For a long moment I stare up the shaft at the two landings, at the scrap of purple cloth. "...That obviously leads to the bedrooms," I say at last, "And we can conclude that Yukari was pulled down from there to somewhere else." I peer down the eastern passage, fairly certain that I can see other shafts that also lead upwards, likely to more bedrooms. "If this passage leads to the bedrooms, I'm relatively confident that we won't find that generator down there."
"You think that it would be in a more central location," Eiki notes.
"It's just a hunch, but yes," I nod. "In any case, we can leave that path for later. Let's head north for now, and see where that takes us." Parsee nods and takes the lead once more, and Suika follows behind her, then the rest of us.
After a bit, the passage slopes upwards slightly before leveling out. Then it slopes upwards once more.
"I have to wonder just why these passages were constructed in such a way," Yumeko murmurs behind us.
Lyrica snorts. "Please. It's the kappa. The stuff they make rarely makes sense, especially if they're working in a group. I mean, I've been to one of their expos, and it's just weird. Not just what they make, but HOW they make it."
"A very unusual sense of design aesthetics?" I query.
Lyrica shrugs. "Pretty much. I'm sure it made sense to them, anyway." She glances around at the carved walls. "Besides, they probably had to work around the mansion's existing structure. They likely had to make some weird design choices, like how this thing is recessed compared to the rest of the floor on the ground level."
I nod, as the passage starts to slope down. That does make sense.
The path comes to a brief plateau before sloping down once again. "How odd," Yumeko says, "It doesn't look as sloped looking back as it did going forward."
"Underground passages can play tricks on you," Parsee comments from the lead, "Believe me, I'd know. Still, does it look a little darker down here?"
"A bit," I agree. "Though it could just be our minds playing tricks on us. Or any number of technical issues. Besides, I can see just fine." Parsee grunts in response, and leads us to a sharp left-hand turn. Carefully, the blonde youkai peeks around the corner before nodding and gesturing us onward. She does this at the next few turns: right, then left, and then right again, each time pricking her ears up and peering around the corner before leading us on.
"Careful, there's a bump in the ground there," Parsee calls out. We carefully step over a strange hillock in the ground before pressing on. "Must be some really hard rock they had a hard time digging through."
"So what, they just said screw it at some point?" Suika wonders.
Parsee shrugs. "Probably." She taps her axe against the wall idly.
Suika grunts and shakes her heads. Then a moment later, she screeches to a halt. "Um."
In fact, Suika literally
screeches to a halt, with the high-pitched sound on her horns scraping against the narrow walls. They were built particularly narrow here, and the Oni's broad horns appear to have jammed.
"Fuck," Suika grunts, "I'm stuck."
Lyrica peers over my shoulder. "...How did you fit in here with those, anyway?" she asks.
"She's been keeping her head turned a bit to the side," I explain. "It's why I've been keeping back a little ways; being impaled on an Oni horn is a lousy way to end the evening, wouldn't you agree?"
"Don't start with me Alf," Suika grumbles, "Now help me out here, would ya?"
Parsee and I each grab on to one of the Oni's horns, and with a bit of twisting manage to dislodge her. Thus released, Suika starts to advance down the hall behind Parsee once more, with her head again twisted at an uncomfortable angle.
After a bit more walking, we come to an area that is a bit wider than the others, forming a bit of a cube. Suika turns her head straight again with a sigh of relief, and Parsee peers further down the passage. I turn my attention to set of breaker boxes in the wall, marked L-30.
"I think we've earned a bit of a rest," I say out loud, "Besides, I'm worried about Suika's neck giving out." I give the Oni a concerned look, but she waves me off.
"No worries Alf, just give me a moment to relax my neck." I am given a courageous smile, which I return.
"What does L-30 mean?" Yumeko wonders, staring at the circuit boxes.
"Dunno. Probably some kind of Kappa code," Lyrica says, tapping the steel boxes with a finger.
"Want me to try and smash them?" Parsee offers, hefting her axe.
I wince. "Not a good idea. These boxes look pretty sturdy, and I don't think you could simply break through them. Not with your current level of strength." I examine the boxes myself, and shake my head. Definitely some kind of steel, and I can't get them open. "Besides, if you did manage to chop through, you stand a good chance of electrocuting yourself."
Parsee winces. "Never mind then. Eh, probably wouldn't do any good anyway." She returns to standing guard over the forward passage, while Yumeko stands guard over the rear. Eiki and Lyrica examine the circuit boxes, looking for a weak point, while Suika slumps against the opposite wall with a sigh.
After a moment, I walk over to stand next to the petite woman. "How are you holding up?" I ask.
Suika ponders it for a moment. "Well, Alf... I'm going sober, for starters. I have none of my strength or abilities, which makes me feel a lot more vulnerable than I like. I'm stuck in an underground passage with barely enough room to move, hunting for a crazed killer. Or possible a crazed kidnapper that can somehow take down some of the toughest people in Gensokyo." She looks up at me. "Take a wild guess, big guy."
I ponder it for a moment. "So, could be better?"
Suika snorts. "To say the least. Y'know what I wanted to be doing right about now?"
"A man?" I suggest. There is a round of laughter at this.
"Pretty much," the Oni says with a smirk. "Yeah, I was gonna have a nice drink with a handsome guy, and then go upstairs and have sex. Lots of it." She shakes her head, horns tapping against the wall. "Then, morning. Sex. Food. Sex. Pool. Sex. Boating. Sex. Lots of food and a decent movie or something. Sex."
"I'm noticing a theme here," I comment.
"Yeah, I figured this weekend would give me a half-decent shot at actually getting laid for a change. This really wasn't what I had in mind." Suika heaves a sigh.
I nod solemnly. "What, you're telling me that a mighty Oni such as yourself isn't beating the men off with a stick back home?" I say it in good humor, but Suika closes her eyes and says nothing in response. I sigh, feeling a bit guilty. "I'm sorry. I touched a nerve there, didn't I?"
Suika shakes her head again with another tapping. "S'okay. Not your fault. What can I say? Everyone fears the Oni and our power, which kinda cuts down on my prospects aside from other Oni, who see me as being a little too puny. A bit too child-like." I glance over at Suika. She's youthful and slender, certainly, but not what I would call child-like. But then, if these Oni are Japanese-style Ogres, perhaps that indicates that they are rather large, burly beings by nature. To them, Suika may very well appear as a child.
I am silent for a moment, thinking. What can I say to this? Suika doesn't seem to be the sort of person who would appreciate an empty compliment, or meaningless reassurance. So, what can I say?
...Anything, really. Don't be a fool, Alfred.
"You are strong," I say at last. "Honorable, trustworthy. And you can bring a smile to anyone's face. A man who wound up with you would be a fortunate man indeed, Suika." I give her a gentle smile.
Suika stares back at me, startled. I see a faint blush on her cheeks. After a moment, the Oni smirks at me. "Oooh. Such a charmer, Alfred," Suika chuckles. "Better be careful, or I might just sling you over my shoulder and lug you back home."
I raise an eyebrow. "Sounds dangerous for my health," I say, giving a deliberate look over her body.
Suika waves her hand in negation. "Don't worry. We have a good doctor in Gensokyo. I'm sure she knows how to treat pelvic injuries." She winks at me, and I chuckle in amusement.
Parsee rolls her eyes and turns to glare at us. "Are you two done flirting yet?
"Nah, give us a few more minutes," Suika says cheerfully.
Parsee glares for a moment longer before shaking her head. "Oni," she mutters under her breath.
"In any case, have you learned anything about those circuit boxes?" I ask Lyrica and Eiki. They shake their heads in the negative. "I feared as much. Well, that's enough of a rest, I think. Shall we continue on?" My companions nod, and after a moment to re-establish our order, we press onward.
A little further down the narrow hall, the hall turns sharply to the left again. Barely ten feet down, it again takes another ninety-degree turn to the left. "Weird," Parsee mutters, "This whole layout makes no sense whatsoever. What the hell is going on?" The bridge guardian walks over to the corner, peers around it... and freezes.
"Parsee?" I whisper, "What's wrong?" Silently, the youkai woman steps around the corner and peers down the hallway, eyes slightly wide. Suika looks around the corner, and then also freezes. Wordlessly, the two women beckon me forward. With a frown, I do so.
The hall extends for what looks like forever. It literally seems to have no end, instead stretching for miles.
I stare at it blankly, stunned. "I think we should turn back," I say quietly. Suika and Parsee nod.
"Um, Alfred?" Yumeko's worried voice comes from behind me. I turn around and see her staring down the way we had just come, wide-eyed. With a feeling of deep trepidation, I make my way past Lyrica and Eiki, over to her side...
And see the hall we have just come down, stretching on to infinity. If I look closely, I can almost see it lengthen before my very eyes.
This is certainly a conundrum.
[ ] Forward, down the endless hallway.
[ ] Backward, down the other endless hallway.