[Return]
Archived Thread
File 138850984023.jpg - (123.95KB , 531x744 , the nexus.jpg ) [iqdb]
57199 No. 57199
You sit bolt upright and scream inside your helmet.

You died.

The memory is fresh and raw. One of those soul-starved mad youkai - one you had thought was dead - crept up behind you and delivered a blow to the back of your head, giving half a dozen of the others the opening they needed to close in. You can still feel the rusty swords piercing your sides, battering your chest, and slipping in under your armpit to skewer your heart. You can still feel your blood spreading out across the filthy ground and the sensation of your body growing cold.

You flip your visor up and pitch forward, overcome by the need to vomit. But there's nothing in your stomach, so you just dry heave painfully for a few long minutes, staring at the cracked flagstones underneath your hands.

Eventually the horror passes, leaving behind an empty place inside where a piece of you used to be.

But somehow there are no wounds on your body, your vision is unclouded, your head is clear, and your blood flows strong in your veins; you live again, for now.

Yet although you have all your belongings about you - your plate armor, your sword and shield, and sundry other items in the bag on your belt - you are not in the same place where you fell in battle. You died in some rotten woodland hole, your quest barely begun.

Now you stand in the ruins of some great shrine, high walls open to the clouded sky where the ceiling has fallen in here and there. All about you is stone polished smooth by age and dark hardwood soaked with centuries of smoke. The lower floor where you are is dominated by a large shallow circle cut into the floor with stone steps all around the edge. Twin staircases lead up into the shadowy remains of an upper story, while something glows dimly in the deep recesses of the building far behind you.

You appear to be on a hill, as through one of the ruined walls of the shrine, you can see you are above the thick fog which shrouds the land below.

"Ah, another tin man?" A sharp voice echoes in the shrine.

You turn in surprise at the voice and find you are not alone. In your shock at rebirth, you must have been insensible to the presence of others.

There is a vague human form bundled up in thick grey robes and sat on the edge of the shallow circle, face visible only as a mocking smile. Far away on the other side of the shrine is a slender youkai girl peering out at you from behind a stack of crates and sacks and assorted goods strew around her little corner; she is wide eyed, cautious and skittish, bird wings flexing unconsciously. And lastly, a beautiful white-haired woman is sat cross-legged at the top of one of the staircases, her eyes closed in silent meditation, a pair of swords placed across her knees.

"Death took your tongue?" The sharp voice asks again - turns out it's coming from the grey-wrapped figure nearest you.

"It's tin woman, actually. And it's steel." You speak. The figure snorts with derision.

"Makes no difference. They'll catch you and boil you alive inside your armor all the same. Or is that what just happened to you?"

"What is this place?" You ask, trying to ignore her tone. "Where am I?"

"You don't even know where you are? How pitiful. Luck is wasted on the worthless, and you are one of the lucky ones."

"I know I'm still in Gensokyo, but where is this? I've never seen this place before." You demand.

The figure wrapped in grey shakes her head slowly.

"What is your name?" She asks.

"Renko Usami." You say. "And your-"

"And why are you here?"

"To rescue a friend of mine. I-"

"Forget your name. Forget your pointless quest. Forget everything about yourself. It'll save you the pain of losing it."

This woman has been broken as surely as the land of Gensokyo has.



[ ] She needs help. Perhaps further conversation will bolster her spirits, however little.
[ ] You're not getting answers from her and you don't have effort to waste. Try speaking to the others.
[ ] If this is a shrine, where is the Miko? Surely she will be the most helpful of all, try to find her.

==

Yes, this is a Touhou + Demon's/Dark Souls thing. Rather than being a direct analogue, I will be attempting to capture some of the feel and atmosphere of the latter.

Updates will be once a day or once every other day, depending on how much time I have to spare for writing it.
No. 57200
[X] You're not getting answers from her and you don't have effort to waste. Try speaking to the others.

Dost thou seek soul power?
No. 57201
[x] You're not getting answers from her and you don't have effort to waste. Try speaking to the others.

I can't wait to see Chen's Fortress.
No. 57202
[X] If this is a shrine, where is the Miko? Surely she will be the most helpful of all, try to find her.

Why not.
No. 57203
File 138851976013.gif- (1.72MB , 263x113 , dark souls capra demon.gif ) [iqdb]
57203
[x] If this is a shrine, where is the Miko? Surely she will be the most helpful of all, try to find her.

Yeah screw that I am not going through darkroot forest.
No. 57204
[ ] If this is a shrine, where is the Miko? Surely she will be the most helpful of all, try to find her.

Can't wait to be assraped by Momiji's giant fucking blade and her pair of pet wolfs.
No. 57205
[X] You're not getting answers from her and you don't have effort to waste. Try speaking to the others.

The atmosphere is pretty good so far.
No. 57208
[X] If this is a shrine, where is the Miko? Surely she will be the most helpful of all, try to find her.

Gravelord Nitori and Tomb of the Kappa, here we come
No. 57209
[X] You're not getting answers from her and you don't have effort to waste. Try speaking to the others.

We need to find and defeat Yamame Kurodani, daughter of Chaos, first. And then ring the Bells of Avici to open a path to Chen's Fortress.
No. 57222
[X] You're not getting answers from her and you don't have effort to waste. Try speaking to the others.

Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with the other side of this crossover.
No. 57223
>broken as surely as the land of Gensokyo has.
God damn it. Every fucking time, I swear...

[x] You're not getting answers from her and you don't have effort to waste. Try speaking to the others.
No. 57224
>>57204
Oh anon, you know that Momiji is guarding the grave of her former master.
No. 57227
Calling the vote; writing now.

[X] You're not getting answers from her and you don't have effort to waste. Try speaking to the others.
No. 57228
File 138859058268.jpg- (365.85KB , 644x900 , the merchant.jpg ) [iqdb]
57228
You look down at the woman in grey for a long moment before turning away.

Part of you burns to help her, to help any wretched soul that crosses your path. That's one of the things you swore to do. Unlike some others who carry a knighthood, you truly believe in the oaths you took and what you stand for, however hopeless the world has become.

Except now, somebody very important needs your help above all others. Your quest will not wait.

You turn to the others in the ruined shrine: the beautiful meditating woman at the top of the stairs, and the skittish youkai girl who has almost completely vanished behind her palisade of boxes and sacks.

"You there!" You call upward to the meditating woman. "Greetings to you!

She does not answer.

"Where is this place I find myself?"

She does not even move. The woman in grey chuckles darkly from inside her robes.

"How about you?" You give up on the beautiful warrior-apparition and turn toward the youkai girl, crossing the room with slow, nonthreatening strides. "Will you speak plainly to me?"

The youkai girl peers over her barricade and stares at you with wide eyes. You spread your hands, but she flinches at the way your armor clinks and shifts against itself.

"One moment." You grunt, and then remove your helmet.

The air inside the shrine is cold on the exposed skin of your neck and face, but it is clean and crisp and free of the acrid stenches of rot and decay in Gensokyo below. You take a deep breath, run your fingers through your sweat-matted hair, and flash a smile at the skittish youkai girl.

"Nothing to fear, I am but a simple knight on a quest, curious where I have been spirited away to."

The youkai girl's gaze flickers over your shoulder, to where the meditating woman sits, before returning to you. Her tongue darts out to wet her lips, and then she nods and beckons you forward.

Her corner is rather cosy compared to the rest of the shrine ruins. She has a good lamp and plenty of blankets and even a small heatstone struggling against the ancient cold of the shrine. Her boxes and crates contain all manner of wares and goods, as if the entire inventory of a well stocked shop has been transplanted here.

The girl herself can hardly have brought all this here alone: though youkai, she is slender and slight, and furthermore a bird youkai, with all the light bones and fragility that implies. She is dressed in a once-pretty simple gown of blue, the frills mostly worn and dirty now, a blue ribbon around her throat and her legs tucked under blankets behind the wall of boxes. Her fluffy red wings twitch and flex almost constantly. She bobs and tilts her head like a bird, and never once takes her eyes off your own.

"Good day to you, my name is-"

"Yes yes, I heard." The girl has a high, sing-sing voice. "Tokiko."

"Tokiko?"

"My name. Tokiko."

"Well then, miss-"

Her face twitches, almost a wince.

"- Tokiko, well met. Can you answer my question? Where is this place I find myself?"

She considers you for a second before answering.

"Hakurei shrine."

" ... surely you jest." You raise your eyebrows in recognition of the name. Tokiko shakes her head quickly.

You look around once more in mute shock, at the ruined walls, the fallen-in ceiling, the darkness. The great border shrine, reduced to this? You never had the chance to see it in full glory, and your heart aches for the passing of something so grand.

"But," you turn back to the bird youkai. "If this Hakurei shrine, and it is not infested with the soul starved below, then where is everybody? Where is the Hakurei miko?"

Tokiko stares at you, unblinking.

"And how did I come to be here? Did you see me ... arrive?" You force down the memory of death for a second time.

Tokiko says nothing, instead holding out one small hand.

" ... I ... you cannot seriously expect me to pay you? For simple answers to the most needful of questions!" You frown at her, outraged.

"I'm tending shop. You have to pay for things. The first was a freebie. Every next question is one silver."

She seems entirely serious.


[ ] Pay her as requested.
[ ] Pay her one silver for her trouble, no more, and then intimidate the rest out of her.
[ ] Intimidate her into answering. She'll get nothing from you.
[ ] Ignore her, moneygrubbing youkai. Find the miko yourself.
No. 57229
[x] Pay her one silver for her trouble, no more, and then intimidate the rest out of her.

I wish I could do more, but I am ignorant of the world beyond these walls.
No. 57231
How much silver do we have?
No. 57234
[✓] Pay her as requested.

The soul-starved can always be mugged later. I hope.
No. 57235
[x] Pay her as requested.

I do not wish to start off as an asshole. Killing innocent beings comes later on.
No. 57250
[>] Pay her as requested.

We can go full murderhobo later.
No. 57251
[X] Pay her as requested.

We wouldn't be much of a knight if we just went around extorting people, now would we?
No. 57256
Calling vote. Update will be tomorrow.

[X] Pay her as requested.
No. 57276
File 138875680156.png- (776.32KB , 800x1200 , grounded.png ) [iqdb]
57276
Tokiko stares at you with all the demanding intensity that only a bird can achieve.

You sigh. How vulgar.

"If a silver piece buys the loosening of your lips," you say, rummaging in the pouches at your hip. "What does this purchase?"

You hold up a gold coin between thumb and forefinger. Tokiko's eyes widen and her cheeks flush.

"Eternal servitude? No? Will it in fact buy your attention and hospitality?"

The merchant youkai's jaw works up and down as she struggles to answer. You flip her the coin and she scrambles to catch it, cradling it like a fragile insect in both palms. She shoots you a furtive glance as she bites it - as if your honor is in doubt here - and then holds it up to the light. The coin catches the lamplight, a tiny speck of futile illumination against the dark ruins of the shrine.

"Now." You say softly.

"Yes! Yes!" Tokiko flusters, half-bowing at you and casting around as if struggling to find some service she can do you in return. "Most grateful!"

"My questions, then, good merchant?"

"Yes ... questions! Ask away, ask away!" Tokiko tries to assume a placid and servile look, but on the countenance of a bird youkai it merely makes her look shifty and insolent.

"Where is everybody? Where is the Hakurei miko? How did I arrive at this place?" You repeat yourself.

Tokiko opens her mouth, closes it again, cocks her head to one side and then blinks three times.

" ... "

" ... I don't know where anyone else is. My ... the shopkeeper ... is meant to be here already. He went somewhere else and then was meant to come here, but he's not here yet." Tokiko looks distinctly uncomfortable as she recalls this, frowning deeper and deeper, her eyes wandering down to your feet.

"And the miko?" You sigh inwardly.

"Miko is around somewhere. Maybe upstairs. Maybe in back. She doesn't speak a lot. Something wrong with her face."

"Something wrong with the miko? Like what?"

Tokiko shrugs and shakes her head, eyes wide, genuinely mystified.

"And how did I get here?"

"Because you're dead." Tokiko answers instantly. "You died and the border brought you here."

You raise on eyebrow at the youkai girl, waiting for more. She hesitates under your gaze and then leans forward.

"Lucky for you!" She nods rapidly and smiles. You sigh heavily and put your face in your hand. You don't have time for this.

"Irritating, isn't she?" A voice comes from behind you.

It's one of the most beautiful sounds you've ever heard - rivaling even the voice of the one you're in Gensokyo to rescue - high and clear and with touches of an otherworldly sound behind it the likes of which has never graced your ears before. When you turn around, you almost expect to find an angel standing in the shrine.

It's the meditating woman.

Somehow she got all the way down those stairs and within five paces of your back without making a sound. Her strange layered green armor is fluted and padded at every seam and joint, allowing her to move like a whisper of silk. It is a work of art to match the precise-featured beauty of her face and the pale rose of her lips. Two swords hang at her waist, one long and one short. She regards you with cold blue eyes.

For a moment you are rendered speechless.

"You won't get any useful information out of the bird." The warrior continues. "She is greedy and stupid, though she will be forever in your debt for the gold. An interesting gesture, and one I approve of, from one knight to another."

Tokiko makes a muffled sound deep in her throat, ruffling her wings and puffing in anger. You can almost feel the force of her pout behind you.

The warrior turns to walk away.

"Walk with me, outside." She says.

"Why?"

"I will tell you what has become of Gensokyo, and why you are here in the Shrine. And you will tell me of your quest."


[ ] Fall into step beside her.
[ ] Walk behind her until you're outside. You smell a rat.
[ ] "We can speak here, can we not? Why outside?"
No. 57278
[x] Fall into step beside her.

I’m impressed... yes, indeed I am.
No. 57279
[x] Fall into step beside her.

Great. We got a bird youkai for a silver piece of gold.
No. 57282
[x] Fall into step beside her.

Need more exposition.
No. 57285
[X] Fall into step beside her.

As a fellow knight, she should be, if not trustworthy, then at least honorable.
No. 57290
[X] Fall into step beside her.

So the coin gave us the eternal gratitude of someone and the respect of another? Money well spent, I say.
No. 57297
[X] Fall into step beside her.
No. 57325
Calling vote. Writing now.
No. 57326
File 138884642715.jpg- (219.83KB , 1500x2400 , a beautiful warrior.jpg ) [iqdb]
57326
You see no reason not to trust the warrior in green. She seems honorable, and the nature of your quest must surely protect you against distraction by her not inconsiderable beauty.

She doesn't spare you a glance as you fall into step beside her, but instead leads you across the shrine and outside, your echoing footfalls left behind as you tread onto the dry, yellowing grass that covers the earth outside.

The warrior in green walks a little way down the hill, no more than one fifth of the distance to where the thick fog lies across the land below.

Gensokyo is a doomed sight. Even up here on the shrine hill there is no true sunlight, the sky covered in inky black and rolling clouds. The fog cakes everything beyond with the exception of Youkai Mountain, which rears out of the sea of grey mist like a beached, rotting kraken. Here and there you can see the suggestion of treetops through the fog, eddies and whirls where perhaps huge creatures are moving, and the occasional tendril of ghostly white extending upward toward the blackened sky.

" ... I had not seen it all from above." You say.

"Do not let it enrapture you." The woman in green says with a sharp tongue. "Such an attitude will defeat you here."

"Indeed." You agree softly and tear your eyes away from the cold devastation. "And whom do I have the honor of speaking-"

"Youmu." Youmu says. "Just Youmu."

You raise your eyebrows in polite curiosity at her turn of phrase.

"I am here to reclaim my family name." She says in such a final manner that you get the distinct impression she doesn't want to discuss it. "And what are you here for, Renko Usami?"

"How did you know my name?" You ask with a frown.

"I heard it when you said inside. I was not deaf to the world when meditating."

You nod, look out across the fog once more, and answer.

"I'm here a rescue a friend." You say simply.

Youmu stares at you for three beats, then:

"Your true quest." She says.

"Excuse me?" You frown at her.

Youmu inclines her head gently, almost in apology.

"Many come here with dark intentions," she says, her eyes taking on a sharper, colder aspect as she stares at you. "There is much ruin in Gensokyo, but there is much power too, if one can fight the unimaginable warfare in unimaginable spheres needed to gain such power. You are not being entirely truthful about your quest, or you would have offered more information. Tell me the truth, or I will be forced to assume the worst."

"You distrust my word?" You frown, offended but intrigued.

"This is a place for distrust." She says plainly. "And I don't know what you are."

" ... I am here to rescue a lady." You say at length. "Her name is Maribel Hearn. She is of high birth. She ... I- we have been friends since childhood, and it is her family's crest upon my shield, not mine." You feel a lump in your throat. "She is the most important person in the world to me. And she is a witch."

Youmu says nothing.

"She was drawn here by the disaster in Gensokyo, though even she didn't seem to understand the nature of it. Drawn here, I mean literally. She vanished from her own bed as I ... as I lay next to her. I poured through her notes, her work, little of which she ever wrote down or explained to others and less of which I understood, to find out what had happened to her. I managed to summarize the disasters here had touched her somehow, resonated with her sensitive soul." You shrug heavily and sigh. "But I don't understand how. Only that if she anywhere, she must be here. The money in my pouch is her family's, the armor on my back belongs to her ancestors. I am Maribel's woman, that's why I am here."

"A fine quest. A far happier one than most." Youmu says after a moment, and falls silent for a long moment.

"Will you answer my questions now?" You ask eventually.

"You mean how you came to be here, after dying?"

"How do you know I died?" You almost laugh. "How much do you know without seeing or hearing?"

Youmu shakes her head sadly, cutting off your humor.

"I know because to arrive in the shrine in that manner, you must have died. Death has stopped in this place. Souls do not return to the cycle, the Sanzu river is drained or clogged with filth, or perhaps the ferryman has gone mad, I know not which." Youmu gestures out across the fog. "Most who die simply go mad if they are not already drained of their souls by the things in the fog. The dead do not rest in Gensokyo - and you are one of the lucky ones. The Border caught your soul and brought you back here."

"But ... how is that possible? I have been resurrected? I really did die?"

Youmu shrugs.

"I don't know. Maybe the miko does, but she is half-mad herself. Perhaps the great Border is trying to replicate the cycle of souls, and failing in the details. All I know for sure is your soul has been captured by this place. If you die, you will return here once more."

"Then it protects-"

"No." Youmu almost spits the word out in sudden ferocity. "To die is the ultimate failure. You saw that wretch inside? She has died too many times, tasted too much of failure. Her will is gone and her soul will give up soon. It is no longer the body you fight for in this place, it is the soul."

You nod slowly, but Youmu leans toward you, her eyes blazing with cold intensity.

"Do you understand? Truly? I would not wish to see so proud a knight with so noble a quest reduced to that."

"Yes." You say, somewhat peevishly. "I will not fail in what I intend."

"Good." Youmu relents and seems to relax back into herself.

"What is it like down there?" You ask as you look out across the sea of fog.

"How much did you see for yourself?"

"Little enough. And I do not understand what has caused such ruin."

"Neither do I." Youmu bites, but then relents. "Few enough do. None I have found. It is ... as I have said. The dead do not rest, both their souls and their bodies, and foul necromancy has disturbed them besides. The soul-starved wander the land with little to distinguish them from the undead - I do not in fact understand the distinction between the two. Demons and corrupted youkai and black-hearted humans consume the souls that cannot move on. There are things down there in the fog that I had never seen before the disaster, though I know not if they came from somewhere else or were created here somehow."

Youmu pauses and sighs.

"All nature has rebelled or abandoned Gensokyo. The fog never lifts, it is unnatural and almost intelligent in how it covers the worst of things. The plant life struggles to reach spring but this winter chill has extended for long months, it should be summer by now but the seasons have fled this land too. Day never truly breaks," Youmu casts her eyes at the dark sky. "Something has made the night eternal. Foul things have crawled up from the underground below, sealed for generations until now. The other shrine, on youkai mountain, has been corrupted by a great demon, as has the temple near the human village below. Beasts and monsters once thought civilized have gone mad. The best and brightest of Gensokyo have all fallen to their basest natures, and there are none powerful enough to put them down."

Youmu finally falls silent. You can't think of anything to say.

You must find Mary.


[ ] Youmu seems to know Gensokyo - might she know where Mary could be?
[ ] Youmu mentioned the miko. If you're going to find out more, you need to speak with her.
[ ] Surely something is being done? Surely there's somebody fighting to save this land?
No. 57327
[x] Youmu mentioned the miko. If you're going to find out more, you need to speak with her.
No. 57331
[x] Youmu mentioned the miko. If you're going to find out more, you need to speak with her.

Let's go meet Reimu, then.
No. 57333
[x] Youmu mentioned the miko. If you're going to find out more, you need to speak with her.

Can't start killing hollows until you've talked to all the crazy NPCs.
No. 57334
[✓] Surely something is being done? Surely there's somebody fighting to save this land?

Would be nice to know if there is someone out there in the wilds that can be trusted.
No. 57335
The Dark Souls atmosphere is a thousand times worse when it's in a world I actually care about. I hope I can last.

[x] Surely something is being done? Surely there's somebody fighting to save this land?
No. 57336
[x] Surely something is being done? Surely there's somebody fighting to save this land?
No. 57343
[X] Surely something is being done? Surely there's somebody fighting to save this land?

Crushing despair lies ahead. We'll have to fight tooth and nail to carry that spark of hope.
No. 57355
[x] Surely something is being done? Surely there's somebody fighting to save this land?

Shiiiiiittttt, this sucks. Wonder if we'll have to fight corrupted Touhous and stuff. Is there a sunbro in this setting too? Suppose it'd be a bit far fetched for a Solaire expy to pop up.
No. 57356
[x] Surely something is being done? Surely there's somebody fighting to save this land?

There are no heroes left in man.
No. 57360
[x] Surely something is being done? Surely there's somebody fighting to save this land?

Christ if Gensokyo is this fucked up, what's the Outside like considering Renko here is a knight/retainer for Maribel?
No. 57362
>Is there a sunbro in this setting too? Suppose it'd be a bit far fetched for a Solaire expy to pop up.

I dunno, seems like Okuu would be a perfect sunbro. Grossly incandescent and cheerfully dumb.
No. 57365
>>57356
We are no man.
No. 57369
[X] What of Youmu herself? What is her quest?

This looks promising indeed. Have a small addon vote, since I imagine the main is decided already. Very interested to see how the writing will go once we leave the shrine and have no NPCs to converse with.
No. 57372
[x] Surely something is being done? Surely there's somebody fighting to save this land?

if it's not too late:
[X] What of Youmu herself? What is her quest?
No. 57375
Calling vote, writing now.

Interesting choice.
No. 57377
Apologies, scratch that. Update coming tomorrow.
No. 57403
File 138902449324.jpg- (264.69KB , 791x560 , integrity.jpg ) [iqdb]
57403
Your voice slowly returns as you contemplate the desolation below.

"Surely there ... " Your words crack as you think of your sweet Maribel lost down there. "Surely there must be something ... must be somebody doing something, somebody fighting for this land ... "

Youmu fixes you with a cold gaze. Her silence is the most eloquent answer possible.

"Nothing? Nobody?" You repeat yourself, the cold horror beginning to warm to righteous fury.

"Where would one even begin." Youmu turns away again and shakes her head.

"Where would one begin?"

"It is a fool's errand. The forces you would contest with are not even measurable by mortal means-"

"Where would one begin?" You repeat yourself, disgusted at Youmu's defeatism.

"- and it is a path to ruin!" Her temper flares, for when she looks back at you her eyes are blazing with anger. "You think none have tried? What do you think happens to those seek power in this place? For there is plenty of it for the taking, isn't there! Souls abound, free of their bodies! Great youkai and demons ripe for defeat, their souls would give you such power - eat their flesh while you're walking that path, because that is what it would take."

Youmu's outburst comes to a sudden halt. Her eyes flicker closed and she takes a deep breath. When she opens them again she is once more like cold steel.

"It is a path to corruption." She says.

"All who have tried have failed? Been ... corrupted by power?"

Youmu opens her mouth and hesitates for a split-second. She catches the curiosity in your gaze and relents.

"There is one. She is nearby, inside in the Shrine, in fact. It was a minor miracle she was brought to safety before the disaster. But," Youmu sighs softly. "Her power is very old, and very weak. She is like a candle in a storm, and cannot fight the wind and rain."

"Then take me to her, show me."

"I am not sure you will wish to see." Youmu says. "But very well, follow me."

Youmu leads the way back inside the Hakurei Shrine, and you try not to look back at the fog far behind. Soon enough you're going to have to venture back down into those nighted depths, alone or otherwise.

Tokiko watches you and Youmu as you cross the Shrine floor. The broken woman says nothing, but just seems to be sitting and staring into the abyss. Youmu leads you up the stairs and toward the darkness on the upper floor of the building, where the wind has eaten away at cracks in the walls and your footsteps echo in the hollow spaces.

"There." Youmu whispers and points a finger into the dark, her own feet stopping on the very edge of the deepest shadows. You can't see a thing.

"I don't see-"

"Shhhhh." Youmu hushes you. "Listen."

After a moment of straining your ears you realise you can hear a faint scratching that never ceases: quill on parchment, moving rapidly and erratically. The noise is so light that anything else, even the wind, blots it out from your hearing.

"I hear it." You confirm.

"She is busy." Youmu whispers. "She is only ever busy or sleeping. She is insane, you see, she always has been, probably long before the disaster."

"Who is she?" You ask.

"Hieda no Akyuu, Gensokyo's chronicler. She knows more about this land than anyone, living or dead, mortal or otherwise, excepting perhaps the greatest of the old youkai. The land itself causes her to be reborn over and over, she is somehow linked with the natural cycle here, the last link to whatever power the disaster has blotted out. But her mind went hundreds of years ago, getting anything out of her is nearly impossible, and I have tried extensively. The only one who could reach her was her teacher in this generation and ... the less said about that now the better."

You nod slowly. A pitiful thing.

Then you make to take a step forward into the darkness, rummaging in your pouches for a light.

Youmu puts one hand on your shoulder.

"I would not. Better to wake her from sleep than interrupt her work."

[ ] Take Youmu's advice for now.
[ ] No, you will speak with this Akyuu. You might even be able to help her. Ignore Youmu's advice.
[ ] Be cautious, call out to the girl and see what happens.
[ ] Light up first regardless; at least you can lay eyes on her.
No. 57404
[x] Light up first regardless; at least you can lay eyes on her.

I wonder how long until Youmu bites it, No one that noble lasts long.
No. 57406
[×] Take Youmu's advice for now.

Then try again when Akyuu's asleep. Would not want to risk annoying Akyuu enough to attack and force Renko to defend herself.
No. 57407
>>57404
She has given up, so she'll live. As a monument of how futile fighting against the status quo is.
If she ever regains her fighting spirit... then and only then, she will die.

[x] Take Youmu's advice for now.
No. 57408
[x] Take Youmu's advice for now.
No. 57409
[x] Take Youmu's advice for now.
No. 57410
[x] Be cautious, call out to the girl and see what happens.
No. 57425
>>57362
BY GOLLY YOU'RE RIGHT! Now, that's not to say she's not corrupted by now, whatwith nuclear reactors and such. I can hope, though.

[x] Take Youmu's advice for now
No. 57433
>>57425
> Now, that's not to say she's not corrupted by now, what with nuclear reactors and such

or you know, this could be a Palingenesia prequel
No. 57439
File 138908222371.png- (686.77KB , 698x437 , eb6be4caabb6cf84873da7e0ffe3134a.png ) [iqdb]
57439
>>57362
Praise the sun!
No. 57444
[x] Take Youmu's advice for now
No. 57454
Calling vote. Update tomorrow.
No. 57464
>>57439
>Praise it easy.jpg

Oh god
No. 57465
File 138919598526.jpg- (456.07KB , 1600x2500 , the mad scribe.jpg ) [iqdb]
57465
Youmu's advice seems prudent - for in the sound of Akyuu's unseen scribblings there lurks a discordant note of something deeper than simple manic haste. The unceasing noise of her scratching quill is like the dim, half-heard scrabbling of claws against the outside barrier of reality.

"Miss Usami." Youmu whispers.

" ... "

For a moment you are overcome with a horrible sensation: you're certain if you listen long enough, a rhythm will emerge from the mad scribe's work, one that you are currently too sane to hear.

"Renko." Youmu hisses. You can feel her grip tighten on your shoulder, but the sensation comes from far away, as if your body is numb.

If only you could read the words Hieda no Akyuu is writing. If only you could see. Surely you would understand Gensokyo then. You would know exactly what you need to do.

"Renko!" Youmu raises her voice as far as she dares.

You try to take a step forward.

"Renko." Mary says.

You turn to look at Youmu. At Mary.

She's radiant. Her hair is full and healthy, tumbling down her shoulders like spun gold. Her skin is clear, clean, not a blemish on her, milk-pale and smooth like velvet. Her eyes are smiling at you, and her lips follow, rose-perfect curl into a knowing smile.

She really is radiant. Her glow spreads across the cold flagstones of the Shrine and begins to light something toward the back. Mary extends a finger and bids you look toward it, at the thing buried in a mountain of rotting books. The thing that turns the edge of Mary's glow ragged and dark. The thing that starts to look up and meet your gaze with eyes the colour of madness.

Youmu backhands you across the face and the hallucination vanishes.

"Uhhh- " You almost double over and squeeze your eyes shut, your head pounding from the assault on your spirit. Your cheek throbs where Youmu's gauntlet snapped you back to your wits.

Worse than either is the ache in your heart at the sight of Mary.

"Come on, you fool." Youmu drags you back toward the light, only relenting once you're back to the top of the stairs. "And put that away, it won't help."

You follow the direction of her gesture to discover your sword in your hand. You don't recall drawing it.

"How ... when-"

"When I slapped you." Youmu says simply, then shrugs. "An admirable reflex, but it is of no use here. Do you understand what just happened?"

"Some kind of mental attack, from ... from her." You look toward the dark in the rear of the upper floor as you sheath your sword.

"Attack is perhaps a clumsy word." Youmu says. "In her case it is unintentional, but such things are not rare down below, in the fog. One must fight steel with steel and willpower with willpower."

"I am unfamiliar with such things." You admit with a heavy gulp, the image of Mary still fresh in your mind.

"I'm not surprised. It is usually the domain of older witchcraft and magic, but since the disaster such things flow freely. If you're going to step back out there you must be prepared."

"Yes, yes." You nod somewhat distractedly.

"What did you see?" Youmu asks softly, a gentle tone in her voice.

"I ... " You hesitate.

"It may help us to communicate with her." Youmu nods her head in Akyuu's direction.


[ ] Tell the truth, however personal.
[ ] You don't want to talk about it. You miss Mary too much.
[ ] Explain, but obfuscate about Mary herself.
No. 57466
[x] Tell the truth, however personal.
No. 57467
[x] Tell the truth, however personal.
No. 57468
[x] Tell the truth, however personal.

It seems like going mad is the only way of staying sane, here.
No. 57470
[X] Tell the truth, however personal.
No. 57471
[✓] Explain, but obfuscate about Mary herself.

Youmu's a smart girl, she can probably put two and two together.
No. 57472
[x] Explain, but obfuscate about Mary herself.

Oh boy.
No. 57473
[x] Tell the truth, however personal.

Desperate times.
No. 57474
[X] Tell the truth, however personal.

Even the slightest chance for an answer is invaluable.
No. 57475
Calling this vote so it cannot be tainted.

Update tomorrow.
No. 57489
File 138928475627.jpg- (1.04MB , 723x1024 , a vision of loveliness.jpg ) [iqdb]
57489
"I ... I saw ... " You hesitate at first and then steel yourself against your own tender feelings; any pain, any indignity, any alliance, anything is worth finding Mary. "I had a vision of the one I'm here to search for, of Maribel."

Youmu nods but says nothing.

"The hallucination seemed to radiate light - impossible, I know - and was on the verge of lighting up the corner back there."

"Did she look as she normally does?" Youmu asks softly.

" ... " You open your mouth to answer and then frown. "No ... no she didn't. How strange. Like a dream vision, I suppose." Your voice echoes as you look out over the lower floor of the shrine below. It was Mary that you saw just now, without a doubt. You would recognise her face in the dark by touch alone. But she was somehow smoothed of every human imperfection.

"Was she changed?" Youmu says, her voice dropping lower.

"What? No! A little, yes, but no, nothing like that, nothing horrific. I ... I doubt I could bare to see her in that state. If-"

"No." Youmu, sensing your evident distress, holds up one mailed hand and shakes her head. "It is not a reflection of reality. If it was coming from Akyuu it is a reflection of her mind."

Your eyes widen as something dawns - you almost turn back to the darkness, ready to face anything the mad scribe may unwittingly force upon you.

"That means she knows what Maribel looks like! She must have seen her, or met her!"

Youmu shakes her head sadly.

"Things are not as simple as that. I don't doubt she does know where your lady is, as she knows where everything and everyone in Gensokyo lies. She knows every last curl of mist and footfall out there. But not by means of causation which can make sense to anyone. She also knows the inside of your mind, your intentions, and your fate. She could have plucked the image from there, not from a meeting with your missing lady."

Your sudden ray of hope is dimmed and you take a deep breath.

Youmu places a hand on your arm. It is surprisingly tender.

"Others may have seen her." She says. "What does she look like?"

You look up and see a hard, practical sort of sympathy in Youmu's cold eyes.

"I have a small picture, on an imprint stone." You don't need to rummage in your pockets to find the object, you know exactly which pouch contains the stone. "It is the only likeness of her I have, so I cannot pass it on, though I wager there are few enough people to inquire with."

"I understand." Youmu's voice is very gentle, out of sympathy or respect for you quest, you cannot tell which. "You must miss her dearly."

"Mm." You grunt, distracted as you raise the flat wafer of stone. Mary's image looks back at you from the cold surface, still and lifeless, though beautiful even captured in mere light-fixed-ink. She is smiling in the picture, and you know it is genuine since you are the one who took the image. You even recognise the room behind her, one of the chambers in her family's great house. Tearing your eyes away takes an effort of will, and you pass the wafer to Youmu.

The warrior woman stares at the picture for a very long time.

"She is," you feel compelled to provide more detail. "Somewhat shorter than she appears there, only about to my shoulder, and ... "

You trail off as Youmu looks up again. Her eyes are cold and hard. She holds the wafer of stone like it is a scorpion in her hand.

"Is something wrong?" You fear the worst. That she has met Mary, and Mary is lost to you.

"I am not sure." Youmu says, her eyes boring into your own. "I am very rarely unsure of anything."

You feel, rather than see, Youmu's body go tense with muscular readiness. She tosses the wafer of stone back at you with one hand.

In the same moment she begins to draw the shorter of her two swords.


[ ] Catch the picture! The stone may shatter, and it's the only likeness you have of Mary.
[ ] You're being attacked. Ignore the picture for now.

and:

[ ] Draw your sword. You don't know what's going on here but if you have to fight, you will.
[ ] Merely knock Youmu away with your shield. This is a misunderstanding, you don't want to hurt her.
No. 57490
[×] Catch the picture! The stone may shatter, and it's the only likeness you have of Mary.
[×] Merely knock Youmu away with your shield. This is a misunderstanding, you don't want to hurt her.

Need that stone if Renko is to inquire about Mary from others.
No. 57491
[x] Catch the picture! The stone may shatter, and it's the only likeness you have of Mary.
and
[x] Merely knock Youmu away with your shield. This is a misunderstanding, you don't want to hurt her.

Interesting reaction there, Youmu. Hopefully she'll stop short of doing something precipitous...
No. 57492
[×] Catch the picture! The stone may shatter, and it's the only likeness you have of Mary.
[×] Merely knock Youmu away with your shield. This is a misunderstanding, you don't want to hurt her.
No. 57493
[X] Catch the picture! The stone may shatter, and it's the only likeness you have of Mary.
[X] Merely knock Youmu away with your shield. This is a misunderstanding, you don't want to hurt her.

Welp. The best we can hope for here is minimal collateral damage.
No. 57494
[x] Catch the picture! The stone may shatter, and it's the only likeness you have of Mary.
[x] Merely knock Youmu away with your shield. This is a misunderstanding, you don't want to hurt her.

Guess the killing of innocent characters starts now.
No. 57495
[×] Catch the picture! The stone may shatter, and it's the only likeness you have of Mary.
[×] Draw
No. 57497
Calling vote. Update tomorrow.
No. 57498
File 138945205035.png- (1.81MB , 1400x912 , the sound of steel against steel.png ) [iqdb]
57498
Those who have never crossed blades like to speak in romantic tones about how time slows down during combat, about how the warrior's reactions are heightened into an absolute form of focus, about how cut and thrust and parry are an intricate dance of skill and strategy.

This is a lie.

Everything happens all at once.

Your outstretched right hand grasps for the image-stone of Mary. Youmu draws her short sword and swings it two-handed at your head in one smooth motion as you fumble, the blade shimmering with unnatural inner light. You heave your shield off your back as you finally clasp Mary's image to your breastplate.

Your shield is heavy and thick, a massive piece of ancient treated steel emblazoned with the twisting purple crest of the house of Hearn.

Youmu's sword hits the shield and scrapes across the metal with a shrieking sound.

You put your back and legs into the motion and slam your shield forward, hoping to catch her in the chest and face to knock her away.

She's not there.

Youmu is fast. Extremely fast. She's sidestepped the moment you moved, her sword now darting for your face in a straight thrust.

You allow yourself to overbalance, the tilt pulling you down and away from the blade whistling over your head.

Youmu's blade follows you down. You turn the tilt into a twist, knocking her sword off course with your shield.

From almost a crouch, you rise up and slam your armoured shoulder into Youmu's chest, finally pushing her back. She staggers barely two steps and raises her sword again.

"Stop!" You shout and hold out your right hand, holding Mary's image before you like a ward against this sudden madness. Your voice echoes in the Shrine like a cannon shot. "What are you doing?!"

Youmu's face doesn't show a trace of anger. There's no irrational fury there, no burning need, just cold calculation and judgement.

"You are a liar or a fool." Youmu replies. "I hope it is the latter but I fear it is the former."

"You attack me and speak in riddles! Be plain! I have not drawn against you and I don't wish to, this is insanity!"

"That picture you have," Youmu speaks very clearly. "You serve her? Her family?"

" ... yes." You answer, a cold fear lighting in your stomach.

"Would you put her down if you had to?"

"Would I ... what?"

"Would you put her down?" Youmu repeats, eyes never leaving your own. "If she had become the worst of all demons in this place? If she was corrupted by power? Would you put her down? Would you change your quest to such a thing?"

" ... "

"I say again, you are a liar or a fool, and whichever it is you are the servant of a demon. The image you hold is an exact likeness of the most foul demon in all of Gensokyo. She is unmistakable. It is Yukari Yakumo." Youmu's stony expression cannot contain her disgust.

" ... but that is impossible." You shake your head. "I have known Maribel my entire life."

"I do not believe in coincidence."

"And you attack me on the basis of this?" You almost laugh.

"It is cause enough."

"Are you convinced I am lying to you?"

"No. You believe you are telling the truth as you know it." The first hint of uncertainty crosses Youmu's face. "Which is why I must ask and receive an answer or pit myself against you: would you put her down? Will you put her down?"

"My Maribel is not this Yukari." You repeat, absolutely certain.

"Nevertheless. Answer me. And answer honestly."

Youmu has still not lowered her sword.

The blade shimmers like ice.

[ ] No, you would not.
[ ] Yes, you would if you had to.
[ ] Refuse to answer on the grounds that Maribel cannot be Yukari.
[ ] Refuse to answer on the grounds that any honorable understanding between you and Youmu cannot take place until you receive an apology.
No. 57500
[x] No, you would not.

Let the thought of Mary sustain us on our quest, though the terrors of Gensokyo might bar our way.
No. 57501
[x] Refuse to answer on the grounds that Maribel cannot be Yukari.

Kind of a tough call, and I've got no clever blurb to justify this choice this time.
No. 57502
[X] Yes, you would if you had to.

If Maribel truly has become a demon, we stand to meet a terrible fate.
No. 57503
[x] Yes, you would if you had to.

I wonder. I really wonder if he would if he knew her his whole life. But the fighting gotta stop for now.
No. 57504
[X] No, you would not.
No. 57505
[X] Yes, you would if you had to.
No. 57506
File 138949022730.jpg- (75.06KB , 500x603 , As long as we're together I don't mind.jpg ) [iqdb]
57506
[x] No, you would not.

"So how about we become monsters together…
And turn this world upside down?
So that… nothing bad… or sad… would remain.
Destroy, destroy, destroy it all!
Wouldn't that be just fine?"

No. 57507
[X] Yes, you would if you had to.
No. 57508
[x] Refuse to answer on the grounds that Maribel cannot be Yukari.

>>57503
Renko's a woman.
No. 57510
[x] Refuse to answer on the grounds that Maribel cannot be Yukari.

Stop Youmu. Be a bro again.
No. 57512
>>57508
Not sure why I wrote He.
No. 57513
[X] Yes, you would if you had to.

Our Maribel cannot be this Yukari.
Our Maribel may be this Yukari.
If that has happened, our Maribel is dead, and we will kill this Yukari wearing her face.
No. 57516
[x] Yes, you would if you had to.

> If that has happened, our Maribel is dead, and we will kill this Yukari wearing her face.

I really enjoy this interpretation - service to Maribel either alive or dead. Nothing may desecrate that image.
No. 57517
Vote seem pretty conclusive. Will leave open until I begin the update tomorrow.
No. 57520
File 138962224293.jpg- (122.99KB , 787x882 , cold regard.jpg ) [iqdb]
57520
"Yes."

The word comes out softly, balanced on the edge of a whisper, an unspeakable admission. It doesn't even echo in the stillness of the Shrine, as if the mere contemplation of such an act is rejected by this holy place.

"Yes, I would, if I had to." You repeat, and then find your mouth is dry.

Youmu doesn't change her position. Her cold eyes match the colour of her blade.

"What more can I say?" You almost shrug, hefting your shield but never lowering it. "Maribel is ... words cannot do it justice. Love? The word is just a pale shadow. If Maribel lives, I will find her. If she is," your words catch in your throat for a moment. "Dead, I will avenge her and bring her body home for burial. If she has been corrupted or changed, and if there is no going back?"

Youmu inclines her head - one half of a nod, which stops when she sees the angry flash of your eyes.

"If there is no going back for her. If it is truly necessary, and she is a demon, your Yukari? Then I would have no other person give her rest but myself."

Youmu holds her sword raised for another beat, then lowers and sheathes it faster than your eye can follow. You blink once and the blade is covered.

"I will hold you to that, Renko Usami." She says.

"You will not need to."

You and Youmu size each other up for a long moment.

"Oh, go kill each other, why don't you! Good lot of use it'll do here!" A voice finally breaks the lingering moment of confrontation. The woman wrapped in robes on the lower floor of the shrine has wandered over to the foot of the stairs, where she's probably just been watching the entire swordfight.

"Ignore her." Youmu says.

"Mm." You grunt, still not quite lowering your guard around the other warrior.

Youmu lets out a small sigh.

"You think I have done something dishonorable in attacking you without warning." She says.

" ... yes, in fact I think you have. I have no guarantee you won't do so again."

"Good."

" ... excuse me-"

"Good." Youmu repeats, no less blunt than the first time. "Learn that lesson and trust nobody in this land. A stalwart ally can be a soul-eating phantom. A broken warrior can hide a demon." Youmu's gaze flickers away from you and down toward the rag-clad figure below, now shuffling back to her seat in the circular depression. "Do not even trust your 'Mary', if you find her."

"When."

Youmu shrugs. Then she steps past you and begins to settle back down on the step where she was meditating before, without so much as a cautionary glance at you.


[ ] And what of Youmu's quest? What is she waiting for here?
[ ] How many times must you ask: where is the Miko?
[ ] You have wasted enough time in this sullen place crossing words with paranoid women. Ask Youmu where any survivors are likely to be, out there in the fog below.
No. 57521
[X] And what of Youmu's quest? What is she waiting for here?

Youmu is good at cutting to the heart of the matter. Perhaps we can do the same regarding her motives as she has ours.
No. 57522
[X] And what of Youmu's quest? What is she waiting for here?
No. 57523
[✓] How many times must you ask: where is the Miko?

Could use another perspective on the matter of the blight on Gensokyo.
No. 57525
[x] And what of Youmu's quest? What is she waiting for here?
Hmmmmm.
No. 57531
Update coming tomorrow.
No. 57534
File 138980177116.jpg- (213.38KB , 850x726 , stillness.jpg ) [iqdb]
57534
"And what of yourself? What is your quest, Youmu?"

You speak a little more harshly than you intended, no doubt still bristling from her assault.

Youmu says nothing for a moment as she settles back into her meditating position, both legs tucked underneath herself. She places both hands in her lap and breathes out slowly. You've never understood magic, or meditation, or any of the mystical arts. That's always been Mary's area of expertise and you're comfortable without delving far into the nighted depths of such studies. After all, look what it's wrought on this land.

But even your uneducated senses can see the change in Youmu when she exhales. She becomes stilled, like the surface of a lake grown suddenly placid and mirror-smooth.

You doubt she's going to answer your question now. It would be absurd, like asking a tree or a statue to speak.

"I already told you." Youmu speaks eventually. Her voice is perfectly calm.

"You said something vague concerning your family name, but no more than that."

"And that is the truth: I am here to reclaim my family name."

"But what does that mean?"

Youmu does not reply.

"Oh come now," you sigh and squat down at the top of the stairs, staring at the back of Youmu's head. "That's hardly a fair explanation, after you've asked so much of me - and attacked me. I take it if you find Maribel and we cross paths again, you would inform me, yes?"

"Yes." Youmu echoes.

"Then tell me of your reason for being here, and if I can assist in a like manner, I will."

Youmu does not answer.

"Well," you sigh. "I must be forced to conclude your family name was ruined through some breach of honor. Has one of your siblings become something down there in the fog? Did your father run from battle? Did-"

"No." Youmu says just as softly as before, and then exhales sharply. You can't see her face, but you can sense her eyes are open again now.

She glances down at the shrine floor below. The broken woman and Tokiko aren't paying you any attention now your brief confrontation is over.

"My former ... " Youmu begins and trails off. "My ... former master ... " She stops and goes still. "I cannot explain it in terms you would comprehend."

"Then use terms you believe I won't comprehend."

"It is too personal."

"Really!" You allow yourself a sharp bark of laughter. "Really. I tell you of my love - a love forbidden in some lands - for another woman, who is not only above my station, but a witch. And this is too personal?"

"It is too personal."

"Then how do I know your quest is a just one?"

You see the muscles in Youmu's neck stiffen.

"It is the same question you put to me!" You sigh.

" ... my mother." Youmu says softly. "She is partially responsible for one aspect of the disaster in Gensokyo. It is her will that spring does not come to this land. My father is missing, or dead, or worse, and he has left the passing on of my family's fighting technique incomplete." You see Youmu's perfect fingers stray to the swords at her belt. "I must kill my mother and compensate for the incompetence and failure of my father."

" ... and why are you waiting here in the shrine?"

"Why do you think?"

Youmu's voice holds barely restrained bitterness.

"I-"

"Be quiet."


[ ] Very well. She clearly wishes to be left alone right now. You have other things to tend to.
[ ] No. Offer your help. She must be made to see that all is not hopeless.
[ ] No. You will not allow a warrior easily your equal to rot here. If she cannot face her own purpose, she can help yours.
No. 57535
[x] No. You will not allow a warrior easily your equal to rot here. If she cannot face her own purpose, she can help yours.

The Banner Saga showed me that my choices are shit most of the time. Time to try something else for once.
No. 57536
[x] No. You will not allow a warrior easily your equal to rot here. If she cannot face her own purpose, she can help yours.

Let us be comrades in this place where all hope is lost.
No. 57537
[x] No. You will not allow a warrior easily your equal to rot here. If she cannot face her own purpose, she can help yours.

Let's (metaphorically) drag Youmu out there for some fucking jolly cooperation.
No. 57539
[X] No. Offer your help. She must be made to see that all is not hopeless.

I suspect we will have to go to the netherworld at some point anyway.
No. 57540
>>57534
[x] No. Offer your help. She must be made to see that all is not hopeless.
No. 57546
[x] No. You will not allow a warrior easily your equal to rot here. If she cannot face her own purpose, she can help yours.
No. 57572
Calling vote. Update will be tomorrow.
No. 57588
File 139005292631.jpg- (581.07KB , 643x900 , youmu.jpg ) [iqdb]
57588
"Then you're going to let your sword lie idle?"

The words come unbidden from your mouth before you have time to consider clearly. Anger - on behalf of Youmu, or driven by your own desires, or simply miss-aimed among the desolation of this land, you cannot tell which - bubbles up in your chest at her resigned fatalism.

"You're going to just sit there," you continue, staring at the back of Youmu's head. "And wait for an answer, or a revelation, or ... gods alone know what. Is that what you're doing? I'm correct, aren't I?"

Youmu doesn't reply, but you can see her muscles growing taut with anger.

You reach forward and take her right shoulder, leaning close.

"If you can't face what you have to do, then come with me. Put those blades to some noble purpose. Help me, and perhaps together we will find a way to surmount your own challenges."

Youmu tilts her head downward, as if in thought. Her white hair hides her expression, but her neck is tense with emotion.

"I fought with you for but a moment, but even I can see you are one of the most skilled sword-"

Youmu cuts you off with a forceful shrug, brushing your hand away by standing up suddenly.

"I do not need to be told that." She almost spits out, and then marches down the stairs, away from you, without looking back.

You stand up to follow her, but by the time you're halfway down the stairs she has made her way across the ground floor of the Shrine, her sharp footsteps echoing in the cavernous space, and through the ruined doorway outside.

The broken woman in rags emits a low chuckle as you stare helplessly after Youmu.

"She's right, you know." The broken woman says after a moment.

" ... about what?" You glance down at her, unsure if you should pay attention to the words of somebody so wretched. Her ramblings may undermine your resolve.

"There is no companionship here. No faithful comrades at your back. Nothing. You are lost and alone."

"Nonsense." You mutter.

"You are lost. You are no different than us. There's no desire in you to leave. Your soul is trapped here by death. We will wait here until the end of time itself."

The woman hunches up against the cold, pulling her ragged robes tighter.


[ ] She's right. You're delaying here. You can always come back later, but now you must focus on finding Mary. It's time to go down into the fog, alone or otherwise.
[ ] She's wrong. This may be the only outpost of sanity left in Gensokyo. The least you can do is investigate it fully.
[ ] She's wrong. Youmu is not broken, follow her outside.
No. 57589
[x] She's wrong. Youmu is not broken, follow her outside.
No. 57590
[ ] She's wrong. Youmu is not broken, follow her outside.
No. 57592
[✓] She's wrong. This may be the only outpost of sanity left in Gensokyo. The least you can do is investigate it fully.

Check on the miko? Or at least see if she's got some kind of sanity left.
No. 57595
[x] She's wrong. This may be the only outpost of sanity left in Gensokyo. The least you can do is investigate it fully.
No. 57596
[x] She's wrong. Youmu is not broken, follow her outside.

Time to face the hordes of hollowed youkai.
I wonder what style of fighting Renko uses.
No. 57599
[x] What is broken can be reforged.
-[x] follow Youmu

Unless I'm wrong, we're going to return here sooner or latter no? (My money's on the former)
No. 57615
Calling vote. Update tomorrow.
No. 57616
File 139032170070.jpg- (137.93KB , 1600x1066 , the fog.jpg ) [iqdb]
57616
You leave the broken woman behind without replying to her depressive ranting. There's nothing you can do except forge on ahead.

Leaving the Shrine, you're relieved to see that Youmu has not gone far. Across the dying grass and a little way down the hill, you can see her green-armoured form silhouetted against the slowly swirling fog below.

"Youmu!" You call out as you catch up with her.

She turns to you: her eyes have calmed, ice-cold once more. She raises one eyebrow in curiosity at your approach.

"I-"

"Ready?" She asks before you can apologise or protest, or even gather your wits.

"Ready for what?" Your gaze slides down toward the surface of the fog, not more than a hundred meters away now where it laps at the edges of the Shrine's hill. "You mean ... you want to leave now? Right away?"

"Isn't that what you were proposing?" Youmu asks, then stares down into the fog as well.

"Well ... yes, only I thought you were ... " You gulp and clear your throat. "Insulted."

"Irritated." Youmu corrects you. "Yes. But it is a good proposal."

"Well! Splendid then." You try to smile, but something holds you back as Youmu takes a step toward the fog, unhooking her helmet from her belt and settling it over her white hair.

"The forest extends for more than a mile in all directions, but there is a path - was a path - through to what used to be the main township of Gensokyo." Youmu gestures at a series of cracked stones and packed earth which leads down the hill, off to your right.

"Are you suggesting we go there?"

Youmu shrugs.

"Then?"

"I have no suggestions." Youmu shakes her head. "I know where things are. Or rather, where things used to be. There is no sure fruitful destination, only speculation, ghosts and echoes."

"I will find Mary." You say softly. Youmu doesn't react.

You pull your own helmet back on and breathe easy with your fragile skull surrounded by metal once more, though you leave the visor up for now.

"If I pressed you, what would your suggestion be?" You ask.

Youmu says nothing, walking past you and toward the fog. You follow.

It is not easy; the fog shifts and flows like a mass of oily tentacles, and the closer you get the more you can feel of it - damp living mist working inside the joints of your armor. The ground becomes wetter, sticky and moist underfoot. You can smell rot on the air.

When you look behind you, the Shrine has almost vanished. Ahead of you are treetrunks looming through the mist, covered with pale moss. The very tip of Youkai Mountain is still visible in the far distance, but a few more steps down will obscure that too.

"My suggestion would be to have your sword drawn." Youmu says from ahead of you as she pulls her longer blade from it's sheath. Whatever silvery brilliance the sword may have in better surroundings is choked by the mist. You follow suit, pulling your sword out and keeping your shield ready for whatever you may encounter among the close-leaning trees.

"And my real question?" You remind her, not really expecting an answer.

"The town is close, and it was heavily populated. I don't know what's become of it, except for the corrupted Temple nearby, which we would do best to avoid. There are ... places in the forest that may shelter holds-outs, here and there, not to mention Eientei. The moon people have natural sciences that may have allowed them to weather this storm. We could strike out for Youkai Mountain, though the gods alone know what has become of the Tengu. They shut the great doors to the mountain interior years ago." Youmu pauses. "Your Maribel may have gone looking for libraries of magic. There is one I know of for certain, in the most dangerous place we could possibly go. So no, I have no suggestions."

[ ] >

==

This is something I want to experiment with: an open option. In this case Youmu has pretty much laid out the explicit choices for you. Where do you want to go? Where do think Mary might be? Failing any answer to that, where do you think any survivors, useful companions or other ... discoveries, may lie?

If you struggle to answer this open option, I'll replace it with a standard set of choices, so no pressure.
No. 57617
[x] Eientei

Maybe they'll have useful medicine or something. Though chances are she'll probably get lost in the bamboo forest, if not, get killed by crazed moon people.
No. 57618
[x]Mayohiga.

The town where supposedly the Yakumo family lived, which appeared in Stage 2 of Perfect Cherry Blossom. If Mary has any sort of connection with that demon, chances are we will find something interesting there.

Don't know how to put it so that it isn't so meta-gamey.
No. 57619
>>57618
I agree but it's still too son
[x] Eientei
No. 57621
>>57618
Speedrun strats?
No. 57622
>>57621
SL 1 no sorcery no pyromancy no Estus vanilla weapons speedrun gogogogogogo.
No. 57623
[x] Eientei

Great Grey Rabbit Tewi?
No. 57625
>>57621
Screw speed runs, Slow Walk is the new OP.

SL 120 Warrior

Vit: 60
Att: -
End: 30
Str: 50
Dex: 25
Res: -
Int: -
Fai: -

Armor:
Giant Helm
Giant Armor
Giant Gauntlets
Giant Leggings

Weapons (must swap as necessary):
- Golem Axe (wide swings, 1h r2 projectile)
- Composite Bow (poison, distance, can't parry)
- Dragon Greatsword (high stagger, damage, dead angles, 2h r2 projectile)
- Obsidian Greatsword (2h r2 passes through walls)
- Gold Tracer (bleed, damage races, stop fishers)
- Silver Tracer (1h r2 movement, toxin)
- Butcher Knife (1h r2 movement, wide swings, slight heal)
- Dragonslayer Spear (1h r2 projectile, safe pokes)
- Stone Greatsword (wide swings, small chip, 2h r2 buys time, space)

Shields (must remain, cannot swap)
- Havel (nearly impossible to break guard, survive magic with chip damage. L2 sometimes useful).
- Black Knight (parries, stop pyromancy)

Default Consumables:
- Black Firebomb (slight chip, good damage)
- Throwing Knife (fast projectile, usable damage, can headshot firestorm / running R1s)
- Poison Knife (fast projectile, easy poison)
- Repair Powder (needed for weapon R2s)
- Dung Pie (toxin, mix with throwing knives)

Off-bar Consumables
- Red Moss (keep at top of bar - to keep bleed down)
- Blooming Purple Moss (people will try to wear you down with poison/toxin)
- Green Blossom (vs aggressive players)
- Humanity (people tend to back off and heal when they've lost / assume the build is somehow rigged)

Rings:
- Favor and Protection (required - health + stamina)
- Bloodbite (default, saves from gold tracer spam, bleed)
- Steel Protection (maximize defense formula)
- Cloranthy (great when being ground down)
- Blue Tearstone (experimental - get 600+ def at low HP)
No. 57627
>>57625
Damn, I wanna fight that. Sounds fun.
[x] Mayohiga
Speed run gogogo. Also, as I have never played DeS, I don't have intricate knowledge of everything.
No. 57628
Eientei? Eientei.

I won't be writing the update until tomorrow morning, so you still have some time if you want to reconsider.
No. 57629
>>57627
Basically that's a build heavily focused on heavy armor and strong weapons. It sacrifices speed and evasion effectiveness for pure damage and defense. Which, for some bosses, it's a great tactic, but for PvP it's kinda shit unless you know what are you doing.
No. 57631
>>57629
I've been playing it, its all sorts of fun. Works well in PvP as long as you know tricks like dead-angles. Beating Seath with it was awesome, you can out poise his strongest wave of crystals and look like a badass.
No. 57632
File 139048353999.jpg- (354.36KB , 1600x825 , deep in the forest.jpg ) [iqdb]
57632
"Moon people?" You ask in a near-whisper.

You try to cough to clear your throat, but the fog closes thick curtains of mist about you to drink your sound and breath. You feel as if you are beneath a great weight.

"Moon people, yes." Youmu answers, her own ice-clear tones also hushed by the mist. "Eientei is a large eastern style castle deep in the forest. They've always kept to themselves, except for ... one or two servants I knew by name."

"And these 'natural sciences' you speak of?"

Youmu shrugs. Her armor makes no sound as the lacquered plates move across each other. "They are from the moon, they possess things that have no comparison in Gensokyo. It is not unimaginable that they may have held out."

"That sounds promising."

Youmu says nothing for a long minute as the pair of you descend fully to the forest floor, leaving the slope of the Shrine hill behind. When you glance over your shoulder, there's nothing to see but mist and damp treetrunks.

You don't ask why Youmu has chosen to stay at least a dozen feet from the path - the cracked flagstones are only just visible through the trees to your right, almost lost in the fog.

"If we're going to Eientei we will need to turn ... " Youmu considers for a moment, the nods to the left. "That way."

"Very well."

Youmu finally spares you a glance. Her eyes are pure focus.

"Stay close together." She says.

==

The forest is like something from a nightmare fairy-tale. The fog only thins by the barest fraction when you pass through a clearing. In the corners of your vision you can see it gathering into tentacles of white mist, sliding through the dying undergrowth toward you - until you turn to look, and there is nothing there except a wall of sickly grey.

There is no birdsong, no small animals fleeing at your armored tread, no sound of running water. Instead there are shapes that move through the fog, things you and Youmu skirt around that seem to be the size of trees but thicker and wandering in circles, emitting bubbling and cracking sounds and the smell of old blood. You pass half-rotten naked corpses in dry riverbeds, untouched by flies or worms and left to shrivel and mummify. Once, something gigantic passes overhead and you both go still like mice trying to avoid the attention of an owl. You tread on things that slither away underfoot and try not to react as half-shadows detach from behind distant trees and vanish into the fog.

Slowly, the composition of the forest changes from damp trees to close-packed bamboo, the tops of the stalks swallowed by the fog overhead. Here, it is almost impossible not to begin following the paths directly.

Without warning, the fog sudden disgorges a crossroads, the star-shaped radial pattern upon you before you have time to approach cautiously. Youmu holds up one hand for you to stop; she's frowning in suspicion and confusion.

In the center of the crossroads is fallen tree, quite at odds with the bamboo all around. On the shattered trunk sits a petite rabbit youkai with large floppy ears, wearing a black dress that comes to her knees. She is barefoot and unarmed, and greets you and Youmu with a face-splitting grin.

There is something wrong with her skin. Though pale, it seems to shimmer with a black coating, like an oily gloss over her flesh.

"Lost~?" She asks in a sing-song voice.

" ... are we lost?" You whisper to Youmu, not taking your eyes off the changed rabbit.

"I have no memory of this place." Youmu admits with some difficulty.

"Where are you going~?" The rabbit tilts her head with innocent curiosity.

"Don't talk to it." Youmu hisses.


[ ] Take Youmu's advice, ignore the rabbit.
[ ] Youmu is over-cautious. Speak with the rabbit and ask it the way.
[ ] Speak with the rabbit but reveal nothing.
No. 57633
[x] Speak with the rabbit but reveal nothing.

Sanity evaluation?
No. 57634
[x] Take Youmu's advice, ignore the rabbit.

Hey it's Black Tewi!
No. 57635
[x] Speak with the rabbit but reveal nothing.
No. 57636
[x] Take Youmu's advice, ignore the rabbit.

Jesus christ no. Fuck this forest out out out.
No. 57637
NOPE!

[x] Take Youmu's advice, ignore the rabbit.
No. 57638
I can see we have some true veterans here. Not going to call for Tewi?
No. 57640
[X] Speak with the rabbit but reveal nothing.

>>57638

The many, many "Hobo forever after being swindled out of all your money" BAD ENDs I've read have instilled an innate distrust of that particular earth rabbit in me, still no reason to be rude though
No. 57641
[x] Speak with the rabbit but reveal nothing.
No. 57642
>>57638
C'mon, it's clear as day that Tewi is the reincarnation of Trusty Patches in this story. If we speak to her, next thing we know is that we'll be staring down a pitfall for an alleged treasure and be kicked down by the rabbit for our naivety.

Granted, there might actually be some treasure there, but it never is worth all the trouble.

[x]Take Youmu's advice, ignore the rabbit.
No. 57643
>>57638
We have enough problemas with a pack on tengu ninjas in our back.

[x] This world is what we make of it and this forest is no different. Begone!
No. 57644
[x] Speak with the rabbit but reveal nothing.

We already know she's going to pull some bullshit. We might as well get an idea of what kind of bullshit.
No. 57645
File 139066516643.jpg- (78.80KB , 720x960 , a black rabbit.jpg ) [iqdb]
57645
The rabbit youkai doesn't seem threatening in the least: her smile is one of childish mischief rather than predatory purpose - even as the oily black sheen slides across her face. She swings her bare feet back and forth, tapping her heels against the fallen tree and watching you.

You spare a glance for Youmu, who gives only a curt shake of her head and motions for you to follow her toward the nearest of the branching pathways out of the clearing.

"Let me try, one moment." You hiss to her.

"Renko." She grunts back, but you put her worries from your mind as you take a step forward and greet the black rabbit.

"Good day to you-"

"Haha!" The rabbit laughs, showing a mouth of sharpened teeth. "What's good about it~?" She rolls her eyes to the sky with an indulgent smile.

" ... point taken." You nod. A cynic. You can deal with that.

"Renko, stop talking to it." Youmu says, her voice hard.

"It's fine." You gesture for her to be calm.

"That's right, it's fine~" The black rabbit sing-songs and sticks her tongue out. How she doesn't slice it on those teeth you can't begin to guess.

"What are you doing out here alone?" You ask. "Are you going anywhere?"

The black rabbit doesn't answer your questions. Instead she tilts her head, floppy ears twitching like dying fingers, and gives you a slowly widening smile.

"Are you lost~?" She asks.

"No." Youmu barks.

"No, we're not lost." You say softly. "We know exactly where we're going."

The rabbit youkai loses her smile, puffs her cheeks out, and looks away from you.

"Are you lost?" You ask.

"No." She sounds glum now. You are overcome with the distinct sensation of trying to deal with a moody teenager.

"Well, why-"

"You're going to Eientei, right? Right?" The rabbit huffs and pouts and crosses her arms over her chest, her heels drumming a faster beat on the fallen tree.

You share a glance with Youmu. Your companion does not look impressed, she practically glares daggers at you.

"Perhaps. Why, would that be a bad thing?" You try.

"It would be better to be lost." She grumbles and rolls her eyes again and then hops off her seat. "Eientei was a maze but now it's a labyrinth, you're already going the right way, but you'll be dead soon if you don't turn back." The rabbit folds her hands behind her back and looks at you innocently from upturned eyes, standing on her tiptoes. "That's why I'm here. It's the only thing left to do, except grow lonely."

You realise with a sudden horrified sensation that the remains of the fallen tree are not all wood: when the rabbit hopped down it drew your attention to the things that lie at her feet amid the rotting wood and fetid moss. A thigh bone here, a scrap of armor there, shredded cloth, torn clothing, all of it half-buried in the dirt or tucked up against the corpse of the tree; the rabbit is standing on a predator's trash heap.

"Neither of us will fall." Youmu says.

The rabbit sighs and spreads her hands in a shrug.

"Are you lost?" She repeats.

[ ] "No." That's enough.
[ ] "No. So what happens now, are you going to try to eat us?"
[ ] "No, and if you don't want to be lonely, why don't you follow us?"
No. 57646
[x] "No. So what happens now, are you going to try to eat us?"

Pure black.
No. 57648
[x] "No, and if you don't want to be lonely, why don't you follow us?"

Seems like Eientei may have turned into a death trap. I wonder if the rabbit killed those people or just scavenged their corpses from those who died here and at Eientei. Oh well, I suppose we'll find out next update.

I wonder if we can get her to tag along. We'd be much less likely to get lost if she helps, especially if Eientei has turned into a maze. On the other hand she might lead us into a trap. Not holding out much hope either way.
No. 57649
[X] "No. So what happens now, are you going to try to eat us?"

Not good.
No. 57650
[✓] "No, and if you don't want to be lonely, why don't you follow us?"

Maybe it's too optimistic to hope that a rabbit hasn't turned carnivorous, but whatever.
No. 57651
[x] "No, and if you don't want to be lonely, why don't you follow us?"
No. 57652
[x] "No." That's enough.

Right.
No. 57653
[x] "No. So what happens now, are you going to try to eat us?"

This is definitely some sort of trap, but we've got backup in the form of Youmu. This is a good time to see just how bad Gensokyo has gotten and if we can fend off youkai without getting ourselves killed.
No. 57654
[x] "No, and if you don't want to be lonely, why don't you follow us?"

This can't possibly go wrong.
No. 57659
Follow us, Tewi~

Calling vote. Update tomorrow.
No. 57670
File 139083848822.png- (1.14MB , 1120x1100 , carivore behavior.png ) [iqdb]
57670
"No, and if you don't want to be lonely, why don't you follow us?" You say, nodding towards the many pathways that branch off from the clearing. "We're going, perhaps you'd like to come as well? Better than ... growing lonely?"

The rabbit holds her shrugging pose for a moment longer, and then breaks into a high-pitched cackle. She doubles up and holds her stomach, the laughter showing off those twin rows of sharp teeth once more.

"What are you doing?" Youmu hisses, clearly incensed.

"Negotiating a guide." You whisper back, not taking your eyes off the rabbit. "Do you know the way?"

Youmu doesn't reply.

"Thought so." You whisper, and then raise your voice again. "We're leaving, black rabbit. Feel free, if you want to." You gesture to the opposite pathway and begin striding confidently across the clearing, hoping Youmu doesn't give the game away by standing her ground.

The rabbit stops laughing and straightens back up. She dances on her tiptoes around to the other side of the log.

"You're going the wrong way, you know?" She smiles and licks her lips.

"I thought so." You say softly.

A few minutes later you find yourself and Youmu following the skipping rabbit down another one of the pathways, back into the dense fog. Her black dress and the oily sheen on her skin show up against the white mist, making her hard to miss, though she never strays more than ten feet in front of you, pausing and hopping from foot to foot, glancing back and watching you, waiting for you to catch up before looping around behind you through the bamboo stalks like an overexcited puppy. She never makes a sound though, nothing except the patter of her bare feet on the hard-packed earth of the pathway.

When the black rabbit draws far enough ahead once more, Youmu grits her teeth loudly enough for you to hear.

"What is it? You really think it's a trap?" You ask with a little sigh.

Youmu gives you a deadly look.

"Do you even understand what that creature is?" The warrior in green points a curt nod at the rabbit, keeping her voice low.

"A corrupted youkai, I imagine." You shrug. "Small and carnivorous but hardly a threat to two armoured knights."

"She is a cannibal. That is what the black taint on her flesh means - it is the inescapable mark of soul cannibalism."

You raise your eyebrows in surprise. "You're sure?"

"Yes."

"Then why didn't you say something?" You glance uncomfortably at the black rabbit, her toes kicking up fragments of earth and rotting leaf.

" ... because Eientei appears to have hidden itself. I do not recall these pathways." Youmu admits, looking away.

"Then-" You look ahead.

Just in time to see the black rabbit vanish into a wall of fog.

All sound is swallowed up by the shifting ocean of white.

And then Eientei reveals itself as you step forward, like a rock-pool washed over by a wave now receding. The fog ebbs back as if draw into the ground and the bamboo parts at the end of the pathway.

The great eastern castle of Eientei still stands - or at least most of it does, the dark wooden buildings spread out like a fat rotten toad in the center of a nest of fortifications and trenches. Stoneworks and ditches twist and turn across the two hundred meters that separate the edge of the bamboo forest from the castle proper, full of blind alleys, tight corners, dead ends and bottlenecks. Overhangs and kill-holes and countless pits and traps fill the defensive network. Tunnels vanish entirely below the ground and several wooden towers reach up to provide vantage points across the whole insane warren.

The fog sluices through everything like thick tar, and fails to disguise the extensive fire-damage the place seems to have suffered. Blackened wood and soot-caked stone are everywhere, and some of the castle itself appears to have suffered from the fires as well. Far off around the other side of the castle and the trenches, you can see smoke rising into the air, accompanied by the distant crackle of flame.

The place is apparently unmanned, except for a few small, well-rotted corpses you spot here and there among the earthworks. As you look over the killing field toward the castle itself, you swear for a moment you can see a figure standing on the balcony of the central keep, surrounded by a halo of black. But then the fog thickens again and hides the master of this death-trap from your sight.

The black rabbit peers cautiously up one of the ramps that leads into the earthworks, then turns and grins at you.

" ... this place is dead." Youmu intones.

"We're going inside anyway. I saw somebody."

Youmu doesn't reply.


[ ] Head inside the defensive network.
[ ] Try to find another way around - maybe there's a main entrance somewhere.
[ ] Try to climb up, over the walls and above the trenches. There's no defenders left to stop you.
[ ] What about that fire on the other side? Circle around the castle grounds, see what's over there.
No. 57671
[x] What about that fire on the other side? Circle around the castle grounds, see what's over there.

If flames were involved, we should not suspect a youkai.
No. 57673
[x] What about that fire on the other side? Circle around the castle grounds, see what's over there.

Better find a new bonfire to respawn at before entering Reisen's Fortress.
No. 57674
[x] What about that fire on the other side? Circle around the castle grounds, see what's over there.
>>57673
This mans logic is sound. Gotta be especially careful here.
No. 57676
>>57673
Can we make a perfect run? It is near impossible but.. who knows?

[x] What about that fire on the other side? Circle around the castle grounds, see what's over there.
No. 57677
I'm all for finding a bonfire.

[x] What about that fire on the other side? Circle around the castle grounds, see what's over there.
No. 57678
Bonfire it is then. Here we go.
No. 57679
File 139099841186.jpg- (1.18MB , 1200x800 , the hidden castle.jpg ) [iqdb]
57679
Your resolve falters slightly as you gaze across the ground you have to cover to reach the castle proper - this network of trenches and tunnels may not be built in stone like the castles of your homeland, but it is every last bit a deathtrap. One determined warrior could hold off several times their own number at any one of those choke-points, not to mention what might be lurking down there now in the fog.

"Let's ... let's go around first, see what that fire is." You point one gauntleted hand across the castle, to where you can see darker grey against the fog - rising smoke.

The black rabbit giggles at your suggestion.

"I don't like the look of that." Youmu says.

"It'll be fine." You say, reassuring yourself as much as trying to convince her. "Look, the ground rises there to the ... is that east?" You instinctively glance up at the sky, but there is nothing but the grey light filtering through the fog. For the first time since you left the Shrine you are struck by the sense of being without a fixed point of reference. No day or night. No sunlight. No stars. Not even the cardinal directions.

Youmu shrugs.

"Anyway, from that rise we should be able to see the fire. There might be people there."

"Indeed." Youmu says darkly.

For a moment, the black rabbit doesn't follow. You turn back and raise an eyebrow at her.

"Aren't you coming?"

She says nothing but gives you a shark-toothed grin, and then takes several cautious-looking steps, staying well behind you.

"What is it?" You ask, frowning. "Do you know what's over there?"

The black rabbit makes an elaborate shrug, rolling her eyes and suppressing a giggle. But she still stays a safe distance behind.

The castle peers in and out of the fog as you make the slow circle around, but Youmu makes a point of watching the edge of the bamboo forest instead of the trenches. You split your attention between the two, and then find yourself trying to see ahead as the sound of flames gets closer and closer. It's a steady noise, a slow, languid lapping of crackling flame, absent the usual popping or shifting of wood. It is the purest, cleanest sound of fire you have ever heard.

Youmu notices the uncanny texture of the sound as well, and you share a glance just before you mount the rise and gaze down on what lies below.

Both of you stop walking and just stare. The black rabbit hangs back, her giggles soaked up by the fog.

Several hundred meters away, crouching in a burned-out circle of the trench-works, towering easily twenty feet in the air, is a phoenix.

It is all flame - slow burning flame that turns the fog to steam on its feathers. The smoke you saw was that rising from the smoldering ground and remains of the trenches about the giant bird's clawed feet. It's hunched, as if resting, staring at the castle with eyes of crimson fire.

You can feet the heat coming off it even from this distance.

"I-"

"Shh!" Youmu all but claps a hand over your mouth. " ... make no sound." She mouths silently.

The phoenix doesn't seem to have noticed you. When you overcome your awe, you notice charred corpses in the creature's wake and scraps of blackened flesh smeared across the trench-works. The flames that compose its body lick up towards the sky, but even those are swallowed by the fog.


[ ] Back away and return to your previous plan. You cannot face this thing right now.
[ ] It is even alive? Or awake? Try approaching - carefully. After all, it has cleared somewhat of a path for you.
[ ] The black rabbit knew this was here. Ask her about it.
No. 57680
[X] The black rabbit knew this was here. Ask her about it.

If she says something about there being items over there, just for us, we feed her her own teeth.
No. 57681
[x] The black rabbit knew this was here. Ask her about it.
No. 57700
[X] It is even alive? Or awake? Try approaching - carefully. After all, it has cleared somewhat of a path for you.

Nope. I refuse to believe the phoenix did it. There's simply too much evidence
No. 57701
[x] The black rabbit knew this was here. Ask her about it.

The black rabbit of ill omen.
No. 57708
Update coming tomorrow.
No. 57722
Sorry, couldn't get to this today. Will try for an update again tomorrow.
No. 57746
File 139159340456.gif- (317.67KB , 300x170 , ugh ugh UGH.gif ) [iqdb]
57746
Okay, rather than letting this stew any longer: this story is on a very short hiatus, until Monday the 10th!

Just been a little busy is all.
No. 57803
File 139203739155.jpg- (194.22KB , 465x689 , frozen fire.jpg ) [iqdb]
57803
You nod to Youmu and back away down the slope as quietly as possible. The phoenix didn't notice you approaching, but with a creature of such size and obvious power there's no sense in not being as cautious as possible. The warrior in green follows your retreat silently.

Once it's out of sight again you breathe a little easier - though the glow of the flames is visible against the trees and the slow roll of fire is still audible, almost drowning out your harsh whisper.

"What was that?" You hiss to Youmu.

"A demon." She replies. Her eyes look like chips of frozen flint. "We cannot fight it. We should go around and stay low if we are to enter this place. If."

The black rabbit is still hanging back from the pair of you, bouncing slowly on the balls of her feet with her hands clasped behind her back. She shows all her teeth in a big shark-toothed smile when you glance at her.

"You knew this was here." You almost glare at her. "Why didn't you say something? Or is this your attempt at a trap?"

Her eyebrows climb so quickly they're liable to shoot right up off her face. Then she doubles up into a giggling fit, though carefully suppressed with one hand over her mouth. Her eyes bulge and she stares at you with insane mirth.

"She is of no use, probably-" Youmu starts, but the rabbit youkai quickly straightens up and skips a few steps closer to you, wiggling like a boneless fish swimming through the tendrils of fog.

"If I trap you~" She purrs deeper than her small frame should allow. "You'll know you've been spoken to~"

" ... I take it that's a no. But you knew this was here?" You loom over her, but the rabbit doesn't shrink back.

"Of course I did! She's stopped though. She can't move when there's no time to move through. That's the problem with eternity. It's so very long~" The rabbit tilts her head.

"The bird is frozen?"

The rabbit rolls her eyes.

And then skips straight past you and up the hill. For a brief moment she is silhouetted by a corona of flame-glow from far below, black clad rump wiggling from side to side.

Then she hops down and is gone.

" ... this is a trap." Youmu says. She made no effort to stop the rabbit.

"Something's not right here, I know, but I don't think it's a trap. Why would she ... " You strain your ears, and you can hear the receding patter of the rabbit's bare feet, moving toward the great phoenix. "Why would she do that?"

"We should go back around." Youmu insists.

[ ] She's right. Back up and go through the trenchworks. Forget about the rabbit.
[ ] No, follow the black rabbit. But carefully.
No. 57806
[X] No, follow the black rabbit. But carefully.

We've already come this far. Might as well see this through.
No. 57808
[+] No, follow the black rabbit. But carefully.

Well, better to try then not at all.
No. 57812
[x] No, follow the black rabbit. But carefully.
No. 57813
[X] No, follow the black rabbit. But carefully.

The alternative means dealing with (Rei)Sen's Fortress. But I suspect we'll have to deal with that at some point anyway.


Thread Watcher x