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File 136950878626.jpg - (349.89KB, 750x800, The Astral Knight.jpg) [iqdb]
25768No. 25768
The First Genso-Lunar War.

The very first encounter between youkai and lunarians is shrouded in mystery. But now, after more than 1000 years, a portion of the truth behind it has been revealed. After the publishing of Hieda no Akyuu's update of her Gensokyo Chronicles, in which the First Genso-Lunar War was briefly mentioned, I used powers and my sources to further delve into this obscure period of the history of youkai. Following my newshound's instinct, I searched for more and more details, cross-checking and corroborating tiny bits of information, pulling from minuscule and hidden threads.

There was a reason for my obession. The roots of the war lie in the invasion Yukari Yakumo led against the Lunarians. After somehow amassing a whole army of blood-thirsty and rowdy youkai, the Witch of the Boundaries modified the boundary between truth and falsehood, and plunged into the moon's reflection on the lake's surface.

Although the might of the combined forces of oni, tengu and kappa was astounding, they still couldn't fight against the Moon's dominion over the youkai's biggest weaknesses: science and exorcism. Yukari's army retreated to Earth after being crushed by the Lunarian's advanced weaponry and spiritual magic, and because of this humilliating defeat, youkai learned not to attack anything outside their territory.

This, of course, can be found in any history book written by youkai, or even in Hieda's Gensokyo Chronicles. But I noticed a strange similarity in the materials I gathered. There were several accounts about a warrior, all followed by the title "Astral Knight".

She is the woman I seek.

This mysterious knight fought across the Moon's surface at the youkai's side, and disappeared from history after the war ended. She was a lone warrior who inspired both fear and admiration on her enemies and allies alike.

But most of the information I found was incomplete. Still, I was intrigued. My newshound's instinct seldom betrays me, and I was certain I would find something interesting if I pursued the history of the First Genso-Lunar War through this warrior. Would it be the hidden truth behind the war? Or just another battlefield legend, like the ones our parents used to tell us when we were little nuggets?

I wasn't able to meet the Astral Knight herself, unfortunately. Actually, it is questionable if she ever did exist. But thanks to my unrelenting search of the truth, I was able to track down several individuals who met her in person, or at least knew her beyond the fables.

Firstly, I arranged a meeting with...

[]The Tiny Night Parade of a Hundred Devils
[]The Spoken-of Unexplainable Phenomena, Strength, and Spirits
[]The Empress of the Heavenly Dimension of Crow Demons
[]The One-Armed Horned Hermit
[]The Witch that lurks in the Border of Phantasm

Expand all images
>>No. 25770
[X]The Tiny Night Parade of a Hundred Devils

Alright then.
>>No. 25771
[X]The Tiny Night Parade of a Hundred Devils
>>No. 25772
[]The Empress of the Heavenly Dimension of Crow Demons
>>No. 25773
[x]The Spoken-of Unexplainable Phenomena, Strength, and Spirits
>>No. 25774
[x]The Empress of the Heavenly Dimension of Crow Demons

Someone has played Ace Combat Zero I see.

I liked the original, I wanna see where this goes.
>>No. 25775
[]The Empress of the Heavenly Dimension of Crow Demons
>>No. 25776
[x]The Empress of the Heavenly Dimension of Crow Demons
Only because I don't actually know who that is.
>>No. 25777
It might be the god Okuu will eat a few centuries later. Probobly not though She died in china iirc.
>>No. 25783
File 137012496047.jpg - (151.11KB, 787x787, sup.jpg) [iqdb]
25783
[X]The Empress of the Heavenly Dimension of Crow Demons

I decided to start with the closest source of information, who also happened to be at the frontlines in the war, leading the tengu with her legendary bravery, unparalled skill and brilliant stratagems. Nowadays, although the flames of conflict have long died down, she still leads us with wisdom and benevolence in these peaceful days.

Lord Tenma, ruler of the tengu and overseer of the Youkai Mountain. At the time of the First Genso-Lunar War, however, she did not bear the title of head of the tengu yet. Tenma was one of the many servants who served under Lord Sojobo, the true King of the Tengu. It is popular knowledge that King Sojobo preferred to spend his time meditating to achieve enlightment instead of governing his kingdom. He relegated his regal properties and duties to a group composed of twelve servants handpicked by himself, and in his stead, the Council of the Great Tengu ruled all the Tengu in Japan for many centuries - always under the supervision of the oni. Tenma was one of those twelve members of the Council.

When Yukari called for all the youkai available to launch her invasion of the Moon, the Dai Tengu Council responded by sending Chancellor Tenma and her best men. As I mentioned, Tenma was not one to stay behind and watch the fight unfold, despite the fact that a person of such importance to society should be far from the battle. No, she would even be the first to charge at the enemy, alongside the group of oni that would later be known as 'the Four Deva'. It was there, at the barren grey battlefields of the Moon surface, where their legend was born.

It was safe to assume, then, that Tenma would know about the mysterious and equally legendary Astral Knight that kept appearing all over the reports.

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

Arranging a meeting with Lord Tenma was much more difficult that I initially expected. As the leader of all the tengu in Gensokyo, Tenma is responsible for the taking of decisions, the approval of new laws and proyects, and many more tasks of political nature that do not appertain to this article. Suffive to say that it was nearly impossible for a simple journalist like yours truly to have a short audience with our ever busy ruler, let alone a long and tranquil interview. Not by the normal channels.

But a true newshound must not be tied down by bureaucracy, morality or loyalty in the search of the truth. If the laws did not allow me to talk with Tenma alone, then I had to resort to more underhanded methods.

Without delving too much into details, let's say I took advantage of a "favor" a certain member of the court owed me, and he prepared a very special seat at Tenma's side in the dining table. Still, having a card with my name on the table didn't make me a member of the Court. Blending in with the crowd was the easy part: put on your best attires, hold your head high and act all snobbish. Do not avoid conversations; rather, show that they don't deserve to talk with you. If they do speak to you, mind your speech: your words must be gentle like a breeze, and venomous like a viper. After working around with that kind of people, their ways and customs are bound to rub on you, and in no time you will act like them too.

Then, after a couple of hours of superfluous and uninteresting chatter, we were called to the dining hall. Tenma was waiting for us at the end of the table, bottle of beer in hand and the mild blush in her cheeks. Many people argue that her penchant for alcohol is unbecoming for the head of the tengu, but so far it hasn't had any detrimental effect her performance her duties. And despite her obvious state of drunkness, Tenma looked as stunning as ever: a jovial face free of wrinkles her old age, framed by ruby eyes and auburn hair - coiled up with a band and the traditional tokin hat. Her simple yet elegant outfit and her velvety black wings only enhanced her hourglass figure; it was the joy of men, and the envy of women. By humans standards, Tenma has the body of a deity - or that's what they would say if they didn't cower at her equally god-like powers.

This latter paragraph might seem like I am infatuated with our leader. Nothing further from reality: there is a good reason why I used such praising words to describe her. Besides, Lord Tenma was not lacking on fatal flaws too. But let us not anticipate the events.

As soon as she saw me sitting at her side, Tenma knew something was off. Without losing her composture, she whispered to me, in her characteristic slurred voice:

"You have thirty seconds to tell me who are you, why are you sitting on my right hand man's seat, and get the hell out of here."

Yet somehow she still made the implied threat sound truly frightening. But I could not blew my mole's cover that easily, so instead I pointed her at the card with my name on it, thus introducing myself and stating it was actually my seat.

"Lies. I highly doubt he changed his name and sex overnight, so I must assume he lent you his place for tonight for some shady reason. Twenty seconds."

Of course she did not buy it. Seeing as she was being dead serious about the timer, I confessed and stated my true intentions. Tenma tried to maintain a stern and uninterested expression on her as I narrated an abridged summary of my research on the Genso-Lunar War. But my newshound's instict picked up a slight twitch of her left brow when I "casually" dropped the name of the Astral Knight. That's what I was aiming for; I managed to catch her attention.

"So you want to interview me about a war that ended more than one thousand years ago? That's just it? Five seconds."

Five seconds!? I had spent too much time in that resume. I wanted to explain my reasons behind my intentions, but the timer would not let me. Instead, I simply slipped a small card with a place and a time I previously prepared under Tenma's table, muttered that she should visit me if she was interested, and quickly left the room under the confused look of the rest of the courtesans.

In retrospect, it could have not worked better, for that made Tenma extremely curious. The only thing I regret is that my accomplice was expelled from the Court by our Lord herself. Truly a great mishap; not having a mole inside the palace would make my future rumour inquests much harder.

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

However, events would not turn out to unfold as I planned. Not a day after the incident, while I was quietly revising my sources in the security of my home, I heard a loud crash in my living room. Alarmed, I hurried to the source of such noise, and to my astonishment, I found my ornamental jar knocked out of the shelf and broken to pieces in the floor. On its place stood a long and thin wooden javelin, firmly stuck in the wall, and with a small envelope tied on its other end.

Still mildly shocked, I took the letter and inspected it. The paper was of great quality, and most importantly, it had Lord Tenma's seal on it. It was nothing short of surprising, considering the fact that the direction I gave her the previous night was not my own. It goes to show how far and quick Tenma's information net extends, for her to learn about my real address in less than twelve hours. On second thought, I should have not given her my real name to begin with.

Taking a quick peek at the window from where the javelin came in - and discovering it was also broken - I opened the letter and read it:

<<Can't come at your place and time. Please go to the tallest cherry tree near the Giant Toad's Pond when the full moon is at its peak.
Regards, Tenma.
PD: Bring the spear back.
PPD: And your best bottle of sake too.>>


I did not expect our Lord to write in such an informal and laconic way. In fact, the only thing that assured me that this letter was truly from Tenma was her stylish handwriting and the aforementioned seal. Also, what was with that part about 'the full moon at its peak'? Had she actually a thing for romanticism? And of course, the location itself, the Giant Toad's Pond, was relatively far from the Tengu Village. It was also said that, at midnight, a giant frog comes out and partied with all the other toads of the Youkai Mountain.

Disregarding the matter of validity of this rumour, the fact was that Tenma was forcing me to meet under her own conditions. Normally I would seriously consider refusing to go there, but I had no longer a way to meet with her personally and discuss the time and place of the interview. Not to mention that I could not simply let that chance slip away.

So in the end, I did what most people consider incredibly dangerous and stupid: visiting a place overflowing with divine energy at midnight, the hour when youkai are most powerful, with no other company than myself. Trouble was bound to happen.

It turned out that rumours were true for once. When I arrived at the Giant Toad's Pond, the place was rowdy with the presence of hundreds - no, thousands of frogs of many sizes and colours. They were apparently having a party honoring the Goddess of Mountains. Over the sound of croaks, a presence stood over the rest: the Giant Toad, Guardian of the Pond. With a size that doubles the height of humans and most humanoid youkai like myself, a rough dark green skin and powerful legs, its mere sight was imposing. Moreso under the light of the full moon, which made him look like it was exuding prodigious amounts of pure energy.

"You, that crow person over there!" the Giant Toad spoke to me with a grave voice, fitting for its size. "Don't you see this is a toad-only party? Go back to your home!"

Not letting myself get intimidated by that rude welcome, I calmly explained to him that I dated someone at that place and time, and asked it if it saw Tenma.

"Do you think I'd let that skanky drunkard to stay here?" it responded. "And even if I did, do you believe I would tell you so easily?"

It was obvious it was not going to be collaborative. If I wanted to have my interview with Tenma in peace, I would have to earn the Giant Toad's permission... or kick it out of there.

[]The moon might have empowered the Giant Toad, but so did me! I challenged it to a danmaku duel for the rights over the Pond.
[]I had Tenma's spear with me. It was a good time to put it to use. I was sure she wouldn't mind, but the Giant Toad certainly would.
[]I had the bottle of my best sake. Even though it was originally for Tenma's, giving it to the Giant Toad would make it see me in a better light.
[]I tried to reason with the Giant Toad, or at least talk some sense into it. (Write-in)


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

>>25774
T'was a very fine game, right? The narrative style is going to be very reminiscent of that game, though the plot certainly will not (even though its storyline was epic.)
>>No. 25784
[x]I had Tenma's spear with me. It was a good time to put it to use. I was sure she wouldn't mind, but the Giant Toad certainly would.
>>No. 25785
[x]I had the bottle of my best sake. Even though it was originally for Tenma's, giving it to the Giant Toad would make it see me in a better light.
Party time.
>>No. 25787
[X]I had the bottle of my best sake. Even though it was originally for Tenma's, giving it to the Giant Toad would make it see me in a better light.

No need to go all violent.
>>No. 25788
[x]The moon might have empowered the Giant Toad, but so did me! I challenged it to a danmaku duel for the rights over the Pond.

Is this not Touhou?
I can't imagine doing anything else upon meeting someone in our way.
>>No. 25789
[x]The moon might have empowered the Giant Toad, but so did me! I challenged it to a danmaku duel for the rights over the Pond.
>>No. 25790
[x]The moon might have empowered the Giant Toad, but so did me! I challenged it to a danmaku duel for the rights over the Pond.

We have danmaku duels for a reason. No need to end this in violence with a known figure like this and there's no need to waste our sake either.
>>No. 25791
[x]I had the bottle of my best sake. Even though it was originally for Tenma's, giving it to the Giant Toad would make it see me in a better light.

Peaceful solution ho!
>>No. 25792
Going to need a tiebreaker between the peaceful solution and the danmaku duel to get writing.
>>No. 25793
[x]The moon might have empowered the Giant Toad, but so did me! I challenged it to a danmaku duel for the rights over the Pond.

What could go wrong?
>>No. 25794
Calling it for danmaku duel thanks to >>25793. In the next update we will (finally!) start with the proper story.
>>No. 25798
File 137106803846.jpg - (89.89KB, 850x618, sample-bf74cf19799ff1dd39023128c86dc10e.jpg) [iqdb]
25798
[x]The moon might have empowered the Giant Toad, but so did me! I challenged it to a danmaku duel for the rights over the Pond.

When two people got into an argument that could not be resolved by diplomacy, they either went to trial or, for a much quicker, economical and ultimate alternative, dueled to first blood, to suffering or to death. Nowadays, the recent Spell Card Rules have provided legal grounds to resolve disputes without gravely injuring or killing any of the parties. Their clever design allows the youkai to quench their thirst for battle and keep the humans alive, all the while equalizing the grounds so that everybody has a chance to win, even the weakest of humans. This method has proven to be so popular, that many youkai fight by the Rules even for the tiniest of triffles - sometimes for no reason at all other than the thrill of battle.

"When I first came here, five centuries ago, this was all swamp!" the Giant Toad exclaimed. "Everyone said I was daft to build a shrine on a swamp, but I built in all the same, just to show them."

And there I was, thinking that that place was actually important for some obscure reason, and it turned out to be just a talking frog's folly. Besides, the shrine didn't look that old; rather, it seemed as if it had been patched and reconstructed during all that time. I wondered what happened to the original temple.

"It sank into the swamp," it conceded. "So I built a second one. That one sank into the swamp too. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up! And that's what you see in front of you, crow: the sturdiest shrine in the whole mountain!"

What the Giant Toad ignored was that I already investigated the shrine time ago, so practically nothing he told me was news to me. And old news bore me.

"Like I care! I'm saying that you have absolutely no right to take it from me - from us! And I, as the Guardian of the Pond, will not allow you crows to ruin our party!"

I tried to explain Giant Toad that it was just temporary, that it would only be for that night, and that nothing bad would happen if they missed one party. Of course, it would not listen in its rage-induced rant about the supremacy of frogs over tengu and kappa, how they would eventually rise and become the most powerful race in Gensokyo, something about taking revenge on a certain "Killer Frost Fairy", and others things I did not care to listen to. The booze had done a big number on them, and the outraged cries of the myriad of other frogs drowned all my attempts to reason with it.

In the end I gave up and prepared to duel with the Giant Toad, for I was not in the mood to deal with a drunken frog. I could have insisted more, that's true. However, for some reason, I also had the urge to get into a fight and vent myself. Normally, this would have started a feud between the tengu and the Moriya deities, the patrons of that shrine. But thanks to the Spell Card Rules, the only consequences after the fight would be a sore body, a few tears in the clothes, and a hurt pride. A far cry from the bloody battles of old times.

"Now come, my minions!" the Giant Toad shouted to the other frogs. "Let's show her who's the boss here!"

I plunged Tenma's lance in the ground, tied my bottle to it, and brought out my maple fan. In front of me there was an army of frogs about to leap on me and turn me into a colander with their bullets, but I was no slouch either. And most of all, there was something in the air that empowered me. I felt like I could take on an army three times as big as theirs easily.

The things I do for a scoop...

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

"I'm finished!"

Two minutes later, the Giant Toad was lying on its back, utterly defeated, and its diminute minions had vanished after a "mysterious" gust of wind casted them away. The Giant Toad actually turned out to be a boss. A midboss at best. Their barrage of bullets was no match for my natural speed. Without ever breaking a sweat, I went to recover the spear and the bottle I laid back there before the fight broke out...

... only to find out they were gone. My heart skipped a beat. Did my gust of wind hit them too? I didn't mind much about the bottle of sake, but losing one of Lord Tenma's posessions was a horrible predicament. I frantically searched for them all over the place, while thinking about what kind of punishment would await me if I didn't find the spear.

"Oi, up here!"

Tenma's voice came from the heavens and startled me. Our Lord was leisurely sitting on a branch a few yards above my head, with her spear in one hand and a plate of sake - my sake - on the other. She was looking at me with an amused smile, holding back a laugh for my failure at the spot check.

"You gonna come up here or what?" Tenma said. "Or do I hafta pull ya up like a nugget?"

I did as I was told, not without blushing a bit, and with a couple of flaps I flew up and sat in front of her.

"You hit'em hard, fast and where it hurt more. I'm impressed, lass," our Lord commented. "A toast for a well fought battle!"

She passed me a second plate of sake, and we raised them and took a sip. As we gulped down the sour beberage, I eyed our Lord with keen eye. She was totally different from the facade she puts up in public. If her casual speech wasn't enough evidence of her 'transformation', her garments were much less regal than what she usually wears in the Court. Not to mention the way she wore them: her auburn hair, skillfully held by elegant hairpins before, was now hurriedly tied with a small red knot behind her head; her wings were disheveled; her top barely contained her well endowed assets, and the way she was sitting exposed her white and firm thighs to the whole forest.

"Cherry flavored sake? Is this the best ya got?" Tenma said, wiping her mouth with her whole arm after she sipped her plate. "One day I hafta take y'out for a date and show ya how real booze tastes!"

Many people would be outraged at Tenma's indecorum, but the truth is that she looked quite more relaxed and natural. More "herself", so to speak. But that didn't make the shock at being hit on by our Lord any easier to deal with, much less in that way. Not wanting the conversation to derail into more uncomfortable topics, I asked Tenma what she would have done if I didn't win the duel.

"In that case we wouldn't be having this conversation, would we?" Tenma laughs at her own joke. "Nah, I woulda shoved my spear up that toad's arsehole. Nobody calls me a 'skanky drunkard' and gets away with it, even if it's true."

I refrained from making any comment. How was I supposed to answer to that, knowing who was that coming from?

"Why so quiet? Weren't you gonna interview me for yer newspapers?" she urged me to speak. "I'm a busy woman, ya know. And as much as I like drinking and talking, a leader can't disappear for too long."

Right, that meeting was rather furtive, truth to be told. Regaining my composture, I asked her why did she have me go through much trouble to do meet her.

"Oh? I thought ya had figured it out already?" she exclaimed. "It was a test, obviously! To see yer resolve, skill and all that stuff. And ya passed with honors!"

I squinted at her.

"Alright, alright, I was messin' with ya. It's coz it makes for a nice setting. Full moon, mysterious forest, a swamp with a monster boss... perfect place and time for a extremely long explanation, don't cha think?"

I squinted even harsher.

"Geez, can't take a joke, huh?" Tenma shrugged. "But I was serious about the setting. Ya see, this place is very special and relevant to the story. When ya kicked the big frog's butt, didn't ya feel a strange power in the air, or something like that?"

I nodded in affirmation. It was to be expected that our Lord was able to pick it up as well.

"That's cuz this place has a special connection with the Moon, and as ya can see, tonight is full moon," she pointed up with her spear to the white sattelite. "An old friend o'mine once told me that the Moon's light gave birth to us youkai, coz it made humans come up with their fears and legends about us. In fact, the Moon gave many powers to beings of Earth. Even magic was originally the Moon's power. Or so she said."

Humans being scared of the Moon was plausible and logical. What I could not believe so easily was the fact that we owe our very existence to that giant white round rock floating in the sky.

"I also had a hard time swallowin' that. But when ya see the things I saw..."

Tenma sighed in melancholy and looked at the Moon, her gaze lost in the immensity of the dark sky. It was the face of someone who was reliving memories of long past times. And by the looks of it, they were not pretty. I recognized the cue, and took out my notepad and pen, ready to write down all she was going to say.

"It all started more than a thousand years ago, when M'lud called me personally."
>>No. 25799
File 137106817181.jpg - (198.34KB, 850x1535, lord sojobo (minus the bald).jpg) [iqdb]
25799
M'lud as in 'Lord Sojobo, King of the Tengu', of course. But I bet you already know he was Lord in name only. He preferred to meditate alone in his cave instead of, you know, actually doing his job. Many of the other chancellors were happy that he delegated his duties to them, but I wasn't. I was given a seat in the Council for my merits, but I was a born warrior, not a politician. I was simply not cut to deal with the delicate matters of the state; my way to deal with problems was by force, not with diplomacy.

Sojobo knew that all too well. Maybe that's why he called me and noone else.

When I recieved his memo, I was genuinely surprised. Even though he could bring the Council down at any moment and rule his kingdom by himself again, he let the Council rule by ourselves, seldom offering his own guidance. For that reason, whenever he actually bothered to take over the chain of command, it was enough reason to worry.

That should explain clearly enough why I was a quivering yarn of nerves when I went to visit Sojobo. I think.

I won't bother with long descriptions of his residence. I don't remember it clearly, anyway. Only that it was quite empty and abstemious, a bit somber even. Very hermit-like. But the person himself, that I recall well. Long and unkempt grey beard and hair, eyes always closed, wrinkles everywhere, long aquiline nose, slightly hunched back. And old, very old. And he hadn't even trained that Yoshitune guy yet. All in all, quite hermit-like.

"You summoned me, m'lord?" I kneeled in front of him.

"Yes, I did. And don't be so formal," he responded, with his always slow and calm speech. "I'm not your Lord anymore."

"Yes, m'lord," I sat in the seiza position.

"Tenma..."

"Uh, sorry, m'lord. I'll try, m'lord."

"That's precisely what I- nevermind," he sighed, and produced a small letter from one of his sleeves. "This morning I recieved a letter from a... acquiantance."

He gave me the piece of paper, and I inspected it from all its side. Small, made of quality parchemnt, with elegant and readable calligraphy.

"Aren't you going to read it?" said Sojobo.

"Is it alright for me to read your correspondence, m'lord?"

"That's why I gave it to you. And please stop it with the 'm'lud' thing already!"

"Yes, m'lord."

"Why do I even try anymore..." he sighed again.

I'll admit it: teasing the (former) King of the Tengu was fun. Disrespectful? Of course. But you should have guessed by now I'm not the good mannered and refined lady everybody needs me to be. Never was, never will. Except when it comes down to jests. Besides, there's something about hermits that makes you want to tease them. Maybe it's their apparent defenseless appearance? I'm sure I'm not the only youkai who thinks that way.

Supressing a chuckle, I skimmed through the message:

<<Please come to the Mishaguji Lake when the full moon is at its peak.
Regards, The Witch of Boundaries ♥.
PD: Bring your best warriors.>>


If I had a smile on, it would have vanished after reading that.

"So, what do you think?" Sojobo asked me.

"Uh, is this serious?" I stared at him in disbelief, and he nodded at me. "I mean, what's with that heart thingy? If it wasn't for the good handwriting, I'd say it was written by a twelve year old kid."

"Seventeen."

"Huh?"

"She's always seventeen years old," he corrected me. "Don't ask me, it's what she says."

"Right... Who's this 'Witch of the Boundaries', anyway? Or better yet, how in the world did she manage to send this paper to you personally?"

I suppose it's as good of a time as any to explain one little detail: Sojobo lived incognito. That's to say, only a few select members of the Court knew where was the cave he spent his days in. A non-tengu stranger discovering his location was considered a breach of security of the highest level.

That should explain clearly enough why I almost flipped my shit at that letter. I think.

"You don't know about Yukari Yakumo? Are your spies sleeping on the job or what?" exclaimed Sojobo.

"I'm sorry, m'lord. We have our hands full with the oni and the kappa to watch over every single person."

"It's understandable," he nodded to himself. "To put it short, Yukari's a very powerful youkai I met long time ago. As her title implies, she manipulates borders, which in practice means she can open portals to everywhere."

"Really? How could someone so powerful escape our vigilance?"

"She likes to act from the shadows, and seldom leaves evidence of her implication..." he scrathced her hair. "But if I have to hazard a guess, I bet she has someone inside that prevents any leaks to reach the Council."

"What!? We have a mole!?"

"It's only a conjecture. I might be wrong, but that sounds like something she'd do, even though she isn't nearly powerful enough to be Japan's Big Brother," Sojobo shrugged. "Anyway, leave your personnel cleanup plans for the moment and listen," his voice shifted to a more serious tone - the voice of a king. "I want you to take your best men and meet Yukari at the Mishaguji Lake."

"Do you think it might be a trap directed at you, m'lord?"

"I doubt it. It's not like her to make this kind of move," he shook his head. "I have a feeling I'm not the only important person being asked to come. If that's true, I fear something very big is about to happen. Tenma, I need you to be my eyes, my ears and my sword. Attend Yukari's meeting in my place, ascertain the situation and keep an eye on her. Watch every move she makes; eavesdrop every word she says, and report back to me directly."

A covert infiltration operation? That's what I liked to hear!

"Aye, sir!" I nodded excitedly. "But won't she be upset if you don't show up? The letter was addressed to you, after all."

"It has no addressee, so you could use that loophole in your favor," Sojobo cracked a smile. "Actually, I'd like to be there just to see Yukari face when you explain that to her. There's nothing that pisses her off more than exact words."

It was nice to know that, I guessed.

"Fullmoon is in five days, and the Mishaguji Lake is very far from here. I suggest you prepare yourself and your men quickly. Oh, and..." his brows furrowed. "You have my permission to act in my stead if things get out of control."

Following his words, he stood up and placed his seven-feathered fan in my lap. Yes, that was the fan I still carry nowadays. My eyes were about to shoot out from my sockets. It was said to be able to lift up storms able to sweep entire forests with a single flick. Destructive potential aside, the fan was his only remaining symbol of his position at the top of the tengu society. If he was giving it to me...

"... M'lord?"

"This is the symbol of my trust in your skills and your judgement," he told me, with unwavering resolve. "Should Yukari or any other person threaten the stability of the kingdoms, you may stop them by any means necessary."

At that moment, I felt the metaphorical weight of responsibility strain my shoulders. Basically, Sojobo had given me the powers of the King of Tengu for the upcoming incident. That meant the reputation and the future of the tengu race as a whole would be in my hands.

That should explain clearly enough why I was sweating buckets when I accepted the fan and the mission. I think.

"I won't let you down, m'lord," I said, with a false sense of conviction.

"Atta girl," he soothingly smiled, returning to his hermit 'mode'. "Now go. You don't want to make the Witch wait."

"Yes, m'lord," I bowed to him. "Then I bid my farewell."

As I stood up to leave the cave, my head was filled with doubts and ill omens. Sojobo wouldn't have given his fan to me - or anybody - unless something really serious was going to happen, and his hunches had been proven right most of the times. But if that time came, would I have been able to do well in his place? I gave my word to him, but I was afraid I would not meet his expectations.

At that moment, he called to me and stopped me. He must have had sensed my inner perturbance or something. Perks of being an hermit, I guess.

"One last thing, Tenma," he said. "When the time comes to take a hard choice, make up your mind to act decidedly and take the consequences. No good is ever done in any world by hesitation."

Those were the words I needed to hear. With a renewed confidence, I nodded at our Lord, waved him goodbye and exited the cave. There were many things to get done before setting off to the Mishaguji Lake.

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

Five days later, me and my personal army of scout tengu arrived at the Mishaguji Lake. The oversized pond itself was nothing particularly special; lush forests, muddy waters, and frogs. Lots of frogs. What was really interesting was the story of that place. A human hero of the Great Suwa War fought an avatar of Mishaguji, one of many curse gods, with a weapon made of iron and blessed by the goddess Suwako. After the hero felled the god, its blood sprouted forests and bushes in the barren ground, and frogs came to live there as proof that the Goddess of Earth had conquered the place. Nowadays it's just a little swampy pond with only a small shrine; ruins of aforetime a temple built in honor of Suwako.

Yes, you guessed that right: it's the place where we are standing right now. How did it become so small, you might wonder? But let's not anticipate events.

With a few gestures, I signaled my small army to split up and gather information in the area. They were the best hundred warriors I had, specialized in scouting, intelligence and long-range takedowns. I figured out they would be invaluable in an infiltration mission like the one Sojobo tasked us. If I knew what was going to happen, I would have brought the heavy troopers.

Alone and hidden in the bushes, I scouted the shore of the lake. The water was unnaturally still and clear for a swamp like that, and my senses did not pick up any signs of life. Save for a distant sound of chains coming from the left.

I squinted my eyes and turned my head to the source of the noise. Strolling around the edge of the lake, there were two figures leisurely chatting between themselves, with all the carelessness of the world. One of them was definitely male, tall and muscular, and sported two big and long horns coming out from his long and unkempt blonde hair. If that wasn't enough indication of his oni heritage, his ragged clothes, the massive spiked club, and the chains he wore in his wrists were the definitive proof. The other one was much shorter and skinnier. It was hard to tell from that distance, but I guessed she was a female. Her androgynous looks didn't help: her black hair was tied in a fashion that could suit either man or woman, and the same went for her kimono. I could not tell what kind of youkai she was, but she was definitely a skilled swordswoman - from the way her left hand never left the hilt of her katana, hanging from her waist.

I could hear their voices once they got a bit closer. The oni was talking and laughing loudly to the woman, in a deep baritone voice; apparently a story of a foolish man trying to hit him with a pan or something. On the other hand, the woman...

[]She was as boisterous and rowdy as her companion. What she lacked in height and corpulence, she made up with louder laughter and bigger words.
[]She was an aloof and relaxed person, and she silently nodded to whatever his friend said. Nothing could wipe that ever-present calm smile from her face.
[]She was the exact opposite of her friend: a composed and polite person, whose logic retorts to her friend's jokes showed her total lack of humour.
[]She was the silent foil to her companion; a expressionless warrior who spared words and preferred to let her actions do the talk for her.

>>No. 25800
[]She was the exact opposite of her friend: a composed and polite person, whose logic retorts to her friend's jokes showed her total lack of humour.

Argh, I have no idea what to choose. I choose this one, trying to go off of the characterization from the last story.

Also, a little nitpick: Sojobo mentioning the term "Big Brother" feels a little anachronistic, but that may just be me.
>>No. 25801
[x]She was the exact opposite of her friend: a composed and polite person, whose logic retorts to her friend's jokes showed her total lack of humour.
>>25800
What last story?
>>No. 25802
[X]She was the exact opposite of her friend: a composed and polite person, whose logic retorts to her friend's jokes showed her total lack of humour.

>>25800
I also cringed at that. This is supposed to be several hundred years before Orwell coined the term. "She isn't powerful enough to spy on all of Japan" would have been fine.
>>No. 25803
[x]She was the exact opposite of her friend: a composed and polite person, whose logic retorts to her friend's jokes showed her total lack of humour.
>>No. 25804
[x]She was the silent foil to her companion; a expressionless warrior who spared words and preferred to let her actions do the talk for her.

I like expressionless warriors.
>>No. 25805
[X]She was the exact opposite of her friend: a composed and polite person, whose logic retorts to her friend's jokes showed her total lack of humour.

This vote is definitely not due to the fact that I'm jumping on the bandwagon.
>>No. 25825
[x] She was the silent foil to her companion; an expressionless warrior who spared words and preferred to let her actions do the talk for her.
Interesting.
>>No. 25826
>>25825
Can I be mad at someone who voted non-saged on a dead story?
>>No. 25827
>>25826
>one month
>dead
No.
>>No. 25828
>>25827
Considering the writer's track record, yes.
>>No. 25829
>>25828

His focus semms to be on "Gensokyou's Most Wanted"
, which is kind of a shame because i liked the way this one was going.
>>No. 25830
File 137478750238.jpg - (115.19KB, 724x1000, d1de123db0d0afa08b54b2260cb8db3e.jpg) [iqdb]
25830
>>25826
>>25827
>>25828
Yeah, no.

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

[X]She was the exact opposite of her friend: a composed and polite person, whose logic retorts to her friend's jokes showed her total lack of humour.

It was a very strange duo, to say the least, but even from where I was hiding I could see the chemistry between them. No, not that kind of chemistry. The kind you often see in comedy stand-ups, but so woefully scarce in real life. You know, when one makes the japes and the other shoots them down with a straight face? That's what I'm talking about. Eventually they came closer and I was able to hear what they were bickering about more clearly:

"So this one human guy in the village, right? Houses' burning, people dying, blah blah blah, the usual stuff," the oni was saying to his companion. "I go to one of those houses and I stumbled onto this guy and his kiddos. Well, he sees me, and he just screams rushes me with a cooking pan. A fricking pan!" he prompted into loud laughter, obviously finding his own narration extremely funny. "Against me! Like, he thought he could hurt me with that!"

The oni went on and on and on guffawing and wiping his tears, but the woman didn't even batter an eyelid and went on walking, not waiting for him to catch up with her.

"Hey, you can laugh too, you know? Or is it that you don't get it?" the oni still had troubles stiffling his chuckling, but somehow he managed to put a coherent sentence together. Unusual feat for onis, given their usual state of inebriation. This individual, though, was only drunk in his own giggling.

"Oh, I do understand your attempts at humor," the woman retorted. "I simply don't find them entertaining or tasteful for my liking."

"Is there anything of your liking, Konka?" scoffed the oni.

"As long as it doesn't star people getting their eyeballs scooped out in front of their children..."

The oni looked up to the clear blue sky and sighed, his fun taken away. "Then you'll probably won't like the ending of that story."

"It gets boring after the third time," Konka said.

After that exchange, the duo went silent and kept on walking the shore, and I followed suit, always hidden in the bushes. Truth be told, I didn't find the oni's anecdote funny or interesting either. What he jokingly narrated was a too common occurence to be ground-breaking, for the oni's bloodlust and pillaging costumes were known by everyone. Of course, this was the time when the horned youkai ruled and roamed the land freely, before they got locked down in the Underground

"But I don't get it," the oni suddenly broke the silence. "That guy knew he had absolutely no chance of beating me. I saw it in his eyes. But he still ran towards me, pan in hand."

"People can do anything out of desperation when they're on the verge of death. You should know that better than anyone, Seita," Konka responded.

"Why can't you humans simply accept your fate and let it be over quickly? You just never go down easy."

"Because we have faith," the woman stated. "You may rip our bones apart, suck all of our blood and devour our flesh, but you will never strip us of our hope. And that faith is what allows us to overcome the likes of you."

To prove her point, Konka took something out from the inside of her kimono: a rod made of bronze and about a palm long, with fivespokes that closed at each end in a lotus shape. Even if my knowledge of religions wasn't very extense at that time, I still recognized what it was by the divine energy it emanated, capable of hurting and rendering us youkai's souls apart. It was a vajra, symbol of Buddhism. So that woman was not only a human swordswoman versed on spiritual attacks, but she was also talking merrily with a particularly bloodthirsty and sadist oni, the mortal enemy of humankind? You should understand the growing interest I started to have in Konka.

"Faith didn't save him and his family from their demise at my hands," Seita argued, not fazed in the slightest by the lethal power of the ceremonial item.

"Because he lacked training and preparation," Konka put the vajra back in her pocket.

"You're starting to sound like one of those monks you speak ill of, my friend," the oni chuckled. "Besides, you couldn't beat me back then, even with all that 'training and preparation' you had."

"You'd be surprised at our ability for improvement in short spans of time. And according to one of those monks I speak ill of, I am a fast learner," the human's expression was unreadable, but I could see her fingers drumming on the hilt of her sword.

"I feel like I'm being issued a challenge..." Seita, however, did not go to such lengths to hide his excitement at the prospect of a fight, if his smug smile was of any indication.

"Check your bearings, then. I am not going to fight you now. As much as I'd like to set the score back, we should save our strength for the real foes," Konka turned around and resumed walking. "Now let us hurry, Seita. We must report back to the Witch at once."

"Aw, bummer," the oni slumped his shoulders, clearly dissapointed, but he complied nonetheless. "Sometimes you're such a tease, Konka."

To which the human simply replied with a thoughtless "hmhm".

If my hunch was correct, then those two were heading to where Yukari Yakumo was. Following them would be the fastest course of action, but the strategist in me told me to wait until my soldiers returned from their scouting, and act according to the intel they would bring. The warrior in me said screw strategy, and beat the information out of that pair - with my skills, prowess and Lord Sojobo's fan, victory was quasi-certain. The "normal" me advised not to listen to the warrior and make friends, not war.

[]I followed them to where Yukari was, always hiding in the shadows.
[]I disregarded the two of them and waited until my scouts came back.
[]I came out of the bushes, faced the two and...
-[]Engaged in a (friendly) duel for information. The oni wanted a challenge, I could give him a challenge!
-[]Started an amicable conversation. I had a feeling I would see the two of them often in the near future.


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

Sorry for the absurdly long wait. Uni paperwork got in the way of my life, and the free time I had I preferred to spend in Public Enemy and videogames. But rest assured, I have never forgotten about this story, and like GPE, I have plans to continue it until a satisfactory conclussion. Apart from that, the other reason I take so long updating this story is because I use it as a benchmark to improve my technical writing skills, and therefore I spend much more time honing and pulishing the narration, often erasing and rewriting parts I feel they weren't good enough.
>>No. 25831
[x]I disregarded the two of them and waited until my scouts came back.

I prefer to know what every course of action insists of.
>>No. 25832
[x]I disregarded the two of them and waited until my scouts came back.
>>No. 25833
[x]I disregarded the two of them and waited until my scouts came back.

Let's get some intel on whatever this whole thing is first.

I'm certain we'll meet those two again soon enough.

Also is anyone but me hoping one of those scouts is very young Aya? I know it's unlikely, considering she may not be THAT old. But it would have been cool to see.

So Konngara isn't an Oni then, interesting. On her character, have you ever read a story on this site called Anceint Gensokyo. Because this Konngara is sounding a bit similar.
>>No. 25834
[x] I disregarded the two of them and waited until my scouts came back.

It's best to keep Tenma's role a surprise.
>>No. 25835
[x] I disregarded the two of them and waited until my scouts came back.
>>No. 25837
[x]I disregarded the two of them and waited until my scouts came back.
No behind one left
>>No. 25838
File 13816179196.jpg - (186.35KB, 606x850, approximate depiction of a tengu soldier.jpg) [iqdb]
25838
Surprise, this is not dead yet!

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

[x]I disregarded the two of them and waited until my scouts came back.

Even though I was curious about that pair, I remembered my mission was first above my proto-scoop instinct. As the emmissary of the tengu in Lord Sojobo's place, I deemed collecting intelligence before making a move was the smartest thing to do for the while being, and so I remained hidden in the bushes, waiting until Seita and Konka's figures were but two specks on the distance. Then, after double checking there were no more unwanted witnesses in sight, I cupped my hands in front of my mouth and blew air through them.

Nowadays, young gangsters usually do it to greet their friends, if I'm not mistaken. I think you call it the 'holla holla', right? You know better than I. But I bet you didn't know it was the secret call of the Tengu Scouts before it became 'cool'. That's why you see some of the old vets twitch whenever they hear one of those 'OGs muthafuckas' do what was formerly their callsign. Old habits die hard. But I'm digressing, aren't I?

About half a minute later, three figures appeared before me out of nowhere, nary a sound. Black silk suits stuck over their slender, toned bodies, blending in with the dark night, and they covered all but the upper half of their faces with ornated ebony masks: wolf fangs carved for the wolf commander, and crow beaks for the other two crow sergeants. You've very probably heard of the ninjas, the overly romanticed assassins of the shadows. I don't mean to brag, but frankly speaking, those novels and tales do not even hold a candle to my soldiers' actual skills. Still, it's about as close as it gets to properly describe them.

"Awaiting your orders, general," the three ninjas - for lack of a better word - kneeled down in front of me and spoke as one.

The fact that I was recently and temporarily holding the title of absolute leader of all tengu didn't change the manner in which they addressed me: for them, I was their general first and foremost. And I would not have it any other way. They'd entrust their lifes to my strategist prowess, and I would do the same to their battle-forged loyalty and their skills. I needed no seven feathered fan to put my faith and honor in my personal army, when I had fought countless battles at their side before I was appointed as Lord Sojobo's emissary.

That said, it's been more than a thousand years since this episode happened, so forgive me if I tell you I don't remember their names and faces exactly. There was a time I knew by heart what their names and surnames were, how did they look even with their masks on, their rank, their kill count, the missions they performed, and so on, but my memory has grown old...

"Report what you have seen," I ordered the wolf commander.

I'm struggling to recall his name right now. Was it Yamato? Tayama? Something like that. But I do remember he was an Inubashiri. Oh? By your reaction I'd say you're familiar with that surname. I believe you are acquiantances with one of them, am I right? Well, I'm not surprised. The Inubashiri have always been a pretty big and influential clan among the wolf tengu. I think I had five or six Inubashiri in my own army, if memory serves well. That family always produce top quality soldiers; all their kin seem to be gifted with the power of clairvoyance, as if their excellent physical prowess and analytical competence wasn't enough. Some of them even rivaled the average crow tengu in speed, on foot! Of course, since my army was composed by the best of the best, most of the crow tengu in my army were well above average in that regard, but it's still damn impressive by comparison. Argh, I'm digressing again! Must be the booze.

"There is a large concentration of youkai at the other side of the lake, five leagues from here," Inubashiri informed. "They've set a campment of nearly thousand tents, and the vast majority are heavily armed and ready to mobilize at any minute. We counted two thousand heads, between oni, kappa, kitsune and rarer kind of youkai."

"Any humans?"

"None," he shook his head with conviction.

I trusted my team's noses and eyes enough to believe what they saw and smelt, so if they said there were no humans, then there was no reason for me to think otherwise. But my mind kept wandering back to that woman walking alongside the oni. If the Witch of the Boundaries had summonned human armies as well, then her presence there wouldn't have been much of a surprise, but a lone human in the middle of a youkai army? That was strange. But there were stranger things I needed to know. Namely...

"Have you managed to figure out why the Witch summoned so many youkai?"

You should know we youkai do not like to be crowded in big settlements like humans do. That said, some youkai, like we tengu and the kappa, are more likely to form small societies, while others prefer to live in solitude. In any case, it was rare to see more than five hundred youkai mingling in the same place, much less an organized army of soldiers. For the Witch of Boundaries to have been able to gather the quadruple of that number... that was the riddle of the moment.

"Negative, ma'am. They are as clueless as we are," Inubashiri responded.

"Apparently the Witch is keeping them in the dark for the time being," said one of the crow tengu. Since I don't remember his name, I'll call him Skinny, because he was the tallest and thinnest of the two crows. "They are growing restless by the minute, and some youkai are even expressing dissent."

"The Witch probably wants for everybody she summoned to arrive before revealing her intentions." the other crow added. I'll be calling him Shorty for, well, you can imagine.

"That means we are making her wait," I muttered. "But before we introduce ourselves, tell me, what have you found about our host?"

My three underlings stood still as statues, but I could see their eyes exchanging looks of uncertainty between themselves. Of course, I was expecting it ever since they began to use words of the likes of 'apparently' and 'probably'. What was worrying me was that their own pride as spies would not allow them to return with nothing to report but wild guesses. Surely there was a major reason that impeded them to do their job properly. And that I asked them, with one severe gaze.

"We're terribly sorry, general," Inubashiri, as the second in command, took it upon himself to be the unfortunate soul who had to explain the team's failure to the leader. "The Witch's tent proved to be more difficult to intrude than we expected."

"Oh? But I thought there was no impregnable place for the famed Tengu spies?"

"No, there isn't," his voice was firm, but with a hint of shame that showed I hurt his pride. "But in the current conditions it was too risky to attempt to breach in."

"Explain yourselves."

"The Witch's hut is placed right in the middle of the campment," explained Shorty. "There are two kitsune guards in front of the entrance, plus two more pairs of oni patroling around it every minute. Moreso, there is a lot of activity in its vecinity, with all the soldiers moving carts and crates around."

"Okay, I get it, it was hard to get close undetected," I said. "Did you try to eavesdrop from afar, then?"

"Of course!" exclaimed Skinny. "I mean, yes, we did," he repeated more meekly, after recieving another of my stern looks. "However, all our attempts to use clairvoyance or clairaudience resulted in failure. We suspect the material of the tent is magically enchanted to be soundproof and isolated from the outside."

I closed my eyes and hummed, deep in thought. The Witch had surely gone out of her way to ensure nobody could peek or eavesdrop whatever was happening inside those leather walls. What was up with all the secrecy?

"We aren't going to know anything unless we make a move, hm?" I opened my eyes and looked at the nothing in the distance. "Good job with the report, soldiers."

"Awaiting your orders, general," the three ninjas kneeled down again and looked at me, expectant.

A plan began to form in my head, and so I gave my directives:

[]Have all my army to come with me to the tent. It was time for the tengu to enter the show through the front door.
[]I would enter alone, pretend to be one of the soldiers roaming around, and get close to the Witch's tent.
-[]I'd attempt to sneak inside while my spies provided me visual cover, and informed me of any patrols nearing me.
-[]I'd only introduce myself as Tenma to the kitsune guards. I would not show my assets to the Witch yet.
[]Bring a small detachment with me and enter without making too much of a fuss. The rest of my men would wait outside in case things went bad.


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

>>25833
>Also is anyone but me hoping one of those scouts is very young Aya? I know it's unlikely, considering she may not be THAT old. But it would have been cool to see.
Aya is actually quite old, even older than some members of the (in)famous Old Maids Alliance, so there is a chance she could appear here.

>On her character, have you ever read a story on this site called Anceint Gensokyo. Because this Konngara is sounding a bit similar.
Yes I did. In fact, I do recall saying I drew some inspiration from that story back in the first attempt. But that Konngara and this Konngara are completely different, even if they do sound similar.
>>No. 25840
[X]Bring a small detachment with me and enter without making too much of a fuss. The rest of my men would wait outside in case things went bad.

Now we exploit the loopholes in Yukari's letter: it wasn't addressed to Lord Sojobo, and it didn't say how many warriors to bring, only the best.
>>No. 25841
[X]Bring a small detachment with me and enter without making too much of a fuss. The rest of my men would wait outside in case things went bad.
>>No. 25843
[x]Bring a small detachment with me and enter without making too much of a fuss. The rest of my men would wait outside in case things went bad.
>>No. 25846
[X]Bring a small detachment with me and enter without making too much of a fuss. The rest of my men would wait outside in case things went bad.

Good to see this is still alive. Eientei is dead without you mate.
>>No. 25847
I am really happy that this story is still alive.

I enjoyed the personalities of the three scouts. Good Job on making them rather unique, even tying one to a canon character.

Though Tenma referring to "holla" was a little odd to say the least. Though at least its less out of place, since this is Tenma talking to a reporter in the present.

[x]Bring a small detachment with me and enter without making too much of a fuss. The rest of my men would wait outside in case things went bad.

Sneaky yet open for suitable dramatics.
"These is all you brought with you. I guess the tengu aren't as strong as I thought"

"No ma'am, I brought an army" And camera pans outside in to the shadows with a scores of tengu waiting.

>Aya is actually quite old, even older than some members of the (in)famous Old Maids Alliance, so there is a chance she could appear here.

Oh that'll be fun to see. Aya as the baby of her squad so to speak.

>Yes I did. In fact, I do recall saying I drew some inspiration from that story back in the first attempt. But that Konngara and this Konngara are completely different, even if they do sound similar.

That makes me very happy indeed. It really is a a shame that story never finished. It was awesome and the writer himself was a pretty cool guy in his own right.
>>No. 25848
[x]Bring a small detachment with me and enter without making too much of a fuss. The rest of my men would wait outside in case things went bad.

It seems that everybody already agrees with me so I don't think I need to explain my choice.
>>No. 25849
File 138308630045.jpg - (527.06KB, 626x885, 3cbe90b3605f99a7a1f25194ec0b63ed.jpg) [iqdb]
25849
[x]Bring a small detachment with me and enter without making too much of a fuss. The rest of my men would wait outside in case things went bad.

"Skinny, Shorty, you and your teams take the closest vantage point to the camp. We'll be in contact by hand signs, so keep an eye on me always. Be prepared to fire if things get ugly," as soon as I gave my orders to them, the two crows bowed and practically vanished. "Inubashiri, with me. Pick five of our best soldiers and dress incognito."

With a plan in my head and a casual dress on my body, the tengu army began to mobilize in the utmost discretion. Well, if you could call it a plan, anyway. I was just going to introduce myself to Yakumo properly, without bringing my whole possy with me. I did not consider the Witch an enemy, but when there are so many unknowns in an operation, you must be prepared for the worst.

Fortunately the worst didn't happen. Nobody paid us mind when we arrived at the camp, or if they did, they were too busy or distracted to recognize us as tengu. To be fair, even while some tengu like to boast about their majestic wings, tails, talons, fangs, you name it, the truth is they don't really stand out that much when everybody else has non-humanoid appendages too. Especially when most of them were either drinking like there was no tomorrow, sparring against themselves, or just commenting how many heads they were going to bash.

"I can smell the inexperience," said Inubashiri, just loud enough for our group to hear above the hubbub.

My second's comment brought my attention to a certain particularity of the youkai army Yukari had reunited: the vast majority were young blood. I'm talking about youngsters of only a hundred years old, tops. Smooth skins with no scars, pristine horns and claws, unnotched weaponry and armor, optimistic and boisterous attitude... all the signs of innocent soldiers who are going to war for the first time in their lives, and have no idea of the horrors and complications of the battlefield. Hell, they probably hadn't even killed anyone with their own hands yet.

"Is she really planning on sending these babies to fight?" I heard one of Inubashiri's men whispering to his companion behind me.

"I hear you. These rookies won't live to tell the tale unless they're led by someone capable," she muttered back.

"I just hope the Witch knows what she's doing... You think she has any idea how to lead an army?"

"Beats me. But I have a bad feeling she'll delegate that task to someone else."

"...Ugh. I pray you're wrong for once."

He wasn't the only one praying for that. The least thing I wanted was to babysit an oversized group of undisciplined, bloodlusty rookies in battle with an enemy I didn't know anything about. But in war, things never go as you wish.

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

We squirmed our way through the crowd of youkai running around frantically, carrying crates and weaponry from the huts without any semblant of order, until we finally made it to the Witch's tent. There we found the two kitsune guards Shorty talked about; one eating a piece of fried tofu, the other telling a story to his partner, and bore evident in their dull expressions. As soon as we approached them and they saw us, they quickly stood firm and ready, as if we never caught them procastinating on the job.

"We came to speak with the Witch on behalf of Lord Sojobo of the tengu," I spoke to the two foxmen.

"The Witch has explicitly asked not to be disturbed," the tofu guard responded haughtily. "You'll have to wait until she's finished."

"She told us to meet her here when the moon is at its peak," I looked up to the starry sky and saw that, in fact, the moon was at its peak. At least we were not late.

"So what? She's busy with preparations and can't deal with the likes of you at the moment," the other kitsune said in an equally arrogant tone.

"Watch your mouth, fox," Inubashiri growled gutturally. "Have you any idea who are you speaking with?"

"No I do not, I do not care," the tofu guard took a bite of his snack and waved his hand at us. "Now scoot!"

My team's reaction was immediate: they quickly brought their hands to the hilts of their swords, and they would have swiftly unsheathed and pointed them at the two bratty guards if I hadn't raised my hand to stop them. As much as I felt proud knowing that my men would so fiercely defend my honor as much as their own, that very obsession with honor made them forget they were supposed to lay low. It was not in our best interests to start a fight with potential allies. However, I must admit I was getting fed up with those two as well. So, I decided to teach them a small lesson:

"If that's how you want to play, so be it. Do you recognize this?"

I took out the seven-feathered fan of Sojobo and showed it to the confused kitsune. Just one glance at their clueless eyes fixated in that object so alien to them told me everything I needed to know about them. A second look at their tails confirmed my suspicions: those two were no older than two centuries, evidenced by the two scuts both had. Seeing fox cubs so young going to war was indeed a rather strange and disheartening sight, for kitsune were the kind of youkai who spent about three centuries learning the arts and sciences of the world before leaving their home.

"That's a tengu fan," pointed out the storyteller guard after a few seconds of pondering. "What's so special about it?"

So young, so ignorant, so naïve. Their lone memory grates my nerves. But, I guess we've all been there sometime, hm?

"It's the tengu fan for you," with the fan, I lightly touched the piece of tofu of the glutton fox. "Do yourselves a favor and read more books before wasting your lifes like this."

I did not stay to hear the offended kitsune's response; instead I pushed them aside and went directly for the tent's door. I only heard the whistling sound of four arrows piercing the wind from four different directions, and nailing with ludicrous precision the fried tofu the glutton was holding in his hand. Sadly I missed their terrified faces, but the shocked gasps were a good enough substitute.

Yeah, having snipers watching over you and willing to teach some brats humility is always great.

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

We were taken aback when we saw what was Yukari's tent like inside. Okay, we weren't sure what we were expecting in the first place, but certainly not that. I mean, how would you feel if you entered through a curtain and found yourself in a huge, plain praerie literally in the middle of nowhere, with only green as far as your eyes could see? 'Disoriented' would be putting it mildly. Imagine you step go to your house, open the door, and see something like a whole different world, and it's much bigger than the outside you're in... I still can't wrap my head around what I saw there. That, or I really suck at similes. Both probably.

So there were we, all dumb-founded and confused, staring at the vast immensity of the monotonous scenery around us, when suddenly we heard a sultry feminine voice coming from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Truly strange, but it was not the first time someone pulled that trick on us, so we were able to remain relatively calm.

"About time! I was wondering if you'd ever show up."

Just in front of me, the very fabric of space seemed to rip open, exposing an even weirder endless scenery of scarlet red, filled with creepy, huge eyes. And from there, a woman popped up and stared at us with the curiosity of an infant.

"Oh my, you aren't the ones I was expecting," she gracefully covered her - probably fake - surprised expression with her fan.

You should be quite familiar with Yukari Yakumo, the Youkai of Boundaries. Purple eyes that stared into your soul and beyond, long blonde hair let loose under a mob cap. She carried a pink lace parasol and the forementioned paper fan, and wore a purple Chinese-style tabard with various trigrams over a pale pink dress. She hasn't changed at all in these thousand years, except in how she carried herself. If you see her now, you'd notice how she always stands uptight and firm, as if she was withstanding a heavy burden in her shoulders but doesn't let herself yield under it. At that time, that metaphorical weight wasn't there; she moved and acted with the grace and innocence of a young girl. Yeah, I think that's a good comparison: it's the difference between an unwed maiden and an old housewife, even if her outward appearance remains the same.

"You must be the Witch of the Boundaries," I said, stating the obvious in an attempt to reassure myself.

"Some refer to me as that. But please, call me Yukarin," she giggled.

"I'd rather go with Miss Yakumo."

"Boo, you're not fun! Can't we at least stick to first name basis, for friendship's sake?"

"Fine, Yukari it is..." I sighed. No more than three sentences exchanged and I was already mentally exhausted, that's how unnerving she was to me.

"But I never caught your name, miss..."

"Tenma."

"Right, Tenma, would you kindly take a sit over here?" Yukari pointed with her fan at a patch of grass right beside her.

Seeing as I had no other choice than to appease Yukari's petition, I turned around to dismiss Inubashiri and the others... but they were no were to be seen. Or rather, it was like they were never there to begin with.

"Huh!? Where are my men!?" I exclaimed.

"I wanted to have a private conversation with you alone, so I sent them off," the Witch calmly explained.

"It was your doing? What have you done with them!?" I admit I sounded a bit more distressed than I wanted to let out.

"Relax, Tenma. They're outside the tent, keeping the two kitsune you scared company," Yukari was quite amused with my reaction. She definitely did that to threw me off, I'm sure of it. "Your concern with your own people is laudable, my friend, but being such a worrywart isn't a good trait for a war strategist."

Since I had no way to confirm what Yukari told me, I could only resign myself to trust her word and do as she told for the time being. The word of a whimsical and powerful sorceress who had fun in taunting and confusing me, already calling me a friend a minute after we met, and even going as far as using the first name basis. You should understand why I was beginning to detest her.

"Tell me, Tenma, do you study astrology?" Yukari asked.

"Astrology? Can't say I have."

"Too bad. You're missing on a lot," the Witch looked up and sighed. "The stars tell many interesting things to those who can read what they say."

I mimicked her and, to my surprise, I witnessed the same dark, starry night with the full moon I'd been seeing the whole night. How did she manage to make the tent's ceiling transparent from the inside and opaque from the outside escapes me even to this day, but it wasn't that surprising after all she had done up until then.

"I had a friend who was able to tell the exact time and position she was in just by looking at the stars and the moon," she went on.

"Really?"

"Yes. But I'm not interested in that. Anybody can do that with proper tools and mathematics," the Witch mindlessly ran a finger along one of her golden strands of hair. "What I really look at is the hidden meaning in the constelations, the omens, the prophecies."

At the time, the thought of a secret message hidden among the random assortment of twinkle lights in the sky was simply ridiculous for my utilitarian and realist mindset. Sure, I do know how to get my bearings with the basic astronomy I learned, but other than that, for me the stars and the moon were just there. They had no other purpose for me other than orientation and (literal) illumination. Prophecies? Omens? Bah, that was laughable.

"What can you tell me from looking at the stars, Tenma?"

So when Yukari asked me that seemingly innocent question, I felt like a fish out of water, totally helpless and confused. No matter how hard I tried to search for any meaning up in the sky, the only thing I saw were little brilliant dots with no connection whatsoever, much less a message. Instead, I opted for the 'easy' way out:

"How can I be sure these stars are real? As far as I know, I'm still inside your tent, and this sky is another trick of yours."

To which Yukari laughed heartily. "Ohohohohoho, questioning the veracity of what your own eyes see? My oh my, I never took you for a philosopher!" She fanned herself, even more amused than she was a while before. "Rest assured, my friend, this sky is the sky you always watch every night. You have my word."

Sadly, my attempt to derail the conversation to a topic I was a bit more comfortable with failed, if the expectant look Yukari was giving me was of any indication.

"But you are the expert here, Yukari. Why do you want to hear the opinion of someone who is not knowledgeable in this?"

"Because you could see something that might have escaped me, or that I cannot see," having said that, the Witch picked up a peeble and showed it to me. "Take this stone, for example. If you asked your henchmen to tell you what is it, they'd say it is a stone, right? But beyond the mere appearance, the sight of the stone ellicits different reactions on each of them. Some might believe it's nothing out of the ordinary. That is truth. Others might remember a childhood memory of when they used to play with them. That is also truth. Others instantly start to think of ways to use that stone for their advantage if the need arises. True, as well. And others might recall the time they accidentaly hurt their toe with a peeble. A sad truth that is.

"These truths come from the same sight of a simple peeble, yet each and every one of them is as valid as the rest. The same goes for the stars. Each person thinks different things when they look up to the sky and see, but who are we to determine who is more in the right? I believe subjectivity is truer than objectivity. The truths we infer from our own insight are truer than the truths we agree upon as a community, the so called 'facts'. And so, to attain true wisdom, I'd like to learn the truths of all the people I meet. That's why I ask you, Tenma, to look up in the sky and tell me what you see."

I stood there in silence, mulling over what Yukari had told me. Even though I considered myself somewhat versed in philosophical stuff, that level of mumbo jumbo about truths and subjectivity and insights was too much for me to grasp. Yet I had a feeling I disagreed with her own view. I was a realist, and I still am. My job has always been to deal with problems in the real world. Conundrums of philosophy have no place in my line of work; many lives depend on my strategies, and I could not afford to dilly-dally about establishing my own insight as the truth. If it were like that, I would win all my battles with staggering easiness, right?

Even so, after hearing Yukari pour her thoughts out like that, I thought the least I could do was to give it another try. And so I looked again at the black sky, littered with white dots all over the firmament, and the enormous white moon looming over us. I figured Yukari would be satisfied if I told her the first thing that came to mind, and that was...

[]"Nothing special. It's just a black sky with little stars and a big moon."
[]"Vastness. Watching the immense blackness above me makes me feel so small, insignificantt."
[]"Curiosity. What lies above our land, beyond the stars? This earth is but a tiny cage compared to the sky."
[]"Reverence. Up there is the home of many gods, deities we pray and owe our life to."
[]"What do you see there, Yukari?"
[]"Enough with this. Tell me what are your plans, Yukari."
[]Write-in.


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

>>25846
Thanks, mate. I'm just trying my best, though I wish I was able to be more regular with my updates...

>>25847
And thanks to you too. Your praise is much appreciated, and your critiques most welcome and useful. I'll try not to use too modern slang from now on.
>>No. 25850
[X]"Curiosity. What lies above our land, beyond the stars? This earth is but a tiny cage compared to the sky."
>>No. 25851
[x]"Curiosity. What lies above our land, beyond the stars? This earth is but a tiny cage compared to the sky."
Bunch of errors. Most amusing was 'peeble'. Twice.
>>No. 25852
[x]"Vastness. Watching the immense blackness above me makes me feel so small, insignificantt."

I had hoped there'd be an option of 'Wariness' or something like that but I guess she's different enough from other Tengu to get over their innate fear of new things.
>>No. 25853
>>25851
Wait, you're telling me that's not hoe you spell it? But Word didn't- oh man, this is so embarrassing.

>>25852
Write-ins are there for a reason, broski. If you want to go with "Wariness", then by all means be my guest.
>>No. 25854
File 138314168824.jpg - (203.41KB, 429x600, nigga you baka.jpg) [iqdb]
25854
>>25853
>hoe
Will I ever get one post right?
>>No. 25855
[x]"What do you see there, Yukari?"

Be nice to get some more insight into what are future employer thinks.

Honestly how Tenma said she deals with practical problems, I really couldn't decide. All of the them seem too "philosophical" for her.

You could have it said kind of derisively, to make it fit better.
>>No. 25856
[X]"Curiosity. What lies above our land, beyond the stars? This earth is but a tiny cage compared to the sky."

This choice is making me play the Firefly theme song in my head.
>>No. 25857
[x]"Curiosity. What lies above our land, beyond the stars? This earth is but a tiny cage compared to the sky."

This is what I see when I look to the sky and it kind of makes me excited. A similar perspective from a tengu many years before science proves the vastness would be interesting.
>>No. 25906
Yo buddy, still alive?
>>No. 25943
>>25906
It's dead, Jim.

Sorry to all of you who were following this story (if you still are here), but I cannot for the love of God find inspiration to continue this story. Let's just say the ideas I had for it weren't worth all the trouble of writing the whole story and trying to make it interesting. Instead, I will put them to better use in either Gensokyo's Public Enemy, or another new story I might come up with in the future.

I know abandoning a story like this brings shame and dishonor to my name and reputation as an author, but I figure it's even worse to let it die without a word, like many others. And it was about damn time I put Soiled Surface to sleep for eternity like it deserves.

So again, sorry for everything. I know now that juggling two stories of this caliber is way out of my league, and I won't make this mistake ever again.
>>No. 25945
>>25943

Damn that was what I was afraid of.

Well, we won't hold it against you. . . much.

Would be okay with someone picking up the basic story idea for a story of their own?
>>No. 25946
>>25945
Sure, go right ahead. You can even take the torch and continue this story from where I left it if you want. I can even lend you some of the notes I have lying around.
>>No. 25947
>>25946

Maybe not exactly where you left off. I don't wanna copy off of you.

Sure send me them if you can. . . should I just give you my e-mail or something like that?
>>No. 25948
>>25947
If you are okay with putting your e-mail here for all to see, then alright. But if you don't want that...

Uh, well, that's a problem. I don't usually go to the IRC, so there's no way for us to contact privately. At least not one I can think of at the moment.
>>No. 25950
>>25947
>>25948

Best way to go about it would probably be to wait until Ikaros sends the notes to you then delete the post afterwards. That should minimise any complications.
>>No. 25951
>>25949
I looked for my notes, and I found out I wrote them on my mother tongue (Spanish), and with certain notes and annotations that only I can decipher. When I have a bit of free time, I'll work on making them understandable to any English speaker. I already jotted down your e-mail, so you can erase your post now if you want.

Btw, is that a throwaway address? What with the Cipher thing and this being based on AC:Z and all that.
>>No. 25952
>>25951

Yeah I was really into AC:Z at the time when I created that yahoo account. I still use it quite a bit.

Just send me them when you find the time.
>>No. 25974
Um. Winged Ikaros, did you ever tell me your e-mail account name? Because I have no idea who I should be looking for.
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