Sorry, but I already had this update half-written when I got your vote.
=================================================================== [x]Bombard it with a barrage of Homing Amulets and send it back home.
It was a rare occurrence to see skeletons in Gensokyo -- youkai, demons and vampires were far more common in the Eastern Paradise --, but certainly not unheard of. Thankfully, shrine maidens like Reimu were purposely trained to exterminate and send away all kinds of harmful spirits, and a reanimated skeleton fell squarely into that category. Thus, mikos were proficient in using a select arsenal of purifying tools and talismans to deal with them swiftly: their chief weapon was the all-purpose ofuda
, the sturdy gohei
-- Their two weapons were the ofuda
, the gohei
, and the luck-bringing omamori
, three main weapons were ofuda
In short, shrine maidens had a crapton of obscure items with weird names amongst her weaponry. The assortment was so varied, sometimes it was harder to pick the best tool for the job than actually executing said job. But when it came down to laying waste to pesky enemies, Reimu had a clear favorite.
As the reanimated bones slowly, spookily shuffled towards her, the miko slid her hand inside the pocket of her skirt, in a calculated move that had become second nature to her. She pulled a rectangular piece of paper and whipped her arm swiftly, as if to imprint more momentum to the soon-to-be flying amulet.
Her expectations crashed down to the ground when the paper in question refused to take flight and remained hanging limply from her pale hand. They sank six feet under after she realized that the paper was, in fact, not an amulet.
"Wait, this is the map... Whoops," Reimu mumbled, putting the paper back in her pocket.
The skeleton, oblivious to her predicament, inched closer and closer by the second, almost at arm's reach. And that was way too close for Reimu's comfort, who only preferred her skeletons a couple thousand miles away from her. [X]Do a low sweep with the broom and knock its legs out from the ground.
Luckily for her, even after the amulet fiasco, she still wasn't completely defenseless. Those martial combat lessons she was taught as a rookie were finally going to pay off!
"Not so fast!" She shouted to her opponent. "Let's see how you like this!"
Reimu deftly pranced a couple of steps away from the skeleton and brandished Kyouko's broom with a few twirls. The cleaning tool was perhaps a bit short for the miko's liking, but it was made of surprisingly sturdy bamboo, so it could make for an improvised staff in a dire situation, like the one she was in right now. And God knew how dusty those bones were! A good ol' brushing wouldn't hurt it, thought Reimu, although she was supposed to aim for the opposite.
The shrine maiden spun, flapped and milled the broom around, displaying her slick martial arts partly in an attempt to intimidate the skeleton away, partly for mere show-off. It was a relief to see that even after becoming a zombie, she still got her moves.
"What's the matter, you chicken?" Taunted Reimu with a haughty smile. "I don't even need a stone to break your bones, you freaky-- Ah."
It was one thing to remember how to wield a staff; another completely different matter was retaining the necessary mind-muscle coordination to actually pull off those moves. Reimu became painfully aware of how really uncoordinated were her rotten muscles when the bamboo broom slipped out of her hands and fell to the ground a few feet away from her. The skeleton ground its yellow teeth after witnessing the shrine maiden's embarrassing mistake, as if mocking her.
"Sh-sh-shut up! That doesn't count!" Exclaimed Reimu, who would've blushed like a tomato if she still had blood inside her.
The shrine maiden quickly rolled towards the broom, grabbed it mid-vault, and delivered a swift blow to the skeleton's ankles. The undead monster promptly crashed to the ground with such force that its left arm dislocated cleanly from its shoulder socket, producing a cringeworthy "clack" sound.
"That's more like it," Reimu muttered to herself as she stood up.
The skeleton blankly stared at its own dislodged extremity with its empty eye sockets, more annoyed than pained or furious -- brooms aren't designed for dealing pain, after all. Although with how limited a skeleton's facial expressions are, it might as well have been gleefully smiling for all Reimu knew. After a short while, it finally decided to pick the arm and stand up as well. Under Reimu's vigilant watch, the skeleton made the feint of placing the arm back in its place...
But at the last second, it decided to simply lunge forward and club Reimu with it. This time the miko was properly prepared, and managed to meet its attack with broom in hand. Since she didn't find the prospect of being clubbed to un-undeath with a bony arm particularly humerus, Reimu focused on blocking and parrying every blow the skeleton delivered from above, below, hither and fro. Eventually, both combatants found themselves locking their "weapons" in a contest of pure strength and tenacity.
Reimu, who still had enough brains left in her to think outside the box, shifted her balance to divert the skeleton's arm-club to the ground, and threw a quick jab with her broom once she found an opening. The skeleton, winded, relented in his assault and took a few steps backs -- which the shrine maiden mentally appreciated. Why was she feeling so tired, she thought. Was it because her rotting body wasn't able to function properly, meaning she had to overexert herself to retain the same speed?
She knew she had to defeat the skeleton before she completely ran out of energy, but if she couldn't stand toe to toe against her foe, and she was out of ammo, what other option did she have? [X]Invoke the Hakurei Orbs and blast it to orbit.
Ah, of course! Her own option
: the Hakurei Orbs! Why didn't she think of that sooner?
Perfect spheres of crystal stored with spiritual power, the Yin-Yang Orbs were the greatest treasure of the Hakurei Shrine. They were powerful weapons against non-humans (particularly youkai), but only a properly trained blood member of the Hakurei clan could use them effectively. The orbs' power worked by constantly absorbing the power of its user over time; once they'd been filled with the user's power, they could release all the stored energy at once in the form of amulets or needles at high speed, and then start the cycle over again. Sort of like a little hovering Cuisinart that hated all non-humans.
Since she was the last heir of the Hakurei line, Reimu possessed the power to summon and control the Yin-Yang Orbs at will. Once she got them rolling, that skeleton would become nothing more than a pushover. And frankly, this battle was taking way too long for a measly abomination.
"I'll end this thus!"
The shrine maiden clasped her hands and focused, drawing her inner energy and reciting mystic prayers in her mind, like she had done thousands of times before. The moment she tried to materialize the Orbs in the physical realm, she immediately noticed something was fundamentally wrong
. She had no time to stop, though, for the skeleton was drawing closer. Reimu kept repeating the ritual to summon her options, but every time she tried to focus, there was a strange external force that blocked her spiritual power and impeded it from taking form. Or rather, it was like the final piece on the pipeline system was missing, preventing the water from reaching its destination.
"Tch, this is definitely not my day. Why can't I...?" Reimu practically choked in her own disbelief and exasperation. "Is it because I'm a zombie? I'm no longer alive, therefore I'm not a Hakurei? Or maybe there's someone else-"
Her musings were interrupted by another loud crack -- the skeleton had apparently decided Reimu had wasted her turn away and was making its move already. The monster brought its hand to its skull, and with an utterly shrilling noise, unhinged it from its spine. Then it threw the skull at Reimu like a fastball, who had already readied her brown and was aiming to score a home run. To her surprise, the skull suddenly changed trajectory in midair, catching her completely by surprise.
"Curve ball!?" Reimu exclaimed. "Ah, just a floating skull-- Gah!"
Taking advantage of her moment of distraction, the skull opened its jaws wide and loomed closer to the maiden's left shoulder.
"No no no, don't you da-- Ouch!" The skull sank its dirty teeth on its target, attempting to rip a good chunk of rotten miko flesh. "That hurts! Ouchouchouchouch! Who the hell do you think you- Eek! I'm the zombie here! Agh! Let go already!"
Eventually, Reimu managed to push the skull away and throw it to the ground. To her utter disgust, some of the skeletal fangs -- which were exactly the same as human fangs, but somehow hurt more -- were stuck on her flesh. It was to be expected considering skeletons have no gums to hold them in place. In fact, Reimu should've thanked God she still had hers in good condition when she bit Kyouko. There were few things as ridiculous as a toothless zombie.
"Speaking of Kyouko, where is she?" Reimu looked at her surroundings, trying to spot the yamabiko among the group of zombies. "I could use a little help here..."
Reimu was sure Kyouko would make short work of those pesky bones, and not only because she was a dog youkai. Unlike her, the youkai seemed to retain most of her natural agility and strength. If only she could get to her and ask her for help... The miko recalled she went to a dark alley; the one alley the skeleton was blocking, unfortunately. She had to get past it somehow, but seeing as her enemy was still looking for its skull, it shouldn't be too difficult. Unless that was what the skeleton wanted, and was just baiting her to throw a third surprise attack.
On second thought, it didn't need to be Kyouko specifically, Reimu thought. Any of those zombie villagers could aid her in the fight, instead of standing around doing nothing. They were willing to go with her, so they should follow her orders, right? Of course, that's assuming they understood complex instructions such as "pin it while I circle behind him". Otherwise, they might make good bait at the very very least.
Whichever course of action she picked, the miko had to pick it fast. The skeleton would be distracted only for so long, and Reimu was not confident she would withstand another vicious assault in her current condition... Take the chance and strike the skeleton while it isn't paying attention to you.
--Realize you're never going to survive unless you get a little crazy, so go crazily bash it with your fists of fury.
--Speak softly, then clobber it with the big stick until it bites the dust.
--There has to be something useful buried among the wreckage. Or at least something better than a broom.
Sneak past the skeleton and get Kyouko's attention.
Order your zombie posse around. (Write-in)
Sorry for not delivering yesterday. I had some college paperwork to deal with last afternoon and didn't have time to write. Anyway...
If you're going to boss your undead horde around, remember that zombies aren't known for being too bright. Simple, short orders will have a better chance of working well than overly complicated ones. Keep this in mind from now on. >>59045
That's one of my main inspirations for this story. You'll very likely find some references to it in the future... >>59052
A fellow adventurer? Why, yes, the beginning is practically the same as the Zombie Slayer challenge path, but that's where the similarities end. Though I guess the humor is also very KoL style.