Marisa entrusted herself to me wholly and, for better or worse, it was my responsibility to deal with her. Even though the turn of events were still hard to explain or rationalize it was still my actions that had directly led to them. As I silently held her closer I couldn't justify what I was about to do as something that was wholly outside of my control. Events bigger than me shaped my reality only partially, I always had the choice of dealing with them in different ways. Even if I couldn't change things I could at least perceive them differently. Little consolation that it was.
But that, too, was a pointless thought.
The impropriety of the situation wasn't lost on me. I didn't let any one emotion win out in the jumble that was my heart as I silently kissed Marisa on the forehead. She looked at me expectantly, the mere promise of my touch enough to make her breath quicken. The passion was physical, driven by need and lust rather than any emotional entanglement. This made things both easier and harder to rationalize. Her body pressed close to mine, greedily seeking my attention and affection.
I pressed back at her. My hands moved down from her neckline and hovered toward her chest. Modesty was one of the first casualties in the scenario, along with any hopes of detached reasoning, and Marisa cooed softly as I unfastened what little remained of her clothes. The feedback she gave me guided my actions. Every twitch and throb was a direct result of a caress or grope. Aural response accompanied the tactile output; Moans, groans and quiet panting all escaped her lips.
Though the objective was to help her I couldn't help but feel a good as well. The mostly naked girl gave herself wholly to me and entrusted her body to my care. Feeling her modest but girlish chest was outright fun – a gentle pinch of an erect nipple was enough to cause Marisa to let out the sweetest of cries. She was shamelessly lacking any composure and that emboldened me to make the most of the situation. I fondled delicately and assertively, positioning myself behind her and reaching forward and clasping each breast with a palm. It was a rather good fit; The feeling of weight and volume were highly proportional to her slender frame.
“Does your itch feel better now?” I whispered into her ear.
“Yes but it still feels very hot,” she replied, “please continue to help me.” That was more of a demand than her earlier, more bashful, request. Marisa leaned back into me, forcefully pushing her bottom in between my legs. It was like we were operating in tandem in a small boat or a similarly limited space. The effect was that I could reach anywhere that I wanted on her body with minimal effort.
“I'm not sure I'm helping you relax,” I said. Unambiguous moistness permeated between her legs, creating damp spots on her undergarment. As exciting as the reality of it was it led me to tease her a little, if only because how submissive she was behaving. “I think that I might be making the situation worse. Usually the more fluids someone has coming out of them, the sicker they are.”
The back of her head offered no hint as to what her expression might be. “You just have to be a little more thorough, continue as best you can,” she ordered boldly, paying no heed to my teasing. My intent hadn't been to resist so I didn't mind carrying on. “Mmm, that's dizzyingly fantastic,” she encouraged me as I traced a line over the damp cloth and mapped the area with my fingers. I did not remove her knickers, instead simply sliding them to the side as my fingers slid across the area and played with her engored love button. That elicited a reaction many times more powerful than playing with the other parts of her body. She convulsed and shook and moaned rather loudly. Gasps of pleasure replaced every other breath she took.
One of my fingers explored her entrance and found yet another receptive portion of her. I moved my fingers in a coordinated manner, adopting a strategy that repeated motions that caused Marisa to moan the most. Any small insertion of the tips of my fingers was followed by a very indecent squelch when they were subsequently removed. Time and time again Marisa would yield to my touch entirely and allow herself to drown in absolute bliss in climactic fits of undiluted bliss.
It exhausted her before too long.
By the end I had shifted her onto the floor and onto her back. It allowed for a greater range of visual cues such as the firm, almost forceful shutting of her eyes as she reached climax yet another time. I also was able to appreciate another aspect of her bosom – her nipples were small and pink, cute and petite. They were almost begging to be played with and teased. Likewise I also got a good look at her fine golden hair just above her most sensitive area. It wasn't messy and wild despite not looking like it had been carefully groomed. It was an amusing contrast to Marisa as a whole – she was well-groomed but still managed to look messy and wild at times.
There was something almost empowering about seeing her so frail and vulnerable, completely at the mercy of my ever-moving fingers. I kissed her chest, ready to move my way down with my mouth if necessary. I wasn't sure if Marisa had had enough. Even though she heaved with every breath, she still had enough alacrity to speak coherent sentences. “I feel much better now,” she told me with an immensely stupid smile on her face. That signaled the end of my role as healer.
“There are still many things I can do,” I smirked, testing just how far along she had progressed. “I don't like to leave a job half-finished if possible.”
“I... we'll... it's enough,” some modesty found its way back into her behavior as she cross her legs in vain. It just allowed me to see the same amount of flesh just pressed up and transformed in places. I had no plans to stare at her with a slack jaw, no matter the myriad of thoughts about her body and what else (could have) happened. I handed her clothes back to her and gave her some space to get dressed.
“Are you really feeling that much better?” I asked her as began to move around the room. Her leg had cramped up, allegedly. I wasn't convinced of the explanation and noted how she was just, in fact, putting distance between us. Pretty obvious,
“I no longer feel hot and I can think a little better now,” she stated simply. The aloofness masked what she might have been really feeling. I had no idea what she might have been thinking.
The sun had started, and nearly finished, going down without me noticing. Long shadows stretched across the walls of the shrine. “We should deal with whatever is going on here. I get the feeling that something is supposed to happen at sunset,” I tried to respect her disengagement by changing subjects. “I'll need your help to fix whatever has gone wrong.”
“I wonder if we'll be able to...”
“Are things really that bad?” I asked, a little disheartened by her pessimism.
“We don't know anything about the situation really. It's common sense to have a feel about what you're getting into first.”
“I've found that that's not a luxury I have very often,” I said with a shrug, trying to let her know that I never let it get me down.
“Well, what should we try to do?”
“What do you mean?”
“Reimu isn't herself according to you, neither is Alice for that matter. Seems to me that it'd be smarter to focus on one of them first if we're going in blind. Dividing our attention probably won't work out if we don't know anything,” Marisa said sensibly enough. I agreed with her in principle.
“If we can subdue or knock Reimu out we'll buy some time to think,” I said, “she can't hurt herself, well you know what I mean, if she's unconscious.”
“Yeah, but isn't Alice the original reason you've done all of this? Seems like it might be worth tracking her down or, if they're together, trying to isolate her. This is all too much of a coincidence if you ask me. When there's an incident there's always trouble like this to sort out.”
Reimu is the current focus of the hostile force, and since we don't know who or what it is, confronting Reimu might be like trying to fight the Final Boss while we're only level 5. Alice is where this whole thing started, and she'll be the best chance of finding out what exactly is going on.
Perhaps we could find some kind of indication of how she lost her memory, marks where someone tampered with her soul, that sort of thing. We've had our combat, now it's time to enter detective mode!
And getting Marisa off was one of the better things I've read today.
Wait, are you the writer of Discovery, Investigation and Manifestations? I just read through it and you both are anon writers. The author of the eientei story apparently said that his voting system is based on this one. Not sure if that post was serious though...
>>26492 here. I want to add some rationale to my vote and challenge others to see if we can get some life in this thread again. It isn't dead.
>>26423 As far as we know, Reimu is the main interface that this antagonist is using. I think we can assume that this entity has a direct connection to the shrine's leyline itself. Focusing on Reimu could reveal a clue as to how to release her. If Arc can release Reimu, this whole situation gets knocked down a grade. Knowing this, do you still hold to your vote?
>>26462 I'm not sure how much Arc can learn from a brainwashed Alice, Reimu is still useful to this antagonist, and until the time that is no longer true, it would be smart to focus on her. See above.
>>26468 I still hold to the assumption that this isn't actually Alice, but I could be wrong. As far as we know, Mima could actually still consider Arc her apprentice. What exactly do we have as evidence for this being Mima? How did the "breakup" between Arc and Mima go again?
>>26884 That was quite a scene, no? The only magician Arc hasn't sexed up yet is Alice. That we know of, those dreams were quite vivid. Who knows what actually happened.
Assuming you are correct about Reimu, isn't it a better idea to confront the mastermind behind this? True, we could be entirely wrong about Alice and waste precious time on focusing on a dead end; risking Reimu's life as well. I know it's a risky plan, but we can't afford to waste any time. We have to strike this at it's heart and while focusing on Reimu will buy us time, we should not forget it would also buy time for whoever's behind this.
It's been a while since I read this story, but I remember Mima taking the "breakup" rather well? She was even the one who recommended magic tutors for us.
>>27278 Either choice is inherently valid. It's a matter of approach, but I disagree that focusing on Reimu would buy time for whoever is behind this. The plan is in action and Reimu has served her purpose. Arc has been cooperative thus far, Reimu's life should not be in immediate danger any longer. Logically then, I suppose that I do have to concede that focusing on Alice should be Arc's next plan of action.
>She was even the one who recommended magic tutors for us.
Most interesting. If it is Mima behind this, that leaves more questions. Why wait for Alice to interact with Leyline to set this into action? What exactly did Reimu pull out of her pocket and where did she get it from? I'm not familiar with any of this to be honest, so I can't even begin to suggest anything beyond the clues already given.
I think Arc's goal should be less of "let's stop this at all costs" and more of "let's find out exactly what is going on". If it actually ends up being malicious, I think Arc will be able to stop it. Possibly. Who knows?
>>27279 If you mean whatever 'Reimu' gave Marisa in the previous thread; I'd say that it's a aphrodisiac. Apparently as some kind of reward for Arc's obedience. But her real reason is a mystery without more information to go on. The how she acquired the aphrodisiac is irrelevant at this point.
As for the Leyline, perhaps Alice has some kind as a Magician that Mima needed?
>>27282 Mima probably needed Alice's skill in order to manipulate Reimu. The techniques were described as being similar. Alice may have stumbled upon that plan, forcing the culprit to wipe or reset her mind. After all, why were Arc and Alice there in the first place? Regardless, the plan may be too far along to properly stop now.
Either way, I really can't wait to see what happens next. The conclusion should be satisfying.
Does the author want to add anything in particular?
As a quick check, how much interest is there in seeing this story continue? Can I get a quick headcount for willing voters?
The writefag lost motivation due to a number of things. Seeing a large reader turnout might just be enough to get him writing again. I don't think he's looking for Harvard level thesis discussion, just reactions and reasoning. Every single vote counts. We're almost finished with this story.
Hey, as you may have noticed there haven't been updates. This is due to a variety of reasons that aren't really worth getting into at this juncture. The more relevant point is that a certain someone has been proactive in getting me to write and to reconsider some conclusions. I told him that no matter whatever else it would be impractical to do a story without a minimum of 3-4 voters. It seems that such a number actually exists.
Right now I can't promise that I can jump in with both feet in this story. However, I've always wanted to finish this (like any other story really) and it might be possible to do just that with a little help.
So I don't know how many readers there are left exactly. That's fine. I can't give an ETA for a continuation either. Or when it would be regular updates. Things really are up in the air for me due to non-site stuff. I'll keep people posted in progress if they're interested.
Still, for now, I guess I can ask that those present catch up on the story, talk about plot points and any items of confusion/things that may have been forgotten. Or just simply think about their vote and what they felt or said in a comment/recast their vote because time has changed their perspective or whatever. I think that that would be better than a simple synopsis that wouldn't do the story justice. While I don't exactly have the ability to update just yet I can also pipe in and help get people up to date.
Hell, if that's too much of a bother, you can just talk about how AuntieSuikaxArc is the OTP and this magician nonsense is just, well, nonsense. Activity begets activity to a certain degree on this site.
There's several rumors floating around here. The most prominent one concerns Mima. She's the only magician not currently accounted for, right? There's also a ton of symbolism present too. Look at Arc's dreams during his imprisonment at Voile. I think there's a few things we can glean from that experience.
Look at the effect that Arc was having on her and the power he exhibited in the fight with Marisa. These developments are quite something. We haven't nailed down exactly what they mean yet.
So with these in mind, there are a few questions that need to be answered.
Where is Mima?
Excerpt from ADEFT >“I don't understand what you're talking about.” I shook my head, an action which hurt a lot. “Could I see your majestic magic again?” “Perhaps in due time, boy.” She smiled. “It wasn't the right time now for everything. Or so it would seem. I would have known otherwise. Things would have moved ahead, as I wanted them to.” “I don't understand at all...” “Hush now. It's not necessary that you remember, but it is important that you don't forget. And I'll make sure that you don't forget.”
For context, just before this passage in >>/shrine/24650 Mima was talking to Arc about him choosing either Alice or Marisa. She was definitely planning something. I'd wager that it's come full circle at last.
What effect was Arc having on Patchouli? What exactly is behind that? Is it the mark from Mima? Or is it something deeper?
Of what significance is the dream in Voile? The interpretation I'm leaning towards is that of the Tower arcana. The wiki for it lists a few explanations for it, and a few fit the situation nicely. They're a bit complicated to explain though, it'd be better if just went to read it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tower_(Tarot_card)
Here's another interesting little gem I found while looking back: >“Just watch.” I closed my eyes, trying to concentrate. I wasn't sure how this magic business worked, but I tried my hardest to remember what Mima said. I pictured what I wanted to do, and because of the earlier display by her I had a vivid image burned into my mind of what a nice sparkle should like like. I grinned as a small light came out of my fingertips and seemingly fell into the drink. “A pinch of magic garnish; our little secret,” I confided in a hushed tone.
>>27307 >Where is Mima? Mima hasn't appeared much in this story, but it's a fair guess in saying that she plays a very prominent role from behind the scenes. She's one of the missing pieces in this large puzzle. But the problem is that Mima is as much as a puzzle as the whole; her reason for all this is a mystery.
>What effect was Arc having on Patchouli? What exactly is behind that? Is it the mark from Mima? Or is it something deeper?
If I remember correctly; there was an implication in that Arc had some strange magic that Patchouli found to be extremely appealing. It couldn't be the mark though, since Alice said that she took care of that. But than again, Alice has been wrong in many occasions...
>Of what significance is the dream in Voile? A pretty big significance if you ask me, since a bit of the interpretations on the Tower fit nicely with our situation.
Have we ever found out about why Alice was out in that one post where we went looking for her? You know the one where Alice told us to stay back, but we disobeyed her anyway and used magic to do so.
>>27308 Based on that passage, it seemed like she was going along with the flow. I don't know, it seemed rather odd. She's a total mystery.
>“Where's Suika anyways?”
>“She went off to look for medicine she buried somewhere, legendary something or the other, just in case. I didn't ask much but she took off towards the mountains. I don't know when she'll be back.”
Also, Arc was definitely having a similar effect on Alice. That mark was doing something. I remember that Alice was unable to completely remove it, she just sort of covered it with her own. The only magician it didn't have an effect on was Marisa, because Arc wasn't tied to her in any way.
I may be able to do an update 'soon' but don't hold your breath. My writing time is very limited right now.
I'm not sure that posts that people made are enough to get everyone on more or less the same page so if there are any doubts about the plot and such lingering, ask away. Two guys going back and forth is nice and all but it's never been the two guys that are going overtime and talk to each other that I've been worried about.
>>27309 For no reason other than I could, here is something best read in the voice of your favorite film narrator:
Action, excitement and drama. This is the formula for a great adventure. If, by chance, an oni were to be tossed into the mix then surely an ever greater result would be obtained. Yes, an oni with a quest. A quest that is full of peril. Through old and overgrown wood, ancient mountain and into the very depths of hell itself. Sounds like the very stuff of legends.
It's a thought worth thinking about for a little bit, right?
That oni would be clad in worn but battle-tested armor, both rust and old stains betraying the age and experience of the wearer. This oni... she would wield a mighty mace in one hand. It would warn all manners of creatures around that she is not to be trifled with. And, in case she ever lost her weapon of choice, a small but deadly blade is tucked in her belt – ready to be drawn in a moment's notice. Agility and deftness sometimes gets the job done when brute force fails.
Now you may be wondering: Why would a creature as strong and resilient as one of the mighty oni need extra protection? Well, where she's going she knows she'll need all the help she can get. One mistake and it's all over, eaten by some long-forgotten abomination that lives in places were even angels fear to tread.
Why would she even bother doing all this?
Well, you'd be right to question her sanity. Oni aren't exactly sane to begin with – mind you this is a race that enjoys binge drinking and smashing their heads together at high speeds for fun* - but a quest like this is tantamount to suicide. The reason is simple: she wants to do it. Whether it was originally because of self-interest or for a dear friend doesn't matter. Oni love challenges and once the challenge was laid out there was no backing down. She'll even battle something ridiculous like an ancient and incredibly powerful dragon if she has to.
She's not afraid.
The odds aren't too good on her beating a dragon but she's not afraid. One glancing blow from the beast would be enough to shatter all the bones of even the hardiest of men. The beast's fire can melt whole mountains.
And yet she's not afraid.
Well, because she's an oni. And it's that simple.
Suika's going to come back with the goods. Not even a god could stop her.
*As the author has never met an actual oni, this is mere speculation.
>>27310 Is Mima relevant to all this? Sure the mark she left on us plays a large part in this from what I read, but does Mima herself drive all this? We have seen neither hide nor hair of Mima through this entire story, which leads me to doubt the theory of her being behind this.
>>27311 That's something which may or may not be a spoiler so I can't talk about it. When I said plot I meant stuff that's happened, like chronological order (the first and second visit to Voile relative to other events) or moments when the protagonist has used magic. Stuff that hasn't happened or hasn't been explained isn't eligible, sorry. I can critique a theory a little, I think, but only on a few specific points if someone wanted. I wouldn't want to give anything away until the right time.
>>27311 >>/shrine/25198 >The thing with Mima... well that is something related to the other idea I mentioned. While she's definitely /shrine/, her story is one that can't be told without mentioning both magic and why she's even around to begin with. Her story was only hinted at in DEFT (you could have found out a bit more, but I don't think it would have changed things on the macro scale – this was most definitely about the party, and Suika's selfish wishes). The whole magic thing isn't useless, but I would really like to expand on it in another story, preferably disconnected from the rest (or following up the rest) – this would almost definitely preclude the amorous relationship with the shrine maiden.
This sort of casts light on it without major spoilers.
>>27310 An idea of this magnitude deserves to be written. Good heavens that was awesome.
Marisa donned a brave face as we explored the shrine. Though her gait seemed steady enough, something about her slow deliberateness made me think that she was potentially only a moment away from possible collapse. Not that she'd let me know. She insisted that she was fine and kept a small, but very noticeable, minimum distance between us. My suggestion that I help her around if she wasn't quite up to walking was flat-out rejected. She was avoiding any unnecessary contact with me.
As it turned out, the shrine was empty. We checked quickly but thoroughly. An eerie silence permeated about. I felt like the shrine was aging rapidly somehow. Dark shadows in the corners made the wood look even older and the structure seem somewhat decrepit. If I hadn't spent so much time in and about those rooms I might have even felt that they hadn't seen any use for years.
“I've got a bad feeling about this,” Marisa muttered a little too loudly. She hadn't intended me to hear it and looked a little surprised when I followed up on the comment.
“There's definitely something up,” I observed, “the whole place feels barren.”
“I... can't get a feel for the energies of the place. Usually there's something. Mostly Reimu.”
“I can't feel anything here either,” I stated. I took a deep breath. “Although... there's something just outside of the shrine I think. Feels a little bit fuzzy.”
“Let's go then,” she said as she took the lead again. It was short-lived. Confusion and discomfort spread across her face as soon as we made it outside. She looked at me dumbly for a few seconds before she told me what was wrong. “I can't feel anything outside either.”
“It's coming from the other side of the shrine, I think.” The feeling I got was definitely not out in front by the steps. It was most likely around the storage annex where there was something of a small garden. The odd thing was that the feeling was very specific. It wasn't just energy it was a guide marker. Perhaps even an invitation. It was strange that only I could detect it certainly.
“How are you feeling?” I asked Marisa yet again.
“I told you, I'm fine!” she snapped back, sounding annoyed. “I don't need you to worry about me. In fact it would have been better if you had never involved me at all!”
“...at any rate, let's just worry about what comes next.” Marisa didn't exactly apologize but probably felt that she had said too much. Reimu and Alice were her friends too, after all. We would have all the time in the world to deal with what had happened later. Hopefully. I led on carefully, trying to keep our presence concealed. I stopped at a corner, taking a cautious peek at what lay beyond.
Two figures, shrine maidens both, stood to the right of the annex, around a great roaring bonfire. I recognized Reimu immediately. It took a moment to figure out that the other person was Alice. Both their backs were turned to us - they seemed entranced by the dancing of the flames. I scanned the scene for anyone else. They seemed to be alone. It was just them, the fire and an odd sort of impromptu altar on the other side of the fire.
Marisa crept up to my position, surveying the scene like I had. I gestured for her to be careful. For now I wanted to just watch what was going on. The sun was low on the horizon and would be gone shortly. Whatever it was that 'Reimu' planned to do it would likely happen now. I wished that the atmosphere was a little more like the village festivals and less like the worrisome uncertainty I had been mired in for the longest time. If it was like a festival, I could walk around with her again and have fun together. Maybe even share a dance...
As soon as I had that last thought 'Reimu' sprang into action, turning and saying something to Alice. The blonde nodded meekly as if to show her acknowledgement. 'Reimu' placed a finger on Alice's forehead and then shook her gohei. It seemed like it was something like a blessing or an incantation of sorts.
And then she did something wholly unexpected. She began to push Alice towards the fire. The magician stumbled backwards, falling perilously close to the flames. She didn't struggle. Instead, she simply gazed upwards as 'Reimu' loomed over her. Marisa seemed just about ready to pounce and intervene.
-  Jump on in  Keep watching just a bit longer An actual update! Albeit a short and not very good one. But it serves to get he ball rolling and if I don't force myself during my little free time nothing will ever get done.
I am not sure what is going on but it seems to me that Alice is okay with it. Reimu seems to know what she is doing and may be helping her.
On one hand is kind of tough, seeing as she is getting closer to the fire and everyone is feeling uneasy. On the other hand, with the description of what is going on, i get a kind of feeling that this does not seem hostile to me
[x] Keep watching just a bit longer Alice doesn't seem very concerned about being shoved into the fire, so why should we? Besides, Marisa seems like she will intervene if we don't, and so we should hang back to see what's this all about.
A quick summary of the events leading up to this choice:
Arc has returned from Voile after being "rescued" by Reimu. He notices that she is acting a bit odd and further prodding reveals that she has been "possessed" by someone. At the time, Alice was assumed to be the culprit, but we don't know for certain. The culprit held Reimu hostage and has coerced Arc into cooperating. The culprit ordered Arc to bring Marisa to the shrine by sunset. Arc finds Marisa, but she isn't exactly cooperative. She sense a lot of power coming from Arc and gets suspicious. The two fight and Arc comes out on top. He brings Marisa to the shrine where the culprit administers some sort of aphrodisiac. The result is as expected, and Arc helps "relieve" Marisa. The last vote had Arc choose whom he was going to focus on, Reimu or Alice. Now this glosses over a lot of things and I'd recommend reading it all again for yourselves to get the full experience, but I know not everyone has the time.
And here we are, faced with a decision. Arc can either jump in like a hero and get this confrontation started, or he can observe a bit more to glean a bit more information about what is really going on.
On one hand, time is of the essence. Preventing whatever is about to go down is a natural priority. However, the lack of information is maddening. I wish I knew what was going on. If it was as simple as "oh look, the wicked witch is about to sacrifice that innocent maiden with a sacrificial dagger," I'd recommend jumping in ASAP. Nevertheless, it just isn't that simple and I must advise us to be cautious. I think there's something we can learn here that might make the risk worth it.
I fought the urge to leap in and stop things from going any further. It wasn't particularly easy. Marisa was practically pushing me out of cover and into the clearing. It took a few hurried and firm gestures to get her to stay put. She disapproved strongly, her intense glare communicated everything that words would have and then some. She didn't understand why I wasn't doing anything and, moreover, why I wasn't letting her do anything. I mouthed my reasoning silently only to find that my “gut feeling” simply made her switch all the way from confusion and into hostility. A scowl on her was nothing to scoff at. Comparable to Alice at her frostiest. It seemed that being able to put on a scary face was a vital skill that all magicians shared.
Alice just kept staring up at 'Reimu'. I couldn't quite make out her expression at the distance. Yet somehow all I could think about was livestock. Like she was being positioned by the butcher for the slaughter. It was an unsettling thought. Alice looked absolutely defenseless. And, if she still couldn't remember anything, there was a good chance she didn't understand what was going on. She likely still saw 'Reimu' as a friend. Those types of circular and negative thoughts clouded my head.
'Reimu' extended a hand to Alice. The blonde gingerly accepted and got back up. No sooner that things had normalized, they took another sudden twist.
My feet left the ground even before my mind was able to work out just what exactly was going on. Another fast motion, the crossing of a fatal threshold, bright hellish flames that roared as if sentient and malicious – these were all bits of the scene that I was still working out when my body was already halfway towards the bonfire. I heard a gasp, maybe my own, maybe Marisa's when the body disappeared into the hungry flames. Blood pumped hard through my body and a massive jolt of energy both gave me the power to close the distance quickly and muddled my thoughts even further.
I stretched my hands into the fiery circle as soon as I could reach. I looked quickly, frantically for any signs of matter. The heat felt like it was intense enough to boil of an entire lake. Flames danced around and rose up to meet my hands, licking and caressing them with their painful tongues. Burns were the least of my concern as I continued to look for Alice in the inferno.
“It's no use, she's gone,” a grimly smug voice came from over my shoulder. 'Reimu' stood there with a satisfied little grin on her face. It took every single molecule of reason in my being not to wrap my hands around her neck and squeeze. “Gone off to a better place. You won't find a body.”
I was interrupted before I could get another syllable in. A loud crack filled air. “-bitch!” Marisa exclaimed, already raising her hand again to dispense another powerful slap to the face. 'Reimu' looked entirely undisturbed by the prospect, having suffered the first assault with almost eerie calm. She barely flinched.
Instead, 'Reimu' had a few choice words for Marisa. She happily antagonized us, “I thought you would still be screwing each other frankly. One look at you and it tells me that you want more of that sweet intoxication. Until your mind breaks and all you can think about is his sweet caress.” Marisa's reply was another slap. That didn't discourage her in the least. “Seems like I'm hitting too close to home. No matter, these affectionate little displays won't make a bit of difference. Haven't you realized yet that that's all that you can do?”
“Enough!” I was getting tired of her behavior. “Where is Alice? I find it hard to believe that you'd just kill her and that she'd just let herself be killed like that.”
“She's a trusting one,” 'Reimu' said with a nod, “I could get her to walk over a cliff if I wanted to.” Detecting that I was less than amused with her answer, her grin widened. “Oh, she's very much alive,” she assured me, “don't worry about that. I wasn't being facetious when I said she was off to a better place.”
“Fine, and where would that place be?”
“Mm, somewhere nearby actually. It's no fun if you have everything your way, right?”
“Don't play around with us,” I warned her.
“But I already am!” she giggled. “Do you think I would have really sent Alice away if you weren't peeping on us from a distance. I can tell where you are all the time, you know. You felt me too, after all.”
“Who are you and what do you want?” Marisa cut in, having regained some of her composure.
“I'm me. Who else would I be?” 'Reimu' said with an impish smile. Her ambiguity was deliberately annoying. “All I want is to get exactly what I deserve. Like anyone else, really.”
“Cut the crap. If you don't... then maybe I'll have to force it out of you. I'll apologize to the real Reimu later.”
“Oh, the thread of bold action!” she exclaimed gleefully, “and here I thought I was going to prod harder! Without the spellcards, this should be a real life and death experience.”
“I'm not bluffing,” I assured her, treading close to the point of no return. I had no idea what 'Reimu' could do. If she had the skills of Reimu and some other tricks I'd likely be in for a hard time. Especially if I was trying to not hurt her physically too much. “Marisa here will also help me so it'll be two-on-one. Are you sure you can handle that.”
“I wonder...” she replied with a wink. “If you're a good boy and promise to leave this deadweight magician and come with me, I'll show you something nice before the next step of the plan. Starts with an 'A' and ends with an 'E' – rather cute in her present condition I have to admit.”
“I won't fall for that, you're just trying to divide and conquer. Or buy time for whatever it is you're doing.” I tried to get into her head. Not that it was very successful. “There's no reason for me to part ways with Marisa.”
“She's real annoying though. She was rather rude to me so I think that warrants a dismissal. Besides, she's kind of useless to the both of us right now. Except for her sex appeal, but even that's sort of overrated, I think. I mean, look at the delicious body I have,” she said as she showed herself off rather shamelessly. She pointed to her lips, breasts and rear as assets that she was proud of sporting. Like it was an afterthought, she returned to answer my accusation, “buy time? I did what I had to while you were molesting tenderly, whoops, I mean helping out your uppity little friend here. I'm good for another hour at least.” 'Reimu' shrugged, adding, “the sun is pretty much gone now and I'd like to move on to the next thing. So what's it going to be?”
 Force is the only thing she'll understand  It's not yet the right moment to play that card -- Another shortish update. Hard to get into the groove given the limited time and loss of practice. Try to talk to one another more, I really have never needed walls of text.
>  Force is the only thing she'll understand I assume this is trying to exorcise whoever's inside Reimu through force? I don't see us winning the engagement, but we could pull it off with Marisa's help. The question is if we do so, how are going to go about looking for Alice? A scrying spell like we performed before might lead us to her, but that's still a fairly big risk.
>  It's not yet the right moment to play that card This option is giving in to "Reimu's" demands and letting her take us to wherever Alice is, if she is to be believed. But so far, "Reimu" hasn't given us much reason to disbelieve her besides being a massive bitch.
[x] It's not yet the right moment to play that card Personally, I hate bending over to her demands. But this is the quickest way of finding out what the hell is going on, and beating the answers out of her is probably not going to get us anywhere. But considering that this is Touhou...
>I won't fall for that, you're just trying to divide and conquer. Or buy time for whatever it is you're doing.
This is plenty reason for me. Marisa is the only one who can help us at this point. The one who is with us. The two votes are not very inviting to me but parting with Marisa, here and now, sounds like the worse option to me.
>>27329 It is kind of amusing how you are saying that going with her is a bad option and then still vote for it. Attacking her could mean another fiasco, like with Patchy, one over. But at least not alone this time.
I would like for a write in here. Either buy more time with talk or demand that Marisa comes with you.
>>27329 Here is a thought, why didn't 'Reimu' go fetch Marisa herself? She didn't seem to have a problem getting Arc from Voile, so it isn't as if she can't leave the shrine. Was she afraid of playing her hand too early? Or was she using Arc to soften Marisa up so she wouldn't expend too much energy fighting her?
Marisa as she is now may not be very useful in a fight. She's putting up a strong front, but that fight earlier with Arc probably exhausted her. Still, I wouldn't count her out now.
There was no element of surprise, 'Reimu' knew Arc was close. We chose patience over action and saw no results, so my gut feeling is to keep at it until it pays off. Arc chose to focus on Alice earlier, and that is worth considering.
>>27331 Alice is close, that much we know for sure. Reimu, the real one, would probably be able to find her easily. I'm not worried about that, to be honest. I'm concerned that this is a "divide and conquer" tactic. 'Reimu' is blatantly provoking Marisa while enticing Arc to leave her behind entirely. But we're still assuming a lot of things here.
>>27330 Consider my points above. In my opinion, I think we have the most to gain by waiting. But that is a risk.
I'm not ready to vote yet either. I know one thing for sure. Arc is required for the next step of the ritual. What else do we know for certain? Getting all the facts together and then making a collective decision on it would be best.
>>27333 [x] Force is the only thing she'll understand
After reading the comments and the update i am convinced that it would not be in our interest to seperate with Marisa at this point. Waiting out can only play into Reimus hands in the long run. She has a plan and her time is running short. Either upset what she planned or play along and wait for a chance.
I would have loved for a write in here: Something like talk to reimu, try to draw something out of her that we can work with.
What are the chances that 'Reimu' is bluffing? Brute force would probably have had a good chance of working if Marisa was at full power. She isn't right now.
But what is 'Reimu's' game? Why is she provoking Marisa like this? Because she can? The easy route would be to give in to the provocation.
You're assuming that buying more time would help. I don't think that's the case here. I seriously doubt we can buy an entire hour with just talk alone. Marisa is our only ally at this point, but she's severely weakened, as mentioned above.
Let's look at the ensuing scenario. If Arc goes along with 'Reimu' and leaves Marisa, what is to say that she won't just go and deal with Marisa at that point when Arc can't interfere? The altar is set up, I'm assuming it's rather important. Marisa isn't going anywhere either. Arc shouldn't have involved Marisa at all.
>>27335 >What are the chances that 'Reimu' is bluffing? There are chances that she could actually be bluffing. She pretty much dominated the conversation and tried to provocate Arc and Marisa the whole time. Het mention of time is supspicious to me too. >Brute force would probably have had a good chance of working if Marisa was at full power. I think Arc could stand his own for some time and even if Marisa is in a bad state right now it would leave enough room open for a cheap shot. The chances are not that bad if both of them work together. They know each other pretty good so they can work together as a team. >But what is 'Reimu's' game? The only thing that comes to mind is that she wants Arc alone and that Marisa is someone she needs to get rid of. Like Alice. >You're assuming that buying more time would help. It would help in the long run. Time is something that we have and she doesn't. >I seriously doubt we can buy an entire hour with just talk alone. Maybe not that much. But at least try to talk to her and figure more of her 'Game' out. >Marisa is our only ally at this point, but she's severely weakened, as mentioned above. And that is why we should not just leave her alone like this. Even in a weak state she can bring in some serious firepower that Reimu would not possible want. >Let's look at the ensuing scenario. If Arc goes along with 'Reimu' and leaves Marisa, what is to say that she won't just go and deal with Marisa at that point when Arc can't interfere? Frankly? It could happen. But Marisa is already pissed off so i doubt that she would just behave and wait until Arc returns.
it is a tough vote where you can only assume what might happen. This is why my thought is like this:
Reimu might be bluffing, has no time and needs Arc but not Marisa. She has most likely a plan that she wants to follow. Either disrupt it or go along with it and wait for a chance. Seeing as waiting the first time did not help so fighting may be risky but could have an unexpected outcome.
>>27336 Yeah, I am against leaving Marisa. Discarding her jives with the whole magician mindset that Arc has rejected. He doesn't want to treat people like tools and then discard them once they aren't useful anymore. He rejected that.
I think I know how I'm going to vote. If we don't get any more input, I think I'll have to go with this logic.
“Sensible, but a little boring,” 'Reimu' said with a smile when I agreed to go along with her. She muttered something inaudible to herself, looking at the still-raging bonfire.
“Are you crazy?!” Marisa could hardly believe that I was really going to go with her. It looked like she had been gearing up for a fight, her fists were tightly clenched. “Neutralize first, ask questions later,” she hissed what sounded a lot like her personal mantra.
“Settle down,” I tried to hush her. 'Reimu' was giving me a look that said all I needed to know. She found our exchange amusing but not amusing enough to keep silent indefinitely. “This is only until I have a better idea what I'm up against,” I whispered, mindful of the third party. “You can't expect to be able to overpower her when we don't even have the element of surprise. You're in no condition to fight.”
“That's a load of crap.” There was nothing subtle about her replies. It seemed that she didn't care if her strategy was overheard. “This will be a walk in the park. No matter what else, I know how Reimu fights.”
“This isn't Reimu,” I reminded her, raising my voice from a whisper. “Stupid actions tend to have bad consequences. I want to check in on Alice. I haven't talked to her in weeks.” We needed all the allies we could get. That's what Marisa didn't understand. And what I couldn't vocalize. Not right in front of our bemused antagonist. If there was anything that I had learned from being with Alice and Patchouli, it was that having a trump card was vital. As was understanding what you opponent is and how she'll act. “Settle down and save your strength,” I told her once again, sharply.
“Screw this!” Marisa was having none of it. She immediately lounged at 'Reimu' in a surprise attack. We were only standing a few steps apart. Marisa covered the gap almost instantaneously. Or would have, anyways, if 'Reimu' hadn't simply moved an equal distance to the side. That meant that Marisa simply stumbled and landed face first on the ground.
“That's some poor form there,” 'Reimu' commented dryly, smirking. Unflustered, she kept her highly endearing attitude intact. Her unnaturally sharp instincts and quick movements were beyond that of a normal human. The fight had been settled in a blink of an eye. Marisa didn't understand the fact and she tried again, quickly lifting herself up. “Come on, surely you know that you can't really do anything against me. You couldn't hurt even a fly as you are now.”
“Never underestimate a magician,” Marisa said with a grin, fully confident. “I'll annihilate you with love if I have to.”
“Oh? That'd be an interesting turn of events. Come on then, give me your best shot,” 'Reimu' taunted.
Marisa closed her eyes for a moment. Her lips moved silently and I could tell that she was preparing a spell. I felt that she was getting sucked in by the desire to win and was forgetting why she was fighting in the first place. I wanted to stop her, I wanted to remind her that we didn't actually want to hurt Reimu's body. There was nothing I could do fast enough to stop her. She opened her eyes again and she focused at her target. My instincts told me that soon a powerful blast would follow.
But it didn't.
Nothing happened. Marisa stood still as if dumbstruck.
“It would seem that you've run out of love,” 'Reimu' stated with undisguised condescension. “Do try to learn your place. You're just embarrassing yourself.”
Marisa panicked. Mumbling her spell again with clear incredulity in her eyes, she tried again. Nothing happened a second time. She tried another spell. Again it was fruitless. Finally, whooping loudly, she lounged at Reimu again. That went as well for her as the previous time. I moved in, holding her back physically. It was clear that she was out of her element.
“My magic!” she complained, tears in her eyes. “This bitch did something to my magic. I'm going to kill her and then defile the body.”
“Calm down, you're hysterical!” I restrained her as best I could. She flailed about in my hold like a huge kid throwing a tantrum. “This is all the more reason for me to go with her. You'll have time to figure out what happened to your magic. A magician should keep his cool and analyze the situation before acting.”
“Listen to him, girlie. You wouldn't want to end up hurting yourself during this little fit of yours,” 'Reimu' was as helpful as ever in defusing the situation.
“You're going to have to trust me on this,” I tried to calm her down. “I know this is a lot to deal with but I'm afraid that it comes down to faith. Just let me take the lead for a while.”
“Let's just move on, alright?” 'Reimu' turned her attention back to the bonfire. “If you're ready to go, just walk into the fire. It'll take you where Alice is. Don't worry about the flames, they're not really there. Magic is rather nifty.”
I let go of Marisa. She slumped to the ground, the situation finally sinking in. She was a resourceful girl and I trusted that she would find out what was going on as soon as she recovered from the shock.
'Reimu' ushered me towards the bonfire. I stood by, feeling the intense heat from the fire. There was no point in delaying things. If Alice had made it through somehow, so would I. I took a step into the fire. And another. My whole body felt like it was being seared. But the sensation was, mercifully, over with quickly. I had been forced to close my eyes due to the heat. When I opened them up again I found myself in a well-lit room with no obvious source of illumination. It looked like I was back inside the shrine.
“We're alone again,” 'Reimu' whispered into my ear. She had materialized from thin air behind me. “Isn't it nicer when it's just the two of us?”
“Where's Alice?” I asked.
“Just beyond that door there, napping I think.”
“Where are we?”
“At the shrine, of course, where else would this be?”
“It looks like the shrine but it doesn't feel like the shrine,” I stated what my gut told me. It felt like we were somewhere forgotten, tucked away from the world at large.
“That's likely accurate enough,” 'Reimu' said, “this place is both here and not here. We're at the shine but it's only your spirit that's actually occupying this space.”
“My spirit? What's happened to my body?” I looked at my hands, finding that they were still as solid-looking as ever. I touched my face, finding that I could feel it just as well as I usually could.
“Your body is also here. It's jut not being expressed since there's no need for it to be. For all intents and purposes you're still you and can still do what you have always been able to do before with your physical body.” 'Reimu' chuckled, adding, “let's just conclude this explanation with something I've heard some magicians say before: it's magic, I don't have to explain it.”
“So what happens now?”
“You go see Alice if you like. Then come back for a little tea. Just use that door over there. If you want to sexually harass her, go for it. I don't think she'll turn you down.”
Ignoring her last few words, I ventured on to the adjoining room. It was a nondescript bedroom. A pair of futons in the middle of the room and a chest of drawers were the only amenities present. Alice was tucked into one of the futons. I approached and found that she was, indeed, sleeping. She wore an enviably peaceful expression on her face.
“Hey, Alice, wake up,” I gently whispered into her ear. I shook her slightly to try to rouse her. Her expression remained unperturbed. I watched as she breathed in and out slowly hoping to see some sort of reaction from her. I tried waking her up again; I spoke a little louder and shook her a little harder. Again, nothing happened.
It was no use. She clearly wasn't just having a normal nap.
I returned to the other room and found that it had changed. A square table sat in the middle with a kettle and two cups were laid out on top as well as some rice crackers. 'Reimu' was nowhere to be found. On second glance I spotted a note on the table as well. “Delayed due to unforeseen circumstances, have a cup of tea,” it said. I noticed that there was a cup with some tea already poured into it.
 Have a bit of tea  Stick by Alice - Time for plot from one of two perspectives.
Damn, her magic was sealed just like that. I honestly didn't see that coming. Indeed, 'Reimu' wasn't bluffing at all, a fight there might very well have gone badly. This might just give us some needed insight into her behavior.
My vote is to stick by Alice. Paranoia aside, I don't want to indulge 'Reimu' any more than necessary.
>>27342 Alice is who we're here for, I think the tea can wait until we've at least saved the girl(s).
>>27344 Surely you have something else to add? There isn't much to discuss here, granted, but this story almost died before from lack of emotion on the part of anon. Surely you feel something?
[x] Have a bit of tea 'Reimu' is the only one who has all the cards. Maybe if we indulge her for a bit more we can get some damn answers. Besides, Alice won't wake up for a fair bit so we might as well have question 'Reimu' and find out what this is all about.
I want to avoid flipping coins if possible. So this will remain open for a while yet. Try talking to one another, see if anyone changes their mind. Maybe take a little time to digest developments in the stories other than just the choices themselves while you're at it. It might help paint a clearer picture of what to do. Or just ask yourselves what you can gain from either Alice or the other parties right now.
>>27348 >>27349 I don't think that this is a direct command. There is the potential for learning more information, but I really feel suspicious about that cup of tea. He didn't see where it was poured from and there isn't a cup for 'Reimu' visible. Remember that She was also able to seal Marisa's magic orally somehow.
Convince me. I value the prospect of further information immensely, but I can't help but wonder what exactly the next step is.
I think that the one who possessed Reimu is Alice.
But first a few things to consider: Reimu seemed to concentrate most on Marisa, picking on her and being general mean towards her. When it came to fighting she did not harm her or otherwise immobilize her. When things calmed down she put Arc in a room with Alice, was being more generous and friendly. You could say a change in behavior.
Looking back at the scene when Arc had some fun with Patchy >“We do not have time for that,” she said and let out a sigh. >“Nothing, I seem to have lost my opportunity,” >She looked at me with a very distinct emotion written all over her face; Melancholy tinged with regret. Patchouli was as unassuming and delicate as she had been in my arms, perhaps even more. Like she would collapse at any moment and melt away if touched. “I thought you had accepted your role...” she murmured wistfully. “That you perhaps even genuinely liked me...” >“It's the future you should worry about,” she sighed, “if you don't understand what's coming or how you got there then you are incapable of acting.” >“You're making sure that I can handle things so that nothing bad happens. We're cooperating so that the future goes well.” >“It's out of my hands,” she said weakly, gripping me tightly. “This, too, seems to be something beyond what I had anticipated.” >Even if I wanted to isolate you from everything, it's not an option currently. It'll be best if I just try to recuperate as much as I can. >“All of that is irrelevant,” she said, indicating towards the door behind me. “It's time for fate to resume its motion.”
Patchy knew what was coming and what is going on. She wanted to help Arc control his powers and help him, maybe take him even for herself instead of other other Magicians. Hell, every Magician wanted to train him.
>No doubt Reimu had seen me embrace Patchouli, perhaps even kiss her.
This is important. Reimu saw this all. When Arc and Reimu walked back to the Shrine she said no word while he talked about how much he wanted to help Alice and how much he worried about her. She was acting loof and cold too.
Back at the Shrine Reimu said that he should do what he came to do. We choose to stick with Reimu. While having a team time Reimu was at first distanced and had on a poker face. >“I'm... fine...” Reimu voiced levelly, “Just leave me to my thoughts... please.” At this point she could have been thinking how to best handle this situation but due to Arc trying to figure out what was wrong with her she just lost it when he touched her >“You've been as useful as you can be to me. Don't worry about this body, this mind and this heart. They don't belong to you, they belong to me. Go along, go play house for a little while longer. When I have need of you I'll summon you.”
>“I'm just trying to help you.” >“As you've helped every magician you've encountered?” she snickered with unambiguous scorn. “Perhaps you'd then like to confess your love for me too, hold me in your arms and fill my head with romantic nonsense? A truly revolting prospect.” Jealousity because he got it on wtih all the Magicians which would be very plausible. >I took a deep breath. My heart raced but my mind was eerily stable. It filtered a constant message from the wellspring of emotion. My instinct told me that I was dealing with magic. Magic that was familiar. Painfully familiar. This is the most interesting. He is familiar with the magic. Only one reason why he would be so familiar with it. >Very good, apprentice >The string, while hard to see with the naked eye, was not supposed to be invisible >Your mistress hasn't changed at all. As far as I know Alice always called him apprentice. And Mistress.
Coming to this conclusion: The next step would be to think about what Alice wants. For all we know is that she wants Arc to cooperate and has possible not that much time left. Things go pretty much the things she wants them at the moment so maybe concentrating on Reimu instead of Alice might be a wiser choice. But in the end I don't know what her plan is.
>>27359 This makes sense. 'Reimu's' mode of speech doesn't match Mima's at all. Alice may want to teach Arc a final lesson, it seems. All the evidence points to that conclusion. Reimu may or may not be in on it too.
The tea was a little bitter. The water used was likely too hot and the tea seeped for too long. Careless, particularly for a world which was carefully constructed. I did as I was asked quietly, sipping and thinking about what was going on. It was true that I wasn't that well-versed in magical matters but I was sure that it was difficult to open a path to a space like this. And it was even more difficult to make it resemble the shrine. It likely required a lot of energy or knowhow.
The little details were the most impressive. Warmth emanated from the teacup as it normally would. Light changed the color of the tea and different hues were noticeable with different amounts. My hands felt the proper weight in them while holding the cup and the tactile sensation of all objects seemed as they should be. The tatami was soft, as if it had been there for countless years, and the table was appropriately worn with little scuffs and nicks from regular use. The walls, too, were just a little faded and greyed by dust. The overall impression was still one of a tidy space, one maintained through the years with care.
“Are you going to simply ignore me, boy?” a voice from across the table asked.
“It wasn't my intention to ignore you,” I answered cooly, “I just hadn't noticed you were there. It's been a while, hasn't it?”
“It's been a while?” She frowned, clearly disappointed by my reaction. It turned into an outright scowl as she spoke, “It seems that someone thinks himself too impressive to be overawed by my presence. Now listen here, boy, I'm going to give you another chance before I forcefully remind you of your status relative to mine.”
“Alright,” I said a little sarcastically, “I have been blessed again by being in the presence of the great Mima.”
Either she didn't care that I wasn't being sarcastic or she didn't notice it. She smiled smugly, looking pleased to at least hear the words. “A bow would have been optimal, but I suppose that I never did have enough time to polish your manners. Your peasant upbringing can be blamed for that.” Mima drank out of her teacup with pompous ceremony. She brought the cup to her lips and drank a small sip slowly, looking pensive. Likely part of the aforementioned manners. “There is so much to impart, so little time,” she said after putting down her cup again. “I need to instruct much to you.”
“Instruct? What do you mean?”
“Sometimes we must improvise and make do with what we have,” she said with a polite but cold smile. “You are going to be my escort tonight. We have such a long night ahead of us as well so there's little time to waste.”
“Slow down a little. Escort you to what? What's going on tonight?”
“Why it's a party, of course!” Mima laughed a little, sounding as mellisonant as always. “It simply would not do if I was unescorted.”
“I'm sorry, I have no idea what's going on,” I told her, “I've been very busy lately. I have a lot of problems I need to solve. I didn't know there was going to be a party at the shrine.”
“It's only natural to celebrate,” Mima carried on, unfazed by my indirect way of telling her that I wasn't interested. “I believe that everyone is invited. It's bound to be quite the spectacle. You'll be able to see yours truly at her best.”
I remembered my first exposure through magic. How her spell created a spectacular display of light which was still a vivid memory. I felt that it would be the most amazing thing in the world to be able to do something as breathtakingly beautiful like that. It overwhelmed my soul and senses on every level.
“I see that you're still amazed at my prowess,” Mima picked up on my thoughts. “Yes, what you've seen is but a modicum of my true ability. This is why everything must go smoothly. Now do you understand why I ask you to listen and learn?”
“I do,” I said with a nod, “I really and truly do.” Butterflies erupted in my stomach. For all of the confidence I had developed in my learning I was still nothing compared to her. That's what I honestly felt. It made my next words especially difficult to voice, “I have friends I need to help. They need me too and their situation is more important. I'm sorry but I can't help you out before I help them.”
“All of your neophyte friends will be there as well,” Mima informed me. “Your business with them can wait and be resolved as you help me with mine.”
Nobody else had mentioned a party. Some because they had bigger things on their mind, others because they couldn't remember who they were. “They also seem to have their own issues that they want to handle. I'm not sure they'll be there.”
“Nonsense!” Mima dismissed my assessment in its entirety. “It's a rare public appearance of the greatest magician of all time,” she explained, “of course other magicians are going to be there to pay their respects. It's the natural order of things. It's why you are here, after all.”
“Are you saying you're responsible for bringing me here?”
“That is a result of your own actions,” she replied. “I haven't forced you here anymore than you've been forced to study magic. Those are things that you wished to do.”
“I'm not looking for a philosophical explanation,” I said, wary of her for the first time. If Reimu had brought me here to meet with her then her strange behavior may have been related. “Why was I brought to this space outside of the normal world?”
“Obviously it is part of your journey as an aspiring magician. You seek answers and that is why you move and search. That's not too philosophical, now is it?”
“Have you seen Reimu at all then?” I changed gears, “You live at the shrine too.”
“I have not seen the shrine maiden in many a year,” Mima said.
“What of Alice? Why is she sleeping in the other room?” I pointed towards the door. It felt like Mima wasn't telling me everything. Perhaps because she thought it beneath her to explain. She always had been curt and to the point in our past interactions. Saying what she thought and wanted without hesitation was how she operated.
“A tired guest should be allowed to rest, don't you think?” she answered with a rhetorical question. “She found her way to where I was so I extended my hospitality. That girl has some troubled dreams. Part of her, at least.”
“Wait,” I had a sudden flash of inspiration, “someone as powerful and knowledgeable as you must know what's wrong with her. Could you help me help her?”
“There's nothing wrong with her that won't simply just pass,” Mima replied. “Her mind just separated itself to protect itself. You only need to apply sufficient energy in helping her and she will return to normal.”
“Can't you tell me how to do so efficiently?” I asked.
“Yes but after tonight. I need your attention focused solely on me.”
“How about a show of good faith first? This really has me worried and I don't know if I can do someone as great as you justice if I don't have my mind free of worry,” I tried an extremely cynical and transparent tactic on her.
“You best work through such issues silently,” she warned me with a cool and authoritative stare. “You would not want to upset someone who can delete your existence with a mere snap of her fingers.”
Though the threat was made in the same fashion as it had been made the first time I met her, it felt all too real and concrete. I was basically trapped somewhere beyond my comprehension with no idea of what was to come next. Antagonizing someone who I always felt was more experienced and powerful than me did not seem like a good idea.
“Well then, what am I supposed to do tonight?”
“Impress people, ensure everything is going smoothly. Assist me doing a couple of things when the time comes. Nothing too otherworldly,” Mima made it sound too easy. Naturally there were millions of details she omitted. I knew better than to ask her to elaborate. “I think you are ready to receive a little of my power. It should be useful for tonight. Try to keep the shrine maiden in line. She's not quite herself lately.”
“I've noticed. Is she going to disrupt your plans?”
“Maybe, maybe not. I'm not sure. But if she shows signs of being aggressive, be sure to zap her for me.” Adding it like it was no big deal she explained, “you should be able to project a large amount of electrical force, enough to stun someone. Consider it just yet another gift from me to you. No need to thank me.”
“But you haven't taught me anything yet.”
“This is my space. I can suggest things and your mind will just absorb the suggestions like a sponge. It's the same with this loan. There's no need for a flashy contract in blood or anything primitive of that sort. Just visualize and you'll be able to do it so long as you're near me.”
“...I see,” I said, a little uneasy at the thought of being manipulated just by being present somewhere. “Is there anything else that I should watch out for?”
“A former immature apprentice of mine. She never was any good at listening to anyone but herself. It limited her potential quite a bit. Just shock her if you must but she'll likely be more bark than bite.”
“Is that it?”
“Just about. Do try to smile. It's a party, after all. You have a place of honor beside me, be proud. Anyone would justly be envious.” As if realizing the time all of a sudden, she urged me to get up, “we have no time to sit around and talk like this. You must get back and ensure that everything is in order.”
“Wait up, can't I at least ask you something first?”
Mima sighed, looking annoyed at what she probably thought was simple-minded slowness. “Make it quick, there is much to be done.”
 write-in  “How many people are we expecting and when?” - The vote is mostly fanservice because I figure that people might have something to say to a character that hasn't been seen in years. So in a sense it's an unimportant vote (hence the premade and lame alternative choice).
We might actually get some answers now and I have no idea what to ask. I have to think about this for a while.
If Mima isn't behind the changes in Reimu, than who is? I would say that Mima is lying, but that doesn't fit her personality at all. Holding back information when it's convenient for her is how I imagine her to be, but not outright lying.
But Reimu isn't acting like herself at all, and her actions so far make it apparent that she isn't in total control of herself.If we assume that she is indeed trying to teach Arc a lesson, what lesson would that be?
>>27380 Only one? Awww Anyway she already answered about Alice: >“There's nothing wrong with her that won't simply just pass,” Mima replied. “Her mind just separated itself to protect itself. You only need to apply sufficient energy in helping her and she will return to normal.” >“Can't you tell me how to do so efficiently?” I asked. >“Yes but after tonight. I need your attention focused solely on me.”
Speaking of attention only on her...
[x] Where have you been? What have you been doing?
Not very 'useful' but fuck it, I kind of want to hear the answer
This would be pretty interesting to find out for certain. I feel like a simple "where were you" question does not suffice. This is an opportunity to ask THE Mima anything. Let's get with the program folks.
A better vote. Considering she was the reason for his wish to learn magic I imagine that he'd like to know how close is to her (his goal) right now. Besides, the opinion of another master always comes in handy (as far as I remember Marisa thinks we're decent, Alice that we're too green yet and Patchouli that we're too advanced for our own good)
It took long enough to form a consensus. Please don't be afraid of being more aggressive with votes. I cannot emphasize enough that it's more than okay to revisit and discuss. So yes, express yourselves with temerity and often. If I'm eager to continue, you should be too otherwise there's no point in writing or reading.
[x] Where have you been? What have you been doing?
I know it's not a winning vote but it's the first thing that'd be on my mind.
>>27388 Interesting yes but it wouldn't be the first question but rather second or third after some discussion.
All that needs to be talked about would take longer than the window we were given. If this window is bigger then I would like to ask some other questions, including asking about his progress (She'd need a display most likely) and then the question about what's going on as this party is quite sudden as there's been no real warning about it and if Mima wanted to visit the house to check in on him recently, she could as Alice was out of it.
I would have thought you people'd put more gusto into this. You do want to see this story finish, right?
Can't resist, apologies if this isn't totally coherent.
>>27393 You have a valid point. That question could indeed come after a discussion. We only have time for one question. I think we can answer this one partially. Mima has obviously been shaping this little dimension intensively and with great care. It has probably served as her home as well. There might be more to it, but is that really at the forefront of Arc's mind? I don't really think so.
I think we can ask a better question, to be completely honest. The previous one will probably be answered at the party itself. I'm sure Arc isn't the only one who wants to know where Mima has been, right?
Instead, I propose that we ask one of these two:
 If this party is a grand success, will you take me on to be your apprentice? -This is somewhat bold and it shows Mima that Arc is willing to cooperate to the best of his ability if the reward is right. You know, instead of forced cooperation by threat of disintegration.
Arc now has a direction to go in concerning Alice's condition. Apprenticing under Mima would free up the 'blockage' in Arc's relationship with Alice, thereby allowing them to be together. Just a thought.
 Why did you choose me to accompany you? -This is an equally valid question. What value does Mima assign to Arc? It's enough for her to choose him for this party, but not enough that she might just remove him from existence if he pisses her off. That's a rather fine line to walk. If I were in that situation, I'd like to know exactly where I stand.
There are other questions that I'm considering, but these two seem to be the ones that bubble up to the forefront of the conversation.
[x] If this party is a grand success, will you take me on as your apprentice? I honestly like this one a lot, so I'll revote from here >>27388
“So you're not just a pretty face,” she toyed with me, raising an eyebrow as she smiled. It was clear that she was in a good mood. It wasn't clear whether it was because of my question or at the prospect of being the center of attention at the upcoming party. “You want me to assess you? It's wise to seek out an expert when lost. No doubt the others are absolutely inept when compared to me. ”
Thinking that I had found something which she would take the time to talk about, I qualified my question, “I have no idea where I stand right now. I haven't had any tests and I haven't had any way to gauge success.”
“That only just means that you don't have the confidence to assess yourself,” she said. “Everything that you do is proof of your abilities. Being able to do one's will effectively is the only metric any of us have to go on. It's the only thing that matters,” she said with an aloof shrug. “Everything else is just for showing off.”
“I'm not sure I've been able to do everything I've wanted to,” I stated, omitting yet another mention of Alice and the other magicians. Mima had made it clear that she didn't want to hear of it again. It wouldn't do to fall out of her good graces. It was the only tether I had. Otherwise I'd be adrift again.
“Then you haven't done very well for yourself,” she said predictably enough. “Still, I suppose that that must be contrasted with your previous state. You could not do anything. There's an infinite difference in magnitude between nothing and something.”
I couldn't be sure whether or not that was her way of being nice. Trying to cheer me up. It wasn't harsh condemnation but I was sure that that would be forthcoming the moment I overstepped my bounds. “Am I on the right path at least?” I asked.
“As far as I'm concerned, you are,” she said without hesitation. “Your path has led to many things; You've come back to me. That is a good thing as far as I'm concerned.”
“I haven't seen you for months now, I didn't even know I was going to see you again.”
“Our paths were bound to cross once again. For you chose the pursuit of magic,” Mima stated solemnly, an intensity I hadn't seen since that very first spell I witnessed on her face, “and from that moment all this meeting then became inevitable.”
“You're saying that because a magician is always drawn to power?” I tried to parse the logic, “and you're the most powerful there is?”
“I wonder,” she smiled enigmatically, maybe thinking her coyness masqueraded as modesty. “If you recognize power when you see it then that too may be indicative that you've developed well. Then again, perhaps all it shows is that you can't manipulate it for your own ends yet.”
“Well, I think that's enough of that,” she cut me off with an amicable smile. It was contrasted by the stern look in her eyes. “You ought to get back and start your work for tonight.”
“Alright,” I acquiesced, “I guess I'll ask you what you've been up to all this time some other time.”
“A great magician, like a proper lady, always keep their callers a little ignorant as to the full scope of their activities. The mystery is part of their charm, you see,” she waved me off with that final comment.
For a moment it felt like I was being blinded by an intense piercing light. My eyeballs felt like they were being doused in white fire. It was a sensation that only lasted for as long as a single heartbeat but left a lasting impression. When the light was gone and my vision returned, my surroundings had changed. A row of lamps lit with real fires lined the wall in front of me. A few more were at the walls on either of my flanks. Behind me was a great table, packed with dishes, cups and cutlery. On a second sweep of the room I noticed that there were decorations, the festive kind usually seen at the liveliest parties in town. The type where the alcohol flowed freely and singing went on into the small hours of night.
I was at the shrine again.
A half-open door led to the familiar porch. The room I was in was the very same room I had been in the first time I had come to the shrine. The one with the disorderly revelers and the unending party. There was no one around but the setup made it seem like the room would be full before the night was done.
I took a deep breath.
I could feel the presence of others nearby. My senses had been enhanced. I didn't know if it was Mima's doing but it felt like I could reach out through the shrine and detect everything in the vicinity with little effort. I could check every single room with a single thought. The shrine was acting like an extension of my body, becoming my eyes and ears. It made sense. If I was going to keep an eye on things for the celebration, then being aware of what was going on was a useful skill.
A single concern nagged at me. IT was the fact that it seemed that my abilities and powers were being manipulated freely just to suit someone else's agenda. I didn't quite understand how it was happening. I didn't know what it'd mean if I had to take independent action but it didn't exactly inspire confidence. As it stood, all I could rely upon were Mima's enhancements.
 Fetch Marisa to talk about the party  Confront 'Reimu' - >>27394 >>27393 While too late to change things, I think that there's a lot there that's worth thinking about. Especially in regards to Mima. She's a very special lady.
>>27393 >I know it's not a winning vote but it's the first thing that'd be on my mind. Not really. The first thing on my mind would be something like what the hell is going on. Or why and How. Or in short: plain Anger.
In the end she is pretty much forcing him do to things, without explenation given, after suddenly appearing out of nowhere.
>Interesting yes but it wouldn't be the first question but rather second or third after some discussion. I disagree strongly.
He pretty much said it himself >I remembered my first exposure through magic. How her spell created a spectacular display of light which was still a vivid memory. I felt that it would be the most amazing thing in the world to be able to do something as breathtakingly beautiful like that. It overwhelmed my soul and senses on every level. Even after all this time he is so damn impressed by her. Now imagine after meeting her again, he surely would like to know how far he has come in her eyes. Has he improved and come closer towards the goal? She is pretty important to him.
Two heads are better than one and a witness wouldn't be a bad thing. Charging along alone wouldn't end well in any case.
>>27396 Anger? It was merely speculation that Mima is behind this, nothing proven yet and the recent chain of events caught him off guard enough to put him in a more neutral mental state if there was actually anger.
And last time I checked people didn't want to be greeted with a demand. A little bit of pleasantry goes a long way in life.
>>27397 which post are you again exactly? I'm for confronting Reimu, just not alone. Even if Marisa can't fight well, she'd still be a witness to what's going on.
[x] Confront 'Reimu' A-This spirit isn't related to Her. As of right now we have enough power backing us up to force her to bend to our will. After all, our own power is just a fraction of the whole. Both friends and acquaintances can be used, if we can persuade them, to help us. (I'm no sure that we can get her help, but 'Reimu' doesn't know that') B-The spirit is related to Her or it is Herself. If this is the case, and we find out, then we have or culprit! And lots of despair, but I digress.
>>27396 I know that, usually, being greeted, after a long absence, with a request and no explanation whatsoever would be kind of irking... but this isn't a normal situation. Remember what Mima is to him; she can get away with a lot of things. Besides, while she is (was?) a suspect to us, I have to wonder if she is to him.
>>27398 The post about thinking that Alice is controlling Reimu. The reason in short would be to get call her out on her shit. She did something with Marisa so she would not be a big help in a fight. I don't see how that would improve the situation.
>>27400 Arc has to handle the situation. Mima knows what is going to happen and it does not seem that what is going on will end with bloodshed or hostility.
Going not with what Reimu has planned is a good thing.
>>27396 I can see that he might possibly feel anger. I personally hate it when my own cooperation isn't asked for, but implied. However, anger will not help Arc here at all. I agree with >>27401, I get the feeling that he's annoyed, but there's little to be done about that at the moment.
Arc's goal right now is make sure that this party goes off without a hitch. Which option is going to further that goal better?
Confront Reimu or fetch Marisa to talk about the party? While these give the illusion of being simple, that is not the case. Disregarding the fact that Arc and Reimu may not be on the same level, confronting her is still a tall order. Mima just said that she wasn't acting like herself lately. It's highly unlikely that Alice is behind it at this point, but you never know. Knowing that, it's possible that Reimu just sort of snapped when she saw Arc in bed with Patchy. Think about it, Arc disappeared for weeks trying to find a way to help Alice. Then when Reimu shows up to rescue him, thinking the worst, she finds him in bed with yet another magician. She may have decided to teach Arc a lesson once and for all.
Arc has received a little bit of Mima's power, as >>27400 has astutely pointed out. It should be enough to take on Reimu. If Arc can stun her, it should allow him to figure out what's wrong with her, if anything.
Now, as for fetching Marisa, I honestly don't think that would go over well at all. Think about it, the last time Arc asked her for help, she was completely unreliable. She forced his hand and he expended some good energy to subdue her and bring her back to the shrine. Then, he molested her while she was under the influence of something. Later, he then stays her hand, preventing her from intervening at the right moment and then acquiesces to 'Reimu's' plan and leaves her behind when it was clear that her magic wasn't working. Marisa is NOT having a good day. After all that, it'd be really hard to pull it all together. Is the glorious reappearing of Mima really enough to make her temporarily put aside all that?
This post has really gotten too long. Here's the last thing:
>“Sensible, but a little boring,” 'Reimu' said with a smile when I agreed to go along with her. She muttered something inaudible to herself, looking at the still-raging bonfire.
What is that? It's a clue, but what does it mean?
[x] Fetch Marisa to talk about the party
As much as I want to confront Reimu right now, I also do not want to leave Marisa out. She's in a bad place right now, ignoring her would not be ideal. It honestly seemed like 'Reimu' wanted a confrontation right there. She also got quite a kick out of the conflict between Marisa and Arc. Maybe she really is trying to drive a wedge between them. Mima's advice was to deal with Reimu if she became a problem, as long as Arc doesn't blow that power before the right time, he should still be able to. Who knows, it might be a decent spectacle that shows what someone can do with even an iota of power from Mima, increasing her fame at the party.
>>27400 That thinking sounds overly confident, possibly a case of letting that power get to your head. I seriously think charging after her would just play into her hands. And that's not including the risk of coming off like the villain to those that don't know better.
What you guys are talking about is great and I truly enjoy seeing people discussing plot and characters. The back and forth is good for a collaborative storytelling effort. The walls at times seem a little like someone is trying a little too hard to be the teacher writefag's pet. The problem is that I'm all out of golden stickers. Joking aside, I'm appreciative of the effort above all.
The thing is that I have a limited amount of time to write in a day and also have an intense desire to write. So while I am loathe to resort to chance when people are going at it intensely, if there's no other votes in the next couple of hours, I'm simply flipping a coin and writing. For expediency's sake. There's no need to get bogged down right now.
>>27406 I'm talking for myself here, but I'm paying much more attention and giving more thought to each update than my average. And, while overanalysis is enjoyable now and then, the initial objective was to avoid another unfinished CYOA (and solve the main mystery of the story) Damn right I'm trying to be the writefag's pet.
Now that I think about it, this sets a horrible precedent and it's unfair to all other stories but whatever, I'm an unique case anyway.
I honed in on Marisa. She was at the shrine's periphery, sitting at the top of the steps. The temperature had dropped noticeably since the sun went down and her clothes were in no way warm enough. I sat down next to her and immediately felt like she was hungering for warmth. She didn't so much as look in my direction but her body was honest enough, edging almost imperceptively towards me. I couldn't really see her face with all the shadow. All lamps and lights were at the shrine and the moon was hidden away behind a thick layer of clouds.
“How are you?” I asked, feeling a little awkward.
“Fine, just fine,” she answered quietly, gaze fixed on the darkness in front of us. Her arms were crossed lazily over her lap, drooping into the space between her legs much like she was seemingly drooping over the step.
“What happened after I left?” It was disheartening to see her look like an old weathered statue. “Did Reimu just back off?”
“Yeah, something like that,” Marisa muttered. I didn't want to push her too hard. I couldn't even begin to understand what she was feeling. “You really want to know what happened?” she asked and didn't wait for my reply. “She said I wasn't worth my time and just zipped off. That's what happened. Couldn't do a single thing about it.”
“Don't be!” she barked at me. “There's nothing for you to be sorry about. I don't need your pity.”
“It's not pity, I care about how you feel.”
“Says the guy who dragged me from my home and got me mixed up in all of this. This is all your fault. Alice, Reimu and me... that's on you,” she said while refusing to make eye contact. Marisa outright refused to acknowledge that I was sitting right next to her.
“I'm sorry that you feel that way,” I couldn't think of anything to say to her that wouldn't just sound like a pathetic excuse. She was right to a certain extent. A lot of things had been out of my control but some hadn't. I was the only one that was taking decisions for himself.
“Yeah, whatever,” she brushed me off with childish flair. It was obvious that she was more frustrated at herself than at me. Was that part of the burden a magician had to carry? Magic was about having control and so any time things spiraled out of control the first person to blame was yourself. I had felt that way before. Way back when I was doing what seemed to have been, in retrospect, a stupid task for Alice.
“There's going to be a party tonight,” I told her. We had to move past recent events. That was the only way we would regain some semblance of control. Marisa would realize that too if I just explained it to her. She was capable of bouncing back from anything. That wasn't just wishful thinking it was experience talking... and necessity. “People are going to come over so whatever it is that's supposed to happen, it'll likely reach its climax tonight.
“Now, you can choose to sulk here and be useless out here or you can try to help me out however you can to return things to normal.” It was a hard sell with plenty of tough love. I felt that it would wound her pride even more if I treated her like a wallflower. As a friend all I wanted to do was hug her but it wasn't the time or the place. No more mixed signals. For both of our sakes it could wait. “I am not going to give up and never surrender,” I said words that sounded good but were absolutely untrue. She didn't have to know about Patchouli. “I'm going to struggle to the last and help my friends. Alice deserves better. So do you. And perhaps even me. Reimu is clearly not herself either and so we have a duty to put her back on the right path. So,” I concluded, “what say you? Are you with me?”
“...” Marisa stayed completely immutable for what seemed to be an eternity. The only proof I had that time hadn't stopped was the loud beating of my heart. Signs of life came slowly. One of her hands moved lazily from the pit and up to her leg. Her head tilted up to a normal angle. At last she spoke, sounding like the weight of the world was upon her, “I suppose that doing something is better than doing nothing.” A little more spice returned to her as she made the obligatory comment: “that was a terrible speech. Never try to inspire me again.”
“Try not to look so sorry for yourself again and I won't,” I stung back. “Besides,” I went one step further, “I don't like seeing people I like looking like that. I can't help it.”
“Oh shut up already!” Marisa protested a little too loudly. She smacked me right across the chest with a flail of her arm. It very nearly knocked the wind out of me but for some reason I found myself wearing a rather broad grin. “What are you smiling for, you moron?!” she exploded, her confusion enraging her all the more.
“We're in business then,” I ignored her question, not at all diminishing the grin on my face. “I'll tell you all I know about what's going on tonight.”
Marisa piped down and let me tell her what happened to me. She had no opinion in the space I was either not knowing what it was or preferring to form her own hypothesis silently. “-Wait,” she interrupted. “You weren't alone?”
“Alice was there. But yeah, as I was saying, I ran into Mima.”
“How do you know her?” she asked, becoming all serious all of a sudden.
“I met her the first time we had a party at the shrine. She showed me magic and from that moment I knew that I wanted to learn magic. She's why we're in this mess,” I joked.
“That might be more true than you know it,” she said solemnly. “What did she look like?” I gave her a quick description. It seemed to be what she expected. “Only she would wear a conical hat like that. No sense of style.”
“I'm pretty sure you're the one with no sense of style.”
“What did you just say?” Marisa looked surprised at my statement.
I was rather surprised as well. “I'm... sorry? The thought just popped into my mind and I said it without even realizing it.” It was like a voice in my head told me to say it. It felt like my own thought, as out of place as it was, embarrassingly enough.
“It's nice to know what my friends think about me,” she shrugged, “but getting back to more important things, I had no idea that Mima was still around. I thought she was, well, gone for good.”
“...what happened to her?”
“Nothing really, she just one day up and disappeared. She used to be everywhere before that day too. It was the damndest thing.”
“Well she was around then and she's around now. She spoke to me and told me that I should make sure the evening runs smoothly. Gave me some of her power to ensure it too.”
“Gave you some of her power?” she frowned. Marisa wore a difficult expression as she scanned my face, as if trying to decide whether or not I was telling the truth.
“Yeah, in case Reimu acted up or her former apprentice did something to interrupt, I was to stun them so they weren't a threat.”
“Her former apprentice? How quaint,” Marisa smiled a little. “I don't think you'll have to worry about that if we're working together.”
“Alright well it seemed to me that she wanted everything to go off without a hitch.”
“Did she say what was going on specifically?”
“All she said was that it was a night where she would be celebrated and to expect guests. I am to make everything run as smoothly as possible.” I shrugged showing her that I was in the dark as well. “I don't know what she's thinking or wants me specifically to do other than that.”
“She'll eventually show what she's up to...” Marisa stated, adding a reservation, “but it might be too late by then.”
“You think she's to blame for something?”
“Maybe. It might have been her that set up everything to happen. Including Alice losing her memory. Patches isn't here but I suspect that she'll show up sooner or later if it's a big deal.”
“Even what happened to you?”
“I don't know,” Marisa shook her head, “she was always the kind that waited until she revealed herself as the mastermind. It'd be a large coincidence if she was wholly uninvolved. But I don't understand what she hopes to gain from all of this and why.”
“Maybe she wants the world to see how lonely she is. If she's been gone so long maybe she wants to show off. She does it all the time with me...”
“You really think highly of her, don't you?” Marisa picked up on my obvious admiration. “She really was something once, so I can't blame you.”
“She's just impressive, that's all.”
“Well, you can write her a love letter later.”
“Oh it's not like that-” I protested. It wasn't anything crude like that. Mima was just... stunning but not because of some tawdry reason. I was confident that the memories of her magic would follow me to the end of my days.
“So, whatever, the point is that I can't use magic for some reason so that leaves you to pick up the slack. You're the only one that can take sweeping action. All I can do is try to be a distraction if it comes to that.”
“So what are you suggesting we do?”
“Nothing for now. We need more information. We see how the evening progresses and if there's an opportunity to get everyone under our control, we go for it. Sometimes it's just the way things work around these parts.”
“What about Reimu?” I asked. “She's not herself.”
“We'll see what she does. If involved with Mima she won't do anything to oppose her. If she isn't we divide and conquer.”
“Alright, sounds smart,” I nodded. “What do we do now?”
“Either try to inspect the grounds and try to devise what the plans for tonight are or intercept any guests that are coming and see if they have a clue. We can split up and each do one.”
“Fine then,” I agreed.
 Intercept guests  Sniff around for clues on the evening's program
"It was like a voice in my head told me to say it. It felt like my own thought, as out of place as it was"
Mima. What are you doing in our head?
 Sniff around for clues on the evening's program We have magic, Marisa does not. Our guests expect Marisa to be at full power while we are the weakling apprentice. Have Marisa meet with the guests while we look around for clues.
In other words, "Alright gang! Lets split up and search for clues!"
>>27410 Yeah, she's in Arc's head alright, that's exactly why Marisa needs to look for clues. If Mima is indeed involved, her being in Arc's head would give her a heads up on any clues that he found. Of course, that works both ways doesn't it? She'll be aware when Marisa tells Arc. In that case, it'd be better to at least give off the illusion that Arc is doing his best to ensure that this party goes well.
He's terrible at any social interaction that involves subterfuge. Really, bad. I have yet to see him trick anyone who doesn't want to be tricked.
[x] Sniff around for clues on the evening's program
This on the other hand... he's kind of perceptive (comes with the talent I imagine) and, while Mima's not-so-subtle in her thoughts might be an obstacle, this is better than her hearing any secret the guests might spill.
Since meeting with Mima I had been able to see and perceive everything that went on in the shrine if I put my mind to it. It wasn't quiet omniscience. I both did and did not feel what the floor felt and saw what the walls thought. It was something entirely vague. Like seeing something out of the corner of my eye. Or hearing the faintest of noises being carried by the wind. I knew that nothing was going on but could not say in great detail just what that nothing entailed.
It was causing me to over think things a little too much. I wasn't accustomed to having senses that spread out so far. It was one thing to try to assess the state of magical energies in a small area, it was quite another to be aware of the whole of an old shrine.
Marisa had gone her own separate way without complaining. She expected me to hold up my end of the deal just as I should expect her to hold up hers. She'd keep an eye out for people and see why they came. Information like that would be useful in understanding the situation. Usually people don't take the time to go someplace else unless they have a good reason for it
My thoughts weren't exactly well-organized. I wasn't exactly making the most enlightening observations. It was a little difficult to think and the more I tried to clear my head, the more clouded it seemed to become. Eventually, in order to get a move on, I stopped trying to focus. All observations reported later to Marisa would have to account for human error.
I began to take a look around the shrine. There was nothing overtly extravagant or significant save for the table I had seen earlier. Nothing I saw indoors hinted at what was in store for the evening. It was frustrating find absolutely nothing. More frustrating still, I couldn't feel 'Reimu' around any longer. It was as if she had gone and vanished into thin air. I went so far as to search her bedroom personally. There were no traces of recent occupation. It was as if she had been gone for weeks. There just weren't any traces of anything suspicious or out of place otherwise.
Things outside were another matter entirely.
No trace of the bonfire remained by the storage annex outside. I had been sure that I had seen and felt the raging flames but I couldn't find even the tiniest particles of ash. I wondered if I was losing it. The temptation to double back and ask Marisa if there ever was a fire to begin with was rather high. I couldn't decide what the truth was anymore. The meeting with Mima had made me suspect that the fire was just an illusion. If it was, it would have been the most convincing illusion I had encountered yet. It caused several dilemmas, too.
If I couldn't tell the difference between reality and illusion then I would be in no position to fix things. That was a self-evident truth. After all, what good would it be to have the power to fix reality if I couldn't tell what reality was to begin with? Again my thoughts weren't very straightforward and somehow it might have been that I was muddling through the obvious in an attempt to try to keep functioning. With every passing moment I was sure that there was something in the air that was making it harder to assess the objective truth.
Perseverance won the day, however, and I took to looking around the general area. A large stone slab lay where the shrine had been only a short while earlier. It was an ugly slate-colored piece of rock. A few lanterns were hung on poles near it I couldn't tell why it was there. It was magically inert from what I could tell. Yet, somehow... it felt like there was a deliberate reason for it being there. I touched the cool stone, hoping to feel the significance directly with my touch. No such luck. There was a complete absence of obvious reaction.
Still, there was something about the slab that made me think that it was significant to the night's events. For starters, it had been left out there. Why take the fire and leave behind a dull rock? Finding an answer to that question might have answered all of the questions that struggled to find a voice inside of my overburdened mind. I touched the stone and found nothing special about it. It was a cold, hard piece of naturally-occurring rock. The only parts of it that looked artificial were the rounded corner and rectangular base it sat upon.
Then it hit me.
A person could lie down on the slap comfortably. I knew that I could fit on the long and narrow top without problem. That was the sole hint that I could garner from the scene. That maybe, just maybe, someone was supposed to lie down on the slab. It was an important enough position to be illuminated.
Still, that didn't answer many of the open questions. The slab was no nexus of arcane energies. The shrines energies all passed around, but not through it. The same was true of a plethora of spots around the main shrine building. It wasn't anything strong enough to build a theory upon.
I looked around the perimeter some more. There was nothing else noteworthy in the vicinity.
So much for trying to get a good idea of what it was that was expected to happen. If push came to shove then it would be important to understand the importance of people and places. That's why my judgment was more important than ever. However I chose to act, it had to be towards the right target and in the right moment. Otherwise I was just yet another clueless spectator.
I still had not made up my mind.
 The stone slab was a vital part of the evening's festivities  Close scrutiny was needed for the guest's actions instead --- Not that great of a stopping point, I'll admit. Sorry but it's all I could force out at the moment. I can't promise there'll be regular updates for the next week or two since I'm going to be very busy/traveling. But I'll try to get something out if/when I can.
[X] The stone slab was a vital part of the evening's festivities
Sacrificial slab? Summoning slab? Enchancing slab? I don't know. Whatever that slab is, I'm sure it is going to play a major role during the party. Guest probably don't know what's happening or what purpose does the slab serve.
[x] Close scrutiny was needed for the guest's actions instead
I really am not sure if I can just say that it IS important. So it might or might not be. But I can't just say it is outright. Let Arc play the detective more and maybe he can find/figure something more out before coming to a conclusion about this. Just a slab that looks like you could sacrifice someone on it is outright suspicious but he felt nothing about it.
[x] The stone slab was a vital part of the evening's festivities
>>27420 It could honestly be anything of those things. To what end though? My mind immediately jumps to the sacrificial element, but I can't say for certain. It's an important clue. Ignoring it in favor of examining the guest's actions would be a mistake, I feel.
For something so out in the open and out of place, it was completely nondescript. Frustratingly so. However, there was nothing else to go on. As ridiculous as it was to further logical scrutiny, the one thing that definitely didn't belong had to have some sort of importance. The slab was central to things. That was the position that I adopted. I inspected the stone carefully, noting the groove that ran from one edge all the way to the ground. The top wasn't entirely flat either. Rather, it had a small indentation that grew deeper towards the middle. Like it was supposed to hold something placed upon it. There were no markings nor symbols on the stone either.
Feeling that I had nothing else to gain by just observing, I ventured to touch it. It was cool and smooth to the touch. I confirmed my initial impression by concentrating and sensing that there really wasn't any sort of active magical property to it. Throwing caution to the wind, I sat on the slab. Nothing happened. Nothing changed. So I laid down on the slab. It turned out that it was about as long as I was tall. I fit in rather well. It felt a little relaxing. A strange contrast to how my nerves had been lately. It was easier to let go a little and to simply close my eyes for a while.
“Say, are you happy?” she asked like it was a simple yes or no answer. Under most circumstances there would be a plethora of factors that made a true and genuine answer a bit hard to state.
“How couldn't I be?” I replied, not hesitating in the least.
“Good, I'm happy too, you know.”
“Yeah, I can see that,” I said. Her smile was lighting up the room. It had been for weeks now. The closer we got to the important day, the more radiant she became. A side effect was that it made me even more confident that I was on the right path.
“No last minute regrets?” she asked with a smile. If she was nervous about my answer she wasn't showing it. There really was no doubt, honestly.
“Actually, yes,” I teased, pausing before continuing my sentence. I hoped to see her panic a little but she did no such thing. Must have been used to my sense of humor. “well, you know, I'm still not entirely happy with the caterers.”
“Not this again,” she rolled her eyes playfully, “they came highly recommended, you know.”
“By Auntie,” I added, “she's not exactly an expert on these things.”
“No, but she's family,” she stated. Like it had always been the case. Until I had gotten close to her I thought she cared little for things like that. I had just been blind, buying into the front she put up all too easily.
“You're just saying that because she lent you that garter belt.”
“Well, I needed something borrowed,” she said, reddening a little. “I can't believe that the first you think about is what's under this dress.”
“It's all I think about,” I joked, “men are beasts, didn't you know? And you look especially delicious today, my sweet. I just want to get this over with so I can sink my teeth into you.”
“It's bad luck for you to be here now anyhow. Don't you know anything about tradition?”
“Not this kind of tradition. Remember I'm just a poor boy from the sticks. I pray to a nice Shinto shrine once in a while and know nothing about fancy white dresses and frills.”
“Well, it is bad luck. You're just lucky that I don't believe in luck,”
“Oh, and it wasn't luck that we ended up together?” I asked.
“It was destiny,” she said without hesitation. “There was an invisible red string between us all along.”
“That's some real mushy nonsense,” I teased again. “Though if it is destiny that brought us together, I'm glad it had to be this way. As for that invisible red string... I know you're real handy with them so when people ask, I'll just tell them you ensnared me with magic.”
“Wouldn't be too far from the truth, I knew I had you from the moment we met!” she giggled.
“Then why did you play so hard to get?”
“I wasn't sure if you were up to the task, you know. I didn't think you were serious enough about things to make something like this a reality.”
“Contradictory, my dear,” I leaned in on her, giving her no quarter, “I thought it was fate, this sounds like some free will to me.”
“Who knows,” she said as she gently shoved me back. “You should leave now, I still have to finish getting ready.”
“Fine, fine,” I took the hint. “I'll see you in a bit.”
“Wait, hold up,” she stopped me.
“What is it?”
“I just want you to know...” she hugged me from behind. Her fragrance was as fresh as the summer breeze. It made my heart beat faster. “I love you more than anything else in this world.”
“I love you too, Alice. I'm going to make you the happiest woman in the world, don't worry.” She let go. Damning her tradition, I turned around and grabbed her around the waist. I stole a kiss, feeling that the act was more welcome than she was letting on. “We can do more later,” I told her, “for now, we should really get this show going. Our guests are probably getting impatient. Come on, let's get this wedding over with. I can't wait for the honeymoon!”
I opened my eyes again.
I hadn't even noticed that they had closed to begin with. Was I asleep? I wasn't sure. It felt like only a moment but the scenes I saw felt so real and so vivid.
“Well, done with that?” Mima asked, her voice melodious but firm. Her face hovered over mine. She had been leaning over me, observing me.
“I – don't know what just happened.”
“What just happened was that you weren't doing as I asked. Making this party go smoothly is your prime directive,” she reminded me. “Your fantasies about the other magicians can wait until you're all alone.”
“Wait, you saw what I saw?” I asked, confused.
“All that you were thinking was written plainly on your face.” She avoided the question. It was clear that it wasn't a subject she cared much about.
“No, but I can tell that you saw all of that. Or maybe even... showed it to me?”
“I may have had a hand in helping the process alone,” she confessed, looking nonplussed, “the spark that lead to it was entirely within your mind. Remember that a magician can never create something from nothing. There must always be raw material to work with.”
“Why? It detracts from my keeping the party going if I'm seeing elaborate fantasy.”
“I am not entirely without a heart,” Mima said. A slight bemused smile formed on her lips as she spoke, “I simply helped you focus your desire and thoughts. If you choose to reject that part of you, so be it. But it's something that you would not seem to mind very much.”
“Are you saying that I want to marry Alice?”
“Or perhaps some other girl, I just saw that that was the most prominent person in your mind. Perhaps the bookworm is more to your taste? It matters little to me,” she distanced herself, moving behind my field of view.
“So what do you want me to say?” I asked, realizing something, “you wouldn't appear to me after seeing something like that unless you needed to know something.”
“I just need you to do your job,” she said dryly. But I could see through her feigned lack of interest. I had an understanding of how magicians thought. Nothing was ever done for no reason and seldom done wastefully.
“Do you want to know who I care for the most?” I ventured a guess. “That's it, isn't it? I don't know why but you want to know if I'd like to marry someone. Settle down, start a family.”
“You seem dead set on telling me, so go ahead,” she said, conceding the argument in her own way and on her own terms.
I almost burst into the most wide grin imaginable. For the first time that I knew of, I was of interest to her. It made my heart pound fast and I felt that I was getting more nervous by the moment.
 Maybe someday it would be nice to settle down  Write-in
"But I don't. I chose this path. I chose magic. There were others who helped shaped that path. Magicians aren't known for letting Destiny go to waste. But I always had the choice to reject the sparks. I want to become more; I will become something more. Family can wait, friendships can wait. I'll become a magician first"
For some reason, that appeals to me. I don't know why.... Don't count it as a vote. Mostly just rambling thoughts.
>>27428 You know, I was also thinking about this. I'm torn though, does becoming a magician mean that one must use others as a means unto an end? I think Arc might be able to blaze a new path that doesn't adhere to the strict definitions that he's been given.
A bigger question is this: why have no less than 4 other magicians expressed great interest in shaping Arc? I don't even think we've begun to see what he can achieve yet.
>>27429 Good point. Making our own path would be more satisfying. Untapped potential? A promising apprentice that they could shape to their ideal? A friend/lover in case of Marisa? A tool for the greatest plan ever? We really don't know because the cards have been hidden from us, the magicians are holding four aces each, and the dealer has stacked the deck.
>>27429 Good point. Making our own path would be more satisfying. Untapped potential? A promising apprentice that they could shape to their ideal? A friend/lover in case of Marisa? A tool for the greatest plan ever? We really don't know because the cards have been hidden from us, the magicians are holding four aces each, and the dealer has stacked the deck.
>>27435 How about not dealing with waifu wars at the moment? We can pick a route after this whole mess, or along the way as choice go along, if we settle on a romance at all. Lets hit this climax.
Arc can't deny looking for someone, or romance, marriage etc. We can just defer stating who it is at the moment. There's precedent to do so with him having enough involvement with the girls to be unsure of who he wants.
Mima route? Auntie route? Virgin because Anon was conflicted route?
How the hell did we get into this situation? We should be solving this "Reimu" case right now, not worry and think about who does Arc love the most. I vote on solving this mystery first THEN we can talk about romance and all that jazz.
>>27438 "Oh, worry about it later" seems like a very weak stance to make when presented with a question like this. You know, the kind of thing this story has repeatedly been going on about. Not being half-assed about things.
>>27438 But what's the value in deferring it? My perception is this: Arc is at the end of GHE. He's had plenty of time to think about this sort of choice. I don't think a harem end could work, story-wise. There is no man that can juggle 4 magicians and a shrine maiden. There's only 24 hours in a day.
Iguess what I'm trying to say is that we're going to have to cross this bridge at some point and I want to see the best end we can reach given the choices we made.
Why is Mima interested all of a sudden? Arc has her full and undivided attention for the first time. She's feigning disinterest but Arc sees right through it. Before we answer the question, it'd be a very good idea to flesh this out further. Could she be interested in Arc?
>>27441 I could possible joke about the stone slab is just a means for an orgy with all the magicians. And him in the center.
Mima could only be interested in the potential he has. Someone already stated that all 4 of them are interested in him and if we take into account that >I had an understanding of how magicians thought. Nothing was ever done for no reason and seldom done wastefully. it just means that it could be a "game" of who will get Arc in the end.
He had interactions with all the Magicians over the course of the story. Alice, who tried to keep it strictly master and student, Marisa and Patchy. At some point they probably fell in love with him somehow.
First and foremost should be to figure out what is going on here. Is Arc just going to blindly follow what someone has planned for him or is he going to "crash" the party and go beyond the expectations? The best hints are from Patchy herself:
>“We do not have time for that,” she said and let out a sigh. >“Nothing, I seem to have lost my opportunity,” >She looked at me with a very distinct emotion written all over her face; Melancholy tinged with regret. Patchouli was as unassuming and delicate as she had been in my arms, perhaps even more. Like she would collapse at any moment and melt away if touched. “I thought you had accepted your role...” she murmured wistfully. “That you perhaps even genuinely liked me...” >“It's the future you should worry about,” she sighed, “if you don't understand what's coming or how you got there then you are incapable of acting.” >“You're making sure that I can handle things so that nothing bad happens. We're cooperating so that the future goes well.” >“It's out of my hands,” she said weakly, gripping me tightly. “This, too, seems to be something beyond what I had anticipated.” >Even if I wanted to isolate you from everything, it's not an option currently. It'll be best if I just try to recuperate as much as I can. >“All of that is irrelevant,” she said, indicating towards the door behind me. “It's time for fate to resume its motion.”
That alone should give enough to think about. What does Mima expect of him to say? Whatever it is, it is most likely very important how this story will end. Just think of it like in a VN: At the end you get asked which girl or action you wish to do save/help/go for/after etc and get an end related to that. But I don't think it will just end up as some kind of route lock girl end.
>>27439 Here. I'm changin my vote to this>>27448 since everyone is hellbent on settling this now. This choice fits Arc since his desire is to learn more magic. Maybe we get a fun reaction from Mima? I hope so.
I'll be gone potentially for a few more days so sort it out in the interim.
As for the two latest options; I hope you realize that one of them is woefully ambiguous. About as vague as not answering at all. Think [i]why[i] you're telling Mima this. It comes off like you're trying to convince yourselves of what you're saying more than anything else. Directly engaging her is what's probably best in the situation. Not that I'm endorsing the other vote (though I appreciate its tongue-in-cheek boldness) but it at least is a direct reply to her.
Based on some research, it definitely seems like Mima is behind just about every event. She's been planning this for a long time, a real Xanatos Gambit. Her bond to Arc has made it all possible, she's been watching, waiting, and planning all this time. What has she been planning? There has to be something, I think I may have found it in Arc's dream while he was at Voile. Remember the Tower dream? Here's the end of it:
>Impeccable stone crumbled and walls came apart. With a cackle of glee, an onlooker saw how my reality all fell to rubble. My tower had been large and strong but it could not withstand the weight of my accumulated inaction. A powerful and independent individual like me could rebuild, sure, but could never reclaim what was lost. The onlooker, however, could learn from my mistakes. She could take my effort and build anew, molding the heavens and the earth to something to her own liking. Then it would be something superior, just by virtue of mocking my failure.
This might be the closest we get to Mima's end-game before it happens. Arc has been a powerful tool with incredible potential, this much has been reaffirmed by Patchouli on that visit. It was so apparent that she literally threw herself at him. Regardless, he has been used by Mima to accomplish her goals. Think about it, Arc is the key to all three magicians, what better tool to use than a young hormonal boy. Of course, Arc has gained considerable power in return, so I'm sure she's already justified it. Still don't believe me? Patchy was very surprised at how far Arc had come so quickly. While Alice had a part in training him, I bet Mima definitely had a hand in that too. She's preparing Arc for something, that power was not given in return for nothing. However, the unfocused chaos within Arc confuses me. I'm not sure where it's stemming from or how to control it.
Of course, I could be wrong on the latter part. The "she" mentioned could be Patchouli as well or it could be irrelevant, but it's the only thing that jives with the earlier aspects of the over-arching plot. Alice was onto Mima, for sure. She knew something was up and I'll bet she was conducting her own investigations which culminated at the Hakurei Shrine. She couldn't complete that part by herself so she included Arc. She was effectively removed as an objective influence.
In the end, this is all speculation with strengths and weaknesses. However, I do believe it's the closest we've come to the over-arching plot. That said, I still am not sure what part this next choice will play. There are several options to explore. Naming a specific girl is one of them, but since Mima is asking, I'm sure an answer of that nature will play a large part in the scheme. Refusing to name a girl is also a plausible response, but it wastes the opportunity, I feel. A vague answer is about as useful as no answer too. There is something to be gained from naming a specific girl, but the precise benefit eludes me. My write-in tries to emphasize that Arc knows something is up while also answering Mima directly. Even if all of my analysis is faulty, the one thing we can count on is being able to influence the people involved, it's about time to bring Patchy into it. She's going to show up, it's just a matter of time.
[x] "Oh? And why are you suddenly interested in who I like? What could you possibly use that juicy bit of information for?" [x] If you must know, I personally prefer the charms of the bookworm, Patchouli Knowledge.
After reading the story again in it's entirety from start to finish, I'm not so certain that Arc cares the most for Alice. His feelings are continually developing. Patchouli is definitely on par with Alice, but I can't help but think that Arc's attraction to Alice was at least partially motivated by Mima. It didn't seem to be the same situation with Patchy. And as for Marisa... I just feel entirely rotten concerning her. I considered putting her name in place of Patchouli's, but after what Arc has done concerning her all story, I don't think I can even face her again.
I encourage everyone to consider re-voting. If you think I'm wrong, then feel free to replace Patchy with any of girls. I just ask that you provide a decent justification for switching it up. My pick is based on what girl I honestly think that Arc would choose. This is assuming that he would choose at all, which I'm still uncertain of, but I've been encouraged several times not to waste this opportunity, so here it is.
I cannot emphasize the need to formulate a cohesive vote enough. Let's get this moving again.
>>27464 You present some interesting points but most of them were already known. It is clear that Mima wanted Arc to grow up and gain power. She wanted him to go and form an intimate bond with all the Magicians. Fake Reimu is in it too. Remember how she did not wish to hurt Marisa and was happy when things went into the accepting direction? Maybe I was wrong and fake Reimu is Mima. He called her Mistress and knew her Magic.
The part about naming a girl is not important. Mima most likely knows what he will answer so it would just be wasted breath. She planned everything and all is going according to her plan. Do you think that if she planned for him this all she has not already taken who he will name into account?
Now that we all know this, we all know that she is planning to use him and all those magicians to reach her own goals. How will you confront her with all of that? What will you tell her?
You would call her out on her bullshit, calmly walk out to find your comrades, the ones she provided you with, and stop whatever is going on.
>>27465 I disagree, naming a girl *feels* important. I cannot explain it yet, but it is strategic. Mima doesn't know who he'll choose, but if he declines to answer, she'll just choose Alice and not be far from the mark. Remember, she's already had a glimpse into his mind. Don't overlook that.
And finally, this has mostly been about voter intent, with a consensus properly formed, he'll have put together many pieces of the puzzle. The only thing iron out now is approach. How would confronting her now disrupt her plan? Like I said above, she'll just go with Alice since she was foremost in Arc's mind. At least with this option, Arc can steer it in the direction of a girl that could be useful. Marisa has no power and Alice is out of commission. Patchy on the other hand knows what's up and has been preparing as best she can. I'll take that, she's our last hope for a proper partner. What say you?
[x] "Oh? And why are you suddenly interested in who I like? What could you possibly use that juicy bit of information for?" [x] If you must know, I personally prefer Marisa's style.
Strategy time. Marisa is the only one we know is present for sure. If she's listening in, she'll be pleasantly surprised. If not, whatever. I'm applying the same rationale in that Arc's goal should be to change the actors in this plan instead of thwarting it with brute force. Despite what I said before about not being able to face her, I want Arc to try his best to make it up to her.
So yeah, we've come full circle. I've officially changed my vote three times to include at least one of the three magicians. I hope you guys are happy.
You know what, with all the vote changing and discussion, I might as well make a final post and just say this is what I vote for.
Going from a pure strategic mindset, we're powerless and Marisa is our only ally. She is also present, unlike Alice who is currently knocked out and Patchy, who's in the library.
Out of all them, only Marisa has shown any real sense of kindness or respect. As an ally, she can be trusted, unlike Alice who abandoned us, kept us in the dark, and more or less fucked with our head (Credit for some of this can be given to Mima, but you must admit, it fits with her cold, aloofness from the games).
There's been a consistant theme of Magician's using each other for their own gains. Mima is using arc for something, Patchy wanted Arc for his sheer potential, Alice accepted him as an apprentice because she thought he was a powerful tool. Marisa, averts this the most. A majority of her time has been spent working independently, investigating on her own (Scene in the forest with Alice and Marisa) or working with Arc as her own choice, without real significant gain to be had other than Love.
Coming back to the whole concept of sex and power in this story, we've seen that magician's receive a major power boost from sex or intimate actions (Patchy in the library for a recent example. It's as if they are fuckbuddies or colleagues, using each other to keep moving ahead). Not to mention the glowing crystal from thread one, "'It is a special crystal that reacts to amorous displays in a way you've just witnessed. The more intense the event, the stronger the glow. I would say it glowed very brightly indeed.'" that reacted when Marisa and Arc kissed after their, "activities." Marisa's power=Love. We know that. Arc has had the strongest bursts of magical potential unlocked after interactions with Marisa.
Maybe I'm just being a cheesy romanticist who believes a good ending can come out of everything. Maybe I'm sick of Alice, Mima, and Patchy's paths of magic, where magicians use each other as tools. So, I'm picking another choice. I'm saying that Love fuels and amplifies Magic and magicians who fuel their growth with Love, end up happier and stronger.
There's also this nugget from thread three, if it swings you people anyway, "Marisa would have suited you better" [Reimu].
[ ] I'd marry Marisa. She's my type of girl. Magic is fueled by Love, not just personal gains. That's what I believe.
[x] "Oh? And why are you suddenly interested in who I like? What could you possibly use that juicy bit of information for?" [x] "I can't say I can decide who I like." [x] "Studying under Alice was nice but I can't say I'm your student with how absent you've been. I wished you showed up more often."
For supposedly being Arc's teacher she hasn't done much showing up and I wonder how she'd react to Arc saying that. I still feel it's too soon for him to decide on who to like/love.
Voting for a choiceAnonymous2013/04/09 (Tue) 08:33No. 27472▼
File 136549639911.jpg - (392.08KB, 1100x781, choose your flavor or mix them all up.jpg)
>>27470 >student Did Mima ever actually call him that? I'm asking because if she did that was in (A)DEFT and I don't particularly feel like rereading it all just to find it. I just want to confirm how consistent I've been since I choose a lot of these terms carefully. Thanks.
Alright boys and girls. This has gone on long enough. I'm not endorsing any of the votes but I'm going to reproduce them with the crudest of summaries so we can all have a final voting round based on these entries. Obviously whatever wins will have the nice little nuanced votes and comments and observations you guys have been making if/where appropriate. If anyone has a sudden flash of inspiration I guess it's not too late but by and large I think there's some consensus where this should go.
Discuss if you must but I think that you've said a whole lot already.
 Love's not really important right now This is a sentiment where magic and taking it easy prevails in the logic
 Regardless, Mima is really important to Arc She's not around enough/she's silly for asking who Arc likes when he's already smiling at her/ MIMA STRONG (mima general)
 It's obviously x (where X is one of the three non-Byakuren magicians) 'nuff said, some of you put eloquent cases for Patchy/Marisa/Alice. It's an extension of that.
Every magician belongs to Arc the Magnificent, warlock and rightful ruler of Gensokyo This is what a harem end would be like
Seriously though, it would also be okay to say that you like everyone as well.
Whelp, those are your basic choices. Think hard and make up your minds.
>>27468 Alright, Since it's come down to this choice, you've convinced me.
It's true, she's shown selfless interest in Arc since the beginning. She's the only one without any apparent hidden agenda using arc for some nefarious purpose. Obviously, a secondary vested interest doesn't preclude affection for a person, but I don't know. Seems like one would appreciate being loved simply for what you are, rather than partly for something you might have. Simply put, she's the most human magician, literally as well as metaphorically.
Besides, that's one of the things he's been in conflict with Alice for half the story, right? Wanting magic without being divorced from his humanity entirely? And Marisa actively fuses both sides, rather than keeping them separate. Maybe learning from her from the beginning would have been better in the end. Man, I don't know what I'm saying. I might have just spewed a bunch of crap.
Also, I like her hat.
[x] I'd marry Marisa. She's my type of girl. Magic is fueled by Love, not just personal gains. That's what I believe.
I really don't want to roll a die for this shifting 2(sometimes 3)-way tie. Since the results are potentially very different, it would be unfair. Please consolidate votes. My recommendation is narrowing it down to only one of the girls and Mima since those are, practically speaking, the most different results-wise to one another.
Mima had seen into my mind. I was certain of that. There was uncertainty in my mind even as I made my choices. That was also true. If it really was that the scene I saw was the most predominant thought in my head it did not imply that it was the only one. So that explained her curiosity. At least partially. What I cared about and what I was actually going to do were different things. My words would also likely be different in some capacity but they were at least something to go on.
I smiled as I talked to her, watching as she seemed to carefully follow my every word, “I think you know as well as I do what the truth is. You're curious because, in spite of the clear thoughts and images you might have seen, you simply don't know what the end result will be.”
“Rather presumptuous,” she scoffed, trying to regain control over the conversation.
I wouldn't let her gain the initiative. “There are parts of me that really want to give very different answers,” I continued, unfazed, “I'm sure you can tell that there's even a part of me that doesn't really care about any of this and simply wants to stick by magic. Oh, I'm even sure that another part wants to take the cynical view as well. Use everyone to just become greater. That really does exist within me. Seems to be something all magicians have,” I said with a laugh. That much was true. I hadn't met any magic user that were disinterested in how to come out ahead in all circumstances. “What's the truth then?
“Even now I'm not really sure,” I said with a shrug. “There's a lot that I would gain by being with this or this other person. Not just magic, but as a person. I really can't deny that there's more than the allure of powerful magic when I look at some people. I want to get closer to them for very human reasons. And I wonder about who would be the best. Not all the time but sometimes late at night, as I'm about to drift off into sleep, when I forget that my main goal is to become a halfway decent magician.”
“And so? Are you going to get to the point sometime soon?” Mima showed impatience. It was unlike her. Not because it showed that she wasn't interested or didn't have time, that had always been the case, but because it felt like she betrayed a little anxiety with those words. I couldn't see her from where I lay but I could feel her presence and perceived what may have been a little tension. It was transient. “You've insisted so at least try not to get too lost in your own thoughts,” she masked any other emotion behind the impatience well.
“I'm sure you've seen that I think about you a lot,” I admitted like it was the most simple truth in the world. “Even if I can't really explain why. I think it's because you've amazed me every time we've met. For different reasons. After learning magic it still isn't any different. I feel like you're on a different scale altogether. I'm not sure how to approach you and, even now, I'm a bit anxious around you. I'm also really, really, happy to be near you. It's not rational, I know, but it's how I feel.
“You know about all that, I can tell,” I said, confident that it was true. “I'm sorry that it isn't really the answer I'm going to give you. Though a large part of me really wants to just go with it. I'm not sure what would happen. I'm not sure you would reciprocate directly but maybe you'd look at me in a slightly different way. Maybe that's enough, maybe it's not. Sorry for going on like this but if I'm going to tell you how I feel then it's important that all the cards are laid upon the table.”
“...” Her silence was an indication that she was letting me speak my mind, after all.
“It's Alice in the end,” another frank truth stated unambiguously. “She was the first one I trusted with magic. Her discipline was what I wanted. It made her seem more reliable than the freewheeling alternative. I don't know if it would work out with her or if it's even worth pursuing but I know that I want to keep at it with her. She is my mistress for better and for worse and I owe it to her as her apprentice to do right by her.”
“You make it sound like it's all about magic. If it's that logical then there must be other candidates,” she spoke softly, her normal imperious tone receding.
“It's not just logical,” I clarified, “there's a warmth about her. Something that she tries really hard to keep separate and even hidden away. She claims its so she can be more effective at her work. But it's there. I've seen it before.” As Alice was at the moment, she was nothing but that warm side. The burden of being a magic user made her keep it suppressed. “She makes me feel good. I can't really explain it in terms of investments and returns, like a magician would. I feel safe and liked. Her dedication to her position has kept me from seeing how it'd be if we weren't just student and teacher but I'm sure that it would be worthwhile to explore.”
“...have you ever stopped to consider that your feelings may not be your own?” she asked a surprising question. “Magic connects us all and sometimes weaves patterns we then assimilate as part of ourselves.”
“You speak of fate?” I asked.
“Nothing as grandiose,” she replied. “What can seem like a minor trifle might just be part of a greater binding. If there is no image of the whole it is easy to get lost in the self and in the moment, therefore mistaking present circumstances as the only circumstances possible and desireable.”
“There's no way for me to look outside of my position,” I told her, “some things I just have to accept as my own thoughts and emotions. If I second guess everything then I couldn't function.”
“Yes, but it doesn't stop being a shame,” she concluded.
“We'll see where things go,” I offered my own ambiguous conclusion.
“Events have been set into motion and won't stop so easily,” she reminded me once again about the gathering, “you should go now and carry out your role.”
There were voices in the distance. Lively and sustained. They came from the shrine. I got up from the slab and looked around. The lights in the shrine correlated the notion of there being activity. I took a step, feeling my body strangely lethargic. It was like I had been asleep for days and my body had forgotten how to act when awake. A little concentration was required for every step but soon I was able to relearn how to move and walk. I made my way inside slowly.
The room with the table and plates was the obvious focus for that activity. Most seats were occupied. Unfamiliar faces were the majority. Save for a woman with long blond hair and purple dress I had met a few months before (but whose name eluded me), I didn't have the faintest idea who most of the others were. There was a meek-looking redhead in a wholly black dress sitting next to Marisa. She was quiet and avoided talking to others, staring out into space. Next to her was a woman wearing tartan, with short hair and deep, red eyes. Though she looked friendly enough as she chatted with the blonde, there was something raw and visceral that I felt coming from her. Appearances were deceiving. The same could be said of the two others who sat next to her, quietly chatting amongst each other.
Some of then noticed my entry immediately. A woman with long, wavy hair (of an unnatural color at the crest of her head) who wore a cape smiled at me and nodded, acknowledging my presence. Marisa sat at one side of the table, looking uncomfortable. Almost immediately she made eye contact with me and told me with her gaze that she hadn't accomplished anything worthwhile. I shrugged and implied that we would talk later as I sized up the room. Alice also sat in the room, keeping to herself. She noticed my entry but showed an unreadably blank expression.
“Pour us a drink,” the woman in purple asked of me. She clearly remembered that I had been the one that had provided service at the last gathering at the shrine. More than that, she wanted to draw attention to me. The low-level chatting that had been going on ceased as silence came about. And then came the drink orders. Some were fanciful too. Clearly I had been all that had been missing for them to really cut loose.
I fulfilled their orders as best I could, finding that a generous cache of alcohol had been left in the adjacent room. It didn't look like it had come from my store – its origins were a mystery.
When everyone was satisfied I sat down next to Marisa.
“I met Mima again when I was looking around,” I told her.
“The guests here are being really tight lipped,” she said, “even Patche's familiar over there didn't want to spill the beans.” She meant the redhead who had not placed a drink order. “All I got was that there was some sort of invitation. More like a summons.”
“How's Alice?” I asked.
“She's not speaking,” Marisa said. “Seems like she's stuck in some sort of trance right now. I don't really know. Haven't had a chance to look carefully.”
“Would you like me to take her to another room so you can be alone?”
“Maybe...” she paused. “No, scratch that, things are about to happen here. I can taste it in the air.”
“So you have been able to use your magic again,” I sighed with relief. A little too soon, apparently.
“No, I haven't. It's just intuition. Has nothing to do with magic.” Marisa looked a little upset at the reminder she was powerless. Her furrowed brows told me all I needed to know about how she felt. “At any rate, what happened with Mima?”
“She showed me a vision, said it was what I wanted. I'm not sure why but she seemed to be interested in what I thought and what I wanted.”
“That's something, she usually isn't interested in anyone unless it's of direct benefit to her,” Marisa said. “It might mean that there's something you can do for her that no one else can.”
“Friends,” a booming voice interrupted, “thank you all for coming here.” Mima materialized as if out of thin air at the head of the table, wearing a wide grin. “I hope that the service has been adequate, I went full out with preparations for tonight,” she said. “If you are all satisfied, I think it's time to proceed.”
With a wave of her hand, the wall in front of us disappeared, revealing the slab and a reignited fire. All eyes looked expectantly at what was happening. The flames began to dance unnaturally, tongues of flame twisting and writing at regular intervals. Colors began to appear as well, blues and greens alongside the fiery red. The iridescent display became larger as the fire grew, hungrily stretching up towards the night sky.
“We are gathered here tonight to celebrate me,” Mima said plainly. “I know it sounds a little arrogant to call you all here but I think you'll agree that the circumstances more than merit it. I have not seen most of you in many a year and I know for a fact that I've been forgotten. It is therefore important to remind everyone of just how influential I am.”
“Go, boy,” she instructed me, “take your dumb and sedated little friend and place her on the altar. I shall restore her as a show of my power.”
Marisa objected, “Mima, this isn't time for your usual games. I want to know why the hell my magic is gone.”
“You forfeited them,” Mima replied, not at all bothering to look at Marisa. “They are being put to a better use now.”
“You stole them!” she accused her, standing up in a outburst of energy. “I knew that you were behind this whole mess!”
“Boy,” she directed herself to me again, “if this ex-magician tries to interfere with things, I authorize you to incapacitate her temporarily. Now go and help your love. Didn't you say that you wanted a chance to see where things went with her? Now is the time to start on that path.”
“I'm sorry,” I told Mima, “but if you stole Marisa's power I can't help you until I know what it is you plan to do.”
Mima sighed, not at all amused by my show of spirit. “I assure you,” she said, looking a little disappointed at having to deign herself to explain, “I did not steal her powers. That was something that my former pupil gave up. If you look at the situation calmly you'll see that I speak the truth.”
“...I'm not sure what the truth is,” I said. Marisa looked very hot under the collar, about to make a spectacle of herself. She'd likely try to attack Mima if I didn't do anything. And I got the feeling that Mima would not go easy on her in an attempt to show off just how powerful she was.
“The only truth you need to concern yourself with is the one that you can restore your friend to normalcy if you do what I say. You can do as you please afterward. I know how difficult gratitude can be for a magician,” she remarked with a sardonic snicker, clearly meaning Marisa. Their past was clearly a factor in Marisa's accusations.
 Restore Alice  Help Marisa out
-- Hopefully that's a satisfactory summation of feelings and desired results.
Now it's all out on the line. Help out Marisa or follow Mima's instruction. I want to choose Alice, but I also want to discuss it at length here. What are you guys feeling? The previous vote was very contentious between Marisa/Alice/Mima.
>>27503 First of all: It would be retarded to choose Alice but then not choose Alice. Or only with a good reason.
What irked me was that Mima was very tense, impatient and afraid of what Arc might have choosen to do. I think she was not sure what his answer could have been which arises the question is everything really is going as she planned for it? Mima only relaxed after Arc told her what kind of feelings he had for her and Alice.
>>27516 It does, I can agree with that. If Marisa was completely in the right, I'd have no problem with standing alongside her in straight up defiance of the forces trying to manipulate Arc. However, isn't this a little more complicated than the cut and dry distinctions we see elsewhere?
Marisa isn't right. Remember, we're here right now because in beginning of this, she didn't trust Arc at all. It got to the point where she was willing to fight him over it. That choice then resulted in leading her to where she stands right now. She has not really trusted Arc at any time, deigning instead to do whatever the heck she wants with little regard for much else, be it Reimu's safety or the strategic importance of teaming up with Arc.
Now, the reason behind her behavior stems partially from how she has been treated by Arc. The other part to this is her relationship to Mima. If you remember, when the topic of Mima was brought up to Marisa, she was very reticent to speak about it. That drama is complicating things and muddying the waters. The clear choice of action would be to stick with Marisa, but given the extenuating circumstances, I'm more willing to trust Mima at this point. Is she manipulating Arc? Maybe, but that manipulation has not be evil in nature. In fact, Arc has grown a great deal from it.
I'm trying to cut through the emotions and look at this choice objectively. Given this rationale, I choose to stand by my vote.
“What do you think you're doing?” Marisa asked, indignantly, as I made my way to Alice. Though her qualms were with Mima, I found that I quickly became the target of her abuse. It was clear what I was going to do and why I wanted to do it. She just couldn't stand the idea. “Don't you dare listen to her, she's set this whole thing up!” Marisa yelled at me, her voice rising noticeably in pitch. Needless to say, all eyes were on me and the nearly-hysterical blonde.
All eyes except mine.
I couldn't help but smile as I locked gazes with Alice. She stared back, simple, almost child-like, bemusement coming into her eyes as she recognized me. I extended my hand towards her, leaning over so that I was closer to her. She stared at my hand, looking unsure of what she should do. I opened up my palm invitingly. After another moments hesitation she realized what I wanted and placed her own hand onto mine. I grabbed it firmly, but gently, and helped her stand up. Alice stared at me a little blankly, unsure what came next. So I took the lead, holding her hand and guiding her away from the table.
Predictably, we didn't make it too far. “This is a bunch of crap!” Marisa barred our way, arms spread wide on either side. “You can't listen to her, you can't do this!” she inveighed, “You're crazy if you think you can trust Mima just out of the blue. I don't know what she's told you but she's definitely up to something.”
“She might well be,” I said, stopping and shielding Alice by stepping in front of her. “It doesn't matter. Think about it, even if she did steal your powers somehow, what do you hope to accomplish right here and now?”
“If you help me, we can get them back,” she said. “She's dividing us, don't you see that?!”
“I don't think I can stand up to her,” I told her what I felt was the truth. “You'd have to have a good plan before confronting another magician under the best of circumstances,” I said, squeezing Alice's hand as I recalled one of her many lessons. Going in without preparation and knowing your opponent was not smart. “I want you to step aside. This seems like the first time I'll be able to help Alice for real. That's what's caused this mess to begin with. If I can fix that then we'll have all the time in the world to sort everything else out.”
“You're acting like a naïve little shit,” Marisa growled, completely losing her cool.
“I could say the same to you,” I hardened my stance. “You're not going to accomplish anything right now and you know it. Now get out of the way.”
“That's 'bitch, get out of the way!” She snarled as she crossed the last remaining threshold. Marisa lounged at me in an act of desperation. Not that it got her anywhere. I saw it coming. With my free hand I focused energy and, in a literal flash, I countered her. A bright white-blue afterimage remained for a second or two afterward, despite having closed my eyes in anticipation. Marisa was on the floor, completely still save for the faint rise and fall of her chest.
“Now that that's done with, we can proceed,” Mima piped in, looking predictably bored at how things had turned out. “She'll have learned her lesson, hopefully. That's the way it has to be with her hard-headed sort.”
I said nothing. Alice didn't seem to understand what had just happened. I smiled at her and gently tugged at her hand, indicating that we should get a move on. The other guests murmured among themselves like they were yet to reach a consensus about what was going on. We walked calmly out of the room and into the fresh night. The fire raged at more than full intensity, spilling wild colors into the atmosphere. It contrasted the cool stability of the altar. I touched it, feeling the stone as if for the first time.
I sat Alice down on the stone. She looked at me quizzically, unsure as to why she was doing all of that. I made her lay down, carefully making sure she was resting comfortably on the slab. Then I looked over at Mima expectantly, wondering what came next.
“Step back,” she ordered, hovering near the scene with a concentrated look. I did as instructed, moving back a pace or two. Mima waved a scepter with a golden moon in our general direction. A field of energy enveloped Alice. Wisps of magical flame separated from the fire and danced in circles above the field. It was a dazzling sight. I could feel that my heart pumped faster and my eyes widened in awe as Mima acted. The field intensified, becoming opaque, and the flames mixed in. Gold, red, indigo, silver and a deep green were some of the colors the field flashed quickly in between. It reached luminous climax as the field shrank and became brighter. It reduced itself to little more than the size of the slab and the person on it before rapidly expanding and breaking up into a million different pieces of glittering phantasmagoria.
Awed, but not forgetting my impatience, I rushed in as the particles settled. I grabbed Alice,e finding that her eyes were firmly shut. I wondered if it had worked, after all. But only briefly. She stirred quietly, her eyelids trembling as she struggled to open her eyes. “Hey there,” I said softly. “How do you feel?”
“...” She opened her eyes, looking at me blankly, blinking in order to force recognition. “...Arc?” she voiced a little weakly.
“Yeah, it's me. Are you alright?”
“Yes. I am. What is the matter?” she realized that I was holding her. Alice looked around, evidently trying to make sense of what she was seeing. Her deep, unreadable eyes began to return to normalcy. “I thought we were inside.”
“That was weeks ago,” I explained gently, “something went wrong and you lost your memory. Can you remember everything?”
“Yes... apprentice,” she voiced with caution, like she didn't trust her own judgments. It was understandable. “I also remember... from a distance, you, the shrine. Then you were gone. And now this.” She frowned, evidently not capable of making sense of things. “How long has it been? Since my memory...”
“A few weeks,” I told her. “I've been trying to find out how to restore you all this time. A lot has happened.”
“Yes. You have such... intensity,” she looked at me with what must have been unintentional apprehension. “You do not feel like my student anymore.”
“I am,” I assured her, “I've just had a little help here and there.”
“Your scent... is also different,” she said bluntly. “It's not just that, but you're different. Mm, my heart beats faster for no discernible reason.”
“Mine is beating a little faster too,” I told her with a nervous little laugh. “I'm just glad to see you again. Whole, that is.”
Alice raised a hand, feeling the side of my face. “I suppose a 'thank you' is required,” she mused. “There is still a lot left to accomplish and not much reason to dally.”
“We're at a gathering,” I said, trying to explain the situation briefly, “magicians and others have come around at Mima's invitation.”
Alice's eyes widened. Her energy came back swiftly and she freed herself from my hold and sat up. She looked around, scanning the scene with intensity. “There are no such things as coincidences,” she said.
“Indeed not,” Mima agreed, sounding playful. “Enjoy your moment of tenderness?” she asked.
“Why am I here?” Alice asked.
“I suppose it was inevitable from the day your apprentice came into your life.”
“I see,” Alice nodded, understanding something deeper than Mima's words seemed to indicate. “Why now?”
“There is no harm in it,” Mima replied. “I also reward those with faith appropriately. This boy has been most faithful, if a little forgetful.”
“Does he know?” Alice asked, focusing entirely on staring down Mima.
“He must by now,” Mima said with a chuckle, “even if he doesn't want to admit it to himself.”
“Know what?” I jumped in on the conversation. “What are you keeping from me?”
“Ask your lover,” Mima chuckled again.
Alice turned to face me, lifting herself from the altar. Her eyes betrayed her. The stoic mask was wholly gone. Still, she said what was obvious, as was her duty, “it was Mima who separated my memories and personality from my body.”
“Why?” I asked dumbly.
“It was a result of your lover's actions,” Mima explained calmly, “she stuck her nose where it didn't belong. And, besides,” she smiled, “it got you to go see the other as well. As the expression goes, two birds with one stone.”
“It seems that we were both doing her bidding,” Alice observed, sounding apathetically unemotional about it. I did not know how she wasn't outraged. She donned a sardonic smile, like it was all expected.
“So you've been manipulating me?” I asked Mima point blank.
“Not especially. Certainly not to a higher degree than you've been using the magicians you've met. Have you stopped to think were all of your sudden powers have been coming from?”
“My... powers?” I retreated into my own head, trying to figure out what she meant. I hadn't been very successful with magic despite all of my so-called progress. Patchouli had dispatched me easily. Marisa was just caught off-guard. Twice. The second time it was borrowed power. “They're not mine.. I've taken them?”
“Well, yes. If you had stopped to think about them instead of focusing too much on your lover and her predicament you would have realized that there's something all too familiar about them,” Mima stated like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“My powers are gone,” Alice added to what she was saying. Not missing a beat, she concluded, “you have them.”
“Then... Marisa?” I asked, my thoughts going at the speed of light in every which direction.
“You are the one responsible,” Mima said with a smug smile. “All of these magicians have been reduced to nothing more than their thoughts because of you.”
“But, how?” I looked at my hands. It didn't feel true. I couldn't suddenly project torrents of energy at will. I couldn't manipulate dolls. All I could do was copy something I had seen before... I stopped my thoughts there. “Power doesn't imply knowledge of technique,” I said out loud to myself. The swirling chaos suddenly made sense. It was energy that wasn't my own. It wasn't in sync with me. It didn't belong to me. It was simply stored in me, ready to be called out if I knew the right key.
I burst out laughing. It was just too surreal.
“It seems that you understand the situation. Good,” Mima nodded approvingly. “Now then, can we get on with the rest of the festivities? Your mother would be disappointed at your lack of timeliness,” Mima directed the last bit at Alice.
“Apprentice,” Alice whispered, “no, Arc, you're the only one who can do anything now.”
“Do what? I don't understand.” I whispered back.
“Sure, go ahead, talk among yourselves. I'll pretend I'm not here too,” Mima said with some irritation. She turned her back at us, dismissing us as she went back towards the party.
“You're the only one with any magical ability,” Alice explained, “Mima should not be allowed to carry on doing as she pleases.”
“I don't know what she wants to do. And I don't understand my powers. What can I possibly do? I can't go in blindly hoping to disrupt something I don't understand.” I voiced my realistic concerns. A magician always needed a solid plan. Alice needed to remember that.
“Obviously she's not done using you. There's a reason why she needed you to have all that power. If only to be her lieutenant. Even if that's all there is to it, it means you're in a position of trust and easy access. If we're going to restore everything to the way it was, then we need to confront her sooner or later.”
“So what do you suggest we do?”
“...I'm not sure yet,” Alice said with a sigh. “It would help if you understood how to use the magic inside of you.”
“We're past apologies. Focus on the situation at hand.” She scrunched up her brow, looking pensive. “Have you had contact with all of the important magicians in Gensokyo?” she asked.
“I think I have. You, Marisa and Patchouli. I've been close to all three of you,” I stated. Vivid memories of just how close I had been flooded back. I was sure that that was Mima's doing as well. Another 'reward'. Somehow I was beginning to understand that side of her a little better. It meant that she wasn't in my head all of the time, at least. Just with some preplanned suggestions.
“There are more. And powerful youkai that aren't magicians as such but have magical energies. Are they all at the party?” she asked.
“I think it's a safe bet to say that they are,” I hazarded a judgment.
“Then she'll need to... expose you to them,” Alice said.
“How would that happen?” I asked.
“I don't think there's grounds for a wild bacchanalia where it's a free for all...” she clearly was implying something I picked up on immediately. I didn't know if I would survive a scenario like that. “It would be messy and there is no guarantee of participation. No,” she shook her head, “she'll just have you spend a little time alone with each guest under some pretext.”
“Then there's still some time until her plan is complete? Assuming it depends on me being intimate with those strangers.” Though I was trying to be serious I could still feel a childish blush on my cheeks. I hoped that Alice wouldn't notice.
Alice nodded, seconding the assumption. “I assume that the shrine maiden is otherwise incapacitated?” she asked.
“Reimu is... not herself,” I stated. “Dark, violent and sarcastic.”
“Another safe assumption is that she's been compromised by Mima,” Alice said. “I can't say how yet but Mima knows the shrine like the back of her hand. She's able to manipulate anything within it.”
“I don't know if she was controlling Reimu. It was far less polished than she's been.”
“It may only be partial. I can control dolls because they're inanimate but if I tried the same trick on a person, I would have to know how to manipulate them. That would mean dividing up their ability to assert a coherent thought pattern. Appealing to base emotions and feeding in ideas gradually is theoretically the most efficient way. She is showing parts of her personality, non-dominant ones that are easy to manipulate. So in a sense she's semi-autonomous.”
Alice's cold assessment was staggering. She completely forgot the fact that we were talking about one of her friends. “Reimu is being used too,” I restated in my own words, hoping to move away from the unpleasant subject. “It sounds like she can use your abilities too.”
“Not through study, I'd wager,” Alice stared at me intensely. It almost made me look away. “There is a link between you and her. One that I failed to detect and excise. Or excise properly...”
“I can't trust my own power now?”
“Nor your feelings and thoughts, I'm afraid,” Alice told me what I had been denying all along. “There's something between you that's stronger than a simple bond. Yes...” Alice became quiet. “Maybe that's another way to go at it.”
“Eh?” I didn't follow.
“If she can reach out to you, surely you can reach out to her, that's all. I wouldn't know how.” she said.
“I've borrowed some of her power on occasion.” I told her about stunning Marisa. And feeling the condition of the shrine. That was definitely something that Mima could do and she simply had granted me temporary permission to do so as well.
“It is reversible. If I could figure out how to drain you of power, it may drain her of power as well.”
“Or just leave me powerless,” I said.
“I see that she's left suggestive messages in your head.”
“No, that was just me voicing a potential flaw in the approach,” I assured her. “A magician needs to be prepared for all contingencies. What would we do if that was the case? We'd be worse off.”
“True enough,” she smiled grimly, accepting my critique as valid. “We are getting a little ahead of ourselves.”
“I'm sorry, this is my fault as your teacher.” Alice made a rare apology. “If I had been more careful and thorough, none of this would have happened.”
“You couldn't have known, I don't think anyone could have.” I consoled her. It made my heart sink to see her herself again but act so vulnerable. It wasn't the strong, fiercely independent Alice I was used to. The one whose tender side was only shown when it was appropriate. That unbiased Alice was the Alice that I wanted to learn magic from and it was the Alice that I had developed strong feelings for.
“It is my failing nonetheless,” she affirmed, looking determined in her self-pity. “The best way to beat another magician is to win before having to actually fight. If you define the parameters of the encounter beforehand you'll have a definite advantage.”
“Yes, I remember that lesson,” I told her. “I remember everything you've taught me. Which is why I'm sure we're in good shape for whatever may come next.”
“So confident,” she said, “perhaps ignorant. I have done you a disservice with my lessons and there is no real way of making that up to you.”
Her pride was hurt. That much was clear. “Alice...” I started.
“And not mistress?” she sighed. “I suppose I don't deserve that title.”
“This is unlike you,” I chided her, “I can't believe you're allowing self-pity overcome you. We need to have our heads straight. Think about the important things. If I thought that you were a failure I wouldn't have risked so much to help you out. You're important to me.”
“So I seem to be...” she said. Her shoulders drooped as she sighed again. Thinking about the next thing to do was all fine and good and I knew she would pull through. Still, it would help her if she perked up a little. Defeatism was a dangerous alternative.
 “I trust you, so trust me on this one. We'll manage no matter what.”  “I love you. I realized that earlier. I want to see where things go once we deal with this incident together.”
Pretty fucking complicated. Weren't we missing love? If that is the case then the second choice is the best, on top of giving a good boost to Alice's morale. It is also good for him, because it sets his heart at ease by speaking those forlorn words. That said, saying it now, with all of this going on, wouldn't be a bit selfish? His he saying that for his sake or hers? Both? What about her and his focus? Will his heart be truly at ease or just distracted by reliving the immediate past when the focus is need in the here and now?
>>27529 Here's what I'm worried about. Mima said that Arc's feelings weren't his own. He's been unknowingly stealing power from other magicians, and if keep from our previous talk on love/sex powering magic, then the magic he stole might be influencing his decision. That leaves all of his desires and feelings in doubt.
[spoilers] He treats Marisa with the same indifference Alice displayed for him at the start of the story. He now treats Alice with friendlessness and respect, rather than just blind devotion. That's a change.[/spoiler]
[x] “I love you. I realized that earlier. I want to see where things go once we deal with this incident together.”
That pretty much confirmed everything. Are his feelings for Alice his own or just made up by Mima? I don't think they are. He just spent all that time with her and such feelings can't be made up. With Alice everything is possible.
Excellent! Here it is out in the open. I'm pleased to see our musings were not far off the mark. Arc is going to have one hell of a time making this up to Marisa, but I really do think she was in the wrong there. I hate to have had to do that to her, but again, it was not unforeseen.
Putting all that aside, this moment is about Alice. The only way that they can move forward is as equals. Knowledge is power, and Alice has plenty of it. Arc's raw power with Alice's knowledge can power through this, I'm sure of it.
The logical path then is to choose the trust option. That is why I haven't voted yet, I can't seem to fully appreciate the other option using reason alone. Help me out here.
>>27530 Purple. The color of magic tastes like purple.
[x] “I love you. I realized that earlier. I want to see where things go once we deal with this incident together.”
Logic be damned, this choice *feels* right. Trust vs love? While trust might go the distance, love might be more effective. Magicians rely mostly on themselves by nature. If they can't do it, many times they will not trust someone else to. But introduce love into that equation and some beautiful things can happen. Let's go for it, it is time.
[x] “I trust you, so trust me on this one. We'll manage no matter what.” There is a time and a place for this kind of thing. This is not it. Love may be the way of Marisa but does it have to be our way as well? After all, we picked Alice over her as a teacher (or mistress, whatever)
I took Alice's hand. Unlike earlier, she reacted to my touch and tensed a little. Whatever her thoughts may have been, they couldn't have been positive. I was sure of at least that much. There were a lot of things she may have been better at than me but there were a lot of things I was sure I was better at than her. Providing a human touch to a troubled moment was one of them. I gripped her hand firmly, reassuringly, but not too tightly. I wanted her to feel safe but not insult her independence.
“I've got something to tell you,” I said. Mima could wait. The party could wait. Incidents and magic could wait. All of that was secondary. Though my heart was beating quickly my nerves were cool and my voice was steady. “I love you. I realized that earlier. I want to see where things go once we deal with this incident together.”
“I realize that this isn't the best moment to say something like this,” I said with a cheeky smile, “going forward it'll be teacher and student again and I know how you like to keep things separate. It's important you know how I feel now.” I purposefully suggested that things could go back to the way they were. We both knew it depended on what might happen later in the evening. Sometimes an obvious lie was worth believing.
“And this is what you really feel?” Alice asked flatly, protecting her thoughts and emotions from me.
“Yes, it's not something related to whatever else is going on,” I said, careful to bring up the magical troubles. I wanted to keep them separate. “What I feel has nothing to do with something someone else may have suggested. If anything, the intent was to make me cast a wider net. I don't think that Mima approves of my choice.”
“I wonder about that...”
“It doesn't matter,” I reaffirmed. “Whatever else may be going on, I want to see what's in store for us in the future. I know I'm being unfair and one-sided. I don't expect you to return my feelings right now. But I don't want to leave things unsaid. I want to see where things may go and that's giving me motivation to struggle on.”
“You really are simple,” Alice said and shook her head. She took her free hand to my face, stroking down from my cheek to my jaw gently. “I do not know if your heart is really yours or your intent truly genuine but your faith is reason enough to try to go forward.” It was an awkward phrasing and awkward gesture. But it meant that she was also unsure of things.
“Would it be alright if I kissed you?” I asked with a smile.
Alice didn't seem to know what to say to that. Her eyes shifted about as she thought. At last she managed to ask, “is that truly something you have to ask your would-be lover?”
“No.” I shifted position immediately, thinking of something clever, “I mean, yes. When they are my mistress and we're in the middle of a lesson it seems like it's appropriate. I wouldn't want to upset her sensibilities.”
“Well then,” Alice shook her head again. Only with a spark of levity that had been missing before. “If those are your concerns regarding the request, I ought to take them seriously.” Her eyes narrowed and a sly smile formed on her lips as she gave her final answer, “You are welcome to do as you please, apprentice.”
“You may regret those words,” I teased. She came closer to me and I wrapped an arm around her waist. There was some of her magisterial presence that intimidated me a little. Her softness was enough to offset any lingering doubts, however. It wasn't spontaneous but it wasn't well-planned either; I fumbled a little as I pressed my lips onto hers. While it didn't set the world on fire nor send my instincts into overdrive, it felt like a properly intimate moment. It was something we were sharing as equals and something that felt like she was into for the same reasons.
“I think that was adequate enough,” she said demurely as the kiss ended. “There'll be plenty of opportunity for practice after tonight.”
“That's all an apprentice could ever ask for,” I joked.
As the moment ended our minds turned back to the realities of the situation. We stated basic facts and shared what we knew about her condition, myself and Mima. If Mima was doing as she pleased and had orchestrated everything from the beginning, there was no reason to believe that there were any obvious flaws in her plan. Alice and I agreed upon one thing: there was a good chance that she was over-confident because of how well-planned and well-executed things had been. “As far as she is concerned, I am no threat to her,” Alice stated, “she obviously thinks you incapable of using your powers or using me to foiling her.”
“Agreed. But I think we're looking at this all wrong.”
“What do you mean?”
“We haven't stopped to figure out why she's doing all this,” I said. Mima had revealed herself gradually and other than gathering people to celebrate herself she hadn't actually shown signs of a bigger objective. “There's still the option of figuring that out and reaching some sort of reasoned agreement with her.”
“She has always been unstable,” Alice said. She painted a harsh image of the magician. “Determining what she's thinking and why she is doing things is pointless. It is entirely possible she doesn't have any greater goal other than subverting things for the sake of subverting them. She'll jump in and do something just on a whim. And because she's a magician that means that the whim can last and be in the planning for years.”
“What if we just ask her?” I proposed. “She seems to want an audience and a stage to do great things in. Isn't understanding our opponent one of the fundamentals?”
“You may know her better than I do,” Alice said with a nod. “I don't think it wise but my experiences with her have been limited to her being aggressive and deaf to reason. Perhaps that sentiment is what you actually feel of her.”
“Another suggested thought or emotion?” I frowned, trying to figure out if that really was the case. There was no obvious fog or obvious discrepancy with the rest of me. So far as I could tell. Not being able to trust myself was horrible.
“Or perhaps the link goes both ways.” Alice's face lit up as she hit upon sudden inspiration. “If you concentrated enough and knew how to search, I bet that you could see what is in her head. It likely will be fragmentary and disjointed, as another mind tends to be an alien concept, but any strong emotions or singular ideas should be easier to discern.”
“I'm not sure if that would work,” I tempered her expectations, “I am still a novice when it comes to these sorts of things.”
“You will have learned passively,” Alice explained, “if you are more or less capable of using the magic you've seen us use it means that there is some sort of passive component to your learning. It wouldn't be too far-fetched to assume that whatever she has done to you is also a type of magic you've come to understand. Your subconscious must have observed it.”
“We don't have much in the way of recourse,” I sighed. Laughter could be heard coming from the shrine. Putting aside all of the uncertainty and mystery, it at least seemed that her party was successful.
 Try to get a glimpse of Mima's mind  Ask Mima about her goals directly
>>27540 I think of Alice's diagnosis is incorrect. There is a specific reason behind this plan and Arc is the key. Think back to the dream in Voile. Arc constructed a fine tower, but it ultimately crumbled because of his flawed perception. The onlooker (Mima?) gleefully perfected his designs and constructed something better. Doing so seemed to leave Arc bereft of power, but he was glad to have that burden lifted from him.
Knowing this, I think it'd be a better choice to get a glimpse into her mind. Asking her up front could probably work too, but he needs to at least try and see how she thinks, the bond is there for a reason. I just hope he's skilled enough to exploit it to even a fraction of how Mima was able to.
[x] Ask Mima about her goals directly Disregarding the possible negative repercusions (Fake visions-harry potter style/angering the target/magical slashback) I think she'd prefer him to ask her directly. I consider a given that she'll find out of his intrusion, considering the difference in skill so take this with a grain of salt.
Why not just confront her about this. She has been pretty open(ish) about the whole thing. Disregarding the secret and her being everything but it might give more insight into her character if it is done direct. Not a roundabout way.
>>27551 I don't think it'd work. She's willing to tell Arc stuff as she sees him as a willing aide in her plots. Asking the questions that need to be asked would tip off Mima that Arc's stopped being so willing.
This is about approach. My goal is to influence Mima's humanity directly, we can start that by being up front with her. I have a feeling that every outcome will somehow benefit her, so thwarting the plan traditionally isn't going to work out.
>>27566 >>27573 The Issue with the mind thing isn't so much power but the first time Arc wound up looking in her mind, it was without direction or goal. This time he has those things and at the moment, Mima wouldn't expect him to try that.
>>27616 Are you open to changing your vote then? There's a lot that can go wrong here. Thus far, Arc has been in Mima's good graces. He's followed her instructions to the letter and ensured that her plans have gone off without a hitch. From fetching Marisa to subduing her here, he's done exactly as she's asked.
I cannot vote to violate the privacy of her mind. Given her experience, she'd know immediately, destroying whatever good will Arc has built up. Do you really think that's worth a paltry glimpse into her mind that may or may not give us any information? I'd rather save the goodwill up even further and expend it at a critical moment for maximum effect if the plan proves nefarious.
Nevertheless, it's not going to win Arc many points with her. If anything, having the audacity to stroll right up to her and ask her personally about her scheme is liable to provide the most interesting and satisfying interaction. I'm really looking to forward to seeing that.
>>27617 Hmm that's a good point. It wouldn't be wise to mess with such a powerful person. Then again, who's to say she absolutely refuses to tell Marisa nor Arc a single thing? But then again, who's to say she wouldn't? I guess asking her first might be a nicer thing to do. THEN we violate her mind, if she doesn't agree. That could work.
>>27619 Doubtful, she knows that Arc thinks something is up. Being up front about it takes courage and audacity, this option will not squander the good will that Arc has built up with Mima. This is going to be fun.