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No. 25655
The sky was especially beautiful tonight, she thought. As of lately, the black canvas she was so used to see felt alien to her. An old friend was missing in the picture, and in its place there stood a stranger, bigger, brighter and more colorful, yet it lacked the elegance and beauty the missing friend had. He knew that, technically, it was the same dark sky he saw every other night, but nonetheless he often found himself losing his gaze into the black firmament.

“Still, it’s not the same without it,” she muttered to himself.

She knew perfectly where it was, but she had to remind herself every time she looked above. It was all too surreal for her to swallow, yet there she was, standing where no human, fairy or youkai ever went until now.

“Ah, there you are, Konka!” a familiar voice brought her back to reality. “I’ve been looking for you for a while. Shoulda figured that you’d be staring at the stars again.”

The speaker approached from behind and patted her back with a little too much strength for Konka’s liking. In a reflex move, the woman brought her hand to the hilt of his sword instantaneously and prepared to draw, but she cut the motion short when she saw her friend’s face.

“Whoa whoa whoa, it’s me, Seita!” The young man took a step back and lifted his hands in a submissive manner, yet he still had that ever present smile of amusement painted in his face.

“By Ibuki’s gourd, man, we’re in a war zone here!” Konka let out a deep breath and relaxed her tensed muscles. “Don’t sneak up on me like that ever again.”

“Sneak up? Me? Hah, that’s a good one,” chuckled Seita. “You know we oni aren’t exactly the stealthiest ones. It’s your fault for letting your guard down.”

Konka looked down in slight embarrassment and self-disdain, for she knew Seita was completely right. Considering the place they were, she shouldn’t be getting distracted so much as not to hear her boisterous friend’s steps from at least half a mile away. This kind of distractions could very well mean the difference between life and death. And dying wasn’t on Konka’s plans at the current moment.

“Come on, don’t frown so much. That surly face ill suits you,” said Seita, flashing another of his trademark smiles. “But it’s understandable. It’s not like we can watch our home like this every day, right?” he continued, sitting down at the edge of the crater and looking up the sky.

Konka stared at his childhood friend, who also fell to the spell of the bewitching scenery above their heads. If you looked at him, nobody would guess he was an oni –obviating his two prominent horns growing at each side of his head-, what with his obsession for neatness and style. While all of their companions –Konka included- valued comfort over fashion, Seita went out of his way to wear clothes and hairstyle as gaudy as possible. Today, for example, he was wearing that white and yellow kimono with shining scales, and he tied his long blonde ponytail and his two horns with rings suiting this attire. Konka also noticed he added yet another pair of bunny tails to his collar, proudly showing off his kill count. She tried many times to convince him to wear something less flashy, that he was painting a practice target for those pesky snipers; but if there’s something oni were known apart from their impressive power and their love for booze, that was their natural stubbornness. And in the character department, Seita was the most oni-like oni of all, only second to their own Lord.

“Seita, do you feel homesick too?” Konka blurted out.

The blonde oni tilted his head.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t, but I’m having fun here,” he answered after a short while. “We have fighting to spare, and as long as the portal stays open, we won’t have lack of food and sake. What else could an oni ask for?”

“I guess it was a moot question after all.”

“But you’re not asking that, am I right?” Seita gave her friend a meaningful side glance. “I noticed you’ve been off lately. Come on, you can tell me.”

Despite of normally being impetuous, rowdy and wild like the common oni, he did have some sensible moments from time to time. Konka had good camaraderie with most of the members of her clan, and she grew to consider them as family, but no one understood her better than Seita. A heavy silence settled in while the woman searched for the right words.

“Why are we here, Seita?” she finally asked.

“Huh? Have you forgotten? We came here because the Witch of the Boundaries-“

“No, dummy, I already know that. I meant why are we, you and me, fighting this war.”

“Because that is our Lord’s wish, and as his attendants, his wish is our command,” Seita says, sternly.

“Is that it? We’re hunting rabbits and battling the gods of the Moon just because our Lord bought the Witch’s promises?”

“That’s the answer you must first give when asked, Konka, you already know that.”

“Spare me the serfdom crap,” Konka waved her hand dismissively. “I want to hear your own reasons. You must have a motive of your own to knowingly profane this sacred land.”

“Oh, I see,” he gasped. “Well, the Witch said strong enemies awaited here. And you know how much I love a fight.”

“So you came here to quench your bloodlust?”

“When you put it like that, you make it sound like I’m some kind of monster,” when he saw Konka rise an eyebrow, he broke into loud laughter. “I guess I really am one to you, aren’t I?”

“You are an oni after all; fighting is in your blood,” conceded Konka. “But you’re my comrade, my brother in arms, and my best friend foremost. I don’t reproach you for who you are.”

“You say it as if it was a bad thing,” Seita gave that characteristic smile of his again.

“No, no, that was not my intention,” Konka quickly explained. “In fact, I’m a bit jealous.”

“Really?”

“I wish it was that simple for me,” the woman sighed. “No matter how hard I try to convince myself, I still believe this war is totally pointless. There’s nothing to gain, and much to lose.”

Seita hummed in affirmation.

“You’re now thinking like a human, not like an oni,” he said. “You sound like one of those bartenders. Stop worrying so much about profit and benefit and all that crap. Just let loose and enjoy life!”

“Yeah, that’s the problem: we might lose our lifes if we ‘let loose’.”

“Oh? Is the brave and almighty Konngara Douji afraid of a bunch of bunnies with rooty tooty point-n-shooty thingies?”

Seita’s mockery was swiftly silenced with a mighty knuckle to the backhead that, to Konka’s dismay, hurt the human more than the oni.

“Of course not!” the woman said. “It’d be shameful if I get shot down before you do, with that stupid mirror vest you’re wearing!”

“Hey, I take offense for that last one,” the oni said, rubbing his head. ”But what are you so worried about? Stop beating around the bush and say it already!”

“It’s just… I want to feel like I’m doing the right thing,” Konka finally explained. “Loyalty to our Lord can take me so far, but if I don’t have a good reason for myself, well…”

“You won’t be able to do your best, right?” Seita finished for her. “And you won’t be satisfied until you give it your all.”

“Yes, that’s it.”

Seita crossed his arms and closed his eyes, deep in thought.

“A soldier does not need a reason to fight. He only has to trust his leader and follow his orders blindly.”

“But I’m no soldier. I’m a proud warrior of the Myouou Clan,” said Konga.

“And a warrior needs to believe in himself to win his own battles. Ah, I see the problem!” Seita exclaimed. “You believe you’re fighting another person’s war. You think this has nothing to do with you, and that’s why you feel so vexed.”

Konga stood in silence, thinking about what his friend said. In another of his unpredictable bursts of wisdom, he might have hit the nail yet again.

“Probably…”

“So you just have to make this personal!” the oni carried on. “Just think about what’s the most important thing for you, and keep it in mind every time you go to battle. Every time you feel you lose your resolve, remember the reason you fight, and you’ll find your strength anew.”

“The most important thing for me…?”

Konka looked up at the Earth again, and lost herself in its glow. This wasn’t the first time she fought a war, but this was certainly the first one where she wasn’t sure if it was the right thing. All her previous fights were against other youkai, fairies or humans, over mostly trivial matters that were commonly resolved by a friendly handshake for youkai and fairies, or a swift kidnapping for humans. But this war was against lunarians: almighty beings of legend that did not take an invasion of ‘impure’ youkai on their lunar soil kindly. And in Konka’s opinion, they were on their right to use lethal force against a bunch of hooligans who came to kill their people and pillage treasures for fun.

If she wanted to face them, she needed to believe she was fighting not just for the sake of fighting.

[]She fought to leave her mark on history. There was nothing she wished more than for her feats to be told all around the world for many centuries to come. She wanted to be remembered.
[]She fought to see if the tales of yore were true. Since she was little, she always was fascinated by the Moon and the tales of its inhabitants. She wanted to know more about the Lunarians.
[]She fought for her friends. Ever since she was adopted into the clan, she always tried her earnest to prove she was more than capable to fight, kill and die for her companions. She wanted to be an important part of a family.
[]She fought to find herself. Only by putting her life on the line, by staring at the face of death, she felt truly alive. She wanted to find the reason of her own existence.

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>>No. 25656
[x]She fought to find herself. Only by putting her life on the line, by staring at the face of death, she felt truly alive. She wanted to find the reason of her own existence.
>>No. 25657
[]She fought to leave her mark on history. There was nothing she wished more than for her feats to be told all around the world for many centuries to come. She wanted to be remembered.

FOR GLORY!
>>No. 25658
[x]She fought to leave her mark on history. There was nothing she wished more than for her feats to be told all around the world for many centuries to come. She wanted to be remembered
>>No. 25659
[x]She fought to see if the tales of yore were true. Since she was little, she always was fascinated by the Moon and the tales of its inhabitants. She wanted to know more about the Lunarians.

It isn't often that one finds themselves on the moon and with a rare chance to test the lunarians. All the fakes can be promptly disposed of.
>>No. 25661
[X]She fought to see if the tales of yore were true. Since she was little, she always was fascinated by the Moon and the tales of its inhabitants. She wanted to know more about the Lunarians.

Another new story eh?
>>No. 25662
[X]She fought to see if the tales of yore were true. Since she was little, she always was fascinated by the Moon and the tales of its inhabitants. She wanted to know more about the Lunarians.
>>No. 25664
[x]She fought to see if the tales of yore were true. Since she was little, she always was fascinated by the Moon and the tales of its inhabitants. She wanted to know more about the Lunarians.

A story about the Lunarians, huh? I've given up on finding a good one but we'll see.
>>No. 25667
[x]She fought to leave her mark on history. There was nothing she wished more than for her feats to be told all around the world for many centuries to come. She wanted to be remembered.

The victors write the history.
>>No. 25668
Mark in history is too grandiose, friends too cliche, and tales of yore makes no sense. I'd argue you don't have to fight someone to know them

So, let's go with this.
[x]She fought to find herself. Only by putting her life on the line, by staring at the face of death, she felt truly alive. She wanted to find the reason of her own existence.
>>No. 25669
>>25668
That's also cliche, in my opinion.

Yore is the best because it makes our protag look more intelligent.
>>No. 25678
[X]She fought to see if the tales of yore were true. Since she was little, she always was fascinated by the Moon and the tales of its inhabitants. She wanted to know more about the Lunarians.
>>No. 25679
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[x]She fought to see if the tales of yore were true. Since she was little, she always was fascinated by the Moon and the tales of its inhabitants. She wanted to know more about the Lunarians.

Everytime she stared at the night sky, Konka recalled those words.

Whenever you are in despair and confusion, remember, my child, to stare at the moon.

She reminisced about the first memory she ever had. The details were all blurry and dim, but she remembered perfectly that she was hurt and lost. She had noone left to take care of her, nowhere to go, no more tears to shed. She was only a scared little girl who had nothing left, only those words spoken by someone she held dear. But that person was gone, the name was forgotten, and the face was covered in mist. However, the words remained as clear as day:

The full moon is a large mirror that reflects the sunlight, but at the same time illuminates the darkness of the Earth. Under the dim light of the moon, all sorts of things blanket the Earth in shadows, giving birth to your fears.

She was alone. She was sad. She was afraid. She knew she had to die, but she was still alive. So she waited for the shinigamis to take her. But they never came. She spent an eternity looking up the dark sky. Why weren't they coming? Were they taking a nap under the black skies? If they were, she should sleep as well. So she closed her eyes, but she couldn't fall asleep. She was hearing noises around her, and when she looked, she thought she saw those bushes moving. She was terrified. But she remebered those words. So she looked up to the full moon. She was scared of the night, but strangely enough, she also found solace in its light.

With light as weak as moonlight, it is impossible to eliminate those shadows. But remember this, my child: just as the moon's light is nothing but a pale reflection of the sun, your fears are nothing but fabrications of your mind.

Those noises were just her imagination. Those bushes were probably just the wind. Noone was going to come for her. There was nothing to be afraid of. So she stood up. If she hadn't died, then she had to live. But when she had lost everything she knew, what's left to do?

Whenever you are in despair and confusion, remember, my child, to stare at the moon. Beyond the mirages and the shadows, there lies the true face of the moon. Beyond your fears and doubts, there lies what you are searching for.

She didn't know what to do. She didn't have anywhere to go. But one thing was certain: she would accomplish nothing if she stood there. So she began to walk, following the full moon in the sky. She didn't care if it'd take her forever to reach it. She didn't care if it was physically impossible. As long as the moon was up in the sky, she had a goal on sight; she had nothing to fear. And so, she walked on, and on, and on, until one day...

"Hey, Konka, you still with me? Hellooooo?"

Konka shook her head in surprise when her friend called on her. She was so absorted in her memories she didn't even notice Seita waving his hand at mere inches from her face.

"Oh, sorry, I was just... thinking," she explained.

"Well, it must be something very important for you to doze off like that," Seita sounded somewhat worried. "We all know how you love to stare at the skies, but you've never been so off."

"No, it's nothing, really," Konka waved her hand dismissively.

"Come on, tell me," he pressed on. "Have you found your reason?"

"Maybe..." Konka remained silent for a while before asking: "Did you know that the moon we see in the sky is only a reflection?"

"So I heard," Seita answered. "Actually, that's how we got here in the first place, right? That witch manipulated the 'border between truth and falsehood' and opened a portal in the lake's surface using the moon reflection, or something like that."

Konka recalled that moment, only a week ago. Many youkai, including the Myouou oni clan, were summoned by the Witch of the Boundaries, who claimed that she found a way to go to the Moon, and that there was an incredible source of power that would let all youkai-kind do whatever they desired, without having to depend on humanity's fear of them. This attracted youkai of different kinds and places - when the Witch made her appearance, there were about three or four thousand at the lake's shore.

Konka had never seen so many youkai crowded in such a small place in her life, not even in that town in Gensokyo where oni, tengu and kappa lived. When the Witch asked all of them to dive deep into the moon's reflection, most of them thought of her as a lunatic, laughed at her and abandoned the place.

Turned out that, in spite of all the mockery, the Witch's plan worked, and those who chose to believe her and followed her to the lake appeared on the shore of the Sea of Tranquility, one of the Lunar Seas. The initial shock and disbelief was quickly substituted by enthusiasm and respect towards the Witch of the Boundaries, who accomplished what was thought to be impossible. Soon enough, the Witch formed an army with her followers, who numbered around the thousand youkai between oni, wolf and crow tengu, kappa, kitsune, kirin, and many others. The Myouou's clan were one of the first youkai to follow the Witch into the lake, and so they were given the command of the vanguard army. This meant they were going to be the first youkai to set foot on the Lunar Capital that was rumored to be at the Far Side of the Moon, an honor that filled Konka with excitement.

However, the woman couldn't shake the feeling that there was something very suspicious about that Witch. Where does she come from? Where did she get the power to open a portal to the Moon? What are her motives to spur the youkai into marching to the Moon? Was she really after that 'source of power'? Or had she something else in mind?

"Yeah, she's a total weirdo, but she's extremely powerful, I'll give her that," conceded Konka. "But that makes me wonder."

"About what?"

"Reflections are mirages, right? An image of something that is not there."

Seita nodded, not very sure what was his friend talking about.

"But for a reflection to occur, the real thing must exist somewhere else."

The oni nodded again.

"For example, the Moon. We see only the reflection on the sky, but here we are, standing in its surface. Which means the Moon exists."

"I thought that was pretty obvious," Seita tilted his head in confusion.

"So I was just wondering... all those stories about the Lunarians should be true as well."

"... What?"

Konka didn't expect Seita to understand her line of reasoning that quickly, and not because he was an oni. The logic step she took was quite big, after all.

"You know what they say about stories? That you have to be a good liar to tell a good one?" she said. "We like stories because they are about the impossible. They make us forget about our lives, and we get hooked up to the tale of the hero. But in every legend there's a bit of truth buried between the exaggerations and speculations."

"I don't think I'm following you," Seita crossed his arms, his eyebrows furrowed.

"In a way, they're similar to a mirage, don't you see? Most parts of the stories are false, but it's very probable that they're based on real events."

The oni snapped his fingers in realization. "You believe all those stories about the Moon and the Lunarians are true?"

"Not even in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine I'd set my feet on the Moon. But here we are," Konka waved an arm at the barren scenery before them. "I'd say there's a pretty high chance those stories happened for real. And what better place to prove it than where all of those stories took place?"

"It makes sense, I guess," nodded Seita.

"Maybe we could even meet the protagonists of those tales!" exclaimed Konka excited. "I wonder if Princess Kaguya and Lord Tsukuyomi are waiting for us at that Moon Capital."

"If they are, they mustn't be very happy with us," shrugged Seita. "I reckon they don't usually deal an army of rowdy and dashing youkai knocking at their city doors."

"That, if we ever get there," sighed Konka. "I'm sick and tired of waiting here. Those bunnies have held that chokepoint for too long."

"Oh!" The oni's eyes open wide when he remembered why was he looking for his friend. "About that, Konka, the boss called. We have an urgent strategy meeting in thirty minutes."

"What!? Why didn't you tell me that first!?"

"Wait, it was thirty minutes when he sent me off to get you. So the meeting will start in... ten minutes from now?"

Konka brought her hands to her head in absolute exasperation. Lord Myouou wasn't known for his patience, so she and Seita always had to be at his side to ensure he wouldn't decide anything rash on their absence. That, and that he had a tendency of turning up to reunions completely drunk - as the usual oni custom dictated -, which didn't do any good to his already lacking tactical thinking. In fact, Konka could have sworn that Lord Myouou only sat at the table because the army needed their visible head to appear like he was doing something useful. The actual strategy part was always relegated to Seita and Konka, his two attendants.

"Seita, if the bunnies don't kill you, I will. With our Lord's noose, I swear," grunted Konka.

"You can hang me later," responded the oni. "Better get a move on. Gods know what kind of stupid plan he'll come up with if we aren't there."

"Right."

Konka took a last peek at the sky and hurried to the camp base along with Seita. In the end, she wasn't able to be totally honest with his friend. There was something else she was worried about, but she couldn't get herself to tell Seita. And it was probably unfounded apprehension, the woman told herself. There were more dire matters to deal with than a bad premonition. Still, Konka couldn't shake the feeling of uneasiness and dread off on her way to Lord Myouou's tent, where Seita told her the meeting was about to be held.
>>No. 25682
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The camp was boiling with activity when Konka and Seita arrived to the camp. In a striking contrast of the calm and unnerving stillness of the last week, everybody was now frantically rushing to their tents to prepare for the upcoming battle. Tengu were flying over the tents , kappa were making the last tweaks to their apparels, some oni were asking loudly for their lost weapons over the ruckus, and fairies were getting in everybody's way as per usual. As she pushed her way through, Konka noticed that there were no kitsune nor kirin in the crowd, and she pointed this out to his companion.

"Back at the portal at the Sea of Tranquility. Witch's personal orders," explained Seita. "My guess is that she'll explain it at the reunion."

Konka didn't like the sound of that. The kirin and the kitsune were the responsible of maintaining the spells that controlled the atmosphere gravity at the camp and stabilized them to Earth's levels, since the Moon's conditions didn't support terrestial life. If the Witch ordered them to pull back, did that mean they were going to retreat? Konka shook her head. They couldn't return to Earth this soon, not after going so far.

"Another reason to hurry," shouted Konka over all the noise, as she sidestepped to avoid a sprinting kappa carrying a heavy pile of boxes. "Dammit, we're not gonna make it at this pace! Seita, please?"

"On it," Seita stopped and cleared his thought, and then, "EVERYBODY MOVE!"

Everybody stopped suddenly when Seita's shout roared over all the voices. When they saw the oni cladded in the shiny yellow kimono and recognized him, they quickly opened a path for him and Konka to the center of the camp.

"Thank you," said Konka. The woman had to admit standing out like Seita did have its advantages.

Two minutes later, woman and oni arrived at the tent that served as the command center. Konka took a quick glance at the flags at the top, waving at the artificial wind. She saw the Yakumo's coat of arms standing the tallest of all: a big purple eye over a complex round sigil with inscription Konka couldn't distinguish at that distance. As the commander in chief of the youkai army, the Witch's emblem had to wave higher than the others - though she seldom played her role and often left the skirmishes to the other youkai leaders. She also recognized the other blazons surrounding the tent: the sword in flames crowned with a silver lariat of the Myouou oni clan; the five-leaved orange fan of the Sojogatani tengu, the bow and the lute crossed over a stormy cloud of the Feng kirin clan, the purple will-o-the-wisp of the Inari kitsune family, and the eggplant floating on a pond of the Yanagita kappa.

All the important leaders were there, and they probably had started the reunion already. Konka took a deep breath and put on her stoic face, the one she always had when she performed her role as the attendant of Lord Myouou. She looked at Seita, who smiled at her and nodded, and she pushed the curtains of the tent open. The tent itself was quite simple: there was only a mattress to sit on; a rectangular table, and hung on one wall, an extremely detailed map of the lunar surface that the kitsune cartographers drew with the information of the tengu scouts' reports. Standing in front of the map, Lady Inuri was explaining something to the other five people sitting at the table: Lord Sojobo and his attendant Tenma, Lord Yanagita, Lady Feng, and Lord Myouou. Konka noticed that Lady Yakumo was absent today as well.

"... of lately, the number of long range magic attacks to the portal have increased a 66,756 per cent over the past three days. Yet the intensity of said attacks is, to say the least, underwhelming."

Lady Inuri was a nine-tail kitsune of orange fur and pale skin, with bewitching beryl eyes that glimmered with wisdom and guile. Her white and purple dress inscribed with all kind of sigils and characters made justice to her reputation as a sage of infinite knowledge, and so did her carefully calculated and analyzed strategies. But there was something else about her that Konka couldn't quite put her finger on. The leader of the kitsune gave the impression she could read everyone on the room like an open book just by glancing over them. And considering how kitsune were known for their incredible magic prowess, Konka's hunch was probably founded.

"Maybe they haven't figured out how to break the magic barriers yet," Lord Sojobo spoke his guess, as he fanned himself with his seven feathered fan. "Those attacks might be to measure the strength of our spells."

Lord Sojobo was a warrior of legend and one of the most influential rulers of the crow tengu in the world, though by his appearance, nobody wouldn't say that. In contrast with his second-in-command Tenma - who sat at his side and was wearing a simple yet elegant blue and white kimono - Sojobo donned a ragged brown vest which clearly showed that he cared more about comfort than appearances. His short uncombed black hair and gawky wings made him look like he was taking a nap when he was summoned to the reunion, and if the rumors Konka heard about him were true, it might have been the case. But despite his slovenly looks, his talent at swordsmanship, sorcery and strategy were undisputed, as he proved everytime he went to battle.

"No, I don't think so," retorted Lady Inari. "If your reports are correct, they have enough firepower to simply blow them to pieces if they wanted. I suspect this is a warning."

"A warning?" Lord Yanagita sitting at Lord Sojobo's right tilted his head, as he took a sip of his glass of water.

The Wise Kappa reminded Konka of a raisin, with his petite and tanned body filled with wrinkles everywhere. His voice and his complexion were frail, and his bald head and inexistent eyebrows showed his old age, but his intellect was even sharper than Lady Inari's. Or so the stories went. It turned out old Yanagita was becoming senile even for a youkai, and he had troubles to keep up with the rest of the strategists when they discussed matters of war. Because of that, he'd normally listen to the other leaders in silence, while ocassionally asking questions and dropping a pearl of wisdom or two. At least until the subject derailed into techno babble. Then there was noone who could stop Lord Yanagita's rambles, praising the advanced Lunarian technology.

"They're telling us they could destroy us at any time," Lady Inari answered with a grave voice. "But they're refraining to do so. They're being merciful by giving us a chance to retreat."

"Smug bastards!" Lord Myouou pounded the table with his fist in anger, and Konka could hear the wood crack under his force. "Who the hell do they think we are!? We're not going to go back with our tails between our feet like that!"

Konka and Seita's boss could be described with one word: imposing. His face was frozen in an expression of wrath: browed wrinkles, left eye squinted looking askance, lower fangs biting down the upper lip. His corpulent physique and prominent muscles exuded the strength all oni were feared and respected for, and his long red tangled mane made him look as if he was some sort of fire deity. Many people cowered at the mere sight of Lord Myouou the Ravager, but once you got on his good side, he proved to be an enjoyable company and a loyal friend.

"Their threat is clear. If we're not careful on our next move, we could lose our only way back to Earth," a young-looking woman sitting at the left corner of the table stepped in the conversation. "And I believe I don't need to remind you that it'll mean our end."

Everything about Lady Feng Nuo, the leader of the kirin, was exotic: her melodic voice, her argent hair bunned up with a gaudy tiara, her vaporous and colorful clothes. Watching the kirin gracefully floating around the camp was quite the spectacle, a total break from what Konka was used to see. The woman knew very little about the kirin: only that they came from the West, and that they agreed to help in the Lunar invasion as long as they weren't on the frontline. Only the Witch knew what was their reason to aid the Japanese youkai in the war. But their mastery of elemental magic was evident, and the artificial air everybody was breathing at the moment was owed to them. Besides, they also livened the boring nights up with their songs and dances, so they were quickly accepted into the youkai circles despite many details about them being unclear.

"If it comes to that, we'll take them down with us! A hundred bunnies for every youkai that falls!" roared Lord Myouou. "But hear me well: I won't be sitting idle here while those little runts are taunting us!"

"Calm down already, will you?" Lord Sojobo cut him short. "I don't know about you, but I plan to return home alive, and I believe the rest of us do as well. We can't afford to lose more people. We need to reassess our situation with extreme caution and-"

"Shut up, I don't need a skanky crow to tell me what to do!"

Konka had heard enough. She knew it was disrespectful for her to interrupt her superior while he was talking, specially in an important meeting, but the situation was becoming critical. The last thing they needed was an inner fight between the different factions of the army. Besides, it was her job as an Lord Myouou's attendant to control her boss' usual fits of rage. So she took a deep breath and spoke before Lord Myouou offended the crow tengu further:

"Please reconsider, milord. Their hold of the canyon is too tight, even for us. Everytime we attempt to charge at their trenches, many of our troops end up injured or even dead. We need to think of a different tactic to break through."

Lord Myouou and the rest of the people in the room noticed Konka and Seita's presence at the door. The oni boss shot a fiery glance at his subordinate, who began to feel a shudder building up her spine. That stare always scared her, no matter how many times she saw it already.

"Look at it this way, boss," Seita jumped to the rescue, as joyful as usual. "If the portal is destroyed and we get trapped in here, who will get the news back to Earth? Who will tell the people that milord struck seven thousand Lunarians down on his final stand? The tales of our feats and deeds would be forever lost. And that'd be most unfortunate."

Lord Myouou closed his eyes and hummed in deep thought. Of course, thought Konka, he didn't listen to reason, but he didn't like the idea of his prowesses being left untold either. She couldn't help but tip an imaginary hat to Seita for remaining calm and logical in front of his angered boss, and for exploiting his weak point. It was only logical that he knew exactly how to deal with Lord Myouou, Konka thought, seeing as he had been at his side for much longer than her.

"Alright, alright," Lord Myouou apparently calmed down. "So we need to figure out a way to reach the Lunar capital before they destroy the portal, right?"

Konka contained a sigh of relief. The crisis was averted thanks to Seita. And now that they arrived at the reunion, they could make sure their boss wouldn't throw another tantrum. The woman took the moment to walk around the table and sit down at his left, while Seita did at his right. Like it was supposed to be from the beginning.

"No, they'd know we're coming from miles away," said Lord Sojobo. "We have to destroy their source of firepower foremost. Then we can focus on breaking through the chokepoint," he pointed at the map.

"That'll prove to be useless. They'd replace their weapons with new ones in a few days," Lady Inari shook her head. "I suggest we break their lines of communication.

They won't attack the barrier if they don't know we're advancing."

"But we'd need to attack them from behind to do so," said Lady Nuo. "Which is what we've been trying to do for a week."

"Besides, their methods of communication are much more effective than ours," Old Yanagita added. "They can send a message to their capital in just a fraction of second with their machinery. They'll know immediatly when we're attacking."

"We're worrying too much about triffle matters," exclaimed Lord Myouou. "It doesn't matter if the portal gets destroyed or not; when we invade the Lunar Capital and get the power of the Lunarians, we can open as many new portals as we wish."

Konka had to admit he had a point. If the It was the oni way of dealing with problems: charging against them head first and pummel any opposition down under your feet, or die trying. The stakes were high, and the final prize was tempting, however...

"Bear in mind that the moment we lose the portal, we also lose our supply line," Lord Inari spoke Konka's objections for her. "We'd stop recieving food, weapons and materials."

"If we could only find a way to strike the enemy's heart..." muttered Lord Sojobo, piercing the map with his severe eyes. "A way to destroy their weaponry and communications from the inside, without alerting the capital..."

"Your wish is granted, Lord Sojobo."

A female voice came out of nowhere and startled everyone in the room. When Konka looked at the source, she saw a strange black gap in the air that lead to a mysterious space filled with creepy red eyes. And from that gap, a woman with blonde hair and purple eyes popped out. She weared a deep purple dress, a pale pink mob cap with a thin red ribbon, and smaller ribbons tied liberally on her accessories and the tips of her hair. To complement her unusual attire, she carried a pink lace parasol and a paper fan, which she used with grace and class to highlight her mysterious aura.

"Lady Yakumo!" exclaimed Lady Inori. "About time you showed up!"

Everybody at the room bowed their heads politely at the Witch of the Boundaries, and Lady Yakumo returned the gesture with a smile brimming with amusement. Despite her mature looks, the Witch's expression was akin to that of a child who was dying to tell a secret to his friends.

"My wish is granted? What do you mean by that, Milady?" asked Lord Sojobo.

"It means I've found a way to get to the enemy's neuralgic center," Lady Yakumo floated towards the map. "Have you ever heard the adage 'a sly rabbit will have three openings to its den'? I bet Lady Nuo has, at the very least."

"Oh yes, I have," chuckled the kirin. "It's from my country of origin. But I believe you are refering to the literal meaning, aren't you?"

"That is correct," nodded the Witch, as she wiggled her finger at a certain point of the map. "Around here, by pure luck, I stumbled upon a secret cave hidden on the coomb. It looks like it hasn't been used for a very long time, but if my estimations are correct, it leads to the enemy's entrenchment from the East."

"Impossible! We explored every inch of the canyon and its surroundings before we settled the camp here," Tenma, Lord Sojobo's assistant, spoke for the first time. "If there was a hidden cave around the area, our scouts would have discovered it."

"As I said, I found it by mere chance," Lady Yakumo shot a cold glare at the female tengu. "The entrance was invisible to the normal eye. I think this thing had something to do with your scouts' inability to find it."

From another gap, the Witch produced a strange apparel of Lunarian technology and placed it over the table, so all the present could see it. The machine looked like a small walkie-talkie, and judging by its rusty appearance, it had spent a lot of time at the mercy of the outdoors - more than Konka imagined at first, because she remembered that the Lunar atmosphere had less oxigen than the Earth's, so the oxidation process would take even longer. Lord Yanagita took the object in his hand and examined it with a keen eye.

"This looks like an obsolete version of the optical camuflage device the Lunarians use," he stated after a few seconds. "And you say this was still working? I'm frankly impressed. All this rust should have prevented it from functioning properly. This only goes to show how incredible their technology-"

"So that entrance was hidden by the Lunarians a long time ago," interrupted Lady Inari. "Have you inspected where the tunnel leads to?"

"I was on enemy's territory. I did not want to risk being found, especially since I was all alone," explained Lady Yukari. "However, I did cast a quick clarivoyant spell, and I can confirm the tunnel leads to an old mine, where the Lunarians have settled their outpost."

"Do the Lunarians know about the existence of this entrance?" asked Lord Sojobo.

"I cannot say for sure. The tunnel itself seemed abandoned and unkempt, but..."

"Then we should assume the worst, and expect traps and ambushes there," infered the tengu leader.

"I'd rather step right into their traps than to waste more of my time headbanging an inexpugnable hold," Lord Myouou said. "We finally found a crack in their defense, I say we exploit it now that we can."

"But what if that's exactly what they want?" Lord Inari had still some concerns about all that. "We shouldn't send our whole army there. They might be waiting for us to mow us down."

"Let'em try!" Lord Myouou clenched his fists tight. "It's about time they learn what are we youkai made of!"

Konka listened for a while their scuffle before she sank into her own thoughts. There was something very fishy about all that, and it wasn't simply the high chance of an ambush at the old tunnels. She was more worried about how did Lady Yakumo discover the entrance. She refused to believe the Witch found it 'by sheer luck'. She surely must have known something else she didn't want to share with the rest of the leaders. But truth to be told, their situation was desperate. The youkai army was beginning to lose their morale after not being able to advance for a week. If they wanted it to stay glued, they needed to do some kind of progress soon, and Lady Yakumo's discovery was their best shot at it, as dangerous as it seemed.

Konka shot a glance at Seita. He was still listening carefully the discussion between the commanders, but apparently he had nothing to contribute. The woman felt she needed to say something, but what?

[]That tunnel was clearly a bait set for them, and they weren't going to bite it. Instead, they should have focused on...
-[]Launching a full-scale attack at the chokepoint and overwhelm their trenches. There'd be heavy losses, but their strongholg would fall under the youkai army's might.
-[]Searching for an alternate way to invade the trenches, or failing that, a roundabout to attack the stronghold in a pincer attack.
[]It was too risky for a big group to take the tunnel route. But a team of four or five people may have been able to infiltrate the trenches, sabotage the Lunarian weaponry and communications from the inside, thus weakening the stronghold for the main army to crush them.
[]Divide and conquer: a group would charge the chokepoint head on as bait, while the other would attack the trenches from the inside using the tunnel.
[]The whole army would take the tunnels and strike the enemy from the inside. Those bunnies wouldn't even see it coming.
[]Write-in.

>>No. 25683
[]It was too risky for a big group to take the tunnel route. But a team of four or five people may have been able to infiltrate the trenches, sabotage the Lunarian weaponry and communications from the inside, thus weakening the stronghold for the main army to crush them.

MC gets a chance to explore Lunarian tech and set up for the following battles.
>>No. 25684
[x]It was too risky for a big group to take the tunnel route. But a team of four or five people may have been able to infiltrate the trenches, sabotage the Lunarian weaponry and communications from the inside, thus weakening the stronghold for the main army to crush them.

I've seen DKR, sending the entire force down a narrow tunnel seems like a recipe for disaster.

A small force would fit better. We'd get to see the Lunar capital and some of the residents for ourselves.

And if it is a trap. . . well at least we won't loose the whole army.

I like this story, I like this alot. Kongara doesn't seem to be used at all in stories, anywhere on this site.
>>No. 25685
[x]Divide and conquer: a group would charge the chokepoint head on as bait, while the other would attack the trenches from the inside using the tunnel.

Tactical decisions.
>>No. 25686
[x]It was too risky for a big group to take the tunnel route. But a team of four or five people may have been able to infiltrate the trenches, sabotage the Lunarian weaponry and communications from the inside, thus weakening the stronghold for the main army to crush them.
>>No. 25687
[X]It was too risky for a big group to take the tunnel route. But a team of four or five people may have been able to infiltrate the trenches, sabotage the Lunarian weaponry and communications from the inside, thus weakening the stronghold for the main army to crush them.
>>No. 25694
File
Removed
"If I may..."

Before she knew, Konka had already opened her mouth and spoken. All the people in the room stopped bickering and stared intensely at the her, who felt the pressure of their gazes on her. She could almost hear them say 'What's with this subordinate? She came late to the meeting, and now she dares to interrupt us?'. If she hadn't anything of use to add to the discussion now that she got their attention, she was in for serious trouble. But since when did that stop Konka? After all, that's exactly why Lord Myouou wanted her by his side at these reunions: because she wasn't afraid to speak her mind, because despite her honesty being brutal sometimes, she always spoke sense.

But then why did Konka have the feeling she was going to regret it later? Still, there was no turning back; Konka had to spill the plan she was brewing inside her head.

"If we don't make a move now, our troops will lose their morale and will disband from our army. That tunnel is our best hope to penetrate their stronghold, but we cannot simply rush there with all our troops. Not when we don't know what lies there."

"That's a nice recap of our situation," said Lord Sojobo. "But summaries aren't going to help us win the war."

"I haven't finished," Konka raised her hand. "If Lady Yakumo's assumptions are correct, and the tunnel really leads to the Lunarians' armory, then I propose the following. A small group of four or five members will take the tunnel, infiltrate the trenches, and sabotage their weapons and communications from the inside. Once they accomplish that, the main army will attack the chokepoint from the front."

"We've been doing that for a whole week. What's the difference this time?" Lord Myouou asked.

"The Lunarians rely heavily on their technology," explained Lord Yanagita, forcing his weak voice to be heard. "They always know when our troops come from, and they react quickly to ambush our forces and shoot them down with their weapons. If we take away their guns and their ability to communicate between themselves..."

"... they'll be like defenseless hares, not posing any serious threat," infered Lord Sojobo.

"And they'll fall easily under our feet," the oni lord nodded in realization. "But only four or five people? Why such a small number? A bigger group is more than capable of accomplishing the same thing, and it'll be easier for fifty soldiers to stir their lines up than for five."

"No, this move is meant to be as silent as possible," explained Konka. "The whole point is to render them deaf, mute and crippled before they notice it, so that when our army strikes, they'll be unable to counterattack or send an alarm to the ones who are attacking our barrier. And for that, the infiltration team must remain undetected at all costs."

"The bunnies will definitely notice fifty people trying to get in from the tunnel, no matter if they're waiting for us or not," added Seita. "A reduced team will be faster to move among the enemy lines, and they'll be less likely to fall on any possible traps."

"You do understand that if anything goes wrong, the team will be done for, right?" argued Lady Inari. "They will be vastly outnumbered, and the enemy knows the terrain much better. If by any chance they do fall in a trap, they won't stand a chance."

"That's why we need to send the best warriors we got," explained Konka. "People who can move around undetected even in enemy lines. People who are able to detect traps and work around them without setting alarms off; who can find their way around uncharted territory. People who can improvise in case they get caught-"

"Your plan sounds promising, miss, but you might be asking for too much," Lady Yakumo sighed, "I wonder if we have anyone smart and skilled enough for this difficult and dangerous mission..."

The Witch was trying to appeal to the presents' prides, but Konka knew better than that. It was going to be difficult to find someone who met their needs and agreed to follow such a risky plan. It wasn't for lack of talent: most of the youkai in the army were powerful and intelligent enough to accomplish the objectives. Still, although the youkai were always up for a challenge - the very prospect of proving their might was enough to get their gears pumping -, that didn't mean they would be willing to risk their lives in a suicide mission that easily. Konka realized that someone had to set up and example, to cross the line, for the rest to follow.

And by the glance Lady Yakumo was giving her, it was clear who that someone was going to be.

"I guess I should go," said Konka, after taking a deep breath. "I'm the one who came with this plan after all."

"Then I'll go too!" jumped Seita immediatly after her.

"No, you stay here," Lord Myouou interrupted him. "You're more useful at my side, on the front lines, commanding our forces."

"But-"

"Besides, you aren't one for stealth, you said so yourself," the red-haired oni waved his hand. "Leave this in Konka's hands. She's reliable and capable enough on her own. I'm sure she'll deal with this with no problems."

"Yes, milord," Seita bowed slightly and sat down.

Konka was flattered at his boss' praises, but she actually felt more surprised at the fact that he spoke something sensible for a change. With his rowdy nature and his flashy clothes, Seita would definitely fare badly at sneaking mission. In fact, no oni was suited for it, knowing their disgust for underhanded tactics like that. They'd end up getting impatient and rush the enemy ahead without care; something they couldn't afford to on the plan. In that sense, having Konka in the team would ensure the presence of a member of the oni clan without putting the mission success at risk unnecessarily.

The woman saw Tenma whispering something at Lord Sojobo's ear, and then the tengu leader closed his eyes and crossed his arms, deep in thought. After a few seconds, he spoke:

"If you need sharp steel and sharper cunning, then we tengu can provide both. My attendant has expressed her desire to accompany Lord Myouou's servant in this operation, and I can lend you one of my best scouts to guide you through the tunnels and past any traps the Lunarians might have prepared."

Konka stared at the female tengu in curiosity. The tengu attendant remained calm and collected, ignoring or not noticing the human's glare. 'A desire to accompany' her? It was probably a convoluted choice of words from Lord Sojobo's part, but Konka couldn't shake the feeling the tengu attendant really wanted something with her.

"We also need someone who knows enough about Lunarian technology to sabotage it properly," pointed out Lady Inari.

"What, can't they just simply smash it apart?" Lord Myouou shrugged.

"Smash what exactly? Do you know what needs to be destroyed and how?" asked Lord Sojobo pejoratively.

"Most Lunarian weapons work with gunpowder, if I recall correctly. If we set their stacks on fire..." Lady Feng guessed.

"No, setting gunpowder on fire in a tunnel is not a good idea," spoke Lady Yakumo. "The resulting explosion would alert every rabbit on the vicinity. Plus there's a risk of destroying the roof, or flooding the trenches with smoke. We don't want our team to die crushed or asphyxiated."

"But what if there was a way to control those fires remotely?" Lord Yanagita dropped the question as he stroke his chin in thought.

"Enlighten us."

"One of my apprentices is working on a piece of stolen Lunarian weapon that we found on our last raid. A special kind of explosive that can be set up and detonated them from a distance safely. If we hide some live charges on their weapon stashes and activate them once the team gets ou-"

"Wait, so that explosion of two days ago was...?" Lord Sojobo interrupted.

"Yeah, that was him performing the final tests," the kappa leader scratched the back of his head, apologetically.

"That thing blew up half the kappa camp, right? I saw the fire cloud from miles away," commented Lord Myouou.

"So you already have an idea of how much punch it packs, then," I'd say it's ideal for this kind of mission, so you should take some with you."

"I'd... rather not touch that explosive without knowing how it works," commented Konka. "I don't want it to blow it up on our faces."

"Then bring Kuchibi with you."

"Who?"

"My apprentice. The one working on the explosives. He knows how to handle them."

"You sure? He did blow up the research lab," pointed out Lady Nuo.

"But that was only a slip up!" the old kappa argued. "He claims he has learned how to control them already."

"I don't know..." sighed Tenma, scratching her pointy ear. "Tampering with technology we do not fully understand seems too risky."

Konka shared her concern. A kappa who had the bright idea to test an extremely volatile and dangerous weapon on a tent in the middle of the camp, and with other alien technology to boot, wasn't exactly worthy of trust.

"Then again, the whole operation is risky," Lady Yakumo said. "Besides, if we're lucky, we can masquerade the explosions as a malfunction, giving the team more time to escape..."

"I'd still prefer to work with what we are used to," argued Konka. "Can't we bring a kitsune or a kirin with us, so that they can set up some delayed action spells or something?"

"Sorry, but we haven't any mages available," explained Lady Inuri. "All capable sorcerers are occupied reinforcing the portal and the barriers surrounding it. We can't spare more hands."

"That's too bad," grunted Tenma.

"So we're stuck with the pyromaniac kappa, then," sighed Konka.

"H-h-hey, Kuchibi's not a bad kid," complained Lord Yanagita. "And he's also quite handy in battles as well. You won't regret bringing him in this mission, I promise."

Tenma and Konka were about to say something, but they were quickly interrupted by Lady Yakumo.

"All the vacacies have been taken!" the Witch smiled. "The team will assemble at my tent in one hour, and we'll go over details there. Meanwhile, you will conduct a total movilization," she looked at the five youkai generals. "Every combat-able troop must be armed and ready at the entrance of the gorge in two hours. Make sure the rabbits see us preparing to launch another attack. Any objections?"

"Works for me. Those rabbits are up for a nasty surprise," chuckled Lord Myouou, clenching his fists in anticipation.

"We will entrust the success of this operation to your capable hands," Lord Sojobo spoke to Konka and Tenma. "Show those Lunarians why should they fear the youkai."

"We will, milord," Tenma said, bowing. Konka mimicked the tengu's gesture.

"So, everybody agrees with the plan?" asked the Witch. After all the people nodded in acceptance, she clapped her hands. "Well then, now for the most important part!"

Everybody looked at the blonde youkai, the obvious question painted in their faces.

"We must think of a cool a name for this operation! Any ideas?"

-------------------------------------------------------------

After thirty minutes of heated discussion - in which ten of them were spent on convincing Seita that naming the mission after the act of practicing oral sex on male genitalia was regarded as tasteless and disgusting -, the majority of the strategist agreed on calling Konka's plan "Operation Y.O.U.K.A.I." (Youkai Operating Underground Keep Asploding Impercieved). In Konka's opinion, that was an incredibly childish, flippant and immature name, and it showed a lack of seriousness at the prospect of fighting a war. Of course, noone listened to the grumpy attendant, even though as the assigned leader of the strike team, she should have had the last word at naming the mission. Besides, she had more things to worry about that flipping over acronyms.

Konka had a bit of free time before the final meeting at Lady Yakumo's tent, so she decided to spend it on...

[]Hitting Seita's tent and having a nice little chat with her old friend, and maybe a last plate of sake.
[]Going to Lord Myouou's tent and help him prepare for battle. She was his attendant, and her place was at his side.
[]Searching for Tenma. She wanted to know why was she so eager to join Operation Y.O.U.K.A.I.
[]Checking on the kappa's camp and meet that Kuchibi kappa guy. She wanted to check personally if he was reliable enough for the mission.
[]Going to Lady Yakumo's tent early. She wanted to have some words with the Witch alone.
[]Being alone with her thoughts at that crater, meditating and practicing some sword moves.
[]Visiting any of the other lords' tents
-[]Lady Inuri, the kitsune sage.
-[]Lord Sojobo, the tengu warrior.
-[]Lord Yanagita, the old kappa.
-[]Lady Nuo, the mysterious kirin.
[]Write-in.


---------------------------------------

Pic not 100% related. It's supposed to be Seita, but that's the only image that partiallt matches the descriptions so far. If only I could draw. Oh well.
Also, I spent more time thinking of that stupid acronym than I want to admit.
>>No. 25695
[x]Being alone with her thoughts at that crater, meditating and practicing some sword moves.

Let us reflect before we head into battle.
>>No. 25697
[X] Hitting Seita's tent and having a nice little chat with her old friend, and maybe a last plate of sake.

If there's something Konka needs to tell Seita, this could be her last chance.
>>No. 25698
[X]Hitting Seita's tent and having a nice little chat with her old friend, and maybe a last plate of sake.
[X]Going to Lord Myouou's tent and help him prepare for battle. She was his attendant, and her place was at his side.

Checking up on clanmates, just in case.
(I'm assuming multi-voting's allowed, if not, then count just the first option)
>>No. 25699
[x]Hitting Seita's tent and having a nice little chat with her old friend, and maybe a last plate of sake.

Feels appropriate.

Also, I think we'e missing one team member. There's Konka, Temna and the Tengu Scout, the mad scientist Kappa from what I've read. Am I missing anyone?
>>No. 25700
>>25698
No, for now you can't to multi-vote. I want to set the bases for the worldbuilding before allowing you to have more liberty to choose. I'll let you know when you can.

>>25699
You've counted correctly; those are all the members of the infiltration team. There was going to be a magic-user member in the beginning, but in the end I decided against it, so you'll only have four people in the group. Or if you want an in-story explanation, all the mages and sorcerers are busy strengthening the portal to the Earth and the barriages. Besides, Konka did mention 'a team of four of five people'.
>>No. 25701
>>25700

Cool just wondering, that was nagging at me a little.
>>No. 25706
File
Removed
[x]Hitting Seita's tent and having a nice little chat with her old friend, and maybe a last plate of sake.

The idea of sharing a last conversation with her dearest friend was compelling to Konka. And if she recalled correctly, Seita had a bottle of good sake hidden in his stash somewhere - or so he told her himself. Considering how risky her own plan was, Konka felt like she needed that pint of extra courage and folly that only alcohol could give. Drunkenness is nothing but voluntary madness, a sage of old times once said, and Konka knew she had to be a bit mad to pull it off. Normally the oni wouldn't share his booze so easily, especially now that alcoholic beberages scarced, but Konka believed he'd make an exception for his old friend before a great battle. In fact, if she managed to convince him to open a bottle, chances were Seita would end up drinking more than the human.

And so, Konka found herself in front of Seita's tent. As Lord Myouou's right hand, Seita's tent was fittingly placed at the right of the oni lord's hut - whereas Konka, who always sat at Myouou's left, had hers on the left. The hut was nothing special: just a batch of leather patches hastily sewed together and nailed to the soil with fours pegs. All the other youkai slept on similar ones, but Seita's position as Lord Myouou's personal attendant gave him the privilege of having a tent for himself alone, and so did Konka. Privacy was a very valuable commodity in a war zone, and the oni liked to take advantage of that. Konka wondered what would he be doing this time as she opened the curtain of his tent.

She was welcomed by a dense cloud of smoke of very distinct smell. The aroma was strong and pungent, and it faintly reminded Konka of pepper. But the worse part was that it also made her mind go fuzzy and slightly disoriented, and that's why she absolutely despised it.

"Seriously, Seita, I don't know how can you stand this stink," Konka said between coughs.

"Huh? Oh, Konka, it's you," Seita's voice came from somewhere amidst the thick mist, slurred. "I don't think there's anything wrong with the smell. In fact I think it's preeeeetty darn good."

The woman waved her hand to dissipate the clouds, and she found his friend laying on a couch, smoking his pipe with a blissful and relaxed expression. As she supposed, the smoke was coming from said pipe. Whatever Seita was smoking, it must have been strong to produce such a smell, but then again, the threshold for "strong" stuff was different for humans and onis. If it applied to booze, it probably held true for that too.

"You should try it someday. It helps to relax," continued Seita.

"I'll pass. I'll never get used to it," Konka dismissed. "But I could use a bit of sake."

"Fancy yourself. The gourd is under the hammock."

That was easy, thought Konka, as she entered the tent. She usually needed to pester Seita for a minute before he agreed on sharing booze with her. Without giving it much importance, the woman walked into the oni's hut. Seita's tent wasn't particulary big, but Konka still treaded through the fog with care to avoid tripping over some strange ornaments the oni had brought from Earth. After a bit of rummaging, she found the small gourd hidden between some spare clothes.

"So, what brings you to my lair, dearest of my friends?" asked Seita.

"Can't a woman pay a visit to her comrade and have a little friendly chat before heading to battle?" Konka removed the cork from the gourd and poured a bit of sake on a red plate.

"On the contrary, she's strongly encouraged to speak to this horned fellow whenever she wants," he chuckled. "It's just that you and I have been extremely busy as of lately. It's rare for us to talk twice the same day."

"Yet you always seem to find time to flirt around with those tengu and kappa girls," the woman took a sip from her plate.

"Eh, a man needs to keep himself in good shape, you know," Seita pointed at his crotch with his pipe. "After a whole weak without smashing any rabbit heads, I decided I should hit on someone else before I got rusty. If you know what I mean."

"I bet you haven't managed to score anything in neither department," Konka jabbed the oni's side.

"Hey! I did hunt myself some rabbits last night!" Seita pulled his collar made of rabbit tails to show Konka.

"Then why are you complaining?"

"Because they didn't put up a fight on their own!" Seita shot a furious glance at Konka, as if she just asked the stupidest question in the world. "Without them bunkers and them mines and them other popguns, those Lunarians are weak. As weak as rabbits. Veeeeeeeeeery weaksauce, I tell you what."

"Uhhhhhhhh-huuuuuuuh?"

Konka had never seen Seita so moody, at least not before drinking a dozen barrels of sake. What in the world was in that pipe to make him behave like that? No, on second thought, she didn't want to know.

"They couldn't put up a good fight even if their lives depended on it. Well, their lives did depend on it. And look how they ended up! In a collar!" the oni began to laugh for no good reason. "Poor rabbits. At least they'll give me good luck. They are better amulets than they were ever soldiers."

"I thought it was rabbit feet the things that give good luck?" Konka scratched her head.

"Oh. Really?" Seita stared at his collar for a few seconds. "Doesn't matter. I think they look cool. Goes with my style. Do you think they look cool, Konka?"

"Uhhhhhh, sure, whatever you say," the woman didn't feel like arguing with his friend about his fashion sense, much less in his current state.

"Of course they do! Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one around here who cares about their garments. Like, seriosuly, everybody wears the same old boring kimono. Y'all should tear a page from those kirin's book. Did you take a look at how they dress? Those damsels sure know how to enhance their looks. I mean, daaaaaaaaaaamn," Seita noddded to himself, and a lecherous grin started to form on his face.

"Can't say I have. I'm a woman too; I don't go snooping around other females' cleavages."

"Since when being a woman was an impediment from enjoying those mountiful sights?"

"It's 'bountiful'," Konka let air out of her nostrils noisily, about to lose her patience. "Or were you trying to make a pun?"

"I don't know. Maybe?" he shrugged. "I'm not even trying."

"You should stop smoking that at once. Not before such an important battle."

"Hey, it's not like I do this everyday. It's just that I'm bored. Veeeeeery bored. I need a real fight."

"You'll have one in a few hours, but you need to be in perfect conditions, so-"

"Alright, alright! I'll drop it, happy now?" Seita put out his pipe with his fingers. "Why did Boss have to forbid me from going with you in that mission? I swear, I'm the only one who doesn't have fun here."

"He needs someone level-headed to keep the rest of them from charging into battle before the appointed time, and only you fit the bill," Konka explained. "You know how rowdy and impatient he gets before a battle. And Boss knows it too."

"I know that feel," the oni sighed. "I also feel like screwing tactics, charging ahead, and smashing some heads, mind you. I just... can't sit tight with our enemies in front of us, y'know. We have fight on our blood! If you know what I mean."

"Besides, I'm sure you wouldn't like this mission at all," continued the woman. "It'll probably involve sneaking, ambushing, backstabbing, arson and other underhanded tactics you despise."

"I'm okay with arson. Just saying."

"... Right, I forgot," Konka brought her palm to her face in exasperation. "But my point still stands: You'd not enjoy it in the least. You'll get your share of rabbit hunting once I'm done, don't worry."

"So you'll have all the fun while leaving us the scraps?"

"No! No, on the contrary," the woman shook her head vigorously. "Going on a killing rampage inside their den is madness, even for four of us. Most probably we will just limit to destroying their weapons and drive the Lunarians off their hideout, for you to kill once they get out."

"Ohhhhh, I see now," Seita nodded in understandment. 'Had he been listening to the reunion at all?', thought Konka.

"Well, I suppose that's how it'll be. I don't know if Lady Yukari has other plans on her mind."

The woman's voice trailed off in concern. She did her best to conceal it by drinking another sip of sake nonchalantly...

"And what's in yours, dearest of my friends?"

... but she couldn't fool Seita, who knew her enough to know something was worrying her sick.

"Nothing. Just thinking... this war is so unlike all the other quarrels we had back on Earth."

"Well, yes. That's one of the reasons why we are here in the first place, right? To find other adversaries to face in battle?"

"No, you know that's not what I mean."

Konka shook her head and looked down at her plate. She didn't know if it was because of the waves on the sake's surface, because of the fog, or because she really was doing such a face, but she found her expression disturbing to look at. No wonder how Seita could tell she was having gloomy thoughts.

"Then stop beating around the bush and say it already, will you?" exclaimed the oni, patting Konka's shoulder. "If you keep your concerns to yourself, they'll end up poisoning you. Better to spit them before they eat you from the inside, right?"

Konka let out a long sigh and took another sip from her plate. She felt the pleasant and strong sensation of alcohol burning up her throat and nostrils, and basked on it for a second. It was all she needed to let her tongue and her worries loose...

[]But she decided no to share them with Seita. After all, they were probably just her imagination, unfounded presages.
[]She spoke about Lady Yakumo. Her powers, her motives, her actions, everything about her was mysterious and suspicious. Should they really trust her so blindly?
[]The Lunarian threat was something deserving of concern. They could annihilate them whenever they wanted, but for some reason they were reticent to do so. Why? And what if they decided to pull out all the stops? Would they still have a chance?
[]It's just a bad omen, but something told Konka her plan wasn't going to work. Yes, she was the one who came up with it, but with so many things unknown, there were many chances everything could go wrong.
[]She had the impression she was the only one who was taking this war seriously. All the other youkai thought of it as a mere game. But war does not work like that. Those Lunarians are fighting to protect their home, whereas most of the youkai only were in for the fight. And that could make the difference.
[]Write-in.

>>No. 25707
[x]She had the impression she was the only one who was taking this war seriously. All the other youkai thought of it as a mere game. But war does not work like that. Those Lunarians are fighting to protect their home, whereas most of the youkai only were in for the fight. And that could make the difference.

Damn, I want to ask more but you can only choose one, right?
>>No. 25708
[x]She had the impression she was the only one who was taking this war seriously. All the other youkai thought of it as a mere game. But war does not work like that. Those Lunarians are fighting to protect their home, whereas most of the youkai only were in for the fight. And that could make the difference.

Man oh man, so many tough choices. I gotta go with this one. I feel like this one would resonate with Konngara the most.
>>No. 25710
[X]She had the impression she was the only one who was taking this war seriously. All the other youkai thought of it as a mere game. But war does not work like that. Those Lunarians are fighting to protect their home, whereas most of the youkai only were in for the fight. And that could make the difference.
>>No. 25723
[x]She had the impression she was the only one who was taking this war seriously. All the other youkai thought of it as a mere game. But war does not work like that. Those Lunarians are fighting to protect their home, whereas most of the youkai only were in for the fight. And that could make the difference.
>>No. 25727
File
Removed
[X]She had the impression she was the only one who was taking this war seriously. All the other youkai thought of it as a mere game. But war does not work like that. Those Lunarians are fighting to protect their home, whereas most of the youkai only were in for the fight. And that could make the difference.

Konka remained silent for a few seconds. She had the feeling that what she was going to say was going to offend her friend, considering the conversation they had at the crater minutes before. While she was searching for the right words to soften the blow, the woman took a third sip from her plate. Although she prefered her sake colder, she enjoyed the fruity yet acidic flavor of the drink, and the cool, stinging aftertaste tingling on her throat.

"This is some good stuff you had stashed, Seita," Konka commented. "Where did you get this?"

"Oh, that. Remember when we were on our way to the lake and we came across the tengu parade?"

When the Witch of the Boundaries summoned all the youkai to take part in the Lunar Invasion, many heeded her call. The Myouou clan planned to regroup with other oni tribes at the Misty Lake, but when they arrived, they found out that some tengu families had already set their camps there, waiting for other tengu to join. This led to a series of misunderstandings and confusions that, added with the usual rowdiness of the oni and the thrill of battle that had been building for a while, ended up in a massive scuffle. Tengu and oni attacked each other with punches, kicks, swords, hammers, magic, gourds, basins and everything they got, and both sides got so riled up they got to the point they couldn't tell friends from foes anymore. Many youkai ended up with several injuries even before the real war even started - Konka considered herself particulary lucky for avoiding being wounded in that fight.

"Yeah, that was nasty," said Konka, recalling that incident. "But quite fun, nonetheless. Seldom we have the chance to engage in a battle royale with the best tengu warriors of the land."

"You can say that again," chuckled the oni. "And once you get to know them, they turn out to be excellent drinking buddies."

Even so, the hurting was nothing the youkai's physical abilities couldn't withstand. Just as quickly as bones mended and cuts closed, bad blood gave way to camaderie, and later that night, everybody was already drinking and partying loudly like they were old friends.

"So you stole the bottle of sake in the middle of the fight while everybody else was busy?" asked Konka.

"Aw hell naw! I'd never stoop so low!" Seita frowned, disgusted at the mere thought. "No, I won this in a fair match against Tenma."

"I see... wait, against Tenma? That Tenma?" the woman blurted in disbelief.

"Eeyup," he nodded. "When I barged at Sojobo's tent, she jumped out of nowhere and went directly for my neck! But luckily I managed to put my club between me and her knife," he waved his arms, trying to reenact the scene. "Pushing her away was easy, but she didn't give up, and tried to slice me again, that pesky persistent crow."

"Uh-huh," Konka was already too enthralled with Seita's story to remember why she brought it up in the first place.

"We went at it for a long time, while the rest of you took the skirmish elsewhere. I had reach and strength, but she had skill and endurance. We were still trying to kill each other when they came to tell us the misunderstandings were cleared and that we had to stop fighting."

"That explains it! I was searching for you all the time, but I couldn't find you," commented Konka.

"Were you? I'm sorry... but yeah, I was kinda busy trying not to get beheaded."

"So that's it? You stopped fighting and joined the party like nothing happened?"

"No, neither of us wanted to leave our duel unfinished. Not without a clear winner," he shook his head. "So we continued our little quarrel at her hut."

Konka already guessed how it ended up, but she was too curious not to ask him nonetheless.

"And...?"

"Let's just say I had reach and strength, and she had skill and endurance."

Seita's smirk was all Konka needed to confirm her suspicions. Still, imagining the stern and composed Tenma going wildly at it with the balmy and rowdy Seita was a rather bizarre and zany mental picture for the woman.

"But who won in the end?" she asked, trying to get that image out of her head.

"We decided to call it a tie after nine rounds," he chuckled. "And we changed liquors as a token of our consumated rivalry and friendship."

"So this is a personal gift from Tenma?" Konka finished her plate and picked the gourd again.

"A special brand of sake, flavored with cherry petals. Only the tengu know the recipe, or so she told me," nodded Seita. "Pour me some, please."

"Then it must be a very rare brew," the woman took a second plate, poured the rest of the bottle on it and gave it to the oni. "Now I feel bad about drinking it."

"Don't be. Drinking alone is so sad and boring! Sake is best enjoyed with buddies," Seita took a long sip. "I prefer my booze drier and stronger, though."

"Shouldn't you save it for when you have another 'quarrel' with Tenma, then?"

"I could, yeah. But..." he took another sip. "A fine liquor like this is better suited for a finer person. Like you."

"Wow, you're a real charmer, you know that?" Konka smirked, already used to Seita's flattering. "Did you use a similar pick-up line with her too?"

"Nope. My ass is for any pretty girl, but I save my wit only for the dearest of my friends."

Seita grinned at Konka and gave her a sly look, and she raised her eyebrows in mockery. They stared at each other for two long seconds, and suddenly they bursted out laughing loudly in unison.

"Okay, that- that was corny as hell," Konka said, still chuckling.

"See? This is the kind of laughs I can't get with anybody else. Tenma might be a good companion for a night, but you're much more fun to hang around with," Seita raised his plate to his friend.

"I'm flattered," the woman mimicked the oni. "Well, I'm glad at least one of us is enjoying his time."

"What? You don't find my company pleasant enough? Aw, that's cold, Konka," he put a hand over his chest, pretending to be hurt by her comment.

"No, no, it's not that. It's..." the woman sighed, knowing that she was about to break the good mood again. "This war is not like all these merry fights we're toasting over. How... how can you be enjoying them? What fun do you see in killing rabbit people?"

"I believe we already had this conversation a few minutes ago," he pointed out.

"I wanted to ask you then, but we were in a hurry."

"I see. Well, I enjoy this war because it's just another fight for me."

Seita answered the question like it was obvious. This left Konka dumbfounded, who could not believe what the oni said so non-chalantly.

"This war is completely different! It has nothing to do with our battles back at Earth! It's bound up with hatred, boastfulness, disregard of all rules, sadistic pleasure-"

"I still can't see the difference," Seita shrugged. "We act like that with every adversary, as far as I recall."

"The difference lies in that the Lunarians don't think this is a goddamned game!" Konka snapped. "They won't be forgiving like the rest of our opponents, because we're invading and defiling their homeland. They have a good reason to kill and die for, unlike us. The Lunarians will certainly not sit at the table and drink tea with us after we get bored of fighting. No, this war will be over only when we retreat, or when they get annihilated."

"Then so be it."

"What?"

"Look, Konka, I don't know why the Lunarians are against us, and I couldn't care less," Seita spoke in a cold tone completely unfit of him. "The only thing that matters to me is that they're our enemies. And anybody who gets in my way will be crushed under my club."

"You..."

"I fight because it's in my blood, in my nature. I want to prove myself better than my adversaries. When I fight someone, I feel the urge to break their ribs wide open, plunge my hands into his chest, rip out his heart and show it to him while he draws his last breath," Seita clutched his free hand, squeezing an imaginary heart. "That's total victory for me, and I strive for no less. I don't want to simply defeat my enemies in combat. I want to crush their wills, their hopes, their dreams. I want to dominate them, and conquer their souls."

Konka looked at Seiga in utter disgust and disbelief. It wasn't the first time she saw the oni having a fit of sadistic brutality, but she couldn't get used to see his normally gentle friend speaking like that.

"Okay, that part was played up a lot," conceded the oni, trying to calm the woman down. "I know you're asking this because you believe we need a just cause to fight a war, and you don't think ours is. And I admit it, it isn't. I for one just want to do what I do best, and that's fighting. I love it, and that's a good enough reason for me."

"...Do you all of you youkai think the same way?" asked Konka, disheartened.

"Most of us do, I'd say."

Konka remained in silence, thinking about everything Seita told her. She opened her mouth about to say something, and closed it when she couldn't find the words. She repeated this for a couple of times before she finally spoke:

"Gah, who am I kidding? Look at me, critizing all of you for not having a good enough reason to be at war, when I don't have any at all," she sighed.

"Weren't fighting to know more about Lunarians?" asked Seita.

"I pondered about that and... it doesn't make much sense," Konka shook her head. "I'd love to see by myself if the legends are true, but at the same time I'm killing the only ones who know the truth behind the rumours. That isn't logical, is it?"

Seita shrugged, not being an oni who followed logic with much frequency.

"I thought I had it all together, you know. That if I believed I was doing the right thing, everything would sort itself out someway or another," the woman sighed. "Now I just look around and realize, I'm a mess. I don't know what's right or what's wrong. I don't know why I do things anymore."

"You don't have to."

"Huh?"

"I believe you're worrying too much about all this," said Seita. "So what if you don't have a good reason to go to war? Maybe your cause lies in the battlefield, not outside."

"So you're telling me I should kill people to find a reason to kill people? That makes even less sense!" exclaimed Konka, exasperated.

"But you're forgetting one basic thing here, Konka," Seita raised a finger.

"What is it?"

"War is not about fighting for your cause. It's about making the other bastards die for theirs."

It was the kind of answer she expected from him, Konka thought while she nodded slowly, but it was a good advice nonetheless. Confidence in her own motives helped, but they didn't necessarily ensure victory in a fight. A battle was ultimately decided on "The Three S", as she liked to call: Strength, Skill and Strategy. In the heat of battle, honor was discarded and causes were forgotten; all they ever needed to fight was a little hot blood and the knowledge that it was more dangerous to lose than to win. And Konka had both of those at spades.

Beyond the mirages and the shadows, there lies the true face of the moon. Beyond your fears and doubts, there lies what you are searching for.

It didn't matter if she didn't believe her reasons were 'just' or not. She had a clear goal in mind - learning the truth about the Lunarians - and she had every intention in the world to fulfill it. Even if her path was clouded in fears and doubts, she'd cut through the fog and charge forward until she could see the light again, until she reached the true face of the moon. That was the oni way of dealing with problems, the way she was taught, and the way that always worked for her.

"Yeah, you may be right. I might be fretting too much over this," Konka finally said. "I'll just go there, do my thing, and live to tell the tale."

"Atta girl!" Seita smiled and patted Konka's shoulder. "Now that your moral dilemma is finally solved, let's celebrate it with another bottle!"

"Sorry, but I can't stay longer. The meeting with Lady Yakumo is about to start."

Konka didn't know exactly how much time she spent at her friend's tent, but she deemed it sensible not to arrive late at two consecutive reunions the same day.

"Oh, that's too bad. Guess I'll save it for after the battle, then," Seita took the gourd of sake, plugged the cap back and hid it again under his hammock. "And I suppose I should be getting ready myself too."

"Yeah, wouldn't want to keep our boss waiting," she said as she stood up. "Now he's one guy I don't want to face, with or without good causes."

"You tell me!" laughed the oni.

"Well, I'll bid my leave now. Thanks for your council and company, Seita."

"Anytime, dearest of my friends. Oh, and..."

Konka was about to leave the tent, but she stopped when Seita called her.

"Yes?"

The oni brought his fist clenched to Konka, in a sign she knew too well.

"Give'em hell, Konkara!"

The woman corresponded the move and pumped his fist with her own, chuckling.

"You be careful out there, too."

And with that, the woman left the oni's tent, feeling a bit more reassured and confident than when she got in. Although she got used to the stink of whatever Seita's was smoking, Konka appreciated the fresh air as she got out. However, the stink was lingering on her clothes, and her breath reeked of alcohol. The thought of running to her tent and preening herself crossed her mind, but she doubted she had any time left for that. In the end...

[]She decided to go back to her tent and tidy herself up. Showing up reeking of smoke and alcohol was a bad idea - she had to look presentable at the very least.
[]She decided to rush to the reunion. She already arrived late at one today - she couldn't afford to miss another.


-----------------------------------

This update arrived later than usual, because of Easter, b-day, exams and a small writer block. The firsts drafts of this update turned out too angsty, and it's still too soon to make this grimdark. I think I managed to cut it down a few notches, but I still have the feeling I didn't do a too good job...
>>No. 25728
[]She decided to rush to the reunion. She already arrived late at one today - she couldn't afford to miss another.

Kinda of a tough choice but I think this one works best. As long as Konka doesn't seem drunk, I THINK she'll be passable.

I enjoyed that little Mass Effect nod with Seita there, made me chuckle.

I'd say this found a good balance. Though I myself am not much of a writer so take it with a grain of salt.

Konka is dealing with some heavy stuff, right now I imagine.
>>No. 25729
You truly are like a mad wild beast, aren't you, Seita? Pathetic.

[x]She decided to go back to her tent and tidy herself up. Showing up reeking of smoke and alcohol was a bad idea - she had to look presentable at the very least.
>>No. 25734
[X]She decided to rush to the reunion. She already arrived late at one today - she couldn't afford to miss another.
>>No. 25743
[X]She decided to rush to the reunion. She already arrived late at one today - she couldn't afford to miss another.
>>No. 25767
I know not how many people are you following this story. But I'll have you know that, although it has been inactive for almost two months, I haven't forgotten about it. The reasons I haven't advanced this story range from pesky college work, to more focus on my other story in this site, and a huge constant writer block. Concerning the latter, I have spent much time this past week trying to continue Soiled Surface.

However, after many futile attempts to get something relatively good done, and some reassessments of this story's ideas, I have reached the conclussion that the way this story is going is not suitable for my plans. Therefore, I decided to rewrite the whole story in a completely new way, with many elements changed to make the idea I had for Soiled Surface more entertaining to read and easier for me to write. I will start from zero with a different title, different premise, different characters and different writing style.

tl;dr This story will be thrown to the scrapped pile, but I will rewrite a new one based on the ideas I had for it with more changes. My apologies to all of you who were following this.
>>No. 25769
The rewriting of this story, now retitled The Youkai Crusade, is in >>25768

Let's see if this time I don't find so many blockades while I write.
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