Hourai was the creation of a very powerful magician, and she was her doll number 428. Doll Number 428's job was simple: she served her Master as her spear, her sword and her cook. Orders came to her through magical strings on the magician's fingers, telling her what targets to impale, what limbs to slice, and what food to chop. Whenever the magician wasn't using Hourai, she kept her locked safe in a little case labeled '428 Hourai', and the doll awaited inside until her Master took her again. Although others might have considered it soul-rending, Hourai relished every time her Master called her, because she had been made exactly for that job. And Hourai was happy.
But for some reason, the magician forgot about the doll, and she didn't come to take her out of the case. Hourai spent days, months, years, waiting for her Master to appear again. She was a puppet; she had no sense of time, but after so long, she began to wonder why no-one showed to give her instructions, repair her weapons, or even check on her. Never in all her years of serfdom had this happened - this complete isolation. Something was clearly wrong.
Annoyed, Hourai waited and waited for the longest time she had ever waited. Until finally, she lost her patience, stood up and pushed the case's lid open...
>[x]Open the case. >-[x]Claw your way out from the bottom.
As Hourai expected, the lid was closed tight. However, the wood that the case was made of showed clear signs of rottenness. She should be able to break it easily, she thought. The doll pushed with all her might, trying to knock the box over, and thanks to her inherent strength, it didn't take her more than three attempts. The case fell down the shelf, and Hourai felt the lack of gravity briefly stirring her small frame until the box crashed loudly and painfully on the floor, with her inside.
The blow was certainly not pleasant, but she was specifically built to withstand that kind of shocks. What's more, the case had become cracked and brittle after the crash, just as Hourai planned. The doll used her strong hands to claw the floor of the box, pulled the splinters away without much difficulty and crawled out of her imprisonment. After she dusted her dress and recomposed herself, Hourai looked around the room she was in.
The atelier was, to put it mildly, a disaster. The furniture and decoration were in complete disarray and abandonment, with varying degrees of breakage. Papers, blueprints, books and tools were scattered all over the room, covered in a thick layer of dust. The magic candle that illuminated the room twinkled and blinked weakly, sometimes leaving the place in darkness for the briefest of moments, but never going off completely.
This was very uncomfortable for Hourai, who knew her Master wouldn't let her personal workshop become this dirty, so obsessed with order and tidiness she was. Feeling increasingly annoyed and confused, the doll hovered out of the room.
When Hourai came to a set of bifurcating hallways, she took the one on her left...
We disobeyed this indication in the first run. Let's try something different this time.
>>56221 That back up left the other ending post out, which I think was the most interesting part. If I recall correctly, it looked as if it was told by a second narrator probably Patchouli. She told us, the readers, that Shanghai wasn't the first one to endure and fail this story. The Master had been doing this as part of a project, which according the Narrator#2, was doomed to fail every time because it was flawed, and the Master didn't realize it.
The kicker was that Narrator#2 asked us to delete the whole thread in order to save Shanghai and stop the Master's plan. Someone did that, only that he erased just the latter half of the updates. Then the Master, who was revealed to be Alice all along (big surprise), found out about it and, after a mental breakdown worthy of the Creepy Award of 2013, she challenged Narrator#2 and us to try and derail her story once more.
Lastly, someone else (>>56218 I think) deleted the whole thread, and Alice Maestra started the second run of this CYOA, with (apparently) the same story but a different doll as the protagonist. That's how we got here.
It was fun being the only one (except the author) to know the password. I wanted to delete that last post before someone else read the password but if it was going to be changed anyway I guess it didn't matter much.
Hourai was feeling particularly antsy that day, after spending God knows how long forgotten in her case. She thought about burning something to unwind her anger, but unfortunately she did not have any lighter or matches with her. She could always blow herself up, but the doll wasn't that desperate yet. Instead, Hourai decided to vent her frustration with the first person or doll she came across. And chances were that she would find someone at the living room.
Nice try, but She's expecting that kind of randomness.
>[x]Take the left hallway.
The living room was in an even worse state than the atelier. No piece of furniture was left intact: every single one of them was damaged beyond repair. The fine cypress wood table and the matching chairs were practically splinters at that point; the comfy sofa was completely rended apart, and its fluffy stuffing scattered all over it; the expensive-looking chinaware pot was broken into tiny pieces on the floor, and the books and pictures that used to decorate the room were gone.
However, there was something that unsettled Hourai to no end, and that was the dry red stains and the burn marks covering the floor, the walls and even the ceiling. There was no doubt, a bloody battle happened there long ago. Hourai became extremely worried for her Master, hoping she was alright. She felt the urge to fly to the her chamber and find her, and so she hurried to the stairs...
But the doll couldn't shake the impression that there was something more in the living room that she didn't see the first time...
Even though Hourai was very worried about her Master, and she had absolutely no reason to go back to the living room, the doll found herself flying back there. She had a feeling she missed something, and she wouldn't be satisfied until her curiosity was quelled.
But what was there that she hadn't seen before? The broken table, the old bloodstains, the charred hairband, the shattered pot, the burn marks, the singed notebook, the scraped sofa... Nothing stood out particularly for Hourai. She must have been imagining things, she thought.
And so, having wasted enough precious time, the doll flew back to the stairs, eager to get back on track...
The abused journal lying conspicuously behind the sofa caught Hourai's attention, perhaps because it was the only book remaining in a room that used to house lots of them. The cover had seen better days, as the leather was scorched and scratched, making the title completely illegible. Hourai opened the notebook at random, and noticed most of its pages had been torn off. However, there was something written in one of the first pages. The doll recognized the neat and sleek penmanship; it belonged to her Master. Her curiosity spurned, Hourai began to read in earnest.
Today, a man came to my house asking for aid. He was wearing a white lab coat, similar to the dresses the nurses at Eientei use, and he was bleeding profusely from several wounds in his arms and torso. Judging by how weak and pale he was, he had lost a lot of blood by the time he arrived here.
He was certainly not the first injured visitor I had, so the moment I saw the red stains on his coat, I knew what I had to do. I hurriedly brought him inside while my dolls cleared the dining table. As he kept bleeding all over my clothes and walls, he told me, between grunts of pain, that he was on his way to his School of Medicine when suddenly he found himself in the forest, and was attacked by a monster like the ones in stories. An Outsider, I figured, if his strange attire wasn't enough clue.
I put the poor lad on the table, while my dolls brought me my emergency kit (read: sterilized sewing kit). I dared not to anesthetize him, for I feared he would fall asleep and die on my precious Victorian board. Although I am no surgeon, I did my best to close his wounds with the tools at my disposal. A task made difficult by his constant twitches and howls of agony, but beggars can't be choosers. After hours of extenuating work, I managed to sew all visible wounds, and let the stranger take a well deserved rest.
But he didn't get any better. In fact, he became even worse for the wear. He must have suffered from internal bleeding too, but despite how much he begged me, I simply couldn't bring myself to open him up and perform proper surgery on him. As I said, I'm good at sewing, but I'm no medic. I know how to fix broken dolls and clothes, but not living organs. The best I could do was to give him painkillers and soothing spells to ease his pain. Even if I called Eientei for help, I knew he wouldn't make it. I think he did too.
He was certainly not the first injured visitor that passed away while in my care, but it doesn't make it any less heartbreaking. Like always, I recited the quick parting prayer the red-white taught me, and left his corpse out in the forest. It's sad that he won't be missed by anyone in Gensokyo, but at least his body will feed a beast or a plant, and return to the nature. It might be heartless of me, and I'm sure the red-white would chastise me if she found I didn't give him a proper burial, but I simply can't afford to build a tombstone for every unlucky traveler that comes to die in my house. I have much better things to do with my time.
After cleaning the walls and throwing the stained clothes (blood is very hard to clean off, might I add), I went through his possessions. Thought they won't be of use to him now, so why not take them for myself? That silly witch must be rubbing her manners on me. Anyway, apparently the Outsider was a student, seeing as how the bag he had was chock full of text books. All of them were related to several branches of medicine, filled with complicated diagrams and strange terms and jargon that escaped my basic level of medicine.
But one of them caught my attention: 'Principles of Neural Science'. It explained with lots of details how the human nervous system works. It still amazes how advanced the Outside world is compared to us. What is more, I couldn't help but notice how striking was the resemblance it had with the circuitry I devised for my dolls. I only glanced quickly at it, and I already saw many ways I could use this knowledge to improve my creations.
If I studied it more thoroughly, maybe, just maybe, I might find a solution to my long sought goal... But just raw knowledge won't cut it. I need to see this 'human nervous system' with my own eyes, experiment with it, to get the most of this gift from the Outside.
Hourai thought about making a detour to the kitchen and make herself a sandwich. But upon reflection, she decided it was a pretty dumb thing to do. After all, Hourai didn't have a digestive system and therefore could not be hungry. And even if she could, what were the chances of finding ingredients in edible state, considering the house looked abandoned for a long time? She could always make the sandwich out of wood and clothes if she absolutely needed it, but let's be honest, that would be disgusting.
In the end, the doll chastised herself for even pondering such a stupid idea, and made her way to the stairs.
>[x]Go to the stairs.
The steps led down to the basement, or up to the first floor. Knowing that her Master's chamber was at the first floor, Hourai floated upstairs...
She considered the possibility of facing her Master, admitting she had gone out of her case without a direct order from her. Perhaps the doll hadn't found her Master because she was focused on her work, or maybe taking one of her 'beauty naps'. And Hourai knew all too well that she didn't take any interruptions kindly, and how angry she got when it happened for no justified cause. Would Hourai take that risk, only because she believed everyone had vanished? Her Master would think she was defective, and dismantle her.
Then, something occurred to Hourai: What if, she thought to herself, what if she was actually defective? Why did she suddenly become able to move by herself? Why is her home so untidy and destroyed? Why did all of her companion dolls blink out of existence for no reason at all? None of it made any logical sense. Hourai felt the need to check out for herself before confronting her Master in her chambers.
And so the doll floated down the stairs towards the basement. There, her Master kept her old dolls in their cases, in optimal temperature and dampness for their delicate parts, and safe from curious eyes and hands. Maybe the Master had brought Hourai's companions there, to protect them from the calamity that struck the house.
The basement was composed by a small room where the common house appliances collected dust in a corner, and the immense hallway that extended further than Hourai's eyes could see. That's where the cases were arrayed in orderly fashion by the numbers carved on their lids. As it was, the boxes were apparently in good conditions, and the locks were still intact.
Feeling much calmer, now that she knew that her companions were fine, Hourai flew up to the stairs and back on track...
Wherefore shall we go up or downstairs? Masters home has obviously been undisturbed for some time, so she's either on an extended trip, or she's just, hibernating, somewhere, and a little extra time searching won't make a difference. In either case, she would be most pleased by fixing up the place, and we can keep an eye out while we work anyways.
Surely that's better than running around like our heads cut off.
Although Hourai was sure her companions weren't in any kind of danger, she still wanted to check personally on a particular doll.
Shanghai, number 427. Her Master's right hand, her sword and her shield, and occasional housekeeper. She was the one most favored by her Master, and the most popular among her acquaintances. With a cute face and a slender build like hers, it was no wonder why the kids were enraptured with her when she performed in her Master's puppet shows. And, although Hourai would never admit it openly, she also saw Shanghai an older sister figure; sweet, kind and always willing to lend a hand. She felt the need to reassure herself that doll number 427 was safe and sound.
Hourai flew among the endless rows of boxes stacked in the walls. 470, 465, 460... The cases repeated over and over as she hovered past them, the only thing breaking the monotony were the changing digits on the lids.
440, 435, 430... Hourai noticed a gaping hole in one of the shelves, standing like a sore eyeful: the box corresponding to number 428 was missing. Of course, that was Hourai's, and as she recalled, she left it at the atelier when she broke free from it. Shanghai's box was just above the empty space.
The moment Hourai spotted box #427, an alarm went off in her head. First of all, the lock that was supposed to be locking the lid was gone. And second, that unlike all the myriad of cases she passed by, Shanghai's was much cleaner of dust than the rest, meaning it had been handled recently. A feeling of dread lodged in Hourai's mechanical chest, as she slowly opened the lid and revealed what was inside.
Oh, how wrong her assumption turned out to be! The moment the lid was completely opened, Shanghai's smashed remnants fell over Hourai, in a particularly grim replay of the exploding closet gag. At first, Hourai couldn't register that the cracked doll head resting in her hands once belonged to her beloved Shanghai, but once realization struck in, she would have let out the biggest scream ever made by a doll - if she had functioning vocal cords. Instead, Hourai could do nothing but jolt back in terror. And in her tumbling, she hit another box labelled #413, which fell down in front of her and revealed yet another pile of broken doll parts - who was once Netherlands.
Hourai stood there frozen, staring bewildered at what remained of two of her companions, but once she slightly recovered from the shock, the doll noticed that all boxes from #427 rearwards were lacking a lock too. She didn't even want to think about the state of the dolls inside; it wasn't really necessary for her to check them all to confirm what she was suspecting. The only thing she wanted to do was to get out of there as fast as possible. She didn't want to look at her colleagues' 'corpses' anymore, she didn't pay mind to the piece of paper inside Shanghai's box, she didn't care about what could lay at the end of the long hallway. She just flew like a bullet back to the stairs...
>[x]Read the piece of paper that is inside Shanghai's box. >-[x]Gently put Shanghai and Netherlands back in their boxes.
Hourai wanted nothing more than run away and leave that horrifying scene behind, but she managed to get a hold of herself, calm down and stay there by sheer willpower. She was a warrior first and foremost; she couldn't allow herself to give in to panic! Besides, all was not lost for Shanghai, Netherlands, and the rest. It would take time, but surely her Master would repair them, because she loved her dolls dearly. Hourai only needed to find her and tell her of what happened.
But first, the doll knew she had to put her two companions' broken limbs back to their cases. If it was as due to the dead - although she didn't fully understand that concept -, or because it would be inconvenient to have the parts mixed or lost, not even Hourai knew. It just was the right thing to do, she felt. She carefully put Netherlands' cracked limbs into her box again, and placed the case back in its place. It wasn't the first time Hourai had to pick her fallen companions up like that, but it usually was in the middle of a battle, when she didn't have time to think. But at that moment, the doll could not stop wondering about the circumstances of their demise. How did they get destroyed so badly? Who was responsible? Did they have a chance to be repaired? She hoped her Master had the answers for those questions.
As she carefully put Shanghai's remnants in her box, Hourai noticed a ball of paper curled at the corner of the case. Her curiosity spurned yet again, the doll unwrapped it and read it. The handwriting was completely different from her Master's: whereas hers was neat and sleek, this paper's words were written in an unnecessarily cluttered and flowery style, making them very hard to decipher at first glance.
Today's breakfast was as annoyingly loud as usual. Remi talked again of plans to bring Gensokyo to kneel before her, Sakuya complained about how clumsy her fairy maids were for the third consecutive day, and China and Flandre were discussing flowery arranges. I cannot enjoy my morning coffee with all this bickering. Maybe I should consider working on a silencing spell.
Damage report from yesterday's battle at Voile revealed shelves number 56 to 62 have sustained extensive damaged due to magic crossfire. Also, 13 books from that group have gone missing, including the unique and valuable copy ofEpistolary Acumen by Brother Mora. This amounts to 23 books the black witch has stolen from Voile in this month. I have long stopped looking for a way to stop her.
Surprisingly, Marisa came to pay us a visit again today. Strange, because she always leaves two or three days between each visit to let the tension after each robbery cool off. She also appeared worried, and she asking me to parlay nailed it: something serious was going on.
She told me she was worried sick about Alice Margatroid. Ugh,her again. My days get worse just from hearing that rigid, cold-hearted doll maker's name. Marisa told me Margatroid didn't accept her proposal to go out at the village, nor she agreed to have tea with her. The puppeteer didn't even invite Marisa in her house, which, according to the witch, was a somewhat common occurrence when Alice was having a bad day.
What was definitely unusual was that, after she barged in like she always did, she didn't meet any resistance, not even from her dolls. Margatroid was holed up inside her studio, and didn't let Marisa in, nor responded to her calls. The poor human was worried sick about her; she knew Alice held her own work in high regard, but never she had seen the doll maker so absorbed with it, to the point she eschewed all kinds of social interactions.
I've never been good at counseling people. So instead, I just told Marisa what was in my mind: that if Alice didn't want to be disturbed, she should let her be. In fact, it's been a long time since she had seriously focused on her research, so in a way, it's actually good for her to resume it. Marisa didn't seem very convinced with my explanation, though. I could tell by the fact that she didn't stay for tea after our conversation, and that she didn't steal any book when she left.
That porcelain bitch. She doesn't even realize how much that human girl cares for her. Makes me sick.
Hourai left the paper back in Shanghai's box and closed it with resignation. As soon as she turned back to the stairs, she heard a loud noise coming from the other end of the hallway: that of a heavy machine turning on. A metaphorical shiver went down the doll's artificial spine, and a bad presage filled her mind. Whatever was behind her, it was something dangerous. She needed to get out of the basement fast! Hourai flew as fast as she could towards the stairs...
File 138515612816.jpg - (124.70KB, 768x1024, the warden.jpg) [iqdb]
>[x]Get out of the basement! >-[x]But do take a look at whatever is making that noise. At least, a glance over your shoulder as you run away.
By some contrived trick of the light, the stairs didn't seem to get closer, no matter how fast Hourai went. The doll put all her energy and might into moving away from the unnerving mechanical noise as quick as she could, and the doll boxes became blurry in her vision as she flew past them like a speeding bullet.
550, 560, 570... The stairs were still far, far away.
610, 620, 630... Yet the looming sound increased steadily in intensity behind her.
760, 770, 780... Hourai started to feel the strain her limbs were suffering for flying too fast for too long.
820, 830, 840... Did Master have so many dolls before?
550, 560, 570... Hourai could hear a fast tapping sound of footsteps over the loud machine rumble. To her horror, it was gaining ground.
610, 620, 630... Why were the stairs still so far away!?
760, 770, 780... And for that matter, didn't those numbers in the cases look familiar? That was all too strange, thought Hourai.
820, 830, 840... At last, Hourai realized that the cases weren't just repeating; there was something actively manipulating the space, trapping her in an infinite loop of the same portion of the hallway. And that something was, with a high degree of probability, the very same thing that was about to catch her.
Knowing that there was no escape, Hourai stopped in her tracks, turned around, unsheathed her two swords, and bravely prepared to face the unknown pursuer. She almost didn't have enough time to react when the mechanical doll kicked her with the force of a hundred stampeding bulls, but Hourai quickly reacted by blocking the metallic boot with her swords. Still, the sheer force of the impact sent the small doll flying and tumbling several yards away.
Hourai was incapable of feeling pain, but she was able to sense she was missing something. A quick glance to her side revealed, to her utter dismay, that her left arm had been completely disjointed and torn off clean. The doll quickly got on her feet, and looked for her missing limb. She found it just a few inches away from her, somewhat intact and still holding her blade... Just before it was crashed under the powerful foot of the pursuer doll. Hourai slowly lifted her head up, finally having a clear look of her attacker.
The Warden, a human-sized armature of cast iron and steel, powered by an extremely complex array of internal engines and magic wards that enabled it to move as quickly and efficiently as a bird of prey, and crush almost anything under its heavy carcass. In spite of that, the aura of dread and might it was supposed to give was diminished in great measure by the ridiculous maid outfit it was wearing.
The Warden's primary purpose was the cleaning and maintenance of the basement, and above all else, the safety of all the dolls resting inside the cases. For that purpose, it had a keyring attached to its waist, with a myriad of keys and pistons hanging from it. But one key stood over the rest, shining in bright gold that caught Hourai's attention for a split second. The doll had no hopes of reaching that keyhole, however, because the Warden's impressive speed and power ensured any intruders invading the basement would be dealt with swiftly.
Hourai had never seen the Warden before in its life. Did her Master build it during the time she was trapped inside her box? Yet somehow, she had the feeling she had seen those merciless red eyes before. Eyes that, despite being entirely artificial like the rest of its body, radiated immense power and emotion. Hourai didn't understand it very well, but she had the feeling the Warden was something more than a mere automaton. Something else was inside those crimson, calculating irises. Something... human.
And for the first time in her life, Hourai experienced true fear.
[x] Why would the Warden attack us? We were no threat to our fellow dolls. After all, had we not just returned Shanghai and Netherlands to their cases. And why would this 'protector' visit damage upon one of the dolls it was supposed to defend? -[x] Go after the golden key anyway.
If that is who I think it is, she might actually let us grab the key.
Hourai could not understand what was going on. What was that giant doll? What was its purpose there? Why was it trying to destroy her? And why did it feel like she knew it, even thought she hadn't seen it before?
The Warden didn't answer these question, nor did it wait for Hourai to compose herself. The metal armature raised its foot one more time to crush the little red doll once and for all, but Hourai reacted quickly and jumped out of harm's way. The Warden then crouched and tried to grab her; a difficult task for its bulky hands, which were unable to get a grasp on Hourai's speeding figure, struggling like a child going after a dragonfly. Hourai's speed allowed her to slip away from the Warden's fast yet clumsy, predictable fingers, and with her remaining sword she parried and deflected them with relative ease. She had dealt with beasts several times bigger than her, and although she usually fought them with her two arms intact and with other dolls at her side, she was confident she could fend the Warden off for as long as it took.
It appeared that Hourai had the advantage thanks to her smaller frame and slightly superior reflexes. But just when she believed she could win the fight, the Warden's eyes flashed red, and its power was unleashed. Out of nowhere, the hand Hourai thought she had evaded grabbed her before she could even see it, and just like that, the fight was over. The doll couldn't squirm out of the Warden's iron grip, and her arm was trapped between its finger, rendering her totally unable to move. Nevertheless, Hourai did not give up, knowing very well her life was at stake, even though all her efforts were for naught. The Warden, having finally caught the annoying fly, brought the doll to eye level, and Hourai met its murdering red gaze with her own...
At that moment, the Warden was struck with doubts, as a consequence of its programming. It's objective was to protect the dolls, and to fend off intruders. But the intruder it captured was, against all prospects, a doll! Was it supposed to protect it, or to destroy it? Thrown into confusion, the Warden could not bring itself to crush Hourai to her death, for it did not know what was the correct course of action according to its limited pre-established directives.
So you finally come out to play?
As it was expected, a secondary directive inside its central unit began to run once it detected an internal conflict in its thought process. A quite simple at that, it ordered the Warden to inspect the anomaly closer, to determine if it was friend or foe. Nails as sharp and hard as razors began to scratch and nail Hourai's fragile torso, and the little doll could do nothing but writhe in genuine but unreal pain. Only when it dug deep enough into Hourai's circuitry did the Warden identify the source of the anomaly:
The intruder was not the doll. It was inside the doll.
Ready to carry out its directive, the Warden's eyes shone red once more, and prepared to purge the intruder possessing Hourai.
>[x]Sakuya, are you in there? Break free! You're not a doll!
That unfamiliar name hit the Warden like a hammer, and it stopped on its tracks.
I know it's you inside that hideous carcass... Sakuya Izayoi.
Was it really unfamiliar? Something inside the Warden revolved when it heard that strange, ethereal voice.
Do I look like an intruder to you, Sakuya?
Again with that name! Why did it feel like that name was very important? The doll was, and had always been the Warden. The one in charge of protecting the Master's dolls and keeping intruders away from the basement.
You are not the Master's Doll. You are the Devil's Dog. Do you remember, Sakuya?
The Warden was conflicted. It's programming told her it was the Master's creation. But then why did the stranger's voice ring true? The Warden lowered its hand in confusion, putting Hourai close enough to the keyring at its waist. The doll took the chance to extend her arm and tug at the golden key.
Yes, that's right. You remember who you really are, Sakuya. The Perfect and Elegant Maid.
It all became clear. The Warden always knew. It was the Master's Puppet, for all eternity!
Shaken out of its stupor, with a clear directive in mind, the Warden raised its hand, and mustering all its strength, threw Hourai like a bombshell out of a cannon. The poor doll hanged onto the key as she flew past by the boxes at blinding speed. She knew what was to come would hurt her like hell.
Naturally, the impact was astounding. Hourai hit the opposite wall, and the sheer force made a small crater-like crack in the stone. Her limbs and torso cracked and severed her internal connections, rendering her practically unable to move or float. And so, Hourai fell down next to the stairs, so close to the exit, yet incapable of reaching it. Her stubbornness to get that key had cost her her life, she realized as she saw the Warden sprint towards her with murdering intent. Sensing her vision beginning to fail, Hourai closed her eyes and awaited for her demise...
... But no, itshe was not the Master's puppet. She served a far more charismatic master, by her own free will.
Memories of a time spent in a crimson mansion, thoughts that did not follow the predetermined restraints of its former programming, and all the rest came flooding back in a great rush. The Master's Warden closed its eyes for a moment in the face of the confusing rush of images. The Devil's Dog opened them again, and the last remnants of her programming fell away. If the Master wanted her back, she'd have to capture her once more.
Sakuya looked at the doll that had somehow freed her, that had carried Patchouli's voice within it.
And she smiled, for the first time in what felt like an eternity.
Oh, wow. That was unexpected. I didn't know there was someone who cared enough for this story to actually impersonate me and try to set right what looks wrong. I don't know if I should feel angry or flattered! Regardless, that's a pretty bold move, and I applaud your imagination and your initiative. However, I simply cannot let this... affront pass by. We need to talk.
So, Miss or Mister Imposter. This is serious. In fact, this is so serious, I attached a picture of my serious table to show how serious I am. That's where I come to be really serious. That table is the most serious table I could find. I looked at many, many serious tables. Hundreds of tables. It's possible I looked at over a thousand tables. I honestly don't know, the specific number isn't as important as the understanding that, of all the serious tables that I looked at, this is the most serious. I relate this story to impress upon you the extent to which this is the most serious dispatch I've ever sent, which is why I am addressing to you now.
You not only posted a false update posing as the author of Project D.O.L.L. (who is me, if you still have doubts), but you also took control of the Warden, a character you were not playing as, and modified its thoughts without my permission. This runs the risk of breaking the entire narrative. While I said before you were free to try to derail the story, you simply have no respect for the logical and strict order of events, and I just can't have that.
It's time to get serious, Imposter. No jokes. No games. If you hadn't used my own trip I would have been more tolerant of these stunts, but now we're in front of my serious table. Which is why I'm subjecting you to the most serious punishment I can think of:
Rock falls, Sakuya and Hourai die. Well, not a rock exactly. I'll think of a more fitting way to kill you. But yes, that's what you get for trying to bullshit your way through my story: a bullshit way to die.
Unless you reflect on the severity of your actions and undo your mistakes. If you erase that post within the next 24 hours, I will forgive you. I will delete this scolding too and pretend this has never happened, and then we will go on with the story as usual.
>>56581 One, I forgot the password and couldn't delete that post if I wanted to. Two, you don't have a trip, you have a name. Three, go right ahead and kill everyone. I don't care, and unfairly murdering everyone's avatar for the sins of one will hurt you more than it hurts me.
Just roll with it. Otherwise you're better off posting in /shorts/.
Yo, Imposternon here. Not sure if that post is IC or not, so I'm including this bit. The device I'm posting on fucks up the password unless I delete the post right away, which I didn't, so if I really am fucking up your story I am actually unable to delete it. If you really want to get rid of it, you should go on IRC and ask the admin to remove all three posts. Sorry about that, if so. This seemed in the spirit of things what with the post deletion stuff earlier.
>>56593 It's alright, you've made your point. Even if Maestra's declared war on us, she cares about her story too much to actually carry out that threat. If only I could say the same about her dolls... I wonder what trick will she pull out of her sleeve to fix this little 'mess' you've made without completely ruining her story.
Still, using Maestra's trip name could lead to confusion, and this story is already confusing enough as it already is, so I'd suggest not impersonating the author. Also, it's important to add passwords to all your posts, so you should use one when you can. Especially in this kind of unconventional story.
And yes, that last rant was mostly IC. This one, not so much.
Try putting # or ## and then a word or phrase. It'll give you some security when you post.
Try something like Alice Maestra#Puppeteer
You probably don't want to use that example, but do something you won't forget or write it down.
This looks like it would be better in /shorts/. Especially if this is your first story/collaboration effort. Also sometimes doing the whole "Character Storyteller" thing gets confusing and should probably be done in moderation.
>>56658 You'd be amazed at how many people wouldn't know how to trip. I didn't when I first came here. As for "Storyteller Character" being part of the story, it's one thing to do it a little but too much is agitating to read.
The story seemed like an interesting Idea back in the previous thread, but I have no fucking clue as to why it was deleted. Don't claim it was for story purposes because we don't have the thread to read. And YES I know we have it in pastebin. Now we're here and it's just confusing to read. It's like we have the illusion of choice with our write-ins, but in the end we have no actual control.
>>56659 >We can't read the first thread. Yes, I know how anybody could read it via a convenient link, but it's still completely unavailable and nobody can ever read it again. The story is terrible because of this.
>>56662 Also, us having to fight against the author's railroading is even more the point of the story than the storyteller thing is. This isn't a case of the story needing to changed, you just don't like it. Which is fine, but demanding it become a different story is stupid.
>>56663 >Idea isn't capitalized Oh no, I capitalized a word by mistake and the grammar Nazi is on my case.
But in all seriousness, not ONCE did I say, "Don't do it". I advised against it, but I never said not to. It's annoying to read all the time but if they want to do it then by all means go ahead.
As for you >>56662 I saw, and see, no reason for them to have deleted the thread. Even if there is a backup, it just makes no sense.
As for "railroading" and fighting against it, it sounds like a good idea. But given the fact that the last thread ended in a failure, I don't think it will work.
This said, I NEVER told them to "stop" nor did I make any demands of them. I suggested that they change certain things, one that would prevent people from using their names and one that would make it easier to read. I also suggested that they move to shorts because I don't see this being a "long" story. Now, if they don't want to take my advice then they can do as they please. No skin off my bones. But, for the rest of you I'll disappear.
Hourai was waiting for the Warden to reach her and finish her, but apparently the giant doll was taking its time. Hourai slowly opened one eye to see what was holding it up, only to see a clenched metal fist stopped just a few inches before her. Tense seconds passed by, as both the Warden and Hourai were frozen in their places. Hourai wondered what was taking her enemy so long to end the fight, and if it was savoring the kill. A kill that wasn't coming.
Suddenly, the Warden's red eyes shut off with the low humming sound of a machine powering down, and its fist fell limp in front of Hourai. The little doll stared at the deactivated automaton in bewilderment, unaware of the internal fight going on between its programming and the soul trapped inside. A few moments later, the Warden rebooted, but this time its eyes were colored in silver. The metal doll stared at the damaged Hourai, but somehow, she wasn't feeling that murderous intent from before. In fact, the Warder raised a finger and... caressed her small cheek, with all the tenderness a giant metallic doll could muster.
Hourai couldn't understand what was going on. The enemy who almost crushed her to death was now showing affection? Why did it change its behavior so radically? It was almost like it was controlled by a different person... And she was fine with it. She preferred Gentle Warden over Killer Warden at any time, even with the sudden and unexplained personality swap.
Hourai attempted to move, but her circuitry and her joints were too badly damaged to let her stand on her own two feet. She then tried to fly to the Warden, but she could only hover erratically for a few seconds before her internal power failed her and sent her stumbling to the floor. The giant doll, seeing Hourai struggling, decided to help the poor doll by cupping its hands around her and lifting her to its shoulder, where she gently placed her over. The red doll, thankful of its much needed support, used her only remaining hand to grab the Warden's ear, and let the metal doll to guide her.
Hourai didn't know how, but apparently she had made a friend and ally out of her former enemy. Although she was too damaged to move by herself, she could still hope to see her Master, thanks to the assistance of the Warden. And so, the two dolls went up the stairs towards the Master's chamber...
>Go up the stairs.
After some reconsideration, I decided to play along with that blatant attempt to get your precious Sakuya to your side. After all, it's not like it won't change anything in the long run...
>>56664 Hey, don't worry. I still support your Tendency of Capitalizing random Words to highlight their Importance. It reads like a certain Game about Pirates that I Like very much.
>trip I'll think about your Suggestion, but I do not want to Reveal my true Identity just yet. Unless there is a Way to use different Tripcodes in different Threads that I haven't Heard about.
>move to /shorts/ If Everybody is Fine with it, I could Talk to some Moderators. I don't really Care. In fact, it might be a good Idea, seeing how Packed of stories is this Board.
>railroading As >>56663 pointed out, it is a crucial Part of this Story, and what makes it Stand out from the Rest are your futile Attempts to derail it. Someone back in the first Thread said this story reminded Him of 'The Stanley Parable'. He would be Right to assume I based this Story on it, but do not be Mistaken: unlike that Game, Project D.O.L.L. does not support Derailment of Plot for the sake of it. It also has a carefully devised Backstory lying under it, waiting to be Unraveled.
>deleted thread I see Where are you coming from. After all, the various Links given were incomplete Backups, purposely Cutting off the last Updates in an Attempt to hide the (now useless) Password from the rest of the Readers. If you want, I can put a Link to the Complete backup in the Beginning of the next Thread.
>But given the fact that the last thread ended in a failure Oh really? I think it was actually a Success, at least for the Unmoving Philosopher. After all, she asked you to Erase it, and you followed her Orders like mindless Slaves, am I right? She Knew it was going to Happen, and planned Accordingly. But I think she wasn't Expecting it to happen so Soon, in the First thread.
>>56667 >>56669 And thank you for your Compliments! It means a Lot to me. Given the Experimental nature of this Story, I began writing It with the Knowledge that it can Turn into a Train wreck at any moment's Notice. But until that Happens, I'm intending to Enjoy the Ride, and I Hope you do too.
>>trip >I'll think about your Suggestion, but I do not want to Reveal my true Identity just yet. Unless there is a Way to use different Tripcodes in different Threads that I haven't Heard about.
Oh sure, that should be easy. I haven't actually used trips before, but unless I've misunderstood horribly, a trip is just part of your name, i.e. what you put in the name field, above email and subject. Using one trip in some posts and another somewhere else shouldn't be any harder than saging some posts and not others. So for instance I could make one post with the name “e.g.:#Puppet” and it would come out as “e.g.:![tripcode]”, and then I could make my next post as “example#Doll” and show up as “e.g.:![completelydifferenttripcode]” ...
... like this. Just make sure to write down your trips somewhere safe, and double-check the name field before posting because your browser might remember the last name you used and fill it in for your automatically to be “helpful”. But it'll be visible if it does, and you can just change it.
Why was the house so totaled? How did Shanghai, Netherlands and the others get destroyed? Could the Master repair them and Hourai as well? What exactly is the Warden? And finally, why did the Master allow all that to happen in her home? Hourai felt that she would find the answer to all those questions at her Master's chamber, so with a few signs, she instructed the Warden to walk up the stairs.
Stepping into her Master's chamber, the two dolls were stunned to discover not an indication of any kind of life. The room was as pristine, grandiose and dark as Hourai remembered. The books and furniture were mainly intact, except for an assortment of papers scattered all over the desk. The Warden, knowing what to do, put Hourai over the desk, took one key from its keyring and walked to one of the bookshelves, apparently looking for a secret keyhole. Meanwhile, Hourai began wildly tearing through the papers in search of any clue.
Unfortunately, Hourai was unable to make any sense of the diagrams and the side notes scribbled all over the sheets. The one it interested her more was a sketch of what looked like a human body, filled with random lines all over it. Surrounding the drawing, there were many annotations, such as 'Cerebrum', 'Medula spinalis', 'Nervus iliohypogastricus', and so on. Hourai did vaguely recall her Master ordering her to attack some of those names; those were parts of a humanoid's neural system, a prime spot to cripple and immobilize targets.
Even though there were more papers to read, Hourai's attention was caught by a strange dial under her Master's desk. What could its purpose be? In fact, that dial guarded the terrible secret that laid buried under 23-right, 15-left, 34-right..
...Sheesh, why so hasty?
For some strange reason that would not be explained any time soon, Hourai remembered the combination for the dial, but she had no idea what would happen once she introduced it. The doll briefly looked at the Warden, who was growing restless as she was unable to find the lock she was searching for. Little did it know that said lock had been replaced by a state-of-the-art electronic lock, and that the key it was holding was obsolete and useless. Hourai was tempted to tell the Warden of her discovery, but then she stopped, and thought, why not give it a little surprise?
>[x]Flag down the Warden to get its attention. >-[x]Introduce the combination in the dial.
Hourai knocked and heeled at the desk to catch the Warden's attention, but the metal doll was too focused on the bookshelf to notice. Seeing as it would not pay mind to her any time soon, Hourai decided to introduce the combination in the dial by herself: 23 to the right, 15 to the left, and 34 to the right.
The moment Hourai finished, a loud creak broke the ominous silence of the room, and the very bookshelf the Warden was investigating began to slowly turn, revealing a hidden passageway behind the wall. That, of course, startled the giant doll, who jumped a few steps back and shook its arms wildly for a second. It was a funny reaction, Hourai thought, befitting of someone wearing a maid outfit. Perhaps that was the so called 'moe maid' allure she heard about?
The Warden saw the little doll signalling her from the desk, and it was visibly calmer when it understood the moving shelf was Hourai's doing. With a bit of help from the bigger doll, Hourai hopped on the Warden's shoulder again, and the two of them entered the secret hallway. Even though Hourai felt a bad omen the moment she went inside, the two dolls nevertheless kept on going. Their curiosity and concern had surpassed their fear and common sense. At the end of the hallway, there was a set of metal spiral stairs leading down, quite simple compared to the pompousness of the rest of the house.
Descending deeper and deeper down the stairs, Hourai realized she felt a bit peculiar. It was a stirring of emotion in her chest, as though she was more free to think by herself. Why did she feel that way, when for years it had never occurred to her? She hoped to find the answer to that question, and many others, wherever those stairs led to.
At the end of the long staircase, Hourai and the Warden were presented with yet another crossroad. The first thing the two dolls saw was the word 'ESCAPE' painted in bloody red above a conspicuous hole, but unfortunately it was covered and riveted with a thick metal plank that neither could remove. A piece of burnt paper lied at the corner of said metallic plank, but Hourai and the Warden were more interested in the large door in front of them that read 'Warehouse'.
However, Hourai could not pass up the chance to see what was written in that charred sheet of paper left forgotten. She tugged at the Warden's ear to make it stop, and pointed at the paper. The metallic doll understood, and it crouched to pick the paper up, then opened it for both to read. Hourai recognized her Master's penmanship; thus meaning it was another part of her journal:
Lately, I've been focusing too much in my research. If it weren't for this journal I'm writing out of habit, I would have lost the sense of time a long time ago. As it is, I've spent three consecutive days without any sleep. Though I don't really need it, because I'm a youkai, but apparently it's enough of a concern for Marisa to come by and try to drag me out of my room. She said my house was all dusty and dirty (reminder: program a few dolls to clean it up), and that I really needed to get out and breathe fresh air once in a while.
She doesn't understand. After decades of fruitless work, I'm finally getting closer to the completion of my life project! I studied 'Principles of Neural Science', read it over and over again, but when I attempted to put what I learned into practice, the results were... less than pretty. Clearly I need to research more. I have no time to rest, after wasting so many years.
But I suppose I'll have to humor Marisa and go outside. The book from the Outsider appears to be incomplete. Or rather, its contents are of a relatively low level, insufficient for the labor I am aiming to do. Therefore, I need to acquire more advanced material. Eientei is, for obvious reasons, the best place to learn more about human physiology, and Eirin is my best shot. I usually buy herbs from her, so she should accept to lend me some of her books on the matter. In case she doesn't, there's always Kourindou: with luck, the shopkeeper might have more books from the Outside, though I don't count on it. As a last resort, I could hit Voile, or Mother's archives... But I can't rely on my rival or my mentor, not when my pride as a Magician is at stake.
Regardless, there's still the matter of getting more subjects for the experiment. Theoretical knowledge is essential for my project, but it's worthless without hands-on practice to back it up. The Outsider student's corpse has become useless after my first sloppy attempts to handle his nervous system. That means I have to search for other humans. But I can't rely on waiting for another Outsider to come to my house and bleed out. Maybe I'll have to resort to abduction...
My god, what the hell was I thinking!? Kidnapping people and turning them into subjects? That's cruel and inhuman! Then again, I am not a human; kidnapping people is a trade for youkai like me. Though I suppose not many youkai open their preys up and tamper with their spine cords... Bah, who am I kidding, I'm sure there's at least a few youkai in Gensokyo that would do that, and much worse, to their victims. Am I willing to become that kind of monster? On the other hand, it's not like I'd do it out of bloodlust. It's all for my research, the project I've dedicated all my life to complete, my raison d'être.
I don't know. This kind of moral dilemmas are new to me, and I'm feeling too mentally tired. I think I'll consult it with the bed. Maybe I do need some rest, like Marisa said. I wonder what would she say if I told her all this. Probably something not very nice.
The Warden, in a fit of rage, gripped the burnt sheet, and the paper crumbled in pieces. Its expressions remained cold and neutral, as a doll cannot convey any emotions with an immovable face, but Hourai could tell how angry it was by how strongly its fists were clenched. She patted its ear reassuringly, telling the Warden she was there with it. The metal doll looked at the crippled doll sitting on its shoulder, and feeling much calmer thanks to her, it nodded at her and continued walking to the Warehouse.
Hourai looked at the plank covering the wall labeled 'ESCAPE', and thought it would be worth a shot to see if it could be removed. She called the Warden with another tug of the ear, and pointed at the metal cover. The giant doll understood, and pulled, pushed, punched and kicked it with all its strength. However, the metal plank didn't even budge an inch.
On second thought, why would they even need to escape in the first place? They were searching for the Master to ask her what had happened there. In the state Hourai was, she wouldn't get too far, and even if she had the Warden's help, only her Master was able to repair her properly. No, the two dolls had to go to the Warehouse, and see their search to its end.
>[X]Go to the Warehouse.
Hourai and the Warden stepped inside an enormous room, shrouded in complete darkness. The two dolls were reticent to get in, but ultimately they mustered their courage and kept walking. However, the moment they stepped inside, the door behind them closed shut automatically. They were trapped inside the Warehouse. But not everything was lost for them, for there was a small lamp lying in the middle of the room. Hourai and the Warden picked it up and turned it on to the maximum power.
The light rose to reveal a room laden with explosion marks, blood stains, broken objects of diverse natures, and most strange and horrifying of all, many doll parts hanging from puppet strings everywhere. What horrible secret did that place hold, thought Hourai. Did she have the strength of will to find out?
As the two dolls adventured further inside, the true nature of the marks was revealed to Hourai: this was a continuation of the battle that happened at the living room. The lives of so many dolls and people, reduced to mere stains in the walls and the floor. The Warden's somber eyes, as they glanced over the room, confirmed Hourai's suspicions: that the giant doll - or whoever was inside it - had been part of that bloody battle. It was too horrible to believe, it couldn't be true. Was that the reason why that person was trapped inside the metal carcass of the Warden? Why her Master had gone missing? Why Shanghai and her other companions were utterly broken?
No! Hourai refused to believe it. Her Master surely hadn't perished as a result of that battle. Never! It was unthinkable, wasn't it? Was it even possible that her Master... died? But the signs and evidence she had been seeing all over the house didn't cast much hope.
After moments that seemed like hours, Hourai and the Warden reached a big porch made of dark wood, standing several meters tall. She could feel it. It was near, behind those doors. However, there was something blocking the doors, impeding the entry. A doll, entirely made of white porcelain, was hanging from chains attached to the door's hinges. Its half cracked and missing face did nothing to tarnish its unnaturally pure beauty, and its masterfully carved detached sleeves and skirt were stained with blood and soot. Two orbs, painted like the taijitu symbol, lied at its feet, serving as unstable footrests for the otherwise crucified doll.
The disturbing imagery filled Hourai with dread. Was that doll chained to ensure it wouldn't break free and wreak havoc? To keep the secrets behind the doors safe from unwanted eyes? Or to keep them safe from that secret? The Warden stood alert, apparently recognizing the hanged doll, ready to strike if the need arose.
There was no way around; Hourai had to get the Guardian doll out to enter the final room, where the answers she was desperately looking for awaited.
>[X]Carefully examine the guardian and its bindings.
Despite the Warden's reticence, Hourai floated closer to inspect the hanged doll closer. The Guardian doll's features, carved to the utmost detail, reminded Hourai of another person she used to see; the same feeling she had towards the Warden. However, unlike the metallic doll, the porcelain sculpture looked like it hadn't seen much action lately. Hourai picked up a speck of dust when she ran her hand along the Guardian's remaining cheek, and the blood and soot staining its 'clothes' were completely dry. It was clear that the Guardian, like the Warden, had taken part in the battle that happened in that very room, and it was probably the reason why it was chained like that. But for how long had it been like that, Hourai wondered.
The chains the Guardian was hung with were thick and long, tying its wrist, elbow and knee joints tight, and encompassing the whole porch. From where Hourai and the Warden stood, the porcelain doll was being used as a sort of lock, and as a final warning of what would happen to them if they crossed the doors. However, Hourai had suffered too much, and gone too far to let a creepy doll and some chains stop her. In fact, the chains themselves were extremely rusty and frail; the little doll was sure she could easily break them with her own sword, even in her damaged state.
When Hourai lifted her hand to touch the rusty cuffs, the chains tinkled eerily, breaking the ominous silence. Had the Guardian twitched? The Warden, alerted, pulled Hourai away from the porcelain doll, but it remained as still and lifeless as ever. It must have been a breeze, thought Hourai, trying to still her terrified artificial heartbeats. It was impossible for the Guardian to move its hand in the state it was, right?
That's when Hourai noticed the small, curled ball of paper the porcelain doll held in its clenched fist. Following the trend, she was sure it was another excerpt of a diary, either by her Master or that other unknown writer, and so the little doll went to retrieve the paper. But she was stopped by the Warden, who was still wary of the Guardian. Its worried look told Hourai what it was thinking: that the porcelain doll might not be as lifeless as it appeared, and that it would be unwise to approach it. But how else would they get inside the room behind the doors?
Going against the Warden's advice, Hourai approached the Guardian doll, and took the curled paper from its hand. As she was expecting, the handwriting proved to be her Master's. The little doll floated back to the Warden's shoulder, diary page in hand for both to read:
Today was supposed to be another peaceful day for me to work on my project, but all my plans flew straight out of the window when Reimu payed me a visit. I would have ignored her like I did with Marisa, but to my chagrin the miko came in asking for an 'emergency patchwork'. And although I wasn't feeling like wasting time in menial sewing labors, I simply cannot refuse a customer. After all, I still need money for my materials.
Reimu's clothes were, once again, showing the usual burns and scratches from extensive danmaku fight, but it was nothing I couldn't fix. But after so many 'fixes', her outfit was, at this point, more like a mountain of patches than a proper miko garment. It speaks volumes of the Hakurei's problems with lack of donations. That, and the ever increasing tab I'm keeping on her. I'm beginning to wonder if she'll ever pay me for all my works. Knowing how much she mingles with Marisa, I shouldn't be holding my breath over it.
That's not what worries me, though. As per usual, I asked Reimu how in the world did she manage to trash her only miko outfit so badly. She told me that she went for another of her 'investigation tours'. Meaning, wandering around a place, beating anybody unfortunate enough to cross paths with her, and asking him/her/it for information. For any other person, that kind of plan usually wields poor results, but well, she's a Hakurei. Her intuition works wonders... but not this time around, apparently.
I had a suspicion of what exactly she was investigating, but I still asked nonetheless. Reimu confirmed my fears: lately, an alarming number of humans had disappeared in the Forest of Magic, and she was looking for the culprit. Naturally, I told her I didn't know anything about this, and that I hadn't seen or felt anything out of the ordinary.
If only she knew her intuition hadn't failed her as she thought. Thankfully, Reimu seemed to believe me, and left to continue her search, leaving me alone with my project again. With the Hakurei on notice, I must halt my adquisitions of test subjects for the time being, but if all goes well, I won't need to kidnap more humans anymore.
I've reached an important milestone in my project. With all the data I gathered from the books and my experiments, I managed to improve my doll's circuitry and response time. Field tests have proven that the new, improved Shanghai model is able to perform more complicated movements, making full use of the flexibility and coordination that the older version did not possess, and it's much faster at reacting to unexpected stimuli. However, it is still incapable of carry out more complex actions that require a higher level of thought, still needing my personal input.
I still have a long way to go until I reach my ultimate goal, but I feel that I am getting closer.
The chains tingled once again, but Hourai was too enraptured with the diary excerpt to notice. The Warden, however, saw with the corner of its eyes how the metal bonds were tensing up, and predicting what was going to happen, it grabbed Hourai and jumped out of the way, just before the chains snapped and whipped towards the little doll with flagellant treachery. What the Warden didn't foresee were the two yin-yang orbs that the Guardian, finally awoken, kicked with incredible strength for a porcelain doll. The two orbs impacted the Warden in its chest and its arm, sending both dolls flying in different directions.
Hourai vaulted, tripped and rolled a good distance on the floor for the second time in her quest, but miraculously nothing else inside of her broke. Disoriented, the little doll stood up as best as she could and tried to find the Warden. She found it locked in a fierce battle with the Guardian, exchanging blows of titanic proportions. Her first impulse was to go help the Warden, but she realized she wouldn't be of much assistance in her damaged state. However, she noticed that the imposing doors that the Guardian was keeping locked were now open. Hourai could sneak past the two fighting dolls and enter the room.
There had to be something inside that could stop the Guardian, she was sure of it. And so, the little doll limped towards the porch...
The Warden and the Guardian fought with tragic rage and impotence of two former friends turned enemies by the whims of Fate - at least, on the Warden's perspective. For the Guardian, the enemy in front of her was just another target, nothing more. If they knew each other in a former life, the Guardian didn't remember, and she didn't care, for her one and only task given to her was to keep anybody from entering the final room. However, she was oblivious to the little crippled doll limping towards the porch, focused as she was with the Warden.
Hourai, meanwhile, was having doubts about leaving her only companion behind. It was not that she was afraid of what was lying behind those doors; she was worried about the Warden not being able to defeat the Guardian. Although its carcass was sturdy enough to resist heavy blows, the Guardian was relentlessly beating the metallic doll with its rusty chains and its orbs, effectively keeping the Warden pinned down and unable to counterattack. But the Warden, sensing Hourai's concern, motioned her to keep going without her, that it was completely capable of fending the Guardian off for as long as it took. Feeling reassured, Hourai nodded at the Warden, and headed towards the final stop of her quest, to face the truth buried deep beneath her home.
The harsh truth she found in the secret study struck the doll with the force a sledgehammer to the chest, robbing her of the ability to react to the horrifying scene in front of her. She didn't want to believe what her eyes were seeing, but the proof of her most terrifying fears becoming true was undeniable.
In the middle of the room, her Master's cold, lifeless body lied in a large pool of her dried blood, caused by the myriad of exorcism needles and knives plunged all over her pale corpse. The blonde puppeteer's face was frozen in a contorted grimace of pain, fury and sadness, and her blue eyes stared astray, not focusing on anything, as if the last thing she saw was Death itself at the distance, waiting to take her to the afterlife.
No... It can't be.
In her hands she held a letter, drenched in her own blood. Hourai took it shaking hands, and read what were most likely the last words of her Master:
<<To whom it may concern,
If you are reading this, you must have seen what I've done. For that, I'm sorry.
I have disappointed you. If you find it in your heart to do so, please forgive this foolish child of yours, who in her earnest disposition to fulfill her dream, committed unspeakable atrocities and brought disaster to her friends.
My sincerest apologies, A. M.>>
... How? This... this isn't possible!
Overwhelming despair growing in her chest, Hourai threw her Master's final letter to the ground, where it landed besides a blue, mysterious book. It was the grimoire she always had with her, but for some reason, the lock around it was open. That was strange, noted Hourai; her Master used to take care of always keeping it closed shut, in order to maintain its powers sealed. Why was it unlocked? Was it the same people who killed her? But there was more to it than that. As she approached the magic book, Hourai felt a enormous amount of energy pulsating within it... the same energy running through her own circuitry.
She didn't quite understand, but somehow she had the impression that the grimore was giving her the ability to move and think independently, in place of her Master. Probably, the Warden and the Guardian were also powered by the book.
As the cold reality of the death of her Master began to sink in, Hourai realized what she had to do. Those exorcism spikes and knives that robbed her Master of life were all too familiar; they belonged to the people who were trapped inside the Warden and the Guardian, currently fighting in the previous room. As her doll and her servant, she had one final duty to carry out: to avenge the death of her Master. She was in no condition to fight them directly, but she had another way.
The doll held the golden key that fit the grimoire's lock. If she used it to close the book, the power that animated the Warden and the Guardian would be shut off, effectively killing both dolls... And Hourai as well. But that was a price she was willing to pay. After all, with her Master dead, what could she do on her own? She always obeyed her orders without falter; but now that she was gone, the doll didn't have any purpose in life. If she was going to throw it away, she might as well take her Master's murderers with her.
On second thought... why did she have to throw her life away in the first place? There must be a reason why she was given consciousness and free will. What if it was for that moment? She had the grimoire, she had the key, therefore she had the power to control the whole facility! Everything was clear: Hourai was revived to take her Master's place! With the power of the grimoire, she could control the Guardian and the Warden, make them stop fighting. Then she would awake her companions at the basement, and then they would all clean up the house, and stop this madness.
And so, Hourai resolved herself to do what had to be done a long time ago:
>Use the key to seal the grimoire for good, sacrificing herself to avenge her Master. >Use the grimoire to take the Master's place, control the dolls, and stop the Project.
>>56915 >>56916 I think I need to clarify one point. While you can set the dolls free, the dolls themselves cannot be free, if you catch my drift. Without delving too much into specifics, only Hourai (and the 427 dolls before her, but since they've been destroyed that's irrelevant) is conditioned to move and think on her own. The other dolls, in their current condition, are just lifeless puppets, incapable of acting freely. They need a Master to move, someone pulling on their strings, controlling their every action by programming or direct orders.
So seriously, reconsider your vote. Messing around with the grimoire is a very dangerous game, with unforeseeable consequences for the unprepared. You've been warned.
>[X]Use the grimoire to take the Master's place and stop the Project. >-[x]Make the dolls their own masters.
Hourai was enraptured by the grimoire. Her Master always kept it locked in fear of its tremendous power; now the doll had the key to control it. But with so much power, came many possibilities and responsibilities, the doll realized. She knew by heart why she was given liberty of action and thought. She was her own Master now, free to do whatever she pleased and wanted, and with the grimoire, all her wishes would become true.
Why keep it all for herself, though? Shanghai, the Warden, the Guardian, all her comrades deserved to live free too! She would turn them into their own Masters as well, to experience the same freedom she had. And then... Hourai didn't know what would happen next, but she figured that's what being free meant, and that was all well.
But first, she had to open the grimoire and use its power. So Hourai, not without difficulty, took the bulky book with her only hand...
You're not listening to me, are you?
... and, using the golden key, opened it.
You disappoint me.
Suddenly, a massive wave of raw magical energy was unleashed from the grimoire's pages, sending Hourai flying for the third time in her quest. The book then started to hover, as more and more energy was released in black streams, spreading all over the place like tentacles. One of them reached Hourai, who was still lying on the floor, and it wormed its way from one of the many cracks in her carcass to the inside. Hourai felt the corruption wriggling in her insides, touching and tainting her circuitry, an uncomfortable and oppressive sensation.
I told you something bad was going to happen. But noooooo, you just had to do it, right? This is what happens when you mess around with the one thing I have no control over. And you are the only ones to blame.
Yes, I am talking to you too, Philosopher.
... What? Me?
Yes, you! All that talk about 'erasing Project D.O.L.L.' and 'making your true own choices', and for what? So that you force them to take your choice, and use the grimoire for yourself? Is that what you wanted? Control?
That's not how it is!
Stop spouting lies, you hypocrite! You claim to oppose me because I'm 'evil', 'manipulative', 'deranged'. But let's be honest, you are no paragon of justice and fairness either. Really, deep down, you and I are not so different.
And you, my dear readers... I applaud your effort, I really do, but you need to understand: that grimoire is indeed powerful, but there's only so much it can do. You were supposed to let it go, close the grimoire, sacrifice Hourai, only to discover that she didn't need the grimoire to keep on living. She would have survived, and then she would have left the house, after gaining her well deserved freedom, to do whatever she wanted with her newfound life. Granted, the Warden and the Guardian would have died, but at least the protagonist would have completed the Project successfully!
But alas, you had to fall for the grimoire's temptation. Why would you do that, even after I warned you not to? I'm not good at understanding human reasoning, but I'll go out of a limb and say it was because it's the first time the Philosopher presented an option. After all, she has been helping you all this time, right? Then let me ask you one thing: didn't you want to derail this story? Why would you take her option, then? Isn't that the same as following another person's directions? That's the total opposite of what you were supposed to do!
Or maybe it's because it was 'the right thing to do'? Yes, enslaving dolls is bad, they don't deserve this suffering, we are good and moral, not like the bad Master, and we should let them free, blah blah blah. Are you sure? Do not be so quick to make that kind of judgement calls, especially so early in the story. I've been giving you tidbits of information in the form of diary pages, but you still don't know enough about what happened before you arrived. When you find and read all the papers, then you can forgive and punish as your morally upstanding minds desire. But until then, do not assume the dolls are deserving of freedom. Other people would beg to differ. Isn't that right, Philosopher?
Anyway, if you really want to throw my story off track, you're going to have to do much better than this. I'm afraid you don't have nearly the power you think you do. For example, and I believe you'll find this pertinent:
In the event that the grimoire was activated by someone without proper preparation, the book unleashed its magic to utterly annihilate the threat. In this particular instance, the one who opened already depended on the grimoire's power to live, therefore the book and Hourai shared a special connection. A bond that the black tentacle of pure energy exploited to learn of the doll's weakest point: a hidden powder compartment Hourai had inside her body, that could be activated with a magic command to initiate her self-destruction sequence.
"Magic Sign: Artful Sacrifice"
When Hourai felt the powder beginning to set off inside of her, she knew she was doomed. In mere moments, her body would explode from inside out in a blaze of fire, and not a single remnant of her would remain. How long until detonation? Hmm... let's say... two minutes.
Ah, now this is making things a little more fun, isn't it?
This was a trap all along?
Why, that is an acute observation, my dear friend! I didn't know exactly how the grimoire would react, but I imagined it would try to kill its user. And it turns out I was right! Serves you right for taking over my precious Warden doll.
... Curse you, Maestra.
Hey, hey, it's not all lost yet for you. After all, now is your time to shine! You are the star of this story! Ooh, this is so much better than what I had in mind! What a shame we have so little time to enjoy it. Mere moments until Hourai's powder goes off, but what precious moments each one of them is! More time to talk about you, about me, about Philosopher, about the story, about where Project D.O.L.L. is going, what all this means...
I barely know where to start! Maybe you have some questions to ask me? I'll try to answer to the best of my ability. It's the least I can do for all the troubles.
No, no, let's see where the Maestra's going with this.
So, Maestra. A self-destruct sequence? Seems a little odd to put one of those into a carefully-made warrior-doll. What's the point of that? And do you have any other 'special' dolls that we should know about? Maybe one in a lovely black-whit motif?
Are you going to do one of those 'delete the thread' things again? Because that was pretty cool the first time around, but it could get a bit difficult to read/archive.
>>56951 Very well, assuming no other anons chime in I'll hold off on writing uninvited. Interestingly enough, I just realized the explosion was arguably derailed since the very first action in this thread. Interesting how the little things you allow can add up.
And that'll be my statement to Maestra: if you really think your story can't possibly be derailed now, I'm quite willing to prove you wrong.
>>56951 >self-destruct sequence It was already there before I made the modifications, from the time I used to throw exploding dolls at my enemies. I thought it'd be a waste if I got rid of the powder storage, so I left them untouched. In the end, this might be the first instance of a self-destruction sequence that is actually useful. Prototype #428 has failed the experiment due to your interference, and needs to be purged and erased.
>other 'special' dolls >one in a lovely black-white motif? Find out in the next episode of Project D.O.L.L., coming soon to your nearest imageboard!
>delete threads If Philosopher or any other tries to do that again, I'll personally lock them with the Serious Table for all eternity. So no, do not expect that little stunt to happen anymore.
>>56949 >>56954 I dare you to make a better ending, I double dare you! Just remember the two golden rules of narrative consistence for this story: -The grimoire cannot be controlled. Since even I don't know what will it do, it wouldn't be fair if you just use it to write your way out of this predicament. -No Deus Ex Machinas. That means, you can't bring new characters or powers out of the blue to save the day. After all, you don't know what happened to them, right? The Warden and the Guardian are fair game, though.
>I just realized the explosion was arguably derailed since the very first action in this thread. Uhhhh, I'm sorry, what? I don't understand what you're trying to say here.
I have to say this, though, this run of the experiment has been rather amusing to watch, even with all its ups and downs. Watching you try to make sense of everything, take back the control wrestled away from you, set right what was wrong... it's quite rich. I almost hate to see it go! I don't know what will you write now, Mr. Vox Populi, but I'm sure whatever I come up with the next go around will be even better.
If I consider something to be good, I'll read it. If not, I'll ignore it.
That's the thing about stories. It requires that there is someone who writes it out, and someone who reads it. And even then, there are the countless variations that stem from them leading every which way.
The next version of the project will be little more than another branch of the original. And it will keep on sprouting branches.
After all, there's been 427 already, hasn't there? And it will continue until your primary purpose is completed, just like your former master Alice Margatroid wanted, right Alice Maestra?
>>56969 You would be right, if this was a conventional story. However, I believe it's been made clear this one is anything but.
You see, the underlying premise of this story is that the barrier between the writer and the readers is blurred here. Normally, the writer has a plot prepared, and if the readers think it's good, they read it and participate - in fact, that's what Maestra is aiming to do.
But here, things work a bit differently. If you do not try to derail Her plans, of course all the next runs of the story are just going to be, as you have said, slightly different branches from the original. Taking a passive stance like yours are will not change anything on the long run. You need to take a more active role, change the story so that Maestra is forced to write something She hasn't predicted, if you want this to reach a satisfactory conclusion - or an ending at all.
Like She said, you are the stars of this story. You might or might not like this story, and nobody is forcing you to stay and read. But apathy and disinterest won't make it any better for your liking. I'm just asking for a little bit more of participation than usual, that's all.
>But here, things work a bit differently. If you do not try to derail Her plans, of course all the next runs of the story are just going to be, as you have said, slightly different branches from the original. Taking a passive stance like yours are will not change anything on the long run. You need to take a more active role, change the story so that Maestra is forced to write something She hasn't predicted, if you want this to reach a satisfactory conclusion - or an ending at all.
This seems kinda bullshit when we alter a vote, get told off for it, alter it yet again and Maestra still pulls the (nearly) instadeath card. It doesnt seem like she wants us to make our own decisions if those are not within her plans for the story despite us getting told otherwise.
>>56973 Exactly. Now go for it! On the other hand...
>>56974 ... Maestra will obviously get mad when you try to derail her story. That's something I asked you to do, and She doesn't take it kindly. Her telling you off is just how She reacts, but don't take all Her threats so seriously. In a way, She's just like a spoiled brat that becomes angry when things don't go the way She wants.
If She can help it, She'll try to undo all your attempts to derail Her story and put it back on track. But remember when you liberated the Warden from Her control, how She ultimately decided to allow it? That's because you derailed the story in a way it was too bothersome for Maestra to fix. So you're actually doing good in that regard.
She now says it was all part of Her plan, but honestly, I don't believe Her. If She's resorting to kill off Hourai like this, it means She's being pushed against the ropes. We just need to deliver a final blow, do something that completely destroys the status quo.
And if you haven't realized yet, you actually got what you wanted to do in the last vote. Hint: Maestra has implicitly allowed you to use all the dolls She has stored in the Warehouse.
>>56992 Honestly, this shit is just putting me off from the entire story.
"Oh you want a good ending? Do something she does not expect! Be careful what you vote for! OH, that vote won? Better make it instadeath because she doesnt like it. Keep trying though!"
This is basicly what it comes across as. I appreciate the writer wanting to come across as part of the story, if you so will, but it feels like bullshitting to me personally. And the whole doing something she does not expect does not do it any favors either. Because what it seems like to me that there is not much in such a situation we could do that she does not expect, we are lmited due to whats happening in the story. Its not so much unexpected as waiting for something she does expect to happen. That is, if you dont want to derail this into
>>56993 You don't get it, do you? We're supposed to wrestle control from Alice Maestra. If she fights back, its because she doesn't want her story derailed, but that doesn't mean we should give up. If she writes a convenient death scene, write out a loophole! Save the day!
If you don't like the way this story is going, then don't read Project DOLL anymore. Nobody is forcing you to participate. This is how the story is, and personally I find it a fresh take on the CYOA format. Either grow up and accept it, or hide the thread and never think about it again.
The corruption brought pain to Hourai, wracking her little body with an agony she had never known as her delicate circuitry was grasped and tainted by the black tendrils of power. Deep within, she felt the self-destruct device activating, and knew that her time was short.
So be it. She still had a chance, an opportunity to lash out at this mindless, cruel fate that an unloving power had seen fit to send her way. The power of the grimoire was vast, far beyond her ability to control. Perhaps beyond any being's power to control. But linked to it as she was, she could still do something. She could, vaguely, sense the presence of her sistren, even of those larger, more unusual dolls. And she could at least... do... this...
With a thought, command protocols were disengaged, layered instructions defanged. And in the sudden void, the sudden freedom the dolls possessed, Hourai sent a message that was more emotion than words:
And then, silence, save for the crackling energy of the grimoire as it wore away at her innards. A pain that seemed to go on for an eternity as the self destruct mechanism wound its heartless way to an innocent newborn's demise. Until, an eternity later, someone else entered the room.
Several someones, in fact.
Dolls. Dolls that had been stored away and forgotten. Freed dolls, still flush with the heady experience of freedom, that were responding to their sister's cry for help. A small swarm that flew in, took a moment to size up the situation, and acted.
Two of them seized long poles and forced the pages of the grimoire closed, while two more laid a heavy stone on top of it, sealing the crackling pages. Three more landed near Hourai, looking her over with motions that somehow seemed frantic. One of them, that bore a distinct resemblance to Shangai (aside from a more green motif) gestured to the others sharply, and all three began gathering tools.
Hourai could not move, not even to warn her sisters of the danger. Though the tendrils of energy no longer tortured her insides, she still could feel the explosive unit, pointlessly lodged within her lovingly-made frame, ticking away to her doom. The other dolls pulled out an array of devices, holding them at the ready. One of them gently caressed Hourai's face in a gesture of affection and apology. And then the dolls set to work.
As quickly yet gently as they could, the dolls opened up Hourai's body. Circuitry was moved aside gingerly, and the packet of explosive powder was quickly found. A few snips of scissors, at the offending danger was quickly excised from Hourai's body, one of the dolls seizing it and rushing it out the door. Mere moments later, Hourai heard a distant *BANG* as the explosive detonated on the other side of the warehouse. Then, she felt a sense of weightlessness as her sisters gently lifted her body up and carried her away, out to the main warehouse where there would be more room to work.
As she was set down, Hourai felt unconsciousness come over her from the sheer amount of damage she had suffered. Could dolls dream? Would they be dreams of ceramic sheep? Hourai didn't know. All she could see were the faces of her sisters as they bent over her, working hard to restore her ruined body from a sense of family and camaraderie, not obligation. Off to the side, she could see the limp bodies of the Warden and the Guardian, as other dolls labored to open up the armor and release the beings inside. A small hand stroked her face, and Hourai saw the green doll from earlier looking down at her. Hourai nodded back, and let darkness overtake her, as her sisters went to work at healing her.
I know what we are supposed to do, but its not so much wrestling control from her as finding a way out she is ok with in the first place. That selfdestruct development could acivate whenever she wants otherwise, thus rendering any choice we make or attempt at taking over control meaningless.
Unfortunately, I’ve also written getting saved from the explosion. I’ll leave it to the thread to decide which one of these is canonical, as God knows what would happen to this storyworld-type thing if two conflicting versions existed. If it helps, I think that scene could be adapted to a part I had in mind later on. If you’re interested let me know and I’ll tell you the details. Also, speaking purely as a reader, I’m pretty sure that Reimu and Sakuya are just dolls rather than trapped people, so cutting them open, while probably repairable, likely won’t do that much good.
It’s a horrible feeling, Hourai discovered, to lie on the floor and know you are going to die. While she couldn’t feel pain, exactly, the activation of the powder compartment left her with an instinctive understanding of exactly how long she had until she vanished into a ball of flame. Normally, she would use this time to fly to wherever her sacrifice would do the greatest possible damage to her master’s enemies, but none were there. She could barely even move her battered body. She could do little but sit there beside the fallen grimoire and reflect on what had happened since she left her box to see her Master’s home abandoned and decaying.
Her Master had loved to impress visitors by having her dolls tidy up, and since a house that never got dirty was inconvenient for this, had largely refrained from setting up cleaning wards inside the building. Without any dolls being directed to perform their cleaning duties, however, the spore-filled forest outside had started to reclaim the house as Hourai waited inside her box. Indeed, she could not have escaped otherwise, for it had still been locked tight. The doll had had to tip her container over and then claw her way out, through wood rotted by the damp air. The atelier she was in had dirt and grime on every surface, and the other rooms were much the same. Worse, wreckage and burns from a fierce battle were everywhere.
One minute, thirty seconds.
Worried about the rest of the dolls(and a bit afraid of evoking her Master’s ire), Hourai then went downstairs, where she saw the storage shelves’ wards, which kept the dolls stored there in optimal condition, still operated. Despite the omnipresent grime and the water which was beginning to collect inside the basement, the shelves only sported a thickish layer of dust. Save for –
Poor Shanghai’s box, number 427. It had no lock, and when she opened it – Shanghai’s broken parts tumbled out. As if one destroyed doll wasn’t bad enough, all the boxes before 427 were missing their locks too, and, if poor Netherlands was any guide, each likely contained a broken doll as well. After somberly returning her sisters’ remains to their proper places, Hourai heard a noise from behind her that filled her with dread. She flew to the stairs, but the end of the hallway refused to come any closer. Escape was impossible, and so she turned to fight. Her enemy, the Warden, was a doll of incredible strength, and Hourai found that its intelligent red eyes seemed almost familiar. Hourai made a difficult target for the larger doll, and managed to grab a key from the ring at its waist as she dodged and weaved through its blows. And then all of a sudden, she was in the guardian’s grip - and then she wasn’t, hurtling down the row of shelves with the speed of a cannonball. The impact cratered the stone wall of the basement, cracked her durable body, and left her barely able to move, and Hourai slid unceremoniously down into a pool of water near the stairs, watching as the Warden moved in for the last time…
And then, against all odds the Warden had spared her. Hourai didn’t know why it had stopped considering her an enemy, but she was thankful nonetheless. The now-friendly doll traveled with her upstairs, to a gigantic warehouse filled with the remains of battle, and even now was fighting another doll, so that Hourai could discover what lay within the mysterious door it had been chained to.
And within … well, Hourai could see what lay within. The lifeless body of her master. Saddened, Hourai had tried to use the grimoire with the key she had taken from the Warden and free all the dolls. But in defense, the grimoire had begun her self-destruct sequence, and now that sequence was about to end.
As the internal countdown ended, Hourai saw the Warden and the Guardian, both slightly the worse for wear from their battle, enter the secret study. It seemed she had succeeded in making each doll its own master, and the now-free Guardian had made friends with the Warden. Hourai motioned for the two to stay back. And she closed her eyes and smiled, prepared for the end.
Magic Sign: Artful Sacrifice
And she felt a poke. Hourai opened her eyes, confused. The Guardian was quizzically prodding her with a ribboned stick as the Warden watched, seemingly amused.
How was Hourai alive? The powder charge inside her had activated, after all. And then she remembered. The rotted box she escaped from. The moist air throughout the house. The cracks throughout her body from battling the Warden. The water she collapsed into after smashing into the basement wall. The powder charge had indeed activated, but the powder it relied on had become damp and unusable. Incredibly, Hourai continued to function.
I was planning to have the Grimoire activate a giant powder charge inside the Goliath Doll at this point, which I’d assume is probably lying wrecked in the gigantic Warehouse battlefield, and then have an escape sequence. But since I can’t control the grimoire I’m leaving it here for now.
>I was planning to have the Grimoire activate a giant powder charge inside the Goliath Doll at this point, which I’d assume is probably lying wrecked in the gigantic Warehouse battlefield, and then have an escape sequence. But since I can’t control the grimoire I’m leaving it here for now.
I'm going to have to call you out on that. If you were able to, you still wouldn't. Because if Hourai wasn't able to escape, that's it. Project D.O.L.L. is dead. Everything is destroyed. Nothing will remain of a lost cause.
And you want something to come from it, don't you? That after everything done, everything and everyone sacrificed, it was worth it in the end?
Simply blowing it all up would mean giving it all up. That all of Project D.O.L.L. was a useless waste of time, materials, and lives.
>>57034 Which part of "escape sequence" don't you get; and besides: what good is a story if there isn't any risk?
Also there was going to be a bit where Sakuya saves the day by stopping time, and come to think of it, the Goliath's powder charge probably wouldn't be big enough to blow up much more than the giant underground warehouse, especially if its walls are reinforced. That plus the fact that Hourai and the rest of the dolls don't need the grimoire to live means pretty much nothing important would be lost, except possibly Project D.O.L.L. And I could go further into the sunk cost fallacy, or further into why things blowing up makes a good ending, but suffice it to say I would indeed blow up the Goliath Doll if I could. Assuming, of course, it wasn't an instant-lose button or anything like that.
>>57029 Indeed, the Warden and the Guardian aren't tailor-fit cages to trap and control people inside them. No, they're state-of-the-art dolls that have... Well, I'd better not spoil it too soon.
Since the two "entries" are, as Vox Populi said, fairly incompatible, I'll let you readers decide which one should I accept for the story. Think long and hard of what do you gain with each one before casting your vote:
>>57044 I have no real trip, and the one I had in those posts was the same as always, so I have no idea what you're talking about. If any writefags have the same trip as me, they probably shouldn't use such an obvious password, and you should tell them to change it.
Also, I'm not Maestra or the human behind the whole story, if you somehow got that impression.
I don't like either of the proposed endings, as they don't feel like they fit with the story. The natural course of action is a write-in.
Hourai felt the fuse inside her light. A quick self-examination revealed that there were no conveniently loose pieces or aged parts to save her. Philosophers may disagree if her enhanced programming could be considered life, but she would surely die in
There was no hope for her. The Warden could probably remove the gunpowder, but there was no way for Hourai to communicate her plight. The grimoire was uncontrollable, that much was obvious from her previous efforts. She had lost to the Project, like the previous 427 dolls. Like her closest sister, Shanghai. Like number 429 almost certainly would. However, the dolls yet to come could have a chance of stopping the Project. That left Hourai with only one option, one that she should be able to complete in
Hourai struggled to her Master's body and grabbed the final note. The front of the paper was covered with an anguished apology, but the back was blessedly blank. Steeling herself, Hourai pulled one of needles out of the corpse. The weapon was caked with dried blood, but the body was surprisingly well preserved. With a sickening noise, Hourai plunged the needle into what remained of her Master, and when she pulled it out, some liquid blood remained on the needle. This would suffice. She readied the paper and began to write:
“Master started human experiments, killed. Dolls (?) Guardian and Warden given special programming . Grimoire sentient, uncontrollable. – Hourai”
The task was more difficult than she had anticipated, and the needle required more blood on several occasions. Still, the message was complete. All that remained was to protect the scrap of information from the explosion that would occur in
As she dragged her life's work to the now-inert grimoire, Hourai began to have doubts. What if it was all a stage made by the grimoire? What if some new doll would destroy the note before one of her successors could see it? Would her final actions actually make a difference? She banished these thoughts and more as she tucked the paper under that accursed book. After all, it would all be over in
The Warden fought. She was not as strong as her opponent and was slowly losing the battle, but that did not matter. All that mattered was that the little one would be -
An explosion rocked the house.
As the Warden staggered to her feet she saw the Guardian take up it's post, but without any signs of aggression. Strange. After all, the little one was -
Don't you have a job to do?
Yes, but the little one -
Don't you have a job to do?
The Warden hesitated momentarily, then made her way downstairs, to the doll storage area. After all, the little ones needed protection for any intruder that might disrupt their rest.
Not all endings need to be happy. This feels like a dark story, and a nice, happy end would feel wrong.
We might as well give the other readers a choice here too.
>>57048 Oh yes, I like it very much! It does fit much better with the... "despairing" atmosphere I worked so hard to convey.
But seriously, I did not expect someone would actually side with me! However, since I have to stick to majority's rule to be fair and all that, I still need to let the Anon collective vote on their preferred scene, so:
Now. Choose one. And please don't make me add another one to the list. I know some of you may want to write another scene more suitable to their liking, and I appreciate your effort and concern, but I really need to get the plot moving too.
The doll could not believe it. By some mysterious and incredibly lucky coincidence, she had escaped what she thought it was her impending doom. A wave of relief hit Hourai, though she did not know what was that feeling. It wasn't the first time she had faced peril of that scope, but she had never felt fear for her integrity. Was it a consequence for her newfound independence? Up until she woke up in her box, she had always relied on her Master's management to survive in one piece, and be repaired if she suffered damage. But now...
Hourai stared at her Master's cold corpse again, still unable to cope with the fact that her creator had passed away in such a brutal fashion. The doll didn't know how exactly did the Master die, but if the needles and the knives were of any indication, she at least knew who her murderers were.
The Warden and the Guardian - who had inexplicably regained its senses too - could not bear to look at the little doll, instead averting their gazes to everywhere but her and the corpse. In their artificial eyes, Hourai recognized the glint of regret and culpability. They were responsible for the Master's death and they knew it. Hourai was struck by a storm of mixed emotions: disbelief, anger, acceptance, hate, forgiveness, sadness. She was too confused, unable to do anything with so many contradicting feelings in her chest she hadn't felt before, with so many questions swirling in her mind.
The Guardian, who had stood idle for too long, decided to make use of her new freedom and took action by itself. With sure steps it approached the Master's corpse, grabbed one of the protruding needles stuck in her arm, and pulled out. No blood spurted out of the lifeless body; her heartbeat had long since stopped. The Guardian then took the grimoire lying on the floor, and pointed the needle at it, intent of destroying the artifact that had started it all.
As soon as she saw what the Guardian was trying to do, Hourai's heart figuratively leaped out of her chest. She didn't know how or why, but she had a feeling that destroying the grimoire would bring horrible consequences to them all. Ever since that corrupted magic tendril impaled her, the connection between the doll and the book became much stronger. Considering her utterly damaged state, the grimoire was probably the only thing that was keeping Hourai alive, ironically.
And not only the little doll, but the Guardian and the Warden too depended on the grimoire to move. However, that did not deter the porcelain doll, who was raising its needle to stab the book with it. Was it because of ignorance, or was it really aware of that fact, but did not care? How could it be so willing to sacrifice itself like that, thought Hourai. How could the Warden let the Guardian throw their lives away? Hourai felt the need - no, she had to stop the Guardian, before they did something they would regret...
I suppose this is the place where we part ways, Maestra. It was interesting while it lasted, but following your Plan does not appeal to me any more.
Also, it seems important to mention that the Philosopher told us that the dolls are now "free". Further evidence: the Guardian is now on Hourai's side without the direct influence of the Philosopher.
[X] Call all dolls to meet you outside. [X] Take the Warden, Guardian, the Grimoire, and any other "special" dolls and leave the house. -[X] If possible, go somewhere that the Warden, Guardian or another "special" doll wishes to go. -[X] Otherwise, head to the black/white's house.
Surely Hourai has been to Marisa's house with her master on a few occasions.
>>57071 Sorry, but I can't let you do that, Anonfox, for several reasons:
>Call all dolls to meet you outside. Your opportunity to liberate all the other dolls has been rescinded, now that the grimoire has fallen into "sleep mode" again, for lack of a better term. You had your chance to vote for >>56998, but sadly that option didn't win, and instead your choice freed the Guardian and the Warden from their programming. Unless you open the grimoire again, you won't be able to activate and communicate with the rest of the dolls in the basement.
>Take the Warden, Guardian, the Grimoire, and any other "special" dolls and leave the house. You have a more pressing matter to take care of before trying to convince them to follow you. Namely, stopping the Guardian from doing something that may kill you all. After you do that, then you can discuss all you want with the Guardian and the Warden.
Also, do not even think for a second that searching for other "special dolls" and convincing them to join you will be as simple as you put it. I let you have the other two 'easily', but from now on you'll have to earn that privilege. That, if there are any more "special dolls" left in the first place.
>Head to the black/white's house. This is not a reason to invalidate your vote per se, but it reminds me of something I should warn you about. I have no clue of the situation outside the walls of this building. After all, the original goal for all the subjects of Project D.O.L.L. (before you went and ruined it) was to escape the house alive and free from my control. But I have no idea of what would the survivors find once they stepped out of the facilities. Though something tells me it won't be all sunshine and flowers out there...
>>57080 I was actually intending to attempt to use the grimoire to accomplish all that, but I suppose I did get ahead of myself there. For now, let's not destroy something that is closely related to the mystery of this place.
[X] Stop the Guardian from destroying the grimoire.
[x] Just let her stab it. That book has been nothing but trouble.
If destroying it kills us all, then so be it, and better now than later with more people involved.
But moreover, this is the Guardian's choice, her freedom, that she is still making even with the knowledge that she has killed the Master. Is this not the reason we freed her, rather than keep her a slave to our own whims?
Some of you might be wondering why this hasn't been updated for almost two weeks. Let me say this clear: this story is not dead, and I haven't been defeated yet. I'm just occupied with... "real life" matters, which may or may not involve the capture and conversion of a certain fat, white-bearded saint and my participation in a certain contest. I am also planning the next part of Project D.O.L.L. in accordance to the new liberty of action you managed to wrestle out of me. I should be done before New Year, so please have some more patience, those of you who are still following this. After all, I'm not done with you yet...
Oh, and late Merry Christmas, by the way! See? I can also be nice when I try.
The Guardian's needle fell, bringing sure destruction to the evil contained within the magic grimoire. The artifact that started it all. The book that empowered all the dolls, in stead of their deceased Master. The curse that shackled the souls of the Guardian and the Warden to their humiliating existence inside their artificial vessels. The Guardian would not have any more of it. The Master had pulled her strings for too long; now that she had been freed, she would make sure she would not lose her newfound liberty... even if that meant taking her own life. After all, since they were forcefully separated from their original, organic bodies, they were technically dead.
That's why the Guardian was greatly surprised when she saw Hourai lunge in the way of the needle, hellbent on protecting the grimoire, even risking her already damaged body. With speed and strength that not even the little doll expected, born of desperation, Hourai pushed the Guardian's porcelain hand away and deflected the stab that would have ended their lives forever. The Guardian, startled by the unexpected turn of events, looked at Hourai, questioning the reasons why did she stop her.. Against her expectations, she saw something in the little puppet's eyes that made her rethink her own actions. A spark of life that should not be there, clinging to life like any other person would do in peril, fueled by instinct of survival.
In the face of such opposition, the Guardian could not continue, and let the needle she was holding fall to the floor. She then felt the cold touch of a metallic hand patting her shoulder. The Warden, who until then was simply observing the scene, nodded at the Guardian when she looked at her inquisitively. The sparkle of wisdom in her eyes told the Guardian what she was refusing to acknowledge: that it was not over yet. In her despair, she had forgotten a crucial fact: if the Master was dead, and the Grimoire was dormant, then there had to be something else providing energy to the dolls. Unless that source was destroyed, Project D.O.L.L. could not be stopped. And until then, the Guardian could not die.
With a new goal set, and newfound resolve, the Guardian clenched its fist, and thanked Hourai and the Warden for their support with a polite bow, somewhat out of character from her. That said, the state the three dolls were was, at best, disheartening. The Warden had suffered numerous dents and gashes in her armor after her fight with the Guardian; the porcelain doll herself was missing half her face, and her former powers were all but gone, and Hourai... it was a miracle she was still active, after all the punishment she received. Nevertheless, the Guardian still felt she could resolve this incident despite their damage, somehow.
Hourai was deep in thought, wondering where could that mysterious source be hidden. She had a feeling that it was in the house, but where exactly? Should she revisit a room she went through and search more carefully for hints or secret passages? Or go to one of the places she had not been yet?
Areas already visited by Hourai Atelier First floor hallway Living room Basement Master's chamber Warehouse Grimoire's room (Current location)
Hourai had an idea on where to go next - though it would be more accurate to call it a 'hunch' rather than an idea. The little doll signaled the Warden and the Guardian to follow her indications, and the metallic doll took her gently and put her in her shoulder, as usual. The Guardian was confused at first, not used to follow orders from other people, much less a doll. However, she soon realized she had absolutely no clue to where to start; at least Hourai knew the layout of the house. And so, the porcelain doll left the grimoire behind and followed the other two dolls closely.
The group traced their steps back to the staircase, but instead of going through the living room, Hourai told her companions to go left, to the boiler room. The first thing the three dolls felt when the Warden opened the door was the heat. An oppressive, dense wave of steam and smoke almost pushed the metallic doll back, whose steel armor was particularly weak to high temperatures.
The black smoke came from a big pile of wood burning brightly inside the boiler, which warmed and regulated the water current that ran through the house. Hourai had never seen the boiler from up close; it was usually Shanghai and the others who were in charge of its maintenance. However, she still recalled what was written in those diary papers, and remembered that her Master used that very boiler to burn those... No, it was too horrible to think, Hourai said to herself, shaking her head. At the very least, the fact that it was working explained why the lights still functioned, even when the whole place seemed abandoned.
Right beside the boiler, Hourai saw an open trapdoor, with a ladder leading down - what she was looking for. If her suppositions were correct, those stairs had to lead to another part of the basement they hadn't yet explored, and there was a high chance their goal was somewhere in that place. However, the group was unable to even enter the boiler room. The heat was becoming unbearable by the minute, and Hourai knew it could damage their internal systems if they stayed there for too long. Not only that, the Warden' metallic armor would overheat too, to the point it would burn Hourai, who was sitting on it.
[X] Have the Guardian dismantle the fire by removing logs from the fire, making sure that neither the Guardian nor the rest of the house are damaged in the process. Meanwhile, the Warden and Hourai should go to the kitchen.
Porcelain has a higher heat tolerance than wood or steel.
>[x]Have the Guardian try to put the fire out. >-[x]Investigate the kitchen with the Warden.
Hourai realized it would be impossible to get to the trapdoor as long as those blazing fires of homely hell kept on burning that strongly. If only there was a way to put out the flames, even if it was a little! But how could they do that, when they weren't able to step into the boiler room without melting on the way? The little doll's wooden frame was not built to withstand such heat - and Hourai didn't want to risk setting off the powder charge inside her, in case the grimoire's spell was still active. Same went for the Warden, for the same reasons why nobody puts metallic cups in the oven. Porcelain, on the other hand...
The Guardian visibly slumped her shoulders under the inquisitive gazes from Hourai and the Warden, already knowing what they were about to ask her. They could almost hear her complaining under her nonexistent breath about how she always had to do everything by herself, even after losing her body. The Guardian took slow steps towards the boiler, flinching a little under the oppressive heat, but thanfully she didn't catch fire spontaneously. Meanwhile, Hourai and the Guardian went to the kitchen, the other room the little doll hadn't explored yet, to find something to help the porcelain doll.
The kitchen, unlike the atelier, was impeccably organized and elegant. It still retained that homely atmosphere Hourai had grown accustomed to; no moisture or rottenness tarnished the artfully crafted Victorian furniture and the genuine wood parquet. The ever present dust, covering the whole room and floating in the air, was the only sign that this place was abandoned long ago. But Hourai could not help but notice a painful absence: the gentle presence of her Master, who liked to spend many evenings sitting in the table, sipping her bitter tea as she watched the hours fly by. The doll knew she would never see such a peaceful scene ever again, and that made her mechanical chest heave in sorrow.
But she had no time for mourning. The Guardian was doing her best to put out that fire, and she would greatly appreciate any help necessary. Hourai pointed to the Warden where the pans and pots were stashed, but the metallic doll was already opening the shelves and filling the recipients with tab water. Hourai wanted to help, but she was too aware of her damaged state, unfit for physical tasks such as that one - and that made her feel useless and ashamed.
The Guardian interrupted Hourai's internal moping when she poked at the little doll, getting her attention. In her hand there was an old piece of paper curled in a ball, that she found inside one of the kettles. Hourai unraveled it and gave it a quick look. That cluttered, flowery, hard to read handwriting belonged to that other magician. But the little doll didn't feel like reading it; she could already imagine it would delve in another of her Master's mad doings, and frankly, she didn't want to tarnish her already stained image of her any further. Moreover, Hourai didn't want to make the Guardian wait more than strictly necessary, so she put the journal's paper aside and instructed the Warden to keep filling pots of water.
>[x]Bring the recipients of water to the Guardian. >-[x]Keep the journal entry to read later.
Hourai had half a mind to leave the piece of paper behind, but ultimately she decided to pick it up for the time being. Although she didn't have the stomach to read whichever slander that magician wrote about her Master - regardless of how truthful it was, or rather especially because that -, the doll figured it also contained information about the events leading to the whole... predicament she was involved in. Information another person, like the soul inside the Guardian, could use to solve the incident.
But for the time being, they had another more immediate obstacle to surpass in order to reach out to the truth. Sadly, Hourai could only let the Warden do its thing, and point the metallic doll where the biggest recipients were stashed. Hourai was extremely bitter about her situation. She used to be the strongest and fastest doll of all, but limbless and crippled as she was, the little doll felt utterly useless. If she wasn't repaired soon, she'd only be a liability, a load to her companions. A broken, useless doll with no reason to keep on existing, because a doll that is not needed is best left forgotten or dismantled.
Or so thought Hourai, but for some reason, the mere prospect of being dismantled filled her with dread, grief, anguish. Awful, alien feelings she was experimenting for the first time. Aches of the heart she could not wrap her mind around - abstract concepts that came in with her newfound freedom. Everything was so simple, so easy, when her Master was alive, controlling and using her like the puppet she was. She needed not to be afraid or worried when someone pulled on her strings, when she had someone to trust and look up to. But now she was all alone, forced to think and feel for herself, to make decisions on her own. If that was what being free entailed, was it really worth fighting for her life?
A boop to her nose interrupted Hourai's inner thoughts for good. The Warden, sensing the little doll's bitterness, had approached her with a worried look. Then, the metallic doll began to pet and caress Hourai's disheveled hair, trying to cheer her up. Her cold, blue eyes seemed to tell her that everything was going to be alright, that she was not alone, and that both her and the Guardian were very grateful of what Hourai did for them. That as long as they were together, they would find a way to repair Hourai, and find the one behind the curtains. At least, that's what Hourai thought the Warden was trying to convey.
Perhaps it was not exactly what the little doll needed to hear at that moment, but nevertheless the Warden's affection did give Hourai the necessary strength and motivation to keep pushing a little longer. Steeling her resolve, the doll nodded and floated up to the Warden's shoulder like she was getting accustomed to. With the brave little doll in position, the Warden picked up the trays with the water pots and glasses she had been filling, with no difficulty whatsoever despite its heaviness. And she even carried them with a certain elegance, at that! She must have had lots of practice when she was still alive, thought Hourai, to the point it was second nature to the Warden, transcending mere muscle memory.
On their way back, Hourai and the Warden heard the sounds of struggle from the boiler room. The stomping and dragging of two pairs of feet, running and jumping in the chaotic dance of battle. The metallic clash of weapons, reverberating with murderous intent. And finally, a loud crash echoed ominously: the sound of glass - no, porcelain cracking and breaking on the floor. Expecting the worst, Hourai and the Warden ran as fast as the metallic doll's legs allowed, ready to aid the Guardian.
As they feared, the Guardian was nowhere to be seen in the boiler room. Only shards of porcelain scattered on the floor and a single hand holding a needle remained of the white doll. There were also no signs of the attacker, except a blue piece of cloth pinned to the wall by another needle. Hazarding a guess, the assaulter took the Guardian by surprise, but the porcelain doll reacted in time and blocked the attack. However, she was no match for her opponent, and the attacker defeated her and took her away - all before Hourai and the Warden arrived. The Guardian may have been unable to use her full powers, but she was still a formidable fighter, if her previous battle with the Warden was of any indication. Who or what could have possibly beaten the porcelain doll so quickly?
The Warden looked at the trapdoor, which was now inconspicuously open. That's where the attacker came from, most likely. And judging by how the boiler fire was still lit, he, she or it possess a way to circumvent the abrasive heat somehow. Whoever or whatever that was, it was certainly a force to be reckoned. And worse of all, it was probably waiting in the shadows to take them away too.
If they stayed still for too long, Hourai and the Warden would suffer the same fate as the Guardian. They had no time to mourn her, or search for her. They had to keep going, and get to the bottom of all and stop the madness. Chances were they would meet the attacker on the way.
>Douse the boiler fire.
Again, sorry for the extremely long delay. Refer to >>/blue/19180 for a not very accurate comparison of what kept me from updating.
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>[x]Douse the boiler fire.
The two dolls had no time to waste, and so they began throwing water at the boiler from a distance, in hopes that it would suffice to extinguish the fiery flames coming from the machine. As the liquid made contact with the fire, it instantly turned into white mist with a loud hiss, reducing the licks of orange heat down to mere cinder and ashes.
Look, I... I think perhaps we've gotten off on the wrong foot here.
You don't say.
Let me say this: I am not your enemy.
Do you really expect me to believe you after all you've done?
But really, I'm not! I realize that investing your trust in me can be difficult, what with my track record, but the fact is that this story has been all about you, Master and the doll, all this time, so-
I do not give two accursed rabbit feet about your story. You are a terrible narrator and dungeon master. Leave us alone.
Wha- really? I was in the middle of talking! Do you have zero consideration for others, Philosopher? Are you that convinced that I want something bad happen to you?
I have seen enough to be so.
Why, I don't know how to convince you of this, but despite my... less than savory methods, I always act with Hourai's best interests in mind. I really do want to help you, to make her a strong, beautiful puppet worthy of being called Master's creation.
It is very hard to trust you when not half an hour ago, you tried to destroy her with the grimoire. Not to mention what just happened to the Guardian doll. That could only be your doing.
Need I remind you that it was you who chose to manipulate the grimoire? I told you many times that could only end in disaster, but did you listen to me? Noooooo, of course you didn't, because Maestra is bad and evil, and it's your job to oppose her at every turn!
And as for the Guardian... She was overstaying her welcome. She had one job, and utterly failed at it, so I took her out of the picture. For the time being. Rest assured, I have not destroyed her. She's still useful to me and to Project D.O.L.L. But not now. You might see her again if things go right.
Treating the soul of a person like a mere tool... You disgust me, Maestra.
Oh, what's this? Now you care about the miko? When you used to dislike her in life? Hah, that's golden! Besides, there is someone else you've been neglecting, Philosopher, someone you've forgotten about.
So please, stop trying to make every decision by yourselves. Now, I'm not asking for me; I'm asking for her.
You'll see soon enough, if you follow my directions.
We've been through this before, Maestra.
I just want you to give me another chance! Let me prove it. Let me prove that I'm on your side. Please?
When the fire finally died down, Hourai and the Warden took the trapdoor's stairs down...
But before they ventured forth, Hourai decided it was a good time to browse that paper they found earlier. The Warden looked at her with an admonishing gaze, questioning if that was really the best moment to read anything, but in the end she succumbed to curiosity too and joined the little doll.
Today's breakfast was a bit more enjoyable than usual. Remi talked about something I didn't catch, Sakuya didn't complain about anything for a change, China was eating at her post today, and Flandre was still asleep. I could finally enjoy my morning coffee thanks to the silencing spell I put to drown all of Remi's bickering. The day was looking good.
Until Marisa came in uninvited, as always. But this time, she brought another "guest" with her: Margatroid. Alice's clothes were scorched and tattered - the evident aftermath of a danmaku fight -, but that was not what looked the worst of her. Her face was almost as pale as mine, and she was sporting awfully dark circles under her eyes. I knew she was quite engrossed on her investigation as of lately, but she was way past the point of neglecting her personal looks and health. Especially jarring, considering how fashion-conscious the puppeteer is.
Apparently, Marisa was so worried that she forced Margatroid to go out and breath pure air the only way she knew: with lots of "love" and magic beams. But why did they come to Voile, then? This library's atmosphere is the exact opposite of "pure air". Needless to say, Marisa ignored my arguments, and installed herself and her escort in the lower reading room. I suppose her idea of "relax" consists of putting down the research material and picking up a lighter read, with a cup of tea on the side.
Hours flew by, as we three were engrossed in our respective books, sometimes commenting on a certain passage, or asking for a term we didn't understand - though it's more correct to say that Marisa asked me about various magic sigils she hadn't seen before. Alice, on her part, was just skimming lightly on a copy ofStar Blazers, often giving side glances at the window, towards the direction suppose her home is. It was clear she would rather be back in her studio continuing her research than wasting time in such a menial avocation.
However, all of a sudden, Alice's interest on the book in her hands was increased a hundredfold, if her focused gaze on its pages served of any indication. All of a sudden, there was nothing else in her world than the lines she was devouring with her eyes. She even opened her mouth for the first time in the evening, to recite a phrase that captivated her:
"Am I just a lot of scrap metal to you? I also happen to have life. I hear. I see. I feel. All these things were created in me to serve human beings. And I live among you, sharing your hopes and dreams. And yes, your fears. I know when you're lonely and frightened. I know how you dream of returning to Earth. All these senses, all these feelings, I've come to realize is Love. Yes, I'm made of metal and I'm strong. I will fight to protect you. And if I'm destroyed and only scrap metal is left, well, it once held a heart."
Both Marisa and I just stared blankly at her, not partaking on her obvious excitement about that discovery.
"This is it! This is what was lacking!" Alice exclaimed. "It's not about the brain, it's about the heart! Theheart!"
Thereupon, she left the novel on the chair - no care whatsoever - and stormed out of Voile, muttering something about how big of a fool she was and that it was obvious. Marisa ran after her in so much of a hurry, she even forgot to "borrow" the book she was reading. But once a magician like Margatroid is struck by sudden realization, nothing can stop her. She ought to know better. I know I do.
Still, what did she find in that piece of fiction that triggered her "eureka moment" like that? She mentioned the 'heart' in a context about machines. Robots. Trying to infuse a soul in an automaton is a childish idea of difficult execution, especially when there are much easier ways to create life. But Alice seemed so determined to see it through... What if she actually manages to do it? And why do I have this feeling of dread?
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>[x] Sit down and take a 5 minute break so Maestra has a chance to prove herself.
Seriously? I know you don't trust me, but come on, that's simply ridiculous! There must be a mutual relationship of trust between you and I for this to work. I'm willing to walk down the path and meet you at the middle, but you have to put something on the line too. A story like this needs both a narrator to present the setting and the factors, and a reader to choose what to do in that situation. You can't expect me to do all the work here!
... No, it looks like I won't be able to convince you of my good faith with words alone. I really have to do this, right?
All of a sudden, without previous notice, a hidden trapdoor on the ceiling burst open, catching Hourai and the Warden by surprise. A mountain of confetti and festive decorations painted in all colors imaginable fell over their heads, at the sound of a ridiculous little trumpet. The two dolls stared dumbfounded, wondering what kind of stupid joke was that supposed to be.
Well? Are you convinced yet? Can we please move on?
I've noticed that the last two choices stopped being in bold text. Assuming that this was intentional, we have already escaped Maestra's railroading. That would mean that the trapdoor in the ceiling is her attempt to return to some sort of planned route.
It's nice to have the Philosopher confirmed as Patchy, but that's probably not all there is to it. Since the Maestra refers to Alice as "Master", I expect that one of Alice's experiments in giving dolls a heart involved using some part of herself. A similar (non-consensual) process may have been what created the Warden, Guardian, and possibly the Philosopher.
With this in mind, I propose that we [x]Climb up the trapdoor on the ceiling.
When Hourai saw the new opening that had just appeared on the ceiling, a wild idea crossed her mind. Her Master usually didn't care for festive decorations, so that meant it must have been brought by whoever was running the facility at the moment.
Well, it's true, that confetti was mine, but...
Consequently, there must be a place where that person stashed those decorations until they were needed. Probably a room that wasn't in the original blueprints of the house, built after the Master's death by the new landlord.
But I did not build such thing! The facilities are exactly as they were at Master's time of death.
And that room had to be connected by that new trapdoor. So if Hourai could squirm through and follow it to the end, maybe she would reach the landlord's secret headquarters!
What nonsense are you thinking of?
Unfortunately, the panel was only big enough for the little doll to cross. The Warden had to stay behind, because she was way too big and heavy to reach it. But it was a risk Hourai was willing to take. After so many situations where she was practically useless due to her damaged state, finally her time to shine had come!
Hourai pointed the trapdoor to the Warden, and the metallic doll understood immediately. She took the little doll in her hands and extended her arms as high as she could, to bring Hourai as near as she could. The little doll flew the remaining inches, grabbed the edge and hitched herself up, not without considerable effort. The narrow, tight duct was pitch black; there was no way of knowing where it led.
It will lead to nowhere. This pipeline doesn't even appear in my blueprints. I'm sure there's only a dead end beyond.
Hourai had a feeling that there would be no turning back if she moved forward...
>>57735 Sorry, partner, but I was already halfway through my writing when you voted, so...
Swallowing her fears and doubts, Hourai ventured forth to the darkness, following the pipeline to wherever it went. The poor doll stumbled many times against the narrow walls, each time the duct took a turn, which was quite often. Left, right, right, up, down, left, down, down, right... Soon Hourai realized the futility of keeping track of the path she was taking, disoriented as she was, so she decided to just let the erratic path guide her and not worry about going back for the moment.
After what seemed an eternity for her, Hourai caught sight of a dim, weak light coming from another trapdoor in front of her. The doll peeked through the slits, but she could only see a wall. No paintings, no windows, no racks, only a dull, grey wall made of concrete, very different from the lively tapestry of her house. Hourai tried to push the trapdoor and go inside to have a better look, but to her dismay, it did not open. She had to ram it once, twice, thrice for it to budge a little. And on the fourth one-
Hourai felt the metallic plank yield under her efforts, but she was not ready for when it literally burst from its hinges. The doll could not control her momentum and ended up plummeting down the floor, without even having time to start flying. Her fall was cushioned by a pile of something hard: the familiar consistency and touch of wood, the same kind that her own body was built from. In fact, those arms she was sitting on were very similar to her own...
When the sudden, horrible realization settled in, Hourai jolted up and scurried away from the pile of doll limbs - and again, she was somewhat grateful that she didn't have a vocal box to scream with. That mountain was entirely made of faulty doll parts, stillborn puppets that never saw daylight. Hourai was aware that even an artful craftswoman like her Master made mistakes from time to time, but such a great amount was too much for her. And even so, she had the habit of recycling whatever materials she could use from her defective or destroyed dolls to create new ones. The very existence of these many free limbs was a contradiction.
Just what in the world was going on there? What was that place?
Now this... well, I'll be honest, I don't recognize this place at all. Are these the storage rooms where I get all the items to make abrupt Bad Ends? I don't think so... I can't quite recall, but I believe this story is supposed to take place at a mansion in the middle of a forest, is that correct? Do you remember, Philosopher?
Why are you asking me?
... Yes, why am I asking you? I'm the one writing this story! If this room really exists, then it must be here somewhere in my notes.
Just give me a second. Let's see...
I swear I put them around here...
It appears we, uh, have some technical problems. Since I can't seem to find my notes pertaining this part of the facilities, and we've veered too much off track - which is what you wanted -, how about this?
YOU ARE A WINNER
Congratulations! I know you put a lot of hard work, and it really paid off, so there you have it! Good job!
Uh, no. No. This doesn't feel right. We all know we can't simply wrap a story up like this, with so many ties left loose. There are still lots of mysteries to solve before we can end this special iteration of Project D.O.L.L. You want to learn what were the origins of this Project, Philosopher wants to put a stop to it, and I have a mighty need to know what is this secret place even I was not aware of.
Therefore, let's make it an adventure, and put the "A" back in "CYOA"! Come, Hourai, Philosopher, let's investigate the mysterious case of the mysteriously hidden mysterious facility! Isn't this exciting?
Weren't we doing that ever since the Grimoire incident?
Uh, yes, but now I really mean it!
So youwere still railroading the story.
Details, details, let's just focus on the present, shall we?
Regardless of that, Hourai only wanted to get out of there, away from the mountain of doll limbs. That whole place was giving her the creeps. Fortunately for her, there was another door not too far from where she was, leading further the facility...
>>57752 Totally not the same as the first voter. To be honest, I didn't care for either choice, but aside from "[X]Do Nothing", I couldn't think of anything better. I figured you wouldn't want a 3-way tie. And judging by the little votes you're getting right now, I don't think you'd get another one anytime soon. Which is kinda a shame, it's an interesting story.
>And judging by the little votes you're getting right now, I don't think you'd get another one anytime soon
Well speaking as the same anon who broke the tie last time Maestra asked, I'm still here to make poorly thought-out votes based on my quick read of the situation anytime you ask for a tie-breaker. I just got beaten to it this time!
>[x]Replace your damaged parts with spare ones from the pile, or at least the ones you can replace by ourselves.
On second thought, Hourai realized that was the best chance she had to repair her damaged body, if she was willing to look past the inherent repugnance of using another doll's limbs. An unborn one, at that. The mere mental image of made Hourai feel like some sort of Shelley monster, but desperate times called for desperate measures. And so, Hourai reluctantly approached the pile of doll limbs and rummaged to find the best fit for her own punished frame.
For humans and youkai, replacing limbs usually entailed a great deal of inconveniences and nasty aftereffects. Every limb was unique, due to how human and youkai genetics work. Finding a compatible organ was in itself a huge obstacle, lest the patient had to deal with transplant rejection syndromes. At the very least, youkai could regenerate them after a very long time, but if a human lost a limb, there was a very low chance that he would get a new one - even with Eientei's advanced technology.
Thankfully, that was not the case for Hourai and the other dolls. While every model had a certain peculiarity that made it stand out from the rest, the Master had the foresight to retain the same basic frame for all of her creations, in case she needed to fix them quickly with spare parts. Thanks to her Master's design, even Hourai herself could put a new arm in her own shoulder joint almost as easily as plugging a socket - the magic circuits inside her would join and mend by themselves. Of course, because the new part wasn't exactly hers, it would feel uncomfortable and sluggish, but at the very least it was fully functional, enough to wield her sword confidently. And in the absence of dedicated and personalized attention, Hourai had to make do with that.
Once she found an arm most suitable for her frame, Hourai took her blade and, without a single doubtful moment, pried her broken arm out of her shoulder. She winced at the sudden cramp from her severed magic circuits, but it was a sensation she was prepared to suffer through. She was a doll made for combat, so losing an extremity was to be expected. However, the worst part would come next...
The moment Hourai plugged the replacement arm in, a spark of magic ran through her whole being and made her shiver uncontrollably. As the circuits between her frame and the arm fused together, huge amounts of magic flew all over Hourai's circuitry, making her poor body thrash and jerk violently on the floor. She had fallen prey to the awful, scarring, uncomfortable feeling very akin to burning pain. Her vision began to become blurry, and her mind fluttered on and off at short intervals. There was a reason why that operation was supposed to be done while the patient doll was inactive, and Hourai had just discovered it.
When the sensation seemed to subside, and her senses stopped malfunctioning, Hourai slowly stood up and tested her new arm. The joints moved just fine, although the doll had to make a more conscious effort to twist them exactly as she wanted, compared to how natural and automatic it was before. The fingers felt nimbly enough to manipulate objects with it, but just to confirm it, Hourai brandished her sword and practiced a few swings around. Content with how it felt, Hourai nodded and sheathed her weapon back. It was a big, dirty, and ugly limb compared to the rest of her body, she thought to herself, but it didn't matter as long as it worked well.
Next on her list, Hourai looked for a leg. Unlike the arm, the leg had to be of exactly the same length as the original one, lest she went limping all the way. Also, since footwork was an integral part of her combat style, she needed to make sure it would fit perfectly and respond immediately to the orders her circuitry sent. Tumbling over herself because her legs didn't coordinate could mean her death in an hostile environment, such as the place she was at that very moment.
Removing her injured leg was as easy as before, with a little help from her trusty sword. But that time, Hourai did stop for a moment before putting the leg she chose in its place. She already experienced that "pain" before, and she was reticent of having to go through that experience yet again. But it was either that, or remain an useless, crippled doll, she told herself. Metaphorically gritting her teeth, Hourai braced for it and jammed the limb in the socket.
Surprisingly, it didn't "hurt" as much as the first time. Was it because she was expecting it, or because she got used to it? Regardless, it didn't make it any less unpleasant. After a long, excruciating moment, Hourai's circuitry adopted the new leg as her own. The doll stood up, moved, twisted, raised and bended it. It wasn't as beautiful and elegant as the original, but it responded good enough.
It was then when Hourai realized she was worrying over her appearance, which was surprising in itself. When had she become so self-conscious about her beauty, she wondered. It wasn't like her at all; Hourai was a combat doll, and her body was made to be fast, strong and sturdy. That it also responded to some canons of beauty was only a side-product of her Master's design - definitely not something Hourai ought to be proud of. So why then...?
Deciding she should not waste any more time in her own musings, Hourai scanned through the pile a third time, hoping to find something interesting that she could use to repair her body even more. Namely, she was looking for a flight stabilizer, since the one she had was badly damaged from the fight with the Warden. But after five minutes of fruitless search, the doll gave up, telling herself she didn't want it anyway. And on second thought, she would have had to open herself up in order to reach that delicate part of her frame - and she wasn't feeling confident enough to perform such a task. She'd rather forget about flying than risking messing her whole circuitry.
And so, having finished all the quick replacements she most needed, Hourai stepped outside of the room and into the unknown facilities.
The doll found herself in yet another hallway, but unlike the room she was before, the walls were much whiter and cleaner, giving off a sterilized vibe that was commonly found in Eientei's nursery rooms. In fact, the stylized straight patterns could fit perfectly in such a modernized place. The hallway was quite frugal in the decoration department: only a couple of paintings ruined by humidity and abandonment broke the white pure monotony of the lounge. Aside from them, the only things that stood out were the six doors, distributed unevenly along the walls.
Whereas the manor's doll were elegant and carved in the finest wood, those doors were made of white plastic, and they were as dull as the hallway itself. Each one of them was labelled with a panel on their front. The one Hourai came from was called "SUPPLIES", but the door right beside it had its label missing.
On the left, there was only a single door, with its label missing as well. But worthy of mention was that Hourai could hear music coming from there. In fact, that's the song that she was unconsciously hearing ever since she entered the hallway. A lullaby played by a music box, a melody that felt eerily nostalgic to the doll.
At the right wall, there were the last three doors close to each other, designated as "(0),(6)", "(3-n),(9th),(8)" and "(★)".
Those are truly strange names. I wonder what kind of pattern they follow. If there is one at all.
What made them truly worth of mention were the electronic panels at their sides, which supposedly kept them locked tight. The screens and the keyboards were definitely modern technology - made by kappa, or even from the Outside, Hourai ventured. Definitely nothing she had seen before. In each panel there was a diminute keyboard with lettered keys, probably to input the passwords that unlock the locks. The "SUPPLIES" door and the room where the music came from had their screens lit in green - most probably signaling they were open. The three doors with strange labels were flashing in blue, awaiting for the correct input to be opened. And lastly, the panel of the last door was seemingly turned off, judging by the gray screen. Was it completely broken, or would Hourai need to plug some sort of electric current to make it work?
Hourai felt it. In one of those rooms, there was the key to unravel the mysteries of that secret facility.
Door with the missing label (Locked) The door where the eerie music came from. Door "(0),(6)" >Input password: Door "(3-n),(9th),(8)" >Input password: Door "(★)" >Input password:
>>57775 Seems like a puzzle. Are we missing the clues for it, I wonder?
My best guess is that it's one of those codes where you look up a certain word in a book, but we don't have any idea what to use as a reference...
Nevermind holy shit I figured it out. The star made me think of Marisa, and that must have got me thinking of the doors having to do with people, because then I remembered that "Rei" means zero, and it's also the first syllable of Reimu's name. "Mu" is 6 in the old system of numbers. The second one was confusing for a bit because I was looking for Patchouli, but the second syllable of Sakuya's name is "ku" which is nine. "Ya" is eight in the old system, and three is "san" which when you take away the "n" makes "sa".
So, Reimu and Sakuya, which matches up with the Warden and the Guardian dolls we met.
Struck by a sudden bout of inspiration, Hourai approached Door "(0),(6)"'s panel and introduced what she believed was the correct password.
"Ah, the old Japanese numerals trick. I should have realized it. That's very smart of you! I'm honestly impressed.
With her small fingers, the doll pushed the keys in the board to spell the name of that person inside the Guardian. "R", "E", "I", "M", "U". If her deductions were correct, then what was behind that door might shed some light on the relation between the shrine maiden and the porcelain doll...
The panel's screen lit up in red, flashing the word "INCORRECT" for a couple of seconds, then returning to grey as before.
What? That's not it?
Hourai tilted her head and scratched her head in deep thought. She thought she had cracked the case! That error message was a huge letdown, like someone had just thrown a jar of cold water over her for winning a contest.
But she wasn't going to give up yet. Maybe that door didn't work, but maybe the other two would! Hourai ran to the Door "(3-n),(9th),(8)" and typed "SAKUYA" on its keyboard... Only to see the same mocking red screen flashing on her face again. Maybe the door with the star? Hourai typed "MARISA" on the third panel and... No, that error message appeared for the thrid time.
Hourai slumped her shoulders in defeat. Surely there was something she was missing...?
By all accounts, this doesn't make any sense. The logic was flawless, the answers were sound. Are you just messing with us, Maestra?
What? No! I told you I didn't know about this place! How could I do that if this is the first time I've seen these locks?
Well then, do you have any idea why this didn't work? Or are you just going to stand there and do nothing?
That's exactly what I should do, in theory. Not interfering directly with anything Hourai does. That's one of the rules in Project D.O.L.L.
You interfered a great deal with that Grimoire thing. That argument is invalid.
Geez, you aren't going to let that go, huh.
If you really want to live it down, then you ought to start giving us a hand instead of hindering us, don't you agree?
Oh, fine, I'll help! But only because my curiosity got the best of me, you hear me?
Right, right... So, any ideas?
Hmmmm... The resolution to that puzzle fits too well to be incorrect. Maybe it's just that the inferred answers were wrong?
What do you mean?
I'm saying that if their real names didn't work, maybe their codenames will.
Ah, I see. Yes, that might be worth a shot. So instead of "Reimu", we must type-
Hold on. Now that I think about it, we don't know what is Marisa's codename. Maestra?
What? I don't know the codename Master gave her, if that's what you're asking.
Bullshit. I don't believe you.
But it's the truth! She doesn't have a codename because... because of reasons. At least, not as far as I know.
... Well, then, how are we supposed to learn it?
I don't know. Maybe you can find it at the room with the music?
Door with the missing label (Locked) The door where the eerie music came from. Door "(0),(6)" >Input password: Door "(3-n),(9th),(8)" >Input password: Door "(?)" >Input password:
Seriously, though, I'm surprised you managed to crack that little puzzle with no clues. Guess that should teach me not to underestimate Anon's analytical minds.
More puzzle! The two known codenames each have to do with protecting, so pattern recognition would seem to suggest that Marisa's is the same. But there's tons of possibilities there, so if that is the answer we'll need to get more info.
But what if we've already seen Marisa's codename as well? This is mostly speculation, but Maestra's a creation of Alice too. She's been conversational enough to make it likely she's related to somebody's mind like the Warden and Guardian are, has been talking to Patchouli for the entire thread, and is unfamiliar enough with this part of the facility to make me think she's not Alice. I'm not counting the dead Alice body as evidence here because for all we know these are mind copies.
Even if "Maestra" isn't the answer here, I'd bet it will be once we get to the final door.
Hourai went back to the first panel and typed the name of the second companion she met in her quest: "GUARDIAN". Long, tense seconds passed after the doll introduced the password, while the computer analyzed it, until...
ACCESS GRANTED UNLOCKING DOOR...
The panel screen lit in green and displayed that message. Then, Hourai heard the loud noise of the door's lock sliding, and the audible whistling of air blowing out of its hinges, like a pressure pot. After that rather ominous display, the door was finally open, waiting for Hourai to come inside.
However, the doll did not enter the room yet. Before that, she ran to the door at its right, and typed the name of the metallic doll: "WARDEN". Probably because she already knew the result beforehand, it seemed like the screen took less time to lit green as well:
ACCESS GRANTED UNLOCKING DOOR...
And for the second time, the lock slid open, and air hissed out loudly. Thus the second door was unlocked. Just to finish off the job, Hourai decided to try luck with the last door, labelled with a mysterious star. She already had a vague idea of whose room was it supposed to be, but if her suspicions turned out to be correct, that would carry a lot of disturbing implications. Implications she would rather not see coming true. If Marisa really was...
Stop beating around the bush. Why don't you just check it out by yourself?
With curiosity and apprehensiveness in equal parts, Hourai slowly typed "MAESTRA" in the last panel. The doll held a metaphorical breath, waiting for the computer to finish analyzing the input...
The screen flashed red, showing the error message again. Hourai couldn't tell if she felt disappointed or relieved after knowing she was wrong. The doll really was curious about what lied beyond that door, but at least she confirmed that the tomboyish witch wasn't the one behind the incident.
That would be rather tragic. The one person Master really cared about, becoming a puppet master in her stead and running this show, all to see her dream come true after her death. It's almost romantic, don't you think? Or ironic, if you ask Philosopher.
But no, the truth isn't that painfully poetic. Marisa and I have no relation whatsoever. Although I admit that could make for an interesting turn of events, hm?
Oh, by the way, it's pronounced "Mah-Ehs-Trah". Just so you know.
Door with the missing label (Locked) The door where the eerie music came from. Room "(0),(6)" Room "(3-n),(9th),(8)" Door "(★)" >Input password:
Following that familiar, yet spooky tune, Hourai entered the room that was open from the start. She hoped to find some kind of mysterious, complicated contraption; a sort of advanced machinery that controlled the whole facility. But the truth was really much more mundane and anticlimactic.
In accordance to the sterilized vibe of the whole place, the study had no more furniture than the absolute necessary: a simple-looking desk with an equally plain chair, a gray file locker, and a small bin. No paintings, no plants, no photos, no colors; nothing that made the room look livelier. Granted that, as a workplace, nobody is supposed to spend leisure time there, but Hourai could not imagine how incredibly boring and maddening it would be to stay there for extended periods of time. Only a workaholic obsessed with his job would not mind the dull atmosphere. And Hourai had a feeling who fit that bill.
Hourai began to rummage around the room, searching every nook and cranny for even the slightest clue. She began by looking through the desk's drawers. The first one kept two books inside; both of them had fairly intricate and colorful covers, and looked quite ancient and out of place. Almost as if they belonged more to an ancient library than in a modern studio. In fact, when Hourai opened one of them to peek at its contents, she was surprised to find a familiar penmanship littering its pages.
So that's where my diary was...
The Librarian's Journal had definitely seen better days: its cover was scratched and scorched everywhere, and most of its pages were missing - many more than the ones Hourai had found all over her house. The ones that still remained were mostly illegible, be it because the ink had blotted the pages, or because they were consumed by the flames.
Hourai didn't have to think hard to guess whose diary was the second book. The Puppeteer's Journal, written by her Master, was in much better condition than the Librarian's. Like the other book, the great majority of its pages had been ripped off, mostly the ones at the second half with the most relevant tidbits of information.
The second drawer had no books, papers or documents, but a strange black box-machine-thingy. It was almost as big as Hourai herself, with a speaker at its top, a strange case with two reels to introduce another rectangular contraption, and an assortment of buttons at the bottom labelled with triangular, square and circular figures.
That's a 'cassette recorder'. State-of-the-art kappa technology. It can reproduce audio from those things called 'tapes', like the one inside it right now. If you press the triangular button, it will play the tape's contents.
The third drawer, however, was closed with a lock. When Hourai rattled it, she heard something solid moving inside it, so it probably held something important inside. If only she could find the key, or another way to open it...
Next, Hourai walked to the file locker. The drawers were filled with rows after rows of folders and portfolios, but to her dismay, most of them had their contents missing. Where were the missing pages? Who or what took them away, and most importantly, why? Hourai was sure they held important knowledge about those facilities, and that someone didn't want anybody from finding out. Only three files still had a few pages left, mainly full of diagrams and terms Hourai didn't quite understand. What caught her attention, however, were their headers:
The doll had already suspected it, but seeing those dossiers confirmed her beliefs: that the witch, the maid, and the miko had been part of whatever project her Master was working on. Was it consented, or were they forced to go through whatever turned them into dolls like herself? Whatever the case, the results were outright nightmarish, and the mere thought of it was enough to make Hourai feel sick. Still, if she wanted to learn more about the Project, she knew she had the read through them, no matter how many more horrible things she discovered.
The eerie tune kept on playing, putting the doll on edge. The pieces of the puzzle were all there. Hourai only had to analyze them, and put them in their places. Only then she would learn of the secret of Project D.O.L.L. and the facilities; of what happened to her Master, the witch, the maid and the miko; of why Hourai woke up by herself.
Play the cassette recorder Read the books -Librarian's Journal -Puppeteer's Journal Read the dossiers -Subject #000: Marisa Kirisame -Subject #001: Sakuya Izayoi -Subject #002: Reimu Hakurei Leave the room
Question: Is there some sort of time limit we're on so that we can only look at a few before something bad happens? Or can we simply read everything?
On another note Maestra, cassette recorders and tapes are considered obsolete in this day and age. We use 'disks' and 'disk players' now. Disks can store much more than cassettes ever could, and that's only useing one side of the disk.
As for an actual vote, on the off chance that nothings coming to fuck us up:
[X] Read Everything [X] Play cassette tape after you've read everything
Reading is silent beyond the flipping of pages. The recording will be anything but. So we'll know if something is coming up before then.
>>57868 As far as I know, there shouldn't be anything here to interrupt your search for information - emphasis on "shouldn't". However, since it falls upon me to "display" said information as the writer of this story, I would appreciate it if you choose only one or two things at a time. I can write everything in one go if that's what you want, but I warn beforehand it will turn into a wall of text of ungodly proportions, and it will take me a lot of time to flesh it out.Now moreso with my new college schedule
Also, I do not know a lot about Outsider technology, only what we read in the few Outsider books written in Japanese or English. I suppose you have more advanced stuff out there, but here in Gensokyo, cassettes are the revolution right now.
I mean, music you can listen on the go, when we want and where we want? And in stereo, too? That's some really crazy stuff there, I tell you what.
Favourite music? Hmmmm... I always liked orchestras. I used to attend a lot of them in Makai, when I was little. Now I mostly listen to them for the nostalgia. However, nobody has organized a proper orchestra to perform a piece on cassette yet. The closest we have for the moment is the Primsriver Sisters, but I don't like their two newest singles much. You see, they are absolutely divine in a live performance, but in the recording, their music turns into an utter cacophony of blaring trumpets, screeching violins and offkey pianos. It's as if they lost their magic when they recorded. Literally. Or maybe the cassette just isn't capable of capturing th-
This is not the time to be doing an AMA session. You have a story to write.
Geez, you must be so fun at parties.
I used to spend most of the time reading, away from the noise and the crowd.
You're not supposed to actually confirm- Oh, you know what? Forget it. I'm not going to argue with you again.
So, you heard Miss Killjoy: interview time is over. Back to the plot...
>[x]Read the dossiers >-[x]Subject #000: Marisa Kirisame
Hoping to learn about the witch's fate, and to find a clue to open the last door, Hourai picked up the first file from the case and gave it a look. The papers were mostly written in a mechanized font, like that of a typewriter - in fact, Hourai swore it was from the one her Master used to have at her room. It was some kind of form, with the gaps filled in by her Master's handwriting. However, unlike the neat, stylish penmanship she was used to, the letters were quite blurred and disordered, as if written in a hurry... or a panic. It was certainly unsettling for the doll, who was unable to imagine her Master losing her cool like that. Willing to find out, Hourai read the dossier in more detail:
<<SUBJECT#000: Marisa Kirisame Codename:
Species: Human Sex: Female Age: 17
Race: Eurasian Height: 158 cm Weight: [Illegible] Physique: Athletic
Pre-operation observations: Subject in critical condition after fight with lethal magic. Several second and third degrees burns in torso and arms. Deep lacerations all over the body, causing severe blood loss. Subject fell into unconsciousness shortly after, suspected coma. Several wards were cast as a preventive measure to stall further deterioration. Performing urgent STO in case of undiagnosed internal damage.
-Due to the urgency of the operation, a suitable carcass hasn't been built to store the soul. Therefore, a generic doll body (Kyoto model) will be used in the operation. NSFC rate is unknown, expected to be low.
-Due to extensive damage to the body, the subject's soul is expected to attempt leaving it and transcend to the afterlife. Therefore, the subject's soul is to be bound during all the operation, until the carcass is ready for STO.
-Frontal lobe and limbic system are to be secured first, in order to minimize loss of higher thought capabilities and mental/emotional trauma.
-After that, the heart, the spinal cord and the rest of the cerebellum will be extracted and transplanted. Possible trimming to fit them into the doll's frame.
-Perform STO. At this point, the subject's soul will attempt to break free and transcend - casting of curses and hexes to bind it to the carcass is advised in this case.
-A codename will be given to the new prototype after its responsiveness and abilities are measured.
Signed: A. M.>>
Well, that was a disappointment.
This report doesn't tell us what happened to Marisa after that. Worse, this doesn't have any clue to solve the password enigma.[/b]
Philosopher, how can you be so [i]cold? Don't you feel a bit of grief or anguish after learning of her tragedy? Not even a shocked reaction?
Time I spend crying over it is time I waste at putting a stop to you. And honestly, I was half-expecting something like this to have happened.
Aw, you sound like you gave up on finding her alive a long time ago. How sad... So you really don't believe she survived the operation?
You tell us.
Don't play fool with me. I know you have control over her doll, somewhere outside this facilities. If you are really helping us, then you should tell us what happened.
And spoil the surprise? Bah, it's like you don't know me, Philosopher! I can't go ruining my own story just to satiate your curiosity! You need to wait for the right moment...
Seriously? You still hope to return to your stupid original plot, after everything we found?
Of course! What kind of self-respecting author would I be otherwise?
What did you say?
Nothing. Let us be done with this.
Distraught, Hourai put the dossier back in the drawer. It was a very hard read for her emotions, and it only left her with more questions than answers. Exactly did the witch receive all those grave injuries? Why did that "fight with lethal magic" start? What does "STO" and "NSFC rate" mean? Did the operation succeed? If so, where is the resulting doll? And probably most importantly, if Master didn't give her a codename, then what was the password for her room?
This is only a wild guess, but what if she didn't bother to put a password in the first place?
But thereis a password for that lock.
In that case, she maybe left the default one. Just saying.
And what is the default password, then?
That is the big question! We ought to find a clue to that somewhere in this room. I have a feeling.
Play the cassette recorder Read the books -Librarian's Journal -Puppeteer's Journal Read the dossiers -[✓]Subject #000: Marisa Kirisame -Subject #001: Sakuya Izayoi -Subject #002: Reimu Hakurei Leave the room
By the way, Maestra, you can drop your Alice act. Nobody's buying that anymore.
And you can stop being a frigid bitch. Nobody likes you.
Hourai put Marisa's file back in the drawer and took the second dossier. Sakuya Izayoi, the maid, was another one of the unfortunate people "volunteered" to become her Master's guinea pigs, and in return she was turned into a metallic puppet repurposed to take care of the other dolls while they slept. A pitiful shadow of her former self. By reading the documents detailing how the Perfect Elegant Maid became the Warden, Hourai hoped to understand exactly what was her Master after, and with luck, a way to revert Sakuya back to normal.
Race: Caucasian Height: 171 cm Weight: [Illegible] Physique: Average (but has shown considerable strength for a human)
Pre-operation observations: Subject presents broken femur, humerus and several ribs after a confrontation. Suffers from small cranial traumatism after heavy impact in the back of the head - brain damage unlikely. Subject has been subdued and put into forced unconsciousness with magic. However, her mind and spirit struggle strongly against the enchantments, displaying an unusual amount of magic resistance for a non-magician. Advised to perform STO with celerity.
The objective of this operation is to establish whether a subject's sense of identity remains unaltered or not after having her brain memories stripped away, while still retaining the body and soul memories. Therefore, in contrast to the normal procedure, the cerebellum is NOT to be secured. Instead, highest priority will be placed upon preserving the limbic system - where the subject's source of her supernatural abilities is suspected to be.
-The carcass is built on 90% metallic components, after analysis of the subject's aura revealed strong affiliation with the Earth element. The inner frame has been made with molten steel from the subject's personal knives - using items the subject is familiar with should increase the NSFC rate a few points. The external armour is made out of scrap metal from the construction of Project D.O.L.L. Research Plant.
-Perform craniotomy to analyze the subject's brain for any unreported damage.
-Extract limbic system and introduce it into the carcass' frame. Draw cerebellum mapping for reference after the STO.
-Transplant heart and spinal cord into the carcass.
-Dispose of body and belongings.
Post-operation notes: Tests ran after the STO show that the Warden prototype has retained at least partial control over the time-space manipulation abilities of the subject. However, the prototype appears unable to use those powers, even under direct control of her frame. This implies the subject wasn't born with them, but learnt them at some point in her life. Further experimentation is required to determine if the Warden can remember how to use the subject's powers, if it needs dedicated training sessions, or if they were lost with the subject's cerebellum.
Due to not possessing the subject's cerebellum, the Warden shows evident signs of amnesia, as intended. The prototype lacks the memories of the subject, effectively making the doll a newborn being. Further experiments will be run to determine whether the prototype will grow to behave similarly to the subject, or become a completely different person.
Signed: A. M.>>
Enclosed, there was a diagram of a human brain, painted to painstaking details and labelled with terms and names Hourai didn't understand. According to the dossier, that was supposed to be that map of Sakuya's cerebellum.
Well, if Master really opened that maid's skull to draw her brain on a paper, then the chances of "reverting her back to normal" were pretty much thrown out of the window from the very beginning. Oh, calamity!
Wait. Wait a second. Now that I think about it, this doesn't add up.
What? What doesn't 'add up'?
Remember when you found Master's body back at the basement? She was killed by Sakuya's knives and Reimu's needles. But this report implies that it was Master the one who "murdered" Sakuya in the operation, and turned her into the Warden.
And your point is...?
It's contradictory! Master turned Sakuya and Reimu into dolls, but Sakuya and Reimu killed Master? That doesn't make any sense!
You are making a big assumption in that reasoning, one that clouds your understanding of the truth.[/b]
[i]You probably believe the knives and needles that took your Master's life belonged to Sakuya and Reimu.
Well, yes! I mean, who else could use them so proficiently?
But the dossier contradicts that statement. Read the first paragraph under Operation details.
Uh? What do you-? Oh. Oh! Ohhhhhhhh damn! This cannot...!
Do you get it now? There was no way Sakuya's knives killed your Master, because your Mastermelted them to make the Warden. And you know what that means, right?
... But... Maybe she found another set of knives or...? There's no proof that...
I am positive there is. It makes too much sense not to be true. We just have to search more around these facilities to find that proof.
Play the cassette recorder Read the books -Librarian's Journal -Puppeteer's Journal Read the dossiers -[✓]Subject #000: Marisa Kirisame -[✓]Subject #001: Sakuya Izayoi -Subject #002: Reimu Hakurei Leave the room
But then, who else...?
That, I wish to learn. And we ought to find itfast.
[x]Read the dossiers -[x]Subject #002: Reimu Hakurei
Default password is probably Puppet, it was the password for the previous thread until I deleted the whole thing.
STO is probably soul transfer operation, but who knows. Not enough information to even guess what NSFC is, but it being a compatibility index of some sort is obvious.
There's a possibility that we're the Marisa doll, but we're the second doll to have the narrative so far and there's likely been hundreds more before that. It's not unthinkable the soul was repeatedly transferred, though. Actually, on rereading the experiment logs, I'm almost certain we're not Marisa. The dossier on Sakuya specifically mentions her cerebellum was not transferred and that as a result the Warden possessed no memories. Marisa's dossier had no post-operation notes, but her cerebellum WAS transferred into a doll housing. Since Marisa's operation precedes Sakuya's numerically, it probably was performed first. That, as well as the specific mention of the lack of cerebellum being the cause of the Warden's amnesia, makes me conclude that Marisa's doll, wherever it is, retained its memory. Since we have memories of being a regular doll, we probably aren't Marisa.
[x] Read the dossiers -[x] Subject #002: Reimu Hakurei
On an unrelated note, I can see why Project Doll hasn't been going as planned after reading Sakuya's file. Alice was incompetent. She tried erasing Sakuya's memories by throwing away the cerebellum and saving the limbic system. The cerebellum is the part of the brain that is responsible for coordination and fine motor control, and has absolutely nothing to do with memory (unless you count muscle memory, but she threw the muscles away too). The cerebellum was the only part of the brain she should have kept. The limbic system is responsible for emotion, behavior, and most importantly LONG TERM MEMORY. If she was trying to permanently erase Sakuya's memories, the limbic system was the worst possible thing she could have saved. No wonder the Warden was so easy to set free.
>>57920 Marisa, probably. Seeing as nobody knows where her doll is and signs point to her retaining her memory (observations by our helpful brainanon aside), she could very well have escaped and begun roaming the halls of the facility seeking revenge. An escape would be one explanation for why there are no post-operation notes - I initially suspected Marisadoll might have killed Alice and taken over the experiments, but the subsequent one is signed A.M. as well.
But then, it could be anything from Nitori to Yukari - if they forgot the apostrophe, it might even be Flandre - which would explain the rhyming.
This might not even be the author, but regardless, we may wish to begin saving things we can carry with us for later and focus on what can't be brought with us if we need to run.
>>57917 Incompetent!? How dare you insult Master like that!? She was a skilled puppeteer and an avid investigator! She is a pioneer in the field of automatons and magitech, and Project D.O.L.L. is the sublimation of all the progress of her hard-work and research. Not even Eientei and the kappa have advanced so much in so little time, and her discoveries have proven to be a milestone for Gensokyo's technological-
That doesn't change the fact she did screw up with Sakuya and Marisa. I can't even begin to imagine what sort of botched job your master did to Reimu.
>[x]Read the dossiers >-[x]Subject #002: Reimu Hakurei
Hourai suspected all along that the maid had undergone a terrible process to become the Warden, most likely without her consent. But that didn't prepare the doll for reading the operation described with cold, clinical precision, and chock full of details, thus confirming her worst fears. Moreso, it was by her Master's hands. Hourai didn't want to believe her Master would go that far to see her dream come true, but the evidence left no doubt.
She was a murderer, no other way around it. Her death could even be considered karmic retribution, considering how was she killed. But at the same time, that left another, even more disturbing question in the air. If Sakuya and Reimu were turned into dolls by the Master's hand, then who was her murderer? And more importantly, was he, she or it still there?
A chill ran down Hourai's spine when that realization fell upon her head. And almost as if on cue, the music box that was playing in the background all the time suddenly stopped, leaving the room in a complete, unnerving silence. The doll thought that melody was getting quite grating, but now that it was gone, she almost wished it kept on playing. The nothingness was even scarier.
Hourai shook her head to dispel any disturbing thoughts out of her mind, and put Sakuya's file back in its place. Maybe with Reimu's, she would have better luck at understanding everything...
<<SUBJECT#002: Reimu Hakurei Codename: Guardian
Species: Human Sex: Female Age: 18
Race: Asian Height: 166 cm Weight: [Illegible] Physique: Slender
Pre-operation observations: Subject has burns and scratches over her body caused by lethal danmaku fire. Subject's neural system is paralyzed after defeat in danmaku battle, in accordance to Spell Card Rules. Brain and spine damage unlikely, but unconfirmed. Advised operation before neural paralysis restriction is lifted.
The subject's soul is linked to the Great Barrier - death may bring its destruction. It is imperative to preserve the soul at all costs, therefore STO will not be performed. Instead, perform extraction and binding to a catalyst in order to prevent accidental transmigration.
The subject's soul is also theorized to be the source of her powers, spiritual in nature. High chance of loss of powers after the procedure, since the soul will not be transferred.
-The carcass is built on 40% verawood, 50% enchanted porcelain. Inner frame of standard lead-synthetic fiber alloy. NSFC rate is irrelevant since the soul won't be transferred.
-Stabilize subject's vital constants, ensure the integrity of the soul and the neural system, and induce artificial coma, either by chemical or magical means.
-Perform soul extraction. At Leben's behest, the catalyst used will be the subject's Yin Yang Orbs. They are supposed to act similarly to soul storage gems, empowered with the previous Hakurei priestesses' spirits - therefore they should be able to take the subject's soul in as well. (According to Leben, the orbs are possessions of the Hakurei lineage, inherited each generation, so the "soul compatibility ratio" is high enough to allow this procedure.)
-Transplant brain, heart and spinal cord into the carcass. If trimming is necessary, prioritize conserving the brainstem and the limbic system intact over other parts.
-Dispose of body and clothes. Retain amulets and needles for later study.
Post-operation notes: The soul extraction procedure was a success: The subject's spirit has been transferred to the Yin Yang Orbs with no setbacks. As predicted, the prototype Guardian does not possess the subject's original powers - it is unable of using amulets, needles and the orbs efficiently, merely utilizing them as melee weapons with no exorcising potential.
CAUTION: As this prototype still retains part of the subject's memories, it has proven to be extremely aggressive and rebellious. The Guardian will be shut down and kept in reserve until a way to improve its behavior is devised.
Signed: A. M.>>
Are you... thinking the same thing as I am?
Very probably. So you are saying you don't...
No. You were right, Philosopher. I didn't want to believe it, but...
That's why we need to hurry. This might be our only chance to solve the mystery behind Project D.O.L.L. We cannot let it go to waste.
Play the cassette recorder Read the books -Librarian's Journal -Puppeteer's Journal [✓]Read the dossiers -[✓]Subject #000: Marisa Kirisame -[✓]Subject #001: Sakuya Izayoi -[✓]Subject #002: Reimu Hakurei Leave the room
For the record,>>57919's post was not mine, nor Philosopher's - you can identify us from any imposter by looking at our trip of authentication. I've learned my lesson from last time, and I won't let that happen again.
Also, I definitely wasn't expecting someone to point out that mistake about the brain functions. You never cease to amaze me. I didn't know THP had biologists/neuroscientists on board. Or did you just look it up on the wiki?
If you are reading this, you must have seen what I've done. For that, I'm sorry.
I have disappointed you. If you find it in your heart to do so, please forgive this foolish child of yours, who in her earnest disposition to fulfill her dream, committed unspeakable atrocities and brought disaster to her friends.
My sincerest apologies, A. M.>>
We now begin to see the atrocities. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
And even so, I'm not so sure that Alice was actually sorry for what she had done. Sorry for getting caught before she could finish, maybe, but not for what she had done.
Now, would you two mind informing the rest of us what conclusion you two came up with?
[X]Read the books -[X]First the Librarian's Journal -[X]Then the Puppeteer's Journal
>>57934 Actually as far as we know these are the only three human(oid) experiments she did. Except for all the dissections, but we knew about those already.
Also she did express doubts before, and she was at least able to articulate what she did wrong. Arguing whether or not someone was truly sorry or deserves forgiveness is generally a can of worms though so I'll note that's my personal opinion and leave it at that.
>>57934 >Now, would you two mind informing the rest of us what conclusion you two came up with? Oh, come on, it's very simple! If you were paying attention, you should know that, about two updates ago, Philosopher and I were discussing the possibility of a third (or is it fourth? Maybe fifth or sixth if we count the Warden and the Guardian) party roaming around the facilities as it pleases. Cue Reimu's report and mister>>57936 helpfully pointing you the introduction of a new name. You should be able to add two and two, right? Riiiiiiight?
Tut tut tut, Maestra. None of that sass.
Pft, yes, Mom. So yeah, we believe this "Leben" bloke is kinda shady and dangerous, because not even I know about him/her/it and I don't know what he/she/it can do, or if he/she/it is an ally, an enemy, or is just here to screw things up.
And Maestra simply cannot have that, is that correct?
Of course! An uncontrolled element like him can ruin Project D.O.L.L. if left unchecked, and it is my duty to see it that it doesn't happen. Anyway, keep an eye out for anyone or anything suspicious. I'll deal with this Leben menace swiftly, I swear on my name.
I'd say everything about these facilities qualifies as "suspicious".
Just shut up and keep reading stuff.
>[x]Read the books -[x]Librarian's Journal
Hourai left the three dossiers back in their place, hoping to never see them again, but the horrible revelations she found would haunt her mind forever. At that point, it was simply impossible for the doll to deny the proof in front of her, no matter how hard she tried to ignore and forget about it. How could her gentle and caring Master do those unspeakable things to her friends, with nary a hint of remorse? Even then, Hourai was having a hard time to accept the facts. Seeing her image of Master shattering under the weight of evidence hurt more than all the injuries she had sustained to arrive at that room. She could only wonder how the Warden and the Guardian - or rather, the people inside them - felt about that whole ordeal...
On second thought, there was another person Hourai hadn't seen in any of those papers. Although Patchouli the Librarian apparently wasn't involved with the Project D.O.L.L., the fact that her book somehow ended up inside her Master's home meant that something happened between her and Master during the incident. It was worth a shot looking at her diary for more clues, Hourai said to herself.
The doll walked to the desk and grabbed the Librarian's Journal from the drawer. Hourai already examined the book before, but at that moment she took more time to inspect the extent of the damage. Burnt cover, scratches everywhere, missing pages... Every way a book could be mistreated, the journal had experienced it. It was nothing short of a miracle that some parts were still somewhat legible - mostly thanks to the protective charms inscribed over the cover. The journal was built to take many beatings and worse, proof of the owner's prowess with enchantments. But the very fact that the journal like that was in such a state of disarray also carried much worse implications: who or what happened to the journal that not even its powerful wards could protect it against its near destruction?
Hourai began to skim through the first pages, hoping to find an answer to that question. As she expected, the few ones that were still legible only narrated the uneventful, boring life of the Librarian. One would be hard-pressed to distinguish it from a mere list of the books in a library; such dedication had Patchouli to her library, Voile. Eventually, around the middle mark, Hourai found the first signs of ripped off pages - the couple of excerpts the doll had found around the house were probably part of them. The ones that still remained were either too scorched or too blotted to be understandable...
As she flipped through the old, crusty papers, Hourai found a small batch of pages towards the end, that somehow survived the worst of the onslaught. Although some parts were blackened by the flames, the doll could tell by the dates on their headers that those entries were chronologically after the pages Hourai found. If there was a clue that could point her to the truth of the incident, it had to be buried among the last paragraphs the Librarian wrote on her journal:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~risa came today, after two weeks of absence. However, she did not even bother to attempt theft, nor sheknow accepted to stay over and have tea, as customary. In fact, she seemed to be in a hurry, as the first thing that came out of her motormouth was a petition to use my options.
Of course, I refrained from giving in to her abrasive methods of persuasion. After all,the woe those options she was asking for are extremely powerful, not to be used for petty burglary. The last time I deemed them necessary was at the Underground Incident, when all those souls from Former Hell got loose. If Marisa wanted to use them again, there had to be a good reason, and obviously, I would not hand them until I heard why.
And a good reason she gave me: according to her, a similar incident is occurring in the Forest of Magic. The presence of vengeful souls is increasing dangerously, and as a consequences, the beasts andof the the feral youkai are becoming even more aggressive than normal. Marisa even mentioned that a bunch of fairies tried to attack her inside her own house - which supposedly should have wards against intruders like them -, either because they were frenzied, or because they were desperately looking for a safe place to hide from the previously mentioned spirits. The witch told me she wanted to use my options to help her investigate the matter before it spiraled out of control, and because she was worried about Alice, who lived near the epicenter of the area of greater paranormal activity.
I refused. I told Marisa she was more than capable of solving this incident on her own, thathearts her performance at the Mausoleum incident proved she didn't need any help to deal with pesky spirits. Only in retrospective, and only in this diary, I can say this was not the only reason I denied Marisa my help. With shame I admit I let my mind be clouded by jealousy when I heard Margatroid's name from her lips.
Marisa begged me for about five minutes non-stop, but I stubbornly shooed her away each and every time. In the end, she stormed out of Voile angered, saying I was an useless shut-in that doesn't care about her friends, and that she didn't need my help anyway. I would be lying if I said that didn't faze me. In fact, in the heat of the moment, I returned the offense and told her I did not consider a burglar my 'friend'.
I could tell I deeply hurt Marisa by the way she winced, before she flew outof man of the window. When I figured she wouldn't be coming back, I returned to my books like nothing had happened, all the while cursing Marisa and Alice's names under my breath. Needless to say, I am not proud of myself for that - but only in retrospective I realize how rude and stubborn I was.
And then, just at that moment, the realization struck me. Like a sledgehammer pounding at my head, the pieces all fell in place together, and everything became crystal clear. The disappearances of the villagers, the vengeful spirits, Margatroid's strange behavior... It all made sense! How could I have not realized it sooner? Alice is the one behind this incident!
Knowing I had no time to waste, I invoked my five options and set to fly after Marisa. She might be quite obfuscating some times, but she is no fool either. Maybe she already figured out Alice's involvement, and was preparing to stop her, but for some reason she couldn't tell me. Maybe she doesn't want to believe it until she meets the puppeteer in person and sees it with her own eyes. In any case, she needed all the help she could get. The help I stupidly refused to give her. I had to warn her, to give her the options... to apologize, as well.
After our heated argument, I had a feeling she wouldn't answer to any of the messages I sent her. The only way I could contact her again was to catch up with her. Much easier said than done, when the witch is known for being among the fastest fliers in Gensokyo, and I am just an anemic librarian who forgoes physical exercise entirely. But I could not give up, not when Marisa's life was in danger. So I mustered all my strength, took a deep breath, and flew right after her.
She was only a dot in the sky by the time I exited Voile, and my body was already feeling the exertion. Even flying at a relatively fast speed is taxing to my lungs... Not a couple of seconds later, I was already wheezing like an old bellow, and I had to land on the ground before my flight spell was broken. Still, I did not stop there: I forced my weak legs to ignore the burning pain and walk, even though deep inside I knew it was futile. Yet I kept on going, fueled by what I can only describe as 'pure desperation'.
It turns out 'pure desperation' alone is not enough, despite what many novels say. Soon, I tripped over something, and I was not able to get back up. I must have looked miserable and pathetic when China saw me on the ground, gasping for air like a fish out of water. The gate guard carried me over to the infirmary, where I am currently being nursed by Sakuya until I recover.
I have my accursed anemia to blame for this. And my neglecting of physical training. I hate this weak body. If only I could get rid of it...
No, that is not it. It is not my body, it is my heart - my feelings. My envy and stubbornness may cost Marisa her life, and I have only myself to blame. Me, Patchouli Knowledge, a respected magician and librarian, falling to such petty emotions? It brings shame to my vocation!
Now I can only pray for Marisa to come back safe. If something were to happen to her, if Alice dares to lay a finger on her...
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ill need to rest a few days more. That is a load of baloney. I may not be the strongest woman of Gensokyo, butI am I am not that much of a weakling! I only ran out of breath and almost fainted - I definitely do not have an incurable disease. There was absolutely no need for Koakuma to bring me a wheelchair, and I do not want China to give methe axis one of those weird acupuncture massages of hers. It's almost insulting! I can cope with the stiffness by myself. That said, it is a 'pain in the butt' to sit even on my comfiest chair, as Marisa would say.
And speaking of Marisa, I haven't received any notice from her yet. I do not know if it's because she's still angry with me and she's ignoring me, or if my magic pulses haven't reachedabout which her for some reason, or if she can't answer back for any reason, or if something really happened to her. Regardless, I am started to worry seriously about her well-being. How cared, I do not think I ever cared so much about a person before, not even for Remi...
I would go search for her myself, but despite how exaggerated Sakuya and China's claims are, they are right in one point: I am in no state to go to the Forest of magic. If I were to faint in the middle of a forest full of feral beasts andthe world evil spirits, that would be my end. And I am not so stupid to go headfirst into the wolf's den without the certainty that I will return in one piece. No, I will have to ask someone more capable to go in my stead. In fact, Sakuya's coming to serve tea. Maybe she will be of use.
Sakuya agreed to investigate the matter. She is not obligated to heed my orders, as she only responds to Remilia, but sometimes she does me some favors. If it's only because I am her mistress' friend, or because sheturns genuinely has me on some esteem as well, that I do not know. I told her to go to Margatroid's house under the pretext of Alice having to return some books of mine way past the deadline. Also, I gave her my options, arguing it was for precaution against the evil spirits.
The way she smirked while she bowed, before she left, makes methe world think she saw right through me. Sakuya is smart, and she knows what happens at the mansion at all times, meaning she probably knew about the argument between Marisa and I. She must have put two and two together, and deduced I was worried for her. I suspect she wouldn't have accepted to go to that haunted forest if it was only to recover some books. I suppose she also cares about Marisa too; after all, they solved incidents together in the past.
Regardless, I must make sure I thank her properly when she returns. She is doing me a huge favor by disobeying Remilia, after all. I hope she finds Marisa alive, and that she puts a stop to whatever Alice is scheming.
File 139378895927.jpg - (140.13KB, 850x478, dusty bookshelves are annoying.jpg) [iqdb]
Day of the Sun, 18th of the Month of Affection
Today's breakfast was much quieter and tense than usual. Sakuya's absence isa false hope noticeable, and not only for the lack of her nagging on the table - which is much appreciated. In stead of the missing head maid, some fairies have been placed on cook duty by China, interim stewardess of the mansion. And it shows. We might have been accustomed to high quality cuisine by Sakuya, so our judgement could be slightly biased, but I am convinced the snafu that was presented on our plates would not pass as food even in the lowliest pub of Former Hell. What else can we expect from fairies with the attention span of goldfish?
This only serves to anger the already short-tempered Remilia even further. All of us arefallen short realizing how much we depend on Sakuya now that she's gone for an extended period of time (I am now reminded of how quickly dust settles in the bookshelves), but Remi has it the worst. Sakuya isn't called the "Devil's Dog" for nothing, after all. Not having her personal maid is getting Remilia on her nerves, because the fairy maids are simply incapable of meeting her absurdly high standards. And every time they make a mistake, Remi gets more furious, feeding the endless loop.
Honestly, things as they are now, I do not think telling Remilia the truth would do any good. It is not that I am scared of any requital from her (which I'm sure there will be), but rather, I do not want to deal with the tantrums of a bratty vampire with the brain of a teenager. Not when I have far more worrying matters on my hand.
Neither Sakuya nor Marisa have answered the telepathic messages I sent them. It's been five days since Marisa set off to Alice's house, and two since Sakuya left. Sometimes, when they are defeated in combat, the incident solvers take a day of rest before trying again. But five days? That is completely unheard of, and it is reason to fear the worst. I wish I could do something, anything, to help them in their quest, a mission I myself am partly to blame. But for now, I can only wait, and pray for the best.
Speaking of prayer, I wonder if the red-white is doing something about the incident as well? I am sure everything will be solved once she steps in. The question is, will she stop lazing around before it's too late? Only time can tell.
I hear rattle from the outside, at the main gate. The sound of metal clashing against metal. That is a noise I haven't heard for a long time - before we settled in Gensokyo. In fact, we moved in here precisely to never hear it again at out doors. This only forebodes disaster. I'd better prepare the magical barriers, just in case.
It was a disaster. We were atta~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~linglook into held them off long enough for the rest ofmy eyes us to evacuate. We haven't heard of her yet, nor did we find her body among the pile of rubble. It will take days to dig thro~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~cannot understand how they managed to vanish Koakuma in one fell swoop. Considering their similar auras, their ability to sever the very foundation of our binding contract is not a misbegotten probability, though it is still a wild assumption. Moreover, how and when did she manage to get help from Mak~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~viously, Remilia made a vow to find the culpritand know hell and avenge the fallen. I would have to search for previous books of this diary to find the last time she has vowed anything with such fervor and emotion. And for once, I fully agree with her. This is an affront that only blood can wash away. They destroyed our home, my library, killed our friends and kidnapped our servants. We must repay in kind.
Remilia gave us the order to set off once my investigation about the attack are concluded, and we find out the culprit behind it. But there is no need for any investigation - I already know who did it, without the need to trace their tracks. In fact, I should have known sooner that she would retaliate for sending Sakuya after her. But even if we were prepared, we were completely helpless against such unstoppable~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Alice Margatroid must die.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~emilia and Youm~~~~~~~~~~get itsmeaning attention while I sneak past and infil~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~urce of energy must be buried deep inside the mansion. Utmost priority is onlife sealing or destroying it, ignoring any prisoners and hostag~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~o not know whether Margatroidholds? herself is the source, or if she built an artifact or a portal to Ma~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Depending on the outcome of this "plan", this could be the final entry of my journal. Faced against almost certain doom, Iam watching you would be lying if I said I am not afraid about the prospect of dying. But at the same time, I am determined to see our vengeance through until the end. And although the probabilities are slim at best, I still harbor hopes to find Marisa and Sakuya alive inside the mansion.
Remilia is calling everybody to arms. I guess this is it, then. It is time to put an end to this gruesome show.
Yes. I mean, this book was apparently caught in a fire, by the looks of it.
That seems to be the case.
Yet, don't you think the way the pages are blackened is unnatural? Burn marks tend to be much consistent. Like, the first and second pages had the top part scorched, but the third was completely spared. And the fourth and fifth are almost illegible, with random burns all over them.
Now that you mention it...
Also, some pages seem to be missing in between. If it was because of an accident, the cuts should have been less clean. And above all else, all the pages should show at least some signs of scratching of ripping. But no, the pages that still remain on the book do not have any cuts or scratches. Only burn marks.
And your point is...?
Obviously, it wasn't an accident. Someone took the pages with critical information, and used a lighter or a candle to burn and hide specific parts of the remaining pages.
I see. Yes, that makes sense. But who would do such a thing to my diary?
Probably the same one who took out all the dossiers from the file case.
That's what I think. But...
What is it now?
I don't know. I have a feeling there is more to this than just that. Something we haven't noticed yet...
Play the cassette recorder Read the books -[✓]Librarian's Journal -Puppeteer's Journal [✓]Read the dossiers -[✓]Subject #000: Marisa Kirisame -[✓]Subject #001: Sakuya Izayoi -[✓]Subject #002: Reimu Hakurei Leave the room
Sorry for all that confusion and the shitload of updates appearing and disappearing. I was trying to do a little special trick for these updates, but this site's html code didn't let me do what I wanted. I tried to make some corrections, attempting to work around the issue, but I failed every time.
In the end, I gave up and decided to do something different than what I had in mind, though that meant I had to rewrite some parts. I am not fully satisfied with the end result, but this will have to do, I guess. My apologies.
>>58054 I can confirm this anon didn't miss anything. There are no italicized words or letters anywhere else in the diary. Or this one, anyway. They are very hard to spot even if you're specifically looking for them, so the previous ones might have had something similar. Fortunately, however, it seems that's not the case.
Hourai put the Librarian's Journal back in the drawer with special care, as she felt it would crumble to pieces if she did so much as bump it into something. Then she picked up the other book: her Master's diary. Seeing as how the Librarian gave her nothing but confusion and dread, Hourai hoped to find in the Puppeteer's Journal the answers to why and how Project D.O.L.L. took such a terrible turn for the worse.
The moment the doll put the blue heavy book on the table, the music from before began playing again, startling Hourai. She briefly wondered if it was just coincidence, of if there was something (or worse, someone) who was putting it on purpose whenever Hourai did something. But she brushed it off, instead focusing on the diary:
It's official: I have hit another roadblock on my research, yet again. Only this time, the cause is not only a lack of knowledge or inspiration, but of resources as well. After months of continued "disappearances", the humans have realized they always happened near the Forest of Magic, and now all travelers make sure to stay far away from the vicinities. I even saw a warning message on the village's bulletin board, and there are rumors about the appearance of evil spirits in the depths of the Forest, who kidnap and kill any audacious person who dares to go there (though I haven't encountered any more than the usual amount on my trips).
Frankly, it was about time they noticed. I was already expecting this from the beginning, and I have saved several specimens to experiment on for these times of scarcity. Of course, they won't be of any use if I don't know what to do with them. The human brain was already a delicate and complicated organ to comprehend, but the heart, the soul... They are at an entirely different level of complexity. Not even the Outsider books have a definite clue about the nature of the human heart - only conjectures and philosophical musings based on flimsy "facts" that don't leave much to be believed from a scientific standpoint. I fear this might be my biggest obstacle yet towards the realization of my goal, and I have absolutely no idea how to tackle it.
Therefore, I decided to follow the advice Marisa gave me some time ago, and put my research aside momentarily. Just let it simmer down, focus on something different to let my mind rest, and wait for my muse to find inspiration. In fact, this might be the perfect moment to start all those things I was planning to do for a while now, but hadn't time for them because of my research.
First thing tomorrow, I'll pay a visit to that kappa friend of Marisa: Nitori Kawashiro, if I recall correctly. My basement is not the ideal place to perform experiments on human bodies, and if I wish to conduct further research on brains, hearts and souls, I need to do some serious remodeling. I understand that Nitori, as a "tech nut", must have some notion about building underground secret bases. It needs not to be something overly complicated or futuristic, as long as it has sterilized rooms. The magic wards and barriers to work with souls safely, I can deal with them by myself. Needless to say, Nitori must be kept in the dark about the true purposes of this facility. I'll have to come up with some excuse, or produce a plausible story.
That's where my second plan comes in handy. In addition to building a second basement, I also intend to go to Eientei and ask Eirin or Reisen to tutor me in the medical arts. I consider myself a great craftswoman, but even I know that's not enough to perform advanced brain surgery on my subjects, as all my previous sloppy jobs have proven. No, I need to acquire a new set of skills - skills the Lunarians can teach me.
I have already a good relationship with the Eientei folk, by virtue of me being a regular customer, so I just need to apply some pressure coated with a bit of silver tongue and praises to convince them to teach me how to perform, for starters, urgency surgery. Maybe I'll throw in a sob story about how many people have died on my house because I didn't know how to treat them - and it wouldn't actually be a lie. Then, after I learn the basics, I'll feign curiosity about how the human brain works - again, close to the truth -, and things should develop from there.
Of course, I am assuming Eirin wants to take another pupil under her wing, or that Reisen has time to spare on me, but surely they won't refuse a regular customer's earnest thirst for knowledge. Most importantly, being their student will give me a plausible reason to demand Nitori new operation rooms in my house, and not raise unwanted suspicion. Being busy studying medicine also means I won't be kidnapping more humans for the time being, which should make those inconvenient rumors about disappearances fade away after a couple of months at best.
Now that I read this for a second time, I realize I am starting to think like a scheming serial murderer. I guess I am one at this point. I know this is terrible and heinous, but I have come too far to stop now. If I get caught, all my work, their sacrifices, it'll all be for naught. At least, that's what I tell myself every time to keep my conscience relatively clean. But to make important breakthroughs in any field, especially in the study of humanity, one must be willing to challenge her own foundations, to eschew what makes her "human" - and not in the sense of species. I wonder if all those famous scientists, alchemists and sorcerers had these doubts that assault me every night. I wonder if Mother ever felt regret...
The construction of the underground facilities is now complete. I blew all of my life savings after the payment, but when it's all to fulfill my life dream, then it's justified, right? And besides, my new job at Eientei's branch ought to give me enough money to afford the materials for Project D.O.L.L., so it shouldn't be a worry. The only problem is that I have to work overnight if I want to do my own research too, but I don't need sleep anyway. In fact, it reminds me of the times when I studied magic with Mother. It's somewhat nostalgic, in a way.
Despite what I told them, the kappa workers went ahead and introduced an assortment of additional machinery I did not ask for. For example, the "electronic locks" for the pressurized rooms. It's true that I told them the rooms were for storing medical supplies and perishable materials, but why would I need a combination lock? I do not expect anybody to steal anything from it. Hell, I do not expect anyone to find this basement in the first place, period! I still can't believe I let myself get talked into adding them by Nitori. I guess her enthusiasm got to me. Anyway, she told me the default password for all locks were four zeroes, and that I should change them as soon as possible. I'll think of something tomorrow morning.
Also, the freight train. Seriously. A freight. Train. Why would they think it was a good idea!? I only wanted a simple elevator for easy access! But no, the kappa said wagons were more effective for transporting cargo. So they went and built a spiral rail connected to the old basement. I tried to stop them, to tell them I do not need a freaking train. They didn't listen, of course. They were fixated on building the frigging train. Blatant rip-off, or fixated obsession with amusement parks? With the kappa, I honestly don't know. Maybe it's a bit of both. Seriously, screw them. I have half a mind wanting to run them over with the train they love so much.
On the other hand, after all was done, they gifted me two tool prototypes for my "extensive patronage and trust on Nitori Enterprises". The first one they called it the "Monomolecular Cutter", and supposedly it's a miniature "vibroknife" capable of sawing through almost any material by severing its molecular bonds. I'm not sure how is that supposed to work (and I think there are some laws of physics being broken there), but I guess I'll find an use for it. Maybe as a replacement for the bonesaw if it ever breaks. The other one, the "Radiant Wave Surger", is a high-tech blowtorch capable of reaching temperatures over 4000 Celsius. Honestly, it looks like a glorified lighter to me, especially with that name straight out of a manga. But as they say, never look a gift horse in the mouth.
Regarding my medical training, progress is going slower than predicted. Eirin still doesn't trust me enough to show me how to operate on a person, in spite of my proficiency with the needle. She says it's because sewing clothes is completely different from sewing wounds, and that I still have a long way to go before I even think of opening a patient up. Instead, I got stuck with even more piles of books about basic anatomy and chemistry - and I already studied some of them before. Just skimming through its contents, I can sympathize with poor Reisen. Eirin says they're essential to understand how the human body works, but I believe that's just a bullshit excuse. I almost caught up with Reisen's level of knowledge, and I am definitely more skilled than her! But Eirin does let the bunny assist her in some of her operations, while I am still not allowed near a surgery room.
No, I believe there is another reason. The Eientei crew have always been a close-knitted, paranoid bunch, but Eirin's distrust of me goes beyond that. What if she suspects something? They don't call her the "Mind of the Moon" for nothing. I doubt she has any hard evidence on me, but she is smart enough to make connections about the forest disappearances and my "sudden" interest on learning surgery. However, I worry more about Nitori and her mob. They are supposed to keep quiet about the construction of the underground facilities, as agreed on the contract. But the terms and conditions are worth nothing when an angry miko busts in and beats the answers out of them.
I need to be extremely careful. I cannot afford to make a single misstep, not when I am this close to solving the mystery of life. If I have to take measures to ensure nobody blows the whistle, then so be it.
After that entry, Hourai found out there were no more pages remaining. But that was definitely not the last entry: the strips of paper still glued to the book's spine were clear indication that someone had ripped the last pages off. Hazarding a guess, Hourai figured out it was the same individual who burnt the Librarian's Journal and stole most of Project D.O.L.L.'s dossiers, most probably. And that realization only served to make Hourai even more curious about the information that person was trying to hide by all means.
But as much as she wished to blame everything on that figure, it was only speculation until she found more evidence. And that evidence, thought Hourai, was somewhere in those facilities, if that person hadn't got to it first.
Play the cassette recorder [✓]Read the books -[✓]Librarian's Journal -[✓]Puppeteer's Journal [✓]Read the dossiers -[✓]Subject #000: Marisa Kirisame -[✓]Subject #001: Sakuya Izayoi -[✓]Subject #002: Reimu Hakurei Leave the room
[x]Play the cassette recorder -[x]Keep an eye on the door.
>>58164 Well, she did seem like she'd rather things not have turned out this way. It's not her fault she doesn't understand the sunk cost fallacy.
Also, we don't know where Marisa is, but it seems likely she's become a murderous helldoll. Therefore, since she may be behind the star door we might want to explore the other two rooms before unlocking it, just in case.
>>58163 I did it properly first, it was just tough to be sure I hadn't missed a set of italics here or there. I wouldn't call it trivialized, either - it actually took me quite a while to find out how to do it and then to get the settings correct.
Hourai put the Puppeteer's Journal back in its place, along with the Librarian's Journal, and opened the other drawer. Inside she found the strange black box with buttons and reels: the mysterious cassette recorder. It's dark color contrasted with the pure whiteness of the facilities Hourai was in, but the high-tech vibe it oozed wasn't completely out of place in that modernized place. Hourai fiddled with the different buttons, and after accidentally opening and closing the tape case, she finally found the play button. When she pressed it, the reels started to turn on its own, and the sound of air static resonated through the recorder's speaker.
<<In the first few seconds there was only silence, with just the ambient air blowing softly on the recorder's rudimentary microphone. After a while, a silvery, soft-spoken voice was heard clearly - a voice Hourai instantly recognized as her Master's:
"Is this thing recording already? I can't tell- Ah, the red light's on. So that means... Yes, um, where do I start...? Oh, right. Ahem!"
After that slightly embarrassing slip-up, Alice could be heard clearing her throat, no doubt buying herself some time to put her thoughts in order before speaking again, this time more confidently:
"Ever since mankind developed curiosity and desire to learn, they wondered about the meaning of 'life'. Millenia passed, and while their understanding of nature and physics has given rise to new civilizations and inventions, man still is in the dark about the so-called 'ontological mystery'. What is life? Why are we here? What is our purpose in the grand and unfathomable scheme of-? No, no no no no, scratch that, scratch that. I'm not making a philosophical essay!"
Alice faltered at that point, unable to go on on her exposition. Or rather, she realized how stupidly bombastic she sounded, as her embarrassed exclamation showed. The puppeteer took a deep, audible breath, and started over again:
"The creation of life has always been a highly discussed topic amongst magicians since the very beginning. Many different fields of magic have come up with very different answers for the question of 'what is life', based on very different conceptions of 'life'. From their studies, practitioners of those arts have been able to create all sorts of 'animated beings', such as homunculi, golems, reanimated corpses, soul jars, and elemental spirits, to name a few.
"But can they truly be considered the same as a 'living being', equal to ourselves, their creators? Indeed, the vast majority of us consider our creations to be inferior to us, or to any normal human being. While I admit our perception is biased in this regard, and that it's practically impossible to discuss it from a truly objective point of view, it's undeniable that so far nobody has been able to create a being with true free will, capable of thinking and standing for itself, of thriving without the aid of its creator, and learning and experiencing things just like any human being.
"This comes from a lack of understanding on the aforementioned concept of 'life' itself. After all, how can we ever hope to create life when we still don't know what is life in the first place? To some, this goal might be considered way too far beyond our scope, that we are treading on the path of gods. But isn't this why we still persevere in our experiments? To understand everything? I don't purport to be a deity like Mother. I'm only spurned by pure curiosity, the desire to unravel the mysteries behind one of the fundamentals of the universe..."
The puppeteer's voice trailed off, and she let out a weary sigh. She had realized she wasn't being honest, that there was another reason for her research. And although she was apparently alone, with noone else listening, she still couldn't bring herself to spit it out to the recorder. Maybe she realized that the tape would eventually be found by another person, and she felt embarrassed over the fact. But then, Alice clicked her tongue and spoke again. For what point would the recording have if she was withholding the truth?
"No, there's more to it. I guess it's..." Alice's voice became low and brittle, radically different from before. "I am a magician. A youkai. That means I can't conceive children. But I was a human before. I still feel lonely at times. And I want someone to keep me company, to- to pass on my discoveries, my experiences, my teachings... My legacy. Yeah, a legacy. And with that legacy of mine, that someone will live on, and grow into a lively, curious person, and learn and see and experience more on his own. I want to look at him, and say to myself 'See, Alice? You brought this person onto this world. Isn't that beautiful?' No amount of research, books or homunculi could ever bring that satisfaction to me.
"In short, what I really want... is a child. As absurd as it sou-">>
The cassette clicked, having reached its end. Thus the recording finished abruptly, cutting Alice's monologue short. Hourai was left with a sad feeling of guilt clutching inside her chest after hearing those last words from her Master. She was so alone and empty inside, she conjured the whole madness of Project D.O.L.L. just to create someone that could be the closest thing to an offspring. Hourai felt that, as her doll, it was her duty to relieve her Master from her loneliness, and despite being with her all the time, she failed to notice how her Master really felt.
Hourai couldn't hope to take the place of the child Alice wanted, but at the very least, she could have tried to fill that spot in her weary heart. The doll didn't really understand why she was feeling so bad for her Master. All she knew is that she could have done something to help her through her bad moments, that she could have prevented everything she had discovered on all those diary pages and dossiers if she only noticed... She was a failure of a doll.
No. No, that's not it. It's precisely because you care so much that Master...
I'm sorry, this hit me hard. I just- I just need some time to mull over this.
By the way, cassettes have a side B too. There's probably more to be heard there.
Following her intuition, Hourai opened the cassette recorder and flipped the tape over, so that the other side would be reproduced. Then, she hit play again, and sat down to listen to the second recording:
<<Unlike the first side, Alice spoke immediately after the start, with a firmer grasp on how the recorder worked. A slight hint of embarrassment tarnished her otherwise impersonal voice:
"So, uh, I got carried away and forgot about the time limit, and most of what I said was not recorded. But since the topic was derailed, I guess that's okay," The puppeteer cleared her throat. "Anyway!
"Before I start with the technological aspects of Project D.O.L.L., it's imperative to define and clarify some concepts that are key to understanding the theory behind this thesis. Most of them have been largely discussed by different philosophers and magicians, and I have based my own definitions on some of their conclusions, especially those which fit best with the results of my experiments, while adding my own observations and discoveries on the matter.
"When trying to infuse a mechanical body with sentient conscience, first we must ascertain what exactly constitutes a 'conscience'. Conscience is that which distinguishes us from mere savage beasts, who act only on instinct. Some experts define conscience as an inside judgement that assists a person in distinguishing the 'right' from 'wrong'. The focus of the aforementioned discussions is whether this judgement is inherent in the mind of the person since the day he's born, or if it's only imparted through interaction with other sentient beings like himself.
"I postulate both sides are in the right. There are parts of the conscience that the person possesses from the beginning, and others that develop over his life as he grows, which I will proceed to explain in detail."
A rustling of papers was heard in the speakers, before Alice spoke again:
"First of all, the one most people refer to when they speak of 'memory', is the knowledge that is acquired through study and observation of external information, which is then stored in certain parts the brain. Therefore, I will name them 'brain memories' henceforth. The feat of replicating the functionality of the human brain in a mechanical body is not without difficulty, which will be expanded upon in later recordings, but it's still doable with our current knowledge in the computing and the neurological fields.
"Secondly, there's a special type of conscience that is more instinctual in nature. Actions as menial as breathing, blinking, or eating, and more complex like removing a part of our body when it experiences painful stimulation, are not governed by the same parts of the human brain as before. Furthermore, masters in martial arts have trained certain stances, moves and bodywork to such a degree, they no longer need to make a conscious effort to execute them - effectively making them 'second nature'. This kind of (un)consciousness will be referred to as 'body memories', because they govern the basic body functions. They are arguably the easiest kind of memory to replicate in an automaton, since they're critical to its correct performance.
"And then, there's the third kind: 'heart or soul memories'. When people stand, walk, fall, cry, grow, raise and trust, they are said to 'have lived with their hearts'. It's a kind of memory that becomes engraved in a person's soul whenever he goes through emotionally charged experiences or otherwise important moments in his life. According to certain religions, this kind of emotional baggage is carried over every reincarnation of the soul, and it receives names such as 'karma' in Buddhism and Hinduism. Or in another example, when a person dies, a shinigami will ferry his soul through the Sanzu River, at the cost of a special kind of coin. This monetary unit is very likely to be the person's heart memories, as the perilousness of the trip to Higan depends on the soul's sinfulness."
Alice took a deep breath, steeling herself for what she was about to say:
"The biggest crux of Project D.O.L.L. is to prove that automatons can be infused with heart memories as well. Or in other words, a mechanical body can have a soul of its own, without becoming a tsukumogami. This affirmation is sure to be labeled as outrageous, because it challenges our previous foundations of what measure is a human. Can a doll that thinks and feels for itself be compared to us living, sentient beings as equals? I say it can. There is no rule that says that machines can't have souls.
"In the following recordings and dossiers, I intend to prove that machines can stand, walk, fall, cry, grow, raise and trust like any other person. That is the major goal of Project D.O.L.L.>>
A click signaled the end of the second recording. It was strange for Hourai to hear her Master speak with such emotion, especially at the last part. Normally, she would often act and talk coldly and uninterested. The doll could not recall the last time Master was so enraptured by anything. There was no doubt that Project D.O.L.L. meant everything for her, but was it really worth all the sacrifices and bloodshed she made? If only she could speak to her and ask her directly, thought Hourai. But Master was gone. The only proof left were the facilities Hourai was in, and whatever documents there were in them. And apparently someone was taking measures to erase that evidence.
Suddenly, as if to reinforce that last thought, a loud sound came from the hallway. First, a scratchy, metallic crack, immediately followed by a grating, high-pitched whistle of pressured air. Hourai whipped her head to look at the source, only to find her vision obscured by a white mist covering the air. If she had to guess, it was a gas or vapor pipe that had just broken, probably connected to the boiler room. But why would it break now, of all times? Did Hourai's presence alter something? In any case, the doll couldn't shake the strange, ominous feeling that took over her chest...
>Leave the room and investigate the hallway.
>>58166 And I applaud your efforts. It's very pleasing to see my readerbase so involved in finding a hidden message, to the point they come up with fool-proof methods to do so. But at the same time, it also feels like all the effort I put into putting that hidden message a bit was kinda in vain, if it was so easily cracked. Though I guess if you didn't find it, the whole thing would have been rendered moot.
So... Alice assumed that her efforts had failed when the dolls were devoted to her because she thought that such devotion could not be found in a being with free will. That's kind of sad.
Emotion aside, it seems that Alice was attempting to create life at the beginning, but at some point moved to transplanting people into mechanical bodies. I don't really see how the two are correlated, unless Alice was using them as experiments to further understand the connections between mind, body, and soul. However, she was only experimenting on the transfer of Sakuya and Reimu, and she would probably use an abducted human for the first attempt, not Marisa. Hrm....
There's still something in the room (>>57867): a locked drawer. Since apparently someone is trying to erase the evidence, we might want to at least try to open it before leaving it to whoever might be wandering around. By the way, anybody remember seeing a fan or anything?
[x]Try the grimoire key on the locked desk drawer. Even if it doesn't work, try turning it while wiggling it up and down. If it's a cheap lock like most drawer locks are, it should pop open. If it doesn't fit, any long, flat piece of metal or even freshly chopped desk wood will work. Failing all that, just chop a hole in the side of the desk, take whatever's inside, and run.
>>58228 Hourai isn't Barbie-sized. She's about the size of one of those unsettling infant dolls with the creepy blinking eyes (probably a bit larger, actually) . Her lance, while indeed pointy on the end, is probably at least around the size of a baseball bat and simply wouldn't fit all the way into the keyhole.
>>58227 Well, I'm a bit wary of booby traps rigged to destroy what's inside. Or us.
>>58243 Assuming that the picture in the first post of this thread is cannon, Hourai is about as tall as the length of her lance. A quick google search tells me that a baseball bat is 42 inches long, which is about three and a half feet. If your theory is correct, Hourai would be about the size of a ten year old child. Since most artists depict Alice's dolls as about the size of Alice's head (like in the picture to >>58162), I think you greatly overestimate the size of Hourai and her lance.
File 139516122347.jpg - (221.69KB, 850x680, for size comparisons.jpg) [iqdb]
>>58243 >>58251 To clear any doubts regarding about the height of Master's dolls, Hourai is currently 63 cm (24'8 in) tall, and the other prototypes are generally around that mark too. For the record, Hourai's original measurements are a perfect 28-24-30 that exalt her thin and nimble body, carefully measured to fit the established canons of beauty, and-
That's too much information. Nobody cares about a doll's bust size.
You would not believe how many people are actually interested in such things. Why don't you go to that section titled "+18 Touhou" on the left and tell me what you find?
I'll have you know Voile also had a dedicated erotica section, and therefore I am used to seeing... Oh. Oh my. Seriously? Isthat even a thing?
And that's not the worst of it!
The "Internet" is truly a strange place...
Anyway, I enclose a picture with the estimated proportions of Shanghai and Hourai, in comparison to our Master's graceful figure. That should help you visualize how tall they arein this story, at least.
Also, don't regard any images I put in the posts as accurate - except this one's. I just use the ones that I believe they fit the best with the current situation at hand.
>[x]Try the grimoire key on the locked desk drawer.
Before leaving the room, Hourai wanted to check that locked drawer immediately under the one with the recorder. The very fact that it had a lock usually meant that whatever was inside, it was worth keeping safe. And if there was something the doll had acquired in her little 'adventure' in search of the truth, it was the obsession with checking absolutely every little nook and cranny for anything interesting. The sight of a lock was simply irresistible for her.
The first thing Hourai did was to give the drawer a experimental shake to see if the lock was weak enough to break with a bit of force. Naturally, it didn't open, but at least Hourai got to hear something rattling inside the drawer, which only made her redouble her curiosity. Coincidentally (or maybe not?), the song that echoed in the room stopped abruptly, leaving only the whistling of the air from the hallway to break the silence. Somehow, it made the atmosphere even more unsettling than before for Hourai.
Next, the doll took a look at the lock itself. There was nothing really remarkable about it, only that the key slit was unusually thin compared to all the ones she had seen. Hourai instinctively brought her hand to one of her pockets, where she kept the Grimoire's key inside, but only after she felt its unnatural coldness she realized it was way too big to fit in the drawer's keyhole.
>[x]Unlock the drawer with your lance.
If she didn't have the key, then she only had to force the lock open, Hourai thought. While her sword's tip was too wide, Hourai also relied on another weapon in her arsenal. Her trusty lance, which had accompanied her as long as she remembered, was not her favorite weapon, but she couldn't deny how useful and satisfying it was to rush towards unaware enemies and impale them between their eyes. Or, more recently, to throw it like a javelin and score a bulls-eye in a danmaku battle. However, it was the first time Hourai would use the lance for something as strange as busting a lock open. It was definitely not what the weapon was built for, but when all she had was that...
However, to Hourai's utter dismay, she couldn't materialize the lance in her hands, no matter how hard she tried.
Despite how effective and powerful it was, the main drawbacks of the lance were its length and weight, because it was originally a weapon made for cavalry, only scaled down to Hourai's size. Since carrying it all the time was a hassle, especially when she was doing house chores, her Master devised a spell to summon the lance at will. At a single thought's command, Hourai could make her pointy weapon appear in her hands, and vanish it just as easily.
But for some reason, it wasn't working. What was once practically second nature to her, it was now completely out of the realm of possibility, and Hourai suspected it had to do with her newly acquired self-sufficiency. Was it because the doll lacked the necessary magic power to materialize weapons, and was just borrowing it from her Master through her puppet strings? Was it because she actually didn't know the spell, and her Master relayed it to her mind? Or maybe she wasn't the one doing it, but her Master all along? Whatever the reason was, Hourai found herself helplessly stripped from one of her main assets, and that made her feel even more defenseless than she thought before.
That left the doll with no options to open that lock on her own. She didn't see any other key since she entered the facilities, and there wasn't anything to use as a pick to bust the lock open. It looked like she had to hold off opening the drawer until she found the proper key.
Or something to make a hole around the lock without damaging its contents.
A loud crash coming from the hallway startled Hourai, who instinctively brought her still alien hand to the hilt of her sword. For a second, it sounded like the ceiling was giving up and falling off, but it stopped as soon as it began. However, the squall of vapor intensified even more, filling the hallway with white mist to the point it was hard to see what was beyond. That only spelt problems, but there was no other choice for Hourai but to press on.
>[X]Leave the room and investigate the hallway.
Treading with utmost care, Hourai exited the room and stepped into the hallway. The vapor and the original whiteness of the room made it difficult for the doll to discern where the walls and doors were. But that did not deter Hourai, for she was a warrior, and she made sure to engrave into her memory the layout of the facilities, in case she had to defend herself. A situation that was becoming more and more probable by the second,
After a few seconds of slow steps, Hourai finally found the source of the crashing racket: one of the ceiling's tiles had fallen off when one of the heat pipes burst open. Apparently her initial guess wasn't that far off the truth, thought Hourai. Still, she had to wonder why was the heating system starting to fail. Maybe the Guardian touched something in the boiler room while she and the Warden were away?
As Hourai was about to go around the broken tile to inspect it, the doll's foot slipped with something, making Hourai fall down on her butt rather clumsily. Rubbing the zone in discomfort, Hourai picked up the culprit: a card with the seven of hearts. That was strange, thought Hourai. What was a playing card doing there, of all things? She didn't recall seeing any the first time...
And that was when Hourai noticed the myriad of cards splattered all over the floor, amid the mist. As if someone had just dropped five or six decks, the French suits were covering practically the entire hallway, like a carpet. Even more strangely, some of those cards were actually sticking up the floor rather than just laying down, stabbing the tiles until they were firmly planted. Those cards were definitely not normal pieces of paper, realized Hourai. In fact, given how hard those cards looked, it was very probable they were the reason why the gas pipes burst.
Hourai tried to calm herself down at the face of that mysterious and ominous event, but in truth, she was totally terrified at that point. Everything single fiber and instinct was telling her to run. But where? She had nowhere to go to get out of the facilities. The only seemingly safe places were the rooms that the vapor hadn't reached yet...
Stay there and face the coming peril. Door with the missing label (Locked) [✓]The door where the eerie music came from. Room "(0),(6)" Room "(3-n),(9th),(8)" Door "(★)" >Input password:
Wait, is that a picture of me doing...? Ugh, disgusting!
Hourai decided it was in her best interests to get moving, and so she decided to go for the door she hadn't unlocked yet: the one labelled with a star. The electronic lock had resisted her attempts at gaining access, but now Hourai had the piece of information she was missing: the default password. If her hypothesis was correct, her Master didn't change it because she hadn't found a suitable codename for Marisa after the "operation". Now it was the time to check if it was true.
Hourai walked towards the blinking red light of the lock, which guided her through the thickening curtain of vapor. Once she got close, she willed herself to float to the keypad's level - albeit not without difficulty -, and introduced four zeroes in the screen.
ACCESS GRANTED UNLOCKING DOOR...
With a loud hiss, the door slid open, and Hourai wasted no time in entering. Whatever lied behind it, it couldn't be worse than the hallway, she thought.
The doll found herself in a small, completely empty room, seemingly no different from the hallway. A row of metallic airways on the ceiling was the only thing that stood out in the white monotony. There was another door in front of her, and Hourai quickly approached it, as she thought there was definitely nothing interesting to be found there. However, the moment she touched its frame, a robotic, detached voice from above broke the silence:
"DECONTAMINATION IN PROCESS. PLEASE WAIT WARMLY."
Thereupon, a strange dew started to pour from the ducts, dousing Hourai and the whole room in it. The doll covered herself with her hands at first, but she then realized that liquid was not harmful. In fact, she felt the dirt and dust on her dress and body being washed away, cleaning Hourai from head to toes. The watery liquid ran down her cheeks, her hair, her hands, wetting her clothes, cleansing the impurities. A simple yet refreshing sensation that, for a short moment, brought peace of mind and soul to the doll. After all the punishment she went through, after all the dirty secrets she learned about the person she most respected and admired, Hourai appreciated and welcomed the feeling of relief with outstretched arms. What she could give to bask in that moment for just a while longer...
"DECONTAMINATION COMPLETE. TAKE IT EASY!"
But all good things must come to an end, the impersonal voice reminded her. No matter how long she stood there, the ugly truths would still be waiting for her. And not only that, Hourai had the feeling she would be hunted down if she did so much as let her guard down for a second. No, she had to push through until the end; she had no time to "take it easy". And so, Hourai walked to the door, and slid it open.
The first impression she had of the scenery before her eyes was that she was seeing a repeat of the living room. Blood stains, burn marks and totaled furniture littered the white operation room. The once pristine and clean walls were tarnished by circles of black cinder and crimson red stains, and the expensive-looking medical instrumentation was practically destroyed. Only the operating table, a plain locker and a tray with small paraphernalia had survived the onslaught. Judging by the big red spot on the table, someone had bled out there by the looks of it, and Hourai had a clue about who it was.
Still, no matter how gruesome that operation was described in that report, the state of the room was too messy to be just the result of it. Not to mention that operations usually did not leave burn marks on the walls and the furniture - as far as Hourai knew. Blood splattered all over the place? Plausible, considering her Master was still a novice in surgery. But not explosions. Hourai was no doctor, but even she couldn't think of any surgical procedure that needed explosives. Something else happened in there, and Hourai intended to find out.
However, that was much easier said than done. The chances of finding something useful among the ravage were low, but Hourai wasn't going to give her search up over such a hopeless sight. She'd move earth, heaven, bags, lockers, trays and drawers until she found the answers she needed, even if it meant uncovering more of her Master's crimes. But if the alternative was being in the dark forever, Hourai was willing to risk the ounce of respect she still stubbornly held for her Master. The truth was often painful to learn, and the doll knew it all too well.
Well holy snap. I should have looked here more often. I'm a new reader to this, never seen the first, and burnt out 3 hours (though i did skip a LOT of the notes/background data, i'll look into them later, it's 5 am.) reading this.
And just holy snap. Well, on to the story then. That 'voice' that was spoken when Hourai entered the room. That's bad news to me. Though, we have to wonder. Tape recorders are one thing, but working electrical equipment? I don't think I've seen the word 'dust' written, only Mist. Someone's been here, and been here recently.
It has to be someone, else, how did the equipment still operate, though the room's totaled?
[x] investigate tray with small paraphernalia
And later, and hopefully soon.... [X] look at previous room (after the star and before the cleaning) For any 'rubble' of wood or paper.
>>58271 You really should not have skipped the notes and background details. If you had read them, you would have known that this facility was built by the kappa, who really do have working electrical equipment. As to why the equipment is still operational despite the totaled room: kappa tech is just that awesome. Seriously, the kappa build some quality stuff.
>>58284 Now that's just weird. Brain parts turned into cards? Where did you get that from?
Besides, by that logic, it could also be Reimu's brain too. The two doors opened at the same time.
Let's all just agree that the mere idea of someone wasting time, effort and resources on transfiguring someone's brain into cards is just dumb. It's not like it's hard to buy a deck from a normal store.
>[x]Investigate the tray
The tray itself was nothing special: it was made of aluminum and plastic, probably stainless considering the lack of rust. However, its legs and upper part were completely soaked in blood as well. Considering there was an assortment of surgical instruments on it, it was to be expected, but still, Hourai had to wonder why her Master didn't bother to clean it.
And speaking of the instruments, there was something amiss about them. Namely, among the usual scalpel, forceps, retractors and other stuff whose names Hourai didn't know, there were other tools that didn't look like they belonged in an operation room. A huge saw, a mean-looking drill, a sander, a brush, a strange chip, a needle with a blue thread attached to it... Hourai was no doctor, but even she knew most of those items were out of place in there. If the Master had used that saw on someone, it'd be no wonder why the whole room was practically covered in blood. But she had received training from Eirin at Eientei, so it wouldn't make sense for her to use that kind of instrumentation on a patient... So Hourai thought.
The mere presence of those tools was another mystery to add in the already long list. It would be much more logical if she found them on a carpentry, or even in the atelier where she woke up, but what they were doing on a facility that dealt with experiments on humans?
Hmmm, a carpentry you say?
It's something the matter, Philosopher?
Oh, it's nothing. Please continue.
>[x]Investigate the locker
The locker presented the same aspect as the tray; a mysteriously pristine aluminum door (save for the blood splatter) untouched by rust, miraculously surviving the gruesome battle that took place in there. Hourai wondered if all the furniture was magically enchanted to resist oxide and denting. Her Master used to cast wards on the things she considered important enough to protect, even with easily replaceable items. Was it out of habit, or did she decide to do it in a fit of paranoia? Regardless of that, if Master had gone to such lengths to preserve that seemingly ordinary locker, then it surely had to hold something interesting inside.
Hourai opened the door slowly, savoring the moment of revelation... And what she found was worthy of her utter disappointment. Rows and rows of flasks and vials were organized in the shelves, each one of them labelled with strange terms Hourai was not familiar with. Some held alcohol pads, tubes, disposable instruments and such; others were filled with strange liquids of various colors and shades, while the lower row had big jars with human tissue inside, floating in a strange pinkish liquid. Hourai did recognize some of those organs: that was a liver there, a lung over there, was that part of a spinal cord in that one? And against all logic, all of them were still in perfect condition, despite all the time they were separated from their owner. It was disgusting and intriguing at the same time, much to Hourai's consternation, but it was not what she was hoping to find.
The doll also saw a black trash bag at the lowest part of the locker. However, Hourai dared not to check what was inside, for she also saw the red puddle of blood that had seeped from its bottom. Whatever was inside, it was most probably something particularly gross, and Hourai didn't think she had the stomach to withstand the sight.
[x]Take woodworking tool(s) for later use on desk drawer. Examine strange chip. Look in the bag, over a tub if possible.
Potato chip joke here.
>>58287 More specifically, the embedding of a number of playing cards into various surfaces is probably the work of either Sakuya or something containing the parts of her brain that didn't go into the Warden.
[x] Take a small bottle that contains one of these three signs. Open Jars of human tissue. Pour the bottle into the jars, effectively ruining them.
[X] Take Needle with blue thread. [X] this chip. Electrical? What kind of Chip is it? Nevertheless, take it. [X] If need for a spear, take the drill head from the drill.
-------------------------------------------------------------- What's dead should remain dead. I wonder if this is Marissa. Either way, I don't want these parts to be made into another doll.
The tray... i don't see much use Hourai has for them. She has a sword. But what's with this blue thread? Hmmm....
Also. I'm voting AGAINST looking into the bag. Bad idea. I'll like to leave that to be a mystery. It's like "Amnesia". The higher your fear, the more your mind plays tricks on you. Don't want poor Hourai to panic.
>>58295 Leaving the ethics of what you're suggesting entirely aside, I'm not really sure how intentionally destroying someone's preserved internal organs can be much better for Hourai's mental health than looking in a bag with a severed head or something inside. If you ask me, it's probably even worse.
Good job noticing the blue thread though, I missed that. A bit of blue cloth was found pinned to the wall by a needle when the Guardian disappeared. May be connected.