Within the walls, a young man with wings cowers, trying his best to shield an elderly woman as a drunken oni staggers towards them. Your motorcycle growls in midair and the oni makes an irritated snarl as he looks up to find a tire smashing against his face. Your surprise attack manages to knock him off balance and bring him down. Unfortunately, an oni's face isn't the best surface to use to cushion a landing. Before you can take a rough tumble through the garden with your bike, you jump off, landing next to the frightened youkai. They stare at you, still stuck in the corner, as you keep yourself up on your aching legs.
"Go!" They flinch at the sound of your voice, but stay in place. "Now!"
"R-right!" The young man finally realizes you're not hostile and scrambles to his feet, "Come on, Grandma, let's go, let's go!"
They finally flee from the garden, while the downed oni is still lying on the ground, trying to sort out what exactly happened. When he finally gets up and finds you still in the garden, he's stomping angrily your way and gaining speed. You're about to dive out of the way when pain shoots up your leg, followed by what feels like an express train smashing into. A loud, deep crack reaches your ears and you feel your body sliding along rough dirt.
The world finally stops spinning and you realize what just happened to you. Willing your body to move is suddenly much more difficult; you can't feel some parts. Using your shoulder to help turn yourself on your stomach, you attempt to rise back up. You hear heavy footsteps approaching and you're suddenly desperate to get up with just one working arm.
The area around you seems much darker, like you're further away form the lights. It dawns on you that you just broke through the wall that surrounds the Ancient City. You take a quick look behind you and realize you're only a few steps away from falling off a cliff.
The oni you were fighting earlier shows himself, now dragging your beaten motorcycle around like a child with his stuffed animal. Looking like he's bored playing he casually throws the motorcycle your way. With no strength to avoid it, you're knocked off the cliff by your own bike and feel the pull of gravity as your vision goes dark.
I blurt out, not even trying to restrain myself. She's still sitting there, with her eyes fixed to the floor while her fingers keep toying with the tip of her braided hair. I give her a moment and she finally looks up and replies. Her response betrays the frustration in her voice. I already know what she'll do.
She'll take off again, whether I like it or not. I know that more than anyone. I'm not even sure if she'll come back this time.
I wanted this to work out. I really did.
The end of an old memory wakes you up. You're relieved to find you aren't dead, but now you feel no part of your body. Suddenly, you become aware of a large, black eyeball staring right at you. It blinks once and looks away from you for a moment.
"Oh, it is?" You hear the voice of a girl from your side followed by approaching footsteps.
A brunette with braided hair and some mild oil stains on her face comes into view.
"Well, good morning." She says rather cheerfully. "It's not often we get visitors down here, you're lucky Phi found you before you shut down for good."
This feels familiar somehow.
"So, how are you feeling?" She asks.
You want to answer, but no sound is coming out. You don't even feel like you have a mouth to move!
"Oh no, is it a lot more broken than I thought?" She looks disappointed.
The black eyeball looks at her and she perks up.
"Oh! Right, right," she taps her forehead like she forgot the most obvious thing in the world. "Thank you, Sigma."
She disappears from your sight and you hear the tapping of keys. You start to feel a tingling sensation that grows until you feel whole again. You blink your eyes and sigh as you finally regain control of your body.
"There we go," the girl returns to your side, "you're looking more lively now. Almost like an actual person."
You feel a bit of sting with that last comment, but try to shake it off your mind for now.
[ ] "Where am I and who are you?"
[ ] "How long was I out?"
[ ] "Where's my bike?"
"Have you seen my bike?" You quietly ask, surprised at how weak your voice came out.
"Did we find a bike out there, Sigma?" The girl looks at the black eyeball. A moment of silence passes before she nods to herself. "Ah, right, right." She looks back at you. "That heap of scrap is yours?"
"I just want it back." You don't have the strength to make some smart remark about her hearing.
"Don't worry, you two will see each other again," She steps out of sight and you're hearing her fiddle with a keyboard again. "Besides, you need to recover too. Most of your body was badly damaged and it didn't help a lot of your parts weren't up to snuff. The kappa can't help it, I guess. The best they can get is scrap that crossed into border. Still, I'm surprised they assembled you without major complications. Not bad for their first attempt, it was certainly better than my mine."
You're no longer sure if she's still talking to you or just thinking out loud.
"I hope you don't mind, but I did a little tuning up. I couldn't resist!"
"For what?" You speak up.
"Everything!" She answers with girlish glee. "I mean, you're well-built and all, but you're not perfect until after I've gone to work on you."
The eyeball stares at her unblinkingly.
"Hush, you!" She snaps at the eyeball. "Anyway, you seem to be functional again, kinda. So, I'll let you recover on your own if you don't mind."
"You seem awfully quick to trust and leave me to myself." You remark.
"I'm not worried," She lets out a chuckle and takes a quick glance at the eyeball. "Not at all."
The sounds of her fading footsteps tell you she's left the room. You're left back in the company of the giant black eyeball addressed as Sigma, which remains by you, resuming its vigil. You try to ignore it in the meantime and concentrate on moving any part of your body that will respond, preferring not to dwell on the image of the mangled heap your body must have ended up in after your fall. It feels strange at first, no doubt an effect of whatever adjustments the braided brunette did, but you get your fingers moving again after some time.
You think about what you can once you're used to your newly repaired body.
[ ] Examine Sigma.
[ ] Look for your bike.
[ ] Find the girl and talk some more.
The way the girl was talking to the eyeball suggests it is capable of communicating. It isn't talking through sound, so perhaps it uses telepathy, and we're immune to mindstuff via upgrades. Would be nice to know.
More importantly, we need to know how she was keeping us unable to move. Hopefully it was something requiring direct contact with wires, but if not, we'll want to ask the kappa for protection against that.
After some time, you finally feel like you can try getting up now and carefully lift yourself up to sitting position. You wiggle the digits in your hands and give it a good shake. No problems yet. Next, you move your head around while taking a good look at the room you're in.
It's dimly lit with plenty of shelves on the wall holding all sorts of metal tools and unfinished gadgets. It feels both familiar and not. There's also the black eyeball called Sigma that's been hanging around next to you the entire time. It's much larger than you thought and could probably fit two people inside. On its sides are wing-like appendages and tentacles on its lower half. How is this thing supposed to move, if at all.
Detecting your gaze, Sigma immediately returns its own. You slowly wave your hand in front of it. The eyeball follows. Quickly, you swing your hand over to the right and the eyeball remains locked to it. Repeating this process for a while, you finally stop upon determining that this…thing, likely possesses some degree of intelligence.
That girl seems to speak to it like it's the most natural thing in the world, despite hearing only one side of the conversation. Wherever this place is she's probably been here by herself for too long.
"Hello…?" You start with some hesitation.
Sigma responds with silence, though you swear you saw him wobble a little bit. You reach out to touch Sigma's black surface, finding it quite cool to the touch and quite solid.
"If you're not another weird looking youkai, then what are you?" You wonder, speaking your thoughts out loud.
It's impossible to choose only one. We are a Kamen Rider, both man and machine. While we may identify as a man, we cannot deny the mechanical components of our body. While Justice would be accurate, since Sigma's asking what our body is like, it would be better to tell him both.
[x] While I was human, now I am both man and machine, although I still am a human at heart.
There's been no doubt in your mind what you are. You can jump higher and hit harder, sure, but the cold and calculated thinking of a machine never quite set in. In fact, you are probably more reckless now than you ever were in your whole life; a mild ache all over your body reminds you of that.
"I'm human," you answer, "Though not in the traditional sense. I've been, uh, modified, to put it lightly."
《Understood. Processing new information. Data stored.》
"Couldn't that girl have told you that? I mean, you were watching me the whole time, weren't you?"
《Multiple queries made. None answered. RIKA insisted subject is advanced machinery. Subject's classification confirmed after connection established.》
Sounds like this Rika girl has things she'll want to keep even from a machine. You stow that in the back of your mind for now.
"So where is this place exactly?" You ask, moving your "conversation" along.
《A temporary laboratory located outside the fortress Pandemonium.》
"How deep below Gensokyo is that?" You ask for clarification.
《Current location is the realm of demons, Makai. Exact distance from Gensokyo unknown. Instruments rendered unstable due to high density of magical energy.》
You're pretty sure that right before you went unconscious you were falling down. How you managed to end up here you're not sure. Maybe you can find your answers elsewhere.
[ ] Find your bike
[ ] Search for "Rika."
[ ] Ask Sigma another question. (Write-in)
Chances are Rika may be keeping even more things to herself if she wasn't willing to share information with Sigma. She didn't say anything about not bothering her, so there shouldn't be any problems with you wandering around to find her.
"I'll be on my way now," You inform Sigma. "Nice talking to you."
《Understood. Ending communications.》
With that, the stream of information from Sigma is cut short, and it returns to being a large, silent eyeball.
You're on your way out the door when you realize you're feeling a mild chill. It seems you've been half-naked the whole time you were awake. You turn to find Sigma staring at you for a second before it turns its gaze to a stool by your makeshift bed. Rika was kind enough to leave you a pair of brown slacks and a dress shirt. Not exactly your style, but you can't really be picky right now, not to mention that you're saved from a potentially awkward situation.
No longer in your underwear, you make your way out of the room and into a sizable hallway. Aside from the humming of the lights, this place is unnervingly quiet. You wander down the hall, keeping your ears open for any signs of Rika. Peering into the doorways you pass, plenty of them lead into garage-sized storage areas with dim lighting and lots of large mechanical parts. One of them even had a strange tank covered in leaves and vines.
Continuing down the hall, your hearing begins to pick up…speech? Two voices. One of them definitely belongs to Rika. The other sounds like a person, but there's a layer of mild distortion, almost like it's from a speaker.
You reach the room where the conversation seems to be coming from. This might've been a bad time to show up, you think to yourself.
"-yuri, that's enough!" says Rika's voice. "Leave me out of this! I'm done with both of you. Delta, now!"
Silence fills the air again. Did their conversation end?
[ ] Check on Rika now.
[ ] Wait here a little longer.
If you were any earlier, you might have walked in on a pretty heated conversation. Seems like things are okay now. You step into the room. Rika's back is facing you while she's hunched over a display with a garbled image.
"Delta, did it work?" Rika speaks up, hardly aware of your presence. "Can she still--"
A distorted voice breaks through, "Sorry, not gonna work this time."
The display begins to clear up, showing a fuzzy image of a blonde wearing what looks like a sailor's cap. You can hear a groan of frustration from Rika.
"Please reconsider, Rika," the girl says grimly. "You've forced the professor to deploy the cyborgs, and you know how unstable they are. I thought it fair to warn you, at least. See you soon!"
The girl in the sailor cap ends her broadcast on a jarringly friendly note. Rika turns around and is visibly surprised at finding you there. She collapses on a nearby chair, leaning back so she can stare at the ceiling with a hand rubbing her forehead.
"How much of that did you hear?" She asks.
"Uhh, a little before she made her threat," you scratch the back of your head, "You know that girl? Is she a—"
"—An old friend. Long story; rather not go into it." Rika finishes for you as she sits up and takes her eyes off the ceiling.
"…You know what I am." You start, breaking the pause in the conversation, "Aren't you suspicious of me?"
"There are a few similarities, but other than that you look like nothing I've helped make. You wouldn't be standing here if I knew you were one of theirs." She says matter-of-factly. "Anyway, you look like you're functioning properly again. Need something?"
"Just a way out of this…uh…'Makai' place," you answer. "You sound like you're in some trouble though. Are you gonna be okay?" You can't help but feel some concern.
"Probably," Rika shrugs looking more tired than worried. "I've gotten away from them before, but that stupid ship of theirs always leads them right behind me."
"You're still ahead of them though, so you still have a chance." You make an attempt to cheer her up.
"Nice try," Rika gives you a pitying smile and shakes her head. "Anyway! You want out of here, right? I'm assuming back to Gensokyo."
"Yeah." You think for a moment as a horrible thought comes to mind, "I'm…not stuck here, am I?"
"Oh, no, no," she assures you, getting up from her seat and making her way to the door. "I mean, sure, Makai's got some weird rules with its borders, but you're not trapped here. Come on, follow me." She beckons to you as she heads out the door.
You follow her down the hall as she continues talking.
"There's one guaranteed way out, and that's the ruler of Makai itself." She turns into a dark room, flicking the lights on.
"So where do I find this person?"
"She's in her fortress; huge crystal structure. You can't miss it and it shouldn't be that far from here," Rika makes her way to a darker part of the room, pulling along a familiar shape into view. "Not when you're riding this anyway."
No doubt about it, it's your bike! A few alterations aside, it's looking much better than it did back at the Ancient City. The new gas tank in particular catches your eye.
"That's an odd shape for a tank." You point at the black, spherical object right embedded in front of the seat. "This doesn't use some kind of special fuel, does it?"
"Nothing you have to worry about refueling." Rika answers rather proudly, "It can sustain itself!"
Right at that moment, you feel a very familiar prickly sensation invade your brain.
《A relief to see you well again, RIDER.》
"Oh, yeah, there's that too." She says, noticing the twitch your face makes.
An eye opens on the black sphere, looking directly at you.
"Sigma?" You stare at the fixed eyeball on your bike.
"Kappa, actually." Rika corrects you. "At least, that's what it was before I integrated this into your bike. After that it just kept asking where you were and if you were okay. I think your motorcycle was already taking a life of its own."
"Whoa, hold on!" You speak up. "My uncle used to tell me stories of the tsukumogami. It should take, like, a century or something for objects to come to life, right? I've only had this bike for few years."
"Well, the air here in Makai enhances magic as well as accelerate magical processes significantly. The miasma must have gotten your bike started and installing one of my self-aware evil eyes gave it something to merge with, making things go even faster."
《Evil Eye Kappa, at your service. Vehicle is fully repaired and can function as before.》
You scratch your head, "Why do you call these things 'Evil Eye' anyway? This isn't going to actually kill me, is it?"
"Ah, that's just a name." She chuckles. "Come on, I thought it sounded cool! Admit it, 'Evil Eye Sigma' has a certain ring to it."
"You've been by yourself for too long, lady."
So apparently you have a thinking motorcycle now. You could have ended up with much worse, so you count yourself lucky for now.
"You'll have to get going." Rika suggests. "I'm gonna have to ditch this place myself."
"You sure you don't need my help? Last chance!" You tease her.
"Thanks, but I have a battalion of tanks. A dinky little motorcycle isn't gonna help me much." She snipes back with a smirk.
"Good point." You raise your hands in a playful gesture of defeat. "I still owe you though."
"We'll worry about that if we see each other again." Rika bids you goodbye as she turns to leave the room, shutting the door behind her.
《RIDER, miasma will be thick outside of this facility. Recommending transformation to mitigate harmful long-term effects before opening the exit.》
Heeding Kappa's warning, you assume your Masked Rider form. You feel as light as ever, though you can tell adjustments have been made. It's almost like you just put on a new pair of comfortable pants.
Ready to go, Kappa gets the garage doors to open remotely, revealing the very purple and dark red world of Makai shrouded in a thick fog. For a place said to be full of demons, it has a strange otherworldly beauty to it, but now is hardly the time for sightseeing. Just as Rika said, a massive crystal structure looms in the distance. You kick the pedal and head on your way.
Aside from causing a few stray fairies to panic as you pass them with blinding speed, you make your way to Pandemonium with little trouble. You're finally forced to stop when you find a crystal gate blocking your path to the inside fortress itself.
Dismounting your bike, you walk up to the gate to get a closer look. Pushing or pulling it doesn't make it budge at all.
"Great. The one time I need a way out and nobody is home!" You complain out loud as you fold you arms.
[ ] Punch the gate down.
[ ] Check the back for another way in.
[ ] Yell, just in case someone is home.
Jumping over this ridiculously tall gate could prove difficult even with your abilities, and breaking in through the front or back is just asking for trouble. You'd rather not anger whoever or whatever lives inside. Shouting out your presence would not be seen as a hostile action. At least, that's what you hope.
You walk right up to the gate to look past the bars. Where you would expect nicely trimmed shrubs or flower patches are just plenty of crystals. On the fortress itself seem to be some window-like holes, but it's hard to see the inside from where you are.
"Hellooooo?" You bellow.
A moment passes as you keep your eyes and ears out for any movement or sounds of life.
You cup your hands around where your mouth normally would be in human form and call again. "Anyone hoooooome?"
You are answered with silence again, but only for a minute before you hear the squeak of windows opening. In one of the higher windows, a head of long white hair peeks out getting tousled by the gentle breeze.
"Shut uuup!" The person shouts back with a slur. "People are trying to sleep!!"
Now you're feeling a little rude. You hadn't even consider what time it is. It's hard to tell with no clear celestial body in the sky. Too late for regrets, but at least now you know for sure someone is home.
"I'm sorry," you start. "But this is urgent! I need to see the, uh, ruler of Makai. I've been told he lives here."
The white-haired person hangs around the window for a bit longer before retreating back inside, followed by the sound the window snapping shut.
"Okay?" You turn to Kappa, "I guess that's a no."
《Entirely possible. It is still the middle of the night, after all.》
"You could have told me if you knew the time." You sigh.
《You did not ask, RIDER.》
"Typical machine response." You mutter, though you also feel silly for not asking about the time either.
You suddenly hear a low rumble and turn around to find an opening forming on the crystal structure just past the gates. You were expecting the person from the window but instead, out of the fortress comes a blonde woman dressed like a maid, her headdress a little crooked and her hair looking like she just got out of bed.
"Good evening, sir," she greets you, suppressing a yawn as best she can to maintain her professionalism. "Please come in."
The crystal gate creaks as it swings open to allow you and your bike through. The maid remains quiet as she leads you through the garden and into the fortress itself.
[ ] Stay quiet. She's probably not in the mood to talk.
[ ] Speak to her. You can at least apologize for waking her.
[x] Speak to her. You can at least apologize for waking her.
[x] And then ask about Makai.
[x] And this fascinating fortress!
[x] Who was that white-haired person? They sounded like a grouch.
[x] So how's the pay, as a maid?
[x] Any benefits?
The Rider is now a night owl. Let us irritate her with incessant perkiness and energy.
The maid seems to raise no complaints as you bring your motorcycle indoors, though perhaps she's just too sleepy to care as she leads you into a cavernous main hall. It's just as impressive inside as it is outside with much of the architecture comprised of crystals finely shaped and carved to form walls, pillars, and floor tiles. The maid stops at the foot of a grand staircase, turning to face you.
"The mistress will be with you shortly." She informs you.
You feel a pang of guilt as she fails to stifle a yawn. Realizing you saw something so unrefined, a tinge of pink rises to her cheeks as she clears her throat and regains whatever composure she can in her drowsy state.
"I'm really sorry," you bow your head toward her. "This is kind of an emergency. I'll try not to take too much of your time."
The maid replies with a mere acknowledging nod. A few seconds pass as you both continue to stand there in silence. You take this chance to prop your bike on its kickstand.
"So," you speak up again, causing her to jolt awake right before dozing off, "Uh, I'm kinda new to Makai. What's it like here?"
"Huh?" She lazily scratches her arm. "It's like it usually is."
"And what's that?" You tilt your head.
Her eyes sleepily scan the ground as if she might find the answer there, "You know, like usual. Have you not been here before?"
"I haven't. That's why I'm asking."
You move on to another question since you'll likely go nowhere with your current one.
"Is it normal for people to build homes like this?" You ask, tapping the crystal floor with your foot.
"Wouldn't anyone?" She blinks hard.
She certainly isn't helping keeping the conversation going, and you find yourself in silence again. The awkward mood is punctuated by what sounds like someone's stumbling echoing from upstairs. The blonde maid lets out a sigh.
When you left Rika's to meet with the ruler of the entire demon realm, you weren't expecting a relaxed situation like this. A lot can change when you drop in on people in the middle of the night, you suppose.
"What's this 'ruler of Makai' like anyway?" You resume your queries.
"You're certainly very inquisitive." She manages to say before yawning again, which she manages to cover with her hand this time.
"I am? Must be my friend's habits finally rubbing off on me."
Speaking of Nitori, you're starting to wonder how things are back in the underground city. You can only hope Yuugi managed to rally enough help to set things back in order. Maybe you can make it back in time to help— Wait, how long were you even out of commission?
Just in time to interrupt your internal questions, a woman with long, tousled silvery white locks and sporting a flowing pale pink nightgown carefully makes her way to the top of the steps. She rubs her forehead as she grabs the railing to keep herself up. Was she the source of the noise a moment ago? You look at the maid to find that sleep has managed to claim her despite maintaining her standing posture.
"Err, good evening!" You look back at striking woman standing at the top of the stairs. "I'm here to—"
"—See the ruler of all Makai, yes?" She finishes for you as she rubs her heavy eyelid with the back of her hand. "You're speaking to her. What do you want?"
You're a little taken aback. You were expecting someone, or something more fearsome.
"I'm looking for a way back to Gensokyo." You say plainly. "I was told you're the one to look for."
"I see." The woman brushes some of her hair off her face. "So you're from Gensokyo? How did you come to be here in Makai then?"
"I wouldn't know. I was in the Ancient City before I passed out," you scratch your chin. "I only woke up when I was already here."
The white-haired woman shuts her eyes in thought. "I've been feeling a few instabilities around Makai's borders. Perhaps one of them must have been you."
"'A few?' Then there are others." You conclude.
"It's possible." She nods.
"Mistress," the blonde maid suddenly speaks up, looking wide awake with her eyes sharp. She almost seems like a different person. "It seems we have more guests."
"Oh, we do." The maid's mistress responds, looking as if she's scanned the air and realized the same thing. "And I think a few of them made it inside."
She sounds drowsy, but you feel your antennae twitch as a hostile pressure passes over you.
"Yumeko." The white-haired woman says.
The maid responds with a bow to her mistress before she departs the main hall. Just as she steps out the door, your eye catches the glint of metal.
The ruler of Makai lets out another yawn before addressing you again, "It seems we'll have to put our talk on hold."
With that, she floats down the stairs past you, going into one of hallways on the bottom floor.
You turn to the eyeball looking at you from where your bike's fuel tank used to be.
《Multiple cybernetic organism signals detected in the immediate vicinity.》
"Cyborgs? Then they might be the ones coming for Rika!"
"But how did they end up going after us?"
《They could be programmed to track any technology similar to the Evil Eye series.》
You tighten up your scarf. "We'd better deal with them then."
[ ] Go with white-haired woman.
[ ] Go with the maid, Yumeko.
"Hmm, it's probably not a good idea to bring you around in their house." You scratch the back of your head, "Will you be all right here on your own?"
《This unit has some self-defense measures in place. If all else fails, mobility without a driver is possible.》
"Will we be able to communicate from a distance?"
《Yes, provided you remain within signal range.》
"Okay, you let me know if things get rough out here."
You follow the white-haired woman into the hallway.
The hallway is long, and warmly lit by small crystals that line the walls. You've never gotten a chance to visit a luxurious home. The closest you've ever gotten were just TV specials hosted by a cheerful woman with a microphone giving a guided tour, always looking amazed when she stumbled into a new room. A shame you don't have the time to admire this place. You hasten your pace as you begin to hear the sounds of a struggle.
A blur flies past you, making an unpleasant crunching sound as it collides with the wall. You whip your head around to see a humanoid shape, rising back on its feet with jerking movements. The head is mangled horribly from the impact, taking an odd, mango-like shape. The rest of its body is clearly artificial, the rotors in its joints struggling to function as it rights its body and takes a clumsy swing at you. You barely sway to the side to avoid it, countering with a kick to its legs, knocking it over. All of a sudden, you feel your upper arms getting pressed down to your torso— another one managed to sneak up on you. You struggle to get the cyborg creature to loosen its grip when a voice shouts out.
You quickly lower your head and upper body as best you can as the sound of shattering metal explodes by your head. Your assailant's grip slackens and you break free in time to watch its body fall limply to the floor. Its head, at least whatever's left of it, drops alongside it with a chunk of crystal lodged through its center.
Now free, you quickly scan the room. It's a dining hall if the long table and numerous chairs are any indication. Above it all, you see the white-haired woman trying to stay in the air with the remaining upper half of a cyborg clinging to her leg. Below her, three of them try to jump at her and bring her down. The ruler of Makai grunts as she blasts a jumper out of the air, causing it to crash into a few of the chairs in a heap. You spot two more hopping onto the table and making their way to you.
[ ] Deal with two coming at you.
[ ] Assist the ruler of Makai.
You leap onto the table yourself, sprinting right at the intruders. They lunge at you, but you immediately shift into a slide. Slipping under them, you quickly catapult up back onto your feet and charge at the cyborg creatures across the room.
Kicking off the table, you jump into the air, right at the one clinging firmly to the white-haired woman's leg and trying to drag her down. Just as you're close enough, you feel the wind knocked out of you and find your vision go sideways.
Your back smashes into something painfully solid. Dazed, you clamber back on your feet in time to stop a kick coming at your midsection. You retaliate with swing from your free arm, catching the cyborg intruder in the head. With a resounding crack, your enemy reels backwards.
Just as you're about to make your counterattack, the cyborg is skewered by a crystal shard. It drops on the ground, out of commission. You glance over at the white-haired woman to see her subdue the legless cyborg and its friend with forceful stomp.
"You took quite a beating there. You all right?" She asks, brushing her tousled hair from her face. Aside from some tears on her nightgown, one of which gives you a nice glimpse of a creamy white thigh, she looks mostly unharmed.
"Y-yeah." You rub the back of your neck feeling like a kid failing to impress an older, pretty lady.
She continues, "Not that I'm ungrateful you came to help, but you ought to avoid anything reckless like that again."
With the initial wave of embarrassment done washing over you, you regain your bearings and have a closer look at the cyborg intruders lying in a heap. What's left of their badly damaged heads indicate there are still remains of organic material behind the metal exteriors and that their most prominent features are large, round compound eyes, not all that different from yours. You recall the incident back at the Underground City and your search for your doppelganger.
"So, what exactly are these things and why are they here?" The woman asks as she walks up next to you to look at the remains.
"They're after someone I met a while ago but went after me by mistake." You turn to the woman and lower your head, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to get you mixed up in this."
"No need for that, what's done is done." She shakes her head. "Words won't help us fix this mess. We still have the two runaways."
Damn, she's right! You slid past two of the intruders earlier, but they seem to have left the room for a while now.
"By the way," the ruler of Makai speaks up just as you're getting ready to go again, "I never did catch your name."
"Masked Rider." You answer as you adjust your scarf. "It's what everyone calls me."
"Ah, I see, I see," She nods with a knowing look as she eyes your scarf. "All right, then allow me to introduce myself properly, 'Masked Rider.' I am the Lady Shinki, creator and ruler of all Makai, but 'Shinki' will do. Well, now that that's out of the way, I'll need to see to the rest of the guests. Would you care to accompany me?"
Taking up Shinki on her offer, the two of you pursue the runaways that escaped deeper into the fortress. Her knowledge of her own home makes things a lot easier and it seems her own omnipotent powers in this realm seem to give her a kind of radar. She stops at another hallway intersection and raises her head, like a hunting dog catching wind of prey. Looking sure of the direction, she proceeds forward.
"We're close. It seems my guests have gotten lost and stayed in once place." Shinki informs you.
"Could be an ambush." You voice your concern.
"We'll know when we find them then, won't we?" She responds to your concern with the confidence that could only come from someone who is roughly the equivalent of a god.
The two of you take a turn into another hallway as you notice Shinki touch down to the ground and begin advancing slowly toward what seems to be a crystal door. She gestures you to stand next to her as she stands in front of it. There's no way you'll get into this room freely, and prepare yourself for the worst. With a wave of her hand the door begins to slide open with an unpleasant grinding sound.
Very little light enters the room, forcing you to activate your Focus Eye. You cautiously step inside, with Shinki right behind you. Nothing inside catches your eye right away— no windows or any furniture to speak of.
"There." You hear Shinki speak up, tapping your shoulder. You turn to see her finger pointing toward a corner.
You find your quarries' bodies lying in a heap, but upon closer inspection they look like discarded skins with a single tear along the the backside. They can't be—
A shrill cry pierces your ears as you find yourself slammed into the ground. Next you hear Shinki yelp in surprise.
Ghostly blue orbs stare at you as the cyborg creature snaps its mandibles. It readjusts its grip, trying to get you in a tighter hold, but you feel its strength let up ever so slightly to move its hand-claw thing. You seize this chance, curling your legs in and kicking as hard as you can, and throwing it off you. Standing back up, you whip your head around to find Shinki getting thrown into a wall by the other creature.
"My, my…They've gotten livelier." She groans, rubbing her lower back. The bugman tries to clobber her, but she evades, gliding through the air. Behind you you hear a series of clicks and gurgles. The second bugman leaps back, regrouping with his friend, replying with its own hissing and snapping.
"…Communicating." You finish Shinki's sentence. She sounds more fascinated than horrified. You can't say you don't share the sentiment, but that quickly fades when their large, orb eyes are looking back at you.
You feel your antennae vibrate. "Kappa?"
《Area is surrounded. Probability for successful engagement calculated at 33.33% with current armament. Requesting orders.》
What awful timing. What's more, your two playmates spring forward at you just as receive that last bit of communication from Kappa. You narrowly avoid getting jumped on as you catch one of them and redirect his trajectory, and head, slamming it into a wall. You're not so lucky when the other one manages to land a kick that causes you to stumble. It's about to go for your head when Shinki intercepts it, gripping its face and throwing it down brutally into the floor, cracking the crystal at the point of impact.
Her expression suddenly changes into concern. "Yumeko!" She blurts out as her eyes suddenly seem to fix at a distant place. She then looks at you, "She needs help."
Sounds like things are pretty bad back at the main hall. You don't have much time to decide the next step as the bugmen are, surprisingly, back in the fight and on their feet.
[ ] You and Shinki stay.
[ ] You stay, Shinki goes.
[ ] You go, Shinki stays.
You bolt through the hallways, guided toward Kappa by the twitching of your antennae. The growl of an engine comes from around the corner and your bike comes skidding into your path, slowing down in front of you to let you on.
"Head back, we're helping the maid."
《Is that wise?》
"Probably not, but if we want out of here, we're gonna have to fight something."
Kappa says no more and lets you handle the driving as you speed toward Yumeko.
The trip doesn't last long. You finally arrive in the main hall, which now looks like a gruesome battlefield with bodies of the invading creatures strewn about, looking like pin cushions for the handful of swords embedded in each corpse. In the center of the chaos is Yumeko, catching her breath as the monsters circle around her while making loud clicking sounds. You don't waste time and ride into the fray with your engine's roar demanding their attention. The motorcycle slams into one of them, sending it airborne.
"Where is the Mistress?" Yumeko quickly asks before returning her attention to the now agitated cyborg abominations.
"She seemed fine," You answer as you give the bike handle a twist, making the creatures flinch and click with greater intensity. "She sounded a lot more concerned about you, so here I am."
Without so much as a glance, you hear Yumeko mutter, "Showoff."
They all lunge at the both of you, screeching. With a leap off your bike, you drive your fist into the nearest inhuman face you find. Another tries to approach from behind, but you're quick to grapple it, sending it tumbling toward its friend. A sword from out of nowhere impales them, pinning the creatures to a nearby pillar. Left with little time to figure out where the flying sword came from, you knock another one of them off its feet and crush its chest with a well-placed stomp.
The sounds of battle seem to die down and you turn to find one survivor fleeing from Yumeko. Just as it's about to escape to freedom, Yumeko's arm lashes out like a whip, quickly followed by the dying scream of the last of the trespassers. Only a few steps from one of the windows, the monster collapses with the glint of steel still protruding from its head.
"I, uh, guess that's all of them." You state the obvious as you survey the carnage.
《Hostile signals no longer detected in the area.》 Kappa confirms.
"Only three?" Yumeko speaks up, sounding a little disappointed. "I was expecting you'd do more."
"Hey, I was off running around and helping your mistress," you quickly defend yourself. "There were more of them further in. Besides, it's not like I can pull a bunch of swords out of my a—"
"Sounds like you two could still go a few more rounds!" Shinki's pleasant voice rings out from behind you. Despite looking a little roughed up, she manages to carry her dignity about her.
"Mistress!" A concerned Yumeko briskly walks up to Shinki, who quickly raises a hand to stop her.
"Relax, it was nothing I couldn't handle." She assures her. "Would be nice to get some rest after this though."
As if sensing you about to speak, Shinki continues.
"But first, we have to see to our guest here and make sure he gets home. If there are more coming for him, it's best we get him out of our hair."
She's correct, and you certainly would want to head back to Gensokyo before another commotion starts up. First, though, you feel like you should bring back one of the corpses for Nitori to study; an intact head, at least. Just as you start looking for a good specimen, you hear some loud hissing. To your shock, you find a lot of the corpses evaporating before your eyes, soon followed by a chorus of clanging metal, no longer held up by their pincushions.
"Well, well, that certainly saves me some cleaning." Yumeko expresses her relief as she picks up one of her swords and wipes the filth from it before it vanishes into the ether.
Whoever sent them must have anticipated this, you think to yourself. So much for that idea.
"Let's get you on your way then, follow me." Shinki speaks up. "I trust you'll take care of, er, this." She addresses Yumeko, vaguely gesturing at all the displaced swords on the floor.
"Of course, Mistress."
You follow Shinki back further into the halls again, pulling your bike with you. It's not a long trip, and you're soon in a room with a formation of crystals shaped like a doorway in the center. You're quite sure about what this structure might be.
"Your own personal doorway to Gensokyo?" You ask the silver-haired woman.
"Mm, I make time to visit every once in a while," she says. You swear you see her smile softly to herself for a moment, but it's quickly gone. "It'll be a one way trip for you though."
Shinki walks up to the "doorway" and merely touches one of the crystals. The interior of the frame is suddenly filled with a rippling darkness. Already seated on your motorcycle, the engine rumbles as you direct it toward the threshold.
"Sorry about all this. Lady Luck hasn't exactly been on my side lately." You apologize one last time.
Shinki chuckles. "You're not the first to be bringing trouble into my home. Besides, you were just praying to the wrong Lady before you came here. Now off you go."
You nod and ride headlong into the tunnel.
The tunnel, if you can even call it that, is an unusual experience. It feels like you're moving but there's a distinctive lack of force pushing you forward or pulling back. You don't even feel like you're falling. You start to worry this sensation will overwhelm you when you feel the rubber tires bouncing off of dirt and rocks and daylight flooding your vision.
You skid to halt to regain your bearings. All around you are the orange and brown hues of Autumn intensified by the light of a setting sun.
《This appears to be in a woodland area with a small dirt road. Ideal for traveling on foot, not vehicles.》 Kappa chimes in, its eye swiveling in every direction.
You don't feel like chastising the eyeball for stating the obvious. Still, it wouldn't hurt to find out exactly where that magic portal spat you out. You instictively reach into your belt pouch for one of your sky hopper devices. You have a few left, but they're not in the best shape with their grimy appearance. Some of them have some cracked lenses too. You take the least broken-looking one of the batch and load it into your equally filthy launcher. You aim it skyward and pull the trigger.
Nothing. Not even a pop. Didn't hurt to try, at least. For now, you just follow the dirt road.
It's not long before you come upon a pond and a rather large turtle slowly making its way to the house nearby. It seems to notice the noise coming from your motorcycle and turns its head to have a look at you.
"What's that funny noise?" A maid in light blue peeks out from one of the sliding doors with a mop in hand, looking at the turtle. "You're not making it." She concludes before finally looking at you and realizing it's coming from your motorcycle.
You've run into Ruukoto once or twice when she was running errands for the Hakurei shrine maiden in the village. This must be Hakurei Shrine then. You breathe a sigh of relief.
"Are you lost?" She asks with a cheerful smile.
"Uh, no," You only realize now she probably won't recognize you in this form, "No, ma'am, I'm just fine, thanks."
"That's good." The robot maid nods, satisfied. "Okay, back to work!" She declares as she slips back into the house.
You're finally back in Gensokyo, but now you need to check on some things.
[ ] Head back home to the village.
[ ] Go to Youkai Mountain, check if Nitori is there.