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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
>> No. 64443
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64443
[x] Stake out the building. If Shizuha is staying here, she might return.

The sun goes down and the night drags on. It took a while, but you managed to find a nice, thick tree behind the not-shrine that just so happens to offer an excellent vantage point of the building's entrance. Fortunately, there's enough moonlight to see anyone entering or leaving. All you have to do is lay down, cover up with a blanket, and stay still.

Normally on a stakeout like this, it would be easy to tune your thoughts out and focus entirely on detecting any sort of movement in the area — but this time you aren't alone. “How can you even call yourself Japanese?” Mori whines. “Those were the worst rice balls I've ever seen. And they were in a plastic bag! Half of them fell apart, so it was just a bunch of rice. You couldn't even give them enough dignity to pack them in a little lunch box?”

“I was in a hurry,” you whisper back. “If you didn't like it, you should have left more for me.”

“It's all you brought! What else was I going to eat?”

“Then I'm sorry we don't exactly have the time or the money for luxury snacks, your highness.”

“I'm not asking for luxury, I'd just like a little more than the bare minimum. I could have made something while you grabbed everything else, if you asked. It's not just you, any more.”

It's difficult to restrain a sigh. “Don't remind me.” Just before she can start huffing and puffing, you add, “But, I'll try to remember. It's been a long time since I've had to be considerate to others.”

Mori deflates. “Seriously, I can tell. It doesn't have to be that difficult, y'know.”

You'll leave it at that and resume your watch. It's probably been an hour or so since the stars came out. Your body has plenty of experience at staying in one position for several hours — in this particular case, laying stomach down in a pile of leaves on a chilly, autumn night. Hina, probably uncomfortable with staying put, decided to go for a walk. You're surprised Mori didn't go with her. Complaining about food aside, the kid's had no trouble with laying right next to you. Since you only had one blanket, you have to share.

“Hey,” she speaks up again. “I'm only half-covered, over here. Lemme get in closer to you.”

You relent pretty easily. It's obvious she doesn't pay much heed to the idea of personal space, and you know she would just keep whining about it if you refused.

Of course, when you give her an inch she takes a mile. Just like back on the couch at home, she takes a liking to burrowing into your side. The warmth is nice, you must admit, but it's pretty uncomfortable for her to be on top of your arm. "Getting a little painful," you mention out loud.

She pauses her one-sided spooning effort. “Just put your arm around me, then. I don't have a lot to work with, here.”

That's the line, as far as you're concerned. “We are not embracing each other in a blanket, underneath the moonlit sky.”

You don't need to look at Mori to know she's brought out that smug grin of hers. “So, you aren't completely immune to the aesthetics of romance,” she remarks.

"No, I certainly am not. Whatever you're trying to pull, forget about it."

"It's only weird if you think it's weird."

"I do think it's weird. And, in case you didn't realize, we're in the middle of something. Have you even thought about what we're going to do if we see Shizuha Aki?"

Mori separates herself from you and then sighs. "Not really. I won't know what to do until I see how she reacts to us."

"That's true. But, Minoriko seemed to have a lot of hope that you would be able to talk to her. If she's willing to listen to you, can you convince her to come back with us?"

There's a silence before she answers. "It depends on how far she's—"

The loud crunch of leaves makes you bolt upright and spin around, sending the blanket flying upward.

But, it's only Hina — staring at you innocently. "Is something the matter, PI? I only came to report that I am back from my walk and ready to resume watch."

How in the hell did she get so close without making any noise? You sit down and take a moment to steady your heart before replying, "That's fine. Everything's fine. Thanks, Hina."

She smiles back. "You're welcome." Then, she points behind you. "However, you may wish to take another look."

You turn back around, and the door to the building is hanging wide open. Nothing else appears to be disturbed and there's no light inside, but a gust of wind couldn't open a door like that. Someone — or something — is definitely inside.

"I don't like this," Mori is quick to remark. "I really don't like this."

"If you're scared, then stay behind me," you tell her. "If it's Shizuha, we can talk to her. If it isn't, then we can take it from there. The one thing we can't do is wait around for whatever it is to leave, or figure out that we're out here."

Although you packed everything back up before engaging in this little operation, a keen observer would be able to see where the three of you tidied the place up a little bit. It's something you should have thought of before, but hindsight is a detective's loudest critic.

Mori seems to take your words to heart, but she was probably just being dramatic in the first place. "I'll be fine. Let's move in."

She starts to go, but you grab her by the shoulder and stop her from moving ahead. "Hold on. You may be in charge of diplomacy, but let the guy with the gun and the gear go first."

Mori stops, turns around, and then steps aside. "If you say so."

As you carefully move around the side of the building with Mori and Hina trailing, you brush your fingers across the revolver stuck into the waist of your jeans. You hope those new bullets work, but you also hope you don't have to find out tonight.

Unfortunately, it really doesn't look good. When you peek around the corner of the building, there's a trail of dark droplets from the steps to the door. The drops are small and scattered, but they show up well in the moonlight. You hold up your palm to halt the ladies behind you, and then creep a bit closer to confirm your suspicions: it's blood. Someone is wounded, or did a lot of wounding.

You sidle up to the door and pull out your gun. In your other hand is one of the flashlights. There's definitely something breathing in there. All you need to do is shine some light and make that snap decision whether to pull the trigger or not. One deep breath in, then you spin around the door and click the flashlight on.

Your trigger finger freezes. "Mori! Hina!" you shout back. "Get in here, now!"

A blonde woman — Shizuha Aki, you can assume — is slouched in the corner. Her red dress is littered with holes of varying sizes, revealing flesh covered with numerous welts and marks — some open and dripping with blood, but many more that are not. Her labored breathing occasionally gives way to a soft moan, which gives you some relief that she's still alive. In all your years, you've never seen anything like those wounds. It might even be some kind of disease, infectious even, but it's not like you can just leave her here.

You put away your gun and throw off your pack as Mori and Hina both come in behind you. Mori gasps, but you don't see any outward reaction from Hina. In this kind of situation, the only thing you know how to do is either start giving orders or start taking orders, and you aren't hearing anyone else talk. "Hina, get out that lantern and give us some light. Mori, talk to her and make sure she's still with us."

While Hina opens your bag, Mori approaches Shizuha and you follow — flashlight in hand. Mori kneels down on one side of her. "Shizuha, what happened? What did this to you?"

Shizuha lifts her head up, responding to Mori's voice. "Is—Is that Mori? I—I messed up. But it's all I could do, Mori — all I could do."

You couldn't tell when she had her head hanging down, but now you see her face is bruised and swollen in different places. She was beaten, surely, but that doesn't explain all the little wounds. Since it's Gensokyo, you couldn't even imagine what she might have run into.

The lantern comes on behind you, offering a source of light that's less violent than yours. You put the flashlight aside and lean forward to examine her wounds. It seems like most of the strange marks are on her arms, legs, and on the bits of her torso that are exposed.

Suddenly, a large mosquito lands on your hand. You swat it quick, and return your focus to Shizuha. Looking real close, you can see tiny indentations in the welts. Some are bites, but others seems like they might be stings. There's some pretty significant bruising, too.

"Hurts so bad," you hear Shizuha whimper. "Itches, too. Never thought she could do this."

Mosquito, again. This time it's two. You smack one, which sends the other flying away.

Looking up, you see Mori smile sadly as she holds Shizuha's face. "When I said 'strike out on your own', I didn't mean like that," she remarks. "You should have asked me for help."

Shizuha lets out a dry laugh, and you spot the crimson sheen of blood on her teeth. "You're worse off than I am." Then she turns to you. "And who's the man? A follower, already?"

You don't know what she's talking about, but you force a smile anyway. "She follows me, for the most part. But let's worry about—"

Some kind of large bug flies right in front of your face, and you stop. More and more mosquitoes are buzzing about, along with other insects. "What the hell?" you continue, as you try to shoo them away. "It's too cold for these things to be out like this. Where did they all come from?"

Shizuha looks past you, at the lantern. Her eyes go wide, and what little color is left on her face drains. "Turn off that light!" she screams.

"That's a little—" you begin, but your mouth shuts when you turn around just in time to see a black cloud of slip through the doors, filling the small building with a gigantic mass of frantic insects. It takes only a few seconds for the air to become so thick, that you worry about sucking a gnat down your windpipe with each breath.

"Oh dear," you hear Hina remark. "How unfortunate. It looks like she's going all-out tonight."

Mosquitoes, moths, flies, beetles, and who knows what else swarm around the lantern like a hurricane. You try to dispel them, but flailing around accomplishes nothing. In the end, you try to protect your face so that you can at least see. You turn to Mori, who is holding Shizuha and covering what she can with her tiny body. Forget about turning the lantern off — all of you need to get out of here, now.

When you turn back towards the entrance, you see something else come in — a child about Mori's size, with short, dark green hair. Insects crawl all around its glowing body, including out from its dirty shirt and shorts. Floating in the midst of the storm, the child looks down at the injured Shizuha with pure sadism in its dark eyes — an expression you're intimately familiar with. "Found you!" it exclaims in a high-pitched, delighted tone before regarding the rest of you. "And there's more for my flock, too. Perfect! Looks like we'll survive the winter after all. This is what you get for underestimating insects, leaf goddess." It giggles to itself, before thrusting out its arm towards you. "Attack and devour, my children!"

With the child's words, the insects pick up in speed and intensity, and the larger ones start clinging to your clothing. Then, there's several sharp pricks at your flesh. They're biting through. This horde of bugs must have been responsible for the strange marks on Shizuha Aki, and they're being commanded by this kid — who you aren't sure is a boy or a girl, but is certainly a youkai of some kind. You try to brush the invading bugs off in a panic, but it's only a very short-term solution while you're caught in the swarm. With that youkai blocking the exit, you're left with no choice. You don't know what happened between it and Shizuha, but Shizuha's your responsibility now and you're the one acting in self-defense. You have to use your gun.

Shooting it directly is your first instinct. Drop the commander, and the soldiers will scatter — you hope. But, this seems to be a surprisingly powerful youkai you're dealing with. You doubt one shot will disable it, but it will certainly distract it. If you can lure it away from the door, Mori and Hina can get Shizuha out of here; that's what's important. After that, it's up to you to make sure it doesn't follow them. The biggest problem is whether or not you can actually handle this youkai in a fight. You've stood up to plenty of youkai — even a tengu! — but it's not like you ever go into a fight with a mystical, supernatural being feeling confident.

Then again, you do spot another option: the lantern. If you shoot out the lantern, the electricity should make a pretty violent flash of light that will disorient all these bugs for a bit. You could use that time to get everyone out of here, including yourself, but you doubt this youkai would stop there. It'll be a chase until you find some other way to deal with it, and you aren't too keen on running around the Great Youkai Forest in the dark. All the noise could attract more youkai — or worse, the wolves. But, getting out into open air would make it a easier to deal with the swarm.

You can't see how the others are doing. Being bitten by insects doesn't sound too threatening, but with their numbers and ferocity it's only a matter of time before everyone's chewed up like Shizuha — and it doesn't sound like they're going to stop there. You need to act.

[] Shoot the lantern and run with the others.

[] Shoot the youkai and hold it off on your own.

[]
>> No. 64444
[x] Shoot the youkai and hold it off on your own.

Shoot her! Shooooot heeeeerrrrr!
>> No. 64445
[x] Shoot the youkai and hold it off on your own.

Going to the forest is just not logical when there's a chance of getting attacked by others, from our point of view at least.
>> No. 64446
[x] Shoot the lantern and run with the others.

A flash that stuns all the bugs seems more likely to help everyone else, at least temporarily.

Also, looks like Mori didn't introduce herself by her real name (at least her full name) even to a fellow goddess? Interesting.
>> No. 64447
[X] Shoot the youkai and hold it off on your own.

Time for a showdown.
>> No. 64448
Don't shoot the lantern, smash it. We don't need a flash, what we need is a fire. In a pinch, one of the best ways to protect yourself from a swarm of bugs is to surround yourself in a circle of fire. Bugs can not handle fire well. The bugs will either instinctively be driven off by the intense heat, or suicide dive the fire like literal moths to a flame.

Smashing the lantern should make some sparks, which should make this ramshackle shrine light up faster than a roman candle. Humans can withstand heat and fire much better than bugs can. We just wait a few seconds for the bugs to be driven off, then grab some burning wood for torches and escape ourselves. Once outside, we use the torches to stave off the remaining bugs and make a run for it, setting fire to the forest if necessary. If Wriggle gives us trouble, we can either shoot her or hurl flaming wood at her.

[x] Smash lantern, make fire!
>> No. 64449
[x] Smash lantern, shoot Youkai

Maybe her swarm will protect her, but not while she's stunned.

Running away in the woods is a surefire way to getting picked off one by one.
>> No. 64450
[x] Shoot the youkai and hold it off on your own.

Tempted to vote fire, but being in a burning building isn't much fun either.
>> No. 64451
[x] Smash lantern, make fire!

I believe smoke fucks over insects due to their smaller sizes. Makes them drowsy or something.

Oh and if we can, shoot Wriggle.
>> No. 64460
Calling it for shooting the youkai. Writing begins.
>> No. 64486
Putting the finishing touches on the update, but since I have plans this weekend it will be a day or two before it's done. Thanks in advance for the patience.
>> No. 64488
File 148693129734.jpg - (341.83KB , 640x700 , didnt even get her name.jpg ) [iqdb]
64488
[x] Shoot the youkai and hold it off on your own.

The frenzied insects obscure the youkai's form, but the lantern puts out more than enough light for you to see. As soon as that green head is in the sights, you squeeze the trigger. The loud bang and flash scatter the bugs away from you, and the youkai holds its face and cries out in pain. Two more times you fire, though you settle for body shots rather than taking the time to aim carefully. Sure enough, the youkai drops to the ground and the insects retreat back towards their master.

"Go on!" you shout to the others. “Grab Shizuha and get out! I'll keep this thing busy.”

Mori turns back indignantly. “You really think you'll be okay by yourself? Come with us!”

The insects begin to stir once more. “Mori, our responsibility is to get Shizuha back to her sister. I'm trusting you to do that! Trust me to settle things here.”

She bites her lip, but nods and holds up Shizuha with Hina. The eldest Aki seems like she's completely unconscious now, but Hina seems strong enough to carry most of her weight.

Now, you can focus on the one thing you have to do: distracting this youkai. That shouldn't be hard, since it's already running toward y—

A tremendous force collides with your nose, making a sharp and nauseating crunch. You stagger back into the wall and take a breath, only to wince at the surge of pain and flow of sticky blood. The youkai was on the other side of the room one instant, then in your face the next — with one of the hardest punches you've ever taken. Few of them still have this kind of monstrous strength and speed — pretty much only the tengu, you thought. If Shizuha was taking hits like this, then it’s no wonder her face is so messed up.

The youkai neglects to continue the assault, watching you cautiously instead. This close, you can tell that it's actually a she — a very tomboyish female. She has little black antennae sticking out of her head, and also some kind of black cape that reminds you of wings. One of her eyes is blown apart — that was a good shot — and tiny ants crawl out of the open socket, down her face, and fall to the ground one or two at a time. Insect youkai, indeed.

“I don't know what kind of magic you're packing,” she snarls, "but I don't like it one bit. I'll eat you first, then go after the leaf goddess."

Provocative words from an ignorant youkai, but you'll take advantage of the opportunity. From your hip, you pull the trigger again and try to put another one right into her rib cage.

The bullet rips through her chest, though the point-blank shot doesn't have the kind of stopping power you wanted. With one hand she clutches at the new wound, but she pounds your stomach with the other. When you slouch over, she drives her fist up into your chin, spins into the air, and then whips her leg into your right side — your gun arm. As you're knocked to your knees, your grips fails and the revolver slips away.

Before you can even think of reclaiming your weapon, the youkai slides the gun far out of reach with her foot. When you look up at her, you can see the holes your bullets have made in her torso. Worms, maggots, and other sorts of fat crawlers drip out of the wounds, writhing and cringing as if they themselves feel the pain.

“So you were using that metal thing, huh? Good riddance. Now, I can pick you apar—!”

You rise quick and shut her up with a left jab, and then make it nose-for-a-nose by driving your right fist straight into her face; adrenaline helps you through the pain of using your injured arm. The impact drives her back and off her feet — even considering her small frame, she's still ridiculously light. It's almost like swatting away a bug.

The rest of the horde swiftly moves in to retaliate for their queen. Beetles fly at your face, and while you grab and smack them away, other fliers stick to your body and continue gnawing at your clothing and eventually your flesh. It's pointless to try fighting all of them when they keep coming, so you try searching for your gun — your arms flailing about like you're drowning in a sea of pests.

When you finally spot that dark silver lump on the ground that must be your revolver, something crashes into your back and pushes you into the ground. You turn over just in time to see the youkai wind her foot back and punt you hard in the kidneys, sending crippling pain ricocheting through your torso. “I'm not letting you get away,” she hisses. You clutch your side and attempt to turn away, but she stomps on your chest, drops her ass on your stomach, and straddles you. “I can find your friends later, but I need to eat something now. I think I'll start with your face.”

Her cold hands latch around your neck, nails caked with black dirt that scrapes against your tender skin. “Not the throat again,” you croak, as blood fills your sinuses. Resist as you might, your body refuses to move her — stone-heavy as she is with power and malice — while she crawls up your torso and the writhing face of the young girl looms closer to yours. Her mouth opens wide to reveal wicked fangs and a darkness you can't bring yourself to look into.

Then Mori tackles her off of you, tumbling on the floor a few times before stopping on top of her. Keeping her pinned, Mori slugs the youkai in the face repeatedly, alternating fists each time.

You blink a few times. Your hands wander over your chest, your neck, and your face — still alive. But, you aren't just worrying about yourself any more. That idiot came back. You pull yourself off the ground and find Mori and the youkai still struggling with each other on the ground.

But it turns out that the kid's strong — maybe too strong. Even as they roll around the floor, Mori keeps pummeling the youkai's face, who is somehow powerless to stop it. That is, until the youkai kicks her off, launching her though the air.

Before the youkai can pursue Mori, you run up to her and drive your foot into her side, booting her into the wall. “That's payback,” you mutter.

The swarm retreats and crowds its mistress once again. You walk over to Mori and hold out your hand. “I told you to take Shizuha away.”

Mori stands up on her own. "Hina's watching over her, so she'll be fine. You, on the other hand, looked like you could have used an intervention."

“A minor setback.” You look around on the floor. “Did you grab my gun again?”

Mori shakes her head. “What happened to it?”

“She knocked it out of my hands. I must have lost track of it.” You sigh. “I'll fight, you look for—“

The horde of insects surrounds you yet again, and that must mean the youkai has licked her wounds. No doubt she's waiting for you to get distracted by the pests again so she can jump back in. And, it will probably work — mosquitoes, flies, hornets, insects of all sorts dive-bomb your face relentlessly.

Then you hear that swish, and hold up your arms to block a ferocious kick. Only, it's like you put up a piece of paper to stop a hammer. The impact knocks you right off your feet, and you stare up at the little horror: her one dark eye widened with madness, while the rest of her face is red and cracked. How did she get burned like that?

She groans and steps closer to you. “I hate this. I hate this so much. You and your goddess should just die.”

Mori pops up behind her and grabs her arms, holding her back. “Come on!” she calls out to you. “Keep fighting!”

“You!” the youkai bellows to the girl behind her. “Why now? Why help them at all? Why—“

Your fist smashing into her face silences her again. But, the feeling of victory is short-lived, when she reels her head back into Mori's face and then kicks her legs up, knocking you back. You watch in awe as the youkai flips behind Mori, grabs her by the leg, and swings her off the ground — at you.

The next thing you see is the floor. You were unconscious — just a few seconds, but out cold nonetheless. Your body aches all over, especially your head. It has to be a concussion.

Everything is spinning, but you can make out Mori standing over you. Then, she turns away. She's leaving. She never should have been involved in the first place. You aren't worth it. You're nobody, just "PI". But, the ants, the flies, the hornets, the worms all chatter, buzz, and wriggle with delight as they converge on you. None of them care what you are. They'll have a grand feast, and so will that youkai.

“Mishaguji, I call upon thee.”

Then all at once, they drop dead. Every single insect falls right out of the air. The itchy, squirming feeling on your skin stops. And those words, Mori's words, strike a primal fear into your heart as they did death unto the swarm.

You remember.

###

It's cold, dark, and you're hammered drunk — spent too much time and money at that shithole down the way. That guy's an asshole for cutting you off like that. At least Lucky would have walked you home. If only that oni was open tonight. What a waste of a night.

As you stumble down the sidewalk to your lovely apartment building, your ears pick up on a screeching noise. It's somewhere between a baby's cry and a piano that's long out-of-tune — an absolutely pitiful sound. Whatever it is, you wish it would stop.

You fiddle with your keys, and you think you hear that Kagiyama woman shouting something at you from above. At the moment, you couldn't care less what she has to say. Why would she be on the roof in the first place?

It's kind of hard to tell shapes, but you have the right key. Or, you thought you did. That screech gets louder. You drop your keys. You shake the doorknob, but it doesn't budge. Of course it wouldn't; the keys are on the ground. There's more screeching. You just want to go inside.

The right key finally gets into the notch, and your door comes open. You thrust yourself inside and slam the door behind you. The screeching doesn't stop. But, you have something that might make it stop. Normally you wouldn't even touch your gun when you were drunk, but this is a special case. Your muscle memory carries you through the dark apartment, into your bedroom, your safe, and then back out again.

The landlady keeps saying things, but you don't understand. All you can hear is that screeching, and you know where it's coming from — the forest. You have your gun, so it's alright. Your aim might be shit, but all you have to do is make that awful screeching stop. Then, everything will be okay.

It's darker in the forest than it was on the street, but that's no problem. That fucking screech is your guiding light — sound, whatever — and it gets louder with every step. After feeling your way around so many trees that you lose count, you stumble into a clearing. It's so loud that it hurts. You freeze.

Two girls, tangled around each other in front of a big tree. One of them is a pink bird, wailing sadly, screaming into the dark. The other is something. Shining white in tattered rags, it turns around and curdles your stomach with glowing red eyes. From its mouth and fangs drip the innards of the bird-girl. You would puke, but your stomach won't even let you do that.

Instead, you scream. Three gunshots. Your sight fades away. Something hits you. Your body goes limp.

The screeching finally stops.

###

Your heart steadies itself as the panic subsides. You feel no less terrible, but the dizziness is wearing off. Your eyes scan the room, until you see what has become of Mori — on the ground, acting as a toppled punching bag for the wrathful youkai bug queen who just lost all of her subjects.

“There’s nothing here for you, goddess!” the youkai hisses, as it keeps kicking and stomping an unresponsive Mori. “There's no humans here that will take to you, so go poof like all the rest! Until then, you'll suffer for each one of my children you killed!”

Mori is a goddess — one of those mythical beings who were spoken of like distant fairy tales. Humans called upon their power to vanquish demons, subdue youkai, and manipulate nature itself. And this whole time, one of them was by your side, under your roof, and even in your bed. Should that really surprise you? Like always, you could just shrug and say “it’s Gensokyo” with a dry little chuckle.

“Not this time, right?”

You look up at the bright, smiling face of Kotohime — which must stand in stark contrast to your own oozing, aching visage.

She giggles. “That’s very true. I haven’t seen you look this bad in a long time. You should try to keep your head up so you don’t choke on your own blood.”

“Thanks for the advice,” you mumble. “Why are you here? Now?”

“You’re at a loss, and I think you need a little reminder,” she answers. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re asleep or awake. Though honestly, you’re kind of in the middle right now.”

Her hands rest on your face, and although you don’t feel their touch, something guides your eyes back towards the youkai, still relentlessly pummeling Mori. “What does that youkai remind you of?”

You stare, but nothing comes to mind.

“That’s not true,” she continues. “You’re trying not to think about it, but you remember what I taught you. I made you watch so you would never forget.”

You focus on the youkai’s face. As disfigured as she is now, there’s a smile on her lips. She mentioned she was starving, but now she’s playing with her food. The desperate fighter from earlier is now savoring the kill.

Your teeth grind. “Yeah, she does remind me of you. A torturer.”

She raises one hand to her mouth in feigned offense. “Torturer? Oh dear. That’s very crass. The youkai is merely exerting her sense of self — just like that goddess, when she was devouring the sparrow in the forest. It’s a necessity. Youkai and gods literally survive by convincing others — humans — that they are an individual, that they are something to be feared, respected, or worshiped. And this struggle that you see is the culmination of that. Whether she realizes it or not, this youkai has abandoned the idea of you as a short-term meal, and instead is destroying this goddess bit by bit in front of you. You might call it torture, but in reality it’s an art form. After all, isn’t art the expression of one’s creativity and individuality?”

The youkai continues pounding on Mori, who remains motionless. One of her kicks flips the kid — goddess — over, revealing that she’s still conscious. Her face and body bloodied, she gazes up at the ceiling, maybe through it, blinking slowly.

“You’re not an artist,” you tell the ghost, “you’re insane. I’ll never let it happen again.”

When you look up again, Kotohime’s gone. But in your ear, you still hear her voice. “If you plan to do something about it, perhaps you should look to your left.”

Your gun. It lies just out of reach — to your left, like she said. You heave yourself off the ground and tread lightly through a floor blackened by tiny corpses to pick up your revolver.

It’s been four shots so far, with two bullets left. You better make them count.

Your arm is stiff with pain, but you line it up as best you can with the youkai and pull the trigger. Immediately, she stops beating Mori and grasps her side. A headshot would have been nice, but at least you have her attention.

She staggers toward you. “It’s not fair. Humans called me a pest, a vermin, a plague. Now I’m just a nuisance, easily stamped out or sprayed down with poison. Why do you get to decide what I am? What makes you so great?”

You keep your gun trained on her. She’s weakened, but if this last bullet doesn’t do the trick, then it’s over. There’s no way you could keep up with her in hand-to-hand in this state.

The youkai stops, trembling with a smile still on her face. “If I kill enough of you, will everything go back to normal?”

Then, something black and warped scrapes its way out of her dead eye socket: giant legs and nail-like claws reaching out first, followed by a triangular head with bulging eyes. Wings sprout from its back, flickering with a raspy rattle. As it grows in size, it looms overhead, looking down at you as it grinds its claws together. It lunges, swooping down with its claws and giant, razor-like mandibles.

Your last bullet tears through the head of the beast, and it vanishes without a trace. The dilapidated building falls silent, save for your heavy breaths. You look around, fingers still glued to the handle of your revolver. There’s no more giant bug, no more youkai. “Humans are probably worse than insects,” you mutter to nothing. “But, I gotta protect myself. Sorry.”

Then, it’s over — but you can’t relax just yet. Mori. You hustle over to where she’s still laying, and collapse to your knees over her. Her eyes are shut.

You put your head down to her chest — she’s still breathing, but it’s pained. From the way she was getting kicked, she must have at least a few ribs broken. When you try to feel her side, she moans. “PI, is that you? What happened?”

“She’s gone,” you answer. “But now we gotta worry about you. I can’t take you back through the forest like this.”

“I’ll be fine,” Mori tries to assure you. “If you let me rest, I’ll be able to walk.”

You fall back on your rear and sigh. She’s probably right. After all, she isn’t a normal kid. “So you can heal quick like a youkai can, right? That’s convenient.”

She closes her eyes and smiles. “Kind of, yeah. Did you figure it out?”

“I wouldn’t say I have it figured out. You’re a goddess. I don’t even know how to process that.”

She frowns. “Sorry. I wanted to tell you myself. I thought you got knocked out. I ended up blowing my cover.”

The lantern flickers, and then dies, turning the room pitch-black. At least it held out for this long.

“Damn,” you mutter. “I hope there isn’t anything else out there.”

“Hello,” a familiar voice calls from the entrance. “PI, are you in there?”

“Hina?” you respond. “Is that you? Why are you still here? What about Shizuha?”

“She didn’t go far,” Mori explains. “There was no way we could leave you here. Even if you killed that youkai on your own, how were you going to get back through the forest?”

Huh. You didn’t think that far ahead. “Good point,” you relent.

A streak of light shines inside the room, and you’re relieved to see Hina — flashlight in one hand and Shizuha slung over her other shoulder. She points the flashlight at Mori, and then turns it right in your face. “Oh my,” she remarks. “Both of you look awful.”

“Thanks,” you grumble, while shielding your eyes. “I guess we might as well spend the night here. Any objections, Hina?”

She lowers the flashlight. “Whatever you wish.”

Hina props up Shizuha in the corner by the entrance, then walks over to you and Mori. “Would you mean showing me your doll, PI?”

This again? You reach into your tattered pocket and sure enough, it’s still there. But when you pull it out, it falls apart. First you think it might have been chewed up by the bugs somehow, but looking closer, it doesn’t appear to have been devoured or torn in anyway. Instead, it looks like it simply rotted from the inside out.

“Oh dear,” Hina remarks, “How unfortunate.”

###

The night carries on. Hina insisted on keeping watch outside, claiming that she wanted to take a closer look around after all these years — whatever that means. Shizuha is still unconscious. Mori is resting. You, on the other hand, are having difficulties.

“Can’t sleep?” Mori speaks up, giving you a start.

“Not really.” You pause. “I’m thinking back. About you.”

“Oh.” She doesn’t sound too enthusiastic about that. “Well, don’t leave me hanging.”

You’d love to tell her, but you haven’t really sorted it out for yourself yet. From learning that Mori is a goddess to remembering that night when you met, there’s a lot of new information to think through. You’ve been sitting in the dark for hours now, picking apart everything she did — everything you thought you knew about her. But being retrospective is just hiding from the real problem: how do you act towards her from here on out?

[] She's a goddess, a higher power that can manipulate the foundations of things, and you've been treating her like some brat. You should apologize to her and be more respectful from now on.

[] She may be a goddess, but she looks like a kid and acts like it in a lot of ways. Nothing will change the fact that she's Mori — the smartass you took in off the street.

[] She may call herself a goddess, but the sight of her chewing on that bird youkai is stuck in your head. And, you still have no idea what those snakes are or what they mean. Best be wary going forward.

[] Wait a minute. Mori’s teased you, cuddled with you, and even gleefully exposed herself to you. Now you know she isn’t a kid, but an ageless being. Does that mean you can be attracted to her now? Ask if she’s legal.

[]
>> No. 64489
I already felt a bit bad for Wriggle last update, but I feel worse for her in this one. Girl put up a surprisingly good fight, though. That might be worth looking into.

Anyway, about time this got revealed. Though the forest scene...wasn't what I expected. Poor Mystia.

[x] She may be a goddess, but she looks like a kid and acts like it in a lot of ways. Nothing will change the fact that she's Mori — the smartass you took in off the street.
-[x] ...still, those snakes are something to be wary of, going forward.

I'm sure people will tempted by >that fourth option, but this feels like something she'd appreciate hearing and feels very in-character for PI to say, given their dynamic so far. But I don't know, part of me does want there to be a bigger change between them after a reveal like this.
>> No. 64490
[x] She may be a goddess, but she looks like a kid and acts like it in a lot of ways. Nothing will change the fact that she's Mori — the smartass you took in off the street.
-[x] Use the fourth option ironically to lighten up the mood
we konosuba now
>> No. 64491
[X] She may be a goddess, but she looks like a kid and acts like it in a lot of ways. Nothing will change the fact that she's Mori — the smartass you took in off the street.

That was one heck of a fight. I was wondering when PI would figure out what Mori is.
>> No. 64492
[x] She may be a goddess, but she looks like a kid and acts like it in a lot of ways. Nothing will change the fact that she's Mori — the smartass you took in off the street.
[x] Wait a minute. Mori’s teased you, cuddled with you, and even gleefully exposed herself to you. Now you know she isn’t a kid, but an ageless being. Does that mean you can be attracted to her now? Ask if she’s legal.
>> No. 64493
File 148694071757.jpg - (50.58KB , 480x488 , howUNFORTUNATE.jpg ) [iqdb]
64493
[x] Wait a minute. Mori’s teased you, cuddled with you, and even gleefully exposed herself to you. Now you know she isn’t a kid, but an ageless being. Does that mean you can be attracted to her now? Ask if she’s legal.
- [x] Seriously now, she may be a goddess, but she looks like a kid and acts like it in a lot of ways. Nothing will change the fact that she's Mori — the smartass you took in off the street.


Best of both worlds. I guess the feeling in the fourth is the same as the second, with more comedy, so I really can't decided. If it is only pick one, please let us know, writefag.
>> No. 64494
>>64493
It's perfectly fine to vote for two options in a case like this, and I consider that to be like a write-in. Even if one part edges out the other in votes (like what's happening now), I'll still throw in some of that second option if there's enough support for it.
>> No. 64495
[x] She may be a goddess, but she looks like a kid and acts like it in a lot of ways. Nothing will change the fact that she's Mori — the smartass you took in off the street.


absolutely no going full konosuba though
>> No. 64496
[x] Wait a minute. Mori’s teased you, cuddled with you, and even gleefully exposed herself to you. Now you know she isn’t a kid, but an ageless being. Does that mean you can be attracted to her now? Ask if she’s legal.
- [x] Seriously now, she may be a goddess, but she looks like a kid and acts like it in a lot of ways. Nothing will change the fact that she's Mori — the smartass you took in off the street.

lets go
>> No. 64498
[x] Jokingly: Wait a minute. Mori’s teased you, cuddled with you, and even gleefully exposed herself to you. Now you know she isn’t a kid, but an ageless being. Does that mean you can be attracted to her now? Ask if she’s legal.
[x] Seriously: She may be a goddess, but she looks like a kid and acts like it in a lot of ways. Nothing will change the fact that she's Mori — the smartass you took in off the street.

Leaning more toward the latter than the former, but what the hell.
>> No. 64500
[x] Jokingly: Wait a minute. Mori’s teased you, cuddled with you, and even gleefully exposed herself to you. Now you know she isn’t a kid, but an ageless being. Does that mean you can be attracted to her now? Ask if she’s legal.
[x] Seriously: She may be a goddess, but she looks like a kid and acts like it in a lot of ways. Nothing will change the fact that she's Mori — the smartass you took in off the street.

Poor Wriggle
>> No. 64548
File 148817269041.jpg - (607.88KB , 1032x1457 , the puzzle known as mori.jpg ) [iqdb]
64548
[x] Jokingly: Wait a minute. Mori’s teased you, cuddled with you, and even gleefully exposed herself to you. Now you know she isn’t a kid, but an ageless being. Does that mean you can be attracted to her now? Ask if she’s legal.
[x] Seriously: She may be a goddess, but she looks like a kid and acts like it in a lot of ways. Nothing will change the fact that she's Mori — the smartass you took in off the street.

“So, you’re a goddess,” you state pretty damn plainly.

“Uh huh. That was the big reveal.”

More like a slip-up than a proper reveal. “Okay. Then, you’ve been around for a while.”

Mori lets out a dry chuckle. “A while? Try forever. Some periods I was more active than others, for sure, but I’m a native god. One way or another, I’ve been on this earth since it all began.”

She doesn’t sound like she’s bragging. Instead, it’s almost melancholic. You can’t even imagine being alive for that long. In the first place, you don’t even know what a goddess would do to pass the time. Do they even feel time? But, there’s a point to all this, so you’ll continue with it. “And that body, it’s a form you wanted to take?”

She sighs. “Sort of. I chose to look like this because it suited me well in dealings with humans. Childhood is innocence, innocence is purity, and purity was very important to them. But, once a god becomes known for one image, it becomes difficult to change that. You might even say I’m stuck like this.”

“I see, I see.” That sounds very similar to an explanation you once heard about why youkai look the way they do. Both gods and youkai are responding to how humans perceive them. That much, at least, is easy for you to understand. Now for the finisher. “Then this whole time, you’ve been teasing me, touching me, and parading around naked, all the while calling me some kind of pedophile despite the fact you chose to have that form. So what I—”

“Wait a second,” she tries to interrupt, but you aren’t going to let her.

“So what I want to know, Mori, is… are you legal, or not?”

She stops. There’s nothing but silence in the dark — then suddenly, an outburst of laughter. “Is that what you’ve been thinking about? Well rest assured, this body is well over the age of consent in any territory on earth, even if it doesn’t look like it.”

“I’ve been thinking about a lot of things,” you assure her. “I just wanted to break the ice by leading with that.”

“Then good job,” she commends you, “but now I’m worried that you took some kind of brain damage from that fight.”

“And whose fault would that be? It felt like your body was made out of iron.”

“Iron?” she repeats in offense. “That’s just medieval. I upgraded to steel like everyone else.”

“You’re being serious, aren’t you?”

“Maybe, maybe not. Haven’t you felt my body before, PI? Wouldn’t you say it’s made of soft, warm flesh? Maybe even a little... tempting?”

That sweet tone she’s using makes you cringe. “I’m pretty sure you forced it on me,” you defend yourself, “but yes, those are adjectives someone besides myself might use to describe the sensation.”

“Just paying you back since you know that I’m ‘legal’ now,” she replies with the level of smug you’ve come to expect from her, before moving on. “So, it would be something like a miracle for my body to, for instance, become as tough as steel during a fight against a youkai?”

It is extremely odd that Mori had the strength to brawl with that youkai, after she had trouble holding on to you when you nearly fell through the bridge. “Basically, you have some kind of connection to metals, and you can gain superhuman strength from it when you need to.”

“Close. I’m an earth goddess — that’s everything in the ground, not just the metals.”

“Water and plants, too?”

“Water more so than plants. Natural life is kind of its own thing. I specialize in the dirt, though.”

That would explain a lot, like that filthy state you found her in. “So when you said I could use an intervention,” you continue, “it was more like a divine intervention. How cheeky of you. I guess that’s to be expected of a goddess who would willingly take the form of a brat.”

She laughs again. It’s a pleasant sound to hear, after the frantic buzzing of that monster insect swarm. “I don’t think a human has ever addressed me the way you do,” she says. “A proper goddess would have a mind to punish you.”

You groan. “Don’t even think about it. If you cared so much about being referred to like a goddess, you wouldn't have kept it from me. As far as I’m concerned, you’re still a kid I took in off the street who’s freeloading off me. If you happen to be a goddess on top of all that, well, it’s just another piece of the puzzle I’m gonna keep calling 'Mori'.”

More child-like laughter from the divine being posing as a child. “You’re a strange one, PI.”

“Is it that strange? Would you treat me any different if you found out I was actually a saint or something?”

“I wish you were,” she remarks. “A saint and a goddess would make a pretty good combination.”

“Please answer the question, milady. Or rather, Your Holiness.”

“Yuck.” Her reaction sounds pretty visceral, and her tone flat-lines. “That really doesn’t sound good, coming from you.” Then she sighs. “Okay, okay. I'm surprised that you're taking it so well, but I'm also relieved. We’ve obviously established a rapport that both of us are too stubborn to change. There, are you happy?”

“I don’t know if you’d call it happiness, but I enjoy the little victories.”

“What about the big victory? I say we did a pretty good job.”

You’d laugh at that, but it would hurt more than it would be worth. “Really? Because my head hurts like hell, I think I lost a kidney, and I have to stay propped up against this wall so my face doesn’t get clogged with blood.”

“Who do you think you’re talking to about a lost kidney? I’m gluing my ribs back together, over here. If I were a human like you, I’d be dead.”

Injuries are very different for someone who can’t just put their body back together, but you aren’t exactly eager to jump into an argument about who has it the worst. “Let’s just agree that Hina got out of this unscathed. For someone who goes on about misfortune so much, she sure got lucky.”

“That is true,” Hina says.

Your whole body jolts, doubling the pain. “I didn’t even hear you come back, Hina. Sorry.”

“Sorry about what?”

You aren’t really in the mood to explain, and she obviously doesn’t care, so you’ll let it go. “Never mind. I think it’s about time I attempt to get some sleep.”

“Already?” Mori remarks. “I was preparing myself for a barrage of questions.”

You try to shift your weight around and get comfortable, but it’s pretty hard when all you have is a cold wall. “I’ll save the questions for the walk back. Wake me up at sunrise, and we’ll see if I can handle it.”

“Very well,” Hina says. “Would you like me to sing a lullaby to help you sleep?”

“I’m sure your singing voice is lovely, but I really would just prefer silence right now, Hina.”

“Alright then. Good night, PI.”

“Good night, Hina.”

“And?” Mori speaks up, expectantly.

You sigh. “Good night, Mori.”

“Maybe a little something extra for the goddess that saved your life, again?”

“I didn’t ask you to,” you grumble. “In fact, I specifically asked you not to. But… thanks. You were a big help.”

“Good enough,” she remarks. “Sweet dreams, PI.”

###

The rain falls in steady drops outside as you sit at your desk. The dim, pale glow of the streetlights filters into your office through closed blinds, casting the room in monochrome shades.

You were about to do something, but you can’t remember what. For that matter, since when did you have an office? And how can a room be “monochrome,” anyway?

There’s two soft knocks at the door. When you open it, you grimace at a head of red hair. “Again?”

“Umm, excuse me?”

The nervous, high-pitched voice catches you off guard, and you examine the face underneath all that flowing red hair. Her features are more exotic, and her lips more profound. This isn’t Kotohime.

After staring at her a few seconds, the young woman’s red eyes wander away and she runs her fingers through the side of her hair. “I—is something wrong?”

You notice that her short, black dress lays her white shoulders bare and wetter with each moment she stands outside. Without an umbrella or even a raincoat, her hair and dress should also be soaking wet from walking in the rain, but they aren’t. Instead of questioning it, you quickly step to the side. “Nothing. Please, come in.”

After holding the door open for her, you hang your black fedora on the stand. You aren’t really sure why you were wearing such a hat in the first place, but you don’t seem to be in control of the scenario at the moment.

The young woman takes a seat in front of your desk, and for some reason you find it more comfortable to stand in front of the window, with your back to her. “Sorry, I don’t really keep any towels in the office.” At least, you don't think you would.

“That’s okay,” she replies. “I’m fine with being a little wet.”

You turn around. “Was that supposed to be an innuendo?”

She visibly flinches, and then looks away. “Well, uh, yeah.” After a breath, she faces you once again. “Anyway! Aren’t you going to ask me why I’m here?”

“Alright then. Why are you here?”

She stands up and steps toward you, her eyes locking onto yours. “I’m in a lot of trouble, and there’s no one else I can rely on.” Then she sits down again, on the corner of your desk. When she crosses her legs, you’re presented with some very nice curves that help distract you from the oddities of this scene. “Won’t you help me, mister?”

The way she’s leaning forward gives you a less-than-subtle window into her smooth, ample cleavage. She may be laying it on a little thick, but at least she has the body for it. “Well, what’s wrong?”

With a feisty grin, she hops off your desk and pulls up her dress, revealing a distinct lack of underwear and a small patch of red. “I want that big dick of yours,” she declares. “And this is where I want you to put it.”

What,” is all you can muster in response.

Her confidence visibly shatters. “It's um, I mean, a—about your dick...” she tries to start again. Then she gives up and covers her face, which quickly turns about the same color as her hair above — and below. “Damn it! I knew that line wouldn’t work! That vampire can’t write for shit!”

She collapses back into the chair, keeping her hands over her face and leaving you feeling very awkward. Then again, this woman must feel even more awkward. A feeling of pity encroaches upon you, yet you have no idea where to begin salvaging this situation. “It’s, uh—“

“I finally got some time off so I could give you the perfect wet dream,” she continues. “But, now it’s all ruined.” After she takes a couple strained breaths, you can tell that the wetworks are about to start.

“You know, it was really very pretty,” you blurt out.

She looks up at you, her face still red and eyes moist, but she’s smiling. “R—really?”

You don’t even know what you’re doing any more. “Yeah. You have a well-kept pubic region, and neat, minimal labia.”

With a joyful gasp, she flies out of the chair into you, gripping your hands with her own. “Oh, PI! You’re a hero, just like I always imagined!”

Complimenting a woman’s nethers doesn’t really make you a hero, but whatever. This is all some stupid dream, anyway. For all you know, Kotohime is watching you right now and probably about to die from laughter.

“Is this a reasonable place for me to step in?”

The dreary voice comes from the door, where a girl with long, purple hair and pink pajamas has entered your office uninvited.

The young redhead casts a great amount of disdain at the newcomer. “What are you doing here?”

The aggravation doesn’t seem to affect the pajamas girl at all, who returns the redhead's glare with stoic, purple eyes from beneath her nightcap. “Even in this man’s dreams, little devil, I am still your master,” she replies flatly. “Your master who graciously gave you a night off to pursue your own… interests.”

It’s funny that she would call her a little devil, given the pajama girl’s own height. Regardless, her words evoke a shudder in the young woman still holding on to you. “Oh, uh, that is correct,” the redhead corrects herself quickly. “How lovely it is to see you, master. What brings you here to, um, observe my activities?”

“I believe I mentioned you could do whatever you like after your tasks were complete,” she begins. “Yet, I noticed that the Comprehensive Guide to the Satyrs of Spain was curiously missing from my stack of reading materials for the evening. What say you to that?”

You feel the little devil go rigid, and she has trouble maintaining eye contact. “I, um, y—you see, that particular book was absent from the archives, master. I thought since it was so far down on the list, you probably wouldn’t get to it, so I assumed it would be unnecessary to search the entire library for it tonight.”

Her master makes a stiff sigh, and the slight wrinkles that appear on the girl’s petite face seem all-too-familiar with the expression of disapproval. “You often have many of these ‘assumptions’,” she retorts dryly. “Yet I find myself suspicious of your true intentions. Although I am sympathetic to your plight, I cannot excuse unfinished work, regardless of the reason.” Then her gaze shifts to you. “Forgive me for trespassing on your dreamspace, human, but I will be taking her back with me. The rest of her night she was supposed to spend with you, she will instead spend finding my book and then double-checking the entire library to correct the sloppiness that led to this situation in the first place.”

Nooooooooo!” the little devil wails, collapsing into your chest.

Her master continues without paying any heed to her antics. “If she can reform her behavior, perhaps I will let her return in a few years’ time. Though you aren’t likely to remember this encounter when you return to the waking world, in any case.”

All the while you’ve been watching the pajamas girl with an unsteady feeling in your heart, which culminates in a pang as she looks at you. Those standoffish eyes, the small frown of her lips, the way it seems like she’s looking down on you even when she has to look up, the mystery given to her figure by those pajamas: it all just makes her so damn alluring. You can feel the sweat starting to form in the creases of your hands as you look into each other’s eyes.

Yet, there is another. The redhead still has her hands entwined with yours, and glances at you with watering eyes and a mouth agape with worry, inside which you can spot the smallest of fangs. Her two pairs of bat-like wings — one on her back and another smaller pair behind her ears — tremble just lightly enough to be noticed. And finally, her black, spaded tail hangs limply from her rear in a downtrodden manner. When and how these features appeared on her you cannot be certain, but you must ask yourself this: could you abandon this woman — this poor, awkward soul — whose only goal in this strange dream was to stimulate your most base of desires?

[] Proclaim your undying love for the redhead and her beautiful genitalia.

[] Succumb to the overwhelming sex appeal of the pajamas girl.

[] If this is a dream, then you might as well get lucid about it. (Write-in)
>> No. 64549
[x] If this is a dream, then you might as well get lucid about it. (Write-in)
-[x] Get mad. You don't care about who's at fault, you got cockblocked and this just won't do. Call Kotohime if you can.

this is the most FUN option that we have and you can't prove me wrong
>> No. 64550
[x] If this is a dream, then you might as well get lucid about it.
-[x] Get mad. She's a friend of yours and 'a couple of years' doesn't work for someone who could be dead next week (like you)

I don't care for the sex, but we owe it to her to, at least, try to defend her lazy ass.
>> No. 64551
[x] Succumb to the overwhelming sex appeal of the pajamas girl.

Somebody needs to get laid.
>> No. 64552
[x] If this is a dream, then you might as well get lucid about it.
-[x] First off, dream up that book pajama girl was looking for. Get that problem squared away.
-[x] Second, why bother choosing only one? This is my dream, I can literally be in 2 places at once if I want to.

Dreams are fun aren't they.
>> No. 64553
[x] If this is a dream, then you might as well get lucid about it.
-[x] Get mad. She's a friend of yours and 'a couple of years' doesn't work for someone who could be dead next week (like you)

Poor Koa.
>> No. 64554
[X] If this is a dream, then you might as well get lucid about it.
-[X] Get mad. She's a friend of yours and 'a couple of years' doesn't work for someone who could be dead next week (like you)

I don't think now's really the time to be concerned with dream sex considering what just happened in the waking world, but he should stand up for his chat buddy.
>> No. 64556
[x] If this is a dream, then you might as well get lucid about it.
-[x] First off, dream up that book pajama girl was looking for. Get that problem squared away.
-[X] Get mad. She's a friend of yours and 'a couple of years' doesn't work for someone who could be dead next week (like you)
>> No. 64557
Guys, PI doesn't know that Koakuma is Lucy. The "she's a friend" option doesn't make sense.

[x] If this is a dream, then you might as well get lucid about it.
-[x] First off, dream up that book pajama girl was looking for. Get that problem squared away.
-[x] Second, why bother choosing only one? This is my dream, I can literally be in 2 places at once if I want to.
>> No. 64558
[x] patchouli option
>> No. 64559
File 148825293784.png - (392.99KB , 720x750 , 148754287955.png ) [iqdb]
64559
>patchouli
>koa
>> No. 64560
>>64557
To be fair, given what he knows of her, it isn't that hard to make the connection.
>> No. 64561
[x] If this is a dream, then you might as well get lucid about it.
-[x] First off, dream up that book pajama girl was looking for. Get that problem squared away.
-[x] Second, why bother choosing only one? This is my dream, I can literally be in 2 places at once if I want to.


yeah doesn't he still think that lucy is trolling him and the rest of the chat is in on it?
>> No. 64562
[x] If this is a dream, then you might as well get lucid about it.
-[x] First off, dream up that book pajama girl was looking for. Get that problem squared away.
-[x] Second, why bother choosing only one? This is my dream, I can literally be in 2 places at once if I want to.

I'm sure this will backfire spectacularly.
>> No. 64563
How can you summon a book you know nothing about?
>> No. 64564
>>64563
The same way a demon and a witch hijacked a dude's brainwaves. Magic.

Probably. It's worth a shot.
>> No. 64565
>>64563
I don't know. How can you fly without wings? How can you breath underwater without gills? How can you eat 10 trillion polka-dotted hamburgers in one bite without unhinging your jaw or your stomach exploding? Its a dream, it doesn't have to make sense.
>> No. 64566
Lumping the write-ins together (so that we have "get mad" and "dream up shit"), by my count we still have a tie.

So, I think I'm going to go with "all of the above." It's just a dream, right?
>> No. 64569
Why Hina is weird in this story? She can't feel anything? Or how you imagined her? Can you give life into her as well?
>> No. 64570
>>64569
She's just weird, and the more you interact with her, the clearer the reasons will become — hopefully. But, I'll examine what I've done with Hina thus far and determine if I need to work harder so that she comes off the way I want her to.

Of course, if anyone else has any input on the matter, that would be very helpful.
>> No. 64571
>64569
Your story is great just about Hina I have problems. Example how she could be calm when the other two had in blood and didn't help them quickly? Or why you saying she has poker face and mask? why I feel she hide her real felling and thoughts ?
>> No. 64572
>>64571
That seems like a character holding a secret. Not exactly a writing problem.
>> No. 64573
I think I get what you're going for with Hina, I'm fine with it.
>> No. 64574
Holding a secret? It seems interesting. Well, we will see soon.
>> No. 64575
>>64574
Have faith!

Also, if you can, sage your posts so I don't get my hopes up about updates.
>> No. 64576
updates?
>> No. 64577
>>64576
In progress. Sorry, I'm a pretty slow writer compared to others on the site. Please understand and wait warmly.
>> No. 64583
File 148937579414.png - (521.45KB , 800x600 , evanescence.png ) [iqdb]
64583
[x] If this is a dream, then you might as well get lucid about it.
-[x] Get mad. She's a friend of yours and 'a couple of years' doesn't work for someone who could be dead next week (like you)
-[x] Dream up that book pajama girl was looking for. Get that problem squared away.
-[x] Why bother choosing only one? This is my dream, I can literally be in two places at once if I want to.

She may be attractive, but the pajamas girl is going about this all wrong. “I don’t know how it is where you’re from,” you begin, “but saying ‘a few years’ so flippantly really pisses me off. I’m just a human, and I could be dead tomorrow. In fact, it’s amazing that I’ve survived this long.” You glance down at the redhead, and you can practically see the hearts in her eyes. “I may not know who or what this girl is. She may be an idiot. She may be awful at her job. She may not have very good taste in men, possibly because of some issue with her father. She may—“

“Um... I think we get the point,” the redhead speaks up, before turning to the pajamas girl. “And master, please don’t nod along so casually with everything he’s saying, even though he’s lecturing you.”

“I refuse,” she replies nonchalantly. “I deem his words to be accurate, therefore I nod.”

“But, despite all that,” you continue over them, “It would be cruel to deny this girl her desires, perhaps permanently, over a simple mistake — regardless of whether or not it was born from an extreme lack of diligence. Don’t you agree, miss?”

“I suppose I can ascertain some degree of cruelty in what you describe,” she admits, “but I still have no book in my hands. It is difficult to ignore this slight, from one whose sole purpose is to keep the library organized.”

She certainly is stubborn, but the same could be said of you. Why are you even going so far for a stranger? At least it’s better than a dream about Kotohime and those snakes, so there’s probably no harm in playing along. “Fine. If you want your damn book, then how about this?”

You walk over to a short bookshelf along the wall that may or may not have been there this whole time. A thick, weathered tome juts out ever so slightly from the rest, so you pull it out and display it to the little demon’s master. The solemn, golden lettering on the red cover reads: “THE COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO THE SAYTERS OF SPANE”. You hear the little devil gasp.

The pajamas girl, on the other hand, is not impressed. She beckons the tome with the long fingers of one hand. A soft tug pulls the book from your hands and carries it through the air into hers. “The title is horribly misspelled, for one thing,” she says. Then she opens the book and begins flipping through the pages. “As I expected, this is not the correct book,” she declares, before turning the book around to display two pages filled with gibberish writing.

Yeah, you should have known you wouldn’t be able to satisfy her with that. Though, it would have been nice if she took it at face value and left. “I tried,” you remark to the displeased redhead with a shrug, as she trots dejectedly to the side of her master.

“Now, if you don’t mind,” the pajamas girl continues, “we must be going. Though time is of little consequence in the realm of dreams, I see no reason to continue this discourse.”

Watching the redhead sadly turn away is just too pathetic to let go. There has to be something you can do so that she can stay and… satisfy herself.

Then, it hits you. This is a dream. You just made a book appear out of nowhere, after all. If you could be in two places at once, couldn’t you occupy both of them? One of you could tend to the redhead, while the other could release some pent-up sexual tension on the pajamas girl, or at least try. You never were a fan of orgies, but you’re willing to try.

The only problem is that you don’t remember doing something like this before in your dreams. How exactly do you create a copy of yourself? Would you be controlling both of them? How would you even process that?

You’re thinking about this too hard. All you need to do is imagine being two people. Think really hard about having a partner who is exactly what you are, and—

The front door swings open, causing both of the ladies to jump back in shock. “Hellllo!” is the playful greeting that sends a chill down your spine even in your dreams.

“Damn it,” you grumble at Kotohime.

This time, she’s wearing a detective get-up like you, complete with her own fedora. She carefully hangs her hat on top of yours, before closing the door and presenting herself to the little devil and her master. “So, which one am I getting? We could also double-dip, if you like.”

“Double-dip with wha—” you begin to ask, before thinking twice. “No. We’re not doing this. I didn’t call for you. Go back to whatever asylum in my mind you crawled out of.”

“You absolutely did call for me! How rude!” She huffs. “Don’t we all just want to feel good here?”

The pajamas girl’s eyes dart back to you. “If my assumptions are correct, then you seek to turn this into an orgy, thus distracting me with this illusion of yours while my servant engages in her fantasies with you?”

“Sure, why not?” Kotohime answers first. “It would be a lot more fun than reading at home, right?”

The pajamas girl sighs, and continues addressing you instead of Kotohime. “Frankly, no. Human eroticism is too vanilla for me. It would be little more than an annoyance.”

Kotohime claps her hands together and bobs up and down giddily. “Ooh, I like her! I remember her type. They were always so ashamed.” She licks her lips and smacks them. “That got me fired up the most.”

You cringe. Nothing that psycho has in store for her will make anyone feel “good”.

When Kotohime advances on the pajamas girl, the latter raises her hand nonchalantly. “Begone, illusion. Saint Elmo’s—“

Kotohime walks right into her, grabbing her hand and smiling into her face with those gleeful red eyes that flicker over her body. “Hush.”

For the first time, the face of the pajamas girl registers something other than aloofness. Her eyes widen as they regard Kotohime’s fingers intertwined with her own. “Y-you are no mere shade. My magic—what is this?”

“What is this?” Kotohime repeats back to her, while your eyes catch the soft glint of metal in her free hand. “This is going to be the perfect little stress release!”

You turn away, unable to watch. Time to wake up.

But how do you wake up?

The little devil rushes to you and pulls at your sleeve, but you can’t look in that direction. “PI, what’s going on? Who is she?”

Then, a muffled scream and a moan blend together in harmony.

You shudder. “Please, just wake me up already.”

Asss you wissshhh.

The loud shattering of glass and rattling of blinds turns your head toward what was the window, just in time to see the gigantic jaws of a white snake envelop you — and then snap shut.

Everything is dark.

###

And then, very bright. Looks like you fell asleep right underneath a hole in the ceiling big enough for a sunbeam to poke through. The surge of pain that comes after ducking out of the light makes you regret such a spontaneous movement. Your head still pounds, and your body is numbingly sore. Yet, you’re alive — still pretty confused about what’s going on in both the real world and your subconscious, but alive to see another morning. Even the chirping of the birds doesn’t piss you off so much.

“Speaking of last night,” you wonder out loud, “where is everyone?”

The abandoned shrine — or whatever you want to call this building — is lacking the three women you fell asleep with. The electric lantern is still in its spot, and your backpack right beside it. Dead bugs still litter the floor. You didn’t really notice in the dark, but they really are all around — and under you. First you’re repulsed, but then you remember the youkai that fought so hard against you. It didn’t feel particularly good to put her down, even though you have no idea what started it all in the first place.

Sluggishly, you pull yourself to your feet as the sound of wood scraping against the ground draws your eyes to the entrance. “Hey hey!” Mori greets you cheerfully, even as she hobbles through the doors with the assistance of a giant stick. “I thought I heard an old man stirring.”

You swallow down the pity and muster a smile yourself. “Look who’s talking. I thought you could regenerate? Can’t you patch yourself up with some dirt outside, earth goddess?”

“I’m at my weakest right now, so it will take a little longer,” she explains, before gesturing towards her wooden support. “It’s just a little difficult to walk while this side’s healing up, so Hina found this. The rest of me is fine, though. What about you?”

You take a deep snort and spit a wad of mucus at the floor. Looks pretty clear. “My face stopped bleeding and I feel like shit, but it seems like I can move around well enough.”

Mori stares at you with mouth agape and eyes dead. “You’re lucky you have Hina and me on your side, or that would be a thousand years of bad luck.”

“To be honest, I’m not seeing any difference.”

She frowns at you. “Oh, ha ha. Seriously, come on. Hina and Shizuha are waiting outside. You said you wanted to leave at first light, didn’t you?”

Damn. You almost forgot about the long trek back and the debt that’s due. But, when Mori starts to turn herself around and hobble back out the doors, the brief lull brings to mind that bizarre dream — and something you can’t quite let go.

“Hey, Mori. Did I look like I was enjoying the fight with that youkai? When we finally got the upper hand?”

She stops, and turns her head back around to show a surprised look. “Enjoying it? I mean, I wasn’t watching you the whole time, but no — it didn’t seem like you were particularly happy to have the crap beat out of you.” Then she stops, and thinks. “Actually, there was one moment where I thought you were grinning as you kicked her against a wall.”

That was a bit of revenge since your neck had just finished healing before she got her grubby hands around it — not at all the kind of pleasure you were worried about. You exhale your concerns out through your nose and follow her out the door. “Alright. Thanks.”

“Gonna explain yourself, or let me wonder?”

“Nothing to wonder about,” you assure her, and yourself. “Just a bad dream.”

###

Hina is the first to greet you as you step out into the light. “Good morning, PI. I hope you slept well?”

“About as well as can be expected,” you reply, before sucking in a deep breath of fresh air. The river still flows strongly, and in the distance you see that decrepit old bridge. It won’t be fun going back across that.

“So it’s PI, right?” a fresh voice asks.

Standing next to Hina is a smiling Shizuha Aki, in much better shape. Instead of that swollen, chewed-up, bloody mess from last night, it merely looks like she was on the losing side of a midnight bar brawl. The bite marks all over her body are gone, and she wears her tattered dress shamelessly. Though honestly, there isn’t much for you to see. Minoriko got the curves, while Shizuha got the height.

“Shizuha Aki,” you begin. “I believe this is the first time we’ve had a chance to speak.”

“Don’t worry about that, since Mori’s filled me in on most of it. And just Shizuha’s fine,” she clarifies quickly, before sighing. “So, my little sis went and got the two of you involved, huh? That was awfully thoughtful of her.”

She’s a lot less reserved than Minoriko is, that’s for certain. The countryside accent and fraternal hostility are easy to hear. “Good thing she did,” you argue. “That youkai was seriously about to eat you.”

Shizuha grins and thumps you on the shoulder. It’s hard not to wince. “Now don’t get the wrong idea. I’m plenty grateful, especially seein’ as how you ended up hurt like you are.” Then she turns to Hina. “And I’d never have imagined you would come to help me. Ain’t the tengu gonna be on you, Hina?”

The fortuneteller’s smile grows wider, much like a child being praised for her cleverness. “I came here on the pretense of helping PI — a human. That two goddesses happen to be involved is merely a coincidence.”

Shizuha laughs. “It tickles me to hear you talk about ‘coincidence,’ but I’m sure glad.”

The more you hear Shizuha talk, the more you’re convinced this cheerful roughness is more than a little affected. You clear your throat loudly in order to get all this back on track. “Shizuha, I know Mori talked to you already, but I also need to know what’s going on.”

Shizuha’s brown eyes peer into you, and then she frowns. “Fine. I don’t know too much about your situation, mister — but if you’re with Mori, then I figure you’re one of the only people I can talk to anyhow. Before that, I heard that you had to be back to the city today, so I reckon we should have this conversation on the trail.”

“Sounds good to me,” you reply. “Mori, will you be alright if someone carries you?”

The kid grins. “Only if you’re the one doing it.”

“Considering that the biggest injury I took last night was from you, I’ll refuse. Stay here and walk back when you finally decide to heal up.”

Mori sighs. “I was kidding, jeez.” Then she turns to Hina. “You’ll carry me, right?”

Without a second of pause, Hina steps forward and scoops the near-crippled Mori up into her arms like a babe. “I accept,” Hina declares boldly, before looking down at her burden. “Does holding you like this cause you any discomfort, little one?”

You can see Mori wince a bit at first, but she settles into it quickly and smiles. “Yeah, just be careful walking. Could you fly over the rough parts?”

Hina nods. “Of course.”

“Wait a second,” you speak up. “What do you mean, fly?”

###

After crossing the bridge with Shizuha — without any incident, surprisingly — you can’t help but gape as you watch Hina float silently and steadily over the ravine toward you, touching down gently on the grass and bypassing the old bridge entirely.

“Was that an adequate demonstration?” she asks.

You close your mouth and blink a few times to set yourself right. “No, I mean, I’ve seen people fly before.” That Alice woman, for instance. “It’s just surreal to see you do it.” Though, considering what you’ve learned these past couple of days, it probably shouldn’t surprise you this much. Come to think of it, there’s something else you might as well get out of the way now: “Mori, Shizuha, can either of you fly?”

The two goddesses exchange troubled looks, and Mori’s the one who actually replies. “Yeah, but it’s a waste of energy we really can’t afford in our current states.”

“I see. I want to know more about that, but maybe it’s best we start with last night and work our way back.”

You all begin walking, and Shizuha begins. “I guess I oughta start by admittin’ I made a pretty big mistake.” She takes a dim breath, obviously not eager to relive the memory. “I sought out that youkai yesterday. I didn’t think she’d be much of a challenge, but it turns out that she wasn’t ready to pull any punches either.”

You thought you had been fighting in self-defense, but it turns out Shizuha was the provocateur in the first place. What a mess. “So, you went looking for a fight and it ended up backfiring on you?”

“I didn’t really see any other choice,” she argues. “I think you know the basics of how gods and the like operate. We need faith, but there isn’t much to go around. Humans used to look to us for guidance and protection against youkai, but now the tengu and technology from Outside have given them a much easier solution to their problems.”

“And created plenty of their own,” you add.

Shizuha smiles at you. “That’s right.” But, it quickly fades. “There are some old-timers who remember us, but they’re gettin’ ignored, and dyin’ off. Pretty soon, we’ll be completely forgotten. For a god, that’s usually the end.”

This doesn’t really explain what happened last night, but you can put the pieces together. “Did you think that attacking that youkai would get you faith?”

“Kinda,” she answers. “I’m not like my sister. She just wants to feed people, and that helps her fine because it’s her food they’re eatin’. I can’t get by like that, though. Gettin’ lumped in with my sister and hopin’ people will start believin’ me just ain’t my way. So, I went on the offensive. I’m sure you know that youkai are still attackin’ humans. Getting saved from the jaws of death makes a heckuva lot more impact than just gettin’ some food, right?”

You nearly forgot: if Shizuha’s a goddess, then Minoriko would be as well. And, you’re starting to see the differences between them. What you don’t understand is how those differences became the friction that lies between them now. “For the people in the slums, getting some free food might as well be getting saved from death,” you point out. Then when you see her gloomy expression, you add: “But I don’t disagree with you, either. What exactly do you and your sister do, as goddesses?” You point to Mori, who’s been listening intently. “For example, I understand that she’s an earth goddess.”

Shizuha nods. “That’s right. And my sister and I are autumn goddesses.” She pauses. “But, we’re very different. I control the changin’ of the leaves, while Shizuha controls the harvest.”

That would certainly explain why Minoriko is doing what she’s doing. In fact, this wraps up your little investigation into the soup kitchen quite nicely. Minoriko is a harvest goddess trying to earn faith back by growing food for the people of the slums, under the nose of the tengu. That’s a story, right there.

On the other hand, you’re not really sure what Shizuha is doing. You glance up into the canopy of shriveled leaves, faded and without color, that peel off one-by-one and float steadily downward.

“Hey, w—what are you lookin’ at?” Shizuha glares at you. “I haven’t been workin’ much lately, y’know? Nobody usually comes out this way, so I try to get by with only paintin’ the leaves around the city.

“Painting?” Mori chimes in. “You paint each leaf by hand?”

“In my own way,” she answers quickly. “Now I’m tryin’ to figure out how to survive, because just paintin’ leaves sure as hell ain’t workin’ anymore.”

“So you try to act like a hero, and end up getting defeated,” you summarize. “You think you’re clear when you make it back to that building, but the youkai chases you there.”

“If I ain’t mistaken,” Shizuha cuts in sourly, “she was lured there by your lantern.”

“She probably would have found you anyway,” Mori speaks up in your defense.

Shizuha shrugs. “Well, we’ll never know.”

The four of you come to the great hill you climbed on the way here. Hina effortlessly drifts off the top, creating her own gentle slope as she floats downward with Mori. Meanwhile, you and Shizuha have to tread carefully on your feet. She manages herself pretty well — even catching you once when you stumble. Out of curiosity, your eyes drift to her feet.

“Your sister’s feet are a little odd,” you remark, “but yours seem fine.”

“It’s because she’s supposed to resemble a scarecrow,” she explains. “They only have one foot.”

It seems like if that were the case, she would have a single foot instead of two left feet. “I don’t really get it, but okay.”

Back on flat land, Shizuha scopes out the trees ahead and then turns to you with a smirk. “Y’know, Mori told me that your debt is to one Rinnosuke Morichika. I know a shortcut to his little shack, and I’m positive I can get him to forget all about it. That’d make us even for helping me out last night. Sound good?”

Sounds like Mori told her a little too much. “And what about Minoriko?”

She exhales some hot air. “What about her? I never intended on going back to that little farm of hers. You found me, isn’t that what matters?”

[] Refuse Shizuha’s offer. Tell her she can really repay you by working things out with her sister. It doesn’t seem like Shizuha will have much success with any of her problems on her own.

[] Accept Shizuha’s offer. You won’t be able to convince her to go back to her sister yet, but you can ask Hina if she can stay in one of the abandoned apartments — close to you and hopefully out of trouble.

[]
>> No. 64584
[] Refuse Shizuha’s offer. Tell her she can really repay you by working things out with her sister. It doesn’t seem like Shizuha will have much success with any of her problems on her own.
>> No. 64585
[x] Refuse Shizuha’s offer. Tell her she can really repay you by working things out with her sister. It doesn’t seem like Shizuha will have much success with any of her problems on her own.

The duplication idea was really stupid, but I suppose Kotohime could have shown up no matter what we did.
>> No. 64586
[x] Accept Shizuha’s offer. You won’t be able to convince her to go back to her sister yet, but you can ask Hina if she can stay in one of the abandoned apartments — close to you and hopefully out of trouble.
-[x] This might sound pretty stupid but... if you 'paint' leaves, can't you 'paint' something else? Artists get their own kind of faith...
>> No. 64587
[x] Refuse Shizuha’s offer. Tell her she can really repay you by working things out with her sister. It doesn’t seem like Shizuha will have much success with any of her problems on her own.
>> No. 64588
[x] Accept Shizuha’s offer. You won’t be able to convince her to go back to her sister yet, but you can ask Hina if she can stay in one of the abandoned apartments — close to you and hopefully out of trouble.

Maybe a bit of time apart will help them get over it. And >>64586 might be on to something.
>> No. 64589
[X] Refuse Shizuha’s offer. Tell her she can really repay you by working things out with her sister. It doesn’t seem like Shizuha will have much success with any of her problems on her own.
>> No. 64590
[] Refuse Shizuha’s offer. Tell her she can really repay you by working things out with her sister. It doesn’t seem like Shizuha will have much success with any of her problems on her own.
>> No. 64591
I continue to like Kotohime far more than I should. Vaguely-Southern Shizuha is quite cute, too.

So, PI still hasn't been told exactly why Shizuha left, but it's a pretty safe assumption (which PI should be able to make too) that it's because she either didn't want to or wasn't able to ride off her sister's coattails, in terms of getting faith and surviving. But whether she's unwilling or unable isn't certain, here, and could be pretty important in whether her going back to Minoriko would actually be wise. (I'm also guessing Shizuha has somewhat of an inferiority complex, and was frustrated with Minoriko acting like she knew what was best.)

I looked back at the last thread and these bits seemed relevant:
>"I can keep an eye out for her," you reply, "but if I don't know why you two are fighting, I'm not sure I can persuade her to come back with me. Could you fill me in on some of those details?"
>"I can't," Minoriko answers. "It's somewhat... personal." Her focus turns to your apprentice. "But Mori, you could convince her."
>Mori doesn't look too enthused about that. "I can try," she says. "But I want to hear Shizuha's side of things, too."

Minoriko also claimed Shizuha hates the city, which...is one reason I think the apartment option might not be best. So:

[x] Ask Shizuha why she's so unwilling to go back. You can make a good guess about the sisters' disagreement, but you still might not have the whole story.
-[x] Consult Mori on what she thinks Shizuha should do. She was already acquainted with the sisters, and since she's apparently a goddess, she should know more about how all this works than you do.

[x] Try to nudge Shizuha towards making things up with her sister, but focus on helping her figure out a way she can survive.
(Optional: -[x] Tell Shizuha her sister was worried about her.)
-[x] This might sound pretty stupid but... if you 'paint' leaves, can't you 'paint' something else? Artists get their own kind of faith...
>> No. 64593
File 148964200782.jpg - (642.04KB , 1200x1034 , koto and kana hanging around.jpg ) [iqdb]
64593
>I continue to like Kotohime far more than I should.

That gal broke his trust, his heart, his career, dozens of innocent families, the backbone of the city and humanity's trust on itself.

At this point, there's just no punishment big enough for her.

There was a story about a chick that cheated on a character and drove him to murder and suicide. Then, after seeing him happily getting over her in Gensokyo, her spirit possesed him and kept trying to make him kill himself. And that gal is far more relatable to me than Kotohime.

Sure, she's fun, well written and an excellent addition to the story. But make no mistake, she's absolutely antagonistic.
>> No. 64594
I'm going to go ahead and call votes since Refuse has a pretty solid lead and I actually have some time to start writing.

>>64593
I'm glad you enjoy Kotohime, even if you don't find her sympathetic. My waifu is also looking good in that picture, though. It's a shame she won't be in this story. My next, though...
>> No. 64596
>>64593
Oh, yeah, she's unmistakably a villain and antagonistic. (Barring some major plot twist related to their backstory.) I do agree with just about everything you said, she's just very entertaining to read, and I find it interesting what she brings out in PI. (Also, what's the other story you mentioned there? I vaguely remember one that I think was similar.)

>>64594
...Are we supposed to find Kotohime sympathetic? I mean, I've been filtering my perception of her through PI's clear bias, but I still don't remember much in the way of sympathetic traits. She could get a couple points for insanity, maybe, but my recollection of that's fuzzy. I want to go back and check over her parts again now, though. And a Kana story would be pretty cool.
>> No. 64597
Looking over what I've written, I'm pretty unhappy with it and I'm going to be scrapping it and rewriting through the weekend. Apologies in advance if the update ends up a bit later than the others. I have a bad habit of letting PI and Mori bullshit for too long, which leads to like 3000+ words before even talking about Minoriko.

>>64596
Not really. But when I made the decision to write her as she is, I was worried she might be dismissed as a pointless edgelord character — or worse, despised. So, I'm happy to hear some favorable opinions of her.
>> No. 64598
File 149086949317.jpg - (836.56KB , 1254x1640 , just playing with leaves.jpg ) [iqdb]
64598
This is the closest you’ve received to a guarantee that you’re going to get out of your debt situation. However, Shizuha has some serious problems, and you don’t think she’s going to be able to solve them on her own. In all good conscience, you couldn’t risk letting her get away now. “If you really want to repay me, we should go see your sister. You may have your issues with her, but what you’re doing now isn’t right.”

When you see Shizuha’s scowl, you can’t help but feel a bit anxious. It wouldn’t be hard at all for her to ditch you, and then you’re right back where you started. She really stares at you, like she’s considering it. Then, she turns — and starts walking. After a few steps, the autumn goddess looks back at you. “Well? C’mon.”

A tense breath escapes your lungs. “Honestly, I thought you were going to take off running.”

“I do have some dignity left,” she grumbles, with crossed arms. “If I ran away from a human I owed gratitude, then I’d be in even more trouble than I am now. I’ll take you back to my sister, at least.” Then, she shakes her head. “Just my luck, though. I finally find a human I can talk to, and you’re one of them nosy types.”

You can’t really argue with that, given your profession. Yet, there’s something you have to be absolutely clear on moving forward. “Listen, if you really don’t want any help, just say so before you waste any more of my time. But think about it, because it sounds like the struggle for your very existence is yours to lose. From the way you’re handling this, it’ll either be back to living under your sister or meandering in the forest alone until there’s nothing left of you. Am I wrong?”

Shizuha drops her arms, blinks a few times, then looks past you to Mori. “Does he talk like this to you?”

“It’s actually kinda refreshing once you get used to it,” the cradled goddess answers. “Didn’t you tell me that you hated overly-polite humans, anyway?”

As you try to figure out what’s going on in her head, Shizuha avoids your eyes. “Yeah, well,” she mumbles. “Maybe.”

“How I say it has nothing to do with what I’m saying,” you argue. “Either I’m right or I’m wrong. Which is it?”

Shizuha sighs. “You’re more right than wrong, I reckon. I’ll think about it.”

“Good enough.”

###

Trekking through the forest with a brooding Shizuha at the head takes quite a while. At one point, she stops and looks around. “Huh. This ain’t right. Gotta backtrack a bit.”

That isn’t exactly reassuring to you. “If it’s going to be like this, maybe you should talk instead of thinking so hard you get us lost.”

She turns to show you a grim look. “Yeah, well, I’ve just been wonderin’ about what Minoriko’s gonna do when she hears what happened. She’ll be roarin’ mad, for sure. Maybe I shoulda run off before I gave you my word.”

You’re noticing a pattern here. “I’m going to make a wild assumption: you’re one of those people who acts without thinking it through.”

“Good eye, Mister Private Detective. My sister says that a lot, too.”

It’s not like you can fault the younger Aki. “Do you two bicker a lot?”

“Of course!” she answers quick. “What kinda question is that? Are you an only child or somethin’?”

“Yeah. I don’t really know much about siblings, especially sisters.” You pause. “Especially goddess sisters.”

“I ain’t sure if I pity you, or envy you.” She laughs a little. “I feel like Minoriko can be my best friend… or my worst enemy. It just depends on how we’re feelin’ that day.”

“And recently, it’s been more of the latter?”

Her smile fades. “Disagreements can do that to a pair of folks, no matter how close they are. And this is a mighty big disagreement between us sisters.”

“That’s why you don’t want to go back?”

She hesitates. “Minoriko’s plannin’ a harvest festival, like the kind we used to do back in the day. Nothin’ fancy — just small enough not to attract any tengu or kappa. If I stuck around the farm, I’d be part of it whether I liked it or not.” Her hands clench, and her eyes peer through instead of at you. “I tried to tell Minoriko that I gotta stand on my own, but she ain’t havin’ it. She thinks we gotta stick together, no matter what. That’s easy for her to say, when she gets most of the attention.” After a breath, she simmers down and looks at you again. “You’ve been on your own for a while, ain’t you? How is it?”

That’s a big question, but this isn’t the time or the place to lay yourself bare for the curious — the gist is enough. “I’m speaking as a human, but it was fine. You have to learn how to live with your own mistakes — like getting drunk and picking up a little girl off the street, who just so happens to be a foreign goddess.” You jab a thumb back towards Mori, as if it weren’t obvious who you were talking about.

When you don’t immediately hear a smug retort, you turn around — only to find that the little goddess is snoozing in the lightly-rocking arms of Hina.

“Wow,” Shizuha remarks with a grin. “Hina, you got some of them maternal instincts, don’t you?”

Hina looks up to Shizuha with a wide smile. “Not at all. I was never intended to produce any offspring. If anything, I am responsible for the deaths of countless children. Any of the motherly sentiments you accuse me of would burden me with an intolerable amount of grief.”

While you just stare at the rigid fortuneteller, Shizuha has no problem shrugging that one off. “I’m just sayin’,” she continues, “it ain’t a bad sight.”

“The little one asked that I do this,” Hina explains, “shortly after we resumed walking.”

Even with that poker face, this feels a little defensive for Hina. Mothers and children might be a topic best avoided for light conversation in the future.

But, this is all giving you some bad flashbacks of a certain cow-woman from your checkered past, so it’s time to put all the focus back on the lazy brat. “Hina, you don’t have to treat her like that. I know she’s injured, but hold her however you like. She can suffer a little bit.”

Hina tilts her head, but then nods. “Alright. I think I understand.”

With that, she slides Mori out of her arms, but keeps hold of one ankle. Then Hina hoists the little goddess up by one leg, letting her dangle upside-down. Her gentle smile doesn't falter as she begins shaking Mori rapidly from side-to-side. The kid goddess’s shirt falls down to her waist, revealing a pair of small breasts that you ignore — in favor of a smooth, lightly-tanned midriff that just so happens to be lacking bruises or any other indication of the injuries that are supposedly still bothering her.

It only takes a few shakes for Mori’s eyes to shoot open, and for her to start flailing about in vain resistance. “H—Hina! What are you doing?! Just let me down!”

“Okay then,” is Hina’s simple response, before dropping her.

Mori’s bare back hits the grass hard, and she stares up at the trees with a reddened face. “All the blood rushed to my head,” she moans. But, it doesn’t take long for her to jump to her feet with a vengeance. “What was that for, Hina?! I thought I was gonna pass out!”

She points to you. “PI suggested that you suffer a little bit.”

Smooth, Hina. Mori swings around to face you, her fists tight with rage. “Aw, I should’ve known! Do you have something against the handicapped? Are you some kind of cripple basher?”

Despite Mori’s menacing glare, you don’t really feel any guilt. “It’s no big deal, if your wounds are healed up. You seem to be standing just fine, now.”

She blinks, looks down, and then clutches her side. “Um, ooh, ah, it still kind of hur—“

“Don’t try it. I saw when your shirt fell down. The bruising’s all gone.”

Mori stands upright and grins at you, somehow maintaining a haughty attitude despite being called out on her act. “I’m impressed. It must take a lot of discipline to keep your wits about you when directly exposed to even a part of a goddess’s bare form.”

“Not particularly.” As she deflates, you continue. “So, you thought you could get Hina to carry you all the way back while I walked?”

“No! I just had to let things settle a bit, is all. It’s—uh, a very delicate process.”

Behind Mori, Hina giggles softly into her hand — looking very pleased with herself. She could have realized that Mori was trying to take advantage of her, and retaliated accordingly. If that’s the case, then Hina isn’t as dense as you thought she was.

There’s another source of laughter that’s much less restrained. “You three are somethin’ else,” Shizuha says. “I ain’t ever seen anything like it.”

You look to Mori, who just smiles. Whatever it is, you aren’t in on it. “Is she referring to how we talk to each other, again?”

“Yeah,” Mori answers. “I’m a special case, y’know. We would look surreal to a lot of people, if they knew what I was.”

“Surreal sounds about right,” you remark. “Did humans give you the proper goddess treatment, Shizuha?”

“Yep, with enough politeness and humility to make me vomit.” She cringes from thinking about it. “It was the worst at the harvest festivals. Everyone would bring all kinds of garbage and beg for me to treat them well — like I was out to take away everything they loved or somethin’. All I wanted to do was dance, drink, and celebrate the season, and they were all scared of me!” Then she frowns, and grows quieter. “But Minoriko, they treated just fine. When the harvest came in good, they would shower her with praise. If it ever came in bad, they would say I was angry at them and they needed to ‘calm my wrath’. I hated that the most.”

If you weren’t sure Shizuha had an inferiority complex before, you’re positive now. “Do you blame your sister for that?”

She shakes her head. “Ain’t her fault, and now I guess I got what I wanted. The humans don’t fear me, but they don’t notice me either. Winter’s comin’, then I won’t be able to do anything until next year — if I’m even around then.”

You and Mori exchange uneasy looks. Then, the little goddess walks up to Shizuha and stretches her arms out wide, beckoning her for a hug, which she kneels down and accepts.

“PI,” Hina calls you. When you turn around, she has her arms outstretched towards you in a similar fashion.

“N—not right now, Hina.”

Her arms drop, but not her smile. “I see.”

The two goddesses hold each other a moment longer, but as they separate, Mori reels her hand back and gives Shizuha a smack across the face loud enough to echo through the trees. “Cheer up, wuss.

The autumn goddess looks more hurt than offended as she rubs her cheek. “Wha—”

Mori grabs her by the shoulders and stares her down hard. “You heard me. If winter’s coming and you want to gather faith your own way, then there’s no time to sit around moping. You’re going to kick that pessimism to the curb and replace it with glorious success!”

It sounds like she’s been watching too many kappa infomercials. What kind of nonsense is she going to offer Shizuha for only three easy payments of 3999 yen?

Mori continues. “And don’t worry, because PI and I are going to help you!”

Shizuha brightens up instantly. “You are?”

On the other hand, you feel a little dimmer. “We are?”

Mori lets go of Shizuha and turns to address both of you with a confident smirk. “Of course! It takes a flock to make a goddess, or something like that. We can rebuild Shizuha’s image from the ground up!”

The goddess in question looks cautiously optimistic. “You really think we can?”

This isn’t exactly what you had in mind. The priority thus far has been to reconcile Shizuha and Minoriko, but now Mori’s talking about a makeover or something. The thought itself isn’t bad, but the job comes first. “If that’s really what you want to do,” you tell Shizuha, “then the first step should still be talking to your sister. Even if she doesn’t agree, you need to tell her properly. Maybe you can even put her at ease if you convince her you’ve thought it through.”

“That’s a great idea!” Mori says. “All we have to do is figure out a way to appeal to the new Gensokyo! We’ll moderniz—“

Then she freezes, and her eyes go the distance.

You and Shizuha exchange confused looks. “Hey, Mori?” you speak up. “Is everything alright?”

Hearing her name snaps her out of it. “Nothing. I just reminded myself of—uh, y’know what, nevermind!” She laughs it off. “What’s important is that we think of a way for you to not just survive, but flourish! Agreed?”

“Alrighty!” Shizuha cheers, showing no signs of her depression from a moment ago. “I’m startin’ to get a little excited, even.”

You had imagined all gods would be wannabe-masterminds, but the eldest Aki seems remarkably simple. That kind of attitude would serve her well in connecting to the humans of today’s Gensokyo — so long as she maintains it. With Mori doing the brain work, Shizuha might actually have a chance.

But what about Mori herself? She’s a goddess too, so doesn’t she also need faith? Why help Shizuha? Does she plan on just piggybacking off her, as Shizuha did Minoriko all those years? Does Mori even care about gathering faith for herself?

The goddess in question jabs your chest with her little finger. “Well, PI? Do you have any ideas?”

You swallow your unease and give her an easy frown. “Me? You’re the expert here.”

“Yeah, but we have to appeal to humans. That means you’re our sample — our target audience.”

You aren’t a good representation of the human population, but okay. “Shizuha, you said you painted the leaves. Why not branch out into other kinds of art?”

Mori snaps her fingers. “Ooh, yeah! Painting big murals on buildings and stuff is really popular outside the barrier! That would definitely be one way to get your name around.”

Shizuha doesn’t seem as enthused. “Well, uh, you see, when I say I ‘paint’ the leaves, I ain’t talkin’ about the conventional way with a brush. It’s like a power of mine. Lemme just show you.”

She bends down and picks up one of the many dying leaves on the ground that’s a pale shade of green. When she flattens it out with her hand, it instantly becomes a vibrant shade of red.

It takes a few blinks for the color change to register in your mind. “Wow,” you remark. “Like magic.”

“No, a divine power,” she corrects you. “Way different.”

Mori crosses her arms. “So you’ve never painted pictures?”

“Nah, it only works on leaves. I like decorating with them after they're painted, though. Sometimes I knock more leaves out of the trees so I can spread them out nice and even on the ground, or maybe bunch ‘em up into a big pile.” She pauses, watching you and Mori’s reactions, or lack thereof. “No good?”

“It’s not bad,” Mori says. “It’s just, um, I don’t really know what to do with that. You could flood the streets with leaves, maybe.”

“Why are we making it so complicated?” you mention. “Turning the leaves different colors like that is pretty amazing on its own.”

“You can’t just do that and expect people to believe,” Mori retorts. “It’s easy for you because you already have faith. But, if you pick a human off the street and show them that, they’ll think their eyes are playing tricks on them, or worse — come up with a scientific explanation.”

That’s absolutely true. You can believe that the two women standing before you are goddesses because that’s just how Gensokyo is. More than a decade of dealing with youkai and other nonsense has tempered your mighty tolerance of bullshit. Humans that have spent their entire lives stuck inside their daily routines just couldn’t comprehend the nonsense going on right outside their walls.

“Well,” you say to Shizuha, “is there anything else you can do with the leaves?”

She smiles. “Of course!”

Shizuha winds her leg back and drives her foot into the trunk of a nearby tree, sending a loud quake through its branches. A shower of leaves descends from the forest canopy, their lack of color signifying a lack of touch thus far from the autumn goddess. Standing firm, Shizuha continually rotates her arm above her. The leaves follow her direction and swirl as they fall, gradually becoming a small cyclone of red, orange, and yellow centered on her. When they finally settle, she scatters them all with a single flourish of her hand — some of them blowing by you. And yet throughout the entire showing, you never feel a bit of wind.

“Amazing.”

Shizuha averts her eyes from your awed gaze and starts to turn a similar shade of red as her leaves. “I—it really ain’t much. This kind of easy stuff won’t appeal to folks none.”

“No,” Mori says, “I think I see where PI’s coming from. You don’t have to do art like painting; it could be performance art!”

Performance? Like on a stage?” Shizuha runs her fingers through her hair and looks away sheepishly. “Geez, I dunno about that. If I had a whole audience of people lookin’ at me like he is now, I’d probably melt where I stood.”

“Come on!” Mori goads her. “Goddesses don’t get to have stage fright!”

“I—I reckon that’s true, but uh, we should think of some other stuff too! Right?”

Mori thinks, then nods. “Okay then, we’ll brainstorm on the way.”

###

What should have been a shortcut became a detour, mostly because Shizuha was thinking so hard that you had to turn around a few times to get back on the right trail. The two goddesses “brainstormed” the whole time, but didn’t really come up with anything else. You stayed out of it and remained behind several paces, alongside Hina. The fortuneteller was refreshingly silent, and seemed to enjoy walking alongside you — maybe a little too closely at times.

Eventually, Shizuha stops. “Alrighty. The farm’s just up ahead.”

Hina steps forward. “Then I shall take my leave.”

“Really?” you remark. “Why now, after coming all this way?”

“Unfortunately, my presence would certainly disturb Minoriko Aki, and ruin your mission.”

You look to the goddesses, who don’t seem to have any reaction. This is something else you’re not in on, it seems. “Why?”

“I bring misfortune wherever I go,” Hina explains quickly. “A farm is no place for someone like me.” Then she turns to leave. “Farewell.”

Mori waves goodbye, like it’s perfectly normal. “See you back at the apartments, Hina!”

Shizuha also waves. “Thanks a lot for your help! I’ll have to come visit you soon!”

The others move on as you continue to watch Hina walk away. Even though she smiled the whole time, something really bothers you about the way she slowly disappears behind the trees.

###

Nothing’s changed about the farm since yesterday, except there’s no sign of Minoriko in the fields.

“Is she at the kitchen?” you say, not particularly thrilled about walking even more.

“No,” Shizuha answers, “it ain’t time for that yet.” Then she takes a breath before calling out, “Sis! Where are you?”

You hear the scrambling of wood and metal, before Minoriko’s voice replies, “Over by the shed! I’ll be out in a second!”

Soon enough, Minoriko appears, looking significantly worse for wear than when you last saw her. She has bags under her eyes, sweat rolling off her face, and dirt not just on her feet, but all over. She walked strangely before, but now she seems to have explicit difficulty keeping her balance as she uses the wall of the shed to support herself. However, the smile she sports at the sight of her sister takes the focus. “Shizuha! So Mister Tsurugi found you after all!”

The elder Aki looks at you, confused. “Tsurugi? I thought it was just PI?”

Shit. You had forgotten about that. “It’s a name I use sometimes around people I’d rather not know I was a detective.”

“Oh. But wait, didn’t she hire you to find me? How’d she do that if she doesn’t know you’re a detective?”

“She didn’t hire us,” Mori speaks up. “She asked us.”

“Though I’m still hoping for a reward,” you mutter.

Minoriko looks at you, at Shizuha, and then at Shizuha’s clothing. “Maybe you had better catch us up so we’re all on the same page, Mister Tsurugi.”

And so, you and Mori give Minoriko and Shizuha a very short version of the events that brought you to the soup kitchen, to Minoriko’s farm, and then to the foot of the mountain and back. You leave out anything having to do with #kakashi, but you do admit being a detective to Minoriko, who doesn’t seem to mind.

However, she does very much mind the fight the three of you had with the bug youkai. “I beg your forgiveness,” she says with a deep bow. “My elder sister has inconvenienced you terribly.”

Shizuha flushes red. “Sis, there ain’t no need to worry about tha—“

Minoriko reaches up and pulls Shizuha down into a forced bow by the scraps of her clothing that remain. “That’s not for you to say!” she reprimands her. “Apologize properly!”

“R, right. I’m sorry, PI. I did something real foolish.”

“You already admitted that,” you remind her. “and hopefully learned from it. An apology isn’t necessary.” As long as you get paid somehow.

“Yeah, I wasn’t about to sit by and let Shizuha get eaten by that bug!” Mori remarks with a carefree grin. “PI and I were all over it! You really should have seen us, Minoriko.”

Minoriko frowns, less than impressed by Mori’s gung ho attitude. “As far as I’m concerned, you aren’t any better than she is. This man isn’t even a priest, and you led him into a battle with a berserk youkai. It would have been no surprise if he died!”

You spot a glare in Mori’s eyes quick, and move in front of her. “Don't worry, I’m a professional,” you assure Minoriko. “I’ve fought off plenty of youkai before.”

Trying to help only turns Minoriko on you. “A professional? You don’t look like a professional when your face is bloodied and you look like you’re about to fall over!” She stops, having worn herself down to panting for breath. “I, I need to settle down.”

Now you’re starting to see what Shizuha was talking about. Minoriko may come off real nice, but she can get plenty worked up if given the chance.

After taking a moment to steady herself, Minoriko smiles brightly. “I apologize for that. The important thing is that everyone’s alright, and Shizuha is back home. Now, we can finish preparing for the harvest festival.”

You can see the discomfort on Shizuha’s face, and you doubt she’ll say anything against her sister now. Maybe she’ll find some way to ease into it, but—

“I ain’t helpin’,” she states firmly.

The younger Aki’s smile falls apart like broken glass. “Excuse me?”

“I made some mistakes, but I ain’t changin’ my mind. I still want nothin’ to do with the harvest festival.”

This isn’t exactly the stellar opening you would have hoped for, but it isn’t unexpected.

The color drains from Minoriko’s face. “You aren’t convinced yet? After what you went through, you still think we should gather faith separately?”

“I do. I love you, sis, but I can’t stand it anymore. For all these years, you’re the only one the humans ever loved. You stood for life, but I represented death. You could give them food, but all I did was play around in the leaves. If I’m always being compared to you, then I’ll never become anything.”

Each word Shizuha says batters against Minoriko until, by the end, the younger sister has water in her eyes. “I, I—” Then, she swallows it all back. “What will you do?”

“Performance art,” Shizuha tells her. “That’s what I’m gonna try. I can show off my leaves to all of Gensokyo, and—”

Minoriko shakes her head. “Performances? Shizuha, the tengu are watching everything we do. If we interact with too many humans at a time, if we even begin to show signs of gaining strength, then they’ll stamp us out like they did the others. While the tengu are in power, all we can do is try to survive.”

“Don’t you think that’s sad?” Mori finally cuts in. “You’re native goddesses. You can strive for something more than living off scraps.”

Shizuha gives the earth goddess a cold glare. “You don’t know anything. Most of the gods are gone, and Gensokyo’s dying. We are dying.

Mori is undeterred. She returns the autumn goddess’s glare with a dark, worldly gaze that reminds you of the time she first mentioned her friends from the lake shrine. “So you think I don’t know anything? The Outside went through this a long time ago, Minoriko Aki. I watched followers grow old and die without acolytes to replace them. I watched my shrine become a tourist attraction, and then forgotten. I watched my strength fade away, until I was sure I would become nothing. Don’t tell me I don’t know about the decline of faith, because I’ve seen it firsthand, up until the cold end. So believe me when I tell you: Gensokyo is dying, but it’s not gone yet. There’s still faith, and there’s still hope.”

Minoriko watches Mori for a moment. Neither of them budge. Then finally, Minoriko sighs. “I want to believe you. But even if there is hope for Gensokyo to turn around, that doesn’t mean we can do anything now. The tengu’s grip may weaken in the future, but there’s no point if we gamble our faith away before then and disappear.” She gives you all a passionate, hardened look. “If Shizuha fails, then I fail, because I will not live without my sister.”

At least there’s no doubts the sisters care for each other. Yet, something feels wrong about Minoriko. Shizuha’s whole view is shaped around her younger sister being stronger and more successful than her. However, at this very moment, Shizuha is standing strong — though very conflicted — after being brutally attacked the previous night, while Minoriko has trouble even walking after doing farm labor. Shizuha is chased by hungry youkai, while Minoriko is not. Minoriko seems desperate for Shizuha’s help, but not the other way around. What does this say about Minoriko?

As the only human here, you have a unique perspective. What do you tell them?

[] Minoriko is right. You believe that with the tengu watching them, the sisters’ best chance of surviving is working together.

[] Mori is right. You believe there’s hope for Gensokyo, and Shizuha acting on her own will benefit the sisters the most.

[] Nobody is right — except for you. (Write-in)
>> No. 64599
>Nobody is right — except for you.
Cheeky motherfucker.

[x] You're one to talk, Minoriko, you can barely walk. Are you sure you aren't the one "Gambling your faith away"?
-[x] Not that it is a bad thing. In fact I think it is your only chance. Well that, and keeping it all underground.
[x] Shizuha, I understand your desire to fly away, but look at your strong sister's eyes: she's desperate. Can't you help her this once before going solo? She can return the favor to you afterwards.
-[x] If performance art is your thing, which I think it may be, can't you perform with her? Why were your previous festivals so one-sided?

Either we make them go solo and they both risk being too weak to succeed or we pit them togheter and draw too much attention from the Tengu. This is a gamble either way

I trust Shizuha to succeed in her own, but not Minoriko. Am I condemning them both with this vote? I wish Hina could help; Removing misfortune is almost the same as giving luck and I suspect that the leaking thing is a myth.

I wonder if there is anything we can do to make the city more receptive to the supernatural? Solving the case seems pointless now and the only other friend who wanted to overthrow the Tengu is AWOL. Maybe we could "prove" that the murders were a Tengu conspiracy and weaken their hold in the city while raising Mankind's spirit at the same time? Nah, if Nolan taught me anything, is that conspiracies to raise morale never work.
>> No. 64601
>>64598
[x] Mori is right. You believe there’s hope for Gensokyo, and Shizuha acting on her own will benefit the sisters the most.

War the tengu.
WAR THE FUCKING TENGU.
>> No. 64602
>>64599
>Nah, if Nolan taught me anything, is that conspiracies to raise morale never work.
If Nolan taught ME anything, being a bigger guy is better for morale than anything else. As for tengu, with three (or four if Hina joins in) gods on our side, I'm pretty confident that we're bigger than them if we put in the effort.
>> No. 64603
[X] You're one to talk, Minoriko, you can barely walk. Are you sure you aren't the one "Gambling your faith away"?
-[X] Not that it is a bad thing. In fact I think it is your only chance. Well that, and keeping it all underground.
[X] Shizuha, I understand your desire to fly away, but look at your strong sister's eyes: she's desperate. Can't you help her this once before going solo? She can return the favor to you afterwards.
-[X] If performance art is your thing, which I think it may be, can't you perform with her? Why were your previous festivals so one-sided?

I can get behind this.
>> No. 64604
[x] You're one to talk, Minoriko, you can barely walk. Are you sure you aren't the one "Gambling your faith away"?
-[x] Not that it is a bad thing. In fact I think it is your only chance. Well that, and keeping it all underground.
[x] Shizuha, I understand your desire to fly away, but look at your strong sister's eyes: she's desperate. Can't you help her this once before going solo? She can return the favor to you afterwards.
-[x] If performance art is your thing, which I think it may be, can't you perform with her? Why were your previous festivals so one-sided?

I might have my memories wrong, but I'm fairly certain that Suwako alone could probably take out a majority of the mountain itself if we decide to go that route.

Just a thought.
>> No. 64605
File 149092422197.gif - (2.72MB , 352x352 , patchwork dance.gif ) [iqdb]
64605
>>64604
Wait, are you talking about the same Suwako that couldn't 1v1 a forlorn insect? Is that the same gal that is going to take over the Tengu mountain by herself?

[x] Mori is right. You believe there’s hope for Gensokyo, and Shizuha acting on her own will benefit the sisters the most.
>> No. 64606
[x] If you're worried about the tengu making you disappear, why not give them exactly what they want, wrath of god style.

Minoriko is afraid to let Shizuha go it alone because the tengu might stamp her out. But if we give the tengu bigger problems to worry about, then the goddesses can gather faith in the human village all they want. And the best way to give the tengu problems is to give the tengu exactly what they want.

Since the tengu want the goddesses to disappear, we'll just have the goddesses disappear from tengu society, taking all of their blessings along with them. Minoriko is a harvest goddess, so she can just choose not to bless the tengu harvest, rendering the tengu's land completely infertile causing the tengu to starve. Shizuha is an autumn goddess, so she can just choose not to let autumn come to the tengu's land, which will kill all the trees since it will go straight from summer to winter, not giving the trees any chance to prepare for the winter's cold. Mori is an earth goddess, so she can just choose not to give the tengu any of the blessings of the earth, meaning no precious gems, no gold or silver, no coal or oil, nothing but useless granite that's not even easy to dig through. Hina is a misfortune goddess, so she can just choose not to collect any misfortune from the tengu, dooming the tengu to failure and bad luck at every turn.

The beautiful part of all this is that doing this wont cause the goddesses to lose any faith, since by not using their powers on the tengu, they will be conserving their faith to use on the humans. If the tengu try to maintain power by pretending that everything is fine and under control, then they will slowly but surely cause their land and their society to wither and die. And if the tengu try to stop the goddesses, it would let everyone know not only that the gods still exist, but also that the gods are powerful enough to make the tengu worried, which would only give the goddesses more faith. And even if the tengu did catch the goddesses, the only way for these problems to go away would be to force the goddesses to use their blessings on the tengu's land, thereby admitting that the tengu need the goddesses to live, thus supplying the goddesses with faith and making them more powerful. Even just finding the goddesses in the first place would be difficult for the tengu since the goddesses would be doing all this on the down low.

Of course doing this doesn't contradict the other write in so...

[x] You're one to talk, Minoriko, you can barely walk. Are you sure you aren't the one "Gambling your faith away"?
-[x] Not that it is a bad thing. In fact I think it is your only chance. Well that, and keeping it all underground.
[x] Shizuha, I understand your desire to fly away, but look at your strong sister's eyes: she's desperate. Can't you help her this once before going solo? She can return the favor to you afterwards.
-[x] If performance art is your thing, which I think it may be, can't you perform with her? Why were your previous festivals so one-sided?
[x] If you're worried about the tengu making you disappear, why not give them exactly what they want, wrath of god style.
>> No. 64609
File 149093136677.jpg - (126.12KB , 758x960 , 16722704_10154955973544020_8718265075896018362_o.jpg ) [iqdb]
64609
>>64606
Tengu don't need goddesses to farm or to do anything else: they've reached 20th century technology levels. Otherwise, they wouldn't be able to rule over a modern gensokyo.
Besides, if they needed gods, why would they want to stamp them out?

The only way to ruin their high-technology harvest would be direct sabotage-and it wouldn't do us much good either.
>> No. 64610
[x] Mori is right. You believe there’s hope for Gensokyo, and Shizuha acting on her own will benefit the sisters the most.

Token vote for supporting our 'partner'.
>> No. 64611
[x] Mori is right. You believe there’s hope for Gensokyo, and Shizuha acting on her own will benefit the sisters the most.
>> No. 64612
[x] Mori is right. You believe there’s hope for Gensokyo, and Shizuha acting on her own will benefit the sisters the most.
>> No. 64613
[x] Mori is right. You believe there’s hope for Gensokyo, and Shizuha acting on her own will benefit the sisters the most.
>> No. 64615
Votes called for agreeing with Mori, though I'll be sure to address some of the points mentioned in the write-ins.
>> No. 64617
I would like to ask that can we see Hina's ritual in the story in the future? What she does there please. I would like to see more from her and I want to know why she likes PI so much.
>> No. 64618
And when we can see her true self behind the poker face? Maybe this will explan why she is weird.
>> No. 64619
>>64617
>>64618
If you'd like to know more about Hina (or any other character), then vote for them! It's the best way to ensure a character's plot gets more coverage.

Also, in the future, please remember to sage if you aren't voting, especially if it's been a while since the last post (to do that, type "sage" without the quotations into the Email field).

For those of you who might have been expecting an update: don't be too upset, because it's coming very soon.
>> No. 64625
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64625
“I agree with Mori,” you declare. The kid goddess’s face lights up, but you’re just getting started. “The fact that I’m standing here right now, talking to three goddesses, proves that there’s still hope for you all in Gensokyo.” You turn to Minoriko. “The tengu’s power will weaken, but only if someone’s there to challenge it. If they’re so hard on you gods, then that’s all the proof you need. They want to keep you down because they’re afraid of you.”

Minoriko is less-than-impressed, and eyes you warily. “Are you trying to spur us into some kind of revolution?”

She says it like a bad thing, but it sounds good to you — not that you would have any idea how to fight such a battle. This isn’t the time to lay out a ground plan to take back Gensokyo though, so you play it off with a shrug. “Maybe I am. Look at how quick the tengu seized control with some technology and promises. They convinced humans they would be safe under them. If someone breaks that illusion, then the fickle human heart will return to tradition. All I’m saying is that it’s possible. Don’t you agree?”

Minoriko thinks about it only a moment before waving it off. “This is about Shizuha, not the tengu.”

If she wants to dial it back, then fine — but she’s not getting off that easy. “Wrong. Aren’t you suffering, as well?”

The younger Aki forces herself to stand tall. “I’m a little exhausted, but if I couldn’t bring the crops to harvest, then I wouldn’t be worthy of being called a harvest goddess.”

Mori takes a step, so she stands beside you, facing Minoriko. “Humans and gods used to work together for the harvest,” she argues. “Now, you don’t have any humans to help you, and splitting the faith with Shizuha means that you’re doing twice the work when you only have half the energy. Is that really sustainable?”

“I can make it sustainable,” Minoriko insists.

“You shouldn’t have to,” Shizuha cuts in sharply. “I’m the older sister. I should be the one lookin’ out for you.”

Minoriko sighs and vents some frustration at her sister. “Out of all the times to have pride, why now?”

Shizuha visibly flinches before giving Minoriko a downright nasty glare. “I don’t much appreciate being patronized, sis.”

You and Mori exchange worried looks. A fight between the two goddesses now would satisfy no one and accomplish nothing — except making this mess take a whole lot more time to fix.

However, Minoriko seems just as taken back by what she had said. She not-so-subtly uses the side of the shed to hold herself up, while avoiding her sister’s gaze. “I—I’m sorry, Shizuha. I didn’t mean it. I just don’t want to up and vanish like the others did. I want to experience many more autumns — with you.”

Hearing her sister, Shizuha calms down and nods. “There ain’t nothin’ I want more. But, we have to change how we’re doin’ things, or it’ll never work out.”

The younger sister hangs her head. “I don’t know how to change. Farming’s all I can do.”

An uneasy silence lingers because the other goddesses don’t know what to tell her. However, you might have something that can solve this dilemma between the sisters. All you need is a little more information. “I don’t think Minoriko should change at all,” you tell her. “The harvest festival sounds like a great idea to appeal to the people of the slums. But, how exactly does it work?”

Minoriko stares at you in disbelief for a moment. “You’ve never been to a festival?”

“Only summer festivals,” you answer. “Seemed like a bunch of stalls set up to take your money.”

She frowns at you. “Well, if you want to be real cynical about it, that’s right.” As she continues, her expression grows fonder with reminiscence. “The harvest festival is special, because it’s centered around a grand feast made up of the bountiful yield of crops for the season. Everyone eats all they can to prepare for the coming winter, while celebrating with games and dancing.”

“Basically, it’s like a big party with lots of food,” Mori sums it up nicely.

“Okay, I think I get all that,” you reply. “But how are you going to pull it off? You’re growing the food, sure, but where is this going to take place?”

“Here in the forest, I imagine,” Minoriko answers simply. “It would be daytime and we’ll be around, so it won’t be too dangerous.”

That doesn’t exactly instill you with hope, but you’ll let it slide until you hear the whole plan. “And how are people going to know about it? Are you telling them in the kitchen, or distributing flyers, or going door-to-door talking about it, or what?”

She stares hard at you, like it’s an outlandish question. “Humans will just know, won’t they? That’s how it’s always worked.”

Shizuha is just as confused. “Yeah, that’s just how it was. Sis throws a party, and everyone comes.”

This really isn’t looking good. “Okay. And how long ago was your last festival?”

Both of the sisters think, and it’s Minoriko who answers, “About fifty years, maybe.”

Shizuha nods, like that’s perfectly reasonable. “Sounds about right. What are you gettin’ at here, PI?”

You spoke too soon when you said that Minoriko didn’t need to change anything. It seems that a lack of thought might be a genetic trait for the Akis — if gods even have such a thing as genes. “It may feel different to you goddesses, but fifty years is a long time for humans,” you explain. “This isn’t exactly a time of traditions. You said yourself that most everyone has forgotten, right? That means you can’t just expect people to show up.”

Minoriko thinks. “I suppose I could start mentioning it while I’m handing out food. Then, it can spread from there.”

“If you’re counting on people to come all the way out here with nothing to go on but word-of-mouth, then it’s going to be a disappointing festival.”

This incredibly obvious conclusion seems to shock both of the sisters, but the younger Aki especially. “Then what can I do?”

That’s just the question you wanted to hear. “It’s not about what you can do.” Then you turn to the other sister. “Shizuha, I get the impression that these past festivals have been very one-sided. In other words, Minoriko has done all the work.”

“N—now that ain’t true,” Shizuha responds quick. “I’ve done what I could to help. For one thing, I make things nice and pretty for the festival itself.” Then her expression darkens. “I’m a goddess that deals in dead leaves, so it ain’t exactly a good omen for me to be stickin’ too close to the crops while they’re growin’. What does this have to do with now, though? I already decided I ain’t gettin’ involved with her work. I want Minoriko to keep all the faith for herself. I got my own path to follow.”

“I know that you do,” you reply, before Minoriko can intervene. “That’s why I’d like for you to solve both your own and your sister’s problems by performing at the festival.”

Shizuha looks at you like you’re an idiot. “Hey now, have you been payin’ attention? This whole dilemma’s about me not wantin’ anything to do with the festival! If I’m just an act at her festival, then it’s still the same problem as before.”

Mori pulls on your arm, so she can also call your idea into question. “PI, I thought you said you agreed with me. What gives?”

You free your arm and give her a knock on her silly hat. “I have been paying attention, and I do agree with you. It’s a simple solution: I can help advertise Shizuha as a reemerging goddess fighting to stay relevant against tengu oppression. By performing and offering protection to people in the slums, she can build a reputation as an ally of the people. At the same time, I can help advertise Minoriko’s festival. If people believe they’re protected, they’ll come.”

Shizuha flushes red. “Protecting all of them people from youkai? You think I can do that?”

“With more faith, yeah. You obviously don’t mind fighting, so there shouldn’t be a problem as long as you have the power to back it up, right?

She thinks. “Well… you’re right.” Then she nods, with a smile. “You’re right! If I have more faith, the weaklings hangin’ around the city are no match for me. I can make a good show outta fightin’ them!”

However, Minoriko still isn’t convinced. “What about the tengu? How are you going to do this advertising thing for us without drawing their attention?”

“Let’s just say I have a business associate who works very closely with the tengu and just so happens to be actively ignored by all her peers,” you explain. “But there’s going to be risks no matter what, if you’re going behind the tengu’s back to get faith. All we can do is hope they’ll ignore it since we’re only going to target the slums. Besides, like this you both get to celebrate the autumn season in your own ways, while still being together. Isn’t that what you both want?”

“I do!” Shizuha declares, lights in her eyes once again. “That’s absolutely what I’m lookin’ for!”

Minoriko sighs, and then nods. “It’s our best chance, I suppose. So long as I can trust you and your business associate, Mister Tsu—err, PI.”

Big talk from a goddess who planned to sit around and wait for people to just show up and give her faith before you got involved. But, you can keep your mouth shut and force a smile. “Don’t worry, Miss Aki. I assure you, there’s nobody who hates what the tengu do more than my associate and I.”

“Then my sister and I are in both your hands,” she replies with a bow.

“Shizuha, just stick around while PI and I fess out the details.” Mori says. “We’ll have you in top shape soon enough!”

“Yeah!” Shizuha cheers. “I can’t wait to have my own followers! I’ll be around, so just lemme know when you need me!”

###

“So, you ended up becoming awfully involved, didn’t ya?”

You lock eyes with Mori, as the two of you walk the path back to the city. “If there’s a problem in front of me, I’m going to solve it,” you tell her. “And in the first place, it was you who led me into it.”

“That’s true,” she replies, with a big smile. “But, we finished our first case together! Isn’t that exciting?”

It was supposed to be her first case, but she’s right: you got an idea to help the sisters out and you ran with it. “We’re not finished with it yet, though. We still have to make sure the Akis get enough faith to survive, at least until next year.”

“No no, you gotta look at it separately! We solved the disappearance of Shizuha Aki, and now we’re solving her plight for faith!” Then her face sours. “Though, I don’t know why you have to spare any thought for Minoriko. This all started because she was such a clingy younger sister in the first place. She’s a goddess! She should be more mature than that.”

“Yes, that would be very annoying if a goddess acted like a petulant child. I can’t imagine who else would do such a thing.”

She grins and shrugs. “Me neither.”

You groan. “In any case, I do sympathize with Shizuha over Minoriko,” you explain. “But Shizuha still wants to get along with her sister, right? If we completely disregard Minoriko, then we’re still not handling Shizuha’s problems satisfactorily, in the end.”

“I guess,” she admits halfheartedly. “But hey, weren’t you talking about working with Hatate back there? Aren’t you two still a little cold since you confronted her in chat about uh, all that stuff?”

“It’s Hatate,” you reply nonchalantly. “She gets mad, tires herself out, falls asleep, then forgets all about it when she wakes up. I can guarantee she’ll be on KRC raving about something else entirely when we get back.”

“Uh huh.” Mori doesn’t sound assured. “Whatever you say, then.”

Even if Hatate does decide to hold a grudge against you — when it should be the other way around — there’s no way she would pass up this kind of opportunity. It’s the story of her dreams: the gods’ struggles to exist under tengu oppression. “Trust me, she and Q will be drooling when I report back to them. I’m more worried about Morichika,” you continue, hoisting up the large jug you’ve been carrying. “Minoriko said this wine would be enough for him, but I don’t know. I would have preferred cash, but I guess I shouldn’t have expected the Akis to deal in modern currency.”

Mori expels a wistful sigh. “Ah, the barter system. That’s how things were back in the old days.”

It’s bizarre to hear someone with the appearance of a young girl talk like someone’s shriveled-up grandmother. You shake your head. “I, for one, enjoy going up to the clerk, handing them a piece of paper, and walking away with a cup of ramen.”

“I never said I didn’t enjoy that,” she responds. “Speaking of which, can we stop at one of those kappa convenience stores? If we’re going to make our partnership official, then I’d like to celebrate with a candy bar.”

This is how partnering up with a goddess is going to be, huh? Well, you suppose it could be worse.

###

“So you expect to pay off your debt with some wine?”

It was late in the afternoon before you finally made it to Kourindou, and Morichika eyes the earthen jug of wine warily. You're pretty glad he didn't shoot you on sight, but you have some extreme doubts that he's going to be convinced by a jug of some fruity alcohol. Mori stands beside you, her tense and wary stance somewhat undercut by the chocolate stuck around her lips. Marisa’s snoring is absent, as the little witch is undoubtedly up to some kind of mischief in the forest.

“It comes from a woman by the name of Minoriko Aki,” you explain, dropping the goddess’s name as she had recommended. “Does that name mean anything to you?"

Morichika blinks, but otherwise remains as stone-faced as always. “I see.” Then he grabs the handle and eyes it curiously, before looking at you again. “I hope this isn't some cheap imitation, for your sake.”

He pops the cork off the jug with one finger, sniffs the fumes, and then turns it up. He gulps once, twice, then one more time before setting it back down and exhaling a long, pleasured sigh — with a considerably lighter face. “Your debt is forgiven.”

It’s so easy, you don’t want to let yourself feel relieved yet. “Just like that?”

“If you’re confused, then you obviously haven’t tasted it for yourself," he explains, before laughing at your expense. "Of course, you'll have to ask her for some of your own, since I won't be sharing. The wine of the autumn goddess puts any other to shame.” He licks his lips. “It tastes like it's pretty young. She must have recently resurfaced, I assume.”

That must be one exceptional drink, to get him to loosen up so much. And, not only does he know Minoriko Aki, but he knows of her divinity as well. “To an extent, yes. She's planning a festival this year, that I may have become slightly involved with.”

He smiles. “What a pleasant surprise. Then I'll be there for more wine, and perhaps some reminiscing.”

Maybe you underestimated the power of Minoriko Aki and her festival, if it can move the unmoving merchant. “So you've actually been to one of her festivals? I was under the impression the last one was some time ago.”

“Don't worry about that,” he says. “In any case, I’ll send you off with a box of ammunition, free of charge.”

You freeze. “Are you serious?”

“It’s an insult to the wine to let you trade this much of it for the debt of only a few bullets.”

If he feels like that, he should just let you have some of the wine, dammit. You don’t even care if he’s drank straight out of the jug, if it’s as good as he’s saying.

“And also,” he continues more soberly, “if you’re becoming involved with gods, you’ll be needing the extra firepower.” For the briefest of moments, he glances at Mori, then back to you. “A bullet may not be much, but it’s a lot better than nothing in the right hands.”

You smile. “That’s absolutely true. I’ll consider it a good trade, then.”

It looks to be the end of this little transaction, before Morichika mentions something else. “One more thing. Have you heard from that ghost friend of yours?”

He must be referring to Mima. It’s a little odd that he would bring her up, considering how much he didn’t like you mentioning her before. Come to think of it, you did say you wanted to have a talk about Marisa the next time you saw him. “I haven’t seen her since we spoke last time,” you tell him. “I don’t really feel any differently on the matter. But, maybe you do?”

Morichika takes another swig of the wine, noticeably avoiding your eyes. “Perhaps a little. I still don’t want Marisa to see her, though.”

“Where is Marisa, anyway?” Mori speaks up, leaning on the counter.

“If she’s not sleeping here, that means she’s out playing,” he answers. “I believe she’s with Miss Margatroid, today.”

Alice Margatroid, if you recall correctly. You think back on meeting her in the forest, when you thought she was a youkai chasing after Marisa — and she was, but only because of that weird doll the witch had stolen. “I suppose Miss Margatroid has forgiven her, then?”

He smiles. “She is surprisingly patient when it comes to Marisa. Them finding each other was a blessing, considering the other sorts of company she could be keeping.”

It’s times like these that make you wonder all the more what exactly the relationship between Morichika and Marisa is, but the past twenty-four hours have been enough ups and down for you. “Well then, I think that’s all for now,” you conclude. “I’ll let you know if I hear anything from that ghost.”

He nods. “Yes. Yes, of course. Please do. Goodbye.”

Mori backs off the counter and gives a short wave to the shopkeeper. “Bye, Mister Morichika. I’m glad you didn’t try to kill PI.”

Dammit, Mori. You sigh and keep walking towards the door. But before you can leave, Morichika calls after you. “If you do see that ghost, tell her I’d like to meet her. Without Marisa.” It may just be the wine kicking in, but there’s a distinct touch of redness in his face. “Would you do that for me, PI?”

The request catches you off-guard, but it isn’t an outlandish one. You don’t see why Mima wouldn’t agree to it, considering how she is. “I’ll mention it to her.”

###

You heave a great sigh of relief as you exit Kourindou and begin walking home with a small box of rounds hidden not-so-inconspicuously in your pocket. Normally, it would be a risk to carry it around, but it shouldn’t be too bad since you’re going straight back to your apartment.

Mori follows along. “Looks like it all worked out,” she says.

“Yeah, and I’m glad that’s over with,” you tell her. “My work is stressful enough without worrying about debts.”

She nods along. “Yep, yep. So, are we heading back home to tell Hatate what happened, and then figuring out exactly what we’re going to do about Shizuha, and then—“

“Probably not,” you cut in. “The first thing I’m going to do is take a bath. Then, I’ll cook a delicious cup of ramen in the microwave, park myself on the couch, and rest until all the pain in my body is gone.”

She stares at you coldly. “That could take years, old man.”

You are an old man, but still. “I don’t want to hear that from you. Let’s just take the rest of the day off, alright? I might talk to Hatate some, but that’s it.”

She gives up pretty quick, and you know she just wanted to give you shit. “Okay, fine. I could go for a night of game shows and bothering you.”

###

The walk home is uneventful, probably because you’re looking forward to being back in your apartment so much. As you unlock the door, you don’t notice any sign of Hina — she’s probably resting herself, after the journey to and from the mountain. Then again, if you think back to when she stayed up all night just to give you back your gun, you have to wonder if Hina even needs to rest.

When you finally make it inside, you beeline to the bathroom and hope that the hot water is actually working. Even though it’s been cool outside, you can feel the dirt and sweat on your skin, along with the distinct, itchy feeling of those bugs that lingers from the night before.

Turning the showerhead on and feeling the stream of water heat up is probably the greatest joy you’ve experienced in a long time. Since it’s a fleeting miracle, you waste no time in shedding your clothes and jumping in. For a solid minute, you just enjoy the sensation of rinsing off your body.

And then you hear the door open.

Mori’s voice easily cuts through the sound of water washing over you. “Hey, PI! Let me in, too.”

You sigh. “If you have to use the toilet, I don’t care. Just make it quick and get out.”

She laughs. “No, not that! Let me take a shower and a bath, too!”

Of course, there is no peace from this evil. “What are you talking about? Just wait for me to get done.”

“You said the hot water is all screwy, right? It may not last that long! Just make room, okay?”

This isn’t the kind of shower you can just make room in. Peering through the glass, you see Mori approaching as a small, fleshy blur. She’s already naked, and that means she’s already made her decision. Now, you just have to make yours.

[] Abort. This is too much, even for you. Let her have the bath, and you’ll check on Hatate.

[] Stand your ground. Sharing may be awkward, but you aren’t going to let her win.

[] Who cares if she gets in with you? It doesn’t mean anything.
>> No. 64627
[] Stand your ground. Sharing may be awkward, but you aren’t going to let her win.
>> No. 64628
[x] Stand your ground. Sharing may be awkward, but you aren’t going to let her win.
>> No. 64629
[X] Abort. This is too much, even for you. Let her have the bath, and you’ll check on Hatate.

Have to check on Hatate eventually.
>> No. 64630
[x] Who cares if she gets in with you? It doesn’t mean anything.
Pff what a tease.

Anyway, they have already seen each other naked, so there isn't much to be surprised about either.
>> No. 64632
[x] Who cares if she gets in with you? It doesn’t mean anything.

What's so wrong with sharing a bath with a delightfully adorable woman old enough to be your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-
great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-
grandmother?
>> No. 64633
[x] Who cares if she gets in with you? It doesn’t mean anything.

When was the last time we had a real Suwako route on THP? I don't remember.
>> No. 64634
[x] Who cares if she gets in with you? It doesn’t mean anything.

Even if this is the Suwako route or not, considering it's hot water, Suwako should be allowed to enjoy it too.
>> No. 64636
[x] Who cares if she gets in with you? It doesn’t mean anything.
>> No. 64637
[x] Stand your ground. Sharing may be awkward, but you aren’t going to let her win.
>> No. 64638
[x] Stand your ground. Sharing may be awkward, but you aren’t going to let her win.
>> No. 64639
[x] Stand your ground. Sharing may be awkward, but you aren’t going to let her win.
>> No. 64640
>>64637
>>64638
>>64639
Is this a triple post?
>> No. 64641
[x] Who cares if she gets in with you? It doesn’t mean anything.
>> No. 64642
>>64625
[X]Who cares if she gets in with you? It doesn’t mean anything.
>> No. 64643
>>64640
Your mother is a triple post
>> No. 64644
[X] Abort. This is too much, even for you. Let her have the bath, and you’ll check on Hatate.
>> No. 64645
[] Stand your ground. Sharing may be awkward, but you aren’t going to let her win.
>> No. 64646
[X] Stand your ground. Sharing may be awkward, but you aren’t going to let her win.

Of course, the real winner here is us readers.
>> No. 64647
I'm gonna go ahead and call it for PI (trying) not to care so I can start writing.
>> No. 64648
I have a question. You told me I can vote for her but how can I vote for Hina, if I can't see her between the vote list?

I'm just curious that's all
>> No. 64649
>>64648
Not the writer and I'm not sure how serious you are, but by being patient. Hina options will come up eventually in votes, we just need to progress to another point in the story where they're appropriate.
>> No. 64650
>>64649
I'm serious and thank you your answer. Don't worry, I will be patient. I was just curious that's all.
>> No. 64651
>>64650
Yeah, >>64649 is a perfect answer. Sorry for not clarifying.
>> No. 64652
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64652
[x] Who cares if she gets in with you? It doesn’t mean anything.

“Fine,” you relent. “Come on in.”

Mori halts just outside the steamed glass. “You’re serious?”

“Why wouldn’t I be? Unless, you have some kind of ulterior motive for showering with me.”

Her fingers budge open the sliding glass, but she doesn’t reveal herself proper yet. “Maybe,” she replies with a giggle. “You might call this a… reconnaissance.”

You pause. “Reconnaissance? So you just want to see me naked?”

“It’s only fair,” she argues. “If we’re going to be working together, it feels a little one-sided for you to have seen me, when I still haven’t seen you.”

That kind of logic doesn’t really work when she’s the one who paraded nude in front of you in the first place. “Regardless, my body isn’t worth scouting out, I can assure you.”

Undeterred, she pulls open the glass enough to carefully step in, one bare foot before the other. Without the guilt of her being underage lingering over you, it’s easier for you to admire her stepping in leg-first. Dirty feet and lithe shins give way to the soft curves of her thighs and wide, sturdy hips. It would be easy to write off her upper body as being scrawny, but now that you’re getting such a close look, you can see just how efficient it is. Even her small breasts add to her form, bringing out the areas of her body that do have a pleasant amount of meat.

“You sure know how to make a woman feel appreciated,” she remarks with a grin, looking you straight in the eye.

You match her gaze. “Give me a break. I couldn’t call myself male if I didn’t look just once.”

“Uh huh. Seemed like a bit more than a ‘look’ to me, but I never said you couldn’t.” Her eyes slide downward and then bulge slightly. “You really don’t have any shame, do you?”

The gradual swelling in your crotch is nothing for you to be embarrassed about, especially when she has zero room to talk about something like shame. “It’s a natural reaction,” you explain calmly. “Wouldn’t it be worse if it didn’t happen?”

“That’s true,” she admits, as she explores your body with an inquisitive glance. “But really, you should give yourself more credit. It looks like you used to be pretty muscular, but now you’re all skinny. I never noticed because you wear loose clothing all the time.”

It’s fortunate enough to find clothes that are simple, subtle, and intact; a perfect fit is optional. “Just hurry and wash up,” you tell her. “If we take too long and run out of hot water, then that defeats the whole purpose of this.”

“Fine. Then switch places with me, because I’m not getting any water.”

Because Mori entered the back of the shower, your body is blocking most of the water. The thing is, there really isn’t much room to shift around. You can’t help but think that she planned this scenario. “I’ll hug the wall, you squeeze around me.”

“Don’t worry about that,” she replies with a coy smile. “I’m not scared of brushing against you. We’re just here to clean ourselves off, right? Nothing else.”

She’s teasing you bad, but that makes your resistance all the more strong. “Just be careful, please. There’s wet surfaces and sensitive parts involved.”

You face the wall to give her room — but sure enough, as she crosses behind you, her feet slip and she wraps both her arms around your stomach.

“Kyaaaa!” she screams in a horrendously forced manner. Her head and chest press against you, and the distinct sensation of two soft nipples on your lower back becomes apparent. “Sorry PI, I slipped.”

She doesn’t sound sorry at all, but you keep your mouth shut as she lets go and manages to successfully trade you places and begin cleaning herself off. The stream of water flows through her blonde hair and down her body, giving her partially-tanned skin the sheen of wetness. She reaches for the bar of soap and tries rubbing it in her hands, but it slips out and falls to the floor — right between her legs.

“Shoot,” she mutters, before bending down and forcing you against the back wall to avoid any distressing touching of parts — and you do have to move quick to avoid her rear.

“Watch yourself,” you scold her. Having learned your lesson, you turn around so that the two of you are back-to-back. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you dropped that on purpose.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she claims. Even though you can’t see her face, you know she’s smirking. “You’d have to be awfully perverted to take something as innocent as a man and a woman bathing together and twist it into some kind of lewd game of wits. Is that what you’re accusing me of?”

You aren’t sure what you expected to come out of this. “I’m not accusing you of anything,” you respond flatly. “I just want to relax with a bath.”

“Me too,” she assures you — unsuccessfully. “Now, I’ll wash your back if you wash mine.”

“I don’t really have any rags I’d touch skin with,” you tell her.

“Bare hands are good enough, aren’t they?”

Of course they would be. You turn around and reach for her hand. “Gimme the soap. I’ll make this quick.”

She passes the white bar to you. “Don’t be afraid to be rough. Really rub it in.”

It sounds like she wants some kind of massage, in addition to her wash. As annoying as it is, you are a bit behind on paying her back for the times she’s saved your life. “Fine,” you respond as you lather up your hands. “You asked for it.”

Once you’re satisfied with the amount of suds on your hands, you gently set the soap bar down and give Mori your full attention. From her bony shoulders down to her lower back, you slather soap on her skin and then use your thumbs to dig into her skin. Each time you smooth out a tense knot in her muscles, she quivers and lets out a small moan.

“You said something about your body being made of the earth,” you mention as you work, “but it feels like normal bones and muscles to me.”

“What do you think bones and muscles are—ah—made of? The human body is mostly water, but also many m—minerals.”

You vaguely recall hearing something about that when you were in school, but it’s been too long, and you accept her short explanation without further question.

With her back sufficiently handled, you pick up the soap to return it to her. “Now it’s your tu—“

“Keep going,” she bids you. “A little lower, if you please.”

You glance down, where you’ve washed right to the crack of her posterior. She can’t be serious, but you know better than to ask if she is. You start reapplying the suds to your hands. “Whatever you say.”

Without any more hesitation, you start following the curves of her wide bottom with your soapy hands. Since you’re standing straight, you have to palm her buttocks underhanded, which makes this feel more like groping than the innocent wash you wish it were. The muscle gives way just enough to where you feel like you could get a handful of it, and you realize this isn’t a child’s bottom: it’s a woman’s ass. Your crotch starts to twitch again, and you end up taking a step back so as to not risk poking her with anything as you quickly finish up.

“Done,” you announce, literally rinsing your hands of the whole ordeal. “Clean your orifices on your own time, because even I have my limits.”

She gasps with mock offense. “I’d never ask you to do such a vulgar thing.”

Right.” You pass back the soap. “Here you go. Can you even reach my back?”

“Of course I can,” she huffs. “I’m not that short.”

“And I’m still pretty sore, so take it easy.”

“Right, right. I’ll make sure it feels good for ya, old man.”

“I still don’t want to hear that from you,” you mutter.

Sure enough, after hearing her lather up the soap for a few moments, you feel her small hands start gently working their way around your back. Because her hands are smaller and your back larger, she has to stop a couple times to reapply soap to her hands.

“Awfully quiet,” you remark, eventually.

“Since when do you like to hear me talk so much?”

You don’t, but it somehow feels awkward otherwise. “It’s just been a while since I’ve had someone wash my back.”

“Oh.” She stops for a moment, then starts again, working her way down to your lower back. “Were you lonely before I came along?

It’s an embarrassing question, but she asked seriously, so you give her a serious answer. “I don’t know. I’ve lost my perspective of that kind of thing.”

“I understand.” Her hands move a little slower — more intently. “Before I came to Gensokyo, I didn’t think I was lonely. But I was.”

There’s a silence that neither of you want to fill, so you let the sounds of rushing water and her hands pressing against your back do the best they can. If you turned around, she would probably be smiling — not one of her smug grins, but instead something a little sadder.

###

After assuring Mori that there’s no need for her to wash any lower than your back, the two of you finish scrubbing up, rinse off, and then begin filling the bath. You sit down at the back end, and she squeezes sideways into the corner by the faucet. Although it isn’t exactly comfortable, it keeps Mori from hitting her head on the faucet and you two aren’t positioned to stare directly into each other’s crotches.

“Western baths are pretty cramped,” Mori complains. “I thought things would be a little more traditional in Gensokyo.”

“You mean bathhouses? There are a few nice ones in Central,” you explain. “Most people’s bathrooms are like this, though. It’s modern.”

She raises her arms and stretches, treating you to the view of a nice, smooth armpit. “Yeah, I understand that. It’s just… where did these slums even come from? All the buildings around here look old, but would Gensokyo have even used concrete all those years ago? The timeline is off.”

That’s something that interests you as well. The slums have been around since before you were born, but anyone you’ve ever asked about them doesn’t have a proper recollection of how they came to exist. “Nobody really knows. The Central District used to be the only part of the city that existed, until a population boom a few decades ago. The younger sons and daughters of less-fortunate families didn’t have anywhere to go in the cramped city, so they ventured out — and these buildings were there, like they had been standing outside the city the whole time. Of course, nobody really has the money to keep all these buildings taken care of, and the tengu don’t care, so many of them have deteriorated. Meanwhile, Central has traditional wooden buildings, but there’s been a lot of construction over the years to remodel them into modern homes.”

She stares at you. “That still doesn’t make any sense.”

No shit. “Tell me about it. But, nobody is really interested in figuring out the truth after living in it for so long. The people who aren’t hurt don’t care, and the people who are hurt couldn’t do anything about it if they tried.”

“Except for you. And Hatate.”

You shrug. “Maybe. You know, that population boom I mentioned came about because youkai attacks went down drastically, all at once. Guess who reached the height of their power around that time?”

She doesn’t even need to think. “The tengu.”

“That’s right. Then poorer people move out to these mysterious buildings that just so happen to be there, and outside the protection of the city, humans start getting attacked again by desperate youkai who think they don’t have anything left to lose.”

“How would the tengu put up these kinds of buildings without drawing attention, though? It’s almost like they took them right out of the Outside World.”

You chuckle. “It’s Gensokyo, so anything could have happened.”

She doesn’t look so convinced by your little mantra, though. “I guess.”

The height of the water reaches an acceptable level, and Mori shuts off the faucet. “Just in time, too,” she says. “It was starting to get cold.”

You sink into the warm water as much as you can and take a deep breath. This is what you were waiting for. It’s the perfect time to collect yourself and organize all the shit that’s been growing and slithering around inside your head since you found out Hatate was pretty much spying on you. Of course, pretty much everything that’s happened since then — the fight with Hatate, the search for Shizuha, discovering gods still exist in Gensokyo, trying to help said gods — is directly or indirectly related to one of those very gods that you just so happen to be sharing the bathwater with.

“What’cha thinkin’ about?” Mori’s voice interrupts your thoughts.

There’s a lot that still needs to settle in your head before you’d feel confident bringing it up with her. However, something has been floating around on the edge of your mind for a bit.

[] “Are you worried about your friends that came through the barrier with you?”

[] “The way you and the Akis treated Hina today was a little disturbing.”

[] “Do you think Marisa and Alice are a thing?”

[] “Uh… [Write-in]”
>> No. 64653
>>64650
Welcome. I didn't really want to speak for Raftclans, but that was just what seemed likely from my perspective as another writer.

Anyway, hmm. Can we vote for more than one of these? I normally wouldn't pass up a MariAli option, but I'm more interested in the MoF-related plot. And Hina development, but that could also count.

Tentative vote:
[x] “Are you worried about your friends that came through the barrier with you?"
>> No. 64654
>>64653
Just one topic for now. Warm bath water doesn't last forever, after all.
>> No. 64655
[x] “Are you worried about your friends that came through the barrier with you?"
>> No. 64656
[x] “Are you worried about your friends that came through the barrier with you?"

She hasn't really talked about them. And PI deserves to know
>> No. 64657
[X] “Are you worried about your friends that came through the barrier with you?”

I think this is the most pressing and important question.
>> No. 64658
[x] "Are you worried about your friends that came through the barrier with you?"
>> No. 64659
[x] “Are you worried about your friends that came through the barrier with you?”
>> No. 64660
[] “Are you worried about your friends that came through the barrier with you?”

[] “The way you and the Akis treated Hina today was a little disturbing.”
>> No. 64662
>>64660

Don't double vote in this. Deleted your other vote.
>> No. 64663
>>64660

Addendum to this, I checked the last update and you also triple voted. Don't do that again. I will be checking this thread from now on to monitor if it happens again.
>> No. 64664
It's unanimous: we're getting into Mori's past. Writing begins.

>>64662
>>64663
Thank you.
>> No. 64665
Apologies for the delays. The flooding in my area has been kind of a wild ride. But, things are finally stable, and I hope to have the update out in the next few days.
>> No. 64666
File 149437706071.jpg - (0.97MB , 1889x1315 , not as lewd bath picture.jpg ) [iqdb]
64666
“Are you worried about your friends that came through the barrier with you?”

Mori looks away, and settles on lazily examining her peach-colored toenails instead. “Not particularly. They’re both capable — in their own way.” Her eyes regard you warily from the side. “What brought that up?”

“You mentioned you were lonely before you came to Gensokyo,” you answer. “That makes me wonder what kind of people your friends were. You never said much about them.”

Her smile vanishes, and she sighs. “There’s a reason for that. You’re talking about a lot of history there, PI. There’s lifetimes of context when it comes to the three of us.”

The last time Mori mentioned anything about the shrine or its inhabitants was back in that Kappa Burger after talking with Reimu, and it became an argument. You don’t really want that again, but you can’t help but be curious of how nonchalant she is about the welfare of her friends — who ended up in probably the worst place an outsider could in Gensokyo. “If I recall correctly, you said there was a shrine maiden, a woman who watches over the shrine maiden, and an earth goddess who ran away. Can I assume that you’re the earth goddess who ran away?”

“Wellll… I know that I’m the one who told you that, but saying I ran away is an oversimplification. When I woke up in Gensokyo, I was down by the city, and they’re all the way on top of the mountain. I just haven’t put that much effort into going back, is all.” Her expression sours. “I can’t say I’m itching to return to a shrine I’ve spent most of my life in, instead of exploring this new land.”

Exploring Gensokyo — especially in the state it’s in — seems like a poor venture when compared to two lives. “Do you really think they’re going to be alright in the middle of a bunch of tengu? They aren’t exactly known for their hospitality.”

Mori grows a long, forlorn smile.“Hospitality or no, it doesn’t matter to that woman. She probably has them wrapped around her little finger by now.”

“The woman who watches over the shrine maiden, you mean?”

Mori stares at you uncertainly, then nods. “Her name is Kanako Yasaka, and she’s a goddess.”

That’s why she can treat the matter so lightly, you suppose. Yet, even goddesses aren’t safe in Gensokyo. “I’m sure you’ve realized this from dealing with Minoriko and Shizuha,” you mention, “but the tengu aren’t really supportive of the gods in Gensokyo. What does this Kanako Yasaka have to offer them?”

“Gensokyo may have gods, but Kanako and I are gods who have survived in the Outside World,” she explains. “The tengu seem to be interested in that sort of thing, so they’ve probably made a peaceful arrangement — for now.”

It makes sense. You can bring it up with Hatate and see what she can find out. Even though she’s one of the least-regarded crows on the mountain, that does give her a certain ability to gather information from other tengu — since nobody expects anyone to take her seriously. “It’s true that since that encounter with the crow tengu the first day, we haven’t seen any more of them. It sounded like they were supposed to be searching high and low for you, but we even walked around the foot of the mountain without incident.” If that’s the case, then this Kanako Yasaka really might have intervened on Mori’s behalf. “Still, to talk down the tengu would really be something,” you mention.

“Anything’s possible when it comes to her,” Mori says, with that same distant smile. “If my tongue is silver, then hers is gold.”

It’s not often you see Mori show any kind of humility. “You’re awfully confident in her abilities.”

She chuckles dryly. “Of course. She even outsmarted me once, y’know.” Then she pauses. “Twice now, I suppose.”

That’s surprising. Mori is cunning and highly adaptable; she’s proven that much by her actions here in Gensokyo. This Kanako Yasaka must be fearsome if she can pull one over on her. “How so?”

She shrinks in the water. “It’s a long story, filled with embarrassment — and tragedy. I’d like to avoid retelling it.”

That’s her limit, then. Maybe there’s some way you could—

“But,” she continues, “you did tell me some of Takeo’s story, with his own tragedy. I suppose I can’t keep all of mine to myself either. An abridged version should be fine, for now.”

You didn’t really expect the air in the bath to get heavy like this, but so be it. “Whatever you’re willing to tell, I’ll listen.”

She takes a deep breath. “I once held a small nation in the outside world: the land of Suwa. Many of my followers were farmers, but I also counted a number of powerful warriors among my ranks, whom I earned after defeating a powerful serpent god known as Mishaguji.”

A tremble shoots through your spine when you hear the beast’s name, and the image of albino snakes writhes in your mind — the very same Kotohime seemed so fond of in your dream. “The white snakes?”

She cocks an eyebrow. “You’ve heard of them, even in Gensokyo?” Then she sports a cocky grin. “Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. Their power as curse gods was well-known throughout the lands — as was their malice. I defeated them, but even I couldn’t banish them forever. Instead of risking them coming back and seeking revenge on my people, I tamed them and made them my own.”

You remember the sight of hundreds of insects falling dead, all at once. Seeing a curse god like that in your dreams doesn’t seem like a particularly good omen, especially when it’s befriending the ghost of your demented ex-wife.

While you wrestle with the decision to tell Mori about it or not, she continues with her story. “Controlling Mishaguji allowed my people to flourish. By directing curses toward my enemies and away from my followers, I quickly grew in faith.” Then she frowns. “However, I also drew the attention of the warlords that were forming the land of Japan as it is known today. Kanako was one of the goddesses among them. Knowing my affinity for earth and weapons, she sent word of her plans to invade and allowed me plenty of time to build an army — all so she could rust my weapons instantly by holding out a single vine. She won that battle without a single casualty on either side, and I surrendered Suwa so that my people wouldn’t be harmed.”

“So she conquered your lands,” you conclude, before thinking for a moment. “But, why didn’t you strike back with Mishaguji? Couldn’t you have cursed Kanako and her army?”

Mori deflates. “It’s not as simple as that. You see, when I tamed Mishaguji, I told my people that I destroyed it. I thought that if everyone knew I had a curse god on a leash I would be shunned, or even targeted. Therefore, I passed off the miracles and curses I performed with Mishaguji as entirely my own doing.” She laughs in spite of herself. “And in the end, it became trouble anyway. I couldn’t reveal that I had lied to my people — not that I think Mishaguji would have made much of a difference against Kanako, anyway. It was much safer to listen to her demands, which were really quite reasonable. Because she needed me to control Mishaguji, she was willing to share faith with me so long as I let her take over the shrine on the surface and hid myself away. The people were upset at first, but when they continued to flourish, they loved Kanako just as they had loved me.”

Some of that hits a little too close to home for you, and you can't help but show it. “Maybe I’m a little sentimental,” you speak up, ignoring a quiet snort from Mori, “but that doesn’t sound very reasonable to me. Kanako took everything from you, and then hid you away in the shrine to work for her?”

“I still roamed,” she recalls fondly. “The lake, the mountain, the fields — I could still wander Suwa in this form. Yet, I had to do so anonymously, so I crafted a hat that resembled my favorite animal: the frog.”

That must be the strange, googly-eyed hat she still wears today and treasures so much. Hearing this story almost makes you feel bad for trash-talking it all the time.

“And I don’t blame Kanako for anything,” Mori continues. “She’s ruthless and ambitious, but not evil. I was the one who acted foolishly. In the end, it’s more like a forced partnership.”

A forced partnership between goddesses sounds very similar to what the two of you have been dealing with for the past few days. “Would this awkward relationship with Kanako Yasaka have anything to do with how you view Shizuha Aki?”

She slips down further into the water and faces ahead. “Maybe. There’s a lot that’s different between us, but enough of the same that I can be sympathetic to her wish for independence.”

“So you’re living vicariously through her,” you determine.

She slides back up and glares at you. “Is that a problem?”

You sigh. “We’re involved now, so it doesn’t make any difference what your motives are — as long as you’re aware of what you’re doing.”

“I am,” she assures you darkly.

That she doesn’t offer some snide comeback throws you off. “Well, uh, you seemed to realize that she outsmarted you twice,” you bring up. “What was the second time?”

She smiles. “I’m here in Gensokyo, aren’t I?”

“You mean Kanako is responsible for that?”

“That’s the only conclusion I can reach,” she says. “We had made an agreement to quietly fade away in the Outside World, but now I think she wanted me to let my guard down so that the shrine could be transported here.”

Mori tried to stick up for her a little bit, but this Kanako Yasaka really does seem like a two-faced schemer — not someone you’d want to meet anytime soon. “Does she have the kind of power that would allow her to move so much through the barrier?”

She thinks. “Not that I know of. She may have found another way, or taken advantage of an opportunity of some kind. Either way, we’re all here now.”

The downcast manner in which she states that puts you on edge. “Do you regret coming here to Gensokyo, Mori? Would it really have been better for you to fade away quietly?”

She looks at you, stares into your eyes, and then smiles. “I don’t know yet. I feel like the power balance here is already mixed up, as it is. There’s no telling what kind of effect we’re going to have on Gensokyo, if any. History will get to decide that, I suppose.”

“Yeah, well,” you mutter, “history isn’t worth worrying about. History will lie to cover its own ass. It’s about as trustworthy as this Kanako Yasaka person.”

She giggles, lightening up a bit. “There may be some truth to that. In any case, have I satiated your curiosity, PI? The water’s starting to get cold. Should I run some more hot water?”

You thought hearing more about this Kanako Yasaka would put your mind at ease regarding Mori’s shrine, but it could actually be worse than you thought. Instead of being held prisoner by the tengu, Kanako Yasaka may actually try to work with the tengu. If she gives them more technology from outside the barrier, the tengu will become even more confident.

Mori shakes your foot. “PI? You have that thinking look again. Do you want me to run more hot water or not?”

You stand up, rocking the water in the bathtub as the rest rolls off your body. “Not for me. I think I’ll be getting out. I’m starting to prune.”

She grins, which is a welcome relief after that conversation. “Suit yourself. The water treats my skin just fine, old-timer.”

“Enough of that,” you grumble as you reach outside the tub for a towel. “You can say all you want when my hair starts falling out, but until then, let me enjoy the twilight years of my youth.”

“If that’s what you want to call it,” she remarks smugly, as you step out to finish drying yourself off. “Hey, PI?”

In front of the door, you turn back around to face her, and are surprised to see a sincere smile. “Thanks for listening to my story,” she says. “If you ever need to talk about Takeo, I’d be happy to listen.” Then she quickly adds, “In confidentiality, this time.”

You hesitate for a moment. “I’ll consider it.”

As you step into your bedroom to throw on some shit clothes that you can spend the rest of the night in, all you can think about is how you should take the opportunity to tell her about the snakes in your head — Mishaguji, that is — and Kotohime. Yet, you know that you can’t. Her madness is something you planned on taking to the grave, so that she could never gain any ground in the world of the living and continue her “fun.” It’s almost like the snakes wrapped themselves around her knowing that.

You sign onto KRC real quick to report to Hatate, but the chat room is strangely empty. It’s not something that happens often, so you linger around uneasily for a few minutes before finally shutting the laptop down. You can try again tomorrow morning. Hatate will surely be back by then, normal as she can be. That’s always how her little tantrums work.

Your dreams that night are undisturbed, almost like a gift, but it doesn’t exactly convince you that not telling Mori was the right thing to do.

###

“—at the door. Hey, PI! Wake up!”

Mori shakes you with tremendous strength from the side of the bed, rattling you out of a deep sleep. Along with her silly hat, she’s wearing some pajamas from the pile of clothing Hina gave you, but they’re a tight fit — tight enough to expose a couple inches of her midriff, including a small navel.

She shakes you again. “Stop admiring me and answer the door. Someone’s been tapping on it for the past five minutes. It’s strange.”

“There’s a peep hole in the door,” you mention groggily, as you roll towards the center of the bed to escape the short range of her arms. “Check it out and report back.”

Undeterred, Mori hops on the bed, hangs over you, and sighs, releasing a puff of morning breath right into your face. While not as rancid as your own, it’s still less than desireable and reeks of the instant, pork-flavored ramen both of you had last night because you were too lazy to cook. “I know that,” she says, “but I’m not tall enough to see anything through it.” Then she nudges you again. “Come on, get up and answer the door.”

After a mighty groan, you summon enough strength to sit upright in the bed. “Usually our roles are switched,” you say around a yawn. “I have to admit, it’s kind of a pain to wake up to some brat prodding me.”

“I understand what you mean,” she remarks flatly. “The only reason I haven’t thrown you across this apartment yet is because you bought my favorite kind of ramen — and you’re still recovering.”

Are you, though? Strangely enough, all the soreness that ate at your body yesterday seems to have vanished overnight — not that it’s any easier to coerce your heavy limbs into dragging you out of bed, through the living room, and to the door.

Mori was right; someone is still tapping on the door. You don’t see anything through the hole, but there is a huge blind spot towards the ground, right against the door. “Who is it?” you yell.

There’s a dark, mumbling voice that you can’t discern. It’s extremely rare for anyone to actually knock on your door — usually they either give up when they realize it’s locked or try to break the door down. It’s probably Mima, trying to scare you before the sun rises. It isn’t difficult to imagine her not hearing from you for a while, getting bored, and seeking you out.

You undo the chain, unlock the door, and swing it open. “Alright, what are you trying to—”

Your voice gets caught in your throat when you realize what you’ve just knocked backward: brown hair, collared shirt, plaid skirt, white panties, black wings.

It’s a tengu.

Why didn’t you grab your gun? It’s such a cliché, rookie mistake. You must have been lulled into a false sense of security by thinking Kanako Yasaka could have called off the tengu.

“F—finally, I found you,” the crow says through deep pants. “I told you I’d—”

Your body goes from zero to a hundred in less than a second. You grab her face with both hands and then drive your knee into it, knocking her on her back. Something yellow flies out of her hands, but you’re much more concerned about the goddess inside. “Mori, it’s them! We have to get out of here!”

But, Mori has already slipped outside past you, and grabs the yellow object the tengu dropped — a cell phone, it looks like. “Property of Hatate Himekaidou,” she reads off its cover.

You look down at the tengu, who has yet to stir from the ground. The adrenaline starts to fade just as quickly as it came. “Uh, Hatate?”

She doesn’t respond.

###

You set the unconscious Hatate down on your couch, and Mori tends to her bloody face with some damp napkins.

“I know it’s pretty terrible,” she says, “but I’m still in awe from how quick you moved. Knocking out a youkai in one blow is no small feat for a human.”

“She was already weak,” you tell her. Hatate is pale as a sheet, and despite all the times you called her a fatass, she’s actually really boney — frail, even. If it had been a crow tengu like the one you and Mori encountered before, there would have been no contest. Then again, who knows? You’ve healed so quickly from your injuries the other night that you can’t help but think all these gods are having some kind of an effect on your body — especially the one that may or may not be inside you. “The point is,” you continue, “we’re in a bit of an awkward situation here.”

Mori grins as she turns over a bloody napkin. “Because Hatate called your bluff and came down here to find you?”

“I was referring to the fact that I broke her nose and knocked her out, but I guess that too.”

She laughs. “Not to mention what you said to me after you bragged about how she’d never get off her ass to come looking for you.”

You feign ignorance. “What do you mean?”

Mori clears her throat in order to deepen her voice. “‘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.’ Does that ring any bells? It’s baaaaad luck to go back on your word when it comes to a goddess.”

Shit, so she does remember. You glance at Hatate’s face. With the blood wiped up, you have to admit there’s a certain kind of beauty to be had: white skin, pursed lips, long eyelashes. She certainly isn’t the fat troll you thought she might be.

[] This really isn’t the time for that, Mori.

[] Fine, a quick peck will get her to shut up.

[] Hatate’s going to kill you anyway when she wakes up, so you might as well slip in some tongue.
>> No. 64667
[X] This really isn’t the time for that, Mori.

She's probably going to wake up right when he kisses her or something like that.
>> No. 64668
[X] Fine, a quick peck will get her to shut up.

Hey, it worked for the sleeping beauty!
>> No. 64669
[X] Fine, a quick peck will get her to shut up.
>> No. 64671
Interesting that Kanako was the only one behind their moving to Gensokyo in this story, if Mori's to be believed. I was guessing she'd left the mountain due to a disagreement with Kanako, but her story puts things in a somewhat different light.

Anyway:
[x] This really isn’t the time for that, Mori.

Let's not be a creep about this. If people really want to follow through with the kiss thing, pretty much any time is better than when she's unconscious. And I'm expecting things to be strained with Hatate anyway from what PI said to her, no need to make it worse.
>> No. 64672
[x] This really isn’t the time for that, Mori.

Being an ass and hips man, I wonder just how much truth there was to Hatate's bragging on IRC regarding said rump. We'll have to inspect for ourselves later.
>> No. 64673
[] This really isn’t the time for that, Mori.
>> No. 64674
[X] Fine, a quick peck will get her to shut up.
>> No. 64675
[x] This really isn’t the time for that, Mori.

Feels like the plot is actually moving, though I look forward to finding out how exactly the Tengu managed to steal Gensokyo from Yukari.
>> No. 64677
[x] This really isn’t the time for that, Mori.
>> No. 64678
[x] This really isn’t the time for that, Mori.
>> No. 64680
File 149474874624.png - (1.28MB , 1920x1080 , what_does_PI_even_wear.png ) [iqdb]
64680
[x] This really isn’t the time for that, Mori.
>> No. 64681
>>64680
Holy shit dude that is awesome.
>> No. 64682
>>64680

Wow, nice stuff.
>> No. 64683
>>64680
This is amazing, and I love it! It'll be my background for a long time. Thank you so much.

As for voting, I think we have a pretty clear winner, so I'll call it here and get to work.
>> No. 64684
File 149507406328.jpg - (178.37KB , 600x847 , alex jones on a bed.jpg ) [iqdb]
64684
[x] This really isn’t the time for that, Mori.

“There’s far more important things to worry about than me giving Hatate a kiss,” you tell her. “Besides, she smells like powdered cheese, cheap sake, and unwashed feathers.” It’s not any worse than pork-flavored ramen breath, but still nothing you care to plunder.

Mori frowns. “Aww, man. I really wanted you to kiss her. Then she would wake up in the middle of it, and that could become a nice bit of unresolved sexual tension between you two.”

You shudder at the thought, and you’re certain Hatate would too. “We haven’t even met in person before this. There’s no sexual tension between us. Hatate and I are completely professional.”

Mori watches you with a grin. “That doesn’t stop you and Lucy. And ‘professional’? Don’t make me laugh. You two bicker like childhood friends out of a schoolboy manga — with more explicit language, of course. It’s classic tsundere behavior.”

You may not read manga, but it’s easy to figure out what she’s referring to. Unfortunately, real life is more complicated. “Of all the youkai I could be ‘tsundere’ with, a tengu is lowest on the list,” you explain, before shaking your head and moving on. “Instead of talking about tired cliches from children’s cartoons, we should be figuring out what to do next. If Hatate came all the way down here, then she’s not going back until she gets what she wants.”

“You mean, all the secrets you’ve been keeping about those murders?” Mori says.

“Exactly. However, we have many ways to divert her attention.”

“Such as?”

“Minoriko and Shizuha Aki,” you answer. “Their story would make her drool. When she hears about them, she’ll forget all about me.”

Mori doesn’t look convinced. “I don’t know. Hasn’t her case against you been in the making for over a decade? It seems like you’re just delaying the inevitable.”

You nod confidently. “And that’s just fine. If I can keep delaying it until I die, then I win.”

She blinks. “Huh. And you’ve never once considered confessing this dark truth she’s seeking?”

Without hesitation you respond, “Absolutely not.”

“Okay,” she replies flatly. “I can see that you aren’t going to be convinced.” Then she pauses and stares at you. “Are you going to mention anything about me?”

You had planned to — after all, it’s the reason why Hatate told you to take care of her in the first place. However, after having a few conversations with Mori, including that one in the bath last night, you know she has plenty to work out on her own before Hatate should get involved. “If you want her to help us look into Kanako and what’s been going on in the shrine, then we have to tell her some things,” you explain. “But, about your past — no, I wasn’t going to tell her anything yet.”

She thinks it over, and then smiles. “Alright. I know I can trust you. We’ll tell her what she needs to know, and nothing more.”

“That’s always how I’ve handled things. Now, make sure to keep wiping up her nose,” you instruct Mori, as you wander back to the bedroom. “I’m going back to sleep.”

“Hold on!” she protests. “Why should I have to take care of her, when you’re the one who knocked her out in the first place?”

“Because I was trying to protect you,” you remind her. “And you seem all bright and chipper this morning, so it doesn’t sound like you need the sleep. I, on the other hand, feel like shit.”

“Come on, that’s no fair! At least make some breakfast or—”

You shut the door behind you, ignoring any muffled grievances.

###

“—asshole. Hey asshole. Hey asshole. Hey, asshole. Hey asshole.”

“Just hit him already,” you hear Mori say.

“He may be an asshole, but I need him alive. Hey, ass—”

“I’m awake,” you moan, as you open your eyes.

Hanging above you is the dark scowl of the messy, brown-haired tengu you knocked out this morning. Her brown eyes are heavily shadowed — with fatigue, not makeup — and squinted with extreme irritation.

“You look as beautiful as I feel,” you comment.

“Then we’re both shit,” she replies drearily. “I knew that already. Some detective you are.”

You sit up in the bed and sigh. “Nice to finally meet you face-to-face, Hatate.”

A very small, crooked grin crosses her face as she turns around and steps away from the bed. “Of course it is,” she responds, her voice gaining momentum. “I’m Gensokyo’s premier psychic detective and sole purveyor of the truth.” She raises a solid fist as her words become a booming declaration. “Hatate Himekaidou with Kakashi Spirit News!”

She keeps that fist up for a few seconds, before it wavers and she stumbles. However, Mori is able to steady her. “She’s still a little wobbly from the, uh, concussion,” Mori explains.

“I’m not used to walking without geta,” Hatate remarks, “but in a way, that makes me free — free from the shackles of my oppressive society!”

You had her pegged almost from the beginning as someone who would act the same offline as she did online. However, that doesn’t make confirming it any less annoying. “Right, right, oppressive society,” you assure her wearily, before looking around. “What time is it, Mori?”

“Around ten,” the little goddess answers. “Even though you are by all counts an asshole, I decided to let you rest until Hatate woke up.”

You didn’t really expect her to let you just fall back asleep lack that. After rubbing some of the drowsiness out of your eyes, you commend your small companion. “I needed it, thanks.” Then you turn to Hatate, who has let what little strength she gained fizzle out and now stares at you dully. “Why are you here, Hatate?”

“To prove you wrong,” she answers, “and extract information from you directly.”

That would be what normal people call an interview, but Hatate is under the delusion that asking questions and getting answers is some kind of psychic mind trick. Fortunately, it seems like you can handle her like always — with only the added annoyance of having to listen to her squawk on instead of being able to minimize the window.

You exchange prepared glances with Mori, and then clear your throat. “That’s all well and good, Hatate, but you don’t even know what Mori and I have been up to these past few days, do you?”

Hatate pauses and thinks. “Well, no. I spent at least one day getting drunk off my ass, stumbled down the mountain, and eventually wandered into the city looking for you. Weren’t you investigating a soup kitchen for Kawa—err, Q?”

“I was, yes — but as a reporter of your experience knows, something that appears to be so simple is often deceptively so. In reality, it turned out to be a deep web of intrigue.”

Mori gives you a confused look like maybe you’re laying it on too thick, but she doesn’t know that’s what Hatate craves. The tengu is hanging on every word. “Of course I would know all about that,” she boasts. “Gensokyo itself is a pit of mysterious curiosities even I can’t fully decipher sometimes.”

Hatate’s sufficiently distracted already. Her concussion is likely doing you some favors. “I had debated on waiting to tell you until after it was resolved,” you go on, “but you have your needs — and I have mine.”

You hear Mori snort, but you stay focused on Hatate, who is falling for it. “Come on PI, don’t play this song and dance with me,” she says. “Just tell me the juicy, uh, the juicy. . .”

Hatate grabs her head and wobbles around on her feet once again. “Look, can we discuss this on the bed?” she continues. “I don’t usually stand for so long.”

The couch might be a little more appropriate, but you aren’t walking all the way to the living room for the sake of being appropriate to this birdbrain. “Yeah yeah,” you tell her. “Lay down next to me. Don’t get any ideas about nesting, though. The kid was bad enough; there’s no way I’m letting a tengu take over my bed.”

Hatate wastes no time in flopping down on your bed, face-first. You notice Mori sneak a peek under her skirt, after which the goddess doesn’t look impressed.

“Yeah, they’re boring, I know,” you remark. “I was expecting something colored — maybe purple, with some lace.”

“I didn’t think she’d be wearing anything at all,” Mori says, as she climbs into your bed to make three a crowd.

Hatate turns her head toward you. “What are you two talking about?”

“Nothing,” you answer dismissively. There’s no way you’re going to get her started on how panties are a conspiracy to oppress the people by decorating and accessorizing their nether regions — because that was actually a discussion you were forced to have with her once. “And stop drooling on my sheets,” you add.

Mori expresses her concern for the groaning reporter. “Is she going to be alright? She’s kind of out of it.”

Hatate’s acting almost exactly how you would expect based off her behavior online, so you don’t see the problem. “I have a feeling this is probably as ‘alright’ as we’re going to get out of her,” you argue, “so we might as well keep going.”

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” Hatate assures both of you. “I mean, my head and face hurt to shit, I’m tired as hell, and my mind’s coming and going like a new geisha, but that’s all just my curse — my psychic abilities putting great strain on my body.”

“Umm,” Mori begins hesitantly, “did you forget that PI busted you in the face? You’re probably a little scrambled.”

“No, that’s my telekinetic power running rampant after PI jiggled it loose,” she argues. “He couldn’t possibly injure me. Now, tell me all the shady dealings of this soup kitchen.”

If she wants to keep her insane pride instead of being pissed at you, then that’s perfectly fine. But, you aren’t giving up any information yet. “Not so fast,” you reply. “Mori and I need something first. Did you find out anything else about the shrine on the mountain?”

Hatate mulls it over in her head for a second, then sighs. “Nothing worth bargaining with you for. All I know is that there’s some kind of negotiations going on. Whoever’s in that shrine is being guarded closely by tengu way up on the chain of command. All kinds of publications are trying to get a peek, but the wolves have the place on lockdown.”

Mori and you suspected as much in the first place, but it’s nice to hear some confirmation. “Do you know if they’re still searching for Mori?” you continue.

“Yes,” Hatate answers firmly. “Once the crows realize that trying to get at the shrine is useless, they’ll realize that the young, blonde outsider they heard about a couple weeks ago is their only lead.”

That’s not at all what you wanted to hear. “It’ll be a big problem if they’re all flying around here searching for her,” you say. “Is there anything you can do to shake them off the trail?”

“I can feed them some misinformation,” Hatate replies with a little grin, before turning to Mori. “If she tells me everything she knows.”

You look at Mori, and she meets your eyes confidently. “It’s a deal,” the undercover goddess says. “Get ready, because there’s a lot.”

Hatate sits up, closes her eyes, and puts her fingers to her temples like she’s concentrating. “I’m always ready for a story.”

Mori smiles. “Good. That shrine is dedicated to an earth goddess, but it’s currently maintained by a sky goddess. The shrine maiden is still there, though I have no idea how she’s acclimated to Gensokyo. The sky goddess is the one conducting negotiations with the tengu higher-ups. Her name is Kanako Yasaka.”

“Hold on,” Hatate cuts in, her eyes opening slightly. “How do you know all this?”

Even Hatate, despite her nature as a conspiracy theorist, has enough integrity to make sure her sources are actually knowledgeable. Fortunately, Mori is prepared. “I was a friend of theirs in the outside world,” she explains half-truthfully, “and I got pulled here along with them. As far as I know, Kanako Yasaka moved the shrine to Gensokyo in order to seek new followers and prolong her and the shrine’s existence, which was lacking in the outside world.”

Hatate crosses her arms and frowns. “If that’s the case, I wonder why it hasn’t been wiped out yet.” Then she realizes it for herself. “Technology. They’re going to try and extort more outside knowledge from the shrine.”

“That’s what we thought,” you say, “and that’s why I’m worried.”

Hatate turns to Mori, deadly serious. “Is there anything that might be dangerous in the shrine?”

Mori shakes her head. “Nothing dangerous. In fact, most of the technology here in Gensokyo is on-par with the outside world — maybe only a few years behind, with some exceptions.” Then she frowns. “However, I can’t possibly know what Kanako has planned. It’s possible she may have acquired something of worth to the tengu.”

Hatate returns her fingers to her temples and appears to be thinking very hard. “Hmm, what about the soup kitchen?”

You’re not one to fill in Hatate’s crazy theories for her, but it’s better to nip this one in the bud right now. “Kanako Yasaka is not in charge of the soup kitchen, and she is not using some mind control serum to create an army that will overtake Gensokyo.”

Hatate looks at you — then at Mori, who nods in agreement with you. Finally, the crow shrugs. “Well, then I have nothing. We just don’t have enough information. If the soup kitchen isn’t being used to make a brain-dead army out of the masses, then what’s it being used for?”

“Charity,” you answer, “like we thought. The catch is who’s doing it and why. Does the name Minoriko Aki ring any bells?”

Hatate replies quick. “The harvest goddess? Is she using the soup kitchen to gather faith through the poor people of the slums?”

It’s rare that Hatate’s ability to launch off a single statement lands her anywhere close to the mark, but this time she’s going the right direction. “That’s right,” you tell her. “However, it isn’t enough, because she’s also gathering faith for her sister: Shizuha Aki.”

“The sister?” Hatate thinks. “Oh, her. She helps the harvest goddess, doesn’t she?”

It appears that Shizuha wasn’t overreacting about being in her sister’s shadow.

Mori shakes her head. “Wrong,” she tells Hatate. “She’s a full-fledged goddess — of falling leaves — and while Minoriko grows crops to prepare for a harvest festival under the long noses of the tengu, Shizuha has been picking fights with youkai to separate herself from her sister.”

“She even got us involved,” you interject. “We took care of it, but it was clear that something needed to be done.”

“So you reconciled the sisters?” Hatate guesses.

“Not quite,” Mori replies. “We’re going to help Shizuha gather faith on her own. PI thought that you might be able to help spread word of whatever good deeds we have her do — get her some renown among the human population. They need to know that gods are still here in Gensokyo.”

“At the same time,” you add, “we need to gather support for Minoriko Aki’s harvest festival, since she’s utterly clueless on how to conduct relations with Gensokyo’s modern humans.”

Hatate stares at both of you, then flops on her back and starts flailing her legs around. You’re convinced she doesn’t care who sees her underwear — not that you’re overly-concerned about it either. She may be bony, but it’s obvious where all the junk food she inhales goes. She really has a fat ass — at least relative to the rest of her scrawny body.

Mori tugs on you. “I know you’re getting a good look and all, but is she okay? She might be having a seizure.”

“I don’t know,” you answer, your eyes undaunted. “I haven’t really had a chance to catalogue all her mannerisms in-person.”

Suddenly, the crow jolts upright, looking even more ruffled than before. “I’ll help you,” she declares. “As far as I see it, the tengu are gaining a monopoly on everything — wealth, technology, power. Gods could provide a suitable opponents for them, but humans need to know they’re still alive and kicking.”

“I think that’s a good start,” Mori says. “No offense, but I feel like the tengu have ruined Gensokyo. Maybe we can’t turn back the clock, but we can start to set things right.”

Hatate smiles for the first time you’ve seen, and although it’s a bit mad and framed with those weary features, it isn’t ugly. “Absolutely. Once we bring the truth to Gensokyo, everything will be great again!”

You still aren’t convinced it’s going to be that easy — considering what you know about the truth — but at least it feels like you’re doing something about it. Of course, now you have to deal with a not-entirely-sane crow tengu, in addition to your little goddess companion.

“But for now,” Hatate continues, “I’m going to pass out. I’ve spent enough time outside for this century, so I’ll be staying here from now on.”

This is what you feared. Mori is tolerable — charming at times, even — but living with Hatate would be maddening. She’s not even any good in a fight, in case one of the tengu she’s talking about shows up. “Take one of the other apartments,” you tell her gruffly. “There’s an empty one right next door, so you don’t even have to go up the stairs.”

Hatate flops down again. “Uggggggggh. That still means I would have to move, though.”

You look to Mori, who also seems concerned about adding another resident to an apartment that’s already pretty cramped. At least you can count on her to support you. There has to be some way to get Hatate out of your apartment — and you could also use some downtime.

[] A morning drink at Lucky’s will set Hatate straight and also give her a chance to take in a bit of the city after being a shut-in for so long. A drink will certainly set you straight, at least.

[] Where is Hina at? If she’s known Hatate in-person for a while, she should be able to take the eccentric crow tengu off your hands — if you can find her.

[] Hatate will be more agreeable after she sleeps off that concussion fully. Meanwhile, in light of recent events, you’ve been thinking about a certain defunct shrine maiden and her ghost pal.

###

The end of this thread is approaching, and I’m wondering if the length of this story is off-putting to new readers or those who may want to refresh themselves on everything that’s happened. Would it be helpful if I made some spoiler-free notes to help keep track of characters and some tidbits of information?
>> No. 64685
[] Hatate will be more agreeable after she sleeps off that concussion fully. Meanwhile, in light of recent events, you’ve been thinking about a certain defunct shrine maiden and her ghost pal.

Been a while since we've spoken to red white. Hatate could use some rest too.
>> No. 64686
[x] Where is Hina at? If she’s known Hatate in-person for a while, she should be able to take the eccentric crow tengu off your hands — if you can find her.

Gensokyo needs gods Hina. Please come clean.
>> No. 64687
[x] Where is Hina at? If she’s known Hatate in-person for a while, she should be able to take the eccentric crow tengu off your hands — if you can find her.

Me see Hina option. Me vote Hina option.
>> No. 64688
[] Where is Hina at? If she’s known Hatate in-person for a while, she should be able to take the eccentric crow tengu off your hands — if you can find her.

Yes please. Hina!!! please people
>> No. 64689
Well, Hatate's certainly a character. I'm not sure whether to feel amused, annoyed, or pity towards her. Probably a combination, though I generally like how she's written.

[x] Where is Hina at? If she’s known Hatate in-person for a while, she should be able to take the eccentric crow tengu off your hands — if you can find her.

I'd lean slightly towards Reimu and Mima, but this does seem like a good choice too, and I wouldn't mind throwing the Hina fans a bone.

>>64684
Couldn't hurt, certainly. If you're wanting to attract new readers, I think the better place for a recap post would be at the start of the next thread. (Or maybe as the second post after an update.)
>> No. 64690
File 149515451233.jpg - (5.82KB , 288x175 , Booty Warrior.jpg ) [iqdb]
64690
>Hatate has a thicc booty and is moving in near PI
yeeeeeeeeesssss

[x] Where is Hina at? If she’s known Hatate in-person for a while, she should be able to take the eccentric crow tengu off your hands — if you can find her.
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