her gushing was about to make me blush. Not something I was comfortable with doing nor did I care to admit why I would do so to begin with.
I mumbled something. I wasn’t sure what I had said.
“Is something the matter?” She looked up from the sketch and directly into my face. I almost panicked, thinking that she could read my thoughts.
“It’s nothing. I’m glad you enjoy them. I’ve had a lot of practice.” I shrugged, trying to look casual.
“Of course. I know,” She smiled sweetly, recalling events from years ago, “you used to sit in the town center and draw everything you saw, didn’t you? Every day, without fail, you’d be there.”
“Seems like that was an eternity ago. But yes, that did help to get where I am now ability-wise.” I glossed over how much effort it had taken me. I was embarrassing to bring up now.
“Hm... I think all that effort really did pay off. I remember seeing you sitting there, and I wondered if you were maybe drawing portraits. Maybe a wandering artist.” She giggled, recalling something in vivid detail. I wanted to ask what it was, but still tried to remain aloof.
“Back then I don’t think anyone would have wanted a portrait done by me... they never asked anyways.” I wasn’t sure if anyone would want a portrait now that I was better either.
“I asked someone about you and they told me that you were set in your own ways and shouldn’t be disturbed. Funny, isn’t it? They seemed to respect you too much to bother you.”
It was funny, in a slightly ironic sort of way. She handed back my journal. It felt like she was being genuine and it was uncomfortably flattering to me. I felt myself forgetting why I was even here, confusing this for some sort of pleasant getaway with her. The sunny cloudless sky and chirping birds added to that notion. My lust for knowledge was not forgotten and I realized that I needed to give myself a little space if I wanted to carry on with the original purpose of the expedition.
 Find focus again and catalog things by yourself for a while  Offer to draw her a portrait
The beginning I this update was a little hard to get into. It cleared up when that stuffed beast Abe was brought up. Good stuff. It's also interesting that Keine showed up instead of Mokou. We might as well make the most of it and earn some brownie points with the schoolmarm.
This story really has potential. Put aside your shit with the author and give it a try.
A change of the usual studies would do some good in keeping Linnaeus's can't believe I still remember the name mind fresh. Seeing the same foliage as time passes is bound to cause him to become lax in his studies.
Things went as expected. There was a brief exchange when I brought the subject up. What I had accomplished was to get her to pose for a portrait. A silly keepsake for her and a little practice for me.
“No, really, just hold still for a while. It won’t take me long,” I pressed in what I hoped was a disarming manner, “It’ll be good practice for my mediocre skill set.”
I chucked aside lingering apprehension and would hear none of her half-hearted objections stemming from modesty. I tried to get the best angle possible and I shuffled until I found the best position to suit the natural lighting. I sensed some discomfort in my model as she struck a forced pose of uncontrived ease. No doubt it didn’t help that I avoided eye contact, instead taking on the sketch like the holiest of prayers. I couldn’t fault her for the unease she may have felt but all the same I fed her some casual lines meant to make the experience more bearable.
I’m not sure that it worked.
The quickly drawn lines coalesce and give form to ovals and the other essential building blocks. Several quick looks to and from the paper and the smiling model see more detail added, edges smoothed and shapes refined. Something curious happened as I was finishing up. Instead of being as detail-focused as I usually was with my sketches I found myself sacrificing complexity for essence. I couldn’t quite understand what I was doing but somehow the drawing seemed to bulge with energy, centered around the vivacious and somewhat ambiguous smile.
“My, this is quite something,” Keine approved of the drawing with an energetic nod. I wasn’t sure if she was just being polite but she complimented my technique until I was almost blushing again.
I had no one but myself to blame for that. If she had patted me on the head and called me a good boy I think I would have just taken it in stride. Luckily she didn’t, instead carefully tucking the piece of paper away in a safe place. At the moment I was thinking that there was quite something to the warmth that woman could exude. More and more parts of me began to wish for an extension to this moment. Stupidly enough of course.
I made a point of keeping quiet about my lack of experience with actual models and profiles for fear of seeming needlessly foolish. It was enough that I was feeling as awkward as a pubescent boy noticing delectable female forms for the first time - there was no need to make things even more awkward.
“This is a sudden change of pace,” Keine grumbled from somewhere to my left.
“Sorry... but I should really get to this sooner rather than later. Missing opportunities isn’t my style.” My excuse was a half-truth at best. She probably wasn’t able to tell what kind of face I was making from there, because then she’d know exactly why I had insisted on diving elbow deep into fieldwork. That wasn’t even a figurative phrase, we were lying prone amongst grass and rocks in a field in hopes of finding my elusive quarry.
There was little sunlight left in the day and insects ruled the dusk. The occasional bold bug would fly right up to my face in some sort of drunken attempt to go right through me. It was unpleasant but driving them away with slight facial tics gave me some distraction from the long and uncertain wait.
“Say, isn’t it too dark for you to draw anything anyways?” Once the moon was clear up in the sky I was asked the obvious. I couldn’t see much in between the foliage and darkness but I could tell that Keine had come along near me. If I rolled over and reached out, I was sure I would touch something soft and warm.
“Indeed it is,” My reply was a whisper, a vain attempt to pretend that we were stealthy, “This has become more about simple observation. At this stage it is best to get to know the target than to risk something more extravagant.”
“I see. There doesn’t seem to be anything out here though, so I thought that maybe we should set up camp for the night. Get an early start tomorrow and all that.”
I couldn’t fault her for wanting to call it a day. It wasn’t exactly pleasant lying prone for hours in a field. I was also thinking that I might have to readjust my plans. Try a more proactive approach the next day. Too much time had been squandered playing around.
[X]Send her on ahead, but stay within shouting distance.
The awkwardness with Keine was palpable. Great writing. Less than fulfilling, but it fits our MC.
I wonder how feral the youkai are in this story. It was hard to tell based on our interactions before with Mystia. This option is safe enough that we won't be out of reach from Keine, but it also leaves an obvious opening. Let's see what happens.
[X]Send her on ahead, but stay within shouting distance.
Linnaeus ought to consider finding ways to set up alarms that wouldn't scare off certain targets.
Not to say Mystia wouldn't easily be watching Ivan and Keine from a safe distance but it couldn't hurt to be alert of her presence if for whatever reason she chooses not to sing. Or for any new subjects that may stumble upon them for that matter...
Then there's always finding Mystia's stand and simply request a modeling session. But where's the fun in that; before the drawing I mean.
[X]Send her on ahead, but stay within shouting distance.
Holy carp, this finally updated? I had stopped checking /eientei/ completely a long time ago now, but a little nagging feeling in my gut told me I'd be in for a lovely surprise, and lo and behold, here it is. How I managed to miss this for two whole days is beyond me.
Impatiently awaiting the next update, Sir.
An Anonymous Docteur2010/08/10 (Tue) 21:59No. 21799▼
I told Keine to go on ahead, that I’d join her shortly. She left begrudgingly - or so I thought. She didn’t argue but took a while to get moving. It left me alone and free to think about things. Getting lost deep in though wasn’t easy even if anyone near me was quiet. I could still tell they were there. It was a quirk. Perhaps even a form of mild neurosis.
Chances were that I would find nothing there I might have been at the wrong place, at the wrong time. or something else altogether. Irrespective of logistics, the fact remained that things weren’t looking too promising. Especially when the proximity of the campsite was taken into consideration. Anything wary and furtive in nature would probably steer clear of a well-light spot in the wild. And as I listened to the soft rustling of grass and leaf caused by the wind I felt that there was little hope.
I rolled onto my back and closed my eyes.
“Can you really not see me here?” An unfamiliar voice came from my left, probably from the treeline. It sounded like an upset child.
“I’m limited by my senses,” I spoke evenly, keeping my eyes shut. Excitement throttled through my body, causing my heart to speed up. My fingertips twitched but my face betrayed no change in disposition, “Would you like to join me, perhaps chat a while?”
“Hmpf, that’s a first. Aren’t you going to even look at me, maybe scream a little and cower?” The voice inquired and I pictured whoever it belonged to pouting.
“And what would I accomplish with that? I certainly wouldn’t learn anything about who you are and why you’re here.”
Eyes remained shut and I strained my hearing to see if the new arrival was coming closer.
“You should be afraid, you know. A meeting like this at night can only end with the human being hurt,” A hint of pride behind the words. The voice had come a little closer now. Perhaps only a couple of arms length away now.
“Not human, then?” A youkai by all counts, I decided, “Fascinating. All the more reason to sit down and talk, I wish to learn more about you,” I was confident that I was getting somewhere. Given my situation I was being sensible. Or so I hoped. If I was faced with some sort of irrational beast, panicking would not help and maybe only serve to enrage it. I was perfectly confident that something more intelligent would have more restraint.
Something landed on the bridge of my nose. I opened my eyes in surprise. A rather large mandible was too close to my eyes to be in focus. Could it be?
“Feeling intimidated now? There’s an entire army surrounding you,” The voice took on a smug quality.
“It’s a rather wonderful specimen if it is what I think it is. I’ve sketched many in my time. Though judging by the size of the mandible, this example is at least twice as large as the others I’ve found in the wild. Would you mind terribly if I moved it to my hand so I could look at it?” If I was right, this was just about the biggest specimen I had ever seen. They were so rare as well, only making their appearances briefly for a few weeks before mating and then dying.
The insect flew off. I sat up, looking around to try to see where it went.
“You’re a strange human. And I don’t know if you’re making fun of me or not.”
The source of the voice turned out to be another young girl. One of short stature and boyish dress. I could scarcely help myself as I uttered, “You’re gorgeous.”
“Um, excuse me?” The girl took a step back, confused.
“I take it you’re one of these youkai I hear so much about? Perchance one with insect attributes? Forgive me if I’m too presumptuous,” I got up and dusted myself off. I gave her a smile and extended my hand, “Your antennae are striking. Beyond marvelous. I’m-”
“Ah, I uh, think I should get going. I have places to be,” The girl took another step back. The dark of night helped conceal the expression on her face. As if on cue, a small swarm of nocturnal insects congregated between us, “You’re lucky I don’t much feel like teaching you a lesson. Watch yourself, I might change my mind sometime soon. And then, you’ll have to respect me and all. That’s right.”
“Don’t go yet, please,” I frowned. I hadn’t even had a chance to sketch her. Or even learn something even more basic than that, “May I have your name at least?”
“As long as you fear it. It’s Wriggle - don’t you forget that. I won’t be forgetting that you were making fun of me either,” Wriggle started to take off, disappearing into the night swiftly.
“But I wasn’t making fun of you. You really are exquisite.”
I had a lot to learn about youkai it seemed. They didn’t take compliments very well apparently. Us humans liked getting complimented. I was sure if I went up to Keine and told her that her hair was lovely, she’d enjoy that.
I took my field pack and started to walk back to the campsite. A campfire burned mellowly in the middle and Keine worked to finish erecting a tent that she had brought along. Though it was pointless, I sat down and tried my best to sketch Wriggle from memory. All I could manage to do was the antennae and a pair of short trousers. My critical eye had no long-term retention.
“We should turn in sometime soon. We ought to get an early start tomorrow,” I told Keine as I readied my sleeping sack. She was looking rather tired, the day’s walk had maybe exhausted her more than I initially reckoned.
“Alright. I guess I could sleep. Sorry that you didn’t get to see what you wanted to,” She apologized. Needlessly.
“It’s just the first day. I didn’t expect to have overwhelming success from the get go. Besides, a few very interesting things happened today,” I thought about the encounter from earlier. It might be the first step to further study. Potentially worth a thorough investigation.
“Oh...” She appeared to mistake the meaning of my words, looking at a loss for words. What could she be thinking of? I wasn’t sure whether or not engage and clarify. Regardless, she changed the subject abruptly, “Did you see anything unusual around the camp? Like as you walked back?”
“I can’t say that I did. Is something the matter?” I got ready to put out the fire. Keine stood by the entrance to her tent, scanning the area.
“No, it’s nothing. Must be my imagination. I am tired from all the walking today,” With a polite laugh she said goodnight and retired.
I put out the fire and lay down nearby. I had a small shelter that could be erected over my sleeping spot but I didn’t usually bother to put it up save for it was raining. I didn’t mind being exposed to the world. Besides, it took effort which is better spent cogitating and establishing plans for the future.
Eventually the myriad of thoughts and deliberation would usher in a peaceful sleep. This was especially true when the night was perfectly still except for the occasional leaf moved by nocturnal animal or wind.
The next morning saw me finalizing the plans for the day.
 Stick to the original target  Seek out the girl with the antennae
[x] Seek out the girl with the antennae. --[x] Remember to curb our excitement so we don't scare her off.
I'm a Wriggle fan at heart, so this is an easy choice. It's a shame that we came off as a creeper, haha. I put in a subvote to hopefully curb our excitement a bit so we don't scare her away. Can't wait for the next update.
[x] Seek out the girl with the antennae. --[x] Remember to curb our excitement so we don't scare her off. I hold no special feelings for him her (so far) but that meeting was quite something. Wriggle fans, you have my axe.
[X] Seek out the girl with the antennae -[x]Keep an eye out for the first target though.
Wriggle couldn't have gone too far as she might actually want to try attempting to intimidate our researcher once more. More importantly it was a chance meeting where a third party did not interrupt it; or at least very abruptly. May have different results should Keine quietly interrupt such a meeting. Whether good or bad results will occur is another matter.
It's good to be flexible and adapt field expedition so long as it stays within the scope of the trip; to research certain youkai within the wild (or so that appears to be the task at hand) as well as find recently unnoticed fauna and flora.
I'd rather not get blindsided by one while looking for the other: Wriggle will be looking for you, but Mystia won't. You don't know Wriggle's a man-eater, but according to Mokou, Mystia is, and she's not the type to mince words. Besides, you don't really have to 'look' for Mystia--you'll hear her before you see her, and Keine is more than capable of defending you if you Mystia goes hostile, but going on your own to find her, as to how you found Wriggle, there may be no time to talk or to sketch before the night blindness sets in. Fear and respect for her and insects is the only thing you need to placate Wriggle, and part of that can be done by showing her sketches. Again, we don't know the same about Mystia.
I'd also like to add that Mystia is almost certainly nocturnal, since she's a NIGHT sparrow who's power is to cause NIGHT blindness, so I doubt we'd see/hear her anytime soon. Wriggle, on the other hand, is much more likely to be roaming around during the day.
[X]Seek out the girl with the antenna. -[X]But keep an eye... err, ear out for our original target.
>>21875 You're mostly right in saying that. A choice between two different things wouldn't be a choice if you could have both. Or have no drawbacks. When you can have both, it's explicitly stated or it just sort of... happens anyway. Insofar this particular vote is concerned: it's a literal vote for seeking out either Mystia or Wriggle.
I've been meaning to update this and I will sometime very soon seeing as I will have heaps of spare time for a change. Hold on a little longer.
“It’s gotten quite cool,” My companion remarked. She was right, the temperature was far lower than it had been the day before.
“We’re in the middle of a forest, it’s probably just the effect of the leafy canopy.” It was bearable but somewhat disconcerting to feel such a difference of temperature from one day to the other. I wondered if perhaps that was a prelude to a heavy downpour. Should I have packed more suitable clothes? I decided that I was fine and there wasn’t reason for alarm.
Our route had changed somewhat. Originally the path we were on only skirted the wooded areas but now we had driven headlong into the thickets. Our speed decreased in inverse proportion to the amount of effort every step took - undergrowth, rocks and uneven ground made our going excruciatingly slow. The woods themselves were darker and more twisted there than by the outskirts, great husks of old wood stood everywhere. I wagered that we were one of the few humans to tread along this way - and likely the only ones to do so voluntarily.
“It sure is quiet.”
“With good reason.” My companion had made an insightful observation. I explained the phenomenon as I understood it, “Most birds and other small creatures would prefer being near a water source and, by extension, a good food source. Larger animals, usually possessing greater mobility and intellect, trade off proximity to food to a larger habitat. Think about it - in here, anything could hide.”
Along our way, we took frequent breaks to rest and gather our bearings. It was easy to get disoriented in the tangled mess of roots and greenery. I took the time to sketch the gnarled forest and produced a series of (what I thought was) satisfactory landscape drawings. The most interesting things I found were the toadstools; Spotted and loud varieties which were alien to me grew from tree trunks and fallen branches. No doubt they were poisonous, or otherwise I would have procured a sample for later study.
It was my decision to take this route.
As tiresome and pointless as it seemed, it was not too difficult to fool my body into accepting the effort required. I hoped that my guide was not struggling too much with her burden but all the same I did not bother asking again if she required assistance. I was confident that if she wanted help, she would ask - to assume otherwise would be insulting to her. Our lunch was brief and consisted of leftover foods and the first of the dried rations. A quick check revealed that we had more than enough water to last us until we found our way out.
“Look,” I hissed a cautious warring. In a space just ahead of us, there was an unnaturally large clearing. In the twisted and overcrowded maze that was this forest, the absence of anything was cause for alarm. The probabilities of the invasive plants conveniently avoiding a spot for years and years were so low that, if the clearing were truly natural, it would be akin to hallowed ground. The other explanation was more than obvious to Keine and I, which was why we slunk low and approached with our senses in high alert.
There was a mound of dirt and a pile of logs... evidence confirming my suspicions. I tread lightly, signaling Keine to stay back. It was obvious that she didn’t appreciate being relegated to such a role but it was important that someone keep watch. I did not step into the clearing, instead scanning the perimeter and taking note of all its features. While I wasn’t certain if this was the place, it was the best bet I had. I fell back towards Keine, leaving the forest sanctuary inviolate.
“We should find a nearby place to lay low,” I set forth instructions. It had to be someplace within a stone’s throw of the clearing but distant enough to completely conceal our presence. That proved to be a tall order and our best bet was some long-perished tree hollowed out by time and insects. The clearing may have been sacrosanct but we would avoid notice by using what little natural cover there was.
Unless the intention is hunting or trophy capture I don't see much sense in using a clever snare; even less so if there's a chance of disturbing the environment as well as harming the subject unintentionally.
Not disturbed the spot could very well be visited frequently and observed safely.
It never occurred to me that Mystia was the one we had pretty much prepared our entire trip for, not Wriggle, but that's past, so:
[X] Keep a ceaseless vigil.
>>21906 No reason to argue with this, especially since the best the other option could do would be to piss Wriggle off. Sure, vigil has its bad points, namely wearing us down, but it still seems smarter in comparison.
The forest croaked in an uneasy song as the day wore on. Its notes were product of the whimsy of the wind and its instruments the dried and twisted branches of the trees. The end result was a repetitive melody of composed of much creaking and groaning. Listening to it to pass the time - I found nothing better to do - I wished that the wind would die down and end the performance. It was nauseatingly repetitive. So much so that I kept looping the same thoughts in my head, unable to focus on anything else.
My legs were numb and my arms tired. Lying prone amidst roots and shrubbery tested my body’s endurance. I tried to concentrate, tuning out the harrowing song of the wild, and pass the time by raising my anticipation. My field pack and observation lenses were pressed up against my body like some sort of grotesque growth. My ribs were sore from where my journal was pressing up. Somehow holding on to that feeling made me feel a little better; I knew that the things most important to me were nearby and ready to be used with a moment’s notice.
Occasionally I would stare at the forest temple, awaiting any sign of the devoted. My assumptions had been made hastily and had not passed the rigorous process of proper deduction. I had skipped right ahead to a hypothesis based on little to no evidence. My axioms were dubious at best and likely not the stable base needed for consistent logic. In essence, I had gone with my gut. It repulsed me somewhat to trust whim and feeling but I reminded myself that we were all granted some very basic intuition. I was hoping that perhaps that intuition would prove itself correct.
Time was abetting a myriad of issues. I had to worry about safe shelter - staying in the woods was not an illustrious idea, to put it mildly. As the day dragged on, as diluted as it already was by the canopy, the light would dim and render any movement in the difficult terrain even more challenging. That was why it was it would be important to leave before much longer. The rest of the issues included my increasing fatigue and, by extension, tendency to commit mistakes. If I had stayed back in the hollow with Keine then I would be able to rest but would have to abandon all hope of keeping a constant vigil.
“You are not very bright, are you? Most idiots would not wait in the open.” My awakening was not as gentle as I was accustomed to. A sharp pain came from my right arm and I gasped out. “Looks like that’s gotten you to come around. It’s only a scratch, for now.”
“Fancy meeting you here,” I grinned despite my shock and pain. The whole world was upside down but I knew who I was talking to. I looked around and found that it was all very dark.
“I should kill you, you know. Foolish human stumbling into the woods for no good reason deserves punishment.”
“Oh, but I had a very good reason. I wanted to see your beautiful form once more.” I thought that the conversation was going nicely, despite my hanging from something feet first and the general lack of visibility. Apparently I was wrong, since I got the five-fingered treatment from the youkai. “That stings,” I brought a hand to my cheek and rubbed where she had slapped me.
“It seems that you don’t understand the situation that you’re in at all,” I couldn’t see her very well on account of the poor lighting but the expression on her face seemed to be one of annoyance.
“Would you mind explaining to me then? I’m positively thrilled to see you again.”
I wasn’t sure if that had ticked her off more but she did at least offer an explanation after a sigh, “You were somewhere you were not supposed to be. You were caught and are now at my mercy.”
“Oh, I see.”
“What kind of reaction is that? You’re about to die you know, you could squirm a little at least.” I saw her raise a hand. I thought she was going to slap me again but instead it seemed that she changed her mind.
“If I’m going to die, that’s that. There’s no use worrying about it.” I looked around, trying to make sense of where I was, “Say, have you seen my field kit? It has my journal and if I’m going to die I would at least like to indulge myself a little. I’ve been meaning to draw a better profile of you, I’m afraid that I may have bungled up when drawing from memory.”
“You want what? Are you of sound mind?” The girl asked incredulously.
“If it’s not too much trouble that is,” I thought it over, “If you’re going to kill me very soon, could you at the least answer a few questions for me please? I’m afraid that even in my final moments I’m curious to know more about you.”
“You’ve picked the wrong person to make fun of,” She tensed up, her tone sounding rather stern.
“I wasn’t-” Before I could finish my sentence, the wind was knocked out of me. She had hit me, closed fist, in a rather compromising spot. I gasped for air and felt like all of the blood that was pooling in my head was rushing back and forth violently. I had a massive headache and it made me contort my face.
“I’m not one for torture but you really need to be beat up. So you learn not to make fun of youkai like that.”
“I’m not making fun of you!” I meant to exclaim, but all that came out was a dry wheeze.
I blacked out again.
It seemed like this was just a... bad end.
My idiocy would have further repercussions. When I next came to, I was luckily not suspended from something. Instead I was bound against a tree, clearly outside this time. There was some moonlight and there were starts above. It was sometime at night and I felt cold. My arm burned and I couldn’t move anything.
It was a while before I saw any other signs of life.
“There I was, thinking about how to best finish the job, when I started to think,” Wriggle reappeared, hovering in from above. Her eyes were closed and her antennae twitched, “Killing you won’t accomplish anything. You’re just a sad example of a human. It’s not like you’re a tasty hermit or anything, just a regular human. I could call over others to take care of you but I’m not sure that would be best. Maybe it would be best to hurt you some more just so that we won’t be underestimated again.”
“I’ve never underestimated you...” I croaked flatly. “I really, just... wanted to get to know you better. You’re fascinating to me.”
“Not good enough. You have to understand that I’m better than you. Know your place.”
“Surely there’s some way that we can reach an understanding, I mean no harm.”
Her mind seemed to be on an entirely different subject. Her hand went to her chin, and she seemed to consider something carefully. She simply ignored whatever few things I said.
“I could always rape you,” She said plainly. “It is what youkai do. Take humans and eat them or use them for their own gain.”
“You are rather striking and do fascinate me, but that’s not the way I wanted to get to know you,” Of course, she ignored anything I had to say. I thought about why she’d even think of something like that. The answer was obvious: if youkai were really like animals, then they would understand pecking orders much in the same way they do. In this specimen’s case, it seemed like the female was the center of the swarm and enforced her will the collective. It was fascinating, of course, and I cursed myself for not being able to jot down notes in my notebook.
“I sort of want to get a second opinion here, but if anyone else knew you where here they might simply take advantage of you,” She seemed to be anxious, the thought of anyone else enjoying the spoils perturbing her. “And after I went through all the trouble of getting the right kind of bugs that would make you pass out I don’t want to waste that effort. This is troublesome. Too many pheromones for me to think clearly.”
“Excuse me, but I’m sure that if we just talk for a moment you’ll see that we can reach common ground easily enough.” I tried a new angle, “You know, if you desire to mate then I’m sure I could perhaps refer you to someone willing or to your liking. As for me, I’d like to just be an observer.” I said something foolish and corrected myself, “That came out wrong, I mean I would just like to learn about you, not actually watch because I would derive pleasure from it or anything. So don’t misunderstand.”
“Well, whatever,” She concluded her debate, “It wasn’t in my plans for tonight but I suppose there’s no turning back. Hey you,” She addressed me directly, “You’ll learn your place soon enough.”
As if on cue the sticky bindings that held me to the tree collapsed and I slumped to the floor. Immediately Wriggle stepped on my arm, pinning it painfully to the ground. The wound on it throbbed and I whimpered in pain. Insects appeared and began to rip at my trousers and I winced as Wriggle handled me roughly. I tried to keep my mind off the pain and started to think of this event in a cold, detached manner. A self-defense mechanism perhaps, but it allowed me to remain conscious as the spiteful insect queen did as she pleased. Her teal eyes gleamed malevolently with a power-hungry look that made me shudder. It didn’t seem like words could reach her anymore.
I kicked out in desperation and somehow managed to get free.
“I’m only here to observe you,” I said feebly. I tried to roll away from her and get some space in between us.
“Rather naive of you to resist. A youkai at night is a dangerous thing. The moon may not be full but on a night like this, I don’t feel like I could lose.”
“Can’t we talk?”
“And have me suffer more of your smug nonsense? I’m no fool.” The youkai retorted, snorting deprecatingly.
I managed to somehow scurry onto my feet and almost lost my balance immediately. I wondered where Keine was, she could have been a great help in preventing this. I blamed myself for being overeager and not trusting her to do more. My back was against another tree. To my left the forest thinned out, possibly leading into plains or grassy fields. Eventually something familiar. If she could fly there was no escape. In an open space she would be able to see me immediately. I had to go into the woods if I wanted to get away. I had none of my pack and no way of knowing what direction anything was. I was completely naked in that sense.
I'm interested in what would happen if we surrendered, but in the interest of self preservation I'll vote for this. It really doesn't seem like he can talk his way outta some form of harm, though I don't think our protagonist would get killed for surrendering. Just some painful lesson maybe? Running might cause Wriggle to use more force to catch him though.
I'll be writing with just the 2 votes, as sad as it may be. So three dudes out there, check in a little bit if you're still around.
>can we get Bad Ends in this story? Have not decided honestly. Likely not. It is tedious to rewrite and too much leniency leads to recklessness. Anonymous has enough problems with not thinking things through.Take away the threat of consequences and I'm not sure where this will go.
>what's your timezone I try not to update in between the hours of 8-12 UTC since there is no one on at all at that time. Anything else is fair game since depending on my schedule I can be out during different times of the day. In general if I say, 'update in x' I'm true to it bar any emergencies and I'd usually say something in that case as well.
I don't like stating the obvious, since normally I assume you guys get it, but >You'd think being a relatively seasoned field researcher he'd know or remembered something of the layout of the forest. It's night, no point of reference since this is a random spot and thick forest looks all the same. There is description that emphasizes the fact.
I'm trying my best here, but between this and DEFT things are not looking up morale-wise. Since I'm being transparent (full disclosure yadda yadda) I'll state outright that if this keeps up I'll only be trying for a week longer. Inb4 flood of votes that happens once for some reason and then goes away - I'm not interested, I want thoughtful readers like the three or so of you.
I moved as fast as my feet could carry into the woods. I was out of breath in no time and the spots were I was struck flared up with a truly exquisite pain. Somewhere along the line I had cut my mouth or tongue or something, the metallic taste of blood flooded my mouth. It made me feel nauseous and even more disoriented. I didn’t dare look back and just pressed forward, holding on to the forlorn hope that I wasn’t being chased.
Of course I completely knew that was a foolish hope to hold. Though it seemed like an hour of running, it must have been no more than ten minutes before I felt Wriggle bearing down on me relentlessly. Swarms of flying insects intercepted me. With my momentum I swatted quite a few but their great numbers meant that soon I had hundreds flying around my head and face, severely limiting visibility. I dreaded tripping and falling because of a large root or an unseen pothole. I gritted my teeth and tried to think my way out of the situation.
“You, of course, know that my home is more than familiar to me,” My pursuer’s voice echoed ominously through the forest. It felt like she was right behind me, just waiting for me to slow down to grab me, “Really no point in running. It is fun for a while but then it just gets tedious.”
My lungs burned and I couldn’t think of anything to reply anyways. There was no getting away, I realized. Short of a miracle, I was at the youkai’s mercy. Perhaps this was what the others had warned me about, that these creatures were out of a human’s league. To be sure, I mused in between vaulting shrubs and dodging twisted branches, it did seem that she was physically superior to me. She also had abilities that were beyond my (limited) understanding. Perhaps her intellect was comparable, or even superior to my own. I had dug my own grave with over-eagerness to know.
Finally the inevitable occurred. I tripped after a bug crashed into my eye. I rolled around on the ground, rocks slowing me down and a tree trunk finally making come to a complete stop. I cursed myself for not thinking of a better way out. My instincts had perhaps gotten the best of me. I simply lay in a heap, gasping for air. It felt like my heart was going to explode and like I had only half a lung working to pump air into my body. In other words, I was in the worst shape imaginable.
“Individuality is frowned upon in a colony,” My pursuer gloated. “If you don’t learn to respect those in charge, you die.”
Even in my enfeebled state, even with my heart racing and my blood pumping like mad... despite the predicament I was in I couldn’t look away from her. Filtered by the spotty canopy, she was awash by the already dim and silvery moonlight. She stood over me with a confident pose, arms akimbo and her cape fluttered behind her like a regal standard. Her dark hair shone as much as her eyes did and her smile told me that she believed to have forced me into a checkmate scenario.
“...I’ve lost...” I whispered painfully. The passage of air down my esophagus hurt - it was like the air was sandpaper.
“Are you going to behave yourself, drone?” I didn’t know if in the excitement her perception was muddled, maybe it was my own that was confused, but she seemed to treat me like a literal insect. “Your queen is now going to teach you your rightful place.”
I groaned as she sat on my abdomen. Her eyes were full of life and energy. On another person, the expression she bore could have passed as that of a sadist’s, but in this context I knew simply that it was the face of a suzerain exercising her rights over her vassal. No matter how much the vassal may protest, the divine order ordained by a higher power gave the lord earthy power.
Her every move inflicted more pain upon me. She stuck her fingers into wounds, probing their severity leisurely despite my cries of pain. I was whimpering like an old dog by the time she had finished with all of my sores and wounds on my chest and was about to start on the nicks and bruises on my lower body. She was shameless and cold, taking no pleasure in causing me pain but rather taking pleasure in dominating me.
If I could have, I would have knocked her off of me. She was too heavy and I was too weak to do anything by that point. She went as far as sampling my blood, remarking casually, “This is delicious. Normally not to my taste, but in your case sublime.”
I was almost capable of talking again. My chest was heaving but I was managing to stabilize. I couldn’t do another run for it but I still had enough alacrity to try something. The youkai was laughing now, loving every moment of what was happening. She grabbed me by the neck violently, choking me until I almost passed out. Before my world could fade to black, she had let go and I could once again breathe. A group of insects buzzed around her, it distracted her for long enough for me to try to muster enough strength to do what little I could.
 Save strength for later  Rip into her with fingernails for as long as possible  Try to talk  Bash own head into tree trunk
I thought Mystia won too. Right then. Let's get ourselves out of this mess one step at a time.
The way I see it, > Save strength for later and > Try to talk don't do anything. Saving strength will only give us options similar to what we have now but with crap we could've avoided by not voting for it, and trying to talk will only make her angrier. That said, > Rip into her with fingernails for as long as possible and > Bash own head into tree trunk don't look like terribly attractive choices either. A hostile response is either going to make her mad for not knowing our place or somehow miraculously scratch that it kills us. The other option, as amusing as it would be and as much as it would confuse Wriggle, is just plain dumb.
>>21983 Not a matter of inspiration right now. It's a matter of being lazy/unwilling to write after being turned off. Probably not what you want to hear as a reader, but it's the truth. I'm still a bit sore from DEFT too but all the same I guess that there's a high probability that I'll get to writing in the coming hours.
>>22086 There's been a delay. Not stemming from lack of interest, mind you, just the kind that life throws at you just because it can. I'd say another half a day before I'm finally free? Then again it's not like this is that popular anyways so be patient.
The maddened youkai’s fingers tore into my flesh and ripped apart clothes. I was in a lot of pain, trying to keep my head clear throughout the slow and very deliberate torture inflicted upon me. Fascination and awe were in order, if I placed myself in an outside observer’s role. I was being manipulated like a doll, my thoughts and emotions disregarded completely as the vicious creature played with me as she pleased. This play was characterized mostly by the sadistic sinking of fingers into skin and the incessant rubbing of bodies. Already, in places, I felt my skin raw and sensitive to her violent actions.
It might have been fascinating if it weren’t so frightening. Her appearance to me was one of a wild beast, one of a thing operating on base desires rather than reason. That in itself did not bother me. I had run into wild beasts more than once. Indeed, the frightening part was the complete and thorough loss of control. The feeling of helplessness, of muscles giving up the struggle even as my weak cries suffused, seemingly unheard by the world. I had enough idiotic concentration to imagine the situation from another perspective - that of my usual detached observer’s perspective - I would have been otherwise looking upon a scene of a powerful predator teasing and playing with its subdued prey before delivering a final merciful killing blow.
I did not know what I heard. Or what I didn’t hear. Moans, screams and even whimpering melded together to create an unbearable cacophony of accusatory noise. Madness overtook me - the literal abandonment of sense and reason in the face of real and all-consuming impotence. What little strength I saved kept me from slipping completely over the edge and drove me to increasingly desperate thoughts for a way out. As I came closer to abandoning all hope and all reasons, so did the sickening feeling in my gut increase - this feeling was independent from the pain and signaled the advent of a true and much repulsive feeling. It was disgusting.
I had no reason to slip so far so as to consider prayer. In the face of growing desperation I was spared from continuing suffering.
Flashes of light and activity broke into my narrowly-defined world of pain and revulsion. A gust of searing wind knocked my senses clear out of all perception. I only vaguely comprehended the ongoings in the world around me. Much light, even more heat and loads of movement made the scene come alive. In a instant, my tormentor was gone, nowhere in sight and feeling. Glinting in my peripheral vision, I understood that the rapid movements meant the end of my ordeal somehow. I felt relief, thought I didn’t quite understand why just yet.
I curled up in the most compact form I could manage. Digging my head in as close to my knees as possible, I stayed perfectly still, avoiding all thought and movement. An eternity passed before I relaxed again, enough to bury some of the repulsive thoughts and feelings I had deep enough to be ignored for the time being. They would be dealt with at a later time, or never - it was not the time nor place to decide that.
Though I could not see it, nor much less feel the flowing of the same through my wounds, in the cruel darkness of the forest my blood seemed to gush out relentlessly. Soon, I thought with sardonic satisfaction, I would be an empty husk, much like an emptied wineskin greedily squeezed of all drops of precious drink. I would be left laying there, discarded and forgotten. These were fatalistic thoughts; It did not escape me that my senses were anything but reliable in my current predicament and that my prognosis was an undue and hasty one. With considerable fatigue, like the weight of the world was holding me down, I reached to my side. I had instinctively gone for my journal and my field kit.
It gave me no comfort to know that they were not by my side.
It agitated me to be so barren, so naked and exposed to the world. Again my current dark and mostly self-loathsome humor won another victory. My choice of thoughts did not escape scrutiny given how I was, in fact, exposed in a very fleshy and literal sense. The agitation caused enough conflict in my body to generate energy as a byproduct. That, in turn, allowed me to sit up, cough, and to further appraise my pathetically tamed form. Searching with unsteady hands, I groped around for the open sores which expelled the most blood.
I expected real rivers of blood. Instead, I only found the smallest springs and trickles of it. Comparatively speaking to my expectations. I was wounded; There were gashes and cuts that had to be bandaged but the wounds were not life-threatening if given a little care. I was emboldened by the discovered and simultaneously shaken by its implications - that my mind was the cause of most of my suffering did not sit well with me and a true panic descended into my conscious thoughts. Survival instinct overrode the panic for the time being and I was able to take a hold of myself long enough to strip tattered pieces of cloth from my vestments and fashion them into makeshift bandages. My efforts, I decided, were more important than allowing myself to indulge in a little haze of panic and confusion.
By the time that I was ready to deal with the outside world, the outside world was already looking to deal with me again. Just as swiftly and unpredictably as the first time she swooped in, my savior reappeared in front of me. The early predawn hour lent only a few precious degrees of illumination to our area Even so, in the insufferable and enveloping darkness, I could make out her light and radiant hair against the darker (and in the poor lighting vermilion red) trousers and simple and hardy top. She looked me over, checking to see whether or not I was conscious.
Noticing that I was, in fact, alive and more or less lucid, she asked sarcastically, “Had fun tonight?”
It would have made me chuckle if not for the fact that my ribs felt like they had been shattered. Little by little, as time passed, the relief from the realization that I was not bleeding out was being phased out by disappointing pain caused by the sharp and constant blunt force trauma I had endured. I was no expert on the human body, but my prime concern lay squarely on any possible internal damage.
“Can you hold on to me?” She sighed and grabbed me forcefully. I could do little but comply, as resisting would only cause more sharp pain to shoot through my body.
She carried me, my arms on her shoulder and hers propping me up and dragging me on for quite some time. Save for the pain mostly concentrated in my chest and stomach, I had lost most of my other senses. It was like a grey fog rolling in and making everything very murky. It came to be so bad that I could no longer tell if I was awake or not and I suspect that I more than once passed out.
I only really spoke once I had rested for an eternity. I was lying in shelter, in what I soon learned was the cave I had been held hours prior.
In answer to a half-forgotten question, Mokou replied, “There is a bag here which I think belongs to you.”
I was propped up against the cool stone cavern walls. The terse and distant girl placed my beloved field kit on my lap. It was like running into an old friend. Feelings of nostalgia for bygone times and appreciation for the time elapsed since our last encounter overcame me. I did not have the mental alacrity to check very carefully the contents, so I asked my rescuer for her assistance instead, “Would you kindly see if there’s a small silver and rectangular box in here? There’s an engraving on the top and bottom and an encrusted jewel on the back.”
It took her only a moment to find it and hand it to me. I dropped the field kit just to cradle the small box in my hands, pressing it up against my still sore chest.
“Do you need help getting it open?” She asked, no doubt knowing what the small case contained.
“No need, I am not in the habit of using it,” I explained meekly, my physical aching made all the better with the revitalization of my spirit. I expanded my explanation, “Nor do I chew or otherwise consume the stuff in any other way.”
“The more fool you, for not taking advantage,” She scoffed.
“My vices are already too plentiful,” I smiled weakly, “No doubt I can count this experience as a result of a vice grown too dangerous. I believe I should thank you for helping me.”
She shrugged and walked away. I could see the cavern’s entrance and her silhouette against the brightening sky. I understood the reason for her comment as she lit up and indulged in her own vice. The acrid smell of smoke found its way to me in due time and I gripped my small case even tighter; The box had sentimental value, it was a habit fostered by my father and his simple but proud container was a reminder of what he had stood for. If nothing else, it was comforting to hold the case close.
Cool moist dew lubricated the stones behind me. I had become aware of the chilly nature of the cavern some time after falling asleep again. Unable to rest, I instead turned my restlessness into a positive force. I once again tried to assess the damage to myself and to see if I was going to be alright.
“It won’t be much longer, she’ll be here soon enough,” Mokou said idly. She stood again by the entrance, looking outwards to the forest beyond.
“Do you think I’ll be fine? I’m in quite a bit of pain,” I let my fingers slide over the top engraving on the box, comforting myself.
“Who knows? You’re alive and look rather healthy to me.”
“Considering the circumstances,” I added dryly, coughing. I was in no shape to move about but felt an urge to get up and walk about.
My thoughts must have been written on my face and I got a rather stern warning, “Move about too much and you may end up killing yourself after all.”
 Rest up  Ask about the youkai’s behavior  Question her about her intervention
Longest 12 hours ever. It felt like two weeks even.
[X] Ask about the youkai’s behavior. -[X]Ask about youkai behavior in general. Your ignorance and recklessness nearly got you killed this time. You would rather not have a repeat of this situation. [x] Rest up.
Assuming that Mokou's not going anywhere, I don't see why resting and talking would be mutually exclusive.
Also, what happened to Keine? You'd think she'd have known not to stray too far from where we were, even if she wanted to set up camp.
[X] Ask about the youkai’s behavior. -[X]Ask about youkai behavior in general. Your ignorance and recklessness nearly got you killed this time. You would rather not have a repeat of this situation. [x] Rest up.
>“My vices are already too plentiful,” I smiled weakly, “No doubt I can count this experience as a result of a vice grown too dangerous. I believe I should thank you for helping me.”
Wait what? We talking about some shady drug or something else..?
>I can't help but wonder if Keine and Mokou loosely planned this. Maybe the exact encounter wasn't, but the way Keine suddenly disappeared and Mokou conveniently showed up seems a bit suspect.
I doubt Keine would do something like that, however unless Wriggle managed to fool Keine's senses with insects having her think Linnaues was safe from what was supposedly a short distance.
Mokou intervening could have very well been by chance/ Wriggle getting sloppyseconds during her assault.
[X] Ask about the youkai’s behavior. -[X]Ask about youkai behavior in general. Your ignorance and recklessness nearly got you killed this time. You would rather not have a repeat of this situation. [x] Rest up.
I'm interested in how this event will effect the protagonist's actions and thoughts in the future.
[X] Ask about the youkai’s behavior. -[X]Ask about youkai behavior in general. Your ignorance and recklessness nearly got you killed this time. You would rather not have a repeat of this situation. [x] Rest up.
My head slumped backwards and it felt like my eyes rolled inwards into my skull. I coughed again, thereafter wheezing a little when breathing. Agitation, a desire to talk, precluded any real rest I could enjoy. It was not the smartest thing to do but then again the last day had been anything but a show of peerless wisdom. It seemed that even at death’s door my inquisitive and foolhardy nature would not change.
Eyes still closed, I tried to speak loud enough for my words to carry to her, “What do you suppose caused the incident earlier? Is that normal behavior for a youkai?”
I waited a while for a reply. I kept my eyes shut, feeling that keeping them open would only remind me how utterly weak I felt. It wasn’t a logical decision, it was an emotional one. It felt... nice to dull out one of my senses, focusing instead on the small weight in between my hands. Once I filtered out my own breathing, I was able to appreciate the periodical drips of water in the back of the cavern as well as the occasional breeze singing past the entrance’s stones.
The smell of smoke returned, and she spoke amidst slow and deliberate inhalations, “What caused everything was the nature of the non-human. There is a reason why most humans keep exclusively to the village.”
“I suppose I deserve to be told off,” I rasped.
“It’s not my place,” The cool and level voice told me. She began to pace, I head her soft footsteps with some clarity. Mokou spoke again, “It’s your life so you get to live it as you please.”
“But not die as I please?” I intoned, almost opening my eyes and risking certain nausea.
“Not this time. I don’t particularly wish you ill, but I’m not in the habit of intervening in others affairs.”
Her words hinted of ulterior motivation for her actions. It wasn’t what I wished to talk about, so I danced around her implications, “Am I to understand that I was a victim to nature rather than timing? My brief encounters earlier made me think that proper discourse was a valid alternative.”
“You wouldn’t place your hand in a raging fire, would you?”
‘“What... she tried to do to me,” I felt my voice quiver and for a moment I trailed off, confused by my behavior, “...Being used like that was not what I expected. As man who likes to indulge in the study of all things natural... I like to see the pattern in nature. There’s always a pattern and a cause and result.”
“It’s not my place to speculate,” Once again my rescuer avoided passing judgment. It reminded me of my earlier fascination of her and how I saw her to be a wonderful anomaly worth much careful study. She offered a humble opinion, one that saw me hard pressed to find the proper followup, “I don’t know what others think, creature or human alike.”
I opened my eyes and looked out towards her. Her back was turned, and I could see thin wafting trails of smoke coming from the front and drifting mostly towards the outside. I thought of something appropriate to say. Failing that, I tried again to broach the subject from another angle. I was unable to say anything, as a sharp pain in my chest caused me to cough violently and my body shook with distributed pain. I had to swallow my words even as I coughed out specks of dried blood onto my hand. With every cough (and there were too many for my liking) it seemed like something was scrapping the insides of my throat and making my lungs burn.
Before I could get myself under control, Mokou was already hovering by my side, looking down on me with poorly-masked uncertainty. I realized that if I looked in bad enough shape to make her seem worried, I was in more trouble than I had initially reckoned.
“I should get you somewhere less damp,” she said, putting out her almost completely consumed smoke with a pinch of her fingers. She gave me a look over, no doubt scrutinizing my makeshift bandages and otherwise ragged appearance, “Do you think you can move?”
I croaked an affirmative, though I doubted I could offer much cooperation when it came to moving me.
“No, better forget it,” She mumbled. She gave up on the idea of getting me mobile, looking out instead to the world beyond the cavern’s entrance. She squatted down, looking closely at my injuries. With some hesitation she took out a flask from a hidden pocket and uncapped it for me. She pressed it up to my lips, commanding, “drink, it’ll help the pain.”
I could do little more but accept the liquid she poured int my mouth. It was the unmistakable taste of devilishly strong spirits, the kind that is excellent for fueling combustion. It went down with little complaint from my body, though I could still taste the metallic residue of blood with every gulp. She only gave me no more than a shot or two’s worth before removing the bottle from my parched lips. I almost immediately felt an immense warmth spread from my stomach to the rest of my body and, several minutes later, some of my pain already felt numb.
“Mokou?” I immediately knew why I was in the cave to begin with. It was a rendezvous point. Keine’s voice reverberated sharply in my skull. I was in no condition to be following the conversation closely and only caught the occasional glimpse of the two figures exchanging hushed words to my right.
“We can move him together,” Keine approached and took a good look at me. Her complexion was pallid, as white as I imagined my own face to be right then. There were lines of worry painfully obvious in her expression, no matter how much she tried to force a smile when she saw I was looking at her.
“I still think it best to treat him here,” Mokou opined, and it caused Keine to cast a murderous glance at her.
She whispered just under her breath, presumably hoping that I wouldn’t be able to hear, “I told you, I’m not confident I can treat him, he might need an expert.”
“Acting sooner than later is best,” Mokou replied at a normal volume, angering her companion by not whispering, “There’s no guarantee that things will be better there and, besides, the trip might prove too much for him.”
“A job done poorly by me might mean complications later on,” Keine answered, just barely keeping her voice down. Despite the fact that it felt like most of my sharpness of sense had been shunted to comfortable numbness, I could still perceive the anxiety in her.
“It’s a risk either way and both will take some time,” Mokou added casually, not letting emotion get in the way of reason. She then added, looking at me, “He probably understands what either choice risks, it’s only fair that he decide.”
“Do you?” Keine asked, looking into my eyes unconvinced. She explained calmly, “I can try my best, but I’m not sure that my best is good enough... it looks like you might need expert help now.” The fact that she spared no further thought to my finding out about my condition impressed upon me the dire nature of things. She was being honest because she had no other recourse.
“Just say the word, we really don’t have time to delay a decision,” There was some impatience in Mokou’s words. Understandable impatience.
 Treatment at the village  Place faith in Keine
A feverish whisper was all it took for things to go into dizzying motion. I bobbed my head, occasionally aware of the fact that cold sweat ran down most of my body; I shivered, spasming from the cold and horrible feeling that occasionally made itself felt. In this daze, I could not think too clearly, and all my thoughts were of home and years past.
“Help me get his clothes off.”
We used to have a chimney, thinking to way back. It was an inelegant hole in the study, looking more like damage to the structure than an actual household feature. Still, it would heat the room rather well as I recalled, keeping it a comfortable area for father as he worked with his parchments and his ink stones. Not being interested in the least in what he wrote, I would sit near the burning hole and pour through texts for the inspiring illustrations.
“Quick, give me that.”
“Are you sure you want to use it? It’ll hurt him.”
Ah, it was sealed up. Was it because he was gone? It was before that. The flammability of Abe, I assume.
“It’s better than nothing.”
All feeling melted away, replaced with a burning pain. It stung like the time I was playing outside and ripped my knee on that rock. I was afraid of how I wold be scolded. I wasn’t punished, instead I was calmly treated with a spirit-soaked rag and expertly placed bandages. It stung a lot at the time and I had to hold in the tears so I wouldn’t seem like a complete idiot. Ah, he had laughed as well. He knew I was pretending to be brave. That earthy roar of happiness made me happy every time I heard it. I knew I didn’t have anything to worry about.
A grey film darkened my vision and reduced much of what was going on in the cave to just shapes and occasional movement. I decided not to think too much about it, it made me tired to try to keep abreast of what was going on. I coughed again, my chest rattling strongly. Once again it felt real cold. Cold like that winter. It was something I would rather not think about, but all the same couldn’t but to do so.
“Keep holding that.”
“...doesn’t look so good.”
“...got to... keep doing that.”
It somehow became real obvious that I had drunk something earlier. It hadn’t been very nice. Not like the spirits I usually tried to secure for myself. Those were real drinks - to be sipped slowly and leisurely whilst reading a particularly good book. They were not cheap, but neither were my field supplies nor buying specimens from villagers. Making ends meet was no trouble but it always did nag at me that I could be investing my stipend in a wiser fashion. Those things delivered as far as I was concerned - they brought me happiness and much joy. So what was the problem? They cost money, everything did. No reason to be concerned about that.
At some point I closed my eyes, feeling a comfortable numbness. It was the type of numbness most commonly found when one is tired and falls into a deep sleep. I certainly didn’t mind and even welcomed the chance to wash away all thoughts and concerns. A few nagging ideas lingered on and some scant senses refused to shut off even though it was obvious that they should.
“...have mercy...our best... nothing...”
It was almost too peaceful. Tenuous reminders of everything disappeared one by one. And then finally, there was nothing else.
Even if I didn't want to acknowledge its smell, taste and general flow it screamed out asking for my attention. With the force of a hurricane, blood was pumped from my heart up towards my head; My neck felt swollen and my veins about to burst from the incredible pressure exerted inside of them. Naturally, with such force coming towards it, my head was in no position to take it easy -it felt like the supercharged flow of blood crashed into every corner and crevice of my skull with seemingly enough force to completely wreck a thick and ancient forest.
The end result of the merciless red tide was a piercing headache. As in, the whole of my head ached and it felt like spears were perforating my skull at my temples and the back of my neck. It was an exquisite pain that could find no reduction by either wishful thinking or artful positioning of my head. By contrast, I could not feel the rest of my body, so complete was the attention my nerves gave to the singular event. It was panic-inducing not to be able to concentrate on anything other than the massive event.
As is the way with most migraines, from your regular varieties to your extremes such as this, light compounds the problem. The eyes are sensitive to it and any dim candle becomes as painful to look at as the sun. Vaguely I felt myself moan, and could do little but inadvertently open my eyes to the cruel and bright world. A thousand suns' worth of bright light thrust daggers into my brain and head, making the background pounding of blood vessels seem like a quaint little novelty. My eyelids clamped shut. I moaned again, as I could not yet properly scream. Just as well, as sound also has a nasty way of aggravating the condition I was in.
“Continue observation,” A dry and steady voice ricocheted in between my ears, “Let me know when he's fit enough to talk.”
It would prove to be a frightfully long time before I could talk. My eyes remained closed and I braced my body in order to combat the sharp waves of pain emanating from my head. An interminable era of rhythmic and hurtful throbbing barely passed. Only very slowly did my perception of the rest of my body return; A cramped numbness in my knees made me want to kick out and a incorrigible itch on my left hand made me want to scratch. My heartbeat, so strong and wild earlier, was more under control – the pressure in my veins dropped to mere cringe-worthy levels.
At last, I dared to open my eyes again.
Needles of pain pricked the back of my eyes but I kept them open, hoping to make sense of where I was. Shadows and light came into focus and the sharp contours of actual shapes became discernible. My feet, two lumps under a white blanket, were the first thing I recognized. I couldn't feel my toes. I saw them twitch slightly, finding the disconnect between action and feeling to be a little all too much disconcerting. I banked my head left and right, trying to make sense of my surroundings; A large white curtain hid away everything to the left and a wall with a single window, the outside just out of view for me, was all of the greater world I saw to the right.
A chair and something like a nightstand bordered my bed to the right...
I stopped looking around, realizing that I was, in fact, in a bed. A functional high-elevation bed with an immaculate white sheets and white rails made from a hard light materials surrounding me on three sides. I once again looked down at my feet and raised a hand. I was dressed in a plain patterned tunic – gown, I realized after checking under the sheets – with short sleeves and a slit that could expose my rear. I couldn't see anything familiar on me, not even my usual cap was resting on my head. My kit was nowhere to be seen and I started to feel a slight panic coming on. Being in a completely alien place with no idea of why or how I had come there set me on edge.
I wanted to get up and walk around, to look for a way out, but found my strength leaving me as soon as I tried to sit up. I was dizzy and nauseous. I accidentally pressed my leg too hard against the bed and found that it shot a strong trickle of pain up my body; It was then that some recollections came back to me. The bandages and wrapping around parts of my body protected and covered sores and wounds. It seemed like every part of me had at least a small bandage tied around it and all of them hurt. Luckily, my face was spared of any restriction and I was free to breathe as I pleased. It was an optimistic thought, but then again sinking into despair would not help me out of whatever predicament I was in.
My left hand itched fiercely. With my head only throbbing mildly, comparatively speaking, I was able to feel all the minor annoyances and complaints my body was leveling against me. There was something stuck to the back of my hand. Though the connection (and source of the itch) was covered by adhesive bandage, I traced dark-colored tubbing to a bottle hanging inverted on a tall stand next to the bed. I did not understand why it was there. It was clearly filled with blood, dripping at the opening of the bottle into the tubbing and... I looked at my hand again and I felt a wave of nausea, thinking I understood what was going on.
“Don't touch that,” My hand was stopped short of removing the adhesive on my hand by a flat and authoritative voice. Like a child caught eating sweets before supper, I sheepishly looked around the room.
A woman with silver hair and piercing grey eyes stood by where the curtain ended. She was dressed in a white robe, their slight transparency hinting at the color underneath, and a blue cap with a red cross on it. She held black tubbing with a a metallic 'y' on one end and a metallic disc on the other in one hand. She had a small notepad in a waist-high pocket and looked completely unlike anyone else I had ever met.
She came silently to the side of my bed, checking the level of blood in the bottle. After looking me once over with calm and hawk-like eyes, she asked, “How are you feeling?”
“My head hurts and my body aches,” I replied softly, afraid that my voice would somehow bring back the cataract of pain from earlier.
“Given the condition you were in before, I would say that that is a small price to pay,” The woman spoke softly, evidently aware of the potential effect of her voice on me. She smiled, betraying a caring confidence, “You'll make a rapid recovery in no time.”
“Where am I?” I asked, “Why am I here?”
“You're at my clinic,” The woman grabbed my left arm carefully and she held a finger to my pulse. After a minute of silence, she continued to speak, “You should know why you're here,” she smirked, “your companions brought you here after their clumsy attempt to help you.”
“Oh,” Keine and Mokou's silhouette came into mind. You can't remember much of what happened after you were taken to the cave. It somehow felt like it had been years since you were there.
“You've been unconscious for a few days,” The woman seems to read your thoughts. She expands on the events prior to your waking up, “There was a lot of work I had to do to fix you up, and it'll still be a few days before you can move without risk of ripping open your stitches.”
“What for?” She inquired.
“If you really went through all that trouble on my account,” I tried to suppress the wincing I was about to do (I moved my leg again) and tried to sound as grateful as possible, “I must apologize for my inconveniencing you and thank you for helping me out.”
“Well then, it's nice to hear that. It certainly a change from some of the ill-mannered people I deal with.” She patted me gently on the shoulder adding, “Rest up, I'll be around later to check up on you. Or my assistant will.”
“I'll try...” My voice came out weaker than I intended it to. I didn't let her leave just yet, “If I may ask, what's your name?”
“It's Yagokoro,” She answered, “but you can call me Eirin if you want. It makes no difference to me.”
I was left alone for a very long time. It was just as well. Until she left, I hadn't realized just how tired I was. So I slept for a long time, occasionally waking up long enough just to feel the need to sleep again. A few times I thought I saw someone watching me but I was too out of it to confirm it. Eventually there came a time that I was finally awake enough to realize that I had other urges.
Hunger, for instance.
“Well, it's a good thing that you're hungry,” Yagokoro told me during a late night inspection. She looked about the same as she had when she last saw me, having exchanged the black tubing for a pen and clipboard. I noticed that the bottle with blood was gone and instead there was a bottle with a clear liquid dripping into my arm. She wrote something down on the clipboard, “I'll have my assistant bring you something in a little bit.”
It was only a short time later that a young girl with a tray came in. She extended a table from the side of the bed and placed the tray on it. I was too busy fixated on the girl to even notice the food, feeling uneasy about her. She was dressed in a light-colored outfit that looked as sterile as Eirin's white robe. It looked functionally different, being actual clothes instead of just a cover and it exposed much of the girl's long legs. A name tag on her left breast identified her as “Reisen”.
“Eat up before it gets cold,” She chimed in warmly. I recoiled at the sight of her long rabbit-like ears, protruding from somewhere on her fair-haired head. She looked at me with worry in her eyes, “What's the matter?”
“It's... nothing,” I said to myself as much as I said it to her. “Thank you... Reisen, is it?”
“You're welcome!” She smiled, evidently pleased that I had thanked her. Or perhaps because I had gotten her name right. “You can call for me anytime you need anything and I'll do my best to help you.”
“That's swell to know,” I felt uneasy but didn't quite know why. I forced a smile and thanked her again.
Though I was hungry, I waited for her to leave before turning my attention to the food. It wasn't much to look at, bland and mostly colorless food which suited a convalescing patient like me perfectly. I dug in cautiously, finding out that the taste was as bland as the look. I couldn't eat much of it. It wasn't enough to satisfy me but I felt that my body might reject the food if I forced it. Besides, I wasn't entirely comfortable with it for some other reason. In the end, when the girl came back, most of the food was still on the tray.
“It's alright if you didn't eat it all, it's the fact that you wanted to that counts,” Reisen's message was quite optimistic. But I ignored it and turned my head away as if I wanted to sleep. She noticed it and left without saying so much as another word.
Sometime in the morning after I woke up, I was graced by Yagokoro's presence again. Once again dressed in white and with yet another prop that exuded professionalism, a cup and a small jar with pills, she checked me over and made some small talk, “You're looking better today. The color has returned to your face somewhat.”
“My headache is gone,” I said.
“Here, swallow these,” She said as she opened the jar and took out two pills, she handed them to me and placed the cup on the tray on the bed. She explained, “These will help with the pain.”
I swallowed them gratefully with the cup of water.
“You'll be awake for most of the day today, I think,” She remarked, “It's understandable if you grow a little restless so is there anything you want to help you pass the time?”
“Are my things here with me?”
She nodded affirmatively.
“Could I have my journal, please? It's a leather-bound book with a brass clasp on the front.”
“I'll have my assistant bring it over,” She nodded again. “Is there anything else?”
 Ask for a chance to hold a proper conversation with her if she's not to busy  Admit to not feeling comfortable around her assistant  Nothing else - The pause was done for three reasons: 1) Dramatic effect, 2)To see how long it would take for more than 3 comments and, least importantly, 3)To take a small break.
Unless there were some absolute chance of Linnaeus becoming harmed in anyway by that I doubt Eirin would allow that to happen; Reisen especially considering the role she's taking in regards to Linnaeus.
Besides that, this could be a good chance to learn more about Linnaeus, such as that box he seems particularly possessive about. Especially if it's something that could be hazardous by attracting unwanted attention while out in the field.
[X] Ask for a chance to hold a proper conversation with her if she's not too busy.
Also remember to thank her for sending a cute nurse in a bunny costume. She sure knows how to make her patient happy with a little cosplay like that...I mean, those couldn't have been real ears, right? right?
>>22246 That is true, however, we've never been to this place before, if my memory serves me right, and since Eirin doesn't have bunny ears and we've only seen eirin and reisen from this place so far. Also, quoting the wiki: "Reisen's rabbit ears, strangely, always have two accoutrement-like buttons on them. It looks like the ears were linked to Reisen's head by buttons. Many fans made fun of this and said Reisen's rabbit ears were artificial."
She looked at what I assumed was my pale and sallow complexion, taking a moment to scrutinize with her hard grey eyes. I felt the acute sting of foolish anxiety, allowing my thoughts to wander towards insecurity. It was a disservice to myself to allow feelings better suited for a precocious teenager to exert any sort of influence.
She smiled, in the way those of the fairer sex do when it's to their fancy to be coquettish, “I am frightfully busy and do have a lot to occupy myself with. I can't really say I have time to spare but I suppose there's no harm in spending some time towards the evening with a needy patient.”
“I'd be much obliged,” I said.
“Come now, there's no need to brood,” She apparently saw right through me. Her words were both deliberate and whimsical, effective in making it hard for me to discern things said in jest and those with sobriety, “I always have time to help those in need. Particularly if they are distinguished gentlemen such as yourself. You do realize that it's not every average fellow that has that rancorous little girl and her special friend asking after him constantly, don't you? My, even discarding that, I'd have to say that something about you appeals to me – perhaps I'll be able to have a jolly little conversation, a real conversation, for a change.”
There wasn't anything I could really think to say. The tall and confident woman bid a warm farewell and retreated into the world beyond the white curtain. She had done so with a casual wave of her hand and a coy little smile plastered on her face. True to her word, it wasn't long before her assistant came with what I wanted.
“Is this what you wished for?” The red-eyed girl held my journal close to her chest, with the brass clasp out towards me.
Cracks in the worn leather weren't the only signs of age. There were once gilded letters on the corner, spelling out my name in handsome flowing script. The person who had given the journal to me, and taken the time to lend her penmanship for the golden script, was long since gone. It wouldn't be much longer before the characters completely faded, casting the journal's owner and her memory into anonymity.
“Yes, thank you,” I said, holding back the urge to grab the tome out of her hands. The way she held it irked me. In fact, just her being here bothered me and I wished to get her out of my presence as soon as possible, “I'm grateful that you brought me this. If I can trouble you for something to write with, I would appreciate it. Ink would probably be unwieldy in my situation so charcoal or anything else is fine.”
The girl left my bedside soon enough, having preoccupied herself with hunting down for a writing implement for me. I felt the aged leather on the back with the palm of my hand, enjoying its rough feel. My other hand, the one with the tube affixed to it, fumbled for the clasp, trying to open the time-tested book. It was more of a struggle than I cared for. Then again, even sitting up was something of a struggle for my enfeebled body. I swore at my clumsy tired hands. It took an undue expenditure of energy to finally get the troublesome thing open.
My reward was peace of mind. The pages were as crammed with annotations and drawings as I remembered them to be. I felt foolish for a moment for expecting any different but my excitement soon made me forget all about that. I poured through the contents hungrily, as if the knowledge and thoughts I had collected in there were rich sustenance. It was no less filling than a good meal; Certainly I felt as happy and fulfilled as possible, completely satiated. It was only when the girl returned that I snapped out of it.
“We have no charcoal pencils and the like, but I hope this is fine,” She handed me a rather compact pen. Wanting nothing else to do with her, I thanked her and told her I needed something else. She left, chirping gleefully, “If you need me just call out and I'll be here.”
It was easy to get lost in my own thoughts. And what was my journal if not a massive library of my thoughts? The sketches and writing, often laboriously done with the utmost care to detail, were supposedly objective renderings of my encounters. That was my aim. The reality of it, however, was quite different. I acknowledged my bias and saw the detailed drawings and diagrams as my soberest interpretation of reality. In the end, that's all it needed to be. There was no particular reason I was cataloging the world around me, save for my own amusement. Perhaps amusement dressed up as inquisitive passion, but amusement nonetheless.
I opened up a blank page, hoping to describe some of the new experiences I had undergone recently. My writing implement was the first and most obvious novelty; it was a light and blue tube, made out of a strange material. That is, except for the metallic tip from whence the ink would come out when I rolled it against a sheet of paper. A button on the top, which clicked when pressed, deployed the actual tip. It was strange to use, and stranger still was the blue ink it had, but I rapidly grew accustomed to writing with it. It was like a pencil but with ink, no smudges or bleeding through that was so inherent a problem with ink stones and brushes or the fancier quills I had tried before. It was simple and clean, something which made things easier.
I took to drawing the bottle and stand next to me. I got a good perspective sketch of how the tube came down into my arm and added a caption that it played an important role in my recovery. The truth was that I didn't exactly know how it benefited me but I left enough space to add an explanation once I found out. With additional sketches of the simple fixings around me, as well as a few thoughts on how I had been feeling when confronted with all that, I passed the hours quite easily. I didn't once feel any pain, only slight discomfort around my bandaged joints when I tried to move a little too much.
“I'm sorry to interrupt,” Reisen came back sometime in the afternoon. I tensed up, closing my journal hastily.
“Yes, what is it?” I avoided looking at her, feeling a little nauseous whenever my eyes met hers.
“I have to give you a sponge bath now, just relax and I'll be quick.”
“Do what you must,” I said with resignation. There would be no point in being confrontational or otherwise difficult.
She hovered over me, a damp sponge in hand. She began with my exposed arms, her bath feeling a little cold and wet. She talked all the while, “That book must be important to you, right? You won't even let go of it, huh? I wonder what's in there, maybe something you really like reading?”
“It's a journal, it has my personal observations and sketches,” I explained curtly. I kept my gaze to the side, avoiding dealing with her directly.
“Now that's interesting!” She exclaimed, making conversation, “It looks really old too, so you've been probably at this for a while. That's really amazing you know, not that many people have the patience to commit so much time to something like that. I tried keeping a journal of my own once. I had to give it up after it kept getting read by a certain troublesome someone.”
“Is that so...” I said with no real interest.
“The only thing you've asked for is your journal so I guess you feel uneasy without it. I can understand that.”
She was wrong. I didn't bother to inform her of that. I could do without my journal just fine. What mattered the most was being able to remember everything I had seen in the first place. Nature had endowed me with a competent memory. As long as I could have my recollections, as fractured and incomplete as they could be without the assistance of my notes, I could be at ease.
“And there we are, all done.” She announced happily. I hadn't even noticed her movements after she began talking to me. I was so preoccupied with listening to her that I forgot all about the purpose of her visit.
“I didn't even feel it.”
“That's, of course, part of the trick to doing this right,” She smiled, amused with herself. She left me alone soon enough, thinking that I was maybe too tired to keep on talking.
I was really tired by the time the sun had set. Indirect lighting (another oddity I had to comment on in my journal) kept the room bright enough for me to read and write. My candor had waned significantly and I was tempted to sleep my troubles away.
Before I gave in to the siren call of rest, Eirin checked in on me. Taking stock of my condition and checking my bandages, she played her role diligently and with expertise. Once the formalities were done with, she sat in the small chair to the right of the bed, crossing her legs.
“The day hasn't been too dull for you, has it? Being confined to bed certainly is no party.” She looked tired herself, subtle signs showing almost imperceptibly in the way she slunk into the chair.
“I've managed. I can't say I'm happy staying in bed all day, but I suppose it's for the best,” I smiled, “I wouldn't want to aggravate my wounds, now would I?”
“Not really, no.”
“Pardon my asking, but how serious is my condition? I'm no physician and I suppose the pain I feel invalidates any attempts for my own impartial assessment.”
“To be completely honest,” She sported a frank look that told me she wasn't sugar-coating things. It felt like she was telling the truth out of respect, “Most of the injuries you can see are superficial bruises and gashes, and will heal rather quickly. Even the cuts that went a little deeper won't take too long to mend, I did some of my best stitchwork there.” She paused, possibly to let the comforting thought of my being alright soak through my brain. Eirin was soon quick to move on, detailing the more serious injuries, “Your bruising wasn't only superficial, however. There was some internal bleeding and a collapsed lung I had to deal with. Those were life-threatening things if left untreated and those are the things that necessitate a longer recovery period.”
“I see...” I remarked, awestruck. Not because of my own very apparent mortality, but because of the assertive manner she had dealt with the injuries.
“Don't think about it too much, it's not a big deal. It's interesting to get cases such as yours once in a while.”
Though it sounded like she was boasting, I somehow suspecting that hers was a genuine statement. I spoke, asking another question, “When can I see the people who brought me here? I should really thank those two.”
“Next time they are around,” Eirin answered, “They came while you were asleep yesterday. I don't imagine that a schoolteacher has much free time during the day.”
“I suppose not,” I hoped I hadn't inconvenienced them too much. If I had driven Mokou away from any future possibilities of cooperation, I would be upset with myself.
We conversed for a long time. I was as interested in her world of medicine as she seemed to be about my hobby. When I confessed to sketching her apparatus and taking notes about her treatment, she laughed and took the time to indulge me curiosity about the purpose of her equipment and techniques. In one fell swoop I learned the point of an intravenous transfusion, what plastic was and was gifted the pen her assistant handed me earlier. On my part, I shared my drawings and discussed some of the plants I had observed in the wild.
“I don't know much about the medicinal properties of this one, but in the village they sometimes use an infusion of it for high fevers,” I showed her my sketch. She seemed pleased that I was sharing my limited knowledge with her.
She nodded, reading my notes, “You certainly have an acute eye and a steady hand, judging by your lines and attention to detail, I think you would make for a good surgeon.”
I laughed, “I think I'm overwhelmed dissecting the odd small creature, I couldn't imagine how hard it would be to deal with a living breathing human.”
“With practice, anything is possible.” She smiled slyly, hinting that there was something else she was talking about.
I yawned, feeling that I was close to my limit for the day. We had been talking for a long time. This was the longest conversation I had had in quite some time. “I'm sorry for taking up so much of your time.”
“Don't be, I enjoyed talking to you,” She got up, understanding that I was tired.
 Bid her a good night and rest up  Encourage her to have more conversations with you in the future  Ask to be ambulatory as soon as possible
[x] Encourage her to have more conversations with you in the future.
Strikig the middle ground here, maintaining our image as a gentleman without being too clingy. This update was filled excellent detail that kept me distracted from the fact that we were confined to a bed. Most tend to skip this recovery period. I'm really interested in why Reisen rubs us the wrong way.
The days alternated between deep, recuperative , sleep and shiftless days mired in stuffy boredom. I soon started to feel much better, enough to risk moving joins that had only days prior been inflamed and a source of constant pain. The monotonous days were spent with my quiet writing and peaceful thinking.
The shroud of asphyxiating boredom was punctured by the vivid moments spent with Eirin. At my encouragement, she began to take more time out of the day to talk to me. We spoke like we had on that evening, often going on for long hours. My hunger for the knowledge she so richly presented only grew larger as the days passed. The voracious appetite was satisfied momentarily by her detailed explanations of medical devices as well as the local flora and fauna. I deferred to her expertise, annotating additional information to my journal. In a short week I had roughly doubled the detail I had on some of the specimens I had encountered in the past, and the amount of information I gained about yet-unencountered life whet my appetite.
She, too, took interest in me, often asking me about my achievements and projects. “It's fascinating to meet someone so dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge,” She put it simply at one point. In particular, she seemed to enjoy my recounting of the techniques I employed in observation and how I categorized my notes and papers. It was strange, I believed, that there would be this level of empathy between us so quickly. Her charms and quick wits were disarming, and I felt no need to filter my thoughts so they could be understood. Perhaps this level of intellectual stimulation helped my healing process, and spurred my body to fix itself as quickly as it could. The thought certainly made me smile.
When I confessed feeling that way to her, she smiled as well, commenting, “Speaking about matters of knowledge and expertise makes me feel whole, as if my soul were being nourished.”
That line made me blush. It was a more eloquent version of what I felt, I immediately knew.
The elation generated by her visits often lasted the whole day. In part because I was seeing her more often as well. Her assistant became a rare sight, scarcely coming in once a day to attend to some small detail. My recuperation was entrusted to the woman who had fixed me up, She took over her assistant's duties, changing sheets and taking away waste. When I asked her why she was bothering to do that, that she probably had better things to do, she simply grinned, saying, “It's not a hassle at all. In fact it's my pleasure to escape my other responsibilities to be here.”
My meals became more flavorful. It seemed like an insignificant trifle the first time I was served something with actual color and substance, but I soon came to appreciate the implications. I was more spirited and was accordingly prescribed less pills for pain. Sometimes, in the dead of night, my chest would ache and I would cough unsteadily; When I inquired about these episodes, I was told that it was to be expected to have some residual difficulties but that even that would cease with a little more time. Slowly, some bandages were decreased in size and coverage. Small wounds had closed up or scabbed and under Eirin's watchful inspection I was on track to be able to walk around if I so pleased.
Of course, one of the first things I did when I was able to move about, was to visit her outside of my own room. Just a few steps past the white curtain, and through a closed door and short hallway was her office. At my stubborn insistence she helped me amble about, leaning against the walls as I went along, so that I could see where she spent most of her time. We sat in the office, basking in the warm afternoon sun that filtered through a large window on one side. She had anatomical dummies – the vacant stare reminded me of noble Abe – as well as various diagrams and informative charts all along the walls of the room.
She sat by her desk and eased me onto a examination table nearby.
“I usually screen cases here first. It's rate that anyone needs the care you did around these parts,” She said.
The cold metal edges felt cold on the skin that was exposed by my gown. I looked around, appreciating that things were just as she had described to me during earlier talks, “I had heard talk of a clinic in the middle of the bamboo forest, but no one really ever mentions it.”
“We're in a very private location,” She teased, “We cater only to the most exclusive individuals.”
“I'm honored. Certainly this place has saved my life.”
“It's our pleasure, it would have been a shame to let someone like you waste away.”
“You speak too highly of me, I'm just an obsessive fool who got himself into a fine mess...” I unwittingly brought up the subject I had been avoiding. Nary the thought of the incident had become a conscious thought that I felt throbbing coming from my wounds, throbbing which I hadn't felt for a week.
“We cannot know what the future holds,” She got up, looking concerned. She placed her soft finger on my neck, feeling my pulse, “You're pale, perhaps you should go back to bed.”
“I'm fine, sorry to trouble you constantly.”
“That's enough of that. Pitying yourself is not constructive.”
“I suppose not. My apologies.”
“It's quite alright. It was a traumatic experience you went through,” She moved her hand delicately, to a reassuring position, on my shoulder. The slight weight of her hand comforted me. She said with her serious voice, trying to impart the soberness of her message, “Not all wounds can be healed with needlework and pills. I don't wish to impose upon you, but know that it's alright to acknowledge your wounds.”
“I understand,” I nodded my head, matching her serious look with one of my own.
“I sure hope you do, it would be a waste in your case if you didn't. You'll likely have your own process for dealing with what happened and I respect that. We are all individuals, after all.”
“Thank you, that's the most sensible thing I've ever heard a physician say.”
“Now, now, we can't have any of that!” She laughed, drawing back to her chair. Her long hair draped down, the tip just touching the tip of the floor. “I can't imagine that those who have treated you in the past would be too pleased to hear that. Though I suppose I should be able to take that as a compliment. I prefer results to praise, as I imagine you have concluded.”
“As do I, really. Results really are the best thing you can get from any effort. Good intentions just don't cut it.”
“In that case, I shall be nosy one final time: If you wish to unburden, or even just flirt around the issue, I have no problem in listening. What kind of healer would I be if I only considered the physical?” She evidently got a kick from referring to herself as a 'healer'. It was true enough, but somehow I suspected that she saw herself as a simple person of reason, and any other titles were secondary. Then again, I was certain I was projecting my own feelings onto her, transposing my desires and confusing them with hers.
“That's more than I could have asked for.”
“Do not feel pressured either, like I said, you'll likely have your own way of coping. I just want to let you know that all avenues are open.”
 Time and introspection heals all wounds  There is someone else who can do a better job of understanding  Discuss the incident
It's somewhat different where Keine and Mokou would have already seen what had happen (Mokou) in particularly, compared to some one else who had not been there to witness it such as Eirin. A more objective, if not kind, view could be beneficial to Linnaeus.
“I wouldn't know where to begin,” I said darkly, contradicting thoughts churning about in a mental whirlpool. It did not take much concentration to detect the basic elements that wholly made up the broad spectrum of feelings and thoughts I had about what happened. Repulsion was a recurrent ingredient as was loathing, some of it targeted at myself. Rounding off the quartet of elements was impotence and denial.
“Just say whatever it is you wish to say, nothing more nothing less,” She beckoned me to speak with her comforting words. Hers were tactful actions, the comprehending twinge of her eyes and the disarming posture, chosen to neutralize my hesitation.
I was not sure what I wanted to say, or if saying anything was even the right thing to do. I began with a wholesome truth, “Nothing like it has happened to me before.”
I thought, collected and collated ideas and feelings and tried to present them in a tidy package of information. It was not my intent to overstate, “Persuasion by reason or by flattery rang hollow and offered no escape from what I faced.”
There was no easy way to do it, no easy way to sum up what happened. Or what didn't happen. Though I knew it was a poor trick on behalf of my body, sharp pain thrust through my bandaged and closed wounds – as if they were still raw and bleeding. I took courage. The table's edge was cold but I held on with my right hand and tried to forget about the pain.
“I – I don't have anything else to say,” I wiped the perspiration off my brow with my free hand.
“I understand,” She nodded.
It had been a mistake to bring up the subject. A part of me may have wanted to come clean, to share and to open up. It definitely hadn't been the most rational impulse. In order to deal with things, it was best to think them through before talking about them. I had not done so and could not expect any benefit in baring my soul.
“If you do have anything else to say, I'll be glad to be of service,” She spoke casually, as if I was going to talk about the weather. It was likely that that was an attempt to make `my contrition fade away. Being aware of that did not help, though it made me don a mask of unfeeling aloofness.
“There's better things to talk about, don't you think?” My voice felt faint. Speaking properly would require more concentration from my behalf, “If I had known that a place such as this, and a person such as you existed here, I would have long since come to pay a visit. For pleasure and not for any of this unfortunate business.”
“Quick to flatter, aren't you/” She noted approvingly. “I suppose I'm the same.”
“Forgive me, I try to speak as candidly as possible. It gets me into trouble sometimes, but I find it hard to resist speaking the truth.”
“I'm all the more glad for it. I don't exaggerate when I say it's a pleasure to talk to you.”
“Perhaps we are alike in that sense,” I could not help but notice her manner of speaking was casual. Not like the casualness from before, designed to calm my nerves, but one that betrayed a perhaps not completely warranted level of confidence. I couldn't help but project the same feeling, “I do hope you don't feel too insulted by my behavior. If I could-”
“Let's not have any of that, shall we?” She smiled, “What needs to happen will happen when appropriate. I've made my position clear.”
“Of course. You''re right. It's pointless to retread that ground.”
“I hat e to cut this short, but I'm afraid that it would be irresponsible for me not to urge you to return to bed.” She got up, hovering close to me. She was ready to support me as I walked. “It's no good if you push yourself too hard too early. There's still quite a ways to go before you recover fully.” She looked at my right hand, still clutching the edge of the cool metal. I felt embarrassed, easing up on the grip and allowing myself to be assisted up onto my feet.
“I hadn't noticed it,” I lay down on my bed after a short trek down the hall, “but I think I've tired myself out. I feel I need some sleep.”
“As I suspected,” She spoke softly and warmly. She made sure I was comfortably snug before turning to go, “I really ought to get on with the rest of my work. I'm sorry for that. It would be best if you rested. Sleep does the body wonders.”
My body felt rested after a few hours of sleep. Unfortunately, it wasn't the case with my mind. The thing keeping me in a distraught state was not what had happened, but how I was dealing with it. I alternated thoughts, thinking at one point that I was to rationalize and forget and the next that I should remember and acknowledge the feelings it brought down upon me. These two mutually exclusive thoughts pulled at me, allowing me no rest. In addition, it bothered me that the latter camp of thinking was winning a little. I couldn't well explain with logic some of the things I had experienced and it was killing me.
Speaking with Eirin helped, as did sketching absent-mindedly in my journal. Eventually, a few days after walking for the first time to Eirin's office, I got a visit. Vexingly enough, it was during my afternoon nap and I awoke to find a basket of bread and preserves next to my bed – a gift endearingly given by Keine. I shared the bread with Eirin later on, since my appetite hadn't recovered completely. Besides, the jam proved to be a little too sweet for my palate. Most irritatingly, I had no way of sending my thanks for her kindness.
I hoped that I would get another visitor soon. There were things I wanted to say to the two of them.
A few days after that I was able to walk around for an extended period of time. It was exciting to go beyond my room, beyond Eirin's office and into the hallway outside. I only had a few bandages wrapped on me and my stitches no longer looked so raw and pink. I marveled (under the direct supervision of Eirin) at my first impression of what lay beyond the clinic. It wasn't terribly exciting, objectively speaking. Hallways that seemed to go on forever, with a plethora of rooms in an old manor. Natural light failed to make much of an impression in the corridors, only daring to invade in full by the various small courtyards and openings the hallways seemed to lead to.
For the time being, I wasn't allowed to wander off too far. I would still get winded and had come to support myself on crutches for when my legs felt too weak to walk properly. There was a wheelchair available for my use. If I had asked to see the place, Eirin's assistant would have wheeled me about gladly. But that would have meant spending time away from the joyful physician and I had long since decided to try to maximize my time with her. My life began to revolve around the time she would spend with me, with the rest being rest and unproductive thinking. I wasn't ready to do much else. I did try my best to not be a pest, and prided myself in being able to interpret her signals correctly.
Probably in an effort to calm down my lust for exploration, I was given a choice. Well, presented with distractions anyways. One was a deck of cards with which I could entertain myself by playing alone or with her assistant. The other was a hefty little book about some of the medical principles Eirin had introduced during our first proper talk all those days ago. Both kept me away from the rest of the mansion and from unwittingly pestering her too much. They were both ways to keep my mind clear of unpleasant thoughts and engaged in activity.
An unsympathetic Wriggle and an Eirin that isn't a quack sociopath? Using the Professor' misadventure as an opportunity to introduce more characters in depth, than as a Bad End or punishment or an embarrassment for the reader.
I really, really like how this is coming along.
[x] Play Cards
A good interpretation of her lunatic eyes; most stories just gloss over the matter. I wonder why Eirin implied she was so poor a conversation partner, though.
I believe I've made a mistake. I should not have paused the narrative at this point in time for a choice. Particularly not this choice. There were several chances for Reisen to play a different role and your election to disregard past experiences is your failing. It's equally true that my failing is having provided the choice.
As far as my failing is concerned: I am going to expand on the scene with my next post, omitting the choice altogether. I apologize if you find it to be unfair, but I think it's for the best. As for your failing, there is nothing I can do but again cordially suggest that posts not be limited to a vote and perhaps a brief platitude. I don't necessarily require praise, but the occasional fragment of evidence showing conscious thought and direction. As a whole, you will benefit from the practice. I'll leave it at that, hoping that I have gotten through to you.