You are awakened by a low growl, and a dull ache in your stomach. Ugh...you're so hungry - you haven't been having any luck with your hunting recently, and what little food you've been able to forage has hardly staved off the hunger pangs. But you have your pride. You won't go begging to your friends for something to eat - you're a hunter! And besides - you have a good feeling today. You'll totally catch something tonight!
The only question is...where should you look? The Forest is really big, after all - if your usual hunting grounds are tapped out, maybe you should look somewhere else? You've seen a rather heavily used game trail that cuts throught the depths of the Forest - that could be a good place to try your luck, if you're careful. All manners of creatures live in the depths of the woods, and even the beasts you hunt can be dangerous. They're much larger than you are, after all, and can be quite cunning as well. You've heard stories about the beasts banding together to turn the tables on an unwary hunter. And you can remember the pain of being attacked by that one...you were lucky to escape with your life.
You could try luring one out of its nest - or den, or whatever it's supposed to be called. You know where a few dens - nests? - are, but they are always at their most dangerous when cornered, especially in their own territory. And gods help you if you accidentally pick one with young to protect.
Of course, you could always just wander around and hope you get lucky. It's worked once or twice in the past. Or maybe something else?
Whatever you do, you'd best be about it soon - they aren't active for very long, this time of year, and if you can't find anything tonight, you may have to swallow your pride and ask for some handouts.
[ ] The usual hunting grounds - you aren't entirely sure you won't find something there. [ ] The trail - As long as you're careful, there's nothing to worry about. [ ] Lure one from its nest(den?) - What's a reward without risk? You have a plan! [ ] Just wander around - Plans never work. Just go where it seems best at the time. [ ] No, wait, you've got an idea!(Write-in)
And so begins a quick little CYOA. I'll be updating as often as possible - this shouldn't take too long, as long as I get votes; I hope to finish this quickly.
[x] The trail - As long as you're careful, there's nothing to worry about.
Well, perhaps a little caution would be best. You're almost as likely to find something on the trail as you are by approaching the nests, and it's certainly safer for you. With one last check over your stuff, you make sure you have everything you might need, and leave your home, making sure to seal the entrance behind you - you live on the edge of the Forest after all, and who knows what could get in if you weren't careful?
It's an uneventful trip to the game trail, and you survey the area with a practiced eye. The underbrush at the sides of the trail is much too thin to conceal your presence, and there's no real way to hide deeper in the woods without restricting your ability to actually catch something. Your gaze drifts upward... Yes, the branches overhang the trail fairly thickly, and are certainly big enough to support you as long as you're mindful of where you put your weight.
The climb into the treetops isn't a problem, and you settle yourself in to wait for one of the beasts to pass by. You don't have to wait long before one does show itself.
Unfortunately, this one is quite familiar to you, it's two-tone patterning unique to the creatures. It's the one that almost killed you before. And...it's leading a small group of other beasts, including a pair of juveniles.
However...it doesn't seem to be aware of your presence. You have the element of surprise, this time. If you were willing to take a chance, you might be able to drop one of the herd before it even knows you're there...even if it does seem rather alert. If you can even wound one, you'll almost certainly be able to claim a kill today, as long as you stay close.
Of course, that may not be such a good idea. Now that you know it's in the area, maybe you should give up on the trail and go somewhere else. It will at least give you the asurance that this monster is busy.
[ ] Ambush the herd - Target the most dangerous first [ ] Ambush the herd - Target the largest [ ] Ambush the herd - Target the juveniles [ ] Ambush the herd - Wound as many as you can, save the killing blows for later [ ] Relocate [ ] Let them pass by, wait for something else
The largest is usually the leader. If we can take him out swiftly, the rest of the pack will fall into chaos. We can use that to our advantage and escape, or continue killing, should the opportunity present itself. Besides, that smug bastard got us good in the past; we need to repay him kind.
From the sounds of it, what ever it is that we're hunting is quite possibly quite intelligent for animal ...or even possibly sapient given that we haven't bee given a description of what ever it is. So it's worth I think getting a bit more information before we try anything.
>From the sounds of it, what ever it is that we're hunting is quite possibly quite intelligent for animal ...or even possibly sapient given that we haven't bee given a description of what ever it is. So it's worth I think getting a bit more information before we try anything.
>>22382 The patterning is described as "unique to the creatures." I suppose you could argue that any color combination would be two-patterned on a human, but that would be just silly. They are also described as being larger than our hunter. I remain unconvinced we are hunting humans.
You freeze in place, not moving, hardly breathing as the group nears your position. If you alert them to your presence, it could be incredibly dangerous...the two-toned creature is disturbingly persistant.
As they are about to pass under you, the familiar, dangerous one slows a bit, and peers suspiciously into the undergrowth along the path. The rest bunch up, nervously looking around for some sign of danger, or whatever it may be that alerted their apparent leader.
Your heart is in your throat until finally, with what could almost be a derisive snort, the leader continues on, and the rest follow.
You hold your sigh of relief in until all of them are out of sight, and finally release it. For a moment, you thought you'd been found.
You wait where you are for another few hours, listening to the birdsong in the distance. It encourages you - you've always had better luck when the birds were singing.
You're almost ready to give up when you hear the sound of movement along the path. You go still, to avoid alerting whatever is approaching.
After a few minutes, you finally see it. Judging by size and coloration, an adult male, only a few years past sexual maturity. It's moving quickly, but pauses every few steps to look around before continuing. It's wary, but alone.
This is likely your last chance until tomorrow; most of them should have settled into their nests by now. It's wary, but alone, and young. You have a few options.
[ ] Bait it - At it's age, it will be less suspicious than a more experienced beast might be. [ ] Ambush - If you can drop onto it's back, you'll have the advantage. [ ] Attack - You'll have the element of surprise, at least. [ ] Stalk it - If you follow it, and make it nervous, it'll make mistakes. You just need to bag it before it nears the nest of the two-tone monster [ ] Starve - Let it go No. You're too hungry to just let it go by.
Its pace slows as it approaches the point directly below you. It seems to be getting even warier...how do they do that? It's like they can sense your presence.
But that's ridiculous.
Two steps...its head is swiveling back and forth, trying to find the source of its nervousness. It spins in place, briefly, and surveys the path and underbrush behind it, before turning back around.
One step...and it stops. You catch yourself leaning forward, and force your body to relax, as you stare down at it, willing it to take just one more step, to enter your range of attack. After another suspicious glance around, it begins to continue...
...and your stomach growls.
He stares up into the red eyes, faintly luminescent in the shadows over the path, and dives away just as they shoot from the branches towards him. A faint thud comes from the path where he was standing just a moment before, along with a startled exclamation.
"No fair~!" That's odd. It's...a young girl's voice? He picks himself up and turns, and oddly enough, sitting on the path and clutching her head is a small girl, her pale, greyish purple hair dusty from the impact. She glares at him with teary red eyes.
"You aren't supposed to dodge like that! It hurts~!" He finds himself apologising without quite realising why.
"I was just..." she sniffs, "just hungry, and..and..." Oh. She's...she's going to cry?
The man hurriedly reaches into his bag, rummaging around until he produces a small rectangle. He peels it, stripping an odd, crinkly covering from it, before offering it to the girl.
You take the rectangle from the beast.
"Huh? What's this?" It indicates that you should eat the rectangle. You glare at it, but take a suspicious nibble. Your eyes widen involuntarily. "This...It's really good!" It only takes a couple of bites to finish it.
"I'm still hungry." It produces another rectangle. You leap at it, snatching it away from the creature before it can react. You're too distracted by the peel to notice it reaching for you, and by the time you do notice, it's too late.
Its hand comes down gently on your head, and starts to move back and forth, mussing up your hair even more...but...
It...it feels kind of good...
"What are you doing?!" You scramble away, suddenly, glaring at the creature. "Why are you touching me!?" It puts its hands up and laughs, apologising for being so forward. You glare harder, but it really doesn't seem to be afraid of you. It just...smiles. You look away.
"Just...warn me next time, okay?" It agrees, laughing at you again.
You finally manage to pull the peel off of the rectangle, and devour it quickly. It's delicious, but...small. You're still pretty hungry.
The creature speaks up, offering you dinner. It says it's heading back to 'Kourindou', whatever that is, and claims to be able to get you food, including more of those 'chocolates'. Something about working for the owner.
You don't understand much, beyond the offer of food.
[ ] Go with it. At worst, you just eat it later, right? [ ] No. It's a trick. Get it now! [ ] "More of the chocolates? Do you promise?" [ ] ...Fine. But it's not because you l-like it or anything...stupid...
>"Huh? What's this?" It indicates that you should eat the rectangle. You glare at it, but take a suspicious nibble. Your eyes widen involuntarily. "This...It's really good!" It only takes a couple of bites to finish it.
[x] "More of the chocolates? Do you promise?"
She has been tainted by the forbidden fruit of civilization--confections. Raw flesh will never taste the same again.
"Food?" You catch yourself perking up at his offer, your mouth watering in anticipation of more chocolate and an actual meal.
You don't even bother weighing your options.
"Yes! I'll come!" Your beaming smile suddenly fades, as you redden and turn away from him. "But...it's not because I l-like you or anything. I'm just hungry is all." You cross your arms as you speak, making sure you get your point across. And it's true. It's true, damnit! So why is he laughing!
"Can I?" It says, and gestures to your head. Can he wha- oh, right.
"..." You can feel your face heating up, but you nod. His hand descends upon you, and begins to ruffle.
It feels really nice.
So you're unprepared to resist when he suddenly stops and grabs you by the waist, lifting you up into the air and despositing you on his shoulders.
"H-hey! What are you-!"
"Take it easy. You don't know how to get there, do you?" The logic of hisits arguement is undeniable.
"Hmph!" You huff, crossing your arms atop his head - which makes a rather convenient rest for them, actually. It tries to make conversation a few times during the walk, but you're too busy enjoying the walk being indignant to reply. It isn't long before you emerge from the forest, near a moderately-sized building that's nearly overflowing with odd stuff.
He sets you down just outside - which is nice, because you might have hit your head on the doorframe otherwise. There's someone inside, who greets the human as the two of you enter.
"Oh, you're back. I just finished making supper, so once you've eaten, maybe you could show me how to- who's this?" His tone is simply curious, and you stare back at him as he looks mildly at you. His smell is all throughout the building...a half-blood? "A youkai?" He sounds surprised, and he adjusts his glasses slightly. You stick your tongue out at him. "You are aware that...uh, well, how do I put this..."
"Oh, the eating people thing?" The human is pretty calm about that, actually. "Yeah, she jumped me in the forest." He rests a hand on your head. "It's alright now, though."
"I...see." The tone of his voice makes it clear he doesn't. "Well, anyway, I guess there's plenty for her, too." You follow the human back into the kitchen, which is filled with a succulent, mouthwatering scent. You tug on the human's shirt.
"I'm hungry!" Even hungrier now that you've smelled this...this...well, it seems to be some kind of stew, but it does smell really good.
You soon find a bowl in your hands, filled with delicious stew. After a few painful accidents, when you tried to eat too fast and burned your mouth, you get the hang of eating the stew.
"'s good" You manage, mouth filled with food.
"Ah." Oh, that half-blood's back. You make a face at him. He frowns disapprovingly at you, but continues, speaking to the human. "I need to speak with you, when you have a moment." Looking down at his empty bowl, the human stands.
"Now's fine." He puts his bowl in a basin under an odd metal pipe thing and follows the half-blood out of the room, after telling you you can eat as much as you want, as long as you don't make too much of a mess.
You look at the big pot of stew. There's still quite a bit left...
[ ] FOOD. [ ] Take a look around. You've never really been in one of these nests before. [ ] What're they talking about? [ ] Something else?(Write-in)
You're still hungry, so you refill your bowl from the big bubbling pot of delicious stew. But...you're also curious as to what they're talking about. You spend a few moments glancing between the table, your bowl of delicious stew, and the door before deciding. Deciding...to do both!
You eat your stew as you move up to the door, pressing your ear against it. It's really good. The stew, that is, not the door. You can't eat doors.
"...-pe you know what you're doing." It's the half-blood. He really doesn't sound happy. ...Good. "I have no problem with civilized youkai in my shop. But...she's a wild youkai. She's not much better than a beast."
The human immediatly jumps in to defend you. He sounds pretty unhappy with the half-blood.
"...Fine, fine. She's your responsibility. Just remember that." His tone changes, and it sounds like he's begun to move away. "Now, about this thing, over here. What'd you sa-"
You stare down into your empty bowl. You're done eating, and you're bored. That must mean...it's time to explore! Your first target, as you put your bowl in the basin with the human's, is the odd metal pipe.
It has handles on either side of it, and swivels around over the baasin. Well, that's all well and good, but...what's the point? You reach out and grab one of the handles, and it twists around.
Suddenly, water begins to pour from the pipe! You try twisting it back, and the water stops!You are tempted to stand there for a while, giggling happily while you twist the handles back and forth and investigate this further, but there are other things that demand your attention.
Like that big metal door! You walk over to it and give the handle a good tug. It comes open easily, and a blast of winter air hits you in the face.
You stand there, shivering slightly from the unexpected cold, and stare into a beautiful frozen paradise. Meat! It's full of meat! Meat of all shapes and sizes, from big sides of beef hanging on hooks, to that youkai woman lying in the frost....wait, what?
You stare at her for a few minutes, before she yawns and looks over at you sleepily.
"Ahhhh....mmm...Close the door...'s so hot out there..." She mumbles, before turning over and going back to sleep.
You close the door carefully, being careful not to disturb her with a loud slam.
[ ] WHAT. [ ] HUMAN! HUMAN! [ ] This place is a trap! The half-blood's a monster! Hide until it finally goes to sleep, then get your the human and escape! [ ] ...Open the door again.
Okay, this would have been up hours ago, but I was stupid and lost the update when my browser crashed. I was demoralized, so it took me a while to rewrite an inferior version.
I'm going to sleep, now. I should have an update ready tomorrow evening if I get the votes, and depending on the time the flight goes out, likewise for Friday. Saturday could be another multi-update day if I'm lucky, though.
You stumble back from the door, your breathing quickening, growing ragged as the image runs through your mind. Why is she trapped in the room? Stuck in the cold? Who did that to her?! She'd obviously been in there a long time already...How could anyone do that...? Your vision is blurring with tears, memories of your own pain, the one winter you were trapped out in the elements. Freezing, slowly feeling your limbs beginning to stiffen, as your natural regeneration works just fast enough to keep you from solidifying or dying...And the burning agony of the thaw...
You call out, although whether it's for help, or simply to make sure he's still alright, even you don't know.
The screams were the first waning he had, followed by a loud wail. It quickly grew louder, and as he began to speak, turning to try to find the source, it barreled into him, knocking him to the ground as he reflexively tried to catch the humanoid projectile. Arms wrapped around the sobbing little youkai that had crashed into him, he groaned as he sat up.
"Ow...Hey. Hey, are you alright?"
"Human! Human!" The rest of her words are drowned by her sobs, and he rubs her back awkwardly, not used to this sort of situation.
"Ah, uhm...there, there? What's wrong?" He asks uncomfortably, as she buries her face in his shirt, hands balled up in the fabric. "C'mon, don't cry." He begs, and looks around frantically, before spotting something on a nearby shelf. He grabs it with one hand as he continues to hold the little youkai with the other.
"Here, eat this. You'll feel better." The human offers a small, freshly unwrapped ball of chocolate to her, which she takes curiously, never having seen a chocolate like this before. Her eyes are still bright with tears, but her attention seems to have been successfully diverted to the snack - for the moment.
He watches as she nibbles at the small ball of chocolate, and smiles at he surprise when she breaks through the outer shell and discovers the soft inner core of chocolate. Finally she finishes the small candy, and sits there on his lap, hiccoughing quietly, sobs gone.
"Okay," he says, ruffling her hair gently, "Now, what's wrong?"
It takes a few moments to compose yourself enough to answer.
"In..in the cold room...someone's locked in there!"
"What?! Really?!" He stands, whisking you up into the air, maybe to go help the woman in the room, or to flee, or even just to come and see, when he's interrupted by a discreet cough.
"Ahem." Oh, the half-blood. Was he here the entire time? You can feel your face growing hot with embarassment as your realize that he'd just borne witness to the entire scene. You sniffle a bit as he begins to speak. "I believe you're speaking about Miss Whiterock?"
Your only response is a blank, faintly hostile stare. He sighs.
"Purple dress? White hat, pale hair?" YOu nod suspiciously, and he continues. "She's a snow woman. She wouldn't be able to survive outside. I give her a place to sleep - I understand something else moved into the deep caves she used to use, and there aren't many other places that can provide proper insulation - and in return she keeps my food cold. The room isn't much use for anything else, to be honest. When I tried using it for storage, I kept getting myself locked in. It doesn't open from the inside, you see." You sniffle a bit more.
"Yes, really." He sighs again, a drawn-out, long-suffering sort of sigh. "I suppose it's getting rather late. I don't have any other empty rooms, so if she's staying, you'll have to share."
The human acknowledges his words, and looks to you, held securely in his arms.
"Come on. I guess you get the bed, then, huh?"
He's warm. You suppose you can allow him to carry you to the room. It's kinda nice.
[ ] Okay. [ ] I don't want a 'bed'!(Whatever that is!) [ ] ...What's a bed? [ ] Couldn't we share?
"Okay." You graciously accept his offer of 'bed', "...What's a bed? Can I eat it?" But you've never heard of it before. Maybe 'bed' is a kind of food?
"What? You don't know what a bed is?" The human seems confused. What's a bed if he's so surprised that you don't know it?
"Nope. Why, what's a 'bed'?"
"It's...well, you sleep on it."
"Oh!" You think you might get it now, but it's best to be sure. "So a bed is like a tree?"
"What?" Oh, no, it loks like you were wrong. He's even more confused now. "Wait. Where do you usually sleep?"
"In a tree. It has big branches, so I don't fall out when I'm sleeping. Oh! And in the winter, I have a friend who actually lives inside a tree, and she lets me sleep there." There's a funny expression on the human's face for a moment, but it's quickly replaced by a smile.
"I think you'll enjoy the bed." He opens a door, and walks into the room you'll be sharing. He points out a strange blocky object against the wall, "That's the bed. Why don't you go lie on it and see what it's like?"
You don't quite understand - it looks nothing like a tree, after all - but you listen. The human seems to know what he's talking about. Flying over the bed, you let yourself drop a few inches onto it. You're totally surprised when you sink into it slightly and bounce.
"What!?" Your eyes go wide in surprise, "It's soft!" You bounce on it a few times, "And bouncy! You sleep on this?"
"Yup." The human's laying some blankets out on the floor for himself. "Better than a tree, isn't it?" He pulls off his shirt. You feel your face grow hot and spin to face the wall.
"Stupid human, d-don't just start taking your clothes off!" You look back, discreetly, but he's already under the blankets.
"Sorry, sorry. I didn't know you could see so well in the dark." He sounds like he's laughing at you.
You settle down yourself, arranging the blankets around you for comfort. A lot has happened today, and even though the day was somewhat short, you are tired.
[ ] Dave [ ] I can't let you do that [ ] In Father's Name [ ] Breaking Out
Your characterization of the little youkai girl is odd. She has no idea what a bed is, but she understands propriety, and has an interest in the opposite sex? Couple this with her childish behavior, and it seems a little inconsistent. Oh well, what do I know, I'm just a reader.
Two figures float outside of the window of a lone building, near the woodline. One speaks in a hushed tone.
"Okay. The target's inside. It shouldn't be much trouble for the two of us, but we need to be careful. We know he's working for the Shopkeeper, and we can't afford to alert him to our presence. Bed's on the far wall. Go!"
One of the figures carefully slides the window open, and they both dart in, a near-silent barrage of danmaku already flying to 'pacify' the target for transport.
However, the bed was empty.
"He's not here, he's not here!" One whispers, in a panicked tone, "What do we do?!" The other smacks it's partner upside the head.
"He's there, on the floor. We can just grab him and go."
"I'm afraid I can't let you do that." Both of them freeze at the sound of the third voice. As one, they look up, at meet the luminescent red eyes glaring at them from the shadows near the ceiling. "You're really loud, too."
"I'll hold her off, you take him back to Master!" The speaker produces a small card, which proves useless as the eyes disappear and a blur slams into the speaker. The sickening crack of breaking bone can be heard, and the attack victim bounces off the wooden floor. It doesn't move again.
The man sleeping not five feet away mumbles and turns over in his sleep.
"Take your friend and leave."
Trembling, the second intruder does so.
Sunlight streams in through the half-drawn window curtains, and, eventually, shines in the human's eyes. He awakens to an odd, warm weight on his arm. He looks down, and finds that at some point during the night, the little youkai cuddled up to him, there on the floor. He casts an amused glance at the bed with it's ruffled nest of blankets on the other side of the room, and chuckles quietly as he carefully extricates himself from her grasp. She's sorta cute, like a little kid, sometimes, and other times she seems more mature, and aware.
She looks so peaceful when she's sleeping. He's careful not to alert her as he slips from the room.
The three you did not choose were each the title of a song. In fact, and I'm not quite sure, this choice may have just been between four different plotlines.
>Dave The song starts "I had a friend, not close to me, and he passed away, quite suddenly," The human would have died. How, I don't know yet. You may have ended up catching him at the Sanzu, and from there, PLOT.
>In Father's Name This is Nightmare's theme. You, and the human, would have had a shared, horrific Nightmare. There are a pair of Touhous who have power over dreams. PC-98 characters ahoy, followed by PLOT.
>Breaking Out The Human would have been on a quest to break through the Barrier and escape Gensokyo. Reimu in opposition, because the Human, for an as-yet unknown reason, cannot pass through the barrier in any safe manner.
Yukari does not get involved. Probably.
You picked the dual Space Odyssey/Starfox Reference. This is relevant.
She's a high-metabolism youkai. Food before finery.
Rengeteki the recurring Nameless Fairy Midboss in Lotus Land Story and Mystic Square had purple hair. The 'Nightmare' option apparently would have introduced Mugetu & Gengetu, also from LLS. The youkai is the Nameless Fairy Midboss with an identity crisis or was never actually a fairy in the first place, just resembling one like Gengetu. You heard it here first, folks.
[x] Bait it - At it's age, it will be less suspicious than a more experienced beast might be.
A man walks down a forest road. He is alone, and it is night. All the more reason to be highly cautious. From nearby, a faint sound drifts to his ears. It...almost sounds like muffled crying.
"Big brother...?" The voice of a little girl drifts down from the treetops. "Where are you? I'm scared..."
One hand on his sword, he looks up, and meets the frightened eyes of a small girl. One hand drops to the hilt of the sword he wears on his belt. She looks human, but you can never be too careful. She shrinks back when he looks up.
"Who are you? Where's big brother?" She seems to be afraid of the man.
"Big brother?" He asks, hoping to distract her with conversation. His hand leaves the hilt of his blade. She nods.
"Yeah, big brother! He said to climb the tree and be really quiet until he got back. We were going to see the shrine maiden, 'cause Mommy and daddy are really sick, and he said that there was nothing else we could do anymore. So we were going to the shrine, and there was this rustling in the bushes and big brother had me climb the tree and then he left and the sun set and now it's dark and I'm scared!" As she talks, her words accelerate until it's almost difficult to follow along, and finishes with a wail, just barely quiet enough not to carry too far. It's pretty clear to him what happened. The girl and her brother had lost their parents, and were on the way to get the shrine maiden for the burial rites, but something was hunting them, maybe a particularly desperate youkai. The brother had her hide in a tree, and then led the pursuer away.
The man looks around, making sure no youkai are in the area, before turning back to the girl and holding out his arms.
"Come on. I'll help you find your brother."
"Really?" He nods. "Okay. Catch me!" She jumps, landing in his arms. He grunts at the sudden weight of the young girl, but holds her firmly. She loops her arms around the back of his neck and rests her head on his shoulder.
"Thank you..." Before he can tell her it was no problem, her arms tighten convulsively. His neck snaps like a dry twig. "...for this delicious meal. I'll be sure to eat every last bite!"
GOOD END #1: Found a meal!
The actual update will be coming along when I get back from this walk, in two or three hours.
The Actual Update!wV79//1ryE2011/01/31 (Mon) 05:02No. 22524▼
The human walks through the house and into the kitchen. No-one else seems to be up yet, so he figures he should at least start breakfast. It's not like Rinnosuke actually has him do any work - at least, as far as he's concerned - so it's only fair that he pull his weight around the shop somehow.
He begins to search the kitchen for supplies.
You're awakened by a strange smell in the air. Yawning widely, and still tired - you aren't used to being awake when the sun's out - you wander out of the romm and meander your way down the hall toward the source of the smell.
You yawn as you open the door to the the kitchen, rubbing the sleep from your eyes as you walk in, nose leading the way. You notice the human setting a plate of some weird brown circles on the table. Well, he was, but he's been staring at you since the door opened. Okay, whatever, you have more important concerns. Like...
"Is...is that food?!" You dash over, sniffing. This is definitely the source of that smell.
"Yeah. These are pancakes." He turns and snags a small brown jug from the counter, twisting the lid off as he places it on the table. "And this..." He begins with a flourish, "Is maple syrup. You can't eat pancakes without it." His face takes on a more serious cast, staring down at you sternly. "No matter what anyone else says, remember. Pancakes require syrup. It is a serious matter, and not one to be taken lightly. Hahaha, but never mind me." He sets a few pancakes on one of the plates he had put out on the table before you arrived and liberally applys a viscous, amber syrup from the jug over them, before pushing the plate over to you, a - he called it a fork last night, didn't he? Yeah, that's it. - fork on the side of the plate for you to use.
The little youkai had eaten almost half of the pancakes the human had made when Rinnosuke walked into the kitchen.
"Ah, you're up. How did you sleep last night?" He glances at the table, an eyebrow going up. "You can cook? I didn't expect that."
"Anyway, yeah, I slept pretty good last night, no problems. Why do you ask?"
"I see." He adjusts his glasses, and glances briefly at the little youkai at the table. "I won't be needing you in the shop today. You had something you need to do, anyway, didn't you? I should be getting some new things in tomorrow, so you should take care of it today." Without so much as a glance at the food on the table, the shopkeeper walks out of the room, on his way to...wherever it was he was going.
"Huh. Weird guy. Sorta creepy. You know, I've never seen him eat?" The human chuckles as he speaks to the little girl, who has returned to her food from glaring at Rinnosuke.
You watch as the human collects his stuff to go out. He gathers most of it quite quickly, but spends a couple minutes selecting a weapon to protect himself with. He seemed to linger over the swords, but in the end picked up a small mace, which he tucked into his belt where it would be easy to reach.
Oh, that's right. Humans are pretty weak without weapons, aren't they? It had been a long time since you thought about that, but it's sorta true, isn't it?
He pauses at the door to the shop and looks back at you.
[ ] Go with him. He wouldn't go anywhere without you, anyway. Right? [ ] Stay. That shopkeeper...there's something suspicious about him. [ ] Demand to ride. If you're going to go with him, you may as well be comfortable. [ ] Wait for him to go, and then follow. You don't want him to get the wrong idea.
[x] Wait for him to go, and then follow. You don't want him to get the wrong idea.
He looks back at you, questioningly. Briefly, you consider going with him. You'd hurry over to him at the door, and he'd laugh, happy that you'd be accompanying him.
The two of you would walk down the road together, and maybe he'd ruffle your hair again, and....
No. That's enough of that. You look at a shelf of mysterious and unidentifiable objects, shaking your head a bit to get the message across. You sneak a quick peek at him. He looks...disappointed. You feel bad, for just a moment, but shake it off. You're going to follow him anyway. It's not like you wanted to walk with him, either. Stupid human.
You hear the door shut, and give him some time to get a headstart, so he won't catch you. After what feels like far too long, you go to the door to begin the chase.
"He's going to speak with Miss Kamishirasawa first. That's to the left." You barely contain your shriek of surprise, and your reflexive strike is just short, claws passing barely an inch in front of the knee of the man who had come up to you so silently. The half-blood. How did you even miss him entering the room, let alone getting so close? The look on his face is indecipherable. "You should hurry."
What does he mean by that?! You whirl and tear the door open - not literally, as much as you would like to - and take to the air, staying just below the treetops and off to the side of the path. You can't go very fast, having to dodge trees and branches, but it keeps you concealed and he's only walking, anyway.
Your The human is right there, walking along the path, but there's another scent in the air. Familiar.
"We could wait, I mean, you aren't very well healed yet, and I mean it's not like Master said to hurry or anyth-"
"Shut up." A pained hiss, as merely speaking aggravates the injuries so recently sustained. "He's just...a human."
"Well, uh, yeah, I guess, but what about-"
"Oh." The uninjured speaker deflates a bit. "Well, I guess." A muted snap as a bone sets itself, punctuated by another hiss.
"So, why do you think master wants him?" A sharp glare is the only reply. "Oh, right. It hurts to talk. Well, anyway, I bet, I bet he-"
"Shut. Up. No wonder...the boss won't...work with you."
Ahead, the man can see the light of the treeline. Not twenty feet in, though, there's a strange bush. Big and thick, it seems particularly out of place. He regards it with flat disbelief.
"What, really?" He doesn't know who it might be, or who this apparent ambush is meant for, but it's pathetic. "You can't be serious."
The bush rustles slightly, and he knows that he's being regarded by whoever's inside. If he were much closer, perhaps he would hear the frantic whispering from within.
"He knows! What do I do?! He's looking right at us!"
"But he's caught us! The jig is down!"
"Master! Help us! Master!"
"shutupshutupshutupshutupshutupshutupSHUTUP!" Suddenly the bush explodes, two figures rolling across the ground, two small girls, younger in appearance than the youkai he met in the forest. One of them had her hands wrapped around the other's throat, and was throttling her violently, while the other seemed to be trying to speak, even despite the hands at her throat.
Both wear matching dresses, and what could be matching ...ribbons? It's hard to tell the way they're rolling around and fighting. Speaking of which...the attacker seems to be coughing blood, and the grip she has is awfully tight. She might actually kill the other.
[ ] Break it up. [ ] Cheer them on. [ ] Oi! Quit muckin' about, ya gitz! [ ] Let them sort it out themselves. Keep Going.
With a sigh, he moves forward to break up the fight. He stops their roll with a boot, before reaching down and picking the one coughing blood up by the back of her dress. She suddenly stills, and he sets her down next to the other one, who's taken the chance to scramble to her feet. Now that they're not rolling around on the ground, it's clear that what he once thought were ribbons are actually rabbit ears.
"Now. That's enough of that." He says sternly. The uninjured girl is already nodding dejectedly, her ears bobbing. The bloody one glares at her, and kicks her in the shins. She's about to hiss something at her, when suddenly...
"Ow! Owowowowowow! Don't...pull those!" A sharp tug on her ears. There are tears in her eyes as she looks up at the human who still has her ears in hand. "That hurts! Why would you even do that!" Her lower lip, dyed a bright red with her own blood, quivers ever so slightly.
"What did I just say? That's enough. No more fighting." A muttered curse comes from the bloody rabbit girl, as her ploy to distract the human fails.
"No fun at all. Screw it. Grab him!" Putting him off balance with a quick kick to the shin, she leaps at the man. Her partner only takes a moment to understand, and follows suit, pulling a length of rope out of what seems like thin air.
What are they doing? Attacking your the human like that, in broad daylight?!
How dare they!
How dare they!
You launch yourself forward, slamming into the one with the rope. It's not as debilitating a blow as the one you dealt to her partner last night, but it does knock her away, and you spin as your feet touch the ground, backhanding the young youkai in the chest, and knocking her to the ground.
They're weak, even for their age. They are just rabbits, after all. It won't be too much trouble to finish them, this time. They'd had their warning.
The one with the rope begins to stand, but her leg buckles when she tries to put her weight on it, while her companion lies on the ground, breathing shallowly, pink dress stained with blood.
And your human is unharmed, too. No need to drag it out, then. Might as well start with the one that's within your reach. You're reaching out for her when the human's hand lands on your shoulder.
"Stop. You've won. That's enough." ...Well, they didn't hurt him, you suppose, and they are rather incompetent. As long as it's him asking, letting them go couldn't lead to that much trouble.
"...Fine." You cross your arms, and look away.
"Owww..." The stupid one's managed to take to the air, where her injury doesn't impair her.
"Hey, you." You take a moment to enjoy her shriek of terror before continuing. "Take your friend." You nod at the pitiful figure on the ground. Tears are flowing freely down her face, and her mouth is working soundlessly, as though she were trying to say something.
"Rin!" The mobile one supplies a name for her fallen comrade as she darts over to her prone form. She frets a moment before picking her up, as gently as she could, and heading for the canopy. "I! I'll...get you to master! She can help!" And she's out of sight. Now that that's taken care of...
"Okay!" You smile back at the human. "Weren't you going somewhere? Let's go!" There's an odd look in his eye, an idecipherable expression on his face as he looks down at you, but only for a moment, before he shakes his head and it disappears.
"...Yeah. This way." A pause. "...Thanks for your help. I thought I was in trouble for a minute, there." He chuckles.
[ ] Be more careful! [ ] I was watching out for you. [ ] ...S-stupid! It's not like I did it for you! [ ] ...
It’s all you can do not to squeak in surprise when his hand comes down and ruffles your hair.
“I-idiot! What did I say?” You can tell by the look on his face that he’ll be playing dumb. Best to take the initiative. “A-at least ask first! Don’t surprise me like that!”
“Oh!” He puts a hand to his heart theatrically, “To think, that one as lowly as myself could dare to surprise his noble rescuer! And in such a manner! The dishonor! Woe is me!” he kneels in front of you, and takes your hand between his own, an exaggerated expression of concern on his face. “Can you ever find it in your heart to forgive me?” Your face grows hot, and your ears are burning in embarrassment.
“A-anyway.” Rally, now, you might not be able to respond to that directly, but he’s getting the wrong idea! “It’s not like I did it for you. I…I just don’t like those two, is all.” Technically true. Even if you had never seen them before last night. “Besides. You’re lucky I…just happened to be in the area! What if I hadn’t been fol-!…around?” You finish that thought a bit lamely, barely catching your slip in time. “You should take better care of yourself!” Wait. “Idiot!” Much better. You don’t even want to think about what would have happened if it had been a feral youkai or something.
“If it helps, I’m sorry I worried you. I’ll try to be more careful.” He’s speaking more seriously, now. He pats your hand, “Alright?” You flush as you realize that you’d been letting him hold it all throughout your words. You snatch it back.
“I didn’t say I was worried…” You half-heartedly protest, but he’s already standing up.
“Alright, alright. If you say so. Shall we be off?” He offers you his hand. You cast a glance down the path. Isn't that the edge of the forest...? You've never been this close.
[ ] “…”Take it. [ ] “…” You can’t. [ ] “Yeah.” Walk in front. [ ] “Yeah.” Hang Back.
>>22662 Exactly my point! We didn't ask to be carried. It's just something Human did on his own. Asking someone to carry you is so much more intimate, I just don't feel we are at that point in our relationship yet. But if he just decides to swoop us up in his manly arms...
>>22663 I don't know... I think we're the limiting factor in this relationship. He's clearly ready and willing to do anything for us... So we should seize the moment! Take what we want! That's the way a proper youkai should behave!
>>22664 But we must temper our youkai nature with the uncertainty of a first love. Our heart isn't prepared for the overwhelming emotions it is currently experiencing. Our Human is mentally older than we are, and is certainly old hat to the game of love... So we should take it slowly! Ensure we don't get swept along in his advances, and make things move at our pace! That's the way a proper tsundere should act!
>>22665 Uncertainty? That's just fear of the unknown! We're heading into new territory right now, and are we scared? No!! We're walking boldly out in front! (or being carried, as the case may yet be) Furthermore, our human's life is too short to waste it moving at such a slow pace! We'll be wishing we'd made our move earlier when he's gray-haired and old!
>>22666 Walking boldly out in front? That's just rushing headlong into an unhealthy relationship! These emotions we're experiencing are terrifying and alien; should we throw caution to the wind, and allow ourselves to be swept along at Humans pace? No!! We're taking things slowly, one step at a time! Slowly building our love into one that even the heavens would admire! Our human's lifespan doesn't matter one bit, a love as strong as ours will surely outlast even death!
>>22669 It's not about trust, I just don't want to make it too easy for him. The best kinds of love are the ones that build slowly. But maybe, every once in a while...doing things like this are okay...
Your hand begins to rise, almost of its own will, but you muster your willpower and snap it back to your side, tightly gripping the hem of your skirt as you look to the side. You bite your lower lip nervously.
"Yeah." And you run ahead a few steps, grateful for the chance to hide your blush from his eyes. You can feel your face burning, and there's an odd pressure in your chest, but you're already feeling better now that he's out of sight.
You direct your gaze nervously at your goal: The bright light where the forest ends. You've never been this far before. The trees here are much smaller than the ancient ones closer to your home, and it's uncomfortable to see all the strange plants that are growing near the ground around here. They're so...alien. And the sun is so bright out there! And what'll it be like to have no trees over head, or even nearby? For it to be completely open...
You shiver a little. It's quite honestly unnerving to even think about. Your steps slow a bit. You...don't want to go out there alone. The human's catching up with you though. You can't seem weak in front of him. You aren't sure why, exactly, but you want to be at your best in front of him.
He's probably nervous about this too. Who wouldn't be? And if you're worried, and you're a youkai, and he's only a human... You should provide some sort of comfort.
You match your stride to his, dropping back to walk alongside him. He smiles down at you, but it's just a front. He must be a nervous wreck inside. You allow yourself to drift closer as the two of you walk, to comfort him with your presence.
As you approach the light, you grab on to the end of his shirt. For better reassurance. That's all.
You emerge from the treeline. Before you lay fields, with the occasional human tending the plants growing there, and the road, which leads to an odd wooden edifice, the details of which you can't make out from here.
The sky is big. Really, really big. Like, really big. You edge closer to the human.
You aren't paying much attention to the rest of the walk, until you arrive at a gate, manned by a pair of bored-looking guards. They don't pay much attention to the two of you, simply letting you go past without comment.
Meanwhile, you're busy gawking at the multitude of humans and human nests around here. It's like, a hive. A human hive. You idly ponder what a queen must look like. Some kind of great bloated creature, laying human eggs all day as lesser humans tend to her, and specially selected pairs are given the honour of raising the young?
...How do humans reproduce, anyway? You make a note to ask your human that later.
He stops in front of a larger building, swarming with human young. Is this his destination? It seems so.
"Do you want to come in with me? I need to talk to Miss Keine for a little while. You could wait out here if you want. Might be more interesting for you."
[ ] "..." Hold on tightly to his shirt. The sky is still up there. Waiting. [ ] "I want to go with you." [ ] Let go, investigate young humans. [ ] Let go, stay close. [ ] "...I'll...stay here?"
Casting a nervous glance upwards, at the great empty expanse of sky overhead, you edge closer to your human, firming up your grip on his shirt. You...don't want him to be nervous out here, is all. He pats your head gently, clearly appreciative of your efforts to keep him calm.
He continues forward, with you close beside him, and enters the building. The building seems to mostly consist of one large room, not tall enough to intrude on the building’s second story, but certainly taking up most of the first floor. At the far side of the room, seated behind a desk as she shuffles some papers around, is a woman with pale blue hair, almost grey, and what might just be the most amazing hat you’ve ever seen. She looks up curiously as the two of you enter.
“Oh? I don’t often see new faces around here. Come in, come in.” She looks your human over first, then gives you a cursory once-over as well. The two of you make your way over to the desk as she continues to speak. “So what brings you two here? I know there are a few other outlying settlements, but it’s quite the journey.” Your human shakes his head.
“Ah, no. I think you have the wrong idea. You see, we came from the forest. Sort of.” He begins, “I’m currently working for Rinnosuke, and she…she lives nearby. She decided to come along with me today.”
“I see. And why are you here?” Her tone is simply curious.
“Well, I was interested in the history of Gensokyo, actually. I’m a writer, you see. By nature, more than anything else, and I think that between your histories, Miss Akyu’s treatise on youkai I’ve heard about, and any stories I can collect myself, I’ll be able to produce my best work yet.” She’s very surprised by his response.
“Oh, is that all? I’ll prepare some scrolls for you, if you can cover the cost. It’ll be a few days before they’re ready, though.” Your human just nods, a smile on his face.
“I’ll be back for them in a few days then. It was nice speaking to you Miss Keine.” She returns the farewell, but as he turns to go, you catch a whiff of something. The room is mostly full of the regular smell of humans, but there’s…something else in the air. You hesitate a moment, but follow your human back out, drawing close once again as you emerge out under the open sky.
The young humans are beginning to drift towards the entrance to the building, going inside for some inscrutable human purpose, as you and your human pause in the street. He glances briefly to the sky, before turning to speak to you.
“So, what now? Lunchtime is coming up, and the next person I need to talk to is on the other side of Kourindou. Where do you want to eat? There are a few places in the village, or we could just eat back at Kourindou. What would you rather do?”
You take a moment to think.
[ ] “There’s a pretty good noodle place just a few streets over.” [ ] “There’s also a pretty good food stall over that way. Grilled meats, mostly.” [ ] “There is always Kourindou.” [ ] “Or you could let me pick! It would be a surprise!”
"Perfect!" Your human seems to be happy. That's good! "I saw this place last time I was in the village. I didn't have the chance to eat there then, but if you don't have any preferences...C'mon, this way!" He's actually quite excited by your choice. "Now," he starts, as he's checking each street on your path, ...sniffing carefully? You didn't think humans had particularly good sense of smell. "I was lucky to even find this place. It was complete chance, in fact, that I happened to notice that telltale scent." He pauses, and turns down a certain street. You take an experimental sniff, but everything's too drowned in the scent of human to make much out. "Now, every culture has their own unique ingredients. Some ingredients find more widespread use, but the thing is, everyone uses them differently." He takes a deep breath, turns down a street to his left, and continues. You nod along, but to be honest, you don't understand a word. "Garlic. It's used across most of the world, but you won't really get the same scent or flavour in a Japanese dish like you will from an Italian one." Apparently, it is possible to understand less. "Ah, and we're here." There's an interesting, unfamiliar smell in the air, cutting through the scent of all that human.
"What's this?" You're curious, now. He obviously was looking forward to this, as well. What could it be?
"This, you see, is the only Italian restaurant in all of Gensokyo. All manner of outsiders like myself seem to fall through the barrier, and I suppose one of them must have been the founder." He enters the building, and you follow curiously, looking around with wide eyes at all of the new sights. Strange jars and bottles line the beam at the top of one of the walls, filled with a strange yellowish fluid, with various objects floating inside. Odd, red oblong things, little balls, and more. A man comes over and speaks to your human, but you don't really pay attention, busy staring at a pair of not-eyes staring back at you from a little jar. You do remember to follow him, however, as he moves to a table near the side and sits down. There are things hanging from the rafters, you notice, some of which are the same types of things in the weird bottles. You're too busy looking around to pay attention to pay attention when he talks some more to the odd human who met you at the door, but then he turns to speak to you.
"The food will be here soon. I think you'll enjoy it." And indeed, the strange human has returned with a platter, covered in a variety of small things, some of which are identifiable as meat, but others you've never seen before. Little rounded tan things, a few different shades of yellow squares...you look up as your human starts to speak again.
"Alright, this is the first course. Just some snacks, really. A few meats, cheeses, and some hard, toasted bread, to eat it on, if you want. It can be good to try combining them." He hestures to each as he names them, and demonstrates his last words by stacking a cheese and a piece of meat on top of one of the little breads, and eating it. "Don't eat too fast, now. There are two more courses to come - Lunch is the big Italian meal. Well, it used to be. The outside is changing..." He seems a little sad, but for some reason, laughs, and finishes. "So, go on. Eat, eat."
You pick up a little piece of meat, and try to stack it with the cheese and bread like he did. ...It's really good.
[ ] Talk as you eat. Ask about the outside. Why would it make him sad? [ ] Talk as you eat. Ask about the bottles and hanging things. And what's cheese, anyway? [ ] Talk as you eat. Ask about being a 'writer.' What was the little rectangle? [ ] Just eat. You're really hungry.
[x] Talk as you eat. Ask about the bottles and hanging things. And what's cheese, anyway? [x] Talk as you eat. Ask about being a 'writer.' What was the little rectangle? [x] Talk as you eat. Ask about the outside. Why would it make him sad?
Wanna know about all these things! Food first since it's the most important. And our human. And where he came from.
[x] Talk as you eat. Ask about the outside. Why would it make him sad? [x] Talk as you eat. Ask about the bottles and hanging things. And what's cheese, anyway? [x] Talk as you eat. Ask about being a 'writer.' What was the little rectangle?
[X] Talk as you eat. Ask about the bottles and hanging things. And what's cheese, anyway? [X] Talk as you eat. Ask about being a 'writer.' What was the little rectangle? [X] Talk as you eat. Ask about the outside. Why would it make him sad?
[x] Talk as you eat. Ask about the bottles and hanging things. And what's cheese, anyway? [x] Talk as you eat. Ask about being a 'writer.' What was the little rectangle? [x] Talk as you eat. Ask about the outside. Why would it make him sad?
The bread things crunch pleasantly as you eat, providing a nice contrast to the cheese and meat, and you find that some of them have a different taste, some kind of seasoning, or something, that compliments the taste of the other two items. Suddenly, you realise. You don't actually know what cheese is, beyond 'these little yellow things.' You look down at the food in your hand, and cock your head, considering the cheese from a new angle.
It doesn't even smell like anything you've smelled before, either. You hate to admit it, but you probably can't figure it out on your own.
"So..." You begin, hesitantly, "Just what is cheese, anyway?" Your question seems to come as a surprise, to him.
"Oh?" He pauses, to consider his answer. "It's made out of ferme-" he stops, and you can see his mind working, briefly, "...it's made out of cows. Like...beef." Oh! So that means...
"It's like meat?" You ask, wide-eyed with surprise. It doesn't look like meat, but it is very tasty, in a way you can't really explain. "Whoa..."
"Well, sorta." He nods, before popping another one of the toasted bread things into his mouth.
"...What are those?" You ask, gesturing towards the bottles lining the top of the far wall with the hand not currently occupied by food. It's been bugging you, and since this is apparently a good time to talk, you figure it couldn't hurt to ask.
"Hm? Those? Those are bottles of olive oil." He doesn't even need to be prompted to continue. "Olive oil is a...well, you can call it a seasoning, I suppose, and each of the things inside the bottle flavour it a certain way. Those red things, for example, are a type of pepper, and they make it spicy. There are all kinds of different olive oils. Even the place that it's made in can contribute to the taste." He begins to explain at length about different varieties of olive oil, and the assorted uses that the substance has. ...He's apparently a big fan of the stuff. Or at least, from the direction he's going with his explanations, the food that is produced with it. You, however, are...a bit less enthusiastic. When he pauses to eat one of the last little snack-things - are they really almost gone already? - you take the opportunity to ask another question.
"So, you told that lady you were a writer, but I thought you were a human! What's a writer? And that little rectangle thing you had, what's that? Is it like chocolate?" You make your curiosity known, and guess at the rectangle's nature, likening it to the only other rectangle you can really think of. He blinks at your question, and takes a moment to process it, before laughing. Behind you, you can hear someone entering the restaurant and speaking to the odd human who meets them at the door, but you pay them no mind. Settling down, your human begins to explain.
"No, no. Being a writer is a profession. It's how I," He pauses, considering the phrasing of what he was about to say. "Earned my food on the outside." Something seems to click in his head, and his gaze suddenly sharpens, staring at you with great intensity. "Wait. Do you mean that you don't even know what writing is?" You cock your head at the strange word.
"...Writing?" His head drops to his hands.
"So I assume reading is foreign to you as well." It doesn't sound like that's a question, but you respond anyway.
"Well...i-it's just human stuff, right? Why would I need to know…whatever it is?" His face runs through a series of expressions, so quickly that you can't identify them, before finally settling into a determined mask. He leans forward ever-so-slightly, and speaks slowly and quietly.
"I will teach you to read. And you. Will. Learn." You can't help but nod. He seems so serious about it! But suddenly the serious cast to his features is gone as though it were never there, replaced by a gentle smile. "You'll like it. Reading is a great thing, and always useful, even in this world."
He's interrupted by the arrival of more food, two dishes piled high with meat covered in some kind of sauce on top of...well, not worms, but worm-like...things. The red is heavily seasoned, with a number of unfamiliar spices and flavours. You aren't quite sure how to eat it at first, but your human demonstrates the tools that help eat this strange meal, and sets to work mixing together the assorted components of his meal.
"So. That 'rectangle,' as you called it, was a book. My notebook, specifically. That's where I do my writing, and when it's finished, it is edited - that is to say, cleaned up, and prepared - and then printed...well, basically replicated in large numbers, I suppose." He considers this for a moment. "Well, it probably won't get printed, here. But that's alright. And Rinnosuke has a number of notebooks, so I guess I won't have to worry about running out." He takes a bite of his 'pasta,' he called it, and chews thoughtfully. This stuff is very good, you have to admit. There's a lot of meat in the sauce, which is nice, and the 'pasta' part adds substance. Oh! But there is one question you'd almost forgotten.
"Earlier," you begin, unsure of how exactly to put it, sensing, perhaps, that this is a delicate topic, "earlier, you mentioned the outside, and...." Another pause. You look away from him, "I, I mean, it isn't l-like I care, or anything, but...you looked...Sad. I didn't - well, that is...Why? Isn't that your home?" He smiles at you, gently, and a bit sadly.
"Yeah. It was my home, but...the world out there...it's changing. People are drifting away from each other, interacting less and less. Everything is moving faster and faster, and people are losing sight of the little things. No-one really just...takes it easy, anymore. If you're in no hurry, you'll just get trampled by the rush." He chuckles. "I know that the world I dream of never has been. And it isn't likely to ever appear. But...what can I say. I'm nostalgic for times that never were." He goes on to tell you about the wonders of the outside world, the way food can be cooked in minutes, or even seconds, how humans build massive hive-buildings that scratch at the sky, and all manner of strange things. Some things he seems to like, and others, he talks about how people have changed because of them, and he sounds sad again.
You notice, finally, that both of you have run out of food. The strange man is back, bringing strong-smelling brown stuff in cups. Your human thanks him, and adds some white stuff from a little lidded bowl thing to his liquid.
He calls it 'coffee,' and explains that it is somewhat bitter, but if you add 'sugar,' the stuff in the bowl, it tastes better. You try drinking some. It's hot, but more importantly, really, really, bitter. You quickly put it down and make a face, adding some of the sugar, like you saw your human do. Three spoons, just like he did. You stir it around a bit, imitating him, and try again. It's better, but...you don't like it. Bleh. He laughs.
"It's not for everyone, I suppose. Don't worry about it. At least you tried, right?" Well, you guess he's right. Ah, well. The man comes back, and accepts some money from your human. As the two of you walk out, you hear someone else standing up from a table. That person from earlier, probably.
You’ve returned to the comforting shade of the forest trees. Your human is humming softly as you walk, and you’ve drifted to walk by his side, at about arm’s length. Walking can be good too, sometimes, you’ve come to discover. There’s a sense of relaxation that comes from a leisurely walk that just isn’t the same as when you fly.
You are, however, slightly annoyed. Someone’s watching you. You can feel their eyes on you. Your human, of course, is completely oblivious - after all, he is just a human. You aren’t quite sure where they are, yet, or what their intentions might be, but you can feel the tension increasing. Whoever, whatever they are, they’ll make their move soon.
[ ] Find them first. Preemptive strike! [ ] Warn your human. Best to have him ready for this. [ ] Call them out. Ruin the surprise. [ ] Wait. Make your move when they make theirs.
"Human..." You whisper, "Human..." He isn't reacting to your whisper...maybe he just can't hear you? You try reaching subtly for the hem of his shirt. The watcher would have to be directly above you for them to see the shift and still be hidden, and how likely is tha-
"Stop right there, vile youkai! I cannot allow you to harm that poor unsuspecting human!" Oh, gods. She really was. The branches above you rustle, and a white-and-blue blur streaks down. It lands neatly in front of you, revealing itself to be another human, with green hair, who strikes an absurd pose in front of the two of you.
"Youkai Extermination is the duty of a Shrine Maiden! Sanae Kochiya, Shrine Maiden of Moriya Shrine, comes forth!" She's got a serious look on her face, and you're too confused and distracted by her sudden entrance and weird posing to react immediately as she suddenly flings a handful of seals and wards your way.
Your human however, is not. He pivots on one foot, swinging himself around to stand between you and this strange green-haired human. There is a series of soft thwaps, and you peer around him to look at this Sanae. She seems surprised, but you don't have any more time to consider her reaction, as your human turns to face her. The little wards and seals are all over his back, but...none of them have reacted. If they had struck you, you might have been little more than a pillar of flame by now.
"Eh~? What are you doing?!" Sanae sounds pretty confused. "You aren't supposed to jump in front of her like that!" The serious look is gone, you see, as you peer around your human, replaced by one of shocked concern. "Ah, also, are you okay...?"
"Just what were you thinking?!" Your human roars. She jumps, startled, and takes a step back as he continues. "Attacking someone out of nowhere like that! You should be ashamed!"
"I-I'm sorry!" She bows jerkily.
"Good! You need to think things through before just jumping in like that! What if-" You're distracted suddenly, by your human gesturing with his hand behind his back. What does he want...? Is he trying to... You suddenly realise. He wants to to go. To sneak away while Sanae is distracted and confused. You bite your lip. It would certainly mean you were safe, but...you don't really want to leave him alone.
[ ] Go. He knows what he's doing, right? [ ] Wait. You aren't going anywhere without him. [ ] Circle around. He's distracting her. You'll have an opening! [ ] You normally use it to lure humans in, but there's a trick you know that might help here... [ ] (Write-in?)
Leave him here? Alone? Out of the question. You begin to walk forward, preparing yourself for the task at hand. You've never done it quite like this, before, but it's really the same thing, right?
Sanae jumps again, as footsteps sound on the road, approaching her from behind the human she had (accidentally!) peppered with seals. The youkai! She had completely forgotten! Her head snaps up, and one hand makes an abortive grab for the wards concealed within her sleeves, but all movement stops when she meets the teary eyes of the youkai she had attempted to exterminate. She sniffles, a little, and looks at Sanae with those big, red, teary eyes. Then, she speaks.
"W-why wou-would you do that...?" It sounds as though the youkai is on the verge of bursting into tears. "Hu-Human never did anything to a-anyone...!" And the tears begin to drip down her cheeks, slowly. Her lower lip quivers almost imperceptibly, and something inside Sanae gives way.
"Oh!" And before the smaller youkai can even blink, she's wrapped in the green-haired shrine maiden's arms. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, shhh. Don't cry, please." One hand is stroking her hair, as she's clutched tightly against Sanae's chest.
You blink twice in surprise - pretty much the only movement you can make. Since when were humans so strong? She is soft and warm, though, and that hand stroking your hair is nice, and much to your surprise, those tears were a bit more genuine than you had thought. You shake for a moment as she embraces you, before noticing that she's shaking too, on the verge of tears herself. Tentatively, you wrap your own arms around her, as best as you can, considering how she's pinned them to your sides, and, thinking back to your many years of observing humans, awkwardly pat her back.
The man stood there awkwardly, shuffling his feet as he pointedly stared in the direction away from the crying girls.
"So, you were on your way to the Hakurei Shrine, huh?" Sanae asked, her eyes still a bit red.
"Yeah." Your human nods.
"Well, I guess I can accompany you! It's been awhile since I've seen Reimu!" You scowl a bit, but decide to allow it. She's apparently trying to make up for the attack, after all, and to deny her would be rude - and, possibly, dangerous. She's a strong human. And those seals of hers...
Anyway! She can come. But you make sure, as you walk, to walk between her and your human, and to keep a firm hold on his hand. He's your human. And even if she is stronger than you, she can't have him.
It's not very long before you all finally reach a long, long staircase. Judging by the two humans' reaactions, at the top of the stairs is your destination. Sanae immediately takes to the sky, while your human eyes the staircase with trepidation.
"It's a lot quicker to fly, you know." She calls down to your human, who gives her a wry glance before responding.
"That's great. Now all I need to do is learn to fly." She huffs a bit.
"Well, you don't need to be sarcastic. ...I guess...I could carry you, maybe?" She's a bit red, for some reason. ...Human females aren't really comfortable being that close to males who aren't their mates, are they?
[ ] No way! You'll carry him! [ ] Well, alright. Just this once! [ ] But walking's fun! Isn't it, Human?
"No!" The two humans turn to stare at you in surprise. "I-I mean..." You fidget a bit, bunching up the cloth of your shirt in your hands. "I can carry him fine!" Sanae looks surprised, while your human simply nods thoughtfully.
"Oh. I hadn't thought of that..." The green-haired girl says. "That works, too!" You take to the air, hovering low, and circle your human once.
"So...Maybe..." You stop behind him, "Ah...D-don't wiggle around, okay?" He indicates his assent, and you reach around his chest, looping your arms under his shoulders, and lift. Almost immediately you return to the ground. "That's no good. Maybe...Alright, really don't wiggle this time for sure, okay?" And you sweep him off of his feet, one arm supporting his legs and the other his body. Caught by surprise, he cries out, and catches on to you, steadying himself in your arms with his own wrapped back around you loosely. This has the (un?)fortunate result of bring your faces rather close together. "Ah, hah...Do-don't get any funny ideas, alright?! I'm just doing th-this because you can't fly, you s-stupid human!" Suddenly, Sanae bursts into laughter.
"Y-you-! Ahahah, Really?! Heeheehee! I-It's like-!" And she dissolves into laughter, completely unintelligible as she tries to continue talking.
"What?!" You ask, indignantly. You glare at her, but she just keeps laughing, as she goes up to the shrine. You shift the arm holding his body a bit, because it keeps brushing a seal, which burns, and follow her.
It's actually rather a long way up, though it's a relatively quick flight. That many stairs...probably not a very pleasant walk. You're glad you can fly.
When you reach the top, Sanae has already engaged someone in conversation. You set your human down, and look over. It's a little girl - a youkai, you realise, with long horns coming out from the sides of her head. Even you weren't so isolated that you don't know who this is - it's the oni! You'd heard there was an oni in Gensokyo, but to see it...
She laughs and knocks back something from a purple gourd chained to her side.
You're in awe. You tug on your human's shirt to get his attention.
"Did you come here to talk to the oni...?" You ask, eyes fixed on the object of your inquiry. There isn't a single youkai in Gensokyo who doesn't know about the oni.
"Hm? Oni?" He follows your gaze. "Her? No, no. I'm here to talk to Reimu. The shrine maiden."
"Shrine maiden? Oh, you mean like Sanae?" Come to think of it, you've got the feeling that something about Sanae's outfit was familiar, too. Hmm...you can't place it, though.
"Suika! Where's my-" Suddenly, from around the corner of the building, it appears.
The most vicious of the humans, implacable and indestructible. Its two colours the chromatic harbingers of utter despair. Its terrible gaze sweeps across those assembled before what can now be identified as its lair. One horrible brow rises as it considers those before it. Then, woe of woes, its mouth - the very mouth through which shall pass the terrible pronouncement of the cessation of all things - opens, and it speaks.
"...So. Why are you all here?" An explanation has been demanded! What reason, truly, do any of you have to be here?! It is clear that the one your human seeks is not here! You human begins to walk forward, clearly intent on sacrificing himself that the rest of you may escape. The oni will be fine on its own, of course, but you and Sanae are in terrible danger, and clearly he means for you to escape! But...would it be worth it?!
[ ] Escape! Honour his last wish! - [ ] ...take Sanae. You guess. [ ] Stand Beside Him! The price of escape is too high! [ ] RUN, HUMAN, RUN! [ ] GENUFLECT
You float forward, and take your place alongside your human. If flight means abandoning him to whatever horrible fate that horible monster chooses to inflict upon him, then running away was never an option. You futilely try to school your face into a look of determination, or at least to adopt an expression that doesn't betray your fear. You settle for as neutral an expression as you can manage.
The beast raises a single eyebrow. She looks...lazy. Almost bored by the whole thing. Somehow, that makes her all the more frightening.
"Well?" She she sweeps her gaze across the people outside, her eyes lingering briefly on you and your human.
"Reimu!" Sanae doesn't seem to realise who this is! She's dashing in close, arms wide, in a nearly defenseless position! And when'd the beast get its Stick of Pain?! You can't watch...
"Ow!" ...What? You peek out from between your fingers, surprised that the green-haired one can even speak after the horrors surely visited upon her body...what the hell?! What is this! She's fine! Just rubbing at the top of her head, with her tongue poking out a little!
"Reeiii-muuuuuu! You're so mean!" And she laughs. Suddenly, you realise that your human continued on without you. Or, well, he didn't stop when you covered your eyes. He's standing in front of an odd box and pulling out...money? What for? You float over to him as he is about to drop it in the box.
"What are you doing?" You ask, curiously, "Why are you throwing money in the box?" He looks at you for a moment, confused, before suddenly realising.
"Oh! I'm making a donation to the shrine. A donation provides for the upkeep of the shrine, and it benefits the shrine keeper as well, in this case the shrine maiden. Also, It's simply considered polite to donate when you visit a shrine." You look over at Sanae. This is her shrine? ...So why'd she come with you, anywa- why is the beast watching you like that?! Her gaze, sharper than any hawk's, is focused on...the donation? You shiver. She's scary. And weird.
Your human drops the money in.
"Ah! Welcome to the Hakurei Shrine! May I offer you some tea?" Where did she come from?! "Come in, come in." The beast walks to the front of its lair - shrine - whatever, and slides the door open, gesturing to a pair of cushions placed on one side of a table with a plate of those little bread-square things. You hesitantly follow your human inside, taking your place on the cushion beside him. The red-white monster follows you in, and announces that she'll be back with teain just a moment, before leaving through one of the two doorways in the room. You look around curiously, but... The room's empty. Really empty.
You sigh, as something clatters in the room opposite the one this 'Reimu' entered. You perk up, looking over curiously. It was quiet, so quiet that your human doesn't seem to have heard it, as he thoughtfully chews a single bread-square and stares at the ceiling (There's nothing there. You already looked.)
What was that...?
[ ] No. Best not to split up in the beast's own lair. [ ] Human's a human. She seems to like humans. He'll be fine. [ ] She'll be back any moment. Now's not the time to wander. [ ] She'll be a few minutes. A perfect opportunity to investigate. [ ] You're bored. What was that? [ ] You need to keep an eye on your human. Ignore it.
Deepest apologies for the delay. Life is my only excuse.
In other news, I've got my tablet working again. I'll see what I can do for future updates, if anything.
[x] She'll be back any moment. Now's not the time to wander.
Thanks to Humans donation, the beast is tolerating our presence in her lair. Any sort of perceived slight will surely set off her ire, and spell our doom. Best to just sit tight and wait until we are graciously allowed to leave.
Alright, so, since voting is winding down, and we're at that point, a question.
Would you rather I make a new thread, or just power this one along until it takes too long to load?
/forest/ is empty enough that it'll be on the front page forever, so that isn't a problem. And I'd rather not clutter the board, but it's whatever's most convenient for my readers that I'm interested in.
>>22863 Thread movement matters, at least in the way I browse THP. Seeing threads change order or appear on the bumped threads list gets me to look at them. Loading time means jack shit when you're caught up and only use the "last 50 replies" link.