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File 151063938465.jpg - (344.00KB, 2048x1937, Evening Stroll.jpg) [iqdb]
28316 No. 28316
Previous Thread: >>28002

[X] Go for a walk in the plant

The rest of the rabbits more or less head directly for the stairs up to the dorms once we get down to the main area of the plant. Not sure what they have planned, if anything at all, but I know that Sumi and Ringo at least aren't the types to go to bed this early. I'm not really that worried about them finding anything to occupy themselves so much, but it makes me feel a little better that Yuzuki will be around to make sure they use to pass the time isn't too disruptive or anything. As for myself, I'm feeling like I should take a bit of a walk.

Granted, I've already spent a pretty significant portion of today out of the company of all three of the rabbits around me. It's not like I'm already sick of them, just that I feel like I wouldn't mind another chance to think by myself. My talks with Ringo haven't gone poorly, all things considered, but they haven't really resolved the situation one-hundred percent either.

And yes, I'm well aware that the bulk of the responsibility for making sure that anything does actually get resolved is on me. The possible unfairness of that is definitely not lost on me.

Rather than following along with the rest of the group as they start up the stairs, I stand aside and let Sumi pass me by. Both she and Yuzuki notice the gesture, which makes them react enough that Ringo catches it too. "So, I think I might wander around by myself for a little bit, if that's okay," I tell nobody in particular. Ordinarily I would have to ask Ringo, but with how little she seems to be enforcing the chain of command lately, I just say it in general to the group instead.

"I'll tell you right now, there ain't much to see," Sumi warns me, looking out the door to the stairwell with an unimpressed look on her face. "Even if you poke into the areas they don't want you to poke around in, it's all nerd stuff. Nothing flashy or interesting really."

"You do know that we're restricted from full access for a reason, right?" Yuzuki clearly already knows the answer, but still starts the inevitable scolding with a rhetorical question.

"Yeah yeah, they don't want us getting cancer or blowing something up or whatever else. I've heard it all before," Sumi doesn't even look up at Yuzuki as she moves back out of the hallway. "Not like I jumped into the plant itself or anything, I just had a look at stuff around here."

Yuzuki sighs and shakes her head at that, but surprisingly doesn't push the argument. Weird, I was kind of expecting her to be more persistent about the rules, but it looks like she's letting it drop for whatever reason. What's done is done I guess, and while I know that it won't make much difference to try and argue with Sumi, Yuzuki usually goes for it anyway just based on the principle of the matter.

I guess this is fine too though. No need to drag out an argument for no reason. "That's not really what I'm after anyway," I say. "I really just want to walk for the sake of walking."

"Coulda done that up top," Sumi points out, though the problems with that idea are obvious enough that even she admits to them readily. "But I guess it's warmer and less dark and spooky or whatever down here. Yeah fine. You do you, and anybody else you want to do," Sumi shrugs then starts heading up the stairs. I wasn't really looking for her permission though.

Luckily, Ringo also seems to agree. "Yeah, it's fine," She seems pretty neutral on the idea, though maybe it's a point in her favor that she's not asking to come too. "Err, I'll wait up for you then?" She asks.

Right. That's definitely... Well, there isn't really any getting around the question of sleeping next to Ringo or not, even if I delay it for now. That's fine though. Once I clear my head a bit, it'll probably be easier to talk that bit out. Hopefully. "Sure," I nod to Ringo.

Ringo gives me a quick thumbs up, then her and Yuzuki turn to head up to our dormitories, leaving me alone. I'm not really relieved by that or anything, but I guess it's more or less what I wanted.

I check the signs around me, trying to decide where to go when the destination doesn't actually matter all that much. Don't want to go down toward the reactor, obviously, so that's out. Don't want to go back up to the surface either. That leaves either the path toward the library and research labs, or the way to the cafeteria and eventually the rest of the underground.

Honestly, the idea of talking to Yamame very briefly crosses my mind, but I dismiss it almost immediately. Too long of a trip all the way out to the underground capital, and no way to know if I could even get in contact with her either. She could by busy don't something or sleeping or whatever else. Even if she did say that she wants me to visit her again sometime, I have a feeling that doing it right at this moment would only complicate things. Brainwise, that is.

So yeah, I think I'll just... Not even go that way for now. With that option crossed out, I head in the direction of the library, records, and research labs.

-

Despite saying that I want to walk around by myself to clear my mind, I don't really feel like I'm using the time very well. I'm not really sure what to focus on, and the fact that I'm in an unfamiliar environment kind of keeps me a little occupied, at least enough that I can't completely devote myself to my thoughts.

Okay, no, this place isn't that unfamiliar. I've been idly running my hand along the wall as I slowly make my way through the halls, and it mostly is just more of the same that I've seen anywhere else in the plant. Dull colors, the occasional door, labelled or not, and a complete lack of other people. Really does remind me of some of the more permanent military buildings back on the Moon. The kinds that are a lot bigger than they need to be considering how few people are actually occupying or doing any work them. A lot of resources and materials used for not much reason, as far as I can tell. Not really my place to tell people how to spend their budgets though. Especially when they're the ones paying me.

But um, yeah. See this is the kind of thing that I was thinking about. It doesn't have much substance, but it occupies my mind enough that I can still keep track of where I am as I head deeper into the plant facilities. There are still signs around, so I don't think I'll get lost, but it still doesn't hurt to pay attention. Where the hallway leading out of the plant to the underground is more of a straight shot with a few rooms off to the side, this section of the plant appears to be just a bit more complex. There are more extra hallways leading off to different spare rooms and laboratories. Places with signs saying stuff like pressurization research, turbine testing, coolant pump development... It's pretty much way over my pay grade, but I'm not really here to check this stuff out anyway.

So what exactly am I here to do then? I haven't really gotten that far on that. Keep getting distracted by the sightseeing, even if I'm only reading signs. Need to switch back into actually clearing up some of the leftover problems in my brain. Maybe I can't immediately solve the big issues like the thing with Ringo or what I'm going to do about going back to the Moon, but there should be other things that I can sort through to make myself feel better.

I guess that the big order of the day is my powers. There are some big changes there, and trying to think about the implications is kind of daunting. Just from the practice session with Sanae, the reactions that I saw from Ringo, and the comparisons that I can make mentally with data I already have, it seems like I've suddenly rocketed into being the highest fire power member of the team. That's not to say that I wasn't already. If you ignore danmaku, then yeah, having more control over my powers doesn't matter that much. It was between super strength and gunshots, and while there are pros and cons to each, in most situations my powers would usually come out on top of that debate.

Now, with more finesse in what I'm actually doing? More ability to pick and choose what I'm summoning? More time to actually look at the bulllet dimension thing without getting a headache? Yeah, the others can't really compare to me offensively. Not that I'm trying to sound arrogant or anything. The others obviously have utility from their abilities that I can't get anywhere close to. It's just that objectively, I am the most powerful. There isn't really much argument to be made against that idea.

That worries me a little bit. Partially because it's another excuse for Ringo to be lazy, but also because it's another thing pushing me to pick up her slack. It's not really that hard to notice that I've already been doing that a lot lately. When Ringo doesn't care to make a decision or push things along, I do it for her. When somebody needs to be proactive and get things done, I'm the first one there. I don't really know when or why this started, maybe shortly after we came to Earth in the first place, but either way, it's not normal. That's not to say that it's bad, I suppose. Ringo is obviously intending to stay here, and in that case, she can't exactly lead the unit anymore. If she's trying to step down a bit to let me gradually get used to taking charge...

Err, that only works if I want to lead the team though, doesn't it?

Aaaand just like that I've run into that issue again. The bit where I don't know if I want to stay here or go back to the Moon. I feel like I'm hitting this subject pretty often. It would really be easier if I could just come to a conclusion on it, but-Woah!

I come across another intersection of hallways just in time to almost run into somebody rounding the corner toward me. I manage to avoid a full on collision, but my legs trip over this other girl's, causing me to stumble and almost fall to the ground. From the thump sound behind me as I regain my balance, the other party had it worse. I turn around to check the damage, only to find Rika laid out on her stomach, neck and head angled up enough to read a clipboard she's holding out in front of her. If I didn't already know it wasn't the case, I could almost believe that she was lying there on purpose. As it is, it just looks like she meant to fall over.

"Are you okay?" I'm taller than her, so it's no surprise that Rika was tripped up more by us running into each other. I stand over her nervously, not sure if I should help her up or what.

"Fine," Rika responds, still looking over the paper on her clipboard. It kinda looks like plans or blueprints to something, but I'm not close or technically versed enough to figure out what. "This angle actually helps a little bit. Good perspective. Very artistic, like I keep saying," Right, now that I have time to remember, Rika was the one that was kind of difficult to understand completely, wasn't she? "Good morning, by the way."

"Err," Morning? We're not even close to that. "Evening," I correct her gently.

"Evening still?" Rika rolls over ninety degrees onto her side, turning her neck to look up at me. "Crap. They're not gonna take me seriously like this. Working away like crazy, you'd expect me to lose track of time and at least work all night, but I'm almost done with what I wanted to do. Doesn't look nearly as impressive if it's not an all-nighter," I... What? Rika sits up abruptly, crossing her legs and staring at her clipboard. "Nope, nope. Guess I'll have to rework this again. Not going to have kappa think that I half-assed this."

I'm... Kind of a little bit lost here. She was working on something, assumed that it took her all night, so she decided it was done. Now that I've told her that isn't the case, she thinks that will make her look worse somehow? I'm missing something here. "What um, what are you working on?"

Rika frowns, looking up at me for a moment, then holds up her clipboard. "Here."

... Yeah, this means nothing to me. Just a bunch of lines, symbols, and numbers. There aren't even any notes that could give me context about what I'm actually looking at. "I don't really know anything about this um... This stuff."

"Do any of us, really?" Rika asks what I'm pretty sure is a rhetorical question as she pulls the clipboard back down to her face. "No, I didn't think so. Not like these. Not like this. Trying to reproduce it, but the Moon is weird. They do weird circuit things. Weird machine things. Brilliant. Pretty. But weird. You, you're weird."

"... Sorry?" Not my fault that Moon tech is massively far beyond Earth stuff.

"Apology acknowledged, not accepted," Wow, that seems a little harsh, but there's no real intensity to Rika's accusations of my guilt as she stands back up. She brushes her pants off a little bit, then gives me a serious look. "Do me a favor? Distract me for a bit. I do good work when I'm distracted. Or hungry. Or other conditions apply. Or just when I do work really. It's all good."

"Um?" Before I can even really process the request, Rika has already given me a half hearted beckoning motion to follow her, then started walking away. She doesn't even look back to see if I'm following or anything.

Err... This isn't exactly what I came over this way for, but maybe it's still okay to go along with it. Rika is clearly a very outside perspective. If she wants me to just distract her, maybe I could get her input on things? I mean, I don't really have any idea what she's doing, but it's not really my job to know, as curious as I might be.

On the other hand, I don't really know how long this is going to take, and it's not like I'm being forced to follow her. She still hasn't even looked back at me, so I doubt she cares that much what I actually decide to do.

[ ] Talk to Rika about the Moon
[ ] Talk to Rika about the Dream World
[ ] Talk to Rika about the plant
[ ] Talk to Rika about my problems
[ ] Talk to Rika about something else (write in)
[ ] Don't talk to Rika, just keep walking

Multivoting is on as usual.
Expand all images
>> No. 28318
[X] Talk to Rika about the Moon
[X] Talk to Rika about the Dream World

Hmmm... not sure we want to vent to Rika about our personal problems, might just want to keep it mission-focused for now.
>> No. 28319
[x] Talk to Rika about my problems
>> No. 28320
[x] Talk to Rika about the Dream World
[x] Talk to Rika about the plant

Smalltalk with a side of relevance.
>> No. 28321
[X] Talk to Rika about the Dream World
>> No. 28323
File 15108987781.jpg - (488.10KB, 800x800, Inspiration from strange places.jpg) [iqdb]
28323
[X] Talk to Rika about the Dream World

"O-okay uh, wait!" Sheesh, she really isn't giving me much time to think this over. I have to hurry to follow along before she disappears down one of these random hallways that all look the same. Even if I don't think that I would get lost, I definitely wouldn't be able to figure out where Rika's going if I lost track of her. Everything is too similar, and I'm not even sure where I would want to start looking. What does Rika actually do aside from generic science engineering stuff?

Obviously I'm not dumb, but that doesn't I'm well versed in scientific concepts. Research and development was one of those rare fields that the lunarians actually made sure to work on for themselves, rather than pushing it off to the rabbits. Personally I think that we could have done a good job with it, but it's hard to argue with the results. Even if you only look at the stuff that Eirin Yagokoro developed, lunar technology really is orders better than anything I've seen down here. Unfortunately, that gap just makes it even less likely that I'll have anything in common with Rika right now. Even if she says that I'm just here to distract her, what should-?

Oh, there's an idea. "Um, you know about the Dream World, right?" I think that's a pretty relevant subject, considering it's kind of the goal right now. At least in the more immediate sense. I speed up a little bit so that I can catch up and actually be in a decent range for conversation.

Luckily, Rika's a bit shorter than I am, so it's not that hard to close the distance just by having longer legs. "Deep down, everybody does," She answers vaguely, not even turning her head my way. Her eyes are on her clipboard again. I'll try not to let that bother me I guess.

"But I mean, you have some kind of specialization in it, right?" I don't recall exactly how Kanako described the credentials, but she definitely did count Rika as someone with some kind of expertise. If she had a choice, I have a feeling she would have preferred to consult Rikako instead. "It's your work that's going to let the portal get us to the lunar capital, right?"

"Probly," That's not even a real word, but okay. "It'll probly work."

"Right," I'd really like her to be a bit more confident. At the very least she shouldn't sound less sure of things than I do. "Well if it does work, what can you tell me about what comes after that? I've been there once, but we were just passing through an approved channel. It was supposed to be a lot safer than anywhere else. What is the rest of the Dream World like?"

Rika looks up from her clipboard for a moment, staring forward as she keeps walking. She fidgets with the thing a little bit, apparently trying to think of how to answer. "Dark," is what she settles on. "You can still see though, which I always thought was weird. You see what it wants you to see usually, but when you're not dreaming, how does it work?"

Err, I'm kind of missing some of the thought process there. "What it wants you to see?" I repeat.

"Subconscious," Rika answers with a word that doesn't really explain anything. "It's not your friend, not anyone's friend, doesn't even have any friends. Can you imagine that? Don't know how it works either, but it knows what it wants you to see somehow, and that's what you get to see when you dream. That's how the Dream World works, at least that part of it. Collective subconscious. Everyone's connected to it and through it," Okay, I kinda get that a little bit more, but there's probably a better way to explain it than that. "But it's also its own place, because you can go there with your body."

"Right, through portals and stuff," That's part of the plan and everything, but it doesn't really answer my original question. "And what was it like when you went there with your body? Err, you did do that, right?"

Rika pauses mid stride, holding her foot up for half a second before it comes down stiffly. I see her blinking a couple of times, though she doesn't appear to be looking at much of anything in particular. "Different. World of Fantasies," She mutters, almost more to herself then as a response to me. At least she continues after that. "That's what I call it anyway. Full of ideas, fantastic ones, scary ones... Way too much inspiration at once, I'm still trying to work through it all from the first time I was there... And every other time hasn't lived up to the hype... Hype while sleeping doesn't work, by the way. It's irritating. Distracting from the point. Not the good kind of distraction either."

"Um..." I'm really not sure that I follow. I'm also not sure how to ask for more information. Is she saying she went somewhere other than the Dream World?

We continue through the facility quietly after that. Rika goes back to staring at her clipboard after a minute or so, awkwardly trying to scribble on it while walking. From what I can see, she's making a bit of a mess, but it's apparently good enough for her. She never erases or corrects anything as far as I can tell. Either she's not making any mistakes or she's just working around them.

After another couple of minutes, I realize a couple of things. Firstly, I'm not being a very good distraction. It's hard to feel too badly about that though, considering Rika is kind of strange to talk to, and she's not doing a good job of keeping the conversation going either. I decide not to say anything about that, but there's definitely another point that I want to bring up. That's the second thing that I realize. "Um, am I even supposed to be back here?" There haven't been any signs about the area being restricted, but I haven't seen any signs like that anywhere. In fact, I'm not sure if such signs actually exist.

"Supposed to?" Rika repeats. "Nnnnope," Crap crap crap... "We're gonna send you back in a few days though."

What does that... Oh, so I just started panicking for nothing then. That's not exactly new, but I'd still rather not have done it. "Err, I was more talking about this part of the plant..."

Rika just shrugs as a response, then falls back into silence. Not really reassuring.

Yeah, I can see why Sanae said that Rika can be a little difficult at times. She hasn't really given me much of a concrete answer for anything. Maybe I could be pressing her harder, sure, but feeling like you're constantly having to force a conversation just to keep it going isn't exactly a fun experience. Doesn't help that I know very little about Rika in the first place. Rikako and Kanako could handle her by having authority over her to do so, but I don't have that.

Still, she asked me to be a distraction, so I'll keep trying for at least a little bit longer. "Okay, so, World of Fantasies then?" I prompt her, hoping that she'll give me a little more to work with.

Rika nods, glancing up from her clipboard again as we turn another corner. "Might have been something wrong with me, or maybe not. Probably just something different," she mutters. "Always always always went there dreaming as a kid. Not normal, but I liked it. Go to sleep at night, wake up with all these ideas. Things that I can build. Things that I have to build, because nobody else is going to do it if I don't. Doesn't give me a complete picture, so I gotta fill in the blanks while I'm awake. That's where the art comes in, I think. I'm a good artist."

Huh, some of that was surprisingly a little more lucid. I'm getting a bit more of an idea of what's up with Rika, though I still don't quite understand the whole World of Fantasies thing. Maybe it's something that you have to see to really get, but if I take her word for it, Rika's behavior starts making a little bit more sense. Just a little. "So then-"

Before I can get more clarification, Rika turns and opens up one of the doors nearby. Before I can even read the words on the sign above to see where we're stopping, a streak of white and red zooms out of the doorway with a high pitched noise that sounds like a girl yelling "NYYYYOOOOOOOOOM!". I jump back in surprise as the blur passes by me, narrowly avoiding whatever it is colliding with my head. "What the-!?"

"Oh, that's where Mimi-chan was," Rika says calmly, looking past me to wherever that thing sped off to. After a second, something occurs to her, making her turn back and stare at the door that she's still holding open instead. "Hm... How did she even open the door in the first place?"

That's the first thing she's worried about? I almost got my head taken off! "What was that?!"

"Mimi-chan," Rika repeats, not even looking up from the door, as if it was going to give her an answer to her question.

"And Mimi is?"

"Mimi-chan," Rika repeats. For a moment, it seems like that's all the response I'm going to get. Once Rika finally gives up on the door revealing its secrets to her though, she speaks again, offering slightly more of an explanation. "An intercontinental ballistic missile. Kind of like a pet but she doesn't make as much of a mess. At least, I hope she didn't make a mess, or if she did, I hope it's a good one. Ruukoto always ruins all the good messes. Doesn't get the distinction. Pleb."

"I um, okay, What!?" As much as I want an answer, I don't get one before Rika has already headed inside the room.

Well if she's not here, I should be able to groan out loud, right? Sure. Let's go with that. I could use a good groan right now. Maybe some time to compose myself too. Yeah, just a moment.

...

A ballistic missile? As a pet?

I have many questions.

Before I follow Rika into the room, I make note of the sign saying what I'm entering. Hangar, upper entrance? How does that work if we're underground? What would they even need to put in a-

Oh.

What.

... I now have many more questions.

The hangar itself isn't the surprising part. While I didn't expect a room like this to exist in the first place, its appearance isn't that weird. It's kind of similar to the storage area that we stored the broken drone in. Long metal catwalks surrounding the perimeter of the place, with another freight elevator allowing people to get up and down. Where that room had had shelves and storage though, this one is full of mechanical parts in various states of disrepair, tools for taking them apart, and equipment for moving stuff like that around. Yeah, that all seems normal enough. Not that big a deal.

So why are there two GIANT ROBOTS?!

Taking up a large portion of the back wall, set in behind even the outer rim of the catwalk, there are a couple of cylindrical silos. Standing inside each of those, thankfully not moving or anything or they would be even more intimidating, are a couple of humanoid, golden and red, giant robots. If they're almost from floor to ceiling in this hangar, that means they're what, three stories tall? More than that?

I just... What do I say to this?

"Second one's not finished yet," Rika calls out, suddenly floating up to the walkway where I'm at. She's riding in some black orb thing, but I can't see what it actually is from this angle. She's too low. It looks like a big ball with wings. Not really sure what the wings are for though, considering they aren't flapping and the thing seems to be hovering just fine. I'd be surprised enough about that thing if the giant robots weren't overshadowing it just a bit. "The circuits giving me trouble, specially since I have to base the new one off the old design. Kappa stuff. Doesn't match my design sense at all. Messy, but luckily the original doesn't do very much. I can make a lot of stuff on my own. That's what I was working on during some downtime tonight."

"I..." Yeah, still speechless here.

Rika floats up a little higher so that she can actually see over the railing of the walkway. She stares at me as I try to think of what to say, looking like she doesn't at all understand why I'm surprised, or maybe more like she doesn't even realize that I am surprised.

[ ] Um.
[ ] What?
[ ] Why?
[ ] How does...?
[ ] ... Cool.

Multivoting still fine. Also write ins.

Hey I did a second update this week again! I'm getting back into it!
>> No. 28324
[X] Um.
[X] How does...?
[X] ... Cool.

...I probably should've been, but somehow I was not expecting either Mimi or the robots.
>> No. 28325
[X] Um.
[X] How does...?
[X] ... Cool.
>> No. 28326
[X] What?

Might as well get it spelled out in character as well as to us, the readers.

[X] How does...?

Because I have to know how they work. Do they fly? How many pilots? What kind of weapons do they have? Are they both still steam powered? How much of an improvement is Great Hisoutensoku upon the original? Does it have a Rocket Punch?! It had better have a Rocket Punch! Seriously though, the entire update could be spent detailing those two and I for one would not mind at all.

[X] ... Cool!

Because at the end of the day, that's all that really needs to go into a proper Super Robot. Making it as cool as possible is paramount from a design perspective, and everyone knows that chicks dig giant robots. Actually, there's a thought...

[X] ... Will either/both of them be combat ready by the time we head out?

I don't want to get my hopes up, but I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't at least ask.
>> No. 28327
[x] What?
[x] How does...?
[x] ... Cool.

> Mimi-chan
> pet

LMAO. I fucking love this story.
>> No. 28328
File 151154656970.jpg - (322.88KB, 2177x3031, Somebody decided this was a good idea.jpg) [iqdb]
28328
[X] Um. What?
[X] How does...?
[X] ... Cool.

"Um..." Please stop looking at me like that Rika. No matter how much you stare at me, I'm still going to need a minute to try and think of anything intelligent to say here. Maybe more than a few minutes to be honest. This is just so much higher than the level of technology that we were briefed to expect down here! Did command do any kind of recon before shipping us out? I mean, I have to guess the answer is no, or they would know how stupidly underequipped we are for the job. A robot thing that size? It could have just stomped the purification drone into the ground without a problem, right? Did we ever even stand a chance of succeeding at all? Considering how without us, the capital is just stuck in the dream world indefinitely, it strikes me as really odd that command put so little resources into actually making it so we could pull this off.

... Not that I really like the idea of purifying things, especially now that I know about the area that we started in initially. In a way, I'm glad that we failed. If the drone had kept expanding the area it was working on, it would have run into the Moriya shrine before too long. Just the idea of destroying Sanae's place and everything... No. They don't deserve that.

But um, anyway, I'm kind of getting away from the point here. Probably because I still don't know what to actually say or do about the main point in the first place. I don't have enough worldly experience to properly react to the sudden appearance of giant robots. My bad I guess? If it's any consolation, I'm trying to fix it right now. It's going poorly, but I am trying.

I just... I need more details here, I think. Maybe focusing in on something specific will help. "So, what are those, specifically?"

"Robots."

"I... Yes," I really should have seen that response coming. "I-I know. Aaand?"

Rika glances back at the indentations where the robots are being held for a moment, then back at me. She shrugs, saying nothing else despite my prompt.

I have to work really hard to suppress a sigh. Not very much ground gained. Not much specific to focus on. Rika just seems to have a way of speaking that prevents me from making any real progress. "Okay... Okay. How does um," I pause, trying to pick a question that can't just be answered in one word. "How does Earth have something like this already?" Is what I end up settling on.

There's a brief metal tapping noise from beneath Rika, followed by her beginning to slowly float along the length of the walkway. I'm not going to let her get away, even if I don't think she's really trying to. I follow along anyway, just in case.

"Why wouldn't we? It's not really anything impressive," She says after a moment, looking across the room instead of at me. If we weren't the only ones here, I would almost think she was talking to somebody else. "Stuff in my head is way better than both of them, though the little bro is getting a bit closer the more I work on it. The big brother? Yeah, he was hopeless, and still has a long way to go. Like I said, a kappa project. Couldn't do much, only steam powered, meant for advertisement of something or other. A waste really."

"Advertisement?" What, was it going to walk around holding a big sign or something? Wouldn't that freak people out more than attract them? I can't imagine the normal humans from the village understanding this. Heck, I barely understand it.

"Originally, yeah. I thought that's what Kanako bought it off them for too, at first," Rika continues. I'm noticing that she's gliding along smoothly. What exactly is that thing she's standing on anyway? "I didn't even get to finish complaining about all the design shortcomings before she said I'm supposed to make another one. A real one, with combat modifications and actual features. Change it to be nuclear instead of steam powered, make it so someone could pilot it, improve durability, flight speed, manuverability, harder, better, faster, stronger, and all the rest of it. The kappa've been making changes to the original based off my design on the new one ever since... And I guess they've been helping a little in their own way too."

Okay, so it's one of Rika's projects then. I guess I have to expect that she, along with the rest of the people down here, have to spend their time working on something. I just wouldn't have expected that something to be this. "What for?"

"Eh?" Rika finally turns back to me, a confused grimace twisted onto her face. Was my question really that strange?

"What are they for?" I emphasize.

Rika's expression turns to one of bemusement instead. A little better I guess. "... I don't think you're asking the right questions here," Well what else am I supposed to ask?! "Look, sometimes some things just need to be built," She stresses, making a long, sweeping gesture toward the robots as we walk toward them. "We need to make progress and advance forward technologically. It's something the boss lady is big on. Science doesn't have enough of a place in our normal society, people just aren't interested. We have to stay separate so we can work on things that need to get done. Advance technology enough on our own, and people are bound to want to follow, whether it's for convenience or just because we've made something too amazing to ignore. I think that's what she was saying anyway. Might've paraphrased a bit."

By the time Rika has finished her speech, we've made it to the silos on the side of the room. The walkway puts us at just about chest level of the robots, the lack of distance making the whole thing look a little bit more real, and therefore more intimidating. "And you're uh, planning to use this robot for that?" While this thing is pretty amazing, I don't know if it'll inspire people to follow the Moriya shrine like Kanako wants. If anything I can imagine it making people panic, though I guess maybe Kanako might know more than I do.

"If that's the plan higher up, sure," Rika answers back, sounding pretty non-committal about it as she climbs up over the railing and onto the walkway next to me. "I haven't been told if it is though. I'm just working on it because I want to. Not everything we finish down here has to see the light of day. Long as it meets my standards, we're good."

"Uh... Huh." Didn't she just get done calling the original robot, the one that actually got used for its intended purpose, a waste? What is her criteria here?

"So, any comments?"

That's just a bit of a loaded question, I think.

To be honest, I'm a little worried about these things. Sure, Rika hasn't said much about what it can actually do offensively, but that's not really the problem. A nuclear powered, walking, flying robot. More than one of them, in fact. Even if the Moon can handle something like this relatively easily, what about the rest of Gensokyo? How would they deal with the threat of two giant robots looming over them? What about three or more? Could these things end up mass produced? Is Kanako going to build so many of them that she can just overrun Gensokyo and rule it or something?

Although... I might be going a bit overboard here. I'm assuming a slippery slope that doesn't necessarily exist. Rika isn't even finished with one of these, and building more of them can't possibly be cheap or easy. They don't have the space or resources to mass produce a bunch of hundred meter tall robots down here. Even if that were the case, I have a feeling that something like an invasion of giant Moriya shrine robots would be treated as an incident, and people like Marisa or Reimu would deal with it with the same kind of efficiency (and extreme prejudice) that Reisen had when she dealt with the one I was in. That's what they do, right? The impression I've gotten from talking to miscellaneous youkai is that they're quite good at it too.

And also, I mean, technically it's not my problem right now. It's an Earth thing.

"Honestly," If you push aside all the little nagging worries that they cause, "I think they're pretty cool," Really though, command wouldn't build something like this, and even if they did, I would never get a chance to be so close to it. They'd probably keep it a secret forever, or at the very least not tell the random soldiers about it. As it is right now, I could basically lean out over the edge of the railing here and touch the bright red, metal chestplate of this thing, and I could probably get Rika to tell me about it pretty easily. Pretty big difference there.

... Huh, you know now that I think about it, I guess I technically can't rule out the idea that the Moon does have giant robots and I just haven't heard about them. Seems a bit too whimsical though. Moriya shrine? Sure. Lunar defense corps? Probably not.

"Pretty cool," Rika repeats, nodding a couple of times before apparently thinking better of it. "Be much cooler when it's done. Still having problems with the finer motions, dexterity, and some of the user interface. Thing's clumsy in more ways than one. More ways than I am."

"What can they actually do then?" Clumsiness isn't really a trait that I would normally want to associate with a giant robot.

"Right now? Mostly walk around, pick stuff up, fly for a while," Rika lists off, leaning somewhat precariously over the railing to look the second of the two giant robots up and down. "Got a hell of a punch too. Later I'm gonna strap more danmaku cannons and lasers and stuff onto it so it can fight better, the current design is one of my old ones. Sanae also says that we gotta make it so it can transform, or maybe combine with the original. Not sure how she's gonna get that part approved, but I'd be down to try it as long as I get to set the standards for both systems."

"Huh, so it's already usable then?" That sounds like most of the things you would want a robot like this to be able to do on a basic level at least. If there's supposed to be more to the thing, it sounds like even Rika doesn't know about it.

"More than Hisoutensoku mark one, at least." Hisoutensoku? Is that the name? Doesn't really roll off the tongue, does it? Rika apparently catches something in my expression, because she quickly mutters "Working title."

That aside though, it sounds like it's usable to a degree, but still has a while to go. Unfortunate, but I guess it doesn't matter that much to me. Originally I was kind of thinking that maybe we could use this thing to help with our mission, but even if it was completely finished, something this big wouldn't fit through the portal that we're going to use in the first place. I guess Rika was more showing me this to show off or something, or more likely she didn't put much thought into it at all. I kind of have a feeling I'm not even supposed to be in this hangar in the first place.

"Want to go for a ride?"

... What?

-

As it turns out, the silos that both Hisoutensokus are in can go either up or down. Inputting a few commands into a wall mounted control panel, the platforms that the robots are standing on can be raised or lowered. Raising them up and out of the hangar eventually puts them in a large, mostly vertical shaft which, once the thing launches and flies up, will apparently let out into the main hole in the ground that we've been coming in and out of the plant from. Obviously, using that is kind of out of the question right now. It would mean flying a giant robot around Gensokyo, and that's the kind of thing that draws a bit too much attention.

Instead, if you set the platforms to lower, you drop the robots down into a tunnel, which leads out into the underground. More specifically, the Remains of Blazing Hell part that Sanae showed off to me during an earlier walk through the plant. The part where everything is either on fire, made of fire, or next to a fire. Possibly all three things at once.

And that is, unfortunately, the area that we're allowed to ride the robot around in.

"Um, maybe you should try adding a bit of air conditioning into your design?" I try to make the suggestion gently, but I almost feel like I'm getting cooked. This is way hotter than I'm used to, and having somebody sitting practically on top of me doesn't help. Bleh, I'm sweating already.

"I did," Rika answers bluntly, not even turning her head back to me. Instead, she opens a panel in one of the armrests of the seat, giving it a glance. "It's working too. Nice."

The cockpit of Hisoutensoku mk. II is situated in the upper torso, inside the chest part where the armor is the thickest and most durable, which makes complete sense, sure. The problem is that it really isn't made for two people. I had some misgivings when Rika opened the thing up and told me that we were going to have to share a seat. Now that she's sitting in my lap, piloting the thing like I'm not even here, I have even more issues with it.

I don't have anyone else to blame but myself really. She offered a chance to ride around in the thing, so obviously I took the opportunity. "When am I ever going to get a chance to do something like this again?" was the thought process I had in my head. Now a big part of me is hoping that the answer to that is never.

There are a couple of screens in here, showing the scene outside the robot from the perspective of its eyes, as well as another one that seems to be from the chest. Redundancy I guess. Aside from that, I can't really think of what most of this stuff even is. Too many blinking lights, gauges, meters, and switches with not enough labels. It seems kind of crude compared to what I would expect if people from the Moon were to build it, but I guess that's to be expected. To Rika's credit at least, she doesn't seem to be having a difficult time getting the thing going, and all she's had to use to pilot it are a couple of arm controllers, as well as some pedals under her feet.

"I'm gonna get it up to speed. Hold on to something," She mutters back to me. What do-there's nothing to hold on to! "Other than me." That just makes it worse!

The back and forth rocking of the robot intensifies as the pace of its steps speed up. We're still walking around the ground, somehow managing to not sink into the molten lava or catching on fire. At least the robot seems pretty durable, given that I can both hear and feel the crunching of stone underneath us with every step. We move from slow steps to a power walk to a brisk jog, the whole machine shaking more intensely the entire time. I clutch the arms of the pilot's seat as much as I can, but still feel myself being shaken around enough that my butt hurts.

"This is um... Kind of way more dangerous than I thought it would be," I say, trying not to let the worry leak through my voice too much.

"It's fiiiine," Rika insists, pushing forward harder. The robot responds by breaking out into a run. Rika urges it forward verbally as well, leaning forward in my lap. "C'mon c'mon..." Suddenly she pulls back with her arms, slamming her feet down on a different set of pedals "Yeah!"

I feel a lurching sensation as we lift off. Not anywhere close to as easy or comfortable as normal flying, the robot blasts into the air, flying above the burning ground of the Remains of Blazing Hell. Its body flattens out horizontally, giving the screen showing the chest level view a good view of all the fire we're flying over. The head view keeps itself oriented forward, showing us soaring past a collection of ravens, fairies, and the vengeful spirit thing Sanae warned me about earlier. As we get higher, we even have to dodge out of the way of the occasional stalactite.

Rika whoops excitedly, pulling back a little bit to make the robot fly a bit more slowly. We're still cruising along, but at least I don't feel like we're going to crash into something at the slightest mistake. Luckily it seems like the underground is quite a bit bigger than I expected.

Unluckily, I am hot, sweaty, cramped, a little achey, kind of terrified, and in a place that I'm probably not supposed to be just because I was curious about riding in a giant robot. I can appreciate that Rika seems to be having fun, but this might have been a bad idea in the first place. If she's just doing this to test things out, I don't know if I want to be a test dummy for her. We haven't even hit a point where this thing's supposed clumsiness is a problem yet.

[ ] Try to get Rika to go back
[ ] Screw it, if Rika's fine, we can keep going until she's satisfied

Hello thanksgiving holiday break, you certainly are playing hell with my schedule.

Also I figured there was no point in having a 'get in the fucking robot' or 'don't do that' vote so I skipped it to go a bit further than that.
>> No. 28329
[X] Screw it, if Rika's fine, we can keep going until she's satisfied

Time to live a little, and yes there is exactly one way a get in the fucking robot vote could have gone.
>> No. 28330
[x] Screw it, if Rika's fine, we can keep going until she's satisfied
>> No. 28331
File 151160442413.jpg - (63.86KB, 560x315, flawless plan.jpg) [iqdb]
28331
[x] Screw it, if Rika's fine, we can keep going until she's satisfied.
>> No. 28332
[X] Screw it, if Rika's fine, we can keep going until she's satisfied

Yeah, there's really only one way that vote could have gone. And probably only one way that this vote can go as well.

>Got a hell of a punch too.
I am choosing to interpret this as yes, the Mark II does indeed come equipped with a Rocket Punch.

>Sanae also says that we gotta make it so it can transform, or maybe combine with the original.
She would say that, wouldn't she? Well, I for one am totally in favor of Symmetrical Docking, though I doubt Seiran will have any influence there, or that it would be in-character of her to say that.

Good show, NRFB. This was all I was hoping for and more, plus now we can see what this thing can really do. Keep up the good work!
>> No. 28333
File 151185122660.jpg - (334.12KB, 700x700, No joyrides.jpg) [iqdb]
28333
[X] Screw it, if Rika's fine, we can keep going until she's satisfied

While I might have some decent reasoning for why I kind of want to turn back, I think I might as well stay quiet for now. More than most people that I've met here in Gensokyo, Rika seems to play things by her own rules and thought process. Just making an argument might not be sufficient. It would probably be better to wait for now. Bring up my problems when something goes wrong or Rika seems to be getting bored or whatever. Maybe I'm being a bit passive though.

On the other hand, this is a little bit interesting. Not an experience that I'm likely to get again. Sure, it's not exactly pleasant, but it is unique, and kind of cool too. Flying through the burning underground like this, just passing over everything. Obviously I wouldn't be able to do this kind of thing without some kind of protection from the heat. As far as protection goes, you could do a lot worse than giant flying robot.

We've more or less leveled out into a steady flight forward now. I don't think we're going top speed, probably not anywhere close to it, but that suits me just fine. The less chance to get slammed around in here the better. It's a bit difficult to get a proper sense of scale, both from the limited perspective of the cameras and the fact that all the landscape looks pretty much the same, but there is a kind of beauty to it too. The bright flames on the ground flickering and dancing around each other. I wonder how long everything down here has been on fire? Sanae only gave me a tiny couple sentence explanation to what all this magma stuff is. Turns out it's something of a sight to see. Earth really is much more varied and interesting than the Moon in that way.

"Clear. Still favoring the right engine a little bit. I told them. I told them that I'd need to it recalibrate again," Rika looks around at various dials and meters around us as she mutters to herself. I can't really follow it, especially considering I'm mostly only seeing the back of her head. "Four times is enough, pfeh... They're probably even worse off too. Need more readings."

At the very least, it doesn't sound like she's saying positive things at the moment. Just a little worrying, that. "Is there a problem?"

"Always a problem..." Rika says automatically. I flinch as she shifts, pushing into my lap for a moment before half standing up in the already too cramped cockpit. She somehow manages not to step on the pedals by her feet, which means that the robot keeps flying normally. "Here, hold this," Okay, never mind! Rika shoves the big thruster things she's been holding with her arms around her self and into my personal space, causing the robot to lurch uncomfortably.

I grab the things, more to steady myself, because I don't actually know how to use them. The best I can think to do is hold them back in the same position that Rika had them in, though that's a little difficult to do without leaning forward and sticking my face a little bit too close to Rika's um... To Rika's butt. "I don't um..."

"Push them up or down as needed. Forward if you're feeling adventurous, or don't," Rika answers a question that I didn't ask, sounding nonchalant as she raises up on her tiptoes to look at something. After a moment, she reaches up to manipulate whatever it is. Looks like she's too busy to properly instruct me about anything. Great.

Okay um... I can't see the screens very well with Rika standing in the way, but I think that we're more or less stable again. Maybe a little bit more angled upward? Hard to tell. Okay, if I push these thruster things up, then... Oh wait no no no don't!

My head slaps back against the seat for a moment before I pull back. Ugh. Pushing up changed the angle, right, but I didn't adjust in time and it made me push forward too. That's how we speed up then? Definitely felt like it. I don't really want to do that again. Ugh, this whole machine is way too much of a deathtrap when it's being flown by someone with no training. What was Rika thinking?

... I mean, probably about something else entirely, sure, but...

"Nice," Rika says, glancing back at me with a smirk before- Oof. Before falling into my lap again. "It's good now," She says. "Okay now," She corrects herself. "Better than average now," She decides after a moment. "Better than it was before," She finishes.

"That's not very reassuring..." I probably would have felt better if she had said nothing at all. Constantly moving her assessment down is probably a bit of a bad sign. How many times has she flown this thing around anyway?

"Gimme," Instead of trying to make me feel better, Rika grabs at the thrusters again. I gladly give them up, returning my hands to where they can properly hold onto the seat for some stability. "Alright, diagnostics done, watch this."

Oh no, don't-Gah!

I'm glad that I got a hold of something when I did, as Rika decides to show off a bit. Expertly manipulating the thrusters and (I assume) the foot pedals, she quickly maneuvers the robot into a dive, pulling up just before we get uncomfortably close to the ground. She leans to the side, pushing her arms out and bringing us into a wide loop, then pulls back up higher again.

Okay, maybe she has more experience with this than I thought.

Aside from the occasional laugh of excitement from her or the random squeak of terror from me, neither of us can really think to keep conversation going as Rika flies the robot through a series of acrobatics. It's not really anything that would be difficult for me to do if I was just flying by myself, but it's so much different riding around in something that's doing it instead. Way less natural. The unfortunate bits of being cramped and hot and having somebody sitting on top of me probably don't help. I don't spend a lot of time in vehicles normally.

At least I don't seem to get motion sickness.

After a few more flashy moves, culminating in a full vertical loop, Rika finally pulls us back into a much more comfortable hover. Oh good, my hands were getting tired from clinging to things so hard. I think my fingers are turning white.

"Uhm... Just a suggestion," I say weakly, still trying to completely catch my breath. I might have actually yelled a little bit more than necessary when Rika made us do that barrel roll. "Maybe you should install more in the way of safety harnesses?" There's a seat belt, yeah, but it's really not meant for two people.

"Hm... Low priority," Rika says after a moment of thought. "I'll add it to the list."

It seems like it should be a high priority to me. What good is a robot you can pilot if you're just going to get slammed into the walls of the cockpit inside? Okay, that hasn't happened yet. We're not really doing ourselves any favors by doubling up in the seat either. It's probably much better when it's just Rika in here. "So do you do this kind of thing often?"

"For testing," Rika nods, staring up at the head view camera. "And fun," She adds soon after that. "Kanako's got me keeping too much stuff under wraps now. Can't fly above ground. Can't build anything that doesn't get cleared with her first. Have to work with Rikako and the kappas and everyone else even when I do get something approved. Can't hide out in the forest building a tank out of scavenged or stolen outsider parts," Woah, I wasn't really expecting a little rant like that. "It's hell. Literally."

Rika... It's kind of odd. Her emotions sound kind of muted, but she wouldn't have said all that if she wasn't bothered at least a little bit. "But you're still here."

"Better to be able to do lots of somethings than to try and fail to do everything alone," Rika reasons quietly, shaking her head. "Cynical maybe. Not like when I first started, but..." She huffs out a small sigh, but falls into silence.

What do I even say to that? "... Rika..."

"Oh," Rika raises her arms a bit, moving the robot around. I look up at the screen to see what it was that pulled Rika's attention away from the conversation. Some of those vengeful spirits? "Something else to test."

"Uh, what do you mean?" Rather than answer my question, Rika fiddles with some of her controls. I hear a series of beeps from around us, and a target appears, overlaying the chest view camera. "What did that do?"

"Activating the cannons," Rika replies, sounding a bit more chipper about it than I would like. Weren't you just sad about something? "Need to put more of them in still. This is an old design. Took it off of Sigma. Don't think he was happy about it. Don't think he's happy about much of anything. He can't be happy really, that's not programmed into him. It's the thought that counts."

Okay so the start of that was an answer, but then she just kind of kept talking about... Something. "Um?"

"Pow!" Rika declares, clicking a trigger on her thrusters.

The Hisoutensoku mk. II lurches again as a shotgun blast of danmaku is fired out from somewhere. I only know it happens because I see it through the camera. A huge spattering of plain white orbs of danmaku rain out, boring looking, but apparently effective from how they blast through a few of the spirits. The rest of the little floating things quickly scatter in random directions. I'm not really sure if they're intelligent or not, but they at least know a threat when they see one.

"Kapew... Boom," Rika continues, firing a few more salvoes toward the stragglers with each random shooting noise she makes. It seems to kick up a lot of activity on the surface below. Vengeful spirits and fairies clamber to get out of the way, moving around at random. Ironically, it really just serves to make it easier to notice them. I'm kind of surprised that nothing seems to want to counter-attack us. Not that I think they could do anything, but... Actually, doesn't that just make it worse?

"Isn't this um... Kind of cruel?" I have to ask. These targets seem pretty defenseless, and our attack seems pretty unprovoked.

"Not really. Vengeful spirits are assholes, and fairies'll forget about it by next week," Rika casually dismisses my concern, firing off a couple more shots in random directions. I don't think she's really aiming at anything in particular. After a moment, she lets go of the thrusters, craning her neck back to look at me. "You wanna try?" She offers, poking at my hands a little bit. "Stress relief."

Is that really all this is? Seems needlessly destructive. "I'll pass," I decide. Even if I had been completely convinced by Rika's assessment of what makes these targets acceptable, I'm really not up for flying the robot around again. Hopefully she doesn't-

"Guess saving the underground is up to me then."

We jerk forward, blasting further into the underground.

-

More than a few bombing runs on random places later, Rika finally gets bored with "testing" her danmaku cannons. I do note that she doesn't actually say or write down anything about how they performed, but maybe I shouldn't say anything. Rika's not the easiest person to understand, but I can still guess with some certainty that she's not completely satisfied with this arrangement she's in.

Not that that's any of my business.

I mean, it's kind of hard to say if I even like Rika all that much. She's not bad or anything, just difficult to talk to and more difficult to understand. I don't have any outstanding reason to dive too deeply into her personal problems, if any of those even really exist in the first place. Who knows, I could just be projecting again.

In any case, as long as she's not obviously unhappy, and can keep working on the portal stuff so that we can accomplish our goals, that's fine, right? I don't have to do anything.

Or at least that's what I tell myself as we silently wait for the robot to be pulled back up into the hangar. After Rika had gotten sufficiently bored, she summarily declared the underground saved, then flawlessly navigated back to the hole in the ceiling we had exited out of. It was so efficient that I have to wonder if she has some kind of guidance system in here. If that's the case, I can't really see it or tell intuitively that that's what it's for though. I wonder if Rika ever thought to write a manual for all of this.

As we rise up into the hangar, I have to adjust my eyes slightly to the glow coming through the cameras. It's not like the interior of the plant is much brighter than the outside, considering all the fire. There is however a bit of a switch from natural fire lighting to the artificial fluorescent ones. Nothing bad, just something that I have to squint at for a little- Oh.

As the robot comes to rest back in its silo, the chest view camera screen naturally stops at just about the level of the elevated walkway around the perimeter of the room. Standing there, looking less than impressed, I can see Rikako. Her arms are folded, and she's giving the robot an annoyed stare.

"Rika," She calls out sternly. It sounds like the cameras aren't picking up audio, or at least not very much, but she's still being loud enough that I can hear her clearly from inside the robot. "I'm sure we've talked about this before."

"We have," Rika agrees neutrally. There's no visible reaction from Rikako though, so I guess there's no audio coming out of the robot either. Rika was talking to herself.

"No joyrides. Especially before this thing is even finished. You know how Kanako will gut us if you crash or break something and this thing ends up costing even more of our budget, right?" Rikako starts scolding Rika, apparently oblivious that I'm here too. "If you want to test the thing that's fine, but we can schedule it. Do things officially. Actually design experiments and get meaningful measurements," Rikako continues with a groan of frustration. "Uugghhhh... Honestly for someone as brilliant as you are, to just ignore the scientific process and go with your gut all the time... You know how that-"

Okay, I'm not sure how much time I've got here before something happens. Rika doesn't seem to be in a hurry to get out of the robot at least... Err, actually, wait. I'm not supposed to be here in the first place, am I?

... Crap. So if she opens the cockpit and I'm sitting in here, I could get in trouble, she could get in even more trouble... Is there anywhere that I could- yeah. I could maybe duck behind the chair that we're sitting in now. It'd be a tight fit, and I'd have to find some time to sneak out later without getting caught, but... Maybe it'd be a better call than getting both Rika and I in trouble?

[ ] Leave the robot with Rika
- [ ] Defend Rika, try to lessen the blow on her by taking blame.
- [ ] Blame Rika, it was her idea in the first place.
- [ ] Don't do either, let things happen how they're going to happen.
[ ] Stay hidden in the robot and sneak out later
>> No. 28334
[x] Leave the robot with Rika.
- [x] Don't do either, let things happen how they're going to happen.

Play it cool.
>> No. 28335
[X] Stay hidden in the robot and sneak out later

Time to play Stealth Bun!

>Didn't get to use the Rocket Punch

Ah well, it was still pretty cool, even if we'll probably never get to do it again.
>> No. 28336
[x] Leave the robot with Rika.
- [x] Don't do either, let things happen how they're going to happen.
>> No. 28337
[X] Stay hidden in the robot and sneak out later

Not sure why, but this seems like the FUN choice.
>> No. 28338
Tiebreaker? Four votes seems to be the norm lately, but I'm at 2-2 here.
>> No. 28339
[x] Leave the robot with Rika.
- [x] Don't do either, let things happen how they're going to happen.

Honestly don't like either option here but I'll break the tie.
>> No. 28340
File 151244722499.jpg - (116.73KB, 390x700, She has goals.jpg) [iqdb]
28340
[X] Leave the robot with Rika
- [X] Don't do either, let things happen how they're going to happen.

Ugh, no. While the idea of not getting in trouble is tempting, it seems a little bit too... Not risky, necessarily, but short sighted I guess. It's a plan that makes some assumptions that I probably shouldn't make. I don't know if Rika would appreciate being forced to suffer alone, even if I doubt my presence would take the heat off of her much. If she felt like it though, she could just call attention to me if I tried to hide. That's if I could even successfully hide in the first place too. Then after that there's the question of how I would actually get out of the cockpit after the thing is shut down... Yeah.

Okay, fine, then we'll have to face the music eventually. Together, rather than separately. I can mentally prep myself for that now. From the sound of things though... Yeah, Rikako is still criticizing various things about Rika's work ethic and weird habits. It's kind of a little bit naggy at this point. She's saying something about Rika spending her time on the wrong projects, not improving the efficiency of some kind of techno-babble something or other that goes over my head. Pretty sure this has absolutely nothing to do with the robot actually. "How long are we going to wait before getting out?" I whisper to Rika. There probably isn't any need to whisper, come to think of it, but it fits the mood, so whatever.

"Just waiting until she runs out of steam," Rika seems to deflate a bit, which I don't really appreciate all that much considering it means she's resting more of herself on top of me. "Bit of a waste, she could be powering a robot with all that. Apparently," I think that might have been a joke? It's hard to tell when she's so unenthusiastic about the delivery. I laugh a little anyway, just in case.

"- and are you going to stay in there all day?" Rikako finally pauses with her rant to ask.

Well, I haven't been paying that much attention, but now seems as good a time as any. "That's our cue, I think," I prompt Rika, pushing up against her slightly to try and make her get up.

Rika just shrugs, but gets the message anyway. She fiddles with a couple controls in one of the armrests of the pilot's chair, maybe two or three buttons, then the displays from the cameras turn off and the chest of the robot starts to open. Not really anything dramatic for me, I could already see the hangar. In fact, I had a better view before from the cameras. Now with just my eyes, all I can really see is the walkway and a slightly surprised scientist.

"Oh!" Rikako steps back a tiny amount, reaching up to adjust her glasses. I think she might have been getting a little into her rant. Maybe that's another thing I wasn't supposed to see. "Hello Seiran."

"Uhm... Oof," I'm not sure how to reply immediately, and have to pause for a moment as Rika suddenly pushes off of me, jumping effortlessly down from the cockpit, catching one foot on the railing, then stepping down onto the walkway. Wasn't that kind of dangerous? She could have fallen, and I'm not actually sure if Rika can fly on her own or not. Err, anyway, right. Responding to the greeting. "H-hi?"

Rikako nods toward me once, then turns, making sure to keep focus on Rika. "And I suppose you dragged her in there with you for some reason?" She continues, although Rika looks wholly uninterested in being scolded. "That adds another level of consequences if something malfunctioned. I really doubt that Kanako or any of her guests would appreciate having one of their own blown up in an experimental robot."

"I'd be blown up too," Rika points out. A little blunt, but I guess she has a point. Even if a crash hadn't done the job, being in the fire and everything would have finished us off afterward.

... Hm, it probably should have hit me before just now how dangerous being out there actually was. I was basically flying around in a giant metal death trap, wasn't I? Ugh... Maybe from now on I'll stick to just flying normally. Probably.

Rikako closes her eyes in something like annoyance. "... That's not the point I was making, but yes. I suppose you would be, and I really don't like that idea, Rika, so if you could please do things a little bit more safely?" Rikako gradually shifts tone to one that seems genuinely concerned. That's a little bit unexpected, I thought it would be all business.

Rika, however, doesn't seem to share my surprise. She walks across the walkway, leaning over the opposite railing and looking into the wide open space of the rest of the hangar. "It's fine. We didn't do anything crazy or new, and she gave me ideas," She explains. "It helped."

"I know for a fact that you are perfectly capable of having too many ideas to count on your own," Rikako actually sounds a little bit amused at the idea. "Even if you're only working with currently existing functionality, I don't think you need to add more to your plate."

"Getting an outside perspective," Rika counters, looking over her shoulder. "You did the same thing earlier. That blonde rabbit, right?" Oh, Ringo? Right, she did say she had to do something with Rikako earlier today. She mentioned that at the meeting.

"I did that inside the plant, not flying around outside," Rikako stresses, staring Rika in the eye. The two lapse into silence for a while, until the stare down is eventually broken by Rika turning her head away without saying anything. At that bit of subtle rejection, Rikako deflates, unfolding her arms and sighing. "Oh very well. I'm still not happy with you, but it's likely not worth bringing it up to anyone else while we're already limited in time and funding. Having somebody else mandating when discipline has to happen will just slow us down. Just keep that in mind that if you decide that there is going to be a next time. If you get caught by someone a lot less lenient than I'm being, I won't be able to help you out of the situation. Imagine Kanako showing up for a surprise visit while you're acting like this."

Rika doesn't visibly react, though apparently thinks it over enough to offer her opinion on the idea. "... Ew."

Speaking of avoiding getting in trouble though, I've just been sitting here listening to the conversation while still in the robot. Probably best to get out now. I pick my mallet back up from where I set it down behind the pilot's seat, then hop out from the robot. I'm a little bit less confident in the landing than Rika was, so I float a little bit, but if you have the ability to fly, why not use it for stuff like this too? It also means I can dedicate one hand to keeping my dress from flying up, so that's good as well. Modesty is important, especially around these people that I barely know. I'm getting a bit of a better sense of them now at least.

"Ah yes, Seiran," Rikako turns to look my way again when I touch the ground. Oh, am I in trouble now? "This is supposed to be a restricted area. I'm making an assumption that you aren't here on purpose, but you should probably leave sooner, rather than later."

"Sure," I could throw Rika under the bus here by saying was all her idea. Alternatively I could defend her by saying the opposite. I think I'll leave it alone though. I'll just change the subject to something that I'm curious about, but not likely to get a good answer from Rika on. "Why does this place even need a hangar? These things don't really seem related to power generation."

"True, however Lady Yasaka is interested in more than just generating power," Oh, it's Lady Yasaka now that she's talking to an outsider, huh? Probably just trying to be a bit more official sounding, but I caught the change. "Advancement in science and technology are critically slow outside of this facility. There just isn't enough public interest. We take it upon ourselves to have a large breadth of side projects, which both satisfy Rika's inventive spirit, as well as allowing us to see what works and what doesn't. Once a project is developed and tested and we're confident that it's ready for integration with the greater public, we'll have even more to offer them."

So I guess that's what Kanako means with the whole goddess of technological advancement or whatever thing. "Yeah, that makes sense."

Rikako nods at my response, but then keeps on talking regardless. "Think of it this way, while magic may be powerful, I have no doubt that any of its effects can be replicated through technology, given enough work," I think I might have let her stumble onto one of her favorite topics or something. "In that case, the difference between the two will inevitably come down to accessibility. Humans are naturally limited in their magical ability, but by contrast, the use of technology is much easier for the common man. Knowledge can be disseminated easily through instruction and teaching, and can be easily passed on after that until it is so pervasive in society that it becomes part of everyday life. Rather than hoarding magical power and artifacts among a select few of those who can use them, technological advancement done correctly means that everyone benefits as a whole. That's the ideal that I'm trying to push us toward. Lady Yasaka and the Moriya shrine agree with that vision as well. It's quickly becoming one of the major tenets of the Moriya shrine, and I'm glad to be a part of it."

"I... Okay," I didn't really ask all that, but I'm glad that she's so enthusiastic about it. It's a pretty big contrast with how little Rika seems to reveal about things. While I can agree with Rikako's saying in principle, it doesn't quite match up with my experience. Magic and technology both are major components to how advanced the Moon is, although I guess we're a bit better off in the former. Youkai are going to have an easier time than normal humans, right? "That makes sense, but it doesn't really explain the need for the giant robot," I point out.

"Well, I won't say that the Hisoutensoku was my idea originally, though I did sign off on the project for creating the mark two, with a bit of prompting," Rikako responds. "Let me just say this, there are a few projects down here that I really hope Gensokyo never needs to be integrated with."

-

It's interesting. That's the conclusion I come to once I've left the hangar and am walking back through the hallways of the plant. Interesting, if a little bit worrying. Both Rika and Rikako seem to be just a bit more interested in having the chance to build things and do science in general than they are concerned for what exactly they're doing. They both seem different, sure, but I think there's a lot in common there.

Rika seems to have a lot of ideas and stuff in her head, even if she's not the best at actually communicating them. In fact, it's a little hard to tell what she's thinking some of the time, while other times it's really obvious. It'd be easy to say that maybe she's just not all there, or agree with Sanae's remark of her being difficult, but from what she said, it really does sound like there's more to it. Something to do with visiting the Dream World a lot and that having some kind of effect on her creativity. I'm not sure if I should pity her over that or not.

By contrast, Rikako seems to have it together a lot more. It does seem like she places a bit more value on being able to work with technology than anything else though. Even the way that she scolded Rika seemed to be more out of obligation than because she actually wanted to punish the girl for flying her robot around without permission. Heck, the only real end result of what happened was that Rikako decided she would talk to Ruukoto and get some more signs put up to indicate what parts of the plant were off limits to people without clearance. She didn't really do any punishing at all, despite having the authority to do so. And then there was that whole speech... I don't know. I guess people wouldn't get into a religious organization like this if they didn't have something driving them. I don't think it's piety in this case, but whatever. It works for her and Kanako.

Hopefully it'll work out for us too.

Anyway, I've elected to head back toward the dormitories for now. Originally I just wanted to go for a walk to distract myself for a bit before it was time to go to bed. It definitely did that. Flying around the underground in a giant, nuclear powered robot is a distracting, and rather unique, experience for sure. The whole thing had just been a series of coincidences that I probably would never have stumbled upon if I hadn't decided to go out for a walk.

Unfortunately, it was so distracting that I didn't really get a chance to get help on my actual issues.

Not that I think Rika would have been much help. If anything, I would expect her to either give me random advice, or to just change the subject to something more or less irrelevant. Even if Rika is smart, it doesn't mean that I have to have a lot of faith in her to help me with my relationships with the rest of the unit.

But then, can I really rely on anyone that I might randomly bump into here to do that?

Sure, I've gotten personal problem help from unlikely sources before. Most people would probably raise an eyebrow about how much I let Sumi advise me, for example. I feel like that's more justified though just because she's more experienced than I am in a lot of ways, not to mention that she's had years and years to get used to people like Yuzuki and Ringo, so I can trust that she has insights that are worth listening to, even if I don't follow everything that she suggests. That's... Really not the case for Rika or Rikako or Ruukoto or anyone else that I'm likely to run into down here.

So I guess if nothing else, taking a walk like I have only served to eliminate options, rather than reveal them. I actually don't think that that's too bad though. I have a lot less reason to procrastinate now, and enough time has passed since my pre-meeting talk with Ringo that I can go into what is almost certainly going to be another difficult talk.

I climb the last of the stairs into the dormitory common room. Looks like it's just Chiyo sitting around at the moment. Huh, it's not too late I don't think. Late enough to go to bed, but still a little odd that there's only one person up and about. "Hey Chi," I greet her casually. "Everything going okay?"

Chiyo looks up from where she's sitting at me and nods. "Things are okay. I'm not sure how to manage my sleep schedule yet." Oh yeah, because of her powers affecting her earlier today, her sense of time is probably a bit off. If she just goes to bed at a normal time, she might not feel tired enough, or she might end up sleeping too much or too little. It's a balancing act that I still don't quite understand. She manages it okay, though I think she usually errs toward sleeping too much rather than the alternative.

"Have you seen the others?" I ask, walking around the stairwell to the reading area where Chiyo's relaxing. It doesn't look like she's reading anything. Maybe she's still thinking things over? I know she went through a lot today, but maybe she should talk about her issues with someone rather than thinking by herself for hours and hours.

... Although I guess I don't have a lot of room to talk. I mean, I do plan on doing something about it soon, at least. Whenever I get around to going to bed and stuff.

"Yeah, they all came back a while ago, said you'd be back eventually too," Chiyo answers back, not even sitting up all the way in her seat. She looks pretty relaxed at least. "They're all in the rooms. Yuzuki might be asleep already, dunno about the other two."

Okay, so everyone is by themselves then. Not that unusual. It happened a lot even back when we were all sleeping in separate tents. This setup even gives me a bit more privacy if I wanted to talk to anyone else before heading to bed.

Of course, that might just be me procrastinating again. I know I'm going to have to make the call on what to do sooner or later. Sleep in the same bed with Ringo or no. Be comfortable and warm, but send certain signals and possibly leave her in danger, or have to deal with the awkwardness of very clearly rejecting her... I might be looking at that trade off a little bit more negatively than I need to, but I don't know. I feel like this is kind of important.

[ ] Stay up and talk to one of the rabbits
- [ ] Who?
[ ] Go to bed
- [ ] Sleep alone
- [ ] Sleep next to Ringo

This in story day has lasted way longer than it should have. Whoops.
>> No. 28341
[x] Go to bed
- [x] Sleep next to Ringo

STOP. PROCRASTINATING.
>> No. 28342
[x] Go to bed
- [x] Sleep next to Ringo
>> No. 28343
[X] Go to bed
- [X] Sleep alone

Holding out for Yamame.
>> No. 28344
[X] Go to bed
- [X] Sleep alone
>> No. 28345
[x] Go to bed
- [x] Sleep next to Ringo
>> No. 28346
[x] Go to bed
- [x] Sleep next to Ringo
>> No. 28347
[x] Go to bed
- [x] Sleep next to Ringo

YES
>> No. 28348
File 151331221944.jpg - (76.35KB, 800x730, Ringo is cute.jpg) [iqdb]
28348
[X] Go to bed
- [X] Sleep next to Ringo

This really isn't going to get any better, is it? No matter how many people I find and talk to so that I can sidetrack myself away from the issue, Ringo's still going to be waiting in the room at the end of the day. Nobody is going to go in there and take care of the conversation for me. I guess maybe if I waited long enough, she might be asleep by the time I get back in there. That's still not really making things better. It's just pushing actually dealing with things back again. Not to mention that avoiding talking to her is kind of a statement in itself. Not necessarily the one that I want to make either. Way too negative.

So no, I have to stop procrastinating.

"Okay, well I guess I'll head to my room, talk to Ringo for a bit, then go to bed," I say out loud, pointedly not mentioning a small detail that I'm still wrestling with just a little bit. Sleeping arrangements. "Um, are you good to stay out here?" I also ask as an afterthought.

Chiyo frowns and raises an eyebrow in my direction. "I'm just sitting around."

"Yeah but..." But you're sitting around alone when you could be talking to any one of the other rabbits. I mean, I guess this is normal for Chiyo, so I don't have to be concerned exactly, I was just hoping that all the opening up she already had to do today would prompt her to do it a little more. Apparently not. Maybe I'm just pushing too hard. There's probably a limit to these kinds of things. "Well, okay," I resign myself to letting her do whatever she thinks is best. No need to be even more of a busybody than I have been already. "Don't stay up to late I guess. We've got another day of working to get through tomorrow."

"Like any other day, yeah," Chiyo agrees, slumping down in her chair, not even looking directly at me any more. She does reach up to wave vaguely in my direction a couple of times though. "G'night."

"Good night Chiyo," I answer back before turning and walking out of the common room.

The hallway with all the dormitories in it is quiet, just as quiet as the rest of the almost entirely deserted power plant. There might be a little bit less of an electronic hum here at least. I would guess that since it's further up, there's less machinery noise, though I would think that most of that would be muffled by the surrounding rock even further down. I don't have the best idea of how this whole place is constructed, but it does make some sense to keep your living quarters in a place that isn't quite as loud or uncomfortably hot. Good job to whoever planned the place. I do kind of wish that there was a bit more of a walk back to the room that Ringo and I are sharing, but the fact that our rooms are close by is more coincidence than anything they could have planned for in the construction.

I sigh, fiddling a little bit with my mallet to make sure I'm holding on to it comfortably before knocking on the door. Even if it's my room too, who knows what Ringo is doing in there right now? "Yo, what's up?" Oh, sounds like nothing. She answered immediately, and doesn't sound bothered or anything.

Instead of responding, I crack open the door to the room and slip inside. Ringo looks pretty relaxed, sprawled out on the bed further from the door, and reading a book that I can't actually see the cover of from this angle. Doesn't help that she drops it as soon as she realizes that I'm the one entering the room. Flopping herself up into a sitting position, she gives me a smile. "Hey, welcome back."

"Hi," I answer automatically. I feel like it would be natural to set my mallet aside, but I'm not sure what I would do with my hands otherwise or where I would sit. "Err, what are you doing?"

"Huh?" Ringo looks confused for a moment before catching the question. "Oh. Not really something I'm into, I was just killing time," She answers, grabbing the book and holding it up for me to look at. There's no picture on the cover, but from the title I would have to guess that it's some kind of history thing. Seems a little boring by Ringo standards, definitely. She's not that much of a reader in general though. Not saying she's dumb or anything, it just isn't really her kind of hobby. "They've got a lot of books sitting around the common area," She explains. "Hey, you were gone a while. Had to fill up the time," She defends herself. Was I giving her a weird look or something?

"You didn't have to wait up for me or anything," I point out. Although I guess she said that she would, so I'm not exactly surprised. I didn't really have any idea how long I would be out walking though.

"But I figured I would anyway," Ringo answers dismissively, dropping the book again. "So," she continues on conversationally. "You went out to clear your head and stuff, right? Uhm, how'd that go for you?"

I don't know why there was a tiny bit of hesitation there, but whatever. "It was... A bit different that I expected, I guess," I answer back vaguely. Not that I'm sure what I actually did expect in the first place. "More distracting than clarifying really."

"Ah," Ringo nods once, shuffling back so she can lean against the wall while we talk.

Unfortunately... I'm not really sure what I should say next. She didn't give me much to go off of, and I'm still feeling weirdly awkward about this whole situation. I've kind of made up my mind that I'd be okay with sleeping next to Ringo and stuff, but I don't really want to be the one that brings it up, and it feels like there's more that we should be talking about too. I don't know what to say though, and since Ringo isn't talking, the two of us lapse into silence instead.

...

Well... It looks like Ruukoto cleaned up the bullet holes and stuff pretty well, that's good, right?

"Err," Oh good, Ringo's finally saying something. "So I'm just guessing here but uh... Did you go to the underground city?" She asks.

"What?" I didn't say that I was going that way, why would she assume that? Even if I had wanted to, I know for a fact I would have been gone for much longer than I actually was. Compare the walk from here to the hangar and the walk from here to the capital of the underground... Yeah, that's a pretty big difference. "No, I just went for a walk around the plant. Ended up talking to Rika for a while," Among other things, I suppose. There was the robot thing, but I don't really feel like telling that whole story at the moment.

"Oh," Ringo lets out a breath of relief that I hadn't realized she was holding in. What is that about exactly? Actually, her tone when she asked the question in the first place was a little weird too. Seemed like she was worried about the idea or something. "Okay, yeah. Quite the setup they've got going on down here, right? Rikako walked me around a little bit earlier while she was quizzing me over Moon stuff. The whole place is a lot bigger than I thought it'd be."

"Uh, yeah," I kinda feel like she's just pushing on and hoping that I don't notice the weirdness that I'm already feeling about her response. Maybe that's for the best? "Seems like there's a lot going on down there," I agree.

"Yup," Ringo agrees before we share another bit of silence.

... Ugh, why are things so awkward now? We both know the question that's hanging between us, but it's just so difficult to bring it up. I hate how weird things are between us. No matter how many conversations we have where we try to pretend that we're going to act normal, it doesn't really work out that way. I can't just not think about the issue now, so I'm always going to have to act differently in response.

Are we- Is this just how things are going to be from now on? As awkward as that pre-group meeting talk? As awkward as this is right now?

"So... What's left for tonight then? Need a shower? You tired? You want to talk?"

Still with that weird tone. It's not the normal Ringo. If I were to answer, would she hear something that wasn't normal Seiran? Probably.

... Yeah, no. I really don't like this. This inability to say anything or just make normal conversation. I understand why it's happening more or less though, which kind of makes it worse. It's not just me that's worried, it's both of us. The difference is that Ringo is scared because she already tried to kind of push things forward yesterday, and that ended terribly. Now she doesn't know how to try again, or even if she should. Since it doesn't look like she's going to...

I move. It isn't something that I think about very much before doing, but that probably makes it easier than the alternative. Instead of answering Ringo's question, I look directly at her, then stride forward, crossing the room in a few steps. Once I'm close to Ringo, I plop myself down on the bed directly, settling just near enough that we're not quite touching, but it wouldn't take much for us to do so.

"Talking a little bit, but I think we should both go to bed soon too," I answer with a mask of calmness. I reach down to pat the bed between us a couple of times, just trying to imply what I mean here without saying it directly. I haven't done my normal gradual work up to this decision, but now I've gone and made it anyway. The idea of sleeping next to Ringo... I was already okay with it before. Now that I might be able to avoid hurting her, that should just make it easier really. Should. Not does, should.

"Oh," Ringo glances down at my hand. It takes a half second or so, but I can practically see the realization on her face once it's clear to her what I mean. "Oh! Yeah. Yeah sure!" She responds, sounding a lot brighter about things. "We can do that. What did you want to talk about first?"

"Uh, basically..." I need some way to make things go back to some kind of semi-normal middle ground. "I don't want another day where you avoid me, alright?" That's a good first point. Temporary alone time to figure things out should be fine, but all day avoidance is pushing it. "I know there were reasons for it and everything, but it's not really... We need to be able to talk about things that happen."

"Yeeeahh," Ringo sounds apologetic, but still looks like she's in a much better mood suddenly. Did me taking the first step really help that much? "Sorry about that one. Won't happen again. Course, several things that I've done recently won't happen again too."

"Right," Talking about the drinking, I would assume. "Um, also..." Okay, I might be pushing it a little here, but it really does seem like Ringo likes it when I'm the one dictating how we go forward. It's not a position that I necessarily want to be in, but I guess it gives me a bit more control on the speed of things. Not my normal behavior most of the time, but I guess it matches up with what people have been saying since we came to Earth. I'm uncharacteristically proactive. It's kind of worked out so far, right? "I'm still trying to figure things out, but I do think it might be a good idea to maybe um... If we have time I think we should go somewhere to have fun and hang out. You know, as um, just the two of us."

"Just the-" Maybe I should have been a little more direct because- Oh, no. It took a second but she's definitely pleased. "Yeah, okay. Sure! Did you have anywhere in mind? We can go tomorrow, I'm pretty sure that I don't have anything else planned in the morning or afternoon. Oh, or we could go somewhere after we talk to Reisen, then we'd have the whole evening and-"

"Err, I don't think we can really plan it that well ahead of time," I feel a little bad for stopping her when she's clearly getting excited about the idea, but there is still the outside possibility that we won't have time to pull something off. We do have another priority. "Scheduling things is kind of weird right now. There's the mission and everything to worry about. I guess I'm just saying that if we have a chance, I'd like to try um... You know..." Okay I miiight have hit my limit here. My face is on fire, and I haven't even said the word 'date' yet.

"Well you're not gonna hear me complaining about the idea!" Ringo enthusiastically assures me, her foot tapping happily against the side of the bed where it's dangling down beside it. "Alright, then tomorrow, we'll just keep up with each other, if it seems like we hit a lull in the action, we'll figure something out. Pick a place, tell the others-"

"And they'll tease us," I point out quietly. All three of them are going to know what's up. That's kind of something that I have to deal with if this whole Ringo thing is actually going to go anywhere though, isn't it?

"Tell the others, ignore the teasing, and go off and have fun," Ringo continues. Ugh. I really shouldn't be as embarrassed as I am right now. It's just me and Ringo here at the moment. What's the point of pre-embarrassment if it probably isn't even going to make things better later? "Yup, sounds like a plan."

A plan that it took quite a lot of effort from me to set up. I don't really regret doing it, but I'm suddenly feeling a little bit drained. It's probably just relief now that I finally forced progress to actually happen. I'm still not sure exactly where that progress is actually taking us, but it's better than nothing I guess.

-

... I can't sleep.

Yes, I'm tired. Yes, I'm in bed. Yes, I'm comfortable and warm and freshly showered and everything else that would normally help me relax and calm down.

But Ringo is... Right there, you know?

I don't even know why it's bothering me so much. Liking her is one thing, but like... That doesn't mean that I should feel so restless just because she happens to be sleeping next to me. Just because I can see her body slowly rising and falling under the blankets as she breathes softly. Just because one of her arms is wrapped around my own, her body oriented on its side to face me so that I can see just a tiny amount of pouting from her lips. She just looks so soft that I don't... What do I want to... Aaaghh...

It's distracting and I can't stop my blushing and I can't settle down and go to sleep. It doesn't help that I'm still apprehensive about this whole thing either. If my powers turn on in my sleep again... Ugh, that's not making it any better. I mean, it kind of is, but it's just moving my weird restlessness to anxiousness instead and I don't know which of those I prefer and they just blend together into this mess of not sleep and aaaaahhh.

More than once it occurs to me that just getting up and going to a different bed would solve both of my issues, but doing that just feels kind of cheap, in a way. It's regressive, or something. I know I want to make progress with my issues and everything, I just didn't really expect it to be so difficult, I guess. Weird to think that I was optimistic about that compared to pretty much anything else.

There's a soft brushing sound as Ringo adjusts herself in bed next to me. I have to suppress a shiver when a few strands of her hair brush against my shoulder, eventually settling to loosely frame her face in a way that's a little bit messy, but still makes her look cute. Ringo is cute. Really cute. I... I mean I already knew that objectively, didn't I? The thought shouldn't be sticking in my head so much and it shouldn't be making my heart beat faster and it shouldn't be reminding me of how we almost kissed yesterday and it shouldn't be making me wonder what that would be like and-

I'm a lot less gentle about my movements than Ringo was when I turn on my side to face away from her. That train of thought wasn't going to somewhere that I wanted, I don't think. I need to distract myself from the distractions. Just take deep breaths, try not to think about being in the bed with Ringo and all the stuff that could happen. Just stay calm. Stay calm and go to sleep.

...

When are things going to get easier?

-

...

This is different.

It feels like something should be happening, but... It just isn't.

There's no colors. There's no lights. There's no patterns of shifting, swirling, something. It isn't the same as before, but I don't know what before was. Not really. It feels like I'm separate from where I should be. The connection isn't there. It's usually there? No. It has been there before, but only recently.

Before that? Nothing.

Do I want that? Nothing? It wouldn't be bad, but something is telling me that I could do more. Learn more. Become more? It's scary. Tempting. Do I really need to go that far? The connection is there. I can feel it. I could use it, but...


[ ] Close the connection
[ ] Wait and watch
[ ] Open the connection

This update was really not working for me while trying to write it. I'm still not even completely satisfied with it but I really need to stop missing updates. Bleh.
>> No. 28349
[x] Open the connection

Fingers crossed this leads to shooting Doremy, not Ringo.
>> No. 28350
[x] Wait and watch

If stopping the connection gave us control, then let's preservve it. At least until we can control it on our own.

But if it is something else... like a barrier someone other than Marisa put... then it should not be there.
>> No. 28351
[X] Wait and watch
>> No. 28352
[X] Open the connection

Unlimited power? Yes please.
>> No. 28353
[x] Open the connection
>> No. 28354
[X] Wait and watch
>> No. 28355
[X] Wait and watch
Observation first, tests after.
>> No. 28356
File 151366532064.png - (661.05KB, 900x900, You're both interesting and troubling.png) [iqdb]
28356
[X] Wait and watch

No.

It's interesting. Tempting. A part of me says that I should investigate, but... No. At least not all that quickly. Something is strange. Not right. Not usual. I'll wait. I'll watch. Information before action. If the answer isn't clear, then I'll do nothing for however long it takes. That's how I need to be. Careful. There's something dangerous if I'm not careful.

Still, just doing nothing is strange. Feels wrong. Makes me feel something... Restlessness, although I think that doesn't sound like the wrong word for some reason. There isn't anything to watch. Nothing to hold my attention. Very much a different kind of problem than usual.

...

It's hard to tell how long this is taking. Just waiting here, nothing to do. Thoughts trying to center myself, or to focus are what I choose to fill the time with. It's very difficult. I get to a point where I feel like I've done this before, but that doesn't mean that I know what to do next. What happened last time, back when I had no form? Back when I was drifting? I took control, right? Someone else was talking to me, I took control. I ran. I flew. I fought. Who was-

"Oh my, now this is crude," The voice rings out from all around me. Not loud. In fact, it's rather quiet. The source feels like the same place as whatever I'm connected to. If I just opened it up, maybe I could hear better.

No. Still no. I'll wait.

"Hmm... Hm hm hm," The voice is familiar. Humming. Light. A little drowsy. Familiar, but I can't see who it is. "You really have been different every time that I've seen you recently. Experimenting, I assume? Dangerous business, though it looks like you've set yourself up safely for tonight. I can tell that you're lucid again, at least at some level, so you must be hearing me. As long as you stay in there, I suppose that's fine. I won't need to stop you. That's good, in fact. It means I won't have to exert myself."

She keeps talking, and it bothers me a little bit. Waiting and watching isn't getting me anything like this, is it? Even just thinking about what's going on is difficult. How am I going to get any information like this? "Well then, it may be a bit one-sided, but there's little else for us to do right now. Let's chat."

I need to... Just a little bit then.


Pulling open the connection a teeny tiny amount is just as easy as having the thought. Not as easy as making the decision, that was much harder, but the thought and actually doing it? Very simple. The connection into the Dream World... The connection opens a little bit, and even that small amount is enough to cause an explosion of information, color, sights and thoughts. I clamp it down as best I can, but it's still a lot. So much more than I had around me before. Almost blinding, even if I don't really have eyes at the moment.

More importantly, I see a figure. A woman, floating along at an almost oblique angle to my own perspective. The black and white dress with the pom poms attached, the red night cap, the long thin tail with the little bushel of fur on the end. I know her. I've seen her before. Just today in fact. The baku again. The same one, I assume.

Even without anything to sit on, it's clear that the baku is reclining, or maybe even lying down. She's relaxed, barely moving as she hovers listlessly in the void of the Dream World, a book and a pillow of some kind within arm's reach.

"Ah, that's a bit better. I'll take that as a yes. Or maybe I'll have to take it as a hello as well. Unfortunate, that we have to keep ourselves so separate. Any further in, and it would be all to simple to clean you up and head on my way," She heaves a sigh. "So many people being so busy here. I'd call it refreshing but it's just too exhausting. I don't really know you, but I'm sure you can relate. There must be rules you have to follow, things that you have to do just because of what you are. I'm a baku, so I control this realm. Manage it, keep it in order. Remove those who have no business being here. You... Well you don't do any of those things at least. You have your own priorities and rules. Ones that are supposed to be far away from here," I can catch the tiny bit of edge to her statement, though her face doesn't really show it.

"Still, you're hardly the only person poking around in the Dream World when you don't belong," She continues, unbothered by my lack of ability to talk back. "You just happen to be the least direct of them all. I still know that you are involved with all that has been happening, of course. You started dreaming again shortly after the incident. I know enough about you to say that those two things are related."

"Of course, I'm still limited as well. I don't know why things keep changing around you. It would be much easier if you could go back to how things were before, or even the same status quo that you've been in for the past however many years. Right now you're a nuisance. Constant changes to the situation demanding my attention just like all the others," She gives me an annoyed look. It's surprisingly direct despite the fact that I don't know where my body actually is. She's clearly much more used to this than me. "I'm getting sick of it. Another interloper that I can't remove by force. At least your visits are temporary. Still, I suppose you've never quite been normal, have you?" She ends with a smug looking smirk. It irritates me a little bit, if only because I know she's talking about my powers.

"Hmm?" Her amusement only grows when she somehow seems that I'm annoyed. "A connection like yours, you can't think that it was usual. No, I know that you know it wasn't. Building up into something so strong that you couldn't get rid of it even while awake. A panicked, worrying time for you, though quite interesting to me. A view into the real world. Your home, the Moon. Much less abstracted than the views I've gotten through dreams, and yet I didn't have to do anything to correct it. It was feeding me when you slept, entertaining me when you didn't, and you had so little control that it wasn't a problem," She sighs again, sounding almost wistful now. "Well, it couldn't last for long, could it? You did something. Changed. Suddenly you were different. The connection was still there, but suppressed. Nothing but the occasional prod back and forth."

I'm kind of getting more and more irritated the longer she talks. This is my power she's going on about. She's saying it from her perspective, sure, but I don't really care about whether some random baku wants me shooting bullets or not. She's talking about it so casually, despite knowing so much about it. Lady, you don't have to care, but at least have some amount of tact when you're casually examining the thing that practically ruined my life.

I still can't say anything though. The thought of opening the connection and shooting a bullet or something crosses my mind, but it doesn't seem like a good idea. Too violent. I'll just keep waiting and watching. It's all I really can do right now.

"Quite recently, it seemed like you returned to something more normal," The baku continues on, seemingly indifferent to how I feel about her speech. "Very few extra daytime pokes, and you were dreaming at night too. I knew you weren't completely ordinary, but you were close. You even produced some very tasty dreams. Well, that didn't last very long, did it? We met earlier today, I decided to chase you off, we fought, and now we're stuck like this. You have some amount of hold on the connection it seems, though it is a little bit crude. Surprisingly effective for amateur work. It's not ideal for me, but if this is the new normal, I suppose I can live with it. I don't have much of a choice otherwise, with you so closed off from anywhere I can get to. If this is really what you wanted to get out of your experimentation, fine. Keep the connection closed. Stay out of the Dream World. Do that, and this will be the last we'll see of each other most likely," Sounds fine to me. "However, let me just say this..."

"A connection to the Dream World like the one that you used to have doesn't just happen by accident. I can't claim to know it was set up, but the amount of power and finesse required to do so means that it must have been deliberate. If you set this chain of events in motion yourself, I hope that you've suffered enough to learn a lesson from it. If someone else did it to you..." Her smile changes from smug and self assured to downright sinister. I feel an urge to recoil from her, but can't exactly do that without a body. "Well, you know how to use bullets by now, don't you?"

Like a light switch being flicked off, the connection closes itself. I don't see anything anymore.

-

Ugh...

Don't wanna get up. Really comfy right now...

Nnmf... Stop that. What is-?

Ohh yeah...

Heh, cute.

...

Err, um. R-right. Ringo's face is a little too close again. She's got morning breath, and it's hitting me right in the cheek. I shuffle myself over in the bed, reaching up to rub at one of my eyes while I wake up slowly.

Wait, I woke up slowly? No residual nightmare screams? No sounds of gunfire?

I barely stop myself from jerking up in the bed to get a look around. Well, I still glance at as much of the surrounding room as possible, but manage to do it without bothering Ringo too much. Ceiling, walls, desks, door... I don't see any bullet holes. Ringo's breath was too calm for me to hit her, and the bed feels fine too. There aren't many more options are there? If I check everything else off the list then it has to be... Yeah. I didn't shoot anything. It was safe!

Woah, okay... Um, my heart is going a little bit faster at that than it probably needs to. It technically could have been a fluke. There were occasions when I didn't take my pill that the resulting dream wouldn't make me shoot anything overnight. It didn't happen that often, but it was possible. Let me think. What did I dream about?

Oh.

It's actually surprisingly clear as soon as I try to think about it. Ordinarily, a lot of details from my dreams fade almost immediately when waking up. The general idea is there of course, but it's never anywhere near how well I remember the dream I just had.

A little annoying, because now I have to remember that baku talking down to me again, but it does feel like she said some important things. Most notably, it seems like she's going to leave me alone as long as I don't mess around with how my powers work again (and if I'm really safe to sleep without shooting, I don't have much reason to). Well, that and the condition that I don't show up in the Dream World again. That is... Much less doable. In fact, considering that getting in there is explicitly my mission right now, I would basically say that it's impossible.

So I might have an enemy to deal with, entirely separate from whoever was attacking the capital in the first place. Great.

Speaking of the capital though, that baku didn't know it, but I got my powers in the first place just by living there. She claimed that a power like mine couldn't develop on accident, but that kind of runs counter to what I know. Tons of rabbits get weird magically based powers while in the capital. There's just so much going on all the time that it's a side effect we've learned to live with. With the way the baku was talking about me using bullets, it seems like she was thinking I'd want revenge or something. I think I can chalk that one up to her just not knowing as much as she wanted to pretend she did though. It was an accident or a coincidence or whatever you want to call it. Stuff like that happens all the time.

Err, anyway, I can't really say that it was a nice dream, but at least it's over now. More importantly, the night is over too. It's pretty much impossible to tell how early or late it is down here, but I feel rested enough to get up and go. Must have been a fullish night's sleep. Guess that means I should think about my plans for today.

Let me think here... Mission related goals? We need to meet up with Reisen again later today. Either she'll have results for us to work on or we'll have to scramble for another solution. Not really actionable right now, though I would like to be there when it happens.

Power related goals? I have a check-up with Marisa at some point. It's hard not to feel optimistic about things when I just got through a full night of sleep without a problem, but it can't help to make sure. Pretty sure that Marisa would rather I not show up too late though, given how much she didn't seem like a morning person when we went there yesterday.

Other goals? Well... Tons of little things, I guess. Elly's supposed to show up later today, though I can't really do much to help her along with that. Need to set up both Chiyo and Reisen with the grassroots youkai network at some point, which can also probably wait. Need to make sure that Sumi is actually going to follow through on our agreement. We go to the concert if she stops going off on her own. I'm supposed to meet up with Yamame at some point too, but...

Oh yeah, I also kind of asked Ringo to go on a date at some point, didn't I?

It... She's still sleeping right now. Completely oblivious and... Still looking really cute. And comfy.

You know... It's not like any of these goals are that pressing. Like I don't have to get started on them right now... It's tempting.

[ ] Go back to sleep for a bit
[ ] Get out of bed
- [ ] Wonder if Yuzuki has left for Hina's shrine yet.
- [ ] Might as well get breakfast.
- [ ] Definitely need to keep an eye on Sumi.
- [ ] Maybe I should go visit Yamame again in case things get busy?
- [ ] Can't hurt to get the appointment with Marisa out of the way.
- [ ] Something else (write-in)

Kind of at a weird point this morning where most of the things that have been set up previously aren't quite happening yet. Feel free to kill time or be productive. Either way should be fine.
>> No. 28357
[x] Get out of bed
- [x] Wonder if Yuzuki has left for Hina's shrine yet.

Yuzuki's my favourite of the OC bunnies.
>> No. 28358
[x] Go back to sleep for a bit

She hasn't experienced a good night's sleep in a long time. No reason to give up that for a few more hours.
>> No. 28359
[X] Get out of bed
- [X] Maybe I should go visit Yamame again in case things get busy?

Seiran you might want to think about what it means that rabbits seemingly gain magical powers at random while on the moon, and that it may not be natural at all.
>> No. 28360
[X] Get out of bed
- [X] Definitely need to keep an eye on Sumi.

We could be in a world of shit if she gets into any more trouble this late in the game.
>> No. 28361
[x] Go back to sleep for a bit
>> No. 28362
[x] Go back to sleep for a bit

That's what I would like to do atm.
>> No. 28363
File 151392931194.png - (2.72MB, 708x1000, Your new moon princess.png) [iqdb]
28363
[X] Go back to sleep for a bit

Okay. I don't have to feel guilty about this, do I? Even if I jumped right into action this morning, it can't possibly be late enough that I could finish up with anything that's really that pressing right away. This time is extra time. Yuzuki's going to spend it going to Hina's shrine, Sumi is going to do what she does, and Ringo and Chiyo are both probably going to spend the time on some extra sleep. There's nothing wrong with me following that example, right? It's strange, I don't really have anyone that I have to justify this to, but I'm still working at it.

Maybe part of it is that the more obvious internal justifications sound a little bit flimsy. Even if they're the main reasons they aren't really ones that I would say out loud if anyone actually asked what I'm thinking. I guess that doesn't necessarily equate to quality, more like just embarrassment over what I'm really thinking deep down.

First and foremost, sleeping is... I don't really think that I should feel all that proud about being able to sleep correctly, but I kinda do. No bad dreams, or at least not one that makes me shoot bullets. Does a vision due to my connection to the Dream World that is obviously real count as a dream? Well, either way that's not the point really. The point is that I actually got a full(ish?) night of sleep. It was nice. Oddly even more refreshing than the nights when I would just take my pill and be out almost immediately. Maybe something about the medicine was unnatural and made sleep less effective. Could just be all in my head, but the end result still means that it was a lot more pleasant than what I'm used to. What's wrong with trying to get that again?

As for my second reason, well, Ringo. That's kind of all there is to it, just because actually trying to work out much of an argument in my head doesn't really turn out that well. It feels like the best way to argue it would be to just gesture toward her right now while she's still sleeping next to me and be like "Look at her!" She's cute and soft and comfortable and it was nice to have her around and okay maybe it didn't actually help that much with how distracted and aware I was of her last night but... Argghh... It's just that my thoughts seem to get a little bit more jumbled than they need to whenever I start following that chain of thoughts. I'm not so dumb that I don't know what that's about, but that still doesn't mean I'd argue it to anyone else.

Like I said though, it's not like anyone else is going to ask me to justify this. The only person around who outranks me is sleeping too, and I don't have any standing orders toward the contrary or anything. This is fine. Not what I might usually do, but yeah, it's fine.

Shuffling around a little bit, I adjust my place in the bed while getting comfortable again. Ringo is still right next to me, but I don't really want her breathing right into my face. Luckily being taller than her makes it easy to just let her head rest closer to my shoulder, while still keeping close. It takes a little bit of focus on things that aren't Ringo. Things that aren't the adorable little almost snores as she sleeps. Things that aren't how weirdly fixated I would otherwise be on how soft her lips look... Eventually I do manage to calm my heart and my breathing down, relaxing enough so I can get a little bit more of a snooze.

Eventually.

-

Waking up again, I come to awareness a lot more quickly than last time. Only takes me a second to remember where I am and what I'm doing here. Takes another second to understand why I can't see, though it turns out I couldn't have really known ahead of time that I was going to be woken up by Ringo throwing her hat on my face.

"Mmmf," I say intelligently, my brilliant point being muffled by cloth. Yeah, I'll go with that. At first I start reaching up with my arms to remove the thing, but halfway through I decide to go into a stretch first instead. I mean, my arms are already there anyway, right? Might as well.

Hmm- ohh.

... Smells like Ringo.

Err, anyway, deciding not to put too much thought into things, I remove the hat from my face and let my eyes adjust to the light. Huh, maybe the extra sleep was a little more than I needed, or I could have been woken up in the middle of a sleep cycle or something. I feel a little bit more drowsy than expected. Hopefully that will pass befo-

"Eep! Stop that!" I jerk away when I feel somebody poking at one of my ears. "You know I hate it when you do that!" Even if it's not as bad as my tail, and it was just a poke, I still don't like it. Doesn't help that I was still stretching. Might as well have poked me in the side or something.

"Hey, how many times have you blown in mine while I was sleeping?" Ringo sounds quite pleased with herself, smiling even while I try to shoot her an annoyed look. Aside from her hat being off, she looks awake, dressed, and ready for the day. "Had to get you up somehow, didn't I?"

"I already woke up once, you could have just like, poked me or something," And even if she didn't know the first part, the second part would still be true. It's not like I'm a heavy sleeper. In fact I kinda wonder how she managed to crawl out of the bed without me noticing, especially considering she was the one closer to the wall. That's a lot more delicate than I normally expect Ringo to be.

"Oh but I didn't want to touch you while you were asleep," Ringo explains like it's the most natural thing in the world. She casually leans back against the desk, smirking like she's the smartest person in the room. "You just looked so cute and pristine. It was like I was looking at a princess of the Moon or something. Had to be really careful with her, at least until she woke up and started thrashing around."

"Yeah, right," My brain doesn't work fast enough to come up with a good comment to banter back with. I'm not the quickest at this kind of talk. Something about not thrashing? No, better idea. "So instead you throw a dirty hat on me?" I ask, grabbing Ringo's hat and throwing it at her. It doesn't fly nearly as straight or as fast as I would like, and Ringo easily snatches it before it hits her in the chest. I had been aiming for her head. Not my best shot.

"My hat is perfectly clean, thank you very much," Ringo says with obvious mock indignation as she holds the hat back up in front of her face. I see her eyes squint slightly as she sniffs at it a couple times. "Err, my hat is not that dirty, thank you very much," She corrects herself, slipping her cap back into its rightful place. "Anyway, not the point. Here, the cafeteria doesn't have the best selection, but this seemed like what you would've picked out of the options available."

Ringo turns at the hips, reaching around behind her to grab a tray that she had previously been keeping hidden. That's... That's the exact same soup that I got yesterday for breakfast. So yeah, Ringo's not wrong. "You didn't have to get this for me," I don't really mind eating the same thing two days in a row. I actually mean it. Ringo didn't need to get me breakfast or anything.

"Couldn't help it. like I said, it was the princess look," Ringo answers casually, sliding the tray over my lap. Hm, she had to carry this all the way up from the cafeteria? There isn't even a lid on it. Seems like an accident waiting to happen, though she apparently managed to avoid it. "Felt compelled to deliver her highness breakfast in bed. Get her ready for the day and all that. Shame she looks a lot less dignified once she's been woken up."

"Hey-"

"Still adorable though, so I'll let it slide," A-adorable? Oh, um anyway, I grab hold of the tray, making sure it doesn't move around too much as Ringo sits down beside me. This doesn't leave us with a lot of room, so I scoot over a bit more to give her some space. "But yeah, not like I'm gonna take it back, so either you eat it or I'm having a second breakfast this morning."

Given how hearty this stuff actually is, I don't think that's the best idea. I know that Ringo can take it, but... Well, she has a point. Already paid for. "Thanks Ringo," I start to eat while Ringo gives me a nod in acknowledgement.

There are more than a few beats of silence after that. I'm focusing on eating, while Ringo seems to be thinking something over. I can tell just from the facial expression, though I guess other people might just assume she's staring off into space. Could be a little from both columns there too. Not counting that option out.

Knowing that, I'm not caught off guard when, halfway through my soup, Ringo finally starts conversation back up again. "So uh, looks like everything worked out overnight, huh?"

The bullet thing. Yeah, it's true that I haven't noticed any evidence of me shooting the walls or anything. I guess I could give the room a more thorough look, but it sounds like Ringo may have already done that, just to make sure. I swallow another spoonful of soup before responding carefully. "Um, it might have been a fluke but-"

"Somehow you managed to kick that nasty snoring habit. Good job," Ringo gives me a winning smile and flashes a thumbs up.

I briefly consider dumping the remainder of my soup on her. Maybe a bit too extreme though. "I do not snore!"

Ringo laughs out loud in response. Urgh, she's lucky that I'm partially held in place by this tray of soup. Can't really roughhouse without making a mess. All I can do is try to shoot enough annoyed looks toward Ringo that she eventually gets the message and stops.

...

"Come on, Ringo! I was being serious," You can't possibly have found it that funny anyway.

Maybe it's something about the tone of my voice, but Ringo does finally stop giggling. She even gets rid of the smug expression and gets serious again. "I know, I was just trying to play it down a little bit. Still though, it looks like things turned out fine, yeah?"

"Yeah," I agree. "No bullets. I did have a dream, but it wasn't really a nightmare or anything. Not shooting could have been pure luck-"

"Or it could mean that it's not an issue anymore," Ringo finishes for me, sounding way more optimistic than I would normally feel.

I mull it over for a moment as I eat a little bit more soup. I think that maybe two days in a row is my limit for this stuff. Tomorrow I'll have to go with something else. "Maybe," I respond cautiously. "I'll feel a lot better after I have a check-up with Marisa though."

Ringo shrugs like it isn't a big deal. "Alright, is that the plan for today then?"

It's one of the plans at least. "Um, maybe," I answer. "Marisa apparently doesn't like getting up that early, and is fine if I show up at any time. I have no idea what time of day it is while we're still down underground."

"Sounds like an easy fix then," Ringo slides off the bed, landing with both feet and happily hopping forward. "We gather up whoever else we wanna bring, then head out. Doesn't even have to be Marisa's first either. We've got money, and at least some time. Should be nice and easy."

Easy enough, though there are still decisions to be made.

[ ] Actually, maybe we can just stay here and talk for a bit longer?
[ ] Let's head for Marisa's place first.
[ ] We were going to go on a da- a thing together, right?
- [ ] I have this coupon for some underground hot springs...
- [ ] The village is nice. I don't know if we need to get dango from there though.
- [ ] This sounds weird, but it might be nice just to hang out at our old camp for a bit.
- [ ] We could just relax by the lake for a while, as long as it isn't too cold.
- [ ] Somewhere else (Write-in)
[ ] I kind of have somewhere I want to go by myself first... (I'm not going to mention Yamame out loud though)
[ ] Something else (Write-in)

Also if you're leaving the plant to either Marisa's house or some other write-in:
[ ] Bring Yuzuki
[ ] Bring Sumi
[ ] Bring Chiyo
>> No. 28365
[x] Let's head for Marisa's place first.

Gotta look after your own health first.
>> No. 28366
[x] Let's head for Marisa's place first.

Its the only thing we really NEED to do until we talk to Reisen in the evening. Get it out of the way, and then we have the entire rest of the day for our date.
>> No. 28367
[X] We were going to go on a da- a thing together, right?
- [X] The village is nice. I don't know if we need to get dango from there though.

Let's not bug the witch first thing in the morning, shall we? Might as well get this out of the way while we're at it.
>> No. 28368
[x] Da-a thing at the village

Maybe we'll see Reisen and feed two bunnies with one carrot.
>> No. 28369
[x] village bunnies
>> No. 28375
File 151487058570.jpg - (324.30KB, 853x1280, Overthinking.jpg) [iqdb]
28375
[X] We were going to go on a da- a thing together, right?
- [X] The village is nice. I don't know if we need to get dango from there though.

Should be nice and easy. Should be. Nice and easy. I try to keep the words that Ringo said in mind, turning them over and over in my head as if that's going to make them more true. It should be nice and easy to just pick a thing to head out and do together. Should be easy to figure out which of the other rabbits we need to pick up before we go. It sounds like Ringo is down for whatever I want, so I just have to settle on an option and say it out loud. The only problem is that... All of that stuff just isn't true.

We need to use our down time to the fullest, although that might be a bit silly coming from somebody who just slept a chunk of what was probably the morning away. It's kind of impossible to tell how big that chunk was, but I think that's kind of beside the point. Whether I did or didn't use my morning well, that doesn't change the fact that continuing to sit around would be downright excessive. We need to go out and accomplish something at some point. Clear up the schedule now, just in case some kind of emergency pops up later. So what is the only thing on the list that we can for sure accomplish right now?

That um, thing with Ringo.

Okay okay, I know that it's a date. That's what I was intending when I pitched the idea. That's what I'm sure Ringo is billing it as in her head. All I'm doing by avoiding the word is saving myself from the mental embarrassment, but if that's really such an issue, it's really not doing me any favors. If I can't think it, I definitely can't actually say it. If I can't say it, then we won't actually do it. I want to do it, so I need to fix my thinking. This is going to be a date. A date. Date date date. Date with Ringo. Ringo and I, on a date.

"Err, you alright? Your face is turning red," I almost jump in surprise when Ringo interrupts my thoughts. Kinda funny that she managed that considering how I was completely aware of her. I mean, I'm looking right at her right now, isn't that weird how I'm so surprised that she's talking to me? Man, I'm being silly. There's no reason that I should be surprised by the person I was talking to talking back. No reason at all. Let's um, let's just move on. My face is red?

"I'm fine," I rush out, reaching up to poke at my face. Yeah, definitely a little warm, but let's just try not to dwell on that. "A-anyway, it'd probably be best to just get topside for now, then make plans based off of what time it turns out being, right?"

"Sure, sure," Ringo agrees, thankfully not going on about my awkwardness. Maybe she can tell how easy of a target I would be and doesn't feel like bothering. I'll take it at this point. "And the others?" She prompts me. "I saw Chi while I was getting you food, and Sumi should be around here on standby like we told her to be yesterday. We gathering anybody to come along?"

Of course, since I didn't really make the date thing clear, it's a fair question. Maybe I should spell things out a little better. "Um, no. Just us for now. We've got a bit of free time, so I thought maybe you and I could just um, stop by the village first," It's not the most graceful, or even the most explicitly obvious invitation, but I can still see the realization hitting Ringo's face. "See, because we'll be relatively close to Marisa's house that way, plus might get lucky and run into Reisen ahead of time. Even if we don't, it's still a nice place to be, right?"

It doesn't look like Ringo cares all that much about my justifications to the idea. She's already smiling and nodding along with it before I've even finished explaining it all the way. "Sure," she happily agrees. "Oh, but I gotta drop the tray back off in the cafeteria first though, so unless you're done already..."

Oh, right. There are only a few spoonfuls of soup left in the bowl. Not really enough that I feel like I need to finish them. I'm already full enough from the stuff. Plus, I kinda want to move right now before I have more time to be awkward about things. "I'm done," I agree, lifting up the tray off my lap and shuffling with my hips to get off the bed. Ringo helpfully grabs the tray from me and backs off while I stand up. Okay, where did I put my-? Oh, there we go. Mallet acquired. Minor amounts of mental stability reestablished. Even if I might not even need it much anymore (which isn't proven), it's still reassuring to have a hold on my hammer.

Okay. All good. I straighten myself out a little bit, pat at my hair a little bit. I had a shower last night, but maybe I should comb it out again first? Get myself looking nice before this d-date... Yeah.

"Hey Ringo-" I start talking, but freeze up when I actually turn back to her. She's um... That's my spoon. That's my soup.

"What? You weren't gonna eat it," Ringo defends herself before I've even said anything, not that I'm sure what I was going to say in the first place. "Hm, guess you were sick a couple days ago though... Eh, I'm sure it'll be fine. C'mon, get ready and let's get going!"

I... Yeah.

-

I know I'm overthinking things. I have to be overthinking things. It really isn't a big deal. Ringo and I have shared food a ton of times before. Tons of times really. She regularly acts as excess food disposal for the entire rest of the unit, it's not even just me. There's nothing weird about it. She has an appetite that never really quits, while the rest of us are much more normal. I get that. It really shouldn't be something that I think twice about, Ringo eating my food, but it is. Somehow.

Indirect kiss is such a silly, dumb concept. Oh no, somebody else put their mouth on the thing that your mouth was on! Even I can't think of that as a legitimately inappropriate thing, and that's saying something considering how sensitive I am to stuff like that. It's not the same as kissing, not even something to bring up in the same conversation. The act in itself isn't something that has ever bothered me, and it's not like it suddenly started to now. Not really. It's more like it just kinda prompted me to think about stuff. Think about this whole situation and how things have been for the past couple days.

I think what's bothering me more than anything is the frame that's around all of the interactions between Ringo and I now. Things are different between us, and it's not going away. I can't stop thinking that in my head. Even if it ends up that different is better (the much nicer assumption), it's still different. It's still something that I have to get used to. It's still something that's making me uncomfortable enough that I have no idea what I'm supposed to say to the rabbit that's silently flying along next to me right now.

When Ringo and I had finished getting ready and made our way out of the plant, Ringo had been quick to identify the time just by looking at the sun's position in the sky. Still morning, and before noon, but not as early as we'd normally be moving out. Seems like we're kind of going at this in a bit more of a leisurely way than normal, but hey, we've got time, right? Time enough for a date... Time enough to spend the whole flight toward the village wondering what I'm supposed to say.

In a way, it had kind of been easier with Yamame. We didn't really know each other, so there were a lot of preliminary 'getting to know you' questions that we could use to fill up the time. With Ringo that doesn't really work. We know each other better than anyone else, and neither of us know the area any better than the other. So many topics that there just isn't much reason to actually talk about. How am I supposed to act now? I know that things are different and new, but what is the dynamic between the new, dating, Seiran and Ringo? How do you figure something like that out?

Overthinking. Definitely overthinking. Problem is, acknowledging that doesn't fix it. If anything it just makes me think harder to try and come up with a solution and... Ahhhgh... I just don't get how our interaction from this morning was so easy but now I'm just lost. Nothing should have changed but somehow-

"We going in?" Ringo's voice suddenly breaks me out of my thoughts again. Oh, we've made it to the village already? That's... Huh. I hadn't been paying much attention. Kinda focused internally. Anyway, what was the question?

"Um, yeah," I answer back automatically, slowly floating over the outer wall and above the village proper. "I'm not actually sure where we're going though. In a specific sense, that is."

"Riiight," Ringo nods as she follows along. "Well, we just ate, so that's probably out for now. Maybe later?" She asks hopefully, glancing toward me. "Maybe later," she agrees with herself before I can respond. We really don't need to get more dango here. The stuff I make is still much better. "Actually, why don't we just go shopping?" She goes on to suggest. "I got some more money from Kanako this morning, and I can think of at least one thing that I wanted to buy."

I don't really have any better ideas, so that sounds okay to me. "Sure, as long as you know where we're going," I slow down to let Ringo pass me, then let her lead the way as we fly further into the village.

It doesn't take too long for me to see our destination. I'm not too surprised to see that at this time of day the markets are already in full swing, so where we're headed is basically just the place where all the other people are headed. Not wanting to just drop in on all of them, we get relatively close, then move off to the side to land somewhere with more cover and walk the rest of the distance. We still obviously don't belong, but it's better that than swooping down on everyone's heads.

Moving into the marketplace, we run into the most populous area of Earth that we've ever been to. I'm not completely sure if this is the exact center of the village or anything, but it certainly seems to be functioning as a hub of sorts. Tons of open aired stalls set up in front of and between more permanent shops. Food, clothing, tools, books, toys, jewellery, all kinds of things really. It'd be easier for me to figure out a more complete list if there weren't so many people crowding all over the place. Bartering, window shopping, or just hanging around talking, there really are a lot of them. In a way, it kind of helps. Seems like everyone's too busy to give Ringo and I much of a second glance.

I almost jump when I feel a hand wrap around my wrist, but it turns out to be Ringo. "Stick together?" She says, sounding more cautious than she should need to be. What's the big deal it's not like... Oh, holding hands, right.

The wrist isn't quite the same thing as the hand, but it works, doesn't it? At least for sticking together. We're not likely to get separated from each other even in this kind of crowd. "Right," I agree, adjusting myself so that we're closer together and Ringo's grip can stay on me more easily. "What were we looking to buy anyway?"

"Eh, it's just something that I thought of on a whim, but you know how we woke up and had no idea what time it was?" Ringo answers my question with a question as she starts moving through the crowds, leading me along. Right, that is one of the big problems with living underground. "I'm not sure, but I'm guessing that they're advanced enough here that they'll have something to tell time. A watch or something. We hook ourselves up with that and suddenly we won't be as confused in the plant."

Huh, I hadn't really thought of that, but she's got a point. Mostly anyway. "I'm not really disagreeing with the idea," I begin, narrowly avoiding bumping shoulders with some human. "But we've only got a couple more days down there. Do we really need to spend our limited money on something like that?"

"Hey, I'm the one that's gotta keep staring up at the sun," Ringo laughs lightly. Hey, not my fault that I never figured out how that time telling trick works. Honestly I don't even know how Ringo figured it out. "Besides, you're the one that's gonna be carrying it around. Think of it like a uh, a souvenir or something."

"Isn't that even worse?" Souvenir's aren't really known for their usefulness, right? "Makes me sound like a tourist or something. Do I even need a souvenir?"

Ringo casts a brief glance toward me before she has to turn back to leading us along some kind of path. It's a bit difficult for her to keep her eyes on me when she's trying to watch out for other people and check what's being sold on the stalls we're passing. "I don't know, do you?"

I wouldn't really need a souvenir unless I actually left, so... "Errm," That just kinda brings up the question of staying here or not. Did Ringo do that on purpose or have I just been agonizing over it too much and too often. Ugh, I really hate how my brain seizes up and panics whenever this subject comes up.

Ringo once again does a good job of not noticing my awkward hesitance. She just keeps talking as we pull further away from the dead center of the market. "Anyway, from what I can tell, Kanako's being pretty generous with our stipend. You already said you didn't disagree with the idea, so we can at least shop around and see what's what. Grab something if it seems like a good idea, and otherwise just see the sights, right?"

Well, I don't have a better suggestion. "I guess so."

-

Gensokyo really does keep surprising me, though I can't really say it's always in a good way. That's a statement that ended up coming to mind twice over the next hour or so.

The first time was for a rather innocent reason. The surprise was mostly caused by the massive gap in technology between different parts of Earth. I woke up this morning in an underground nuclear power plant, after riding around in a giant flying robot last night. Fast forward to this morning, and Ringo and I had to visit three separate jewellery stalls before we found one that happened to carry something that works as a timepiece. A pocket watch, and not a particularly fancy one either. It was certainly functional though, which was enough for Ringo. She bought it and gave it to me, even though she's the one with the pockets. While I'm thankful for that and everything, right now there's a bit more of a pressing matter.

Namely, the second thing that Gensokyo threw at me that is quite a bit more surprising.

"I've been getting complaints," The girl goes on, despite the fact that Ringo and I are being completely unobtrusive to anyone else in the village, sitting on a bench in a mostly unoccupied side street. "New youkai showing up are a problem, especially when they just come and go like they own the place. People don't like it, and it ends up falling down on me."

I want to refute us apparently acting like we own the place, but I'm not really sure if that's in my best interest or not. Ringo seems to agree that staying quiet is the best course of action. That and subtly shifting to put herself between me and the girl who is currently listing off why we're such a problem.

"At least one count of theft was reported, with a riot almost being incited a couple days later," I'm not sure how fair that is. The riot was more like just a handful of angry people, and we left before it became a problem, right? Somebody is fudging the truth. "I talk to the gate guards, and apparently they've had zero rabbit youkai check in with them before coming here in the past week, so that's another problem. Flying over the walls. Humans want to keep track of potential trouble makers, you know? No, apparently you don't. You've shown up enough that that much is obvious."

"So... What?" Eep. Ringo, are you sure you should be interrupting her? "You want us to leave and never come back or something?"

"I'm still deciding," The girl reaches into her pockets, shuffling about some of her belongings. Sounds like a lot of paper? "One the one hand, visibly throwing you out right now would be the right move for public relations. It'd make me look good, and I don't think it'd be that hard either. On the other hand..." She trails off, glancing back in the direction of the main congregation of humans nearby.

"O-on the other hand?" I stutter a little bit when prompting her to continue. I've heard enough of her reputation to feel the nervousness is warranted.

"Well, I've never seen you before, so you're obviously new. You don't seem to be hostile or that troublesome either. You could be acting, but I'm not getting that impression. So basically, I'm willing to be reasonable," Reimu Hakurei folds her arms over her chest, looking at Ringo and I expectantly. "Convince me."

[ ] Correct some facts. She's only got one side of the story on Ringo's "crimes".
[ ] Claim ignorance. We're new around here, and nobody really told us the rules. We can do better.
[ ] I... I don't know how to deal with this!
[ ] Don't convince her, just promise to leave and not come back
[ ] Something else (Write-in)

Happy New Year and all that.

All the date options had something that would interrupt them, but it's totally recoverable, don't worry.
>> No. 28376
[x] Claim ignorance. We're new around here, and nobody really told us the rules. We can do better.

I haven't looked back in the story to check, but as far as going past the gate guards I'm pretty sure we never even got the option. So yeah, rules were broken, our bad.
>> No. 28377
[X] Claim ignorance. We're new around here, and nobody really told us the rules. We can do better.

Ohhhhh shit. At least she seems to be in something approaching a good mood right now! Let's hope it stays that way.
>> No. 28378
[x] Claim ignorance on entrance issues.
[X] Explain the other side of the theft thing.

If only one can be chosen, consider this a vote for the first
>> No. 28379
[x] Claim ignorance. We're new around here, and nobody really told us the rules. We can do better.
[x] Correct some facts. She's only got one side of the story on Ringo's "crimes".
>> No. 28380
File 151513598533.jpg - (245.66KB, 1996x2262, Incidents require investigation 2.jpg) [iqdb]
28380
[X] Claim ignorance. We're new around here, and nobody really told us the rules. We can do better.

Convince me. As if we're going to know how to do that, especially when we've been put on the spot like this. It really doesn't help that Reimu seems to have gotten a technique of passive intimidation down pat. Some of it may be her reputation preceding her, sure. Pretty much everyone that we've talked to who has mentioned the Hakurei has been regretful of crossing her. I don't put a lot of faith in us breaking that pattern either. Even without that knowledge though, just the way that she's standing makes it pretty clear that she wouldn't hesitate to jump into a fight if we gave her a reason. She's relaxed and loose, ready to move. Her hands are in her pockets, though I don't know what she's got a hold of in there. Nothing good, I feel comfortable guessing that much.

Although maybe comfortable is the wrong word. Definitely doesn't feel appropriate right now.

I'm getting sidetracked though. I don't need to be thinking about how Reimu is standing right now. She obviously knows, and is doing it on purpose. I need to think of some way to keep her from throwing us out or blowing us up or worse.

... I guess when it comes down to it, following along with the same lie that we've been using is probably the easiest, right? I was almost getting comfortable in not having to hide a million things back up in the plant, but I know for a fact that the Moriyas don't want me being honest in this situation. Okay. Recently displaced bunnies, kept to ourselves, don't know anybody or much of anything. Okay.

"Um, well it's just like you said, right?" I start. Even though Ringo is clearly posturing as if to guard me, it seems that I'm a bit quicker on the draw as far as thinking up what to say goes. Not really a good thing. "We're new here. We haven't run into anybody who just sat us down and told us the rules and what we had to do to not make trouble. If you want to do that, we'd be happy to listen. We can do better," Even if I'm not that crazy about using up free time getting lectured about the rules of human vs youkai relationships, I know it beats the alternative.

Err... Oh. That's probably not good. Reimu is still eyeing me suspiciously once I've said my piece. "New around here, but you know somebody old school like Elly?" She asks, barely masking the accusatory tone to her voice.

Urgh, of course she would know about that visit. Chiyo and I came around here with Elly as recently as yesterday, and we weren't exactly stealthy about it. I wouldn't know anything about Elly's supposed 'old school' status, but apparently it means something to Reimu. Think, think... Elly only joined in on meetings with the grassroots youkai network a few weeks ago, so she hasn't been in her jobless situation for very long. If she mostly stuck around the mansion, then we'd have no way of knowing about her... Wait, no. Sanae mentioned that Reimu vetted the grassroots youkai network herself, would it be safe to mention attending one of their meetings? No, maybe not. How would we explain knowing about that? Would it reflect badly on them that we're claiming ignorance about peaceful coexistence with humans here? Too many questions.

"We only met her in the last week," Ringo answers. I'm kinda happy about that. I was getting a little caught up in how much truth I should give out. Ringo just being vague is probably better. "We've kinda been moving all over the place to try and find a place to stay after our old place got destroyed."

"Hmm..." Reimu brings a hand to her chin thoughtfully. "Ah yeah, those rabbits," She nods slightly to herself, as if remembering something.

"You've heard of us?" I wasn't really expecting that. Should I be worried? I mean, I'm already worried, but should I be more worried?

"The tengu's newspaper," Reimu answers somewhat dismissively. Sounds like she doesn't much care for it, but apparently she still read the article Aya interviewed us for. "Seemed a little sensationalized, especially since I haven't heard anything about any spider robot since then, and you look fine."

"Well, we saw enough of it, I'll tell you that much," Ringo gives her best wry laugh at the idea. "If the thing's disappeared, then that's good, right? I'd rather have it get blown up or something, but just disappearing is fine."

Reimu answers with a non-committal grunt, lowering her hand back down to her pocket. Her posture relaxes again and she starts slowly pacing the alley as she talks. "Thing is, it doesn't really mesh completely. I wouldn't call myself entirely convinced that you're harmless. Not just yet."

"W-what?" Okay, definitely getting more and more worried now.

"Let's say first that I accept there being more rabbit youkai I didn't now about before. Ones that didn't come from the bamboo forest," Reimu begins, sounding entirely too happy to be running through her reasoning. "I've been fooled on that point before, so I'm not crazy about going along with it, but let's pretend that I will for now," Fooled by it before? "So these rabbits exist, and are reclusive and self-sufficient enough that nobody has even heard of them, right up until the point where they randomly appear and a bunch of people start running into them over the course of about a week. Suddenly they're meeting people like Elly who aren't exactly known social butterflies, interviewing with the local newspaper, and waltzing into the village multiple times without a care in the world. Not exactly reclusive anymore. Strange, right?"

It's a little strange, yeah. I obviously can't say that the reason why we changed so much up was because of the loss of our stealth, but what excuse am I supposed to give here instead? "Uh, well-"

"I'm not saying it's impossible," Reimu runs over my words with more of her own. "I'm just saying that if you're being reasonable, you should see why I'm thinking I need to look into this more, right?" She shoots Ringo and I an almost warning glance, but doesn't wait for us to answer. "I hope so, because as long as you're reasonable, then I can keep being reasonable too."

"Ssssure..." It's hard not to catch the threat there. 'Play along with what I say or I won't feel the slightest bit bad about ending you' is how I'm interpreting it.

"And the most reasonable thing to do here, is investigate," Reimu concludes, casually reaching up and stretching her arms behind her head. I notice she's pulled out some kind of stick with paper dangling off the end. Kind of similar to Sanae's, but not exactly the same. One of those shrine maiden things that I don't understand. "So no, I'm not convinced, but I'm not going to pick you up and throw you out of the village right now either. My gut is telling me that that doesn't need to be my priority, compared to something else," She says, pointing the stick at Ringo and I. Ringo reflexively squares her shoulders in front of me, blocking me a little more completely. "Talking to you has given me a bit of a hunch that I'm gonna follow up on. I could just try beating an answer out of you, but like I said, reasonable," She stresses the word again. "And that approach might not work, I guess. Nah, you're off the hook for now."

Just like that. I'm caught off guard, and I have a feeling that Ringo is too. I'm behind her, so I can't see her face, but... "Err, what about the village?" Yeah, I can hear it in her voice.

"You can hang around if you want," Reimu sounds dismissive again, like she's made up her mind already so she doesn't even feel a need to keep talking or putting effort into the conversation. "I'll get some more complaints, but like I said, it's a lower priority than what I'm thinking. I don't really care whether you dig the hole deeper here or not. It's minor."

And without another word, before we can even think of what to say to her, Reimu flies off.

"That... What?" Ringo looks back at me, obviously confused. I'm not sure what I should say to her in response.

Even though we were the ones keeping information a secret, somehow Reimu was the one that came out of the conversation completely sure of what she's doing, leaving us lost. I don't even know what just happened. Was she figuring out a bunch of stuff just from our vague half-truths somehow, or was she bluffing to try and read our reactions? Where is she going now, and what exactly is she investigating? She couldn't have put together the full story, right? We don't know what she knows, that's true, but there's too many gaps for her to hit the truth already.

One thing's for sure though, I can see why people are intimidated by her.

Ringo let's out a heavy sigh as she slumps her back against a wall, reaching up to rub at her face for a moment. In a way, I appreciate what she did just now. Not only did she fill in holes in the conversation when I wasn't sure what to say, but she was intent on covering me in case a fight broke out too. I don't know how much of a difference it would have made, but it's hard to feel bad about someone so clearly having your back in a tough situation. Not that I was really doubting it or anything. Even if things are weird between us, that's still the same.

... Actually, why do things have to be weird between us if that important part is still the same?

"Welp, I dunno what to do," Ringo finally admits, giving me an uncomfortable smile.

"Uh... Same here," I consciously ease up my grip on my mallet. I hadn't even noticed that I was holding it too tight, but my fingers are starting to hurt.

As for what to do now... Honestly it doesn't feel like there's much we can do. Reimu is going to investigate, and we don't know enough to stop that from happening. She has years and years of experience working in Gensokyo. She probably has contacts and information sources we're not even remotely aware of. Not only that, but she clearly had some plan, or she would have kept questioning us. I mean, I guess we could follow her, try to find out where she's going...

Oh man, it just hit me.

She might actually end up trying to talk to one of the people that she knows we're associated with. The rabbits in the bamboo forest or Elly most likely. I don't think she'll make the connection between us and the grassroots youkai network or the Moriya shrine, but that's just guess work. Granted, all of those groups know our cover story, so it might not be that bad. That doesn't mean there won't be inconsistencies between us and them though. It's hard to keep a lie running between so many different people.

In a way, it kind of feels hopeless.

I catch Ringo stepping away from the wall out of the corner of my eye. She visibly shakes herself a little bit, getting her wits back together, then turns to me and smiles. "So, we got the go ahead from the boss lady herself. Want to keep looking around for a while?"

... It's a little tempting.

[ ] Spend a while longer in the village with Ringo
[ ] Maybe we should tail Reimu and figure out what she's doing. And what she knows.
[ ] We need to meet up with _____ before Reimu does (if she's even planning to).
- [ ] Elly
- [ ] Tewi and the rabbits in the bamboo forest
- [ ] Reisen
- [ ] The grassroots youkai network
- [ ] The Moriya shrine
[ ] Maybe we should go to Marisa's now? She's in on the truth at least.

Don't panic

Crazy day. Got laid off at my job. To be honest I was planning on quitting soon anyway but it was still a surprise. I suddenly have a lot more time though, so that's probably good for getting my update consistency back. That should be nice.
>> No. 28381
Oh I forgot to put my name on. Whatever, everybody knows it's me posting in my own story thread.
>> No. 28382
[x] Maybe we should go to Marisa's now? She's in on the truth at least.
>> No. 28383
[x] Maybe we should go to Marisa's now? She's in on the truth at least.

Reimu totally killed the mood, so let's just get on with the day.
>> No. 28384
[x] Spend a little while longer with Ringo.

It is over. She can't be stopped.

And even if she can't, going to our contacts now is EXACTLY what you shouldn't do.

It'd be like a drug dealer going directly to his boss after the police have suspciously let him off the hook.
>> No. 28385
[x] Spend a little while longer with Ringo.

That went about as well as could be expected, to be honest. Trying to spin our story now would just make us look more suspicious, might as well just carry on with what we were already doing.
>> No. 28386
[x] Spend a while longer in the village with Ringo

Its going to take a lot more than a mere shrine maiden to ruin our date.
>> No. 28387
File 151548612595.png - (385.50KB, 1000x1385, Quite a bit different.png) [iqdb]
28387
[X] Spend a while longer in the village with Ringo

Reimu... Reimu is gone. That whole confrontation is over and done with, Reimu's off doing whatever it is she's going to do, and we're not really in any position to stop her. Heck, even if we had the firepower and skill to do so, it would probably still be a bad idea. Putting aside that she's really just doing her job, however inconvenient it might be for us, there's just no clean way to fight somebody who is so clearly being watched by so many people. Reimu is important, and we'd end up important if we tried to get in her way. Not a good plan.

So following after her and doing anything is out. While I guess it might help to go and let our allies know that she might come knocking, that has problems too. No guarantee that we'll pick the right ally. No guarantee that she won't just turn it around and follow us to see where we go. Could be helpful, could be bad.

By contrast, just staying here with Ringo... Well, it wouldn't do much to actually help the situation, but it wouldn't make it worse either. At the same time, it would mean actually doing something fun, if I can manage to stop worrying anyway.

Err, I don't want to outright lie to myself. Not worrying might be a bit too tall an order. Maybe if I just focus on reducing the worry a little bit? Hopefully a little more doable.

"Sooooo?" I jump a bit in surprise when Ringo prompts me again. I think I kinda got lost in thought for a second there and didn't actually answer the question the first time.

"Um..." I cast one last glance up in the direction that Reimu flew toward. I can't even see her anymore, though that's probably more due to the surrounding buildings than anything else. Out of sight, out of mind? I'll go with that. "Yeah. Might as well."

"Great!" Ringo hops (actually hops!) over to my side again, trying to get me to follow along next to her as she starts leading us out of the side street. "So anyway," Man, she's really good at still sounding casual despite everything that just happened. That makes things a little easier on me too. "It's probably still a little bit early for a meal, and I get that, but maybe we could grab a snack? Something small is fine if you want. I'm just saying that coming out here is a rare treat, so we should make the best of it!"

Ringo... It can't have been more than an hour since we got here.

-

In the end, I did manage to dissuade Ringo from the snack plan. At first I felt it was kind of suspicious how easily she moved on from that idea to her next one, but once she fully explained it all to me, I found out what she was doing. Line up something I'm lightly to shoot down first, then make another suggestion after it. I start looking unreasonable if I just keep saying no to every suggestion. Now I'm stuck with either going along with this idea, or chancing the possibility that she has something even worse planned out if I turn this down.

I'm kind of proud of myself for catching on, even if it wasn't in time to prevent it from happening.

"Um... I'm not really sure about this," Even with Reimu essentially giving us the go-ahead to be here, I still feel rather out of place in this part of the village. Further away from the central markets, things are just a little bit more upscale here. There are fewer open-air street vendors and a lot more single building shops. The kind of places with clean windows, nice displays of their products, fancy signs hanging up above the doors and all the rest of that stuff. Honestly I'm kind of wondering when Ringo had enough time and inclination to even scope out this place.

"Whaaat?" Ringo jokingly exclaims, elbowing me just a tiny bit. Not really helping calm me down, that. "Come onnn, I'm not even saying that you have to buy anything. We're just taking a look."

While I know that taking a look and trying things on is common in places like this, it's still weird, Ringo. I haven't been somewhere like this in... Okay, probably longer than I should admit to. It's just that I work fine with what I have already. "Y-yeah, but..."

"But?" Ugh. Stop pushing me, Ringo. Even though I think these things in my head, half the time I'm not sure how I want to convert them into actual words. Though I'm pretty sure Ringo knows that. She's been telling me for a while that I think too much and speak too little. Is she just taking advantage of that to push me inside this building?

This isn't fair. I want to protest, but I can't really think of a very good reason other than not really wanting to do this... Actually, wait. I just had a better idea. Not a way to get out of it, but a way to turn this around. At the very least, a way to change things up so that they're in my favor instead of Ringo's. Even though I've been trying not to do this too much, I heave an almost theatric sigh. "... Fine."

Ringo smiles and pumps her fist triumphantly before putting an arm around my shoulder and leading me toward the shop in front of us. In a way, I know that it's kind of silly to be so apprehensive about it. Clothes shopping itself is something that I'm already kind of familiar with anyway. All of us rabbits have our own taste in outfits, and while we're not paid much, we're at least capable of pulling together outfits that we like for when we're not on duty. Of course, those clothes are the ones that we chose to bring with us on this mission, and are the same ones that we're wearing now.

Is a shop that boasts having one of the widest selections of clothes from outside Gensokyo really the best option for us? Sure we don't exactly fit in with normal villager clothing, but... I don't know, I'm expecting something weird.

We recieve an almost automatic welcome from the shopkeeper when Ringo brings us both through the door. What I have to assume to be the owner of the place is actually a somewhat older looking human woman. Even though I expect her to do or say something once she gets a good look at us, no real reaction comes out of the lady. In fact, she almost seems to be purposely looking the other way, like it isn't a big deal that youkai are barging into her shop. Maybe she's used to it or something?

Actually, now that I look at things... Yeah, she's probably used to it.

Is this really what outsider clothes are like? I was expecting something more exotic or strange, but it matches up with a lot of the more casual clothes that you would see rabbits on the Moon, or even some of the youkai we've seen here on Earth wearing. It's a lot smaller of a difference than what I was thinking there would be. Did the Earthlings take fashion trends from the Moon somehow? That doesn't make sense.

... The other way around then?

"Haha, nice," Ringo looks pleased, laughing to her herself as she starts looking around and pulling me along with her. She's obviously trying to pick out something for me to try on. When she first pitched the idea of going clothes shopping, it had been based on a premise of "you looked so good in Merlin's clothes, why not at least try on a few more things?" I'm not sure what criteria she's using to pick out what I should wear, but it's probably better not to wait and see.

Well, maybe. It could actually be fine, but I don't want to take the chance. She pulled me into here with a trick, now I'm going to trick her back. All in good fun, right? Now let me see...

"Oooh, hey Ringo!" I fake my enthusiasm a little bit while grabbing at a somewhat randomly decided article of clothing. A layered skirt in dark blue. Actually kind of cute, but I don't know if I could see Ringo wearing it. I'm usually the blue wearing one in the group. Still, it makes a nice contrast with her normal color scheme, so... "You should try this on!"

"Huh? Err, sure," Ringo agrees quickly without much thought, taking hold of the skirt and looking it over. "Not my normal style, but if you think so, that's fine."

"Oh! And this!" A coppery colored sleeveless blouse? Sure, why not.

Ringo eyes it for a moment, but I keep us moving forward enough that she just grabs the top automatically. "That one's a little bit-"

Before she can continue, I grab at another piece of clothing. Jean shorts? These might actually look good on her. "And maybe this one too."

At this point I'm pretty sure Ringo knows what I'm doing, especially because I've started leading us directly toward the changing area in the back to try things on. "H-hold on-"

"What? I'm the one that has to look at you wearing the same clothes all the time," I say, a bit accusingly, though I doubt Ringo will get offended by it. That's a pretty hard thing to do. "I already switched my look up once, so if anything, it should be your turn now," I punctuate my statement by grabbing a baggy, almost fluffy looking pair of pants. Were these in style with the outside at some point? Weird. Doesn't seem familiar to me, but whatever.

"You're one to talk," Ringo chuckles, now content to just take whatever I hand to her. "But you know what? I'm game. Bring 'em on. You're not the only cute rabbit in the unit," She winks at me, and I pointedly busy myself looking for another thing for Ringo to try on. "Since you're asking for it so much, I'll show off a bit too."

Even if it's a victory that Ringo let me have, I still can't help but smile about it.

-

I actually wind up rather surprised when Ringo finds something from my random picks that she actually likes. I probably shouldn't be, considering that I started putting actual thought and effort into picking things out for her once she started going along with. Still, I did kind of expect that she would want to stick with what she's used to exclusively. Instead, she surprised me with something entirely different. A long, loose tube dress in a pretty yellow color and just the faintest hints of patterns in the fabric. It's light and revealing in a different way than her normal clothes are, but when you add in the black cardigan and tights underneath, she actually ends up covering up more than usual over all.

There were other things that she thought looked acceptable of course, but this is a specialized store. Rare goods. Things that they can't just make more of, at least not authentically. They probably can make replicas or things in the same style, but even that winds up with an expensive end product. Neither of us want to blow all of the money we have on clothes, so we end up settling for something cute and unique for Ringo that she and I both like.

In fact, Ringo keeps it on when we leave.

"See? And you were thinking that you weren't sure if we should even go in there," Ringo is in higher spirits than usual when we step out of the store. She stretches up to the sky, holding up the single bag that has most of her old clothes in it. Even though the two are basically identical in size and shape, she still swapped from the black copy of her hat back to the original. "Seems like you had a good time. Least, I hope you had fun, because I know I did."

Kind of hard to deny it, honestly. She was a little bit pushy, but in a way, I kind of need somebody to push me occasionally. Ringo's always been like that, pushing me into new, interesting things. It usually goes well, though there are rare occasions where she doesn't pay enough attention to my pushes back. "Fine, fine. You were right," I admit, before going too much further with my train of thought. "What's next on your to-do list then?"

Ringo gives me an almost mischievous smile, one that makes me nervous about what else she could have planned. Should I start pushing back already? "Weeeellll I figured we could go back up the list to the snacks part actually," She answers casually, already walking away as if I should follow.

... Well, we were in there shopping for a while. I'm still not that hungry, but if Ringo really wants to...

"Fffffiiinne," I give up. She's going to keep bringing it up anyway, and I think she's earned this much.

-

I'm actually really surprised when Ringo passes up dango, though relieved about not having to eat the inferior product two days in a row. I figure that it's maybe just Ringo not wanting to get a power up for no reason, since she can't just dismiss her strength boosts once she gets them. One or two portions of dango wouldn't be that big a deal, but I'm still glad at the alternative that we pick out.

Really though... Millennia and millennia of lunarian science, and they never bothered to make anything that tastes like this 'ice cream' stuff that they have here on Earth? I feel like I should file a complaint with Command or somebody else with authority, even knowing they'd never actually read it. Something should be done to correct this lack of deliciousness back home at least.

Ringo eats hers so fast that she gets a headache (the lady at the shop assures us that this is actually a common occurrence), but I choose to take my time. I already liked strawberries by themselves. Now in this icey creamy form? Amazing.

With another groan, Ringo finally removes her hands from her temples, wincing a little bit as she does so. Too much cold all at once. She leans back in the bench that we're taking up, staring into the sky thoughtfully. The crowds have thinned out considerably, though we're still sitting in a side street rather than a main one. "So... What next? I picked the last two things. Figure it should be up to you now."

I take another small bite out of my bowl of ice cream and think about it. I'm not entirely sure if she's asking about continuing the date or if she's saying that we're done and now I should lead the way to the next thing on our to-do list. In a way, I think that might be an intentional thing.

[ ] ... Maybe making the date just a little bit longer wouldn't hurt.
- [ ] And just staying here to talk is fine.
- [ ] I wouldn't mind looking around the village a bit more.
[ ] It's been a few hours. We really should get to Marisa's.
[ ] We should go somewhere else. (Write-in)
>> No. 28388
[x] It's been a few hours. We really should get to Marisa's.

I am boring.
>> No. 28389
[x] ... Maybe making the date just a little bit longer wouldn't hurt.
- [x] I wouldn't mind looking around the village a bit more.
I'm not!
>> No. 28390
[X] It's been a few hours. We really should get to Marisa's.

We really do need to be productive today.
>> No. 28391
[X] It's been a few hours. We really should get to Marisa's.
>> No. 28392
File 151608336588.jpg - (264.21KB, 572x800, Unexpectedly Great.jpg) [iqdb]
28392
[X] It's been a few hours. We really should get to Marisa's.

I have some mixed feelings about this. It's not that I think that the date went badly or anything. Actually I really did enjoy it, and I don't even have to guess if Ringo did too. It's just that it was weird and different, while also somehow being really familiar at the same time. It's not that Ringo's behavior with me was all that different from normal, it's more just the context behind how she was acting that was throwing me off. It was all in my head, and I couldn't get it out. That isn't Ringo's fault, and even if it was, that doesn't mean that I had a bad time.

Meeting Reimu aside, I'd say that this was really worthwhile and fun, which is making it a little harder to bring up the fact that we should probably get back to being productive instead of continuing.

But no, this is important. There'll be plenty of time in the future for Ringo and I to walk around and do miscellaneous fun stuff together. There was in the past and I'm sure there will be in the future. Having an opportunity to actually fix what's wrong with my powers, and make sure that it stays fixed? Yeah, that's a lot more of a rare thing. Rare and worthy of being stuck in a higher spot on the priority list. Now that it's been a couple of hours, I would honestly be shocked if Marisa was still asleep. Even if she is, at this point I don't think I would need to feel bad about waking her up. We have a way to tell time now, so I can confidently say that it's past noon. Who would sleep this late?

"Next, we should probably get going," I say, although it makes me suddenly realize that I still have ice cream to finish. I don't really want to get a headache from rushing through it, but maybe increasing the size of my bites a little bit would be fine. "To Marisa's house," I add, before Ringo pretends not to know what I'm talking about.

I'm not sure if I prefer the unimpressed, almost disappointed look that Ringo gives me after I've cut off what I'm sure would have been her go to reaction here. "Really?" Is all she asks.

"If it makes you feel any better, we're going to have to come back to the village anyway. Need to meet up with Reisen later today when she's off work." I point out, pausing for a moment to eat another spoonful of ice cream.

"Eventually, but that's still more for business than for pleasure," Ringo counters. Well, we at least wouldn't spend hours shopping for clothes and stuff. "I'm thinking you won't want to stick around afterward either, whether Reisen has a good answer for us or not. You'll either want to start in on whatever she tells us or you'll want to go looking for another solution as soon as possible."

Right, today is the deadline that we gave Reisen to figure something out with what she's currently working on. I guess if what she's doing doesn't produce an answer then we're going to have to take a lot more of an active role in figuring things out. Ringo's got a point. I wouldn't just be okay with having no solution unless it's absolutely necessary, so I'm almost certainly going to have to start on something after we talk to Reisen. "Is there really anything wrong with that plan?"

"Nahhh... I'm looking forward to when this is all over though," Ringo slumps in her seat, throwing her arms up over the back. One of them ends up around my shoulders but I don't really think much of it. "Just gotta get through it. My last mission. Kinda doesn't feel real."

The last one? Oh... Right, if she stays here, she's not going to have any more missions or orders that she's going to have to follow. That's... It's kind of worrying, but I can definitely see how she would be looking forward to it. Still, it isn't the most helpful mindset for her to be going forward with. "Well you could at least end it at a good pace, rather than crawling your way to the finish line," I say. "And I'll drag you along if just telling you that isn't enough."

"Hm," Ringo gives me a small smirk, but doesn't say anything.

Instead, I feel a tapping on my other shoulder. Who is- ow!

Oh. It was Ringo reaching around to get my attention, and when I turned to look who it was, she put her finger in the way of my cheek to poke me in the face. I lightly slap at her still outstretched finger. Yeah yeah, I fell for it. Very funny.

"Ringo, I-" When I turn back in the direction of the rest of her, I see Ringo stealing a scoop out of my remaining ice cream. "Hey!"

-

If she had just asked nicely, I would have been willing to share. Her being all sneaky like that only convinced me to eat the rest of the ice cream by myself. She just had to wait and watch.

... Okay fine, I let her have a bit of it.

In any case, it doesn't take that much longer for us to finish up and leave the village. There was a bit of question about whether we should actually take the time to talk to the guards outside or not. The end result of the discussion being that we figured explaining ourselves and why we've been flying in and out of the village without ever talking to them before would just take up more time for no benefit. We didn't think it would really help us get into Reimu's, or anyone else's, good graces.

So we just flew off without talking to anyone instead.

I was back and forth to Marisa's house more than once yesterday, but the forest she lives in is still dense and confusing enough that I don't really trust myself to find her house directly. Instead I Ringo and I land down on the path that Sanae showed me yesterday and start walking the rest of the way. It gives me a chance to go over some of the less important details with Ringo that I might have left out in our meeting last night. Stuff like the state of Marisa's house, more details on the ritual stuff that Marisa put me through yesterday, what this appointment is about, how I don't really like how Marisa acts even though I can't disagree with the results she's already shown. That kind of stuff.

For her part, Ringo seems to slip back into something approximating a serious mood fairly easily now that we're away from the village. She doesn't have all that much to actually contribute, but she does make an effort to listen to what I have to say. I just hope she's doing more than just humoring me. I don't think I'll need her help in dealing with Marisa. I've already gotten over that hurdle. It's still nice to know that I have someone around who has my back though. Chiyo did just fine yesterday. Ringo should do just as well or better today.

Over all, I have enough information to supply her that it doesn't leave us with too much awkward silence as we cover the distance on foot. Maybe a little bit, but not too much. I at least don't get to the point where I'm thankful to finally reach Marisa's door and knock on it. I probably could have lasted a little while longer before I actually felt a need to hurry things along.

Okay, she doesn't have a sign up telling us to go away or that her store is closed or anything. I'd like to take that as a good sign, but apparently Marisa can just randomly forget to do stuff like that (or lock up her house) sometimes. A part of me would like it more if Ringo were the one to knock and take the lead. For some reason I have a feeling that her and Marisa might actually get along pretty well if I let them talk about things. This is my own issue though. I should be the one to push for it to get resolved.

Knowing how big Marisa's house actually is (and the possibility that she might still be asleep), I pound on the door a little more strongly than I otherwise would. I think Ringo is a little surprised by it. Marisa really needs to put more thought into her system here. Among other things.

When I hear an annoyed yell come from within the house, I can at least take that as confirmation that Marisa heard me and that she isn't asleep. She didn't actually say words as far as I can tell, so I'm not sure whether I should just go in or not. Instead, I just kind of glance awkwardly back at Ringo, thinking about shrugging to her before she does the same thing to me.

Thankfully, the door opens on its own soon after that to reveal a slightly messy, but at least properly dressed, Marisa. Parts of her clothes look slightly singed, with splotches of light colored powder scattered all over her. Actually, I think I see the signs of some kind of explosion a bit past the entryway of her house. Do I even want to know?

"Mornin', mornin', welcome back. Was just wondering when you'd show up!" Marisa says, sounding entirely too cheerful for her appearance.

Even though she doesn't sound annoyed or anything, I kind of feel like I am anyway. "You didn't really give me a time, so I wasn't really sure when I'd show up either," I explain, trying not to sound too prim.

"Hm, good point," Marisa acknowledges. Apparently noticing how much I'm staring at her messy appearance, she brushes (more like smears) a bit of the powder and dust off of herself. I'm not sure if this kind of first impression will be good or bad in Ringo's eyes, but if she looked like this when I first came here, I'm not sure if Sanae would have been able to talk me into it. "Well, come on in," She says, stepping back and waving Ringo and I into her house. "I've got a few things prepped up and good to go already, but I mostly wanna hear from you. Anything obvious go wrong, or am I as much of a genius as I know I am?"

That... I feel like a genius could have phrased that better, but I decide not to comment on it. Instead Ringo and I follow Marisa back to her workshop while I think over all the things that I should report. Misgivings aside, the more information I supply here, the better, right? "Um, well..."

Marisa doesn't bother with the tea this time as I start explaining things to her. I go over the difference in the effectiveness and ease of use in my powers, referencing the practice that I did with Sanae last night. It really did make a big difference, especially the fact that it doesn't give me headaches or make me dizzy anymore. The utility of it isn't bad either. Actually, Marisa almost seems a little envious when I go over how easy it is to pull all kinds of bullets and everything else out of another dimension now.

While that information seems important, none of it actually appears to be signs of things going wrong, so I move on after that. There's a brief exchange when Marisa finally realizes that she doesn't actually know the second rabbit youkai in her house, so I introduce her and Ringo to each other, but after that I move on to something that might really matter to my health. Namely, the dream I had last night.

The dead emptiness with just a hint of something there. The waiting and watching. Opening it up just a little bit. All of it comes back to me surprisingly easily even though it's been hours since I woke up.

"Hm, that's what I was worried about actually," Marisa says cryptically, scribbling something down on a random piece of paper on her desk. I'm pretty sure I see smudges forming where her other hand touches the paper to keep it steady, but she obviously doesn't care. "Wasn't sure how natural dreaming would mess with the connection. At first I was thinking that you just wouldn't dream at all, but if that's still happening..."

"I'm... Not completely sure it was a natural dream," I admit. Ringo gives me a curious look, but she's been rather interested in this whole line of conversation actually. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that if things had gone a little differently, me dreaming could have ended up with her getting shot.

"Wha?" Marisa stops writing, looking up at me in confusion.

"Well um, during the ritual thing that you ran me through yesterday, I encountered and fought a baku while I was dreaming." While Ringo seems surprised to hear this information, it had actually come up in my debriefing with Marisa yesterday. She just nods, so I keep going. "That same baku came into my dream last night and talked to me then too.

"Ohhh..." Marisa's reaction makes me worry a little bit. She takes a second to write what can't be more than a couple more words down before turning back to me. "Alright, this is important. During the dream, what did the baku actually say? Was it angry or what?"

"Um... It was more like she was kind of taunting me? Not angrily though, I kind of got the impression that's just how she talks." I'm not sure if that's exactly it, but it's a good way to summarize it I think. "She said stuff about the result of my experimentation being crude but effective, and that as long as I kept the connection closed, I probably wouldn't see her again."

Marisa seems to deflate as she sags with relief in her seat. "Phew."

"Good news?" Ringo asks hopefully.

"The best," Marisa answers, triumphantly crossing out a couple of things from her sheet of paper. "Your subconscious and conscious are handin' off control of the connection between each other properly while you're asleep. You're now in control, or at least, your brain is doing what you actually want it to do at night. No nightmares, no random dream world connections pulling in bullets!" Marisa laughs out loud. "Hah! I knew I had the right idea! And Alice was telling me I was an idiot! Looks like I'll need a follow up rub it in your face visit babe!" She yells vaguely in the direction of a boarded up window.

"So... You're saying I'm cured?" I ask, trying to cut Marisa off in case she's going to start ranting or something.

Marisa chuckles a couple more times, writing a few more things down before she replies. "Still gotta run tests, but it's soundin' a lot better the more I hear you talk about it." Shuffling a few papers out of the way, she suddenly stands up from her desk and smiles in my direction. "Let's get to work."

I'm more than ready to be told that I'm better now. "Let's."

-

Unfortunately, it's the same kinds of tests that Marisa ran me through yesterday. That means that they wind up being numerous and kind of unintelligible at times. I can at least use this time to make some conversation with Marisa about a few things.

[ ] What happened to you? You look like something exploded on you or something.
[ ] Are things okay with this Alice person? I'd hate to think that I messed with a friendship.
[ ] Am I going to need any more check ups like these?
[ ] Do you know of any fun stuff to do at the village? A certain rabbit that I know keeps wanting to hang out there.
[ ] You mentioned having a duel yesterday. I don't know if I'll win, but I did kind of get a big powerup yesterday, so...
[ ] We kind of ran into Reimu earlier today... Are we screwed?
[ ] Kind of a long shot, but would you happen to know of anything that would be magically linked to the lunar capital?
>> No. 28393
[x] What happened to you? You look like something exploded on you or something.
[x] Do you know of any fun stuff to do at the village? A certain rabbit that I know keeps wanting to hang out there.
[x] We kind of ran into Reimu earlier today... Are we screwed?
[x] Kind of a long shot, but would you happen to know of anything that would be magically linked to the lunar capital?
>> No. 28394
>>28393
[X] this

Good pick Anon. And good job not falling for that Baku's taunts!
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