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File 147556659124.jpg - (169.66KB , 768x1024 , doll.jpg ) [iqdb]
64075 No. 64075
[x] Grab Marisa and hide until the flying woman is gone, then carry her to Kourindou.
-[x] Watch and listen to the flying woman if opportunity presents itself: if you get some indication she's not malevolent, first come out from hiding by yourself to ask what's going on.

There isn't much time to think. For the sake of survival, you have to assume this flying woman is a threat. Priority number one is Mori, so you grab her arm and pull her close so you can whisper to her. "Pick a spot to hide and don't move until I tell you to come out. Be absolutely silent. Understand?"

Thankfully, Mori isn't petty enough to have an attitude in this situation. She looks hesitant, but nods and retreats into the trees on the other side of the path. That's one blonde secure.

You look up to see what the flying woman is doing. She's floating around, still nearby but unaware of you or Marisa's location. Fortunately, she doesn't appear to be any sort of beast-related youkai with super-hearing. If that were the case, she wouldn't have had any problems finding Marisa in the first place.

You turn to the drug-addled witch, who is staring right at you in her rainbow daze. "Ah!" she cries, much like a child who doesn't know words. Then she screams with giddy mirth, scattering some birds in the trees above.

This other blonde isn't going to be so cooperative, it seems. You close the distance between the two of you in a flat second, snag her by the waist, and throw yourself into the same brush she first stumbled out of. You land face-down in the grass with Marisa right by your side, who lands on her back and starts giggling. You cusp your hand over her mouth, and surprisingly she offers no resistance — content to stare up at the canopy of trees with her starry eyes glazed over in foggy delight.

The animals and other creatures of the forest around you have gone quiet after Marisa's little outburst, so it's easy to hear the woman touch down on the path. "I know I heard her," she grumbles loudly. "Marisa! Just come out already!" she calls. "Give me the doll back and I won't be mad, I promise!"

A doll? Is that it? This sounds more like a quarrel between children than a hostile pursuit. You feel something wet in your hand and glance at Marisa. Her eyes are now closed and she's breathing heavily. You take your hand off her mouth to confirm that, yes, drool is gushing from her chapped lips. It's far from the worst bodily fluid your hand has been covered with, but it does help convince you that this whole thing is stupid. If this woman is a youkai, then she's at least sane enough to converse with.

You stand up and pull Marisa out of the bushes with you. She may be almost entirely dead weight, but she's still lighter than Mori. It's a little frightening how thin she is underneath that costume.

The woman looking for Marisa surprises you, just as you surprise her. From a distance she appeared to be a human, but up close she reminds you so much of Hina — someone who's just a little bit off. Her skin is fair and without a single blemish, and her soft features are precisely symmetrical. She's far taller than Marisa or Mori — almost your height, but not quite — and stands with a straight posture. The way she presents herself is so perfect that it is in itself unsettling.

It may have been a mistake to reveal yourself. But someone has to break the silence, and her unflinching gaze tells you who it's going to be. "Are you a fortune-teller by any chance?" you ask her.

Her sharp, blue eyes flicker a few times, then settle on a cold wariness. "No," she answers stiffly, so unlike when she was calling for Marisa moments earlier. "Who are you, and why are you dragging Marisa along like that?"

"I'm just an acquaintance of hers who was passing by," you answer somewhat-truthfully, as you brush scraps of the forest from your clothes. "Looks like she's been into some bad mushrooms. I was going to bring her back to Kourindou, but I thought I heard a youkai looking for her. So, I grabbed her and hopped in the bushes to hide."

She doesn't seem to be bothered one bit by your implication that she's a youkai. On the contrary, she eases up a bit. "So you're one of Mister Morichika's acquaintances. You do seem the type." Her eyes scan you up and down, while you're left wondering what kind of "type" she could be talking about. "Marisa took something from me," she continues. "She said I would never catch her because she had some mushrooms that would make her invisible, but..."

"Instead they just got her really high?" you finish the woman's sentence for her.

She nods in a measured fashion. "So you are familiar. I would imagine she mixed up the supposed invisible mushrooms and the mushrooms that have a more... recreational use."

"Or more likely," you guess, "the mushrooms never made her invisible to begin with. She just thought they did."

The woman sighs. Even her exasperation seems to be calculated — executed like she was in a spotlight. "Yes, I suppose that is also a possibility."

Then you realize that you should probably introduce yourself. A bow would probably be more appropriate, but you decide to extend your hand instead — maybe because of her foreign appearance. "Sorry. My name is Shinichi Tsurugi," you claim, "a human from the city."

Without hesitation, she grabs your hand and delicately shakes it. You think that her skin might be hard and plastic, but no — it's soft just like a human's. She matches your polite smile with one of her own. "Alice Margatroid, from the forest. A pleasure."

A foreign youkai, then. Not that you've confirmed she's a youkai, but with the flying, the weirdness, and living in a forest that's deadly to humans, it's pretty safe to assume so. That this Alice can fly at all is a sign she's notably strong — most of the youkai that roam the forests nowadays can't even do that much.

"You said you were looking for a doll?" you continue, bringing Marisa forward. She's just been hanging on your arm — without your support, she'd be on the ground again. She must be crashing pretty hard. "If you want to search her, she's not really in a state of mind to resist."

Alice wastes no time, stepping forward and digging into Marisa's apparel without a word. You notice her fingers are long and thin, with nails trimmed down to the cubicle. There are plenty of calluses — a glaring flaw in her dainty visage. If she's so worried about a doll, then could she be a doll-maker? A tailor? Both? You can't imagine anything besides very intricate crafting leaving such marks.

Sure enough, Alice produces a small doll that had been tucked into the hem of Marisa's skirt. It looks like a little blonde girl, wearing a purple dress and a white apron. Even someone who's had little experience with dolls can tell that a lot of work went into its clothing and the details of its face and hair. Its eyes, in particular, give you a revolting sense of uncanny valley like Alice herself does.

"Do you like it?" Alice asks you. "I made it myself. Hourai, she's called. I have plenty more like her at home, but each one is so important to me. That's why I'm very grateful that you managed to stop her before she dropped it somewhere."

"It does look well-made," you respond. Best to ignore the rising hairs on your neck and keep moving the conversation forward. "But if you excuse me, I really must be taking Marisa and—"

As if responding to her name, the despondent Marisa finally loses any strength she might have had left in her body, and crumples backward. You manage to catch her somewhat-delicately.

"I find it odd that you don't let her fall," Alice remarks, expressing little concern for the witch.

"If I'm going to bring her back to Morichika, it would be best if she had as few scratches as possible," you explain as you hoist her back up. "Speaking of which, I had best be going. Is that all you needed, Miss Margatroid?"

"Yes, that will be all." As she speaks, her feet slowly leave the ground. She floats silently upward, looking down at you and Marisa. "I do thank you again. I travel to the city often, so please say hello if you see me. Farewell."

You probably won't. But you wave goodbye to her regardless, as she turns and flies out of sight.

The silence lingers for a moment before you disperse it. "Clear," you announce.

Mori reveals herself and steps back onto the path with slightly dirtier clothes. Her weird hat is on her head, which you suppose is fine. This isn't really the tengu's territory, so you won't have to worry about any fly-bys recognizing it. "What a strange one," she remarks.

"The one I have here," you say with a shake of Marisa, "or the one who just flew away?" You suppose Mori herself could also qualify.

"The doll-woman who just flew away," Mori clarifies, before looking at Marisa. "This witch girl is just some druggie cosplayer, right?"

"Cosplayer?" you wonder out loud.

"Outside stuff," she explains. "I don't know much about it myself, but it's like a sad kind of dress-up."

Since you're holding the "cosplayer" in front of you, it's hard to miss her odor. Smells like she hasn't bathed in a few days, and the costume is in a similar condition. It's not as as harsh as a man's smell might be, but it's still unpleasant. "A sad kind of dress-up sounds about right," you conclude. "And I agree that Alice is a bit weird. I think she and Hina have a lot in common."

Mori gasps. "No way! Hina is a friend. That woman is a stranger."

Huh. You didn't know Mori and Hina got along that well. But she did trust Hina with your gun, and Hina trusted her with you. So there's some kind of relationship there, however it came about. You end up shrugging. "Whatever you say. But if you can call Hina a friend after a short time, then what's the difference? Why not Alice?"

Mori's face sours. "No thanks." Then she remembers something and stomps the ground childishly. "And hey, I'm not supposed to be talking to you!" she huffs. "Back to silence!"

Then she skips ahead down the path, leaving you to figure out how you can tastefully carry Marisa the rest of the way to Kourindou.

###

"Wuzzah, what?" Marisa stirs on your back just as the humble abode known as Kourindou comes into view. Locks of her hair brush your cheek as she peeks around your shoulder, taking a look at you with foggy eyes that no longer radiate with psychedelic stars. "You're that... detective guy, ain't ya?" Then she groans and buries her head into the side of your neck. "Ugh. My head's swimmin' all over the place."

"Then get off," you tell her. "I'm not getting covered in vomit for your sake."

"Relax, it's fine," she assures you. "I'm just all... disoriented-like."

Mori has been walking several paces ahead of you, having rededicated herself to not speaking with you. Who knows what's been going through her head since that little spat the two of you had, and you have no desire to revisit it. But when she hears Marisa's voice, she can't help but stop to look back at the two of you. "Are you awake, witchy girl?"

Marisa lifts her head to look at Mori, and then laughs. "Hey, it's like a lil' me, big hat and all! Pretty cool stuff. What's your name?"

"Mori," she replies. "And I don't really see the resemblance, to be honest."

You don't either, but that doesn't dissuade Marisa. "Don't worry about it," she tells Mori. "Ya just didn't know me when I was small."

Mori looks at her dryly. "What do you mean, 'small'? You're barely taller than me."

"Anyway," you cut in, ready to get this annoying leg of the journey over with. "Kourindou's right there and you seem fine enough, so get off."

"Nah, it's gettin' kind of cold," she mumbles groggily. "Take me inside."

You should have left this shameless witch behind. But it would probably be best for Morichika to see your labors in delivering Marisa to him. "Fine," you grumble as you continue walking.

Morichika's shack seems to blend into its surroundings more and more each time you see it — likely because he doesn't maintain the exterior. "Kourindou" is thickly painted above the door, and various piles of junk from the Outside he's collected decorate the front of the building. It reminds you of an abandoned shed that a gang of kids adopted as a retreat, and promptly used whatever they could find to make their mark on the place.

You watch Mori hop up the steps ahead of you and examine some kind of large cat statue propped up against the wall. Though calling it a statue is a bit much; it's really more like a plastic lawn ornament. In fact, you're certain you could find something exactly like it in the city — probably in front of some trendy café. Did this even come from the Outside? Sometimes you think Morichika is just a hoarder looking to pack his nook in the forest with as much junk as possible.

In front of the door, you clear your throat to get Mori's attention. "Would you mind knocking on the door for me?" you ask her. "My hands are a little full."

"Nah, don't worry about that," Marisa speaks up. Then she reaches over you and pulls the door open. "Kourin!" she calls inside. "I'm home!"

Like always, Kourindou is a mess. Morichika wants to pass it off as an outside goods shop, but it's more like a hoard of old junk. Apparently he does get a lot of business from youkai, but you can't imagine any humans who would be interested in anything besides what he keeps under the counter.

The man himself sits behind a counter in the back, his white hair and the polished lens of his glasses standing out even amongst all the distracting shit around him. Or at least, he was sitting, until he saw you carrying Marisa. Seeing him stand is actually kind of a rarity. "Marisa, this isn't your home, no matter how much you treat it as such." Then he turns his attention to you. "And... PI? What happened?" He frowns. "Has she been a nuisance?"

"Good afternoon, Mister Morichika. Yes, she's been kind of a bother," you admit. "Got high and stole something from one Alice Margatroid. You know her?"

Morichika sighs. "The dollmaker, yes. I can't say I'm surprised. Those two squabble every now and then."

"We get along in our own way," Marisa chimes in with a smug tone. "But seriously, Kourin, I could really use a good shot of tea."

"I have a customer," Morichika admonishes her, before turning to you. "Or so I'm assuming. You didn't come all this way just to bring her here, did you?"

"I did not," you answer. "I think she's still feeling some of the shrooms, so where do you want me to put her?"

"Just drop her anywhere. You've helped out more than enough." He bows. "My sincerest apologies."

You couldn't agree with him more, so you lean back and let go of Marisa's legs. The sound of her ass hitting the floor is a beautiful sound to bring about the lack of burden on your shoulders.

"Ow!" she cries. "Ya didn't have to take that literally..."

Morichika chuckles, so you know you're in the clear. Then he stops when he notices Mori come in behind you. "And who is your friend, PI?"

Mori raises one hand in a casual greeting. "Yo. Name's Mori. Don't mind me, I'm just looking."

"Well, alright," he replies cautiously. "If you're with PI, I'll trust you that much."

Not that you want to be responsible for the whelp. But Morichika is a total nut when it comes to things from the Outside World, so he'd probably have a stroke if you let on that Mori was from there. You can keep that bit of info under wraps until you need it. For now, helping Marisa out should be more than enough leverage for what you need.

You approach the counter. "I wanted to inquire about some sensitive business."

Morichika nods. "Some 'little ones', or another 'big one'?"

"Some 'little ones'," you answer quickly. No way you could afford another gun; bullets are all you need. "Twelve, to be precise."

He raises an eyebrow. "Twelve? So soon? Have you been making enemies?"

"Something like that. Since I helped Marisa out, I was thinking full payment might be deferred for at least a few days."

He sighs. "I figured it was something like that. Fine, I've let you off for less. But you know the rules — 72 hours or you'll get a free 'little one' the next time you walk in here."

"Deal," you tell him. Morichika might seem like too nice of a person to be in this kind of business, but the way he can so casually threaten your life says otherwise. And you know he'll make good on that threat, too; you've seen him whip a gun out from under that counter and put a hole right through someone you assume tried to take advantage of his deferred payment policy.

Morichika reaches down, literally under the counter, and produces a handful of bullets like magic. After coming here for a few years, you still have no idea how he does that, nor have you seen what is actually under that counter. "Here you are," he says, depositing twelve bronze bullets on the counter. "Usual rate."

"Thank you very much." You scoop the bullets up and shove them in your pocket. Not very cool or stealthy, but that's how it is — no neat gun and ammo case for the budget detective.

"Ah, PI!" Mori calls from behind you, before a loud thud.

Great. What's she done now? You turn around and are immediately relieved to see that Mori hasn't knocked anything over. Instead, she's on the ground herself, having fallen victim to the grappling of Marisa Kirisame. "Come here, mini me!" the witch demands, trying to settle her head on the struggling kid. "Let me use ya as a pillow!"

"No way!" Mori wails. "You smell!" She really shouldn't complain, considering the state she was in when you found her.

Morichika groans. "That girl is a troublemaker, through and through."

Hearing him say that reminds you of something. Didn't Mima say she was looking for a young, blonde girl who had a knack for getting herself into trouble? It's reasonable to think that with Marisa's habits, she and Mima could know each other somehow. It's worth mentioning, at any rate.

"Say, Mister Morichika," you begin, "one of my jobs I'm working on is from a ghost. Says she's looking for a young girl, blonde, who likes trouble. Sounds like Marisa, doesn't it?"

Suddenly, Morichika finds a renewed interest in the newspaper he was reading. "Could be, yes."

"I was wondering if you had any insight about that," you press him. "If a ghost is looking for Marisa, it must be important. And you seem to have known her for a long time."

"I have," he answers. Then he looks past you, watching Marisa bury her head in Mori's lap as the latter seems to have given up. "PI, we've known each other for a good while, so I'll be blunt. Leave it be. That girl's had more than her fair share of demons. They don't need to find her again."

"So you know this demon in particular?"

"Not directly. But I've heard of her, and I don't want her anywhere near Marisa. She's the kind of past that should be buried."

[] You agree with Rinnosuke; Mima seems like a pretty bad deal. Maybe you'll just let this one slide.
[] Insist that Marisa should make her own choice on the matter... when she's in a better state of mind.
[] Ignore Rinnosuke. You can tell Mima about Marisa the next time you see her, and then Mima can do whatever she wants.
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>> No. 64076
Apologies for being a shit. Everything's back on track now.
>> No. 64077
I'm not even gonna read this and vote yet. It's because I'm hungry, and am going to get food.

However, I do have time to say:

Thank you, Rafty, for updating. I'm glad to know that at least one of my watched threads isn't dead.
>> No. 64078
[X] Insist that Marisa should make her own choice on the matter... when she's in a better state of mind.

From what Kourin said, it seems like the demons want to meet Marisa more than she wants to meet them. However, it's better to check.
>> No. 64079
[x] Insist that Marisa should make her own choice on the matter... when she's in a better state of mind.

It lives!
>> No. 64080
[x] Insist that Marisa should make her own choice on the matter... when she's in a better state of mind.

I really don't think Mima's done much to make a bad impression on PI so far, at least no worse than being annoying. May as well give her a chance. Plus this option seems like the best chance to give us more interactions with Marisa, and I like this Marisa. Even if I'm not sure how lucid she's supposed to be in the last part.

The mental image of Rinnosuke just popping a cap in troublesome customers gave me a chuckle.
>> No. 64081
[x] A job is a job but... I trust you enough to not tell her anything by now.
-[x] It should be her choice though.
>> No. 64082
[x] Insist that Marisa should make her own choice on the matter... when she's in a better state of mind.

Hooray, Raftclans is back!
>> No. 64083
[x] Insist that Marisa should make her own choice on the matter... when she's in a better state of mind.

Remember to post in the old thread pointing this one, it can be easy to miss otherwise.
>> No. 64084
[X] Insist that Marisa should make her own choice on the matter... when she's in a better state of mind.
>> No. 64104
Called for independent Marisa (not that I really need to).

Update is moving along and should be complete in a few days.
>> No. 64111
File 147693435890.jpg - (421.33KB , 962x979 , the old fashioned man and the sleepy witch.jpg ) [iqdb]
64111
[X] Insist that Marisa should make her own choice on the matter... when she's in a better state of mind.

So Morichika's made it a personal mission of his to keep Marisa from... whatever it is that Mima seems to represent. It feels like he's being a bit dramatic. To you, Mima is nothing more than a shit-stirring ghost with a little too much time and magic on her hands. Hell, it looks like her and Marisa have a lot in common.

“If you aren't going to tell me why this ghost is so bad, then I'm not going to be dissuaded,” you tell Morichika. “She seems perfectly harmless to me, a few annoyances aside.”

“She's a magician,” he explains. “Magicians are naturally dangerous. Whereas most youkai grow weaker by the day, magic stays just as powerful. Even Marisa, with what little she knows, could easily dispatch most youkai nowadays... assuming she kept her wits about her, of course.”

That comes as a shock to you, and your inexperience with magicians and magic itself is to blame. What's more surprising is that Marisa isn't just playing dress-up — but maybe you should have figured she'd have some kind of magic ability, considering her playground. “So you're protecting her from herself?”

“In a way, I suppose.”

“But are you really alright with her running around the forest, high off her ass, until someone gets the drop on her? Eventually she'll have to clean up her act — make her own decisions. And if she wants to confront whatever this deep dark past is, she has that right. You can't shelter her forever.”

Morichika sighs. “Now I think I understand why you have to keep yourself armed. Sticking your nose where it doesn't belong doesn't really ingratiate you to people.”

You can't help but laugh. “I made my peace with that a long time ago. But I should apologize. Unsolicited advice isn't usually my thing.”

There's a particularly off-putting snort at your side, and you look down to see Mori. She must have managed to separate herself from the snoozing witch. “Bullshit,” she remarks. “That's all you do, pretty much.” Then she turns to Morichika. “Don't let him spew all over you like that, shopkeep.”

He watches the newcomer with a hesitant smile, then turns back to you. “I'm sorry, is she working with you now, PI? You've never brought anyone here before.”

“She's being pursued, so I'm looking out for her.” It's a gross simplification, but it works. “Sorry for her intrusion.”

Mori clicks her tongue at you. “I think you're the one intruding here, PI. I'm just browsing. Though to be honest, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be looking at.”

Morichika perks up at the opportunity to talk about his shop — and keep the subject away from Marisa. “These are all items that have fallen into Gensokyo from the outside world,” he explains. “I believe most of them are relics, since only forgotten things make it through the barrier.”

“Forgotten, huh? I guess that's right,” Mori mumbles. Something about that made her gloomy. Does she think she was forgotten? You can't imagine anyone forgetting about her; this brat's made enough of an impact on you in the past few days to last a lifetime.

“But take for example, this item here,” Morichika continues rambling, grabbing from the counter a small, silver object that fits in the palm of his hand. With his thumb, he flips it open to reveal a keypad and a small screen. “I have a talent when it comes to identifying something's functions. I know that this was made to 'communicate using voice and text', but its purpose and the intricacies of the technology eludes me. Because it has a reflective screen, I think it may be intended to capture and speak with spirits. I recall that humans from the outside world have a lower spiritual affinity compared to humans in Gensokyo, so this could be something they invented to counteract that.”

Mori looks completely dumbfounded by his rant. “Isn't that just a cell phone?" she asks flatly. "Looks like it's a few years old.”

Morichika stares back at her, just as dumbfounded. “A... cell phone? Are you saying you know what this is called?” He leans closer to Mori. “Do you have some knowledge of the outside world?”

If Morichika finds out that Mori is from the outside world, then you'll be here all day listening to his maniacal rants. Before she can say anything else, you swoop in and take control. “I mean, of course it's a cell phone. The tengu use them, don't they?”

Morichika looks at you, and then the device in his hand. “The tengu? I think I've seen them carry something like this, but... why would they need to talk to spirits with this? Tengu can interact with spirits normally.”

You groan. “No, it has nothing to do with spirits.” At least, you don't think so. You and Hatate chatted about them once, because she was pissed that she spilled sake on hers and had to get another one. “They use the cell phones to communicate with each other by talking into them,” you explain. “It's like a normal phone, but you can use it just about anywhere.”

Morichika strokes his chin with his free hand. “I'm not too familiar with regular telephones, to be honest. When I lived in the city, the store I worked in had one. But, I didn't know how to operate it besides picking it up, speaking into it, and putting it back down. I often tripped on the cord.”

“Talk about old-fashioned,” Mori chimes in. “I guess they wouldn't run phone lines out to this little store, huh?”

“The slums don't even have them, let alone this place,” you explain. “But it's not a big deal. I still prefer to meet people face-to-face.”

Morichika nods with you. “I have to agree.”

“I also think so,” Mori says, ”but you guys sound like a bunch of old men when you say it like that.”

“It's better for business,” you explain in defense of your age.

You dodged a bullet there, but you know that the longer this conversation goes, the more of a chance Mori will let her origins slip. So you grab her shoulder and flash Morichika a smile, determined to take advantage of this lull in the conversation. “Well, I think we should be off. Wouldn't want to crowd the place if more customers show up.”

That last bit of sarcasm probably wasn't necessary, but Morichika doesn't mind. He puts the cell phone back down and reaches for the newspaper again. “Oh? Alright then. But remember — 72 hours.”

“Oh, I will. But you remember: next time I want to talk to Marisa.”

He doesn't look up from his newspaper. “We'll see,” is all he has to say about that.

On the way out, you nearly trip over the aforementioned witch, who has managed to sprawl herself out over what little floor space Kourindou has.

###

“You worried?” Mori asks, after the two of you are back on the path to the city.

“Worried?” you repeat. “It's pretty simple. Either he gives in and lets me talk to her, or he doesn't and we go from there. No use worrying about it.”

She smiles. “That's my kind of thinking.” Then her gaze turns up towards the sky. “Still,” she murmurs, “I never thought I'd encounter one of those. But if there's one place a hybrid could survive, it'd be here...”

You're not sure if you were supposed to hear that, but you engage anyway because you can. “What are you talking about?” you ask after her voice trails off.

Mori clears her throat. “The phone he had,” she says quick. “It was pretty old. I guess lost junk does end up here in Gensokyo eventually.”

You're not convinced that's what she was actually talking about, but you'll let it slide because she's in a better mood. In fact, you should probably address what she got so upset over in the first place and make sure the air is clear between you. It's what partners should do, after all — even if they're a little brat. You have to rely on her, to an extent, and you don't want a grudge resurfacing during the worst time.

“I'm glad you're talking to me again,” you tell her. “It would have been a boring walk otherwise.”

She skips ahead a bit, keeping the expression on her face just out of sight. “I decided to accept that we should keep some distance between us,” she explains. “You're a professional, and I'm part of a job, right? Sure, you can play around with me, call me your apprentice, but once everything's said and done I'm going to leave and you'll stay here.” You hear her sigh. “Isn't that how it should be?”

That is how it should be. But obviously she isn't okay with that. And somehow, you aren't either. The master and apprentice thing is corny, but the intentions behind it were sincere enough. She's been holding it together pretty well, but maybe she's finally seriously considering her position as an outsider. Or, she's fishing for sympathy so that you give in to what she wants.

“This whole thing started because you wanted to know more about me, right?”

She nods.

“Then fine,” you continue. “Let me tell you a story about a crime spree that started in the Central District about fifteen years ago.”

“I told you I want to hear about you, not your—“

“Just shut up and listen.”

You say that, but honestly you have no idea how to proceed. There's the history that you experienced, and then the history that everyone else knows. If you blend the two, shit comes crashing down — that's how it was explained to you, anyway. Can you really tiptoe around the metaphysically-delicate parts?

Mori glares at you. “Well? I'm shutting up and listening.”

“Serial murderer,” you begin. The best way to explain this is clinically, like you would have heard back then. “It started with six girls spread out over four months. Ages varied from 9 to 16. No obvious similarities, except that they were all servants of various wealthy families and they were all butchered with a large knife. It was thought to be related to some kind of underage prostitution ring, but that theory never went anywhere. The bodies didn't show any sign of sexual assault, which I guess is a thin silver lining.”

All that sobers her up pretty quick, but you don't have any intention of stopping now that you've begun. “Murders like that were a first for the Central District. Most of the crimes the police deal with are things like robberies, fights, and drugs. Murder is a rare thing in Central — though not so much in the slums, since youkai are a convenient scapegoat. Anyway, since no progress had been made, an up-and-coming new detective was put on the case. His name was Takeo Yamaguchi.”

You take a deep breath, hoping it will relieve some of the weight in your chest. “He was an impressive guy. He grew up in the Central District as the only son of a councilman, and he inherited his father's charisma. But above all, he was a great cop. Self-determined. He didn't have the best pair of eyes, but he made up for it with effort.”

She looks kind of confused. “Umm, is this supposed to be y—“

“I said shut up.” She backs off, and you continue. “Takeo devoted all of his time on and off the job to the case. When the next victim was found, the city panicked. He... took it very personally. It was a shitty time for him to be engaged, but it was an arranged marriage to another councilman's daughter — who happened to be part of the old nobility from before Gensokyo was Gensokyo.” You pause. Now you're getting into deep shit. “It went on like planned. Even though they hadn't known each other long, I think he loved her. She kept him afloat.”

Mori starts to fall behind in pace, but you find it difficult to control your own as you return to piecing together the story in your mind. “But the situation only became worse after the wedding, like the killer was spurred on. There were two victims the following week — both of them teenage servant girls, and both of them cut up. Nobody knew how the killer was getting a hold of them. School was canceled. Nobody let their kids out, day or night. Takeo spent every waking minute going over the case files, the reports, and the crime scenes. He knew there was something they were missing. But he never found it, and the worst was yet to come.”

You stop walking. This is the hard part. “The final victim was Takeo Yamaguchi's young wife. She was shot three times in the chest, and fell into the river. But there was a witness — a first for the case — who said they saw a bloodied man fleeing the scene after hearing gunshots. There was a manhunt, but he was never found. Some of the investigators wondered if it was the same killer, but after he was spotted once the killings stopped. Just like that.”

“In the end the case was never solved, and the people's trust in the human police eroded. Now they're perfectly content when they spot a tengu sentry on a rooftop every now and then. The whole thing became another way for the tengu to become relied on by humans. And now, some of the adults tell children tales of the tengu — the human city's guardian gods from the mountain. The police, as far as they're concerned, are just some dumb lackeys who couldn't even save the lives of a few girls.”

You pause to catch your breath. But before you can think of what else to say to Mori, you're surprised to hear her ask, “And what happened to Takeo, after that?”

“I don't know,” you grumble. “I really don't.”

This whole time you haven't seen Mori's face, so you turn to look at her. She isn't crying, or scared. Instead there's a somber pity in her eyes for you. “I'm sorry. About the case, and about... the wife.”

You let out a raspy chuckle. “I don't know why you're apologizing about that. I'm not Takeo.”

She keeps staring at you, like she's trying to see through the facade. “Then, I'm sorry you know such a sad story.”

The story itself isn't sad. What's sad is that so many more awful things were sealed away and covered up to create that fabrication. So long as you never speak of it, that truth will never come to light — never become history. And for the sake of your own selfishness, it has to remain that way.

###

To nobody's surprise, getting groceries at the convenience store afterward is a pretty tame affair. Mori wavers between sympathetically thoughtful and endearingly plucky. She doesn't ask anything else about what you told her, and instead focuses on picking out snacks and instant meals: curry, rice, ramen. Since you're feeding two now, you can't really afford anything fresh — but it's nothing you're not used to.

You carry the groceries back to the apartment and start putting things away while Mori sits on the couch and watches.

“What are you thinking?” you ask her when you catch her gaze for the fifth time.

“I think we should do something.”

You'll go along with it. “Okay. Like what?”

“Something different,” she says.

You can already tell this is going to be a headache. “Again, like what? What are you talking about?”

“Well, you told that really depressing story about all the death and sadness—“

“That you asked for,” you remind her flatly.

“—so I think we should have invite someone over to hang out and brighten the mood. How long has it been since you've had company in this dump? Besides me?”

Calling it a dump is a little offensive, but not inaccurate. “A very long time,” you admit. “But alright, I'll bite. Who would you want to invite?”

“What about the people from the chat?” she offers naively. “Hatate? Q? I know Lucy would be thrilled if you invited her.”

“Absolutely not. Hatate's a shut-in, Q is a workaholic, and Lucy is... Lucy.” Even though you're almost certain they would decline, what really worries you is the slim chance they'd show up.

“Okay, fine. How about some of the people we've met?”

That still isn't a very long list. You go over the past couple of days in your head. “There's Hina,” you start.

Mori's face lights up. “Ooh, that could be nice. Yeah, we haven't really seen much of her, have we?”

You never have seen much of her, and that's mostly your choice. But Mori seems to like her, and you don't have a specific problem with her. You just think she's a little... odd.

“Then there's Lucky,” Mori continues for you. “I'm sure he could bring us some nice booze! All you have is some cheap sake.”

That isn't the only reason why you would invite him, but it certainly is a gigantic plus. “Wait a minute, how did you know about the sake?”

“I found it in the cabinet when I was looking for food yesterday, duh.”

Noticing that thirsty look in her eyes, you realize you have to put your foot down. “Don't get any ideas. I'm not letting you drink.”

“Aww, come on!” she huffs. “You tell me that soul-crippling horror story about a guy who totally isn't you, and you won't even let me drink some alcohol to cheer up?”

Oh boy. This is going to be the new thing she keeps bringing up, isn't it? You should've just kept your mouth shut, since you can't win anyway.

“Alcohol is for adults,” you declare, undeterred.

“But I—“ she starts, but then falls quiet. “Fine.”

“Moving on,” you start to say, but then stop. “Is there anyone else?”

“Minoriko is probably busy...” Mori says, before immediately looking away and crossing her arms defiantly. “Not that I would want to invite her! I just thought, if you wanted to see her...”

“It wouldn't look good to invite her so we can hang out and drink, since I'm supposed to be looking for her sister.”

“Oh! Yeah, that's a good point. Then what about that Kourin guy and the witch we just saw?”

“Morichika is a shut-in as well, and Marisa is probably still sleeping off those shrooms.” Not that you'd really want to invite her over, anyway. One silly blonde is enough.

“Yeah, I guess you're right.” Suddenly, something comes to her. “Mima and Reimu! Mima said she would want to hang out.” But then she darkens. “Although that was probably meant in another way...”

“It's not the worst idea, but I have no clue where Reimu's shrine is.”

She sighs. “I see...” After thinking a little more, she completely deflates. “Is that all? You really don't have a lot of friends, do you?”

“I don't think that's a bad thing. But let's just decide who, so we can get started.”

Not that there's really much of a choice.

[] Hina's right upstairs. What could go wrong by inviting the landlady down for a drink?

[] Lucky probably doesn't have any customers anyway, so let's invite him over for some good booze.
-[] He'd leave Cirno behind to watch the bar while he's gone.
-[] And he'll bring Cirno with him. On a leash, of course.

[] Is it just you, or is it cold in here? Oh, it's Mima.
-[] Thankfully, it's just her.
-[] For some reason, Reimu is with her. Say goodbye to all your sake.


Sorry about the lateness. Didn't have electricity for a while.
>> No. 64112
[x] All of the above.

CHAOS

REIGNS
>> No. 64113
[x] Is it just you, or is it cold in here? Oh, it's Mima.
-[x] For some reason, Reimu is with her. Say goodbye to all your sake.
>> No. 64114
[X] Lucky probably doesn't have any customers anyway, so let's invite him over for some good booze.
-[X] And he'll bring Cirno with him. On a leash, of course.

Because natural iceboxes are cool.
>> No. 64115
[x] Hina's right upstairs. What could go wrong by inviting the landlady down for a drink?

Never not best goddess.
>> No. 64116
>>64112
I can't imagine him dealing
with a sudden party in his house. Thankfully, I don't have to.

[x] All of the above
>> No. 64117
[X] Hina's right upstairs. What could go wrong by inviting the landlady down for a drink?

Huh, the last victim was shot with a gun instead of slashed? That has a certain implication.
>> No. 64118
[x] Hina's right upstairs. What could go wrong by inviting the landlady down for a drink?

Well, that was certainly interesting. Have to wonder which parts of the story were true and which were fabricated. I kind of want to contrive to let Mori ask someone else about what happened in Central fifteen years ago, despite (or because of) how doing so would probably be against PI's interests.

>>64117
Yeah, that stood out to me too. Slip-up, red herring, or something else?
>> No. 64119
[x] Hina's right upstairs. What could go wrong by inviting the landlady down for a drink?
>> No. 64120
[x] Is it just you, or is it cold in here? Oh, it's Mima.
-[x] For some reason, Reimu is with her. Say goodbye to all your sake.


as much as I like Hina, Reimu time always and forever
>> No. 64122
[x] Is it just you, or is it cold in here? Oh, it's Mima.
-[x] For some reason, Reimu is with her. Say goodbye to all your sake.
>> No. 64123
>>64118
The most obvious interpretation is that his wife was the killer and PI figured it out and shot her.
>> No. 64124
Yeah..so I bet that part is true but there's more to it.

We need more info.
>> No. 64125
[x] Hina's right upstairs. What could go wrong by inviting the landlady down for a drink?

ALWAYS GO FOR MIRACLE HINACLE
>> No. 64126
>>64123
Maybe but what I'm getting from all this was the killings were a Tengu plot. But PI is far closer to the case then he seems willing to let on and perhaps what he is not telling could blow the lid off of things.

[x] Hina's right upstairs. What could go wrong by inviting the landlady down for a drink?

Feel like More Hina.
>> No. 64149
Hina it is! Expect the update in a few days' time.
>> No. 64151
File 147836542598.jpg - (439.77KB , 840x1257 , so glad.jpg ) [iqdb]
64151
[x] Hina's right upstairs. What could go wrong by inviting the landlady down for a drink?

The person Mori seemed most excited about inviting over was Hina, so you might as well go along with that. You're pretty curious about this connection the two seem to share, and on your own part you should be more appreciative towards the woman who has let you stay in her building — tattered and distant it may be. It may also be prudent to apologize for causing her trouble a couple of nights ago. Though, come to think of it, she was the one who got you wrapped up with Mori in the first place. Who's the one who should be apologizing?

“Would it be alright if we had Hina over, then? I wouldn't feel right dragging Lucky or someone else all the way to the edge of the slums on a whim.”

There's that shit-eating grin of hers. It's been a while since you've seen it out in full force. “Ohhhhh, so you're asking me? Am I sensing a deference?”

You try to shrug it off. “It was your idea. If me considering your feelings is 'deference', then sure. Just answer the question.”

Her grin fades, but you like the cautious look that replaces it even less. “I'd love to have Hina over, but I also want to know your intentions. Is this going to be you gunning for her while I'm the third wheel, or are you just going to sit in the corner and drink yourself to death while we have girls' time?”

You glare at her. “Neither. I was thinking we could all converse together like functional human beings.”

This births a giddy laughter in the little blonde, so much so that she rolls back into the couch and lets her legs fly up — unable to contain herself.

“When you're done convulsing,” you tell her, “go up and let her know she's invited. I'll try to clean the place up and get the sake ready, so take your time.”

She wipes her eyes and takes a deep breath. “Alright, alright. But that was a good one.”

Smartass. But as you take in your state of being — the clipped newspapers and envelopes strewn across your living room floor, the minor you picked up off the street relaxing on your sofa, and the bullets in your pocket that you purchased with an IOU — you realize that it is pretty laughable to refer to yourself as “functional”.

###

You don't manage to clean everything up, but the bulk of the mess has been contained to one corner of the room. So long as the couch and table are clear, that's good enough for you. Though, you aren't sure if it's possible to satisfy Hina's vacant sense of interior design. The hell was up with that, anyway? You hope she doesn't freak out because you actually have furniture in your apartment.

You're in the bedroom putting your computer under the bed — best not to have it in front of you when you're drinking — when you hear the door swing open. You instantly tense up and raise your head, smacking it against the bed's frame.

With a painful welt slowly forming on the top of your head, you quickly return to the living room and see Mori. Behind her is Hina, who walks in carrying a small basket with a white sheet covering it. Did she bring food? That would be nice, though it looks more like she packed for a picnic.

Even though it's been a while, you do remember how to receive a guest. “Miss Kagiyama, good afternoon. Thanks for coming.”

Her unblinking green eyes stick to yours, and before you can even process what's happening, her little basket is on the floor and she has her arms wrapped around your waist. You're pulled into a tight embrace, with her chin resting easily on your left shoulder. With absolutely no idea how to react, you decide to stand there and wait for it to be over.

But you might as well take the opportunity to examine her, if she's giving you this close of a view. Hina's wearing the same red dress she had on the other day — ribbons and all — but if she hasn't taken it off this whole time, it doesn't look any worse for wear. There's no wrinkles, and no odor. In fact, when you take a perfectly innocuous whiff of the viridian hair tickling your nose, it seems that Hina has absolutely no smell to her at all. It's yet another thing to add to her list of oddities.

Somehow the bump on your head is soothed, but you'll chalk that one up to being distracted by the sudden display of intimacy. Hina releases you and takes a few steps back, properly greeting you with a smile. “Hello, PI. I'm so glad you invited me to your home. When the little one told me, I left at once.”

Yeah, you can tell. There was even less time to prepare than you thought. “Well, it's no problem,” you tell her. “It was actually Mori's idea to have someone over, and we thought of you.”

She bows her head. “Then I am honored.” When she raises her head, she daintily bends down and picks up the basket she brought. Her eyes still bearing into you, she hands it to you. “Here, a gift. Truthfully I had meant to give it to you before, but could not find a good time.”

Huh. Doesn't really sound like food then. With only a bit of caution you accept the basket from Hina. “Do you mind if I open it?”

She nods. “Please do.”

You pull back the little white sheet, and gape at what you've uncovered. A little doll rests inside the basket, small enough to hold in one hand. Its head and body seem to be made of paper, but it is clothed in a kimono folded from some kind of cloth fabric. What's really peculiar are its features. The hair is cut from some kind of thicker paper, but its length and color match yours. The little dots for its eyes, too, are the same as your own. And there's even a little frown drawn on it.

You look up at the smiling Hina, then back down to the doll again.

It's you. This doll is supposed to be you.

“I do apologize,” Hina speaks up. “I am but an amateur dollmaker, since my dolls aren't meant to last. But I did try doubly so for yours.”

Mori walks over to you and peeks at it. “Huh. Looks just like you, doesn't it?”

Thanks for pointing out the obvious, Mori. You clear your throat. “Thank you very much, Miss Kagiyama. It's very... sweet of you.”

“I ask that you keep it here,” Hina continues. “I will come to check on it once in a while. It may help prevent a great catastrophe.”

That phrasing sounds familiar. “This doll is related to your... abilities, then?”

She nods. “Think of it as a place to store all of your misfortune. Then, I can come to relieve you of it. It's a service I've provided for a long time, and it is only natural that I extend it to you as well.”

You don't know if it makes you feel better or worse that this doll was made with such a purpose in mind. But, whether it's true or not, Hina does seem to have given you this doll with pure intentions. Even though it's creepy as hell to be delivered a small version of yourself in a basket by someone you hardly know, at least it wasn't nailed to a tree.

To ground yourself, you remember back to when Hina held you close to her, pushing into you that ample bosom which is otherwise obscured by her conservative choice of dress. The memory of that soft warmth might be what holds you together when it comes to this incredibly strange woman.

But as you reminisce, you catch a glare from Mori, who rolls her eyes. “Looks like I might be the third wheel after all,” she mutters.

Hey, you didn't ask for this. With a quiet sigh, you set the basket and the doll on the counter and then head into the kitchen to get the sake and the cups.

###

The bottle of cheap sake is served. You pour for Hina first, and then she promptly returns the favor. When you taste it, you can't help but be disappointed. It just tastes like bitter water to you. How much of this stuff would you have to drink to feel anything?

Mori watches with a jealous pout, wedged between the two of you on the couch. “So you seriously aren't going to let me drink, huh?”

It's not like she's missing anything. “Of course not,” you reply immediately. “You aren't old enough.”

Hina looks at you intently, but then takes a drink of her sake. Mori just sighs. “Well, whatever,” the brat grumbles.

Since Mori is busy fuming, and Hina is content to only stare and make you uncomfortable, the topic of conversation falls upon you. But when you try to think of something, you realize how very little you know about Hina. In that case, you might as well take the opportunity to ask her a thing or two about herself.

“So Hina, what are your days usually like? Do you tell fortunes?” With how empty her apartment is, you wouldn't be surprised if she used it for consultations. The only thing is, you never hear anyone coming or going.

“As I said before, fortunetelling is just a small application of my powers,” she explains, “and truthfully I am not very good at it. I make dolls like that every day, and hand them out to the people of the village. Then, when they are thrown away, I go to collect them from the garbage.”

That doesn't make any sense to you. “Every day you make dolls and give them to people, even though you know they end up in the trash?”

She nods. “Even for the short time they are held on to, they accumulate some misfortune. I believe that is worth it.” Then she smiles at you, her biggest yet. “Perhaps you should come with me some time. I find that searching for the dolls is quite invigorating.”

The pleasant demeanor about her as she asks you to go dumpster diving with her is just too much. You can't help but shift around in the cushion a little bit and break eye contact. “I, uh... maybe,” you get out. It's hard to refuse her outright when she's staring at you like that. Quickly, you think back to something that stuck out in her explanation. ”Did you call this place a village?”

She puts a hand to her mouth, though it doesn't really have much of an effect with her unwavering eyes. “Oh, I'm sorry. It's referred to as a city now, isn't it? I do forget sometimes.”

When this living arrangement was set up for you, Hatate assured you that Hina wasn't a youkai. But it's times like this that make you wonder if she was telling the truth. You're pretty sure this place hasn't been called a village in over fifty years — well before you were born. How could she forget something like that?

Of course, it's much easier just to think her strange and move on, like you've been doing.

During the lull in conversation, Hina watches Mori flop onto her lap with a measured smile. “Are you having a good time, little one?”

There's a satisfied moan, then Mori remarks, “Of course I am. You're a lot more comfortable than PI.”

“I may set you at ease,” Hina replies solemnly, “but you shouldn't neglect him. He is important to you, after all.”

Mori jolts up and grabs Hina's cheeks. “H-hey! Don't talk about that kind of stuff!”

Hina is completely unfazed by Mori's small hands, maintaining a calm smile — stretched though it may be. “I apologize. I spoke out of turn.”

After another big sip of sake, you grab the back of Mori's shirt. “Let go. You're being rude.”

She groans, but releases Hina's face. You don't know what that was about, but Mori shouldn't be acting like some feisty cat. This whole thing was her idea, after all, so she should play nice.

But you suppose that you should at least include the brat in the conversation, instead of letting her stew there in her boredom. “You two seem like you get along pretty well. Did you meet Hina while you were homeless, Mori?”

Mori thinks vocally. “Hmm... Well, we didn't really talk to each other. But I did see her a few times.”

“And I took notice of her also,” Hina confirms. “I thought we were in very similar situations — though hers was more dire than my own.”

It doesn't surprise you that seeing a teenage urchin would remind Hina of herself, if she's so comfortable with dumpster diving. “So you had kind of a sisterly bond over living off scraps?”

Hina thinks for a moment, and then claps her hands together. “Yes! I think that explains it well. You're very clever, PI.”

“He's not that clever,” Mori quickly interjects. “He's just talking out of his ass.”

“Say Hina, do you have a spare doll for Mori? She might have some 'misfortune' coming her way soon.”

Hina tilts her head, like you just asked the strangest thing she's ever heard. “But she wouldn't need one of my dolls. She is what causes misfortune, after all.”

Mori gasps and sits up. “Th-that's... I...” she stammers. “Don't be mean!”

You aren't sure if Hina's being cryptic or if that really was a jab at the kid, but it doesn't look like Mori's just playing at being offended. Since you brought it up, you'll try to laugh it off. ”Then I think we're suited for each other,” you reply, “because I'm used to the stuff by now.”

Both Hina and Mori look at you: the former amused, and the latter surprised. Hina giggles and says, “That was well said, PI.”

You aren't really sure what was well said about it, but it does seem to placate Mori, who slinks back into Hina's lap where you can't see her face. “I guess,” she murmurs.

Hurt feelings aside, Mori's probably right; you should stop bringing up the misfortune stuff, because there's no way you're going to understand anything she has to say about it. Instead, you glance down at your empty cup, and then at Hina's. “Miss Kagiyama, would you like some more?”

“That would be lovely, thank you. And you, as well?”

Normally you would say yes immediately, but you catch Mori eyeing the bottle of sake again. She really wants to have some, doesn't she? Maybe you could give her a little bit, since this is pretty much a day to relax and unwind after... whatever you'd call the past few days.

[] Fine, Mori can have a little bit. Unfortunately, that's all she needs.

[] No, Mori can't have any. But you're going to stop, too. What you don't notice is that Hina keeps going.

[] No, Mori can't have any, because you'll need as much sake as you can get.
>> No. 64152
[x] Fine, Mori can have a little bit. Unfortunately, that's all she needs.

Drunk Mori might spill something interesting
>> No. 64153
File 147837750075.jpg - (9.84KB , 192x180 , 1412553802669-1.jpg ) [iqdb]
64153
[X] Fine, Mori can have a little bit. Unfortunately, that's all she needs.

Well she seems to have lived long enough to see the city before it was a city and you're sure she's not a Youkai. I wonder what could she be...?
>> No. 64154
[X] Fine, Mori can have a little bit. Unfortunately, that's all she needs.
>> No. 64155
[x] Fine, Mori can have a little bit. Unfortunately, that's all she needs.

Noted wicked lolicon PI corrupts another innocent.
>> No. 64156
[X] Fine, Mori can have a little bit. Unfortunately, that's all she needs.

Living off scraps in a faithless world... Whatever kind of being might Mori and Hina call themselves?
>> No. 64157
[X] Fine, Mori can have a little bit. Unfortunately, that's all she needs.

Great update. The layered conversation and PI'S obliviousness made for a fun read.
>> No. 64158
What the heck, count me in.

[x] Fine, Mori can have a little bit. Unfortunately, that's all she needs.

This story is great, by the way. Lots of nuances to the characters.
>> No. 64159
[x] No, Mori can't have any, because you'll need as much sake as you can get.

I'm perfectly fine with giving her sake (though I'd be a little surprised if she's actually as much of a lightweight as the vote implies. Well, maybe the younger body does that to you), but token vote because PI refusing her alcohol amuses me, and seems slightly more in-character.
>> No. 64160
>>64153
I don't remember the exact context, but PI seemed quite convinced earlier in the story that Gensokyo's gods are dead. Still curious if that was just a common belief or if there's some more personal reason for it.
>> No. 64161
[x] Fine, Mori can have a little bit. Unfortunately, that's all she needs.

Mishaguji-sama needs her alcohol
>> No. 64162
[X] Fine, Mori can have a little bit. Unfortunately, that's all she needs
>> No. 64172
Forgot to call the vote, not that I really need to.

Thanks for the comments! The update is progressing and will be completed soon™.
>> No. 64174
>>64160
Considering all the crap going around in Gensokyo with the Tengu and such, it might be too easy to come to such a conclusion. For all we know the Tengu might be suppressing whatever gods are around.
>> No. 64178
File 147976295930.png - (337.01KB , 724x615 , not yet mori.png ) [iqdb]
64178
I don't like the update I've written, so I'm cutting most of it and rewriting. Please allow a little longer still. Thankfully I'll have most of the week off of work to get it done.

Live and learn, I guess.
>> No. 64179
Coming in to comment on this. I'm really enjoying this story. This Gensokyo seems so much sadder. Grimier. It looks like the Moriya Shrine (and any other possible future characters from later on) has dropped into a much darker, noirish, Gensokyo.

I've no idea what Sanae might be like here but if she's like herself in the OTL in MoF, then this Gensokyo probably has put a real damper on her.

We've seen the Forest of Magic and the Youkai Forest so, are we going to see other places like the whatever the Bamboo Forest is here or the SDM or wherever as well?
>> No. 64180
>>64179
Thank you! I'm glad you're enjoying it, and hopefully you continue to do so.

I personally consider this a /youkai/ story with a side of /shrine/, but other areas are definitely in the cards. Lucy is in this story for a reason! Besides trying to cyber with PI, I mean.
>> No. 64181
>>64180
Speaking of Lucy, any possible lewds[/spoil]er occurring in-story?

And will we get to see [spoiler]Sanae & Kanako
as well?

Finally, considering how different this Gensokyo is, how similar have events here followed the plots of the games? We know the SDM appeared for example so did something like the Scarlet Mist occur or is it difficult to apply game plots and such to this Gensokyo?
>> No. 64182
>>64181
I have no experience writing lewds, but I'm willing to try it out if things head in that direction. There's a lewd one-shot I'm planning that may or may not be about PI before he moved to the slums.

Upcoming characters and previous events: This is a very loose retelling of MoF in an alternate Gensokyo and from a different point of view. Some events from previous games have happened with different outcomes, while others haven't happened at all. There is an arc later in the story that will give a very good glimpse into what the other major players in Gensokyo have been up to.
>> No. 64184
Rereading the first thread, I've just realized Eientei here is apparently a research clinic considering PI's friend called it "happy bamboo fun palace" and apparently the rabbits run a possible illicit drug ring. That or they just sell over-the-counter medicine.

Makes me wonder what Eientei and Mokou and Keine and others will be like!
>> No. 64203
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64203
[x] Fine, Mori can have a little bit. Unfortunately, that's all she needs.

You grab the bottle of sake off the table and pour more into Hina's cup. She doesn't seem fazed by what she's had so far, which is good. A drunk Hina would certainly be a handful — but then you remember how she greeted you. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad to get a handful of her, so to speak.

Hina smiles at you when her drink is replenished. “Thank you very much.”

Her pure and gentle demeanor stirs in you a faint blush — a bit of shame for thinking lewdly of her. “No problem,” you respond, avoiding her eyes as you offer her your own cup. “Just return the favor, if you please.”

Hina promptly takes the bottle and tilts it over your cup, gradually refilling it with more booze.

The whole time, Mori stares dejectedly at the clear liquid as it leaves the bottle. Her bottom lip quakes, and her eyes glisten with moisture. It's such a stupid, pathetic display that it can move even your cold heart. “Fine, fine,” you say, offering your cup to the little blonde. “I'll let you have a taste.”

She brightens up so much that it's hard to look at her. “Really?”

“I think you've been through enough to warrant that much,” you explain. “But just one taste. I don't think you'll like it much, anywa—”

Mori takes your cup, puts it to her mouth, throws her head back, and takes a big gulp. Then another. And several after. Finally, she lowers it and lets out a big sigh of relief. “You were right: this stuff is cheap,” she remarks with no shame whatsoever. “But sake is sake.”

Motherfucker. You should have known that was going to happen. After swiping the cup away from her, you groan when you see that she really did empty it. “Damn it, Mori! What if you get sick?”

“Oh, I'll be fiiiiine,” she assures you with a cocky grin. “I told you before: I've had plenty of alcohol in my time. Lighten up!”

Bullshit. She hasn't even eaten today. There's precious little time before her stomach decides to reject the poison she just filled it with, and you aren't going to be dealing with that. “Just don't move around too much,” you warn her. “I'll go get a snack or something.” But you can't ignore your guest. “Miss Kagiyama, would you like anything in particular?”

“No thank you,” she replies. “Your presence is filling enough.”

You shouldn't have expected a straight answer. “Well then, excuse me.”

As you head into the kitchen for something to weigh Mori's stomach down, you hear Hina giggle. “He's very thoughtful, isn't he?”

“'Course he is!” Mori replies. “I know how to choose 'em.” Then she calls out to you. “Hey, could you get a cup for me, PI?”

“Absolutely not,” you shout back. Then, you grab a box of rice crackers and rush back to the couch before she decides to start taking swigs from the bottle directly. “Here, eat some crackers. You need something in your stomach or you're gonna have a bad time, real quick.”

Mori wastes no time in tearing open the box while you sit down next to her. “I mean, I'm not gonna say no,” she remarks. “But, don't you have chips or anything?”

“I'm not big on junk food,” you explain defensively. “Crackers are fine. If you have a problem with it, you should have said something at the store.”

Mori bites off half of an oval-shaped cracker and doesn't bother to swallow it before she talks again. “Huh. Not bad!” Then she puts the box aside and lays down facing you, resting her elbows on your leg. “So now that I'm eating these, I can have more sake, riiight?”

Her dopey grin and the uneven attempt at fluttering her eyelashes tells you that it's already starting. After all, the alcohol doesn't have far to travel in such a small body. So, do you lay the hammer down and cut her off, or throw your hands in the air and say fuck it?

Neither. Extremes were never your style. “Let's make a deal,” you offer the thirsty minor. “You can drink out of my cup. That way you're not chugging everything and puking all over the carpet, and you still get what you want.”

Honestly, you're planning on drinking pretty fast so that she has as little as possible for herself. The crackers can only do so much, and you don't want her to get too stupid. That ship might have sailed when she drained that whole cup of sake, though.

Mori sits up and frowns at you. “Isn't that a little awkward?”

“I think our entire relationship is awkward,” you argue.

She smiles. “True. Alright then. Lemme get comfortable.”

Mori takes her silly hat off and sets it on her lap, before worming her way under your arm to rest snugly against your body.

This isn't what you agreed to. If there were any room left on your side of the couch, you would try to disengage. But since there isn't, you can only ask: “What in the hell are you doing?”

“Staying close to the booze,” she answers with a smirk. “Is there a problem?”

There is: you're a grown-ass man, and this teenage girl is getting all drunk and cozy with you. Of course, she and you have done far worse — allegedly — but is it okay to justify it like that? Your big excuse for that mess was your lack of sobriety, and now the tables have turned. It's your call, and no matter how you rationalize it, you're once again acting completely inappropriate around this young woman — this child.

Yet you can't push her away. With your arm around her shoulders, you can feel just how bony and slight they are — nothing at all like her tough, confident personality. If you let her go, she might just disappear.

There are so many like her that did just that, after all. You remember the little girls who lost their names and shapes to the cruel bitch of history. You might be the only one who does.

“Hey, PI? You spacing out?”

Mori's voice brings you back to your senses. Your hand ended up gripping her shoulder pretty tight, so you loosen it and pretend like it's nothing. “Just contemplating the mess I've landed myself in.”

She looks at you for a moment, and then smiles. “Too late for contemplating! We're here, so let's enjoy ourselves!”

Such a straightforward line of thinking, yet it doesn't feel wrong at the moment. “I'm getting too old for this shit,” you tell her. “But sure. We'll drink today and sleep tonight! Work can wait until tomorrow!”

Hina raises her cup in the air and shouts, “Hurrah!”

It surprises you, since for a brief moment you forgot she was even there. “Miss Kagiyama, what are you doing?”

“It's a cheer,” she answers, with her cup still raised. “Is that not what you were leading up to?”

“Maybe I was, but you have it all wrong,” you explain to your daft landlady. “For one thing, our cups don't even have anything in them at the moment. You usually cheer when your cup is filled, like a toast. ”

She nods, and casts her gaze to the slightly-depleted bottle of sake on the table. “I see. Then how about we remedy that?”

You wholeheartedly agree.

###

“—and the old man yelled, 'That's who took my daughter!' So I gave chase and followed the cloaked figure all the way into the great bamboo forest.”

“Woooah, a bamboo forest!” Mori exclaims in awe of your story. After a couple hours of sipping off your cup, her face has flushed almost completely red, and she sways in place on the couch. “I didn't think there'd be one in Gensokyo.”

“The Bamboo Forest of the Lost,” Hina explains. Unlike Mori, her composure hasn't faltered one bit from drinking. “As the name might suggest, it is a dangerous place for ordinary humans.”

“That's absolutely right,” you confirm, “but I couldn't help myself. I thought the kidnapper was a youkai, and cases concerning youkai have always been a specialty of mine.”

“Are you a youkai fetishist or something?” Mori asks bluntly.

This girl. “No, I am not a youkai fetishist. It's just an interest.”

Your flat denial seems to appease her for just a moment, before she breaks out that shit-eating grin and continues, “That's right! You're a little girl fetishist. How could I, of all people, ever forget?”

Damn it. You walked right into that one.

Hina tilts her head at you in confusion, which is understandable. It would be perfectly reasonable to be disturbed or even shocked to hear a girl accuse the older man she's living with of something like that, even as a joke. But, this is Hina we're talking about. When she speaks, it's with the same gentle tone as always. “PI, is that true? It would certainly explain some things. What exactly do you like about little—“

If anything, she seems more interested now that the topic has shifted to your hypothetical love of children. You're going to cut her off before this can go any further, though you do wonder what exactly would be explained if that were true. “No, Hina, she was just making fun of me. Anyway, I didn't have to get very deep into the forest to find the alleged culprit on the ground. In the light of the full moon, I could see that it was a young woman, but something was definitely wrong. She was growing dark hair all over her arms and legs, and her ears as well. She kept clawing at herself with nails that were growing longer and sharper, and when she howled at the moon I could see her fangs.”

“Wait, what?” Mori interrupts yet again. “A werewolf? That doesn't make any sense. Why's a werewolf in Gensokyo?”

If she already knows what a werewolf is, then the answer should be pretty damn obvious. “Uh, werewolves are youkai. Why wouldn't they be around?”

“Gensokyo accepts all kinds,” Hina explains, “so it might be a little different from what you were expecting, little one.”

“But they're from—“ Mori starts to argue, but gives up. “Nevermind. I don't wanna think about it right now. Continue.”

You'll just blame it on her alcohol level and move on. “Well, I had some experience with humans that change into youkai at certain times. Especially right after they transform, it all comes down to instincts for them. So once you appease those, you have access to their more rational, human side.”

Mori eyes you suspiciously. “Uh huh. So what kinda instincts did she have?”

It suddenly occurs to you that this might not have been the story to tell in front of two women, especially Mori. “Don't worry about that. All that matters was it turned out she was the man's missing daughter. She had just recently become a werewolf, and ran away because she was scared of what might happen if her family and neighbors found out—”

“Yeah, that's nice and all,” Mori cuts in, “but seriously, how was the sex?”

“I never said it was sex. But I'll say that it was a much better encounter than the first time I was up against a were-creature.”

Mori laughs. “I want to hear about that story.”

You sigh. “Maybe. I know I would need more than one bottle of sake.”

###

“Ohhhhhhh,” Mori moans into the toilet bowl, “wha's wrong with this stupid, stupid body? This woulda been nothin' back in my prime...”

It really surprised you. She was holding her sake so well until you told a few more stories. Then she kind of collapsed and you needed to haul her off to the bathroom before she let loose all over the carpet. “This is what you deserve,” you remind her. “Everytime I left myself open, you were grabbing my cup for a drink. And that's in addition to what you chugged in the first place! You should have eaten more crackers.”

She spits into the water, and then giggles. “It feels kinda good to be lectured — even if it's by a dumb human.”

You groan. “You're just as dumb a human as I am. Do you want to try and lay down?”

She lifts her head up and gives you a crooked smirk. “So you wanna lay down with me? I knew it, you child fetisher. You're plannin' to take this body's first time, aren'tcha? Well, why don't we do it? We're both dumb humans, right? So, what's the problem? Let's do it.”

“Holy shit, you're a mess.” And since she's wasted anyway, there's no harm in throwing in, “Plus, we already did that. Remember? That's how this whole mess started in the first place.”

She loses the smirk, but keeps staring at you. “Huh? Whaddya mean?”

“What do you mean?” You poke your head out the bathroom door to make sure Hina isn't back. She said she was going to find some extra towels a while ago, and you really hope she isn't digging through the trash for them. “You're talking about us having sex, right?”

“Yeah, I am, but—“ Then she freezes. “Oh. That's right. You believe we had sex. That's absolutely right. So it wouldn't be our first time, because we did have sex. Just like you think.”

That doesn't sound very convincing, and you hope the glare you're giving her projects that. “Mori. You're sounding a lot more coherent all of a sudden. It's almost like you know you let something slip and you're trying to backpedal, but the alcohol is making that hard for you.”

“Uh, no, I—“ Then she shoves her head back into the toilet bowl. “Bleeeeeeeeh. I think it's gonna come up again.”

You reach out to pull her head out of the toilet. “Hey, look at me and say—“ But then she actually does start puking again, so you step back.

“Goodness, it does not sound like it has been any better since I left.”

Hina's voice makes you jump. You didn't even hear her come in behind you. In her hands are some towels that thankfully don't look like they came out of the garbage. “Yeah,” you reply after collecting yourself, “she's in pretty bad shape, alright.”

“I see. Then perhaps I should stay here tonight and look after her?”

“You've already done so much, Miss Kagiyama, and you were supposed to be our guest. I apologize.” All you can do is bow.

“Please, PI, do not worry. This is part of my job, as well.”

You right yourself and watch Hina curiously, ignoring the brat struggling in the toilet. “I've never rented an apartment where the landlady took care of drunken children for the tenants.”

She shakes her head. “I meant, my job from Hatate. Like you, I am also supposed to be looking out for the welfare of the little one.”

This is getting to be a little much. All this time, you thought she just happened to know Hatate. “Wait, so you're part of Kakashi?” Then, something unnerving strikes you. “Are you Q?”

Again, she shakes her head. “I don't use the computer like the others do. I never could adapt like they did.” Softly, she laughs. “They call me old-fashioned. Instead, I go up to see Hatate in person every once in a while. Previously she wanted me looking out for you, but now that has been extended to the little one, as well.”

All this time she was watching over you, and it sounds like she really isn't a human. So, Hatate lied to you about that. It's certainly a lot to process right now. “You know, maybe I could stand to be alone for a little while.”

Hina nods. “Then please do. I will watch over her in the meantime.”

From the toilet, Mori wails, “Would somebody pleeeeeeease hand me a towel or something?”

###

You wake up in a completely different place than the couch in your living room, but it's one that's very familiar to you — neat streets, growing gardens, tall lights. A faint blue moon hangs in the sky.

Someone wants to speak with you. That's why you ended up here in the first place. She'll be waiting at the usual spot by the river.

But first, you'll take a little stroll through your hometown. It's been a while since you've seen it. The flower shop. The bakery. The schoolhouse. The butcher.

“Hello, PI.”

You freeze. Her voice came from behind you. That's unusual. “So you came to find me, princess. I thought our meetings were always arranged.”

She giggles. “Things have been a little different lately.”

You turn to face her, and your heart nearly bursts out of your chest. You're never quite ready to see this monster's face, but this time it's something different. Multiple white snakes are coiled around her head and neck, resting. Their beady eyes are the same color as her own eyes and hair: blood red. But like always, she wears that same, long, purple kimono.

“That's an interesting fashion statement,” you mention. “Isn't there some kind of foreign youkai with snakes on its head?”

She tilts her head in confusion. “Fashion statement? Oh, you mean my new friends! They arrived a few days ago. I've been very courteous to them. You see, there's not much to do in this little prison I'm in.”

“You haunted me all on your own,” you remind her, “so don't complain. I'm not really sure why you decided to take up snake charming, though.”

She frowns at you. “They aren't just snakes. They're my friends. They tell me a lot of things to keep me occupied. Maybe you've heard them, too.”

The ssssshrine, the ssssshrine,” the serpents hiss. Or so you think. Her presence tends to distort things. You're sure those are just normal snakes she conjured to mess with you — just like this whole damn city.

“I don't know what you're talking about,” you reply over the hissing. “I stopped listening to your insane little whispers in my head a long time ago, princess.”

“Then our problem is communication! We should go to counseling.”

“You need a hell of a lot more than counseling, you lunatic.” You sigh. “Is that why you brought me here? To do this? Because I could have used a peaceful night of sleep.”

“I didn't bring you anywhere. You were thinking about me, so you came.”

“Yeah, right. I'm surprised you didn't show up before to taunt me about Mori.”

As soon as you mention the name, the snakes stand at attention and glare at you. The princess, on the other hand, tilts her head and stares at you with wide, dumb eyes. “Mori? I don't know anyone by that name.”

“The girl I'm taking care of,” you clarify, undeterred. “Stop messing around. I know you see everything I do.”

“Ohhhhh, her. My friends have a different name for her.”

“I don't really care what they call her.”

She shrugs. “Suit yourself. But my friends do love talking about her. Have you remembered anything about the night you both met?”

“No,” you admit. “Just that I may have let myself be tricked. I didn't actually have sex with her, did I?”

She laughs, and then turns to one of the snakes on her shoulder. “Should we tell him? I don't know. I think he's so close to figuring it out for himself!”

You really aren't in the mood to play games with this psycho. “Okay, I get it. She led me to believe we had sex so that I would have pity on her. Probably on purpose.”

“Oho, but is that so bad? You aren't exactly innocent of half-truths yourself. After all, you told her the awful, censored version of our story. And like she did to you, you made her assume something that isn't true. The reality is that we were both cut out of our own story.” She glares at you. “And in the end, it became a simple melodrama instead of the masterpiece that I intended. It doesn't even have a good ending.”

You've heard this before. “You saw too many kabuki performances while you were alive.”

She smiles again. “Maybe. But you know, I want to focus on a different story. My friends can show you what really happened on that night. And there's even more she hasn't told you — more than you could imagine.”

[] If you leave it up to Mori, you might never find out. You have to know what really happened.

[] Thanks but no thanks, princess. You believe that Mori will tell you eventually.

[] You don't trust anyone. Not Mori, not Hatate, and definitely not this monster.
>> No. 64205
[x] If you leave it up to Mori, you might never find out. You have to know what really happened.

Eh sure why not. We can always maintain a healthy amount of skepticism about what she gives us.
>> No. 64206
Hmm. Tougher choice than the past few. Quite the interesting update, anyway. (And honestly I'm pretty glad Mori semi-confirmed what didn't happen with her and PI.)

[x] Thanks but no thanks, princess. You believe that Mori will tell you eventually.
>> No. 64207
[X] If you leave it up to Mori, you might never find out. You have to know what really happened.

Interesting. Princess. Purple kimono. Considering the whole "were alive" thing, I'm assuming she's a ghost? Princess also implies someone of wealth or nobility. Yuyuko?
>> No. 64210
[x] Thanks but no thanks, princess. You believe that Mori will tell you eventually.

SUWAKO ROUTE GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
>> No. 64212
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64212
[x] I want to believe in Mori's smile

Yeah, piss off. A psycho ex is just so typical...

Wait, why can she bond with Mishaguji? Is she part God? I thought the whole murderer fiasco was just to put Youkai into a position of power, not to gather faith.
No, it doesn't make sense, she would have gained faith as a random killer only. That, fearful and anonymous faith is more fitting of a Youkai that anything. But signs indicate that she could be an immortal ghost too... Mmmhh.

Anyway, goddamn if this wasn't a satisfying update. Good job!
>> No. 64217
[X] Thanks but no thanks, princess. You believe that Mori will tell you eventually.
>> No. 64221
Sounds like Kotohime to me, or at least her spirit.
>> No. 64226
[x] Thanks but no thanks, princess. You believe that Mori will tell you eventually.

This is one of the few stories I don't mind waiting for, because the result is consistently worth it.
>> No. 64239
[X] Thanks but no thanks, princess. You believe that Mori will tell you eventually.
Bitch step off, we Suwako route
>> No. 64242
>>64221
You're right. I can't believe I didn't recognize her, especially with thebmention of her hair color and eye color being the same as the snakes' red eyes.
>> No. 64258
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64258
[x] Thanks but no thanks, princess. You believe that Mori will tell you eventually.

“No thanks.”

She tilts her head, and humorously enough, the snakes do as well. “Excuse me?”

“I'll pretend for one second that you're a credible source. But even then, I don't want to hear it from you, your snake friends, or anyone except for Mori herself. It's her past, and her right. Just like it's my right to throw my own past away.”

She raises a finger to her chin and grins. It's kind of cute when Mori tries to mock you, but it twists your guts when this bitch does it. “Your right? You had a family,” she argues. “You had friends. By throwing away your own past, there's a hole inside them where you used to be — and it'll continue torturing them until they lash out to destroy this grand facade. But, since they can't even see it in the first place, the result will be pure chaos.” She pauses, and then frowns. “I know that feeling very well.”

You shrug. Now she's back to speaking nonsense, but at least this is normal. “I don't think you know any kind of feeling since you're a sociopath, but whatever you say.”

She laughs with a scornful quiver in her pitch. “Isn't it easy to call it nonsense so you don't have to think about it? If anyone's changed, it's you. I remember when what you cared about most was a dogged pursuit of the facts — or the truth, you might call it.”

You shake your head. “I found the truth, but nobody wanted to face it. I also saw what happens when you let the truth consume you. If only you had that chance.”

She smiles and shakes her head. “I was alone. And now you are, too.”

You return her smile. “Maybe I am, but I think that will change. Somehow I've had a little more faith in that recently.”

Her red eyes drain of light and stare blankly at you. “Faith? You have faith? In what, a girl who takes advantage of you? Your associates who lied to you?”

“I don't know,” you admit. “But it's there. On the other hand, if I ever do get an urge to cut Mori open, I'll come to you for advice.” Feeling satisfied, you turn around and start walking away with your hand raised in farewell. “See you next time, Kotohime. And, forget the snakes. It's not a good look.”

“Oh, they'll be here,” she calls after you. “They're a part of you now. Just like me.”

You hear the snakes still hissing behind you, and that encourages you to walk a little faster. But they keep getting louder. Then you feel something pierce into your leg, and when you look down, there's so many of those white snakes slithering around your feet, trying to go up your legs. If you try to shake them off, they just bite into you, latching on to your flesh.

When you try to look back at Kotohime, all you can see is red.

The hissing doesn't stop.

###

Your eyes jolt open, and you’re relieved to be back in your apartment — not that you ever really left.

Those snakes — nothing like that has ever happened before, and you've been having these dreams for a long time. First, you need to calm down and keep your heart in your chest. Kotohime isn't going to have the satisfaction of spooking you. And, that's probably all those snakes were: a little trick to catch you off-guard. After all, why would a bunch of snakes be a part of you? It's pointless to try making sense of what she does, especially when you’re already feeling the vague nausea of post-drunkenness.

This time there aren’t any holes in your memory, thankfully. Once Hina took care of Mori, you stepped outside for some fresh air. Then you came back in, finished off the sake that was left in the bottle, and passed out on the couch. You imagine Hina put Mori to bed and then went back up to her own apartment — or maybe she's still in there, staring at Mori while she sleeps. Nah, even she has to have her limits on how awkward and creepy she can be — right?

Speaking of Hina, you need to figure out what's going on with her and Hatate. Hina told you that Hatate tasked her with looking out for you, and that she had been a part of Kakashi all this time — and from the way she talked about herself, she certainly wasn’t human. You had your suspicions, of course, but it irritates you that Hatate — who goes on and on about “THE TRUTH” — would lie to you like that. Is there some reason to cover up Hina’s identity? Why ask her to look out for you? Was it to protect you, or spy on you?

Just barely you can hear a tapping in the distance, coming from the bedroom. By focusing, you recognize the sound as someone typing on your laptop. Mori must be screwing around on your computer. Now's as good a time as any to start asking questions.

When you wander into your bedroom, you're relieved that Hina isn't there. It's only Mori, curled up in your blankets and sheets once more. Except his time, she's left her arms free to type on your laptop, and her face is partially-illuminated by the faint glow of the screen. It doesn't seem like she's being wrecked by a hangover, which is surprising — must be because she's young. At the foot of the bed is that stupid hat, neatly placed in a corner. She really never likes to be far from that thing.

Her eyes shift to you as soon as you enter, but she says nothing as you approach the bedside. You try to get a look at her face to gauge how she's feeling, but she's evasive.

Looks like you'll have to take the initiative. “Good morning,” you greet her. “Have you been awake for a while? We had to put you to bed pretty early last night.”

Mori groans. “I was hoping beyond hopes that you had forgotten somehow.”

Now's your chance to flip that shit-eating grin back on her. “Not a chance,” you say, taking a seat next to the wad of bedding. “But first, what are you doing on my computer?”

She looks back to the screen, which has the default bland homepage filled with lots of useless news and events. “Nothin' much. Seeing what games I could find on the Internet — uh, Kappanet, whatever you want to call it.”

“Everyone calls it the Kappanet, but the youkai on the mountain remember what it was originally called when they copied it,” you explain. “More importantly, is there anything you'd like to say to me?”

Mori stares at you for a moment, sighs, and then turns to face you directly. “I'm sorry I drank more than I should have.” She bites her lip, and just when you think she's going to stop there and make you pull teeth, she keeps going. “I'm sorry about the things I said, last night. And I'm sorry that I let you think something happened that didn't. It was stupid, and cruel.”

It's kind of amazing how she pulled through that. Her face is completely flushed, and you're pretty sure it's the first time you've seen her so openly express embarrassment or shame of any kind. But still, her gray eyes — weird, you thought they were blue — never leave yours. She's more sincere about this than you could have imagined.

In appreciation of her forthrightness, you lose the smirk and pat her on the head. “Don't worry about it.”

Her jaw drops, and she blinks a few times. “Don't worry about it? What do you mean?”

You rustle her straw-blonde hair, then retract your hand. “It means that we're fine.”

She idly scratches her head where your hand was. “Um, wow. I thought you'd be way more bothered by all of this. Did something happen?”

It's hard to explain that you're feeling insightful after a dream conversation with the disembodied spirit of an insane person inside your mind. Instead, you'll keep it simple. “I thought about it. More than anything, I think I'm just happy that I didn't hurt you. My first and foremost job is keeping you safe. And, I believe that if there's anything I need to know, you'll tell me.”

She smiles, still red in the face. “I will. I may need some time to figure out what's going to happen, but I promise I'll tell you everything once I do. You deserve that much.”

Hearing that only stokes your curiosity, but you'll stand by what you said and nod. “Okay.” Then you sigh in an attempt to dispel the smile on your face. “Well then, enough of that. Can we go back to business as usual?”

Mori shifts uneasily in her roll of bedding. “Not quite.”

That doesn't sound good. “Is there something else?”

“About that story you told me yesterday, about Takeo...”

The subject does nothing to lessen your anxiety. “Yeah?”

She takes a deep breath. “I repeated it to Hatate and asked if she knew anything about it.”

Your heart skips a beat. Dammit, Mori.

But, you need to stay calm. Maybe it's not as bad as you think it is. “Tell me exactly how this came about.”

“Well, it all started a couple days ago...” she begins. “Remember how after we got back from Lucky's, you fell asleep while I was chatting with the Kakashi people? Hatate asked me to make sure you were asleep, and then told me to try and... sort of pry into your past life.”

Fucking Hatate. You should have known she'd pull some bullshit like this, especially now that you know about Hina. What's next, is Lucky's going to end up being an agent Hatate hired to kill off your brain cells with alcohol over the years and make you more susceptible to deception?

But the problem in front of you right now is Mori. “So, all of that back-and-forth about sharing with each other and trust was just a ruse to get me to open up for Hatate?”

“Absolutely not,” she denies firmly. “I really was curious about your past. I wanted to get to know you better. Agreeing with Hatate's request, at the time, seemed like the best way to go about it. And in return, she promised me access to the tengu's archives. It seemed like a win-win situation.”

The way she thought this through disarms you. Once again, Mori was thrown into a situation that should be completely alien to her and she managed to spin it to her advantage. “Well, what happened when you told her about my story?”

“Hatate instantly knew what I was talking about,” she explains. “But she said she was confused. She didn't say why, but she mentioned she would need to look at some files. She also told me to ask you more about what happened back then, in the meantime.”

Of course she would. You denied any involvement with that a long time ago, and since then Hatate's been plenty suspicious about it. If she investigates the case and starts picking at loose ends — at you — that would surely violate some of the “conditions” that were laid out for you when you made the decision to sabotage the biggest cover-up in the city's history — by getting cut out of that history entirely.

“If she told you to ask me more, then that means she didn't give you access to her archives,” you surmise. “Why tell me this now?”

Like before, she's unwavering. “Because you trusted me. You said you'd believe me, even though you don't know everything that's going on. That's faith. And to me, that's—“ She pauses, reconsidering her words. “That's important. It's really important. I don't want to ruin it. So, I hope you'll forgive me once again, and continue believing in me.”

Then she unfurls herself, hops off the bad, and gets on her knees. It's a whole other side to Mori you're seeing, this morning. Although it was kind of cute seeing her blush, you really could do without all this solemn apology nonsense. “Get up,” you tell her, nudging her head with your sock. “If you're really sorry, go make us some toast, or eggs, or something. An empty stomach isn't good for my post-drinking nausea.”

Mori looks up at you, dumbfounded, but then smiles and stands up. “Post-drinking nausea?” she repeats. “Isn't that just a hangover?”

You clear your throat, restraining a smile of your own. “A hangover is when you drink too much. Alcohol just doesn't agree with my stomach sometimes, is all.”

She giggles. “Whatever you say, old man. I'll see what I can do about your breakfast.” After scooping her dumb hat off the bed, she puts it back on and heads for the kitchen. But before she leaves, she stops in front of the door. “And, thank you.”

“Don't thank me yet,” you reply. “Since you think you're so streetwise and tactical, I'm bringing you with me today to help find Minoriko's sister. It's time to earn your keep.”

Mori turns to show you a big grin. “I was gonna follow you whether you liked it or not. We're like partners now, aren't we?”

“Don't get a big head just because we had a moment,” you warn her. “You're still my apprentice. We'll talk about being 'like partners' once we actually solve a case.”

“Works for me!”

With that, she's gone. Who knows what she'll actually come up with for you to eat. But in the meantime, there's something you have to take care of.

You grab your laptop and reconnect to #kakashi. Sure enough, Mori's nick is still there — and it's different than the one you chose for her the other day. “Dammit, Mori,” you mutter under your breath as you change the ridiculous nickname.

*** reconnected
*** now talking in #kakashi
*** topic is Official Channel for Kakashi Spirit News THE TRUTH | SEND NUDES TO psychicreporter@tengu.com | SHAMEIMARU TERROR LEVEL: ~YELLOW~
*** set by ~internethatatemachine on Mon Oct 1 09:12:01 2008
*** channel #kakashi mode is +nrst
*** channel created at Sat Jul 23 23:31:01 2005
***jailbait has changed nick to PI
<Lucy> PI! :D
<AgentQ> Hello, PI.
<internethatatemachine> about time
<internethatatemachine> i was wondering if you died
<PI> We have a problem
<Lucy> :(
<internethatatemachine> what happened
<PI> You need to stay out of my life
<Lucy> Oh um
<Lucy> should I not be here?
<PI> No, you and Q need to hear this too
<internethatatemachine> shit
<internethatatemachine> i knew the kid would be a weak link
<PI> Not just her
<PI> I know Hina is spying on me too
<PI> Explain yourself
<internethatatemachine> it was a big case
<internethatatemachine> the only human serial killer in Gensokyo
<internethatatemachine> and he gets away
<internethatatemachine> then everyone just lets it go
<internethatatemachine> the police
<internethatatemachine> the elders
<internethatatemachine> even the fucking chief
<internethatatemachine> the murders stopped but the killer was never found
<internethatatemachine> that isnt normal
<internethatatemachine> and funny enough a new guy comes strolling into the slums just after
<internethatatemachine> someone with the skills of a professional
<internethatatemachine> who has no problems working with youkai
<internethatatemachine> even though he helps humans
<internethatatemachine> and he has no name
<internethatatemachine> no backstory
<internethatatemachine> no fucking presence whatsoever
<internethatatemachine> so tell me PI
<internethatatemachine> what do you want me to do


[] Firmly rebuke Hatate. She may have helped you out a lot over the years, but that doesn't mean she can use Hina and Mori to rope you into her big exposé. She needs to back off, or you two are through.

[] Sympathize with Hatate. She's doing everything that you would be doing if you were in her shoes. It's her job as an investigative reporter. Let her off with a warning that she's tampering with something very delicate.

[] Taunt Hatate. You're tired of this shut-in trying to play at being an investigator over the computer. If she wants to know so damn bad, why doesn't she get off her fat ass and come see you herself? After she apologizes, of course.
>> No. 64259
[x] Taunt Hatate. You're tired of this shut-in trying to play at being an investigator over the computer. If she wants to know so damn bad, why doesn't she get off her fat ass and come see you herself? After she apologizes, of course.

I can't hate her because I still laugh every time I see internethatatemachine.
>> No. 64260
[X] Sympathize with Hatate. She's doing everything that you would be doing if you were in her shoes. It's her job as an investigative reporter. Let her off with a warning that she's tampering with something very delicate.

These are some interesting developments.
>> No. 64261
>>64259
It's still one of my favorite jokes, too.

Hmm. This is certainly getting interesting, but I'm not sure what to vote for, yet. I mean, Option 2 is pretty clearly the more diplomatic choice in the vein of those we've been favoring. But this is explicitly a very sensitive issue for PI, so him biting her head off somewhat doesn't feel entirely unwarranted.

I can sympathize with Hatate, though. There's still some unknown circumstances surrounding the serial-killer thing, especially what exactly was agreed to and who was involved with the cover-up. I don't know how much Hatate knows but whatever her faults, she seems to have her heart in the right place. And I'm getting the strong feeling from her comments in the last part that she suspects PI might have been the killer (she obviously suspects he was involved somehow, at least.). She definitely has good reason to suspect him, but I feel like a choice that...addresses and maybe allays her suspicions, somewhat, would be warranted here. And none of the current three seem to do that as much.

I may attempt a write-in a little later, but if anyone else wants to try one, feel free.
>> No. 64262
Important things first:
>jailbait has changed nick to PI
Mori pls


>getting cut out of that history entirely
This makes me think Keine helped PI cut ties with the previous role in the village. That would explain how he kept the break clean and kept people off his trail. It would also explain why Hatate is seeing some massive gaps in the story.

Hatate needs to stay out of it for now, but my instinct (and story structure) make me thing that PI's past will rear its ugly head soon enough. I'd rather not have PI eating his words in a thread or two. We need a response that's not quite has harsh as 1, communicates the severity of the situation, and lets PI get upset.

Here's my best shot at a write in, though I'll probably change it when something better comes up.

[X] Coldly reject Hatate. The truth was uncovered, then reburied. If she keeps trying to dig it up, you'll be forced to cut contact.
>> No. 64263
>>64261
>>64262
Write-ins are always welcome! I probably should have tacked on an empty vote to encourage them, since I personally think they work best for these kinds of dialogue-related choices.
>> No. 64264
[x] Taunt Hatate. You're tired of this shut-in trying to play at being an investigator over the computer. If she wants to know so damn bad, why doesn't she get off her fat ass and come see you herself? After she apologizes, of course.
-[x] If she does, explain that her continuing the investigation is risky for yourself and that's why you can't exactly back her up.
-[x] Clarify you aren't the fucking culprit.

Well, we can't exactly tell her the 'truth' (as in, we will literally get swarmed by Youkai and die if she investigates more) over the PC.

I know it isn't explicitly said, but what do you guys imagine will happen to him if the truth is revealed?
>> No. 64265
[x] Taunt Hatate. You're tired of this shut-in trying to play at being an investigator over the computer. If she wants to know so damn bad, why doesn't she get off her fat ass and come see you herself? After she apologizes, of course.
-[x] If she does, explain that her continuing the investigation is risky for yourself and that's why you can't exactly back her up.
-[x] Clarify you aren't the fucking culprit.
>> No. 64266
[x] Taunt Hatate. You're tired of this shut-in trying to play at being an investigator over the computer. If she wants to know so damn bad, why doesn't she get off her fat ass and come see you herself? After she apologizes, of course.
-[x] If she does, explain that her continuing the investigation is risky for yourself and that's why you can't exactly back her up.
-[x] Clarify you aren't the fucking culprit.

She just sent two people to spy on us while we're doing a job. And then she has the fucking gall to do the whole TRUTH spiel. Sasuga tengu.
>> No. 64267
I agree with >>64261, but I got nothing, so I'll just go with

[x] Taunt Hatate. You're tired of this shut-in trying to play at being an investigator over the computer. If she wants to know so damn bad, why doesn't she get off her fat ass and come see you herself? After she apologizes, of course.

unless something better comes along.
>> No. 64268
[x] Taunt Hatate. You're tired of this shut-in trying to play at being an investigator over the computer. If she wants to know so damn bad, why doesn't she get off her fat ass and come see you herself? After she apologizes, of course.
-[x] If she does, explain that her continuing the investigation is risky for yourself and that's why you can't exactly back her up.
-[x] Clarify you aren't the fucking culprit.
>> No. 64269
[X] Sympathize with Hatate. She's doing everything that you would be doing if you were in her shoes. It's her job as an investigative reporter. Let her off with a warning that she's tampering with something very delicate.

I'm going to sympathize. Put like that, and considering PI's own issues with his past, I can see why she would be suspicious.

>>64111
I was rereading this part and I'm surprised Morichika is so ignorant about tech in this more advanced Gensokyo.

Considering Hina's slip up on village versus city, I have to wonder if Morichika is a bigger slip up on the tengu/kappas' parts. A more blatant anachronism.
>> No. 64272
[x] Sympathize with Hatate. She's doing everything that you would be doing if you were in her shoes. It's her job as an investigative reporter. Let her off with a warning that she's tampering with something very delicate.

I don't feel the need to go torching any bridges on a knee jerk reaction.
>> No. 64273
>>64262 here.

Changing my vote to:
[x] Sympathize with Hatate. She's doing everything that you would be doing if you were in her shoes. It's her job as an investigative reporter. Let her off with a warning that she's tampering with something very delicate.

I really don't want taunt winning. It feels like telling a guy in a wheelchair to climb upstairs and fight you.
>> No. 64274
>>64273
>It feels like telling a guy in a wheelchair to climb upstairs and fight you.
If said guy is Ricky Bobby, then yes, I agree.
>> No. 64279
[x] Sympathize with Hatate. She's doing everything that you would be doing if you were in her shoes. It's her job as an investigative reporter. Let her off with a warning that she's tampering with something very delicate.
>> No. 64280
> It feels like telling a guy in a wheelchair to climb upstairs and fight you.

That doesn't make sense at first glance, would you clarify yourself?
>> No. 64282
>>64280

This Hatate is a hikkikomori. The taunt option would be full-on mocking of mental illness, and she didn't respond well to teasing in the past.
>> No. 64284
Alright, by my count it's 6 for taunting (with a majority of those favoring the additional write-ins) and 5 for sympathizing.

Out of respect for sympathizing falling just short of a comeback (and because I think it makes a little more sense), I believe I'll go with the following, unless there's a significant backlash to the idea:

[x] Taunt Hatate. You're tired of this shut-in trying to play at being an investigator over the computer. If she wants to know so damn bad, why doesn't she get off her fat ass and come see you herself?
-[x] Lay off if she apologizes.
-[x] Clarify you aren't the fucking culprit and explain that her continuing the investigation is risky for yourself, which is why you can't exactly back her up.
>> No. 64285
I say go for it. Specially because the fucking author said the alternative doesn't make sense it feels more natural.
>> No. 64288
Sounds better than what I voted for, actually.
>> No. 64296
Well, it seems like maybe a good time for me to return... hi everyone, anon here.
>> No. 64297
>>64296
I'm not sure who exactly you were, but welcome back!

Update is moving along. Expect it soon! I try not to be specific anymore because I tend to miss deadlines I set for myself.
>> No. 64298
>>64297
No worries, I never made it a point to stand out.
In any case,
Yay, update!
>> No. 64299
Oh bugger I forgot to sage... Whoops.
>> No. 64316
File 148228833329.png - (724.08KB , 680x960 , what the fuck did he just fucking say about me.png ) [iqdb]
64316
[x] Taunt Hatate. You're tired of this shut-in trying to play at being an investigator over the computer. If she wants to know so damn bad, why doesn't she get off her fat ass and come see you herself?
-[x] Lay off if she apologizes.
-[x] Clarify you aren't the fucking culprit and explain that her continuing the investigation is risky for yourself, which is why you can't exactly back her up.

<PI> If I told you what I wanted you to do, it wouldn't matter
<PI> You'd just continue sitting on your fat ass
<PI> Trying to use your little web of contacts to gather what info you can
<PI> How has that worked out for you?
<internethatatemachine> oh no you are not turning this on me
<PI> Why not?
<PI> You had no problem turning others on me
<internethatatemachine> i had to
<internethatatemachine> whenever we try to ask you about anything you say it isnt important
<internethatatemachine> but it is
<internethatatemachine> nobody like you stays under the radar
<internethatatemachine> people should know about you but they dont
<internethatatemachine> and considering when and how you ended up in the slums
<internethatatemachine> you are absolutely suspicious
<PI> And you are absolutely incompetent
<PI> How many years have you been sitting on all of this?
<PI> You're a tengu
<PI> Why don't you know anything about it?
<internethatatemachine> they're all about bureaucracy and i dont play the game
<PI> So why don't you get out and DO something about it?
<internethatatemachine> why dont you tell me about those murders
<PI> Hatate I want it to be clear
<PI> I did not kill those girls
<PI> and it would be very bad if you kept poking at the case
<PI> so I can't back you up on this one
<internethatatemachine> but youre totally not involved with those murders
<PI> Again, I'm not the fucking culprit
<PI> And if you don't believe me after working with me for over ten years
<PI> Then come down here and see for yourself
<internethatatemachine> no
<PI> Fine
<PI> but this is why Shameimaru won
<PI> No matter how hard you think she sold out or cannibalized you or whatever
<PI> She's still a better reporter than you
<internethatatemachine> no
<internethatatemachine> dont bring that fucking traitor into this
<PI> and your neutered attitude is why
<internethatatemachine> NO
<PI> you're pretty much impotent
<internethatatemachine> fuck you
<internethatatemachine> fuck you fuck you fuck you
<PI> You can fuck me all you want, but it's not getting you any closer to THE TRUTH
<internethatatemachine> FUCK YOU
*** internethatatemachine (psychicdetective@bunbunmaru.is.a.cumrag) has disconnected
<Lucy> I'm sorry, PI.
<PI> Oh great you too
<PI> Are you going to tell me seducing me was all Hatate's plan?
<Lucy> Oh, no! Our business is entirely pleasure. :)
<Lucy> But I was there when she was talking to Mori.
<Lucy> And I wasn't exactly opposed to the idea.
<PI> Well, you should feel bad, then
<Lucy> :(
<Lucy> I'll make it up to you someday. ;)
<PI> Uh huh
<Lucy> Anyway, watching this is hard.
<Lucy> It's like watching mom and dad fight. :(
<Lucy> Well, I only have a mom, but you know what I mean.
<Lucy> You may root for one, but you still feel bad for the other.
<PI> I don't want to hear an analogy like that from you, Lucy
<Lucy> So you won't be my daddy? </3
<PI> No thank you
<Lucy> Awww :(((
<PI> I just wish she'd get over whatever the fuck bothers her so much
<PI> Has she ever said anything to you?
<Lucy> Nope.
<Lucy> But she kind of reminds me of my boss.
<Lucy> She needs someone to bother her and piss her off or else she doesn't do anything.
<Lucy> I get the feeling Hatate hasn't had anyone like that around in a long time.
<Lucy> She might appreciate a strong push now and then.
<Lucy> Who knows, she might actually end up on your doorstep!
<PI> Yeah right
<PI> All I did was blow up at her because she pissed me off
<PI> and because we've both been spinning our wheels for years
<PI> Waiting for that big story to come through
<PI> But it's not that easy
<PI> Q, I bet you know everything and don't want to say it right
<AgentQ> Sorry, PI. I'm just a lurker.
<PI> I'm taking that as a yes
<AgentQ> Take it as you please.
<PI> Well then
<PI> I think that's my internet for the day
<PI> I'm still investigating your request, Q, as well as a couple others
<AgentQ> Oh?
<Lucy> I have to get back to work too. >_<
<Lucy> I kinda extended my break to watch all this.
<Lucy> Tell Hatate I might have something for her soon!
*** Lucy (faustianfucktoy@little.lasts.longest) has quit (bye bye!)
<PI> Then I'll be going as well
<AgentQ> So long, PI.
<AgentQ> Please be careful.

You close out of the KRC window, and then shut the laptop.

That all went about as well as you expected. This isn't the first time you've pressed Hatate's buttons on purpose, nor is it the first time you've seen “fuck you” in all-caps. If she ever showed any kind of remorse, you wouldn't have gone all-in like that. Hell, if she really had looked into your past and uncovered some things, you might have even been impressed — there's plenty of things you yourself don't know, after all. Instead, she's more content to try passing herself off as some sort of behind-the-scenes mastermind plotting rebellion against her superiors — instead of doing her fucking job: finding scoops and writing articles. It's going to take a lot of work to uncover the wool those tengu have been putting over the people's eyes all these years. You can investigate all she wants, but nothing will happen if she doesn't turn your work into articles, instead of just masturbating in chat all day long — probably literally, knowing her.

What Lucy said makes you wonder about your relationship with Hatate. For the past decade or so, you've been following her assignments, content with the idea that it was all necessary work to accomplish your end goal: uprooting those who would abuse their power — and the tengu are at the top of that list. Now, it's starting to become obvious that Hatate needs help. She may correctly suspect you of being deeply involved with that case, but opening it back up now will only hurt her cause. Would it be right to support Hatate more aggressively, in order to keep her pointed in the proper direction?

You rub your eyes and heave a great sigh. It's too early for you to be thinking about this shit.

“Everything okay in there?” Mori calls from the other room. “You know, if you're feeling pent-up, I could go for a stroll and give you some alone time.”

“Thank you for the consideration,” you answer her. “but I'm more hungry than horny.”

Her face pops up in the doorway, wearing a toothy smile. “Good for you, then! Breakfast will be ready in just a bit.”

That was fast, but you don't have any complaints so long as it's edible.

###

You prod the suspicious-looking lump of shredded eggs warily. It's not hard to see where it's crispy and brown from being on the skillet, and a sticky white where it wasn't. The rice, at least, looks like it was steamed — though maybe a bit too long, as you can tell by poking it with the tines of your fork.

Mori has a similar plate of food in front of her, just a bit smaller. “It's been a long time since I've cooked,” she admits, sticking some egg on her fork. “I tried to make proper omelettes, but I had some trouble... and I was never good at making rice balls.” You feel her eyes shift to your face. “If it's bad we can just go to McKappa's again,” she assures you rather nonchalantly as she takes a bite.

“That's Kappa Burger,” you correct her. And there's no way you're going to be fooled by her facade of indifference. She made this food for you, and you're going to eat as much of it as you physically can — because if you didn't, you'd never hear the end of it.

So, you scoop up some rice — not difficult because of how sticky the rice is — and then stab one of the bigger pieces of egg. Here goes nothing.

You chew once. Then you keep chewing.

Mori smirks at you. “Good, isn't it?”

It absolutely is. The texture's a little off, but the rich flavor of the egg tempered by the rice is just perfect. You don't even need any salt or pepper. This is the same old Kappa-produced stuff you normally buy, but somehow it tastes so much better.

“I don't know what you did, but keep doing it,” you tell her. “This is amazing.” When you look back down at your plate, you add, “But maybe next time, I'll watch over you so it doesn't end up looking like a mess.”

She nods with a smug satisfaction. “I'll ignore that last bit and accept the compliment. But, enough about how wonderful of a chef I am. We're looking for Shizuha today?”

Maybe you should have held back on the praise. Now she'll be calling herself a chef. You swallow some rice and clear your throat. “Yeah, we are. I owe Morichika money, so we're operating on a bit of a time limit here. Normally I could get an advance payment from Hatate, but I can't really ask her now.”

She licks her lips and then takes a drink of water. “So you tore into her, huh?”

“Pretty hard,” you reply. “I feel a little bad about it, but if you give that bird an inch, she'll take a mile. I don't appreciate her suspecting me or going behind my back like that, and I made it crystal clear how I felt about her doing it.”

She pauses mid-bite and looks at you. “And you're sure you haven't given her any 'inches' in the past? Why is there so much tension between you two?”

“Any relationship can become tense after it becomes stagnant, whether it's romantic or platonic. And again, I've never seen her in-person. I'm sure she's pretty big and ragged from staying in her room all day, every day. She probably doesn't even shower.”

Mori laughs and resumes eating. “She might surprise you.”

You give her a chuckle of your own. “Lucy said something like that, too. If I'm wrong, and she actually musters up the spirit to come down here and prove me wrong, I'll kiss her right on the mouth.”

###

“Nothing,” you conclude. “For two days, nothing.”

You and Mori sit at the counter in Minoriko's bar-turned-soup-kitchen, lamenting the state of your search for Shizuha Aki. After spending all of yesterday searching the youkai forest, and half of today searching the slums, you sincerely doubt you'll find her — at least, not before you have to pay Morichika back tomorrow.

Mori blows on her steaming bowl of soup, then sips a little out of her spoon. “I don't know what you were expecting, but it is odd that we didn't find a trace of her in the forest or the slums. Maybe she's already gone."

“Please don't joke about that, Mori.”

You look up from your own earthenware bowl to see Minoriko watching Mori with a dispassionate smile that the latter evades. With the charity case's owner standing before you, a bit of guilt squirms inside of you for accepting soup meant for the truly desolate and needy — when you have a batch of fresh groceries at home. You'll have to express your gratitude one more time, at least. “Thank you again for treating us to lunch, Miss Aki.”

Her smile turns to you, now far more genuine. “It's no problem at all, Mister Tsurugi. In fact, I should be thanking you for continuing to look for my sister. I admit that I'm getting worried.”

It's not like it would be the first time you went searching for someone only to come back with their body — or part of it. But something tells you that Shizuha Aki won't have that kind of problem. Minoriko claimed the sisters avoid youkai easily — and Minoriko's easy trips back and forth between the slums and the Great Youkai Forest prove that.

“Maybe we should ask for help?” Mori speaks up, sounding a bit more optimistic this time.

You're not used to working with Mori, let alone bringing in additional help. But, this isn't the time to be picky. It's either go further outside your comfort zone, or break your promise with Morichika and be really outside your comfort zone when you're in a shootout with your dealer. Then again, shootouts aren't really that foreign to you—

“P—err, Tsurugi,” Mori cuts into your thoughts. “What do you say?”

You sigh. “We don't have a choice. I have a debt to repay, after all. And soon.”

“Was he really being serious?” Mori asks.

If she's referring to Morichika gunning you down if he doesn't get his money tomorrow, then yes. He is very serious. More than once have you stumbled upon him wiping blood off the floor, while Marisa buzzed around the two of you, cheering on the demise of whatever poor sap that thought he could get away with skimping on a bill. Come to think of it, that probably wasn't a very good environment for a kid to grow accustomed to. It might explain some things about Marisa's current state. “Very serious,” you reiterate outwardly.

Minoriko watches you with concern. “You owe... a debt?”

Shit. You shouldn't be talking about this in front of Minoriko. “Don't worry about it,” you assure her. “What's important is finding Shizuha, and I'll do whatever needs to be done.”

So, the plan is to enlist some help. Of course, the original goal was to find out more about the mysterious soup kitchen for Q. But, after meeting Minoriko, you decided to investigate the sisters themselves more closely. That's how you learned that the sisters run a farm in the middle of the youkai forest, and the other half of the Akis — Shizuha — has been missing after some kind of argument. Once you find the absent sister, you can start to pick apart the Akis and find out who they really are, because — as you discussed with Reimu and Mima the other day — they certainly aren't normal human beings. And somewhere along the line, you ended up accruing a small yet notable debt with Rinnosuke Morichika, the local under-the-counter arms dealer.

Finding Shizuha is the hard part. Minoriko has stated that Mori should be able to convince Shizuha to come back — although Mori seemed less than confident, and more than a little wary of the younger sister. Regardless, if you can get this done, you should be able to get something to pay Morichika back with.

Since time is running short, the first thing you need to do is get help. You and Mori did a lot of looking around, but there are a few places you're hesitant to explore with just the two of you. It would be best to figure out where you should devote the remainder of your time to searching and then assume which one of your acquaintances would be best for the job.


Choose a destination:

[] There's all kinds of places in the slums that you could search more carefully.

[] You've never gone really deep into the Great Youkai Forest, and now's the time to start.

[] You have no idea. Ask Mori and the person you'll recruit for ideas.


Choose a person (or pair) to help you:

[] Lucky is a safe bet, since a giant oni is a deterrent for violence no matter where you go. That freezer fairy would also be with him, for what she's worth.

[] You know Hina often walks through the forest to the mountain, and she also wanders around the city trying to give away her creepy dolls. She knows the slums and the forest the best.

[] Reimu and Mima are willing to help — for a cut of the profit. Reimu's brawn and expertise along with Mima's magic and knowledge would be an unparalleled boon, but something tells you they might cause a bit of trouble.
>> No. 64318
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64318
Fantheory:

>Lucky & Cirno
Medium protection, Medium Risk (Cirno screwing things up) Little cost (Lucky May ask for something, but we'll probably just owe him one)

>Hina

Low protection, Low risk (bad luck), No cost. Hina's the budget choice for the curse minded. And a qt 3.14

>Reimu and Mima

High Protection, High cost, High Risk. They're the best and they cost like the best. I don't think even a Tengu Patrol could stop them.
However, Reimu has a temper and Mima an agenda, so the chances of things going south is likely.
>> No. 64319
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64319
[x] You have no idea. Ask Mori and the person you'll recruit for ideas.
[x] Lucky and Cirno

Lucky is a bartender, he probably heard a rumor or two. Also, I want to join the Fairy liberation front. I have a good feeling about Cirno-just as I have a bad feeling about Mima.

>"If I'm wrong, and she actually musters up the spirit to come down here and prove me wrong, I'll kiss her right on the mouth.”

Speaking of feelings, I believe he'll have to eat those words soon.
>> No. 64320
[X] You've never gone really deep into the Great Youkai Forest, and now's the time to start.
[X] You know Hina often walks through the forest to the mountain, and she also wanders around the city trying to give away her creepy dolls. She knows the slums and the forest the best.


Because the only thing better than looking for a goddess with a goddess is looking for a goddess with two goddesses.
Why into the forest? Call it a hunch.
>> No. 64321
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64321
[x] You have no idea. Ask Mori and the person you'll recruit for ideas.
[x] You know Hina often walks through the forest to the mountain, and she also wanders around the city trying to give away her creepy dolls. She knows the slums and the forest the best.

I can't not vote Hina. I just can't.

She sounds like the best option anyway, since she knows both areas well.
>> No. 64324
[X] You have no idea. Ask Mori and the person you'll recruit for ideas.
[X] You know Hina often walks through the forest to the mountain, and she also wanders around the city trying to give away her creepy dolls. She knows the slums and the forest the best.

One goddess to find another.
>> No. 64327
The most dangerous place with the less powerful fighter? You're pretty gutsy.

I'm not.
[x] Slums
[x] Lucky
>> No. 64328
[X] You've never gone really deep into the Great Youkai Forest, and now's the time to start.
[X] You know Hina often walks through the forest to the mountain, and she also wanders around the city trying to give away her creepy dolls. She knows the slums and the forest the best.

What could possibly go wrong?
>> No. 64332
>>64327
Gotta have faith.
>> No. 64351
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64351
A belated Merry Christmas to all of you! The menagerie of viruses and infections I seem to pick up every holiday season has more or less cleared up, and I'm ready to officially call the votes and start writing. Our companion will be Hina, and we'll be letting her and Mori decide where to search for Shizuha.

Unfortunately, there can't really be a Christmas update with a story like this, so have a Mori of good cheer as compensation.
>> No. 64354
>>64351
HINA! WE TRUSTED YOU!
>> No. 64382
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64382
Sorry for the wait, but here's an extra-long update to make up for it. I really need to work on pacing.

###

[x] You have no idea. Ask Mori and the person you'll recruit for ideas.
[x] You know Hina often walks through the forest to the mountain, and she also wanders around the city trying to give away her creepy dolls. She knows the slums and the forest the best.

Before you even finish knocking on the door to Hina's apartment, the slot slides open to reveal her verdant eyes staring at you, followed by a gentle greeting. “Good afternoon, PI.”

Somehow, she's always right at the door whenever you knock. She must hear when you come up the steps to the second level. “Hello, Miss Hina. I have a request for you.”

Normally you wouldn't be so direct in asking something of her, but daylight's running out and you really need to get moving to find Shizuha. Thankfully, Hina doesn't seem to mind. “Very well. Please, come in.”

The slot closes, then the door opens, revealing a Hina that hasn't changed one bit since last night — same red dress and everything. In fact, she's probably worn it every time you've seen her, yet it never looks worse for wear. She must wash it frequently, or maybe she just bathes in it. That would be weird, but it's something she would do.

Small hands push you into the doorway from behind. “C'mon, move it,” Mori grumbles at you. “We're in a big hurry, aren't we?”

She's not wrong. You enter Hina's apartment, and it's just as barren as the last time you were in it. Perfectly in the middle of the empty living space is that small, round table and three matching chairs — with two of them on one side. Did she expect you to come here with Mori? You'll chalk it up to her being preemptively considerate and leave it at that.

Hina walks to the solitary chair and motions to the other two. “Have a seat.”

You gladly grab the chair closest to you, pull it out, and then sit down. Except, your bottom falls through air and you end up right on the floor with a blunt pain shooting up your backside. “What the—“

Mori peeks around you. “That looked like it hurt. You alright?”

“Yeah, thanks.” You stand up and brush yourself off, dissipating some of the pain. But, chairs don't just move out of the way like that on their own, causing you to harbor more than a little suspicion towards your apprentice. “Did you just pull my chair out from under me?”

She sighs. “I'm a little above that kind of humor, thank you very much. Haven't you caught on to her gimmick yet?”

“Gimmick?” you repeat back at her. “What are you talking about?”

“Please don't worry about it,” Hina cuts in, taking her own seat. “PI, are you not carrying your gift with you?”

A small lump forms in your throat. She did tell you to carry it around with you, but it's a little awkward for a grown man — or any man, really — to be carrying around a little doll fashioned after himself. “I left it downstairs,” you admit.

Hina doesn't seem too upset by it. “Please carry it around with you more often, and you should be fine,” she gently reminds you.

As much as you would love to dig into why that creepy doll is so special, you didn't exactly come here to make a case out of falling on your ass. “Okay then,” you reply, before clearing your throat in an attempt to salvage what professionalism you can. “Moving on, I'll cut straight to the point, Miss Hina: I need your help. I'm trying to find a missing woman and I'm running out of time.”

Hina gasps and raises a hand to her mouth, but her eyes don't really change. Then again, it's hard to expect any brow movement from a woman who doesn't even seem to blink. “Oh my,” she remarks. “Of course, I would be happy to offer what assistance I can.”

Mori, on the other hand, rolls her eyes. “Don't think it's entirely noble. PI's just worried he's going to have to bite the bullet on an IOU,” she clarifies swiftly.

You feel your stomach turn. “That was awful,” you reprimand her. “If you're going to mock my imminent death, at least use something more tasteful than a pun.”

Hina tilts her head and smiles at both of you. “That's all the more reason for me to help, PI. I'm more interested in helping you personally, rather than engaging in some general notion of altruism.”

It's good to hear it so bluntly, but what Hina told you last night is still fresh in your mind. You can't help but wonder about her motives. “Would this interest have anything to do with Hatate?”

Hina's smile remains strong. “Yes, it is in line with my duties,” she admits, “but I would also repay your kindness yesterday. You invited me into your home as a neighbor, and I shall return the favor — as a neighbor is wont to do.”

It wasn't a night worth returning, really. The highlights were Mori becoming a drunken mess and Hina nonchalantly revealing that your employer still suspects you of being a serial murderer, to the point of her keeping a watch on you all these years. Neither of these were very enjoyable. Though, reflecting back on it, it wasn't bad spending some leisure time with Hina before all the stupid stuff happened.

You bow your head, knowing there's no room for apprehension at this point. “Then I humbly accept your offer. Thank you, Miss Hina.”

She shakes her head. “That isn't necessary. And please, just Hina is fine.”

“Then thank you, Hina.”

Mori claps her hands together to move things forward. “Great, so she's on board. What now?”

Your apprentice is more driven than usual, which is refreshing to see. It makes sense, because this is at least partly personal for her — you took away from previous conversations that Mori got along with Shizuha more than anyone else at the Akis' soup kitchen. Hopefully you can get her to channel that drive positively, instead of making a mess out of things.

“Alright,” you begin, leaning forward. “Hina, we're looking for a woman by the name of Shizuha Aki, at the request of her younger sister, Minoriko Aki. According to Minoriko, she wanders off quite often, but this time she hasn't returned. After checking the forest and the slums, we've found nothing.”

Hina looks at Mori, shares something that might be concern, and then turns back to you. “Shizuha Aki, is it? I'm well-acquainted with her, as a matter of fact.”

You can't tell what kind of acquaintance she is to Hina, because her poker face is as strong as always. But, it's a relief nonetheless. “Then I can skip a lot of the explanation. If you know her, would you have any idea where she might be?”

“Shizuha hates the city,” Mori jumps in, “so I'm certain she's somewhere in the forest.”

Hina nods. “That is true. If you have been searching for her in the forest, and still cannot find her, then that is an ill omen. But I do know of one place, deep in the forest, where she might desperately seek shelter from the overbearing presence of her sister — and the world itself. It is not a place to tread lightly, however. I fear that the worst may have already come to pass.”

Cryptic as always, but you'll take whatever she has to offer. “I see. But can we get there before dark? I'm sure you know that it's dangerous to be out at night, especially in the forest.”

“The youkai won't bother you, so long as you and the little one stay close to me.”

First the Aki sisters, and now Hina — another woman with some sort of immunity from youkai. “That's pretty convenient,” you remark warily.

“Is it so hard to believe?” Mori asks you. “The forest is basically your backyard, and how many problems have you had?”

That's true. This building is on the edge of the slums, set apart from the others. Yet, for all the cases you've dealt with concerning youkai, you've had no trouble with them yourself — directly, at least. “I'm not doubting her,” you defend yourself, “I just don't think it's merely a coincidence that the Akis and Hina possess the same ability to ward themselves against youkai.”

Hina slowly nods. “I understand. I cannot speak for the Akis, but misfortune swirls around me like a storm. Those with the barest amount of sense are averse to my very presence. Repelled, even.”

She's a little creepy, sure, but to be outright repelled by her? You've never felt anything like that. “Guess I don't have any sense,” you respond, before shifting your gaze to Mori. “But, even Hina seems to know what's going on here. Am I the only one being left out of the loop?”

Mori thinks for a moment, but Hina has no such hesitation. “Yes,” she answers you. “That seems to be the case. My apologies, PI. I'm certain things will be made clear to you in due time.”

You sigh. This isn't exactly a new sensation, so you might as well get this over with and worry about it after your debts are paid. “I sure hope so. Then I'll be placing my trust in you as well, Hina.”

“I'm honored.” She bows to you, and then stands. “However, we should prepare. It will be a long hike, and we may even have to stay overnight. Will that be a problem?”

Hina sounds serious about this, not that you ever expected otherwise. That's good. You're starting to feel a little more confident having a fortuneteller on your side. “Of course,” you assert, rising out of your chair. “I'll just need to pack some food and drinks for myself and Mori.”

Mori hops out of her seat. “I've never said no to an opportunity to camp. I'm getting a little excited, here.”

Of course, you're going to have to rain on whatever parade she's concocting in her head. “We're working, you know. My life's at stake.” Mori gives you a dry stare, so you correct yourself. “I mean, lives are at stake.”

“Yeah, yeah,” the kid brushes you off. “I wonder if we can at least stop and buy some stuff for s'mores along the way...”

Best to let her dream, then. You turn back to the patient Hina. “Will you need anything? You're acting as our guide, so I'd be more than happy to pack extra for you.”

She shakes her head. “No, not at all. Though, I do have one request.”

Hopefully Hina doesn't want a cut of whatever Minoriko gives you, because you aren't even sure how much you're getting from all of this. But, you aren't really in a position to refuse at this point. “Sure, go ahead.”

Her green eyes seem to brighten and her lips perk up. “Bring the doll, and hold it close. That will be enough for me.”

###

It's felt like hours since the three of you set out into the Great Youkai Forest. Hina keeps a steady pace as she weaves through trees to find paths you had never even noticed before. Now, you're marching uphill — not on the mountain proper, but closer to it than you've ever been. The forest floor is heavily shaded beneath the thick canopy of leaves, but strands of light leak through to illuminate the dirt path.

It's risky bringing Mori out this far, since a tengu could spot her and snatch her before you know it. You'll just have to trust Hina, since that's worked so far. Every now and then you'll hear a distant rustle like something's taking a look at you, but you haven't seen a soul since you entered the forest — not even a bird or a squirrel. Hina wasn't lying about being aversive, though you still aren't sure what she meant by claiming to be surrounded by some kind of misfortune storm.

Mori stays right behind Hina, but you find yourself lagging behind. “H—hold on a second,” you call out ahead, between gasps for air.

The two ladies turn around, and the shorter one responds, “Something wrong?”

Yeah, something's wrong. This isn't really a peaceful stroll through the woods. When Hina said it would be a hike, she meant it. You thought you were used to walking from one end of the slums to the other, but this steep incline is on a whole other level. “I just need a second to catch my breath,” you tell them.

Mori sighs, glaring down at you from above. “Is it really that bad?”

You grab a nearby tree for support. “It is. You don't get to talk like that when I'm the one carrying the backpack.”

“It's only a little further,” Hina assures you. “You will have much more trouble getting there at night, so please don't take too long.”

That doesn't sound good. You take a final, deep breath to settle your heart and numb some of the pain in your legs. “Alright, let's keep going.”

You catch up to Hina and Mori, then continue following them. It doesn't take long for the three of you to leave the trees, revealing the steep, rocky cliffs of the mountainside. Water cascades down from several places, conjoining into a river and wrapping around the foot of the mountain before flowing away.

“Woah,” Mori exclaims, her eyes practically sparkling. “Amazing.”

“I agree,” is all you can say.

“We have made our way to the far side of the mountain,” Hina explains. Then, she points ahead to a large, wooden building across the river. Surrounding it are trees with falling leaves, their hues of orange and yellow magnified by the light of the setting sun. “That is our destination.”

Your sense of wonder dissipates at the thought of moving through that river. “You never mentioned anything about swimming, Hina.”

Mori grins. “Sounds great to me!”

Hina shakes her head. “Don't worry. There should be a bridge nearby, downstream. Follow me.”

Sure enough, Hina takes you to a simple bridge that extends over the flowing river. Up close, the water is far more rapid than you thought, and the sagging rope bridge does little to comfort you.

Mori slaps you on the back, and thankfully her little hand isn't enough to knock you off-balance. “You scared of falling?” she mocks playfully.

“I can deal with the fall,” you answer. “Drowning in the rapids, though...”

She steps up beside you and looks down at the water from the edge. When she catches a good glimpse of the white foam rushing down, she whistles in awe. “Yeah, I guess that would do the trick. This water isn't for humans.”

“The river slows down when it branches,” Hina explains. “One part goes to Misty Lake, and the other towards the vil— the city.”

You look down the river, trying to see where it splits, but you can't. So, this is one of the rivers that goes to the city. What interests you more, though, is Misty Lake. Hatate once told you about a giant mansion that appeared there several years ago. The inhabitants were “troublemakers”, but the tengu came up with something to satisfy them. Especially with Mori right here beside you, it begs the question: did that mansion come from the Outside World? It could even be related to Mori.

“Well, you can't stare at it all day,” the brat in question walks ahead of you, toward Hina. “Lead the way, guide lady.”

Without hesitation, Hina steps onto the bridge, paying no heed to the way it sways with her weight. “Then let us continue.”

Mori follows her onto the bridge with the same regard for her safety. “Seems fine to me,” she reports. “Hurry up.”

Warily, you step onto the first plank. Instantly you feel your body move with the bridge, and know that this might very well be the last mistake you'll ever make. “Just keep moving,” you tell the women.

Halfway across, you need something to take your mind off the situation. “So, how long has it been since anyone's been around these parts?” You put your left hand on the rope to maintain your balance, and hear an unsettling creak. “Or maybe, this bridge in particular?”

Hina continues to walk the boards as if she were on solid land. “It's difficult to say. Decades, likely.”

“Oh, well that's lovel—“

A harsh gasp escapes your throat as your foot breaks through the plank you were stepping to, sending the lower half of your body crashing through the old wood you were on. Your backpack gets stuck and buys you enough time to frantically grasp at the boards in front of you, preventing you from falling into the river.

It's Mori who turns around first, quickly grabbing for one of your hands with both of hers. With great strain she grunts and exerts a surprising amount of strength, liable to tear your shoulder right out of its socket. But, despite the effort, you don't budge.

“I'm stuck!” you conclude. The way the bridge shakes with all the activity does little to calm you down.

Mori turns back to your guide, who is watching passively. “Dammit, Hina! Get back here and help us!”

“Of course,” you hear her answer, as if she had just been asked to hang up the laundry. Then, something grabs your other arm and heaves you back onto the bridge. You look up, only to see Hina looking down at you with her usual smile. “There we go. Are you okay?”

Exhausted once again by the scare, you can only reply, “Not until we get off of this damn bridge.”

The three of you make it back to solid land without any more difficulties. While you're taking some deep breaths, Hina appears in front of you. “I'm a bit concerned,” she tells you. “May I see the doll?”

Shit, the doll. It probably fell out during all the commotion. But, when you pat your hoodie pocket, you feel that it's still there. You hand it to Hina.

Hina examines the doll front and back, and then holds it tightly to her chest. You see a deep smile on her face, and it reminds you of how she embraces you occasionally. You thought it was just a strange greeting, but seeing it here makes you think it's something more. “Is everything alright, Hina?”

She doesn't answer for a few moments, but eventually she releases the doll and hands it back to you. “Yes, everything should be fine now. I am surprised that it reached capacity so quickly. You are extraordinary in your own way, PI.”

“Thanks, I guess.” You don't know how else to respond to that.

Mori grins. “He sure is.”

Hearing Mori agree makes you think it isn't a compliment, so you'll ignore it. “We just have to head back upstream on this side, right? Let's move.”

It doesn't take long to return to the wooden building Hina pointed out. Now that you can get a good look at it, you notice it's bigger than you thought, but also so dilapidated and reclaimed by nature that you can't quite tell what it was supposed to be.

“A shrine,” Mori is quick to deduce.

“Not quite,” Hina replies. “There was never any goddess enshrined here. It's more like... a ceremony ground. Or perhaps, a monastery of sorts.”

Mori nods. “I see.”

“Well, I don't,” you speak up. “Looks like an old wooden hut, to me.”

“It would,” the two ladies respond in unison.

It's almost painful to hold in the questions you have, but the important thing is that Shizuha might be around. “You still think she's here?” you ask Hina.

“Absolutely,” she answers. “Can you not see her handiwork?”

You look around, but besides the building itself all you see are the mountain, the river, and the trees dropping their payload of changed leaves. “Not really.”

“Don't worry about it,” Mori assures you. “Let's just get up there.”

A short path of cracked, stone steps leads the three of you up to the entrance — two large doors that hang open. Inside, you notice cobwebs and not much else.

Mori prods your side. “After you.”

You look to Hina, but are met with only a smile. You groan. “What, so now you want me to lead? Fine. Is there a bottom level I need to worry about? I'm not falling through any more rotting wood today.”

Hina shakes her head. “Not at all. I was just hoping you would clear out some of the webs.”

At least she's honest. You pick a decent-looking stick off the ground and enter, waving it in front of you to knock away the dense, white cobwebs hanging down from the ceiling. “Nothing like the smell of old tatami,” you mutter.

You can see what Mori meant by calling this place a shrine. It certainly looks like it should be a shrine, but there's none of the ornaments that would designate this place as a temple. Instead, it's just a lot of empty space — which reminds you an awful lot of a certain red-tressed fortuneteller's apartment.

Mori pulls on your sleeve. “The sun's almost gone. We'll need some light.”

Oh, right. Hopefully nothing was damaged in all that nonsense earlier. You slip off your backpack and hand it to Mori. “Get the lantern and the flashlights out,” you tell her,” and I'll go around knocking all the webs down.”

###

It doesn't take long for everything to be in order. You've scouted around the premises and found nothing but a few unruly spiders that you shooed away. The real problem would be if this place was haunted, but there's no sign of that yet. The ladies seem comfortable, at least. Hina and Mori quickly get the lantern going, giving the room a semblance of warmth. If you decide to make a fire, it will have to be outside — far away from this hazard of a building.

You sit down next to the lantern with the girls and try to relax on the cold ground. “I'm glad we're finally settled,” you remark.

Hina giggles. “I must apologize. I'm not used to walking here, so I forgot it would be such a journey.”

How else would she get here besides walking? Actually, no, you're not going to think about it. Things were so much easier when you didn't try to pick apart every cryptic musing. “That's alright. Now that we're here, I'm fine.”

She smiles. “I'm glad. It's been a long time since a human has made this journey. It makes me feel nostalgic.”

Come to think of it, she never did explain what this place was. “What was this place for, anyway?”

Hina responds with another question. “Have you ever heard of nagashi-bina?”

“Can't say I have.”

Mori gapes at you. “Seriously? I guess I shouldn't be surprised because of how everything else is, but to have never even heard of it...”

“It's alright,” Hina assures either you or Mori. “It was an old tradition where humans would place their misfortune into dolls and send them downstream. In Gensokyo, they would hold the festival here. Everyone would come here, since they believed the dolls should be kept away from the village.”

You can see how that would interest Hina, since she has so much to do with misfortune. “That sounds right up your alley. Did you participate in those festivals a lot?”

For the first time, you see Hina become a bit flustered. “I— well, not quite. I helped, but— but I never...”

“You don't have to explain if you don't want to,” you tell her. “We can leave it at that.”

She looks back at you, and then smiles again. “Very well. How do you suggest we begin our search?”

That's a good question. At first you wanted to keep patrolling the forests, but there might be other options. “The doors were open when we got here. Hina, you said that Shizuha would be using this place as a shelter, didn't you? Maybe we could wait here and surprise her if she comes back.”

Mori grins. “So a stakeout, then? As expected of a detective.”

“Besides that,” you continue, “I'm also interested in that river. It would be easy to move alongside, and if she really was living out here, I don't think she would ever move too far away from it — speaking from a survival perspective.”

Mori shrugs. “All of that sounds good to me. You're the master here, so I'll follow along with whatever you decide.”

Hina nods, expressing the same sentiment.

Then, it's up to you — but no matter what you do, you should be very careful. Who knows what you might stumble upon this far away from the city?

[] Search the depths of the forest like you planned on doing.

[] Stake out the building. If Shizuha is staying here, she might return.

[] It will be easier to search along the river, as long as we can find a safe way down.
>> No. 64383
[X] Stake out the building. If Shizuha is staying here, she might return.
>> No. 64384
[x] Stake out the building. If Shizuha is staying here, she might return.

For a detective, PI is unbelievably bad at putting together dozens of obvious hints. Maybe that's the real reason he lost his job.
>> No. 64385
[x] Search the depths of the forest like you planned on doing.

what could possibly go wrong
>> No. 64386
[X] Stake out the building. If Shizuha is staying here, she might return.

>>64384
Maybe. But considering his age, he probably hasn't been around when Gensokyo wasn't tengu dominated. Judging from what Hina has said earlier, and what PI mused, it appears Gensokyo has been urbanized and such for quite a few decades.
>> No. 64387
[x] Stake out the building. If Shizuha is staying here, she might return.

>>64384

If the guy hasn't even heard of nagashi-bina, I'd say they're not obvious to inhabitants of this Gensoukyou.
>> No. 64388
>>64384
He's intentionally trying not to think about it. But I have faith he'll find out the truth regardless.

[x] It will be easier to search along the river, as long as we can find a safe way down.
-[x] But we'll leave a note or, if we can't, one of the two goddesses has to remain here
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